StephenDavies taught philosophy at the University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. His research specialty is the philosophy of art. He is a former President of the American Society for Aesthetics. His books include Definitions of Art (Cornell UP, 1991), Musical Meaning and Expression (Cornell UP, 1994), Musical Works and Performances (Clarendon, 2001), Themes in the Philosophy of Music (OUP, 2003), Philosophical Perspectives on Art (OUP, 2007), Musical Understandings and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Music (OUP, 2011), (...) The Artful Species: Aesthetics, Art, and Evolution (OUP, 2012), The Philosophy of Art (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016 second ed.), and Adornment: What Self-decorations Tells Us about Who We Are, (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020). (shrink)
Stephen Davis has argued that the second ontological argument fails as a theistic proof because it ignores the logical possibility of what he calls an ontologically impossible being. By an “ontologically impossible being” he means a being that does not exist, logically-possibly exists, and would exist necessarily if it existed. In this brief essay, I argue, first, that even if an OIB is logically possible, its logical possibility is irrelevant to the OA at issue; and second, that an OIB (...) is in fact logically impossible, because the predicates which define it are inconsistent. The concept of an OIB may be coherent if necessity is understood as ontological self-sufficiency, but even so the OIB is irrelevant to the OA. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss StephenDavies’s defence of literalism about emotional descriptions of music. According to literalism, a piece of music literally possesses the expressive properties we attribute to it when we describe it as ‘sad’, ‘happy’, etc. Davies’s literalist strategy exploits the concept of polysemy: the meaning of emotion words in descriptions of expressive music is related to the meaning of those words when used in their primary psychological sense. The relation between the two meanings (...) is identified by Davies in music’s presentation of emotion-characteristics-in-appearance. I will contend that there is a class of polysemous uses of emotion terms in descriptions of music that is not included in Davies’s characterization of the link between emotions in music and emotions as psychological states. I conclude by indicating the consequences of my claim for the phenomenology of expressive music. (shrink)
The search for a worldwide environmental ethic is linked to the increase in environmental concern since the 1960s, and the recognition that environmental problems can have a global impact. Numerous people and organizations have put forward their understanding of the necessary components of such an ethic and these have converged in a series of international statements. A small number of common elements have emerged. These can be expressed in 10 ‘premises’, which may form the basis for developing into an acceptable (...) worldwide ethic, along the lines called for in the revised World Conservation Strategy, Caring for the Earth, 1991. (shrink)
This essay reviews one of the most recent books in a trend of new publications proffering evolutionary theorising about aesthetics and the arts—themes within an increasing literature on aspects of human life and human nature in terms of evolutionary theory. StephenDavies’ The Artful Species links some of our aesthetic sensibilities with our evolved human nature and critically surveys the interdisciplinary debate regarding the evolutionary status of the arts. Davies’ engaging and accessible writing succeeds in demonstrating the (...) maturity and scope of the field and his critique is timely and unparalleled. A laudable effort, however it may have benefited from espousing a co-evolutionary model more explicitly. Moreover there may be reason to question the usefulness of the standard set of distinctions (‘adaptation’, ‘spandrel’, ‘technology’) that Davies appeals to. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s Individuals contains a condensed version of an ontology of art. According to this ontology, musical and literary compositions are similar to types. They are abstract entities, instantiated in the performances of the piece of music or the copies of the literary work. Musical and literary compositions are “well-entrenched”, Strawson says – we cannot eliminate these abstractions, or perhaps we have no need to do so. Strawson’s ontology of art forms an integral part of what he calls his “descriptive (...) metaphysics”, and his resistance to the elimination of types and type-like entities is one example of his reservations against “revisionary metaphysics”.Nowadays, Strawson’s name is seldom mentioned in connection with the philosophy of art. Yet the general view of the ontology of art advocated in Individuals is still probably the one most widely held in analytical aesthetics today. Thus, for example, StephenDavies adopts the same general position as Strawson in his article “Ontology of Art” , the best informed contemporary overview of the complex of problems surrounding the mode of existence of works of art. Unlike Strawson, Davies also adduces explicit reasons why concepts of musical and literary compositions cannot be successfully eliminated.Critically reviewing Strawson’s and Davies’ standpoints and arguments, I maintain that concepts of artworks can in fact be successfully eliminated, and that the bracketing of such notions leads to a better theoretical perspective on musical and literary communication. Throughout the paper, I speak for an open-minded approach to conceptual revision. (shrink)
The history of the welfare state is not only or even primarily a story of men and measures but also one of concepts and social ideals. Over the last hundred and twenty years or so, the body of policies, rules, and practices which we collectively term the welfare state has become the most prominent feature of politics and state activity in every developed country. This reflects not only institutional and procedural pressures on the political process during this period, but also (...) the gradual permeation of all parties and arguments by a particular conception of welfare which has determined and limited the range and terms of debate. Both theoretical debate and concrete measures reflect pervasive assumptions and generalized arguments about the nature and content of collective and individual welfare, their preconditions, and their consequences. (shrink)
The proliferation of computers in the business realm may lead to ethical problems between individual and societal rights, and the organization's need to control costs. In an attempt to explore the causes of this potential conflict, this study examined the varying levels of sensitivity 223 respondents assigned to different types of information typically stored in computer-based human resource information systems. It was found that information most directly related to the job — pay rate, fringe benefits, educational history — was considered (...) to be the most sensitive. Participants, however, were more concerned about certain types of individuals/groups accessing these systems than about the kinds of information contained in them. Implications of these findings are discussed. (shrink)
In the last decade, reading research has seen a paradigmatic shift. A new wave of computational models of orthographic processing that offer various forms of noisy position or context-sensitive coding have revolutionized the field of visual word recognition. The influx of such models stems mainly from consistent findings, coming mostly from European languages, regarding an apparent insensitivity of skilled readers to letter order. Underlying the current revolution is the theoretical assumption that the insensitivity of readers to letter order reflects the (...) special way in which the human brain encodes the position of letters in printed words. The present article discusses the theoretical shortcomings and misconceptions of this approach to visual word recognition. A systematic review of data obtained from a variety of languages demonstrates that letter-order insensitivity is neither a general property of the cognitive system nor a property of the brain in encoding letters. Rather, it is a variant and idiosyncratic characteristic of some languages, mostly European, reflecting a strategy of optimizing encoding resources, given the specific structure of words. Since the main goal of reading research is to develop theories that describe the fundamental and invariant phenomena of reading across orthographies, an alternative approach to model visual word recognition is offered. The dimensions of a possible universal model of reading, which outlines the common cognitive operations involved in orthographic processing in all writing systems, are discussed. (shrink)
Davies presents the reader with a sterling review of the literature on the definition of "art" and a stimulating discussion of the role of conventions in the making and appreciating of contemporary art. Definitions of Art is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of aesthetics and as it informs the current dialectic on art.
