In this ambitious work, FredWeinstein confronts the obstacles that have increasingly frustrated our attempts to explain social and historical reality. Traditionally, we have relied on history and social theory to describe the ways people understand the world they live in. But the ordering explanations we have always used--derived from the classical social theories originally forged by Marx, Tocqueville, Weber, Durkheim, Freud--have collapsed. In the wake of this collapse or "fall," the rival claims of fiction, psychoanalysis, sociology, anthropology, (...) and history have created the dilemma of radical relativism, the prospect of multiple interpretations of any complex historical event. The basic strategy of social theory and the social sciences--the search for underlying unities--proves so inherently contradictory and has provided so little in the way of reliable knowledge of social and historical relationships that to many critics it seems no longer worth pursuing. Weinstein enters the debate by rejecting any search for underlying structural unities, dynamic or social, through which historians have attempted to find continuity with the past. He looks instead to ideological processes, to the construction of successive and changing versions of reality that mediate between the power of fantasy on the one side and the power of the social world on the other. He argues further that the need to use ideological constructs in this way accounts for the heterogeneous and changing content of social movements and for the persistent need people have always had for authoritative leaders, even in democratized societies. He suggests that people have historically been able to take a step away from leaders only by substituting the possession of objects such as property or money. This book is a breakthrough in poststructuralist theory that is sure to stimulate considerable discussion, especially about the shape of the social sciences and the future of historical interpretation. (shrink)
The 'Art of Life' is John Stuart Mill's name for his account of practical reason. In this volume, eleven leading scholars elucidate this fundamental, but widely neglected, element of Mill's thought. Mill divides the Art of Life into three 'departments': 'Morality, Prudence or Policy, and Æsthetics'. In the volume's first section, Rex Martin, David Weinstein, Ben Eggleston, and Dale E. Miller investigate the relation between the departments of morality and prudence. Their papers ask whether Mill is a rule utilitarian (...) and, if so, whether his practical philosophy must be incoherent. The second section contains papers by Jonathan Riley and Wendy Donner, who explore the relation between the departments of morality and aesthetics. They discuss issues ranging from supererogation to aesthetic pleasure and humanity's relationship with nature. -/- The papers in the third section consider the Art of Life's axiological first principle, the principle of utility. Elijah Millgram contends that Mill's own life refutes his claim that the Art of Life has a single axiological first principle. Philip Kitcher maintains that Mill has a dynamic axiology requiring us to continually refine our conception of the good. In the final section, three papers address what it means to put the Art of Life into practice. Robert Haraldsson locates an 'Art of Ethics' in On Liberty that is in tension with the Art of Life. Nadia Urbinati plumbs the classical roots of Mill's view of the good life. Finally, Colin Heydt develops Mill's suggestion that we regard our own lives as works of art. (shrink)
Anthropic arguments in multiverse cosmology and string theory rely on the weak anthropic principle (WAP). We show that the principle, though ultimately a tautology, is nevertheless ambiguous. It can be reformulated in one of two unambiguous ways, which we refer to as WAP_1 and WAP_2. We show that WAP_2, the version most commonly used in anthropic reasoning, makes no physical predictions unless supplemented by a further assumption of "typicality", and we argue that this assumption is both misguided and unjustified. WAP_1, (...) however, requires no such supplementation; it directly implies that any theory that assigns a non-zero probability to our universe predicts that we will observe our universe with probability one. We argue, therefore, that WAP_1 is preferable, and note that it has the benefit of avoiding the inductive overreach characteristic of much anthropic reasoning. (shrink)
Gauge theories are theories that are invariant under a characteristic group of "gauge" transformations. General relativity is invariant under transformations of the diffeomorphism group. This has prompted many philosophers and physicists to treat general relativity as a gauge theory, and diffeomorphisms as gauge transformations. I argue that this approach is misguided.
