A philosophical essay under this title faces severe rhetorical challenges. New accounts of the good life regularly and rapidly turn out to be variations of old ones, subject to a predictable range of decisive objections. Attempts to meet those objections with improved accounts regularly and rapidly lead to a familiar impasse — that while a life of contemplation, or epicurean contentment, or stoic indifference, or religious ecstasy, or creative rebellion, or self-actualization, or many another thing might count as a good (...) life, none of them can plausibly be identified with the good life, or the best life. Given the long history of that impasse, it seems futile to offer yet another candidate for the genus “good life” as if that candidate might be new, or philosophically defensible. And given the weariness, irony, and self-deprecation expected of a philosopher in such an impasse, it is difficult for any substantive proposal on this topic to avoid seeming pretentious. (shrink)
The context for these interviews was a seminar [Peter Gratton] conducted on speculative realism in the Spring 2010. There has been great interest in speculative realism and one reason Gratton surmise[s] is not just the arguments offered, though [Gratton doesn't] want to take away from them; each of these scholars are vivid writers and great pedagogues, many of whom are in constant contact with their readers via their weblogs. Thus these interviews provided an opportunity to forward student questions about their (...) respective works. Though each were conducted on different occasions, the interviews stand as a collected work, tying together the most classical questions about “realism” to ancillary movements about the non-human in politics, ecology, aesthetics, and video gaming—all to point to future movements in this philosophical area. (shrink)
In his New Essays on Human Understanding, Leibniz presents an extended critical commentary on Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Leibniz read some of Locke’s work in English and then, a few years later, the whole of it in French, a language in which he was more comfortable. Over a period of about two further years, on and off, he wrote his New Essays, which he finished at about the time Locke died and which was not published until about half a (...) century after Leibniz’s death. (He left them unpublished partly because they had been motivated by a hope of getting Locke to reply, and Locke’s death put an end to that; though his character made it a forlorn hope in any case.) The New Essays has been an important work: for one thing, Kant read it on its first appearance, and scholars say that this was a decisive event in his philosophical development. Anyway, given that this is one of Leibniz’s only two philosophical works of substantial book length, in all the torrent that poured from his pen, and given also that it is focused - critically but with respect and careful attentiveness - on the greatest classic of English philosophy, it is surprising that the New Essays had to wait until 1981 for a usable English translation.1 In 1896 there was published a sort of translation by A. G. Langley;2 but it is inaccurate far beyond the bounds of normal incompetence, as well as being grimly unreadable for stylistic reasons. As Chesterton once said about The Origin of Species, it is surprising how many people think they have read it, but I'll bet that nobody alive has slogged through the Langley version from cover to cover. It is a pity that the work was not decently available in English for nearly three centuries, because even for those who can read the French of, say, Descartes, Leibniz’s French is difficult. He reserved his native German for writings on history and politics, using French and Latin for philosophy and mathematics; presumably French was chosen for the New Essays because Leibniz wanted to respond to a popular work by a popular work.. (shrink)
When philosophers speak of the inconclusiveness of arguments for the existence of God, they often do so as if they were talking about a matter of principle—as if it were in principle impossible to prove God's existence, that every proof was in principle inconclusive. Of course, rebutals of the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments are usually designed to show that these types of arguments are in principle inconclusive. But one supposes that religious experience arguments are not all in such difficulties. (...) That is, one supposes, for example, that an encounter with the deity would provide a proof of his existence which is at least as conclusive as proofs for the existence of an ‘external world’. And thus it would be false to maintain in an unqualified way that ‘Reason cannot prove the existence of God’. The most one would be able to say would be that at present , or in terms of the currently available evidence, no one can prove God's existence. Further, whether or not sufficient evidence has ever been available in the past would be seen as an historical question— a matter of contingencies, not logical possibilities. (shrink)
Few stage plays have much to do with analytic philosophy: Tom Stoppard has written two of them— Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Jumpers . The contrast between these, especially in how they involve philosophy, could hardly be greater. Rosencrantz does not parade its philosophical content; but the philosophy is there all the same, and it is solid, serious and functional. In contrast with this, the philosophy which is flaunted throughout Jumpers is thin and uninteresting, and it serves the play (...) only in a decorative and marginal way. Its main effect has been to induce timidity in reviewers who could not see the relevance to the play of the large stretches of academic philosophy which it contains. Since the relevance doesn't exist, the timidity was misplaced, and so the kid gloves need not have been used. Without doubting that I would have enjoyed the work as performed on the London stage, aided by the talent of Michael Hordern and the charm of Diana Rigg, I don't doubt either that Jumpers is a poor effort which doesn't deserve its current success. I shan't argue for that, however. I want only to explain why Jumpers is not a significantly philosophical play, before turning to the more important and congenial task of showing that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is one. (shrink)
