Epistemology has for a long time focused on the concept of knowledge and tried to answer questions such as whether knowledge is possible and how much of it there is. Often missing from this inquiry, however, is a discussion on the value of knowledge. In The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology properly conceived cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He also questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in (...) epistemology, namely that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its subparts. Taking Platos' Meno as a starting point of his discussion, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is less valuable than generally assumed. Clearly written and well argued, this 2003 book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology. (shrink)
Consider a circle and a pair of its semicircles. Which is prior, the whole or its parts? Are the semicircles dependent abstractions from their whole, or is the circle a derivative construction from its parts? Now in place of the circle consider the entire cosmos (the ultimate concrete whole), and in place of the pair of semicircles consider the myriad particles (the ultimate concrete parts). Which if either is ultimately prior, the one ultimate whole or its many ultimate parts?
This book attempts to place a realist view of ethics (the claim that there are facts of the matter in ethics as elsewhere) within a broader context. It starts with a discussion of why we should mind about the difference between right and wrong, asks what account we should give of our ability to learn from our moral experience, and looks in some detail at the different sorts of ways in which moral reasons can combine to show us what we (...) should do in the circumstances. The second half of the book uses these results to mount an attack on consequentialism in ethics, arguing that there are more sorts of reasons around than consequentialists can even dream of. (shrink)
How is reality really manufactured? The idea of social construction has become a commonplace part of much social research, yet precisely what is constructed, how it is constructed, and what constructionism means are often left unclear or taken for granted. In this major work, Jonathan Potter explores the central themes raised by these questions. Representing Reality explores the different traditions in constructivist thought--including sociology of scientific knowledge; conversation analysis and ethnomethodology; and semiotics, poststructuralism, and postmodernism--to provide a lucid introduction (...) to several key strands of work that have overturned the way we think about facts and descriptions. Potter illustrates his points throughout with varied and engaging examples taken from newspaper stories, relationship counseling sessions, accounts of paranormal events, social workers' assessments of violent parents, informal talk between program organizers, political arguments, and everyday conversations. Representing Reality offers the student and scholar in social psychology, rhetoric and discourse, and related fields a critical introduction to constructivism. (shrink)
Liberalism without Perfection offers an introduction to the debate between liberal perfectionism and political liberalism. This book is a new account and defence of Rawlsian political liberalism, one of the most discussed, but widely misunderstood and criticized theories in contemporary political theory.
Alan Millar's paper (2011) involves two parts, which I address in order, first taking up the issues concerning the goal of inquiry, and then the issues surrounding the appeal to reflective knowledge. I argue that the upshot of the considerations Millar raises count in favour of a more important role in value-driven epistemology for the notion of understanding and for the notion of epistemic justification, rather than for the notions of knowledge and reflective knowledge.
Jonathan L. Kvanvig presents a new account of rationality, Perspectivalism, which both avoids elevating rationality so that only the most reflective of us are capable of rational beliefs, and avoids reducing it to the level of beasts. He defends optionality about what it is reasonable to think, and provides a framework for rational disagreement.
Color provides an instance of a general puzzle about how to reconcile the picture of the world given to us by our ordinary experience with the picture of the world given to us by our best theoretical accounts. The Red and the Real offers a new approach to such longstanding philosophical puzzles about what colors are and how they fit into nature. It is responsive to a broad range of constraints --- both the ordinary constraints of color experience and the (...) more theoretical constraints of color science, psychology, semantics, and ontology. (shrink)
Jonathan Lowe argues that metaphysics should be restored to a central position in philosophy, as the most fundamental form of inquiry, whose findings underpin those of all other disciplines. He portrays metaphysics as charting the possibilities of existence, by identifying the categories of being and the relations between them. He sets out his own original metaphysical system, within which he seeks to answer many of the deepest questions in philosophy. 'a very rich book... deserves to be read carefully by (...) anyone interested in any of the many subjects he discusses.' Katherine Hawley, British Journal of the Philosophy of Science. (shrink)
