In this controversial new book O'Hear takes a stand against the fashion for explaining human behavior in terms of evolution. He contends that while the theory of evolution is successful in explaining the development of the natural world in general, it is of limited value when applied to the human world. Because of our reflectiveness and our rationality we take on goals and ideals which cannot be justified in terms of survival-promotion or reproductive advantage. O'Hear examines the nature of human (...) self-consciousness, and argues that evolutionary theory cannot give a satisfactory account of such distinctive facets of human life as the quest for knowledge, moral sense, and the appreciation of beauty; in these we transcend our biological origins. It is our rationality that allows each of us to go beyond not only our biological but also our cultural inheritance: as the author says in the Preface, "we are prisoners neither of our genes nor of the ideas we encounter as we each make our personal and individual way through life.". (shrink)
This balanced and up-to-date introduction to the philosophy of science covers all the main topics in the area, and initiates the student into the moral and social reality of science. O'Hear discusses the growth of knowledge of science, the status of scientific theories and their relationship to observational data, the extent to which scientific theories rest on unprovable paradigms, and the nature of scientific explanations. In later chapters he considers probability, scientific reductionism, the relationship between science and technology, and the (...) relationship between scientific and other values. (shrink)
First published in 1988, the aim of this book can be stated in Nietzsche’s words: ‘To look at science from the perspective of the artist, but at art from that of life’. The title contests the notions that science alone can provide us with the most objective truth about the world, and that artistic endeavour can produce nothing more valuable than entertainment. O’Hear argues that art and the study of art are not indispensable aspects of human life, and that this (...) is equally as important as the investigation of the natural world. (shrink)
In this article, we will consider how far we might be said to be active in forming our beliefs; in particular, we will ask to what extent we can be said to be free in believing what we want to believe. It is clear that we ought to believe only what is really so, at least in so far as it lies in our power to determine this, but reflection shows that, regrettably, we do not confine our beliefs to what (...) we have evidence for, nor do we always believe in accordance with the evidence we do have. So it is natural to conclude that non-intellectual factors may be at work here; such, at least, was the view of Descartes, who attributed error to the influence of our will in leading us to assent to judgments which go beyond the evidence presented by our infallible intellect. This view has some initial plausibility when we think of cases in which emotional considerations lead people to take up and genuinely believe things they have no evidence for, but it is not a view which has received much support from modern philosophers. So, in Part 1 we will look at criticisms levelled against Descartes' view by J. L. Evans, and in Part 2 we will see how far Descartes can be defended. Our conclusions here will lead us to give in Part 3 a general account of the influence of the will in beliefs. We will suggest that we are always responsible for our explicit beliefs, even though it is not true that we can simply believe what we like. Thus we will reject the idea that a man can consciously know something, and at the same time, by will power, believe the opposite. Belief is not then totally free, but we will argue that people do sometimes form beliefs which go against what they should and could believe, and that this can in a way be put down to the influence of the will. Finally we will consider some of the ways in which it is possible to influence our beliefs by willed acts over a long period of time, though this is not the way that we clami that the will might be said to play a part in every judgment that we make. (shrink)
The nature of the mind and of consciousness, the reality of freedom, the concept of agency and the relation of language to the mental: all are central and perennial questions in philosophy. In this collection, these and other topics are pursued in original essays by some of the leading figures in contemporary philosophy of mind and action. The essays are based on the lectures given in The Royal Institute of Philosophy's annual lecture series for 2001–2002.
‘Come on, it's not a matter of life and death’, said some Job-like comforter, following a defeat in a football match. ‘No’, replied Bill Shankly, the granite-like Scot who was manager of Liverpool FC during their days of pre-eminence, whose team had just lost, ‘it is more important than that’.
Notice the key concepts: wonder, purification of emotion, piercing the blindness of activity, transcendent functions. There are echoes here of the Platonic doctrine of philosophy as the care of the soul, therapy, the turning of the soul from fantasy to reality. Education, says Plato, is the art of orientation, the shedding of the leaden weights which progressively weigh us down as we become more and more sunk in the material world and the world of desire, eating and similar pleasures and (...) indulgences. All this is in the context of the Cave, and a form of vision which is to become able to bear ‘the sight of real being and reality at its most bright… which is a form of goodness’. (shrink)
This is not the first time the title ‘Art and Technology’ has been used, but to distinguish what I have to say from Walter Gropius's Bauhaus exhibition of 1923, I am subtitling my paper ‘an old tension’, where the architect spoke of ‘a new unity’. In a way, Gropius has been proved right; the structures of the future avoiding all romantic embellishment and whimsy, the cathedrals of socialism, the corporate planning of comprehensive Utopian designs have all gone up and some (...) come down. We have a mass media culture also largely made possible by technology. Corporatist architecture, whether statist ‘social housing’ or freemarket inspired, films, videos, modern recording and musical techniques are all due to technological advances made mostly this century. Only in a very puritanical sense could what has happened be thought of as inevitably bringing with it enslavement. All kinds of possibilities are now open to artists and architects, which would have been imaginable a few decades ago. No one is forced to use these possibilities in any specific way. (shrink)
This collection brings together the primary assessments of and reactions to the work and abiding influence of this revolutionary thinker, as well as the controversy he caused across many academic and political fields. The set includes early responses to Popper's work from sources difficult to obtain, and also two early reviews (by Carnap and Grelling) in translations specially prepared for this set. It is organized thematically, and includes a substantial new introduction by the editor.
