This book traces the trajectory of John J. McDermott’s philosophical career through a selection of his essays. Many were originally occasional pieces and address specific issues in American thought and culture. Together they constitute a mosaic of McDermott’s philosophy, showing its roots in an American conception of experience. Though he draws heavily on the thought of William James and the pragmatists, McDermott has his own unique perspective on philosophy and American life. He presents this to the reader (...) in exquisitely crafted prose. Drawing inspiration from American history, from existentialist themes, and from personal experiences, he offers a dramatic consideration of our culture’s failures and successes.McDermott crosses disciplinary boundaries to draw on whatever works to help make sense of theissues with which he is dealing—issues rooted in medical practice, political events, pedagogical habits, and the worlds of the arts. His work thus resists simple categorization. It is precisely this that makes his vibrant prose appealing to so many both inside and outside the world of American philosophy. (shrink)
One central strand in Quine's criticism of common-sense notions of linguistic meaning is an argument from the holism of empirical content. This paper explores (with many digressions) the several versions of the argument, and discovers them to be uniformly bad. There is a kernel of truth in the idea that ?holism?, in some sense, ?undermines the analytic?synthetic distinction?, in some sense; but it has little to do with Quine's radical empiricism, or his radical scepticism about meaning.
An objection is presented to Lewisâs analysis of counterfactual conditionals in terms of relative closeness of possible worlds. The objection depends on no special assumptions about the âcloser-thanâ relation. The argument also casts doubt on Lewisâs claim that Antecedent Strengthening fails for counterfactuals.
The subject of consciousness, long shunned by mainstream psychology and the scientific community, has over the last two decades become a legitimate topic of scientific research. One of the most thorough attempts to formulate a theory of consciousness has come from Bernard Baars, a psychologist working at the Wright Institute. Baars proposes that consciousness is the result of a Global Workspace in the brain that distributes information to the huge number of parallel unconscious processors that form the rest of the (...) brain. This paper critiques the central hypothesis of Baars' theory of consciousness. (shrink)
Deflationists say that the equivalence between ‘p is true’ and p is all there is to the meaning of ‘true’. “Use” theories generally construe meaning as acceptance conditions. I argue: (i) there are certain obvious objections to a deflationary theory of truth so formulated; but (ii) they can be overcome if we employ a graded notion of use, i.e. a notion of assertability; but (iii) there appear to be certain further difficulties which cannot be overcome in this way.
Quine's key argument against intentional psychology is that belief ascriptions have no determinate empirical content unless we take facts about linguistic meaning for granted, but meaning claims have no determinate empirical content unless we take belief for granted. I try to show that, on the contrary, an intentional psychology can explain behaviour without relying on any concept of meaning.
Stevan Harnad correctly perceives a deep problem in computationalism, the hypothesis that cognition is computation, namely, that the symbols manipulated by a computational entity do not automatically mean anything. Perhaps, he proposes, transducers and neural nets will not have this problem. His analysis goes wrong from the start, because computationalism is not as rigid a set of theories as he thinks. Transducers and neural nets are just two kinds of computational system, among many, and any solution to the semantic problem (...) that works for them will work for most other computational systems. (shrink)
In this note I discuss what seems to be a new kind of counterexample to Lewis’s account of counterfactuals. A coin is to be tossed twice. I bet on ‘Two heads’, and I win. Common sense says that (1) is false. But Lewis’s theory says that it is true. (1) If at least one head had come up, I would have won.
Common sense suggests that counterfactuals are capable of truth and falsity, and that their truth values depend on more than just the actual course of events. Projectivists, like Mackie, deny the first; reductivists, like Lewis, deny the second. I criticize Mackie's and Lewis's theories, thereby defending realism. There are parallel issues and positions concerning the other concepts of the natural necessity family. A realist theory may also have a positive part, consisting of an account of some of the conceptual relations (...) within this family. I try to cast light on the counterfactual by postulating a relation of accessibility between possible worlds - accessibility at the 'point' at which an event occurs. (shrink)
According to classical decision theory, an agent realises at time t the option with maximum expected utility (determined by his beliefs and desires at t), where the relevant options are possible actions performed at t. I consider an alternative according to which the relevant options are in general plans, complex courses of action extending into the future.
