In recent years, a series of bestselling atheist manifestos by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens has thrust the topic of the rationality of religion into the public discourse. Christian moderates of an intellectual bent and even some agnostics and atheists have taken umbrage and lashed back. In this paper I defend the New Atheists against three common charges: that their critiques of religion commit basic logical fallacies (such as straw man, false dichotomy, or hasty generalization), that their own (...) atheism is just as “faith-based” as the religious beliefs they criticize, and that their expressed disrespect for religious belief is immoral. (shrink)
pseudo-Master's thesis Since Jacques Derrida’s 1989 essay “Force of Law: the Mystical Foundations of Authority,” Carl Schmitt has been a perennial subject of Derrida’s political critique. I will argue that Derrida’s concept of auto-immunity is uniquely applicable to Derrida’s interpretation of Schmitt’s political philosophy. Therefore, my argument will consist of two interrelated but equally divergent parts; the digressive structure will attempt to mimic Derrida’s complex style of weaving opposed concepts into a coherent whole. First, I will demonstrate the many forms (...) of Derrida’s concept of auto-immunity. Second, I will exhibit how this schema uniquely applies to Derrida’s criticisms of Schmitt and the contemporary state of politics. (shrink)
The publication of Harry Frankfurt’s 1986 essay “On Bullshit,” and especially its republication as a book in 2005, have sparked a great deal of interest in the philosophical analysis of the concept of bullshit. The present essay seeks to contribute to the ever-widening discussion of the concept by applying it to the realm of advertising. First, it is argued that Frankfurt’s definition of bullshit is too narrow, and an alternative definition is defended that accommodates both Frankfurt’s truth-indifferent bullshit and what (...) is here termed “culpably confused bullshit.” Second, it is explained why a great deal of advertising constitutes bullshit so defined.The essay concludes by making the case that bullshitting in general is clearly unethical on both Utilitarian and Kantian grounds. (shrink)
The 2010 Quinnipiac cheerleading case raises interesting questions about the nature of both cheerleading and sport, as well as about the moral character of each. In this paper we explore some of those questions, and argue that no form of college cheerleading currently in existence deserves, from a moral point of view, to be recognized as a sport for Title IX purposes. To reach that conclusion, we evaluate cheerleading using a quasi-legal argument based on the NCAA?s definition of sport and (...) conclude that cheerleading fails to qualify as a legitimate sport. A philosophical argument leads to the same conclusion, primarily because of the essential entertainment-aspect of cheerleading. We then examine a consequentialist moral case for making cheerleading an intercollegiate sport and argue that the balance of moral reasons is against doing so. Finally, we look at cheerleading?s newest offspring ? Acrobatics and Tumbling, and STUNT ? and express our moral reservations about their current claims to be worthy of Title IX recognition. While we would not claim that any single one of our arguments is decisive, we are convinced that the cumulative weight of the arguments against granting intercollegiate sport status to any of the forms of cheerleading or its derivatives is, at present, irresistible. (shrink)
According to HealthCare.gov, by improving access to quality health for all Americans, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will reduce disparities in health insurance coverage. One way this will happen under the provisions of the ACA is by creating a new health insurance marketplace (a health insurance exchange) by 2014 in which “all people will have a choice for quality, affordable health insurance even if a job loss, job switch, move or illness occurs”. This does not mean that everyone will have (...) whatever insurance coverage he or she wants. The provisions of the ACA require that each of the four benefit categories of plans (known as bronze, silver, gold and platinum) provides no less than the benefits available in an “essential health benefits package”. However, without a clear understanding of what criteria must be satisfied for health care to be essential, the ACA’s requirement is much too vague and open to multiple, potentially conflicting interpretations. Indeed, without such understanding, in the rush to provide health insurance coverage to as many people as is economically feasible, we may replace one kind of disparity (lack of health insurance) with another kind of disparity (lack of adequate health insurance). Thus, this paper explores the concept of “essential benefits”, arguing that the “essential health benefits package” in the ACA should be one that optimally satisfies the basic needs of the people covered. (shrink)
