Contemporary caution against anachronism in intellectual history, and the currently momentous theoretical emphasis on subjectivity in the philosophy of mind, are two prevailing conditions that set puzzling constraints for studies in the history of philosophical psychology. The former urges against assuming ideas, motives, and concepts that are alien to the historical intellectual setting under study, and combined with the latter suggests caution in relying on our intuitions regarding subjectivity due to the historically contingent characterizations it has (...) attained in contemporary philosophy of mind. In the face of these conditions, our paper raises a question of what we call non-textual (as opposed to contextual) standards of interpretation of historical texts, and proceeds to explore subjectivity as such a standard. Non-textual standards are defined as (heuristic) postulations of features of the world or our experience of it that we must suppose to be immune to historical variation in order to understand a historical text. Although the postulation of such standards is often so obvious that the fact of our doing so is not noticed at all, we argue that the problems in certain special cases, such as that of subjectivity, force us to pay attention to the methodological questions involved. Taking into account both recent methodological discussion and the problems inherent in two de facto denials of the relevance of subjectivity for historical theories, we argue that there are good grounds for the adoption of subjectivity as a non-textual standard for historical work in philosophical psychology. (shrink)
In this paper, I show how the phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions and method converge on their treatment of the historical subject. Thinkers from both traditions claim that subjectivity is shaped by a historical worldview. Each tradition provides an account of how these worldviews are shaped, and thus how essentially historical subjective experience is molded. I argue that both traditions, although offering helpful ways of understanding the way history shapes subjectivity, go too far in their epistemic claims for (...) the superiority of subjective over positivist or academic history I propose that although the phenomenological/ hermeneutic approach to historical subjectivity is valuable for understanding both history and human nature, it cannot and ought not replace academic or what I will call ‘critical’ history. By showing the importance of historicity, and the force of historical consciousness on our actions, philosophers of history in these traditions expose the epistemic and perhaps even ethical requirement to engage in a rigorous critical history, one that recognizes the importance of historical consciousness. Such critical history is necessary to move beyond the subjective horizon of history as experienced to understand how events shaped this historical horizon. (shrink)
Ethics deals with how we make decisions and the actions we perform. In decision-making, one weighs the pros and the cons of any course of action. Besides the realm of the private, there are ethical issues regularly dealt with in public discourses. Human identity in most instances is a cultural and religious construct. Our socio-historical background as human beings is constitutive of our identity and also informs our ethical decision making. In this essay, I argue for a possibility of positively (...) incorporating ideas from world religions and diverse cultures into public ethical discourses. Since world religions are about people, it is possible to appropriate humanity as understood in religions in the development of ethics. Hence, I present religions as practically relevant in the analysis of public ethical issues. Public ethical discourses are viewed as inclusive of history, religion, and culture. Further, the work of the philosopher Paul Ricoeur is presented as a way of reconciling subjectivity and objectivity in history and ethics. This essay is an analysis on ways in which the debate on ethical issues can incorporate all the voices in a society without excluding anyone while avoiding ideological extremism.  . (shrink)
This essay makes two claims. The first, exegetical, point shows that there are Husserlian elements in Gadamer’s hermeneutics that are usually overlooked.The second, systematic, claim takes issue with the fact that Gadamer saw himself in alliance with the project of the later Heidegger. It would have been more fruitful had Gadamer aligned himself with Husserl and the Enlightenment tradition. Following Heidegger in his concept of “effective history,” Gadamer risks betraying the main tenets of the Enlightenment by shifting the weight (...) from subjectivity to effective history as the “agent” in history. This is not a wholesale dismissal of Gadamer’s project, however. The problem in Gadamer’s effective history can be remedied by insisting, with Husserl, on the subjective character of effective history. Gadamer was right to criticize Husserl’s idea of a transcendental genesis, but went too far in giving up the idea of human subjectivity as the agent in history. (shrink)
This essay attempts to formulate an ethical program for today's left by showing that such a program should necessarily involve both the insistence on a subjectivity, in the sense of a revolutionary self-determination that would go beyond the liberal pre-established autonomy and an openness to the new and unrecognized that would go beyond all liberal tolerance. I further argue that the only way to understand the co-articulation of subjectivity and openness is to accentuate the event as the origin (...) of open subjectivity. Moreover, borrowing a motif from Kant,1 I will speak of the “orientation” in history that an event provides…. (shrink)
