The first major reassessment of the Western Enlightenment for a generation. Continuing the story he began in Radical Enlightenment, Jonathan Israel now focuses on the first half of the eighteenth century. He traces to their roots the core principles of Western modernity: the primacy of reason, democracy, racial equality, feminism, religious toleration, sexual emancipation, and freedom of expression.
In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophes, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man's dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions of (...) the eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have received limited scholarly attention. The greatest obstacle to the movement finding its proper place in modern historical writing is its international scope: the Racial Enlightenment was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time. In this wide-ranging volume, Jonathan Israel offers a novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents. Particular emphasis is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism. (shrink)
That the Enlightenment shaped modernity is uncontested. Yet remarkably few historians or philosophers have attempted to trace the process of ideas from the political and social turmoil of the late eighteenth century to the present day. This is precisely what Jonathan Israel now does. In Democratic Enlightenment , Israel demonstrates that the Enlightenment was an essentially revolutionary process, driven by philosophical debate. The American Revolution and its concerns certainly acted as a major factor in the intellectual ferment that (...) shaped the wider upheaval that followed, but the radical philosophes were no less critical than enthusiastic about the American model. From 1789, the General Revolution's impetus came from a small group of philosophe-revolutionnaires , men such as Mirabeau, Sieyes, Condorcet, Volney, Roederer, and Brissot. Not aligned to any of the social groups represented in the French National assembly, they nonetheless forged " la philosophie moderne "--in effect Radical Enlightenment ideas--into a world-transforming ideology that had a lasting impact in Latin America, Canada and eastern Europe as well as France, Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries. In addition, Israel argues that while all French revolutionary journals powerfully affirmed that la philosophie moderne was the main cause of the French Revolution, the main stream of historical thought has failed to grasp what this implies. Israel sets the record straight, demonstrating the true nature of the engine that drove the Revolution, and the intimate links between the radical wing of the Enlightenment and the anti-Robespierriste "Revolution of reason." Acclaim for earlier volumes in the trilogy: "His vast--and vastly impressive--book sets out to redefine the intellectual landscape of early modern Europe. Magnificent and magisterialwill undoubtedly be one of the truly great historical works of the decade." -- Sunday Telegraph "The scholarship is breathtaking. Israel has read everything, absorbed every nuance, followed up every byway." -- New Statesman "An enormously impressive piece of scholarship. The breadth and depth of the author's reading are breathtaking and Enlightenment Contested is set to become the definitive work for philosophers as well as historians on this extraordinary period." -- Tribune. (shrink)
This paper examines the lexicalization patterns of polarity items with a view to understanding the range of possible polarity items and the reasons why such forms should exist in the first place. My starting point is the Scalar Model of Polarity (Israel 1996, 1998), which predicts a reliable correlation between a polarity item's sensitivity and its scalar semantic properties: specifically, it predicts that forms denoting a minimal scalar degree may be emphatic negative polarity items (NPIs), while forms denoting maximal (...) degrees can be emphatic positive polarity items. A variety of anomalous polarity items are discussed which flout this prediction, including both emphatic NPIs denoting maximal degrees (e.g. for all the tea in China, wild horses) and emphatic PPIs denoting minimal degrees (e.g. for a pittance, in a jiffy). The exceptional behaviour of these forms is shown to be a direct function of the participant roles they denote, reflecting the fact that different roles license different kinds of scalar inferences depending on how they contribute to the likelihood of an expressed proposition. In addition to establishing a link between thematic structure and the lexical semantics of polarity sensitivity, this result is shown to have important implications for the nature of scalar reasoning generally, and for the role it plays in structuring rhetorical discourse. (shrink)
The idea that reason can justify induction was famously criticized by David Hume. Hume concluded that there is no rational justification for inductive inferences and hence, no rational justification for most of our daily beliefs. Many philosophers attempted to solve Hume's problem with no success. Bertrand Russell commented regarding Hume's problem: "[if we cannot justify induction] we have no reason to expect the sun to rise tomorrow, to expect bread to be more nourishing than a stone, or to expect that (...) if we throw ourselves off the roof we shall fall." The New Riddle of Induction was introduced by Nelson Goodman in his book Fact, Fiction and Forecast, published in 1954. Goodman's problem raised some serious doubts about our ability even to describe inductive principles. In this Book Rami Israel is attempting to solve Both Hume's and Goodman's philosophical problems by introducing a new approach to the subject and by drawing a new picture of our inductive practices. (shrink)
