continent. 2.1 (2012): 6–21. The French philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia was born in Toulouse in 1981. This makes him rather young to have written such an imaginative work of systematic philosophy as Forme et objet , 1 the latest entry in the MétaphysiqueS series at Presses universitaires de France. But this reference to Garcia’s youthfulness is not a form of condescension: by publishing a complete system of philosophy in the grand style, he has already done what none of us (...) in the older generation of speculative realists has done so far. His book is sophisticated, erudite, rigorous, imaginatively rich, and abundant in worldly wisdom– despite the author’s conclusion that wisdom does not exist. The quality and scope of Forme et objet took few observers by surprise, since Garcia has been treated as an emerging philosopher to watch across half a decade of Parisian oral tradition. But Garcia was not just the subject of rumor, being already well known to the French public as a writer of fiction. His debut novel, La meilleure part des hommes , 2 was awarded the 2008 Prix de Flore 3 and has already appeared in English as Hate: A Romance . 4 His follow-up novel, Mémoires de la jungle , 5 made clever use of a chimpanzee narrator. Nor was Garcia only published as a novelist before last November: his philosophical study L’Image 6 had already appeared when the author was just twenty-six, a year before he was crowned by the muses at the historic Café de Flore. And then in 2011, just months before the appearance of Forme et objet , Garcia published a widely distributed work entitled Nous, animaux et humains , 7 with its focus on Jeremy Bentham’s ideas about animals. Given this prolific and versatile track record, an optimistic scenario might envisage the young Garcia as one of those combined literary/philosophical talents who appear intermittently in France across the centuries: Jean-Paul Sartre is merely the most famous recent case. While more time is needed to see how Garcia will channel his impressive mental energies, Forme et objet displays such breadth of insight that its author has a good chance to emerge as one of the leading philosophers of his generation. If we accept Aristotle’s dictum that the peak mental age is fifty-one, then to read Garcia’s massive book is to gain some idea of what European philosophy might look like in the futuristic-sounding 2030’s. The present article is confined to Forme et objet . At 486 pages, the work is obviously daunting in size. Indeed, it is even longer than it sounds, given that many of its early sections are printed in a smaller typeface to designate them as supplemental commentary to the main flow of the argument. But while the length of the book reportedly led to delays in French publication, and will probably slow the inevitable appearance of an English translation, the length of the book should not deter interested readers– much of it results from Garcia’s teacherly writing style. Whereas Quentin Meillassoux’s prose displays an arctic economy of means, Garcia’s style is reminiscent of the repeated lessons of oral classroom proceedings. Rarely is the reader given fewer than three or four chances to master an idea before the author moves on to the next. In practice, the style feels welcoming rather than long-winded. Otherwise, the structure of Forme et objet is surprisingly simple. There is a useful Introduction of less than twenty pages. Then comes Book I: Formally , running to approximately 135 pages. Here Garcia outlines the most basic features of a thing “no matter what it is,” or n’importe quoi , an everyday phrase that Garcia shapes into a technical term. This part of the book feels at times like a more amiable version of Hegel’s Science of Logic , a parallel emphasized further by the threefold articulation of its theme: 1. Thing; 2. Thing and World; 3. Being and Understanding. This is followed by the much longer Book II: Objectively , totaling more than 300 pages. It contains sixteen essay-like meditations on specific kinds of objects—including time, animals, humans, history, gender, and death. Here each chapter rolls smoothly into the next, making this second part of the book feel more like a different work of Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit . But these are merely analogies. Garcia is no Hegelian, even if the book contains a few dialectical flourishes that seem to reflect his early enthusiasm for the Frankfurt School. Forme et objet ends with a six-page Coda, followed by the usual page of acknowledgments. In what follows, I will briefly summarize each of these four parts of the book before ending with some more general remarks. Before doing so, it will be useful to situate Garcia biographically (as much as I am able) and philosophically. Though Toulouse is his native city, his formative years were spent largely in Algeria, where his family has deep roots. During our sole private conversation, Garcia mentioned that his parents are professors of literature. 8 As a student of philosopher Garcia flourished so early that many of his current ideas date to his teenaged years: “There are sentences in Forme et objet that I wrote when I was seventeen,” he said in response to a question on that cold night on the Canal St.