Liberalism is commonly believed, especially by its exponents, to be opposed to interference by way of enforcing value judgments or concerning itself with the individual's morality. My concern is to show that this is not so and that liberalism is all the better for this. Many elements have contributed to liberal thought as we know it today, the major elements being the liberalism of which Locke is the most celebrated exponent, which is based upon a belief in natural, human rights; (...) the liberalism of which Kant is the best known exponent, which is based on respect for persons as ends in themselves; and the liberalism of Bentham and the Mills, which is based upon utilitarian ethical theories and most especially with concern for pleasure and the reduction of pain. These different elements of liberalism have led to different emphases and different political and social arrangements, but all have involved a concern to safeguard values and to use force to that end. Today they constitute strands of thought which go to make up liberal thought as we now know it, hence it is not simply a historical fact about liberalism, but a fact about its philosophical basis, that liberalism is firmly involved in certain value and moral commitments. In the remainder of this paper I shall seek to bring this out. (shrink)
J. H. Hexter, an American historian of early seventeenth-century history, terms himself whiggish and claims whiggishness is returning after the misguided popularity of Marxism. The distinction "whiggish" is more elusive than his claim suggests, and the accuracy of its application to Hexter's claim is unclear. Three characteristics commonly assigned to whig interpretation by its critics can be seen as reflections of broader, unresolved historical issues. These are: attention to political and constitutional issues; a tendency to refer to the present in (...) interpreting the past; and a belief in inevitability. It is difficult to ascertain whether Hexter's attention to political matters is a result of his view of them as intrinsically important to historical inquiry or as particularly relevant to historical accounts of Stuart England. The charge of presentism cannot confidently be made against him, as he is not guilty of anything as crude as anachronism, and subtle presentism is neither avoidable nor necessarily reprehensible. Inevitabilism is not only difficult to define, it is not displayed by Hexter. If he displays the weaknesses of whiggishness it is only through implication, in the body of ideas underlying his text. (shrink)
Umerez’s analysis made me aware of the fundamental differences in the culture of physics and molecular biology and the culture of semiotics from which the new field of biosemiotics arose. These cultures also view histories differently. Considering the evolutionary span and the many hierarchical levels of organization that their models must cover, models at different levels will require different observables and different meanings for common words, like symbol, interpretation, and language. These models as well as their histories should be viewed (...) as complementary rather than competitive. The relation of genetic language and human language is the central issue. They are separated by 4 billion years and require entirely different models. Nevertheless, these languages have in common a unique unlimited expressive power that allows open-ended evolution and creative thought. Understanding the nature of this expressive power and how it arises remains a basic unsolved problem of biosemiotics. (shrink)
The modern corpuscular theory of radiation was born in 1905 when Einstein advanced his light quantum hypothesis; and the steps by which Einstein's hypothesis, after years of profound scepticism, was finally and fully vindicated by Arthur Compton's 1922 scattering experiments constitutes one of the most stimulating chapters in the history of recent physics. To begin to appreciate the complexity of this chapter, however, it is only necessary to emphasize an elementary but very significant point, namely, that while Einstein based his (...) arguments for quanta largely on the behaviour of high-frequency black body radiation or ultra-violet light, Compton experimented with X-rays. A modern physicist accustomed to picturing ultra-violet light and X-radiation as simply two adjacent regions in the electromagnetic spectrum might regard this distinction as hair-splitting. But who in 1905 was sure that X-rays and γ-rays are far more closely related to ultra-violet light than to α-particles, for example ? This only became evident after years of painstaking research, so that moving without elaboration from Einstein's hypothesis to Compton's experiments automatically eliminates from consideration an important segment of history—a segment in which a major role was played by William Henry Bragg. (shrink)
