In this interview, Christopher Norris discusses a wide range of issues having to do with postmodernism, deconstruction and other controversial topics of debate within present-day philosophy and critical theory. More specifically he challenges the view of deconstruction as just another offshoot of the broader postmodernist trend in cultural studies and the social sciences. Norris puts the case for deconstruction as continuing the 'unfinished project of modernity' and—in particular—for Derrida's work as sustaining the values of enlightened critical reason in various (...) spheres of thought from epistemology to ethics, sociology and politics. Along the way he addresses a number of questions that have lately been raised with particular urgency for teachers and educationalists, among them the revival of creationist doctrine and the idea of scientific knowledge as a social, cultural, or discursive construct. In this context he addresses the 'science wars' or the debate between those who uphold t. (shrink)
Ad hominem arguments are generally dismissed on the grounds that they are not attempts to engage in rational discourse, but are rather aimed at undermining argument by diverting attention from claims made to assessments of character of persons making claims. The manner of this dismissal however is based upon an unlikely paradigm of rationality: it is based upon the presumption that our intellectual capacities are not as limited as in fact they are, and do not vary as much as they (...) do between rational people. When we understand rationality in terms of intellectual virtues, however, which recognize these limitations and provide for the complexity of our thinking, ad hominem considerations can sometimes be relevant to assessing arguments. (shrink)
One prevailing objection to consequentialism holds that the consequentialist cannot promote both agent-neutral value and her own personal friendships: the consequentialist cannot be a genuine friend. Several versions of this objection have been advanced, but an even more sophisticated version of the charge is available. However, even this more sophisticated version fails, as it assumes a traditional, context-insensitive, account of character traits. In this article, I develop and defend a novel account of character traits that is context-sensitive and also supports (...) a novel account of what friendship consists in. Application of the more plausible, contextual, account of character traits resolves the debate in favor of the friendly consequentialist. (shrink)
One of the most noteworthy features of David Gauthier's rational choice, contractarian theory of morality is its appeal to self-interested rationality. This appeal, however, will undoubtedly be the source of much controversy and criticism. For while self-interestedness is characteristic of much human behavior, it is not characteristic of all such behavior, much less of that which is most admirable. Yet contractarian ethics appears to assume that humans are entirely self-interested. It is not usually thought a virtue of a theory that (...) its assumptions are literally false. What may be said on behalf of the contractarian? (shrink)
This article explores the meaning and moral significance of presumed consent with particular reference to an opt-out policy for postmortem organ donation. It does so under two general categories: circumstances where we believe consent to have been given and those where we have no reason to believe that it has either been given or been refused. In the context of an opt-out policy, the first category would relate to the idea of tacit consent. It is argued both that substituting the (...) term ‘presumed consent’ would be misleading and that it is unlikely that the conditions for tacit consent would be met in practice. Regarding the second category, where the claim would be one regarding counterfactual consent, two main points are made: that claims about consent are unwarranted, and also that they are unnecessary to moral argument, given that the moral work is done by reasons other than any supposedly provided by a presumption of consent. (shrink)
The Neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism of Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse purports to establish a naturalistic criterion for the virtues. Specifically, by developing a parallel between the natural ends of nonhuman animals and the natural ends of human beings, they argue that character traits are justified as virtues by the extent to which they promote and do not inhibit natural ends such as self-preservation, reproduction, and the well-being of one’s social group. I argue that the approach of Foot and Hursthouse cannot (...) provide a basis for moral universalism, the widely-accepted idea that each human being has moral worth and thus deserves significant moral consideration. Foot and Hursthouse both depict a virtuous agent as implicitly acting in accord with moral universalism. However, with respect to charity, a virtue they both emphasize, their naturalistic criterion at best provides a warrant for a restricted form of charity that extends only to a limited number of persons. There is nothing in the natural ends of human beings, as Foot and Hursthouse understand these, that gives us a reason for having any concern for the well-being of human beings as such. (shrink)
Christopher Peacocke’s A Study of Concepts is a dense and rewarding work. Each chapter raises many issues for discussion. I know three different people who are writing reviews of the volume. It testifies to the depth of Peacocke’s book that each reviewer is focusing on a quite different set of topics.
