This study presents a substantial and often radical reinterpretation of some of the central themes of Locke's thought. Professor Alexander concentrates on the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and aims to restore that to its proper historical context. In Part I he gives a clear exposition of some of the scientific theories of Robert Boyle, which, he argues, heavily influenced Locke in employing similar concepts and terminology. Against this background, he goes on in Part II to provide an account of (...) Locke's views on the external world and our knowledge of it. He shows those views to be more consistent and plausible than is generally allowed, demonstrating how they make sense and enable scientific explanations of nature. In examining the views of Locke and Boyle together, the book throws new light both on the development of philosophy and the beginnings of modern science, and in particular it makes a considerable and original contribution to our understanding of Locke's philosophy. (shrink)
The background to this paper is as follows. In 1998 Glen Whitman published a paper in Constitutional Political Economy called ‘Hayek contra Pangloss on Evolutionary Systems’. At the same time and unaware of Whitman’s work, I posted my draft PhD chapter ‘Friedrich Hayek: a Panglossian evolutionary theorist’ (Denis, 2001, contains the final version) on my web page. Alain Albert (personal communication), having read the PhD chapter, drew my attention to Whitman’s article, and the result was a paper ‘Was Hayek (...) a Panglossian Evolutionary Theorist? A Reply to Whitman’ in the same journal in 2002. This in turn led to Whitman’s ‘Hayek Contra Pangloss: A Rejoinder’, also in Constitutional Political Economy, in December 2003. Now read on …. (shrink)
In a recent paper (Denis, 2004b) I argued that the neoclassical use of the concept of equilibrium was guilty of a hypostatisation: an equilibrium which is only an abstraction and extrapolation, the logical terminus of a component process taken in isolation, is extracted and one-sidedly substituted for the whole. The temporary is made permanent, and process subordinated to stasis, with clearly apologetic results. I concluded by suggesting that this hypostatisation exemplified the contrast between formal and dialectical modes of thought, (...) and that it may be in the application of a dialectical notion of equilibrium that the heterodoxy can make its most telling contribution. This paper develops the line of thought that, while heterodox currents may superficially appear as divided amongst themselves as they are from the orthodoxy, there is truly something profound uniting the apparently disparate heterodox trends: the adoption of a dialectical method. I draw on the work of Sciabarra (1995, 2000), who argues that making process primary, which we might expect of Austrian economists, is the essence of dialectics, which we might (wrongly, in his view) identify with Marxism. If this view is, as I believe, fundamentally correct, perhaps (a) we can only understand the method of neoclassical economics by contrasting it with a dialectical approach, and (b) we can explore the potential for common ground between the various heterodox currents by examining their attitude, both implicit and explicit, to dialectics. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Alexander of Aphrodisias’ commentaries on Aristotle’s Organon are valuable sources for both Stoic and early Peripatetic logic, and have often been used as such – in particular for early Peripatetic hypothetical syllogistic and Stoic propositional logic. By contrast, this paper explores the role Alexander himself played in the development and transmission of those theories. There are three areas in particular where he seems to have made a difference: First, he drew a connection between certain passages from Aristotle’s (...) Topics and Prior Analytics and the Stoic indemonstrable arguments, and, based on this connection, appropriated at least four kinds of Stoic indemonstrables as Aristotelian. Second, he developed and made use of a specifically Peripatetic terminology in which to describe and discuss those arguments – which facilitated the integration of the indemonstrables into Peripatetic logic. Third, he made some progress towards a solution to the problem of what place and interpretation the Stoic third indemonstrables should be given in a Peripatetic and Platonist setting. Overall, the picture emerges that Alexander persistently (if not always consistently) presented passages from Aristotle’s logical œuvre in a light that makes it appear as if Aristotle was in the possession of a Peripatetic correlate to the Stoic theory of indemonstrables. (shrink)
