Patricia Williams made a number of claims concerning the methods and practise of cladistic analysis and classification. Her argument rests upon the distinction of two kinds of hierarchy: a divisional hierarchy depicting evolutionary descent and the Linnean hierarchy describing taxonomic groups in a classification. Williams goes on to outline five problems with cladistics that lead her to the conclusion that systematists should eliminate cladism as a school of biological taxonomy and to replace it either with something that is philosophically coherent (...) or to replace it with pure methodology, untainted by theory (Williams 1992, 151). Williams makes a number of points which she feels collectively add up to insurmountable problems for cladistics. We examine Williams' views concerning the two hierarchies and consider what cladists currently understand about the status of ancestors. We will demonstrate that Williams has seriously misunderstood many modern commentators on this subject and all of her five persistent problems are derivable from this misunderstanding. Some persons believe and argue, on grounds approaching faith it seems to me, that phylogeny comes from our knowledge of evolution. Others have found to their surprise, and sometimes dismay, that phylogeny comes from our knowledge of systematics. Nelson (1989, 67). (shrink)
Williams, Ron As I consider the list of previous AHOY recipients since the inaugural award in 1983, I can only say that this is an immeasurable honour. It means much to me because, for almost ten years now, Humanism has been there for my family. In 2005-2006, when separation of church and state school issues first crept into our lives, the Humanist Society of Queensland was to appear as the only beacon of secularist activism upon the deep northern horizon. So (...) in 2006 Andrea and I joined the HSQ. (shrink)
Â‘First. That on October 23, in the city of New York, your relator was arrested by divers persons claiming to be acting by authority of the government of the United States, and was by said persons conveyed to the United States immigration station at Ellis island, in the harbor of New York, and is now there imprisoned by the commissioner of immigration of the port of New York.
A new volume of philosophical essays by Bernard Williams. The book is a successor to Problems of the Self, but whereas that volume dealt mainly with questions of personal identity, Moral Luck centres on questions of moral philosophy and the theory of rational action. That whole area has of course been strikingly reinvigorated over the last deacde, and philosophers have both broadened and deepened their concerns in a way that now makes much earlier moral and political philosophy look sterile and (...) trivial. Moral Luck contains a number of essays that have contributed influentially to this development. Among the recurring themes are the moral and philosophical limitations of utilitarianism, the notion of integrity, relativism, and problems of moral conflict and rational choice. The work presented here is marked by a high degree of imagination and acuity, and also conveys a strong sense of psychological reality. The volume will be a stimulating source of ideas and arguments for all philosophers and a wide range of other readers. (shrink)
A discussion of egoism and altruism as related both to ethical theory and moral psychology. Williams considers and rejects various arguments for and against the existence of egoistic motives and the rationality of someone motivated by self-interest. He ultimately attempts to give a more Humean defense of altruism, as opposed to the more Kantian defenses found in Thomas Nagel, for example.
What can--and what can't--philosophy do? What are its ethical risks--and its possible rewards? How does it differ from science? In Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline , Bernard Williams addresses these questions and presents a striking vision of philosophy as fundamentally different from science in its aims and methods even though there is still in philosophy "something that counts as getting it right." Written with his distinctive combination of rigor, imagination, depth, and humanism, the book amply demonstrates why Williams was one (...) of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. Spanning his career from his first publication to one of his last lectures, the book's previously unpublished or uncollected essays address metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, as well as the scope and limits of philosophy itself. The essays are unified by Williams's constant concern that philosophy maintain contact with the human problems that animate it in the first place. As the book's editor, A. W. Moore, writes in his introduction, the title essay is "a kind of manifesto for Williams's conception of his own life's work." It is where he most directly asks "what philosophy can and cannot contribute to the project of making sense of things"--answering that what philosophy can best help make sense of is "being human." Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline is one of three posthumous books by Williams to be published by Princeton University Press. In the Beginning Was the Deed: Realism and Moralism in Political Argument was published in the fall of 2005. The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy is being published shortly after the present volume. (shrink)
Two essays on utilitarianism, written from opposite points of view, by J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams. In the first part of the book Professor Smart advocates a modern and sophisticated version of classical utilitarianism; he tries to formulate a consistent and persuasive elaboration of the doctrine that the rightness and wrongness of actions is determined solely by their consequences, and in particular their consequences for the sum total of human happiness. This is a revised version of Professor Smart's (...) famous essay 'an outline of a system of utilitarian ethics', first published in 1961 but long unobtainable. In Part II Bernard Williams offers a sustained and vigorous critique of utilitarian assumptions, arguments and ideals. He finds inadequate the theory of action implied by utilitarianism, and he argues that utilitarianism fails to engage at a serious level with the real problems of moral and political philosophy, and fails to make sense of notions such as integrity, or even human happiness itself. Both authors are agreed on utilitarianism's importance: it cuts across a number of different philosophical disputes and combines a systematic account of mata-ethical problems with a distinctive and substantive moral stand. It thus is, or involves, philosophy in both the traditional and the narrower, professional sense of the word, and is a key topic (often the first topic) in introductory philosophy courses. This book should also be of interest to welfare economists, political scientists and decision-theorists. (shrink)
[Michael Williams] A response to Sosa's criticisms of Sellars's account of the relation between knowledge and experience, noting that Sellars excludes merely animal knowledge, and hopes to bypass epistemology by an adequate philosophy of mind and language. /// [Ernest Sosa] I give an exposition and critical discussion of Sellars's Myth of the Given, and especially of its epistemic side. In later writings Sellars takes a pragmatist turn in his epistemology. This is explored and compared with his earlier critique of givenist (...) mythology. In response to Michael Williams, it is argued that these issues are importantly independent of philosophy of language or mind, and that my own take on them does not commit me to any absurd radical foundationalism on language or mind. My own take is in line with Descartes' two-level epistemology of cognitio and scientia, a bifurcation that protects him from vicious circularity, and is adaptable for an epistemology naturalized (not supernaturalized), whether in the way of Quine, or Moore, or Davidson. (shrink)
This new volume of philosophical papers by Bernard Williams is divided into three sections: the first Action, Freedom, Responsibility, the second Philosophy, Evolution and the Human Sciences; in which appears the essay which gives the collection its title; and the third Ethics, which contains essays closely related to his 1983 book Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Like the two earlier volumes of Williams's papers published by Cambridge University Press, Problems of the Self and Moral Luck, this volume will be (...) welcomed by all readers with a serious interest in philosophy. It is published alongside a volume of essays on Williams's work, World, Mind, and Ethics: Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams, edited by J. E. J. Altham and Ross Harrison, which provides a reappraisal of his work by other distinguished thinkers in the field. (shrink)
G. E. Moore observed that to assert, 'I went to the pictures last Tuesday but I don't believe that I did' would be 'absurd'. Over half a century later, such sayings continue to perplex philosophers. In the definitive treatment of the famous paradox, Green and Williams explain its history and relevance and present new essays by leading thinkers in the area.