One of the most pressing concerns for contemporary society is the issue of violence and the factors that promote it. In Altared Ground: Levinas, History and Violence , Brian Schroeder stages an engagement between Emmanuel Levinas, one of the leading figures in 20th century Continental philosophy, and Plato, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida and others in the history of ideas. Not merely an exposition of Levinas' original and complex ethical thinking, Brian Schroeder seeks to re-read the history (...) of Western philosophy and religion by going beyond Levinas' alternatives to traditional theories of the self in order to suggest a notion of subjectivity that is not grounded in violence. Schroeder contributes to current discussions of re-conceiving subjectity as intersubjectivity in a postmodern context through a sustained analysis of interpersonal violence. In addition, he takes up the themes of alterity, ground, transcendence, responsibility, language, community, politics, Divinity, and futurity. This interdisciplinary work will appeal not only to philosophers but to those in theology, religious studies, literary theory, and to anyone else interested in issues of subjectivity and societal violence. (shrink)
The Persistence of Subjectivity examines several approaches to, and critiques of, the core notion in the self-understanding and legitimation of the modern, 'bourgeois' form of life: the free, reflective, self-determining subject. Since it is a relatively recent historical development that human beings think of themselves as individual centers of agency, and that one's entitlement to such a self-determining life is absolutely valuable, the issue at stake also involves the question of the historical location of philosophy. What might it mean (...) to take seriously Hegel's claim that philosophical reflection is always reflection on the historical 'actuality' of its own age? Discussing Heidegger, Gadamer, Adorno, Leo Strauss, Manfred Frank, and John McDowell, Robert Pippin attempts to understand how subjectivity arises in contemporary institutional practices such as medicine, as well as in other contexts such as modernism in the visual arts and in the novels of Marcel Proust. (shrink)
Culture After Humanism asks what happens to the authority of traditional Western modes of thought in the wake of postcolonial theory. Iain Chambers investigates moments of tension, interruptions which transform our perception of the world and test the limits of language, art and technology. In a series of interlinked discussions, ranging in focus from Susan Sontag's novel The Volcano Lover to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, Jimi Hendrix and Baroque architecture and music, Chambers weaves together a critique of Western humanism, (...) exploring issues of colonization and migration, language and identity. Culture After Humanism offers a new approach to cultural history, a 'post-humanist' perspective which challenges our sense of a world in which the subject is sovereign language, the transparent medium of its agency, and truth, the product of reason. (shrink)
Being a subject and being conscious of being one are different realities. According to Hegel, the difference is not only conceptual, but also influences people's experience of the world and of one another. This book aims to explain some basic aspects of Hegel's conception of subjectivity with particular regard to the difference he saw in ancient and modern ways of thinking about and acting as individuals, persons and moral subjects.
In one of his last texts, Foucault defined his philosophical enterprise as an “analysis of the conditions in which certain relations between subject and object are formed or modified, insofar as they are constitutive of a possible knowledge”1, or again as “the manner in which the emergence of games of truth constituted, for a particular time and place and certain individuals, the historical a priori of a possible experience”2. Despite its eclipse during the genealogical period, the notion of the historical (...) a priori is thus reaffirmed as central by later Foucault. There is, however, an essential modification with respect to its archaeological problematisation: in The Order of Things, the various historical a priori were characterized by a specific relation between being and language, a relation in which the subject of knowledge did not always nor necessarily have a place. The Renaissance episteme was defined by the homogeneity of words and things, and its Classical counterpart, by the transparent distance between being and representation, which excluded any positioning for the subject (the “place of the king”). Thus within the archaeological configuration, only the contemporary historical a priori was characterized by the invention of a new position for the subject of knowledge, that of Man, which generated the Analytic of Finitude and ultimately resulted in the “anthropological sleep” criticised at the end of The Order of Things. So although later Foucault re-focuses his work around the notion of the historical a priori, he gives the notion a considerable twist whereby the conditions of truth saying are no longer referred back to an implicit connection between being and language, but to the various relations historically established between “modes of subjectivation”3 and “modes of objectification”4. Correspondingly, these relations are not to be analysed from discourse, as in archaeology, nor from the constituting structures of subjectivity, as in phenomenology, but genealogically, i.e.. (shrink)
The basic tendencies in the conceptual history of the 'subject' within Russian intellectual history are presented. This backgrounds a closer analysis of S. Trubetskoj's concept of 'conciliar consciousness', including the problems and aporiae connected with it. It will be shown that and how this conception depends on assumptions from prekantian metaphysics and therefore ignores the Kantian account of subjectivity.