Miss G. E. M. Anscombe has said that, in order for progress to be made in ethics, we must have some determinate idea of ‘human flourishing.’ I want to cite in what follows the work of a number of writers in the psychiatric field who seem to me to throw light on just what it is for a human individual to flourish, for a human community to flourish, and for a human individual to flourish in relation to or in spite (...) of his community. (shrink)
Epistemologists have not usually had much to say about believing ‘in’, though ever since Plato's time they have been interested in believing ‘that’. Students of religion, on the other hand, have been greatly concerned with belief ‘in’, and many of them, I think, would maintain that it is something quite different from belief ‘that’. Surely belief ‘in’ is an attitude to a person, whether human or divine, while belief ‘that’ is just an attitude to a proposition? Could any difference be (...) more obvious than this? And if we over-look it, shall we not be led into a quite mistaken analysis of religious belief, at any rate if it is religious belief of the theistic sort? On this view belief ‘in’ is not a propositional attitude at all. (shrink)
Entities of many kinds, not just material things, have been credited with parts. Armstrong, for example, has taken propositions and properties to be parts of their conjunctions, sets to be parts of sets that include them, and geographical regions and events to be parts of regions and events that contain them. The justification for bringing all these diverse relations under a single ‘part–whole’ concept is that they share all or most of the formal features articulated in mereology. But the concept (...) has also prompted an ontological thesis that has been expressed in various ways: that wholes are ‘no ontological addition’ to their parts ; that to list both a whole and its parts is ‘double counting’; and that there is ‘no more’ to a whole than its parts: for example, that there is no more to a conjunction than the conjuncts that are its parts, and whose truth or falsity determines whether it is true or false. For brevity, I shall express the thesis in the last of these ways, as the claim that entities with parts are ‘nothing but’ those parts. (shrink)
[D. H. Mellor] Kant's claim that our knowledge of time is transcendental in his sense, while false of time itself, is true of tenses, i.e. of the locations of events and other temporal entities in McTaggart's A series. This fact can easily, and I think only, be explained by taking time itself to be real but tenseless. /// [J. R. Lucas] Mellor's argument from Kant fails. The difficulties in his first Antinomy are due to topological confusions, not the tensed nature (...) of time. Nor are McTaggart' s difficulties due to the tensed nature of time. The ego-centricity of tensed discourse is an essential feature of communication between selves, each of whom refers himself as 'I', and is required for talking about time as well as experience and agency. Arguments based on the Special Theory are misconceived. Some rest on a confused notion of 'topological simultaneity'. In the General Theory a cosmic time is defined, as also in quantum mechanics, where a natural present is defined by a unique hyperplane of collapse into eigen-ness. (shrink)
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.
Once God is no longer recognized as the ground and the enforcer of morality, the character and force of morality undergoes a significant change, a point made by G.E.M. Anscombe in her observation that without God the significance of morality is changed, as the word criminal would be changed if there were no criminal law and criminal courts. There is no longer in principle a God's-eye perspective from which one can envisage setting moral pluralism aside. In addition, it becomes impossible (...) to show that morality should always trump concerns of prudence, concerns for one's own non-moral interests and the interests of those to whom one is close. Immanuel Kant's attempt to maintain the unity of morality and the force of moral obligation by invoking the idea of God and the postulates of pure practical reason are explored and assessed. Hegel's reconstruction of the status of moral obligation is also examined, given his attempt to eschew Kant's thing-in-itself, as well as Kant's at least possible transcendent God. Severed from any metaphysical anchor, morality gains a contingent content from socio-historical context and its enforcement from the state. Hegel's disengagement from a transcendent God marks a watershed in the place of God in philosophical reflections regarding the status of moral obligations on the European continent. Anscombe is vindicated. Absent the presence of God, there is an important change in the force of moral obligation. (shrink)
May I first say, Mr Chairman, that I regard it as a great honour to have been invited to take part in this Conference? I speak to you as a philosopher who happens to be interested both in religion and in psychical research. But I am afraid I am going to discuss some questions which it is ‘not done’ to talk about.