The ability to imagine objects undergoing rotation (mental rotation) improves markedly with practice, but an explanation of this plasticity remains controversial. Some researchers propose that practice speeds up the rate of a general-purpose rotation algorithm. Others maintain that performance improvements arise through the adoption of a new cognitive strategy—repeated exposure leads to rapid retrieval from memory of the required response to familiar mental rotation stimuli. In two experiments we provide support for an integrated explanation of practice effects in mental rotation (...) by combining behavioral and EEG measures in a way that provides more rigorous inference than is available from either measure alone. Before practice, participants displayed two well-established signatures of mental rotation: Both response time and EEG negativity increased linearly with rotation angle. After extensive practice with a small set of stimuli, both signatures of mental rotation had all but disappeared. In contrast, after the same amount of practice with a much larger set both signatures remained, even though performance improved markedly. Taken together, these results constitute a reversed association, which cannot arise from variation in a single cause, and so they provide compelling evidence for the existence of two routes to expertise in mental rotation. We also found novel evidence that practice with the large but not the small stimulus set increased the magnitude of an early visual evoked potential, suggesting increased rotation speed is enabled by improved efficiency in extracting three-dimensional information from two-dimensional stimuli. (shrink)
In their recent book, Is Inequality Bad for Our Health?, Daniels, Kennedy, and Kawachi claim that to “act justly in health policy, we must have knowledge about the causal pathways through which socioeconomic (and other) inequalities work to produce differential health outcomes.” One of the central problems with this approach is its dependency on “knowledge about the causal pathways.” A widely held belief is that the randomized clinical trial (RCT) is, and ought to be the “gold standard” of evaluating the (...) causal efficacy of interventions. However, often the only data available are non-experimental, observational data. For such data, the necessary randomization is missing. Because the randomization is missing, it seems to follow that it is not possible to make epistemically warranted claims about the causal pathways. Although we are not sanguine about the difficulty in using observational data to make warranted causal claims, we are not as pessimistic as those who believe that the only warranted causal claims are claims based on data from (idealized) RCTs. We argue that careful, thoughtful study design, informed by expert knowledge, that incorporates propensity score matching methods in conjunction with instrumental variable analyses, provides the possibility of warranted causal claims using observational data. (shrink)
Aristotle's has been the most influential philosophy in the whole history of science. Monte Johnson examines its most controversial aspect: Aristotle's emphasis on the importance of goals and purposes to scientific understanding--his teleology. In some cases this policy has proved deeply flawed, for example in his earth-centric cosmology, or his anthropology purporting to justify slavery and male domination. But in many areas Aristotle's teleology has been successful, and remains influential, for example in adaptationist evolutionary theory, embryology, and genetics. (...) class='Hi'>Johnson's book shows also how Aristotle's theory has profound implications for environmental ethics and for the theory of value in general. (shrink)
The belief that the mind and the body are separate and that the mind is the source of all meaning has been a part of Western culture for centuries. Both philosophers and scientists have questioned this dualism, but their efforts have rarely converged. Many philosophers continue to rely on disembodied models of human thought, while scientists tend to reduce the complex process of thinking to a merely physical phenomenon. In The Meaning of the Body , Mark Johnson continues his (...) pioneering work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic Metaphors We Live By . Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed. From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning—including images, qualities, emotions, and metaphors—that are all rooted in the body’s physical encounters with the world. Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic. Thus the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking the bodily sources of meaning. Brilliantly synthesizing a broad range of scientific research and philosophical inquiry in clear and original writing, Mark Johnson’s The Meaning of the Body puts forth a bold new conception of the mind rooted in the understanding that philosophy will matter to nonphilosophers only if it is built on a visceral connection to the world. (shrink)
Review of Julian Savulescu, Ruud ter Meulen and Guy Kahane eds., Enhancing Human Capacities Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s12152-011-9148-y Authors Thomas Johnson, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia Journal Neuroethics Online ISSN 1874-5504 Print ISSN 1874-5490.