The question which is never entirely resolved is: what is life? Biology, claims to stand for the study of life and living things, yet we would say that it cannot make a thoroughly clear distinction between living and non living, except in some very obvious cases. There are textbook definitions, of course, based on certain notable properties such as the ability to metabolize or reproduce, but these are arbitrary. If we are familiar with the characteristics of a particular animal or (...) plant, we know enough to be able to pronounce that it is dead when certain internal and external behaviours are no longer evident. Even this has difficulties - such as revealed in the arguments about whether to switch off a human life support system or not. When you find a squishy object on the seashore, can you be sure if it is alive or dead - or never living? The same dilemma confronts medical scientists and microbiologists trying to decide, for example, whether viruses are living, or quasi living, or intermittently living, or what. (shrink)
Guardian of Dialogue. Max Scheler's Phenomenology, Sociology of Knowledge and Philosophy of Love By Michael D. Barber, Bucknell University Press 1993. Pp. 205. ISBN 0?8387?5228. n.p. The Bodies of Women: Ethics, Embodiment and Sexual Difference By Rosalyn Diprose, Routledge, 1994. Pp. xi + 148. ISBN 0?415?09783?5. £35.00. Gottlob Freges Politisches Tagebuch Edited by Gottfried Gabriel and Wolfgang Kienzler, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie Vol. 42, No. 6 (1994), pp. 1057?98. The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding By Raymond W. (...) Gibbs, Jr., Cambridge University Press, 1994. Pp. x + 527. ISBN 0?521?41965?4. £59.95. Woman of Reason: Feminism, Humanism and Political Thought By Karen Green, Polity Press, 1995. Pp. 220. ISBN 0?7456?1448?5. £39.50. The Nature of True Minds By John Heil, Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. xi + 248. ISBN 0?521?41337?0. £35. Gilles Deleuze ou le système du multiple By Philippe Mengue, Editions Kimé, Collection ?Philosophie?épistémologie?, 1995. Pp. 311. ISBN 2?841740?00?5. 180FF. Science as Salvation By Mary Midgley, Routledge, 1992. Pp. 239. ISBN 0?415?06271?3. £30.00. Hegel's Phenomenology: The Sociality of Reason By Terry Pinkard, Cambridge University Press, 1994. Pp. vii + 451. ISBN 0?521?45300?3. £40.00. (shrink)
My occupation is applied research and - funding arrangements being the force which drives such work - I am working with feedlot cattle at the moment. I have to find out whether they are unduly stressed and, if so, how to relieve it; also how much and what type of shade they require, and what are acceptable criteria of animal welfare. Like most research scientists, I also have a personal hobbyhorse which I can weave into my work. It is that (...) stress affects the competence of an animal's immune system in subtle ways that have to do with its cognition. Alas, the plot thickens! (shrink)
In this essay I address three ways in which Edwards can inform Christian understanding of public life. First I show how Edwards provides both philosophical and theological rationales for social engagement and thereby resists the separation of religion from public life, and use his consideration of poverty as an illustration. Part II examines Edwards's dialectical treatment of patriotism, demonstrating both its importance to the Christian life and its susceptibility to deceptive accommodation to culture. Finally, in Part III I discuss Edwards's (...) use of "national covenant," which despite its temptation to chauvinism Edwards used to undermine national pride. In the conclusion I assess what we can use from Edwards for contemporary Christian understandings of public life. (shrink)
Our passion for this work arose in very different histories of living, but these histories converged some years ago around the writings of Humberto Maturana1. There were other reasons for us getting together, but it was the ideas of Maturana which inspired us both to take another look at the way we were doing things in our research and education, respectively. One of us (Lloyd) was grappling with basic biological questions which arose from research on the physiology of stress. Maturana's (...) ideas provided a new way of thinking about the relationship between living things and their environment. David, in psychology and education, sought from Maturana a more solid scientific grounding for the extraordinary richness of the experiential learning environment in which he worked. (shrink)
The Australian Aborigines' environmental culture and the "double bind" approach used in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous are considered as a source for the generation of a new strategy for dealing with the ecological problems of our day. The strategy aims at achieving a negotiated outcome in issues of high societal risk related to waste management in the Hawkesbury region of Sydney, Australia.
