B opens his discussion of the problem of universals, in his second commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge, with a destructive dilemma: genera and species either exist or are concepts; but they can neither exist nor be soundly conceived; therefore the enquiry into them should be abandoned (In Isag. maior . ). Boethius’ strategy to get around this dilemma is well known. He follows the lead of Alexander of Aphrodisias, distinguishing several ways in which genera and species (...) can be conceived, and he argues that at least one way involves no falsity. Hence it is possible to conceive genera and species soundly, and Porphyry’s enquiry into them is therefore not futile after all (. ). Boethius thus resolves the second horn of his opening dilemma. Yet he allows the ﬁrst horn of the dilemma, the claim that genera and species cannot exist, to stand. The implication is that he takes his arguments for this claim to be sound. If so, this would be a philosophically exciting and signiﬁcant result, well worth exploring in its own right. Yet there is no consensus, either medieval or modern, on precisely what Boethius’ arguments are, or even how many arguments he oﬀers, much less on their soundness. One reason for the lack.. (shrink)
For more than thirty-ﬁve years, the Beatles have credited their musical success to the long hours they spent playing in Hamburg, before they were discovered by Brian Epstein and then the rest of the world. Now it’s the oﬃcial story: The Beatles Anthology (367 pp. Chronicle Books $60), the group’s collective ‘autobiography’ published October 5th, describes how their musical apprenticeship served on the Reeperbahn produced the sound that deﬁned the 1960s and, arguably, popular music ever since. Told through the words (...) of surviving band members Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, supplemented by extensive culling of old interviews with John Lennon, the history of the band is recounted from its beginnings as the Quarrymen in 1957 to the ﬁnal acrimonious breakup in 1970. Like the television series and CD-sets to which it is a companion, Anthology is meant to be a picture of their life as a band from the inside—what it was like “in the eye of the hurricane,” as McCartney puts it. To hear the Beatles tell it, the seven-hour sets in Hamburg under pressure to “make a show” and bring in customers transformed their music, so much so that when they returned to England after their ﬁrst stint in Hamburg, the world had its ﬁrst taste of Beatlemania. Billed as “The Beatles—Direct from Hamburg!”, when they began playing in the Litherland Town Hall in Liverpool (27 December 1960), for the ﬁrst time the crowd spontaneously rushed the stage in the frenzy that would become familiar in the succeeding years. (shrink)
A referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland a while ago was strongly influenced by a curious case that aroused great controversy. You probably remember it, but I'll briefly recap the main points. A (very) young rape victim wanted an abortion (or her parents wanted it for her -- I'm not really sure, but it doesn't matter here). She was not only denied it, abortion being illegal in the Republic, but was prevented by a court ruling from going to (...) get one in a country where abortion is allowed. Now, I'm not concerned here with the moral question of abortion itself; what interests me is the confusion evinced (but apparently not felt) by most of those whose comments on the case were reported -- a confusion that afflicted those on both sides of the debate. The results of the recent referendum have reflected the confusion perfectly, with the Irish people offering their collective opinion that a woman shouldn't be allowed an abortion even if her life is endangered, but that women should be allowed free access to information about abortion and to travel to countries where abortion is legal. This would still have denied an abortion to the young rape victim, but would have allowed her to come to England for one. The confusion, it seems to me, is a symptom of two dangerous tendencies of thought concerning other people's moral beliefs -- tendencies which are often linked. (shrink)
Susan James, in her recent work Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon 1997), prefaces her investigation of emotions in the seventeenth century with a series of remarks about the earlier career of the emotions, in particular their treatment in the Middle Ages. In brief, she takes the ‘new’ analyses of the passions put forward in the seventeenth century to be a philosophical sideshow to the main event: the dethronement of Aristotelian natural philosophy and metaphysics (22). She (...) describes the consequences for psychology as follows.. (shrink)
