The communicative behavior of chimpanzees has been cited in support of the hypothesis that language evolved from gesture. In this commentary, I compare gestural and vocal communication in wild chimpanzees. Because the use of gesture in wild chimpanzees is limited, whereas their vocal behavior is relatively complex, I argue that wild chimpanzee behavior fails to support the gestural origins hypothesis.
This paper aims to do two things. First, it describes the place that Adam Smith actually occupies in current research occurring at the boundaries of new interdisciplinary social-science fields such as evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, neuro-economics and behavioral economics. Second, it suggests a way in which Smith's place in the debates with which these subjects are concerned may be more properly defined and conceptualized. Specifically, the paper focuses on the controversial new theory of strong reciprocity, and on the reputation (...) effects that its critics think that theory neglects. (shrink)
We introduce the CUBISM system for the analysis and deep understanding of multi-participant dialogues. CUBISM brings together two typically separate forms of discourse analysis: semantic analysis and sociolinguistic analysis. In the paper proper, we describe and illustrate major components of the CUBISM system, and discuss the challenge posed by the system’s ultimate purpose, which is to automatically detect anomalous changes in participants’ expressed or implied beliefs about the world and each other, including shifts toward or away from cultural and community (...) norms. (shrink)
This paper rereads David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as dramatising a distinctive, naturalistic account of toleration. I have two purposes in mind: first, to complete and ground Hume's fragmentary explicit discussion of toleration; second, to unearth a potentially attractive alternative to more recent, Rawlsian approaches to toleration. To make my case, I connect Dialogues and the problem of toleration to the wider themes of naturalism, scepticism and their relation in Hume's thought, before developing a new interpretation of Dialogues part (...) 12 as political drama. Finally, I develop the Humean theory of toleration I have discovered by comparison between Rawls's and Hume's strategies for justification of a tolerant political regime. (shrink)
Anyone who wishes to talk about angels has to respond to the mocking question, how many of them can dance on the point of a pin. The answer is: ‘just as many as they please’. Angels being immaterial intellects do not occupy space to the exclusion of any other such intellectual substance, and their being ‘on’ the point of a pin can only mean that they attend to it. The question, however, is not one that concerned our mediaeval predecessors, although (...) it seems as difficult to persuade anyone of this as it is to clear Canute of the charge of insane conceit. (shrink)
Philosophers of earlier ages have usually spent time in considering thenature of marital, and in general familial, duty. Paley devotes an entire book to those ‘relative duties which result from the constitution of the sexes’,1 a book notable on the one hand for its humanity and on the other for Paley‘s strange refusal to acknowledge that the evils for which he condemns any breach of pure monogamy are in large part the result of the fact that such breaches are generally (...) condemned. In a society where an unmarried mother is ruined no decent male should put a woman in such danger: but why precisely should social feeling be so severe? Marriage, the monogamist would say, must be defended at all costs, for it is a centrally important institution of our society. Political community was, in the past, understood as emerging from or imposed upon families, or similar associations. The struggle to establish the state was a struggle against families, clans and clubs; the state, once established, rested upon the social institutions to which it gave legal backing. (shrink)
While philosophers feel relatively comfortable about talking of the present and the past, some of them feel uncomfortable about talking in just the same way of future events. They feel that, in general, discourse about the future differs significantly from discourse about the past and present, and that these differences reflect a logical asymmetry between the past and future beyond the merely defining fact that the future succeeds, and the past precedes, the present time. The problem is: how can we (...) talk about events which have not yet happened, or at any rate are not yet bound to happen, or whose participants do not yet exist? The effect of these worries has led them to claim to recognise restrictions on our talk about the future which do not govern talk about the past and present. The most famous of these views is Aristotle's. According to one familiar interpretation, he holds that a statement about a future event which is not yet settled, a contingent event in the future, is neither true nor false, even though the statement that the event either will or will not happen is necessarily true. Proponents of this view felt that if a future-tensed statement were already true then the fact that it stated would already be settled. I do not propose to discuss this well-known and muchdiscussed doctrine of Aristotle's, but I do want to consider some allied views which have been aired recently, and to look at their philosophical significance. Before I look at these, however, it will be convenient to recall three of the main reasons why the Aristotelian doctrine is unpopular. In the first place it is paradoxical to accept that a statement of the form p v ∼ p is true while claiming that neither of its disjuncts is