As I understand it, the Sokal affair is about affirmative action for ideas. Should arguments felt to be under-represented in the culture-at-large be admitted into prestigious haunts like Social Text even if they don't meet the standard intellectual tests? Alan Sokal got tired of what he saw as an excess of affirmative action in the ideas purveyed by cultural studies. So he devised a test in the form of a hoax: Could an author who deliberately met no standards whatsoever make (...) it into Social Text merely by parading past the judges their own sympathies, dressed up in a jargon they would recognize and citing these same judges as authoritative? The test came back positive. The issue, then, is what to make of the results. (shrink)
When I was a child, my favorite story was "The Emperor's New Clothes." A chorus of adults praises the Emperor's new wardrobe, but a child blurts out the truth: The Emperor is in fact stark naked. From this tale, I learned that adults could be intimidated into endorsing all kinds of flummery. The longer I teach at the university, the more I return to this story for consolation.
Stated as simply as possible, Loeb wishes to introduce what he regards as a methodological innovation in the study of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The innovation is required in order to rectify a scandalous situation in Nietzsche studies that has obtained up to the present time.Actually, there seem to be two main points to Loeb's argument. These points are expressed on the first two pages of his exposition. First, "[t]o paraphrase Kant, it remains a scandal to Nietzsche scholarship that we are (...) obliged to assume the centrality of his doctrine of eternal recurrence but we are not able to give a satisfactory reply to anyone who may claim to refute this doctrine." A satisfactory rebuttal to an alleged refutation is itself .. (shrink)
Abstract This paper illustrates how Aristotle's topological theses about change in Physics 5-6 can help address metaphysical issues. Two distinctions from Physics 5. 1 are discussed: changing per se versus changing per aliud ; motion versus change. Change from white to black is motion and alteration, whereas change from white to not white is neither. But is not every change from white to black identical with a change from white to not white? Theses from Physics 6 refute the identity. Is (...) change from white to black at least accompanied by change from white to not white? Perhaps, but given further theses from Physics 6, this supposition yields unwelcome consequences. Most likely, when something changes from white to black it changes merely per aliud , not per se , from white to not white. Genuine change between white and not white is found elsewhere; its admission has bearing on Aristotle's theory of perception. (shrink)
Objective or subjective : that is the question -- The science of nature and the nature of science -- Theory : explanation, not speculation -- Is science the whole story? -- Our unique universe -- Nature's laws -- Facing the universe -- The hunt for reality.
According to Parfit, the best version of Kantian ethics takes as its central principle Kantian Contractualism: the thesis that everyone ought to follow the principles whose universal acceptance everyone could rationally will. This paper examines that thesis, identifies a class of annoying counterexamples, and suggests that when Kantian Contractualism is modified in response to these examples, the resulting principle is too complex and ad hoc to serve as the 'supreme principle of morality'.
The central thesis of this paper is that contemporary theoretical physics is grounded in philosophical presuppositions that make it difficult to effectively address the problems of subject-object interaction and discontinuity inherent to quantum gravity. The core objectivist assumption implicit in relativity theory and quantum mechanics is uncovered and we see that, in string theory, this assumption leads into contradiction. To address this challenge, a new philosophical foundation is proposed based on the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Martin Heidegger. Then, through (...) the application of qualitative topology and hypernumbers, phenomenological ideas about space, time, and dimension are brought into focus so as to provide specific solutions to the problems of force-field generation and unification. The phenomenological string theory that results speaks to the inconclusiveness of conventional string theory and resolves its core contradiction. (shrink)
According to one sort of epistemic relativist, normative epistemic claims (e.g., evidence E justifies hypothesis H) are never true or false simpliciter, but only relative to one or another epistemic system. In chapter 6 of Fear of Knowledge, Paul Boghossian objects to this view on the ground that its central notions cannot be explained, and that it cannot account for the normativity of epistemic discourse. This paper explores how the dogged relativist might respond.
