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.
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.
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)
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.
The world we lost, and now barely understand, was one where everyone knew her place, and her attendant duties. Civilized groups were the likeliest to insist on a diversity of rôle and rule. Primitive societies are ones where there are rather fewer such distinctions. Slaves and merchants offered a way of being outside the orders, and from the older point of view, the life of slaves and merchants is exactly what the ‘liberal’ ideal entails. No one can count on her (...) connections; everything is up for sale; no one is dishonoured by the acts of friends or family; only animal passions keep us all together. Even in societies that profess egalitarian theories, castes and classes re-emerge. If there is another option it may lie in drawing, as the ancients did, a clear division between selfhood and nature: even in a traditionally hierarchical society it is possible to recall the mere selves that play their various parts. In a would-be egalitarian society that hopes for something more than the hedonic or agonistic bonds that may bind small-scale communities together, recalling, and reconstructing, that distinction may be even more important. Footnotes1 This paper is intended as a prolegomenon to a larger study of NeoPlatonist ethics. I am grateful for the Leverhulme Trust's support for this project. (shrink)
Music theorists of almost all ages employ a concept of "Nature" to justify observations or statements about music. The understanding of what "Nature" is, however, is subject to cultural and historical differences. In tracing these explanatory strategies and their changes in music theories between c. 1600 and 1900, these essays explore (for the first time in a book-length study) how the multifarious conceptions of nature, located variously between scientific reason and divine power, are brought to bear on music theory and (...) how they affect our understanding of music. (shrink)
The argument from evil, though it is the most effective rhetorical argument against orthodox theism, fails to demonstrate its conclusion, since we are unavoidably ignorant whether there is more evil than could possibly be justified. That same ignorance infects any claims to discern a divine purpose in nature, as well as recent attempts at a broadly Irenaean theodicy. Evolution is not, on neo-Darwinian theory, intellectually, morally, or spiritually progressive in the way that some religious thinkers have supposed. To suppose so, (...) indeed, is to misidentify the evils we should fear. But though we should neither conceal the evils of the world nor offer any consequentialist justification of them, we may still reasonably maintain an orthodox theism. Evil is not created so that otherwise unattainable goods may come, but is an unavoidable byproduct of creation which it is – or may be – God's purpose to redeem. (Published Online April 21 2004). (shrink)
Intentional action involves both a series of neural events in the motor areas of the brain, and also a distinctive conscious experience that ''I'' am the author of the action. This paper investigates some possible ways in which these neural and phenomenal events may be related. Recent models of motor prediction are relevant to the conscious experience of action as well as to its neural control. Such models depend critically on matching the actual consequences of a movement against its internally (...) predicted effects. However, it remains unclear whether our conscious experience of action depends on a precise matching process, or a retrospective inference that ''I'' must have been responsible for a particular event. We report an experiment in which normal subjects judged the perceived time of either intentional actions, involuntary movements, or subsequent effects (auditory tones) of these. We found that the subject's intention to produce the auditory tone produced an intentional binding between the perceived times of the subject's action and the tone. However, if the intention was interrupted by an imposed involuntary movement, followed by the identical tone, no such binding occurred. The phenomenology of intentional action requires an appropriate predictive link between intentions and effects, rather than a retrospective inference that ''I'' caused the effect. (shrink)
Philosophers are usually expected to argue only from premises acceptable to a secular audience, in ways that require no special commitment beyond that to the value of argument itself. As a philosopher, I see no particular reason to deny myself the opportunity to argue from other, more `sectarian', premises, in ways now unfamiliar to an unbelieving nation. In so doing I may (as theistical philosophers often do) sound more traditional than many theologians.
This essay gives necessary and sufficient conditions for recovering expected utility from choice behavior in several popular models of uncertainty. In particular, these techniques handle a finite state model; a model for which the choice space consists of probability densities and the expected utility representation requires bounded, measurable utility; and a model for which the choice space consists of Borel probability measures and the expected utility representation requires bounded, continuous utility. The key result is the identification of the continuity condition (...) necessary for the revelation of linear utility. (shrink)
This stimulating and wide-ranging book mounts a profound enquiry into some of the most pressing questions of our age, by examining the relationship between biological science and Christianity. The history of biological discovery is explored from the point of view of a leading philosopher and ethicist. What effect should modern biological theory and practice have on Christian understanding of ethics? How much of that theory and practice should Christians endorse? Can Christians, for example, agree that biological changes are not governed (...) by transcendent values, or that there are no clear or essential boundaries between species? To what extent can 'Nature' set our standards? Professor Clark takes a reasoned look at biological theory since Darwin and argues that an orthodox Christian philosophy is better able to accommodate the truth of such theory than is the sort of progressive, meliorist interpretation of Christian doctrine which is usually offered as the properly 'modern' option. (shrink)
An examination of the currently fashionable thesis that scientists, and especially biologists in the wake of the Darwinian Revolution, can now solve the problems that traditional philosophers have only talked about. Past philosophers, for example during the Enlightenment, have themselves made use of contemporary, scientific techniques and theories. The present claim may only be another such move, to be welcomed by philosophers who would distinguish themselves from rhetoricians. Others may prefer to stake out the merely human or subjective world as (...) their field, identifying 'truth' with 'what it's better to believe'. Both moderns and postmoderns must abandon the rational realism that actually sustained Enlightenment endeavours, and Darwinian explanation, on its own, must erode traditional ethical values and the meta-ethical assumptions that sustain them. Universal humanism is only one possible project among many - and Darwinian reasonings suggest that it is hypocritical. In this crisis there may after all be a rôle for traditional, Platonizing philosophers, believing that there is a truth, and that we can find it out. Such a theory is actually better able to explain our scientific successes, and our evolutionary past. (shrink)
