The Austrian philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels published his essay "On 'Gestalt Qualities'" in 1890. The essay initiated a current of thought which enjoyed a powerful position in the philosophy and psychology of the first half of this century and has more recently enjoyed a minor resurgence of interest in the area of cognitive science, above all in criticisms of the so-called 'strong programme' in artificial intelligence. The theory of Gestalt is of course associated most specifically with psychologists (...) of the Berlin school such as Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka. We shall see in what follows, however, that an adequate philosophical understanding of the Gestalt idea and of Ehrenfels' achievement will require a close examination not merely of the work of the Berlin school but also of a much wider tradition in Austrian and German philosophy in general. (shrink)
Ernst Mach's atomistic theory of sensation faces problems in doing justice to our ability to perceive and remember complex phenomena such as melodies and shapes. Christian von Ehrenfels attempted to solve these problems with his theory of "Gestalt qualities", which he sees as entities depending one-sidedly on the corresponding simple objects of sensation. We explore the theory of dependence relations advanced by Ehrenfels and show how it relates to the views on the objects of perception advanced (...) by Husserl and by the Gestalt psychologists. (shrink)
Gestalttheory is discussed as one main precursor of synergetics, one of the most elaborated theories of self-organization. It is a precursor for two reasons: the Gestalt theoretical view of cognitive order-formation comes dose to the central ideas of self-organization. Furthermore both approaches have stressed the significance of non-linear perceptual processes (such as multistability) for the solution of the mind-brain problem. The question of whether Gestalttheory preferred a dualistic or a monistic view of the (...) mind-body relation is answered in that there was a preference for dualism in epistemological questions and for monism in the mind-brain relation. The latter was attained by the concept of psychophysical isomorphism. This concept, although widely misunderstood in many respects, was criticized on the basis of neurobiological findings. One main objection was the neglect of the importance of the elementary neurophysiological processes. A distinction between macroscopic and microscopic brain processes seemed to be required. This idea was taken up in synergetics which postulates a bottom-up and top-down interaction between these two levels. Macroscopic order emerges from elementary brain processes and, at the same time, has a backward slaving effect to the microscopic level In the light of such holistic emergentism, the question whether macroscopic order states might be attractors for psychological meanings is discussed. (shrink)
Neurophysiological investigations of the visual system by way of single-cell recordings have revealed a hierarchical architecture in which lower level areas, such as the primary visual cortex, contain cells that respond to simple features, while higher level areas contain cells that respond to higher order features apparently composed of combinations of lower level features. This architecture seems to suggest a feed-forward processing strategy in which visual information progresses from lower to higher visual areas. However there is other evidence, both neurophysiological (...) and phenomenal, that suggests a more parallel processing strategy in biological vision, in which top-down feedback plays a significant role. In fact Gestalttheory suggests that visual perception involves a process of emergence, i.e. a dynamic relaxation of multiple constraints throughout the system simultaneously, so that the final percept represents a stable state, or energy minimum of the dynamic system as a whole. A Multi-Level Reciprocal Feedback (MLRF) model is proposed to resolve the apparently contradictory concepts, by proposing a hierarchical visual architecture whose different levels are connected by bi-directional feed-forward and feedback pathways, where the computational transformation performed by the feedback pathway between levels in the hiararchy is a kind of inverse of the transformation performed by the corresponding feed-forward processing stream. This alternative paradigm of perceptual computation accounts in general terms for a number of visual illusory effects, and offers a computational specification for the generative, or constructive aspect of perceptual processing revealed by Gestalttheory. (shrink)
Teaching ethics poses a dilemma for professors of business. First, they have little or no formal training in ethics. Second, they have established ethical values that they may not want to impose upon their students. What is needed is a well-recognized, yet non-sectarian model to facilitate the clarification of ethical questions. Gestalttheory offers such a framework. Four Gestalt principles facilitate ethical clarification and another four Gestalt principles anesthetize ethical clarification. This article examines each principle, illustrates (...) that principle through current business examples, and offers exercises for developing each principle. (shrink)
In the present article, the role of Gestalt concepts in clarifying the issues of perception is evaluated. Grounded in anti-atomism, Gestalt assumed organizing forces intrinsic to perception. Insofar these were identified with singularity preference, Gestalt is criticized for having failed to distinguish between perception and thought.