This essay offers a broad historical exploration of the apeiron, the ancient principle of boundlessness and indeterminacy first brought to light by Anaximander in the 6th century BCE. Early Greek philosophy’s struggle with the apeiron and apeiron’s subsequent repression during the Renaissance and Enlightenment are noted. In the nineteenth century, apeiron is resurgent in science, art, and other fields—only to be repressed again with the early twentieth century rise of modernism. But with modernism's collapse into postmodernism, once again the apeiron (...) comes to the fore. The conclusion reached is that the apeiron can be effectively contained only by consciously acknowledging and accepting it as part of the process of individuation. (shrink)
Recursion or self-reference is a key feature of contemporary research and writing in semiotics. The paper begins by focusing on the role of recursion in poststructuralism. It is suggested that much of what passes for recursion in this field is in fact not recursive all the way down. After the paradoxical meaning of radical recursion is adumbrated, topology is employed to provide some examples. The properties of the Moebius strip prove helpful in bringing out the dialectical nature of radical recursion. (...) The Moebius is employed to explore the recursive interplay of terms that are classically regarded as binary opposites: identity and difference, object and subject, continuity and discontinuity, etc. To realize radical recursion in an even more concrete manner, a higher-dimensional counterpart of the Moebius strip is utilized, namely, the Klein bottle. The presentation concludes by enlisting phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of depth to interpret the Klein bottle’s extra dimension. (shrink)
This paper defends the idea that there might be vagueness or indeterminacy in the world itself--as opposed to merely in our representations of the world--against the charges of incoherence and unintelligibility. First we consider the idea that the world might contain vague properties and relations ; we show that this idea is already implied by certain well-understood views concerning the semantics of vague predicates (most notably the fuzzy view). Next we consider the idea that the world might contain vague objects (...) ; we argue that an object is indeterminate in a certain respect (colour, size, etc.) just in case it is a borderline case of a maximally specific colour (size, etc.) property. Finally we consider the idea that the world as a whole might be indeterminate; we argue that the world is indeterminate just in case it lacks a determinate division into determinate objects. (shrink)
This book presents a new interpretation of the principle of utility in moral and political theory based on the writings of the classical utilitarians. The writings of Adam Smith, William Paley and Jeremy Bentham are also considered.
Region R Question: How many objects — entities, things — are contained in R? Ignore the empty space. Our question might better be put, 'How many material objects does R contain?' Let's stipulate that A, B and C are metaphysical atoms: absolutely simple entities with no parts whatsoever besides themselves. So you don't have to worry about counting a particle's top half and bottom half as different objects. Perhaps they are 'point-particles', with no length, width or breadth. Perhaps they are (...) extended in space without possessing spatial parts (if that is possible). Never mind. We stipulate that A, B and C are perfectly simple. We also stipulate that they are connected as follows. A and B are stuck together in such a way that when a force is applied to one of them, they move together 'as a unit'. Moreover, the two of them together exhibit behavior that neither would exhibit on its own — Perhaps they emit a certain sound, or glow in the dark — whereas C is.. (shrink)
When a person acts from ignorance, he is culpable for his action only if he is culpable for the ignorance from which he acts. The paper defends the view that this principle holds, not just for actions done from ordinary factual ignorance, but also for actions done from moral ignorance. The question is raised whether the principle extends to action done from ignorance about what one has most reason to do. It is tentatively proposed that the principle holds in full (...) generality. (shrink)
The question of rules is not an issue that separates the 'analytical' and 'Continental' traditions from one another; rather it is an issue that is a source of division within each tradition. Within Continental philosophy the problem of the rule-governed character of cognition goes back to Kant's dualism of sense and understanding. Many philosophers in the Continental tradition (notably, Nietzsche, Gadamer and Adorno) have retained a quasi-Kantian conception of judgement while rejecting the idea of it as rule-governed. But there have (...) been exceptions to this within Continental philosophy, most prominently, Jürgen Habermas. The rules thesis was implicit in much of analytical philosophy as it was practised in Britain from the 1950s to the 1970s. The doctrine gave support to a conception of philosophy (so-called 'ordinary-language philosophy') as essentially an exercise in the articulation of certain kinds of tacit knowledge. It was advocated explicitly in such works as Searle's Speech Acts and Winch's The Idea of a Social Science . The equation of meaning and rules enjoyed further prestige, for it was taken by many philosophers to be the central doctrine to be extracted from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations . A most striking feature of the receding of the rules thesis has been the transformation of previously accepted interpretations of Wittgenstein's later philosophy (for example, by Stanley Cavell and John McDowell). Both adherents and opponents of the rules thesis have shared a common concern. In emphasizing the discontinuity between language and the subject-matter of the natural sciences both sides offer reassuringly positive answers to one of the besetting problems of twentieth-century philosophy: does philosophy have a distinctive subject-matter of its own? (shrink)
This paper intends to invoke the spirit of Hegel as the éminence grise behind analytical and continental philosophy. Both movements can be seen to originate in, or to receive a strong impetus in their development from, a repudiation of Hegel. Even Russell's quest for a systematic logical analysis of language may be seen as an attempt at a quasi- or anti-Hegelian systematicity. The collapse of this systematicity has led to the celebration of difference in both the analytical and continental schools. (...) Another feature of contemporary philosophy is the priority given to invention and creativity over discovery. In this respect, Nietzsche is the master-figure underlying all contemporary allegiance to, and indeed, obsession with, the twin idols of creation and difference. (shrink)
