Some of the greatest writers on moral philosophy have claimed that their theories about morality do not run counter to the moral views of ordinary men, but on the contrary are an elucidation of such views, or provide them with a sound philosophical underpinning. Aristotle, for example, made it quite clear that he could not take seriously a moral view that was at odds with the heritage of moral wisdom deeply imbedded in his society. His doctrine of the mean was (...) based on a philosophical consideration of such wisdom. And Immanuel Kant thought that his moral philosophy articulated the moral views of ordinary men. (shrink)
Assuming S5, the main controversial premise in modal ontological arguments is the possibility premise, such as that possibly a maximally great being exists. I shall offer a new way of arguing that the possibility premise is probably true.
Social and behavioral scientists — that is, students of human nature — nowadays hardly ever use the term ‘human nature’. This reticence reflects both a becoming modesty about the aims of their disciplines and a healthy skepticism about whether there is any one thing really worthy of the label ‘human nature’. For some feature of humankind to be identified as accounting for our ‘nature’, it would have to reflect some property both distinctive of our species and systematically influential enough to (...) explain some very important aspect of our behavior. Compare: molecular structure gives the essence or the nature of water just because it explains most of its salient properties. Few students of the human sciences currently hold that there is just one or a small number of such features that can explain our actions and/or our institutions. And even among those who do, there is reluctance to label their theories as claims about ‘human nature’. Among anthropologists and sociologists, the label seems too universal and indiscriminant to be useful. The idea that there is a single underlying character that might explain similarities threatens the differences among people and cultures that these social scientists seek to uncover. Even economists, who have explicitly attempted to parlay rational choice theory into an account of all human behavior, do not claim that the maximization of transitive preferences is ‘human nature’. I think part of the reason that social scientists are reluctant to use ‘human nature’ is that the term has traditionally labeled a theory with normative implications as well as descriptive ones. (shrink)
Some, notably Peter van Inwagen, in order to avoid problems with free will and omniscience, replace the condition that an omniscient being knows all true propositions with a version of the apparently weaker condition that an omniscient being knows all knowable true propositions. I shall show that the apparently weaker condition, when conjoined with uncontroversial claims and the logical closure of an omniscient being's knowledge, still yields the claim that an omniscient being knows all true propositions.
The free-will defence holds that the value of significant free will is so great that God is justified in creating significantly free creatures even if there is a risk or certainty that these creatures will sin. A difficulty for the FWD, developed carefully by Quentin Smith, is that God is unable to do evil, and yet surely lacks no genuinely valuable kind of freedom. Smith argues that the kind of freedom that God has can be had by creatures, without a (...) risk of creatures doing evil. I shall show that Smith's argument fails – the case of God is disanalogous to the case of creatures precisely because creatures are creatures. (shrink)
???Everyone agrees that the moral features of things supervene on their natural features??? , 22). Everyone is wrong, or so I will argue. In the first section, I explain the version of moral supervenience that Smith and others argue everyone should accept. In the second section, I argue that the mere conceptual possibility of a divine command theory of morality is sufficient to refute the version of moral supervenience under consideration. Lastly, I consider and respond to two objections, showing, among (...) other things, that while DCT is sufficient to refute this version of moral supervenience it is not necessary. (shrink)
Is a government required or permitted to redistribute the gains and losses that differences in biological endowments generate? In particular, does the fact that individuals possess different biological endowments lead to unfair advantages within a market economy? These are questions on which some people are apt to have strong intuitions and ready arguments. Egalitarians may say yes and argue that as unearned, undeserved advantages and disadvantages, biological endowments are never fair, and that the market simply exacerbates these inequities. Libertarians may (...) say no, holding that the possession of such endowments deprives no one of an entitlement and that any system but a market would deprive agents of the rights to their endowments. Biological endowments may well lead to advantages or disadvantages on their view, but not to unfair ones. I do not have strong intuitions about answers to these questions, in part because I believe that they are questions of great difficulty. To begin, alternative answers rest on substantial assumptions in moral philosophy that seem insufficiently grounded. Moreover, the questions involve several problematical assumptions about the nature of biological endowments. Finally, I find the questions to be academic, in the pejorative sense of this term. For aside from a number of highly debilitating endowments, the overall moral significance of differences between people seems so small, so I interdependent and so hard to measure, that these differences really will 1 not enter into practical redistributive calculations, even if it is theoretically i permissible that they do so. Before turning to a detailed discussion of biological endowments and their moral significance, I sketch my doubts about the fundamental moral theories that dictate either the impermissibility or the obligation to compensate for different biological endowments. (shrink)
In the Museum of Science and Technology in San Jose, California, there is a display dedicated to advances in biotechnology. Most prominent in the display is a double helix of telephone books stacked in two staggered spirals from the floor to the ceiling twenty-five feet above. The books are said to represent the current state of our knowledge of the eukaryotic genome: the primary sequences of DNA polynucleotides for the gene products which have been discovered so far in the twenty (...) years since cloning and sequencing the genome became possible. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that divine creation of human beings is compatible with evolutionary theory, except perhaps in regard of the human soul, and that neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory provides an explanation of speciation and of complex features of organisms that undercuts Paley-style teleological arguments, whether or not the evolutionary mechanisms are truly random or deterministic. I will argue that a plausible understanding of the doctrine of creation of human beings is either logically or rationally incompatible with full evolutionary theory, even (...) if one does not take souls into account. Consequently, a theist needs to move to a weaker version either of the creation doctrine or of evolutionary theory, or both. (shrink)
This volume contains the Arabic translations of a lost treatise by Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. AD 200) "On the Principles of the Universe" with English translation, introduction and commentary. It also includes an Arabic and Syriac glossary. The introduction and commentary deal in detail with the manuscripts, the translators and the exegetical tendencies of the text, as well as with its reception in Arabic philosophy. The main theme of the work is the motion of the heavenly bodies and their (...) influence on the physical world. (shrink)
This book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control---relegating millions to a permanent second-class status---even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.
