The author argues that a view of what a person is cannot be separated from our view of how another person is to be treated. What is needed is an acknowledgement of the tangible, persisting human being--a being with a distinctive bodily form and having its own distinctive kind of value--as a fundamental feature of our thought.
We view things from a certain position in time: in our language, thought, feelings and actions, we draw distinctions between what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Frequently, approaches to this feature of our lives - those seen in disputes between tensed and tenseless theories, between realist and anti-realist treatments of past and future, and in accounts of historical knowledge - embody serious misunderstandings of the character of the issues; they misconstrue the relation between metaphysics and ethics, and the (...) way to characterize the kind of sense which tensed language has. David Cockburn argues that the notion of 'reasons for emotion' must have a central place in any account of meaning, and that the present should have no priority in our understanding of tense. This allows for a more satisfactory articulation of the place of past, present and future in our thought, and of the form which criticism of our thought might take. (shrink)
What is the importance of the notion 'human being'? The contributors to this collection have radically different approaches, some accepting and others denying its validity for a proper understanding of what a person is and for our ethical thought about each other. Contributors on both sides of the divide eloquently defend their views in ways that stand in sharp contrast to some current work in moral philosophy and philosophy of mind. Epistemological and theological issues are also raised in the provocative (...) and wide-ranging discussions stimulated by the volume's theme. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that there is some form of logical tension between the idea that everything that happens happens of necessity and the idea that people are sometimes responsible for what they do. If there is such a tension it ought to be possible to characterize the notions of necessity and responsibility in a way such that the incompatibility is transparent.
‘Only of a living human being and what resembles a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees; is blind; hears, is deaf; is conscious or unconscious’. 1 ‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul’. Anyone who believes that Wittgenstein's remarks here embody important truths has quite a bit of explaining to do. What needs to be explained is why it is that enormous numbers of people, people who have never had the chance (...) to be corrupted by reading Descartes or Dennett, are willing, with only the slightest prompting, to speak in ways which appear to conflict dramatically with Wittgenstein's thought. Many people appear to find no difficulty at all in the idea that we could ascribe thoughts, sensations, emotions and so on to things which in no way resemble or behave like a living human being—for example to disembodied ‘minds’ or ‘souls’ or disembodied brains floating in tanks. And with a little more pressing many will agree that it is never to the living human being that these states are, strictly speaking, correctly ascribed; but, rather, to one part of the living human being—the brain, for example. Now if this incredibly widespread tendency is the expression of confusion then we need an explanation of its existence. We need this partly because without it it will be difficult to undermine the tendency; and partly because we might expect that such a widespread tendency is a distortion of some truth. (shrink)
This book differs from others by rejecting the dualist approach associated in particular with Descartes. It also casts serious doubt on the forms of materialism that now dominate English language philosophy. Drawing in particular on the work of Wittgenstein, a central place is given to the importance of the notion of a human being in our thought about ourselves and others.
We may think of the notion of “trust” primarily in epistemological terms or, alternatively, primarily in ethical terms. These different ways of thinking of trust are linked with different ways of picturing language, and my relation to the words of another. While an analogy with an individual continuing an arithmetical series has had a central place in discussions of language originating from Wittgenstein, Rush Rhees suggests that conversation provides a better model for thinking about language. Linking this with Knud Løgstrup’s (...) suggestion that “In its basic sense trust is essential to every conversation”, the paper develops the idea of speech as fundamentally a form of contact between human beings. With that, the constraints on which we need to focus if we are to grasp the nature of conversation are not, as in Grice’s influential treatment, maxims whose observance will aid the pursuit of certain general human ends. The relevant constraints are, rather, limits on our goal-directed activity: limits that are fundamental to our relations with others. It is within this framework that we must understand the form of “trust” that is central to conversation. (shrink)
A television nature programme a year or two ago contained a striking sequence in which a giant squid was under threat from some other creature . The squid responded in a way which struck me immediately and powerfully as one of fear. Part of what was striking in this sequence was the way in which it was possible to see in the behaviour of a creature physically so very different from human beings an emotion which was so unambiguously and specifically (...) one of fear. (shrink)
The paper explores what it could mean to speak of love as involving a delight in ‘the simple actuality’ of another, or, as Buber does, of the ‘touchable’ human being as ‘unique and devoid of qualities’. Developing strands in Merleau-Ponty’s treatment of perception, it is argued that the relation between recognising this as a particular individual and recognising particular qualities in her may be close to the reverse of what might be supposed: a recognition of this distinctive smile being dependent (...) on a recognition of who this is. The fundamental place of particulars, as opposed to kinds, in our thought about those we know and care for is developed in part through a phenomenological treatment of our perception of faces. That treatment is set in a context of the justification of our judgements about who someone is, and is linked with a critique of treatments of proper names of individuals in the spirit of Frege. It is in our speaking to those we know that we find a relation to a particular that is direct—not mediated by a description of its properties—that Russell sought in ‘knowledge by acquaintance’. (shrink)