During the last few decades, most cultural critics have come to agree that the division between "high" and "low" art is an artificial one, that Beethoven's Ninth and "Blue Suede Shoes" are equally valuable as cultural texts. In Who Needs Classical Music?, Julian Johnson challenges these assumptions about the relativism of cultural judgements. The author maintains that music is more than just "a matter of taste": while some music provides entertainment, or serves as background noise, other music claims to (...) function as art. This book considers the value of classical music in contemporary society, arguing that it remains distinctive because it works in quite different ways to most of the other music that surrounds us. This intellectually sophisticated yet accessible book offers a new and balanced defense of the specific values of classical music in contemporary culture. Who Needs Classical Music? will stimulate readers to reflect on their own investment (or lack of it) in music and art of all kinds. (shrink)
Focusing on Truth explores the question of what truth is, balancing historical with issue-orientated discussion. The book offers a comprehensive survey of all the major theories of truth. Lawrence Johnson investigates a number of closely related matters of truth in his inquiry, such as: What sorts of things are true or false? What is attributed to them when they are said to be true or false? What do facts have to do with truth? What can we learn from previous (...) theories? The book opens with an analysis of the coherence theory of truth and then the correspondence theory of truth, as developed by Moore, Russell and Wittgenstein. Through a study of the semantic conceptions of truth, the author reveals that an adequate theory of truth must take account of the pragmatics of person, purpose, and circumstance. A full understanding of facts and truth bearers is considered central to Johnson's criticism of the opposing truth theories of J. L. Austin and P. F. Strawson. Drawing on the merits of these theories and others, while identifying their deficiencies, Johnson presents a new account of truth, based on the correlation of referential foci and the use of linguistic conventions. This account is defended as being adequate to meet the legitimate demands made on a theory of truth. Johnson argues that the account leaves scope for statements of many different sorts to be true in their own widely varying ways, without the existence of a need to posit fundamentally different kinds of truth. (shrink)
Using path-breaking discoveries of cognitive science, Mark Johnson argues that humans are fundamentally imaginative moral animals, challenging the view that morality is simply a system of universal laws dictated by reason. According to the Western moral tradition, we make ethical decisions by applying universal laws to concrete situations. But Johnson shows how research in cognitive science undermines this view and reveals that imagination has an essential role in ethical deliberation. Expanding his innovative studies of human reason in Metaphors (...) We Live By and The Body in the Mind, Johnson provides the tools for more practical, realistic, and constructive moral reflection. (shrink)
This is an important new critical analysis of Derrida's theory of writing, based on close readings of key texts. It reveals a dimension of Derrida's thinking that has been neglected in favor of those "deconstructionist" cliches favored by much recent literary criticism. Christopher Johnson highlights the special character of Derrida's philosophy that comes from his contact with contemporary natural science and with systems theory. This study casts new light on an exacting set of intellectual issues facing philosophy and critical (...) theory today. (shrink)
Many readers encounter the history and mythology of the Illuminati for the first time in the course of reading Angels & Demons. They typically wonder if the Illuminati is a real organization in history and, if so, how much of Dan Brown’s description is accurate. To help answer that question, we turned to George Johnson, the well-known New York Times science writer. Johnson shares several interests with Dan Brown and fans of Angels & Demons: He has written extensively (...) about the conflicts and confluences of science and religion (including contributing an essay on that topic elsewhere in this volume). He has written about quantum physics and antimatter. And, as it turns out, he has written a book that deals extensively with the Order of Illuminati, its history, and the uses of myths and legends about the strange organization by (mostly right-wing) modern conspiracy theorists. That book, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics, was published in 1983 and remains a veritable gold mine of hard fact and analysis about the real history of the Illuminati. Even more important than the factual history presented by Johnson is his description of the vast web of myth that has grown.. (shrink)
Is there any moral obligation to improve oneself, to foster and develop various capacities in oneself? From a broadly Kantian point of view, Self-Improvement defends the view that there is such an obligation and that it is an obligation that each person owes to him or herself. The defence addresses a range of arguments philosophers have mobilized against this idea, including the argument that it is impossible to owe anything to yourself, and the view that an obligation to improve onself (...) is overly 'moralistic'. Robert N. Johnson argues against Kantian universalization arguments for the duty of self-improvement, as well as arguments that bottom out in a supposed value humanity has. At the same time, he defends a position based on the notion that self- and other-respecting agents would, under the right circumstances, accept the principle of self-improvement and would leave it up to each to be the person to whom this duty is owed. (shrink)
Concepts in Film Theory is a continuation of Dudley Andrew's classic, The Major Film Theories. In writing now about contemporary theory, Andrew focuses on the key concepts in film study -- perception, representation, signification, narrative structure, adaptation, evaluation, identification, figuration, and interpretation. Beginning with an introductory chapter on the current state of film theory, Andrew goes on to build an overall view of film, presenting his own ideas on each concept, and giving a sense of the interdependence (...) of these concepts. Andrew provides lucid explanations of theories which involve perceptual psychology and structuralism; semiotics and psychoanalysis; hermeneutics and genre study. His clear approach to these often obscure theories enables students to acquire the background they need to enrich their understanding of film -- and of art. (shrink)