There is both theoretical and experimental reason to suppose that no-one could ever have learned to speak without an environment of language-users. How then did the first language-users learn? Animal communication systems provide no help, since human languages aren't constituted as a natural system of signs, and are essentially recursive and syntactic. Such languages aren't demanded by evolution, since most creatures, even intelligent creatures, manage very well without them. I propose that representations, and even public representations like sculptures, precede full (...) languages, which were devised by the first human children as secret tongues to create fantasy realms inaccessible to their proto-human parents. Language, in brief, is not required for truth-telling or for the convenience of hunters. It is a peculiar modification of public representation, which permits us to construct new public worlds. (shrink)
The Bishop of Questoriana has recently asked for a pontifical document ‘furnishing a doctrinal foundation of love and respect for life existing on the earth’. Mainstream moralists have urged, since the Axial Era, that it is human life that most demands love and respect. We realize and perfect our own humanity by recognizing humanity in every other, of whatever creed or race. Realizing that biological species are not natural kinds, more recent moralists have hoped to found moral decency either on (...) a respect for ‘rationality’ which excludes many of our conspecifics, or on simple loyalty to our immediate kin. Neither option is without its costs, and Catholic moralists in particular have often been suspicious of a morality that seems to lead to contempt for ordinary human life. Neither advocacy of ‘animal rights’ nor utilitarian calculation of animal pains and pleasures sit well with a traditional Catholic morality. Conversely, many of those who defend traditional practices such as hunting, farming or goading animals to fight, themselves suppose that ‘human’ and ‘animals’ may sometimes inhabit the same moral universe, that there are virtues that both may display in ‘noble action’. Developing this thought, it is possible to locate decency elsewhere than in an over-intellectual respect for ‘reason’. Decent treatment of animals (as of others) is that form of life which lets us live together ‘humanely’, in appreciation of the actual beings they are. Virtue, as Aristotle argued, lies less in acting nobly than in appreciating nobility. Those who claim to appreciate such nobility in beasts must learn to live humanely. (shrink)
In The Political Animal Stephen Clark investigates the political nature of the human animal. Based on biological science and traditional ethics, he probes into areas of inquiry that are usually ignored by traditional political theory. He suggests that properly informed political philosophy must take the role of women and children more seriously, and must be prepared to face up to the ethnocentric and domineering tendencies of the human animal.
Chesterton was a serious and even excellent philosopher, whose reputation has suffered because his style was so striking, and his conversion to Catholicism so unpopular with Whiggish Britons. He had many ?politically incorrect? opinions, but those ?faults? were symptoms of a greater virtue, his insistence that ?the whole object of history is to make us realize that humanity can be great and glorious, under conditions quite different and even contrary to our own?. His desire for a United Europe was not (...) for a larger, self?willed State, but for a continent of peasant proprietors, workers owning their own tools, citizens alive to their own local heritage. What he distrusted was the Laodicean mood that best defines modernity, that nothing is worth dying for but life is not worth living. What he consistently opposed was the power of businessmen and aristocrats, and their Whiggish supporters? habit of supposing that the actual course of history was inevitable. Speculation about might?have?beens (including the great might?have?been of medieval Christendom) is a way to subvert the oppressive weight of the present. His hope was for a revolution ('we may or may not see the New Jerusalem rebuilt. .. on our fields, but in the flesh we shall see Babylon fall'), one made easier by the realization that Babylon need never have been built. (shrink)
Immortality has long preoccupied everyone from alchemists to science fiction writers. In this intriguing investigation, Stephen Clark contends that the genre of science fiction writing enables the investigation of philosophical questions about immortality without the constraints of academic philosophy. He shows how fantasy accounts of phenomena such as resurrection, outer body experience, reincarnation or life extending medicines can be related to philosophy in interesting ways. Reading Western myths such as that of vampire, he examines the ways fear and hopes of (...) immortality are an intrinsic part of Western culture and philosophy. As one of the first works to suggest the use of science fiction in the study of philosophy, Clark creates a ground for intellectual, philosophical and experimental inquiry. (shrink)
Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life is a study of the fossils of the Burgess Shale of British Columbia. My concern is with the morals that Gould draws, with the ?new picture of life? that, he says, the reinterpreted Burgess animals compel. I conclude that his case is not established. (1) There may have been reasons to do with ?fitness? why most of the Burgess animals left no descendants, even if we cannot guess exactly what they were. (2) We do not (...) know that our past is dotted with the kind of mass extinctions that are needed for the random evolution that he proposes. (3) Even if what happened does rest on random variation and largely random selection, it does not follow that there are no standing forms that will be constantly re?instantiated. If Rational Life, in particular, is not special, then we have no right to think the world we experience bears any remote resemblance to a putative real world. (4) Even if there are no such forms, the fact that nothing in the state of things required us to exist is no good reason to say that No one requires us to. What Gould says does count against a simple progressivism, but not against an older and more orthodox theology. It also has implications for the Search for Extra?Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). (shrink)
Dennett's Consciousness Explained presents, but does not demonstrate, a fully naturalized account of consciousness that manages to leave out the very consciousness he purports to explain. If he were correct, realism and methodological individualism would collapse, as would the very enterprise of giving reasons. The metaphors he deploys actually testify to the power of metaphoric imagination that can no more be identified with the metaphors it creates than minds can be identified with memes. That latter equation, of minds with meme?complexes, (...) rests for its meaning on the existence of real minds, which are not to be equated with the thoughts they have. (shrink)