Thomas reviews economist Leland Yeager's Ethics as Social Science. Yeager presents an argument for a utilitarianism that in its commitment to a reality-oriented, practical, principled ethics of human happiness resembles Rand's Objectivism. The book incorporates a wide and varied literature, including virtually everything written on Objectivism. In sum, it is like an Old Right reconstruction of utilitarianism in response to Randian critiques. The principal shortcoming of the book is its lack of precision, novelty, and clarity in addressing philosophical problems. (...) This results in sloppy reasoning that renders its conclusions unconvincing. (shrink)
Thomas clarifies his basic criticism of Yeager's book, Ethics as Social Science, emphasizing his concern about lack of clarity of argument rather than style. Thomas discusses the role of ethical standards in contextual moral reasoning and defends Rand's rejection of ethical altruism against criticisms that it represents a "corner solution" or an unrealistic slippery-slope argument.
Previous research has identified two moral orientations in people's reasoning about moral dilemmas: an orientation to rights, fairness, and justice and another based on care, compassion and concern for others and the self. To investigate the association of political violence and ethnic conflict with children's preferred moral orientation, two studies were conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the first with 10-12-year-olds and the second with 6-8- and 9-11-year-olds. In the first study, children's solutions to dilemmas involving animal characters were most likely (...) to reflect an orientation to care and concern rather than to justice and fairness. In the second study, children who responded to stories involving humans were even more likely to offer solutions from the care perspective than those who heard stories about animals. No consistent gender differences were observed. These results were generally similar to those from North American samples; however, the content of Bosnian children's responses also reflected their experiences with displacement and their concerns about the role of physical power in conflict resolution. (shrink)
The attempt to utilize the methods of science to justify one ethical code as opposed to another has the advantage of avoiding the dogmatism and question-begging techniques characteristic of many traditional ethical theories. However, such attempts are invariably involved in value reductionism, leaving normative terms bereft of their normative import. Science is related to ethics in a number of important ways, but not in the sense that inductive evidence can justify one standard of right conduct as opposed to others.
Historically labor has been central to human interactions with the environment, yet environmentalists pay it scant attention. Indeed, they have been critical of those who foreground labor in their politics, socialists in particular. However, environmentalists have found the nineteenth-century socialist William Morris appealing despite the fact that he wrote extensively on labor. This paper considers the place of labor in the relationship between humanity and the natural world in the work of Morris and two of his contemporaries, the eminent (...) scientist Thomas Henry Huxley, and the Fabian socialist Herbert George Wells. I suggest that Morris's conception of labor has much to recommend it to environmentalists who are also interested in issues of social justice. (shrink)
How can the Body and Blood of Christ, without ever leaving heaven, come to be really present on eucharistic altars where the bread and wine still seem to be? Thirteenth and fourteenth century Christian Aristotelians thought the answer had to be "transubstantiation." -/- Acclaimed philosopher, Marilyn McCord Adams, investigates these later medieval theories of the Eucharist, concentrating on the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham, with some reference to Peter Lombard, Hugh of (...) St. Victor, and Bonaventure. She examines how their efforts to formulate and integrate this theological datum provoked them to make significant revisions in Aristotelian philosophical theories regarding the metaphysical structure and location of bodies, differences between substance and accidents, causality and causal powers, and fundamental types of change. Setting these developments in the theological context that gave rise to the question draws attention to their understandings of the sacraments and their purpose, as well as to their understandings of the nature and destiny of human beings. -/- Adams concludes that their philosophical modifications were mostly not ad hoc, but systematic revisions that made room for transubstantiation while allowing Aristotle still to describe what normally and naturally happens. By contrast, their picture of the world as it will be (after the last judgment) seems less well integrated with their sacramental theology and their understandings of human nature. (shrink)
In 1905 William James wrote an essay in McClure's Magazine recalling the importance to his own work of the Scottish-born philosopher Thomas Davidson. In the essay, James states that Davidson was "essentially a teacher." What is interesting when one looks at Davidson's life and work is that, for Davidson, teaching does seem to be an essential feature of what it means to be a philosopher. Here, I develop how Davidson construes this linking of philosophy and teaching with a (...) concluding emphasis on the two schools he established: Glenmore, a summer philosophy program in the Adirondacks and the "Breadwinners' College," an open school he began for working persons in New York City. I offer this as a discussion paper so that James's recollection of Davidson's importance to his own work may provoke us to consider how we presently understand the linking of teaching and philosophy. This seems especially appropriate for an academic culture such as ours in which much of our time is spent teaching and in which we are often primarily evaluated by a separate category of professional "research." The American tradition has "lost" any number of its important... (shrink)
The concept of empiricism evokes both a historical tradition and a set of philosophical theses. The theses are usually understood to have been developed by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. But these figures did not use the term “empiricism,” and they did not see themselves as united by a shared epistemology into one school of thought. My dissertation analyzes the debate that elevated the concept of empiricism (and of an empiricist tradition) to prominence in English-language philosophy. -/- In the 1870s and (...) ’80s a lively debate about psychology emerged. Neo-Kantian idealists criticized the very idea that the mind can be studied scientifically. A group of philosopher-psychologists responded, often in Mind. They were among the first to call themselves “empiricists,” arguing that psychology could provide a scientific basis for philosophical progress. Idealists held that empirical psychology depended on premises developed by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. These premises were allegedly absurd because they rendered ideas of extension, as well as other ideas crucial to natural science, unreal. Those who wanted to advance psychology towards becoming a legitimate science were forced to engage these philosophical attacks, while at the same time to develop empirical theories that could successfully explain some characteristics of experience. I show how James’s theory of space perception accomplished both tasks. -/- In developing this theory, James found he had to reject the Lockean notion that reality is associated with passively-registered sensations. James also abandoned Berkeley and Hume’s claim that ideas are ultimately derived from atomic sensations. Instead, James presented experimental evidence that sensation is a continuous stream. The mind must actively parse this stream if it is to gain a coherent representation of its environment. I argue that James’s stream-of-thought thesis served as a presupposition of his entire psychology. The thesis showed how the labor of investigating the mind could be divided between philosophers and scientists, and in a manner sensitive to the concerns of both. The stream thesis also provided a scientific basis for a new philosophical empiricism that, I argue, has a hidden legacy in the history of analytic philosophy. (shrink)