The following brief memoir of Wittgenstein needs a few preliminary words of explanation. Among those who attended his lectures and discussions in the years it covers was D. G. James, who later became Professor of English at Bristol University and then Vice-Chancellor of Southampton University. I met him both in Bristol and Southampton, and on one occasion suggested to him that some of us who had known Wittgenstein, but who had not become professional philosophers, might write down our recollections of (...) him, and that he and I should start. What prompted the suggestion was, I think, the publication of Norman Malcolm's book, and a feeling that the non-professionals might have something to contribute to the assessment of Wittgenstein, particularly as a person. I wrote a preliminary draft and sent it to James; but he never responded, there was much else to do, I let the matter rest, and now James is dead. I wrote in about the year 1960 on holiday and away from any books of reference and from my own notes of Wittgenstein's lectures and conversations. I have shown the typescript to a few interested people, but because of its preliminary and unfinished nature have not previously thought of publication. It has recently been suggested to me that it might be of more general interest, and I publish it now as it was written, with one or two trifling alterations. I am well aware of its limitations. It was intended to give an impression of Wittgenstein as a person rather than as a philosopher, and the rather miscellaneous collection of remarks in section 3 have that in view rather than any more strictly ‘philosophical’ intention. Others may well question some of the detail and disagree with some of the opinions expressed. And there are some things which I might put rather differently today. But if the memoir has any interest it is best left as it was written. (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?
How does the study of society relate to the study of the people it comprises? This longstanding question is partly one of method, but mainly one of fact, of how independent the objects of these two studies, societies and people, are. It is commonly put as a question of reduction, and I shall tackle it in that form: does sociology reduce in principle to individual psychology? I follow custom in calling the claim that it does ‘individualism’ and its denial ‘holism’.
This is a collection of essays on themes of legal philosophy which have all been generated or affected by Hart's work. The topics covered include legal theory, responsibility, and enforcement of morals, with contributions from Ronald Dworkin, Rolf Sartorius, Neil MacCormach, David Lyons, Kent Greenawalt, Michael Moore, Joseph Raz, and C.L. Ten, among others.
The dominant approach to environmental policy endorsed by conservative and libertarian policy thinkers, so-called “free market environmentalism”, is grounded in the recognition and protection of property rights in environmental resources. Despite this normative commitment to property rights, most self-described FME advocates adopt a utilitarian, welfare-maximization approach to climate change policy, arguing that the costs of mitigation measures could outweigh the costs of climate change itself. Yet even if anthropogenic climate change is decidedly less than catastrophic, human-induced climate change is likely (...) to contribute to environmental changes that violate traditional conceptions of property rights. Viewed globally, the actions of some countries—primarily industrialized nations—are likely to increase environmental harms suffered by other countries—less developed nations that have not made any significant contribution to climate change. It may well be that aggregate human welfare would be maximized in a warmer, wealthier world, or that the gains from climate change will offset environmental losses. Yet such claims, even if demonstrated, would not address the normative concern that the consequences of anthropogenic global warming would infringe upon the rights of people in less-developed nations. As a consequence, this paper calls for a rethinking of FME approaches to climate change policy. (shrink)
Like many people these days, I believe there is no general moral obligation to obey the law. I shall explain why there is no such moral obligation – and I shall clarify what I mean when I say there is no moral obligation to obey the law – as we proceed. But also like many people, I am unhappy with a position that would say there was no moral obligation to obey the law and then say no more about the (...) law's moral significance. In our thinking about law in a resonably just society, we have a strong inclination to invest law with a sort of moral halo. It does not feel right to suggest that law is a morally neutral social fact, nor to suggest that law is merely a useful social technique. In this essay, I shall try to account in part for law's moral halo. Because I share the widespread inclination to invest law with this halo, I shall not be interested in a merely historical account of how we come to see law with a halo – a pure “error theory” of law's halo, if you will. I want to justify the halo. On the other hand, the main way to justify the halo is to get clear just what law's moral significance is. It is unlikely that at the end of the process of clarification the halo will have exactly the shape or luminance that it had at the beginning. (shrink)
Moral philosophers are fond of the dictum “ought implies can” and even deontologists normally admit the need to take account of consequences in the design of social institutions. Too often, however, philosophers fail to take advantage of the knowledge provided by the social sciences about the constraints and consequences of alternative forms of social organization. By discussing ideals in abstraction from the problems of institutionalization, they fail at least to see some of the important consequences and costs of a proposed (...) ideal, and sometimes they fail even to understand the ideal itself. (shrink)
My object in this paper is to suggest a few reflections on some themes in Bentham's work which others as well as I have noted, without perhaps developing them as fully as might with advantage be done. There will be nothing like full development in the limited compass of what is said here, but what is said may at least indicate possible directions for further exploration. The greater part of the paper will be concerned with the notion of natural authority; (...) but I want to begin by taking a broader, though no doubt rather superficial, view of the role in Bentham's thinking of the concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘the natural’. (shrink)
My object in this paper is to consider what relevance, if any, current analyses of probability have to problems of religious belief. There is no doubt that words such as ‘probable’ are used in this context; what is doubtful is that this use can be analysed as other major uses of such words can. I shall conclude that this use cannot be so analysed and hence, given the preponderance of the other uses that can, that it is misleading.
