Marx did not approach the state in answer to some such broad and abstract philosophical question as: What is the state? Nor did he offer a full sociological or historical or analytic account of state institutions and functions, and there are hence clear and substantial dangers in extrapolating to all or most conditions an account which is, in large part, specific to bourgeois society. Failing a comprehensive and formal treatise on politics and the state, Marx's own discussion consists of a (...) number of scattered and not altogether consistent general observations and some detailed investigation of the role and character of the state in particular historical situations. It seems sensible, then, to begin an elucidation of his account of the state with a comment on the nature of his interest in the subject. Why did he need a theory of the state? At what points does it become important to his explanatory and his revolutionary doctrines? (shrink)
Western media coverage of female genital modifications in Africa has been hyperbolic and one-sided, presenting them uniformly as mutilation and ignoring the cultural complexities that underlie these practices. Even if we ultimately decide that female genital modifications should be abandoned, the debate around them should be grounded in a better account of the facts.
Commentators on the work of Immanuel Kant have long held that his later "critical" writings are a radical rejection of his earlier, less celebrated efforts. In this pathbreaking book, Susan Shell demonstrates not only the developmental unity of Kant's individual writings, but also the unity of his work and life experience. Shell argues that the central animating issues of Kant's lifework concerned the perplexing relation of spirit to body. Through an exacting analysis of individual writings, Shell maps the philosophical contours (...) of Kant's early intellectual struggles and their relation to his more mature thought. The paradox of mind in matter and the tensions it generates—between freedom and determinacy, independence and community, ideal and real—are shown to inform the whole of his work. Shell's fresh, penetrating analysis of the precritical works will surely catapult them to new prominence in Kant studies. Shell's critique goes further to consider the context of contemporary intellectual life. She explores the fascinating realm of Kant's sexual and medical idiosyncracies, linking them to the primary concerns of his critical philosophy. She develops a sure-to-be controversial treatment of the connection between Kant's philosophy and his chronic hypochondria, and illuminates previously unforeseen connections in a remarkable convergence of life and thought, with important theoretical and practical implications for modern times. (shrink)
In a previous paper (Duncan, T.L., Semura, J.S. in Entropy 6:21, 2004) we considered the question, “What underlying property of nature is responsible for the second law?” A simple answer can be stated in terms of information: The fundamental loss of information gives rise to the second law. This line of thinking highlights the existence of two independent but coupled sets of laws: Information dynamics and energy dynamics. The distinction helps shed light on certain foundational questions in statistical mechanics. For (...) example, the confusion surrounding previous “derivations” of the second law from energy dynamics can be resolved by noting that such derivations incorporate one or more assumptions that correspond to the loss of information. In this paper we further develop and explore the perspective in which the second law is fundamentally a law of information dynamics. (shrink)
Libertarianism: For and Against offers dueling perspectives on the scope of legitimate government. Tibor R. Machan, a well-known libertarian philosopher, argues for a minimal government devoted solely to protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Against this view, philosopher Craig Duncan defends democratic liberalism, which aims to ensure that all citizens have fair access to a life of dignity. In a dynamic exchange of arguments, the two philosophers cut to the heart of this important debate.