In this reflection piece, Ralph Johnson provides an account of the development of informal logic and how it intersected with the Critical Thinking Movement. Section I is an account of the origins of what Johnson calls the “Informal Logic Initiative.” Section II discusses how the Informal Logic Initiative connected with the Critical Thinking Movement at the Sonoma State University Conferences starting in 1981. Section III discusses the relationship between logic and critical thinking. Section IV describes “The Network Problem,” (...) which emerged for Johnson in the mid-1980s – largely as a result of his experiences at critical thinking conferences, especially the Sonoma State conference. Section V expresses some concerns about the current status of critical thinking as an educational idea and about the Critical Thinking Movement. (shrink)
Cornel West's reputation as a public and celebrity intellectual has overshadowed his important contributions to philosophy. Professor Clarence Shole Johnson provides a rectification of this situation in this benchmark, thought-provoking book. After a brief biographical sketch, Johnson leads us through a comprehensive examination of West's philosophy from his conceptions of pragmatism, existentialism, Marxism, and Prophetic Christianity to his persuasive writings on black-Jewish relations, affirmative action, and the role of black intellectuals. Special focus is given to West's writings on (...) ethics and social justice, and how these inform his entire theoretical framework. Cornel West and Philosophy is a unique and indispensable guide to West's diverse philosophical writings. (shrink)
Eusebius' magisterial Praeparatio Evangelica (written sometime between AD 313 and 324) offers an apologetic defence of Christianity in the face of Greek accusations of irrationality and impiety. Though brimming with the quotations of other (often lost) Greek authors, the work is dominated by a clear and sustained argument. Against the tendency to see the Praeparatio as merely an anthology of other sources or a defence of monotheistic religion against paganism, Aaron P. Johnson seeks to appreciate Eusebius' contribution to the (...) discourses of Christian identity by investigating the constructions of ethnic identity (especially Greek) at the heart of his work. Analysis of his `ethnic argumentation' exhibits a method of defending Christianity by construing its opponents as historically rooted nations, whose place in the narrative of world history serves to undermine the legitimacy of their claims to ancient wisdom and piety. (shrink)
GREGORY R. JOHNSON examines the link between Ayn Rand's ethics, which can be broadly characterized as Aristotelian, and her political philosophy, which can be broadly characterized as classical liberalism of the Lockean, natural rights variety. He maintains that Rand's argument for classical liberalism on the basis of the objectivity of values fails because of a reductionistic and excessively intellectualistic conception of human nature. In addition to discussing Rand's arguments, he surveys the Rand-influenced work of Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas (...) J. Den Uyl, as well as Tibor R. Machan and Tara Smith. (shrink)
The DSM-V Committee plans to abolish the distinction between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence (DSM5.org). The author presents a case report as a proof of concept that this distinction should be retained. The author has asserted that Alcohol Abuse is a purely psychological addiction, while Alcohol Dependence involves capture of the ventral tegmental dopaminergic SEEKING system (Johnson 2003). In psychological addiction the brain can be assumed to function normally, and ordinary psychoanalytic technique can be followed. For the patient described, (...) transference interpretation was the fundamental key to recovery. Alcoholic drinking functioned to prevent this man from remembering overwhelming childhood events; events that were also lived out in his current relationships. Murders that occurred when he was a child were hidden in a screen memory. The patient had an obsessional style of relating where almost all feeling was left out of his associations. After he stopped drinking compulsively, he continued to work compulsively. The maternal transference had to be enacted and then interpreted in order for overwhelming memories to be allowed into conscious thought. After psychoanalysis, the patient resumed drinking and worked a normal schedule that allowed more fulfilling relationships. He had no further symptoms of distress from drinking over a 9 year followup. (shrink)
'Since the middle of the twentieth century,' writes Elizabeth Johnson, 'there has been a renaissance of new insights into God in the Christian tradition. On different continents, under pressure from historical events and social conditions, people of faith have glimpsed the living God in fresh ways. It is not that a wholly different God is discovered from the One believed in by previous generations. Christian faith does not believe in a new God but, finding itself in new situations, seeks (...) the presence of God there. Aspects long-forgotten are brought into new relationships with current events, and the depths of divine compassion are appreciated in ways not previously imagined.' This book sets out the fruit of these discoveries. The first chapter describes Johnson's point of departure and the rules of engagement, with each succeeding chapter distilling a discrete idea of God. Featured are transcendental, political, liberation, feminist, black, Hispanic, interreligious, and ecological theologies, ending with the particular Christian idea of the one God as Trinity. >. (shrink)
GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN argue that Rand's defense of abortion on demand is inconsistent with her own fundamental metaphysical, epistemological, and moral principles, namely that everything that exists has a determinate identity, that the concept of man refers to all of man's characteristics, not just his essential characteristics, and that there is no gap between what an organism truly is and what it ought to be.