Introduction -- Time and matter: temporality, embodied subjectivity and film phenomenology -- Knowing and nothing: Chris Marker, subjective temporalities and vocalic bodies in the future tense -- Agnès Varda's Trinket box: subjective relationality, affect and temporalised space -- Burlesque gestures and bodily attention: phenomenologies of the ephemeral in Chantal Akerman -- Threatened corporealities: thinking with the films of Philippe Grandrieux -- Conclusion: rethinking cinematic subjectivity and beyond.
After World War II, Japanese intellectuals believed that world history was moving inexorably toward bourgeois democracy and then socialism. But who would be the agents--the active "subjects"--of that revolution in Japan? Intensely debated at the time, this question of active subjectivity influenced popular ideas about nationalism and social change that still affect Japanese political culture today. In a major contribution to modern Japanese intellectual history, J. Victor Koschmann analyzes the debate over subjectivity. He traces the arguments (...) of intellectuals from various disciplines and political viewpoints, and finds that despite their stress on individual autonomy, they all came to define subjectivity in terms of deterministic historical structures, thus ultimately deferring the possibility of radical change in Japan. Establishing a basis for historical dialogue about democratic revolution, this book will interest anyone concerned with issues of nationalism, postcolonialism, and the formation of identities. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare three different views of the relation between subjectivity and modernity: one proposed by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, a second by theorists of institutionalised individualisation, and a third by writers in the Foucaultian tradition of studies of the history of governmentalities. The theorists were chosen because they represent very different understandings of the relation between contemporary history and subjectivity. My purpose is to ground psychoanalytic theory about what humans need in history and so (...) to question what it means to talk ahistorically about what humans need in order to thrive psychologically. Only in so doing can one assess the relation between psychoanalysis and progressive politics. I conclude that while psychoanalysis is a discourse of its time, it can also function as a counter-discourse and can help us understand the effects on subjectivity of a more than thirty year history in the West of repudiating dependency needs and denying interdependence. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to clarify the relation between genealogy and history and to suggest a methodological reading of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. I try to determine genealogy's specific range of objects, specific mode of explication, and specific textual form. Genealogies in general can be thought of as drastic narratives of the emergence and transformations of forms of subjectivity related to power, told with the intention to induce doubt and self-reflection in exactly those readers whose (collective) (...)history is narrated. The main interest in understanding the concept of genealogy and revisiting Nietzsche's introduction of it into philosophy lies in understanding how a certain way of writing and a certain textual practice function that successfully call into question current judgments, institutions and practices. Nietzsche's example, I argue, can provide a paradigm for a critical practice that accounts for historical processes of subject formation in terms of power and turns them against given forms of subjectivity. (shrink)
This article analyzes how the relationship between philosophy and history has been conceived within the study of political thought, and how different ways of conceiving this relationship in turn have affected the definition of the subject matter as well as the choice of methods within this field. My main argument is that the ways in which we conceive this relationship is dependent on the assumptions we make about the ontological status of concepts and their meaning. I start by discussing (...) the widespread view that philosophy and history ought to be viewed as distinct if not incompatible ways of studying political thought, and then go on to describe the view that philosophical and historical approaches should be conceived of as identical or inseparable. I end this article by suggesting that these approaches rather should be viewed as mutually constitutive for the benefit of a more coherent study of political thought. (shrink)
Abstract This paper argues that history of economics has a fruitful, underappreciated role to play in the development of economics, especially when understood as a policy science. This goes against the grain of the last half century during which economics, which has undergone a formal revolution, has distanced itself from its `literary' past and practices precisely with the aim to be a more successful policy science. The paper motivates the thesis by identifying and distinguishing four kinds of reflexivity in (...) economics. The main thesis of this paper is that because these forms of reflexivity are not eliminable, the history of economics must play a constitutive role in economics (and graduate education within economics). An assumption that I clarify in this paper is that the history of economics ought to be part of the subject matter studied by economics when they are interested in policy science. Even if one does not accept the conclusion, the fourfold classification of reflexivity might hold independent interest. The paper is divided in two parts. First, by reflecting on the writings of George Stigler, Paul Samuelson, George and Milton Friedman, I offer a stylized historical introduction to and conceptualization of the themes of this paper. In particular, I identify various historically influential arguments and strategies that reduced the role of history of economics within the economics discipline. In it I also canvass six arguments that try to capture the cost to economics (understood as a science) for sidelining the history of economics from within the discipline. A sub-text of the introduction is that for contingent reasons, post World War II economics evolved into a policy science. Second, by drawing on the work of Kenneth Boulding, in particular, George Soros, Thomas Merton, Gordon Tullock, I distinguish between four species of reflexivity. These are used to then strengthen the argument for the constitutive role of the history of economics within the economics profession. In particular, I argue that so-called Kuhn-losses are especially pernicious when faced with policy choices under so-called Knightian uncertainty. (shrink)