In debates about animal sentience, the precautionary principle is often invoked. The idea is that when the evidence of sentience is inconclusive, we should “give the animal the benefit of the doubt” or “err on the side of caution” in formulating animal protection legislation. Yet there remains confusion as to whether it is appropriate to apply the precautionary principle in this context, and, if so, what “applying the precautionary principle” means in practice regarding the burden of proof for animal sentience. (...) Here I construct a version of the precautionary principle tailored to the question of animal sentience together with a practical framework for implementing it. I explain and defend the key features of this framework, argue that it is well-aligned with current practice in animal welfare science, and consider and reject a number of influential counterarguments to the use of precautionary reasoning in this area. (shrink)
In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophes, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man's dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions of (...) the eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have received limited scholarly attention. The greatest obstacle to the movement finding its proper place in modern historical writing is its international scope: the Racial Enlightenment was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time. In this wide-ranging volume, Jonathan Israel offers a novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents. Particular emphasis is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism. (shrink)
Contextualist treatments of clashes of intuitions can allow that two claims, apparently in conflict, can both be true. But making true utterances is far from the only thing that matters — there are often substantive normative questions about what contextual parameters are appropriate to a given conversational situation. This paper foregrounds the importance of the social power to set contextual standards, and how it relates to injustice and oppression, introducing a phenomenon I call "contextual injustice," which has to do with (...) the unjust manipulation of conversational parameters in context-sensitive discourse. My central example applies contextualism about knowledge ascriptions to questions about knowledge regarding sexual assault allegations, but I will also discuss parallel dynamics in other examples of context-sensitive language involving politically significant terms, including gender terms. The central upshot is that the connections between language, epistemology, and social justice are very deeply interlinked. (shrink)
I argue that “consent” language presupposes that the contemplated action is or would be at someone else’s behest. When one does something for another reason—for example, when one elects independently to do something, or when one accepts an invitation to do something—it is linguistically inappropriate to describe the actor as “consenting” to it; but it is also inappropriate to describe them as “not consenting” to it. A consequence of this idea is that “consent” is poorly suited to play its canonical (...) central role in contemporary sexual ethics. But this does not mean that nonconsensual sex can be morally permissible. Consent language, I’ll suggest, carries the conventional presupposition that that which is or might be consented to is at someone else’s behest. One implication will be a new kind of support for feminist critiques of consent theory in sexual ethics. (shrink)
This is a 1988 philosophical introduction to Aristotle, and Professor Lear starts where Aristotle himself starts. The first sentence of the Metaphysics states that all human beings by their nature desire to know. But what is it for us to be animated by this desire in this world? What is it for a creature to have a nature; what is our human nature; what must the world be like to be intelligible; and what must we be like to understand it (...) systematically? Through a consideration of these questions Professor Lear introduces us to the essence of Aristotle's philosophy and guides us through the central Aristotelian texts - selected from the Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics, Politics and from the biological and logical works. The book is written in a direct, lucid style which engages the reader with the themes in an active, participatory manner. (shrink)
'Mr Bennett, as was to be expected, has written a first-rate book on Kant's Analytic. It is vivid, entertaining, and extremely instructive. It will be found of absorbing interest both by those who already know the Critique and by those - if there are any such - who have a developed interest in philosophy, yet no direct acquaintance with Kant. These last it will surely drive to the text and, as surely, will drive them to approach it in a truly (...) philosophical spirit. Bennett's Kant is not a giant immersed, or frozen, in time. He is a great contemporary - a little out of touch, admittedly, with recent developments in mathematics and physics - but one with whom we can all argue, against him, at his side, or obliquely to him. And so Bennett does argue, continuously, fiercely, and fruitfully; and summons to join in the argument, at appropriate moments, those older contemporaries, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume, and those younger contemporaries, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Ayler, Quine, Quinton, Warnock, and others. This is splendid, and a necessary corrective to that extraordinary isolation in which Kant tends to be islanded, partly indeed, by his own unique qualities, but partly by oceans of the wrong kind of respect. Bennett, continuously engaging his great antagonist, shows the right kind.'. (shrink)