-Martin. I recalled that remark when reading his brilliant account, late in the book, of the central role of adolescence in contemporary culture. While many prodigies blow through their formal academic training without serious obstruction, Garcia’s student memories are rich in tales of isolation and struggle, though equally rich in gratitude for a half-dozen or so exceptional teachers who provided the intellectual space he needed: Meillassoux and Alain Badiou are simply two of the most prominent figures on that list. Though there are many points of agreement between Garcia’s philosophical position and my own, he not only reached his position years before reading my work, 9 he arrived along a rather different path: not through phenomenology, but via the Frankfurt School, which may be one of the reasons for his profound fascination with aesthetics. Garcia’s cultural background is as broad as one could wish: he is no less informed about punk rock and European football leagues than about the spiritualist roots of Bergson’s philosophy. Curious about everything and contemptuous towards nothing, Garcia can be expected to write insightfully on dozens of topics in the years to come. Given that his philosophy is so personally tantalizing in its agreements and disagreements with my own, and given the great internal richness of Forme et objet itself, the present review is no better than a first effort at coming to terms with the challenges posed by this minstrel from the rising generation. This is especially intriguing for older Generation X’ers like me, since confrontation with the younger generation is one of the many themes treated insightfully in Garcia’s book. 1. Introduction Garcia begins in defense of a so-called “flat ontology,” in which all things are equally things. While Roy Bhaskar 10 used this term pejoratively to refer to anti-realist philosophies that flatten everything onto an epistemic plane of human access, Manuel DeLanda 11 (an admirer of Bhaskar) reversed it into the positive principle that all realities are equally realities. Similar notions can be found in the “absistence” of Alexius Meinong, 12 the “irreduction” of Bruno Latour, 13 and my own critique 14 of the undermining/overmining pair. Also noteworthy is Levi Bryant’s use of the term “flat ontology” throughout The Democracy of Objects 15 and his earlier essay “The Ontic Principle.” 16 But for Garcia, flatness is only one face of the cosmos, and one that he ultimately declares to be rather impoverished. Even so, he always remains an advocate of a flat ontology. Insofar as everything is equally something, no matter what it is ( n’importe qui ), everything is equally a thing, equally solitary in its relation with world. This is why his book abounds in those long lists of random, ontologically equivalent entities that Ian Bogost has playfully termed “Latour Litanies.” 17 The first litany in Garcia’s book runs as follows: “We live in this world of things, where a cutting of acacia, a gene, a computer-generated image, a transplantable hand, a musical sample, a trademarked name, or a sexual service are comparable things.” (7) Yet Garcia is frankly dualistic; his flat ontology only lasts until page 159 and the end of Book I (entitled “Formally”), which deals entirely with things that are equally things. Thereafter Garcia turns his attention from things to objects, which are not flat in the least, but engage in hierarchical relations with one another. In agreement with both DeLanda and the speculative realists, Garcia proclaims that his book “proposes to put to the test a thought about things rather than a thought about our thought about things .” (8) Just as ducklings are “imprinted” (9) after hatching and treat the first creature they see as their mother, philosophers are imprinted by the idea with which they begin. Hence, philosophies that begin with human access will never truly find their way back to things. This makes Garcia rather suspicious of twentieth century philosophy, since “the twentieth century—to which in some way this work proposes to bid adieu—has been a period of theorizing modes of access to things rather than things...” (9) Among other possible benefits of the philosophy of things that Garcia proposes, it is fully able to account for thought as a special variant of things, while the reverse is not possible.(10) In Book I of Forme et objet , Garcia’s “things” are so flat, so de-determined, that he is forced to renounce some of the most basic features ascribed to things by most realists. As he tells us in his foreboding third footnote: “We will maintain that the solitude [of things] is less than unity, less than identity, and that it does not imply acceptance (any more than refusal) of the principle of non-contradiction.” (11) In a contemporary world cluttered with too many things, Garcia’s flat and formal plane provides us with some breathing room: “The formal plan of thought enables or re-enables us to cut short all accumulation—whether of knowing, experience, or action—by a simplicity, an impoverished surface...” (13) As Garcia says elsewhere in responding to a Deleuzian critic of the book, his starting point in flat ontology is designed to obstruct the claims of both analytic philosophy and Hegelianism: “Hence, this work seeks to protect each thing—real, imaginary, inconsistent, contradictory—both against Ockham’s Razor and against the Aufhebung or dialectical process.” 