Human beings have the unique ability to view the world in a detached way: We can think about the world in terms that transcend our own experience or interest, and consider the world from a vantage point that is, in Nagel's words, "nowhere in particular". At the same time, each of us is a particular person in a particular place, each with his own "personal" view of the world, a view that we can recognize as just one aspect of (...) the whole. How do we reconcile these two standpoints--intellectually, morally, and practically? To what extent are they irreconcilable and to what extent can they be integrated? Thomas Nagel's ambitious and lively book tackles this fundamental issue, arguing that our divided nature is the root of a whole range of philosophical problems, touching, as it does, every aspect of human life. He deals with its manifestations in such fields of philosophy as: the mind-body problem, personal identity, knowledge and skepticism, thought and reality, free will, ethics, the relation between moral and other values, the meaning of life, and death. Excessive objectification has been a malady of recent analytic philosophy, claims Nagel, it has led to implausible forms of reductionism in the philosophy of mind and elsewhere. The solution is not to inhibit the objectifying impulse, but to insist that it learn to live alongside the internal perspectives that cannot be either discarded or objectified. Reconciliation between the two standpoints, in the end, is not always possible. (shrink)
_The opening paragraphs of Nagel's book_ _The View from Nowhere_ _(the first five_ _paragraphs below) indicate the general distinction he proposes between an_ _individual's subjective view of things or subjective standpoint as against an objective_ _or external view of things that is nobody's in particular._.
Over the past twenty-five years, Thomas Nagel has played a major role in the philosophico-biological debate on subjectivity and consciousness. This extensive collection of published essays and reviews offers Nagel's opinionated views on the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and political philosophy, as well as on fellow philosophers like Freud, Wittgenstein, Rawls, Dennet, Chomsky, Searle, Nozick, Dworkin, and MacIntyre.
Williamson has a strikingly economical way of showing how justified true belief can fail to constitute knowledge: he models a class of Gettier cases by means of two simple constraints. His constraints can be shown to rely on some unstated assumptions about the relationship between reality and appearance. These assumptions are epistemologically non-trivial but can be defended as plausible idealizations of our actual predicament, in part because they align well with empirical work on the metacognitive dimension of experience.
Hydrogen is one of the few molecules that has been incarcerated in the molecular cage of C60 to form the endohedral supramolecular complex H2@C60. In this confinement, hydrogen acquires new properties. Its translation motion, within the C60 cavity, becomes quantized, is correlated with its rotation and breaks inversion symmetry that induces infrared (IR) activity of H2. We apply IR spectroscopy to study the dynamics of hydrogen isotopologues H2, D2 and HD incarcerated in C60. The translation and rotation modes appear as (...) side bands to the hydrogen vibration mode in the mid-IR part of the absorption spectrum. Because of the large mass difference of hydrogen and C60 and the high symmetry of C60 the problem is almost identical to a vibrating rotor moving in a three-dimensional spherical potential. We derive potential, rotation, vibration and dipole moment parameters from the analysis of the IR absorption spectra. Our results were used to derive the parameters of a pairwise additive five-dimensional potential energy surface for H2@C60. The same parameters were used to predict H2 energies inside C70. We compare the predicted energies and the low-temperature IR absorption spectra of H2@C70. (shrink)
Background: Visual scanpath analyses provide important information about attention allocation and attention shifting during visual exploration of social situations. This study investigated whether patients with schizophrenia simply show restricted free visual exploration behaviour reflected by reduced saccade frequency and increased fixation duration or whether patients use qualitatively different exploration strategies than healthy controls. Methods: Scanpaths of 32 patients with schizophrenia and age-matched 33 healthy controls were assessed while participants freely explored six photos of daily life situations (20 seconds/photo) evaluated for (...) cognitive complexity and emotional strain. Using fixation and saccade parameters, we compared temporal changes in exploration behaviour, cluster analyses, attentional landscapes and analyses of scanpath similarities between both groups. Results: We found fewer fixation clusters, longer fixation durations within a cluster, fewer changes between clusters, and a greater increase of fixation duration over time in patients compared to controls. Scanpath patterns and attentional landscapes in patients also differed significantly from those of controls. Generally, cognitive complexity and emotional strain had significant effects on visual exploration behaviour. This effect was similar in both groups as were physical properties of fixation locations. Conclusions: Longer attention allocation to a given feature in a scene and less attention shifts in patients suggest a more focal processing mode compared to a more ambient exploration strategy in controls. These visual exploration alterations were present in patients independently of cognitive complexity, emotional strain or physical properties of visual cues implying that they represent a rather general deficit. Despite this impairment, patients were able to adapt their scanning behaviour to changes in cognitive complexity and emotional strain similar to controls. (shrink)
