I am grateful for Mr Bagger's thoughtful remarks, as well as those of Professors Cousins, Smith, Katz, and Gimello at a recent American Academy of Religion panel devoted to The Problem of Pure Consciousness . But I cannot help but be struck by the tone of Mr Bagger's notice. As one colleague communicated to me after reading the piece, this is one of the most gratuitously rude pieces he had ever seen! If our book is really as bad as all (...) this, it makes one wonder why Religious Studies , or Mr Bagger, would bother to give it such attention, and whether it indicates how deeply we have touched a nerve in the contemporary debate. (shrink)
In Grassroots Spirituality, Robert Forman documents an important and profound shift in the nature of spirituality in North America, that strongly influences Europe as well. His exciting survey graphically illustrates the possibility of this "grassroots" movement shaping a creative era that responds to new and old needs of religiosity.
This is a sequel to Forman's well-received collection, The Problems of Pure Consciousness (OUP 1990). The essays in this previous volume argued that some mystical experiences do not seem to be formed or shaped by the language system--a thesis that stands in sharp contrast to the constructivist school, which holds that all mysticism is the product of a cultural and linguistic process. In The Innate Capacity, the same scholars put forward a hypothesis about the formative causes of these "pure (...) consciousness" experiences. All the contributors agree that mysticism is the result of an innate human capacity, rather than a learned, socially conditioned constructive process. They look at mystical experience as it is manifested in a variety of religious and cultural settings, including Hindu Yoga, Buddhism, Sufism, and medieval Christianity. Taken together, the essays constitute an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the nature of mystical experience and its relation to the social and cultural context in which it appears. (shrink)
Upshot: George Forman has had a long interest in Piaget and constructivism. He was a Professor in the Education Department at the University of Massachusetts and so he and Ernst were colleagues from the time Ernst moved there when he left Athens, Georgia.
Kant’s account of the freedom gained through virtue builds on the Socratic tradition. On the Socratic view, when morality is our end, nothing can hinder us from attaining satisfaction: we are self-sufficient and free since moral goodness is (as Kant says) “created by us, hence is in our power.” But when our end is the fulfillment of sensible desires, our satisfaction requires luck as well as the cooperation of others. For Kant, this means that happiness requires that we get other (...) people to work for our ends; and this requires, in turn, that we gain control over the things other people value so as to have influence over them. If this plan for happiness is not subordinated to morality, then what is most valuable to us will be precisely what others value. This is the root of the “passions” that make us evil and make us slaves whose satisfaction depends on others. But, significantly, this dependence is a moral slavery and hence does not signal a loss, or even diminishment of the kind of freedom required for moral responsibility. (shrink)
Hegel's discussion of the concept of “habit” appears at a crucial point in his Encyclopedia system, namely, in the transition from the topic of “nature” to the topic of “spirit” (Geist): it is through habit that the subject both distinguishes itself from its various sensory states as an absolute unity (the I) and, at the same time, preserves those sensory states as the content of sensory consciousness. By calling habit a “second nature,” Hegel highlights the fact that incipient spirit retains (...) a “moment” of the natural that marks a limitation compared to “pure thought” but that also makes perceptual consciousness possible. This makes Hegel's account analogous in important respects to John McDowell's “naturalism of second nature.” But Hegel's account of habit can be seen as a version of a Kantian synthesis of the productive imagination—and hence presupposes a given material that can become one's own by means of habit. This does not mean that Hegel falls into the Myth of the Given, but it does suggest that an appropriate account of second nature might be committed to something McDowell wants to deny: that nonconceptual states of consciousness play a role (even if not a justificatory role) in perception. (shrink)
The concept of second nature plays a central role in McDowell's project of reconciling thought's external constraint with its spontaneity or autonomy: our conceptual capacities are natural in the sense that they are fully integrated into the natural world, but they are a second nature to us since they are not reducible to elements that are intelligible apart from those conceptual capacities. Rather than offering a theory of second nature and an account of how we acquire one, McDowell suggests that (...) Aristotle's account of ethical character formation as the acquisition of a second nature serves as a model that can reassure us that thought's autonomy does not threaten its naturalness. However, far from providing such reassurance, the Aristotelian model of second nature actually generates an anxiety about how the acquisition of such autonomous conceptual abilities could be possible. (shrink)
Are mystical experiences primarily formed by the mystic's cultural background and concepts, as modern day "constructivists" maintain, or do mystics in some way transcend language, belief, and culturally conditioned expectations? Do mystical experiences differ in the different religious traditions, as "pluralists" contend, or are they identical across cultures? Twelve contributors here attempt to answer these questions through close examination of a particular form of mystical experience, "Pure Consciousness"--the experience of being awake but devoid of intentional content for consciousness. The contributors (...) analyze pure consciousness and other mystical experiences from historical Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Jewish sources, as well as from modern mystics. They demonstrate that pure consciousness poses serious conceptual problems for a contructivist understanding of mysticism. Revealing the inconsistencies and inadequacies of current models, they make significant strides towards developing new models for the phenomenon of mysticism, breaking new ground for our understanding of mysticism and of human experience in general. (shrink)