18 Yet contrary to the equalizing spirit of many flat ontologies, “we will add to our formal ontology of the equal, an objective ontology of the unequal.” (13) But initially, Garcia joins all flat ontologists in holding that everything is irreducible: “this irreducibility, which we will term the ‘chance’ of each thing... also marks the refusal of a positive thought that reduces things exclusively to natural things, or social things, or historical things, etc.” (15) This irreducible “chance” of a thing emerges as an important technical term in the book, always paired with its inverted brother, the “price to pay” ( prix à payer ). On pages 17-19, we find the only diagrams in the book. What they illustrate is that Garcia wishes to avoid two equally dangerous extremes. The first is the philosophy of substance, featuring the thing-in-itself as a mighty river fed by attributes as if by subordinate tributary streams. This model can be found in many of the classic thinkers of West and East alike. In it, “there is obviously a hierarchization between that which is dragged towards something other than itself, and this other which serves it as an ontological support while supporting its proper being.” (16) For Garcia, the second extreme worth avoiding is the philosophy of events: “One thus conceives trajectories of being, identified as events, facts, powers, intensities, or intentionality. These vectors of being come first, bearing and supporting being, displacing it, but without ever finding a stopping point, a buffer, an objective consistency.” (17) The first model gives us a thing too wrapped up in itself, too compact . This word “compact” (the French and the English are the same) is another technical term for Garcia. But if the “compact” model of things leads us to something more than things, the philosophy of events gives us less than things, by dissolving them into a play of vectors. Garcia’s alternative lies midway between these two extremes: Being enters the thing, being comes out of it. And a thing is nothing other than the difference between the enters and the being that comes out. Thus, the circuit of being is never halted. In the thing, there is never the thing-in-itself. And the thing is never in-itself, but outside of itself. Nonetheless, being is not eventally “pollinated” by vectors: it possesses an objecting halting-point... (19) This single idea is the key to Garcia’s book: the thing is neither a self-contained durable lump nor some sort of evental flux. Instead, the thing is the difference between its various components and its relations with its environment. Or stated differently: “the price to pay for this disposition is a circulation of being that systematically distinguishes two senses of things: that which is in the thing , and that in which the thing is , or that which encompasses it and that which it encompasses,” (19) translating comprendre here as “encompass.” 19 In a beautiful description of a piece of black slate, Garcia sums up the various minerals, qualities, and shapes that compose [ comprend ] it, and calls them “that which is in the thing,” (20) noting that this tells us nothing about “that in which [the slate] is”—namely, all the various situations in which the black slate can be found. Instead, the slate is the difference between these two: the most characteristic principle of Garcia’s philosophy. 2. Formally Book One of Forme et objet , “Formally,” is concerned with the formal equality of all things in a flat world. “Two questions mark the boundaries of reflection: of what is everything composed [ composé ], and: what do all things compose?” (27) Looking downward, we wish to know what everything is made of; looking upward, we want to know the ultimate result of the combination of all things. Here we must turn our attention to the thing n’importe quoi— no matter what it is. (30) Anything with finite qualities is obviously too specific to be relevant to global ontological questions. To an equal degree, something possessing all qualities (think of Whitehead’s God) 20 would not be n’importe quoi either, since it would still be too definite, even if incredibly vast. The same holds for contradictions, since these all differ from each other. The square circle, the non-white black white, and the non-city city are all too distinct to count as the thing no matter what it is. The n’importe quoi must be devoid of all specific qualities, including contradictory ones. In one of the more intriguing points in his book, so reminiscent of Meinong, Garcia proclaims that “the ‘no matter what it is’ is neither a reality nor an abstract construction, nor both of these at once; the ‘no matter what it is’ is simply the plane of equality of that which is real, that which is possible, that which is inexistent, that which is past, that which is impossible, that which is true, that which is false, that which is bad.”