According to an influential view, one function of mirror neurons (MNs), first discovered in the brain of monkeys, is to underlie third-person mindreading. This view relies on two assumptions: the activity of MNs in an observer’s brain matches (simulates or resonates with) that of MNs in an agent’s brain and this resonance process retrodictively generates a representation of the agent’s intention from a perception of her movement. In this paper, I criticize both assumptions and I argue instead that the activity (...) of MNs in an observer’s brain is enhanced by a prior representation of the agent’s intention and that their task is to predictively compute the best motor command suitable to satisfy the agent’s intention. (shrink)
Alva Noë’s version of the enactive conception in _Action in Perception_ is an important contribution to the study of visual perception. First, I argue, however, that it is unclear (at best) whether, as the enactivists claim, work on change blindness supports the denial of the existence of detailed visual representations. Second, I elaborate on what Noë calls the ‘puzzle of perceptual presence’. Thirdly, I question the enactivist account of perceptual constancy. Finally, I draw attention to the tensions between enactivism and (...) two trends in cognitive neuroscience: the two-visual systems model of human vision and the theory of internal forward models of action. (shrink)
Intentionality is the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs. The puzzles of intentionality lie at the interface between the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. The word itself, which is of medieval Scholastic origin, was rehabilitated by the philosopher Franz Brentano towards the end of the nineteenth century. ‘Intentionality’ is a philosopher's word. It derives from the Latin word intentio, which in turn derives from the verb (...) intendere, which means being directed towards some goal or thing. The entry falls into eleven sections. (shrink)
Externalism is the view that the contents of many of a personâs propositional attitudes and perhaps sensory experiences are extrinsic properties of the personâs brain: they involve relations between the personâs brain and properties instantiated in his or her present or past environment. Privileged self-knowledge is the view that every human being is able to know directly or non-inferentially, in a way unavailable to anybody else, what he or she thinks or experiences. Now, if what I think (or experience) is (...) not in my brain, then it seems indeed as if I cannot have any privileged authoritative first-personal access to the content of what I think. Hence, externalism seems inconsistent with privileged self-knowledge. The purpose of this paper is to provide a road towards a conciliation between self-knowledge and externalism. (shrink)
There are presently three broad approaches the project of naturalizing intentionality: a purely informational approach (Dretske and Fodor), a purely teleological approach (Millikan and Papineau), and a mixed informationally-based teleological approach (Dretske again). I will argue that the last teleosemantic theory offers the most promising approach. I also think, however, that the most explicit version of a pure teleosemantic theory of content, namely Millikan’s admirable theory, faces a pair of objections. My goal in this paper is to spell out Millikan’s (...) pure teleosemantic theory; then to present two objections; and finally to ask the question whether a teleosemantic framework can be saved from the objections. (shrink)
Goodman published his "riddle" in the middle of the 20th century and many philosophers have attempted to solve it. These attempts almost all shared an assumption that, I shall argue, might be wrong, namely, the assumption that when we project from cases we have examined to cases we have not, what we project are predicates (and that this projectibility is an absolute property of some predicates). I shall argue that this assumption, shared by almost all attempts at a solution, looks (...) wrong, because, in the first place, what we project are generalizations and not predicates, and a generalization is projectible (or unprojectible) relative to a given context. In this paper I develop the idea of explainable-projectible generalizations versus unexplainable-unprojectible generalizations, relative to a specific context. My main claim is that we rationally project a generalization if and only if we rationally believe that there is something that explains the general phenomenon that the generalized statement in question asserts to obtain, and that a generalization is projectible, if and only if its putative truth can be explained, whether we know that it can be or not. (shrink)
Some of a person's mental states have the power to represent real and imagined states of affairs: they have semantic properties. What Minds Can Do has two goals: to find a naturalistic or non-semantic basis for the representational powers of a person's mind, and to show that these semantic properties are involved in the causal explanation of the person's behaviour. In the process, the book addresses issues that are central to much contemporary philosophical debate. It will be of interest to (...) a wide range of readers in philosophy of mind and of language, cognitive science, and psychology. (shrink)
Marc Jeannerod and I wrote a Précis of our 2003 book Ways of Seeing. The journal Dialogue asked Tim Schroeder, Alva Noë, Pierre Poirier and Martin Ratte to write a critical essay on our book. In this piece, we reply to our critics.
