This paper argues that Jacques Derrida provides a compelling rebuttal to a secularism that seeks to exclude religion from the public sphere. Political theorists such as Mark Lilla claim that religion is a source of violence, and so they conclude that religion and politics should be strictly separated. In my reading, Derrida’s work entails that a secularism of this kind is both impossible (because religion remains influential in the wake of secularization) and unnecessary (because religious traditions are diverse and multivalent). (...) Some attempt to contain the disruptive force of religion by excluding it from the public sphere, but Derrida argues that one may endure instability for the sake of something more important than safety. Although Derrida admits that religion is dangerous, he demonstrates that it is nevertheless an indispensable resource for political reflection. (shrink)
Some theorists are suspicious of normative political theology because they believe it undermines critical rationality. In my view, these theorists neglect theological traditions that resist dogmatism through intensified critique. Because authoritarian dogma is not unique to religion, theology offers sophisticated techniques that may be useful for those who are not themselves religious. A normative theology that intensifies critique represents a valuable resource for political reflection, and not only for the faithful.
Gianni Vattimo describes a postmodern Christian faith, centered upon love to the exclusion of dogma, that takes its orientation from Joachim’s practice of spiritual interpretation and his view of historical progress towards the age of the Spirit; however, he misconstrues Joachim on both counts. Whereas Vattimo supposes that Joachim's spiritual interpretation of scripture replaces literal readings, Joachim thinks they operate harmoniously together. Likewise, where Vattimo supposes that the Age of the Spirit replaces the ecclesial institutions that preceded it, Joachim is (...) clear that they will persist. Insofar as Joachim insists that profound change is consistent with persistent continuity, I argue that he articulates a relation between time and transformation that directs us beyond Vattimo's postmodern triumphalism, towards the arrival of what still outstrips our imagination. (shrink)
Although Foucault’s 1979 lectures on The Birth of Biopolitics promised to treat the theme of biopolitics, the course deals at length with neoliberalism while mentioning biopolitics hardly at all. Some scholars account for this elision by claiming that Foucault sympathized with neoliberalism; I argue on the contrary that Foucault develops a penetrating critique of the neoliberal claim to preserve individual liberty. Following Foucault, I show that the Chicago economist Gary Becker exemplifies what Foucault describes elsewhere as biopolitics: a form of (...) power applied to the behavior of a population through the normalizing use of statistics. Although Becker’s preference for indirect intervention might seem to preserve the independence of individuals, under biopolitics individual liberty is itself the means by which populations are governed indirectly. In my view, by describing the history and ambivalence of neoliberal biopolitics, Foucault fosters a critical vigilance that is the precondition for creative political resistance. (shrink)
This essay aims to clarify the debate over same-sex unions by comparing it to the fourth-century conflict concerning the nature of Jesus Christ. Although some suppose that the council of Nicaea reiterated what Christians had always believed, the Nicene theology championed by Athanasius was a dramatic innovation that only won out through protracted struggle. Similarly, despite the widespread assumption that Christian tradition univocally condemns homosexuality, the concept of sexuality is a nineteenth-century invention with no exact analogue in the ancient world. (...) Neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is addressed directly in Christian tradition; for this reason, the significance of older authorities for the modern debate is necessarily indirect. The dichotomy between progressive and conservative positions is therefore misguided: it is necessary neither to abandon tradition for the sake of progress nor to oppose innovation for the sake of fidelity. (shrink)
Giorgio Agamben argues that Christian thought provides the paradigm of modern governmental power, which reinforces mundane government by investing it with glory. Agamben claims that Dionysius the Areopagite exemplifies this structure; in his view, Dionysian negative theology serves to sacralize ecclesiastical power. In response, I argue that Dionysius desacralizes every authority, affirming that some things are sacred even as he subjects that affirmation to thoroughgoing critique. Against both dogmatic adherence and pure profanation, Dionysius models a politics that draws on the (...) power of the sacred while holding it open to unpredictable development. (shrink)
