This essay adds a theological voice to the current debate over the legacy of Gilles Deleuze. It discusses Peter Hallward's charge that Deleuze is best read as a mystical, theophanic philosopher who values creativity to the detriment of real creatures. It argues that while Hallward is right to discern a flight from bodies, relations, and politics in Deleuze, this is due not to Deleuze's contemplative mysticism, but rather to his strident rejection of any transcendence. The essay then draws upon Thomas (...) Merton in order to argue that only a fully contemplative engagement with transcendence allows us to save the sort of radical becoming that Deleuze sought but couldn't achieve. (shrink)
Jonathan Lear in "Radical Hope" tackles the idea of cultural devastation, in the specific case of the Crow Indians. What do we mean by "annihilation" of a culture? The moral point of view that he imagines as he reconstructs the eve and aftermath of this annihilation is not second personal, of obligation, but first personal, in the collective and singular, as told by the Crows, with Lear as "analyst." "Radical Hope" is a study of representative character of a people—of virtue, (...) courage, resilience, and hope in the face of cultural collapse. The leading questions are shaped by ancient Greek ethics, but with a twist: On the brink of cultural death, what counts for us as good living and what is the nature of the virtues or excellences that constitute it? How might a leader, a phronimos, exemplify it? This puts it too narrowly. The questions, also, are Wittgensteinian: How does a nation go on, when the concepts and way of life it has lived by for centuries are no more? What does it mean to go on? What does it mean to stop when the marks of going on are no longer? (shrink)
This book is the first to offer a detailed analysis of Aristotelian and Kantian ethics together, in a way that remains faithful to the texts and responsive to debates in contemporary ethics. Recent moral philosophy has seen a revival of interest in the concept of virtue, and with it a reassessment of the role of virtue in the work of Aristotle and Kant. This book brings that re-assessment to a new level of sophistication. Nancy Sherman argues that Kant preserves (...) a notion of virtue in his moral theory that bears recognisable traces of the Aristotelian and Stoic traditions, and that his complex anthropology of morals brings him into surprising alliance with Aristotle. She develops her argument through close readings of major texts by both Aristotle and Kant, illustrating points of congruence and contrast. (shrink)
Most traditional accounts of Aristotle's theory of ethical education neglect its cognitive aspects. This book asserts that, in Aristotle's view, excellence of character comprises both the sentiments and practical reason. Sherman focuses particularly on four aspects of practical reason as they relate to character: moral perception, choicemaking, collaboration, and the development of those capacities in moral education. Throughout the book, she is sensitive to contemporary moral debates, and indicates the extent to which Aristotle's account of practical reason provides an (...) alternative to theories of impartial reason. (shrink)
Keller & Miller (K&M) assert that mental disorders could not have evolved as adaptations, but they fail to make their case against the theory of the evolutionary origin of bipolar disorder that I have proposed (Sherman 2001). Such an idea may be unorthodox, but it has considerable explanatory power and heuristic value. (Published Online November 9 2006).
While few soldiers may have read the works of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, it is undoubtedly true that the ancient philosophy known as Stoicism guides the actions of many in the military. Soldiers and seamen learn early in their training "to suck it up," to endure, to put aside their feelings and to get on with the mission. Stoic Warriors is the first book to delve deeply into the ancient legacy of this relationship, exploring what the Stoic philosophy actually is, (...) the role it plays in the character of the military (both ancient and modern), and its powerful value as a philosophy of life. Marshalling anecdotes from military history--ranging from ancient Greek wars to World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq--Nancy Sherman illuminates the military mind and uses it as a window on the virtues of the Stoic philosophy, which are far richer and more interesting than our popularized notions. Sherman--a respected philosopher who taught at the US Naval Academy--explores the deep, lasting value that Stoicism can yield, in issues of military leadership and character; in the Stoic conception of anger and its control (does a warrior need anger to go to battle?); and in Stoic thinking about fear and resilience, grief and mourning, and the value of camaraderie and brotherhood. Sherman concludes by recommending a moderate Stoicism, where the task for the individual, both civilian and military, youth and adult, is to temper control with forgiveness, and warrior drive and achievement with humility and humor. Here then is a perceptive investigation of what makes Stoicism so compelling not only as a guiding principle for the military, but as a philosophy for anyone facing the hardships of life. (shrink)
Recent empirical and conceptual research has shown that moral considerations have an influence on the way we use the adverb ‘intentionally’. Here we propose our own account of these phenomena, according to which they arise from the fact that the adverb ‘intentionally’ has three different meanings that are differently selected by contextual factors, including normative expectations. We argue that our hypotheses can account for most available data and present some new results that support this. We end by discussing the implications (...) of our account for folk psychology. (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)
We use psychological concepts (e.g., intention and desire) when we ascribe psychological states to others for purposes of describing, explaining, and predicting their actions. Does the evidence reported by Knobe show, as he thinks, that moral evaluation shapes our mastery of psychological concepts? We argue that the evidence so far shows instead that moral evaluation shapes the way we report, not the way we think about, others' psychological states.
