In this paper I want to propose that we see solipsism as arising from certain problems we have about identifying ourselves as subjects in an objective world. The discussion will centre on Wittgenstein’s treatment of solipsism in his Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus. In that work Wittgenstein can be seen to express an unusually profound understanding of the problems faced in trying to give an account of how we, who are subjects, identify ourselves as objects in the (...) world. We have in his compressed remarks, the kernels of a number of arguments which all come together to form what can be called the problem of self-identification. I want to argue that the solipsism of the Tractatus arises at least in part as a solution to, or – to put it less optimistically – as a symptom or articulation of this problem. In approaching Wittgenstein’s early discussion of solipsism in this way I will obviously be in disagreement with some other interpretations of the work. For example, there are those who think that there is no ‘solipsism of the Tractatus’.1 In fact, the Tractarian arguments presented below as motivating solipsism have been seen as fulfilling the quite opposite function of refuting it. I do not intend in this piece to engage with alternative interpretations. Let me say a little bit about why I have granted myself the licence not to do so. First, the focus of my concern with solipsism is on how it connects with what I have called the problem of self-identification. While it is a concern that emerged in an attempt to make sense of Wittgenstein’s remarks in.. (shrink)
I argue that both Mary O'Brien's celebratory analysis of motherhood and Simone de Beauvoir's critical one fail, due to biologism and a lack of historical sense. Both approaches, I claim, are complementary: motherhood need be analysed both as alienating-Beauvoir-and as a potential ground for feminism-O'Brien. I conclude by suggesting that feminism can only reappropriate the female reproductive experience in a critical way.
The article focuses on the analysis of class formulated by the anti-capitalist journalist and Chartist James Bronterre O'Brien. It argues that O'Brien's work contained the first example within working-class anti-capitalist political economy of a fully elaborated analysis of class antagonism. The article takes issue with recent accounts of O'Brien, which have seen his analysis as focused exclusively on the political rather than the economic realm, and which have denied the class character of his work. At the same time, it views (...) O'Brien in his intellectual and historical contexts, thus eschewing the teleological framework within which his work has mostly been analysed. (shrink)
From the early 1970s Conor Cruise O'Brien acquired a reputation in Ireland and internationally as one of the most vociferous critics of nationalism. While many see the origins of his critique in his reaction to the emergence of militant nationalism in Northern Ireland at this time, in this article I argue that the foundations of O'Brien's anti-nationalism had already been laid in the postwar European context. The article illustrates how O'Brien's historical and intellectual experience in the aftermath of the Second (...) World War had an essentially conservative influence on his thought, providing him with a pool of ideas which he would later employ in his attack on nationalism, and Irish nationalism in particular. I therefore maintain that there is a lot more continuity in O'Brien's thought than is sometimes assumed. (shrink)
In "The Disunity of Consciousness," Gerard O'Brien and Jon Opie argue that human consciousness is not synchronically unified. They suggest that the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness admits of two readings, neither of which they find persuasive. According to them, "a conscious individual does not have a single consciousness, but several distinct phenomenal consciousnesses, at least one for each of the senses, running in parallel." They call this conception of consciousness the _multi-track account. I make three points in (...) reply: (1) O'Brien and Opie's characterization of the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness is problematic; (2) their arguments in support of the multitrack account are unpersuasive; and (3) the phenomenon of intersensory integration suggests that O'Brien and Opie are wrong to claim that "the only sense in which it is correct to talk of a 'unified' consciousness (...) is that in which the representational contents of the various components coincide.". (shrink)
This paper addresses questions of friendship and political community by investigating a particular complex case, comradeship in the life of the soldier. Close attention to soldiers’ accounts of their own lives, successes and failures shows that the relationship of friendship to comradeship, and of both to the success of the soldier’s individual and communal life, is complex and tense. I focus on autobiographical accounts of basic training in order to describe, and to explore the tensions between, two positions: (1) Becoming (...) a soldier is a corrupting loss of individuality and moral sensitivity, and friendship is resistance to it. (2) Becoming a soldier is one form of flourishing, and comradeship—the soldier’s distinctive form of friendship—is one of its constitutive virtues. I draw particularly on George Orwell’s account of basic training and fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and on Tim O’Brien’s account of basic training and fighting in Vietnam. (shrink)