Heidegger says concerning the question of the possibility of a proof of the existence of an external world that ‘the “scandal of philosophy” is not that this proof has yet to be given, but that such proofs are expected and attempted again and again ’. Heidegger thinks this because our being is in the world, and this is something which Descartes for one failed to appreciate. I am not concerned here to answer the question whether Heidegger's own views on these (...) matters will do, though I think that they will not. Indeed they might well be said to beg the question at issue, in that Heidegger starts from the presumption that we are actually in the world, even if we are not in it in the way in which the tree in the garden is. Another way of reacting to Heidegger would be to say that he does not treat the fact and force of scepticism seriously enough when he makes that presumption. After all, it is possible for us to raise sceptical doubts about the existence of a world apart from ourselves, while it is not possible for the tree in the garden to act similarly. Hence, even if we make the presumption that we are in the world, as Heidegger insists, we are in it in a way that leaves untouched the possibility of sceptical doubts about what that world and our being in it are like. It might, logically, be the case, for example, that the world consists of just me and that my being in the world is no more than for me just to exist. In other words, my being in the world does not directly entail that there exists a world apart from me. (shrink)
Social scientists could learn some useful things from philosophy. Here I shall discuss what I take to be one such thing: a better understanding of the concept of utility. There are several reasons why a better understanding may be useful. First, this concept is commonly found in the writings of social scientists, especially economists. Second, utility is the main ingredient in utilitarianism, a perspective on morality that, traditionally, has been very influential among social scientists. Third, and most important, with a (...) better understanding of utility comes, as I shall try to show here, a better understanding of “personal welfare”. or, in other words, of what may be said to be in people's best interests. Such an understanding is useful to social scientists and philosophers alike, whether for utilitarian purposes or not. (shrink)
This is my review of D.W. Howe's 2007 book, What Hath God Wrought, Transformation of America 1815-1848. The book is a volume in the new Oxford History of the U.S.(O.U.P. 2007)--exploring the transformation of the early American republic through the period of domination of the Jacksonian Democrats. This is also the period of the New England Renaissance and the early work of R.W. Emerson. Howe devotes a good deal of attention to Emerson and his influence and thereby provides needed historical (...) context for the understanding of American thought. (shrink)
Morally speaking, is abortion murder? This is what I am calling the ‘abortion problem’. I claim that neither pro-life nor pro-choice advocates have the correct solution; that the correct solution is instead one considered correct by relatively few people. But if this solution really is correct, then why, after years of intense debate, is this solution not more widely accepted? Many, no doubt, are precluded from accepting it by religious dogma. But others, I think, fail to arrive at a correct (...) solution because they have been approaching the problem from the wrong theoretical framework. Or they have been approaching it without any theoretical framework at all. That is, they have no theoretical framework beyond that of merely examining their moral intuitions and, if anything is clear so far from the abortion debate, it is that intuitions alone, which differ radically from person to person, are not sufficient to solve the problem. In short: one is unlikely to arrive at the correct solution unless one starts from a sound theoretical framework. I shall, in what follows, sketch what I take to be a sound theoretical framework. Then I shall try to show what solution to the abortion problem follows from it. (shrink)
‘The Principle of Sufficient Reason in all its forms is the sole principle and the sole support of all necessity. For necessity has no other true and distinct meaning than that of the infallibility of the consequence when the reason is posited. Accordingly every necessity is conditioned ; absolute, i.e. unconditioned, necessity therefore is a contradicto in adjecto. For to be necessary can never mean anything but to result from a given reason.’ These words are taken from the beginning of (...) section 49 of Schopenhauer's The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. They express sentiments with which I am to some extent in agreement, and it therefore seemed to me worth while to explore in some kind of detail Schopenhauer's treatment of the issues. It might, however, be asked why the view expressed by Schopenhauer should be of philosophical interest, what, if anything, turns on the rejection of the notion of absolute necessity. To this I can reply by saying only that apart from the intrinsic interest of the notion of necessity itself, an issue on which a philosopher ought to make himself clear, Schopenhauer himself points to some of the consequences of his doctrine - the impossiblity, for example, of an absolutely necessary being, and the similar impossibility of ontological or cosmological arguments. (shrink)
There have in recent years been at least two important attempts to get to grips with Aristotle's conception of dialectic. I have in mind those by Martha C. Nussbaum in ‘Saving Aristotle's appearances’, which is chapter 8 of her The Fragility of Goodness , and by Terence H. Irwin in his important, though in my opinion somewhat misguided, book Aristotle's First Principles . There is a sense in which both of these writers are reacting to the work of G. E. (...) L. Owen on cognate matters, particularly his well-known paper ‘ Tithenai ta phainomena ’. Owen himself was in part reacting to what I suppose is the traditional view of how Aristotle regarded dialectic, as revealed in Topics I. 1. On that view dialectic is for Aristotle a lesser way of proceeding than is demonstration, the method of science. For demonstration proceeds from premises which are accepted as true in themselves and moves from them to conclusions which follow necessarily from those premises; and the middle term of such a demonstrative syllogism then provides the ‘reason why’ for the truth of the conclusion. Dialectic proceeds from premises which are accepted on a lesser basis ‘by everyone or by the majority or by the wise, i.e. by all, or by the majority, or by the most notable and reputable of them’ , and proceeds deductively from them to further conclusions. (shrink)
