.The legitimate impact of common morality on legal restrictions has been continuously discussed within the Western philosophy of law since Lord Patrick Devlin in the late 1950s presented his moralistic arguments against some liberal conclusions drawn by the English Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in their public report. Devlin's arguments were subsequently identified and refuted by Richard Wollheim, H. L. A. Hart and Ronald Dworkin, but in a way that later provoked further argument. In particular the attack against anti‐moralistic (...) principles set forth by Simon Lee owes much to the rather naive liberalism represented by the opponents of Devlin. The battle over liberalism and moralism from the Hart‐Devlin debate to the present day is reviewed. In addition to the discussion of the philosophers mentioned above, a potential flaw in the argumentation of Joel Feinberg is considered. (shrink)
continent. 2.2 (2012): 76–81 Comments on Eugene Thacker’s “Cosmic Pessimism” Nicola Masciandaro Anything you look forward to will destroy you, as it already has. —Vernon Howard In pessimism, the first axiom is a long, low, funereal sigh. The cosmicity of the sigh resides in its profound negative singularity. Moving via endless auto-releasement, it achieves the remote. “ Oltre la spera che piú larga gira / passa ’l sospiro ch’esce del mio core ” [Beyond the sphere that circles widest / penetrates (...) the sigh that issues from my heart]. 1 The axiomatic sigh of the pessimist is in a way the pure word of philosophy, a thought that thinks without you, speaks where you are not. The live pneumatic form of the soul’s eventual exit from the dead body’s mouth, the sigh restores consciousness to the funeral of being, to the passing away that is existence. Pessimism speaks in piercing aphorisms because first it sighs. “Beyond the sphere passeth the arrow of our sigh. Hafiz! Silence.” 2 … pessimism is guilty of that most inexcusable of Occidental crimes—the crime of not pretending it’s for real. To the pessimist, the ‘real’ world—the world on whose behalf we are expected to wake up in the morning—is a ceaseless index of its own unreality. The pessimist’s day is not an illumined space for the advancement of experience and action, but a permanently and inescapably reflective zone, the vast interior of a mirror where each thing is only insofar as it is, at best, a false image of itself. Within this speculative situation, inside the doubleness of the mirror, pessimism splits into two paths, false and true, one that tries to fix pessimism (establish a relation with the mirror) and decides in favor of the apparent real, and another that totally falls for pessimism (enters the mirror) and communes with the greater reality of the unreal. These two paths are distinguished by their relation to pessimism’s guilt vis-à-vis the world’s reality-project. The first form, that which remains pessimism for the world and puts on a smiling face, stays guilty to itself (i.e. unconscious) and thus turns hypocritical, becoming at once the pessimism of the commoner who really just wants things to be better for himself and the pessimism of the elite who wants to critically refashion reality in his own image. The general form of this worldly, hypocritical pessimism is the impulse to ‘make the world a better place’, which is the global mask under which the world is diurnally made worse. The second form, that which follows pessimism away from the world and ceases to put on a smiling face, refuses guiltiness as itself theessential Occidental mode of pretense and turns honest, becoming at once the intelligent pessimism required of all ordinary action and the radical pessimism necessary for self-knowledge: seeing that no one is capable of doing good. The general form of this universal, honest pessimism is the impulse not to worry, to give up and embrace dereliction, which is the only real way the world is actually improved. Where worldly pessimism is the engine productive of interminably warring secular and sacred religions (good-projects), universal pessimism strives hopelessly for the paradise of a supremely instantiated pessimus: things are getting so bad that there is no longer any time for them to get worse; things are so constantly-instantly worst that this is BEST. Cosmic pessimism is the mode of universal pessimism which can yet discourse with the world, which has not chosen silence and can spread the inconceivably BAD NEWS in an orderly form ( kosmos ) that the world can understand (if it wanted to). … the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world. That is what the world is (the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world). … a generalized misanthropy without the anthropos. Pessimism crystallizes around this futility—it is its amor fati , rendered as musical form. Pessimism’s love of fate is a blind love, a love of the blindness of being human in a cosmos conceived around the human’s eclipse, a heavy levitation in the contradictory space between the inescapability of its having been and the impossibility of its will-be. Pessimism’s song of futility is a sensible way of loving fate, with a