There is a tension in the Dionysian corpus between the resolute negativity of the Mystical Theology and Divine Names, on the one hand, and the affirmative confidence of the hierarchical treatises. Where the former works insist that God is entirely beyond created symbols, the latter speaks of "mediation" of the divine (CH XIII.4) and "a correlation between visible signs and invisible reality" (CH XV.5). Whereas the debate surrounding the Corpus tends to exaggerate one of these poles at the expense of (...) the other, I argue that the tension between them is best understood by way of a distinctively eschatological reading. Although scholars including Paul Rorem claim that the Corpus Dionysiacum contains no eschatology, I argue that the Divine Names describes a gap that is unmistakably temporal between what we "now grasp" and the plenitude of knowledge that remains for the "time to come" (DN (I.4). Because Dionysius claims that union with God remains a matter for expectation and is thus reserved for eschatological fulfillment, the present practice of the church that he describes necessarily takes the form of a tentative attempt to speak and act without certain knowledge. The church may continue to hope that its visible signs are taken up into the divine life, but Dionysius is clear that this affirmation is necessarily uncertain. Yet, far from undermining the present practice of faithful life, Dionysius suggests that the temporal play of presence and absence describes the condition of sacrament itself. (shrink)
This paper argues that Jacques Derrida and Meister Eckhart both construe love as a gift that is entirely free of economic exchange, and both conclude on this basis that love cannot be grasped or identified. In my reading, Eckhart and Derrida do not rule out consideration of one’s own well-being, but their accounts do entail that calculated self-protection is external to love. For this reason, they suggest, lovers should not expect to balance love against a prudential restraint: although both demands (...) are indelible, they function at different levels. A gift of this sort is ineluctably dangerous, but Derrida and Eckhart suggest that unsettling darkness must be endured in order to preserve the possibility of love. (shrink)
A growing number of scholars claim that the significance of the Corpus Areopagiticum is determined by an ecclesiastical context. When Dionysius demands the negation of every symbol in The Mystical Theology, Andrew Louth and Alexander Golitzin argue that this simply refers to the Christian liturgy. Yet although this reading has helped correct the tendency to reduce the Corpus to a manual for abstracted dogmatics, it obscures Dionysius's often radical negativity. On the one hand, Dionysius sometimes suggests that union with God (...) may be achieved through liturgical ceremonies, and the language of liturgy resonates throughout the Corpus. On the other hand, however, he states that divine transcendence requires "an undivided and absolute abandonment of yourself and everything," which implies that even ecclesial life is not ultimate. Since nothing can capture the transcendent God, Dionysius argues that all theology must fail, and yet his argument is itself theological. It is this paradoxical ambivalence which ensures that the significance of the Corpus is not exhausted by a liturgical reading: Although Dionysius advocates liturgical practice and a robustly affirmative theology, he indicates that "the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence" wherein lies union with God is an eschatological reality which remains yet to come. (shrink)
This paper argues that, among the many ways in which the work of Michel Foucault may usefully contribute to the field of Patristics, his attention to the invention of concepts represents a valuable corrective to the tendency to read ancient texts through the lens of later settlements. The temptation to construe the history of doctrine as an harmonious process of development is frequently motivated by the conviction that tradition represents a sort of continuity; in response, Foucault's method helps to clarify (...) the ruptures involved as new ways of thinking emerge. Taking the debate concerning the Nicene homoousion as an example, I aim to show that Athanasius's interpretation of Nicaea represents a genuine novelty despite his own claim to represent a univocal tradition. (shrink)
This article examines a particular debate between Eamonn Callan and William Galston concerning the need for a civic education which counters the divisive pull of pluralism by uniting the citizenry in patriotic allegiance to a single national identity. The article offers a preliminary understanding of nationalism and patriotism before setting out the terms of the debate. It then critically evaluates the central idea of Callan that one might be under an obligation morally to improve one''s own patriotic inheritance, pointing to (...) the ineliminable tension between the valuation of one''s own patria by its own terms and a detached critical reason. It concludes by suggesting that we are, in advance of our education, members of a particular patria and that any education must be particularistic. Finally, the danger is noted of presuming that, in each case, there is a single, determinate national tradition. (shrink)
In 1901 Russell had envisaged the new analytic philosophy as uniquely systematic, borrowing the methods of science and mathematics. A century later, have Russell’s hopes become reality? David Lewis is often celebrated as a great systematic metaphysician, his influence proof that we live in a heyday of systematic philosophy. But, we argue, this common belief is misguided: Lewis was not a systematic philosopher, and he didn’t want to be. Although some aspects of his philosophy are systematic, mainly his pluriverse (...) of possible worlds and its many applications, that systematicity was due to the influence of his teacher Quine, who really was an heir to Russell. Drawing upon Lewis’s posthumous papers and his correspondence as well as the published record, we show that Lewis’s non- Quinean influences, including G.E. Moore and D.M. Armstrong, led Lewis to an anti- systematic methodology which leaves each philosopher’s views and starting points to his or her own personal conscience. (shrink)
