In The Birth of Sense, Don Beith proposes a new concept of generative passivity, the idea that our organic, psychological, and social activities take time to develop into sense. More than being a limit, passivity marks out the way in which organisms, persons, and interbodily systems take time in order to manifest a coherent sense. Beith situates his argument within contemporary debates about evolution, developmental biology, scientific causal explanations, psychology, postmodernism, social constructivism, and critical race theory. Drawing on (...) empirical studies and phenomenological reflections, Beith argues that in nature, novel meaning emerges prior to any type of constituting activity or deterministic plan. The Birth of Sense is an original phenomenological investigation in the style of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and it demonstrates that the French philosopher’s works cohere around the notion that life is radically expressive. While Merleau-Ponty’s early works are widely interpreted as arguing for the primacy of human consciousness, Beith argues that a pivotal redefinition of passivity is already under way here, and extends throughout Merleau-Ponty’s corpus. This work introduces new concepts in contemporary philosophy to interrogate how organic development involves spontaneous expression, how personhood emerges from this bodily growth, and how our interpersonal human life remains rooted in, and often thwarted by, domains of bodily expressivity. (shrink)
Whatever scholarly and intellectual reasons are given for the regression to the Pre-Socratics in contemporary philosophy, the regression itself is part of philosophy's effort to recover vitality and imagination spent withstanding onslaughts that sought to dispense with it, or at least reduce it to an accessory role in the service of science. Where philosophy was once handmaiden to theology, it is now pressed into the service of natural science, as a clarifier of concepts, a purifier of perception, and, in general, (...) a jack-of-all-trades, but one trustworthy only with petty tasks, viz., logical not experimental. (shrink)
During his campaign for president in 2016, Donald Trump repeatedly instructed his supporters and event security to remove protesters from his rallies, most often, by issuing a directive to “get them out”. These occasions, far from being a distraction from the political process, emerged as potent rituals of participation and the activity of removing protestors became a tool of interactional messaging. Specifically, activities of ejecting protestors were semiotically and discursively elaborated so as to cast them as the virtual realizations (...) of a larger political project of “making America great again.” Various aspects of this include the way these events came to signify about Trump’s persona and the brand of leadership he promised, about immigration reform and border control, about the possibilities for political participation and about a more diffuse struggle against the supposed tyranny of political correctness. Moreover, supporters who responded to the the instruction by attempting to remove protestors were interpellated by it as agents in the local scene of action and were thereby written into the larger populist narrative that Trump articulated. (shrink)
This book offers solutions to two persistent and I believe closely related problems in epistemology. The first problem is that of drawing a principled distinction between perception and inference: what is the difference between seeing that something is the case and merely believing it on the basis of what we do see? The second problem is that of specifying which beliefs are epistemologically basic (i.e., directly, or noninferentially, justified) and which are not. I argue that what makes a belief a (...) perceptual belief, or a basic belief, is not any introspectible feature of the belief but rather the nature of the cognitive system, or "module", that is causally responsible for the belief. Thus, even zombies, who in the philosophical literature lack conscious experiences altogether, can have basic, justified, perceptual beliefs. -/- The theories of perceptual and basic beliefs developed in the monograph are embedded in a larger reliabilist epistemology. I use this theory of basic beliefs to develop a detailed reliabilist theory: Inferentialist Reliabilism, which offers a reliabilist theory of inferential justification and which solves some longstanding problems for other reliabilist views by demanding inferential support for some—but not all—beliefs. The book is an instance of a thoroughgoingly naturalistic approach to epistemology. Many of my arguments have an empirical basis, and the view that I endorse reserves a central role for the cognitive sciences—in particular, cognitive neuroscience—in filling in the details of an applied epistemological theory. (shrink)
Benefit/cost analysis is a technique for evaluating programs, procedures, and actions; it is not a moral theory. There is significant controversy over the moral justification of benefit/cost analysis. When a procedure for evaluating social policy is challenged on moral grounds, defenders frequently seek a justification by construing the procedure as the practical embodiment of a correct moral theory. This has the apparent advantage of avoiding difficult empirical questions concerning such matters as the consequences of using the procedure. So, for example, (...) defenders of benefit/cost analysis are frequently tempted to argue that this procedure just is the calculation of moral Tightness – perhaps that what it means for an action to be morally right is just for it to have the best benefit-to-cost ratio given the accounts of “benefit” and “cost” that BCA employs. They suggest, in defense of BCA, that they have found the moral calculus – Bentham's “unabashed arithmetic of morals.” To defend BCA in this manner is to commit oneself to one member of a family of moral theories and, also, to the view that if a procedure is the direct implementation of a correct moral theory, then it is a justified procedure. Neither of these commitments is desirable, and so the temptation to justify BCA by direct appeal to a B/C moral theory should be resisted; it constitutes an unwarranted short cut to moral foundations – in this case, an unsound foundation. Critics of BCA are quick to point out the flaws of B/C moral theories, and to conclude that these undermine the justification of BCA. But the failure to justify BCA by a direct appeal to B/C moral theory does not show that the technique is unjustified. There is hope for BCA, even if it does not lie with B/C moral theory. (shrink)
