According to the presumption of atheism, we are to presume disbelief unless agnosticism or theism can be adequately defended. In this paper I will defend the presumption of atheism against a popular objection made by Thomas Morris and elucidate an insuperable difficulty for any attempt to argue for a presumption of agnosticism.
Extract from Hofstadter's revew in Bulletin of American Mathematical Society : http://www.ams.org/journals/bull/1980-02-02/S0273-0979-1980-14752-7/S0273-0979-1980-14752-7.pdf -/- "Aaron Sloman is a man who is convinced that most philosophers and many other students of mind are in dire need of being convinced that there has been a revolution in that field happening right under their noses, and that they had better quickly inform themselves. The revolution is called "Artificial Intelligence" (Al)-and Sloman attempts to impart to others the "enlighten- ment" which he clearly regrets not (...) having experienced earlier himself. Being somewhat of a convert, Sloman is a zealous campaigner for his point of view. Now a Reader in Cognitive Science at Sussex, he began his academic career in more orthodox philosophy and, by exposure to linguistics and AI, came to feel that all approaches to mind which ignore AI are missing the boat. I agree with him, and I am glad that he has written this provocative book. The tone of Sloman's book can be gotten across by this quotation (p. 5): "I am prepared to go so far as to say that within a few years, if there remain any philosophers who are not familiar with some of the main developments in artificial intelligence, it will be fair to accuse them of professional incom- petence, and that to teach courses in philosophy of mind, epistemology, aesthetics, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, ethics, metaphysics, and other main areas of philosophy, without discussing the relevant aspects of artificial intelligence will be as irresponsible as giving a degree course in physics which includes no quantum theory." -/- (The author now regrets the extreme polemical tone of the book.). (shrink)
According to Glannon and Ross, for an act to be considered altruistic, it cannot be obligatory nor motivated by expectation of self-reward. Given that parents are obligated to help their children and stand to benefit greatly from donating, the authors conclude that parent to child organ donation is not altruistic. Are they correct? I am not sure. In my view, this is a semantic question and the answer depends upon how one defines altruism. Altruism is a complex subject that means (...) different things to different people. If we say that an altruistic act is one that is performed voluntarily, is risky or costly to the actor, and is designed only to benefit others with no expectation of self-reward, then it may be difficult or impossible to identify any such acts. When one risks her own life to save a stranger, others may ask: “Did she really act solely to benefit another or was she motivated, at least in part, by a need to satisfy her conscience or a desire to feel good about herself?” This question is relevant to the motivation of living organ donors. In contrast to the authors' answer that strangers who donate organs do so only out of concern for other people, Carl Fellner argued that many living organ donors, even those who are not related to their recipients, act to benefit themselves. If Fellner is correct, and if organ donation by parents is not altruistic because of the possibility of self-reward, perhaps the same is true of organ donation by strangers. (shrink)
Aaron Zimmerman presents a new pragmatist account of belief, in terms of information poised to guide our more attentive, controlled actions. And he explores the consequences of this account for our understanding of the relation between psychology and philosophy, the mind and brain, the nature of delusion, faith, pretence, racism, and more.
The Deed is Everything offers an engaging new interpretation of Nietzsche as committed to an 'expressivist' conception of agency. Aaron Ridley shows that Nietzsche develops highly distinctive accounts of freedom, morality, and selfhood, with a robust commitment to the value of human excellence in all of its forms.
I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one is causally responsible for the (...) good. I argue that the best theory of the meaning of life should clearly distinguish between subjective fulfillment and objective meaningfulness. The GCA respects the distinction. And it is superior to its leading rivals in the recent literature, most notably those of Erik Wielenberg and Susan Wolf. (shrink)
Some brain injured patients are left in a permanent vegetative state, i.e., they have irreversibly lost their capacity for consciousness but retained some autonomic physiological functions, such as breathing unaided. Having discussed the controversial nature of the permanent vegetative state as a diagnostic category, we turn to the question of the patients’ ontological status. Are the permanently vegetative alive, dead, or in some other state? We present empirical data from interviews with relatives of patients, and with experts, to support the (...) view that the ontological state of permanently vegetative patients is unclear: such patients are neither straightforwardly alive nor simply dead. Having defended this view from counter-arguments we turn to the practical question as to how these patients ought to be treated. Some relatives and experts believe it is right for patients to be shifted from their currently unclear ontological state to that of being straightforwardly dead, but many are concerned or even horrified by the only legally sanctioned method guaranteed to achieve this, namely withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration. A way of addressing this distress would be to allow active euthanasia for these patients. This is highly controversial; but we argue that standard objections to allowing active euthanasia for this particular class of permanently vegetative patients are weakened by these patients’ distinctive ontological status. (shrink)
Most philosophers since Sidgwick have thought that the various forms of pleasure differ so radically that one cannot find a common, distinctive feeling among them. This is known as the heterogeneity problem. To get around this problem, the motivational theory of pleasure suggests that what makes an experience one of pleasure is our reaction to it, not something internal to the experience. I argue that the motivational theory is wrong, and not only wrong, but backwards. The heterogeneity problem is the (...) principal source of motivation for this, otherwise, highly counterintuitive theory. I intend to show that the heterogeneity problem is not a genuine problem and that a more straightforward theory of pleasure is forthcoming. I argue that the various experiences that we call pleasures all feel good. (shrink)
The idea of absolute goodness and the idea of an absolute requitement tend nowadays to be viewed with suspicion in the world of English-speaking philosophy. The tendency is well rooted and has not just arisen by osmosis from the temper of the times. There are various lines of thought, all of them attractive, by which a recent or contemporary academic practitioner of the subject could have been induced into scepticism about an ethics of absolute conceptions.