David Hume's relatively short essay 'Of the Standard of Taste' deals with some of the most difficult issues in aesthetic theory. Apart from giving a few pregnant remarks, near the end of his discussion, on the role of morality in aesthetic evaluation, Hume tries to reconcile the idea that tastes are subjective (in the sense of not being answerable to the facts) with the idea that some objects of taste are better than others. 'Tastes', in this context, are the pleasures (...) or displeasures that a person can take in the beauties of poems, paintings, and other artistic compositions (though Hume also wants to stress the continuities between tastes, so understood, and the bodily sense of taste). The position at which Hume arrives in the essay (despite some dialectical unclarity) is that some people – the 'true judges'– determine by their 'joint verdict' which works are meritorious. This solution continues to exercise a fascination, as does Hume's complicated route to it. Author Recommends: Paul Guyer, 'The Standard of Taste and the "Most Ardent Desire of Society" ', Values of Beauty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 37–76. This paper places 'Of the Standard of Taste' in an especially rich context, and asks why Hume concentrates on true judges instead of the improvement of one's own taste. Mary Mothersill, 'Hume: "Of the Standard of Taste" ', Beauty Restored (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 177–208. This chapter, embedded in an exposition of Mothersill's 'First Thesis' (the denial that there are principles of taste) and 'Second Thesis' (the affirmation that some judgments of taste are genuine judgments), gives a detailed running commentary on Hume's essay. A shorter self-contained version of the chapter appeared as 'Hume and the Paradox of Taste' in Aesthetics: A Critical Anthology , 2nd ed., eds. George Dickie, Richard Sclafani, and Ronald Roblin (New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1989, 269–86). Jerrold Levinson, 'Hume's Standard of Taste: The Real Problem', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2002): 227–38. An importance recent article, Levinson's piece argues that the 'real' difficulty with Hume's essay has gone unnoticed: why should I care about what Hume's true judges think? Christopher Williams, 'Some Questions in Hume's Aesthetics', Philosophy Compass 2/2 (2007). This article provides a brief overview of the topics discussed under weeks 3–5 in the sample syllabus below. It is intended to provide a roadmap for the particular set of readings listed there. David Wiggins, 'A Sensible Subjectivism?', Needs, Values, and Truth , 3rd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 185–214. This is a stimulating paper in moral philosophy that treats Hume's essay on taste as a model for a serious subjectivism. Wiggins then presents his own brand of subjectivism as an alternative to Hume's. Online Materials: Hume's Aesthetics (Ted Gracyk): http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-aesthetics/ Sample Syllabus: Recommended background reading on Hume's historical context: Peter Kivy, The Seventh Sense: Francis Hutcheson and Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetics , 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), especially Part III. Recommended background reading on the general topic of taste: David A. Whewell, 'Taste', Blackwell Companion to Aesthetics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 415–18. Dabney Townsend and Carolyn Korsmeyer, 'Taste', Encyclopedia of Aesthetics , ed. Michael Kelly (New York, NY and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 4:355–62. Ted Cohen, 'The Philosophy of Taste: Thoughts on the Idea', Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics , ed. Peter Kivy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 167–73. Week 1: Hume on beauty, art, and aesthetic judgment in the Treatise of Human Nature and the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals The following references are usable for any complete edition of the Treatise or Enquiry Treatise , 2.1.8 ('Of Beauty and Deformity') Treatise , 2.2.5 ('Of Our Esteem for the Rich and Powerful') Treatise , 2.2.8 ('Of Malice and Envy'), final three paragraphs Treatise , 2.2.11 ('Of the Amorous Passion, or Love Betwixt the Sexes') Treatise , 3.1.2 ('Moral Distinctions Deriv'd from a Moral Sense') Treatise , 3.3.1 ('Of the Origin of the Natural Virtues') Treatise , 3.3.5 ('Some Farther Reflexions Concerning the Natural Virtues') Enquiry , Appendix 1 ('Of moral sentiment') Week 2: Hume's essays Essays Moral, Political, and Literary , ed. Eugene Miller (Indianapolis, IN: LibertyClassics, 1985) is the most commonly used edition today. 'Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion' 'Of Eloquence' 'Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences' 'Of Simplicity and Refinement in Writing' 'Of Tragedy' 'Of the Standard of Taste' Week 3: Circularity–Virtuous or Vicious? Peter Kivy, 'Hume's Standard of Taste: Breaking the Circle', British Journal of Aesthetics (1967): 57–66. David Wiggins, 'A Sensible Subjectivism?', Needs, Values, and Truth , 3rd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 185–214. Week 4: Rules of Art Mary Mothersill, 'Hume: "Of the Standard of Taste" ', Beauty Restored (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), 177–208. James Shelley, 'Hume's Double Standard of Taste', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (1994): 437–45. Nick Zangwill, 'Hume, Taste, and Teleology', The Metaphysics of Beauty (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 149–65. Week 5: The True Judge Malcolm Budd, 'Hume and Kant', 'Hume's Standard of Taste', 'Hume and Human Nature', Values of Art (London: Allen Lane, 1995), 16–24 . Paul Guyer, 'The Standard of Taste and the "Most Ardent Desire of Society" ', Values of Beauty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 37–76. Jerrold Levinson, 'Hume's Standard of Taste: The Real Problem', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2002): 227–38. Week 6: Moralism in Aesthetic Judgment: Hume and Beyond Kendall Walton, 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (1994): 27–50. Richard Moran, 'The Expression of Feeling in Imagination', Philosophical Review (1994): 75–106. Tamar Szabo-Gendler, 'The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance', Journal of Philosophy (2000): 55–81. Focus Questions 1. How does Hume distinguish between matters of 'fact' and 'sentiment'? 2. What is a 'rule of art', and are there any rules? 3. Can a bad critic be 'silenced'? 4. What are the characteristics of good critics? 5. Should we expect good critics to agree on the merits of a work, and should I care about becoming a good critic myself? 6. Is it possible to distinguish variations in taste for which we should expect a standard and variations for which it is 'vain' to have such an expectation? 7. How is the excellence of a work related to the exercise of taste? 8. If a work of literature has a moral outlook that differs from our own, should we consider the work defective on literary grounds? (shrink)
Most views of personal identity allow that sometimes, facts of personal identity can be borderline or indeterminate. Bernard Williams argued that regarding questions of one’s own survival as borderline “had no comprehensible representation” in one’s emotions and expectations. Whether this is the case, I will argue, depends crucially on what account of indeterminacy is presupposed.