For hundreds of years, Muslim Spain was the most tolerant place in Europe. Christians, Muslims, and Jews were able to live together there more or less peacefully. The three religious groups maintained a tolerant convivencia, or coexistence, thanks partly to a twofold distinction among kinds of people that was essential to the particularist doctrine of Islam influential in Spain. Islamic doctrine distinguishes first between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples and second between those non-Muslims who are, like Muslims themselves, “Peoples of the (...) Book” and those non-Muslims who are “pagan.” These two distinctions, taken together, could amount to the difference between life and death. For example, Muslim courts ruled on the basis of the Koran that those “others” who were Peoples of the Book could not legally be put to the sword for refusing to convert to Islam while those “others” who were pagan could be. Christians and Jews had to be put up with, and usually were.2 1. Henry Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries , p. 264; my emphasis; hereafter abbreviated I.2. The Koran grounds the series of divisions outlined and is consistent with the well-known Pact of Umar I, which established special regulations for Christians and Jews living in Muslim lands: “’There is to be no compulsion in religion. Rectitude has been clearly distinguished from error. So whoever disbelieves in idols and believes in Allah has taken hold of the firmest handle. It cannot split. Allah is All-hearing and All-knowing’” . See also Sura 109:6: “To you your religion, to me my religion.” Marc Shell, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow for 1990-95, is head of the department of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. His books include The Economy of Literature , Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era , and The End of Kinship: “Measure for Measure,” Incest, and the Ideal of Universal Siblinghood . Children of the Earth is forthcoming. (shrink)
"Shell offers admirably close readings [which are] often brilliant... Summary could do little more than hint at the riches laid open."-- The Eighteenth Century "A remarkable piece of work. Valuable for a wide range of readers from the expert to the inquiring generalist."-- Religious Studies Review In Money, Language, and Thought , Marc Shell explores the interactions between linguistic and economic production as they inform discourse from Chretien de Troyes to Heidegger.
Duncan, Bruce Tracing the sources for the economic thinking embedded in the writings of Pope Francis is not straightforward, especially in his major documents, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of 2013 and the full encyclical Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home of 24 May 2015. Many hands were involved in drafting Francis's documents, and there were extensive consultations with experts in critical areas, going back decades. This article gives only passing reference to the critical matters of climate change (...) and sustainability, and instead concentrates on the economic aspects in the writings of Pope Francis. (shrink)
As a recent addition to the editorial board for the journal of Philosophy in the Contemporary World, I wanted to revisit a practice from past editions of the journal—interviewing philosophers who engage philosophical practice that reflects the mission of PCW. In this interview, a model for what I hope will continue to be a regular feature, I have a dialogue with the philosopher Burcu Gurkan. Professor Gurkan currently lives and works in Turkey while I live in work in the central (...) US, so what follows is edited from an email exchange.—Taine Duncan. (shrink)
Duncan, Bruce The continuing threat from Islamist terrorists, now not just in Africa or the Middle East, but virtually anywhere their appeal may reach, has shocked the world. The atrocities involve mass killing not just of military prisoners but of innocent men, women and children belonging to different faiths, including Muslims opposed to their militant practices and beliefs.
Duncan, Bruce Pope Francis sparked accusations that he is espousing Marxism in his November 2013 exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, because of his pointed attacks on economic liberalism or neoliberalism, the ideology behind versions of free-market economics. The conservative US radio commentator, Rush Limbaugh, with a following of 20 million listeners on a program valued at $400 million, accused the Pope of sprouting 'pure Marxism', and of not knowing what he was talking about.
