In her excellent critique of my book Self to Self (2006), Catriona Mackenzie highlights three gaps in my view of the self. First, my effort to distinguish among different applications of the concept 'self' is not matched by any attempt to explain the interactions among the selves so distinguished. Second, in analyzing practical reasoning as aimed at self-understanding, I speak sometimes of causal-psychological understanding (e.g. in the paper titled 'The Centered Self') and sometimes of narrative self-understanding (e.g. in 'The (...) Self as Narrator'), but I never explain how these two modes of self-understanding are related. Third, I never explain how my account of autonomous agency can be reconciled with my interpretation of Kant's (e.g., in 'A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics'). In this reply to Mackenzie, I agree with her about all three of these gaps, and I offer some (admittedly incomplete) ideas about how they might be filled. (shrink)
As many of the contributors to Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy note, vulnerability has increasingly become a focus of philosophers. One may think, for example, of Robert Goodin, care ethicists such as Eva Kittay, or more recent works by Alasdair MacIntyre, Judith Butler, or Adriana Cavarero. While this volume does not offer sustained engagements with Butler, Cavarero, or the so-called Continental thinkers from which they draw, it does offer a wide range of thoughtful essays that contribute in (...) myriad ways both to theorizing vulnerability and to understanding the ethical and political consequences of taking vulnerability seriously.1 Before discussing the essays... (shrink)
The famous mid-20th century debate between Patrick Devlin and Herbert Hart about the relationship between law and morality addressed the limits of the criminal law in the context of a proposal by the Wolfenden Committee to decriminalize male homosexual activity in private. The original exchanges and subsequent contributions to the debate have been significantly constrained by the terms in which the debate was framed: a focus on criminal law in general and sexual offences in particular; a preoccupation with the (...) so-called “harm principle,” a sharp delineation of the realms of law and morality, and a static conception of the relationship between them. This article explores the limitations imposed by these various starting-points and argues for a holistic and symbiotic understanding of the relationship between law and morality. (shrink)
Why should we be tolerant? What does it mean to ‘live and let live’? What ought to be tolerated and what not? Catriona McKinnon presents a comprehensive, yet accessible introduction to toleration in her new book. Divided into two parts, the first clearly introduces and assesses the major theoretical accounts of toleration, examining it in light of challenges from scepticism, value pluralism and reasonableness. The second part applies the theories of toleration to contemporary debates such as female circumcision, French (...) Headscarves, artistic freedom, pornography and censorship, and holocaust denial. Drawing on the work of philosophers, such as Locke, Mill and Rawls, whose theories are central to toleration, the book provides a solid theoretical base to those who value toleration, whilst considering the challenges toleration faces in practice. It is the ideal starting point for those coming to the topic for the first time, as well as anyone interested in the challenges facing toleration today. (shrink)
Contemporary liberal political justification is often accused of preaching to the converted: liberal principles are acceptable only to people already committed to liberal values. Catriona McKinnon addresses this important criticism by arguing that self-respect and its social conditions should be placed at the heart of the liberal approach to justification. A commitment to self-respect delivers a commitment to the liberal values of toleration and public reason, but self-respect itself is not an exclusively liberal value.
This enlightening study examines the relationship between being and God in Aristotle and Heidegger. Focusing on the methodology of each thinker, Catriona Hanley contrasts their beliefs on the infinite or finite nature of being, and on God’s role therein. The author also offers some indication of how modern thinkers might rethink the relation of the finite to the infinite, based on the work of these two philosophers. Being and God in Aristotle and Heidegger is a valuable book for philosophers (...) of religion. (shrink)
This collection of original essays explores the social and relational dimensions of individual autonomy. Rejecting the feminist charge that autonomy is inherently masculinist, the contributors draw on feminist critiques of autonomy to challenge and enrich contemporary philosophical debates about agency, identity, and moral responsibility. The essays analyze the complex ways in which oppression can impair an agent's capacity for autonomy, and investigate connections, neglected by standard accounts, between autonomy and other aspects of the agent, including self-conception, self-worth, memory, and the (...) imagination. (shrink)
Ever since Freud pioneered the “talking cure,” psychologists of various stripes have explored how autobiographical narrative bears on self-understanding and psychic wellbeing. Recently, there has been a wave of philosophical speculation as to whether autobiographical narrative plays an essential or important role in the constitution of agentic selves. However, embodiment has received little attention from philosophers who defend some version of the narrative self. Catriona Mackenzie is an important exception to this pattern of neglect, and this paper explores Mackenzie’s (...) work on embodiment and self-narrative with the aim of better understanding the adequacy of autobiographical narrative as an account of the agentic self. I argue that Mackenzie’s narrative account of embodied subjectivity and agency is incomplete, for it over-estimates the reach of narrative and underestimates the cognitive and agentic powers of the lived body. (shrink)
Recent work on diachronic agency has challenged the predominantly structural or synchronic approach to agency that is characteristic of much of the literature in contemporary philosophical moral psychology. However, the embodied dimensions of diachronic agency continue to be neglected in the literature. This article draws on phenomenological perspectives on embodiment and narrative conceptions of the self to argue that diachronic agency and selfhood are anchored in embodiment. In doing so, the article also responds to Diana Meyers' recent work on corporeal (...) selfhood. (shrink)
