In this essay, I suggest that the criminal trial is not only about the guilt or innocence of the defendant, but also about the character and growth of the jurors and the communities they represent. In earlier work, I have considered the potential impact of law and politics on the character of citizens, and thus on the capacity of citizens to thrive—to live full and rich human lives. Regarding the jury, I have argued that aspects of criminal trial procedure work (...) to fix in jurors a sense of agency in and responsibility for verdicts of conviction. Here, I draw on those ideas with respect to the presumption of innocence. I suggest that the presumption of innocence works not primarily as legal rule, but rather as a moral framing device—a sort of moral discomfort device—encouraging jurors to feel and bear the weight of what they do. I offer an account of character development in which virtues are conceived of not merely as modes of conduct developed through habituation and practice, but also as capacities and ways of being developed in part through understanding and experience. The criminal trial, framed by the presumption of innocence, can be an experience through which jurors and their communities, by learning what it means and feels like to carry a certain sort of moral weight, may engender a certain set of moral strengths—strengths valuable to them not just as jurors, but also as citizens, and as human beings. (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)
This paper uses readings of two classic autobiographies, Edmund Gosse's Father & Son and John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, to develop a distinctive answer to an old and central question in value theory: What role is played by pleasure in the most successful human life? A first section defends my method. The main body of the paper then defines and rejects voluntarist, stoic, and developmental hedonist lessons to be taken from central crises in my two subjects' autobiographies, and argues for a (...) fourth, diagnostic lesson: Gosse and Mill perceive their individual good through the medium of pleasure. Finally, I offer some speculative moral psychology of human development, as involving the waking, perception, management, and flowering of generic and individual capacities, which I suggest underlies Gosse and Mill's experiences. The acceptance of one's own unchosen nature, discovered by self-perceptive pleasure in the operation of one's nascent capacities, is the beginning of a flourishing adulthood in which that nature is fully developed and expressed. (shrink)
A discussion of why a strong doctrine of 'reason' may not be worth sustaining in the face of modern scientific speculation, and the difficulties this poses for scientific rationality, together with comments on the social understanding of religion, and why we might wish to transcend common sense.
Why is Plotinus relevant to a study of marginality? On the one hand, moderns have marginalized the Platonic tradition. On the other, it is our ?common sense? that?on Plotinus's account at least?distracts us from the real, and better, world. We could have learned the same lesson even from modern naturalistic science, which seems to show that we live on the margins, in a universe far older, grimmer and more mysterious than we can easily imagine, but from our ordinary point of (...) view it is the universe aloft that is of marginal concern. But the vision which Plotinus hoped to awaken?a vision that he acknowledged was likely to be momentary, and speedily forgotten?is of a wilder world than the modern?and Stoic?theory of a natural, material world. I attempt to give a credible account of this Plotinian perspective, drawing on comparisons both with modern materialistic science and with the ?sudden enlightenment? of Zen Buddhism. (shrink)
I argue for a perfectionist reading of Mill’s account of the good life, by using the failures of development recorded in his Autobiography as a way to understand his official account of happiness in Utilitarianism. This work offers both a new perspective on Mill’s thought, and a distinctive account of the role of aesthetic and emotional capacities in the most choiceworthy human life. I consider the philosophical purposes of autobiography, Mill’s disagreements with Bentham, and the nature of competent judges and (...) the pleasure they take in higher culture. I conclude that Millian perfectionism is an attractive and underappreciated option for contemporary value theory. (shrink)
A response to Michael Moxter's account of the need for 'religious feeling' for social order, suggesting that togetherness is currently promoted in overtly non-religious ways, and that true piety may often be at odds with social - and especially with state - order.
Consistent materialists are almost bound to suggest that , if it exists at all, is no more than epiphenomenal. A correct understanding of the real requires that everything we do and say is no more than a product of whatever processes are best described by physics, without any privileged place, person, time or scale of action. Consciousness is a myth, or at least a figment. Plotinus was no materialist: for him, it is Soul and Intellect that are more real than (...) the phenomena we misdescribe as material. Nor does he suppose that consciousness depends on language (as Stoics and modern materialists have sometimes said): wordless experience is actually superior. And much of what counts towards our present consciousness is to be discarded. It is better not to remember most of what now seems more significant to us; better to discard images; better that the intellect be than , losing any sense of separation between subject and object. The goal of the Plotinian intellectual is to join , but it is a mark of the good dancer that she is not conscious of what she does. There is therefore a strange confluence between Plotinus and modern materialists: our experience at least is transitory, deceitful, epiphenomenal, and is to be encountered when we have shed our illusions. (shrink)
This paper rereads David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as dramatising a distinctive, naturalistic account of toleration. I have two purposes in mind: first, to complete and ground Hume's fragmentary explicit discussion of toleration; second, to unearth a potentially attractive alternative to more recent, Rawlsian approaches to toleration. To make my case, I connect Dialogues and the problem of toleration to the wider themes of naturalism, scepticism and their relation in Hume's thought, before developing a new interpretation of Dialogues part (...) 12 as political drama. Finally, I develop the Humean theory of toleration I have discovered by comparison between Rawls's and Hume's strategies for justification of a tolerant political regime. (shrink)
I consider reasons for questioning 'the laws of logic' (identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle, and negation), and suggest that these laws do not accord with everyday reality. Either they are rhetorical tools rather than absolute truths, or else Plato and his successors were right to think that they identify a reality distinct from the ordinary world of experience, and also from the ultimate source of reality.
This paper argues against particularism about social criticism of the form presented by Walzer. I contend that while limitation of the scope of criticism depends on the existence of our shared meanings, which are not shared by them, shared meaning itself depends on society. So, an account of society showing that societies are not discrete and mutually inaccessible refutes particularism. I argue for such an account. I deal with the objection that the focus of particularism is culture, not society, and (...) conclude that the conditions of possibility of shared meaning have anti-particularist consequences. (shrink)
Species : visions and values -- Fantasies : seeing without what was within -- Prestiges : illusions in magic and art -- Glamours : demons and virtual worlds -- Images : the reformation of the eyes -- Apparitions : the discernment of spirits -- Sights : King Saul and King Macbeth -- Seemings : philosophical scepticism -- Dreams : the epistemology of sleep -- Signs : vision and the new philosophy.