Thornhill, John How is one to tell the story of a life without becoming lost in uninteresting details? I had lived with this question for some days, when the answer came - as has often happened - in the early hours of the morning. I should tell my story from the end, rather than from the beginning. Destination achieved, the stages of one's progress become more meaningful.
Thornhill, John Shortly after completing my article, 'Reflections on the Gospel: after Reading Christopher Dawson', I read for the first time, C.H. Dodd's Gospel and Law, lectures given at Columbia University in 1950. This challenging work by a leading scholar prompted me to make the comparison between Protestant and Catholic approaches to the Gospel I have attempted in the present article.
Thornhill, John Among the thinkers who have helped me expand my intellectual horizons, Dawson has a unique place. From an early date, I became aware of the importance of situating the Church's expression of our faith tradition in its historical and cultural context. In time I was to find that Dawson's interpretation of cultural history made it possible to do this within the enlightening framework he provided.
Thornhill, John The evolution of Catholic culture in the modern era, with its maturing historical awareness, brings a new self-understanding better able to enter into a productive relationship with an emerging world culture. This sums up the main argument of this article.
Thornhill, John It is not difficult to recognise that the 'new evangelisation' being undertaken by today's Church presents a considerable challenge. How many in today's Church, even among our leaders, have a clear idea of what it should involve in practice?
Thornhill, John The somewhat provocative title I have given this article may surprise readers aware that from the beginning of my work as a theologian I have been proud to be known as a follower of Aquinas. I am glad for this opportunity to explain my position. The main purpose of this article, however, is giving an account of the significant developments I refer to and what they can contribute to the life of God's people.
John Clarke of Hull, one of the eighteenth century's staunchest proponents of psychological egoism, defended that theory in his Foundation of Morality in Theory and Practice. He did so mainly by opposing the objections to egoism in the first two editions of Francis Hutcheson's Inquiry into Virtue. But Clarke also produced a challenging, direct argument for egoism which, regrettably, has received virtually no scholarly attention. In this paper I give it some of the attention it merits. In addition to (...) reconstructing it and addressing interpretive issues about it, I show that it withstands a tempting objection. I also show that although Clarke's argument ultimately fails, to study it is instructive. It illuminates, for example, Hutcheson's likely intentions in a passage relevant to egoism. (shrink)
This study provides a comprehensive reinterpretation of the meaning of Locke's political thought. John Dunn restores Locke's ideas to their exact context, and so stresses the historical question of what Locke in the Two Treatises of Government was intending to claim. By adopting this approach, he reveals the predominantly theological character of all Locke's thinking about politics and provides a convincing analysis of the development of Locke's thought. In a polemical concluding section, John Dunn argues that liberal and (...) Marxist interpretations of Locke's politics have failed to grasp his meaning. Locke emerges as not merely a contributor to the development of English constitutional thought, or as a reflector of socio-economic change in seventeenth-century England, but as essentially a Calvinist natural theologian. (shrink)
Among the most animating debates in eighteenth-century British ethics was the debate over psychological egoism, the view that our most basic desires are self-interested. An important episode in that debate, less well known than it should be, was the exchange between Francis Hutcheson and John Clarke of Hull. In the early editions of his Inquiry into Virtue, Hutcheson argued ingeniously against psychological egoism; in his Foundation of Morality, Clarke argued ingeniously against Hutcheson’s arguments. Later, Hutcheson attempted new arguments against (...) psychological egoism, designed to overcome Clarke’s objections. This article examines the exchange between these philosophers. Its conclusion, influenced partly by Clarke, is that psychological egoism withstands Hutcheson’s arguments. This is not to belittle those arguments—indeed, they are among the most resourceful and plausible of their kind. The fact that egoism withstands them is thus not a mere negative result, but a stimulus to consider carefully the ways in which progress in this area may be possible. (shrink)
In this article I address a puzzle about one of Francis Hutcheson’s objections to psychological egoism. The puzzle concerns his premise that God receives no benefit from rewarding the virtuous. Why, in the early editions of his Inquiry Concerning Virtue, does Hutcheson leave this premise undefended? And why, in the later editions, does he continue to do so, knowing that in 1726 John Clarke of Hull had subjected the premise to plausible criticism, geared to the very audience for whom (...) Hutcheson’s objection to egoism was written? This puzzle is not negligible. Some might claim that Hutcheson ruins his objection by ignoring Clarke’s criticism. To answer the puzzle we must consider not only Hutcheson’s philosophy but also some theological assumptions of Hutcheson’s time. (shrink)
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has argued that rock and roll happens from the neck down. In this contribution to The Rolling Stones and Philosophy, edited by Luke Dick and George Reisch, I draw on neuroscience to argue that, in the parlance of John Stuart Mill, rock and roll is both a higher and a lower pleasure.
