This paper seeks to reinterpret the life and work of J. B. S. Haldane by focusing on an illuminating but largely ignored essay he published in 1927, "The Last Judgment" -- the sequel to his better known work, "Daedalus" (1924). This astonishing essay expresses a vision of the human future over the next 40,000,000 years, one that revises and updates Wellsian futurism with the long range implications of the "new biology" for human destiny. That vision served as a kind of (...) lifelong credo, one that infused and informed his diverse scientific work, political activities, and popular writing, and that gave unity and coherence to his remarkable career. (shrink)
Kantian autonomy is often thought to be independent of time and place, but J. B. Schneewind in his landmark study, The Invention of Autonomy, has shown that there is much to be learned by setting Kant's moral philosophy in the context of the history of modern moral philosophy. The distinguished authors in the collection continue Schneewind's project by relating Kant's work to the historical context of his predecessors and to the empirical context of human agency. This will be a valuable (...) resource for professionals and advanced students in philosophy, the history of ideas, and the history of political thought. (shrink)
In the paper I offer a brief sketch of one of the sources of utilitarianism. Our biological ancestry is a matter of fact that is not altered by the way we describe ourselves. With philosophical theories it is otherwise. Utilitarianism can be described in ways that make it look as if it is as old as moral philosophy – as J. S. Mill thought it was. For my historical purposes, it is more useful to have an account that brings out (...) what is specific about Benthamism and its descendants. Let us try to make do with the following. First, utilitarianism asserts that the fundamental requirement of morality is that we are to maximize good, for everyone and not just for the agent. This basic principle presupposes that it makes sense to think of aggregating goods to make a total, and of comparing amounts of good thus aggregated. Second, the good to be brought about is located in feelings of pleasure, and the evil to be avoided in feelings of pain. These feelings have inherent value or disvalue regardless of how they are caused to exist and regardless of their own consequences. Third, all moral principles can be derived from the requirement that good be maximized. The principles involved in evaluating agents as well as in giving moral direction to action are nothing but applications of the basic principle. (shrink)
This is a critical review of J. B. Schneewind's Essays on the History of Moral Philosophy which both praises and raises worries about some of the main claims found in select articles in the volume. It engages with Schneewind's remarks on the historiography of moral philosophy.
Starting from the early decades of the twentieth century, evolutionary biology began to acquire mathematical overtones. This took place via the development of a set of models in which the Darwinian picture of evolution was shown to be consistent with the laws of heredity discovered by Mendel. The models, which came to be elaborated over the years, define a field of study known as population genetics. Population genetics is generally looked upon as an essential component of modern evolutionary theory. This (...) article deals with a famous dispute between J. B. S. Haldane, one of the founders of population genetics, and Ernst Mayr, a major contributor to the way we understand evolution. The philosophical undercurrents of the dispute remain relevant today. Mayr and Haldane agreed that genetics provided a broad explanatory framework for explaining how evolution took place but differed over the relevance of the mathematical models that sought to underpin that framework. The dispute began with a fundamental issue raised by Mayr in 1959: in terms of understanding evolution, did population genetics contribute anything beyond the obvious? Haldane's response came just before his death in 1964. It contained a spirited defense, not just of population genetics, but also of the motivations that lie behind mathematical modelling in biology. While the difference of opinion persisted and was not glossed over, the two continued to maintain cordial personal relations. (shrink)
This review essay assesses the significance of J. B. Schneewind's "The Invention of Autonomy" for the history of moral thought in general and for religious ethics in particular. The essay offers an overview of Schneewind's complex argument before critically discussing his four central themes: the primacy of Immanuel Kant, the fundamentality of conflict, the insufficiency of virtue, and community with God. Whereas Schneewind argues that an impasse between modern natural law and perfectionist ethics revealed irresolvable tensions within Christian ethics and (...) thus encouraged the emergence of secular moral thought, this author suggests that these tensions were specific to a voluntarist strand of Christian moral thought from which even antivoluntarists of the modern period were unable to break free. (shrink)