[Andrew Williams] It is difficult for prioritarians to explain the degree to which justice requires redress for misfortune in a way that avoids imposing unreasonably high costs on more advantaged individuals whilst also economising on intuitionist appeals to judgment. An appeal to hypothetical insurance may be able to solve the problems of cost and judgment more successfully, and can also be defended from critics who claim that resource egalitarianism is best understood to favour the ex post elimination of envy over (...) individual endowments. /// [Michael Otsuka] Inequality is intrinsically bad when and because it is unfair. It follows that the ideal of equality is not necessarily realised by a distribution of resources which is envy-free prior to the resolution of risks against which people have an equal opportunity to insure. Even if the upshot of such an ex ante envyfree distribution is just, it is not necessarily fair. (shrink)
Thomas Williams Note: This is a preprint of my introduction to the forthcoming translation by Margaret Atkins of Thomas Aquinas’s Disputed Questions on the Virtues (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy). The basic procedure was simple. The topic would be announced in advance so that everyone could prepare an arsenal of clever arguments. When the faculty and students had gathered, the professor would offer a brief introduction and state his thesis. All morning long an appointed graduate student would take (...) objections from the audience and defend the professor’s thesis against those objections. (And if the graduate student began to flounder, the professor was allowed to help him out.) A secretary would take shorthand notes. The next day the group would reassemble. This time it would be the professor’s job to summarise the arguments on both sides and give his own response to the question at issue. The whole thing would be written up, either in a rough-and-tumble version deriving from the secretary’s notes or in a more carefully crafted and edited version prepared by the professor himself. Records of such academic exercises have come down to us under the title ‘disputed questions’. (shrink)
Chancy counterfactuals are a headache. Dylan Dodd (2009) presents an interesting argument against a certain general strategy for accounting for them, instances of which are found in the appendices to Lewis (1979) and in Williams (2008). I will argue (i) that Dodd’s understates the counterintuitiveness of the conclusions he can reach; (ii) that the counterintuitiveness can be thought of as an instance of more general oddities arising when we treat vagueness and indeterminacy in a classical setting; and (iii) the underlying (...) source of discontent which animates Dodd’s complains is to be found in a certain general constraint one might impose on conditionals—what I’ll call the counterfactual Ramsey bound. Unfortunately, the counterfactual Ramsey bound is just as problematic as its famous indicative cousin. The moral is that there’s no comfortable resting place in this area; for violations of the counterfactual Ramsey bound are going to lead to prima facie surprising results. (shrink)
Jeff Paris (2001) proves a generalized Dutch Book theorem. If a belief state is not a generalized probability (a kind of probability appropriate for generalized distributions of truth-values) then one faces ‘sure loss’ books of bets. In Williams (manuscript) I showed that Joyce’s (1998) accuracy-domination theorem applies to the same set of generalized probabilities. What is the relationship between these two results? This note shows that (when ‘accuracy’ is treated via the Brier Score) both results are easy corollaries of the (...) core result that Paris appeals to in proving his dutch book theorem (Minkowski’s separating hyperplane theorem). We see that every point of accuracy-domination defines a dutch book, but we only have a partial converse. (shrink)
Jeff Paris (2001) proves a generalized Dutch Book theorem. If a belief state is not a generalized probability (a kind of probability appropriate for generalized distributions of truth-values) then one faces ‘sure loss’ books of bets. In <span class='Hi'>Williams</span> (manuscript) I showed that Joyce’s (1998) accuracy-domination theorem applies to the same set of generalized probabilities. What is the relationship between these two results? This note shows that (when ‘accuracy’ is treated via the Brier Score) both results are easy corollaries of (...) the core result that Paris appeals to in proving his dutch book theorem (Minkowski’s separating hyperplane theorem). We see that every point of accuracy-domination deﬁnes a dutch book, but we only have a partial converse. (shrink)
This volume brings together Paul Williams's previously published papers on the Indian and Tibetan interpretations of selected verses from the eighth and ninth chapters of the Bodhicaryavatara. In addition, there is a much longer version of the paper 'Identifying the Object of Negation', and nearly half the book consists of a wholly new essay, 'The Absence of Self and the Removal of Pain', subtitled 'How Santideva Destroyed the Bodhisattva Path'. This book will be of interest to those concerned with the (...) history and interpretation of Indian and Tibetan philosophy. (shrink)
Is social science really a science at all, and if so in what sense? This is the first real question that any course on the philosophy of the social sciences must tackle. In this brief introduction, Malcolm Williams gives the students the grounding that will enable them to discuss the issues involved with confidence.
In 2004, I explained the absurdity of Moore-paradoxical belief via the syllogism (Williams 2004): (1) All circumstances that justify me in believing that p are circumstances that tend to make me believe that p. (2) All circumstances that tend to make me believe that p are circumstances that justify me in believing that I believe that p. (3) All circumstances that justify me in believing that p are circumstances that justify me in believing that I believe that p. I then (...) took (3) to mean (EP) Whatever justifies me in believing that p justifies me in believing that I believe that p.1 Now suppose that I am justified in believing anything of the omissive Mooreparadoxical form: (Om) p and I do not believe that p. Then I am justified in believing the first conjunct. So by (EP) I am justified in believing that I believe that p. But since I am also justified in believing the second conjunct, I am justified in believing that I do not believe that p. I claimed that this is impossible, because anything that justifies me in believing that something is the case renders me unjustified in believing that it is not the case. This syllogism is plausible from an externalist view of justification, according to which circumstances such as seeming to see rain under normal perceptual conditions, justify me in believing that it is raining. In support of (1), if my apparent perceptions of rain are reliably connected with rain, so as to justify me in thinking that it is raining, they also tend to make me believe that it is raining. In support of (2), my apparent perceptions of rain are also reliably connected with my coming to believe that it is raining. However, Anthony Brueckner (2006) argues that (1) and (EP) are both false once justification is thought of evidentially. Against (EP), he claims that my evidence that p is not evidence that I believe that p unless I possess the evidence, in the sense that I believe it and were I to believe that p on its basis. (shrink)
Lyotard and the Political is the first book to consider the full range of the French philosopher Francois Lyotard's political thought and its broader implications. Author James Williams clearly and carefully traces the development of Lyotard's thought from his early Marxist essays on the Algerian struggle for independence to his break with the thought of Marx and Freud. This book explains why Lyotard lost his belief in revolutionary politics and seeks to draw out the positive and negative consequences of this (...) loss. Encompassing all of Lyotard's thought, early and late, the book situates his work in terms of the dominant political and philosophical positions of the twentieth century.Williams clearly explains the relationship between Lyotard's thought and the thought of Kant, Heidegger, and Deleuze. (shrink)
Toleration has a rich tradition in Western political philosophy. It is, after all, one of the defining topics of political philosophy—historically pivotal in the development of modern liberalism, prominent in the writings of such canonical figures as John Locke and John Stuart Mill, and central to our understanding of the idea of a society in which individuals have the right to live their own lives by their own values, left alone by the state so long as they respect the similar (...) interests of others. -/- Toleration and Its Limits, the latest addition to the NOMOS series, explores the philosophical nuances of the concept of toleration and its scope in contemporary liberal democratic societies. Editors Melissa S. Williams and Jeremy Waldron carefully compiled essays that address the tradition's key historical figures; its role in the development and evolution of Western political theory; its relation to morality, liberalism, and identity; and its limits and dangers. -/- Contributors: Lawrence A. Alexander, Kathryn Abrams, Wendy Brown, Ingrid Creppell, Noah Feldman, Rainer Forst, David Heyd, Glyn Morgan, Glen Newey, Michael A. Rosenthal, Andrew Sabl, Steven D. Smith, and Alex Tuckness. (shrink)