When people disagree about what is moral, we face an epistemological challenge—when the answer to a moral question is not obvious, how do we determine who is right? What if, under the circumstances, we do not have the means to show one party or the other is right? In recent years, a number of epistemologists have turned their attention to the general epistemic problem of how to respond reasonably to disagreement, and we can look to their work for guidance. While (...) there remains significant disagreement about how to respond to disagreement, I will focus on what I take to be the best position in the debate, known as the “Conciliatory” position (or “Conciliation” for short), which holds that parties to a disagreement should become less confident of their initial opinions to some degree, according to the credibility of the parties involved. Conciliation, if interpreted straightforwardly, has some counter-intuitive implications for unpopular opinions, including unpopular moral judgments. If a moral non-conformist becomes somewhat less confident of her view in response to each disagreement with a presumed epistemic peer, she will eventually have such a low degree of confidence in her initial view that she will effectively have switched positions. This result is troubling because almost everyone accepts moral views that were non-conforming views at some point in time, and these views probably would not have become widespread if non-conformists had changed their positions. I propose a modified version of Conciliation which would enable moral non-conformists to engage in cautious “experiments in living.” This modified view, I argue, is reasonable for those who are concerned, not only with correcting their own mistaken moral views, but with promoting moral progress in general. (shrink)
This paper assesses the so-called “direct-perception” model of empathy. This model draws much of its inspiration from the Phenomenological tradition: it is offered as an account free from the assumption that most, if not all, of another’s psychological states and experiences are unobservable and that one’s understanding of another’s psychological states and experiences are based on inferential processes. Advocates of this model also reject the simulation-based approach to empathy. I first argue that most of their criticisms miss their target because (...) they are directed against the simulation-based approach to mindreading. Advocates of this model further subscribe to an expressivist conception of human behavior and assume that some of an individual’s psychological states (e.g. her goals and emotions, not her beliefs) can be directly perceived in the individual’s expressive behavior. I argue that advocates of the direct-perception model face the following dilemma: either they embrace behaviorism or else they must recognize that one could not understand another’s goal or emotion from her behavior alone without making contextual assumptions. Finally, advocates of the direct-perception model endorse the narrative competency hypothesis, according to which the ability to ascribe beliefs to another is grounded in the ability to understand narratives. I argue that this hypothesis is hard to reconcile with recent results in developmental psychology showing that preverbal human infants seem able to ascribe false beliefs to others. (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)
My goal in this paper is to advance a long-standing debate about the nature of moral rights. The debate focuses on the questions: In virtue of what do persons possess moral rights? What could explain the fact that they possess moral rights? The predominant sides in this debate are the status theory and the instrumental theory. I aim to develop and defend a new instrumental theory. I take as my point of departure the influential view of Joseph Raz, which (...) for all its virtues is unable to meet the challenge to the instrumentalist that I will address: the problem of justifying the enforcement of rights. I then offer a new instrumental theory in which duties are grounded on individuals’ interests, and individuals rights exist in virtue of the duties owed to them. I argue that my theory enables the instrumentalist to give the right sort of justification for enforcing rights. (shrink)
John Hawthorne’s marvelous book contains a wealth of arguments and insights based on an impressive knowledge and understanding of contemporary discussion. We can address only a small aspect of the topic. In particular, we will offer our own answers to two questions about knowledge that he discusses.