In spite of many claims by people who have had the kind of mystical experiences that I want to discuss, such experiences do not reveal any reality beyond the experience itself; nor does the experience itself constitute a cosmic principle such as the Godhead, Absolute, One or Chaos. These experiences are in the last analysis merely subjective experiences. I say ‘merely’ here only to deny that the experiences have any significance for the cosmologists; not to deny that the experience has (...) significant value for the experiencer. It may be that the experiences are the ultimate goal attainable by human beings. Their value does not depend on their being the ultimate truth. (shrink)
Outside of philosophy, ‘intuition’ means something like ‘knowing without knowing how you know’. Intuition in this broad sense is an important epistemological category. I distinguish intuition from perception and perception from perceptual experience, in order to discuss the distinctive psychological and epistemological status of evaluative property attributions. Although it is doubtful that we perceptually experience many evaluative properties and also somewhat unlikely that we perceive many evaluative properties, it is highly plausible that we intuit many instances of evaluative properties as (...) such. The resulting epistemological status of evaluative property attributions is very much like it would be if we literally perceived such properties. (shrink)
This paper develops an argument against causal decision theory. I formulate a principle of preference, which I call the Guaranteed Principle. I argue that the preferences of rational agents satisfy the Guaranteed Principle, that the preferences of agents who embody causal decision theory do not, and hence that causal decision theory is false.
Can beliefs that are not consciously formulated serve as part of an agent's evidence for other beliefs? A common view says no, any belief that is psychologically immediate is also epistemically immediate. I argue that some unconscious beliefs can serve as evidence, but other unconscious beliefs cannot. Person-level beliefs can serve as evidence, but subpersonal beliefs cannot. I try to clarify the nature of the personal/subpersonal distinction and to show how my proposal illuminates various epistemological problems and provides a principled (...) framework for solving other problems. (shrink)
Like many people these days, I believe there is no general moral obligation to obey the law. I shall explain why there is no such moral obligation – and I shall clarify what I mean when I say there is no moral obligation to obey the law – as we proceed. But also like many people, I am unhappy with a position that would say there was no moral obligation to obey the law and then say no more about the (...) law's moral significance. In our thinking about law in a resonably just society, we have a strong inclination to invest law with a sort of moral halo. It does not feel right to suggest that law is a morally neutral social fact, nor to suggest that law is merely a useful social technique. In this essay, I shall try to account in part for law's moral halo. Because I share the widespread inclination to invest law with this halo, I shall not be interested in a merely historical account of how we come to see law with a halo – a pure “error theory” of law's halo, if you will. I want to justify the halo. On the other hand, the main way to justify the halo is to get clear just what law's moral significance is. It is unlikely that at the end of the process of clarification the halo will have exactly the shape or luminance that it had at the beginning. (shrink)
This book is an introduction to and interpretation of the philosophy of language devised by Donald Davidson over the past 25 years. The guiding intuition is that Davidson's work is best understood as an ongoing attempt to purge semantics of theoretical reifications. Seen in this light the recent attack on the notion of language itself emerges as a natural development of his Quinian scepticism towards "meanings" and his rejections of reference-based semantic theories. Linguistic understanding is, for Davidson, essentially dynamic, (...) arising only through a continuous process of theory construction and reconstruction. The result is a conception of semantics in which the notion of interpretation and not the notion of knowing a language is fundamental. In the course of his book Bjorn Ramberg provides a critical discussion of reference-based semantic theories, challenging the standard accounts of the principle of charity and elucidating the notion of radical interpretation. The final chapter on incommensurability ties in with the discussions of Kuhn's work in the philosophy of science and suggests certain links between Davidson's analytic semantics and hermeneutic theory. (shrink)
In this volume--the first, focused study of Hume on time and identity--Baxter focuses on Hume’s treatment of the concept of numerical identity, which is central to Hume's famous discussions of the external world and personal identity. Hume raises a long unappreciated, and still unresolved, difficulty with the concept of identity: how to represent something as "a medium betwixt unity and number." Superficial resemblance to Frege’s famous puzzle has kept the difficulty in the shadows. Hume’s way of addressing it makes sense (...) only in the context of his unorthodox theory of time. Baxter shows the defensibility of that theory against past dismissive interpretations, especially of Hume’s stance on infinite divisibility. Later the author shows how the difficulty underlies Hume’s later worries about his theory of personal identity, in a new reading motivated by Hume’s important appeals to consciousness. Baxter casts Hume throughout as an acute metaphysician, and reconciles this side of Hume with his overarching Pyrrhonian skepticism. (shrink)
What I wish to do in this paper is to look at a part of John Stuart Mill's ‘one very simple principle’ for determining the limits of state intervention. This principle is, you will remember, that ‘the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.’.