true. Then there are misgivings about the notion of truth involved: many feel that truth is essentially an attribute of timeless propositions and that it is nonsense to talk of a statement's becoming true as you would of Aristotle's views if the event described became inevitable. There is also the difficulty of accounting for the meaning of a future-tensed sentence which may express a statement that is neither true nor false simply because what it states is not yet settled. It could not be said of the sentence expressing such a statement that you know what it means if you know what it is for the sentence to express a true statement. I know the meaning of the present-tensed sentence ‘A sea-battle is now being waged’ if I know that it can normally be used to make a true statement precisely in the event of there being a sea-battle being waged at present. But I do not know the meaning of the future-tensed sentence ‘A sea-battle will be waged tomorrow’ simply by knowing that the sentence expresses a true statement if it is already settled that there is going to be a battle: the statement doesn't mean that the battle is already settled, otherwise it would not lack a truth-value when the matter was still open – it would be false. (shrink)
Cartesian accounts of the mental make it axiomatic that consciousness is transparent: what I feel, I know I feel, however many errors I may make about its cause. ‘I’ names a simple, unextended, irreducible substance, created ex nihilo or eternally existent, and only associated with the complete, extended, dissoluble substance or pretend-substance that is ‘my’ body by divine fiat. Good moderns take it for granted that ‘we’ now realize how shifting, foggy and deconstructible are the boundaries of the self; ‘we’ (...) know that our own motives, feelings and intentions constantly escape us; ‘I’ names only the current speaker, or the momentarily dominant self among many fluid identities. (shrink)
According to Aristotle, the goal of anyone who is not simply stupid or slavish is to live a worthwhile life. There are, no doubt, people who have no goal at all beyond the moment's pleasure or release from pain. There may be people incapable of reaching any reasoned decision about what to do, and acting on it. But anyone who asks how she should live implicitly agrees that her goal is to live well, to live a life that she can (...) think worth living. That goal, eudaimonia , is something that is sought for its own sake, and for nothing else. Anyone who asks herself how she should live can answer that she should live well. The answer, admittedly, needs further comment. Aristotle went on to suggest that ‘living well’ amounted to living in accordance with virtue, or if there is more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. Eudaimonia , happiness, is virtuous activity over a whole life. To live a worthwhile life we must acquire and practice habits of doing the right thing, for the right reason. Equivalently, we must do what a virtuous person would, and in the way she would, for the sake of to kalon , or beauty. (shrink)
Mackie doubted anything objective could have the motivational properties of a value. In thinking we are morally required to act in a certain way, he said, we attribute objective value to the action. Since nothing has objective value, these moral judgments are all false. As to whether Mackie proved his error theory, opinions vary. But there is broad agreement on one issue. A litany of examples, ranging from amoralism to depression to downright evil, has everyone convinced that Mackie vastly overstated (...) the motivational implications of moral judgment. Mackie did go overboard. But did he have to? I think not. Even on the most modest motivational assumptions, Mackie can make objective value look queer and morality look like a sham. I begin with a sketch. (shrink)
There are good reasons for being suspicious of the very concept of ‘a religion’, let alone a ‘world religion’. It may be useful for a hospital administrator to know a patient's ‘religion’ – as Protestant or Church of England or Catholic or Buddhist – but such labels clearly do little more than identify the most suitable chaplain, and connote groupings in the vast and confusing region of ‘religious thought and practice’ that are of very different ranks. By any rational, genealogical (...) taxonomy ‘Protestant’, ‘Anglican’, ‘Catholic’ connote species, genera or families within Christianity, which is in turn a taxon within the multivariant tradition traced back to Abraham. ‘Buddhism’ includes as many variants as would ‘Abrahamism’. Most Abrahamists, traditionally, have been theists, but it is difficult not to suspect that Marxist socialism is an atypical variant which has inherited a linear view of time, a contest between the chosen agents of justice and the doomed powers-that-be, and the prospect of a future in which ‘there shall be no more sea’. (shrink)
When I was first approached to read a paper at the conference from which this volume takes its beginning I expected that Flint Schier, with whom I had taught a course on the Philosophy of Biology in my years at Glasgow, would be with us to comment and to criticize. I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing once again my own sense of loss. I am sure that we would all have gained by his presence, and hope that he (...) would find things both to approve, and disapprove, in the following venture. (shrink)
Practitioners of disciplines whose problems are debated by moral philosophers regularly complain that the philosophers are engaged in abstract speculation, divorced from ‘real-life’ consequences and responsibilities, that it is the practitioners who must take the decisions, and that they cannot act in accordance with strict abstract logic.