Moore’s paradox in belief is the fact that beliefs of the form ‘ p and I do not believe that p ’ are ‘absurd’ yet possibly true. Writers on the paradox have nearly all taken the absurdity to be a form of irrationality. These include those who give what Timothy Chan calls the ‘pragmatic solution’ to the paradox. This solution turns on the fact that having the Moorean belief falsifies its content. Chan, who also takes the absurdity to be a (...) form of irrationality, objects to this solution by arguing that it is circular and thus incomplete. This is because it must explain why Moorean beliefs are irrational yet, according to Chan, their grammatical third-person transpositions are not, even though the same proposition is believed. But the solution can only explain this asymmetry by relying on a formulation of the ground of the irrationality of Moorean beliefs that presupposes precisely such asymmetry. I reply that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for the irrationality that the contents of Moorean beliefs be restricted to the grammatical first-person. What has to be explained is rather that such grammatical non-first-person transpositions sometimes, but not always, result in the disappearance of irrationality. Describing this phenomenon requires the grammatical first-person/non-first person distinction. The pragmatic solution explains the phenomenon once it is formulated in de se terms. But the grammatical first-person/non-first-person distinction is independent of, and a fortiori, different from, the de se /non- de se distinction presupposed by pragmatic solution, although both involve the first person broadly construed. Therefore the pragmatic solution is not circular. Building on the work of Green and Williams I also distinguish between the irrationality of Moorean beliefs and their absurdity. I argue that while all irrational Moorean beliefs are absurd, some Moorean beliefs are absurd but not irrational. I explain this absurdity in a way that is not circular either. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: 1. Buddhist funeral cultures of Southeast Asia and China Patrice Ladwig and Paul Williams; 2. Chanting as 'bricolage technique': a comparison of South and Southeast Asian funeral recitation Rita Langer; 3. Weaving life out of death: the craft of the rag robe in Cambodian ritual technology Erik W. Davis; 4. Corpses and cloth: illustrations of the pasukula ceremony in Thai manuscripts M. L. Pattaratorn Chirapravati; 5. Good death, bad death and ritual restructurings: the New Year ceremonies (...) of the Phunoy in northern Laos Vanina Boute;; 6. Feeding the dead: ghosts, materiality and merit in a Lao Buddhist festival for the deceased Patrice Ladwig; 7. Funeral rituals, bad death and the protection of social space among the Arakanese (Burma) Alexandra de Mersan; 8. Theatre of death and rebirth: monks' funerals in Burma François Robinne; 9. From bones to ashes: the Teochiu management of bad death in China and overseas Bernard Formoso; 10. For Buddhas, families and ghosts: the transformation of the Ghost Festival into a Dharma assembly in southeast China Ingmar Heise; 11. Xianghua foshi (incense and flower Buddhist rites): a local Buddhist funeral ritual tradition in southeastern China Yik Fai Tam; 12. Buddhist passports to the other world: a study of modern and early medieval Chinese Buddhist mortuary documents Frederick Shih-Chung Chen. (shrink)
Japan and the Enemies of Open Political Science argues that Eurocentric blindness is a scientific failing, not a moral one. In a way true of no other political system, Japan's greatness has the potential to enliven and reform almost all the main branches of Western Political Science. David Williams criticizes Western social science, Anglo-American Philosophy and French Theory and explains why mainstream economists, historians of political thought and postculturalists have ignored Japan's modern achievements. Williams demonstrates why the renewal of social (...) science and the nurturing of a "a philosophy of the Pacific Century" requires a sustained act of intellectual demolition. (shrink)
David Williams explores the complex links between Condorcet as visionary ideologist and pragmatic legislator, and between his concept of modernity and the management of change. The Marquis de Condorcet was one of the few Enlightenment thinkers to witness and participate in the French Revolution. Based on an extensive array of printed and original manuscript sources, Williams' analysis of Condorcet's politics will be a major contribution to Enlightenment studies.
Is there a Moore’s paradox in desire? I give a normative explanation of the epistemic irrationality, and hence absurdity, of Moorean belief that builds on Green and Williams’ normative account of absurdity. This explains why Moorean beliefs are normally irrational and thus absurd, while some Moorean beliefs are absurd without being irrational. Then I defend constructing a Moorean desire as the syntactic counterpart of a Moorean belief and distinguish it from a ‘Frankfurt’ conjunction of desires. Next I discuss putative examples (...) of rational and irrational desires, suggesting that there are norms of rational desire. Then I examine David Wall’s groundbreaking argument that Moorean desires are always unreasonable. Next I show against this that there are rational as well as irrational Moorean desires. Those that are irrational are also absurd, although there seem to be absurd desires that are not irrational. I conclude that certain norms of rational desire should be rejected. (shrink)
PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy addresses the very issue of political correctness and the current skirmishes in the culture wars. It includes statements from many of our leading contemporary public intellectuals, including Joan Wallach Scott, Michael Be;rube;, Bruce Robbins, Henry Giroux, and Gerald Graff. The collection marks a watershed in the debate about "pc" in that it presents serious considerations and analyses of the factors, causes, and consequences of the culture wars. Carefully examining the construction of "pc," (...) PC Wars analyses political correctness by focusing on the mass media, class politics, and the ideology of managerial democracy. It places the disputes around "pc" in the context of contemporary developments in critical and cultural theory and the current backlash against theory, manifested in the recent attacks on Marxism, feminism and deconstruction. The book also scrutinizes the undercurrents of anti-intellectualism and anti-professionalism which have tended to create a fertile ground for the "pc" hysteria. Offering much more than slogans and slinging arrows, PC Wars provides a spirited and critical look at the reaction, ideology, and political forces that have coalesced around the term. Contributors: Michael Be;rube;, Reed Way Dasenbrock, Frank Farmer, Henry Giroux, Gerald Graff, Darlene Hantzis and Devoney Looser, John S. Howard and James M. Lang, Tom Lewis, James Neilson, Christopher Newfield, Richard Ohmann, Burce Robbins, Barry Sarchett, Joan W. Scott, Michael Sprinker, Jeffrey Williams. (shrink)
This book demonstrates that law can be newly interrogated when examined through the lens of literature. Like its forerunner, Empty Justice, the book creates simple pathways which energise and illustrate the links between legal theory and legal science and doctrine, through the wider visions of history, literature and culture. This broadening approach is integral to understanding law in the context of wider debates and media in the community. The book provides a collection of essays, with additional commentary which reflects upon (...) very recent scholarship and debate on a range of ethico-legal topics; it also illustrates how conventional legal matters may be rendered lively and palatable, as an adjunct to approaching doctrine and cases 'cold' in the conventional textbook manner. The chapters range from examination of current thought on cohabitation and marriage laws (via Jude the Obscure), 19th century medico-legal cases relevant to current narratives of insanity in women and the nature and status of expert evidence generally; assisted suicide and autonomy (via a poem by Jon Stallworthy) to an essay on the nature of race and ethnicity (via a poem by R S Thomas), a discussion of obscenity and moral philosophy (via an essay on Crash by J G Ballard and the philosophy of Bernard Williams) and a history of ideas discussion of positivism, natural law and political crisis, war and terrorism through legal and political theory texts and a poem by Auden. The materials refer to case law where appropriate. The chapters range from examination of current thought on cohabitation and marriage laws (via Jude the Obscure), 19th century medico-legal cases relevant to current narratives of insanity in women and the nature and status of expert evidence generally; assisted suicide and autonomy (via a poem by Jon Stallworthy) to an essay on the nature of race and ethnicity (via a poem by R S Thomas), a discussion of obscenity and moral philosophy (via an essay on Crash by J G Ballard and the philosophy of Bernard Williams) and a history of ideas discussion of positivism, natural law and political crisis, war and terrorism through legal and political theory texts and a poem by Auden. The materials refer to case law where appropriate. (shrink)
This book explores the tradition of the 'science of man' in French medicine of the era 1750-1850, focusing on controversies about the nature of the 'physical-moral' relation and their effects on the role of medicine in French society. Its chief purpose is to recover the history of a holistic tradition in French medicine that has been neglected because it lay outside the mainstream themes of modern medicine, which include experimental, reductionist, and localistic conceptions of health and disease. Professor Williams also (...) challenges existing historiography, which argues that the 'anthropological' approach to medicine was a short-term by-product of the leftist politics of the French Revolution. This work argues instead that the medical science of man long outlived the Revolution, that it spanned traditional ideological divisions, and that it reflected the shared aim of French physicians, whatever their politics, to claim broad cultural authority in French society. (shrink)
In Morality Bernard Williams confronts the problems of writing moral philosophy, and offers a stimulating alternative to more systematic accounts which seem nevertheless to have left all the important issues somewhere off the page.