In seeking an interpretation of the theory of Gestalt, the analysis revealed that the concept of Gestalt applies to processes and particularly to the way in which events or processes take place. The essential condition for the emergence of Gestalten or configurational properties was found to be—the ability of the parts or factors in the process to influence each other. In considering first, the more dynamic or formative phase of processes, the significant factors which influence the reciprocity (...) of influence between the parts or factors of the process were found to be (i) the properties of the individual parts or factors, (ii) the properties of the intervening medium, (iii) the 'distance' between the parts or factors, (vi) 'factors of rigidity or constraint'. It was emphasised that these factors operate relatively to one another. The concept of 'wholeness' was found to apply to both the dynamic and the more static phase of the process. The resultant or equilibrium position of the process derives some contribution from the whole matrix of interacting factors or influences which are responsible for the resultant being precisely what it is. The recognition of the causal significance of even small contributions to an event or process is consistent with the concept of 'wholeness' and with the 'matrix' view of causal explanation. This view of causal explanation is the consistent implication of the theory of Gestalt and the many experimental results associated with this school. (shrink)
The intent of the article is to define merleau-ponty's place in the phenomenological tradition and, at the same time, to defend his standpoint, especially on those issues where his thought represents a departure from the tradition. although merleau-ponty espouses a form of the husserlian doctrine of the intentionality of consciousness, his understanding of intentionality differs in several fundamental respects from husserl's. the article attempts to show specifically where merleau-ponty's gestalt- theoretical orientation leads him to modify such basic aspects of (...) husserl's concept of intentionality as the noesis-noema distinction and the claim for atemporality of meaning. a critical comparison is drawn between merleau- ponty's concept of intentionality and that of aron gurwitsch. in a more positive vein, the article provides an extended exegesis of merleau-ponty's position on this central concept in phenomenology, and it also tries to relate the exposition of intentionality to merleau-ponty's thesis of the primacy of perception. finally, an attempt is made to reveal the ontological ramifications implicit in merleau-ponty's revisions to the doctrine of intentionality. (edited). (shrink)
Quantum systems have a holistic structure, which implies that they cannot be divided into parts. In order tocreate (sub)objects like individual substances, molecules, nuclei, etc., in a universal whole, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen correlations between all the subentities, e.g. all the molecules in a substance, must be suppressed by perceptual and mental processes.Here the particular problems ofGestalt (shape)perception are compared with the attempts toattribute a shape to a quantum mechanical system like a molecule. Gestalt perception and quantum mechanics turn out (on (...) an informal level) to show similar features and problems: holistic aspects, creation of objects, dressing procedures, influence of the observer, classical quantities and structures. The attribute classical of a property or structure means thatholistic correlations to any other quantity do not exist or that these correlations are considered as irrelevant and therefore eliminated (either deliberately and by declaration or in a mental process that is not under rational control). An example of animposed classical structure is the nuclear frame of a molecule. Candidates for classical properties that arenot imposed by the observer could be the charge of a particle or the handedness of a molecule. It is argued here that at least part of a molecule's shape can begenerated automatically by the environment. A molecular shape of this sort arises in addition to Lamb shift-type energy corrections. (shrink)
Christian von Ehrenfels was a student of both Franz Brentano and Carl Menger and his thinking on value theory was inspired both by Brentano’s descriptive psychology and by the subjective theory of economic value advanced by Menger, the founder of the Austrian school of economics. Value, for Ehrenfels, is a function of desire, and we ascribe value to those things which we either do in fact desire, or would desire if we were not convinced of their existence. He (...) asserts that the needed theoretical understanding of values is to be achieved by generalizing economic laws of valuation to apply to value in general. The law of marginal utility, for example, is a law to the effect that the n+1st sample of a good which I receive is ceteris paribus less valuable than the nth sample (imagine that the samples in question are, for example, a series of identical ham sandwiches). The essay describes how Ehrenfels provides on this basis an account of the different types of values, both intrinsic and non-intrinsic. It outlines also Ehrenfels views on the problem of interpersonal value-comparisons and on the struggle for survival between different values of different types. (shrink)
In his ontological works Kurt Grelling tries to give a rigorous analysis of the foundations of the so-called Gestalt-psychology. Gestalten are peculiar emergent qualities, ontologically dependent on their foundations, but nonetheless non reducible to them. Grelling shows that this concept, as used in psychology and ontology, is often ambiguous. He distinguishes two important meanings in which the word “Gestalt” is used: Gestalten as structural aspects available to transposition and Gestalten as causally self-regulating wholes. Gestalten in the first meaning (...) are, according to Grelling, “equivalence classes of correspondences”, while Gestalten as self-regulating wholes have more to do with relations of ontological dependence. Grelling’s clarification of the concept of Gestalt is doubtless an excellent piece of philosophical analysis, but at the end of the day it turns out that his analysis captures at best only a part of intuitions traditionally connected with the notion of Gestalt. (shrink)