This essay sketches the musical art of Frances Pelton-Jones, an American harpsichordist active at the beginning of the twentieth century. Almost entirely unknown today, she was widely acclaimed in her day for performing elaborate costume recitals dressed as Marie Antoinette. More than just a recitalist in costume, Pelton-Jones staged elaborate tableaux vivants with environmental decor to elicit fantasies of the past. Bridging the worlds of fashion, environmental design, and music, her performances offer a compelling case study to investigate the (...) aesthetic applications of Jane Bennett’s ecological theory of assemblages. Exploring how different human and nonhuman actants collaborated in Pelton-Jones’ art to evoke whole historical atmospheres for her audiences, I elaborate Bennett’s argument about the synthetic potential of combining certain materials to conjure an affect, highlighting how the delicacy of the assemblage as a whole often is contingent upon the frailty of the individual materials involved. Ultimately, Bennett’s theory affirms the aesthetic sensibilities of Pelton-Jones whose musical productions delighted audiences by harnessing the synthetic potential of well-coordinated vital materials. (shrink)
In _Vibrant Matter_ the political theorist Jane Bennett, renowned for her work on nature, ethics, and affect, shifts her focus from the human experience of things to things themselves. Bennett argues that political theory needs to do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events. Toward that end, she theorizes a “vital materiality” that runs through and across bodies, both human and nonhuman. Bennett explores how political analyses of public events might change (...) were we to acknowledge that agency always emerges as the_ _effect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces. She suggests that recognizing that agency is distributed this way, and is not solely the province of humans, might spur the cultivation of a more responsible, ecologically sound politics: a politics less devoted to blaming and condemning individuals than to discerning the web of forces affecting situations and events. Bennett examines the political and theoretical implications of vital materialism through extended discussions of commonplace things and physical phenomena including stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal, and trash. She reflects on the vital power of material formations such as landfills, which generate lively streams of chemicals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can transform brain chemistry and mood. Along the way, she engages with the concepts and claims of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Darwin, Adorno, and Deleuze, disclosing a long history of thinking about vibrant matter in Western philosophy, including attempts by Kant, Bergson, and the embryologist Hans Driesch to name the “vital force” inherent in material forms. Bennett concludes by sketching the contours of a “green materialist” ecophilosophy. (shrink)
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. An ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, it also offers a rich source of illumination and stimulation for graduate (...) students and professional philosophers. (shrink)
We frequently speak of certain things or phenomena being built out of or based in others. Making Things Up concerns these relations, which connect more fundamental things to less fundamental things: Karen Bennett calls these 'building relations'. She aims to illuminate what it means to say that one thing is more fundamental than another.
In _Neuroscience and Philosophy_ three prominent philosophers and a leading neuroscientist clash over the conceptual presuppositions of cognitive neuroscience. The book begins with an excerpt from Maxwell Bennett and Peter Hacker's _Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience_, which questions the conceptual commitments of cognitive neuroscientists. Their position is then criticized by Daniel Dennett and John Searle, two philosophers who have written extensively on the subject, and Bennett and Hacker in turn respond. Their impassioned debate encompasses a wide range of central (...) themes: the nature of consciousness, the bearer and location of psychological attributes, the intelligibility of so-called brain maps and representations, the notion of qualia, the coherence of the notion of an intentional stance, and the relationships between mind, brain, and body. Clearly argued and thoroughly engaging, the authors present fundamentally different conceptions of philosophical method, cognitive-neuroscientific explanation, and human nature, and their exchange will appeal to anyone interested in the relation of mind to brain, of psychology to neuroscience, of causal to rational explanation, and of consciousness to self-consciousness. In his conclusion Daniel Robinson explains why this confrontation is so crucial to the understanding of neuroscientific research. The project of cognitive neuroscience, he asserts, depends on the incorporation of human nature into the framework of science itself. In Robinson's estimation, Dennett and Searle fail to support this undertaking; Bennett and Hacker suggest that the project itself might be based on a conceptual mistake. Exciting and challenging, _Neuroscience and Philosophy_ is an exceptional introduction to the philosophical problems raised by cognitive neuroscience. (shrink)
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this book, making it the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject.