As we now know, most, if not all, philosophers in the High Middle Ages agreed that what we immediately perceive are external objects and that the immediate object of perception must not be some image present to the mind. Yet most — but not all — philosophers in the High Middle Ages also held, following Aristotle, that perception is a process wherein the percipient takes on the likeness of the external object. This likeness — called a species — is a (...) representation (of some sort) by means of which we immediately perceive external objects. But how can perception be at once direct — or immediate — and at the same time by way of representations? The usual answer here was that the species represents the external object to some percipient even though the species itself is not at all perceived: the species is that by which I perceive and not that which I perceive. John Buridan defends this traditional view — call it direct realism with representations. However, just a couple of decades before Buridan, one of the more important philosophers at Paris, Durand of St.-Pourçain, had already rejected direct realism with representation. Durand defends what I will call direct realism without representations. On his view, a species is not at all necessary during overtly direct forms of perception, neither as cause nor as representation. This paper has two parts. In the first part, I will discuss some of the more interesting arguments that Durand makes against direct realism with representations. In the second part, I will look at Buridan's defense of the view. -/- . (shrink)
John Dewey’s pragmatism and naturalism are grounded on metaphysical tenets describing how mind’s intelligence is thoroughly natural in its activity and productivity. His worldview is best classified as Organic Realism, since it descended from the German organicism and Naturphilosophie of Herder, Schelling, and Hegel which shaped the major influences on his early thought. Never departing from its tenets, his later philosophy starting with Experience and Nature elaborated a philosophical organon about science, culture, and ethics to fulfill his particular version (...) of Organic Realism. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the requirement for the qualitative is theory-dependent, determined by the fundamental assumptions built into the ontology. John Heil’s qualitative, in its role as individuator of objects and powers, is required only by a theory that posits a world of distinct objects or powers. Does Heil’s ‘deep’ view of the world, such that there is only one powerful object require the qualitative as individuator of objects and powers? The answer depends on whether it is (...) possible to account for the manifest objects and the ostensible spatial primacy of our perceived world without recourse to the qualitative. In this paper I outline just such an account with the intention of extending Heil’s efforts to incorporate fundamental power in the world while providing a coherent explanation for our strong intuition of spatial, as against relational, priority. (shrink)
The apparent tension between the moral codes of the Old and New Testaments constitutes a perennial problem for Christian ethics. Scholars who have taken this problem seriously have often done so in ways that presume sharp discontinuity between the Testaments. They then proceed to devise a system for identifying what is or is not relevant today, or what pertains to this or that particular social sphere. John Howard Yoder brings fresh perspectives to this perennial problem by refuting the presumption (...) of intratestamental discontinuity. Throughout multiple scattered works on the Old Testament, Yoder offers a coherent and provocative narration that culminates in the way of Christ and establishes the ethical continuity of the entire biblical canon. This essay presents the basic parameters of Yoder's Old Testament narration, suggests points where revision is needed, and highlights several implications for social ethics. (shrink)
The Reasonableness of Christianity is a major work by one of the greatest modern philosophers. Published anonymously in 1695, it entered a world upset by fierce theological conflict and immediately became a subject of controversy. At issue were the author’s intentions. John Edwards labelled it a Socinian work and charged that it was subversive not only of Christianity but of religion itself others praised it as a sure preservative of both. Few understood Locke’s intentions, and perhaps no one fully. (...) This new collection describes the background to Locke’s book and documents the disputes that followed its publication. Providing an invaluable insight into the context of its conception and reception, it includes contributions by Samuel Bold, John Edwards, Charles Blount, and Daniel Waterland, bringing the discussion up to the eighteenth century. Also included is a review of the Reasonableness found among Locke’s unpublished papers and published here for the first time. The volume will be of interest to philosophers of religion and theologians as well as historians. (shrink)