Aron Gurwitsch made two main contributions to phenomenology. He showed how to import Gestalt theoretical ideas into Husserl’s framework of constitutive phenomenology. And he explored the light this move sheds on both the overall structure of experience and on particular kinds of experience, especially perceptual experiences and conscious shifts in attention. The primary focus of this paper is the overall structure of experience. I show how Gurwitsch’s Gestalt theoretically informed phenomenological investigations provide a basis for defending what I (...) will call Phenomenal Holism, the view that all the parts of a total phenomenal state metaphysically depend on it. To illustrate how the ideas developed along the way can be used in advancing work on the phenomenology of particular kinds of experience, I draw on them in defending Husserl’s view that we can be aware of abstract objects against a phenomenological objection. (shrink)
A serious crisis is identified in theories of neurocomputation, marked by a persistent disparity between the phenomenological or experiential account of visual perception and the neurophysiological level of description of the visual system. In particular, conventional concepts of neural processing offer no explanation for the holistic global aspects of perception identified by Gestalttheory. The problem is paradigmatic and can be traced to contemporary concepts of the functional role of the neural cell, known as the Neuron Doctrine. In (...) the absence of an alternative neurophysiologically plausible model, I propose a perceptual modeling approach, to model the percept as experienced subjectively, rather than modeling the objective neurophysiological state of the visual system that supposedly subserves that experience. A Gestalt Bubble model is presented to demonstrate how the elusive Gestalt principles of emergence, reification, and invariance can be expressed in a quantitative model of the subjective experience of visual consciousness. That model in turn reveals a unique computational strategy underlying visual processing, which is unlike any algorithm devised by man, and certainly unlike the atomistic feed-forward model of neurocomputation offered by the Neuron Doctrine paradigm. The perceptual modeling approach reveals the primary function of perception as that of generating a fully spatial virtual-reality replica of the external world in an internal representation. The common objections to this picture-in-the-head concept of perceptual representation are shown to be ill founded. Key Words: brain-anchored; Cartesian theatre; consciousness; emergence; extrinsic constraints; filling-in; Gestalt; homunculus; indirect realism; intrinsic constraints; invariance; isomorphism; multistability; objective phenomenology; perceptual modeling; perspective; phenomenology; psychophysical parallelism; psychophysical postulate; qualia; reification; representationalism; structural coherence. (shrink)
The Gestalt psychologists adopted a set of positions on mind-body issues that seem like an odd mix. They sought to combine a version of naturalism and physiological reductionism with an insistence on the reality of the phenomenal and the attribution of meanings to objects as natural characteristics. After reviewing basic positions in contemporary philosophy of mind, we examine the Gestalt position, characterizing it m terms of phenomenal realism and programmatic reductionism. We then distinguish Gestalt philosophy of mind (...) from instrumentalism and computational functionalism, and examine Gestalt attributions of meaning and value to perceived objects. Finally, we consider a metatheoretical moral from Gestalttheory, which commends the search for commensurate description of mental phenomena and their physiological counterparts. (shrink)
This succinct introduction to modern theories of literature and the arts demonstrates how each theory is built and what it can accomplish. Represents a wide variety of theories, including phenomenological theory, hermeneutical theory, gestalttheory, reception theory, semiotic theory, Marxist theory, deconstruction, anthropological theory, and feminist theory. Uses classic literary texts, such as Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn, Spenser’s The Shephearde’s Calender and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land to (...) illustrate his explanations. Includes key statements by the major proponents of each theory. Presents the different theories objectively, allowing students to decide which if any, they subscribe to. Gives students a sense of the potential of theory. Includes a glossary of technical terms. (shrink)
A review of the scanty Gestaltist literature on motor behaviour indicates that a genuine Gestalt theoretic approach to motor behaviour can be characterized by three research questions: (1) What are the natural units of motor behaviour? (2) What characterizes the self-organization in motor behaviour? (3) What are the conditions for invariance in motor behaviour? Tentative answers to these questions can be found by analysing the parallels between Gestalttheory and Bernstein's theory of motor actions and by (...) showing that Gestalttheory can be regarded as a specific approach to non-linear dynamics as exemplified by synergetics (Haken, 1991). The congruence between the Gestalt theoretic approach and synergetics becomes apparent in the analysis of how a complex motor task is learned . (shrink)
It is proposed that subconscious retro-predictions in conjunction with brain state update cycles are instrumental in the physiological generation of conscious sensations and perceptions, and in all abstract thought. In this paper the hypothesis is supported by conducting a detailed a re-evaluation of the self-referential statements in Set Theory and Formal Logic known as antinomies. This study concludes that the recursive behavior exhibited by abstract enigmas such as "Russell’s Paradox" is analogous to the oscillations typical of bistable perceptual phenomena.