According to Richard Gelwick, one of the fundamental implications of Polanyi’s epistemology is that all intellectual disciplines are inherently heuristic. This article draws out the implications of a heuristic vision of theology latent in Polanyi’s thought by placing contemporary theologian David Brown’s dynamic understanding of tradition, imagination, and revelation in the context of a Polanyian-inspired vision of reality. Consequently, such a theology will follow the example of science, reimagining its task as one of discovery rather than mere reflection on (...) a timeless body of divine revelation. The ongoing development of a theological tradition thus involves the attempt to bring one’s understanding of the question of God to bear on the whole of the human experience. The pursuit of theology as a heuristic endeavor is a bold attempt to construct an integrated vision of nothing less than the entirety of all that is, without absolutizing one’s vision, and without giving up on the question of truth. (shrink)
This chapter presents David Foster Wallace's opinion about the three positions regarding the good life—ironism, hedonism, and narrative theories. Ironism involves distancing oneself from everything one says or does, and putting on Wallace's so-called “mask of ennui.” Wallace said that the notion appeals to ironists because it insulates them from criticism. However, he reiterated that ironists can be criticized for failing to value anything. Hedonism states that a good life consists in pleasure. Wallace rejected such a notion, doubting that (...) pleasure could play a fundamental role in the good life. Lastly, narrative theories characterize the good life by fidelity to a unified narrative-a systematic story about one's life, composed of a set of ends or principles according to which one lives. Wallace believed that these theories turn people into spectators, rather than the participants in their own lives. (shrink)
This paper provides an overview on David Lewis's writings about persistence. I focus on two issues. First, what is the relationship between the doctrine of Humean Supervenience and the rejection of endurantism? Second, why did Lewis not adopt a stage theory of persistence, given that he advocated a counterpart theory of modality?
David Bohm is one of the foremost scientific thinkers of today and one of the most distinguished scientists of his generation. His challenge to the conventional understanding of quantum theory has led scientists to reexamine what it is they are going and his ideas have been an inspiration across a wide range of disciplines. Quantum Implications is a collection of original contributions by many of the world' s leading scholars and is dedicated to David Bohm, his work and (...) the issues raised by his ideas. The contributors range across physics, philosophy, biology, art, psychology, and include some of the most distinguished scientists of the day. There is an excellent introduction by the editors, putting Bohm's work in context and setting right some of the misconceptions that have persisted about the work of David Bohm. (shrink)
In _A Companion to David Lewis_, Barry Loewer and Jonathan Schaffer bring together top philosophers to explain, discuss, and critically extend Lewis's seminal work in original ways. Students and scholars will discover the underlying themes and complex interconnections woven through the diverse range of his work in metaphysics, philosophy of language, logic, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, ethics, and aesthetics. The first and only comprehensive study of the work of David Lewis, one of the most systematic (...) and influential philosophers of the latter half of the 20th century Contributions shed light on the underlying themes and complex interconnections woven through Lewis's work across his enormous range of influence, including metaphysics, language, logic, epistemology, science, mind, ethics, and aesthetics Outstanding Lewis scholars and leading philosophers working in the fields Lewis influenced explain, discuss, and critically extend Lewis's work in original ways An essential resource for students and researchers across analytic philosophy that covers the major themes of Lewis's work. (shrink)
David Phillips’s Sidgwickian Ethics is a penetrating contribution to the scholarly and philosophical understanding of Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics. This note focuses on Phillips’s understanding of (aspects of) Sidgwick’s argument for utilitarianism and the moral epistemology to which he subscribes. In § I, I briefly outline the basic features of the argument that Sidgwick provides for utilitarianism, noting some disagreements with Phillips along the way. In § II, I raise some objections to Phillips’s account of the epistemology (...) underlying the argument. In § III, I reply to the claim that there is a puzzle at the heart of Sidgwick’s epistemology. In § IV, I respond to Phillips’s claim that Sidgwick is unfair in his argument against the (deontological) morality of common sense. (shrink)
David Lewis's book 'On the Plurality of Worlds' mounts an extended defense of the thesis of modal realism, that the world we inhabit the entire cosmos of which we are a part is but one of a vast plurality of worlds, or cosmoi, all causally and spatiotemporally isolated from one another. The purpose of this article is to provide an accessible summary of the main positions and arguments in Lewis's book.