It is plausible that there are epistemic reasons bearing on a distinctively epistemic standard of correctness for belief. It is also plausible that there are a range of practical reasons bearing on what to believe. These theses are often thought to be in tension with each other. Most significantly for our purposes, it is obscure how epistemic reasons and practical reasons might interact in the explanation of what one ought to believe. We draw an analogy with a similar distinction between (...) types of reasons for actions in the context of activities. The analogy motivates a two-level account of the structure of normativity that explains the interaction of correctness-based and other reasons. This account relies upon a distinction between normative reasons and authoritatively normative reasons. Only the latter play the reasons role in explaining what state one ought to be in. All and only practical reasons are authoritative reasons. Hence, in one important sense, all reasons for belief are practical reasons. But this account also preserves the autonomy and importance of epistemic reasons. Given the importance of having true beliefs about the world, our epistemic standard typically plays a key role in many cases in explaining what we ought to believe. In addition to reconciling (versions of) evidentialism and pragmatism, this two-level account has implications for a range of important debates in normative theory, including the interaction of right and wrong reasons for actions and other attitudes, the significance of reasons in understanding normativity and authoritative normativity, the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘substantive’ normativity, and whether there is a unified source of authoritative normativity. (shrink)
Etiquette and other merely formal normative standards like legality, honor, and rules of games are taken less seriously than they should be. While these standards are not intrinsically reason-providing in the way morality is often taken to be, they also play an important role in our practical lives: we collectively treat them as important for assessing the behavior of ourselves and others and as licensing particular forms of sanction for violations. This chapter develops a novel account of the normativity of (...) formal standards where the role they play in our practical lives explains a distinctive kind of reason to obey them. We have this kind of reason to be polite because etiquette is important to us. We also have this kind of reason to be moral because morality is important to us. This parallel suggests that the importance we assign to morality is insufficient to justify it being substantive. (shrink)
Economic theory is built on assumptions about human behavior—assumptions embodied in rational-choice theory. Underlying these assumptions are implicit notions about how we think and learn. These implicit notions are fundamentally important to social explanation. The very plausibility of the explanations that we develop out of rational-choice theory rests crucially on the accuracy of these notions about cognition and rationality. But there is a basic problem: There is often very little relationship between the assumptions that rational-choice theorists make and the way (...) that humans actually act and learn in everyday life. This has significant implications for economic theory and practice. It leads to bad theories and inadequate explanations; it produces bad predictions and, thus, supports ineffective social policies. (shrink)
An adaptive preference is a preference that is regimented in response to an agent’s set of feasible options. The fabled fox in the sour grapes story undergoes an adaptive preference change. I consider adaptive preferences more broadly, to include adaptive preference formation as well. I argue that many adaptive preferences that other philosophers have cast out as irrational sour-grapes-like preferences are actually fully rational preferences worthy of pursuit. I offer a means of distinguishing rational and worthy adaptive preferences from irrational (...) and unworthy ones. The distinction is based on the agent’s own appraisal of the adaptive preference. (shrink)
I argue that the social dimension of alienation, as discussed by Williams and Railton, has been underappreciated. The lesson typically drawn from their exchange is that moral theory poses a threat to the internal integrity of the agent, but there is a parallel risk that moral theory will implicitly construe agents as constitutively alienated from one another. I argue that a satisfying account of agency will need to make room for what I call ‘genuine ethical contact’ with others, both as (...) concrete objects in the world external to ourselves and as subjects who can recognize us reciprocally. (shrink)
A natural suggestion and increasingly popular account of how to revise our logical beliefs treats revision of logic analogously to the revision of scientific theories. I investigate this approach and argue that simple applications of abductive methodology to logic result in revision-cycles, developing a detailed case study of an actual dispute with this property. This is problematic if we take abductive methodology to provide justification for revising our logical framework. I then generalize the case study, pointing to similarities with more (...) recent and popular heterodox logics such as naïve logics of truth. I use this discussion to motivate a constraint—logical partisanhood—on the uses of such methodology: roughly: both the proposed alternative and our actual background logic must be able to agree that moving to the alternative logic is no worse than staying put. (shrink)
The crucial premise of the standard argument for two-boxing in Newcomb's problem, a causal dominance principle, is false. We present some counterexamples. We then offer a metaethical explanation for why the counterexamples arise. Our explanation reveals a new and superior argument for two-boxing, one that eschews the causal dominance principle in favor of a principle linking rational choice to guidance and actual value maximization.