‘‘Theoretical biology’’ is a surprisingly heter- ogeneous field, partly because it encompasses ‘‘doing the- ory’’ across disciplines as diverse as molecular biology, systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Moreover, it is done in a stunning variety of different ways, using anything from formal analytical models to computer sim- ulations, from graphic representations to verbal arguments. In this essay I survey a number of aspects of what it means to do theoretical biology, and how they compare with the allegedly much more restricted (...) sense of theory in the physical sciences. I also tackle a recent trend toward the presentation of all-encompassing theories in the biological sciences, from general theories of ecology to a recent attempt to provide a conceptual framework for the entire set of biological disciplines. Finally, I discuss the roles played by philosophers of science in criticizing and shap- ing biological theorizing. (shrink)
What should our theorizing about social justice aim at? Many political philosophers think that a crucial goal is to identify a perfectly just society. Amartya Sen disagrees. In The Idea of Justice, he argues that the proper goal of an inquiry about justice is to undertake comparative assessments of feasible social scenarios in order to identify reforms that involve justice-enhancement, or injustice-reduction, even if the results fall short of perfect justice. Sen calls this the “comparative approach” to the theory (...) of justice. He urges its adoption on the basis of a sustained critique of the former approach, which he calls “transcendental.” In this paper I pursue two tasks, one critical and the other constructive. First, I argue that Sen’s account of the contrast between the transcendental and the comparative approaches is not convincing, and second, I suggest what I take to be a broader and more plausible account of comparative assessments of justice. The core claim is that political philosophers should not shy away from the pursuit of ambitious theories of justice (including, for example, ideal theories of perfect justice), although they should engage in careful consideration of issues of political feasibility bearing on their practical implementation. (shrink)
In his widely influential statement of just war theory, Michael Walzer exempts conscripted soldiers from all responsibility for taking part in war, whether just or unjust (the thesis of the moral equality of soldiers). He endows the overwhelming majority of civilians with almost absolute immunity from military attack on the ground that they aren't responsible for the war their country is waging, whether just or unjust. I argue that Walzer is much too lenient on both soldiers and civilians. Soldiers (...) fighting for a just cause and soldiers fighting for an unjust one are not morally equal. A substantial proportion of civilians in a democracy are responsible, to a significant degree, for their country's unjust war. Moreover, under certain (admittedly rare) circumstances, some of them are legitimate targets of military attack. This has bearing on settling moral accounts in the wake of war and the issue of forgiving the wrongs done in its course: possible candidates for such forgiveness are much more numerous than is usually assumed. (shrink)
Are government restrictions on hate speech consistent with the priority of liberty? This relatively narrow policy question will serve as the starting point for a wider discussion of the use and abuse of nonideal theory in contemporary political philosophy, especially as practiced on the academic left. I begin by showing that hate speech (understood as group libel) can undermine fair equality of opportunity for historically-oppressed groups but that the priority of liberty seems to forbid its restriction. This tension between (...) free speech and equal opportunity creates a dilemma for liberal egalitarians. Nonideal theory apparently offers an escape from this dilemma, but after examining three versions of such an escape strategy, I conclude that none is possible: liberal egalitarians are indeed forced to choose between liberty and equality in this case and others. I finish the paper by examining its implications for other policy arenas, including markets in transplantable human organs and women’s reproductive services. (shrink)
The traditional requirements upon the waging of a just war are ostensibly independent, but in actual practice each tenet is subject ultimately to the interpretation of a legitimate authority, whose declaration becomes the necessary and sufficient condition. While just war theory presupposes that some acts are absolutely wrong, it also implies that the killing of innocents can be rendered permissible through human decree. Nations are conventionally delimited, and leaders are conventionally appointed. Any group of people could band together to (...) form a nation, and any person could, in principle, be appointed the leader of any nation. Because the just war approach assumes absolutism while implying relativism, the stance is paradoxical and hence rationally untenable. (shrink)