I distill three somewhat interrelated approaches to the ethical criticism of humor: (1) attitude-based theories, (2) merited-response theories, and (3) emotional responsibility theories. I direct the brunt of my effort at showing the limitations of the attitudinal endorsement theory by presenting new criticisms of Ronald de Sousa’s position. Then, I turn to assess the strengths of the other two approaches, showing that that their major formulations implicitly require the problematic attitudinal endorsement theory. I argue for an effects-mediated responsibility theory , (...) holding that the strongest ethical criticism that can be made of our sense of humor is that it might indicate some omission on our part. This omission could only be culpable in so far as a particular joke could do harm to oneself or others. In response to Ted Cohen’s doubts that such a mechanism of harm is forthcoming, I argue that the primary vehicle of the harmful effects of humor is laughter. (shrink)
Neo-Cartesian approaches to belief place greater evidential weight on a subject's introspective judgments than do neo-behaviorist accounts. As a result, the two views differ on whether our absent-minded and weak-willed actions are guided by belief. I argue that simulationist accounts of the concept of belief are committed to neo-Cartesianism, and, though the conceptual and empirical issues that arise are inextricably intertwined, I discuss experimental results that should point theory-theorists in that direction as well. Belief is even less closely connected to (...) behaviour than most contemporary functionalists allow. (shrink)
Why do people seemingly want to be scared by movies and feel pity for fictional characters when they avoid situations in real life that arouse these same negative emotions? Although the domain of relevant artworks encompasses far more than just tragedy, the general problem is typically called the paradox of tragedy. The paradox boils down to a simple question: If people avoid pain then why do people want to experience art that is painful? I discuss six popular solutions to the (...) paradox: conversion, control, compensatory, meta-response, catharsis, and rich experience theories. (shrink)
One of the most profound interactions that can occur between people, apologies have the power to heal humiliations, free the mind from deep-seated guilt, remove the desire for vengeance, and ultimately restore broken relationships. With On Apology, Aaron Lazare offers an eye-opening analysis of this vital interaction, illuminating an often hidden corner of the human heart. He discusses the importance of shame, guilt, and humiliation, the initial reluctance to apologize, the simplicity of the act of apologizing, the spontaneous generosity (...) and forgiveness on the part of the offended, the transfer of power and respect between two parties, and much more. Readers will not only find a wealth of insight that they can apply to their own lives, but also a deeper understanding of national and international conflicts and how we might resolve them. The act of apologizing is quite simply immensely fulfilling. On Apology opens a window onto this common occurrence to reveal the feelings and actions at the heart of this profound interaction. (shrink)
Although I reject his argument, I defend Bernard Williams’s claim that we would lose reason to go on if we were to live forever. Through a consideration of Borges’s story "The Immortal," I argue that immortality would be motivationally devastating, since our decisions would carry little weight, our achievements would be hollow victories of mere diligence, and the prospect of eternal frustration would haunt our every effort. An immortal life for those of limited ability will inevitably result in endless frustration, (...) since the number of significant projects that one is capable of completing is finite, but the span of time is infinite. (shrink)
Replication or even modelling of consciousness in machines requires some clariﬁcations and reﬁnements of our concept of consciousness. Design of, construction of, and interaction with artiﬁcial systems can itself assist in this conceptual development. We start with the tentative hypothesis that although the word “consciousness” has no well-deﬁned meaning, it is used to refer to aspects of human and animal informationprocessing. We then argue that we can enhance our understanding of what these aspects might be by designing and building virtual-machine (...) architectures capturing various features of consciousness. This activity may in turn nurture the development of our concepts of consciousness, showing how an analysis based on information-processing virtual machines answers old philosophical puzzles as well enriching empirical theories. This process of developing and testing ideas by developing and testing designs leads to gradual reﬁnement of many of our pre-theoretical concepts of mind, showing how they can be construed as implicitly “architecture-based” concepts. Understanding how humanlike robots with appropriate architectures are likely to feel puzzled about qualia may help us resolve those puzzles. The concept of “qualia” turns out to be an “architecture-based” concept, while individual qualia concepts are “architecture-driven”. (shrink)
