Critique as a philosophical concept needs to be recast once it is linked to the possibility of a productive opening. In such a context critique has an important affinity to destruction and forms of inauguration. Working through writings of Marx and Walter Benjamin, specifically Benjamin's 'The Meaning of Time in the Moral World', destruction and inauguration are repositioned in terns of othering and the caesura of allowing.
Why read Walter Benjamin today? There as many answers to this question as there are "Walter Benjamins"--Benjamin as critic, Benjamin as modernist, Benjamin as marxist, Benjamin as Jew. . . . Yet it is Benjamin as philosopher that in one way or another stands behind all these. This collection explores, in Adorno's description, Benjamin's "philosophy directed against philosophy." The essays cover all aspects of Benjamin's writings, from his early work in the philosophy (...) of art and language, through his cultural criticism, to his final reflections on the concept of history. The experience of time and the destruction of false continuity are identified as the key themes in Benjamin's understanding of history--an understanding that illuminates recent debates about the postmodernist attitude towards modernity. Contributors: Andrew Benjamin, Rebecca Comay, Howard Caygill, Alexander Garcia Duttman, Rodolphe Gasche, Werner Hamacher, Gertrud Koch, John Kraniauskas, Peter Osborne, Irving Wohlfarth. (shrink)
BenjaminFranklin's social and political thought was shaped by contacts with and knowledge of ancient aboriginal traditions. Indeed, a strong case can be made that key features of the social structure eventually outlined in the United States Constitution arose not from European sources, and not full-grown from the foreheads of European-American "founding fathers", but from aboriginal sources, communicated to the authors of the Constitution to a significant extent through Franklin. A brief sketch of the main argument to (...) this effect is offered in this essay. (shrink)
Art, Mimesis and the Avant-Garde explores the relationship between art and philosophy. Andrew Benjamin argues for a reworking of the task of philosophy in terms of the centrality of ontology. It is in relation to this centrality, understood through the differences between modes of being, that art, mimesis, and the avant-garde come to be presented. A fundamental part of this book is the original interpretations of important contemporary painters and their themes: Lucian Freud's self-portraits, Francis Bacon's use of (...) mirrors, R. B. Kitaj and Jewish identity, Anselm Kiefer and iconoclasm. Apart from painting, Benjamin considers architecture, literature, and the philosophical writings of Walter Benjamin and Descartes in elaborating the various aspects of ontological difference. Benjamin develops the theory of the avant-garde as a philosophical category rather than a historical marker, thus bringing the worlds of contemporary art criticism and contemporary philosophy closer together. (shrink)
In Experiment, Right or Wrong, Allan Franklin continues his investigation of the history and philosophy of experiment presented in his previous book, The Neglect of Experiment. In this new study, Franklin considers the fallibility and corrigibility of experimental results and presents detailed histories of two such episodes: 1) the experiment and the development of the theory of weak interactions from Fermi's theory in 1934 to the V-A theory of 1957 and 2) atomic parity violation experiments and the Weinberg-Salam (...) unified theory of electroweak interactions of the 1970s and 1980s. In these episodes Franklin demonstrates not only that experimental results can be wrong, but also that theoretical calculations and the comparison between experiment and theory can also be incorrect. In the second episode, Franklin contrasts his view of an "evidence model" of science in which questions of theory choice, confirmation, and refutation are decided on the basis of reliable experimental evidence, with that proposed by the social constructivists. (shrink)
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in general, comprehensive models of human cognition. Such models aim to explain higher-order cognitive faculties, such as deliberation and planning. Given a computational representation, the validity of these models can be tested in computer simulations such as software agents or embodied robots. The push to implement computational models of this kind has created the field of artificial general intelligence (AGI). Moral decision making is arguably one of the most challenging tasks for computational (...) approaches to higher-order cognition. The need for increasingly autonomous artificial agents to factor moral considerations into their choices and actions has given rise to another new field of inquiry variously known as Machine Morality, Machine Ethics, Roboethics, or Friendly AI. In this study, we discuss how LIDA, an AGI model of human cognition, can be adapted to model both affective and rational features of moral decision making. Using the LIDA model, we will demonstrate how moral decisions can be made in many domains using the same mechanisms that enable general decision