In his recent "Thomas vs. Thomas: A New Approach to Nagel's Bat Argument", Yujin Nagasawa interprets Thomas Nagel as making a certain argument against physicalism and objects that this argument transgresses a principle, laid down by Thomas Aquinas, according to which inability to perform a pseudo-task does not count against an omnipotence claim. Taking Nagasawa's interpretation of Nagel for granted, I distinguish different kinds of omnipotence claims and different kinds of pseudo-tasks, and on that basis show that (...) Nagasawa's criticism of Nagel is unsuccessful. I also show how his reflections do nonetheless point to a limitation of the approach he means to criticize. (shrink)
We naturally evaluate the beliefs of others, sometimes by deliberate calculation, and sometimes in a more immediate fashion. Epistemic intuitions are immediate assessments arising when someone’s condition appears to fall on one side or the other of some significant divide in epistemology. After giving a rough sketch of several major features of epistemic intuitions, this article reviews the history of the current philosophical debate about them and describes the major positions in that debate. Linguists and psychologists also study epistemic assessments; (...) the last section of the paper discusses some of their research and its potential relevance to epistemology. (shrink)
Do epistemic intuitions tell us anything about knowledge? Stich has argued that we respond to cases according to our contingent cultural programming, and not in a manner that tends to reveal anything significant about knowledge itself. I’ve argued that a cross-culturally universal capacity for mindreading produces the intuitive sense that the subject of a case has or lacks knowledge. This paper responds to Stich’s charge that mindreading is cross-culturally varied in a way that will strip epistemic intuitions of their evidential (...) value. I argue that existing work on cross-cultural variation in mindreading favors my position over Stich’s. (shrink)
Internalists have criticised reliabilism for overlooking the importance of the subject's point of view in the generation of knowledge. This paper argues that there is a troubling ambiguity in the intuitive examples that internalists have used to make their case, and on either way of resolving this ambiguity, reliabilism is untouched. However, the argument used to defend reliabilism against the internalist cases could also be used to defend a more radical form of externalism in epistemology.
Harman’s lottery paradox, generalized by Vogel to a number of other cases, involves a curious pattern of intuitive knowledge ascriptions: certain propositions seem easier to know than various higher-probability propositions that are recognized to follow from them. For example, it seems easier to judge that someone knows his car is now on Avenue A, where he parked it an hour ago, than to judge that he knows that it is not the case that his car has been stolen and driven (...) away in the last hour. Contextualists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that ‘knows’ does not always denote the same relationship; subject-sensitive invariantists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that non-traditional factors such as practical interests figure in knowledge; still others have argued that the Harman Vogel pattern gives us a reason to abandon the principle that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This paper argues that there is a psychological explanation of the strange pattern of intuitions, grounded in the manner in which we shift between an automatic or heuristic mode of judgment and a controlled or systematic mode. Understanding the psychology behind the pattern of intuitions enables us to see that the pattern gives us no reason to abandon traditional intellectualist invariantism. The psychological account of the paradox also yields new resources for clarifying and defending the single premise closure principle for knowledge ascriptions. (shrink)
From the apathetic reaction to atrocities committed in Vietnam by the United States and its allies, one may conclude that moral restrictions on the conduct of war command almost as little sympathy among the general public as they do among those charged with the formation of U.S. military policy. Even when restrictions on the conduct of warfare are defended, it is usually on legal grounds alone: their moral basis is often poorly understood. I wish to argue that certain restrictions are (...) neither arbitrary nor merely conventional, and that their validity does not depend simply on their usefulness. There is, in other words, a moral basis for the rules of war, even though the conventions now officially in force are far from giving it perfect expression. (shrink)
In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke insists that all knowledge consists in perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. However, he also insists that knowledge extends to outer reality, claiming that perception yields ‘sensitive knowledge’ of the existence of outer objects. Some scholars have argued that Locke did not really mean to restrict knowledge to perceptions of relations within the realm of ideas; others have argued that sensitive knowledge is not strictly speaking a form of knowledge for Locke. (...) This chapter argues that Locke’s conception of sensitive knowledge is in fact compatible with his official definition of knowledge, and discusses his treatment of the problem of skepticism, both in the Essay and in the correspondence with Stillingfleet. (shrink)
Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject's practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called ?need-for-closure?) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one's cognition. (...) Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism can easily accommodate such cases. (shrink)