Augustine and Anselm, Abelard was not concerned to explore the theological dimension of the mental Word. Instead, Abelard crafted a ‘language of thought’ to provide the semantics for ordinary languages, based on the idea that thoughts (intellectus) have linguistic character. His is the most sophisticated account of Mental Language until the efforts of Burleigh, Ockham, Buridan, and others at the start of the fourteenth century. Yet unlike these later versions, Abelard’s theory of Mental Language has not received the attention it (...) deserves.1 Most commentators have touched on only three aspects of Abelard’s theory of Mental Language, and that typically as an adjunct to his discussion of the problem of universals: the mechanics of acquiring understandings, the nature of mental content, and the production of one understanding from another (e. g. by abstraction).2 Important as these are for Abelard’s philosophy of mind, they are only a small part of the story for his account of Mental Language. Here I shall concentrate instead on Abelard’s insight that thoughts have linguistic character. To clarify this insight we first have to describe Abelard’s semantic framework (§1), connecting language and thought. According to Abelard, Mental Language generally obeys a principle of compositionality, so that the meaning of a whole is a function of the meaning of its parts — an idea that Abelard applies to words and expressions3 by describing the psychological realities underlying the semantics (§2). Once.. (shrink)
Augustine and Anselm form a common tradition in mediæval thought about angelic sin, a tradition rooted in patristic thought and centred on their attempts to give a philosophically coherent account of moral choice. Augustine concentrates on the reasons and causes of angelic sin, especially in reference to free will; Anselm adopts Augustine’s analysis and extends it to issues about the rationality of sinful choice. Each takes Lucifer’s primal sin to be the paradigm case. Lucifer, undistracted by bodily desires and unencumbered (...) by history, committed the first moral misdeed in an entirely good universe newly created by an entirely good God. The challenge is to give a philosophical account that permits us to understand how the best and brightest of all angels nevertheless made a sinful choice in such uniformly positive circumstances. (shrink)
I was born in Boston, Lincolnshire (actually in Wyberton West Hospital, which no longer exists), educated (if that's the word) first at St Mary's Primary School (run by nuns at the time, which probably explains a lot about my later career if you're a Freudian, which I'm not. Its new incarnation is here), then at Boston Grammar School . At the latter I successfully navigated 'O'-levels, but nearly half-way through my 'A'-levels I developed a number of extra-curricular interests which distracted (...) me from my studies. More importantly, I began to think rather more broadly than some of my teachers (and especially my appalling headmaster) cared for. This led to an almost total cessation of interest in my 'A'-levels. It did, however, involve a number of stage rôles at Blackfriars Theatre and elsewhere, and a good deal of time spent in the theatre bar. (shrink)
He began his negative case by attacking platonist theories, that is, theories identifying the universal as a separated form really distinct from the individuals it characterizes.3 His next target was so-called moderate realist theories, which identify the universal as a form that is really distinct but not separate from the individuals it characterizes.4 Finally, he turns to Scotist theories, which identify the universal as a form that is only formally distinct from the individuals it characterizes, neither really distinct nor separable (...) from them.5 Buridan’s discussion therefore follows a pattern similar to that found in William of Ockham, where the arguments against.. (shrink)
cause other than the very individual itself, and thus there is no ‘metaphysical’ problem of individuation at all—individuality, unlike generality, is primitive and needs no explanation. He supports this view in two ways. First, he argues that there are no nonindividual entities, whether existing in their own right or as metaphysical constituents either of things or in things, and hence that no real principle or cause of individuality (other than the individual itself) is required. Second, he oﬀers a ‘semantic’ interpretation (...) of what appear to be metaphysical diﬃculties about individuality by recasting the issues in the formal mode, as issues within semantics, such as how a referring expression can pick out a single individual. Yet although there is no ‘metaphysical’ problem of individuation, Buridan discusses two associated problems at some length: the identity of individuals over time and the discernibility of individuals. (shrink)
Over the last few years, events in countries like Algeria, whose free democratic elections were cancelled by army officers to prevent a probable Islamic fundamentalist victory, have drawn attention to a number of issues that are in urgent need of consideration. Apart from the fact that the political reverberations of the Algerian incident are still being felt throughout the region, the fact that it happened helped to focus attention on a thorny problem for democrats everywhere. Many people have found themselves (...) plunged into a dreadful dilemma -- torn between their liberal democratic principles on the one hand, and the immediate and practical threats of oppression and the withholding of human rights on the other. To add to their anguish, the Algerian incident has been taken by certain Islamic fundamentalists to provide justification for their claim that democracy is little more than a tool of cynical Western capitalists. (shrink)