making. Comprehensive models of human cognition typically aim for compatibility with recent research in the cognitive and neural sciences. Global workspace theory, proposed by the neuropsychologist Bernard Baars (1988), is a highly regarded model of human cognition that is currently being computationally instantiated in several software implementations. LIDA (Franklin, Baars, Ramamurthy, & Ventura, 2005) is one such computational implementation. LIDA is both a set of computational tools and an underlying model of human cognition, which provides mechanisms that are capable of explaining how an agent’s selection of its next action arises from bottom-up collection of sensory data and top-down processes for making sense of its current situation. We will describe how the LIDA model helps integrate emotions into the human decision-making process, and we will elucidate a process whereby an agent can work through an ethical problem to reach a solution that takes account of ethically relevant factors. (shrink)
Present Hope is a compelling exploration of how we think philosophically about the present. Andrew Benjamin considers examples in philosophy, architecture and poetry to illustrate crucial themes of loss, memory, tragedy, hope and modernity. The book uses the work of Walter Benjamin and Martin Heidegger to illustrate the ways the notion of hope was weaved into their philosophies. Andrew Benjamin maintains that hope is a vital part of the present, rather than an expression only of the future. (...) Present Hope shows how Judaism and philosophy interact; how the Holocaust provides an important link between modernity and the present. Benjamin's writings on the significance of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the poetry of Paul Celan unite toward understanding the present. (shrink)
Shadow of the Other is a discussion of how the individual has two sorts of relationships with an "other"--other individuals. The first regards the other as a s work apart is her brilliant utilization of a systematic dialectical approach to her subject, always maintaining the delicate balance between opposing tensions: masculinity and femininity, subjectivity and objectivity, passivity and activity, love and aggression, fantasy and reality, modernism and postmodernism, the intrapsychic and the intersubjective. Benjamin s work apart is her brilliant (...) utilization of a systematic dialectical approach to her subject, always maintaining the delicate balance between opposing other as a mental repository fo unwanted characteristics cast from the self. Jessica benjamin shows the implications of this dual relationship for male/female hierarchy and offers a possibility for balancing the two. This book continues the author's well-known explorations of the themes of intersubjectivity and gender, taking up issues at the forefront of contemporary debates in feminist theory and psychoanalysis. (shrink)
Replies to Kevin de Laplante’s ‘Certainty and Domain-Independence in the Sciences of Complexity’ (de Laplante, 1999), defending the thesis of J. Franklin, ‘The formal sciences discover the philosophers’ stone’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 25 (1994), 513-33, that the sciences of complexity can combine certain knowledge with direct applicability to reality.
Nothing is more simple or more complicated than the event. In recent years, the attack on any attempts to provide a foundation for philosophy has focused on the "logic of the event." In The Plural Event , Andrew Benjamin reconsiders and reworks philosophy in terms of events and how they are judged. Benjamin offers a sustained philosophical reworking of ontology, providing important readings of key canonical texts in the history of philosophy. In order to avoid the charge of (...) positivism, he provides a cogent interpretation of the process of thinking through while allowing the process to reveal itself in the interpretation of central philosophical texts. The effective presence of ontology, defined as "anoriginal difference," will be familiar to readers of his earlier writings. The Plural Event represents Andrew Benjamin's most thorough and original contribution to contemporary philosophy. (shrink)
Technology has a history structured by discontinuities. The first important philosophical expression of such a conception of technology was advanced by Walter Benjamin when he defined art works in relation to specific techniques of production. At the present art and architecture occur within an age defined by the move from ’technical reproducibility’ to digital reproducibility. The move has an impact on how technology is understood and its relation to architecture conceived. Adapting Walter Benjamin’s work in this area provides (...) the basis for a response to Soren Riis’ important treatment of the relationship between architecture and technology in his paper “Dwelling in-between walls: the architectural surround”. (shrink)
Replies to O. Hanfling, ‘Healthy scepticism?’, Philosophy 68 (1993), 91-3, which criticized J. Franklin, ‘Healthy scepticism’, Philosophy 66 (1991), 305-324. The symmetry argument for scepticism is defended (that there is no reason to prefer the realist alternative to sceptical ones).