(39-40) Since everything has two faces, it would be a grievous mistake to focus on just one of them at the expense of the other, as physicalism or materialism do when reducing the world to minuscule physical underpinnings. For scientistic materialism, “it is either atoms, particles, or fields of force... which are the things.” (47-48) Moreover, “these more-than-things are accompanied by less-than-things: for example, ideas or facts of consciousness are determined by the state of matter and are not autonomous things, but manifestations reduced to secondary effects of material processes...” (48) On this point, Garcia’s position is in complete accord with my own critique of undermining and overmining. 21 Where we disagree is that Garcia is more deeply suspicious of the notion of substance, which I view as salvageable with a few needed changes, while Garcia sees this operation as hopeless: “A substance, in the history of philosophy, is the more-than-thing par excellence.” (51) Another agreement between our positions is visible when Garcia claims (correctly, in my opinion) “that it is vain to distinguish between things which are material and those which are not.” (52) Yet we also find an even more important disagreement, since for Garcia withdrawal cannot be the quality of a thing. Instead, the absence of a thing is simultaneous with it, embodied in all that is not it– the absence of the sculpture of a woman is to be found in the mold that appears at the same time as it, and thus withdrawal must be viewed as an “event” rather than as something pertaining to an object. For Garcia, nothing withdraws beyond access. Since we must distinguish between “that which is something” and “that which something is,” and since the former is identified with “no matter what it is is” and the latter with “ not no matter what it is,” we can say that “everything is thus a milieu, a fragile link between ‘no matter what it is’ and ‘ not no matter what it is.’” (62) And here we find Garcia’s critique of the thing-in-itself: “A thing is never defined en bloc . We can affirm that a thing is this or that, but that does not suffice. It is still necessary to state precisely that which is this thing .” (62) Stated differently, “something is not in itself : for that which is in the thing is not the thing, and that in which the thing is is not the thing.” (62) And here Garcia and I, facing the same evidence, draw opposite conclusions. For me, the fact that nothing can be identified with either its components or its concrete location means that the thing must be something in-itself distinct from both of these. Yet for Garcia, to be in-itself would mean to be identified with just one of these two extreme terms, and hence the thing can only be the difference between them. Garcia is equally suspicious of the classical tendency to view “unity” as a property of the thing, since in his eyes unity is too relational a property to belong to things. (65) While specific things are situated determinately with respect to other things, we are still speaking here about the thing no matter what it is, and this can be viewed only in terms of solitude, which all things share: a human being, a hand, or a chair or all equally things insofar as they are on their own , not insofar as they are one . (64) A thing is alone, and relates only to the one thing that is not another thing: world. In a striking parallel to my own argument for a partial revival of occasionalism, Garcia tells us that “the things communicate only by their solitude: it is because everything is equally on its own in the world that things can be together, enmeshed in one another.” (67) Alone in their solitude, things all relate to world, which serves as a mediator allowing them to become mixed up in one another. As we have seen, one reason that nothing can be in itself is because everything is in something else. For Garcia, “to be in something and to be something are equivalent.” (69) Stated more broadly, “being is thus the difference between the two aspects of each thing: that which is it, and that which it is.” (70) And even more vividly: “a thing is almost like a sack: there is that which one puts in the sack and that which remains outside the sack.” (70) But not quite like a sack, “since a thing is not a thin skin or film. Instead, a thing is comparable to a sack that is immaterial and without thickness: it is nothing other than the difference between that which is this thing and that which thing is, between content and container.” (71) Nothing can be in-itself because everything is two selves at once. For example, we cannot say that our self is defined by our consciousness: “Everything has a self because nothing is in itself. The self is not the quality of that which is related to itself (which is conscious, for example) or which thinks itself related to itself. Nonetheless, for an entity called ‘conscious’ to be related to itself, it is necessary that this very relation should be another thing than the self to which it is related.” (71) Consciousness cannot be the self, precisely because it is other than that of which it is conscious. Nothing is able to grasp itself. The self is “the function by which being and composition [ compréhension ] are mutually excluded...” (72) The self is “the point of shadow of everything that projects some light...” (72) The in-itself faces two opposite dangers: “For something to be in-itself is to be a self. Something which is a self flies out through