The sovereignty of the people, it is widely said, is the foundation of modern democracy. The truth of this claim depends on the plausibility of attributing sovereignty to “the people” in the first place, and I shall express skepticism about this possibility. I shall suggest as well that the notion of popular sovereignty is complex, and that appeals to the notion may be best understood as expressing several different ideas and ideals. This essay distinguishes many of these and suggests that (...) greater clarity at least would be obtained by focusing directly on these notions and ideals and eschewing that of sovereignty. My claim, however, will not merely be that the notion is multifaceted and complex. I shall argue as well that the doctrine that the people are, or ought to be, sovereign is misleading in potentially dangerous ways, and is conducive to a misunderstanding of the nature of politics, governance, and social order. It would be well to do without the doctrine, but it may be equally important to understand its errors. Our understandings and justifications of democracy, certainly, should dispense with popular sovereignty. (shrink)
Plongé au cœur des nanos, Christophe Vieu souligne la diversité des secteurs touchés par l’approche nano. À l’idée d’une convergence des secteurs scientifiques, il oppose l’image d’une espèce invasive. Il se sent de ce fait investi d’une responsabilité de l’ensemble des technosciences.
In a recent contribution to Utilitas Hugh Upton has criticized my defence of utilitarianism against the charge that it is committed to regarding the pleasures taken by sadists in other people's pain as increasing the amount of good in the world and so at least partially offsetting the suffering of the victims. In the present paper I clarify and defend my view that sadists implicitly insult their own human qualities, thus rendering it impossible to respect themselves as human beings, (...) when they enjoy the suffering of others with essentially similar qualities. Distinguishing between happiness and pleasure, I explain why it is not, as Upton thinks, a mere stipulation to deny that the sadist's self-demeaning pleasures are capable of augmenting his happiness. (shrink)
With the goal of understanding how Christopher Southgate communicates his in-depth knowledge of both science and theology, we investigated the many roles he assumes as a teacher. We settled upon wide-ranging topics that all intertwine: (1) his roles as author and coordinating editor of a premier textbook on science and theology, now in its third edition; (2) his oral presentations worldwide, including plenaries, workshops, and short courses; and (3) the team teaching approach itself, which is often needed by others (...) because the knowledge of science and theology do not always reside in the same person. Southgate provides, whenever possible, teaching contexts that involve students in experiential learning, where they actively participate with other students.We conclude that Southgate’s ultimate goal is to teach students how to reconcile science and theology in their values and beliefs, so that they can take advantage of both forms of rational thinking in their own personal and professional lives. The co-authors consider several examples of models that have been successfully used by people in various fields to integrate science and religion. (shrink)
This paper takes up the question of the role of philosophical moral theory in our attempts to resolve the ethical problems that arise in health care, with particular reference to the contention that we need theory to be determinative of our choice of actions. Moral theorizing is distinguished from moral theories and the prospects for determinacy from the latter are examined through a consideration of the most promising candidates: utilitarianism, deontology and the procedures involved in reflective equilibrium. It is argued (...) that the current lack of any generally accepted method of solving moral problems, together with the extreme improbability of philosophy achieving a plausibly determinate theory, should encourage us to approach the problems in a spirit of agnosticism regarding the way in which theoretical material might be of relevance. The practical test for both moral theorizing and moral theories is thus not determinacy but the degree to which they increase our understanding of moral problems by serving, as they do in philosophy, as a means of inquiry into their nature. (shrink)