Gregory R. Johnson and David Rasmussen defend their critique of Ayn Rand's views on abortion, arguing that their critics miss its main points. Tibor Machan and Alexander Tabarrok actually depart from Rand's own position under the guise of defending it; they introduce a non-Randian distinction between being a human organism and being a moral person.
Gregory R. Johnson argues, contra Barry Vacker, that reductionist thinking and nonlinear aesthetics are not mutually exclusive, and that the passages in The Fountainhead cited by Vacker actually support the mastery of nature thesis. Johnson also addresses some miscellaneous criticisms offered by William Thomas, who wrote a review of Johnson's "Liberty and Nature" (Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Fall 1999) that appeared in Navigator.
D. Barton Johnson traces the parallel lives and literary origins of two Russo-American writers: Ayn Rand and Vladimir Nabokov. Born in Saint Peterburg six years apart, they overlapped on the New York Times bestsellers list in the late fifties. While Nabokov's Russian cultural roots have been much explored, Rand's were little realized prior to Chris Matthew Sciabarra's investigation of her Russian philosophical context. Nabokov and Rand represent polar examples of their cultural heritage: for Nabokov, the aesthetically-oriented tradition of the (...) modernist Russian Symbolists; for Rand, the social-utilitarian tradition of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and later, Maxim Gorky, founder of Socialist Realism. (shrink)
Patterned after Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style , this handy reference concisely summarizes the substantial existing research on the delicate balance of professional ethics. Johnson and Ridley reduce the wealth of published material on the topic to the seventy-five most important and pithy truths for supervisors in all fields. These explore questions of integrity, loyalty, justice, respect, and delivering one's best in the business environment. Succinct and comprehensive, this is a must-have for any professional or business (...) leader striving to create an ethical workplace. (shrink)
The author, head of a teaching hospital surgical unit, argues that the medical curriculum must ensure that all students are exposed to a minimum of ethical discussion and decision-making. In describing his own approach he emphasises the need to show students that it is 'an intensely practical subject'. Moreover, he reminds them that moral dilemmas in medicine--perhaps a better term than medical ethics--are unavoidable in clinical practice. Professor Johnson emphasises the need for small group teaching and discussion of real (...) cases, preferably chosen and 'worked up' by individual students. He suggests that ethical issues could profitably be introduced into written, oral and clinical examinations. (shrink)
In The Philosophy of Manners Peter Johnson makes a compelling case for manners as a subject for investigation by modern moral philosophy. He examines manners as 'little virtues', explaining their distinctive conceptual characteristics and charting their intricate detail and relationships with each other. In demonstrating why manners are important to our mutual expectations, Johnson reveals a terrain which modern moral philosophy has left largely unmapped. Through a critical examination of the ethics of John Rawls and Alasdair MacIntyre, (...) class='Hi'>Johnson shows how the nature of manners constitutes a philosophical problem both for liberalism and its critics. Taking the recent revival of virtue ethics as its broad starting point, The Philosophy of Manners discusses the 'little virtues' as they are treated in the Aristotelian and Kantian traditions of writing on ethics. Original features of the book include discussions of nameless virtues, the logical intricacy of the 'little virtues' which compose manners, and the nature of their orchestration by the more substantial virtues and moral concerns. The aim throughout is to give manners a philosophically defensible place in the moral life - a place which neither inflates nor understates their importance. --an examination of why manners are essential to moral literacy and an ethical society --the first work of its kind - no other ethical investigation concentrates on manners --relevant to the recent revival of interest in virtue ethics and any course in contemporary ethics --will provoke argument and disagreement. (shrink)