one of its two sides... Stated differently, being in-itself is simply the possibility of a double failure.” (73) The in-itself can be termed compact : “There remains to us a means of thinking that which does not fully enter into the world, though without exiting from it. This means is what we call the compact.” (76) In a sense, the compact is the opposite of the world. For in the case of the world, everything enters it and it enters nothing; as for the compact, it enters the world (since it is something, after all) while nothing enters it. (77) The compact marks the presence of the impossible in the world. (78) It is not impossible, but possible only on the condition that it fails. (78) The time has come to speak of where a thing is located. “The sole condition of a thing is that of being in another thing than itself, and thus in another thing than something.” (78) A condition is “that which determines something, that which forms something, that in which something is.” (78) As for humans, “the condition of someone is his situation; my social condition is that which socially determines me, my place and my function...” (79) More generally, “to be conditioned is to find oneself reduced to that in which one is.” (79) Everything is conditioned, but nothing is reducible to this condition. To determine the condition of something is to determine in what it is. A thing is located in that which contradicts it, just as a statue exists in its mold, which is precisely that which it is not. Since the thing is finite and definite, its condition or form must be infinite and indefinite. That in which all things are is the world, which Garcia also terms “the whole.” (81) “To try to be in-itself is to attempt to remain outside the world. And indeed, to try to be in-itself is only a path of entry into the world.” (83) For Garcia, “the world is not the pre-existent container of the things it contains, a priori , nor the construction by the mind of a fictional ensemble of all things, a posteriori .” (85) Instead, the world is simultaneous with all things; the two always go together. The world cannot be a determinate world, such as the physical universe or mathematical space, since these are already too specific and limited. “Every determinate world, which is in fact a universe , is a ‘big thing’ [ grosse chose ]: it is a set, however vast, of composite things which itself embodies a thing.” (85) Every determinate world is really just a “big thing.” Stated differently, “it is nothing other than a balanced milieu between the things that compose it and the thing that it composes.” (85) We generally picture the world as a physical univer. (shrink)
Sources of soil contamination can exist in various types of conditions including in the form of semifluids. In this study, 3 different types of tropical plants, Acacia (Acacia mangium Willd), Mucuna (Mucuna bracteata DC. ex Kurz) and Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides L. Nash), were tested under different levels of soil-leachate conditions. The relative growth rate, metal tolerance, and phytoassessment of cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) accumulation in the roots and shoots were determined using flame atomic absorption spectrometry. Tolerance index, (...) translocation factor, metal accumulation ratio, and percentage metal efficacy were applied to assess the metal translocation ability among all the 3 types of plants. Significantly higher (P < .05) accumulation of Cd and Pb was exhibited in the roots and shoots of all 3 plants growing under the soil-leachate conditions. However, negative growth performance and plant withering were observed in both Acacia and Mucuna with increased application of higher soil-leachate levels. Vetiver accumulated remarkably higher total concentration of Cd (116.16-141.51 mg/kg) and Pb (156.37-365.27 mg/kg) compared with both Acacia and Mucuna. The overall accumulation trend of Cd and Pb in the 3 plants growing under the soil-leachate conditions was in the order of Vetiver > Acacia > Mucuna. The findings of the study suggest that Vetiver has great potential as Cd and Pb phytoremediator in soil-leachate conditions. (shrink)
The commentaries by Dennett, Sterelny, and Queller on Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (DPNS) are so constructive that they make it possible to extend and improve the book’s framework in several ways. My replies will focus on points of disagreement, and I will pick a small number of themes and develop them in detail. The three replies below are mostly self-contained, except that all my comments about genes, discussed by all three critics, are in the reply to Queller. Agential views (...) of evolution, discussed by Queller and Dennett, are addressed in my reply to Dennett. (shrink)
I explore some of the ways that assumptions about the nature of substance shape metaphysical debates about the structure of Reality. Assumptions about the priority of substance play a role in an argument for monism, are embedded in certain pluralist metaphysical treatments of laws of nature, and are central to discussions of substantivalism and relationalism. I will then argue that we should reject such assumptions and collapse the categorical distinction between substance and property.
