Surprising artistic interventions in the landscape of the public everyday are psychologically, socially, and politically beneficial to individuals as well as their communities. Such interventions enable their audiences to access moments of surprising inspiration, self-reflection, and revitalization. These spontaneous moments may offer access to the experience of distance from the rational “self,” allowing the irrational and purely emotive that resides within all of us to assert itself. It is this sensual instinct that all we too frequently push aside, particularly in (...) the public realm, for the sake of our responsibilities. Urban communities in particular are persistently accosted by visual and aural advertisements and consumerist lures, that further discourage individuals from accessing their non-rational selves. Yet, I argue that it would improve the health and vibrancy of our communal lives if we encountered among others in public, even for a moment, the strong feelings of sudden elation or confusion that we generally consider to be private. I also argue that an addition could be made to the already diverse oeuvre of artistic approaches that comprise the realm of “sound art” and that it may be termed “musical intervention art” – or, simply put, music played in a circumscribed area in the form of an outdoor installation, that is designed to accost, surprise, overwhelm, and through this, actively engage. This article will describe an imaginary example of musical installation art. (shrink)
This article examines how the Stoic ideals of impassivity and repression gave way to favourable treatments of the emotions, particular passion. It suggest that one of the trademarks of philosophy in the early modern period is the renewal of the theory of passions on the basis of the new mechanical-corpuscular philosophy which René Descartes regarded as his signal contribution to ethics. It also discusses the systematic character of the theories of passions, the theologico-philosophical approaches to the emotions, and the conception (...) of love as a counterweight to solipsism. (shrink)
Includes a summary of my book *The Rationality of Perception* (Oxford, 2017) and replies to commentaries on it by Endre Begby, Harmen Ghijsen, and Katia Samoilova. These commentaries and my summary and replies will be published soon in Analysis Reviews. Begby focuses on my analysis of the epistemic features of the interface between individual minds and their cultural milieu (discussed in chapter 10 of *The Rationality of Perception*), Ghijsen focuses on the notion of inference and reliabilism (chapters 5 and (...) 6), and Samoilova focuses on the relationship between epistemic charge (chapter 3) and shifts in the amount of justification needed for knowledge. (shrink)
According to a common view, prejudice always involves some form of epistemic culpability, i.e., a failure to respond to evidence in the appropriate way. I argue that the common view wrongfully assumes that prejudices always involve universal generalizations. After motivating the more plausible thesis that prejudices typically involve a species of generic judgment, I show that standard examples provide no grounds for positing a strong connection between prejudice and epistemic culpability. More generally, the common view fails to recognize the extent (...) to which prejudices are epistemically insidious: once they are internalized as background beliefs, they quite reasonably come to control the assessment and interpretation of new evidence. This property of insidiousness helps explain why prejudices are so recalcitrant to empirical counterevidence and also why they are frequently invisible to introspective reflection. (shrink)
I’m grateful to Endre Begby, Harmen Ghijsen, and Katia Samoilova for engaging with The Rationality of Perception and for writing such interesting and productive commentaries. Taken together, the three commentaries cover a diverse range of topics.
Beliefs can cause moral wrongs, no doubt, but can they also constitute moral wrongs in their own right? This paper offers some grounds to be skeptical of the idea that there are moral norms which operate directly on belief, independently of any epistemic norms also operating on belief. The resultant skepticism is moderate in the following sense: it holds that the motivations underlying the doxastic morality approach should not be dismissed lightly; they are genuine insights and serve to bring to (...) light important new issues concerning the interaction between our notions of moral and epistemic responsibility. Nonetheless, it is also skeptical, in holding that these concerns are ultimately best voiced in more traditional categories which distinguish the epistemology of belief from the morality of action. (shrink)
According to semantic minimalism, context-invariant minimal semantic propositions play an essential role in linguistic communication. This claim is key to minimalists’ argument against semantic contextualism: if there were no such minimal semantic propositions, and semantic content varied widely with shifts in context, then it would be “miraculous” if communication were ever to occur. This paper offers a critical examination of the minimalist account of communication, focusing on a series of examples where communication occurs without a minimal semantic proposition shared between (...) speaker and hearer. The only way for minimalists to respond to these examples is by restricting the scope of their account to intra-lingual communication. It can then be shown that the minimalist’s notion of a language shrinks to a point, such that practically no instances of communication will fall under that account, and that the retreat to intra-lingual communication is in any case self-defeating, since the only way for minimalists to account for the individuation of languages is by resort to precisely the kinds of contextual considerations they abjured in the first place. In short, if, as minimalists allege, contextualism founders because it renders communication contingent on speaker and hearer sharing a context, it can now be seen that minimalism faces a parallel problem because it renders communication contingent on speaker and hearer sharing a language. I end by arguing that the possibility of communication cannot, as minimalists assume, be grounded in shared semantic conventions; rather, successful communication must precede the establishment of any particular set of semantic conventions. (shrink)
