The point of departure is the paradoxical finding that Spinoza is sometimes presented as the a-historical philosopher par excellence, while his Theological-Political Treatise is truly an historian’s work. The paper develops the hypothesis that historiography, as Spinoza himself practices, is a task of political ethics, analogous to the one to be found in the first section of the fifth part of the Ethics. Against interpretations developed by Vittorio Morfino, drawing on Althusser, historical knowledge is not a knowledge of the third (...) kind but of the second kind. (shrink)
Contemporary Philosophy in Focus offers a series of introductory volumes to many of the dominant philosophical thinkers of the current age. Thomas Kuhn, the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is probably the best-known and most influential historian and philosopher of science of the last 25 years, and has become something of a cultural icon. His concepts of paradigm, paradigm change and incommensurability have changed the way we think about science. This volume offers an introduction to Kuhn's life (...) and work and then considers the implications of Kuhn's work for philosophy, cognitive psychology, social studies of science and feminism. The volume is more than a retrospective on Kuhn, exploring future developments of cognitive and information services along Kuhnian lines. Outside of philosophy the volume will be of particular interest to professionals and students in cognitive science, history of science, science studies and cultural studies. (shrink)
Difficult moral issues in economic life, such as evaluating the impact of hostile takeovers and plant relocations or determining the obligations of business to the environment, constitute the raison d'etre of business ethics. Yet, while the ultimate resolution of such issues clearly requires detailed, normative analysis, a shortcoming of business ethics is that to date it has failed to develop an adequate normative theory. 1 The failing is especially acute when it results in an inability to provide a basis for (...) fine-grained analyses of issues. Both general moral theories and stakeholder theory seem incapable of expressing the moral complexity necessary to provide practical normative guidance for many business ethics contexts. (shrink)
Abstract Freedom in the sense of free will is a multiway power to do any one of a number of things, leaving it up to us which one of a range of options by way of action we perform. What are the ethical implications of our possession of such a power? The paper examines the pre-Hobbesian scholastic view of writers such as Peter Lombard and Francisco Suárez: freedom as a multiway power is linked to the right to liberty understood as (...) a right to exercise that power, and to liberation as a desirable goal involving the perfection of that power. Freedom as a power, liberty as a right, and liberation as a desirable goal, are all linked within this scholastic view to a distinctive theory of law as constituting, in its primary form of natural law, the normative recognition of human freedom. Hobbes's denial of the very existence of freedom as a power led him to a radical revision both of the theory of law and of the relation of law to liberty. Law and liberty were no longer harmonious phenomena, but were left in essential conflict. One legacy of Hobbes is the attempt to base a theory of law and liberty not on freedom as a multiway power, but on rationality. Instead of an ethics of freedom, we have an ethics of reason as involving autonomy. The paper expresses some scepticism about the prospects for such an appeal to reason as a replacement for multiway freedom. (shrink)
" This collection proves otherwise, for the letters illuminate virtually every aspect of Reid's life and career and, in some instances, provide us with invaluable evidence about activities otherwise undocumented in his manuscripts or ...
The paper discusses some aspects of the relationship between Feyerabend and Kuhn. First, some biographical remarks concerning their connections are made. Second, four characteristics of Feyerabend and Kuhn's concept of incommensurability are discussed. Third, Feyerabend's general criticism of Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions is reconstructed. Fourth and more specifically, Feyerabend's criticism of Kuhn's evaluation of normal science is critically investigated. Finally, Feyerabend's re-evaluation of Kuhn's philosophy towards the end of his life is presented.
Thomas Jefferson is among the most important and controversial of American political thinkers: his influence (libertarian, democratic, participatory, and agrarian-republican) is still felt today. A prolific writer, Jefferson left 18,000 letters, Notes on the State of Virginia, an Autobiography, and numerous other papers. Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball have selected the most important of these for presentation in the Cambridge Texts series: Jefferson's views on topics such as revolution, self-government, the role of women and African-American and Native Americans emerge (...) to give a fascinating insight into a man who owned slaves, yet advocated the abolition of slavery. The texts are supported by a concise introduction, suggestions for further reading and short biographies of key figures, all providing invaluable assistance to the student encountering the breadth and richness of Jefferson's thought for the first time. (shrink)
This paper examines some of the metaphysical assumptions behind Aquinas’s denials that a human rational soul unites with matter at conception and that a human rational soul is capable of developing and arranging the organic parts of an embryo. The paper argues that Buridan does not share these assumptions and holds that a soul is capable of developing and arranging organic parts. It argues that, given hylomorphism about the nature of organisms, including human beings, Buridan’s view is philosophically superior to (...) Aquinas’s in several respects. Finally, the paper poses an apparent inconsistency between several of Buridan’s texts on this topic and attempts to show that the inconsistency is merely apparent. (shrink)
Thomas Hobbes. CHAPITRE IV LE TEXTE DU MANUSCRIT DE PARIS (Fonds latin 6566 A) Le manuscrit Ce manuscrit est un petit in-folio dont la reliure en chagrin couvert de velours, d'un genre qui n'est pas rare à la fin du xvif siècle et au ...