The most famous man of his age, BenjaminFranklin was an individual of many talents and accomplishments. He invented the wood-burning stove and the lightning rod, he wrote Poor Richard's Almanac and The Way to Wealth, and he traveled the world as a diplomat. But it was in politics that Franklin made his greatest impact. Franklin's political writings are full of fascinating reflections on human nature, on the character of good leadership, and on why government is (...) such a messy and problematic business. Drawing together threads in Franklin's writings, Lorraine Smith Pangle illuminates his thoughts on citizenship, federalism, constitutional government, the role of civil associations, and religious freedom. Of the American Founders, Franklin had an unrivaled understanding of the individual human soul. At the heart of his political vision is a view of democratic citizenship, a rich understanding of the qualities of the heart and mind necessary to support liberty and sustain happiness. This concise introduction reflects Franklin's valuable insight into political issues that continue to be relevant today. (shrink)
Decision under conditions of uncertainty is an unavoidable fact of life. The available evidence rarely suffices to establish a claim with complete confidence, and as a result a good deal of our reasoning about the world must employ criteria of probable judgment. Such criteria specify the conditions under which rational agents are justified in accepting or acting upon propositions whose truth cannot be ascertained with certainty. Since the seventeenth century philosophers and mathematicians have been accustomed to consider belief under uncertainty (...) from the standpoint of the mathematical theory of probability. In 1654, Blaise Pascal entered into correspondence with Pierre de Fermat on two problems in the theory of probability that had been posed by the Chevalier De Méré – the first involved the just division of the stakes in a game of chance that has been interrupted, the second is the likelihood of throwing a given number in a fixed number of throws using fair dice. This correspondence resulted in fundamental results that are now regarded as the foundation of the mathematical approach to probability, and historical studies of probabilistic reasoning almost invariably begin with the Pascal-Fermat correspondence. Franklin has no interest in denying the significance of the mathematical treatment of probability – he is, after all, a professional mathematician – but the principal theme in his book is the gradual “coming to consciousness” of canons of inference governing uncertain cases. (shrink)
JPVA Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts No 6 Complexity Architecture / Art / Philosophy 'Beginning with complexity will involve working with the recognition that there has always been more than one. Here however this insistent "more than one" will be positioned beyond the scope of semantics; rather than complexity occurring within the range of meaning and taking the form of a generalised polysemy, it will be linked to the nature of the object and to its production. Complexity, therefore, (...) will be inextricably connected to the ontology of the object. What this means is that complexity, in resisting the hold of a semantic idealism on the one hand, and the attempt to give to it the position of being the basis of a new foundationalism on the other, becomes a way of thinking both the presence and the production of objects.' Andrew Benjamin The Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts has set new standards in its exploration of themes central to philosophy's relation to the visual arts, illuminating areas of art criticism, architecture, feminism as well as philosophy itself. Rather than simply reflecting current trends it provides a forum in which the real developments in the analysis of the visual arts and its larger cultural and political context can be presented. Articles by well known philosophers and theorists, as well as some lesser known, together with writings by artists and architects allow a strong interdisciplinary approach reflecting the Journal's roots in post-structural theory. Previous issues include: Philosophy & the Visual Arts (No 1) Philosophy & Architecture (No 2) Architecture, Space, Painting (No 3) The Body (No 4) Abstraction (No 5). (shrink)