This work on index-number construction focuses on production indexes, including output and input deflators that can be used for constructing real output and real input. Fisher and Shell treat separately the different production units: the firm, the industry, and the economy, as well as the different forms of industrial organization: monopoly, monopsony, and competition. Only in the simplest cases is the appropriate theory isomorphic to that of the cost-of-living index because of the interlinkages among the various production units. A firm (...) cannot always assume that the behavior of its competitors, suppliers, and customers will be unaffected by price changes and only in special cases can an industry take supply and demand conditions as given. (shrink)
Leibniz's mill argument in 'Monadology' 17 is a well-known but puzzling argument against materialism about the mind. I approach the mill argument by considering other places where Leibniz gave similar arguments, using the same example of the machinery of a mill and reaching the same anti-materialist conclusion. In a 1702 letter to Bayle, Leibniz gave a mill argument that moves from his definition of perception (as the expression of a multitude by a simple) to the anti-materialist conclusion. Soon afterwards, in (...) the Preface to the New Essays, Leibniz gave a different mill argument. That argument depends upon there being no arbitrary and inexplicable connections in nature, because God would not create such things. Later, in the 'Monadology', Leibniz again used the mill example in arguing against materialism. That passage too, I argue, uses an argument from inexplicability rather than from Leibniz's definition of perception. (shrink)
This paper discusses the materialist views of Margaret Cavendish, focusing on the relationships between her views and those of two of her contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes and Henry More. It argues for two main claims. First, Cavendish's views sit, often rather neatly, between those of Hobbes and More. She agreed with Hobbes on some issues and More on others, while carving out a distinctive alternative view. Secondly, the exchange between Hobbes, More, and Cavendish illustrates a more general puzzle about just what (...) divided materialists from their opponents. Seemingly straightforward disagreements about whether incorporeal substances exist turn out to be more complex ones in which the nature of those things is disputed at the same time as their existence. (shrink)
Language was central to Hobbes's understanding of human beings and their mental abilities, and criticism of other philosophers' uses of language became a favorite critical tool for him. This paper connects Hobbes's theories about language to his criticisms of others' language, examining Hobbes's theories of propositions and truth, and how they relate to his claims that various sorts of proposition are absurd. It considers whether Hobbes in fact means anything more by 'absurd' than 'false'. And it pays particular attention to (...) Hobbes's categorization of causes of absurdity and of types of incoherent proposition, arguing that Hobbes's approach is only loosely related to later discussions of category mistakes. (shrink)
Thomas Hobbes was, rather famously, a nominalist. The core of that nominalism is the belief that the only universal things are universal names: there are no universal objects, or universal ideas. This paper looks at what Hobbes's views about universal names were, how they evolved over time, and how Hobbes argued for them. The remainder of the paper considers two objections to Hobbes's view: a criticism made by several of Hobbes's contemporaries, that Hobbes's view could not account for people saying (...) the same thing in different languages; and a more recently popular criticism of Hobbes, that his nominalism's reliance on similarity implicitly (and inconsistently) involves reliance on a universal. (shrink)
I consider Leibniz's thoughts about Hobbes's materialism, focusing on his less-discussed later thoughts about the topic. Leibniz understood Hobbes to have argued for his materialism from his imagistic theory of ideas. Leibniz offered several criticisms of this argument and the resulting materialism itself. Several of these criticisms occur in texts in which Leibniz was engaging with the generation of British philosophers after Hobbes. Of particular interest is Leibniz's correspondence with Damaris Masham. Leibniz may have been trying to communicate with Locke, (...) but ended up discussing Masham's version of the argument for materialism that Leibniz attributed to Hobbes. (shrink)
Predictive genetic testing is now routinely offered to asymptomatic adults at risk for genetic disease. However, testing of minors at risk for adult-onset conditions, where no treatment or preventive intervention exists, has evoked greater controversy and inspired a debate spanning two decades. This review aims to provide a detailed longitudinal analysis and concludes by examining the debate's current status and prospects for the future. Fifty-three relevant theoretical papers published between 1990 and December 2010 were identified, and interpretative content analysis was (...) employed to catalogue discrete arguments within these papers. Novel conclusions were drawn from this review. While the debate's first voices were raised in opposition of testing and their arguments have retained currency over many years, arguments in favour of testing, which appeared sporadically at first, have gained momentum more recently. Most arguments on both sides are testable empirical claims, so far untested, rather than abstract ethical or philosophical positions. The dispute, therein, lies not so much in whether minors should be permitted to access predictive genetic testing but whether these empirical claims on the relative benefits or harms of testing should be assessed. (shrink)
The notion of signification is an important part of Hobbes's philosophy of language. It also has broader relevance, as Hobbes argues that key terms used by his opponents are insignificant. However Hobbes's talk about names' signification is puzzling, as he appears to have advocated conflicting views. This paper argues that Hobbes endorsed two different views of names' signification in two different contexts. When stating his theoretical views about signification, Hobbes claimed that names signify ideas. Elsewhere he talked as if words (...) signified the things they named. Seeing this does not just resolve a puzzle about Hobbes's statements about signification. It also helps us to understand how Hobbes's arguments about insignificant speech work. With one important exception, they depend on the view that names signify things, not on Hobbes's stated theory that words signify ideas. The paper concludes by discussing whether arguments about insignificant speech can provide independent support for Hobbes's views about other issues, such as materialism. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Kant's famous critique of the Ontological Argument largely begs the question against that argument, and is no better when supplemented by the modern quantificational analysis of "exists." In particular, I argue that the claim, common to Hume and Kant, that conceptual truths can never entail substantive existential claims is false,and thus no ground for rejecting the Ontological Argument.
