The essays in this volume form a commentary on Descartes' _Meditations_. Following the sequence of the meditational stages, the authors analyze the function of each stage in transforming the reader, to realize his essential nature as a rational inquirer, capable of scientific, demonstrable knowledge of the world. There are essays on the genre of meditational writing, on the implications of the opening cathartic section of the book on Descartes' theory of perception and his use of skeptical arguments; essays on the (...) theory of ideas and their role of Descartes' reconstructive analytic method; essays on the proofs for the existence of God, on the role of the will in the formation and malformation of judgments; and the essays on the foundations of the science of extension and on Descartes' account of the union of mind and body. (shrink)
The challenge of explaining the emotions has engaged the attention of the best minds in philosophy and science throughout history. Part of the fascination has been that the emotions resist classification. As adequate account therefore requires receptivity to knowledge from a variety of sources. The philosopher must inform himself of the relevant empirical investigation to arrive at a definition, and the scientist cannot afford to be naive about the assumptions built into his conceptual apparatus. The contributors to this volume have (...) approached the problem of characterizing and classifying emotions from the perspectives of neurophysiology, psychology, and social psychology as well as that of philosophical psychology. They discuss the difficulties that arise in classifying the emotions, assessing their appropriateness and rationality, and determining their function in motivating moral action. (shrink)
review of Rorty's collection on evil. Generally admring, but complaining about the disparate phenomena included under the heading. And remarking on the peculiarities of the Enlish word 'evil' not found in other European languages.
During the period from Descartes to Rousseau, the mind changed. Its domain was redefined; its activities were redescribed; and its various powers were redistributed. Once a part of cosmic Nous, its various functions delimited by its embodied condition, the individual mind now becomes a field of forces with desires impinging on one another, their forces resolved according to their strengths and directions. Of course since there is no such thing as The Mind Itself, it was not the mind that changed. (...) Conceptions of the mind changed. Yet even to say this is misleading, because it suggests that somewhere out there in nowhere there is Nous, Psyche, Soul or Mind, the true but opaque object of all these conceptions. But of course there is no Mind in the realm of things in themselves, waiting for us to see it truly, like a China of the noumenal world, amused that our various conceptions reveal as much about ourselves as about it. (shrink)
Courage is dangerous. If it is defined in traditional ways, as a set of dispositions to overcome fear, to oppose obstacles, to perform difficult or dangerous actions, its claim to be a virtue is questionable. Unlike the virtue of justice, or a sense of proportion, traditional courage does not itself determine what is to be done, let alone assure that it is worth doing. If we retain the traditional conception of courage and its military connotations–overcoming and combat–we should be suspicious (...) of it. Instead of automatically classifying it as a virtue, attempting to develop and exercise it, we should become alert to its dangers. And yet and yet. There is an aspect of traditional courage that serves us: we require the capacities and traits that enable us to persist in acting well under stress, to endure hardships when following our judgments about what is best is difficult or dangerous. If courage is checked, redefined as the virtue that enables virtue–the various sets of dispositions, whatever they may be, that make us resolute in worthy, difficult action–then we need not fear the dangers of courage. We need rather to reform it by diversifying it, as a heterogeneous variety of traits that enable us to act well under stress, against the natural movements of self-protection. (shrink)
In Part I, I consider the normal contexts of assertions of belief and declarations of intentions, arguing that many action-guiding beliefs are accepted uncritically and even pre-consciously. I analyze the function of avowals as expressions of attempts at self-transformation. It is because assertions of beliefs are used to perform a wide range of speech acts besides that of speaking the truth, and because there is a large area of indeterminacy in such assertions, that self-deception is possible. In Part II, I (...) analyze the conditions of self-deception, and discuss the grounds on which it is regarded as irrational, even when particular instances may be beneficial. I consider some of the classical analyses of the motives for self-deception, and attempt to give an account of the occasions in which it is likely to occur. In the final section, I discuss the complex organization of the self that is presupposed by the phenomena of self-deception. (shrink)
Since many varieties of self-deception are ineradicable and useful, it would be wise to be ambivalent about at least some of its forms.1 It is open-eyed ambivalence that acknowledges its own dualities rather than ordinary shifty vacillation that we need. To be sure, self-deception remains dangerous: sensible ambivalence should not relax vigilance against pretence and falsity, combating irrationality and obfuscation wherever they occur.
As Elster suggests in his chapter 'Contradictions of the Mind', in Logic and Society, akrasia and self-deception represent the most common psychological functions for a person in conflict and contradiction. This article develops the theme of akrasia and conflict. Section I says what akrasia is not. Section II describes the character of the akrates, analyzing the sorts of conflicts to which he is subject and describing the sources of his debilities. A brief account is then given of the attractions of (...) the akratic alternative: its power to focus or dominate the agent's attention; its being strongly habitual; its having the pull of social streaming: following the charismatic leader, the mechanisms of sympathetic or antipathetic infection, the models of role casting. Following these strategies is by no means pathological: these are relatively automatic (though still voluntary) psychological functions. That is precisely their power and attraction: they provide the conflicted akrates with an action solution, though not one that accords with his preferred judgment. (shrink)
Many have said, and I think some have shown, that it is irrational to fear death. The extinction of what is essential to the self—whether it be biological death or the permanent cessation of consciousness—cannot by definition be experienced by oneself as a loss or as a harm.