• It would be a moral disgrace for God (if he existed) to allow the many evils in the world, in the same way it would be for a parent to allow a nursery to be infested with criminals who abused the children. • There is a contradiction in asserting all three of the propositions: God is perfectly good; God is perfectly powerful; evil exists (since if God wanted to remove the evils and could, he would). • The religious believer (...) has no hope of getting away with excuses that evil is not as bad as it seems, or that it is all a result of free will, and so on. Piper avoids mentioning the best solution so far put forward to the problem of evil. It is Leibniz’s theory that God does not create a better world because there isn’t one — that is, that (contrary to appearances) if one part of the world were improved, the ramifications would result in it being worse elsewhere, and worse overall. It is a “bump in the carpet” theory: push evil down here, and it pops up over there. Leibniz put it by saying this is the “Best of All Possible Worlds”. That phrase was a public relations disaster for his theory, suggesting as it does that everything is perfectly fine as it is. He does not mean that, but only that designing worlds is a lot harder than it looks, and determining the amount of evil in the best one is no easy matter. Though humour is hardly appropriate to the subject matter, the point of Leibniz’s idea is contained in the old joke, “An optimist is someone who thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and a pessimist thinks.. (shrink)
Defends the cosmological argument for the existence of God against Hume's criticisms. Hume objects that since a cause is before its effect, an eternal succession has no cause; but that would rule of by fiat the possibility of God's creating the world from eternity. Hume argues that once a cause is given for each of a collection of objects, there is not need to posit a cause of the whole collection; but that is to assume the universe to be a (...) heap of things arbitrarily grouped rather than a whole arbitrarily divided. (shrink)
The winning entry in David Stove's Competition to Find the Worst Argument in the World was: “We can know things only as they are related to us/insofar as they fall under our conceptual schemes, etc., so, we cannot know things as they are in themselves.” That argument underpins many recent relativisms, including postmodernism, post-Kuhnian sociological philosophy of science, cultural relativism, sociobiological versions of ethical relativism, and so on. All such arguments have the same form as ‘We have eyes, therefore we (...) cannot see’, and are equally invalid. (shrink)
Dispostions, such as solubility, cannont be reduced to categorical properties, such as molecular structure, without some element of dipositionaity remaining. Democritus did not reduce all properties to the geometry of atoms - he had to retain the rigidity of the atoms, that is, their disposition not to change shape when a force is applied. So dispositions-not-to, like rigidity, cannot be eliminated. Neither can dispositions-to, like solubility.
Why do students take the instruction "prove" in examinations to mean "go to the next question"? Because they have not been shown the simple techniques of how to do it. Mathematicians meanwhile generate a mystique of proof, as if it requires an inborn and unteachable genius. True, creating research-level proofs does require talent; but reading and understanding the proof that the square of an even number is even is within the capacity of most mortals.
The logical interpretation of probability, or ``objective Bayesianism''''– the theory that (some) probabilitiesare strictly logical degrees of partial implication – is defended.The main argument against it is that it requires the assignment ofprior probabilities, and that any attempt to determine them by symmetryvia a ``principle of insufficient reason'''' inevitably leads to paradox.Three replies are advanced: that priors are imprecise or of little weight, sothat disagreement about them does not matter, within limits; thatit is possible to distinguish reasonable from unreasonable priorson (...) logical grounds; and that in real cases disagreement about priorscan usually be explained by differences in the background information.It is argued also that proponents of alternative conceptions ofprobability, such as frequentists, Bayesians and Popperians, areunable to avoid committing themselves to the basic principles oflogical probability. (shrink)
Philosophers of experiment have acknowledged that experiments are often more than mere hypothesis-tests, once thought to be an experiment's exclusive calling. Drawing on examples from contemporary biology, I make an additional amendment to our understanding of experiment by examining the way that `wide' instrumentation can, for reasons of efficiency, lead scientists away from traditional hypothesis-directed methods of experimentation and towards exploratory methods.