It is commonly suggested that empathy is a morally important quality to possess and that a failure to properly empathize with others is a kind of moral failure. This suggestion assumes that empathy involves caring for others’ well-being. Skeptics challenge the moral importance of empathy by arguing that empathy is neither necessary nor sufficient to care for others’ well-being. This challenge is misguided. Although some forms of empathy may not be morally important, empathy with another’s basic well-being concerns is both (...) necessary and sufficient to care for another’s well-being, provided that one’s empathy is both cognitive and affective. I further defend the idea that empathy of this form is a moral virtue. In doing so, I address three challenges to empathy’s status as a virtue: (1) that empathy is unnecessary for being ethical, (2) that it is not useful for promoting ethical behavior, and (3) that an empathetic person can lack other traits central to being virtuous, such as being motivated by the moral good and being disposed to do virtuous things whenever appropriate opportunities arise. I argue that these challenges are mistaken. (shrink)
Aaron Ridley explores Nietzsche's mature ethical thought as expressed in his masterpiece On the Genealogy of Morals. Taking seriously the use that Nietzsche makes of human types, Ridley arranges his book thematically around the six characters who loom largest in that work—the slave, the priest, the philosopher, the artist, the scientist, and the noble. By elucidating what the Genealogy says about these figures, he achieves a persuasive new assessment of Nietzsche's ethics. Ridley's intellectually supple interpretation reveals Nietzsche's ethical position (...) to be deeper and more interesting than is often supposed: the relation, for instance, between Nietzsche's ideal of the noble and the ascetic or priestly conscience does not emerge as a stark opposition but as a rich interplay between the tensions inherent in each. Equally, he shows that certain under-appreciated confusions in Nietzsche's thought reveal much about the positive aspects of the philosopher's moral vision. The only book devoted entirely to the Genealogy, Nietzsche's Conscience offers a sympathetic but tough-minded critical reading of the philosopher's most important work. Delivered in clear and vigorous language and employing a broadly analytical approach, Ridley's commentary makes Nietzsche's reflections on morality more accessible than they have been hitherto. (shrink)
Hannah Arendt's essays about the 1957 crisis over efforts of a group of youth, the “Little Rock Nine,” to desegregate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, reveal a tension in her vision of the “public.” In this article Aaron Schutz and Marie Sandy look closely at the experiences of the youth desegregating the school, especially those of Elizabeth Eckford, drawing upon them to trace a continuum of forms of public engagement in Arendt's work. This ranges from arenas of (...) “deliberative friendship,” where unique individuals collaborate on common efforts, to a more conflictual “public stage,” where groups act in solidarity to change aspects of the public world. While Arendt famously asserted in her essay “The Crisis in Education” that political capacities should not be taught in schools, it makes more sense to see this argument as focused on what she sometimes called the conflictual “public stage,” reflecting the experience of the Little Rock Nine. In contrast, Schutz and Sandy argue that Arendt's own work implies that “deliberative friendship,” as described in her essay “Philosophy and Politics” and elsewhere, should be part of everyday practices in classrooms and schools. (shrink)
In this article I defend innocuousism– a weak form of Epicureanism about the putative badness of death. I argue that if we assume both mental statism about wellbeing and that death is an experiential blank, it follows that death is not bad for the one who dies. I defend innocuousism against the deprivation account of the badness of death. I argue that something is extrinsically bad if and only if it leads to states that are intrinsically bad. On my view, (...) sometimes dying may be less good than living, but it is never bad to die. (shrink)
Emotions involve complex processes produced by interactions between motives, beliefs, percepts, etc. E.g. real or imagined fulfilment or violation of a motive, or triggering of a 'motive-generator', can disturb processes produced by other motives. To understand emotions, therefore, we need to understand motives and the types of processes they can produce. This leads to a study of the global architecture of a mind. Some constraints on the evolution of minds are disussed. Types of motives and the processes they generate are (...) sketched. (shrink)
Ridley's book is both an introduction to philosophy of music generally and an introduction to an individual, pungently flavoured philosophy of music. His arguments are lively and provocative, and to boot, he writes like a dream. This is the kind of book that reminds one why philosophy matters, especially as applied to the things we love most.-Jerrold Levinson, professor of philosophy, University of Maryland This outstanding book provides new and distinctive approaches to the five central topics of musical aesthetics: understanding, (...) representation, expression, performance and profundity. The central theme is the failure of the orthodox view-that pieces of music are more or less self-contained structures of sound-accounts for important features of our musical experience, and explains why music should matter to us. Each chapter is built around a single musical work. Readers are introduced to the main positions in the philosophy of music. Ridley exposes and corrects the failure of the orthodox view and proposes fresh solutions. Additionally, Ridley offers innovative approaches to the philosophy of song, musical ontology, and to questions about the value of music. P>Features * Broad, accessible introductory overview to philosophy of music * Original and stimulating insights. (shrink)
