Ritualized behavior, intuitively recognizable by its stereotypy, rigidity, repetition, and apparent lack of rational motivation, is found in a variety of life conditions, customs, and everyday practices: in cultural rituals, whether religious or non-religious; in many children's complicated routines; in the pathology of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD); in normal adults around certain stages of the life-cycle, birthing in particular. Combining evidence from evolutionary anthropology, neuropsychology and neuroimaging, we propose an explanation of ritualized behavior in terms of an evolved Precaution System geared (...) to the detection of and reaction to inferred threats to fitness. This system, distinct from fear-systems geared to respond to manifest danger, includes a repertoire of clues for potential danger as well as a repertoire of species-typical precautions. In OCD pathology, this system does not supply a negative feedback to the appraisal of potential threats, resulting in doubts about the proper performance of precautions, and repetition of action. Also, anxiety levels focus the attention on low-level gestural units of behavior rather than on the goal-related higher-level units normally used in parsing the action-flow. Normally automatized actions are submitted to cognitive control. This “swamps” working memory, an effect of which is a temporary relief from intrusions but also their long-term strengthening. Normal activation of this Precaution System explains intrusions and ritual behaviors in normal adults. Gradual calibration of the system occurs through childhood rituals. Cultural mimicry of this system's normal input makes cultural rituals attention-grabbing and compelling. A number of empirical predictions follow from this synthetic model. (Published Online February 8 2007) Key Words: childhood ritual; compulsion; event boundaries; evolutionary psychology; obsessive-compulsive disorder; ritual; thought intrusion. (shrink)
In reply to commentary on our target article, we supply further evidence and hypotheses in the description of ritualized behaviors in humans. Reactions to indirect fitness threats probably activate specialized precaution systems rather than a unified form of danger-avoidance or causal reasoning. Impairment of precaution systems may be present in pathologies other than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), autism in particular. Ritualized behavior is attention-grabbing enough to be culturally transmitted whether or not it is associated with group identity, cohesion, or with any (...) other social aspect of collective ceremonies. (Published Online February 8 2007). (shrink)
In this commentary, I ask three specific questions: (1) Why would a juvenile stage be maintained in humans? (2) What could be a satisfactory evolutionary scenario explaining the features of feminine speech? And (3), what could be the contribution of sexual selection in the elicitation of higher informational contents in communicative signals?
The French philosopher and intellectual historian Pierre Hadot (1922-2010) is known primarily for his conception of philosophy as spiritual exercise, which was an essential reference for the later Foucault. An aspect of his work that has received less attention is a set of methodological reflections on intellectual history and on the relationship between philosophy and history. Hadot was trained initially as a philosopher and was interested in existentialism as well as in the convergence between philosophy and poetry. Yet he (...) chose to become a historian of philosophy and produced extensive philological work on neo-Platonism and ancient philosophy in general. He found a philosophical rationale for this shift in his encounter with Wittgenstein's philosophy in the mid-1950s (Hadot was one of Wittgenstein's earliest French readers and interpreters). For Hadot, ancient philosophy must be understood as a series of language games, and each language game must be situated within the concrete conditions in which it happened. The reference to Wittgenstein therefore supports a strongly contextualist and historicist stance. It also supports its exact opposite: presentist appropriations of ancient texts are entirely legitimate, and they are the only way ancient philosophy can be existentially meaningful to us. Hadot addresses the contradiction by embracing it fully and claiming that his own practice aims at a coincidence of opposites (a concept borrowed from the Heraclitean tradition). For Hadot the fullest and truest way of doing philosophy is to be a philosopher and a historian at the same time. (shrink)
This classic work in the philosophy of physical science is an incisive and readable account of the scientific method. Pierre Duhem was one of the great figures in French science, a devoted teacher, and a distinguished scholar of the history and philosophy of science. This book represents his most mature thought on a wide range of topics.
