From the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries, European philosophers were preoccupied with using their newfound access to Aristotle’s metaphysics and natural philosophy to develop an integrated account, hospitable to Christianity, of everything that was thought to exist, including God, pure finite spirits (angels), the immaterial souls of humans, the natural world of organic objects (plants, animals, and human bodies) and inorganic objects. This account included a theory of human mentality. In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, first in astronomy and (...) then, later, in physics, the tightly knit fabric of this comprehensive medieval world view began to unravel. The transition from the old to the new was gradual, but by 1687, with the publication by Isaac Newton (1642-1727) of his Principia Mathematica, the replacement was all but complete. Modern physical science had fully arrived, and it was secular. God and angels were still acknowledged. But they had been marginalized. Yet, there was a glaring omission. Theorists had yet to expand the reach of the new science to incorporate human mentality. This venture, which initially was called “moral philosophy” and came to be called “the science of human nature,” became compelling to progressive eighteenth century thinkers, just as British empiricism began to seriously challenge an entrenched Cartesian rationalism. Rationalism and Empiricism.. (shrink)
“You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, . . . Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.” – Luis Buñuel..
My mother is a lousy cook. She has many other fine talents, but creating an attractive, tasty meal has always been beyond her reach. Even so, breakfast and dinner were daily rituals in my childhood home for which attendance was required. Just as we kids had no end of complaints about having to show up for meals (instead of getting to sleep in before school or hang with friends in the evening), we also took it for granted that my mother (...) made every one of those meals, day after day, year after year. Much later, I came to realize that not only did she make the food, but by constructing these gatherings at the kitchen table, she made our family. Like most mothers in the world, her daily work at the stove created the food-centered events around which our family grew, bonded, fought, and shared, and to which we return periodically to get reacquainted. Even as “women’s work” is expanded and redefined, feeding the family remains a central responsibility in families of all kinds. Lang Bui, owner of the Ypsilanti-based Vietnamese restaurant, Da Lat, knows all about the value of food and cooking to the creation of family. She does most all of the wonderful cooking for this low-priced, high-quality restaurant, while her two daughter-in-laws wait on the tables. (Lately, her one-year-old granddaughter also adds to the family atmosphere, toddling quietly about the front of the dining area.) Their efforts have.. (shrink)
1. In the Essay, Locke’s most controversial claim, which he slipped into Book IV almost as an aside, was that matter might think (Locke1975:IV.iii.6;540-1).i Either because he was genuinely pious, which he was, or because he was clever, which he also was, he tied the denial that matter might think to the claim that God’s powers are limited, thus, attempting to disarm his critics. It did not work. Stillingfleet and others were outraged. If matter can think, then for explanatory purposes (...) the immaterial soul might be dispensable. But throughout the eighteenth century explanatory purposes were at the top of the agenda. And what had always made the soul so handy for proving immortality - that it is non-composite, static, and inaccessible to empirical examination - is also what made it so useless for investigating human nature. By contrast, consciousness is multifaceted, dynamic, and open to empirical investigation. Early in the century a Clarke might take the high road and resist descent into the merely probable and contingent. But when it came to investigating persons, the emerging science of human nature was the only game in town. One either played it or took oneself out of the action. (shrink)
In this extraordinarily rich and provocative book by an eminent intellectual historian and philosopher, Richard Sorabji argues persuasively that there was “an intense preoccupation” among ancient western thinkers with self and related notions. In the process, he provides fresh translations and often novel interpretations of the most important passages relevant to this contention in a host of thinkers, including Homer, Epicharmus, Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Chrysippus, Cicero, Lucretius, Seneca, Plutarch, Epictetus, Hierocles, Marcus Aurelius, Tertullian, Origen, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Plotinus, Porphyry, (...) Methodius, Themistius, Augustine, and Proclus, among others. Sorabji’s nuanced, insightful, and often novel interpretations of passages from these and other writers are invariably woven together in an illuminating way, often with an eye to modern developments. There is no other book that covers the classical western material on self and related notions anywhere near as thoroughly or as perceptively. As a consequence for decades to come this book is destined to be a major point of departure for future discussion of classical authors on such issues. That in itself.. (shrink)
This paper pays special attention to T.H. Green's account of rights as developed in the Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation. Green's theory can be viewed as having at least two main levels. The first level is his general account of rights, emphasizing the notions of social recognition, of a power or capacity that each right-holder has, and of the common good subserved by proper rights. The second level is that of universal rights; here special attention will be paid (...) to Green's critique of seventeenth-century natural rights and to the theory of human rights that Green evolved to replace and improve upon the old natural rights tradition. In its account of contemporary human rights theory, the paperwill emphasize the special role that social recognition plays in both the moral project of justifying human rights and in the institutionalization that is a necessary feature of any fully constituted human right, functioning at full capacity. (shrink)
What really matters fundamentally in survival? That question—the one on which I focus—is not about what should matter or about metaphysics. Rather, it is a factual question the answer to which can be determined, if at all, only empirically. I argue that the answer to it is that in the case of many people it is not one’s own persistence, but continuing in ways that may involve one’s own cessation that really matters fundamentally in survival. Call this the surprising result. (...) What are we to make of it? According to several philosophers, not much. I argue that these philosophers are wrong. What best explains the surprising result is that in the case of many people one’s special concern for oneself in the future is not fundamental, but derived. I explain what this means. Finally I explain why the task of explaining empirically what matters fundamentally in survival is in some ways more like a meditative quest than a traditional inquiry in western philosophy or social science and, as such, is best answered not by psychologists, but by philosophers. (shrink)