My topic lies on conceptual terrain that is quite familiar to philosophers. For others, a bit of background may be in order. In light of what has filtered down from quantum mechanics, few philosophers today believe that the universe is causally deterministic. That is, to use Peter van Inwagen's succinct definition of “determinism,” few philosophers believe that “there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future.” Even so, partly for obvious historical reasons, philosophers continue to argue about whether free (...) will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism. Compatibilists argue for compatibility, and incompatibilists argue against it. Some incompatibilists maintain that free will and moral responsibility are illusions. But most are libertarians, libertarianism being the conjunction of incompatibilism and the thesis that at least some human beings are possessed of free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Almost thirty years ago, in an attempt to undermine what he termed "the principle of alternate possibilities" (the thesis that people are morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise), Harry Frankfurt offered an ingenious thought-experiment that has played a major role in subsequent work on moral responsibility and free will. Several philosophers, including David Widerker and Robert Kane, argued recently that this thought-experiment and others like it are fundamentally flawed. This paper develops a (...) new Frankfurt-style example that is immune to their objections. [Reprinted in Laura Waddell Ekstrom, ed., Agency and Responsibility: Essays on the Metaphysics of Freedom (Westview Press, 2001), pp. 241-54; and in John Martin Fischer, ed., Free Will, Vol. III (Routledge, 2005), pp. 330-42.]. (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)
A commonly accepted claim by philosophers investigating the nature of evil is that the evil person is, in some way, the mirror image of the moral saint. In this paper I will defend a new version of this thesis. I will argue that both the moral saint and the morally evil person are characterized by a lack of conflict between moral and non-moral concerns. However, while the saint achieves this unity through a reconciliation of the two, the evil person does (...) so by eliminating moral concerns from her character. (shrink)
Autonomous Agents addresses the related topics of self-control and individual autonomy. "Self-control" is defined as the opposite of akrasia-weakness of will. The study of self-control seeks to understand the concept of its own terms, followed by an examination of its bearing on one's actions, beliefs, emotions, and personal values. It goes on to consider how a proper understanding of self-control and its manifestations can shed light on personal autonomy and autonomous behaviour. Perspicuous, objective, and incisive throughout, Alfred Mele makes (...) a convincing case for the value of individual autonomy. (shrink)
Herbert Davidson's critique of my thesis regarding the relation between Averroes' Middle and Long commentaries on De anima contrasts my reading and translation of Middle Commentary passages with his own. I leave it to the informed reader to judge whether one translation is more “neutral” than the other, excluding the specific denotation which I give to sharh, which is the point at issue.
In this book, his major work, Alfred Schutz attempts to provide a sound philosophical basis for the sociological theories of Max Weber. Using a Husserlian phenomenology, Schutz provides a complete and original analysis of human action and its "intended meaning.".
Each of the following claims has been defended in the scientific literature on free will and consciousness: your brain routinely decides what you will do before you become conscious of its decision; there is only a 100 millisecond window of opportunity for free will, and all it can do is veto conscious decisions, intentions, or urges; intentions never play a role in producing corresponding actions; and free will is an illusion. In Effective Intentions Alfred Mele shows that the evidence (...) offered to support these claims is sorely deficient. He also shows that there is strong empirical support for the thesis that some conscious decisions and intentions have a genuine place in causal explanations of corresponding actions. In short, there is weighty evidence of the existence of effective conscious intentions or the power of conscious will. Mele examines the accuracy of subjects' reports about when they first became aware of decisions or intentions in laboratory settings and develops some implications of warranted skepticism about the accuracy of these reports. In addition, he explores such questions as whether we must be conscious of all of our intentions and why scientists disagree about this. Mele's final chapter closes with a discussion of imaginary scientific findings that would warrant bold claims about free will and consciousness of the sort he examines in this book. (shrink)
Although much human action serves as proof that irrational behaviour is remarkably common, certain forms of irrationalityDSmost incontinent action and self-deceptionDSpose such difficult problems that philosophers have rejected them as logically or psychologically impossible. Here, Alfred Mele shows that incontinent action and self-deception are indeed possible.