Descartes claims that God is both incomprehensible and yet clearly and distinctly understood. This paper argues that Descartes’s development of the contrast between comprehension and understanding makes the role of God in his epistemology more interesting than is commonly thought. Section one examines the historical context of sceptical arguments about the difficulty of knowing God. Descartes describes the recognition of our inability to comprehend God as itself a source of knowledge of him; section two aims to explain how recognizing limits (...) to our cognitive powers is supposed to yield knowledge of anything other than ourselves. Section three aims to give a partial account of the role that awareness of the limitations of our cognitive powers is supposed to play in anchoring our knowledge of other things, and to show how such an approach to knowledge could still contribute to the development of a response to scepticism in the contemporary context. (shrink)
Professor [H.W.] Sheldon's critique of contemporary naturalism as professed in the volume Naturalism and the Human Spirit consists of one central "accusation": naturalism is materialism pure and simple. This charge is supported by his further claim that since the scientific method naturalists espouse for acquiring reliable knowledge of nature is incapable of yielding knowledge of the mental or spiritual "nature" for the naturalist is definitionally limited to "physical nature." He therefore concludes that instead of being a philosophy which can settle (...) age-old conflicts between materialism and idealism, naturalism is no more than a partisan standpoint, and contributes no new philosophical synthesis. ... (shrink)
There is a remedy available for many of our ailments: Psychopharmacology promises to alleviate unsatisfying memory, bad moods, and low self-esteem. Bioethicists have long discussed the ethical implications of enhancement interventions. However, they have not considered relevant evidence from psychology and economics. The growth in autonomy in many areas of life is publicized as progress for the individual. However, the broadening of areas at one’s disposal together with the increasing individualization of value systems leads to situations in which the range (...) of options asks too much of the individual. I scrutinize whether increased self-determination and unbound possibilities are really in a person’s best interests. Evidence from psychology and economics challenges the assumption that unlimited autonomy is best in all cases. The responsibility for autonomous self-formation that comes with possibilities provided by neuro-enhancement developments can be a burden. To guarantee quality of life I suggest a balance of beneficence, support, and respect for autonomy. (shrink)
French phenomenology focused on “the body” to avoid the supposed transcendental idealism of Husserl’s phenomenology, and to provide an “existential” or “empirical” account of the origin of meaning, as Ricoeur put it. In practice, however, this has implicitly presupposed a Cartesian problematic of the relation between body and mind or “subject.” This is the source of the ultimate frustration of this effort, as well as the persistence of a “mystery” of meaning (to cite Merleau-Ponty and Henry). This essay offers an (...) alternative, considering the embodiment of any meaningful experience, suggesting finally that embodiment must be accounted for in terms of subjection. (shrink)
Once upon a time, they managed to bring Neverland into the bedrooms; they were seen as the heroes of a new era. However, as heroes always tend to walk a fine line between good and evil, it does not come as a surprise that a decade later the perception has dramatically changed; the fairy tale turned into a nightmare. Are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) no more than data-guzzling monsters that need to be tamed? In November, the European Commission published a (...) “Comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union” which seems to nod approval. The approach seeks to strengthen the individual’s rights regarding the use of data by ISPs. The Commission notes that children deserve specific protection in this context due to the fact that their awareness of risks and consequences is usually underdeveloped. Both a general principle of transparent processing and specific obligations for data controllers regarding the type of information to be provided and the modalities for providing it had to be taken into account. Not only legal but also self-regulatory initiatives should contribute to a better enforcement of data protection rules. This approach is both applauded and heavily criticized by the European Data Protection Supervisor. In particular, he argues that children’s particular interests have not been sufficiently addressed presenting a long list of suggestions for improvement including specific provisions against behavioral advertising, the exclusion of some data categories, an age threshold or special requirements on the issue of informed consent and a reinforcement of data controllers’ accountability. Is there really a need for a new magic formula? This paper reviews the current options for addressing the challenges of the use of personal data of minors by ISPs. (shrink)
The ostensible aim of Mr Russell's latest book-the substance of his William James Lectures at Harvard-is to specify what is meant by "empirical evidence" and to determine what the connections are between such evidence and materially true propositions.
Arguments by Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta for evidence of a Self that is one and the same as the Great Lord Śiva are interpreted. The views of these authors are clarified and the contradictory relationship between the limited individual subject and the recognition of the true Self is shown. With the help of Utpaladeva's distinction between "seeing" and "noticing," a further interpretation is attempted. Some remarks are made concerning practical meditation and the theoretical presuppositions of this way of thinking in order (...) to find starting points for a comparison with Western philosophy. (shrink)