I discuss the role played by ordinary or everyday experience in the origin of philosophy. I begin with a discussion of the disappearance of production from the tripartite Aristotelian division of the arts and sciences, and indicate how production reappears as the assimilation of both theory and practice. If knowing is making, then there is no distinction between philosophy and poetry. In particular, the everyday or pre-theoretical world loses its status as the original source and subject-matter of philosophy It becomes (...) an artifact, and in the age of science, an artifact of the "folk-world." The result is the deterioration of human nature, and science is deprived of its human significance. The first step back to clarity is to show that words like "reason" and "good," the core of moral competence, are identical at their root with phronesisor the rationality of common sense. (shrink)
What did Plato contribute to the philosophy of art? What do Pascal's Pensees really say? Everyone knows the names of these philosophers, but few really understand the ideas at the core of western philosophy. In this treasury of western thought, the primary sources speak for themselves. Over 35 excerpts from important philosophers -- including Aristotle and Hume, as well as contemporary thinkers -- offer a solid introduction to philosophy for the curious reader. Leading scholars have carefully chosen the selections, which (...) are arranged according to major discipline, including Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics, and Metaphysics. These experts have contributed a provocative introductions in their areas of expertise. Unlike other philosophy collections, this book is not a history, a secondary source, or a quick reference. It stands out as an intelligent and accessible compilation of primary source material. (shrink)
Human beings live together in societies which, by their very nature, give rise to institutions governing the behaviour and freedom of individuals. This raises important questions about how these institutions ought to function, and the extent to which actual systems of government succeed or fail in meeting these ideals. -/- This Oxford Reader contains 140 key writings on political thought, covering issues about human nature and its relation to society, the extent to which the powers of the State are justified, (...) the tension between liberty and rights, and the way resources should be distributed. Topics such as international relations, minority rights, democracy, socialism, and conservatism are also discussed, by contributors ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Foucault, Isaiah Berlin, and Martin Luther King. (shrink)
This article explores the evolution of human attention, focusing particularly on the phylogenetic and ontogenetic implications of the work of the American social psychiatrist Trigant Burrow. Attentional development is linked to the emergence of visual perspective, and this, in turn, is related to Burrow's notion of `ditention' (divided or partitive attention). Burrow's distinction between `ditention' and `cotention' (total organismic awareness) is examined, and, expanding on this, a threefold pattern of perceptual change is identified: prototention-->ditention-->cotention. Next, ditentive visual perspective is related (...) to binocular convergence, and the author makes use of the perspectivally ambiguous, `non-convergent' Gestalt figure known as the Necker Cube to illustrate cotention. The paper concludes by proposing that the shift from the currently pervasive ditentive pattern of awareness to a cotentive mode could have a salutary effect on human society. (shrink)
Public policy issues around access to networked information are explored and examined. Long viewed as the quintessential public good, information has evolved into a critically important market commodity in little more than a generation. New technologies and a political climate in which the meaning of universal access to information is no longer commonly understood and in which its importance is no longer taken for granted pose significant challenges for American society. Libraries, as information commons, offer the means of meeting those (...) challenges. Historical, economical, and professional factors that shape the conflict are described and discussed. (shrink)
We investigate properties of propositional modal logic over the classof finite structures. In particular, we show that certain knownpreservation theorems remain true over this class. We prove that aclass of finite models is defined by a first-order sentence and closedunder bisimulations if and only if it is definable by a modal formula.We also prove that a class of finite models defined by a modal formulais closed under extensions if and only if it is defined by a -modal formula.
This essay is written at the crossroads of intuitive holism, as typified in Eastern thought, and the discursive reflectiveness more characteristic of the West. The point of departure is the age-old human need to overcome fragmentation and realize wholeness. Three basic tasks are set forth: to provide some new insight into the underlying obstacle to wholeness, to show what would be necessary for surmounting this blockage, and to take a concrete step in that direction. At the outset, the question of (...) paradox is addressed, examined in relation to Zen meditation, the problem of language, and the thinking of Heidegger. Wholeness is to be realized through paradox, and it is shown that a complete realization requires that paradox be embodied. Drawing from the fields of visual geometry and qualitative mathematics, three concrete models of paradox are offered: the Necker cube, the Moebius surface, and the Klein bottle. In attempting to model wholeness, an important limitation is recognized: a model is a symbolic representation that maintains the division between the reality represented and the act of symbolizing that reality. It is demonstrated that while the first two models are subject to this limitation, the Klein bottle, possessing higher dimensionality, can express wholeness more completely, provided that it is approached in a radically nonclassical way. The final question of this essay concerns its own capability as an essay. It is asked whether the present text is restricted to affording a mere abstract reflection on wholeness, or whether wholeness can tangibly be delivered. (shrink)