Some argue that humans should enhance their moral capacities by adopting institutions that facilitate morally good motives and behaviour. I have defended a parallel claim: that we could permissibly use biomedical technologies to enhance our moral capacities, for example by attenuating certain counter-moral emotions. John Harris has recently responded to my argument by raising three concerns about the direct modulation of emotions as a means to moral enhancement. He argues that such means will be relatively ineffective in bringing about (...) moral improvements, that direct modulation of emotions would invariably come at an unacceptable cost to our freedom, and that we might end up modulating emotions in ways that actually lead to moral decline. In this article I outline some counter-intuitive potential implications of Harris' claims. I then respond individually to his three concerns, arguing that they license only the very weak conclusion that moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation is sometimes impermissible. However I acknowledge that his third concern might, with further argument, be developed into a more troubling objection to such enhancements. (shrink)
While examining the important role of imagination in making moral judgments, John Dewey and Moral Imagination focuses new attention on the relationship between American pragmatism and ethics. Steven Fesmire takes up threads of Dewey's thought that have been largely unexplored and elaborates pragmatism's distinctive contribution to understandings of moral experience, inquiry, and judgment. Building on two Deweyan notions—that moral character, belief, and reasoning are part of a social and historical context and that moral deliberation is an imaginative, dramatic rehearsal (...) of possibilities—Fesmire shows that moral imagination can be conceived as a process of aesthetic perception and artistic creativity. Fesmire's original readings of Dewey shed new light on the imaginative process, human emotional make-up and expression, and the nature of moral judgment. This original book presents a robust and distinctly pragmatic approach to ethics, politics, moral education, and moral conduct. (shrink)
A thorough examination of John Wesley’s writings will show that he was not a biblical literalist or infallibilist, despite his own occasional suggestions to the contrary. His most important principles for interpreting the Bible were: We should take its words literally only if doing so is not absurd, in which case we should “look for a looser meaning;” and “No Scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works.” Eleven instances (...) of his not taking biblical texts literally are examined. His real view was something like this: Biblical language is infallibly and literally true if and only if it does not contradict more basic scriptures and is not absurd, that is, not construed literally when metaphorical, or not misleadingly metaphorical, or not oversimplified or exaggerated, or not culture bound, or not contrary to reason and experience, or not ethically unconscionable and unloving. (shrink)
This article shows how feminism welcomed and was influenced by the pragmatism of John Dewey. While in real terms his impact on European feminism has been minimal, this was not the case in contemporary America. In this article we study both how Dewey’s ideas were received amongst American feminists, as well as certain aspects of his thinking that could be enormously useful in present-day debates between critical and postmodern feminists. We compare the Deweyan and feminist arguments against the traditional (...) dualisms that acted as philosophical support for social inequality, paying particular attention to mind–body dualism, and the consequent undervaluation of physical and emotional wellbeing. We also show that John Dewey’s proposals were, in fact, more radical than those of the feminists of the day. Indeed, democracy has to be understood as a way of life that affects every dimension of experience, and is crucial to the personal and social growth that enables the unjust social inequalities between men and women to be overcome. (shrink)
"When John Dewey died in 1952, he was memorialized as America's most famous philosopher, revered by liberal educators and deplored by conservatives, but universally acknowledged as his country's intellectual voice. Many things conspired to give Dewey an extraordinary intellectual eminence: He was immensely long-lived and immensely prolific; he died in his ninety-third year, and his intellectual productivity hardly slackened until his eighties." "Professor Alan Ryan offers new insights into Dewey's many achievements, his character, and the era in which his (...) scholarship had a remarkable impact. He investigates the question of what an American audience wanted from a public philosopher - from an intellectual figure whose credentials came from his academic standing as a philosopher, but whose audience was much wider than an academic one." "Ryan argues that Dewey's "religious" outlook illuminates his politics much more vividly than it does the politics of religion as ordinarily conceived. He examines how Dewey fit into the American radical tradition, how he was and was not like his transatlantic contemporaries, why he could for so long practice a form of philosophical inquiry that became unfashionable in England after 1914 at the latest."--BOOK JACKET. (shrink)
