The author's main practical aim is to defend liberal doctrines to which he is committed against certain fashionable criticisms. An elucidation of human needs is offered. The key claim is that human needs entail human rights. It is argued that the account proposed fits Marx's conception of human needs, and that, therefore, Marx was implicitly committed to a theory of human rights. It is then argued that John Stuart Mill was also, though implicitly, committed to a theory of human needs. (...) These conceptual and moral affinities help to explain why, in recent years, the two political traditions of which Marx and Mill were principal architects, have tended to converge in theory and in practice. The main shift in moral viewpoint has, however, been a movement by Marxists toward the sort of liberalism defended by Mill. (shrink)
A definition of ?alienation? is proposed which is a rational reconstruction of the term as it is used in primarily moral contexts. Special attention is given to the Marxist tradition. It is argued that the earliest, moral form of Marx's economic determinism can be expressed in terms of the principle of the sufficiency of unalienated labor. In this connection four main kinds of alienation are distinguished. In the final section, it is argued that while ?alienation? has and should have an (...) important theoretical role in the context of moral discourse, social scientists, and in particular sociologists, would be better off if they eliminated ?alienation? from their scientific vocabulary. (shrink)
A traditional interpretation holds that Kant's political theory simply constitutes an account of the constraints which reason places on the state's authority to regulate external action. Alexander Kaufman argues that this traditional interpretation succeeds neither as a faithful reading of Kant's texts nor as a plausible, philosophically sound reconstruction of a `Kantian' political theory. Rather, he argues that Kant's political theory articulates a positive conception of the state's role.
The arguments contained in books criticizing American social scientists by C. Wright Mills ( The Sociological Imagination) and Bernard Crick (The Science of American Politics) are discussed, compared and criticized. It is argued that Mills' criteria of evaluation and constructive alternatives to the tendencies he criticizes are immeasurably sounder than those found in Crick's book. An effort to supplement Mills' argument by providing a more explicit statement of its moral underpinnings is made. Finally, it is argued that though both critiques (...) have serious empirical flaws, the authors have undeniably demonstrated that important tendencies for irresponsible thought and action do exist within the American social sciences. (shrink)
This essay counters the claim, made by Arnold Isenberg, Mary Mothersill, and others, that there can be no straightforward justification of critical evaluations of artworks, because there can be no critical laws. My argument is that if we adopt an Aristotelian view of the value of artworks, the problem of critical laws is reduced to a mere problem of scope and is easily solved. An Aristotelian system of kind classification, which groups artworks according to common formal and narrative purposes, provides (...) the mechanism by which we can limit the scope of critical laws in a non-arbitrary way, one that is in keeping with the actual practices of art historians and critics. (shrink)
Do people have free will, or this universal belief an illusion? If free will is more than an illusion, what kind of free will do people have? How can free will influence behavior? Can free will be studied, verified, and understood scientifically? How and why might a sense of free will have evolved? These are a few of the questions this book attempts to answer. People generally act as though they believe in their own free will: they don't feel like (...) automatons, and they don't treat one another as they might treat robots. While acknowledging many constraints and influences on behavior, people nonetheless act as if they (and their neighbors) are largely in control of many if not most of the decisions they make. Belief in free will also underpins the sense that people are responsible for their actions. Psychological explanations of behavior rarely mention free will as a factor, however. Can psychological science find room for free will? How do leading psychologists conceptualize free will, and what role do they believe free will plays in shaping behavior? In recent years a number of psychologists have tried to solve one or more of the puzzles surrounding free will. This book looks both at recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to free will and at ways leading psychologists from all branches of psychology deal with the philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will and the importance of consciousness in free will. It also includes commentaries by leading philosophers on what psychologists can contribute to long-running philosophical struggles with this most distinctly human belief. These essays should be of interest not only to social scientists, but to intelligent and thoughtful readers everywhere. (shrink)
It is widely-accepted that Descartes is a substance dualist, i.e. that he holds that there are two and only two kinds of finite substance – mind and body. However, several scholars have argued that Descartes is a substance trialist, where the third kind of substance he admits is the substantial union of a mind and a body, the human being. In this paper, I argue against the trialist interpretation of Descartes. First, I show that the strongest evidence for trialism, based (...) on Descartes' discussion of so-called incomplete substances, is highly inconclusive. Second, I show that a kind of unity (‘unity of nature’), which is had by all and only substances, is not had by human beings. The fact that the proper parts of a human being, namely a mind and a body, are of different natures entails that what they compose has at most a ‘unity of composition’. And a thing cannot be a substance in virtue of having a unity of composition. Therefore, Cartesian human beings are not substances. (shrink)