According to Alexander of Aphrodisias, our potential intellect is a purely receptive capacity. Alexander also claims that, in order for us to actualise our intellectual potentiality, the intellect needs to abstract what is intelligible from enmattered perceptible objects. Now a problem emerges: How is it possible for a purely receptive capacity to perform such an abstraction? It will be argued that even though Alexander's reaction to this question causes some tension in his theory, the philosophical motivation for (...) it is a sound one. Rather than a calculation of actualities and potentialities, the doctrine of receptivity is supposed to explain how human beings come to grasp universal aspects of reality in an accurate manner. (shrink)
Group selection is increasingly being viewed as an important force in human evolution. This paper examines the views of R.D. Alexander, one of the most influential thinkers about human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, on the subject of group selection. Alexander's general conception of evolution is based on the gene-centered approach of G.C. Williams, but he has also emphasized a potential role for group selection in the evolution of individual genomes and in human evolution. Alexander's views are (...) internally inconsistent and underestimate the importance of group selection. Specific themes that Alexander has developed in his account of human evolution are important but are best understood within the framework of multilevel selection theory. From this perspective, Alexander's views on moral systems are not the radical departure from conventional views that he claims, but remain radical in another way more compatible with conventional views. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: English translation of the 2nd/3rd century Peripatetic Philosopher's Alexander of Aphrodisias commentary on Aristotle's non-modal syllogistic, i.e. on one of the most influential logical texts of all times. -/- Volume includes introduction on Alexander of Aphrodisias and the early commentators, translation with notes and comments, appendices with a new translation of Aristotle's text, a summary of Aristotle's non-modal syllogistic and textual notes.
Why an emergentist account of subjectivity? On the one hand, emergentism provides a new paradigm to rethink subjectivity beyond any dualism. At the same time, the issue of subjectivity puts a strain on emergentism itself, and pushes it beyond its limits. To show it, in the present paper I address a fundamental question: How can we describe subjectivity from an emergentist perspective? To answer, I will tackle Samuel Alexander’s and Alfred North Whitehead’s emergentist accounts of subjectivity. Alexander locates (...) subjectivity into a consistent emergentist framework, but his model of subjectivity remains grounded in the classical interpretation of subjectivity as mind. Whitehead gives a more innovative model of subjectivity, which implies a radical revision of its temporality and connection to the world, but this leads him beyond emergentism as a whole. (shrink)
Experimental radiobiology represented a long-standing priority for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), but organizational issues initially impeded the laboratory progress of this government-funded work: who would direct such interdisciplinary investigations and how? And should the AEC support basic research or only mission-oriented projects? Alexander Hollaender's vision for biology in the post-war world guided AEC initiatives at Oak Ridge, where he created and presided over the Division of Biology for nearly two decades (1947-1966). Hollaender's scheme, at once entrepreneurial and (...) system-oriented, made good use of the unique resources provided by the AEC and by Oak Ridge's national laboratory setting, while at the same time it restructured wartime research practices to better reflect biologists' own priorities. Because Hollaender offered many academic experimental biologists a way of envisioning military-related patronage as integral - rather than antithetical - to their professional identities, his work provides an important lens through which to examine the early post-war intellectual and institutional development of radiobiology. (shrink)
This volume contains the Arabic translations of a lost treatise by Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. AD 200) "On the Principles of the Universe" with English translation, introduction and commentary. It also includes an Arabic and Syriac glossary. The introduction and commentary deal in detail with the manuscripts, the translators and the exegetical tendencies of the text, as well as with its reception in Arabic philosophy. The main theme of the work is the motion of the heavenly bodies and their (...) influence on the physical world. (shrink)