Donald Davidson has prepared a new edition of his classic 1980 collection of Essays on Actions and Events, including two additional essays. In this seminal investigation of the nature of human action, Davidson argues for an ontology which includes events along with persons and other objects. Certain events are identified and explained as actions when they are viewed as caused and rationalized by reasons; these same events, when described in physical, biological, or physiological terms, may be explained by appeal (...) to natural laws. The mental and the physical thus constitute irreducibly discrete ways of explaining and understanding events and their causal relations. -/- Among the topics discussed are: freedom to act; weakness of the will; the logical form of talk about actions, intentions, and causality; the logic of practical reasoning; Hume's theory of the indirect passions; and the nature and limits of decision theory. The introduction, cross-references, and appendices emphasize the relations between the essays and explain how Davidson's views have developed. -/- . (shrink)
Bioregionalists have championed the utility of the concept of the watershed as an organizing framework for thought and action directed to understanding and implementing appropriate and respectful human interaction with particular pieces of land. In a creative analogue to the watershed, permaculturist Arthur Getz has recently introduced the term “foodshed” to facilitate critical thought about where our food is coming from and how it is getting to us. We find the “foodshed” to be a particularly rich and evocative metaphor; but (...) it is much more than metaphor. Like its analogue the watershed, the foodshed can serve us as a conceptual and methodological unit of analysis that provides a frame for action as well as thought. Food comes to most of us now through a global food system that is destructive of both natural and social communities. In this article we explore a variety of routes for the conceptual and practical elaboration of the foodshed. While corporations that are the principal beneficiaries of a global food system now dominate the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food, alternatives are emerging that together could form the basis for foodshed development. Just as many farmers are recognizing the social and environmental advantages to sustainable agriculture, so are many consumers coming to appreciate the benefits of fresh and sustainably produced food. Such producers and consumers are being linked through such innovative arrangements as community supported agriculture and farmers markets. Alternative producers, alternative consumers, and alternative small entrepreneurs are rediscovering community and finding common ground in municipal and community food councils. Recognition of one's residence within a foodshed can confer a sense of connection and responsibility to a particular locality. The foodshed can provide a place for us to ground ourselves in the biological and social realities of living on the land and from the land in a place that we can call home, a place to which we are or can become native. (shrink)
John Maynard Keynes, in a biographical essay that is as remarkable for the insight it provides into his own thinking as for what it says about its subject, described the trajectory of Malthus's intellectual career as follows: ‘from being a caterpillar of a moral scientist and chrysalis of an historian, he could at last spread the wings of his thought and survey the world as an economist’. Malthus himself had resisted this conclusion in the introduction to his Principles of Political (...) Economy — meant as a riposte to David Ricardo's way of proceeding — when he stated that ‘the science of political economy bears a nearer resemblance to the science of morals and politics than to that of mathematics’. For understandable reasons, however, some modern economists find Keynes's characterization more attractive, particularly when it also allows them to regret the fact that the free flight of the positive economist in Malthus was often impeded by historical and moral residues left over from earlier existences. By adopting this position they are able to discount awkward problems relating to the historical origins and professional identity of their discipline — those problems connected with Malthus's religious beliefs and theological standpoint that have to be confronted when his explicit claims as a Christian moral scientist are taken seriously. Lack of sympathy on the part of economists when faced with the moral and theological dimensions of Malthus's writings has a long history that goes back to Ricardo, who criticized his friend's confusion, as he saw it, of moral and economic considerations. James Mill, as always, was more outspoken in regretting the intellectual fetters that inevitably went with Malthus's clerical status. Some economic demographers, in modern times, have also criticized Malthus for intermingling ‘moralistic and scientific aims almost inextricably’, thereby imparting what they regard as an untestable or tautological air to his exposition of the population principle. (shrink)