With each of our three criminal-law topics—defining offenses, apprehending suspects, and establishing punishments—we feel, I believe, strong moral resistance to the idea that our practices should be settled by a prospective-participant perspective. This becomes quite clear when we look at how the “reforms” suggested by institutional viewing might combine once we consider all three topics together: imagine a more extensive and swifter use of the death penalty in homicide cases coupled with somewhat lower standards of evidence; or think of backing (...) a strict-liability criminal statute with the death penalty. Of course, such “reforms” would increase the execution of innocents; but, their proponents will tell us, any penal system involves the punishment of some innocents, and, if it provides for the death penalty, the execution of some innocents. Moreover, why is it worse for innocents to be punished than for innocents to suffer an equivalent harm in some other way? Formulated from a prospective-participant perspective: Why not run a small risk of being innocently executed in exchange for reducing, much more significantly, the risk of dying prematurely in other ways? (shrink)
This paper examines H.A. Prichard's defense of the view that moral duty is underivative, as reflected in his argument that it is a mistake to ask “Why ought I to do what I morally ought?”, because the only possible answer is “Because you morally ought to.” This view was shared by other philosophers of Prichard's period, from Henry Sidgwick through A.C. Ewing, but Prichard stated it most forcefully and defended it best. The paper distinguishes three stages in Prichard's argument: one (...) appealing to his conceptual minimalism, one an epistemological argument that parallels Moore's response to skepticism about the external world, and one arguing that attempts to justify moral duties on non-moral grounds distort the phenomena by giving those duties the wrong explanation or ground. The paper concludes by considering Prichard's critique of ancient ethics and in particular the ethics of Aristotle. The paper is broadly sympathetic to Prichard's position and arguments; its aim is partly to make a case for him as a central figure in the history of ethics. (shrink)
In the first systematic study of the philosophy of Thomas Nagel, Alan Thomas discusses Nagel's contrast between the "subjective" and the "objective" points of view throughout the various areas of his wide ranging philosophy. Nagel's original and distinctive contrast between the subjective view and our aspiration to a "view from nowhere" within metaphysics structures the chapters of the book. A "new Humean" in epistemology, Nagel takes philosophical scepticism to be both irrefutable and yet to indicate a profound truth (...) about our capacity for self-transcendence. The contrast between subjective and objective views is then considered in the case of the mind, where consciousness proves to be the central aspect of mind that contemporary theorising fails to acknowledge adequately. The second half of the book analyses Nagel's work on moral and political philosophy where he has been most deeply influential. Topics covered include the contrast between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons and values, Nagel's distinctive version of a hybrid ethical theory, his discussion of life's meaningfulness and finally his sceptical arguments about whether a liberal society can reconcile the conflicting moral demands of self and other. (shrink)
Eugene Wigner's several general discussions of symmetry and invariance principles are among the canonical texts of contemporary philosophy of physics. Wigner spoke from a position of authority, having pioneered for recognition of the importance of symmetry principles from nuclear to molecular physics. But perhaps recent commentators have not sufficiently stressed that Wigner always took care to situate the notion of invariance principles with respect to two others, initial conditions and laws of nature. Wigner's first such general consideration of invariance principles, (...) an address presented at Einstein's 70th birthday celebration, held in Princeton on 19 March 1949, began by laying out just this distinction, and in a way that seems to suggest that the three notions arise through abstraction in an analysis of the general problem of cognition in the natural sciences: The world is very complicated and it is clearly impossible for the human mind to understand it completely. Man has therefore devised an artifice which permits the complicated nature of the world to be blamed on something which is called accidental and thus permits him to abstract a domain in which simple laws can be found. The complications are called initial conditions; the domain of regularities, laws of nature. the underlying abstraction is probably one of the most fruitful the human mind has made. It has made the natural sciences possible. (shrink)
Is it possible for an individual that has gone out of being to come back into being again? The English Aristotelian, Thomas White, argued that it is not. Thomas Hobbes disagreed, and used the case of the Ship of Theseus to argue that individuals that have gone out of being may come back into being again. This paper provides the first systematic account of their arguments. It is doubtful that Hobbes has a consistent case against White. Still his (...) criticism may have prompted White to clarify his views on identity over time in his later work. (shrink)
Thomas Reid was a philosopher who founded the Scottish school of 'common sense'. Much of Reid's work is a critique of his contemporary, David Hume, whose empiricism he rejects. In this work, written after Reid's appointment to a professorship at the university of Glasgow, and published in 1785, he turns his attention to ideas about perception, memory, conception, abstraction, judgement, reasoning and taste. He examines the work of his predecessors and contemporaries, arguing that 'when we find philosophers maintaining that (...) there is no heat in the fire, nor colour in the rainbow … we may be apt to think the whole to be only a dream of fanciful men, who have entangled themselves in cobwebs spun out of their own brain'. Written by one of the Scottish Enlightenment's most important thinkers, this work brings to life the intellectual debates of the time. (shrink)
To a practitioner in the social sciences, game theory primarily helps to identify situations in which interdependent decisions are somehow problematic; solutions often require venturing into the social sciences. Game theory is usually about anticipating each other's choices; it can also cope with influencing other's choices. To a social scientist the great contribution of game theory is probably the payoff matrix, an accounting device comparable to the equals sign in algebra.