Realists about practical reasons agree that judgments regarding reasons are beliefs. They disagree, however, over the question of how such beliefs motivate rational action. Some adopt a Humean conception of motivation, according to which beliefs about reasons must combine with independently existing desires in order to motivate rational action; others adopt an anti-Humean view, according to which beliefs can motivate rational action in their own right, either directly or by giving rise to a new desire that in turn motivates the (...) action. I argue that the realist who adopts a Humean model for explaining rational action will have a difficult time giving a plausible account of the role that desire plays in this explanation. I explore four interpretations of this role and argue that none allows a Humean theory to explain rational action as convincingly as an anti-Humean theory does. The first two models, in different ways, make acting on a reason impossible. The third allows this possibility, but only by positing a reason-sensitive desire that itself demands an explanation. The fourth avoids this explanatory challenge only by retreating to an empty form of the Humean view. In contrast, an anti-Humean theory can provide an intuitively plausible explanation of rational action. I conclude that the realist about reasons should adopt an anti-Humean theory to explain rational action. (shrink)
Amartya Sen argues that for the advancement of justice identification of ‘perfect’ justice is neither necessary nor sufficient. He replaces ‘perfect’ justice with comparative justice. Comparative justice limits itself to comparing social states with respect to degrees of justice. Sen’s central thesis is that identifying ‘perfect’ justice and comparing imperfect social states are ‘analytically disjoined’. This essay refutes Sen’s thesis by demonstrating that to be able to make adequate comparisons we need to identify and integrate criteria of comparison. This is (...) precisely the aim of a theory of justice (such as John Rawls’s theory): identifying, integrating and ordering relevant principles of justice. The same integrated criteria that determine ‘perfect’ justice are needed to be able to adequately compare imperfect social states. Sen’s alternative approach, which is based on social choice theory, is incapable of avoiding contrary, indeterminate or incoherent directives where plural principles of justice conflict. (shrink)
The James–Lange theory considers emotional feelings as perceptions of physiological body changes. This approach has recently resurfaced and modified in both neuroscientific and philosophical concepts of embodiment of emotional feelings. In addition to the body, the role of the environment in emotional feeling needs to be considered. I here claim that the environment has not merely an indirect and thus instrumental role on emotional feelings via the body and its sensorimotor and vegetative functions. Instead, the environment may have a (...) direct and non-instrumental, i.e., constitutional role in emotional feelings; this implies that the environment itself in the gestalt of the person–environment relation is constitutive of emotional feeling rather than the bodily representation of the environment. Since the person–environment relation is crucial in this approach, I call it the relational concept of emotional feeling. After introducing the relational concept of emotional feeling, the present paper investigates the neurophilosophical question whether current neuroimaging data on human emotion processing and anatomical connectivity are empirically better compatible with the “relational” or the “embodied” concept of emotional feeling. These data lend support to the empirical assumption that neural activity in subcortical and cortical midline regions code the relationship between intero- and exteroceptive stimuli in a relational mode, i.e. their actual balance, rather than in a translational mode, i.e., by translating extero- into interoceptive stimulus changes. Such intero-exteroceptive relational mode of neural coding may have implications for the characterization of emotional feeling with regard to phenomenal consciousness and intentionality. I therefore conclude that the here advanced relational concept of emotional feeling may be considered neurophilosophically more plausible and better compatible with current neuroscientific data than the embodied concept as presupposed in the James–Lange theory and its modern neuroscientific and philosophical versions. (shrink)
Judgment aggregation theory, or rather, as we conceive of it here, logical aggregation theory generalizes social choice theory by having the aggregation rule bear on judgments of all kinds instead of merely preference judgments. It derives from Kornhauser and Sager’s doctrinal paradox and List and Pettit’s discursive dilemma, two problems that we distinguish emphatically here. The current theory has developed from the discursive dilemma, rather than the doctrinal paradox, and the final objective of the paper is (...) to give the latter its own theoretical development along the line of recent work by Dietrich and Mongin. However, the paper also aims at reviewing logical aggregation theory as such, and it covers impossibility theorems by Dietrich, Dietrich and List, Dokow and Holzman, List and Pettit, Mongin, Nehring and Puppe, Pauly and van Hees, providing a uniform logical framework in which they can be compared with each other. The review goes through three historical stages: the initial paradox and dilemma, the scattered early results on the independence axiom, and the so-called canonical theorem, a collective achievement that provided the theory with its specific method of analysis. The paper goes some way towards philosophical logic, first by briefly connecting the aggregative framework of judgment with the modern philosophy of judgment, and second by thoroughly discussing and axiomatizing the ‘general logic’ built in this framework. (shrink)
This introduction to the special issue on empirically informed moral theory sketches the more important contributions to the field in the past several years. Attention is paid to experimental philosophy, the work of philosophers like Harman and Doris, and that of psychologists like Haidt and Hauser.