minimum of eros, by means of a kind of matrimonial love of the fatal. As music, pessimism stays open to the irreparable and the inexorable without the binding of affirmation, in the apparent absence of the radical, infinitely surplus will that absolute amor fati seems to require. Crying, laughing, sleeping—what other responses are adequate to a life that is so indifferent? “Unless a man aspires to the impossible, the possible that he achieves will scarcely be worth the trouble of his achieving it. We should aspire to the impossible, to absolute and infinite perfection [….] The apocatastasis is more than a mystical dream: it is a norm of action, it is a beacon for high deeds [….] For true charity is a species of invasion [….] It is not charity to rock and lull our fellow men to sleep in the inertia and heaviness of matter, but rather to arouse them to anguish and torment of spirit.” 3 … the impossibility of ever adequately accounting for one’s relationship to thought. “The paroxysm of interior experience leads you to regions where danger is absolute, because life which self-consciously actualizes its roots in experience can only negate itself [….] There are no arguments [….] On the heights of despair, the passion for the absurd is the only thing that can still throw a demonic light on chaos [….] I live because the mountains do not laugh and the worms do not sing .” 4 It took three attempts before she was fully decapitated, all the while she continued, perhaps miraculously, to sing. According to the earliest account of Cecilia’s martyrdom, the beheading turns out worse. After not severing her head in three strokes, “the cruel executioner left her half dead” (seminecem eam cruentus carnifex dereliquit). 5 Cecilia’s effortlessly powerful endurance of the three strokes—a fitting icon for pessimism as an art of dereliction—demonstrates the “passivity and absence of effort [….] in which divine transcendence is dissolved.” 6 There’s a ghost that grows inside of me, damaged in the making, and there’s a hunt sprung from necessity, elliptical and drowned. Where the moving quiet of our insomnia offers up each thought, there’s a luminous field of grey inertia, and obsidian dreams burnt all the way down. Like words from a pre-waking dream. There is no reason to think that they are not. NOTES 1. Dante Alighieri. Vita Nuova . ed. and trans. Dino S. Cervigni and Edward Vasta. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 1995. 41:10. 2. Hafiz of Shiraz. The Divan . trans. H. Wilberforce Clarke. London: Octagon Press. 1974. 10.9. 3. Miguel de Unamuno. The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations . trans. Anthony Kerrigan. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1972. 305-6. 4. E.M. Cioran. On the Heights of Despair . trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1992. 9-10. 5. Giacomo Laderchi. S. Caeciliae Virg[inis] et Mart[yris] Acta. . . Rome. 1723. 38. 6. Georges Bataille. On Nietzsche . trans. Bruce Boone. London: Continuum. 2004. 135. See Nicola Masciandaro. “ Half Dead: Parsing Cecilia .” A Commentary on Eugene Thacker’s "Cosmic Pessimism" Gary J. Shipley Pessimism is the refusal to seek distraction, the refusal to remodel failure into a platform for further (doomed) possibilities, the refusal of comfort, the acceptance of the sickness of healthy bodies, the cup of life overflowing with cold vomit. If, as Ligotti suggests when discussing Invasion of the Body Snatchers , 1 humans prefer the anxieties of their familiar human lives to the contentment of an alien one, then the pessimist, we could argue, represents some perverted combination of the two, preferring (presuming he has a choice) the defamiliarization of human life to the contentment of its unquestioned mundanity. The quasi-religious state of mind that Wittgenstein would mention on occasion, that of “feeling absolutely safe,” 2 is a state the pessimist could only imagine being approximated by death, or perhaps some annihilative opiate-induced stupor. This Wittgensteinian commingling of certainty and faith looks every bit the futile gesture, a mere rephrasing of collapse or partial collapse. The only certainty open to the pessimist is that of the toxic formula of life itself—a formula known and lacuna-free. Certainty, far from being the gateway to deliverance, becomes the definitive impediment; and the possibility of salvation, as long as it remains, becomes crucially reliant on postulations of ignorance, epistemic gaps, a perennial incompleteness: “the perfect safety of wooed death […] the warm bath of physical dissolution, the universal unknown engulfing the miniscule unknown.” 