Whether the US Constitution guarantees a right to conduct scientific research is a question that has never been squarely addressed by the United States Supreme Court. Similarly, the extent to which the First Amendment protects the right to communicate the results of scientific research is an issue about which there is scant judicial authority. This article suggests that a crucial guidepost for exploring both these uncharted areas of constitutional law should be whether restrictions on scientific research or communication truly implicate (...) fundamental individual rights or instead primarily concern issues of general social welfare—issues that in a democracy are properly decided by the representative branches of government or their delegates, not by the judiciary. (shrink)
Can we legitimately speak of ethicsexperts? Recent literature in philosophy and medical ethics addresses this important question but does not offer a satisfactory answer. Part of the problem is the absence of an examination of what it means to be an expert in general. I therefore begin by reviewing my analysis of expertise which appeared earlier in this journal. We speak of two kinds of experts: persons whose expertise is in virtue of what theyknow (epistemic expertise), or what theydo (performative (...) expertise). Applying this analysis to the domain of ethics, I argue that we may speak of ethical expertise in three epistemic senses: a) expertise indescriptive ethics, b) expertise inmetaethics, c) expertise innormative ethics, and in a performative sense: d) expertise inliving a good life. I conclude with a brief description of some social roles of ethics experts. (shrink)
Experts play an important role in society, but there has been little investigation about the nature of expertise. I argue that there are two kinds of experts: those whose expertise is a function of what theyknow (epistemic expertise), or what theydo (performative expertise). Epistemic expertise is the capacity to provide strong justifications for a range of propositions in a domain, while performative expertise is the capacity to perform a skill well according to the rules and virtues of a practice. Both (...) epistemic and performative experts may legitimately disagree with one another, and the two senses are conceptually and logically distinct. (shrink)
Special relativity is said to prohibit faster-than-light (superluminal) signaling, yet controversy regularly arises as to whether this or that physical phenomenon violates the prohibition. I argue that the controversy is a result of a lack of clarity as to what it means to ‘signal’, and I propose a criterion. I show that according to this criterion, superluminal signaling is not prohibited by special relativity.
This paper examines some common measures of complexity, structure, and information, with an eye toward understanding the extent to which complexity or information‐content may be regarded as objective properties of individual objects. A form of contextual objectivity is proposed which renders the measures objective, and which largely resolves the puzzle of Maxwell's Demon.
We provide a critical assessment of the ambiguity aversion literature, which we characterize in terms of the view that Ellsberg choices are rational responses to ambiguity, to be explained by relaxing Savage's Sure-Thing principle and adding an ambiguity-aversion postulate. First, admitting Ellsberg choices as rational leads to behaviour, such as sensitivity to irrelevant sunk cost, or aversion to information, which most economists would consider absurd or irrational. Second, we argue that the mathematical objects referred to as in the ambiguity aversion (...) literature have little to do with how an economist or game theorist understands and uses the concept. This is because of the lack of a useful notion of updating. Third, the anomaly of the Ellsberg choices can be explained simply and without tampering with the foundations of choice theory. These choices can arise when decision makers form heuristics that serve them well in real-life situations where odds are manipulable, and misapply them to experimental settings. (shrink)
In this article, I examine Adam Smith's theory of the ways individuals in society bridge social and biological difference. In doing so, I emphasize the divisive effects of gender, race, and class to see if Smith's account of social unity can overcome such fractious forces. My discussion uses the metaphor of “proximity” to mean both physical and psychological distance between moral actors and spectators. I suggest that education – both formal and informal in means – can assist moral judgment by (...) helping agents minimize the effects of proximity, and, ultimately, learn commonality where difference may otherwise seem overwhelming. This article uses the methods of the history of philosophy in order to examine an issue within contemporary discourse. While I seek to offer an authentic reading of Smith representative of his eighteenth-century perspective, I do so with an eye towards determining the extent to which Smith anticipated central issues in modern multiculturalism. (Published Online April 18 2006) Footnotes1 I would like to thank Luc Bovens, Kim Donehower, David Levy, Elizabeth Sund, and Leah M. McClimans, for their help on previous drafts of this article. (shrink)
My intent in this discussion is to offer a glimpse into our popular and political culture and to unpack some of the values inherent in our university system. Educational institutions evolve because of changes in our cultural relationship to knowledge. Only by understanding this relationship can we respond coherently to criticism aimed at the university and its population.
General relativity is commonly thought to imply the existence of a unique metric structure for space-time. A simple example is presented of a general relativistic theory with ambiguous metric structure. Brans-Dicke theory is then presented as a further example of a space-time theory in which the metric structure is ambiguous. Other examples of theories with ambiguous metrical structure are mentioned. Finally, it is suggested that several new and interesting philosophical questions arise from the sorts of theories discussed.