The Architecture of Theology presents a fresh reading of Christian theology, re-interpreting discussions of theological method and considering them in light of contemporary philosophical debates. A. N. Williams re-evaluates the traditional theological warrants (scripture, tradition, and reason) and the concept of systematic theology, arguing that Christian theology is inherently systematic, reflecting the rationality and relationality of its two chief subjects, 'God and other things as they are related to God'(Aquinas). The roles of the theological warrants are assessed, showing how they (...) are necessarily interdependent. Contemporary philosophical discussions of the structure of reasoning are also examined; these have conventionally contrasted foundationalist and coherentist accounts. A contemporary consensus has emerged, however, of a chastened foundationalism or hybrid foundationalism-coherentism, in light of which arguments are understood both as reasoning from foundational propositions and as gaining plausibility from the coherence of claims with one another. -/- The Christian tradition anticipated these developments: theological arguments exhibit a dual structure, with propositions underwritten to some extent by their dependence on scripture and tradition and to some extent by their coherence with one another in integrated webs, or systems. Christian theology is therefore shown to be systematic in its fundamental structure, whether or not a given argument forms part of a 'systematic theology'. The systematicity of Christian theology is related to its subject matter, 'God and other things as they are related to God'. Theology's two chief subjects (God and humanity) are characterised by rationality and relationality. These are also the qualities of Christian theology itself: it is a double mimesis, reflecting in its very structures of reasoning its subject matter. -/- The order, harmony and coherence of those structures, however, have an aesthetic appeal which has the potential to appeal for its very beauty, rather than its truth. Williams presents a careful examination of the tradition of theological aesthetics, asking whether the beauty of systematic structures counts for or against theological truth. (shrink)
"In this exceptionally brilliant book, ranging effortlessly from Herodotus and Thucydides to Diderot and Nietzsche, Bernard Williams daringly asks--and still more daringly answers--one of the central questions of philosophy: what is the ...
Philosophers have met with many problems in discussing the interconnected concepts being, identity, and truth, and have advanced many theories to deal with them. Williams argues that most of these problems and theories result from an inadequate appreciation of the ways in which the words "be," "same," and "true" work. By means of linguistic analysis he shows that being and truth are not properties, and identity is not a relation. He is thus able to demystify a number of metaphysical issues (...) concerning the meaning of the word "I," the relation between the mental and the physical, objects of thought, times and places, and the nature of reality. Williams presents his views clearly, with a minimum of technicality, and with rich and apt examples, so that they will be accessible to readers not versed in symbolic logic. (shrink)
Inspired by the work of Wilfrid Sellars, Michael Williams launches an all-out attack on what he calls "phenomenalism," the idea that our knowledge of the world rests on a perceptual or experiential foundation. The point of this wider-than-normal usage of the term "phenomenalism," according to which even some forms of direct realism deserve to be called phenomenalistic, is to call attention to important continuities of thought between theories often thought to be competitors. Williams's target is not phenomenalism in its classical (...) sense-datum and reductionist form but empiricism generally. Williams examines and rejects the idea that, unless our beliefs are answerable to a "given" element in experience, objective knowledge will be impossible. Groundless Belief was first published in 1977. This second edition contains a new afterword in which Williams places his arguments in the context of some current discussions of coherentism versus the Myth of the Given and explains their relation to subsequent developments in his own epistemological views. (shrink)
Father Williams explains how the conscience is formed through our training and experiences and informed by the Holy Spirit, making it an essential tool for daily living. He uses familiar and surprising characters to illustrate the positive choices conscience can direct--and the disaster that results when a conscience is undeveloped or ignored. Questions he tackles include "Is it more important to be smart or good?""Is there a morally right thing to do in every situation?" and "Is the Christian moral life (...) an exciting adventure, or a necessary burden?" Rich, provocative, and practical for everyday decision making, KNOWING RIGHT FROM WRONG is a must-read for all who hunger for personal holiness. (shrink)
Following a comparative study of canonical liberal philosophers Hayek and Rawls, Juliet Williams reveals a new direction for conceptualizing limited government in the twenty-first century, highlighting the central role that democratic politics--rather than philosophical principles--should play in determining the uses and limits of state power in a liberal regime. Williams draws on recent scholarship in the field of democratic theory and cultural studies in arguing for a shift in the ways liberals approach the study of politics.
What is epistemology or 'the theory of knowledge'? What is it really about? Why does it matter? What makes theorising about knowledge 'philosophical'? Why do some philosophers argue that epistemology - perhaps even philosophy itself - is dead? In this exciting and original introduction, Michael Williams shows how epistemological theorizing is sensitive to a range of questions about the nature, limits, methods, and value of knowing. He pays special attention to the challenge of philosophical scepticism: does our 'knowledge' rest on (...) brute assumptions? Does the rational outlook undermine itself? -/- Williams explains and criticises all the main contemporary philopsophical perspectives on human knowledge, such as foundationalism, the coherence theory, and 'naturalistic' theories. As an alternative to all of them, he defends his distinctive contextualist approach. While accessible to the undergraduate and general reader, this book contains Williams' own original ideas and is essential reading for all philosophers concerned with the theory of knowledge. (shrink)
The concept of identity has been seen to lead to a paradox: we cannot truly and usefully say that a thing is the same either as itself or as something else. Williams here examines this paradox in philosophical logic, and its implications for the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and relativism about identity.
Central to discussion of supervaluationist accounts of vagueness is the extent to which they require revisions of classical logic and if so, whether those revisions are objectionable. In an important recent Journal of Philosophy article, J.R.G. Williams presents a powerful challenge to the orthodox view that supervaluationism is objectionably revisionary. Williams argues both that supervaluationism is non-revisionary and that even if it were, those revisions would be unobjectionable. This note shows that his arguments for both claims fail.