Words refer to objects in the world, but this correspondence is not one-to-one: Each word has a range of referents that share features on some dimensions but differ on others. This property of language is called underspecification. Parts of the lexicon have characteristic patterns of underspecification; for example, artifact nouns tend to specify shape, but not color, whereas substance nouns specify material but not shape. These regularities in the lexicon enable learners to generalize new words appropriately. How does the lexicon (...) come to have these helpful regularities? We test the hypothesis that systematic backgrounding of some dimensions during learning and use causes language to gradually change, over repeated episodes of transmission, to produce a lexicon with strong patterns of underspecification across these less salient dimensions. This offers a cultural evolutionary mechanism linking individual word learning and generalization to the origin of regularities in the lexicon that help learners generalize words appropriately. (shrink)
In this 2002 book, Anna Elisabetta Galeotti examines the most intractable problems which toleration encounters and argues that what is really at stake is not religious or moral disagreement but the unequal status of different social groups. Liberal theories of toleration fail to grasp this and consequently come up with normative solutions that are inadequate when confronted with controversial cases. Galeotti proposes, as an alternative, toleration as recognition, which addresses the problem of according equal respect to groups as well as (...) equal liberty to individuals. She offers an interpretation that is both a revision and an expansion of liberal theory, in which toleration constitutes an important component not only of a theory of justice, but also of the politics of identity. Her study will appeal to a wide range of readers in political philosophy, political theory, and law. (shrink)
The concept of dignity plays a foundational role in the more recent versions of Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities theory. However, despite its centrality to her theory, Nussbaum’s conception of dignity remains under-theorised. In this paper we critically examine the role that dignity plays in Nussbaum’s theory by, first, developing an account of the concept of dignity and introducing a distinction between two types of dignity, status dignity and achievement dignity. Next, drawing on this account, we analyse Nussbaum’s conception of dignity and (...) contrast it with Kant’s conception of dignity. On the basis of this comparison between Nussbaum and Kant, we highlight tensions between Nussbaum’s Aristotelianism, which is central to her conception of dignity, and her commitment to political liberalism. This leads us to conclude that Nussbaum’s claim that her conception of dignity is only a partial political conception is implausible and that her conception of dignity seems to commit her to a satisficing form of perfectionist liberalism. (shrink)
The essays collected in this volume address a range of issues that arise when the focus of philosophical reflection on identity is shifted from metaphysical to practical and evaluative concerns. They also explore the usefulness of the notion of narrative for articulating and responding to these issues. The chapters, written by an outstanding roster of international scholars, address a range of complex philosophical issues concerning the relationship between practical and metaphysical identity, the embodied dimensions of the first-personal perspective, the kind (...) of reflexive agency involved in the self-constitution of one’s practical identity, the relationship between practical identity and normativity, and the temporal dimensions of identity and selfhood. In addressing these issues, contributors engage with debates in the literatures on personal identity, phenomenology, moral psychology, action theory, normative ethical theory, and feminist philosophy. (shrink)
From the paper's conclusion: "In conclusion, I have distinguished between two Rawlsian arguments for the SPP [strong precautionary principle] with respect to CCCs [climate change catastrophes]. Although both are persuasive, ultimately the “unbear-able strains” argument provides the most powerful categorical grounds for takingprecautionary action against CCCs. Overall, I have argued that the nature of CCCs requires us to take drastic precautions against further CC that could lead us to passthe tipping points that cause them. This is the case notwithstanding the (...) fact that weare in a state of strong uncertainty with respect to these events; indeed, our stronguncertainty with respect to them—given their nature—makes the case for action toprevent them even more persuasive, from the point of view of justice. Some peopletranslate the strong uncertainty of CCCs into weak uncertainty in order to justifytaking precautionary action using risk assessment.59My argument is complemen-tary to theirs. If divergent approaches to the uncertainty of CCCs neverthelessconverge on the PP, then we have what Cass Sunstein calls an “incompletelytheorized agreement” on a policy, that is, an agreement to which parties divided byoften deep theoretical differences can nevertheless give their assent,60which isall to the good from a political point of view. In the specific case of CC and itspossible catastrophes, the fact that such an agreement has emerged provides asliver of hope in the face of the increasingly dismal prospects for the planetuncovered by CC science as it progresses. At the level of principle, we are agreed,whatever justificatory reasons we advance. What is needed now—in the immedi-ate present—is policy to promote our principles, and the political will to enact it.". (shrink)
In this paper we defend the notion of narrative identity against Galen Strawson's recent critique. With reference to Elyn Saks's memoir of her schizophrenia, we question the coherence ofStrawsons conception of the Episodic self and show why the capacity for narrative integration is important for a flourishing life. We aho argue that Scú put pressure on narrative theories that specify unduly restncúve constraints on self-constituting narratives, and chrify the need to distinguish identity from autonomy.
This volume breaks new ground by investigating the ethics of vulnerability. Drawing on various ethical traditions, the contributors explore the nature of vulnerability, the responsibilities owed to the vulnerable, and by whom.