Contemporary discussions of the positive relation between rational choice and moral theory are a special case of a much older tradition that seeks to show that mutual agreement upon certain moral rules works to the mutual advantage, or in the interests, of those who so agree. I make a few remarks about the history of discussions of the connection between morality and self-interest, after which I argue that the modern theory of rational choice can be naturally understood as (...) a continuation of this older tradition. I then go on to argue for a controversial three-fold thesis: (1) that grounding a theory of morality in terms of rational self-interest is the only epistemologically respectable way to proceed with the justification of moral principles; (2) that despite this, most of the contemporary explorations of rational choice foundations for moral principles do not work—that the models of rational choice to which they appeal yield less than the substantial results that they are intended to yield; but (3) that if one rethinks just what it means to be rational, one can find in fact a promising way to connect the two—specifically through the development of a theory of genuinely cooperative activity. (shrink)
Are there good grounds for thinking that the moral values of action are to be derived from those of character? This virtue ethical claim is sometimes thought of as a kind of normative ethical theory; sometimes as form of opposition to any such theory. However, the best case to be made for it supports neither of these claims. Rather, it leads us to a distinctive view in moral epistemology: the view that my warrant for a particular moral judgement (...) derives from my warrant for believing that I am a good moral judge. This view seems to confront a regress-problem. For the belief that I am a good moral judge is itself a particular moral judgement. So it seems that, on this view, I need to derive my warrant for believing that I am a good moral judge from my warrant for believing that I am a good judge of moral judges; and so on. I show how this worry can be met, and trace the implications of the resulting view for warranted moral judgement. (shrink)
This article explores the advantages of using a range of actual cases in doing political theory. This sort of approach clarifies what is at stake in alternative theoretical formulations, draws attention to the wisdom that may be embedded in existing practices, and encourages theorists to confront challenges they might otherwise overlook and to think through the implications of their accounts more fully.
In the last half century, decision theory has had a deep influence on moral theory. Its impact has largely been beneficial. However, it has also given rise to some problems, two of which are discussed here. First, issues such as risk-taking and risk imposition have been left out of ethics since they are believed to belong to decision theory, and consequently the ethical aspects of these issues have not been treated in either discipline. Secondly, ethics has adopted (...) the decision-theoretical idea that action-guidance has to be based on cause–effect or means–ends relationships between an individual action and its possible outcomes. This is problematic since the morally relevant connections between an action and future events are not fully covered by such relationships. In response to the first problem it is proposed that moral theory should deal directly and extensively with issues such as risk-taking and risk imposition, thereby intruding unabashedly into the traditional territory of decision theory. As a partial response to the second problem it is proposed that moral theorizing should release itself from the decision-theoretical requirement that the moral status of an action has to be derivable from the consequences (or other properties) that are assignable to that action alone. In particular, the effects that an action can have in combination with other actions by the same or other agents are valid arguments in an action-guiding moral discourse, even if its contribution to these combined consequences cannot be isolated and evaluated separately. (shrink)
The aim of the present paper is to show that Hegel’s concept of personal respect is of great interest to contemporary Critical Theory. The author first analyzes this notion as it appears in the Philosophy of Right and then offers a new interpretation of the conceptual relation between personal respect and the institutions of (private) property and (capitalist) markets. In doing so, he shows why Hegel’s concept of personal respect allows us to understand markets as possible institutionalizations of this (...) kind of recognition, and why it is compatible with a critique of neoliberal capitalism. He argues that due to these features Hegel’s notion of personal respect is of great interest to theoreticians within the tradition of critical theory. (shrink)
