History of Western Philosophy


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From september onwards I'll be teaching a course on epistemology at secondary school level. The approach to epistemology that I have to take (because of curricular demands) is mostly historical, starting with some Ancient philosophers (Plato, Aristotle), skipping the Middle Ages, and ending with Modern philosophy from Descartes to Kant.

I tend to think that the importance of the views espoused by all these historical thinkers lies not in the veracity of their theories, for clearly some things said by Plato or Locke are most likely false. Furthermore the questions they tend to concern themselves with appear in part to have moved over from philosophy to psychology which give them the appearance of unfounded armchair speculation. Rather in my opinion it is only against the background of the broader scientific developments during the time of these philosophers that we can begin to appreciate their significance. However I feel ill-equiped to talk about this background, because I simply don ... (read more)


Methodologically speaking, I wonder why Matilal and S's article has not been enough for  further studies of this sort to be the rule on Mind (and other philosophical journals). Does this failure depend on their style? (Or should we just start working as a task-force and submit many articles of this kind?)

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Can there be linguistics without ontology?

The context principle and some Indian controversies over Meaning is a milestone in Indian studies, and in the history of their interaction with mainstream (i.e. Western) philosophy. Since it was published in 1988 on Mind (one of the top-5 journals in Philosophy, inaccessible for most authors), virtually everyone (in Indian philosophy) has read it.

Have you also re-read it?

I re-read it after some years this Summer and I have to admit that it was again a surprise. The article starts with a discussion of the Context principle in Frege and Quine (does the principle mean that words HAVE no meaning outside a sentence, or that their meaning can only be UNDERSTOOD within a sentence?). In this connection, Matilal and Sen discuss a strong and a weak interpretation of the Context principle (according to whether it should answer the first or the second question). They end up saying that the strong interpretation clashes with Frege's later work (see belo ... (read more)

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Good morning all

I am writing a piece about social work values and how these are a challenge in certain circumstances within mental health treatment. Some unwell people who are a danger to others while unwell are persuaded/coerced into taking medication that although relieves the mental health problem and so reduce the risk to the public, also leaves the patient with side effects which are debilitating. Many patients endure this as the only alternative is to return to hospital detention.

I am attempting to suggest that in certain circumstances this oppressive intrusion into liberty has some justification. However, I cannot recall which philosopher (Aristotle or Plato?) has said something about an individuals responsibility to society.

I am using a moral argument that no one is responsible for the individuals predicament and that society is not responsible for the conflict of circumstances.

I have only the vaguest recollection that some old Greek fellow has said something on this subject.

An ... (read more)
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I did my dissertation, in philosophy of education, on Royce and the problem of religious inclusion in public education. I think Royce is a fascinating figure in American Philosophy, that is of continuing importance today. Do you agree or disagree? I would like to know of anything anyone is doing related to his work in this forum. 
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Hello Everyone!

In Being and Time Heidegger states that in order for thematization to be possible at all Dasein must transcend the entities thematized. Following two interpreters -Gelven and Hanley- this necessity would be inspired on a "strongly kantian doctrine": that which states that " in order for something like thematizing to occur at all that which does the thematizing cannot be a part of that which is thematized". Given that both interpreters give a coincident formulation of the problem I would like to know if anyone has found a formulation of this problem in Kant in this explicit fashion. The point for me its quite simple in Kant: sensibility cannot be sensible. But I can't hardly see this issue in Heidegger. At least beyond the problem of finitude that affects every modern thinker, that which states that the subject must "position" some kind of sensible or meaningful horizon in order for objects or meanings to appear. What do you think about this? Thank you all!

Juan E. P

Hi everyone,

I hope that someone can give me a hint in the right direction with this question: In analyzing the issue of thematization in Being and Time, Michel Gelven states that the necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that it thematizes has an strongly Kantian "family resemblance" (p.195). For thematizing to occur at all, -he says- that which does the thematizing cannot be a part of that which is thematized.