In the ﬁrst volume of Capital, Marx introduces a labor theory of value. The theory is supposed to form the basis of his “laying bare” the “inner workings” of capitalism. The theory rests on two claims, and at the outset Marx uses it to explain four features of capitalist production. Yet by the end of the ﬁnal volume of Capital, he abandons both claims and oﬀers alternative accounts of all four features of capitalism. We hold that Marx’s introduction of the (...) labor theory of value is not the presentation of an alternative economic theory, but serves to introduce his analysis of the class structure of capitalism. (shrink)
Socrates, for example, has an essence that includes more than his human nature, which is his specific essence; he has an essence proper to himself alone, an essence that cannot be had by anyone else. Although Socrates does have singular (individualized) forms, his singular essence is not a form—there is no form Socrateity for the singular essence parallelling the form humanity for the specific essence. Instead, Socrates has his singular essence in consequence of being an individual, that is, in consequence (...) of having an ‘individual differentia’. Scotus further rejects the distinction between identity and individuality, maintaining that what it is for Socrates to be Socrates is the same as what it is for him to be an individual. Socrates, in the end, is his singular essence. (shrink)
No single theory of the emotions dominates the whole of the Middle Ages. Instead, there are several competing accounts, and differences of opinion — sometimes quite dramatic — within each account. Yet there is consensus on the scope and nature of a theory of the emotions, as well as on its place in affective psychology generally. For most medieval thinkers, emotions are at once cognitively penetrable and somatic, which is to say that emotions are influenced by and vary with changes (...) in thought and belief, and that they are also bound up, perhaps essentially, with their physiological manifestations. This ‘mixed’ conception of emotions was broad enough to anchor medieval disagreements over details, yet rich enough to distinguish it from other parts of psychology and medicine. In particular, two kinds of phenomena, thought to be purely physiological, were not considered emotions even on this broad conception. First, what we now classify as drives or urges, for instance hunger and sexual arousal, were thought in the Middle Ages to be at best ‘pre-emotions’ fpropayyioney): mere biological motivations for action, not having any intrinsic cognitive object. Second, moods were likewise thought to be non-objectual somatic states, completely explicable as an imbalance of the bodily humours. Depression fmelancholia), for example, is the pathological condition of having an excess of black bile. Medieval theories of emotions, therefore, concentrate on paradigm cases that fall under the broad conception: delight, anger, distress, fear, and the like. The enterprise of constructing an adequate philosophical theory of the emotions in the Middle Ages had its counterpart in a large body of practical know-how. The medical literature on the emotions, for instance, was extensive, covering such subjects as the causal role of emotions in disease and recovery, the nerves as connecting the brain to the organs involved in the physiological manifestations of the emotions, and the effect of diet and nutrition on emotional responses.. (shrink)
In his response to my article `Against Tolerance', Jonathan Gorman misses my main point by an astonishingly wide margin, and throws in a number of herrings of a most vivid redness. I'll look briefly at the first of these flushed fish before going on to tackle his main misunderstanding.
[14.18] But if there were to be a contract in which neither of the contractors is obliged to perform immediately, but rather at a deﬁnite future date, that covenant in the pure condition of nature (i. e. in war) is invalid if any suspicion about performance should intervene: in the commonwealth, not likewise. For he who performs ﬁrst is, in the ﬁrst case, uncertain whether the other will perform; in the commonwealth he is certain, since there is [something] to compel (...) [performance]. Thus, unless there be some common coercive power, the one who performs ﬁrst betrays himself to an enemy— beyond the natural right of defending himself and his [stuﬀ]. (shrink)
Augustine’s early works Against the Academicians (386) and The Teacher (389) belong together. In the former, which is directed at Cicero’s Academica, he defends the possibility of knowledge against the skeptical arguments of the New Academy;1 in the latter, directed at Plato’s Meno, he oﬀers his theory of illumination to explain how knowledge is acquired. As a pair, they present Augustine’s alternative to the pose of ironical detachment fashionable among late Roman intellectuals.
