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)
Surprising as it might have seemed not so long ago, in recent times religion has once again become a focus of lively debate. The exchanges between those for and against religion have, however, often thrown up heat, rather than light. As an attempted corrective, The Royal Institute of Philosophy asked a number of distinguished philosophers who are interested in religion to contribute to its annual lecture series for 2008–9. This volume contains essays based on the lectures. The topics covered include (...) natural theology, for and against, miracles, the debates about Darwinism, spirituality, sacrifice and the sacred, the Incarnation and religion and pluralism. Vigorously argued as they are, these essays will undoubtedly take the debates forward in a constructive way. (shrink)
In this book Anthony O’Hear examines the reasons that are given for religious faith. His approach is firmly within the classical tradition of natural theology, but an underlying theme is the differences between the personal Creator of the Bible or the Koran and a God conceived of as the indeterminate ground of everything determinate. Drawing on several religious traditions and on the resources of contemporary philosophy, specific chapters analyse the nature of religious faith and of religious experience. They examine connections (...) between religion and morality, and religion and human knowledge – the cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments, process thought, and the problem that evil presents for religion. The final chapter returns to the inherently dogmatic nature of religious faith and concludes that rational people should look beyond religion for the fulfilment of their spiritual needs. (shrink)
Based on the London Lecture Series of the Royal Institute of Philosophy for 2006–7, this collection brings together essays from leading figures in a rapidly developing field of philosophy. Contributors include: Alvin Goldman, Timothy Williamson, Duncan Pritchard, Miranda Fricker, Scott Sturgeon, Jose Zalabardo, and Quassin Casay.
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)
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 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)
‘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’.
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)
There is a country where teachers have high status, and in which they have qualifications on a par with members of other respected profession. Parents and children have high aspirations and high expectations from education. Children are fully aware of the importance of hard and consistent work from each pupil. Schools open on 222 days in the year, and operate on the belief that all children can acquire the core elements of the core subjects. It is not expected that a (...) class will have a tail. Those in danger of becoming part of an incipient tail have to make up work in their breaks or after school. If the worst comes to the worst poor pupils have to repeat a year, while those who are exceptionally able will move up a year. In the primary schools, children are kept as one large group whatever their individual ability. The teacher teaches the whole group, largely from a text book, though interspersing exposition with focused questioning and discussion, so as to ensure the matter in hand has been properly assimilated by all. Lessons last 40 minutes each, with frequent breaks for letting off steam, after which it is down to work again. Pupils are frequently tested and the school Principal makes a couple of unannounced checks on homework books each term. Secondary schools are selective , allowing whole class teaching and whole class progression to predominate up to the end of schooling. The teacher indeed is in contact with the whole class for up to 80 per cent of the lesson time. While the school certainly does have non-academic aims, the focus is clearly on academic work. There is a conviction, shared by all involved, that the social and moral dimensions of the curriculum will tend to look after themselves and emerge as by-products of a properly conducted academic study. (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)
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)
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)
In this paper I show how modern democratic states are likely to be inimical to traditional liberal education. Drawing on theoretical considerations and recent history I show how any attempt to promote traditional educational values through state interventions, such as national curricula or state regulation, is bound to be illusory. The preservation of liberal education will best be served by the wholesale removal of education from the progressive state and its bureaucracies.
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)
It is appropriate that a lecture in a series on ‘Philosophy and Practice’ should open by considering Bentham's ideas on imprisonment. For Bentham, incontestably a philosopher, was equally incontestably a practical reformer. This, indeed, is a received idea among philosophers; that is to say, most philosophers know that Bentham designed ‘a model prison of novel design’, but few have actually considered the design, its implications or its effects. Most are content, like Warnock, with observing that the panopticon plan was formally (...) rejected, before passing on to the abstraction of Bentham's felicific calculus, his notion of utility, and his ideas about the foundations of law. Yet, strange as it may seem, the underlying idea of the panopticon has never been completely abandoned. One aspect of the idea pervades penal thinking, even while prison practice is still influenced by Bentham's practical proposals; moreover, the panoptic ideal has taken root far beyond the walls of actual prisons. Here is philosophy in practice, and yet, in many ways, practically and intellectually a failure. (shrink)
Is there anything significant in the fact that Aristotle, in explaining his conception of causation, takes the activity a sculptor as one of his key exemplars, his paradigm, if you like? In this paper, I am going to see if, in using Aristotle's account of causation, we can illuminate the nature of sculpture and the approach sculptors take to their art.
Popper suggests human thought and ideas exist in a world of their own, transcending our thought processes and the material world. Theories, and other human ideological creations such as values, institutions and works of art, develop independently of those who work on them, and have a causal effect on them. What Popper suggests in support of his Platonism does not show that our theories are autonomous in any non trivial way. Also the picture of an abstract world of ideas causally (...) affecting our thought processes is fraught with difficulty. (shrink)