David Friedman posed a number of libertarian philosophical problems (Friedman 1989). This essay criticizes Walter Block’s Rothbardian responses (Block 2011) and compares them with J C Lester’s critical-rationalist, libertarian-theory responses (Lester  2012). The main issues are as follows. 1. Critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism. 2.1. How libertarianism is not inherently about law and is inherently about morals. 2.2. How liberty relates to property and can be maximized: carbon dioxide and radio waves. 2.3. Applying the theory (...) to flashlights. 2.4. Applying the theory to the probability of imposed risks. 2.5. “Homesteading” or initial acquisition. 2.6 What is “essential” for a “true libertarian.” 2.7. Crime and punishment. 2.8. Extent of punishment. 2.9. The libertarian response to a madman with a gun. 2.10. How contradictions in rights are possible. 2.11. The draft. 3.1. Utilitarian libertarianism and “nose counting”. 3.2. How interpersonal comparisons of utility are possible and utility monsters are not a threat. 3.3. Why it is not utilitarian in practice to kill an innocent prisoner to prevent a riot. 3.4. Why David Friedman should not be forced to give up one of his eyes. 3.5. How utilitarians can be libertarians. Conclusion: a proper theory of liberty combined with critical rationalism offers superior solutions to Friedman’s problems. Appendix: replies to two commentators. (shrink)
In his absorbing book Art as Performance, David Davies argues that artworks should be identified, not with artistic products such as paintings or novels, but instead with the artistic actions or processes that produced such items. Such a view had an earlier incarnation in Currie’s widely criticized “action type hypothesis”, but Davies argues that it is instead action tokens rather than types with which artworks should be identified. This rich and complex work repays the closest study in spite of (...) some basic objections to be raised concerning Davies’s central concept of an action token. (shrink)
In this commentary I criticize David Rosenthal’s higher order thought theory of consciousness . This is one of the best articulated philosophical accounts of consciousness available. The theory is, roughly, that a mental state is conscious in virtue of there being another mental state, namely, a thought to the effect that one is in the first state. I argue that this account is open to the objection that it makes “HOT-zombies” possible, i.e., creatures that token higher order mental states, (...) but not the states that the higher order states are about. I discuss why none of the ways to accommodate this problem within HOT leads to viable positions. (shrink)
The death of David Lewis at the age of 60 has deprived philosophy of one of its most original and brilliant thinkers. Lewis was a systematic philosopher in a traditional sense, who created a system of thought (or metaphysical system) which attempts to reconcile the insights of modern science with pervasive elements of commonsense belief. Lewis was not a populariser and he had little to do with the more concrete and practical areas of philosophy. His work is forbiddingly abstract, (...) and deals with many of the deepest and most difficult of philosophy’s traditional concerns, including the nature of mind, causation, necessity and being. (shrink)
In the article the author rejects traditional, logical interpretation of the famous “Is-Ought Paragraph” from David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature. He argues that most of the interpreters failed to grasp the wide philosophical background of the IsOP, which is, generally speaking, a passionate discussion between ethical rationalists and ethical anti-rationalists in the 17th and 18th century British philosophy. The author shows that the Hume’s main aim in the IsOP is to strengthen his previous arguments against ethical rationalism (...) and to reinforce the common-sense systems of morality, likewise he did in the first book of the Treatise… in case of the theory of knowledge. The author argues that there is no putative thesis of logic in the IsOP, which some scholars call “Hume’s Law”. (shrink)
David Lewis claims that his theory of modality successfully reduces modal items to nonmodal items. This essay will clarify this claim and argue that it is true. This is largely an exercise within ‘Ludovician Polycosmology’: I hope to show that a certain intuitive resistance to the reduction and a set of related objections misunderstand the nature of the Ludovician project. But these results are of broad interest since they show that would-be reductionists have more formidable argumentative resources than is (...) often thought. Lewis’s reduction depends on a set of methodological commitments each of which is fairly plausible or at least currently popular, and none of which is particular to modality. The choice of which of these commitments to reject I leave to the discerning antireductionist. The essay proceeds as follows: §1 discusses reduction generally and one or two relevant puzzles; §2 discusses Lewis’s reduction in particular; the longest section, §3 replies to four objections. (shrink)