Self-deception raises complex questions about the nature of belief and the structure of the human mind. In this book, Alfred Mele addresses four of the most critical of these questions: What is it to deceive oneself? How do we deceive ourselves? Why do we deceive ourselves? Is self-deception really possible? -/- Drawing on cutting-edge empirical research on everyday reasoning and biases, Mele takes issue with commonplace attempts to equate the processes of self-deception with those of stereotypical interpersonal deception. Such (...) attempts, he demonstrates, are fundamentally misguided, particularly in the assumption that self-deception is intentional. In their place, Mele proposes a compelling, empirically informed account of the motivational causes of biased beliefs. At the heart of this theory is an appreciation of how emotion and motivation may, without our knowing it, bias our assessment of evidence for beliefs. Highlighting motivation and emotion, Mele develops a pair of approaches for explaining the two forms of self-deception: the "straight" form, in which we believe what we want to be true, and the "twisted" form, in which we believe what we wish to be false. -/- Underlying Mele's work is an abiding interest in understanding and explaining the behavior of real human beings. The result is a comprehensive, elegant, empirically grounded theory of everyday self-deception that should engage philosophers and social scientists alike. (shrink)
Mele's ultimate purpose in this book is to help readers think more clearly about free will. He identifies and makes vivid the most important conceptual obstacles to justified belief in the existence of free will and meets them head on. Mele clarifies the central issues in the philosophical debate about free will and moral responsibility, criticizes various influential contemporary theories about free will, and develops two overlapping conceptions of free will--one for readers who are convinced that free will is incompatible (...) with determinism (incompatibilists), and the other for readers who are convinced of the opposite (compatibilists). Luck poses problems for all believers in free will, and Mele offers novel solutions to those problems--one for incompatibilist believers in free will and the other for compatibilists. An early chapter of this empirically well-informed book clearly explains influential neuroscientific studies of free will and debunks some extravagant interpretations of the data. Other featured topics include abilities and alternative possibilities, control and decision-making, the bearing of manipulation on free will, and the development of human infants into free agents. Mele's theory offers an original perspective on an important problem and will garner the attention of anyone interested in the debate on free will. (shrink)
Process and Reality, Whitehead’s magnum opus, is one of the major philosophical works of the modern world, and an extensive body of secondary literature has developed around it. Yet surely no significant philosophical book has appeared in the last two centuries in nearly so deplorable a condition as has this one, with its many hundreds of errors and with over three hundred discrepancies between the American and the English editions, which appeared in different formats with divergent paginations. The work itself (...) is highly technical and far from easy to understand, and in many passages the errors in those editions were such as to compound the difficulties. The need for a corrected edition has been keenly felt for many decades. (shrink)
Tackling some central problems in the philosophy of action, Mele constructs an explanatory model for intentional behavior, locating the place and significance of such mental phenomena as beliefs, desires, reason, and intentions in the etiology of intentional action. Part One comprises a comprehensive examination of the standard treatments of the relations between desires, beliefs, and actions. In Part Two, Mele goes on to develop a subtle and well-defended view that the motivational role of intentions is of a different sort from (...) that of beliefs and desires. Mele, also offers a provocative explanation of how we come to have intentions and elaborates on his earlier work concerning akratic failures of will. (shrink)
Alfred Gell puts forward a new anthropological theory of visual art, seen as a form of instrumental action: the making of things as a means of influencing the thoughts and actions of others. He shows how art objects embody complex intentionalities and mediate social agency, and he explores the psychology of patterns and perceptions, art and personhood, the control of knowledge, and the interpretation of meaning, drawing upon a diversity of artistic traditions--European, Indian, Polynesian, Melanesian, and Australian. Art and (...) Agency was completed just before Alfred Gell's death at the age of 51 in January 1997. It embodies the intellectual bravura, lively wit, vigour, and erudition for which he was admired, and will stand as an enduring testament to one of the most gifted anthropologists of his generation. (shrink)
Alfred North Whitehead was a prominent English mathematician and philosopher who co-authored the highly influential Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell. Originally published in 1919, and first republished in 1925 as this Second Edition, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge ranks among Whitehead's most important works; forming a perspective on scientific observation that incorporated a complex view of experience, rather than prioritising the position of 'pure' sense data. Alongside companion volumes The Concept of Nature and The Principle of (...) Relativity, it created a framework for Whitehead's later metaphysical speculations. This is an important book that will be of value to anyone with an interest in the relationship between science and philosophy. (shrink)
Libertarians hold that free action and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism and that some human beings occasionally act freely and are morally responsible for some of what they do. Can libertarians who know both that they are right and that they are free make sincere promises? Peter van Inwagen, a libertarian, contends that they cannot—at least when they assume that should they do what they promise to do, they would do it freely. Probably, this strikes many readers as a (...) surprising thesis for a libertarian to hold. In light of van Inwagen's holding it, the title of his essay—‘Free Will Remains a Mystery’—may seem unsurprising. (shrink)
The mathematical background and content of Greek philosophy, by F. S. C. Northrop.--The one and the many in Plato, by R. Demos.--An introduction to the De modis significandi of Thomas of Erfurt, by S. Buchanan.--Truth by convention, by W. V. Quine.--Logical positivism and speculative philosophy, by H. S. Leonard.--The nature and status of time and passage, by P. Weiss.--Causality, by S. Kerby--iller.--The compound individual, by C. Hartshorne.--The good, by O. H. Lee.
What place does motivation have in the lives of intelligent agents? Mele's answer is sensitive to the concerns of philosophers of mind and moral philosophers and informed by empirical work. He offers a distinctive, comprehensive, attractive view of human agency. This book stands boldly at the intersection of philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, and metaphysics.
Child’s aim is to defend a pair of ideas in the philosophy of mind—"interpretationism" and "causalism"—and, especially, to establish their compatibility. "What is essential for interpretationism is the claim that thought is, in its nature, interpretable" ; "interpretability is a necessary condition for thought". Regarding belief, "the interpretationist thought is that we can give an account of the circumstances under which it is true that S believes that p by considering the circumstances under which S could be interpreted as believing (...) that p, on the basis of what she says and does". Causalism is the idea that causation is central both to psychological explanation and to mental content. Thus, causalists hold, for example, that proper explanations of agents’ actions in terms of the reasons for which they acted are causal explanations, that perception is a causal process, and that the contents of our thoughts hinge on our causal histories. Both ideas are prominent in Donald Davidson’s work, which receives substantial attention in this book. (shrink)
Following the thematic divisions of the first three volumes of Alfred Schutz's Collected Papers into The Problem of Social Reality, Studies in Social Theory and Phenomenological Philosophy, this fourth volume contains drafts of unfinished writings, drafts of published writings, translations of essays previously published in German, and some largely unpublished correspondence. The drafts of published writings contain important material omitted from the published versions, and the unfinished writings offer important insights into Schutz's otherwise unpublished ideas about economic and political (...) theory as well as the theory of law and the state. In addition, a large group contains Schutz's reflections on problems in phenomenological philosophy, including music, which both supplement and add new dimensions to his published thought. All together, the writings in this volume cover Schutz's last 15 years in Europe as well as manuscripts written after his arrival in the USA in 1939. Audience: Students and scholars of phenomenology, social theory and the human sciences in general. (shrink)