Many of the most popular genres of narrative art are designed to elicit negative emotions: emotions that are experienced as painful or involving some degree of pain, which we generally avoid in our daily lives. Melodramas make us cry. Tragedies bring forth pity and fear. Conspiratorial thrillers arouse feelings of hopelessness and dread, and devotional religious art can make the believer weep in sorrow. Not only do audiences know what these artworks are supposed to do; they seek them out in (...) pursuit of prima facie painful reactions.Traditionally, the question of why people seek out such experiences of painful art has been presented as the paradox of tragedy. Most solutions to the paradox of tragedy assume that the reason we seek out tragedies, horror films, melodramas, and the like is because they afford pleasureful experiences. From there, theorists attempt to account for the source of this pleasure, a pleasure assumed to be had from representations of events from which we do not derive pleasure in real life. I argue that this assumption is suspect: the motive for seeking out devotional religious art, melodrama, tragedy, and some horror is not clearly to find pleasure. (shrink)
I argue that genuine moral flaws never enhance amusement, but they sometimes detract.I argue against comic immoralism--the position that moral flaws can make attempts at humor more amusing.Two common errors have made immoralism look attractive.First, immoralists have confused outrageous content with genuine moral flaws.Second, immoralists have failed to see that it is not sufficient to show that a morally flawed joke is amusing; they need to show that a joke can be more amusing because of the fact that it is (...) morally flawed.I argue that the immoralist lacks a plausible account of how this could be the case.I reject immoralism and argue for comic moralism—the position that moral flaws can make attempts at humor less amusing. (shrink)
Several philosophers have recently defended Causal Essentialism—the view that every property confers causal powers, and whatever powers it confers, it confers essentially. I argue that on the face of it, Causal Essentialism implies a form of Monism, and in particular, the thesis I call ‘Mereological Monism’: that there is some concretum that is a part of every concretum. However, there are three escape routes, three views which are such that if one of them is true, Causal Essentialism does not imply (...) any form of Monism at all. I survey the costs associated with taking these escape routes along with the costs associated with accepting Mereological Monism. (shrink)
How do we know right from wrong? Do we even have moral knowledge? Moral epistemology studies these and related questions about our understanding of virtue and vice. It is one of philosophy’s perennial problems, reaching back to Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Hume and Kant, and has recently been the subject of intense debate as a result of findings in developmental and social psychology. Throughout the book Zimmerman argues that our belief in moral knowledge can survive sceptical challenges. He also draws (...) on a rich range of examples from Plato’s Meno and Dickens’ David Copperfield to Bernard Madoff and Saddam Hussein. (shrink)
As is usually the case with what I work on, I read some stuff I liked. I 1 read an article on comics by Greg Hayman and Henry Pratt and some work on 2 videogames,GrantTavinor’sreallyexcellentworkonthattopic. Ifoundthematerial interesting and I thought I had something to say about it. That’s what usually motivates me and that’s what did in these cases. With comics, my interest in the medium played a big role. I was a child collector of Marvel. I got turned on (...) to independent and alternative comics about ten years ago by a good friend who’s a successful comics artist and that played a role in my writing about comics. (shrink)
Are there normative reasons for love? More specifically, is it possible to rationally justify love? Or can we at best provide explanations for why we love? In Part I of this entry, I discuss the nature of love, theories of emotion, and what it takes to justify an attitude. In Part II, I provide an overview of the various positions one might take on the rational justification of love. I focus on the debate between defenders of the no-reasons view and (...) the reasons view. Along the way, I discuss the significance of falling in love, the problem of trading up, and the notion of irreplaceability. I evaluate attempts to justify love based on the intrinsic and the relational properties of the beloved. (shrink)