1915 ist Ernst Troeltsch nach Berlin gezogen, wo er Professor für Philosophie wurde. Sein Wechsel aus der Heidelberger Theologischen Fakultät in die Philosophische Fakultät der Berliner Universität und sein zunehmendes Interesse am Historismus hat ihn nicht daran gehindert, theologische Studien fortzuführen. Ein Ergebnis dieser Studien war eine noch in Heidelberg geschriebene detaillierte Untersuchung über Augustins Theologie und im besonderen über De Civitate Dei. Troeltsch hat diese Studie unternommen, um zum einen eine Lücke in seinen Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen (...) zu füllen und zum anderen wegen seinem zunehmenden Interesse an Augustins Philosophie. Das Ergebnis dieser Untersuchung ist Troeltschs Buch Augustin, die christliche Antike und das Mittelalter. Dieses Buch ist aus vielen Gründen ein bemerkenswertes Werk, unter anderem, weil es eine objektive und eine prägnante Untersuchung über Ethik und Naturgesetz darstellt. Troeltschs Buch über Augustin ist sehr wichtig zu untersuchen, aber genauso wichtig ist der Prozess, der ihn dazu geführt, es zu schreiben. Dabei handelt es sich um mehrere Rezensionen, die Troeltsch über Bücher zu Augustins Theologie, Ethik und politischer Philosophie geschrieben hat. Indem wir Troeltschs Rezensionen und sein Buch Augustin studieren, lernen wir nicht nur, was in seiner Sicht besonders wertvoll sei in den Schriften des großen Kirchenvaters, sondern wir lernen auch Troeltschs eigenes Denken zu Ethik, Geschichte und sogar Politik besser kennen.By 1915 Ernst Troeltsch had moved to Berlin where he became professor of philosophy. His move from the Faculty of Theology to philosophy and his increasing concern with historicism did not hinder him from continuing with his theological studies. One of the results of these studies was his detailed investigation of Augustine’s theology and he focused specifically on de Civitate Dei. Troeltsch undertook this study partially to rectify an omission in his Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen and partially because of his increasing interest in Augustine’s philosophy. The result of this study was Troeltsch’s book Augustin, die christliche Antike und das Mittelalter. This is a remarkable work for many reasons, including that it was an objective and appreciative investigations on ethics and natural law – and it was written by a prominent Protestant theologian. However, this book has been mostly neglected which is unfortunate. Troeltsch’s book on Augustine is well-worth exploring but so is the process which led him to write it. That entails consulting the numerous reviews that Troeltsch wrote about a number of books devoted to certain aspects of Augustine’s theology, ethics, and political philosophy. By studying Troeltsch’s book reviews and his Augustin, we not only learn what Troeltsch regarded as so valuable in the writings of this particular Church Father, but we also learn about Troeltsch’s own thinking about ethics, history, and even politics. (shrink)
I begin, as I shall end, with fictions. In a well-known tale, The Sandman , Hoffmann has a student, Nathaniel, fall in love with a beautiful doll, Olympia, whom he has spied upon as she sits at a window across the street from his lodgings. We are meant to suppose that Nathaniel mistakes an automaton for a human being . The mistake is the result of an elaborate but obscure deception on the part of the doll's designer, Professor Spalanzani. Nathaniel (...) is disabused quite by accident when he over-hears a quarrel between Spalanzani, who made Olympia's clockwork, and the sinister Coppelius, who contributed the eyes. (shrink)
Medical analogies are commonly invoked in both Indian Buddhist dharma and Hellenistic philosophy. In the Pāli Canon, nirvana is depicted as a form of health, and the Buddha is portrayed as a doctor who helps us attain it. Much later in the tradition, Śāntideva described the Buddha’s teaching as ‘the sole medicine for the ailments of the world, the mine of all success and happiness.’ Cicero expressed the view of many Hellenistic philosophers when he said that philosophy is ‘a medical (...) science for the mind.’ He thought we should ‘hand ourselves over to philosophy, and let ourselves be healed.’ ‘For as long as these ills [of the mind] remain,’ he wrote, ‘we cannot attain to happiness.’ There are many different forms of medical analogy in these two traditions, but the most general form may be stated as follows: just as medicine cures bodily diseases and brings about physical health, so Buddhist dharma or Hellenistic philosophy cures mental diseases and brings about psychological health—where psychological health is understood as the highest form of happiness or well-being. Insofar as Buddhist dharma involves philosophy, as it does, both renditions of the analogy may be said to declare that philosophy cures mental diseases and brings about psychological health. This feature of the analogy—philosophy as analogous to medical treatment—has attracted considerable attention. (shrink)