Sam Harris’ new book “The Moral Landscape” is the latest in a series of attempts to provide a new “science of morality.” This essay argues that such a project is unlikely to succeed, using Harris’ text as an example of the major philosophical problems that would be faced by any such theory. In particular, I argue that those trying to construct a scientific ethics need pay far more attention to the tradition of moral philosophy, rather than assuming the debate is (...) simply between a scientific ethics and a “supernatural” ethics provided by religion. (shrink)
: The doctrine of karma and rebirth is often praised for its ability to offer a successful solution to the Problem of Evil. This essay evaluates such a claim by considering whether the doctrine can function as a systematic theodicy, as an explanation of all human suffering in terms of wrongs done in either this or past lives. This purported answer to the Problem of Evil must face a series of objections, including the problem of anylackofmemoryofpastlives,the lack of proportionality between (...) wrongdoing and the observed suffering in the world, the problem of infinite regress of explanation, and the problem of compatibility of free will with karmic determinism. These objections, either separately or taken together, provide (it is argued) sufficient reason to doubt whether the doctrine of karma and rebirth can in fact provide a satisfactory theodicy. (shrink)
In Political Liberalism, Rawls emphasizes the practical character and aims of his conception of justice. Justice as fairness is to provide the basis of a reasoned, informed and willing political agreement by locating grounds for consensus in the fundamental ideas and values of the political culture. Critics urge, however, that such a politically liberal conception of justice will be designed merely to ensure the stability of political institutions by appealing to the currently-held opinions of actual citizens. In order to evaluate (...) this concern, I suggest, it is necessary to focus on the normative character of Rawls's analysis. Rawls argues that justice as fairness is the conception of justice that citizens of modern democratic cultures should choose in reflective equilibrium, after reflecting fully upon their considered judgments regarding justice. Since judgments in reflective equilibrium are grounded in considered judgment, rather than situated opinions, I argue that the criticism fails. Key Words: justification objectivity political liberalism Rawls reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the crucial relationship between Locke’s theory of individuation and his theory of kinds. Locke holds that two material objects -- e.g., a mass of matter and an oak tree -- can be in the same place at the same time, provided that they are ‘of different kinds’. According to Locke, kinds are nominal essences, that is, general abstract ideas based on objective similarities between particularindividuals. I argue that Locke’s view on coinciding material objects is incompatible (...) with his view on kinds. In order for two material objects to be in the same place at the same time, they must differ with respect to at least one nominal essence. However, Locke thinks that it is impossible that x and y have the same real essence but differ with respect to any nominal essence; and coinciding material objects have the same real essence. Therefore, Locke cannot hold what he in fact holds, namely that distinct material objects can be in the same place at the same time. (shrink)
Descartes held the doctrine that the eternal truths are freely created by God. He seems to have thought that a proper understanding of God's freedom entails such a doctrine concerning the eternal truths. In this paper, I examine Descartes' account of divine freedom. I argue that Descartes' statements about indifference, namely that indifference is the lowest grade of freedom and that indifference is the essence of God's freedom are not incompatible. I also show how Descartes arrived at his doctrine of (...) the creation of the eternal truths by consideration of the nature of God's freedom. Footnotes1 In this paper, I employ the following abbreviations:AT: Descartes, René Oeuvres de Descartes, C. Adam and P. Tannery (eds) (Paris: J. Vrin, 1996) (cited by volume and page number).CSM: Descartes, René The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vols 1 and 2, J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch (transl.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985) (cited by volume and page number).CSMK: Descartes, René The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. 3, J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, A. Kenny (transl.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) (cited by page number). (shrink)
“The Standard Interpretation” of Descartes on material falsity states that Descartes believed that materially false ideas (MFIs) lack “objective reality” [realitas objectiva]. The argument for the Standard Interpretation depends on a statement from the “Third Meditation” that MFIs are caused by nothing. This statement, in conjunction with a causal principle introduced by Descartes, seems to entail that MFIs lack objective reality. However, the Standard Interpretation is incorrect. First, I argue that, despite initial appearances, the manner in which Descartes understands the (...) proposition that MFIs are caused by nothing does not entail that they lack objective reality. Secondly, I argue that Descartes is committed to the objective reality of MFIs because of his quasi-scholastic explanation of MFIs. (shrink)
For moral realists moral judgments will be a kind of factual judgment that involves the basically reliable apprehension of an objective moral reality. I argue that factual judgments display at least some degree of conceptual sensitivity to error, while moral judgments do not. Therefore moral judgments are not a kind of factual judgment.
On the traditional doctrine of self-defense, defensive force is permissible not only against Culpable Aggressors but against Innocent Aggressors as well (for example, psychotic aggressors). Some moral philosophers have recently challenged this view, arguing that one may not harm innocent attackers because morality requires culpability as an essential condition of being liable to defensive force. This essay examines and rejects this challenge as both a violation of common sense and as insufficiently grounded in convincing reasons from moral theory.