Many authors writing about global justice seem to take national responsibility more or less for granted. Most of them, however, offer very little argument for their position. One of the few exceptions is David Miller. He offers two models of collective responsibility: the like-minded group model and the cooperative practice model. While some authors have criticized whether these two models are applicable to nations, as Miller intends, my criticism is more radical: I argue that these two models fail as (...) accounts of collective responsibility as such. This result should not surprise us (liberals): there simply is no such thing as collective responsibility (in a strict sense), there is only individual responsibility. Thus individuals are not automatically responsible for the actions of their groups, nations or states, not even if they do not actively dissociate themselves from those actions. (shrink)
This paper analyses the early history of David Bohm’s mechanics from the perspective of Ludwik Fleck’s thought-collectives and shows how the thought-style of the scientific community limits the possible modes of thinking and what new possibilities for the construction of a new theory arise if these limits are removed.
Data-driven historiography of philosophy looks to objective modeling tools for illumination of the propagation of influence. While the system of David Lewis, the most influential philosopher of our time, raises historiographic puzzles to stymie conventional analytic methods, it proves amenable to data-driven analysis. A striking result is that Lewis only becomes the metaphysician of current legend following the midpoint of his career: his initial project is to frame a descriptive science of mind and meaning; the transition to metaphysics is (...) a rhetorically breathtaking escape from this program's (inevitable) collapse. Understanding this process both aids a more focused debate whether it counts as progress, and also presents novel affordances for partisans on both sides to learn from Lewis's right and wrong steps. (shrink)
Reality and Humean Supervenience confronts the reader with central aspects in the philosophy of David Lewis, whose work in ontology, metaphysics, logic, probability, philosophy of mind, and language articulates a unique and systematic foundation for modern physicalism.
This article raises the need of a historical approach to philosophical texts taking as an example the case of the ethics proposal of David Hume. It shows the interest of Hume that wants to participate actively in the intellectual dialogue of his time and his intention to integrate the scientific method into the moral sciences and how his critique of reason must be understood in this light. To do this, it is quickly mention the intellectual atmosphere of the time (...) and the positions in conflict in the philosophical debate of the 18th century: relativistic skepticism, radical rationalism and naive sentimentality, noting that, deep down, Hume cannot be excluded completely from any of these positions but not typecast in any of them. (shrink)
To enhance the plausibility of naturalistic moral realism, David Copp develops an argument from epistemic defeaters aiming to show that strongly a priori synthetic moral truths do not exist. In making a case for the non-naturalistic position, I locate Copp’s account within the wider literature on peer disagreement; I identify key points of divergence between Copp’s doctrine and conciliatorist doctrines; I introduce the notion of ‘minimal moral competence’; I contend that some plausible benchmarks for minimal moral competence are grounded (...) in substantive moral considerations; and I discuss two forms of spinelessness that Copp’s moral naturalism could result in. (shrink)
Norman Kemp Smith's The Philosophy of David Hume continues to be unsurpassed in its comprehensive coverage of the ideas and issues of Hume's Treatise. Now, after years of waiting, this currently out-of-print and highly sought-after classic is being re-issued. This ground-breaking book has long been regarded as a classic study by scholars in the field, yet a new introduction by Don Garrett places the book in its contemporary context, showing Humes's continuing importance in the field.