Carruthers has recently argued for a surprising conditional: if a global workspace theory of phenomenal consciousness is both correct and fully reductive, then there are no substantive facts to discover about phenomenal consciousness in non-human animals. I present two problems for this conditional. First, it rests on an odd double-standard about the ordinary concept of phenomenal consciousness: its intuitive non-gradability is taken to be unchallengeable by future scientific developments, whereas its intuitive determinacy is predicted to fall by the wayside. Second, (...) it relies on dismissing, prematurely, the live empirical possibility that phenomenal consciousness may be linked to a core global broadcast mechanism that is (determinately) shared by a wide range of animals. Future developments in the science of consciousness may lead us to reconsider the non-gradability of phenomenal consciousness, but they are unlikely to lead us to accept that there are no facts to discover outside the paradigm case of a healthy adult human. (shrink)
There is no escaping the fact that law shapes identity. Laws tells us who we are and where we stand in society. While sometimes benign, such classification can also be a devastatingly powerful instrument of ostracism and subjugation. Legally enforced racial segregation sent a cold and harsh message about what the dominant society thought it meant to be black. The recent backlash against affirmative action resurrects degrading stereotypes and sends old messages wrapped in new code words about racial identity. “English-only” (...) laws and attempts to restrict public support for immigrants define targeted groups as “outsiders,” people who do not belong in America. The acceptance of anti-sodomy laws brands homosexuals as deviant And the slow, grudging history of legal recognition of sexual harassment, the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, and the persistence of the “reasonable man” standard effaces the distinctive experiences of women in society while subjecting all to measurement against a male norm. (shrink)
In the debates regarding the ethics of human enhancement, proponents have found it difficult to refute the concern, voiced by certain bioconservatives, that cognitive enhancement violates the autonomy of the enhanced. However, G. Owen Schaefer, Guy Kahane and Julian Savulescu have attempted not only to avoid autonomy-based bioconservative objections, but to argue that cognition-enhancing biomedical interventions can actually enhance autonomy. In response, this paper has two aims: firstly, to explore the limits of their argument; secondly, and more importantly, to develop (...) a more complete understanding of autonomy and its relation to cognitive enhancement. By drawing a distinction between the capacity for autonomy and the exercise and achievement of autonomy and by exploring the possible effects of cognitive enhancement on both competence and authenticity conditions for autonomy, the paper identifies and explains which dimensions of autonomy can and cannot, in principle, be enhanced via direct cognitive interventions. This allows us to draw conclusions regarding the limits of cognitive enhancement as a means for enhancing autonomy. (shrink)
The first major reassessment of the Western Enlightenment for a generation. Continuing the story he began in Radical Enlightenment, Jonathan Israel now focuses on the first half of the eighteenth century. He traces to their roots the core principles of Western modernity: the primacy of reason, democracy, racial equality, feminism, religious toleration, sexual emancipation, and freedom of expression.
What makes fast, cumulative cultural evolution work? Where did it come from? Why is it the sole preserve of humans? We set out a self-assembly hypothesis: cultural evolution evolved culturally. We present an evolutionary account that shows this hypothesis to be coherent, plausible, and worthy of further investigation. It has the following steps: (0) in common with other animals, early hominins had significant capacity for social learning; (1) knowledge and skills learned by offspring from their parents began to spread because (...) bearers had more offspring, a process we call CS1 (or Cultural Selection 1); (2) CS1 shaped attentional learning biases; (3) these attentional biases were augmented by explicit learning biases (judgements about what should be copied from whom). Explicit learning biases enabled (4) the high-fidelity, exclusive copying required for fast cultural accumulation of knowledge and skills by a process we call CS2 (or Cultural Selection 2), and (5) the emergence of cognitive processes such as imitation, mindreading and metacognition – ‘cognitive gadgets’ specialised for cultural learning. This self-assembly hypothesis is consistent with archaeological evidence that the stone tools used by early hominins were not dependent on fast, cumulative cultural evolution, and suggests new priorities for research on ‘animal culture’. (shrink)
A neurologist presents evidence for locating the unconscious--Freud's concept--within the actual physiology of the brain, in a study that explains current knowledge about perception, memory, sleep, dreams, and Freud's theory of the unconscious.
Imagine that Ann, asked to name her favorite treat, answers: 1. Licorice is tasty Imagine that Ben, having hidden some licorice in the cupboard, whispers to Ann: 2. There might be licorice in the cupboard. What if any role is played by perspective—whom the licorice is tasty to, whose evidence allows for licorice in the cupboard—in the semantics of such sentences?
Prepared by editors of the distinguished series The Works of Jonathan Edwards, this authoritative anthology includes selected treatises, sermons, and autobiographical material by early America’s greatest theologian and philosopher.