Robert Stern has argued that Levinas is a kind of command theorist and that, for this reason, Løgstrup can be understood to have provided an argument against Levinas. In this paper, I discuss Levinas’s use of the vocabulary of demand, order, and command in the light of Jewish philosophical accounts of such notions in the work of Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emil Fackenheim. These accounts revise the traditional Jewish idea of command and I show that Levinas’s use of this (...) vocabulary is also revisionary. I show that in light of this tradition of discussion, Levinas’s use is not susceptible to the interpretation Stern proposes and thus that the Løgstrup-style argument cannot be used against Levinas. (shrink)
In this paper, we describe a framework for studying social agents’ individual decision making, that takes account of the environment and social dynamics. We describe a study in which we explored the efficiency of foraging strategies within a group of individuals faced with a resource-limited environment. We investigated to what extent cooperative and non-cooperative behaviors impacted on the survival rates of a population of individuals. In the experiment presented here, we considered two different types of individuals: selfish individuals who gather (...) energy for their own use, and cooperative individuals who share the energy they gather with others, thus reducing their own individual chances of survival. In order to study the trade-off between non-cooperative and cooperative behaviors in a pseudo-realistic two-dimensional environment, we introduced an agent-based modeling and simulation tool called ACACIA-ES, which simulated local interactions and spatial behavior for large numbers of individuals in complex environments. The main result from our simulation was that a group of cooperative individuals displayed better survival strategies than groups of selfish individuals when faced with a variety of environmental pressures; however, it was very unlikely that such cooperative strategies could resist competition from selfish individuals, if the outcome of past social interactions was memorized, even when a very small group of selfish individuals was introduced. (shrink)
Thought, according to Hegel, is not only the product of a faculty of a subject, or a means by which a thinking subject tries to grasp a world that is alien to him. It is also the very structure of the world, that is disclosed to a subject through the thinking activity of a subject. The fundamental question that crosses the whole post-Kantian philosophy is that of the relation between thought and reality, i.e. the question of whether reality depends on (...) the categorial requirements imposed by the thinking subject, or whether reality maintains some form of independence from the thinking subject. Seen from this standpoint, Hegel can be read both as an author who radicalizes Kant’s transcendental perspective, and also as a critic of that perspective. In other words, he can be seen as an idealist: according to Hegel, any philosophy is idealist if it claims that something finite, qua finite, is essentially connected with something other. He can also be seen as an anti-idealist: insofar as his philosophy aims to overcome a hyper-transcendentalist perspective, i.e. it is so since it rejects idealism as subjective idealism. Moreover, Hegel’s anti-idealism can be characterized as realism. This is because, if we admit that overcoming transcendentalism without falling back again on a pre-critical conception of thought and of reality involves an idea of thought which is not reducible to a "mentalistic" conception of it, we need to conceive of thought as something that is not alien to reality. Hegel conceives of thought as intimately connected with the world, as its own rational structure. This “realism” of thought is what makes Hegelian idealism, so to speak, anti-idealistic. Through this "realism" of thought Hegel pursues two goals. On the one hand, Hegel attempts to overcome a subjectivistic and instrumentalistic conception of thought, according to which a subject talks and relates to a reality that is always only a construction of him, and so it is necessarily the simulacrum of something that remains inaccessible in its truth. On the other hand, Hegel attempts to overcome a conception of reality characterized merely as alien and opposite to thought itself, and which is the counterpart of the subjectivistic and instrumentalistic conception of thought. By pursuing these two goals it should be gained a conception of reality which could warrant some form of objectivity, but which cannot be equated with the substantialistic conception of the pre-Kantian metaphysics. (shrink)
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.
No one who cares about equal opportunity can derive much comfort from the present occupational distribution of working women. In the various industrial societies of the West, women comprise between one quarter and one-half of the national labor force. However, they tend to clustered in employment sectors – especially clerical, sales, and service J occupations – which rank relatively low in remuneration, status, autonomy, and other perquisites. Meanwhile, the more prestigious and rewarding managerial and professional positions, as well as the (...) major categories of blue-collar labor, remain largely a male preserve. In the same societies the average income earned by full-time female workers is one-half to two- J thirds that of their male counterparts. Although this disparity owes much to i other factors, including lower pay for work similar or even identical to that r standardly done by men, much of it can be explained only by the concentration of working women in traditional female job ghettos. (shrink)
Suppose that the ultimate point of ethics is to make the world a better place. If it is, we must face the question: better in what respect? If the good is prior to the right — that is, if the rationale for all requirements of the right is that they serve to further the good in one way or another — then what is this good? Is there a single fundamental value capable of underlying and unifying all of our moral (...) categories? If so, how might it defeat the claims of rival candidates for this role? If not, is there instead a plurality of basic goods, each irreducible to any of the others? In that case, how do they fit together into a unified picture of the moral life? These are the questions I wish to address, in a necessarily limited way. To many the questions will seem hopelessly old-fashioned or misguided. Some deontologists will wish to reverse my ordering of the good and the right, holding that the right constrains acceptable conceptions of the good. For many contractarians, neither the good nor the right will seem normatively basic, since both are to be derived from a prior conception of rationality. Finally, some theorists will reject the classification of moral theories in terms of their basic normative categories, arguing that the whole foundationalist enterprise in ethics should be abandoned. In the face of these challenges to the priority of the good, and in light of the many current varieties of moral skepticism and relativism, I cannot provide a very convincing justification for raising the questions I intend to discuss. (shrink)
