The writings of Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius exercised a powerful influence on the nature and development of mediaeval philosophy. The extent of his influence was such that I think it fair to say that anyone seeking more than a superficial grasp of mediaeval philosophy must acquire some first-hand knowledge of his work. The trouble is, however, that while The Consolation of Philosophy is well-known and much commented upon, Boethius’s other works are relatively neglected.1 Included in this latter group are the (...) five theological tractates, one of which has this imposing title: Quomodo Substantiae In Eo Quod Sint Bonae Sint Cum Non Sint Substantialia Bona. This tractate also has the more manageable title De Hebdomadibus and it is as such that I shall refer to it throughout this article.2 I have chosen to give an explication of the De Hebdomadibus for three reasons. First the problem with which it deals (the nature of the relation between goodness and substance) is intrinsically interesting and Boethius’s solution to the problem is a model of philosophical analysis. Second, in addition to the fact that the philosophical status of the nine axioms listed in the tractate is a matter of some scholarly controversy, the answer to the obvious question of how these axioms function in the tractate as a whole is not at all clear. And third, this tractate is philosophically significant to those philosophers who take St. Thomas as their inspiration since it appears that St. Thomas’s existence/essence distinction is adumbrated here. I shall begin my explication by giving a brief overview of the main lines of the tractate. Then I shall lay out the arguments contained in the statement and resolution of the dilemma which Boethius constructs, indicating (by means of Roman numerals in parentheses) where I think particular axioms are meant to apply. Finally, I shall display the axioms as perspicuously as possible and comment on them.. (shrink)
Sometimes, it is difficult to know what someone means. Sometimes, it merely appears to be difficult. Consider this masterpiece of philosophical hermeneutics from a P. G. Wodehouse short story: “Jeeves,” I said. “A rummy communication has arrived. From Mr. Glossop.” “Indeed, sir?” “I will read it to you. Handed in at Upper Bleaching. Message runs as follows: ‘When you come tomorrow, bring my football boots. Also, if humanly possible, Irish water-spaniel. Urgent. Regards. Tuppy.’.
On a charge of murder or manslaughter it must be shown that the person killed was one who was in being. It is neither murder nor manslaughter to kill an unborn child while still in its mother’s womb although it may be the statutory offences of child destruction or abortion. If however the child is born alive and afterwards dies by reason of an unlawful act done to it in the mother’s womb or in the process of birth, the person (...) who committed that act is guilty of murder or manslaughter according to the intent with which the act is done. [Halsbury’s LAWS OF ENGLAND, 4th ed. reissue, Vol. 11 (1). London: Butterworths, 1990.]. (shrink)
I am going to begin, as all philosophers do, by going back to the ancient Greeks, and then taking a quick tour of the present day, before returning to the ancient Greeks again. Let us begin with the so-called quarrel between philosophy and poetry–what was the reason for this? Well, philosophy was invented at a particular point in time, and in relation to poetry, it was a newcomer. When philosophy was invented it found another intellectual enterprise already in possession of (...) the field, and that enterprise was poetry, primarily Homer and Hesiod. Plato, in trying to make intellectual space for philosophy, made so much space that he risked pushing poetry out of the field altogether as an intellectual enterprise. Plato assumes that poetry and philosophy are competitors in the same business; he can then be seen as attempting to make a hostile take-over bid. (shrink)
One cannot go far in the reading of St Thomas Aquinas and other medieval writers without coming across a multiplicity of usages of the Latin term for ‘being’ or ‘to be’, esse, such as esse intentionale, esse intelligibile, esse naturale, esse sensibile and so on.3 It is not always easy to appreciate the distinctions which these terms are intended to mark and if one is inclined to scepticism one might indeed suspect that these are distinctions without a difference. However, such (...) a judgment would be both precipitate and incorrect. Even if the distinctions marked by such terms are not immediately perspicuous it is essential, if one wishes to understand and appreciate the thought of the medievals, that one come to understand them. Within the compass of a short paper it will not, of course, be possible to be comprehensive, so I shall investigate the notions of immateriality and intentionality with a view to clarifying their relationship.4 In so doing, I hope some light will be thrown.. (shrink)
Since the heyday of the Enlightenment, there have been concerted efforts in many parts of the West to get religion out of politics, presumably on the grounds that religion is bad for politics. Whatever the merits of these efforts, and to whatever extent they may be justifiable, what has not, perhaps, been so widely considered is whether or not it might also be a good idea to separate religion from politics because politics is bad for religion! I argue that politics, (...) understood as the institution and operation of the state, is a deeply flawed project and hence that religion’s association with it is necessarily damaging to religion. The time for divorce has finally arrived. (shrink)