The Arabic tradition knew Alexander’s treatises On Fate and On Providence. Alexander criticizes the Stoic determinism with some peripatetic arguments. In those treatises we can find, at least, two positions: the peripatetic and “libertarian” position represented by Alexander, and Stoic determinism. A very similar discussion can be found in Islamic tradition. As S. Van den Bergh has insisted, Islamic theological schools had some Stoic influences. One of the issues in which we can find some common views is, (...) precisely, the problem of determinism and free will. The aim of this paper is to show that the kasb (acquisition)doctrine of the Islamic theologians Asharites is very similar to Stoic determinism in its compatibilist version: both, Stoics and Asharites, conceive a causal network established by the fate or the providence. From this point of view we have to discuss which is the true agent of the natural and human acts that happen in this world. If the providence guides every act, the natural causality and the free will should be denied. On the one hand, I will present some arguments from the most representative Asharite theologian, al-Ghazali, to support a kind of compatibilist determinism; from the other hand, I will evaluate Averroes peripatetic arguments against determinism. Is Averroes more consistent than Alexander or do we have to conclude that al-Ghazali and the Asharites have stronger arguments in order to support the kasb doctrine? (shrink)
Science has always strived for objectivity, for a ‘‘view from nowhere’’ that is not marred by ideology or personal preferences. That is a lofty ideal toward which perhaps it makes sense to strive, but it is hardly the reality. This collection of thirteen essays assembled by Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers ought to give much pause to scientists and the public at large, though historians, sociologists and philosophers of science will hardly be surprised by the material (...) covered here. (shrink)
The capacity to engage with art is a human universal present in all cultures and just about every individual human. This indicates that this capacity is evolved. In this Critical Notice of Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct, I discuss various evolutionary scenarios and their consequences. Dutton and I both reject the "spandrel" approach that originates from the work of Gould and Lewontin. Dutton proposes, following work of Geoffrey Miller, that art is sexually selected--that art-production is a sign of a (...) fit genome in males. I argue that while assortative mating may well have had a role in the evolution of "the art instinct", group selection is a better explanation. I also take issue with Dutton's "cluster concept" approach to defining art, and argue that it is a universal and essential characteristic of art that it is appreciated both for what it expresses and for the way that it expresses. It thus requires a reflexive capacity that is not operative in the appreciation of sport spectacles and pornography. (shrink)
This is a rewarding book. In terms of area, it has one foot firmly planted in metaphysics and the other just as firmly set in the philosophy of science. Nature's Metaphysics is distinctive for its thorough and detailed defense of fundamental, natural properties as essentially dispositional and for its description of how these dispositional properties are thus suited to sustain the laws of nature as (metaphysically) necessary truths.
Wittgenstein has been likened to a Pyrrhonian sceptic, one who employs dialectical skills to avoid rather than defend doctrine, but it is his role in exposing and excavating the sands upon which modern scepticisms have been built that is the subject of this new volume of largely original essays. The first three chapters, by Crispin Wright, Akeel Bilgrami and Michael Williams find inspiration in On Certainty for singling out key moves in the initial set-up of external world scepticism; the next (...) four chapters, by James Conant, Denis McManus, Ilham Dilman and Jane Heal involve discussions of external world (Cartesian) scepticism, semantic (Kantian) scepticism, scepticism about language (linguistic idealism) and the factuality of the mental that are either commentaries on, or discussions inspired by, Wittgenstein’s writings. The last five chapters focus on Stanley Cavell’s important and under-appreciated work on other minds scepticism—a form of scepticism that, on Cavell’s reading, is never far from the surface of Philosophical Investigations. Responses to modern scepticisms can be broadly divided into two categories: (1) Problem- Accepting Responses: those that regard the sceptical problem as legitimate and seek an answer that takes the form of an appropriate justification for (what the sceptic characterizes as) our ordinary knowledge or beliefs; and (2) Problem-Rejecting Reponses: those that regard the sceptical ‘problem’ as illegitimate (and so, not requiring an answer) because of hidden and contestable theoretical commitments or because it subtly transgresses conditions of sensemaking. This is a volume devoted entirely to the second of these categories, responses that are directed to, as McManus puts it, “a layer in which our philosophical questions are constituted”(p. (shrink)
“Ex nihilo nihil fit,” goes the classic adage: nothing comes from nothing. Parmenides used the Principle of Sufficient Reason to argue that there was no such thing as change: If there was change, why did it happen when it happened rather than earlier or later? “Nothing happens in vain, but everything for a reason and under necessitation,” claimed Leucippus. Saint Thomas insisted in the..