Morality for the purposes of this paper consists of sets of rules or principles intended for the general regulation of conduct for all. Intuitionist accounts of morality are rejected as making reasoned analysis of morals impossible. In many interactions, there is partial conflict and partial cooperation. From the general social point of view, the rational thing to propose is that we steer clear of conflict and promote cooperation. This is what it is rational to propose to reinforce, and to assist (...) in reinforcing in society; it is not necessarily what it is individually rational to do. Even so, given the general situation, the rationality of its reinforcement will typically support the rationality of individual action as well. Game theory makes it possible to clarify these interactions, and these proposals for social solutions. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss the viability of the claim that at least some forms of moral theory are harmful for sound moral thought and practice. This claim was put forward by e.g. Elisabeth Anscombe ( 1981 ( 1958 )) and by Annette Baier, Peter Winch, D.Z Phillips and Bernard Williams in the 1970’s–1980’s. To this day aspects of it have found resonance in both post-Wittgensteinian and virtue ethical quarters. The criticism has on one hand contributed to a substantial (...) change and broadening of the scope of analytic moral philosophy. On the other hand it is, at least in its most strongly anti-theoretical formulations, now broadly considered outdated and—to the extent that it is still defended—insensitive to the changes that have occurred within the field in the last 20–30 years. The task of this paper is to relocate the anti-theoretical critique into the field of analytic ethics today. (shrink)
The author discusses Niklas Luhmann's concept of ethics and morals. Therefore he sketches the main traits of Luhmann's theory of systems (e.g. the terms autopoiesis, system and environment, code and programme). From the system-theoretical point of view, ethics are characterized as the reflexive theory of morals. Morals are described as the communication of regard or disregard. The author shows which consequences follow from this concept by discussing problems concerning several subsystems at the same time. The problems of Luhmann's (...)theory of morals and ethics are demonstrated by analyzing the concepts of risk and responsibility. Finally, the author demands that ethics should be understood even more as social ethics which reflect upon their social foundation in a more consequent way. (shrink)
This paper addresses the subject of textual creativity by drawing on work done in classical literary theory and criticism, specifically new criticism, structuralism and early poststructuralism. The question of how readers and writers engage creatively with the text is closely related to educational concerns, though they are often thought of as separate disciplines. Modern literary theory in many ways collapses this distinction in its concern for how literariness is achieved and, specifically, how ‘literary quality’ is accomplished in the (...) textual and the social dimension. Taking literary and aesthetic creativity as a point of departure in the reading of five central authors in classical literary criticism, the paper identifies the processes of narrative imagination and emotional identification as central to the role that the textual dimension plays in the creative process of the author/reader—particularly in the way it provides a space for experimentation and self-reflexion through ‘storying’. (shrink)
From his earliest work forward, Merleau-Ponty attempted to develop a new ontology of nature that would avoid the antinomies of realism and idealism by showing that nature has its own endogenous sense which is prior to reflection. The key to this new ontology was the concept of form, which he appropriated from Gestalt psychology. However, Merleau-Ponty struggled to give a positive characterization of the phenomenon of form which would clarify its ontological status. Evan Thompson has recently taken up Merleau-Ponty’s (...) ontology as the basis for a new, “enactive” approach to cognitive science, synthesizing it with concepts from dynamic systems theory and Francisco Varela’s theory of autopoiesis. However, Thompson does not quite succeed in resolving the ambiguities in Merleau-Ponty’s account of form. This article builds on an indication from Thompson in order to propose a new account of form as asymmetry, and of the genesis of form in nature as symmetry-breaking. These concepts help us to escape the antinomies of Modern thought by showing how nature is the autoproduction of a sense which can only be known by an embodied perceiver. (shrink)
The Gestalt principle of isomorphism reveals the primacy of subjective experience as a valid source of evidence for the information encoded neurophysiologically. This theory invalidates the abstractionist view that the neurophysiological representation can be of lower dimensionality than the percept to which it gives rise.