The doctrine of karma and rebirth is often praised for its ability to offer a successful solution to the Problem of Evil. This essay evaluates such a claim by considering whether the doctrine can function as a systematic theodicy, as an explanation of all human suffering in terms of wrongs done in either this or past lives. This purported answer to the Problem of Evil must face a series of objections, including the problem of any lack of memory of past (...) lives, the lack of proportionality between wrongdoing and the observed suffering in the world, the problem of infinite regress of explanation, and the problem of compatibility of free will with karmic determinism. These objections, either separately or taken together, provide (it is argued) sufficient reason to doubt whether the doctrine of karma and rebirth can in fact provide a satisfactory theodicy. (shrink)
Definitions of death are based on subjective standards, priorities, and social conventions rather than on objective facts about the state of human physiology. It is the meaning assigned to the facts that determines whensomeone may be deemed to have died, not the facts themselves. Even though subjective standards for the diagnosis of death show remarkable consistency across communities, they are extrinsic. They are driven, implicitly or explicitly, by ideas about what benefits the community rather than what benefits the indidvidual. The (...) differences that do exist across communities generally reduce to questions about legitimacy and not fact. The questions at the core of the debate about brain death are better framed by asking: Whom ought we deem to be dead? rather than: Who is dead. The rationale for equating brain death with death, therefore, extends well beyond somatic and biological concepts of death. (shrink)
Picking up where Peggy McKintosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” left off, this essay looks further into the ways that racial privilege manifests itself in the lives of white Americans. It explores some of the reasons that white privilege is hard for whites to see and it explores the question of how white people can act responsibly given the unavoidable realities of racial privilege.
The Anglo-American reception of Adorno has secularized his thought and thus missed its normative basis. In this article, the 'constella-tion', a central feature of Adorno's philosophy, is traced to Hermann Cohen's anti-immanentist notion of 'Korrelation' and to Benjamin's attempt to discover a radically Kantian and adamantly Jewish ontology and concept of the truth. Adorno's works are shown to limn a critical measure for being and for reason, based on a very un-Hegelian refusal of immanence and on a commitment to a (...) regulative, if not constative, principle of redemption. Key Words: Theodor W. Adorno Walter Benjamin Hermann Cohen critical theory neo-Kantianism ontology redemption truth. (shrink)
Peter Kivy has maintained that the Wittgensteinian account of ‘art’ ‘is not a going concern’ and that ‘the traditional task of defining the work of art is back in fashion, with a vengeance’. This is true, in large part, because of the turn towards relational definitions of ‘art’ taken by philosophers in the 1960s; a move that is widely believed to have countered the Wittgensteinian charge that ‘art’ is an open concept and which gave rise to a ‘New Wave’ in (...) aesthetic theorizing. So successful has this New Wave been that today the philosophy of art is awash with relational definitions, which are increasingly characterized by their technical sophistication and logical complexity. The aim of this essay is to oppose this trend; to demonstrate that relationalist definitions cannot avoid the problems which provided the impetus for the Wittgensteinian view and to show that the New Wavers cannot explain why anyone would want the definitions which they are offering, irrespective of their success or failure. I will also explore, in detail, the uses, as well as the limitations, of the Wittgensteinian approach to the concept of art. (shrink)
In this essay I analyze and defend the common sense moral conviction that terrorism, i.e., the use of violence against civilians for political or military purposes, is always morally impermissible. Terrorism violates the fundamental moral prohibition against harming the innocent, even to produce greater overall good. It is therefore just the sort of case that serves as a refutation of consequentialist moral theories. From a deontological perspective, the only remotely plausible forms of justification for a terrorist act would be that (...) it constitutes a form of justifiable punishment of the guilty, or that it is legitimate self-defense against an aggressor. But an examination of the fundamental moral and legal principles of punishment and self-defense demonstrates that neither of these claims can succeed. Since terrorism cannot be justified either as punishment or as self-defense, it cannot be morally justified at all. (shrink)
The overarching thesis of this essay is that despite the etymological relationship between the word ‘philosophy’ and wisdom—the word ‘philosophos’, in Greek, means ‘lover of wisdom’—and irrespective of the longstanding tradition of identifying philosophers with ‘wise men’—mainline philosophy, historically, has had little interest in wisdom and has been preoccupied primarily with knowledge. Philosophy, if we are speaking of the mainline tradition, has had and continues to have more in common with the natural and social sciences than it does with the (...) humanities and liberal arts. In advancing this thesis, I divide the history of philosophy into three competing traditions: the mainline tradition of philosophy and two philosophical ‘countercultures,’ one conservative the other radical. At issue between these rival traditions is precisely the relative significance of knowledge and wisdom and their respective places in inquiry. I also provide an account of the distinction between knowledge and wisdom—which I argue is greater than has perhaps been appreciated—and between the natural and applied sciences, on the one hand, and the humanities and liberal arts on the other. (Published Online February 27 2006). (shrink)
In the middle of the twentieth century, many philosophers came to believe that the problem of morally justifying punishment had finally been solved. Defended most famously by Hart and Rawls, the so-called “Mixed Theory” of punishment claimed that justifying punishment required recognizing that the utilitarian and retributive theories were in fact answers to two different questions: utilitarianism answered the question of why we have punishment as an institution, while retribution answered the question of how to punish individual wrongdoers. We could (...) thus reconcile the two great competing theories of punishment, and show how they were both right and not in conflict at all. Unfortunately, it gradually became apparent that the solution would not work. This essay attempts to set out thereasons why the Mixed Theory was bound to fail, and why the problem of reconciling the utilitarian and retributive goals remains with us. (shrink)