For Sellars, the possibility of empirical knowledge presupposes the existence of "sense impressions" in the perceiver, i.e., non-conceptual states of perceptual consciousness. But this role for sense impressions does not implicate Sellars' account in the Myth of the Given: sense impressions do not stand in a justificatory relation to instances of perceptual knowledge; their existence is rather a condition for the possibility of the acquisition of empirical concepts. Sellars suggests that learning empirical concepts presupposes that we can remember certain past (...) facts that we could not conceptualize at the time they obtained. And such memory presupposes, in turn, the existence of certain (past) non-conceptual sensory states that can be conceptualized. (shrink)
One of the most exciting aspects of this journal, of which I am proud to be an executive editor, is that it has become a venue in which so many distinct fields can interact on a single question, that of consciousness. I know of no other question, or journal, which has brought together so many voices, from so many fields, to swirl around a single topic. It is exciting both to provide a forum and to be a part of this (...) debate. In this article I would like to bring the findings of my somewhat unusual but increasingly accepted field -- mysticism-- to the discussion, for I think they may offer some helpful insights about consciousness. Why? When a biologist seeks to understand a complex phenomenon, one key strategy is to look to at it in its simplest form. Probably the most famous is the humble bacterium E. coli. Its simple gene structure has allowed us to understand much of the gene functioning of complex species. Similarly many biologists have turned to the `memory' of the simple sea slug to understand our own more kaleidoscopic memory. Freud and Durkheim both used totemism, which they construed as the simplest form of religion, to understand the complexities of religious life. The methodological principle is: to understand something complex turn to its simple forms. (shrink)
Kant frequently speaks as if all voluntary actions arise from our maxims as the subjective principles of our practical reason. But, as Michael Albrecht has pointed out, Kant also occasionally speaks as if it is only the rare person of “character” who acts according to principles or maxims. I argue that Kant’s seemingly contradictory claims on this front result from the fact that there are two fundamentally different ways that maxims of action can figure in the deliberation of the agent: (...) an agent can act on a maxim either because it promises agreeable results or because he deems it to be an intrinsically correct principle of action. Kant describes a maxim of the latter sort as “firm” and as indicative of “character” in the honorific sense. If the agent’s commitment to his maxim is instead conditional on its agreeable results, we can say he does not act “on principle” and in that sense does not act on maxims at all: rather than aiming at a set of results because the action that produces them conforms to his maxim, he acts according to his maxim because doing so promises (and only as long as it promises) the results he desires. Such an agent thus lacks the principled maxims of a person of character since his maxims are always for sale to the highest bidder. Kant allows that an evil person can approximate the ideal of a principled indifference to results, but claims that only morally good action can be wholly principled. This is also why maxims of action in conformity with duty can be acquired gradually through habituation whereas an authentically moral maxim must instead arise from a “revolution” in thought. (shrink)
The authors discuss some of the conceptual issues that must be considered in using and understanding psychiatric classification. DSM-IV is a practical and common sense nosology of psychiatric disorders that is intended to improve communication in clinical practice and in research studies. DSM-IV has no philosophic pretensions but does raise many philosphical questions. This paper describes the development of DSM-IV and the way in which it addresses a number of philosophic issues: nominalism vs. realism, epistemology in science, the mind/body dichotomy, (...) the definition of mental disorders, and dimensional vs. categorical classification. (shrink)
Capitalizing on the constructivist approach developed by philosophers and psychologists, Steven Katz argues that mystical experience is in part constructed, shaped and colored by the concepts and beliefs which the mystic brings to it. Merits and problems of this constructivist account of mysticism are discussed. The approach is seen to be ill-suited to explain the novelties and surprises for which mysticism is renowned. A new model is suggested: that mysticism is produced by a process similar to forgetting. Two forms of (...) forgetting are described: a massive and complete forgetting of concepts in the “pure consciousness event” and de automatization in the more permanent unitive experiences. (shrink)
Adults who give proxy consent for medical treatment for adolescents must decide how much weight to give to adolescents' own preferences. There is evidence that some adolescents choose treatments different from what adults see as most reasonable. It is argued that adolescents choose according to age-specific values, i.e. values they hold, as adolescents, and which fulfil important developmental needs. Because not fulfilling these needs may do serious psychological damage, it is urged that proxies give weight to these values, up to (...) the limit where it would endanger or profoundly limit future life. (shrink)
In this study, we sought to obtain detailed opinion on some of the practical issues that might arise should physician-assisted suicide (PAS) ever be legalized in the UK. We carried out an anonymous postal questionnaire of medical students, junior and senior doctors working at an acute hospital trust, over a three-week period. A total of 435 questionnaires were distributed and we had an overall return rate of 34%. We found that opinions changed very little as doctors progressed from medical school (...) through to senior clinical positions. Overall, there was neutral opinion on whether PAS should be legalized. There was strong support for a multidisciplinary approach to the process and the involvement of the coroner. An opt-out clause for physicians who did not want to be involved in assisted suicide also received strong support. (shrink)