Many contemporary philosophers endorse the Humean-Lewisian Denial of Absolutely Necessary Connections (‘DANC’). Among those philosophers, many deny all or part of the Humean-Lewisian package of views about causation and laws. I argue that they maintain an inconsistent set of views. DANC entails that (1) causal properties and relations are, with a few possible exceptions, always extrinsic to their bearers, (2) nomic properties and relations are, with a few possible exceptions, always extrinsic to their bearers, and (3) causal and nomic properties (...) and relations globally supervene on non-causal, non-nomic properties and relations. Hence, one can’t be a consistent Half-Hearted Humean. Consistency demands giving up the core Humean thesis or facing up to its consequences. The upshot is that we face a stark choice: either there are absolutely necessary connections between distinct existents or it’s "just one damn thing after another.". (shrink)
Timothy Williamson has argued that a person S ’s total evidence is constituted solely by propositions that S knows. This theory of evidence entails that a false belief can not be a part of S ’s evidence base for a conclusion. I argue by counterexample that this thesis (E = K for now) forces an implausible separation between what it means for a belief to be justified and rational from one’s perspective and what it means to base one’s beliefs on (...) the evidence. Furthermore, I argue that E = K entails the implausible result that there are cases in which a well-evidenced belief necessarily can not serve as evidence for a further proposition. (shrink)
Propositional attitude verbs, such as think and want, have long held interest for both theoretical linguists and language acquisitionists because their syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties display complex interactions that have proven difficult to fully capture from either perspective. This paper explores the granularity with which these verbs’ semantic and pragmatic properties are recoverable from their syntactic distributions, using three behavioral experiments aimed at explicitly quantifying the relationship between these two sets of properties. Experiment 1 gathers a measure of 30 (...) propositional attitude verbs’ syntactic distributions using an acceptability judgment task. Experiments 2a and 2b gather measures of semantic similarity between those same verbs using a generalized semantic discrimination task and an ordinal scale task, respectively. Two kinds of analyses are conducted on the data from these experiments. The first compares both the acceptability judgments and the semantic similarity judgments to previous classifications derived from the syntax and semantics literature. The second kind compares the acceptability judgments to the semantic similarity judgments directly. Through these comparisons, we show that there is quite fine-grained information about propositional attitude verbs’ semantics carried in their syntactic distributions—whether one considers the sorts of discrete qualitative classifications that linguists traditionally work with or the sorts of continuous quantitative classifications that can be derived experimentally. (shrink)
Classic inductive skepticism–the epistemological claim that we have no good reason to believe that the unobserved resembles the observed–is plausibly everyone’s lot, whether or not they embrace Hume’s metaphysical claim that distinct existents are “entirely loose and separate”. But contemporary advocates of a Humean metaphysic accept a metaphysical claim stronger than Hume’s own. I argue that their view plausibly gives rise to a radical inductive skepticism–according to which we are downright irrational in believing as we do about the unobserved–that we (...) don’t otherwise have reason to accept. The Metaphysical Neo-Humean is in an epistemological quagmire all her own. (shrink)
Recent years have brought relativistic accounts of knowledge, first-person belief, and future contingents to prominence. I discuss these views, distinguish non-trivial from trivial forms of relativism, and then argue against relativism in all of its substantive varieties.
Nietzsche claims that we are fated to be as we are. He also claims, however, that we can create ourselves. To many commentators these twin commitments have seemed self-contradictory or paradoxical. The argument of this paper, by contrast, is that, despite appearances, there is no paradox here, nor even a tension between Nietzsche's two claims. Instead, when properly interpreted these claims turn out to be intimately related to one another, so that our fatedness emerges as integral to our capacity to (...) become self-creators. The paper also offers, in the course of undermining a false alternative that is deeply entrenched in the philosophical tradition, a reading of Nietzsche's doctrine of amor fati that actually – and perhaps uniquely – makes full sense of section 276 of The Gay Science, the chief source for this aspect of his thought. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThis article is the first in a series of four articles that engage critically with the arguments of two recent and significant additions to the literature on critical realism, namely Bhaskar’s ‘Enlightened Common Sense: The Philosophy of Critical Realism’, and Bhaskar et al.’s ‘Interdisciplinarity and Wellbeing: A Critical Realist General Theory of Interdisciplinarity’. Using the method of immanent critique and focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on the arguments of Enlightened Common Sense, I identify, and propose solutions to, a range of (...) problems pertaining to the concepts of depth, emergence and transfactuality. In identifying and resolving these problems, my aim is to clarify and develop the categories of original critical realism and thereby ensure that critical realism as a whole is as effective an underlabourer for science as it can be. (shrink)