There are a large number of disciplines that are interested in the theoretical aspects of the history of thought. Their perspectives and subjects may vary, but fundamentally they have a common research interest: the history of human thinking and its products. Despite this, they are studied in relative isolation. I argue that having different subjects as specific objects of research, such as political or scientific thinking, is not a valid justification for the separation. I propose the formation of (...) a new integrated field of study, the philosophy of the history of thought. Its most fundamental questions can be taken to be: 1) What is the basic theoretical unit in the history of thought? 2) How does change take place and how can it be described? 3) What kind of reasons are there for change? Why is there a change in a particular case? The existing confusions around the commitments and basic vocabulary used in contemporary historiography makes the establishment of this field important. Recognizing that there is such a discipline is necessary in order to enable concentration on the fundamental theoretical issues. It is likely that progress on theoretical questions and better awareness of the implicit commitments would have a positive impact on historical practice. (shrink)
Bedwetting has confounded the presumed boundaries of the human body, existing in a fluid space, between the normal and pathological. Its treatment has demanded the application of a wide array of different technologies, each based on a distinct conception of the relationship between the body and personality, human organs and personal conduct. In tracing the social history of bedwetting and its regulation, this article examines the ontological assumptions underpinning the treatment of bedwetting and how they have changed over the (...) past two centuries. Through the analysis of medical journals, newspaper articles and magazine advertisements, different topologies are identified which redefine the boundaries of the human body and its capacities. From 16th-century naturalism, in which the human body is subordinated to a cosmic totality, to the circumscribed space of 19th-century paediatrics and the expansive circuits of behavioural psychology and modern psychoanalysis, the body has become multiplied, differently enacted through the application of diverse technologies. It will be shown how coordinating the messy and divergent conceptions of the human body has posed an endemic problem for the human sciences, and how the enduring tension between object enactment and subject constitution is an expression of modern ‘baroque’ subjectivity. (shrink)
The general popularity of natural history in the eighteenth century is mirrored in the frequency and importance of the more than 4,500 articles on natural history in the "Encyclopédie". The main contributors to natural history were Daubenton, Diderot, Jaucourt and d'Holbach, but some of the key animating principles derive from Buffon, who wrote nothing specifically for the "Encyclopédie". Still, a number of articles reflect his thinking, especially his antipathy toward Linnaeus. There was in principle a natural tie (...) between encyclopedism, with its emphasis on connected knowledge, and the task of natural historians who concentrated on the relationships among living forms. Both the encyclopedists and natural historians aimed at a sweeping overview of knowledge, and we see that Diderot's discussions of the encyclopedia were apparently informed by his reading of natural history. Most of the articles on natural history drew from traditional sources, but there are differences in emphasis and choice of subject, depending upon the author. Diderot's 300 contributions are often practical, interesting, and depend upon accounts from other parts of the world. Jaucourt, who wrote more articles on natural history than anyone else, followed in his footsteps. Daubenton's 900 articles reflected a more narrow, professional approach. His contributions concluded for the most part with Volume 8, and Jaucourt carried on almost single-handedly after that. While staking out traditional ground (description, taxonomy) and advancing newer theoretical views linked with Buffon, natural history in the "Encyclopédie" avoided almost completely the sentimentalism concerning nature that developed after Rousseau. (shrink)