There were three such assumptions required, one explicitly stated, and two not made explicit until Bayle. The explicit one was a certain commonly accepted double understanding of ‘destruction’: a ‘natural’ version, which made it no more than a change in a particular arrangement or ‘organization’ of particles through which an aggregate was destroyed by losing its identity, and a metaphysical version, which entailed the actual annihilation of a substance. It was assumed that the latter could be accomplished only by miraculous (...) supra-natural means available only to God. Thus, if it could be shown that the soul was ‘without parts,’ it followed that the soul was ‘naturally’ indestructible and thus immortal. Bayle summarized the Cartesian argument to immortality as follows. (shrink)
Synthesizing forty years' work by France's leading sociologist, this book exemplifies Bourdieu's unique ability to link sociological theory, historical information, and philosophical thought. It makes explicit the presuppositions of a state of 'scholasticism', a certain leisure liberated from the urgencies of the world. Philosophers have brought these presuppositions into the order of discourse, more to legitimate than analyze them, and this is the primary systematic, epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic error that Bourdieu subjects to methodological critique. Pascalian because he, too, was (...) concerned with symbolic power, he refused the temptation of foundationalist thinking, attended to 'ordinary people', and was determined to seek the reason for seemingly illogical behavior rather than simply condemning it. Bourdieu charts a negative philosophy, whose intellectual debt to such other 'heretical' philosophers as Wittgenstein, Austin, Dewey, and Peirce, renews traditional questioning of concepts of violence, power, time, history, the universal, and the purpose and direction of existence. (shrink)
Ways of Seeing is a unique collaboration between an eminent philosopher and a world famous neuroscientist. It focuses on one of the most basic human functions - vision. What does it mean to 'see'. It brings together electrophysiological studies, neuropsychology, psychophysics, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind. The first truly interdisciplinary book devoted to the topic of vision, it will make a valuable contribution to the field of cognitive science.
The article explores the way American author Cormac McCarthy uses the Gothic genre in his novel The Road as a means to address what has been called “our globalized order,” in particular the way it has turned human beings into consuming or consumed entities. Some dimensions of this globalized order indeed involve the reintroduction of slavery through human trafficking, unprecedented greed and labor capitalism, surveillance and personal data gathering. Hannah Arendt notes in The Origin of Totalitarianism that the disasters of (...) the twentieth century had proved that a globalized order might “produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages.” The artist’s task is to find the right language and images to address the breaking of the world. French philosopher J. P. Dupuy, for example, has argued that the financial world is a way to contain the violence of competition, placing it into acceptable forms away from primal physical competition. McCarthy’s graphic use of Gothic tropes—including cannibalism, the wild forest, the haunted house, the chase, the conflict between light and darkness, the blurring of boundaries between different categories—creates a shock. The article also addresses the larger question of the impact of globalization on Gothic literature, and the impact of Gothic literature on real world matters as it contributes to and reflects upon and challenges global regimes of economic, social and economic power. In other words, what is the cultural work that the Gothic does in the present? (shrink)
In Kant and the Demands of Self-Consciousness, Pierre Keller examines Kant's theory of self-consciousness and argues that it succeeds in explaining how both subjective and objective experience are possible. Previous interpretations of Kant's theory have held that he treats all self-consciousness as knowledge of objective states of affairs, and also that self-consciousness can be interpreted as knowledge of personal identity. By developing this striking new interpretation Keller is able to argue that transcendental self-consciousness underwrites a general theory of objectivity (...) and subjectivity at the same time. (shrink)
Over the past four decades, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu produced one of the most imaginative and subtle bodies of social theory of the postwar era. When he died in 2002, he was considered to be the most influential sociologist in the world and a thinker on a par with Foucault and Le;vi-Strauss—a public intellectual as important to his generation as Sartre was to his. Sketch for a Self-Analysis is the ultimate outcome of Bourdieu’s lifelong preoccupation with reflexivity. Vehemently not (...) an autobiography, this unique book is instead an application of Bourdieu’s theories to his own life and intellectual trajectory; along the way it offers compelling and intimate insights into the most important French intellectuals of the time—including Foucault, Sartre, Aron, Althusser, and de Beauvoir—as well as Bourdieu’s own formative experiences at boarding school and his moral outrage at the colonial war in Algeria. (shrink)