Alexander James Dallas' An Exposition of the Causes and Character of the War was written as part of an effort by the then US government to explain and justify its declaration of war in 1812. However publication coincided with the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War. The Exposition is especially interesting for the insight it provides into the self-constraint of American foreign policy and of the conduct of a war. The focus is on the foreign (...) policy of the early republic and the related philosophy of law and war. A central idea is that international law should chiefly benefit those remaining at peace. -/- Dallas was a Philadelphian who settled there in 1783, the year of the Peace of Paris which ended the War of Independence, arriving from Jamaica after a British education. He wrote much on law, becoming the first recorder of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He later served as Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and federal district attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania, appointed by President Jefferson. He was appointed Secretary of Treasury by President Madison. -/- In this edition the original text is presented with annotations to help identify persons and events of interest. The editor has also added an Introduction, a Bibliography, a short Chronology of Dallas' life and the events of the War, and an analytical Index. As such this annotated edition presents a key primary source in a manner helpful to research for students of the early Republic. (shrink)
When Alexander Nehamas’s path-breaking, elegantly conceived and executed book, Nietzsche: Life as Literature, first appeared in 1985, the reception of Nietzsche in the Anglo-American philosophical community was still in its initial, hesitant stages, even after the relative success of Walter Kauffmann’s much earlier, 1950 book, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Anti-Christ, and its postwar “decontamination” of Nietzsche after his appropriation by the Nazis.1 Arthur Danto’s 1964 book, Nietzsche as Philosopher, was also an important if somewhat isolated event, and there finally began (...) to appear in the seventies less well known but high quality secondary literature, like John Wilcox’s 1974 book, Truth and Value in Nietzsche, and Tracy Strong’s 1975 book on Nietzsche and politics, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration. And when the Routledge “Arguments of the Philosophers” series brought out Richard Schacht’s lengthy 1983 book Nietzsche, the idea that Nietzsche, whatever else he was doing in his books, was making philosophical claims and devising ways to defend them, was becoming more firmly established. Many of the most successful aspects of Nehamas’s interpretation (essentially Part One of the book) spoke to what was still the early resistance to any philosophical attention to Nietzsche: the facile insistence that his “persepectivism” was a self-refuting relativism, that his attack on truth and the value of.. (shrink)
Samuel Alexander was one of the foremost philosophical figures of his day and has been argued by John Passmore to be one of ‘fathers’ of Australian philosophy as well as a novel kind of physicalist. Yet Alexander is now relatively neglected, his role in the genesis of Australian philosophy if far from widely accepted and the standard interpretation takes him to be an anti-physicalist. In this paper, I carefully examine these issues and show that Alexander has been (...) badly, although understandably, misjudged by most of his contemporary critics and interpreters. Most importantly, I show that Alexander offers an ingenious, and highly original, version of physicalism at the heart of which is a strikingly different view of the nature of the microphysical properties and associated view of emergent properties. My final conclusion will be that Passmore is correct in his claims both that Alexander is significant as one of the grandfather’s of Australian philosophy and that he provides a novel physicalist position. I will also suggest that Alexander’s emergentism is important for addressing the so-called ‘problem of mental causation’ presently dogging contemporary non-reductive physicalists. (shrink)
A recombinationist like the earlier Armstrong (1989) claims that logically possible worlds are recombinations of items found in the actual world, with some items reduplicated if need be and others deleted. An immediate consequence of this is that if an..