In 1947 Donald Cary Williams claimed in The Ground of Induction to have solved the Humean problem of induction, by means of an adaptation of reasoning ﬁrst advanced by Bernoulli in 1713. Later on David Stove defended and improved upon Williams’ argument in The Rational- ity of Induction (1986). We call this proposed solution of induction the ‘Williams-Stove sampling thesis’. There has been no lack of objections raised to the sampling thesis, and it has not been widely accepted. In our (...) opinion, though, none of these objections has the slightest force, and, moreover, the sampling thesis is undoubtedly true. What we will argue in this paper is that one particular objection that has been raised on numerous occasions is misguided. This concerns the randomness of the sample on which the inductive extrapolation is based. (shrink)
Best known for his book The Postmodern Condition , Jean-Francois Lyotard is one of the leading figures in contemporary French philosophy. This is the first collection of articles to offer an estimation and critique of his work, with particular focus on the importance to Lyotard of the question of judgement. Lyotard's interest in judgement is evident in his continuing engagement with the work of Kant. Lyotard's own essay, Sensus Communis , which opens the volume, investigates through Kant the presuppositions of (...) judgement. Other essays consider how Lyotard has rendered problematic existing forms of aesthetic, ethical, legal and political judgement. Judging Lyotard is an important collection that will reintroduce Lyotard to English-speaking audiences. It is of particular interest to students of philosophy, critical theory, and literary studies. (shrink)
Mathematicians often speak of conjectures as being confirmed by evidence that falls short of proof. For their own conjectures, evidence justifies further work in looking for a proof. Those conjectures of mathematics that have long resisted proof, such as Fermat's Last Theorem and the Riemann Hypothesis, have had to be considered in terms of the evidence for and against them. It is argued here that it is not adequate to describe the relation of evidence to hypothesis as `subjective', `heuristic' or (...) `pragmatic', but that there must be an element of what it is rational to believe on the evidence, that is, of non-deductive logic. (shrink)
Written by a nurse and a philosopher, Ethics in Nursing blends the concrete detail of recurring problems in nursing practice with the perspectives, methods, and resources of philosophical ethics. It stresses the aspects of the nurses role and relations with others -- physicians, patients, administrators, other nurses -- that give ethical problems in nursing their special focus. Among the issues addressed are deception, parentalism, confidentiality, conscientious refusal, nurse autonomy, compromise, and personal responsibility for institutional and public policy. The third edition (...) has been enlarged with new cases and case discussions related to AIDS and an additional chapter on the expanding scope of nursing ethics as it addresses issues related to scarce resources, cost containment, justice, and the possibilities of health care rationing. (shrink)
Philosophical discussions of species have focused on multicellular, sexual animals and have often neglected to consider unicellular organisms like bacteria. This article begins to fill this gap by considering what species concepts, if any, apply neatly to the bacterial world. First, I argue that the biological species concept cannot be applied to bacteria because of the variable rates of genetic transfer between populations, depending in part on which gene type is prioritized. Second, I present a critique of phylogenetic bacterial species, (...) arguing that phylogenetic bacterial classification requires a questionable metaphysical commitment to the existence of essential genes. I conclude by considering how microbiologists have dealt with these biological complexities by using more pragmatic and not exclusively evolutionary accounts of species. I argue that this pragmatism is not borne of laziness but rather of the substantial conceptual problems in classifying bacteria based on any evolutionary standard. (shrink)
The imperviousness of mathematical truth to anti-objectivist attacks has always heartened those who defend objectivism in other areas, such as ethics. It is argued that the parallel between mathematics and ethics is close and does support objectivist theories of ethics. The parallel depends on the foundational role of equality in both disciplines. Despite obvious differences in their subject matter, mathematics and ethics share a status as pure forms of knowledge, distinct from empirical sciences. A pure understanding of principles is possible (...) because of the simplicity of the notion of equality, despite the different origins of our understanding of equality of objects in general and of the equality of the ethical worth of persons. (shrink)
Interpretations of recollection in the "Phaedo" are divided between ordinary interpretations, on which recollection explains a kind of learning accomplished by all, and sophisticated interpretations, which restrict recollection to philosophers. A sophisticated interpretation is supported by the prominence of philosophical understanding and reflection in the argument. Recollection is supposed to explain the advanced understanding displayed by Socrates and Simmias (74b2-4). Furthermore, it seems to be a necessary condition on recollection that one who recollects also perform a comparison of sensible particulars (...) to Forms (74a5-7). I provide a new ordinary interpretation which explains these features of the argument. First, we must clearly distinguish the philosophical reflection which constitutes the argument for the Theory of Recollection from the ordinary learning which is its subject. The comparison of sensibles to Forms is the reasoning by which we see, as philosophers, that we must recollect. At the same time, we must also appreciate the continuity of ordinary and philosophical learning. Plato wants to explain the capacity for ordinary discourse, but with an eye to its role as the origin of philosophical reflection and learning. In the "Phaedo", recollection has ordinary learning as its immediate explanandum, and philosophical learning as its ultimate explanandum. (shrink)
The late twentieth century saw two long-term trends in popular thinking about ethics. One was an increase in relativist opinions, with the “generation of the Sixties” spearheading a general libertarianism, an insistence on toleration of diverse moral views (for “Who is to say what is right? – it’s only your opinion.”) The other trend was an increasing insistence on rights – the gross violations of rights in the killing fields of the mid-century prompted immense efforts in defence of the “inalienable” (...) rights of the victims of dictators, of oppressed peoples, of refugees. The obvious incompatibility of those ethical stances, one anti-objectivist, the other objectivist in the extreme, proved no obstacle to their both being held passionately, often by the same people. (shrink)
Democracy has difficulties with the rights on non-voters (children, the mentally ill, foreigners etc). Democratic leaders have sometimes acted ethically, contrary to the wishes of voters, e.g. in accepting refugees as immigrants.