Shared Decision Making (‘SDM’) is one of the most significant developments in Western health care practices in recent years. Whereas traditional models of care operate on the basis of the physician as the primary medical decision maker, SDM requires patients to be supported to consider options in order to achieve informed preferences by mutually sharing the best available evidence. According to its proponents, SDM is the right way to interpret the clinician-patient relationship because it fulfils the ethical imperative of respecting (...) patient autonomy. However, there is no consensus about how decisions in SDM contexts relate to the principle of respect for autonomy. In response, I demonstrate that in order to make decisions about what treatment they will or will not receive, patients will be required to meet different conditions depending on the approach proponents of SDM take to understanding personal autonomy. Due to the fact that different conceptions of autonomy yield different obligations, I argue that if physicians and patients satisfied all the conditions described in standard accounts of SDM, then SDM would undermine patient autonomy. (shrink)
Western society today is less unified by a set of core values than ever before. Undoubtedly, the concept of moral consensus is a difficult one in a liberal, democratic and pluralistic society. But it is imperative to avoid a rigid majoritarianism where sensitive personal values are at stake, as in bioethics. Bioethics has become an influential part of public and professional discussions of health care. It has helped frame issues of moral values and medicine as part of a more general (...) effort to find consensus about some of the most perplexing questions of our time. But why is it thought that a moral consensus is important or that it deserves respect? How does moral consensus acquire legitimacy in a society that includes diverse value systems? How is moral consensus possible and how do small groups help create or distort consensus processes? Written by a medical school professor trained in philosophy, this timely work tackles these questions from philosophical, historical, and social scientific standpoints. It begins by describing the traditional ambivalence about consensus in Western culture as well as the uncertain relationship in modernity between consensus and expertise. After outlining the current bioethical consensus, the book gives philosophical and political analyses of the idea of consensus, then assesses the role of consensus in national ethics commissions and in the ethics committee movement. Moreno constructs an original, naturalistic philosophy of moral consensus, referred to as "bioethical naturalism", and then applies sociology and social psychology to actual consensus processes. The book concludes with an account of bioethics as a consensus-oriented social reform movement. This insightful volume will be essential reading for bioethicists, philosophers, physicians, members of ethics committees, and all those concerned with ethical and social issues in health care. (shrink)
In this fully updated second edition, Jonathan Lear clearly introduces and assesses all of Freud's thought, focusing on those areas of philosophy on which Freud is acknowledged to have had a lasting impact. These include the philosophy of mind, free will and determinism, rationality, the nature of the self and subjectivity, and ethics and religion. He also considers some of the deeper issues and problems Freud engaged with, brilliantly illustrating their philosophical significance: human sexuality, the unconscious, dreams, and the (...) theory of transference. Lear’s approach emphasizes the philosophical significance of Freud’s fundamental rule – to say whatever comes to mind without censorship or inhibition. This binds psychoanalysis to the philosophical exploration of self-consciousness and truthfulness, as well as opening new paths of inquiry for moral psychology and ethics. The second edition includes a new Introduction and Conclusion. The text is revised throughout, including new sections on psychological structure and object relations and on Freud’s critique of religion and morality. One of the most important introductions and contributions to understanding this great thinker to have been published for many years, _Freud, second edition_ will be essential reading for anyone in the humanities, social sciences and beyond with an interest in Freud or philosophy. (shrink)
Aristotle was the first and one of the greatest logicians. He not only devised the first system of formal logic, but also raised many fundamental problems in the philosophy of logic. In this book, Dr Lear shows how Aristotle's discussion of logical consequence, validity and proof can contribute to contemporary debates in the philosophy of logic. No background knowledge of Aristotle is assumed.