J. B. Schneewind's Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral Philosophy was the single best philosophical commentary on Henry Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics produced in the twentieth century. Although Schneewind was primarily concerned to read Sidgwick's ethical theory in its historical context, as reflecting the controversies generated by such figures as J. S. Mill, F. D. Maurice, and William Whewell, his reading also ended up being highly neo-Kantian, reflecting various Rawlsian priorities. As valuable as such an interpretation of Sidgwick surely is, Schneewind's (...) approach has always been in some key respects too narrowly conceived in its construction of Sidgwick's philosophical and cultural context, failing to grapple with such troubling, philosophically relevant issues as the possible racism of Sidgwick's ethical and political views, or the sexual politics manifest in his collaboration with such figures as John Addington Symonds. Correspondence:c1 email@example.com. (shrink)
This essay investigates the influences that led J.B. Watson to change from being a student in an introspectionist laboratory at Chicago to being the founder of systematic (or radical) behaviourism. Our focus is the crucial period, 1913-1914, when Watson struggled to give a convincing behaviourist account of mental imaging, which he considered to be the greatest obstacle to his behaviourist programme. We discuss in detail the evidence for and against the view that, at least eventually, Watson rejected outright the very (...) existence of mental images. We also discuss in detail whether or not Knight Dunlap was the crucial influence on his eventual rejection of mental images. Finally we consider whether Watson's rejection of mental images was bolstered by some personal incapacity as regards imaging or whether his rejection was more like a form of 'ideological blindness'. (shrink)
This essay examines the intellectual origins of Tocqueville's thoughts on political economy. It argues that Tocqueville believed political economy was crucial to what he called the ‘new science of politics’, and it explores his first forays into the discipline by examining his studies of J.-B. Say and T.R. Malthus. The essay shows how Tocqueville was initially attracted to Say's approach as it provided him with a rigorous analytical framework with which to examine American democracy. Though he incorporated important aspects of (...) Say's work in Democracy in America , he was troubled by elements of it. He was unable to articulate clearly these doubts until he began studying Malthus. What he learned from Malthus caused him to move away from the more formalised approach to political economy advocated by Say and his disciples and move towards an approach advocated by Christian political economists, such as Alban Villeneuve-Bargemont. This shift would have important consequences for the composition of Democracy in America. (shrink)
J. B. Schneewind's "The Invention of Autonomy" has been hailed as a major interpretation of modern moral thought. Schneewind's narrative, however, elides several serious interpretive issues, particularly in the transition from late medieval to early modern thought. This results in potentially distorted accounts of Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius, and G. W. Leibniz. Since these thinkers play a crucial role in Schneewind's argument, uncertainty over their work calls into question at least some of Schneewind's larger agenda for the history of ethics.
The ‘modern’ natural law philosophers of the seventeenth century believed that conflict was an unavoidable concomitant of human intercourse, rooted in our nature. They understood the normative laws of nature as serving the purpose of setting the limits within which conflict is compatible with lasting social cooperation, thus showing, in effect, how warfare can be turned into competition. The natural lawyers were interested primarily in legal and political problems, not in ethics. But in order to provide reasoned approaches to immediate (...) practical issues, they had to move to a level of abstract theorizing at which philosophical claims about morality were unavoidable. Natural law theory with its understanding of the central underlying problem of human sociability dominated seventeenth-century practical philosophy, and the solutions its various proponents offered generated many of the central concerns of what we know as moral philosophy. (shrink)
