Bernard Mayo, who died in 2000, was Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of St Andrews from 1967–1983. He chose his 19th century predecessor J F Ferrier as the subject of his inaugural lecture delivered on 26th November 1969. Copies of the lecture were printed and distributed, but it was never published. Mayo's choice of subject for his inaugural shows remarkable and at the time highly unusual insight into the value Ferrier's philosophical writings, and rising current interest in Ferrier (...) warrants its publication now, in a lightly edited version that has eliminated references to the specific occasion on which it was delivered. Mayo explores Ferrier's version of the contrast between the human and the natural as a means of illuminating the 20th century debate between realists and relativists in moral philosophy. (shrink)
It is fashionable nowadays to discredit the theory of the general will, and an attempt to rehabilitate it is not likely to receive much sympathy. Nevertheless, I propose to give some reasons for adopting a more lenient attitude towards the theory, and to indicate some possible lines along which a rehabilitation might be conducted.
There is a wide gap, at any rate in the English-speaking world, between the people whose business it is to talk about the nature of poetry and those who are concerned with the critical analysis of language. Although both subjects are legitimate topics for philosophical discussion, there are few philosophers who combine a deep and effective interest in aesthetics with a concern in the problems of linguistic analysis. The analytical philosopher is only too ready to relegate poetry to the field (...) of “emotive” meaning; and, although “emotive” is a convenient term for marking off aspects of meaning with which the scientist is not concerned, it is also a means for keeping questions closed which ought to be opened. For it conceals the enormous differences which exist between various nonscientific uses of language. It does this behind an implicit suggestion that, since “emotions” are the province of the psychologist, any sort of inquiry into these uses of language will be merely a psychological inquiry. Poetry, of course, falls into this category of non-scientific uses of language, and a few psycho-analysts have accepted the commitment to discuss it; but on the whole its discussion is left to a very small band of aestheticians and a very large fraternity of literary critics. (shrink)
I Want to examine how far the question ‘What is it for a man to act morally?’ can be answered in terms of the sociological concept of a role. Is, for example, acting as a moral agent consistent with acting in the capacity of one's role, or even identical with it if being a moral agent is acting a role? In the first part of my paper I shall examine some of the relations between morality and roles, especially from the (...) point of view of that freedom which is always regarded as a necessary condition of a man's being a moral agent. In the second part I shall examine the concept of a role itself, not from the point of view of sociology to which it notionally belongs, but from the point of view of the philosophy of mind; this is the point of connection between my own theme and the general theme of this series of lectures. The role concept will thus be a bridging concept between ethics and the philosphy of mind. Finally I shall bring to bear on the idea of the moral agent any insights that may be yielded by the psychology of role-acting. (shrink)
I begin with some elementary observations about assertion. In spite of recent criticisms of philosophers who have been too ready to take the subject-predicate indicative sentence as the standard form of assertion, there is no doubt that this form of sentence does represent something very fundamental about assertion. To put the matter in a rough-and-ready way: if we are to assert anything at all, it seems obvious that we must first draw our listener's attention to something that we propose to (...) talk about, and then, when we have secured his attention, go on to say something about that to which we have drawn attention. (shrink)
Of the many possible, and no doubt actual, forms of incoherence covered by my title, I shall be concerned with only one, and must begin by dismissing the others. The incoherence I shall speak of is not any alleged inconsistency between deterministic and indeterministic physical theories , such as between classical particle mechanics and quantum theory. It is an inconsistency internal to determinism. Not, that is, internal to any deterministic theory ; but to the general claims put forward by determinists—whether (...) scientists, philosophers, or laymen. Still another qualification—it is ‘hard’ determinism I shall be concerned with—‘hard’ in the sense in which William James distinguished between hard and soft determinism. Soft determinism James himself ridiculed as glaringly incoherent, and in any case I shall not be specially concerned with determinism as regards human conduct—with the problem of free will and responsibility. (shrink)
There is among many moral philosophers today a renewed emphasis on the connection between reason and morality, and an attempt to exhibit moral behaviour as characteristically rational. What is original in Mr. Kneale's extremely interesting paper is the following-up of a suggestion that certain words like “right,” “wrong,” “ought,” are used in the same way both by lawyers and by moralists; this leads to a logical rehabilitation of the somewhat unpopular concept of the moral law, which in turn argues objectivity (...) and rationality in morals, and makes it possible “to distinguish between good and bad moralists in much the same way as we can distinguish between good and bad lawyers.” The legal pattern is essentially the same as the moral pattern. (shrink)