3 The height of Leibniz’s Panglossian insanity nurtured the idea that our knowing everything—via the universal calculus—could be accurately described a triumph, as opposed to a nightmare in which our every futility is laid bare. Stagnancy and boredom are perhaps two of the greatest ills of Western civilisation, and the most potent pessimism tells you that you’re stuck with both. The most we can hope for, by way of salvation, is to throw open our despair to the unknown. The fact that Schopenhauer’s pessimism stopped short of morality and allowed him to play the flute, as Nietzsche complained, highlights the predicament of a man who despite having adorned nothingness with a smiling face still found himself alive. The demand here is that it be felt: a cross-contamination of intellect and emotion. The safety net of numerous parentheses makes for a failed philosophy, rather than a philosophy of failure. Depressives make bad pessimists, because, unless they choose to die, living will always infect them with necessities of hope, forcing them to find something, anything (all the various “as ifs”) to make existence tolerable. For as Cioran observed, while “[d]epressions pay attention to life, they are the eyes of the devil, poisoned arrows which wound mortally any zest and love of life. Without them we know little, but with them, we cannot live.” 4 And even when cured of our depressions we’ll find ourselves consumed, eaten alive by the hyper-clinical (borderline autistic) mania that replaces them: a predicament captured all too clearly in the microscriptual fictions of Robert Walser, where spectral men and women stifle their depressive madness with protective comas of detail, their failed assimilations buried beneath thick crusts of remote data. Like Beckett’s Malone their stories may have ended, but cruelly their lives have not. Pessimism is an extraneous burden (a purposeless weight) that makes everything else harder to carry, while at the same time scooping it out and making it lighter. If pessimism had a sound it would be the harsh non-noise of tinnitus—the way that every person would hear themselves if they refused their distractions long enough to listen: a lungless scream from the extrasolar nothing of the self. The music of pessimism—if indeed we can imagine such a thing—is the reverberating echo of the world’s last sound, conjectured but never heard, audible only in its being listened for. The one consolation of this hollow paradox of audibility being, that “he will be least afraid of becoming nothing in death who has recognized that he is already nothing now.” 5 The pessimist suffers a derangement of the real, a labyrinthitis at the nucleus of his being: he’s the stumbling ghost relentlessly surprised that others can see him. If Cioran’s refusal is manifested in sleep (when even saying ‘no’ is too much of a commitment), then Pessoa’s resides in the dreams inside that sleep. Pessoa chooses to exploit the fact that he’s being “lived by some murmuring non-entity both shadowy and muddied” 6 by growing more voids to live him. His is a Gnostic breed of sleep, “sleeping as if the universe were a mistake,” 7 a sleep that dreams through Thacker’s cosmic pessimism (“a pessimism of the world-without-us.”, “the unhuman orientation of deep space and deep time” 8 ), through the critical error of there being anything at all when there could be nothing. The metaphysical pessimist is someone who, however well life treats them, still desires to wake from it, as from the poisonous air of a bad dream. Pessimism is a paradox of age, being simultaneously young and old; its youth residing in a refusal to accept the authority of existence (its rich history, its inherent beneficence), a refusal to “get over” the horror of what it sees with its perpetually fresh eyes, and its maturity in the unceremonious disposal of the philosophical playthings (those futile architectures) of adolescence. As Thacker remarks: “Pessimism abjures all pretenses towards system—towards the purity of analysis and the dignity of critique.” 9 A sentiment shared with Pessoa, who duly categorizes those that choose to enact this futile struggle: “The creators of metaphysical systems and of psychological explanations are still in the primary stage of suffering.” 10 If the pessimist has shared a womb with anyone, it’s with the mystic and not the philosopher. As Schopenhauer tells us: “The mystic is opposed to the philosopher by the fact that he begins from within, whereas the philosopher begins from without. […] But nothing of this is communicable except the assertions that we have to accept on his word; consequently he is unable to convince.” 11 The crucial difference between the mystic and the pessimist is not the latter’s impassivity and defeatism, but his unwillingness/inability to contain in any way the spread of his voracious analyticity, his denial of incompleteness, his exhaustive devotion to failure. The truth of our predicament, though heard, is destined to remain unprocessed. Like the revelations of B.S. Johnson’s Haakon (“We rot and there’s nothing that can stop it / Can’t you feel the shaking horror of that?” 12 ) the pessimist’s truths are somehow too obvious to listen to, as if something inside us were saying, “Of course, but haven’t we gotten over that?” Pessimism is simple and ugly, and has no desire to make itself more complex or more attractive. The true moral pessimist knows that the Utilitarian’s accounts will always be in the red. He can see that for all his computational containments, his only honest path is a negative one, and that such a path has but one logical destination: that of wholesale human oblivion. Thacker notes how at the core of pessimism lies the notion of “the worst,” through which death is demoted by the all-pervasive suffering of a life that easily eclipses its threat. And so with doom made preferable to gloom, death begins to glint with promise, “like beauty passing through a nightmare.” 