When a person gives up an end of crucial importance to her in order to promote a moral aim, we regard her as having made a moral sacrifice. The paper analyzes these sacrifices in light of some of Bernard Williams’ objections to Kantian and Utilitarian accounts of them. Williams argues that an implausible consequence of these theories is that that we are expected to sacrifice projects that make our lives worth living and contribute to our integrity. Williams’ arguments about integrity (...) and meaning are shown to be unconvincing when the content of projects is left open. However, a look at his later arguments suggests a reason to be concerned about defensible ethical projects as understood through what he refers to as “the morality system”. The problem for theories of this type turns out to be not merely conflicts between ethical projects and moral demands but making sense of some of the ethically relevant features of these projects. Accommodations to moral theories that leave room for ethical projects may be insufficient to explain such features, for example in cases where agents demand more of themselves than the theories require. Making the theories more demanding is also problematic. Williams’ view about the role ethics plays in our conception of the life we want to lead provides a better account of these cases. (shrink)
As a response to what I see as the challenge posed by constructivist and narrative pedagogies, this paper seeks to sympathetically reconstruct Bernard Williams' Absolute Conception from the scattered texts in which he briefly sketched it. While ultimately defending the Absolute Conception or something close enough to it, the paper criticizes and distances itself from some aspects of Williams' version, notably his conception of philosophy as insurmountably perspectival. Williams' understanding of perspectival knowledge as contrasted to absolute knowledge is illustrated with (...) the concrete, if fictional case of the Dr Manhattan character from Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009). Adrian Moore's reading, and Hilary Putnam's criticisms of Williams' Absolute Conception are amongst the positions engaged with. (shrink)
William James' Radical Empiricist essays offer a unique and powerful argument for direct realism about our perceptions of objects. This theory can be completed with some observations by Kant on the intellectual preconditions for a perceptual judgment. Finally James and Kant deliver a powerful blow to the representational theory of perception and knowledge, which applies quite broadly to theories of representation generally.
What I have tried to do is elicit and disarm the motivations most likely to give rise to the [counterexamples to the principle crucial to Williams' argument]. Only one of these motivations is still viable: the instrumentalist theory of practical reasoning. But because internalism and instrumentalism are, as it has turned out, so very tightly linked, in disarming the motivations for the objection, I have also inventoried, and given reason to reject, what I have found to be the most common (...) conversationally adduced defences of instrumentalism: the appeals to imagination, to dispositional desires, and so on. The issue remaining from the debate over internalism turns out to be whether [instrumentalism is false---i.e. whether] there are patterns of practical inference that are not directed toward the satisfaction of desire. (shrink)
Bernard Williams is a sceptic about the objectivity of moral value, embracing instead a qualified moral relativism—the ‘relativism of distance’. His attitude to blame too is in part sceptical (he thought it often involved a certain ‘fantasy’). I will argue that the relativism of distance is unconvincing, even incoherent; but also that it is detachable from the rest of Williams's moral philosophy. I will then go on to propose an entirely localized thesis I call the relativism of blame, which says (...) that when an agent's moral shortcomings by our lights are a matter of their living according to the moral thinking of their day, judgements of blame are out of order. Finally, I will propose a form of moral judgement we may sometimes quite properly direct towards historically distant agents when blame is inappropriate—moral-epistemic disappointment. Together these two proposals may help release us from the grip of the idea that moral appraisal always involves the potential applicability of blame, and so from a key source of the relativist idea that moral appraisal is inappropriate over distance. (shrink)
In ‘Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline,’ Williams is mistaken in thinking that I accused him of thinking that that we can describe the world ‘as it is anyway’ without using concepts. Our real disagreement is over whether it makes sense to think that the concepts of physics do this. The central issue is this: the notion of ‘absoluteness’ is defined using at least one semantical notion (‘convergence’). If Williams' view is to work, I argue, at least one semantical notion needs (...) to be absolute. But Williams himself concedes that semantical notions cannot be reduced to physical ones, and the ‘absolute conception’ is supposed to be given in terms of primary qualities alone. (shrink)
In this essay I consider the argument that Bernard Williams advances in ‘The Makropolus Case’ for the meaninglessness of immortality. I also consider various counter-arguments. I suggest that the more clearly these counter-arguments are targeted at the spirit of Williams's argument, rather than at its letter, the less clearly they pose a threat to it. I then turn to Nietzsche, whose views about the eternal recurrence might appear to make him an opponent of Williams. I argue that, properly interpreted, these (...) views in fact make him an ally. (shrink)
An important shift occurs in Martin Heidegger’s thinking one year after the publication of Being and Time , in the Appendix to the Metaphysical Foundations of Logic . The shift is from his project of fundamental ontology—which provides an existential analysis of human existence on an ontological level—to metontology . Metontology is a neologism that refers to the ontic sphere of human experience and to the regional ontologies that were excluded from Being and Time. It is within metontology, Heidegger states, (...) that “the question of ethics may be raised for the first time.” This paper makes explicit both Heidegger’s argument for metontology , and the relation between metontology and ethics. In examining what he means by “the art of existing,” the paper argues that there is an ethical dimension to Heidegger’s thinking that corresponds to a moderate form of moral particularism. In order to justify this position, a comparative analysis is made between Heidegger, Aristotle, and Bernard Williams. (shrink)
Bernard Williams is one of the most influential figures in recent ethical theory, where he has set a considerable part of the current agenda. In this collection, a distinguished international team of philosophers who have been stimulated by Williams' work give new responses to it. The topics covered include equality, consistency, comparisons between science and ethics, integrity, moral reasons, the moral system, and moral knowledge. Williams himself then provides a substantial reply, which in turn shows both the current directions of (...) his own thought and also his present view of his earlier work (such as that on utilitarianism). (shrink)
: A central component of Bernard Williams' political realism is the articulation of a standard of legitimacy from within politics itself: LEG. This standard is presented as basic, inherent in all political orders and the best way to underwrite fundamental liberal principles particular to the modern state, including basic human rights. It does not require, according to Williams, a wider set of liberal values. In the following, I show that where Williams restricts LEG to generating only minimal political protections, seeking (...) to isolate his account of political legitimacy from a range of liberal principles, this is neither internal to, nor necessarily demanded by, the specifically political account of LEG. Instead, the limitation depends upon his wider ethical thought. (shrink)
Michael Williams believes that scepticism about the externalworld seems compelling only because the considerations that underpin it are thoughtto be ``mere platitudes'''' about e.g., the nature and source of human knowledge, and hence,that if it shown through a ``theoretical diagnosis'''' that it does not rest upon suchplatitudes, but contentious theoretical considerations that we are no means bound toaccept, we can simply dismiss the absurd sceptical conclusion. Williams argues thatscepticism does presuppose two extremely contentious doctrines, however, he admits thatif (...) these doctrines are themselves motivated by ``platitudes'''' then scepticism follows. Iaddress Williams''s arguments for thinking scepticism must presuppose these doctrines,and argue that he overlooks a way that they can be seen as motivated by mere platitudes.Thus, I conclude that William''s novel rejection of scepticism fails. (shrink)