J. L. Schellenberg has constructed major arguments for atheism based on divine hiddenness in two separate works. This paper reviews these arguments and highlights how they are grounded in reflections on perfect divine love. However, Schellenberg also defends what he calls the ‘subject mode’ of religious scepticism. I argue that if one accepts Schellenberg's scepticism, then the foundation of his divine-hiddenness arguments is undermined by calling into question some of his conclusions regarding perfect divine love. In other words, if his (...) scepticism is correct, then Schellenberg's case for atheism cannot stand. Finally, I demonstrate how my argument avoids the many defences that Schellenberg has employed thus far in defending these particular atheistic arguments. (shrink)
In any society influenced by a plurality of cultures, there will be widespread, systematic differences about at least some important values, including moral values. Many of these differences look like deep disagreements, difficult to resolve objectively if that is possible at all. One common response to the suspicion that these disagreements are unsettleable has always been moral relativism. In the flurry of sympathetic treatments of this doctrine in the last two decades, attention has understandably focused on the simpler case in (...) which one fairly self-contained and culturally homogeneous society confronts, at least in thought, the values of another; but most have taken relativism to have implications within a single pluralistic society as well. I am not among the sympathizers. That is partly because I am more optimistic than many about how many moral disagreements can be settled, but I shall say little about that here. For, even on the assumption that many disputes are unsettleable, I continue to find relativism a theoretically puzzling reaction to the problem of moral disagreement, and a troubling one in practice, especially when the practice involves regular interaction among those who disagree. This essay attempts to explain why. (shrink)
H.L.A. Hart's The Concept of Law is the most important and influential book in the legal positivist tradition. Though its importance is undisputed, there is a good deal less consensus regarding its core commitments, both methodological and substantive. With the exception of an occasional essay, Hart neither further developed nor revised his position beyond the argument of the book. The burden of shaping the prevailing understanding of his views, therefore, has fallen to others: notably, Joseph Raz among positivists, and Ronald (...) Dworkin among positivism's critics. Dworkin, in particular, has framed, then reframed, the conventional understanding, not only of Hart's positivism, but of the terms of the debate between positivists and him. While standing on the sidelines, Hart witnessed the unfolding of not only a lively debate between positivists and Dworkin, but an equally intense one among positivists as to positivism's core claims. The most important debate has been between so-called inclusive and exclusive positivists: a debate as much about Hart's legacy as about the proper interpretation of legal positivism. (shrink)
If I lead a life of virtue, that may well be good for you. But will it also be good for me? The idea that it will—or even must—is an ancient one, and its appeal runs deep. For if this idea is correct then we can provide everyone with a good reason—arguably the best reason—for being virtuous. However, for all the effort which has been invested in defending the idea, by some of the best minds in the history of philosophy, (...) it remains unproven. Worse, in this skeptical age hardly anyone really believes it. I don't really believe it either, at least not in its strongest forms, but I think that the question is nonetheless worth examining. Even if we cannot show that virtue and self-interest coincide, we can at least measure the breadth of the gap between them. (shrink)
My purpose in what follows is not so much to defend the basic principle of utilitarianism as to indicate the form of it which seems most promising as a basic moral and political position. I shall take the principle of utility as offering a criterion for two different sorts of evaluation: first, the merits of acts of government, social policies, and social institutions, and secondly, the ultimate moral evaluation of the actions of individuals. I do not take it as implying (...) that the individual should live his life on the basis of constant evaluations of this sort. For there are different levels of decision making each with its appropriate criteria. For example, we each inevitably make many of our decisions from the point of view of our own personal self-fulfilment and this cannot regularly take a directly utilitarian form, nor should the utilitarian want it to do so. His claim is at most that we should sometimes review our life from the point of view of a kind of impersonal moral truth of a universalistic utilitarian character. (shrink)
One dark and rainy night, Yuso sexually assaults and tortures Zelan. In escaping from the scene of his crime, he falls heavily and becomes an impotent paraplegic. Instead of treating his fate as divine retribution for his wicked acts, Yuso sees it as sheer bad luck. He shows no remorse for what he has done, and vainly hopes that he will recover his powers, which he now treats as involuntarily hoarded resources to be used on less rainy days. In the (...) presence of others, he pretends that he has turned over a new leaf. He asks for religious and educational books, hoping to make up for his poor education and deprived social background. But he immediately discards them when he is alone in favor of the pornographic magazines which he has bribed a nurse to smuggle in for him. His deception and various obscene acts committed in the hospital are exposed; by the time he comes up for trial, everyone knows that he is still a lustful, sadistic, and unrepentant man. Most retributivists have a sufficient justification for punishing Yuso independently of the social consequences of his punishment. Two features of the case might cause some difficulties. First, Yuso has already experienced considerable suffering and deprivation both before and after his crime, and retributivists might disagree about the relevance of the suffering to his punishment. Secondly, Yuso is unrepentant, and it is unlikely that punishment will change him. This might, as we shall see, create a problem for those who think that the justifying aim of punishment is the moral reform of the offender. (shrink)
I attempt a reconstruction of Adam Smith's view of human nature as explicated in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith's view of human conduct is neither functionalist nor reductionist, but interactionist. The moral autonomy of the individual, conscience, is neither made a function of public approval nor reduced to self-contained impulses of altruism and egoism. Smith does not see human conduct as a blend of independently defined impulses. Rather, conduct is unified, by the underpinning sentiment of sympathy.