Carazan's dream : Kant's early theory of freedom -- Kant's archimedean moment : remarks in observation concerning the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime -- Rousseau, Count Verri, and the true economy of human nature : lectures on anthropology, 1772-1781 -- The paradox of autonomy -- Moral hesitation in religion within the boundaries of bare reason -- Kant's true politics : Völkerrecht in toward perpetual peace and the metaphysics of morals -- Kant as educator : conflict of the faculties, (...) part one -- Archimedes revisited : honor and history in the conflict of the faculties, part two -- Kant's Jewish problem. (shrink)
I argue that Hobbes isn't really a materialist in the early 1640s (in, e.g., the Third Objections to Descartes's Meditations). That is, he doesn't assert that bodies are the only substances. However, he does think that bodies are the only substances we can think about using imagistic ideas.
In October 1924, The Physical Review, a relatively minor journal at the time, published a remarkable two-part paper by John H. Van Vleck, working in virtual isolation at the University of Minnesota. Van Vleck used Bohr's correspondence principle and Einstein's quantum theory of radiation to find quantum formulae for the emission, absorption, and dispersion of radiation. The paper is similar but in many ways superior to the well-known paper by Kramers and Heisenberg published the following year that is widely credited (...) to have led directly to Heisenberg's Umdeutung paper. As such, it clearly shows how strongly the discovery of matrix mechanics depended on earlier work on the application of the correspondence principle to the interaction of matter and radiation. (shrink)
Hobbes denies in Leviathan that we have an idea of God. He does think, though, that God exists, and does not even deny that we can think about God, even though he says we have no idea of God. There is, Hobbes thinks, another cognitive mechanism by means of which we can think about God. That mechanism allows us only to think a few things about God though. This constrains what Hobbes can say about our knowledge of God, and grounds (...) his belief in a fairly strong version of the thesis that God is incomprehensible. (shrink)
Descartes argues that, apart from the existence of a veracious God, we can have no reason to believe that we possess reliable cognitive faculties, with the result that, if atheism is true, not even our seemingly most certain beliefs can count as knowledge for us. Since the atheist denies the existence of God, he or she will be precisely in this position. I argue that Descartes' argument is sound, and that atheism is therefore self-refuting.
In the early years of the eighteenth century Leibniz had several interactions with John Toland. These included, from 1702 to 1704, discussions of materialism. Those discussions culminated with the consideration of Toland's 1704 Letters to Serena, where Toland argued that matter is necessarily active. In this paper I argue for two main theses about this exchange and its consequences for our wider understanding. The first is that, despite many claims that Toland was at the time of Letters to Serena a (...) Spinozist, we can make better sense of him as a sort of Hobbesian materialist. The second main point concerns reasons for materialism, and in particular a story Locke tells in the Essay about materialists' motives. Toland defends his materialism by arguing that matter is active, and argues that matter is active by using a conceivability argument. But this is not the crude conceivability argument that Locke suggests motivates materialists. This (together with reflecting on some of Hobbes's arguments) suggests that we might well tell a Lockean story about reasons for early modern materialism, but not Locke's story. (shrink)
Kant proclaimed that all theodicies must fail in ?On the Miscarriage of All Philosophical Trials in Theodicy?, but it is mysterious why he did so since he had developed a theodicy of his own during the critical period. In this paper, I offer an explanation of why Kant thought theodicies necessarily fail. In his theodicy, as well as in some of his works in ethics, Kant explained moral evil as resulting from unavoidable limitations in human beings. God could not create (...) finite beings without such limitations and so could not have created humans that were not prone to committing immoral acts. However, the work of Carl Christian Eberhard Schmid showed Kant that given his own beliefs about freedom and the nature of responsibility one could not account for moral evil in this way without tacitly denying that human beings were responsible for their actions. This result is significant not only because it explains an otherwise puzzling shift in Kant's philosophy of religion, but also because it shows that the theodicy essay provides powerful evidence that Kant's thinking about moral evil and freedom underwent fundamental shifts between early works such as the Groundwork and later works like the Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason. (shrink)
This is a short (1,000 word) introduction to Hobbes's materialism, covering (briefly) such issues as what the relevant notion of materialism is, Hobbes's debate with Descartes, and what Hobbes's arguments for materialism were.