Nativists about syntactic processing have argued that linguisticprocessing, understood as the implementation of a rule-basedcomputational architecture, is spared in Williams syndrome, (WMS)subjects – and hence that it provides evidence for a geneticallyspecified language module. This argument is bolstered by treatingSpecific Language Impairments (SLI) and WMS as a developmental doubledissociation which identifies a syntax module. Neuroconstructivists haveargued that the cognitive deficits of a developmental disorder cannot beadequately distinguished using the standard gross behavioural tests ofneuropsychology and that the linguistic abilities of the (...) WMS subject canbe equally well explained by a constructivist strategy of neurallearning in the individual, with linguisitic functions implemented in anassociationist architecture. The neuroconstructivist interpretation ofWMS undermines the hypothesis of a double dissociation between SLI andWMS, leaving unresolved the question of nativism about syntax. Theapparent linguistic virtuosity of WMS subjects is an artefact ofenhanced phonological processing, a fact which is easier to demonstratevia the associationist computational model embraced byneuroconstructivism. (shrink)
In a recent article, Meghan Griffith (American Philosophical Quarterly 47:43–56, 2010) argues that agent-causal libertarian theories are immune to the problem of luck but that event-causal theories succumb to this problem. In making her case against the event-causal theories, she focuses on Robert Kane’s event-causal theory. I provide a brief account of the central elements of Kane’s theory and I explain Griffith’s critique of it. I argue that Griffith’s criticisms fail. In doing so, I note some important respects in which (...) Kane’s view is unclear and I suggest a plausible way of reading Kane that makes his theory immune to Griffith’s objections. (shrink)
The author examines Williams' appraisal of Collingwood both in his eponymous essay on Collingwood, in the posthumously published Sense of the Past (2006), and elsewhere in his work. The similarities and differences between their philosophies are explored: in particular, with regard to the relationship between philosophy and history and the relationship between the study of history and our present-day moral attitudes. It is argued that, despite Williams usually being classified as an analytic philosopher and Collingwood being classified as an idealist, (...) there is substantial common ground between them. Williams was aware of this and made clear his sympathy for Collingwood; but, nonetheless, the relationship between Williams and Collingwood has not previously been explored in any detail. After establishing the common ground between these philosophers, and the areas of disagreement, the author suggests that both may have something to gain from the other. (shrink)
I am grateful that someone whose work I greatly admire could be the philosopher to so eloquently and succinctly cut to the heart of the problem that I posed in the previous issue of Deleuze Studies. James Williams' critical reply leaves me, prima facie, confronted by a stark alternative: either I have misunderstood Deleuze, or I have illustrated problems and lacunae in Deleuze. I will suggest, however, that this is a false alternative, and that Williams' and my divergent accounts of (...) The Logic of Sense – and even Deleuze's oeuvre as a whole – is better understood as a situation of ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’, and hence that my interpretation of Deleuze isn't wrong, but necessarily iconoclastic. (shrink)
Recently, Clifford Williams has attempted to argue for the plausibility of a Christian form of physicalism. To make his case, Williams appropriates certain claims by John Locke regarding the possibility of thinking matter to argue for what Williams calls the parity theses: (1) God can make matter and nonmatter either to think or not to think. Given God's omnipotence, the justification for (1) is: (2) there is no contradiction in asserting either that matter or nonmatter thinks or that they do (...) not think. If we expand thinking to include other morally and religiously relevant operations of the mind, then we get: (3) God can make either a purely material being or a nonmaterial entity to have moral and religious characteristics. From this, Williams infers that: (4) there is an equal amount of mystery in thinking matter as there is in non-thinking matter. In response to Williams, I argue that his main arguments for the parity theses fail and his Lockean style argument must be judged a failure. To show this I, first, state Williams' Lockean parity argument and, second, criticize the three arguments he offers for its most important premise. (shrink)
In his new paper, “Eligibility and Inscrutability,” J. R. G. Williams presents a surprising new challenge to David Lewis’ theory of interpretation. Although Williams frames this challenge primarily as a response to Lewis’ criticisms of Putnam’s model-theoretic argument, the challenge itself goes to the heart of Lewis’ own account of interpretation. Further, and leaving Lewis’ project aside for a moment, Williams’ argument highlights some important—and some fairly general—points concerning the relationship between model theory and semantic determinacy.
The author begins with an outline of Bernard William's moral philosophy, within which he locates William's notorious doctrine that reflection can destroy ethical knowledge. He then gives a partial defence of this doctrine, exploiting an analogy between ethical judgements and tensed judgements. The basic idea is that what the passage of time does for the latter, reflection can do for the former: namely, prevent the re-adoption of an abandoned point of view (an ethical point of view in the one case, (...) a temporal point of view in the other). In the final section the author says a little about how reflection might do this. Footnotes1 This essay is derived from a lecture entitled ‘Bernard Williams’, delivered at Oxford University in 2000, in the series ‘Oxford Philosophers on Oxford Philosophers’, organized by Peter Hacker and David Wiggins. I am grateful to those who attended the lecture, and to Bernard Williams, for helpful comments. (shrink)
This article identifies principles for global journalism ethics in speeches and essays by the early 20th century journalist and founder of the first American journalism school, Walter Williams. Williams is not known as a media ethicist, nor is he a prominent figure in ongoing scholarly work on global journalism ethics. However, his nascent ethical principles offer an important foreshadowing of current discussions on how journalism ethics might work in a global context. The global perspective he brought to journalism was formulated (...) at a critical period in the development of American journalism and codes of ethics. Tracing the evolution of global journalism ethics is important because the search for universal ethical principles in journalism has intensified today. That is because “media technologies are increasingly and dramatically global. Our work in media ethics should be commensurate with them” (Christians, 2005, p. 3). A century ahead of current attempts to develop principles for global journalism ethics, Williams was confronted with pluralism and globalization, just as he and other key figures in American journalism's history were shaping journalism into a profession and an academic discipline. While Williams discussed such principles as global responsibility and awareness of difference, he also contended that a specifically Christian, American, pastoral model should set the global standard. This paradoxical, unwieldy stance is discussed in the context of the Progressive Era. Implications for current scholarship on global journalism ethics are explored. (shrink)
This paper provides a reading of the opera criticism of Bernard Williams in the light of his philosophical writings. Beginning with the observations that his philosophical writing lacks engagement with musical and aesthetic issues, and his operatic writing appears to present no particular philosophy of the subject, I try to draw together certain themes by mapping Williams's operatic concerns onto his philosophical project more generally. I argue that the 'excessive' nature of the artform—the idea that opera tends to exceed its (...) musico-dramatic functions—was of particular interest to Williams, partly because it resonated with his dislike of easy theoretical solutions to thorny practical issues. More specifically, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte is related, via the way the way its emotional register exceeds its dramatic context, to the issues examined by Williams in his work on moral luck. Similarly, I discuss the way Williams's essay on Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande seems to hint at an account of the emotions which is otherwise missing from Williams's oeuvre. (shrink)
Luck, Value, and Commitment comprises eleven new essays which engage with, or take their point of departure from, the influential work in moral and political philosophy of Bernard Williams (1929-2003).
In her "Species Are Individuals" (1985), Mary Williams offers informal arguments and a sketched proof which allegedly show that species are individuals with respect to evolutionary theory. In this paper, I suggest that her informal arguments are insufficient for showing that clans are not sets and that species are individuals. I also argue that her sketched proof depends on three questionable assumptions.