The present volume consists of diverse individual texts, produced between 1980 and 1986, which take two forms: interviews in which Bourdieu confronts a series of probing and intelligent interviewers, and conference papers that clarify and extend specific areas of his research. Now that Bourdieu's work has achieved wide diffusion and celebrity, this is an appropriate time for this volume, a pause for retrospection and resynthesis, for corrections of misreadings and extension of previous insights, and for projection of the next stages (...) of his work. For this English edition, Bourdieu's celebrated inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, Leçon sur la Leçon, has been added. -/- The texts fall into two fundamental areas. The first area provides an overview of Bourdieu's central concepts, never before clearly explained. The second area clarifies the philosophical presuppositions of Bourdieu's studies and gives an account of his relations with the series of thinkers who formulated the problems in social and cultural theory that still preoccupy us: Kant, Hegel, Marx, Durkheim, Wittgenstein, Weber, Parsons, and Lévi-Strauss. Bourdieu's visions of these figures is personal and penetrating, and in his vivacious, spontaneous responses one sees at work a mode of thought that can in itself be a liberating tool of social analysis. Bourdieu applies to himself the method of analyzing cultural works that he expounds, evoking the space of theoretical possibilities presented to him at different moments of his intellectual itinerary. (shrink)
This book offers a comprehensive treatment of the philosophical system of the seventeenth-century philosopher Pierre Gassendi. Gassendi's importance is widely recognized and is essential for understanding early modern philosophers and scientists such as Locke, Leibniz and Newton. Offering a systematic overview of his contributions, LoLordo situates Gassendi's views within the context of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century natural philosophy as represented by a variety of intellectual traditions, including scholastic Aristotelianism, Renaissance Neo-Platonism, and the emerging mechanical philosophy. LoLordo's work will be (...) essential reading for historians of early modern philosophy and science. (shrink)
Martin Heidegger's overt alliance with the Nazis and the specific relation between this alliance and his philosophical thought - the degree to which his concepts are linked to a thoroughly disreputable set of political beliefs - have been the topic of a storm of recent debate. Written ten years before this debate, this study by France's leading sociologist and cultural theorist is both a precursor of that debate and an analysis of the institutional mechanisms involved in the production of philosophical (...) discourse. Though Heidegger is aware of and acknowledges the legitimacy of purely philosophical issues (in his references to canonic authors, traditional problems, and respect for academic taboos), Bourdieu points out that the complexity and abstraction of Heidegger's philosophical discourse stems from its situation in the cultural field, where two social and intellentual dimensions - political thought and academic thought - intersect. Bourdieu concludes by suggesting that Heidegger should not be considered as a Nazi ideologist, that there is no place in Heidegger's philosophical ideas for a racist conception of the human being. Rather, he sees Heidegger's thought as a structural equivalent in the field of philosophy of the 'conservative revolution', of which nazism is but one manifestation. (shrink)
Duhem's 1908 essay questions the relation between physical theory and metaphysics and, more specifically, between astronomy and physics–an issue still of importance today. He critiques the answers given by Greek thought, Arabic science, medieval Christian scholasticism, and, finally, the astronomers of the Renaissance.
In this 1999 book Pierre Keller examines the distinctive contributions, and the respective limitations, of Husserl's and Heidegger's approach to fundamental elements of human experience. He shows how their accounts of time, meaning, and personal identity are embedded in important alternative conceptions of how experience may be significant for us, and discusses both how these conceptions are related to each other and how they fit into a wider philosophical context. His sophisticated and accessible account of the phenomenological philosophy of (...) Husserl and the existential phenomenology of Heidegger will be of wide interest to students and specialists in these areas, while analytic philosophers of mind will be interested by the detailed parallels which he draws with a number of concerns of the analytic philosophical tradition. (shrink)
We propose a modular ontology of the dynamic features of reality. This amounts, on the one hand, to a purely spatial ontology supporting snapshot views of the world at successive instants of time and, on the other hand, to a purely spatiotemporal ontology of change and process. We argue that dynamic spatial ontology must combine these two distinct types of inventory of the entities and relationships in reality, and we provide characterizations of spatiotemporal reasoning in the light of the interconnections (...) between them. (shrink)
These selections from Le système du monde, the classic ten-volume history of the physical sciences written by the great French physicist Pierre Duhem (1861-1916), focus on cosmology, Duhem's greatest interest. By reconsidering the work of such Arab and Christian scholars as Averroes, Avicenna, Gregory of Rimini, Albert of Saxony, Nicole Oresme, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam, Duhem demonstrated the sophistication of medieval science and cosmology.