_Hume's Naturalism_ provides a clear and concise guide to the debates over whether Hume's empiricism or his 'naturalism' in the tradition of the Scottish 'Common Sense' school of philosophy gained his upper hand. This debate is central to any understanding of Hume's thought. H.O. Mounce presents a beautifully clear guide to Hume's most important works, _The Treatise on Human Nature_ and _Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion_. Accessible to anyone coming to Hume for the first time, _Hume's Naturalism_ affords a much needed (...) overview of the key concepts of empiricism, causation, scepticism, reason and morality that are essential to any understanding of Hume's philosophy. (shrink)
In recent times Wittgenstein's work in logic has had an influence on other branches of philosophy. I am thinking, in particular, of social philosophy and the philosophy of religion. In these branches, Wittgenstein's followers have made much use of his notion of a language game. It has been argued, for example, that religion forms a language game of its own, having its own standards of reason, and is therefore not subject to criticism from outside. This argument has given rise to (...) controversy, some seeing it as a subtle attempt by the religious to evade criticism. I have come myself to feel that the notion of a language game has been put to uses with which Wittgenstein himself might not have agreed, or, if he had, would have been wrong to do so. In order to explain what I mean I should like to look closely at the opening section of Peter Winch's article ‘Understanding a Primitive Society’. (shrink)
In 1958, moral philosophers were given rather startling advice. They were told that their subject was not worth pursuing further until they possessed an adequate philosophy of psychology. What is needed, they were told, is an enquiry into what type of characteristic a virtue is, and, furthermore, it was suggested that this question could be resolved in part by exploring the connection between what a man ought to do and what he needs : perhaps man needs certain things in order (...) to flourish, just as a plant needs water; and perhaps what men need are the virtues, courage, honesty, loyalty, etc. Thus, in telling a man that he ought to be honest, we should not be using any special sense of ought: a man ought to be honest just as a plant ought to be watered. The ‘ought’ is the same: it tells us what a man needs. (shrink)
My title has been taken from the following passage in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations : Describe the aroma of coffee—why can't it be done? Do we lack the words? And for what are words lacking?—But how do we get the idea that such a description must after all be possible? Have you ever felt the lack of such a description? Have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded?
In 1954 F. R. Leavis wrote to the Times Literary Supplement taking issue with one of its reviewers. The reviewer had contrasted Leavis's approach to Shakespeare with that of Empson and Bradley. The latter, the reviewer had said, ‘like the plain man, or the audience in a theatre, cannot help considering the situation [in one of Shakespeare's plays] as “actual” and the characters as “real”’. Leavis, the reviewer had implied, treats the situation and characters somewhat differently.
Hume is not a philosopher who has been viewed, on the whole, with excessive sympathy. Slips and inadequacies of argument, which are the inevitable consequence of human fallibility, are treated by his critics not with charity but with delight; and there are few who think it necessary to state his argument at its strongest before proceeding to refute it. A striking example of this procedure may be found in Antony Flew's paper ‘Another Idea of Necessary Connection’. The example is striking (...) because Flew is normally one of the most sympathetic of Hume's critics and he might have been expected, in dealing with Humes view of causal necessity, to have proceeded with exceptional fairness, the incidental being identified and discarded and the essential view standing forth at its strongest. This, as I shall show, is not what occurs; but first let us consider what we are to take the essential view to be. (shrink)
In a symposium with Roger Trigg, Renford Bambrough remarks that in discussing the difference between reason and faith philosophers too often raise the issue in a misleading form.1 The form is that of the ‘treacherous singular’. In other words, they assume that there is a single difference between reason and faith, that a line may be drawn with faith entirely on one side and reason entirely on the other. Against this, Bambrough argues that there is no sharp difference between the (...) two, that they are related in many ways and that within the network of our discourse they come to different things at different points. Philosophers too often look only at one or two points, assume a radical divergence and produce a caricature alike of reason and of faith. A more extensive view will reveal no such radical incompatibility; rather it will enable us to see faith as a mode of reason. (shrink)
This book is a commentary on the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, Hume's most famous work in the field of religion. O'Connor is a fine expositor, commanding a clear and readable style. The Dialogues is covered in detail, so that students will gain a good sense of the structure. The weakness lies in O'Connor's attitude as it inevitably appears in his exposition. I do not mean that this is wild or eccentric. Quite the contrary, it is the one which during the (...) last fifty years has become conventional, reflecting the empiricist tradition one associates with Ayer and Flew. For example, O'Connor hardly questions Hume's distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori, implies indeed that he puts it to devastating use, though it is now widely criticized even by philosophers otherwise sympathetic to Hume. One wonders whether students need another version, however well expressed, of views already so familiar. If their intelligences are to be sharpened, they surely need to encounter some serious criticism not simply of Hume's opponents but of Hume himself. (shrink)