What makes a biological entity an individual? Jack Wilson shows that past philosophers have failed to explicate the conditions an entity must satisfy to be a living individual. He explores the reason for this failure and explains why we should limit ourselves to examples involving real organisms rather than thought experiments. This book explores and resolves paradoxes that arise when one applies past notions of individuality to biological examples beyond the conventional range and presents an analysis of identity and (...) persistence. The book's main purpose is to bring together two lines of research, theoretical biology and metaphysics, which have dealt with the same subject in isolation from one another. Wilson explains an alternative theory about biological individuality which solves problems which cannot be addressed by either field alone. He presents a more fine-grained vocabulary of individuation based on diverse kinds of living things, allowing him to clarify previously muddled disputes about individuality in biology. (shrink)
ABSTRACT This paper contributes to the development of a critical realist approach to discourse analysis by combining aspects of ‘critical discourse analysis’ and ‘the morphogenetic/morphostatic approach’. Unlike poststructuralist discourse theory, CDA insists on the maintenance of two distinctions: between discourse and other aspects of social reality; between structure and agency. However, CDA lacks clarity on these distinctions. M/m, on the other hand, offers a coherent modelling of these distinctions that can underpin the application of CDA. The paper begins by introducing (...) CDA, M/m and the existing literature on critical realist discourse analysis. It then establishes the M/m model of social change within CDA’s existing social theory by focusing on ‘analytical dualism’ and ‘social practice’. Finally, the paper locates the concept of discourse within M/m’s model of social change by theorizing discourse as one of four objective structures of meaning. (shrink)
Consequentialists often assume rational monism: the thesis that options are always made rationally permissible by the maximization of the selfsame quantity. This essay argues that consequentialists should reject rational monism and instead accept rational pluralism: the thesis that, on different occasions, options are made rationally permissible by the maximization of different quantities. The essay then develops a systematic form of rational pluralism which, unlike its rivals, is capable of handling both the Newcomb problems that challenge evidential decision theory and the (...) unstable problems that challenge causal decision theory. (shrink)
I distinguish two ways of developing anti-exceptionalist approaches to logical revision. The first emphasizes comparing the theoretical virtuousness of developed bodies of logical theories, such as classical and intuitionistic logic. I'll call this whole theory comparison. The second attempts local repairs to problematic bits of our logical theories, such as dropping excluded middle to deal with intuitions about vagueness. I'll call this the piecemeal approach. I then briefly discuss a problem I've developed elsewhere for comparisons of logical theories. Essentially, the (...) problem is that a pair of logics may each evaluate the alternative as superior to themselves, resulting in oscillation between logical options. The piecemeal approach offers a way out of this problem andthereby might seem a preferable to whole theory comparisons. I go on to show that reflective equilibrium, the best known piecemeal method, has deep problems of its own when applied to logic. (shrink)
Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig present the definitive critical exposition of the philosophical system of Donald Davidson. Davidson 's ideas had a deep and broad influence in the central areas of philosophy; he presented them in brilliant essays over four decades, but never set out explicitly the overarching scheme in which they all have their place. Lepore's and Ludwig's book will therefore be the key work, besides Davidson 's own, for understanding one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth (...) century. (shrink)
Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) is one of the central figures of 20th-century Continental philosophy, and his work has been hugely influential in a wide range of fields. His writings engage in the study of perception, language, politics, aesthetics, history and ontology, and represent a rich and complex network of exciting ideas. -/- The Merleau-Ponty Dictionary provides the reader and student of Merleau-Ponty with all the tools necessary to engage with this key thinker: a comprehensive A to Z that provides summaries of (...) all his major texts and articles, clear and straightforward explanations of his terminology and innovative concepts, and detailed discussions of the figures and philosophies that influenced his work. The book also includes a philosophical introduction, a chronology of Merleau-Ponty's life and works, and suggestions for further reading. This dictionary is the ideal reading and research companion for students at all levels. (shrink)
According to a widely held principle—the poss-ability principle—an agent, S, is able to only if it is metaphysically possible for S to. I argue against the poss-ability principle by developing a novel class of counterexamples. I then argue that the consequences of rejecting the poss-ability principle are interesting and far-reaching.
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