Alexander Nehamas calls beauty a ‘promise of happiness’ and claims that it is an object of love. While this approach appealingly places beauty at the center of both artistic passion and everyday life, it also renders it riskily personal. This discussion raises two main questions to Nehamas. The first question regards the role of happiness in the concept of beauty, for many beautiful artworks seem to acknowledge the inevitability of sorrow rather than its opposite. The second question concerns how (...) beauty may be both personal and grounded in factors sufficiently outside the self to safeguard it against the instability of individual preferences. To explore the latter issue, Nehamas's ideas are compared to those of another Platonist, Iris Murdoch. (shrink)
Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct succeeds admirably in showing that it is possible to think about art from a biological point of view, and this is a significant achievement, given that resistance to the idea that cultural phenomena have biological underpinnings remains widespread in many academic disciplines. However, his account of the origins of our artistic impulses and the far-reaching conclusions he draws from that account are not persuasive. This article points out a number of problems: in particular, problems (...) with Dutton’s appeal to sexual selection, with his discussion of the adaptation/by-product distinction and its significance, and with drawing normative conclusions from evolutionary hypotheses. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that divine creation of human beings is compatible with evolutionary theory, except perhaps in regard of the human soul, and that neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory provides an explanation of speciation and of complex features of organisms that undercuts Paley-style teleological arguments, whether or not the evolutionary mechanisms are truly random or deterministic. I will argue that a plausible understanding of the doctrine of creation of human beings is either logically or rationally incompatible with full evolutionary theory, even (...) if one does not take souls into account. Consequently, a theist needs to move to a weaker version either of the creation doctrine or of evolutionary theory, or both. (shrink)
Since the beginning of the ?eighties of the present century, a circle of relatively young American sociologists who are followers of Jeffrey Alexander are making energetic and spectacular efforts to supply sociology with a uniform and comprehensive theoretical framework by continuing Talcott Parsons' lifework. The present article is an appreciation of Alexander's achievements in the justification of a general sociological theory (especially a theory of action and social order) while pointing to objections that can be raised against the (...) character of his theory. A scrutiny of Alexander's metatheoretical deliberations and of his interpretations of sociological classics such as Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons reveals that Alexander's metatheoretical frame is not flexible enough to actually reconstruct the problem situation of the classics. Pointers are given toward a theory of action that is not subject to the antinomy of utilitarianism and normativism, so that it is more adequate and appropriate to the heritage of the sociological classics, both from a theoretical and an interpretative angle. (shrink)
Context: Neurophenomenology is a relatively new field, with scope for novel and informative approaches to empirical questions about what structural parallels there are between neural activity and phenomenal experience. Problem: The overall aim is to present a method for examining possible correlations of neurodynamic and phenodynamic structures within the structurally-coupled work of Alexander Technique practitioners with their pupils. Method: This paper includes the development of an enkinaesthetic explanatory framework, an overview of the salient aspects of the Alexander Technique, (...) and the presentation of an elicitation interview technique as part of a neurophenomenological method. It will propose a way of testing the hypothesis that if, in the effective practice of Alexander Technique, there is a union between the nervous systems of teacher and pupil, it should be visible neurologically and affective phenomenologically, and thus it should be possible to investigate both its neural and phenomenal signatures. Results: The proposed means of testing the hypothesis is to use the elicitation interview technique alongside neural monitoring during the teaching of the Alexander Technique in four paired sets of subjects. Constructivist content: At the heart of this paper is the claim that all activity is co-activity. I make no assumption of an ontological primacy of mental or physical, or explanatory primacy of any methodology. Implications: This has important ramifications for somatic education and therapies, for establishing frameworks of co-engagement and care in health-care situations, and for understanding empathy. (shrink)