Jonathan Edwards identified the central act of faith as ‘the cordial consent of beings to Being in general’, which is to say to God . That equation, of Being, Truth and God, is rarely taken seriously in analytical circles. My argument will be that this is to neglect the real context of a great deal of past philosophy, particularly the very Cartesian arguments from which so many undergraduate courses begin. All too many students issue from such courses immunized against enthusiasm, (...) in the conceit that they have answers to all the old conundrums, which were in any case no more than verbal trickery. ‘By uttering the right words but failing to use them in propria persona , philosophy induces a kind of soporific amnesia bewitching us into forgetting our God-given task. That task is, of course, to do what Socrates did and to live as he lived' . Burrell's words are not wholly fair to academic philosophers, nor to the Lady Philosophy. Plenty of philosophers really mind about the truth, and want to be Socratic in pursuit of it. But the danger is a real one. If all that matters is debunking past philosophers, how does that differ from the repeated refutation of the Chaldaean Oracles or the Prophecies of Nostradamus? A pretty enough pastime for the young, but hardly serious business for adults . ‘If the history of philosophy is a process of ‘salvaging’ what you yourself have already thought, then why bother?’. (shrink)
The social and environmental problems that we face at this tail end of twentieth-century progress require us to identify some cause, some spirit that transcends the petty limits of our time and place. It is easy to believe that there is no crisis. We have been told too often that the oceans will soon die, the air be poisonous, our energy reserves run dry; that the world will grow warmer, coastlands be flooded and the climate change; that plague, famine and (...) war will be the necessary checks on population growth. But here we are: sufficiently healthy and well-fed, connoisseurs of far-off catastrophe and horror movies, confident that something will turn up or that the prophecies of doom were only dreams. We are the descendants, after all, of creatures who did not despair, who hoped against hope that there would still be life tomorrow. We no more believe in the world's end than we believe that soldiers could break down the door and drag us off to torture and to death: we don't believe that they could even when we know that, somewhere altogether elsewhere, they did. Even if we can force ourselves to remember other ages, other lands or other classes, we are content enough. (shrink)
Consistent materialists are almost bound to suggest that ‘conscious experience’, if it exists at all, is no more than epiphenomenal. A correct understanding of the real requires that everything we do and say is no more than a product of whatever processes are best described by physics, without any privileged place, person, time or scale of action. Consciousness is a myth, or at least a figment. Plotinus was no materialist: for him, it is Soul and Intellect that are more real (...) than the phenomena we misdescribe as material. Nor does he suppose that consciousness depends on language : wordless experience is actually superior. And much of what counts towards our present consciousness is to be discarded. It is better not to remember most of what now seems more significant to us; better to discard images; better that the intellect be ‘drunk’ than ‘sober’, losing any sense of separation between subject and object. The goal of the Plotinian intellectual is to join ‘the dance of immortal love’, but it is a mark of the good dancer that she is not conscious of what she does. There is therefore a strange confluence between Plotinus and modern materialists: our experience at least is transitory, deceitful, epiphenomenal, and ‘reality’ is to be encountered when we have shed our illusions. (shrink)