_Essays on Aristotle's_ Rhetoric offers a fresh and comprehensive assessment of a classic work. Aristotle's influence on the practice and theory of rhetoric, as it affects political and legal argumentation, has been continuous and far-reaching. This anthology presents Aristotle's _Rhetoric_ in its original context, providing examples of the kind of oratory whose success Aristotle explains and analyzes. The contributors—eminent philosophers, classicists, and critics—assess the role and the techniques of rhetorical persuasion in philosophic discourse and in the public sphere. They connect (...) Aristotle's _Rhetoric_ to his other work on ethics and politics, as well as to his ideas on logic, psychology, and philosophy of language. The collection as a whole invites us to reassess the place of rhetoric in intellectual and political life. (shrink)
Akrasia is not always --or only-- a solitary failure to act on a person's judgment of what is, all things considered, best. Nor is it always a species of moral or ethical failure prompted by a form of irrationality. It is often prompted by social support and sustained by structuring political institutions.
BACKGROUND: Although placing patients with acute respiratory failure in a prone (face down) position improves their oxygenation 60 to 70 percent of the time, the effect on survival is not known. METHODS: In a multicenter, randomized trial, we compared conventional treatment (in the supine position) of patients with acute lung injury or the acute respiratory distress syndrome with a predefined strategy of placing patients in a prone position for six or more hours daily for 10 days. We enrolled 304 patients, (...) 152 in each group. RESULTS: The mortality rate was 23.0 percent during the 10-day study period, 49.3 percent at the time of discharge from the intensive care unit, and 60.5 percent at 6 months. The relative risk of death in the prone group as compared with the supine group was 0.84 at the end of the study period (95 percent confidence interval, 0.56 to 1.27), 1.05 at the time of discharge from the intensive care unit (95 percent confidence interval, 0.84 to 1.32), and 1.06 at six months (95 percent confidence interval, 0.88 to 1.28). During the study period the mean (+/-SD) increase in the ratio of the partial pressure of arterial oxygen to the fraction of inspired oxygen, measured each morning while patients were supine, was greater in the prone than the supine group (63.0+/-66.8 vs. 44.6+/-68.2, P=0.02). The incidence of complications related to positioning (such as pressure sores and accidental extubation) was similar in the two groups. CONCLUSIONS: Although placing patients with acute respiratory failure in a prone position improves their oxygenation, it does not improve survival. (shrink)
It would be pretty to think that Descartes’ Meditations is itself a structured transformation of the meditational mode, starting with the dominance of an intellectual, ascensional mode, moving through the penitential form, and ending with the analytic-architectonic mode. Unfortunately the text does not sustain such an easy resolution to our problems. Instead, we see that different modes seem dominant at different stages; their subterranean connections and relations remain unclear.We could try to construct a nesting of mask, face, and skeleton in (...) Descartes’ use of these distinct traditions. He might have unselfconsciously inherited a Stoic skeletal structure, fleshed it with the weight of his analytic-architectonic meditation, and masked it with a penitential meditation for the sake of safety in orthodoxy. But the penitential mode provides essential structural support—it cannot be unmasked. And, as we have seen, the analytic-architectonic flesh does not always conform to the Stoic skeletal structure.The problem is that the various readings subtly undermine one another. It is as if the Meditations were composed like a Francis Bacon painting. There are plenty of good solid clues for how to read the composition of the work—in fact there are too many. The work we see when using some of those clues is quite different from the work we see when following others.Did Descartes do this deliberately? An extremely chartable reading would turn him into a new sort of Socrates, constructing puzzles to force us to examine the truth of his arguments dialectically. But whatever Descartes may be, he is not Socrates, any more than he is Hume. He is defensive as well as devious, proud as well as prickly; and he is not funny. (shrink)
In this paper the view is presented that self?knowledge has no special status; its varieties constitute distinctive classes, differing from one another more sharply than each does from analogous knowledge of others. Most cases of self?knowledge are best understood contextually, subsumed under such other activities as decision?making and socializing. First person, present tense ?reports? of sensations, intentions, and thoughts are primarily adaptively expressive, only secondarily truth?functional. The last section sketches some of the disadvantages, as well as some of the advantages, (...) of being the sort of animal that is capable of treating itself as an object, to be known as others are known. (shrink)
Plato's dialogues can be read as a carefully staged exhibition and investigation of paideia, education in the broadest sense, including all that affects the formation of character and mind. The twentieth century textbook Plato — the Plato of the Myth of the Cave and the Divided Line, the ascent to the Good through Forms and Ideas — is but one of his elusive multiple authorial personae, each taking a different perspective on his investigations. As its focused problems differ, each Platonic (...) dialogue exhibits a somewhat different model for learning; each adds a distinctive dimension to Plato's fully considered counsel for education. Setting aside the important difficult questions about the chronological sequence in which the dialogues were written and revised, we can trace the argumentative rationale of Plato's fully considered views on paideia, on who should be educated by whom for what, on the stages and presuppositions of different kinds of learning. Those views are inextricably connected with his views about the structure of the soul, about the virtues and the politeia that can sustain a good life; and about cosmology and metaphysics. (shrink)