"With an astonishing erudition... and in a direct no-nonsense style, Bennett expounds, compares, and criticizes Spinoza’s theses.... No one can fail to profit from it. Bennett has succeeded in making Spinoza a philosopher of our time." --W. N. A. Klever, _Studia Spinoza_.
I shall present a problem about accountability, and its solution by Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Some readers of this don’t see it as a profound contribution to moral philosophy, and I want to help them. It may be helpful to follow up Strawson’s gracefully written discussion with a more staccato presentation. My treatment will also be angled somewhat differently from his, so that its lights and shadows will fall with a certain difference, which may make it serviceable even to the (...) converted. Also, I shall point to some disputable things in ‘Freedom and Resentment’, and offer repairs. So I wrote in the first published version of this paper. I wanted not only to be useful to others but also to elicit Strawson’s certificate of approval; and that hope was realized. In his ‘Reply’ Strawson wrote: ‘Bennett in the first eleven sections of his essay sets out and elaborates the essence of my position with such thorough and sympathetic understanding as to leave me little to say.’ I also tried, unsuccessfully, to analyse with more precision Strawson’s concept of reactive attitude, and to explore the extent of and reasons for the incompatibility between reactive attitudes and the objective attitude. I hoped that the display of my failures would induce Strawson to tackle the problems himself, with more success. No such luck! He wrote: ‘Bennett seeks . . . to produce a tighter and more unified organisation of the phenomena . . . than I achieved in “Freedom and Resentment”’, but he did not return to the fray. On the contrary: ‘It does not seem to me to matter if a strict definition [of ‘reactive’] is not to be had’; and he said nothing about reasons for the reactive/objective conflict. In the present version of the paper, I expound ‘Freedom and Resentment’ much as before. Since my attempts to tighten and deepen the theory failed to hook Strawson, and are not of much intrinsic interest, I now omit them. I shall, however, add an application of the doctrines of ‘Freedom and Resentment’ to the most basic philosophical question regarding punishment.. (shrink)
Christopher Bennett presents a theory of punishment grounded in the practice of apology, and in particular in reactions such as feeling sorry and making amends. He argues that offenders have a 'right to be punished' - that it is part of taking an offender seriously as a member of a normatively demanding relationship that she is subject to retributive attitudes when she violates the demands of that relationship. However, while he claims that punishment and the retributive attitudes are the (...) necessary expression of moral condemnation, his account of these reactions has more in common with restorative justice than traditional retributivism. He argues that the most appropriate way to react to crime is to require the offender to make proportionate amends. His book is a rich and intriguing contribution to the debate over punishment and restorative justice. (shrink)
In this major new book, the internationally renowned thinker Jonathan Bennett offers a deeper understanding of what is going on in our own moral thoughts about human behavior. The Act Itself presents a conceptual analysis of descriptions of behavior on which we base our moral judgements, and shows that this analysis can be used as a means toward getting more control of our thoughts and thus of our lives.
Jonathan Bennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descaretes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can be learned from its success or failure? For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an (...) excellent introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. (shrink)
The tendency to reciprocate – to return good for good and evil for evil – is a potent force in human life, and the concept of reciprocity is closely connected to fundamental notions of ‘justice’, ‘obligation’ or ‘duty’, ‘gratitude’ and ‘equality’. In _Reciprocity_, first published in 1986,_ _Lawrence Becker presents a sustained argument about reciprocity, beginning with the strategy for developing a moral theory of the virtues. He considers the concept of reciprocity in detail, contending that it is a (...) basic virtue that provides the basis for parental authority, obligations to future generations, and obedience to law. Throughout the first two parts of the book, Becker intersperses short pieces of his own narrative fiction to enrich reflection on the philosophical arguments. The final part is devoted to extensive bibliographical essays, ranging over anthropology, psychology, political theory and law, as well as the relevant ethics and political philosophy. (shrink)
In this illuminating, highly engaging book, Jonathan Bennett acquaints us with the ideas of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this lucidly written work is an excellent introduction. For those already familiar with the time period, this book offers insight into the great philosophers, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, and teachers.