Wilfrid Sellars, in his essay “Being and Being Known,”1 sets out to explore “the profound truth contained in the Thomistic thesis that the senses in their way and the intellect in its way are informed by the natures of external objects and events” [§1]. Profound truth there may be, but Sellars also finds a profound error in the mediæval treatment of the intentionality of sensing on a par with the intentionality of thinking: There are many reasons for the plausibility of (...) the idea that sense belongs to the intentional order. . . It is primarily due, however, to the fact that sensations have what I shall call a pseudo-intentionality which is easily mistaken for the genuine intentionality of the cognitive order. [§18] Sellars argues that thought is genuinely intentional, for it is (in good linguistic fashion) about the world, whereas sense merely seems to be about the world but in fact is not, although it is systematically correlated with the world—the ‘pseudo-intentionality’ he alludes to here. On Sellars’s reading, the ‘Thomistic’ view gets certain things right that the later Cartesian view gets wrong, such as distinguishing mental acts intrinsically rather than by their ‘content’, but it also gets some things wrong in its own right, notably in its claim that sensing has “genuine intentionality” the way thinking does, and so to take sensing as properly belonging to “the cognitive order” (i. e. to qualify as a kind of knowledge strictly speaking). Sellars is out to right the Thomistic wrongs, beginning with intentionality, where the mistake is easily made. For Sellars has his eye not only on intentionality, but on the consequent claim that episodes of (intentional) sensing play a foundationalist epistemological role, a view he elsewhere famously calls ‘The Myth of the Given’.2 There is no question that Sellars wants to make room for his own brand of social epistemology; his agenda is not historical but systematic. Yet in “Being and Being Known,” Sellars puts his case in historical rather than systematic terms.. (shrink)
(A sunny town square somewhere in the Peloponnese. Anna Kalypsas and Mel Etitis are standing, holding open books; Kathy Merinos is watching and listening to them, also with an open book in front of her. Theo Logos appears and spots them. He stops to listen.).
Hypatia was born in Alexandria in the fourth century CE (there's disagreement about her age at death, so that different scholars put her year of birth at either about 370 or about 355CE). The daughter of the mathematician and philosopher, Theon, who taught at the university of Alexandria, attached to the world-famous library, and who seems to have been responsible for Hypatia's education, though she might also have been taught by Plutarch the Younger in Athens. She helped her father with (...) his books on mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy, and became a teacher at his school, eventually becoming its head. (shrink)
Some years ago I reviewed a collection of papers called African Philosophy: The Essential Readings , edited by Serequeberhan. My last comment in that review was the expression of the hope for collections of papers that would give an insight into what's going on in African philosophy, rather than into the debate over the existence and nature of African philosophy. My concern is echoed by the last line of a letter printed in the present volume of readings: "Hitherto most of (...) us have been talking about African philosophy, instead of doing African philosophy." (p.xlii) So when I received this book for review, I naturally hoped that it was what I'd been waiting for. I'm afraid that it isn't. (shrink)
phers] to be a demonstration of the fact that the human species (and in every case the species of all generable and corruptible individuals) began to exist at a time when previously it had not existed at all, a question is raised: whether, following the Philosopher’s method, the human species (and in every case any given species of generable and corruptible [individuals]) began to exist at a time when previously it had not existed at all.