There are certain metaphysical theories which present a view of the world and of the position of human-beings within it which have seemed attractive or at least impressive to many irrespective of the arguments that are marshalled in their favour. That is certainly true of Schopenhauer. His identification of the inner nature of reality with the will, and the conclusions which he drew from this as regards the nature of human-beings and their place in the world, have seemed striking and (...) perhaps even illuminating to many thinkers, not all of whom have been philosophers in the most obvious sense and not all of whom have had much concern for the underlying argument that led Schopenhauer to his conclusions. It is in this way too, perhaps, that certain of Schopenhauer's ideas have become well known—his emphasis on the will to live, his pessimism and his views on suicide, and his thoughts about human nature and about sex that have been seen as something of an anticipation of Freud. In recent times attention has also been directed to his influence on Wittgenstein. In all these respects, however, it is Schopenhauer's ideas that have been influential, rather than the argument that underlies them. Indeed it is sometimes said that Schopenhauer was not a very systematic thinker at all. If that seems true it is so in the sense that Kant too has seemed to some unsystematic in the details of his argument. That does not mean that the main structure of the argument is not clear. So it is with Schopenhauer. (shrink)
A giant statue of the mother goddess, Ishtar, presides over Intolerance , the movie D. W. Griffith made after his triumph with The Birth of a Nation . Ishtar sits above Babylon’s royal, interior court, but the court itself is constructed on so gigantic a scale that is diminishes the size of the goddess. Perhaps to establish Ishtar’s larger-than-life proportions, Griffith posed himself alongside her in a production still from the movie . The director is the same size as the (...) sculptured grown man who sucks at Ishtar’s breast; both males are dwarfed by the goddess’ dimensions.Ishtar connects Griffith to the concern with originary female power current at the turn of the twentieth century. The appearance of the New Woman and the attention to the matriarchal origins of culture were signs of a crisis in patriarchy. But the great mother could support masculine reassertion as well as female power. Ishtar will show us how. Michael Rogin is professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent books are Subversive Genealogy: The Politics and Art of Herman Melville , and “Ronald Reagan,” the Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology. (shrink)
In this article I describe the theoretical underpinnings of 20th-century British philosopher W. D. Ross's approach to linking deontological and teleological decision making. I attempt to fill in what Ross left on the whole unanswered, that is, how to use his duties to resolve dilemmas. A case study in journalism demonstrates how to apply the theory. I conclude with an analysis of what I take to be the strengths and weaknesses in Ross's theory.
The goal of this article is to try to resolve two key problems in the duty-based approach of W. D. Ross: the source of principles and a process for moving from prima facie to actual duty. I use a naturalistic explanation for the former and a nine-step method for making concrete ethical decisions as they could be applied to journalism. Consistent with Ross's position, the process is complicated, particularly in tougher problems, and it cannot guarantee correct choices. Again consistent with (...) Ross, such complexity and uncertainty speak in the method's favor, given the difficulty?factual, motivational, and organizational?of ethics problems and decision making. (shrink)
What connexion is there between factual statements concerning God or man and moral judgments? That is the question which occasions this paper. Not long ago moral philosophers were wont to say that there is a logical gap between the two sorts of utterance to which I have just referred: that nothing follows in terms of moral value from a statement of fact, no ‘ought’ from any ‘is’. They recognised only one restriction on what may be said in terms of ‘ought’ (...) by what has been said in terms of ‘is’, namely that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. It is manifest nonsense to say that anyone ought to do what he cannot do. But, this apart, they thought it possible without contradiction or anomaly to hold any conceivable factual belief and at the same time subscribe to any conceivable moral judgment. They would have held that it makes perfectly good sense to say, for example, ‘This is God’s will but it ought not to be done’ or ‘Men are not pigs but a good man will live like a pig’. Bizarre such judgments may be, they would have said, but nonsensical they are not. They conceived it to be their main business, as moral philosophers, to erect warning notices along the edge of the is-ought gap so that contemporary moralists would not fall headlong into it as so many of their predecessors, in less enlightened ages, had done. (shrink)
I want to put forward a certain view of the logical foundation of religious belief. It is, in a sentence, the view that religious belief is constituted by the concept of god. This view will be discussed under three headings. First, I shall explain as clearly as I can what I mean by it. Secondly, I shall indicate what seem to me to be interesting parallels, both with regard to universes of discourse in general and to religious belief in particular, (...) between my idea of a constitutive concept and Wittgenstein's ideas of a fundamental proposition and a religious ‘picture’. Thirdly, I shall try to substantiate the view I take of the logical foundation of religious belief by rebutting three conceivable objections to it: namely, that it rests on an illegitimate craving for generality, that it is at variance with common usage, and that it consigns religious belief to an intellectual ghetto. (shrink)
It is sometimes suggested that the logic of religious language differs from other kinds of language. Or it is said that each ‘language-game’ has its own ‘logic’ and that, whatever usual language-games are played in the context of religion, there is something that could be called the ‘religious language-game’ which does not correspond to any other and, therefore, has its own peculiar logic. In either case, religious people are urged to make clear what this logic is, so that their utterances (...) may be understood and evaluated. (shrink)
At the beginning of his book, Principles of Christian Theology, John Macquarrie says that theology ‘implicitly claims to have its place in the total intellectual endeavour of mankind’. The question I want to discuss is this: in what terms, if any, can that claim be justified?