History of Cognitive Neuroscience documents the major neuroscientific experiments and theories over the last century and a half in the domain of cognitive neuroscience, and evaluates the cogency of the conclusions that have been drawn from them. Provides a companion work to the highly acclaimed Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience – combining scientific detail with philosophical insights Views the evolution of brain science through the lens of its principal figures and experiments Addresses philosophical criticism of Bennett and Hacker?s previous book (...) Accompanied by more than 100 illustrations. (shrink)
In epistemology the nagging voice of the sceptic has always been present, whispering that 'You can't know that you have hands, or just about anything else, because for all you know your whole life is a dream.' Philosophers have recently devised ingenious ways to argue against and silence this voice, but Bryan Frances now presents a highly original argument template for generating new kinds of radical scepticism, ones that hold even if all the clever anti-sceptical fixes defeat the traditional (...) sceptic. Sharp, witty, and fun to read, Scepticism Comes Alive will be highly provocative for anyone interested in knowledge and its limits. (shrink)
'Mr Bennett, as was to be expected, has written a first-rate book on Kant's Analytic. It is vivid, entertaining, and extremely instructive. It will be found of absorbing interest both by those who already know the Critique and by those - if there are any such - who have a developed interest in philosophy, yet no direct acquaintance with Kant. These last it will surely drive to the text and, as surely, will drive them to approach it in a (...) truly philosophical spirit. Bennett's Kant is not a giant immersed, or frozen, in time. He is a great contemporary - a little out of touch, admittedly, with recent developments in mathematics and physics - but one with whom we can all argue, against him, at his side, or obliquely to him. And so Bennett does argue, continuously, fiercely, and fruitfully; and summons to join in the argument, at appropriate moments, those older contemporaries, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume, and those younger contemporaries, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Ayler, Quine, Quinton, Warnock, and others. This is splendid, and a necessary corrective to that extraordinary isolation in which Kant tends to be islanded, partly indeed, by his own unique qualities, but partly by oceans of the wrong kind of respect. Bennett, continuously engaging his great antagonist, shows the right kind.'. (shrink)
In face of the multiple controversies surrounding the DSM process in general and the development of DSM-5 in particular, we have organized a discussion around what we consider six essential questions in further work on the DSM. The six questions involve: 1) the nature of a mental disorder; 2) the definition of mental disorder; 3) the issue of whether, in the current state of psychiatric science, DSM-5 should assume a cautious, conservative posture or an assertive, transformative posture; 4) the role (...) of pragmatic considerations in the construction of DSM-5; 5) the issue of utility of the DSM - whether DSM-III and IV have been designed more for clinicians or researchers, and how this conflict should be dealt with in the new manual; and 6) the possibility and advisability, given all the problems with DSM-III and IV, of designing a different diagnostic system. Part I of this article will take up the first two questions. With the first question, invited commentators express a range of opinion regarding the nature of psychiatric disorders, loosely divided into a realist position that the diagnostic categories represent real diseases that we can accurately name and know with our perceptual abilities, a middle, nominalist position that psychiatric disorders do exist in the real world but that our diagnostic categories are constructs that may or may not accurately represent the disorders out there, and finally a purely constructivist position that the diagnostic categories are simply constructs with no evidence of psychiatric disorders in the real world. The second question again offers a range of opinion as to how we should define a mental or psychiatric disorder, including the possibility that we should not try to formulate a definition. The general introduction, as well as the introductions and conclusions for the specific questions, are written by James Phillips, and the responses to commentaries are written by Allen Frances. (shrink)
_Property Rights: Philosophic Foundations,_ first published in 1977, comprehensively examines the general justifications for systems of private property rights, and discusses with great clarity the major arguments as to the rights and responsibilities of property ownership. In particular, the arguments that hold that there are natural rights derived from first occupancy, labour, utility, liberty and virtue are considered, as are the standard anti-property arguments based on disutility, virtue and inequality, and the belief that justice in distribution must take precedence over (...) private ownership. Lawrence Becker goes on to contend that there are four sound lines of argument for private property that, together with what is sound in the anti-property arguments, must be co-ordinated to form the foundations of a new theory. He therefore expounds a concise but sophisticated theory of property that is relevant to the modern world, and concludes by indicating some of the implications of his theory. (shrink)