As a preliminary to the justification of equal opportunity, we require a few words on the concept. An opportunity is a chance to attain some goal or obtain some benefit. More precisely, it is the lack of some obstacle or obstacles to the attainment of some goal or benefit. Opportunities are equal in some specified or understood sense when persons face roughly the same obstacles or obstacles of roughly the same difficulty of some specified or understood sort. In different contexts (...) we might have different sorts of benefits or obstacles in mind. But in the current social context, and in the context of this discussion, we refer to educational and occupational opportunities, chances to attain the benefits of higher education and of socially and economically desirable positions, benefits assumed to be desired by many or most individuals, other things being equal. And we generally divide obstacles into two broad classes: those imposed by the social system or by other persons in the society, for example, the hardships of life in the lower economic classes or barriers from prejudices based on race, sex, or ethnic background; and those imposed by natural disabilities, for example, low intelligence or lack of talents. The initial question is whether a moral society is obligated to create equality in opportunities in the senses just defined. I shall assume here initially that there is some such obligation on the part of society or the state, although I shall specify its nature and limits more precisely below. With the exception of certain libertarians, almost everyone, liberal and conservative alike, agrees in this assumption. (shrink)
The object of this article is to examine, with the work of Jeremy Bentham as the principal example, one strand in the complex pattern of European social theory during the second half of the eighteenth century. This was of course the period not only of the American and French revolutions, but of the culmination of the movements of thought constituting what we know as the Enlightenment. Like all great historical episodes, the Enlightenment was both the fulfilment of long-established processes and (...) the inauguration of new processes of which the fulfilment lay in the future. Thus the seminal ideas of seventeenth-century rationalism realized and perhaps exhausted their potentialities in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The ideas with which this article is concerned, however—conveniently grouped and labelled as the ideas of utilitarianism—only began to achieve systematic development in these later decades of the eighteenth century. Within that period—during the first half and more of Bentham's long life—attempts to apply those ideas to the solution of social problems met largely with failure and frustration. Yet unrealized potentialities remained, the realization of which was reserved for a time when the world of the philosophes no longer existed. The movements for social and political reform which have played so large a part in modern history since the French Revolution may be judged in widely differing ways; but whatever the verdict, these movements surely cannot be understood without due consideration of that part of their origins which lies in eighteenth-century utilitarianism. (shrink)
According to familiar accounts, Rousseau held that humans are actuated by two distinct kinds of self love: amour de soi, a benign concern for one's self-preservation and well-being; and amour-propre, a malign concern to stand above other people, delighting in their despite. I argue that although amour-propre can (and often does) assume this malign form, this is not intrinsic to its character. The first and best rank among men that amour-propre directs us to claim for ourselves is that of occupying (...) 'man's estate'. This does not require, indeed it precludes, subjection of others. Amour-propre does not need suppression or circumscription if we are to live good lives; it rather requires direction to its proper end, not a delusive one. (shrink)
Early in Peter Abelard's Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian, the philosopher and the Christian easily come to agreement about what the point of ethics is: “[T]he culmination of true ethics … is gathered together in this: that it reveal where the ultimate good is and by what road we are to arrive there.” They also agree that, since the enjoyment of this ultimate good “comprises true blessedness,” ethics “far surpasses other teachings in both usefulness and worthiness.” (...) As Abelard understood them, both fundamental elements of his twelfth-century ethical culture — Greek philosophy and Christian religion — held a common view of the nature of ethical inquiry, one that was so obvious to them that his characters do not even state it in a fully explicit way. They take for granted, as we take the ground we stand on, the premise that the most important function of ethical theory is to tell you what sort of life is most desirable, or most worth living. That is, the point of ethics is that it is good for you, that it serves your self-interest. (shrink)