What is the function of moral principles within the body of moral knowledge? And what must be the nature of moral principles in order for them to carry out this function? A specific set of answers to these questions is widely accepted among moral philosophers – so widely accepted as almost to constitute a sort of orthodoxy. The answers embody a view of the place of principles within the body of morality which crosses the lines between cognitivism and non-cognitivism. Though (...) I have put the question in cognitivist terms and shall discuss it in those terms, I think a similar question and a more or less parallel discussion could be given in non-cognitivist terms. Perhaps the time-honoured debate between the two positions can be suspended, at least temporarily, while we examine, not the nature of morality, but its structure. (shrink)
This essay asks whether what is good for someone is distinct from her self-perfection, and whether it makes sense to understand either her good or her self-perfection in terms of the other. The essay adopts a traditional naturalistic understanding of perfection. It argues, however, that the conception of human nature that underlies the perfectionist view must be more individualistic than it is often taken to be. It goes on to distinguish individuative from generic features of human nature; because the account (...) includes both types of characteristics, the concluding vision of human nature, and hence human perfection, is deeply individualized. What is good for an individual is linked to the exercise of her nature rather than to desires individuals simply happen to have. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the interaction between science, philosophy and politics (including ideology) in the early work of J. B. S. Haldane (from 1922 to 1937). This period is particularly important, not only because it is the period of Haldane's most significant biological work (both in biochemistry and genetics), but also because it is during this period that his philosophical and political views underwent their most significant transformation. His philosophical stance first changed from a radical organicism to a position far more (...) compatible with mechanical materialism. The primary intellectual influence that was responsible for this shift was that of F. G. Hopkins. Later, Haldane came to accept Marxism and its official metaphysics, dialectical materialism, a move that let him accept the materialist conception of the world while still maintaining a resolute distance from mechanism. Throughout all these changes, what is most obvious is the influence of science on Haldane's philosophical views. An influence in the opposite direction is far less apparent. (shrink)
Cet article a pour objectif de montrer l’importance de la réception de la théologie politique de J.B. Metz auprès de certains théologiens soucieux de la dimension politique de la foi chrétienne. L’étude présente les réactions immédiates au projet théologique de Metz pour ensuite se focaliser sur des théologiens contemporains. Premièrement, on trouve J. Milbank, qui apprécie la pensée de Metz en la confrontant à son programme de Radical Orthodoxy. Deuxièmement, on rencontre H.-J. Gagey et J.-L. Souletie, qui évaluent la force (...) politique de la théologie de Metz. Enfin, on découvre la façon dont L. Boeve reprend de façon personnelle certains aspects de la pensée du théologien allemand. Pour terminer, l’article propose une réflexion synthétique et critique sur cette réception, avec le souci de montrer la pertinence de la théologie politique de Metz et sa capacité à stimuler la réflexion sur le rapport foi et société. (shrink)
Cet ouvrage, composé de huit chapitres et de neuf appendices (qui contiennent des précisions utiles sur la méthode proposée), présente une thèse originale et controversée selon laquelle une structure musicale sous-tend les dialogues platoniciens, et en permet une plus riche compréhension. J. B. Kennedy s'appuie sur deux dialogues, le Banquet et l'Euthyphron pour la démontrer. Avant d'introduire sa méthodologie, il prend soin de tracer l'origine de ce type d'interprétation pour en défendre la pertinence. (…) - 12. Plato 12 (2012).
Le débat entre E. Peterson et C. Schmitt des années 1930 sur le théologico-politique a laissé une question irrésolue qui resurgit dans les sociétés pluralistes postmodernes. La nouvelle théologie politique du théologien de Münster J.B. Metz la réactive en proposant au fil de son oeuvre une éthique politique comme éthique du changement social. En sous-estimant le caractère polémique du politique et la fragilité des sujets dont l’identité est devenue précaire, Metz parvient sûrement à une théologie critique mais demeure incertain sur (...) le versant de l’invention politique proprement dite de la société. L’opposition de J. Milbank à cette théologie politique ne dirime pas la question et demeure dans un geste uniquement critique en proposant une contre-éthique, une contre-ontologie, un contre-royaume par la mise en oeuvre de pratiques narratives, rituelles et sociales. Un débat entre la théologie de J.B. Metz et la pensée communautariste de S. Hauerwas pourrait peut-être affronter la question de l’avènement des sujets capables d’invention politique dans les sociétés complexes de la postmodernité. (shrink)