Weintraub is not really interested in whether economics is “science” or not. “Economists are not so unsophisticated as to think that calling economics a ‘science’ says anything about what economists do or should do”. But can it really be a matter of indifference to him whether the subject has the character of chemistry as opposed to literary criticism?
Can there be grounding without necessitation? Can a fact obtain wholly in virtue of metaphysically more fundamental facts, even though there are possible worlds at which the latter facts obtain but not the former? It is an orthodoxy in recent literature about the nature of grounding, and in first-order philosophical disputes about what grounds what, that the answer is no. I will argue that the correct answer is yes. I present two novel arguments against grounding necessitarianism, and show that grounding (...) contingentism is fully compatible with the various explanatory roles that grounding is widely thought to play. (shrink)
This book provides a comprehensive guide to the conceptual methodological, and epistemological problems of biology, and treats in depth the major developments in molecular biology and evolutionary theory that have transformed both biology and its philosophy in recent decades. At the same time the work is a sustained argument for a particular philosophy of biology that unifies disparate issues and offers a framework for expectations about the future directions of the life sciences. The argument explores differences between autonomist and anti-autonomist (...) views of biology. The result is a vindication of reductionism, but one that is unexpectedly hollow. For it leaves the exponents of the autonomy of biology from physical science with as much as their view of biology really requires - and rather more than the reductionist might comfortably concede. Professor Rosenberg shows how the problems of the philosophy of biology are interconnected and how their solutions are interdependent, However, this book focuses more on the direct concerns of biologists, rather than the traditional agenda of philosophers' problems about biology. This departure from earlier books on the subject results both in greater understanding and relevance of the philosophy of science to biology as a whole. (shrink)
Do the sciences aim to uncover the structure of nature, or are they ultimately a practical means of controlling our environment? In Instrumental Biology, or the Disunity of Science, Alexander Rosenberg argues that while physics and chemistry can develop laws that reveal the structure of natural phenomena, biology is fated to be a practical, instrumental discipline. Because of the complexity produced by natural selection, and because of the limits on human cognition, scientists are prevented from uncovering the basic structure (...) of biological phenomena. Consequently, biology and all of the disciplines that rest upon it--psychology and the other human sciences--must aim at most to provide practical tools for coping with the natural world rather than a complete theoretical understanding of it. (shrink)
Economics today cannot predict the likely outcome of specific events any better than it could in the time of Adam Smith. This is Alexander Rosenberg's controversial challenge to the scientific status of economics. Rosenberg explains that the defining characteristic of any science is predictive improvability--the capacity to create more precise forecasts by evaluating the success of earlier predictions--and he forcefully argues that because economics has not been able to increase its predictive power for over two centuries, it is not (...) a science. (shrink)
After the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, scientists working in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the theory that all complex systems can be understood in terms of their components. Reductionism, however, has been widely resisted by both nonmolecular biologists and scientists working outside the field of biology. Many of these antireductionists, nevertheless, embrace the notion of physicalism—the idea that all biological processes are physical in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can these self-proclaimed physicalists also be antireductionists? With clarity (...) and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this difficult and seemingly intractable dualism with convincing analysis and timely evidence. In the spirit of the few distinguished biologists who accept reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg provides a philosophically sophisticated defense of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the theory of natural selection, ultimately proving that the physicalist must also be a reductionist. (shrink)