In an important paper, Clifford Williams advanced a Lockean-style argument to justify the parity thesis, viz., that there is no intellectual advantage to Christian physicalism or Christian dualism. In an article in Religious Studies I offered a critique of Williams's parity thesis and he has published a rejoinder to me in the same journal centring on my rejection of topic neutrality as an appropriate way to set up the mind–body debate. In this surrejoinder to Williams, I present his three main (...) arguments and respond to each: (1) The dualist rejection of topic neutrality is flawed because it expresses a conceptual approach to the mind–body problem instead of the preferable empirical approach. The latter favours physicalism and, in any case, clearly supports topic neutrality. (2) If the dualist rejects the first argument, then a second parity thesis can be advanced in which an essentialist view of soul and the brain are presented in which each is essentially a thinking and feeling entity. Thus, an essentialist parity thesis is preserved. (3) If the dualist rejects the second argument, a new topic neutrality emerges in the dialectic, so topic neutrality is unavoidable. Against the first argument, I claim that Williams makes two central confusions that undermine his case and that he fails to show how the mind–body debate can be settled empirically. Against the second argument, I claim that it leaves Williams vulnerable to a topic-neutral approach to God and it merely proffers a verbal shift with a new dualism between normal and ‘special’ matter. Against the third argument, I point out that it misrepresents the dualist viewpoint and leads to two counterintuitive features that follow from topic neutrality. (shrink)
Michael Williams: Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis, an Abridgment Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9294-y Authors Doug Seale, 21 Turner Ridge Road, Marlborough, MA 01752, UK Journal Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics Online ISSN 1573-322X Print ISSN 1187-7863.
An individual is in the lowest phase of moral development if he thinks only of his own personal interest and has only his own selfish agenda in his mind as he encounters other humans. This lowest phase corresponds well with sixteenth century British moral egoism which reflects the rise of the new economic order. Adam Smith (1723–1790) wanted to defend this new economic order which is based on economic exchange between egoistic individuals. Nevertheless, he surely did not want to support (...) the moral theory of British egoism. His book The Wealth of Nations suits well into the world view of British moral egoism, but in the book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he presents a moral theory which is the total opposite of moral egoism. Contemporary German intellectuals saw contradiction in Adam Smith’s moral (social) philosophy which they called as Das Adam - Smith - Problem . Smith himself didn’t think that there is any contradiction in a situation where in economic sphere (civil society) individual act egoistically and in ethical sphere (encounter with the imagined Other) he feels humanity and compassion toward his fellow men. Hegel was a passionate reader of Adam Smith and he acknowledged Das Adam - Smith - Problem . He set the task of his social philosophy to overcome this paradox. He wanted to create a theory of a social totality where economic egoism and feelings of humanity are not in contradiction. In the same time Hegel wanted to create a theory on Bildung process where human spirit develops from moral un-freedom (heteronomy) to moral freedom and maturity (autonomy) taking care both aspect of love and reason. In certain Hegel’s texts notion of recognition plays crucial role. That is why modern Hegelians Ludwig Siep, Axel Honneth and Robert Williams consider the notion of recognition to be elementary in Hegel’s threefold theory of developing human spirit from family via civil society to sittliche state . For Hegel family is a sphere where people love their “concrete other” and where feeling surpasses reason. Civil Society is a sphere of private contracts and economic exchanges where cold egoistic and calculative reason surpasses feelings. In the sphere of State the contradiction between family and Civil Society ( Das Adam - Smith - Problem ) is solved by “rational feeling”. According to Hegel State should protect citizens from alienating effect of egoistic reason of Civil Society and cultivate “family-feelings” to rational feelings which integrate citizen into “sittliche community” through reciprocal process of recognition. In this article I want to consider Hegelians Honneth’s and Williams’s relevance to the theory of moral development. (shrink)
Blanche DuBois, the tragic heroine of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire , has always been read as either “mad” from the start of the play or as a character who descends into “madness.” We argue that Streetcar adumbrates elements of trauma theory, specifically symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder such as involuntary reliving of traumatic events, dissociation, guilt, shame, denial, the shattering of the self, the compulsion to repeat the story of trauma, as well as the early stages of recovery (...) from trauma. We are the first to employ trauma theory as a critical framework through which to view Blanche and the dramaturgical devices used to concretize her post-traumatic state of mind. Williams’ heroine speaks from traumatic experience and not from psychic fabrications. Indeed, we contend that the play traces Blanche’s deliberate and self-conscious working through and mourning of the traumatic losses of the past, including her idealized, narcissistic conceptions of herself within a traumatic present. Thus she is more attuned to the most disturbing parts of reality and exhibits tragic insight born of traumatic experience. Critics who see Blanche as “mad” do not fully recognize her struggle to come to terms with trauma and loss within a culture of denial. We conclude that Streetcar stages the inextricable relation between the individual and social dialectics of trauma. (shrink)
In his recent Analysis article (2012), Robert Williams considers two puzzles relating to indeterminacy. On the basis of these puzzles, he defends a seemingly radical view on the normative role of indeterminacy. He speaks of indeterminacy as ‘normatively silent’. There are two ways of understanding the view that Williams defends. On one understanding, the view ends up being indistinguishable from one of the more traditional views Williams rejects, the view that phenomena of different kinds fall under the umbrella level ‘indeterminacy’. (...) On the other understanding, Williams’s view is genuinely radical but his arguments don't adequately support it. (shrink)
In light of recent interest among political theorists in the idea of political realism, Judith Shklar’s liberalism of fear has come to be associated with anti-Rawlsian thought. This paper seeks to show that, on the contrary, Shklar’s specific formulation of political realism, unlike more recent variations, was not motivated by a critique of Rawls. This paper will address three concerns: first, it will show what exactly Shklar’s initial realism was responding to; second, it will consider the implications of this realism (...) for thinking about liberal democracies; third, it will attempt, briefly, in light of this, to make sense of her relationship with Rawls and, in turn, through a comparison with Bernard Williams’s thought, her relationship to anti-Rawlsian political realism. (shrink)
In 'Belief-In and Belief in God' ("Religious Studies", 28, 1992), J. N. Williams suggests that belief in God cannot be rational unless one has rational beliefs that God exists. While agreeing with his conclusion (though not with his statement of it), I disagree at almost every step with his method of arriving at it. In particular I suggest that Williams goes astray concerning the dual aspect of belief in, the nature of performatives, the arousal of belief states, and the correct (...) account of belief in God. (shrink)
In the same year, 1961, Peter D. Mitchell and Robert R.J.P. Williams both put forward hypotheses for the mechanism of oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria and photophosphorylation in chloroplasts. Mitchell's proposal was ultimately adopted and became known as the chemiosmotic theory. Both hypotheses were based on protons and differed markedly from the then prevailing chemical theory originally proposed by E.C. (Bill) Slater in 1953, which by 1961 was failing to account for a number of experimental observations. Immediately following the publication (...) of Williams's hypothesis and before his own was published, Mitchell initiated a correspondence. Examination of the letters shows the development of a dispute based on the validity of the proposals, who should have priority and particularly whether Mitchell had drawn on Williams's work without acknowledgement. We have concluded that Mitchell's proposals were original (a view still questioned by Williams) although it is evident that prior to the correspondence Williams had considered and rejected a proposition similar to Mitchell's theory. However, a major cause of the dispute was the difference in disciplinary backgrounds of Mitchell, a microbial biochemist and Williams, a chemist. (shrink)