Uncertainty about funding; difficulty in determining research priorities ; and concern about technology transfer (the lack of application of research results): these words stand out in the language of scientific/industrial research and development, today. So called technology transfer seems to be the central issue because the criteria for determining research priorities and funding decisions are mostly based on the expected "pay off", i.e. the economic benefits which will result from the research findings being put into use within the industry. This (...) applies, not only in situations where the industry is providing a proportion of the funding, as in most agricultural research, but to scientific research generally which is intended for the "public good.". (shrink)
The attentional blink (AB) is an impairment of attention, which occurs when subjects have to report a target stimulus (T2) following a previous target (T1) with a short delay (up to 600 ms). Theories explaining the AB assume that processing of T2 is more vulnerable to decay or substitution, as long as attention is allocated to T1. Existing models of the AB, however, do not account for the fact that T2 detection accuracy reaches the minimum when T2 is presented after (...) about 300 ms and not immediately following T1. Therefore, a new model is suggested, which is based on chronometrical considerations together with recent neurophysiological findings concerning the relation between the P3 event-related potential and the AB, the interaction between P3 and gamma oscillations, and the significance of the early evoked gamma band response. We hypothesize that suppression of the early gamma response to T2, accompanying the P3 related to T1, causes the AB. (shrink)
What I say here has been said before on many days and nights by reflective persons, for centuries long and planetary wide. Why, then, say it again, Sam? Is it because Heraclitus was onto something when he told us the Logos speaks but few hear? Or is the situation that of the Hassidic tale as recounted by Martin Buber? A man took it upon himself to convey the message of the high and holy one. He found no response and so (...) went directly, petulantly, to the author of the message. "Why are you here?" asked the high and holy one. "I have offered your message and no one hears me." "But," comes the response, "there is no hearing here for you. I have sunk my hearing in the deafness of mortals." More directly we can recall .. (shrink)
O'Brien & Opie's theory fails to address the issue of consciousness and introspection. They take for granted that once something is experienced, it can be commented on. But introspection requires neural structures that, according to their theory, have nothing to do with experience as such. That makes the tight coupling between the two in humans a mystery.
Don Juan said that my body was disappearing and only my head was going to remain, and in such a condition the only way to stay awake and move around was by becoming a crow ... He ordered me to straighten up my head and put it on my chin. He said that in the chin were the crow's legs. He commanded me to feel the legs and observe that they were coming out slowly. He then said ... that the (...) tail would come out of my neck. He ordered me to extend the tail like a fan, and to feel how it swept the floor ...I had no difficulty whatsoever eliciting the corresponding sensations to each one of his commands. I had the perception of growing bird's legs, which were weak and wobbly at first. I felt the tail coming out of the back of my neck and wings out of my cheekbones. . (shrink)
The diverse papers which make up this book are variations on a theme which is based in biological science - yet none of the contributors is really a biologist. Our metaphor for describing what we are doing here is that we have gathered together in a room because that particular room provides us with a certain view of our individual areas of interest - a view that may have been previously obscured. We are visiting the house of biology in the (...) hope that we may see more clearly things that we each find baffling about our particular field of work in education, research, or daily living. (shrink)
I don't want your agreement! I think I would prefer your understanding. Your agreement would be useful in a workplace to achieve a task. But that is not a social system. We want to live together in mutual respect. Your agreement would take hold of me and threaten to devour my own being - just as my agreement would do to you. For we each bring forth our own world in our every present moment. No matter how convenient it may (...) seem to be, I cannot truly stand still - with you or anyone. (shrink)