Central to Descartes’ philosophy is a view about immutable essences and eternal truths. After mentioning a Platonist account of recollection in Meditation V, Descartes declares that the ideas we have of mathematical notions “are not my invention but have their own true and immutable natures” (AT VII, 64/CSM II, 44).Descartes claims that other important philosophical notions, such as God, mind, body, and human free will (AT VII, 68; AT VIII-2, 348; AT III, 383; AT VII, 433, respectively), also have immutable (...) natures or essences. Although Descartes says a good many things about this view, nowhere does he offer definitive doctrine on the matter, and in fact frequently confuses his reader with apparently inconsistent pronouncements about immutable natures and eternal truths. In this essay, I focus on the immutable natures and propose a solution to two of the main problems associated with Descartes’ position, the metaphysical status of immutable natures and the purported indivisibility of their existence as ideas in the mind. (shrink)
Legitimacy challenges are part of human societies. Whenever we recognise a person, law, ideal or institution as authoritative, questions can be raised about their legitimacy. Why follow this law? Why strive to honour this moral ideal? If such questions are repeatedly raised, they pose an undermining threat to the authorities in question. This is good if the challenged law or ideal is harmful, but problematic, if it is beneficial. Where the first kind of legitimacy challenges are raised by ethical pioneers (...) and moral critics, the last kind are posed by cynics, who disregard the demands of law and morality when they conflict with their interests. The threat to human society caused by cynicism is part of the reason why philosophers since Plato have sought to address and rid society of it.This article discusses how philosophy can deal with cynicism. It does so by firstly looking at how Anthony Holiday defends a moral realist theory and disproves ‘the theory of cynicism’ as well as tries to subvert real life cynics. Secondly, the work of the later Wittgenstein is used to discuss Holiday’s approach, finding it to some extent wanting in both its theoretical and practical aims.Lastly, inspired by Stanley Cavell’s thinking it is suggested that cynicism calls for not only problem solving and problem dissolving, but also something we might call reconciliation. (shrink)
Physicalism is the most widely accepted metaphysical view today. The thesis of physicalism, however, seems unable to adequately explain the existence and nature of consciousness. Moreover, the thesis is not itself a scientific finding but must be characterized as a metaphysical assumption. Hence, there are strong reasons to explore alternatives to the physicalist view. While metaphysical theses based on classic idealistic views like subjective or absolute idealism have been largely absent from the philosophical debate during most of the 20th century, (...) in the last few decades theses of this kind have been advocated, most notably by John Foster and Timothy Sprigge. Russell’s and Moore’s influential refutations of idealism have been severely questioned by recent scholarship, which means that conventional arguments against absolute idealism appear to be significantly less well-founded than what is usually assumed. With Sprigge’s panpsychistic absolute idealistic metaphysical system as the basis and by incorporating key elements in Foster’s thinking, the present paper outlines an idealistic thesis which, it is argued, first of all escapes the problem of consciousness inherent in physicalism and secondly counters important arguments raised against Sprigge’s views, including the question of personal identity and the problem of the one and the many. In addition, this thesis can be seen as naturalistic in a broad sense, thereby potentially being of existential relevance also within the framework of modernity. Thus, it is the aim of the present paper to argue – although sketchily – that despite its controversial character in the light of contemporary mainstream views, panpsychistic absolute idealism demonstrates a significant explanatory power and is therefore of philosophical interest as a subject for further study. (shrink)
While reading literary works, what do readers experience? Do they experience only the words they listen to or read? How can we describe the experience of reading literary works? Do phantasy and imagination play any role during such experiences? These kinds of questions usually give rise to a twofold kind of research: on the one hand, a philosophical effort of combing through literature itself as a philosophical object of study, and — on the other hand — an attempt to argue (...) for a cognitive portrait of those processes triggered by reading or listening to words. Nevertheless, if we put aside these two sets of studies, which are plenty widespread and partly related to scientific branches, three new and interwoven ways of broaching the issue of literary experience come to light: 1) readers’ experiences of literary worlds; 2) readers’ visual involvement in literary experiences; 3) phantasy’s and imagination’s involvement in such experiences. These issues are strongly interwoven since each of them deals with the experience of reading literary works from slightly different perspectives: the first concerns the objects of literary experiences, the second focuses on a specific component of literary experiences, while the third aims at comprehending what role is up to phantasy and imagination during such experiences. The following research purports to answer the aforementioned questions and, in so doing, it develops and argues for the following thesis, which is the heart of the matter: reading literary works means experiencing literary worlds and, consequently, describing literary experiences means describing the literary worlds we experience while reading literary works. (shrink)
“But can philosophy become literature and still know itself?” With this pointed question the American philosopher Stanley Cavell famously ended his monumental work The Claim of Reason, thereby expressing his vision for the relation between philosophy and literature.