Throughout history, almost all mathematicians, physicists and philosophers have been of the opinion that space and time are infinitely divisible. That is, it is usually believed that space and time do not consist of atoms, but that any piece of space and time of non-zero size, however small, can itself be divided into still smaller parts. This assumption is included in geometry, as in Euclid, and also in the Euclidean and non- Euclidean geometries used in modern physics. Of the few (...) who have denied that space and time are infinitely divisible, the most notable are the ancient atomists, and Berkeley and Hume. All of these assert not only that space and time might be atomic, but that they must be. Infinite divisibility is, they say, impossible on purely conceptual grounds. (shrink)
Einstein, like most philosophers, thought that there cannot be mathematical truths which are both necessary and about reality. The article argues against this, starting with prima facie examples such as "It is impossible to tile my bathroom floor with (equally-sized) regular pentagonal tiles." Replies are given to objections based on the supposedly purely logical or hypothetical nature of mathematics.
The classical arguments for scepticism about the external world are defended, especially the symmetry argument: that there is no reason to prefer the realist hypothesis to, say, the deceitful demon hypothesis. This argument is defended against the various standard objections, such as that the demon hypothesis is only a bare possibility, does not lead to pragmatic success, lacks coherence or simplicity, is ad hoc or parasitic, makes impossible demands for certainty, or contravenes some basic standards for a conceptual or linguistic (...) scheme. Since the conclusion of the sceptical argument is not true, it is concluded that one can only escape the force of the argument through some large premise, such as an aptitude of the intellect for truth, if necessary divinely supported. (shrink)
Pascal’s wager and Leibniz’s theory that this is the best of all possible worlds are latecomers in the Faith-and-Reason tradition. They have remained interlopers; they have never been taken as seriously as the older arguments for the existence of God and other themes related to faith and reason.
The aim of this paper is to develop a new theory of particularity. In so doing it redefines the concepts 'perception' and 'judgment'. The redefinition occurs once perception is understood as recognition. The move to recognition entails the centrality of repetition. Recognition, it is argued, is a form of repetition. Allowing for repetition necessitates changing the way the relationship between universals and particulars is understood. This is developed via an engagement with Hume and Plato. The article concludes with the outline (...) for a rethinking of the metaphysics of particularity. (shrink)
Baars (1988, 1997) has proposed a psychological theory of consciousness, called global workspace theory. The present study describes a software agent implementation of that theory, called ''Conscious'' Mattie (CMattie). CMattie operates in a clerical domain from within a UNIX operating system, sending messages and interpreting messages in natural language that organize seminars at a university. CMattie fleshes out global workspace theory with a detailed computational model that integrates contemporary architectures in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. Baars (1997) lists the psychological (...) ''facts that any complete theory of consciousness must explain'' in his appendix to In the Theater of Consciousness; global workspace theory was designed to explain these ''facts.'' The present article discusses how the design of CMattie accounts for these facts and thereby the extent to which it implements global workspace theory. (shrink)
Social constructionists believe that experimental evidence plays a minimal role in the production of scientific knowledge, while rationalists such as myself believe that experimental evidence is crucial in it. As one historical example in support of the rationalist position, I trace in some detail the theoretical and experimental research that led to our understanding of beta decay, from Enrico Fermi’s pioneering theory of 1934 to George Sudarshan and Robert Marshak’s and Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann’s suggestion in 1957 and 1958, (...) respectively, of the V–A theory of weak interactions. This is not a history of an unbroken string of successes, but one that includes incorrect experimental results, incorrect experiment-theory comparisons, and faulty theoretical analyses. Nevertheless, we shall see that the constraints that Nature imposed made the V–A theory an almost inevitable outcome of this theoretical and experimental research. (shrink)
Postmodernism is not so much a theory as an attitude. It is an attitude of suspicion – suspicion about claims of truth and about appeals to rational argument. Its corrupting effects must be answered by finding a better alternative, which must include a defence of the objecvity of both reason and ethics. Natural law thinking is necessary for the latter.