My aim in this chapter is to place John Stuart Mill’s distinctive utilitarian political philosophy in the context of the debate about luck, responsibility, and equality. I hope it will reveal the extent to which his utilitarianism provides a helpful framework for synthesizing the competing claims of luck and relational egalitarianism. I attempt to show that when Mill’s distributive justice commitments are not decided by direct appeal to overall happiness, they are guided by three main public principles: an impartiality (...) principle, a sufficiency principle, and a merit principle. The question then becomes how luck and relational considerations figure into his articulation of these public principles. I argue that relational egalitarianism is more fundamental than considerations of luck and responsibility in Mill’s thought, but I also hope to show that any fleshed out picture of Mill’s reform proposals must recognize his condemnation of the role luck plays in determining the distribution of opportunities and outcomes. (shrink)
John McDowell's contribution to philosophy has ranged across Greek philosophy, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and ethics. His writings have drawn on the works of, amongst others, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Sellars, and Davidson. His contributions have made him one of the most widely read, discussed and challenging philosophers writing today. This book provides a careful account of the main claims that McDowell advances in a number of different areas of philosophy. The interconnections between the (...) different arguments are highlighted and Tim Thornton shows how these individual projects are unified in a post-Kantian framework that articulates the preconditions of thought and language. Thornton sets out the differing strands of McDowell's work prior to, and leading up to, their combination in the broader philosophical vision revealed in "Mind and World" and provides an interpretative and critical framework that will help shape ongoing debates surrounding McDowell's work. An underlying theme of the book is whether McDowell's therapeutic approach to philosophy, which owes much to the later Wittgenstein, is consistent with the substance of McDowell's discussion of nature that uses the vocabulary of other philosophers including, centrally, Kant. (shrink)
In this essay we will take the American experimental composer John Cage’s understanding of sound as the starting point for an evaluation of that term in the field of sound studies. Drawing together two of the most influential figures in the field, Cage’s thought and work will serve as a lens through which to engage with recent debate concerning the uptake in sound studies of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. In so doing we will attempt to develop a path (...) between conflicting sides of sound studies, putting forward an understanding of sound that presents it not as an uninterrogated ontological essence, nor as only a term in a discursive web, but as a problem which must be repeatedly posed anew. We will consider points where this may yet be pushed towards a reified, essentialized understanding of the nature of sound, but move to offset this by emphasizing the production of a practical process of learning and experimentation. (shrink)
In recent years, pragmatism in general and John Dewey in particular have been of increasing interest to philosophers of science. Dewey's work provides an interesting alternative package of views to those which derive from the logical empiricists and their critics, on problems of both traditional and more recent vintage. Dewey's work ought to be of special interest to recent philosophers of science committed to the program of analyzing ``science in practice.'' The core of Dewey's philosophy of science is his (...) theory of inquiry---what he called ``logic.'' There is a major lacuna in the literature on this point, however: no contemporary philosophers of science have engaged with Dewey's logical theory, and scholars of Dewey's logic have rarely made connections with philosophy of science. This paper aims to fill this gap, to correct some significant errors in the interpretation of key ideas in Dewey's logical theory, and to show how Dewey's logic provides resources for a philosophy of science. (shrink)
There are two general routes that Augustine suggests in De Trinitate, XV, 14-16, 23-25, for a psychological account of the Father's intellectual generation of the Word. Thomas Aquinas and Henry of Ghent, in their own ways, follow the first route; John Duns Scotus follows the second. Aquinas, Henry, and Scotus's psychological accounts entail different theological opinions. For example, Aquinas (but neither Henry nor Scotus) thinks that the Father needs the Word to know the divine essence. If we compare the (...) theological views entailed by their psychologies we find a trajectory from Aquinas, through Henry, and ending with Scotus. This theological trajectory falsifies a judgment that every Augustinian psychology of the divine persons amounts to a pre-Nicene functional Trinitarianism. This study makes clear how one's awareness of the theological views entailed by these psychologies enables one to assess more thoroughly psychological accounts of the identity and distinction of the divine persons. (shrink)