This paper aims to provide an empirically informed sketch of how our perceptual capacities can interact with cognitive processes to give rise to new perceptual attributives. In section 1, I present ongoing debates about the reach of perception and direct focus toward arguments offered in recent work by Tyler Burge and Ned Block. In section 2, I draw on empirical evidence relating to language processing to argue against the claim that we have no acquired, culture-specific, high-level perceptual attributives. In section (...) 3, I turn to the cognitive dimension; I outline how cognitive procedures can be involved in the acquisition of what ought to, nonetheless, be recognized as genuinely perceptual capacities. Finally, in section 4, I argue for the importance of distinguishing these conclusions from more familiar and radical claims about rampant “cognitive penetration” into the perceptual domain. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that public linguistic norms are implicated in the epistemology of testimony by way of underwriting the reliability of language comprehension. This paper argues that linguistic normativity, as such, makes no explanatory contribution to the epistemology of testimony, but instead emerges naturally out of a collective effort to maintain language as a reliable medium for the dissemination of knowledge. Consequently, the epistemologies of testimony and language comprehension are deeply intertwined from the start, and there is no (...) room for grounding the one in terms of the other. (shrink)
Philosophers are often beholden to a picture of language as a largely static, well-defined structure which is handed over from generation to generation by an arduous process of learning: language, on this view, is something that we are given, and that we can make use of, but which we play no significant role in creating ourselves. This picture is often maintained in conjunction with the idea that several distinctively human cognitive capacities could only develop via the language acquisition process, as (...) thus understood. This paper argues that the phenomenon of homesign, i.e., spontaneous gesture systems devised by deaf children for the purpose of communicating with their non-signing peers, can shed valuable empirical light on these convictions. Contrary to grounding assumptions of Wittgensteinian, Gricean, and Peircean approaches to language, homesign shows how core properties of language—including semantic properties—can be built from the ground up in idiosyncratic ways to serve the communicative needs of individuals. (shrink)
The aesthetic and political sides of public art have recently been examined from different theoretical vantage points. Pragmatist accounts, however, have been largely absent from the discussion. This article develops a theory of public art on some central ideas of John Dewey's aesthetics and social philosophy. From a pragmatist perspective, the best cases of public art turn out to have high social significance, for they are means of promoting the sense of community, which Dewey saw as foundational for well-functioning democracies. (...) The Deweyan account of public art developed in this article is set against theories that explain its social value by public artworks’ ability to disrupt people's everyday routines and beliefs, as well as by the political alertness they often raise. Diana Boros's recent treatment of what she calls “visionary public art” serves as the main specimen of this approach. The Deweyan understanding of public art is illuminated and defended with the help of a reading of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls—a piece composed in memory of the victims of 9/11—that highlights its capacity to generate such communal experiences that have a fundamental role in Dewey's theory of democracy. (shrink)
This volume comprises original articles by leading authors – from philosophy as well as sociology – in the debate around relativism in the sociology of (scientific) knowledge. Its aim has been to bring together several threads from the relevant disciplines and to cover the discussion from historical and systematic points of view. Among the contributors are Maria Baghramian, Barry Barnes, Martin Endreß, Hubert Knoblauch, Richard Schantz and Harvey Siegel.
This article argues against Anna Stilz's recent attempt to solve the problem of citizens' collective responsibility in democratic states. I show that her solution could only apply to state actions that are (in legal terminology) unjustified but excusable. Stilz's marquee case – the 2003 invasion of Iraq – does not, I will argue, fit this bill; nor, in all likelihood, does any other case in recorded history. Thus, this article concludes, we may allow that Stilz's argument offers a theoretically cogent (...) case for citizens' task-responsibility in democratic states (given the right conditions); it just so happens that few if any cases satisfy these conditions. (shrink)
This paper offers a defense of Davidson’s conclusion in ‘A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs’, focusing on the psychology and epistemology of language. Drawing on empirical studies in language acquisition and sociolinguistics, I problematize the traditional idealizing assumption that a person’s mental lexicon consists of two distinct parts—a dictionary, comprising her knowledge of word meanings proper, and an encyclopedia, comprising her wider knowledge of worldly affairs. I argue that the breakdown of the dictionary–encyclopedia distinction can be given a cognitive and functional (...) explanation: facts regarding language learning and the challenges of coping with linguistically diverse environments require that dictionary and encyclopedia remain deeply integrated rather than categorically distinct dimensions of the mental lexicon. This argument provides support for a psychologized version of Davidson’s conclusion in ‘Derangement’: there is no such thing as a language, in the sense that there is no diachro.. (shrink)