Although this collection of articles is not formally a commentary on Elizabeth Anscombe's famous article of the same title, in which she criticized the moral philosophy prevalent in 1958, a number of the contributors consider Anscombe's work as a starting point. The collection can be interpreted as a demonstration of the extent to which moral philosophers have since attempted to respond to Anscombe's challenge, and to develop an approach to their subject which is neither based on divine law nor permissive (...) of the impermissible. (shrink)
Although this collection of articles is not formally a commentary on Elizabeth Anscombe's famous article of the same title, in which she criticised the moral philosophy prevalent in 1958, a number of the contributors do take Anscombe's work as a starting point. Taken together the collection could be seen as a demonstration of the extent to which moral philosophers have since attempted to answer Anscombe's challenge, and to develop an approach to their subject which, while psychologically plausible, is neither based (...) on divine law nor permissive of the impermissible. (shrink)
What is the mind? How does it relate to the body and the world? What is consciousness? What is experience? How free are we? Do we have special insights into ourselves? These perennial questions are at the forefront of the philosophical concerns today. Much of the most exciting and innovative work in philosophy at the present time is being done in the philosophy of mind. The best of this work is represented in this collection, based on the Royal Institute of (...) Philosophy's annual lecture series for 1996/7. It brings together leading figures in the area from Britain and the US, who lay out their thoughts on key issues in an accessible way. The book will be of great interest both to those working in the field and to those keen to discover just where philosophy and the philosophy of mind is moving at the end of the twentieth century. (shrink)
This collection of essays from the Royal Institute of Philosophy shows the connections and interrelations between the analytic and hermeneutic strains in German philosophy since Kant, partly to challenge the idea that there are two separate, non-communicating traditions. The distinguished contributors include Robert Solomon writing on Nietzsche, Michael Inwood on Heidegger, P. M. S. Hacker on Frege and Wittgenstein, Christopher Janaway on Schopenhauer, Thomas Uebel on Neurath and the Vienna Circle, and Jay Bernstein on Adorno. The collection is rounded off (...) by a paper by Jürgen Habermas specifically on hermeneutic and analytic philosophy. (shrink)
In this country, we tend to look at Wittgenstein in a rather ahistorical way. We see his concerns as fundamentally logico-linguistic, following on first from the work of Frege and Russell, and then referring back indirectly to the concerns of the British empiricists, to those of Locke and Hume, say, on such matters as the reference of our talk about sensations and scepticism about the external world. Recently there has been considerable discussion of the extent to which Wittgenstein's own analysis (...) of the private language and of rule-following might not itself be a new version of a fundamentally Humean scepticism: according to Saul Kripke, Wittgenstein's arguments amount to a demonstration that there is no more reason for speakers of a language to follow the rules governing the concepts of that language in the same way than on the Humean account there is any reason for an effect to follow its causes. (shrink)
In Consciousness Explained, Dennett systematically deconstructs the notion of consciousness, emptying it of its central and essential features. He fails to recognize the self?intimating nature of experience, in effect reducing experiences to reports or judgments that so?and?so is the case. His information?processing model of meaning is unable to account for semantics, the way in which speakers and hearers relate strings of symbols to the world. This ability derives ultimately from our animal nature as experiencers, though culturally supplemented in various ways. (...) But Dennett, while successful in rebutting Cartesianism about the mind, fails to take into account our natural history. He claims descent from Wittgenstein in his philosophy of mind, but he shows awareness only of Wittgensteinian's demolition of the private object of experience and overlooks the equally Wittgensteinian theme of humans as products of nature. (shrink)
Ruskin said ‘Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Nor one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.’.
We spent a wonderful morning in the van Gogh gallery in Amsterdam. Of course we knew all the paintings, we had seen them all in reproduction, and the building was more like a bank vault than a setting for art. But what art! At first sight how small and uniform the paintings were in reality: yet every blade of grass, every flower in a field, every olive tree, every vibration in the sky, every patch of colour, every brush stroke, testified (...) to life and to a life vibrating beneath the surface form. In a true sense, an artist inspired, an artist breaking convention, artistic and social, but nevertheless an artist transforming life with a vision of the enhancement of life, a vision inviting each one of us to look again at the natural forms around us, to feel the spirit or the gods dwelling in them, a vision of enchantment and of humanity in a disenchanted world. Art—painting—can, then, be a source of spiritual nourishment as Kant and Schiller and Ruskin in their different ways thought it should be. (shrink)
Even today, apologists for modernist and post-modernist architecture frequently appeal to what, following Sir Karl Popper, I will call historicist arguments. Such arguments have a particular poignancy when they are used to justify the replacement of some familiar part of an ancient city with some intentionally untraditional structure; as, for example, when a familiar nineteenth century block of offices in a prime city site is swept away to make room for something supposedly more fitting to the ‘new millennium’, a ‘twentieth (...) century contribution to monumental architecture’, a building ‘of substantial importance to the present age’. Similarly, those architects or consumers of architecture who fail to conform to whatever stylistic demands the age is held to demand are marginalized in many supposedly serious discussions of architecture, and made to feel out of place and out of time. (shrink)