My problem is that I still can't understand why this reading is required for understanding the necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that it thematizes. Is this correct at all? to render the necessity for dasein to transcend as this prohibition "not being part of what is thematized"? Also where does this problem can be seen in Kant?

For me this necessity points to the inseparability of being and understanding, specially regarding the necessity of a horizon for the showing of entities. Because if the reading of Gelven is right how could the Analityc be possible a ... (read more)
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Does anybody know where I could find a good scholarly discussion of the weird 'numerological' passages about cultural decline in Republic VIII (ca. 545e-547a). I'm interested both in where Plato might have gotten these ideas about the 'predictable unpredictability' of genetic heritability of traits and what light the passages might throw upon his remarks about the 'noble lie.'
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Before suggesting any category additions/changes here, I thought it might be useful to have some discussion among those with interests in ancient philosophy.

I think that, in general, for the categories to be useful, the Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy categories need to be more fine-grained.

(1) Specifically, I think that at least Plato and Aristotle and probably Stoics, Epicureans, and some others as well need subject sub-categories such as Ethics, Metaphysics, Epistemology, etc. These subject categories could further be cross-listed under other major categories. For example, a Political Philosophy sub-category under Aristotle could be cross-listed under Social and Political Philosophy as History of Political Philosophy/ Ancient Greek Political Philosophy/ Aristotle. (For some it might also even be useful to have categories for specific works, such as the Republic.)

(2) It also might be useful to add general subject categories under Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy for articles th ... (read more)
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This is awesome. Tractatus power!

Perhaps we could begin with Hitchcock and Husserl/Sartre?
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Reply to NDPR review of Benner, Machiavelli’s Ethics.

Posted on May 5, 2010 by dikaiosis

My book Machiavelli’s Ethics was recently reviewed by Cary J. Nederman in the Notre Dame Philosophical Review. Here is the review:


Nederman published a book on Machiavelli (Machiavelli: A Beginner’s Guide, Oneworld Publications, March 2009) a few months before mine came out. Since our aims and approaches are very different, disagreements are to be expected. However, the review also contains some serious misrepresentations of my arguments. As the NDPR does not have a policy of publishing authors’ replies to reviews, I try to set the record (partly) straight here.    (Comments welcome)

1. Nederman thinks that I deal in an unjustifiably selective way with recent Machiavelli scholarship. He writes, “the way in which the preceding literature is or is not brought to bear on the arguments of this book has, in my opinion, the effect of distorting the record and, at times, of ... (read more)

There's been some interest in whether the phil. of lang has been replaced the phil. of mind as the center of philosophical discussion. Searle and Williamson I believe both think that the phil. of mind is in the driver's seat. I believe that the phil. of lang. is still important due the Putnam's and Kripke's work.


Dear Professor Ott. I have enjoyed your work on Malebranche and I'm now considering Berkeley's doctrine of the passivity of ideas. In Principles 25 he argues that essentially if we looks closely at our ideas (objects of sense) we'll come to see (1) they are passive, (2) a stronger stronger claim--it's impossible that they be active--thus non-minded nature must be causally inert. (2) Seems the right way to go--the argument as J Bennett (Learning from Six Philosophers) suggests is a priori; from the doctrine that to be is to be perceived it logically follows that nature is causally inert. I don't quite see the deduction--both K Winkler (Berkeley) and G Strawson (The Secret Connexion) have outlined how the argument might go, but I'm not convinced. Recently Jeff McDonough (J Phil argued that with respect to Berkeley's claim that 'against Malebranche we move our limbs ourselves,' a concurrentist account might save Berkeley from the consequent problem that ... (read more)

The relationship of early Carnap to Husserl is now better known.
English readers may not know that "Überwindung der Metaphysik" is the title of a controversial Heidegger essay which appeared in the early 50's

In this thread I will look at the Joan Stambaugh translation in the light of Faye, Wolin and Rockmore on Heidegger's political thought.