I respond to the comments by Larry Hickman and Thomas Alexander about my book, A Search for Unity in Diversity: The “Permanent Hegelian Deposit” in the Philosophy of John Dewey . I focus on four issues: 1) Precisely how do I prefer to characterize Dewey’s debt to Hegel? 2) How do I justify my admittedly controversial reading of Dewey’s World War I criticisms of Hegel? 3) Where do I believe Dewey found ideas in Hegel that led him to articulate (...) the historical fallacy? 4) How do I respond to Alexander’s concern that I have underestimated the influence of William James’s Principles of Psychology (1890) on Dewey? (shrink)
This essay sets out from a reading of two photomontage projects by South African artist Jane Alexander, ?Adventure Centre? (2000) and ?Survey: Cape of Good Hope? (2005?09), one of Alexander's ongoing ?survey? projects, and remarks on the overwhelming impulse on the part of critics and interpreters to anthropomorphize the figures appearing in the photomontage images. It goes on to explore the hypothesis that Alexander's work in fact resists or refuses these attempts at anthropomorphization, and that this resistance (...) is connected with the more openly political aspects of her work, as well as with a more general refusal of anthropomorphism by photography. The second part of the essay frames a possible engagement with Alexander's photomontages through terms offered by Walter Benjamin's ?Little History of Photography,? and looks at Benjamin's peculiar concern with a kind of anti-portraiture: a photographic genre that would feature the human face in an anonymous way, without being concerned with identity. The essay closes with a consideration of the genre of the photographic survey historically, and traces an impulse, evident in the survey, to treat the human as only one of many figural elements composing the crypto-industrial landscape. (shrink)
In this response to the review of Moore, Causation and Responsibility, by Larry Alexander and Kimberly Ferzan, previously published in this journal, two issues are discussed. The first is whether causation, counterfactual dependence, moral blame, and culpability, are all scalar properties or relations, that is, matters of more-or-less rather than either-or. The second issue discussed is whether deontological moral obligation is best described as a prohibition against using another as a means, or rather, as a prohibition on an agent (...) strongly causing a prohibited result that was not about to happen anyway while intending to do so. (shrink)
Two texts that raise problems for Alexander of Aphrodisias' theory of universals are examined. "De anima" 90.2-8 appears to suggest that universals are dependent on thought for their existence; this raises questions about the status both of universals and of forms. It is suggested that the passage is best interpreted as indicating that universals are dependent on thought only for their being recognised as universals. The last sentence of "Quaestio" 1.11 seems to assert that if the universal did not (...) exist no individual would exist, thereby contradicting Alexander's position elsewhere. This seems to be a slip resulting from the fact that species with only one member are the exception rather than the rule. (shrink)
This study surveys the career and political philosophy of Alexander Raven Thomson, one of Sir Oswald Mosley's lieutenants in the British Union of Fascists (BUF), the largest party on the extreme right in Britain in the interwar era. It explores key issues relating to the BUF, such as: What type of society did Thomson and the Blackshirts wish to establish in Britain? Who were some of the major domestic and international intellectual influences on him and the BUF? Was the (...) BUF essentially a homegrown movement or was it, as critics argued, an imitation of Italian and German fascism? What does Thomson's career reveal about the inner politics of the movement? The aim of this article is to provide a better understanding of Thomson, one of the lesser-studied BUF officials, and of the movement to which he devoted his life. (shrink)
How do the heavenly bodies physically affect the sublunary world? On this topic, the few fragmentary statements by Aristotle were refined and expanded by his Greek commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias. In the Kind-circle adaptations of Alexander and al-Kind-circle's Alexander was closely followed by al-Kind himself exerted a reciprocal influence on the Arabic Alexander, who was largely the product of his own group of translators. The appendix contains English translations from Arabic of two adapted Alexander's treatises.
Super-substantivalism is the thesis that space is identical to matter; it is currently under discussion ? see Sklar (1977, 221?4), Earman (1989, 115?6) and Schaffer (2009) ? in contemporary philosophy of physics and metaphysics. Given this current interest, it is worth investigating the thesis in the history of philosophy. This paper examines the super-substantivalism of Samuel Alexander, an early twentieth century metaphysician primarily associated with (the movement now known as) British Emergentism. Alexander argues that spacetime is ontologically fundamental (...) and it gives rise to an ontological hierarchy of emergence, involving novel properties such as matter, life and mind. Alexander's super-substantivalism is interesting not just because of its historical importance but also because Alexander unusually attempts to explain why spacetime is identical to matter. This paper carefully unpacks that explanation and shows how Alexander is best read as conceiving of spacetime as a Spinozistic substance, worked upon by evolution. (shrink)