If I were asked to put forward an ethical principle which I considered to be especially certain, it would be that no one can be responsible, in the properly ethical sense, for the conduct of another. Responsibility belongs essentially to the individual. The implications of this principle are much more far-reaching than is evident at first, and reflection upon them may lead many to withdraw the assent which they might otherwise be very ready to accord to this view of responsibility. (...) But if the difficulties do appear to be insurmountable, and that, very certainly, does not seem to me to be the case, then the proper procedure will be, not to revert to the barbarous notion of collective or group responsibility, but to give up altogether the view that we are accountable in any distinctively moral sense. (shrink)
The article is a discussion of plato and aristotle's conceptions of the good and greek ethics in general. The author compares this view with our own. He points out that "our freedom is also conformity to law" and moral evil is "guilt" for violating the law, whereas the greeks saw it as an imperfection or shortcoming of the individual to live up to his or her potential for good. The author concludes that if we "think of moral wickedness as violation (...) of a law or imperative, we must not content ourselves with the freedom which matters most on a greek view of ethics." (staff). (shrink)
Not so long ago I attended a conference of philosophers and politicians. I was introduced to one rather opinionated politician as one of the philosophers. He promptly asked me, “What sort of philosopher?” I turned the edge of this by replying rather tartly in turn, “Quite a good one, it is generally thought.” This may seem a little naughty, but there are some uses for prevarication, and few of us care to attach a too explicit label to ourselves. When we (...) do so we often find ourselves keeping the wrong company. There are still some isms around, but we have weeded out most of them from our syllabuses. There is more important and rewarding work to do than fighting pitched philosophical battles between closely regimented troops. (shrink)
This book, originally published in 1963 provides a sample of the criticisms of philosophers on the course of linguistic philosophy. A chronological ordr is followed, with work ranging from that of traditionalist thinkers to second thoughts about linguistic philosophy on the part of writers who have been influenced by the movement.
The elusive self! Let me first indicate how I understand these terms. For those who posit, as I do, a self that is more than its passing states, and which may not be reduced at all to observable phenomena, the problem arises at once of how such a self is to be described and identified. It cannot be identified in terms of any pattern of experience or of any relation to a physically identifiable body. How then can it be known (...) at all? It is known, I maintain, solely in the way each one, in the first instance, knows himself to be the unique being he is. (shrink)
Poetry has to do with reality in its most individual aspect. It is thus at the opposite pole to science, and out of its reach. Studies like The Road to Xanadu , highly valuable though they may be in one way, do not help us in any measure to understand what poetry in itself is; nor do they heighten substantially our appreciation of poetry. This may seem rather obvious, but it is not in fact idle to say it. For our (...) thought is apt to be unduly coloured to-day by the progress of science, and some of the votaries of science are prone to regard it, in the Biblical phrase, as ‘profitable unto all things.’ These are less naïve to-day than their prototypes a century ago, and they have a subtler psychology at their disposal when they turn to art. But their view is no less pernicious for that reason. Science has very certain limits, and we only bring it into contempt by forcing upon it a forlorn and unnatural enterprise beyond its own terrain. Some scientists, and they include eminent persons like Julian Huxley, have made that mistake in regard to our ideas of right and wrong, and have endeavoured to develop a science of ethics. It is not to the purpose here to expose the confusions involved in this particular act of aggression on the part of science. Science has nothing to do, in the final analysis, with our ideas of right and wrong. And it is also true, quite apart from ultimate questions about the meaning of value, that we cannot give a scientific analysis of art. Science may indeed help us to understand matters incidental to the pursuit of artistic activities. (shrink)
Few people, I imagine, would be disconcerted to learn that it is not very easy to provide a philosophical account of their activities; and this holds no less when these activities are of an intellectual nature. Historians and mathematicians and scientists do not wait in that fashion upon the deliberations of philosophers; and a good thing it is for them, too. For their patience might otherwise be rather severely tried, since disagreement and dispute appear to be the life-blood of philosophy. (...) Nonetheless philosophical questions about these and other activities are not irrelevant to practice. (shrink)