I have argued previously that the art of absolute music, unlike, for example, the art of literature, is not capable of profundity, which I characterized as treating a profound subject matter, at the highest artistic level, in a manner appropriate to its profundity. StephenDavies has recently argued that there is another way of being profound, which he calls non-propositional profundity, and for which chess provides his principal example. He argues, further, that absolute music also exhibits this non-propositional (...) profundity. I argue in the present paper that Davies's attempt to rescue profundity for absolute music will not work, because it does not allow what I take to be the crucial distinction between great works of absolute music that are profound and great works of absolute music that are not. In other words, it has the unwelcome implication that all great works of absolute music are profound works. (shrink)
The Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) task force was assembled by the American Psychological Association (APA) to guide policy on the role of psychologists in interrogations at foreign detention centers for the purpose of U.S. national security. The task force met briefly in 2005, and its report was quickly accepted by the APA Board of Directors and deemed consistent with the APA Ethics Code by the APA Ethics Committee. This rapid acceptance was unusual for a number of reasons but (...) primarily because of the APA's long-standing tradition of taking great care in developing ethical policies that protected anyone who might be impacted by the work of psychologists. Many psychological and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as reputable journalists, believed the risk of harm associated with psychologist participation in interrogations at these detention centers was not adequately addressed by the report. The present critique analyzes the assumptions of the PENS report and its interpretations of the APA Ethics Code. We demonstrate that it presents only one (and not particularly representative) side of a complex set of ethical issues. We conclude with a discussion of more appropriate psychological contributions to national security and world peace that better respect and preserve human rights. (shrink)
Theists typically believe the following two propositions: God is omniscient, and Human beings are free. Are they consistent? In order to decide, we must first ask what they mean. Roughly, let us say that a being is omniscient if for any proposition he knows whether it is true or false. Since I have no wish to deny that there are true and false propositions about future states of affairs , omniscience includes foreknowledge, which we can say is knowledge of the (...) truth value of propositions about future states of affairs. For example, I believe the proposition ‘Davis will wear shoes tomorrow’ is true today, and if it is true today, i.e. if I will wear shoes tomorrow, an omniscient being knows today that it is true – and, if this being is eternally omniscient, he knew it millions of years ago. (shrink)
StephenDavies presents a fascinating exploration of the idea that art, and our aesthetic sensibilities more generally, should be understood as an element in human evolution. He asks: Do animals have aesthetics? Do our aesthetic preferences have prehistoric roots? Is art universal? What is the biological role of aesthetic and artistic behaviour?
In this paper I shall discuss a certain theodicy, or line of argument in response to the problem of evil, viz, the so-called ‘free will defence’. What I propose to do is defend this theodicy against an objection that has been made to it in recent years.
Let me begin with a true story. Years ago, early in my career as a professor of philosophy, I had a fascinating series of conversations with a student whom I will call Peter. He was a bright and incisive senior, with a double major in philosophy and psychology. Raised in a religious family, the son of a Christian minister, he was himself unable to believe. His doubts were too strong. But the odd fact was that he genuinely wanted to believe. (...) His religious scepticism deeply troubled him; part of him envied the faith of his parents. How do you go about making yourself believe?, he asked me. How do you go about having the kinds of religious experiences that lead people to faith? These were long and intense conversations, and I was unable to move Peter away from his doubts. So far as I know he is still a sceptic. (shrink)
I offer an analysis of the role played by consideration of an item's functions when it is judged aesthetically. The account applies also to artworks, of which some serve extrinsic functions (such as the glorification of God and the communication of religious lore) and others have the function of being contemplated for their own sake alone. Along the way, I deny that aesthetic judgements fit the model of judgements either of free beauty or of dependent beauty, given how these two (...) came to be described in the early twentieth century. (shrink)