In August 2005, the Competitive Enterprise Institute , a conservative advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit in Louisiana challenging the legality of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement . The suit alleges that the MSA, under which the states receive monetary payments and the four major tobacco companies are insulated from price competition, violates the Compact Clause and other provisions of the U.S. Constitution. This lawsuit threatens to unravel of one of the most significant opportunities to improve public health in United States (...) history. We consider the merits of the lawsuit, the problems with the MSA that it highlights, and the potential consequences of the suit for public health. (shrink)
Backround Education in ethics and professionalism should reflect the realities medical students encounter in the hospital and clinic. Method We performed content analyses on Case Observation and Assessments (COAs) written by third-year medical students about ethical and professional issues encountered during their internal medicine and paediatrics clinical clerkships. Results A cohort of 141 third-year medical students wrote 272 COAs. Content analyses identified 35 subcategories of ethical and professional issues within 7 major domains: decisions regarding treatment (31.4%), communication (21.4%), professional duties (...) (18.4%), justice (9.8%), student-specific issues (5.4%), quality of care (3.8%), and miscellaneous (9.8%). Conclusions Students encountered a wide variety of ethical and professional issues that can be used to guide pre-clinical and clinical education. Comparison of our findings with results from similar studies suggests that the wording of an assignment (specifying “ethical” issues, “professional” issues, or both) may influence the kinds of issues students identify in their experience-based clinical narratives. (shrink)
Lisa Furberg har argumenterat för att altruistiskt surrogatmödraskap kan anses moraliskt problematiskt utifrån en perfektionistisk teori om det goda livet. I följande svar riktar jag ett antal invändningar mot Furbergs resonemang.
Lisa Hill’s response to my critique of compulsory voting, like similar responses in print or in discussion, remind me how much a child of the ‘70s I am, and how far my beliefs and intuitions about politics have been shaped by the electoral conflicts, social movements and violence of that period. -/- But my perceptions of politics have also been profoundly shaped by my teachers, and fellow graduate students, at MIT. Theda Skocpol famously urged political scientists to ‘bring the (...) state back in’ to their analyses, and to recognise that political identities, interests and coalitions cannot be read off straightforwardly from people’s socio-economic position. In their different ways, this was the lesson that Suzanne Berger, Charles Sabel and Joshua Cohen tried to teach us, emphasising the ways that political participation and conflict, themselves, can change people’s identities, their sense of what it is desirable and possible, and their ability to recognise, or oppose, the freedom and equality of others. -/- I do not therefore take it as self-evident that the poor and seemingly powerless should be politically apathetic, unwilling to vote, or incapable of imagining a political solution to at least some of the problems confronting them. Nor do I suppose that non-voters are all-of-a-piece, and that their shared interests are, inevitably, more significant, morally or politically, than those which divide them. Such assumptions seem mistaken in the case of voters, and I see no reason why they should be true of non-voters. The people we find in these categories are not predestined to be in one rather than the other; they do not always stay where they start off; and at an individual level, the reasons why people fall into one group, rather than another, are likely to be complex and sometimes unpredictable. -/- Above all I see nothing in a commitment to democratic government, understood realistically or in more idealistic terms, that requires us to treat raising turnout at national elections (once every four years or so) as of such moral or political importance that we should make it legally mandatory. Realistically, it is an open question how far the ballot box is, for most people, the path to empowerment – important though it is that people should have an equal right to vote and to stand as candidates at national elections. On a more idealistic view of democratic politics it is hard to avoid the thought that the importance of national elections to self-government, posited by proponents of compulsory voting, reflects an alienated and alienating view of democracy, in which the choice of our leaders becomes more important than the development and exercise of our own capacities to lead; and in which our awe at the power our leaders might wield is matched only by our inability to imagine less intimidating, distant and centralised forms of politics. -/- But before saying a little more about these points, and their significance for compulsory voting, I would like to dispel some misunderstandings or misrepresentations of my views in Hill’s essay. I do not believe socio-economic disparities in turnout are not worrying for democratic politics, nor do I believe that abstention is generally synonymous with consent. I do not assume that people have a right not to vote, but try to explain why moral and legal rights to abstain are an important part of democratic politics, including electoral politics. (shrink)
[first paragraph]: Robert Forman's theory outlined in `Mysticism, language and the via negativa' reacts against an earlier account of mysticism which he calls constructivism'. Constructivism grew from a book of collected papers, Mysticism and philosophical analysis , contributed to and edited by Steven Katz. According to Forman, `the constructivist approach is, roughly, that of the historian [of ideas]' . But this characterization is much too generous.