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)
Jonathan Lear in Radical Hope tackles the idea of cultural devastation, in the specific case of the Crow Indians. What do we mean by “annihilation” of a culture? The moral point of view that he imagines as he reconstructs the eve and aftermath of this annihilation is not second personal, of obligation, but first personal, in the collective and singular, as told by the Crows, with Lear as “analyst.” Radical Hope is a study of representative character of a people—of virtue, (...) courage, resilience, and hope in the face of cultural collapse. The leading questions are shaped by ancient Greek ethics, but with a twist: On the brink of cultural death , what counts for us as good living and what is the nature of the virtues or excellences that constitute it? How might a leader, a phronimos , exemplify it? This puts it too narrowly. The questions, also, are Wittgensteinian: How does a nation go on, when the concepts and way of life it has lived by for centuries are no more? What does it mean to go on? What does it mean to stop when the marks of going on are no longer? (shrink)
IN THIS PAPER I CONSIDER THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP FROM AN ARISTOTELIAN POINT OF VIEW. THE ISSUE IS OF CURRENT INTEREST GIVEN RECENT CHALLENGES TO IMPARTIALIST ETHICS TO TAKE MORE SERIOUSLY THE COMMITMENTS AND ATTACHMENTS OF A PERSON. HOWEVER, I ENTER THAT DEBATE IN ONLY A RESTRICTED WAY BY STRENGTHENING THE CHALLENGE ARTICULATED IN ARISTOTLE'S SYSTEMATIC DEFENSE OF FRIENDSHIP AND THE SHARED LIFE. AFTER SOME INTRODUCTORY REMARKS, I BEGIN BY CONSIDERING ARISTOTLE'S NOTION THAT GOOD LIVING OR HAPPINESS ("EUDAIMONIA") FOR AN (...) INDIVIDUAL NECESSARILY INCLUDES THE HAPPINESS OF OTHERS. SHARED HAPPINESS ENTAILS THE RATIONAL CAPACITY FOR JOINTLY PROMOTING COMMON ENDS AS WELL AS THE CAPACITY TO IDENTIFY WITH AND COORDINATE SEPARATE ENDS. THIS EXTENDED NOTION OF HAPPINESS PRESUPPOSES THE EXTENSION OF SELF THROUGH ATTACHMENTS, AND I NEXT CONSIDER CERTAIN MINIMAL CONDITIONS NECESSARY FOR ATTACHMENT. FINALLY, I DISCUSS HOW ARISTOTLE'S NOTION OF A FRIEND AS "ANOTHER SELF" IS COMPATIBLE BOTH WITH A CONCEPTION OF THE SEPARATENESS OF THE INDIVIDUALS AND OF THE DISTINCTIVE WAYS IN WHICH EACH INDIVIDUAL REALIZES VIRTUE WITHIN A SHARED LIFE. (shrink)
The tuning-fork model of human social cognition, based on the discovery of mirror neurons (MNs) in the ventral premotor cortex of monkeys, involves the four following assumptions: (1) mirroring processes are processes of resonance or simulation. (2) They can be motor or non-motor. (3) Processes of motor mirroring (or action-mirroring), exemplified by the activity of MNs, constitute instances of third-person mindreading, whereby an observer represents the agent's intention. (4) Non-motor mirroring processes enable humans to represent others' emotions. After questioning all (...) four assumptions, I point out that MNs in an observer's brain could not synchronically resonate with MNs in an agent's brain unless they discharged in a single brain in two distinct tasks at different times. Finally, I sketch a conceptualist alternative to the resonance model according to which a brain mechanism active in both the execution and the perception of e.g., the act of grasping is the neural basis of the concept of e.g., grasping. (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)