stance, Scotus adopts Anselm’s notion of a ‘(pure) perfection’ and elevates it to a fundamental principle of his metaphysics. Again, he distills Anselm’s Ontological Argument into something like its original Monologion components, and then treats each component part of the argument with a rigor and attention to detail far beyond anything Anselm suggested. In the case of Anselm’s so-called ‘two-wills’ theory, however, Scotus’s revisions are so extensive that they amount to a rejection of Anselm’s account, even though Scotus retains some (...) of Anselm’s terminology. I’ll begin by looking at Anselm’s initial presentation of the two-wills theory in his De casu diaboli (§1), and his later refinements of that account in his De concordia (§2). I’ll then look at Scotus’s deployment, revision, and rejection of Anselm’s theory in his three discussions of angelic sin: Lect. 2 d. 6 q. 2 (§3), Ord. 2 d. 6 q. 2 (§4), and Rep. 2 d. 6 q. 2 (§5). This will be followed by a brief look at whether Scotus’s theory of the self-regulating will is an adequate replacement for Anselm’s account (§6). (shrink)
In one corner Socrates; in the other, on the mat, his cat Felix. Socrates, of course, thinks (correctly) that Felix the Cat is on the mat. But there’s the rub. For Socrates to think that Felix is on the mat, he has to be able to think about Felix, that is, he has to have some sort of cognitive grasp of an individual — and not just any individual, but Felix himself. How is that possible? What is going on when (...) we think about things? (shrink)
 In twelve quite demanding chapters, outstanding scholars provide an overall view of the key issues of Scotus’s philosophical thought. To this a very concise introduction is added, concerning the life and works of John Duns (very good, especially the survey of works and the information on critical editions etc.). Throughout the book, I find the information clear and the difficult topics well explained. Moreover, the volume gives a quick entrance to the vast literature. Among the topics discussed are: ‘Metaphysics’ (...) (Peter King), ‘Universals and Individuation’ (Timothy Noone), ‘Modal Theory’ (Calvin Normore), ‘Natural Theology’ (James Ross & Todd Bates), ‘Philosophy of Mind’ (Richard Cross), ‘Cognition’ (Robert Pasnau), ‘Moral Dispositions’ (Bonnie Kent). What strikes the eye is the absence of important theological subjects: Trinity, Christology, sin and grace, to name a few. Since the cover text promises that ‘the essays in this volume systematically survey the full range of Scotus’ thought’, this omission is remarkable. It stems, I guess, from the strict philosophical scope of the series of the Cambridge Companions, but such a limitation should have been recognised explicitly: this companion provides, in fact, an introduction to John Duns’s philosophy—i.e., philosophy in our modern sense. Of course, this separation of philosophical from theological thought is not from Scotus. Most of his innovative ‘philosophical’ ideas are developed in a profoundly theological context! (shrink)
There is a dangerous notion replicating itself around the world like a virus, reproducing without regard for its hosts' political views, and generally unnoticed except as a limited and purely local phenomenon. We've seen its effects in South Africa, where the brandishing of spears and shields in the streets has been defended on the grounds that such weapons are..
Children therefore, whether they be brought up and preserved by the father, or by the mother, or by whomsoever, are in most absolute subjection to him or her, that so bringeth them up, or preserveth them. And they may alienate them, that is, assign his or her dominion, by selling, or giving them, in adoption or servitude to others; or may pawn them for hostages, kill them for rebellion, or sacriﬁce them for peace, by the law of nature, when he (...) or she, in his or her conscience, think it to be necessary. —The Elements of Law 23.8.. (shrink)
Aristotle was the first thinker to devise a logical system. He drew upon the emphasis on universal definition found in Socrates, the use of reductio ad absurdum in Zeno of Elea, claims about propositional structure and negation in Parmenides and Plato, and the body of argumentative techniques found in legal reasoning and geometrical proof. Yet the theory presented in Aristotle’s five treatises known as the Organon—the Categories, the De interpretatione, the Prior Analytics, the Posterior Analytics, and the Sophistical Refutations—goes far (...) beyond any of these. (shrink)
Novelists and other producers of fiction can make many mistakes (including becoming novelists and other producers of fiction), but there are three kinds of mistake that stem from the writer's ignorance. First, there's the purely external mistake, which occurs in the..
I take "philosophy" to be an English word referring to a certain kind of thinking, a certain kind of approach to a certain kind of problem. To explain those "certain kind of"s would take a book; perhaps the best I can do here is gesture at what it is that English-language philosophers do.
That it is: According to the Commentator, Met. 7 com. 11 ([Iuntina 8 fol. 76r]): The deﬁnition is the same as the substance of the thing. Hence it is in some way outside the soul, and consequently all its parts are in some way outside the soul. But the deﬁnition is composed of universals. Hence [the universal is outside the soul].