In face of the multiple controversies surrounding the DSM process in general and the development of DSM-5 in particular, we have organized a discussion around what we consider six essential questions in further work on the DSM. The six questions involve: 1) the nature of a mental disorder; 2) the definition of mental disorder; 3) the issue of whether, in the current state of psychiatric science, DSM-5 should assume a cautious, conservative posture or an assertive, transformative posture; 4) the role (...) of pragmatic considerations in the construction of DSM-5; 5) the issue of utility of the DSM - whether DSM-III and IV have been designed more for clinicians or researchers, and how this conflict should be dealt with in the new manual; and 6) the possibility and advisability, given all the problems with DSM-III and IV, of designing a different diagnostic system. Part I of this article took up the first two questions. Part II will take up the second two questions. Question 3 deals with the question as to whether DSM-V should assume a conservative or assertive posture in making changes from DSM-IV. That question in turn breaks down into discussion of diagnoses that depend on, and aim toward, empirical, scientific validation, and diagnoses that are more value-laden and less amenable to scientific validation. Question 4 takes up the role of pragmatic consideration in a psychiatric nosology, whether the purely empirical considerations need to be tempered by considerations of practical consequence. As in Part 1 of this article, the general introduction, as well as the introductions and conclusions for the specific questions, are written by James Phillips, and the responses to commentaries are written by Allen Frances. (shrink)
Willard Van Orman Quine's work revolutionized the fields of epistemology, semantics and ontology. At the heart of his philosophy are several interconnected doctrines: his rejection of conventionalism and of the linguistic doctrine of logical and mathematical truth, his rejection of the analytic/synthetic distinction, his thesis of the indeterminacy of translation and his thesis of the inscrutability of reference. In this book Edward Becker sets out to interpret and explain these doctrines. He offers detailed analyses of the relevant texts, discusses (...) Quine's views on meaning, reference and knowledge, and shows how Quine's views developed over the years. He also proposes a new version of the linguistic doctrine of logical truth, and a new way of rehabilitating analyticity. His rich exploration of Quine's thought will interest all those seeking to understand and evaluate the work of one of the most important philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. (shrink)
This volume brings historians of science and social historians together to consider the role of "little tools"--such as tables, reports, questionnaires, dossiers, index cards--in establishing academic and bureaucratic claims to authority and objectivity. From at least the eighteenth century onward, our science and society have been planned, surveyed, examined, and judged according to particular techniques of collecting and storing knowledge. Recently, the seemingly self-evident nature of these mundane epistemic and administrative tools, as well as the prose in which they are (...) cast, has demanded historical examination. The essays gathered here, arranged in chronological order by subject from the late seventeenth to the late twentieth century, involve close readings of primary texts and analyses of academic and bureaucratic practices as parts of material culture. The first few essays, on the early modern period, largely point to the existence of a "juridico-theological" framework for establishing authority. Later essays demonstrate the eclipse of the role of authority per se in the modern period and the emergence of the notion of "objectivity." Most of the essays here concern the German cultural space as among the best exemplars of the academic and bureaucratic practices described above. The introduction to the volume, however, is framed at a general level the closing essays also extend the analyses beyond Germany to broader considerations on authority and objectivity in historical practice. The volume will interest scholars of European history and German studies as well as historians of science. Peter Becker is Professor of Central European History, European University Institute. William Clark is Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University. (shrink)
In this study of events and their places in our language and thought, Bennett propounds and defends views about what kind of item an event is, how the language of events works, and about how these two themes are interrelated. He argues that most of the supposedly metaphysical literature is really about the semantics of their names, and that the true metaphysic of events--known by Leibniz and rediscovered by Kim--has not been universally accepted because it has been tarred with (...) the brush of a false semantic theory. (shrink)