Brutus wanted to kill Caesar. He believed that Caesar was an ordinary mortal, and that, given this, stabbing him (by which we mean plunging a knife into his heart) was a way of killing him. He thought that he could stab Caesar, for he remembered that he had a knife and saw that Caesar was standing next to him on his left, in the Forum. So Brutus was motivated to stab the man to his left. He did so, thereby killing (...) Caesar. We have explained Brutus’s act by citing a complex of beliefs, desires and perceptions that motivated it. Our explanation provides a causal account of Brutus’s act. The beliefs, desires and perceptions in such a motivating complex are particular cognitions. The act was also a particular, an event that occurred at a certain place and time. The cognitions caused the act.1 Our explanation also provides a rationale for Brutus’s act. The beliefs, desires and perceptions of Brutus’s that we cite had contents. The desire we cited had the content that Brutus kill Caesar. The ﬁrst belief we cited had the content that Caesar was an ordinary mortal. The act was of a certain type. The explanation provides a rationale because the contents of the cognitions mesh in a certain way with one another and with the type of the act. It was the type of act that would satisfy Brutus’s desire to kill 1 Caesar, if the beliefs we cited were true. If the person next to him is Caesar, and Caesar is mortal, and stabbing is a way of killing the mortal next to one, then an act of that type will satisfy Brutus’s desire. The beliefs in the motivating complex “close the gap” between the type of act motivated and the motivating desire. (shrink)
We sketch the historical and conceptual context of Turing's analysis of algorithmic or mechanical computation. We then discuss two responses to that analysis, by Gödel and by Gandy, both of which raise, though in very different ways. The possibility of computation procedures that cannot be reduced to the basic procedures into which Turing decomposed computation. Along the way, we touch on some of Cleland's views.
This paper investigates the interface between philosophy and biochemistry. While it is problematic to justify the application of a particular philosophical model to biochemistry, it seems to be even more difficult to develop a special “Philosophy for Biochemistry”. Alternatively, philosophy can be used in biochemistry based on an alternative approach that involves an interdependent iteration process at a philosophical and (bio)chemical level (“Exeter Method”). This useful iteration method supplements more abstract approaches at the interface between philosophy and natural sciences, and (...) serves the biochemical community to systematically locate logical inconsistencies that arise from more theoretical aspects of the scientific process. Initial cycles of this iteration process identify the in vitro–in vivo problem as a central epistemological difficulty in biochemical research. While previous attempts have generated ad hoc rules to mend the gap between chemistry, biochemistry and biology in order to justify in vitro experimentation, this paper concludes that in vitro experimentation is heavily based on chemistry and cannot derive definite statements about biological processes. It can, however, generate results that will influence the direction of future biological research. The consequence is that the relationship between in vitro and in vivo experimentation is more of a psychological or social one than of a logical nature. Apart from highlighting these inconsistencies in biochemical thinking (“problem awareness”), the Exeter Method demands an improvement of biochemical terminology that contains separate and unequivocally defined terms for in vitro and in vivo systems. (shrink)