This is a new edition of a speech about Buddhism by Rudolf Otto from 1913. This speech is his first academic reflexion of his journey around the world and his most detailed explanation of his view on this religion. In the first part of his speech Otto compares Buddhism with Christianity and finds a lot of parallels. In the second part he defines differences between these two religions and proclaims – from a Christian perspective – Christianity as more valuable than (...) Buddhism. The preface puts the speech into its context: Otto’s relationship to and his knowledge of Buddhism, the history of publication of this speech, Otto’s specific view on Buddhism in comparison to his contemporaries, the meaning of this speech in his œuvre and explanations about the edition. The editor has the opinion, that this speech is an important transition from Ottos philosophy of religion to his main work The Idea of the Holy. It further is a good example of what Otto means when speaking about the comparison of religions. (shrink)
The question of what constitutes human flourishing elicits an extraordinary variety of responses, which suggests that there are not merely differences of opinion at work, but also different understandings of the question itself. So it may help to introduce some clarity into the question before starting work on one answer to it.
Affirmative action programs remain controversial, I suspect, partly because the familiar arguments for and against them start from significantly different moral perspectives. Thus I want to step back for a while from the details of debate about particular programs and give attention to the moral viewpoints presupposed in different types of argument. My aim, more specifically, is to compare the “messages” expressed when affirmative action is defended from different moral perspectives. Exclusively forward-looking arguments, I suggest, tend to express the wrong (...) message, but this is also true of exclusively backward-looking arguments. However, a moral outlook that focuses on cross-temporal narrative values suggests a more appropriate account of what affirmative action should try to express. Assessment of the message, admittedly, is only one aspect of a complex issue, but it is a relatively neglected one. My discussion takes for granted some common-sense ideas about the communicative function of action, and so I begin with these. Actions, as the saying goes, often speak louder than words. There are times, too, when only actions can effectively communicate the message we want to convey and times when giving a message is a central part of the purpose of action. What our actions say to others depends largely, though not entirely, upon our avowed reasons for acting; and this is a matter for reflective decision, not something we discover later by looking back at what we did and its effects. The decision is important because “the same act” can have very different consequences, depending upon how we choose to justify it. (shrink)
One of the most difficult and perplexing tenets of classical theism is the doctrine of divine simplicity. Broadly put, this is generally understood to be the thesis that God is altogether without any proper parts, composition, or metaphysical complexity whatsoever. For a good deal more than a millennium, veritable armies of philosophical theologians – Jewish, Christian and Islamic – proclaimed the truth and importance of divine simplicity. Yet in our own time, the doctrine has enjoyed no such support. Among many (...) otherwise orthodox theists, those who do not just disregard it completely explicitly deny it. However, in a couple of recent articles, William E. Mann has attempted to expound the idea of divine simplicity anew and to defend it against a number of criticisms. He even has gone so far as to hint at reaffirming its importance, suggesting that the doctrine may have a significant amount of explanatory power and other theoretical virtue as part of an overall account of the nature of God, by either entailing or in other ways providing for much else that traditional theists have wanted to say about God. In this paper, I want to take a close look at Mann's formulation of the doctrine and at a general supporting theory he adumbrates in his attempt to render more plausible, or at least more defensible, various of its elements and implications. As Mann has made what is arguably the best attempt to defend the doctrine in recent years, I think that such an examination is important and will repay our efforts. (shrink)
Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham disagree over how and whether virtues are specified by their objects. For Thomas, habits and acts are specified by their formal objects. For instance, the object of theft is something that belongs to someone else, and more particularly theft is distinct from robbery because theft is the open taking of another’s good, whereas robbery is open and violent. A habit such as a virtue or a vice shares or takes (...) the act’s object. For Scotus, although the same virtue or act cannot have objects which differ formally, different virtues and acts can have an object which is identical according to its formal ratio, in the way that the different theological virtues might even formally have God as their object. Ockham accepts Scotus’s view that charity and hope are two kinds of love, we will see how, unlike Scotus, he argues that these theological virtues differ on account of their immediate complex objects. The disagreement between these three figures raises important difficulties concerning what it even means to be a formal object. (shrink)