The final chapter of Peter Winch's book on Simone Weil discusses Weil's idea of supernatural virtue. Weil uses this language in connection with certain exceptional actions: actions of a kind which are for most of us, most of the time, simply impossible. She is particularly struck by cases in which someone refrains from exercising a power which they have over another: in which, for example, someone refrains from killing or enslaving an enemy who has grievously harmed him and who is (...) now at his mercy. We could also speak of cases in which someone helps an enemy, or a stranger, at very real cost, or risk, to himself. In such cases Weil speaks of the ‘supernatural’ as being at work. (shrink)
Winch's readings of Wittgenstein and Weil call for a significant rethinking of the relation between “metaphysics” and “ethics.” But there are confusions, perhaps to be found in all three of these writers, that we may slip into here. These are linked with the tendency to see idealist tendencies in Wittgenstein, and with his remark that giving grounds comes to an end, not in a kind of seeing on our part, but in our acting. The sense that we think we see (...) in this suggestion is dependent on a distorted conception of “justification.” Getting clear about this involves coming to appreciate just how much of our nature as ethical beings is engaged when we do philosophy. (shrink)
The papers in this volume can be roughly divided between?the philosophy of mind? and?the philosophy of language?. They are, however, united by the idea that this standard philosophical classification stands in the way of clear thinking about many of the core issues. With this, they are united by the idea that the notion of a human being must be central to any philosophical discussion of issues in this area, and by an insistence on an inescapably ethical dimension of any adequate (...) discussion of these issues. None of the papers is well described as?exegetical?, but most of them are, in one way or another, papers about Wittgenstein, and all of them are discussions of themes central to his later work and strongly influenced by it. While the debt to Wittgenstein is enormous, many of the papers involve significant criticisms of ideas widely drawn from him, and some of these criticisms may have application to Wittgenstein himself.00David Cockburn Is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at University of Wales, Trinity St David. He is the author of books on philosophy of mind and philosophy of time, and of papers on Wittgenstein, philosophy of mind, time, religion, language and ethics. (shrink)
The hold of the fatalistic reasoning that Aristotle criticizes is dependent, first, on the idea, articulated by Frege, that the real candidates for truth and falsity are something other than particular contingent happenings such as affirmations or thinkings, and, second, on the idea that the demand for speculative reflection overrides any demand for practical deliberation. Standard challenges to the reasoning embody the same presuppositions and so simply perpetuate the core confusions. They do so most fundamentally in the assumption that we (...) need a ‘metaphysical’ grounding for our idea of ourselves as agents who have influence on the course of events. (shrink)
The paper is a criticism of the idea that a notion of has a significant role to play in the attempt to understand how the experience of change is possible. Discussion of such experience must give a significant place to its public and private manifestations. How should we picture the relationship between the experience of change and its manifestations? While we cannot identify these, we need not conclude that is something distinct from any of its public or private manifestations. With (...) that, we cannot grasp how time can be present in consciousness without reference to the fact that consciousness is located in time. (shrink)
In its treatment of capital punishment Amnesty International gives a central place to the suffering of the prisoner. Two quite distinct forms of suffering are relevant here. There is the psychological anguish of the person awaiting execution; and there is the physical suffering which may be involved in the execution itself. It is suggested that if we reflect clearly on this suffering we will conclude that the death penalty involves cruelty of a kind which makes it quite unacceptable. It is (...) to be condemned on the same ground as torture is to be condemned: on the ground, that is, that it involves the infliction of an unacceptable degree of suffering. (shrink)
We may think of the core of Cartesian dualism as being the thesis that each of us is essentially a non-material mind or soul: ‘non-material’ in the sense that it has no weight, cannot be seen or touched, and could in principle continue to exist independently of the existence of any material thing. That idea was, of course, of enormous importance to Descartes himself, and we may feel that having rejected it, as most philosophers now have, we have rejected what (...) is of greatest philosophical significance in Descartes' conception of the self. That would, I believe, be a mistake. Something akin to the Cartesian mind-body contrast still has a pervasive grip on philosophical thought across a whole range of issues. The contrast is, I believe, reflected in common philosophical versions of the contrasts between mind and body, fact and value, reason and emotion, word and deed, reason and persuasion, and no doubt others. My central concern in this paper is, however, a familiar philosophical understanding of the relation between, on the one hand, belief and its articulation in words and, on the other, action or feeling. (shrink)
There are significant numbers of well-documented cases of the following general kind. At the age of 3 or 4 a child starts to make claims about his past which clearly do not correspond to anything that has happened in his present life. He claims to remember living in a certain place, doing certain things, being with certain people, and so on. It is then found that these memory claims fit the life of a person who died shortly before the child (...) was born. The accuracy of the memory claims is striking and there seems to be no possible normal explanation of this. The child also has certain character traits, interests and skills which correspond closely to those of the one who died; and, perhaps, a physical characteristic, such as a birthmark or wound, which closely resembles a characteristic of the earlier individual. (shrink)