Many bilingual speakers believe they engage in different forms of thinking when they shift languages. This experience of entering different thought worlds can be explained with the hypothesis that languages induce different forms of `thinking-for-speaking'-- thinking generated, as Slobin (1987) says, because of the requirements of a linguistic code. "`Thinking for speaking' involves picking those characteristics that (a) fit some conceptualization of the event, and (b) are readily encodable in the language" (p. 435). That languages differ in their thinking-for-speaking demands (...) is a version of the linguistic relativity hypothesis, the proposition that language influences thought and that different languages influence thought in different ways. (shrink)
In Meditation I, Descartes dismisses the possibility that he might be insane as a ground for doubting that the senses are a source of knowledge of the external world. In this paper, I argue that Descartes was justified in so doing, and draw some general epistemological conclusions from this result.
In his Beweisgrund (1762), Kant presents a sketch of "the only possible basis" for a proof of God's existence. In this essay, I attempt to present that proof as a valid and sound argument for the existence of God.
In the last two decades there have been many critics of western biomedicine's poor integration of social and psychological factors in questions of human health. Such critiques frequently begin with a rejection of Descartes' mind-body dualism, viewing this as the decisive philosophical moment, radically separating the two realms in both theory and practice. It is argued here, however, that many such readings of Descartes have been selective and misleading. Contrary to the assumptions of many recent authors, Descartes' dualism does attempt (...) to explain the union of psyche and soma - with more depth than is often appreciated. Pain plays a key role in Cartesian as well as contemporary thinking about the problem of dualism. Theories of the psychological origins of pain symptoms persisted throughout the history of modern medicine and were not necessarily discouraged by Cartesian mental philosophy. Moreover, the recently developed biopsychosocial model of pain may have more in common with Cartesian dualism than it purports to have. This article presents a rereading of Descartes' mental philosophy and his views on pain. The intention is not to defend his theories, but to re-evaluate them and to ask in what respect contemporary theories represent any significant advance in philosophical terms. (shrink)
I discuss Hume's views about whether simplicity and generality are positive features of explanations. In criticizing Hobbes and others who base their systems of morality on self interest, Hume diagnoses their errors as resulting from a "love of simplicity". These worries about whether simplicity is a positive feature of explanations emerge in Hume's thinking over time. But Hume does not completely reject the idea that it's good to seek simple explanations. What Hume thinks we need is good judgment about when (...) we are going too far in our search for simple explanations. These worries about simplicity are not unique to Hume. We can see versions of them in the work of Hutcheson, Smith, and Reid. (shrink)
Based on a recently published essay by Jeremy Gwiazda, I argue that the possibility that the present state of the universe is the product of an actually infinite series of causally-ordered prior events is impossible in principle, and thus that a major criticism of the Secunda Via of St. Thomas is baseless after all.
In this paper, I present some ruminations on Hume's argument from miracles and the distorted view of rationality that it reflects (along with religious skepticism generally) contrasting it with what I take to be a better account of rationality, one more sympathetic - at least less hostile - to religious claims.