Lisa Tessman's When Doing the Right Thing is Impossible offers an engaging and accessible exploration of the complex philosophical issues surrounding moral dilemmas and moral failure. Are there genuine moral conflicts? Is it true that in some situations a moral agent cannot help but fail? Tessman offers her own answer–yes, in some situations, moral failure is unavoidable–while guiding readers through the debates surrounding these questions, clarifying the various positions sympathetically and carefully.Part of what makes the book so immediately gripping (...) is the case study it begins with in Chapter One: Tessman focuses on the case Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. During the storm, the... (shrink)
Raymond Boisvert and Lisa Heldke begin Philosophers at Table with a simile. Following Mary Midgley, they suggest that philosophy is like plumbing. We post-industrial urbanites and suburbanites rely on plumbing to bring us water and dispose of our waste. We rely on it daily, but we rarely think reflectively about it. In like fashion, we all rely on philosophy; ideas, concepts, values, and guiding principles structure and organize the way we perceive and experience the world. Philosophy lies undetected, out (...) of sight, tucked neatly in the walls and under the floorboards. We typically suffer its dripping faucets, its low water pressure, its slow drain as long as we can because these almost always involve unwieldy... (shrink)
In Strange Concepts and The Stories they Make Possible: Cognition, Culture, Narrative, Lisa Zunshine widens her scope from an erstwhile singular focus on Theory of Mind (inferring interior states from exterior expression and gesture) in fiction, turning her sights toward a branch of psychology aimed at the study of the early cognitive development of humans. Here she explores our distinctive mental capacity to ascribe a function to objects (a chair is to sit, etc.) and an essence to living creatures (...) (the posited unchanging, ungraspable spirit or soul, for example). Zunshine’s aim: to throw light on how authors and artists confer strange configurations upon such concepts as function and essence in their making of .. (shrink)
This is my response to the papers by Chris Pincock, Lisa Warenski and Jonathan Weinberg, which were presented at the Book Symposium on my Essays on A Priori Knowledge and Justification, American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meetings, March 16–19, 2014.
The following article analyzes two novels, published recently by a new, powerful voice in Irish fiction, Lisa McInerney: her critically acclaimed debut The Glorious Heresies and its continuation The Blood Miracles. McInerney’s works can be distinguished by the crucial qualities of the Irish Noir genre. The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles are presented from the perspective of a middle-aged “right-rogue” heroine, Maureen Phelan. Due to her violent and law-breaking revenge activities, such as burning down the institutions signifying Irishwomen’s (...) oppression and committing an involuntary murder, Maureen remains a multi-dimensional rogue character, not easily definable or even identifiable. The focal character’s narrative operates around the abuse of unmarried, young Irish mothers of previous generations who were coerced to give up their “illegitimate” children for adoption and led a solitary existence away from them. The article examines other “options” available to “fallen women” in Ireland in the mid-twenty century, such as the Magdalene Laundries based on female slave work, and sending children born “out of wedlock” abroad, or to Mother and Baby Homes with high death-rates. Maureen’s rage and her need for retaliation speak for Irish women who, due to the Church-governed moral code, were held in contempt both by their families and religious authorities. As a representative of the Irish noir genre, McInerney’s fiction depicts the narrative of “rogue” Irish motherhood in a non-apologetic, ironic, irreverent and vengeful manner. (shrink)
In Moral Failure, Lisa Tessman argues against two principles of moral theory, that ought implies can and that normative theory must be action-guiding. Although Tessman provides a trenchant account of how we are thrust into the misfortune of moral failure, often by our very efforts to act morally, and although she shows, through a discussion well-informed by the latest theorizing in ethics, neuroethics, and psychology, how much more moral theory can do than provide action-guiding principles, I argue that the (...) two theses of moral theory that she disputes remain indispensable for ethical theory. (shrink)