Plato’s unease with the poets is well-known from his expulsion of them from his city-state in The Republic, where they embody the very inversion of philosophical self-understanding. Philosophy – which is guided by reason, wisdom, and self-control – is here seen to find itself in the highest opposition to poetry inasmuch the latter dangerously provokes desire, pleasure, and madness. Here philosophy is understood as a praxis of reason, establishing an ideal, active, and self-determined homogeneity opposed to poetry, understood as an (...) illusory, passive, and alienated heterogeneity. However, poetry is more positively presented in Phaedrus. Things seem to have been turned upside-down, since philosophy now is presented as a twin brother to poetry, as both originate from god given madness. (shrink)
This article presents a reflection of the epistemological question of literary representation of reality. The epistemological status of literature is not obvious, because literature is fictional. Therefore, it is not evident in what way literature represents reality and to what degree the literary representation is true in the corresponding sense of the word. Through an exploration of Proust and his reflections on the same question in A la recherche du temp perdu, this article will analyse the representational question. This analysis (...) will focus on a conflict between an essential understanding of truth, detached from the temporal reality, and a superficial referential realism. It will present an alternative phenomenological and semiotic realism, which connects the specific description in literature with a general conceptual level. In addition, the relationship between the perceptual and conceptual level will further be linked to cognitive semantics and Lakoff’s concept of cognitive models. (shrink)
As the title of my paper reveals, the question that I want to discuss is a simple one: How should we justify ethical criticism of literature? To try to answer this question may, however, seem like a strange task for two very different reasons.
In the year 2001 Kristian Ditlev Jensen, a young Danish journalist and former literary student, published a book by the title Det bliver sagt. Here he told of the sexual abuses he suffered as a child in a relationship with a pedophile adult friend, called Gustav in the book. The book became a sensation, not only due to its shocking content but also because of its astonishing literary qualities. It has the suspense of a page turner and at the same (...) time it is an analytical intelligent autobiography: it tells the everlasting story of how an individual person on his specific terms is confronted with the world and struggles to find his place in it. It is furthermore a kind of journalist documentary, where the same person is the investigator and part of the story being investigated. How should one read and respond critically to a book of this complex nature? (shrink)
Philosopher and literary theorist, Jacques Rancière, has argued that Marcel Proust’s work as a novelist enables us to understand how modern literature articulates and largely resolves a specifically aesthetic crisis. From Rancière’s standpoint, Proust shows us how the dominant conflict in nineteenth-century French literature was carried beyond a mere opposition and given a new aesthetic significance in the modern novel. In this paper, I will discuss Jacques Rancière’s attempt to assess Proust’s contribution to literature in the wake of the aesthetic (...) tradition epitomized by Kant and Schiller. Crucial to this attempt is the deployment of aesthetics as a historical discourse that introduces the possibility of variation in relation to the real. More specifically, I will examine Rancière’s argument that metaphor in Proust’s work has the capacity to transform a sense of doubleness into a new understanding of the real. (shrink)
Possible and narrative worlds are traditionally the most influential tools for explaining our understanding of fiction. One obvious implication of this is considering fiction as a matter of pretence. The theory I offer claims that it is a mistake to take truth as a substantial notion. This view rejects possible worlds and pretence as decisive features in dealing with fiction. Minimalist theory of fiction offers a solution that gives a way to combine a philosophical theory of meaning and views of (...) literary theory. Narrative worlds approach saves its usefulness since its focus is more in the psychological process of reading. Minimalist theory of fiction is based on the minimal theory of truth and the use theory of meaning. The idea of language games as a practice of constructing contextual meanings is also decisive. A sentence is not true because it corresponds to a fact but because it is used in a right way in certain circumstances. The rejection of the possible worlds approach is thus based on the idea that understanding fiction is essentially about recognizing the constant interplay between different texts and contexts. Better understanding makes different interpretations possible. (shrink)
This article explores some of the thoughts on literature and its cognitive potential, its revelatory force, found in the philosophy of Danish thinker, philosopher and theologian K.E. Løgstrup. Løgstrup was a professor of ethics and the philosophy of religion at Aarhus University, and he was a very influential person in Danish culture from the 1950’s until his death in 1981. The topic in question here concerns the relation between art and reality – or to put it another way the relation (...) between art and truth. Løgstrup will not be the only stepping stone, however, as we will take our point of departure in contemporary Norwegian novelist, and a philosophical thinker in his own right, Karl Ove Knausgård and the thoughts on literature and art found in his monumental series of six novels, My Struggle. (shrink)