In his excellent and stimulating paper1, Professor Rothblatt remarked “The irony of Newman’s perpetual reincarnation is that none of the structural or even conceptual features of the university as he knew and loved them has survived him, not even this university which may on an occasion such as this revere him as a spiritual ancestor.” [p. 1] What can one say to that remark except to admit its truth. However, that is not the only irony to be discovered. Despite the (...) ritual invocation of Newman at UCD conferrings and on special occasions such as this, he did not in fact found UCD. He did found the Catholic University of Ireland, or perhaps he didn’t, if Colin Barr’s thesis in his recent book is to be believed! Wherever the truth lies in this matter, I am happy to be able to announce that UCD now has at least one cast-iron connection with Newman in that the International Centre for Newman Studies, directed by Dr Teresa Iglesias, will be inaugurated on the 21st of this month in Newman House. (shrink)
The past three decades have witnessed a remarkable growth of research interest in the mind. This trend has been acclaimed as the ‘cognitive revolution’ in psychology. At the heart of this revolution lies the claim that the mind is a computational system. The purpose of this paper is both to elucidate this claim and to evaluate its implications for cognitive psychology. The nature and scope of cognitive psychology and cognitive science are outlined, the principal assumptions underlying the information processing approach (...) to cognition are summarised and the nature of artificial intelligence and its relationship to cognitive science are explored. The ‘computational metaphor’ of mind is examined and both the theoretical and methodological issues which it raises for cognitive psychology are considered. Finally, the nature and significance of ‘connectionism’—the latest paradigm in cognitive science—are briefly reviewed. (shrink)
Since its first appearance in print, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus has been universally recognised as a seminal work in philosophy. It is a complex work which poses many exegetical problems whose resolution is by no means easy. One particular problem to which I wish to propose a solution here concerns the interrelation among the following three propositions.
Law, like language, is the product of social evolution, embodied in custom. The conditions for the emergence of law—embodiment, scarcity, rationality, relatedness and plurality—are outlined, and the context for the emergence of law—dispute resolution—is analysed. Adjudication procedures, rules and enforcementmechanisms, the elements of law, emerge from this context. The characteristics of such a customarily evolved law are its severely limited scope, its negativity, andits horizontality. It is suggested that a legal system (or legal systems) based on the principles of archaic (...) law could answer the needs of social order without permitting the paternalistic interferences with liberty characteristic of contemporary legal systems. (shrink)
Government, the systematic exercise of command by some over others backed by the allegedly legitimate use of violence, requires justification. All government is predicated upon a distinction between rulers and ruled. Who should occupy the position of ruler and who the position of the ruled is a perennial problem. In thecontemporary world, representative democracy is the only plausible contender for the role of justified government. The key to the justification and popularacceptance of democracy as a (or the) legitimate form of (...) government is the idea of representation, the idea being that in a representative democracy, the people,in some way, rule themselves and thus bridge the gap between the ruler and ruled. However, if a satisfactory account of representation is not forthcoming, thejustificatory status of representative democracy becomes problematic. (shrink)
Not so long ago, if you wanted to start a barroom brawl at a philosophy conference all you had to do was to make the claim that a defensible ethical or political theory is necessarily constrained by some theory of human nature or other. Underlying the unease that some philosophers felt with any such claim was perhaps the belief that to allow such a claim would necessarily justify oppression or discrimination or deny human responsibility, meaning or purpose.1 Making such a (...) claim today about a connection between theories of human nature and ethics and politics might still start a fight but the claim-maker is likely to have more allies than would have been the case even, say, ten years ago.2.. (shrink)
Before I come to Professor Anderson’s objections to the argument in question, I should like to clarify just a few points. The argument that I presented is taken immediately from Mortimer Adler’s presentation of it, so let us call it ‘Adler’s Argument,’ though in fact its origins go all the way back to Aristotle. My reading of Adler’s presentation of the argument was that he gave it in two different forms, one categorical, the other hypothetical. Both forms of the argument, (...) of course, have effectively the same conclusion, which is, in the case of its categorical version, that “concepts are not physical beings” [proposition 3 for Professor Anderson] and, in the case of its hypothetical version, that “A concept is not an act of a bodily organ” [proposition 6 for Professor Anderson]. Now Adler concludes immediately from propositions 3/6 that “the power of conceptual thought is an immaterial power.” I argued in my original article that it was not obvious that this proposition was equivalent to propositions 3/6 and so I presented an additional argument to the bridge the gap [propositions a, b, c and d for Professor Anderson]. Let us call this ‘Casey’s Addendum.’. (shrink)