One of the curious things about this challenging book is that its ostensible subject— the Saxon medical and political scientist Hermann Conring (1606–1681)— is not mentioned in the title. Constantin Fasolt argues that we cannot know what Conring really thought or meant in his writings, which means that his topic cannot be Conring as such and must instead be that which occludes our knowledge of him, the titular limits of history. Given that we do in fact learn a good (...) deal about Conring from Fasolt’s book, we can only hope that the decapitation of its subject will be rectified in a subsequent edition, or perhaps by the restorative work of librarians putting together subject headings. And yet Fasolt’s decision is understandable, for Conring is indeed a stalking-horse for a much bigger quarry: historiography and the historical consciousness. By “history” Fasolt understands a way of imposing intelligibility on the world, which is founded on the twin assumptions that the past is gone and unchangeable, and that the meaning of texts can be determined by placing them in their historical contexts (ix). In challenging this mode of intelligibility, Fasolt is not attempting to improve professiona history—it’s already as good as it can be—but to displace it. He regards his work as a declaration of “independence from historical consciousness” (32). At the same time, Fasolt insists that he is not simply jumping from historiography to philosophy, or attempting to preempt history with ontology (37-39). That has been tried by Nietzsche and Heidegger, who have been tainted by Nazism (Fasolt thinks unfairly). It has also been attempted by modern philosophers from Gadamer to Foucault and Charles Taylor who, in failing to address the “violence” that its mode of intelligibility does to the world, have not succeeded in outflanking history. Perhaps, Fasolt wonders, it is only the personal experience of those who have been subject to this violence—the experience of those who have been subject to historical examination—that can break the spell of history. Fasolt’s disclaimer notwithstanding, in the course of these remarks I shall argue that he is indeed jumping from history to philosophy, or attempting to outflank history by subjecting it to a particular metaphysical understanding. I shall do so in part by sketching the recent intellectual history of this move—a historical examination that I hope inflicts as little violence as possible on Fasolt’s argument. (shrink)
As frequently pointed out in this discussion, one of the most characteristic features of Mayr's approach to the history of biology stems from the fact that he is dealing to a considerable degree with his own professional history. Furthermore, his main criterion for the selection of historical episodes is their relevance for modern biological theory. As W. F. Bynum and others have noted, the general impression of his reviewers is that “one of the towering figures of evolutionary biology (...) has now written a towering history of his discipline.”138 Bynum is here referring to The Growth of Biological Thought, but this observation holds equally true for Mayr's other historical writings: One must surely read this book [One Long Argument] not only for its content in itself, but for what it tells of its author. And certainly as one does so, one comes away full-handed. Many, if not all, of the disputes and controversies that have driven Mayr through his long intellectual life reappear, stated as forcefully and elegantly as ever.139Up to this point, most reviewers agree; the bone of contention is, rather, how to evaluate Mayr's historical work, considering this observation. The two related characteristics of his work-I will call them subjectivity and presentism-stand in opposition to a widespread approach in the history of science exemplified by Kuhn's suggestion that “insofar as possible..., the historian should set aside the science that he knows. His science should be learned from the textbooks and journals of the period he studies.”140 There are, however, historians who consider the close connection between Mayr and the subject matter of his historical studies to be an advantage.141On the other hand, it is assumed that the connection between past and present must result in a distortion of the historical truth and lead to a historiographical fallacy, commonly referred to as “Whig history”. Herbert Butterfield, who in 1931 gave the term its now generally accepted meaning, believed that “real historical understanding is not achieved by the subordination of the past to the present, but rather by our making the past our present and attempting to see life with the eyes of another century than our own”142. Unfortunately, Butterfield's definition of what he considers Whig history remains somewhat vague, and modern authors have emphasized what they consider most important. Butterfield's “subordination of the past to the present” is referred to in respect to the selection of subjects (there are more biographies of Charles Darwin than of, let's say, Louis Agassiz),143 to the evaluation of historical authors,144 or, more generally, to all kinds of histories “with one eye, so to speak, upon the present.”145 The underlying tendency of Whig historians is to produce a “historical account told from the viewpoint of those in power,”146 leading to a “glorification of the present.”147 It is obvious that Mayr's strongly presentist approach to the history of biology can be called Whiggish, if we apply the criteria of “selection” or “reference.” However, it might be worth mentioning that the program of writing a strictly historicist account of the history of science is challenged by various authors.148 For Mayr, it is not only legitimate but necessary to compare the present situation with the past. “Whiggish” is only the evaluation of an author in terms of our time.149I cannot discuss the Whit/anti-Whig controversy in any detail here, apart from saying that Mayr has defended himself rather extensively against the charges of being Whiggish.150 Nevertheless, it may be useful to touch on some of the criticisms that are predominant in reviews of his writings. First, we encounter the notion that historians can write a true and convincing historical account only if they have no personal interest or interpretation of their own; Mayr, on the other hand, because he “has such strong interpretations of his own, ... cannot possibly convince everyone that he is right about everything.”151 It makes one wonder, what historian has ever been able to convince everyone that he or she is right about everything? But apart from this peculiar idea, it unquestionably poses certain dangers if the subject matter of historical scrutiny and the author are identical. At the same time, this identity brings certain advantages with it, especially firsthand experiences of the period in discussion. Whether these personal memories ultimately