Mox de generibus et speciebus illud quidem siue subsistant siue in solis nudis purisque intellectibus posita sint siue ipsa subsistentia sint corporalia an incorporalia, et utrum separata an in sensibilibus et circa ea constantia, dicere recusabo. As regards genera and species, for the present I shall refuse to say whether they subsist or are postulated in understandings that are alone and bare and pure; or whether, if they subsist, they are corporeal or incorporeal; and whether they are separated from sensibles (...) or are postulated in sensibles and things going along with them. Abelard acknowledges the tradition but wants no part of it. (shrink)
Peter Abelard (1079 – 21 April 1142) [‘Abailard’ or ‘Abaelard’ or ‘Habalaarz’ and so on] was the pre-eminent philosopher and theologian of the twelfth century. The teacher of his generation, he was also famous as a poet and a musician. Prior to the recovery of Aristotle, he brought the native Latin tradition in philosophy to its highest pitch. His genius was evident in all he did. He is, arguably, the greatest logician of the Middle Ages and is equally famous as (...) the first great nominalist philosopher. He championed the use of reason in matters of faith (he was the first to use ‘theology’ in its modern sense), and his systematic treatment of religious doctrines are as remarkable for their philosophical penetration and subtlety as they are for their audacity. Abelard seemed larger than life to his contemporaries: his quick wit, sharp tongue, perfect memory, and boundless arrogance made him unbeatable in debate — he was said by supporter and detractor alike never to have lost an argument — and the force of his personality impressed itself vividly on all with whom he came into contact. His luckless affair with Héloïse made him a tragic figure of romance, and his conflict with Bernard of Clairvaux over reason and religion made him the hero of the Enlightenment. For all his colourful life, though, his philosophical achievements are the cornerstone of his fame. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy of mind is much concerned with issues pertaining to ‘mental architecture’ — describing how mental processes are organized, typically by identifying sub-personal functional mechanisms which causally interact, often through the intermediary of a mental representation, thereby giving rise to psychological phenomena. Such internal mental mechanisms can be quite low-level and operate with a degree of relative independence; if so, they may be considered ‘modules’ or minimal centres of mental activity. A module or a set of modules may be (...) speciﬁc to a given domain of phenomena, e. g. only processing visual data. The way in which a set of mental modules is arrayed makes up the architecture of the mind, oﬀering structure to ‘inner space’. The detailed structural articulation of the mind offers psychological theories some traction on the slippery realm of the mental. (shrink)
Academic discussion of pornography is generally restricted to issues arising from the depiction of adults. I argue that child-pornography is a more complex matter, and that generally accepted moral judgements concerning pornography in general have to be revised when children are involved. I look at the question of harm to the children involved, the consumers, and society in general, at the question of blame, and at the possibility of a morally acceptable form of child-pornography. My approach involves an objectivist meta-ethics (...) and a utilitarian view of practical ethics, and I bring out the advantages of these theories to the consideration of moral issues such as this one. (shrink)
I argue that Abelard was the author of the first theory of mental language in the Middle Ages, devising a “language of thought” to provide the semanticsfor ordinary languages, based on the idea that thoughts have linguistic character. I examine Abelard’s semantic framework with special attention to his principleof compositionality (the meaning of a whole is a function of the meanings of the parts); the results are then applied to Abelard’s distinction between complete andincomplete expressions, as well as the distinction (...) between sentences and the statements which the sentences are used to make. Abelard’s theory of mental language is shown to be subtle and sophisticated, the forerunner of the great theories of the fourteenth century. (shrink)
The Doctrine of Original Sin seems to require that human nature has literally undergone a change from its prelapsarian to its postlapsarian condition.It is not clear that this claim makes sense. How can human nature, the feature(s) in virtue of which human beings are what they are, change in time? (Think of the parallel claim about √2.) I consider three medieval attempts to resolve this problem: (1) Augustine’s two theories about shared human nature; (2) Anselm’s proposal that original sin is (...) an individual deficiency; (3) the “biological” proposal suggested by Odo of Cambrai and developed by Pseudo-Joscelin. (shrink)