Educating the Virtues David Carr Routledge, 1991. Pp. 304. ISBN 0?415?05746?9. £35. The Philosophical Theology of St Thomas Aquinas By Leo J. Elders E. J. Brill, 1990. Pp. 332. ISBN 0?04?09156?4. $74.36. The State and Justice: An Essay in Political Theory By Milton Fisk Cambridge University Press, 1990. Pp. x + 391. ISBN 0?521?38966?6. £10.95 pbk. Perspectives on Language and Thought: Interrelations in Development Edited by S. A. Gelman and J. P. Byrnes Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. xii + 524. (...) ISBN 0?521?37497?9. £50. Aristotle's First Principles By T. H. Irwin Oxford University Press, 1989. Pp. xviii + 702. ISBN 0?198?24717?6. £17.50 Pbk. Truth and Eros: Foucault, Lacan, and the Question of Ethics By John Rajchman Routledge, 1991. Pp. 155. ISBN 0?415?90380?7. £10.99. Logical Forms By Mark Sainsbury Blackwell, 1991. Pp. 408. ISBN 0?631?17777?9. £11.95. Form and Transformation. A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus By Frederic M. Schroeder McGill?Queen's University Press, 1992. Pp. xiv + 136. ISBN 0?7735?1016?8. £34.95. Did The Greeks Believe Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination By Paul Veyne, translated by Paula Wissing The University of Chicago Press, 1988. Pp. 161. ISBN 0?226?85434?5. £8.75 Pbk. What is Philosophy? By Dietrich von Hildebrand Routledge, 1991. Pp. lvii + 242. ISBN 0?415?02584?2. £12.99. (shrink)
The emergence of electronic computers in the last thirty years has given rise to many interesting questions. Many of these questions are technical, relating to a machine’s ability to perform complex operations in a variety of circumstances. While some of these questions are not without philosophical interest, the one question which above all others has stimulated philosophical interest is explicitly non-technical and it can be expressed crudely as follows: Can a machine be said to think and, if so, in what (...) sense? The issue has received much attention in the scholarly journals with articles and arguments appearing in great profusion, some resolutely answering this question in the affirmative, some, equally resolutely, answering this question in the negative, and others manifesting modified rapture. While the ramifications of the question are enormous I believe that the issue at the heart of the matter has gradually emerged from the forest of complications. (shrink)
Howard Kainz, in his monograph ‘Active and Passive Potency’ in Thomistic Angelology, remarks that angelology is of some importance in Thomistic philosophy for bringing to a head what he calls ‘certain problematics’ arising from Thomistic presuppositions.1 An example of just such a problematic, in the form of an apparent inconsistency, is stated in the following extended passage.
The association of Wittgenstein’s name with the notion of artificial intelligence is bound to cause some surprise both to Wittgensteinians and to people interested in artificial intelligence. After all, Wittgenstein died in 1951 and the term artificial intelligence didn’t come into use until 1956 so that it seems unlikely that one could have anything to do with the other. However, establishing a connection between Wittgenstein and artificial intelligence is not as insuperable a problem as it might appear at first glance. (...) While it is true that artificial intelligence as a quasi-distinct discipline is of recent vintage, some of its concerns, especially those of a philosophical nature, have been around for quite some time. At the birth of modern philosophy we find Descartes wondering whether it would be possible to create a machine that would be phenomenologically indistinguishable from.. (shrink)
In his many and varied writings, St Thomas presents us with both a sophisticated account of human action and a complicated moral theory. In this article, I shall be considering the question of whether St Thomas’s theory of action and his moral theory are mutually consistent. My claim shall be that St Thomas can preserve the ontological unity of human action—but only at the cost of rendering it extremely difficult to evaluate in a manner consistent with his moral theory, or, (...) alternatively, that he can provide a viable ethical analysis of human action—but only at the cost of compromising its ontological unity. In the first section of this article I shall examine St Thomas’s account of a particular kind of moral action, namely lying. Two basic questions concerning the specificity of unicity of human action will emerge from this examination: 1) what makes an act to be a specific moral act?, and 2) what makes a specific moral act to be one act? In the second section of the article I shall attempt to show, by means of a textual examination, that St Thomas does not appear to be able to provide an account of human action that will satisfactorily answer both these basic questions at the same time. (shrink)