result in a distorted picture of the past has to be decided in every particular instance. The notion that a scientific study can be conducted by a completely detached observer from a neutral standpoint has been shown to be impossible in physics, and it is also an illusion in historiography. The question is not whether, but which kind of interest are the underlying motivation for a historian. At this point, Mayr is ahead of his critics when he suggests that our understanding of the past always has a subjective component: The main reason, however, why histories are in constant need of revision is that at any given time they merely reflect the present state of understanding; they depend on how the author interpreted the current zeitgeist of biology and on his own conceptual framework and background. Thus, by necessity the writing of history is subjective and ephemeral.152Second, the temporal proximity between the event and the historical analysis makes difficulties inevitable and will finally result in certain false assessments. But this applies to all historians when they discuss recent problems, regardless of whether they are personally involved or not: As long as the battle between Darwinism and Lamarckism was raging, it was quite impossible to undertake an unbiased evaluation of Lamarck. ...[The] definite refutation of Lamarck's theory of evolutionary causation clears the air. We can now study him without bias and emotion and give him the attention that this major figure in the history of biology clearly deserves.153Third, Mayr is primarily interested in biological problems and not, for instance, historiographical, sociological, or psychological questions. Several authors have remarked that since the beginning of the professionalization of the history of science in the 1960s, a rift between two groups has developed, resulting from the heterogeneous professional backgrounds and interests of the people involved: the authors who were originally biologists and became interested in the history of their discipline only later on, and the authors who were trained as historians.154 Whereas the first group, the “biologists,” tend to be laymen in history proper, the “historians” are in most cases laymen in biology. Different professional backgrounds obviously shape the historical perspective in both groups, but neither approach is necessarily superior. The great number of important books in the history of biology written by “biologist” documents how valuable this point of view can be. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the writings of biologists in the history of science tend to have a strong “internalist” tendency and often neglect the professional, cultural, and political context of science. Mayr's approach is that of a “biologist”; it is “internalist,” and typical for scientists who turn to the history of their discipline.I want to conclude my analysis with a quotation from a review by Douglas J. Futuyma, which gives a perceptive glimpse of Mayr's personality and style: One cannot help standing in awe of the germanic capacity for vast, allembracing synthesis: consider the lifelong devotion of Goethe to Faust, or Wagner's integration of the arts into a Gesamtkunstwerk in which all of human history and experience is wrought into epic myth. It is perhaps in this tradition that Ernst Mayr's The Growth of Biological Thought stands: a history of all of biology, a Ring des Nibelungen complete with leitmotivs such as the failures of reductionism, the struggle of biology for independence from physics, and the liberation of population thinking from the bounds of essentialism.155 Within this style of thinking Mayr has “to offer...nothing less than a vision of biology that places neodarwinian evolutionary theory firmly at the centre.”156 There may be other visions of biology, but few of them have as indefatigable and able representatives as Darwinism has in Ernst Mayr. (shrink)
Lacepède was a key figure in the French intellectual world from the Old Regime to the Restoration, since he was not only a scientist, but also a musician, a writer, and a politician. His brilliant career is a good example of the progress of the social status of scientists in France around 1800. In the life sciences, he was considered the heir to Buffon and continued the latter's Histoire naturelle, but he also borrowed ideas from anti-Buffonian (e.g. Linnaean) scientists. He (...) broached many important subjects such as the nature of man, the classification of animals, the concept of species, and the history of the Earth. All these topics led to tensions in the French sciences, but Lacepède dealt with them in a consensual, indeed even ambiguous way. For example, he held transformist views, but his concept of evolution was far less precise and daring than Lamarck's contemporaneous attempts. His somewhat confused eclecticism allowed him to be accepted by opposing camps of the French scientific community at that time and makes his case interesting for historians, since the opinions of such an opportunistic figure can illuminate the figure of the French intellectual better than more original works could do. In turn, Lacepède's important social and scientific position gave his views a significant visibility. In this sense, his contributions probably exerted an influence, in particular with regard to the emergence of transformist theories. (shrink)
I examine the consistency of Kant's notion of moral progress as found in his philosophy of history. To many commentators, Kant's very idea of moral development has seemed inconsistent with basic tenets of his critical philosophy. This idea has seemed incompatible with his claims that the moral law is unconditionally and universally valid, that moral agency is noumenal and atemporal, and that all humans are equally free. Against these charges, I argue not only that Kant's notion of moral development (...) is consistent, but also that the assumption of the possibility of moral progress is indispensible for Kant's moral theory. (shrink)