Stambaugh's 1973 translation appears in Richard Wolin's (editor) 1991 collection, "The Heidegger Controversy".

note: Wilfred Sellar's short philosophical autobiography is interesting and amusing as regards the early Carnap.

In "On Denoting" (1905), Russell presents a theory of denotation which relies on the notion of a variable.  Russell says very little about variables in this paper.  He says only that they are "fundamental," and that they are "essentially and wholly undetermined" constituents of propositional functions.  I think I understand the role of this notion in Russell's theory, and why Russell says what he does about it,  He appeals to non-denoting elements in propositions in order to avoid having to interpret "a=b" as "a=a."  By using variables, he can claim that no elements in a propositional function serve the role of the denoting phrase.  For example, in the fully explicit presentation of "Scott is the author of Waverley," we do not find anything for which we could substitute the phrase "the author of Waverley."  The meaning of the denoting phrase is only found when we interpret the proposition as a whole, and cannot be found in any of its parts. 

My problem is, I don't know what it means to say ... (read more)
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In 1970 M. Nijhoff published "Phenomenology of Experience" by J-P Leyvraz (in French)
I just obtained a copy from a MN U. library, only to find that I would have to get out a blade to cut pages (i.e. good indication book was never read cover to cover by anyone.)

I can find no indication at Geneva of what he does - and do not have access to an article of his on L.W. "On Certainty".

If someone can shed light on his use of "acte" in this volume (or on the closing page, the last few paragraphs of which appear to be bizarre) I would be grateful.

The book has some parallels with Heidegger's "Kant and the Problems of Metaphysics" but I get the impression that it is obscure lecture notes in the guise of a book.  The Heidegger clue is in his view of imagination and his treatment of natural kinds or any claims to knowledge of "facts in isolation" as merely illusory "knowledge".  Hi account of biology seems to be similar to Heidegger's preference for Ge ... (read more)
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I am wondering if anyone knows of an English translation of Gueroult's volumes on Spinoza. My present solution to being unable to read these volumes is to learn French, which is not so bad, but requires substantially more effort than reading Gueroult in translation.

Evan Roane
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[I was adding a post on Ricoeur and Jaspers when a simple Frech character from the numpad was taken by Chrome as a request to open a Chrome page in the place of this form. Poof!]
In 1978 a UNESCO volume appeared: "Main Trends in Philosophy" under the name of Ricoeur but as  collaborative project (I do not know where UNESCO is at with web collaboration and philosophy at this time.)  Relevance: our new MN/USA suburban library opened yesterday: the LoC B100 section had 4 introductory books on philosophy of a rather tawdry sort.  Thereafter the B section is full of the occult etc, shelf after shelf.  So I ask myself if this was the sort of book - a UNESCO volume - which I might recommend as suitable for a non-academic library ( I think a teenage would pull a book off the shelf called "Philosophical Arguments for Atheism" but astrology is deemed more relevant, popular, eye-catching for teens and the general reader in this very prosperous suburb.)

I cannot recommend the UNESCO volume: not because ... (read more)
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I have a question: In Heidegger's Ontology, fundamental ontology is equated to the existential analytic (because there only "is" being in the seinsverstandnis that is a seinsverfassung of Dasein's being it become necessary to start with the being of Dasein in order to move to the answer to the question of the meaning of being), so does this equation implies that fundamental ontology must be understood as also preparatory and then, of course "more ontological" (mainly in the second division where authentic Dasein is interpreted in it's Being -for, again, there is only Being where there is time (proyection, extasis, transcendence, etc)- articulating both divisions of Sein und Zeit, or it would have to be understood as the global enterprise and then including the existential analytic as only a part, fundamental yes, but asymmetric to the end of the treatise? I personally think that the possible answer must have a little of both alternatives mainly bec ... (read more)
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