Neither art nor philosophy was kind to beauty during the twentieth century. Much modern art disdains beauty, and many philosophers deeply suspect that beauty merely paints over or distracts us from horrors. Intellectuals consigned the passions of beauty to the margins, replacing them with the anemic and rarefied alternative, "aesthetic pleasure." In Only a Promise of Happiness, Alexander Nehamas reclaims beauty from its critics. He seeks to restore its place in art, to reestablish the connections among art, beauty, and (...) desire, and to show that the values of art, independently of their moral worth, are equally crucial to the rest of life.Nehamas makes his case with characteristic grace, sensitivity, and philosophical depth, supporting his arguments with searching studies of art and literature, high and low, from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Manet's Olympia to television. Throughout, the discussion of artworks is generously illustrated.Beauty, Nehamas concludes, may depend on appearance, but this does not make it superficial. The perception of beauty manifests a hope that life would be better if the object of beauty were part of it. This hope can shape and direct our lives for better or worse. We may discover misery in pursuit of beauty, or find that beauty offers no more than a tantalizing promise of happiness. But if beauty is always dangerous, it is also a pressing human concern that we must seek to understand, and not suppress. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy uses experimental research methods from psychology and cognitive science in order to investigate both philosophical and metaphilosophical questions. It explores philosophical questions about the nature of the psychological world - the very structure or meaning of our concepts of things, and about the nature of the non-psychological world - the things themselves. It also explores metaphilosophical questions about the nature of philosophical inquiry and its proper methodology. This book provides a detailed and provocative introduction to this innovative field, (...) focusing on the relationship between experimental philosophy and the aims and methods of more traditional analytic philosophy. Special attention is paid to carefully examining experimental philosophy's quite different philosophical programs, their individual strengths and weaknesses, and the different kinds of contributions that they can make to our philosophical understanding. Clear and accessible throughout, it situates experimental philosophy within both a contemporary and historical context, explains its aims and methods, examines and critically evaluates its most significant claims and arguments, and engages with its critics. (shrink)
There is an underlying assumption in the social sciences that consciousness and social life are ultimately classical physical/material phenomena. In this ground-breaking book, Alexander Wendt challenges this assumption by proposing that consciousness is, in fact, a macroscopic quantum mechanical phenomenon. In the first half of the book, Wendt justifies the insertion of quantum theory into social scientific debates, introduces social scientists to quantum theory and the philosophical controversy about its interpretation, and then defends the quantum consciousness hypothesis against the (...) orthodox, classical approach to the mind-body problem. In the second half, he develops the implications of this metaphysical perspective for the nature of language and the agent-structure problem in social ontology. Wendt's argument is a revolutionary development which raises fundamental questions about the nature of social life and the work of those who study it. (shrink)
This new edition of Alexander Miller’s highly readable introduction to contemporary metaethics provides a critical overview of the main arguments and themes in twentieth- and twenty-first-century contemporary metaethics. Miller traces the development of contemporary debates in metaethics from their beginnings in the work of G. E. Moore up to the most recent arguments between naturalism and non-naturalism, cognitivism and non-cognitivism. From Moore’s attack on ethical naturalism, A. J. Ayer’s emotivism and Simon Blackburn’s quasi-realism to anti-realist and best opinion accounts (...) of moral truth and the non-reductionist naturalism of the ‘Cornell realists’, this book addresses all the key theories and ideas in this field. As well as revisiting the whole terrain with revised and updated guides to further reading, Miller also introduces major new sections on the revolutionary fictionalism of Richard Joyce and the hermeneutic fictionalism of Mark Kalderon. The new edition will continue to be essential reading for students, teachers and professional philosophers with an interest in contemporary metaethics. (shrink)
This paper re-contextualises Popper within a Kantian tradition by examining his interaction with the Vienna Circle. The complexity of Popper's relationship to the Vienna Circle is often a point of confusion as some view him as a member of the Vienna Circle while others minimise his association with this group. This paper argues that Popper was not a member of the Vienna Circle or a positivist but shared many neo-Kantian philosophical tendencies with the members of the Circle as well as (...) many of their philosophical problems and interests. By better understanding the influence of the Circle's members upon Popper, we not only remove the myths surrounding Popper's positivism, but also place the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle within its proper philosophical context. This paper further argues that it was Popper's friend during his formative philosophical years in Vienna, Julius Kraft who was responsible for the way in which Popper approached Kant. Through Kraft, Popper was introduced to the thought of Leonard Nelson and Jakob Fries as well as a tradition of critical rationalism which Popper would continue both in his methodological orientation as well as through his late German Enlightenment intellectual values. (shrink)