The question of the other appears to be a uniquely human concern. Engagement with the nature of alterity and the quality of the other are philosophical projects that commence with an assumed anthropocentrism. This anthropocentrism will be pursued by way of Hegel's discussion of "disease" in his Philosophy of Nature. Disease is implicitly bound up with race, racial identity and animality, and provides an opening to the question: what if the other were an animal? Any answer to this question should (...) resist a founding anthropocentrism by no longer being limited by the opposition human/non-human. This gives rise to the possibility of engaging philosophically with questions of race and ethnicity. (shrink)
Stove's article, 'So you think you are a Darwinian?'[ 1] was essentially an advertisement for his book, Darwinian Fairytales.[ 2] The central argument of the book is that Darwin's theory, in both Darwin's and recent sociobiological versions, asserts many things about the human and other species that are known to be false, but protects itself from refutation by its logical complexity. A great number of ad hoc devices, he claims, are used to protect the theory. If co operation is observed (...) where the theory predicts competition, then competition is referred to the time of the cavemen, or is reinterpreted as competition between some hidden entities like genes or abstract entities like populations. In a characteristic sally, Stove writes of the sociobiologists' oscillation on the meaning of kin altruism: Any discussion of altruism with an inclusive fitness theorist is, in fact, exactly like dealing with a pair of balloons connected by a tube, one balloon being the belief that kin altruism is an illusion, the other being the belief that kin altruism is caused by shared genes. If a critic puts pressure on the illusion balloon - perhaps by ridiculing the selfish theory of human nature - air is forced into the causal balloon. There is then an increased production of earnest causal explanations of why we love our children, why hymenopteran workers look after their sisters, etc., etc. Then, if the critic puts pressure on the causal balloon - perhaps about the weakness of sibling altruism compared with parental, or the absence of sibling altruism in bacteria - then the illusion balloon is forced to expand. There will now be an increased production of cynical scurrilities about parents manipulating their babies for their own advantage, and vice versa, and in general, about the Hobbesian bad times that are had by all. In this way critical pressure, applied to the theory of inclusive fitness at one point, can always be easily absorbed at another point, and the theory as a whole is never endangered.[ 3] Now, it is uncontroversial to assert that Darwinism is a logically complex theory, and that its relation to empirical evidence is distant and multi faceted. One does not directly observe chance genetic variations leading to the development of new species, or even continuous variations in the fossil record, but must rely on subtle arguments to the best explanation, scaling up from varieties to species, and so on.. (shrink)
There are close parallels between perception (the interpretation of sensory experience as representing physical objects) and hermeneutics (the interpretation of signs as having meaning). Perceptual illusions corresponds to ambiguities in texts; naive realism corresponds to fundamentalism; the scientist's reinterpretation of the "manifest image" to the global/local interplay of the "hermeneutic circle" in the interpretation of large texts.