Chris Tucker's paper on the hiddenness argument seeks to turn aside a way of defending the latter which he calls the value argument. But the value argument can withstand Tucker's criticisms. In any case, an alternative argument capable of doing the same job is suggested by his own emphasis on free will.
Criticized as a nostalgic anachronism by those who oppose her version of political theory and lauded as symbol of direct democratic participation by those who favor it, the Athenian polis features prominently in Hannah Arendt's account of politics. This essay traces the origin and development of Arendt's conception of the polis as a space of appearance from the early 1950s onward. It makes particular use of the Denktagebuch, Arendt's intellectual diary, in order to shed new light on the historicity of (...) one of her central concepts. The article contends that both critics and partisans of Arendt's use of the polis have made the same mistake: they have presumed that the polis represents a space of face-to-face immediacy. In fact, Arendt compared the polis to a series of analogues, many of which are not centered on direct exchanges between political actors and spectators. As a result, Arendt's early work on the polis turns out to anticipate many of the concerns of her later work on judgment, and her theory of the polis becomes a theory of topics. (shrink)
When people speak of ‘the law of the jungle’, they usually mean unions restrained and ruthless competition, with everyone out solely for his own advantage. But the phrase was coined by Rudyard Kipling, in The Second Jungle Book , and he meant something very different. His law of the jungle is a law that wolves in a pack are supposed to obey. His poem says that ‘the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is (...) the Pack’, and it states the basic principles of social co-operation. Its provisions are a judicious mixture of individualism and collectivism, prescribing graduated and qualified rights for fathers of families, mothers with cubs, and young wolves, which constitute an elementary system of welfare services. Of course, Kipling meant his poem to give moral instruction to human children, but he probably thought it was at least roughly correct as a description of the social behaviour of wolves and other wild animals. Was he right, or is the natural world the scene of unrestrained competition, of an individualistic struggle for existence? (shrink)
This article claims that Averroes wrote his Middle Commentary on the De anima after he composed both his Short and Long commentaries. A close comparison of the two texts proves that he had the Long commentary before him when composing the Middle. This has implications both for the development of Averroes' doctrine of the intellect, and for understanding Averroes' style of composing commentaries. On se propose d'établir dans cet article qu'Averroès a rédigé son Moyen commentaire sur le De Anima après (...) son Épitomé et son Grand commentaire. Une comparaison minutieuse des deux textes montre qu'il avait sous les yeux son Grand commentaire lorsqu'il composait son Moyen commentaire. Ceci est de grande conséquence tant pour notre appréciation du développement de la doctrine de l'intellect chez Averroès que pour notre compréhension du mode de composition de ses commentaires. (shrink)
This is a collection of essays on themes of legal philosophy which have all been generated or affected by Hart's work. The topics covered include legal theory, responsibility, and enforcement of morals, with contributions from Ronald Dworkin, Rolf Sartorius, Neil MacCormach, David Lyons, Kent Greenawalt, Michael Moore, Joseph Raz, and C.L. Ten, among others.
The relationship of word-meaning to speaker's-meaning has not been examined thoroughly enough. Some philosophical problems are solved and others made plainer if the full consequences of a proper relationship between these two is worked out.