The notion that natural selection is a process of fitness maximization gets a bad press in population genetics, yet in other areas of biology the view that organisms behave as if attempting to maximize their fitness remains widespread. Here I critically appraise the prospects for reconciliation. I first distinguish four varieties of fitness maximization. I then examine two recent developments that may appear to vindicate at least one of these varieties. The first is the ‘new’ interpretation of Fisher's fundamental theorem (...) of natural selection, on which the theorem is exactly true for any evolving population that satisfies some minimal assumptions. The second is the Formal Darwinism project, which forges links between gene frequency change and optimal strategy choice. In both cases, I argue that the results fail to establish a biologically significant maximization principle. I conclude that it may be a mistake to look for universal maximization principles justified by theory alone. A more promising approach may be to find maximization principles that apply conditionally and to show that the conditions were satisfied in the evolution of particular traits. (shrink)
Jonathan Dancy works within almost all fields of philosophy but is best known as the leading proponent of moral particularism. Particularism challenges “traditional” moral theories, such as Contractualism, Kantianism and Utilitarianism, in that it denies that moral thought and judgement relies upon, or is made possible by, a set of more or less well-defined, hierarchical principles. During the summer of 2006, the Philosophy Departments of Lund University (Sweden) and the University of Reading (England) began a series of exchanges to (...) take place every other year, alternating between the departments. Andreas Lind and Johan Brännmark arranged to meet Dancy during the first meeting in Lund to talk about questions regarding particularism, moral theory and the shape of the analytical tradition. The major part of the conversation is printed below. (shrink)
Historically, laws and policies to criminalize drug use or possession were rooted in explicit racism, and they continue to wreak havoc on certain racialized communities. We are a group of bioethicists, drug experts, legal scholars, criminal justice researchers, sociologists, psychologists, and other allied professionals who have come together in support of a policy proposal that is evidence-based and ethically recommended. We call for the immediate decriminalization of all so-called recreational drugs and, ultimately, for their timely and appropriate legal regulation. We (...) also call for criminal convictions for nonviolent offenses pertaining to the use or possession of small quantities of such drugs to be expunged, and for those currently serving time for these offenses to be released. In effect, we call for an end to the “war on drugs.”. (shrink)
It is sometimes thought that randomized study group allocation is uniquely proficient at producing comparison groups that are evenly balanced for all confounding causes. Philosophers have argued that in real randomized controlled trials this balance assumption typically fails. But is the balance assumption an important ideal? I run a thought experiment, the CONFOUND study, to answer this question. I then suggest a new account of causal inference in ideal and real comparative group studies that helps clarify the roles of confounding (...) variables and randomization. 1Confounders and Causes2The Balance Assumption3The CONFOUND Study 3.1CONFOUND 13.2CONFOUND 24Disjunction C and the Ideal Study 4.1The ultimate ‘other cause’: C4.2The ideal comparative group study4.3Required conditions for causal inference5Confounders as Causes, Confounders as Correlates6Summary. (shrink)
The Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu is known for his critical contribution to Buddhist Abhidharma thought, his turn to the Mahayana tradition, and his concise, influential Yogacara-Vijñanavada texts. _Paving the Great Way_ reveals another dimension of his legacy: his integration of several seemingly incompatible intellectual and scriptural traditions, with far-ranging consequences for the development of Buddhist epistemology and the theorization of tantra. Most scholars read Vasubandhu's texts in isolation and separate his intellectual development into distinct phases. Featuring close studies of Vasubandhu's (...) _Abhidharmakosabhasya_, _Vyakhyayukti_, _Vimsatika_, and _Trisvabhavanirdesa_, among other works, this book identifies recurrent treatments of causality and scriptural interpretation that unify distinct strands of thought under a single, coherent Buddhist philosophy. In Vasubandhu's hands, the Buddha's rejection of the self as a false construction provides a framework through which to clarify problematic philosophical issues, such as the nature of moral agency and subjectivity under a broadly causal worldview. Recognizing this continuity of purpose across Vasubandhu's diverse corpus recasts the interests of the philosopher and his truly innovative vision, which influenced Buddhist thought for a millennium and continues to resonate with today's philosophical issues. An appendix includes extensive English-language translations of the major texts discussed. (shrink)
Much of the extant discussion focuses on the question of whether contextualism resolves skeptical paradoxes. Understandably. Yet there has been less discussion as to the internal structure of contextualist theories. Regrettably. Here, for instance, are two questions that could stand further discussion: (i) what is the linguistic basis for contextualism and (ii) what is the parameter that shifts with context?
This chapter outlines ways in which Wittgenstein’s opposition to scientism is manifest in his later conception of philosophy and the negative attitude he held toward his times. The chapter tries to make clear how these two areas of Wittgenstein’s thought are connected and reflect an anti-scientistic worldview he held, one intimated in Philosophical Investigations §122. -/- It is argued that the later Wittgenstein’s metaphilosophy is marked out against two scientistic claims in particular. First, the view that the scientific method is (...) superior to all other means of learning or gaining knowledge. Second, the view that scientific knowledge is superior to all other kinds of knowledge and understanding. Wittgenstein’s opposition to these claims is brought out through examining a fundamental aim of his later philosophy, producing the ‘kind of understanding which consists in “seeing connections”’ (PI §122), and his attempts to expose certain philosophical confusions. It is argued that these reflect his antiscientistic worldview. -/- Through discussion of Oswald Spengler’s influence on Wittgenstein, the chapter outlines how Wittgenstein’s opposition to scientism underwrites his negative cultural outlook and how this is connected with the anti-scientistic elements of his later philosophy discussed. The work of Ray Monk (1999; 1990) and Hans-Johann Glock (1996) is instrumental in what follows. (shrink)