David Albert and Barry Loewer have proposed a new interpretation of quantum mechanics which they call the Many Minds interpretation, according to which there are infinitely many minds associated with a given (physical) state of a brain. This interpretation is related to the family of many worlds interpretations insofar as it assumes strictly unitary (Schrödinger) time-evolution of quantum-mechanical systems (no "reduction of the wave-packet"). The Many Minds interpretation itself is principally motivated by an argument which purports to show that the (...) assumption of unitary evolution, along with some common sense assumptions about mental states (specifically, beliefs) leads to a certain non-physicalism, in which there is a many-to-one correspondence between minds and brains. In this paper, I critically examine this motivating argument, and show that it depends on a mistaken assumption regarding the correspondence between projection operators and "yes/no" questions. (shrink)
The purpose of this article is to investigate appropriate methods for educating students into citizenship within a pluralistic state and to explain why civic education is itself important. In this discussion, I will offer suggestions as to how students might be best prepared for their future political roles as participants in a democracy, and how we, as theorists, ought to structure institutions and curricula in order to ensure that students are adequately trained for political decision making. The paper is divided (...) into six sections. In the first two sections, I argue that community is a learned understanding and that such education,even when it supports liberal commitments,cannot be neutral. I use the social contract tradition as an entrance into the perpetual nature of conflict within a pluralist society. In the third and fourth sections, I develop a pedagogy geared towards educating students into what I call cognitive conflict, and argue that the arts, widely understood, should be privileged over other disciplines. In the fifth section, I examine two difficulties inherent inmy pedagogy â first that it seems to demandthat all perspectives be taught, and second that it seems to promote anxiety among students. In the final section, I ask that political theory reexamine the role of harmony in justice. I conclude that a managed conflictis a more acceptable organizational description of liberal political structures. (shrink)
John Rawls, the Harvard Professor, died rights open to any and all challenges, even stupid last month. He was, without question, the most ones. important political philosopher of the Twentieth What does a country do when faced century. It is a terrible time to lose him because with a person, group, or nation that claims that America, and the world, is faced with dire such rights are not obvious but dubious? What questions of justice, rights, and political stability. do we (...) do when faced with an enemy – foreign or These are questions that Rawls spent his life domestic – who rejects justice? Wars were pursuing, and his answers, while not always fought for much less; wars are being fought for convincing, taught us a great deal about much less. Believers in the rights announced by ourselves, and our political priorities. the Declaration of Independence need a theory Few people have heard of Rawls. In that can justify inalienable rights more part, this is because he shied away from convincingly than by simply appealing to publicity, but mostly this is because Americans Jefferson’s personal preference. This is where tend not to regard philosophy as important. John Rawls comes in. Many college students who become interested in In his 1971 book, A Theory of Justice, the subject are pressured by their parents to study Rawls attempted to provide a justification of something else because, their parents claim, rights that would apply to all people, for all time, philosophy is not practical. It is, in fact, quite that everyone would ultimately consent to no difficult to get a job as a philosopher, but matter who they are or what religious or cultural philosophy itself is far from useless. Virtually beliefs they held. This is a massive achievement, everything that we value comes out of and in addition to a lifetime of success in his philosophy in one form or another. chosen field, it won him the Medal of Honor Political philosophy, for example, is from Bill Clinton in 1999. responsible for the creation of individual rights, Rawls revised his theory throughout his theories of justice and equality, the creation of career but his early work will be his most lasting. capitalism and the free market (and, of course, It will be read for generations alongside the opposing theories such as communism and greatest of philosophers, partly because at its anarchy).. (shrink)
In this paper we consider a naive conception of what a quantum theory of gravity might entail: a quantum-mechanically fluctuating gravitational field at each spacetime point. We argue that this idea is problematic both conceptually and technically.
"This book does not treat Smith as an historical curiosity who has accomplished all that he was capable of. It treats Smith as someone with a contemporary message. That capitalism is the dominant political system in the contemporary world is almost without doubt. That capitalism is succeeding, however, is much more contentious. I will argue that Smith would challenge such claims of success. As the standard of living rises in most of the world, few could challenge the (...) notion that vast numbers of people are being left behind. While some countries gorge themselves into obesity, others starve. Furthermore, while the information revolution has made access to recorded knowledge easier than ever, global cultural experience is becoming whitewashed in a money- and media-driven frenzy of homogeneity. Every generation has complained that their successors are intellectually inferior and poorly educated. Sometimes the weaker of us are forced to wonder whether this time it might be true.". (shrink)
Our children need ethical skills as much as they need and wisdom, and substitutes regurgitation for any others, and if we wish our children to grow up to judgment. It presumes, for example, that if we can be good people and good citizens, we must allow for..