THE HISTORY OF IDEAS is full of more tall stories than most other departments of history. Here are three which manage to combine initial implausibility with impregnability to refutation: that in the Middle Ages it was believed that the world was flat; that medieval philosophers debated as to how many angels could dance on the head of a pin; that Galileo revolutionised physics by dropping weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. None of these stories is true, and no competent (...) historian has asserted any of them, but none shows any sign of disappearing from the public consciousness. (shrink)
Leibniz's best-of-all-possible worlds solution to the problem of evil isdefended. Enlightenment misrepresentations are removed. The apparentobviousness of the possibility of better worlds is undermined by the muchbetter understanding achieved in modern mathematical sciences of howglobal structure constrains local possibilities. It is argued that alternativeviews, especially standard materialism, fail to make sense of the problem ofevil, by implying that evil does not matter, absolutely speaking. Finally, itis shown how ordinary religious thinking incorporates the essentials ofLeibniz's view.
The teaching of the Aquinas Academy in its first thirty years was based on the scholastic philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, then regarded as the official philosophy of the Catholic Church. That philosophy has not been so much heard of in the last thirty years, but it has a strong presence below the surface. Its natural law theory of ethics, especially, still informs Vatican pronouncements on moral topics such as contraception and euthanasia. It has also been important in Australia in the (...) High Court’s deliberations on the Mabo case. It is argued that some officially-sanctioned deductions on particular cases have not been correct, but that any attempt to do without a natural law foundation of ethics would throw out the baby with the bathwater. The sense of the basic objective worth of persons that is the centre of natural law ethics is essential to any ethics better than a simple “might is right” approach. (shrink)
The manipulation argument poses a significant challenge for any adequate compatibilist theory of agency. The argument maintains that there is no relevant difference between actions or pro-attitudes that are induced by nefarious neurosurgeons, God, or (and this is the important point) natural causes. Therefore, if manipulation is thought to undermine moral responsibility, then so also ought causal determinism. In this paper, I will attempt to bolster the plausibility of John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza’s semicompatibilist theory of moral responsibility by (...) demonstrating how their account provides a distinctive line of response to three important types of manipulation. (shrink)
Some courses achieve existence, some have to create Professional Issues and Ethics in existence thrust upon them. It is normally Mathematics; but if you don’t do it, we will a struggle to create a course on the ethical be.” I accepted. or social aspects of science or mathematics. The gift of a greenfield site and a bull- This is the story of one that was forced to dozer is a happy occasion, undoubtedly. But exist by an unusual confluence of outside (...) cirwhat to do next? It seemed to me I should cumstances. ensure the course satisfied these require- In the mid 1990s, the University of New ments: South Wales instituted a policy that all its • It should look good to students, to staff. (shrink)
Talk about ethics involves a great number of different sorts of concepts – rules, virtues, values, outcomes, rights, etc … Ethics is about all those things, but it is not fundamentally about them. Let’s review them with a view to seeing why they are not basic.
Recent discussions in the area of corporate social responsibility suggest that organizational size has complex meanings and thus requires more scholarly attention. This article explores organizational size in the context of relative power in inter-organizational networks. To shed light on the ways relative power interacts with size we studied social responsibility practices among cleaning subcontractors in three firms of different sizes. Our focus on the network differentiates these firms on the basis of their size and sector. Semi-structured interviews were used (...) to trace cleaning subcontractors' CSR-related practices. We analyzed subjective reports and discursive practices involved in subcontractors' self-presentations. While the economic and philanthropic dimensions of social responsibility were presented by the cleaning subcontractors as independent of network constraints, the findings show that the legal and ethical dimensions were subject to large client-firm pressures. What we learn from our data is that the four dimensions of Carroll's model, the economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic, should all develop from and be evaluated against a fifth root dimension of inter-personal commitment. (shrink)
Tom Regan has powerfully argued that all sentient beings having some awareness of self are equal in inherent value, and that their interests where relevant must be given equal treatment. Yet Regan also contends that there are some situations in which the value of different lives should be compared and choice made between them. He supposes an overloaded lifeboat with five occupants in which all will die unless one is thrown overboard. Four of the occupants are human, one is a (...) dog; and Regan holds that it is the dog that ought to go since its life is of less value than that of a human. Regan has thus been sharply attacked for inconsistency. Some say that the comparison of lives, even in this sort of case, contradicts the principle of equal inherent value and introduces a utilitarian calculation of benefit. Othersobject that no ground of choice exists in situations of this sort. But all these criticisms turn out to be unjustified. (shrink)