Philosophers have debated for millennia about whether moral requirements are always rational to follow. The background for these debates is often what I shall call “the self-interest model.” The guiding assumption here is that the basic demand of reason, to each person, is that one must, above all, advance one's self-interest. Alternatively, debate may be framed by a related, but significantly different, assumption: the idea that the basic rational requirement is to develop and pursue a set of personal ends in (...) an informed, efficient, and coherent way, whether one's choice of ends is based on self-interested desires or not. For brevity I refer to this as “the coherence-and-efficiency model.” Advocates of both models tend to think that, while it is sufficiently clear in principle what the rational thing to do is, what remains in doubt is whether it is always rational to be moral. They typically assume that morality is concerned, entirely or primarily, with our relations to others, especially with obligations that appear to require some sacrifice or compromise with the pursuit of self-interest. (shrink)
This essay first distinguishes different questions regarding moral objectivity and relativism and then sketches a broadly Kantian position on two of these questions. First, how, if at all, can we derive, justify, or support specific moral principles and judgments from more basic moral standards and values? Second, how, if at all, can the basic standards such as my broadly Kantian perspective, be defended? Regarding the first question, the broadly Kantian position is that from ideas in Kant's later formulations of the (...) Categorical Imperative, especially human dignity and rational autonomous law-making, we can develop an appropriate moral perspective for identifying and supporting more specific principles. Both the deliberative perspective and the derivative principles can be viewed as “constructed,” but in different senses. In response to the second question, the essay examines two of Kant's strategies for defending his basic perspective and the important background of his arguments against previous moral theories. (shrink)
Epistemology, as I understand it, is a branch of philosophy especially concerned with general questions about how we can know various things or at least justify our beliefs about them. It questions what counts as evidence and what are reasonable sources of doubt. Traditionally, episte-mology focuses on pervasive and apparently basic assumptions covering a wide range of claims to knowledge or justified belief rather than very specific, practical puzzles. For example, traditional epistemologists ask “How do we know there are material (...) objects?” and not “How do you know which are the female beetles?” Similarly, moral epistemology, as I understand it, is concerned with general questions about how we can know or justify our beliefs about moral matters. Its focus, again, is on quite general, pervasive, and apparently basic assumptions about what counts as evidence, what are reasonable sources of doubt, and what are the appropriate procedures for justifying particular moral claims. (shrink)
Thomas Brown, Professor of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh, was among the most prominent and widely read British philosophers of the first half of the nineteenth century. An influential interpreter of both Hume and Reid, Brown provided a bridge between the Scottish school of 'Common Sense' and the later positivism of John Stuart Mill and others. The selections in this volume illustrate Brown’s original ideas about mental science, cause and effect, emotions and ethics. They are preceded by an introduction situating (...) Brown’s career and writings in their intellectual and historical context. (shrink)
In this ambitious study, Alexander W. Hall examines the two preeminent figures of the golden age of natural theology: Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus. Hall is not so much concerned with retracing particular proofs of the existence of God and derivations of the divine attributes—well-worn paths in discussions of medieval natural theology—as with investigating the larger philosophical issues that are raised by the project of natural theology, such as the nature of scientia and demonstrative arguments, and accounts of (...) signification and the meaningfulness of theological discourse.Hall's opening chapter offers an overview of natural theology in the High Middle Ages, summarizing the conclusions he will defend at greater length over the course of the book. In chapter 2 Hall relies primarily on Aquinas's commentary on the Posterior Analytics to get clear on his account of scientia, or scientific knowledge. "For Aquinas," Hall writes,"paradigmatic scientia is the result of syllogistic reasoning . . . Syllogisms productive of scientia use either real or nominal definitions as their middle, and thus the conclusion tells us what belongs to the subject through itself or per se". (shrink)