13 But even among pessimists suicide is, for the most part, thought to be an error. Schopenhauer, for instance, regarded suicide a mistake grounded in some fundamentally naïve disappointment or other. Pessoa too thought suicide an onerous escape tactic: “To die is to become completely other. That’s why suicide is a cowardice: it’s to surrender ourselves completely to life.” 14 There is a call here to be accepting of and creative with the puppetry of your being, an insistence that it’s somehow a blunder to attempt to hide in death from the horrors you find inlife. 15 Tied up with this perseverance is the slippery notion of the good death, for maybe, as Blanchot warns, suicide is rarely something we can hope to get right, for the simple reason that “you cannot make of death an object of the will.” 16 “Even in cases where the entire corpus of an author is pessimistic, the project always seems incomplete,” 17 and this is not simply because the project itself belies something yet to be disclosed, but because the project itself is a thing waiting. It waits on a cure it knows will not come, but for which it cannot do anything (as long as it continues to do anything) but wait. NOTES 1. See Thomas Ligotti. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race . New York: Hippocampus Press. 2010. 91. 2. Ludwig Wittgenstein. “A Lecture on Ethics.” Philosophical Review . (74) 1. 1965. 8. 3. Vladimir Nabokov. Pale Fire . New York: Vintage. 1989. 221. 4. E. M. Cioran. The Book of Delusions . trans. Camelia Elias. Hyperion. 5.1. (2010): 75. 5. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. vol. 2 . trans. E .F J. Payne. New York: Dover. 1966. 609. 6. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 67. 7. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 35. 8. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 68. 9. Ibid. 73. 10. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 341. 11. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. vol. 2 . trans. E .F J. Payne. New York: Dover. 1966. 610-11. 12. B.S Johnson. “You’re Human Like the Rest of Them.” in Jonathan Coe. Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson . London: Picador. 2004. 177. 13. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 415. 14. Ibid. 199. 15. “Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem.” Anne Sexton. No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews and Prose . ed. Steven Gould Axelrod. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1985. 92. 16. Maurice Blanchot. The Space of Literature . trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1989. 105. 17. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 75. (shrink)
The Nordic countries aim to have a unique place within the European and global health data economy. They have extensive nationally maintained and centralized health data records, as well as numerous biobanks where data from individuals can be connected based on personal identification numbers. Much of this phenomenon can be attributed to the emergence and development of the Nordic welfare state, where Nordic countries sought to systematically collect large amounts of population data to guide decision making and improve the health (...) and living conditions of the population. Recently, however, the so-called Nordic gold mine of data is being re-imagined in a wholly other context, where data and its ever-increasing logic of accumulation is seen as a driver for economic growth and private business development. This article explores the development of policies and strategies for health data economy in Denmark and Finland. We ask how nation states try to adjust and benefit from new pressures and opportunities to utilize their data resources in data markets. This raises questions of social sustainability in terms of states being producers, providers, and consumers of data. The data imaginaries related to emerging health data markets also provide insight into how a broad range of different data sources, ranging from hospital records and pharmacy prescriptions to biobank sample data, are brought together to enable “full-scale utilization” of health and welfare data. (shrink)
According to surveys and opinion polls, citizens in Nordic welfare societies have positive, supportive attitudes towards medical research and biobanking. In Finland, it was expected that this would result in the active biobank participation of patients and citizens. Indeed, public support has been rhetorically utilised as a unique societal factor and advantage in the promotion of Finnish biobanks, underlining the potential Finland offers for the international biomedical enterprise. In this paper, we critically analyse the use of notions such as ‘willing (...) population’ and ‘engaged people’ in the promotion and legitimation of biobanking. First, there is a seeming contradiction between positive attitudes and actual participation rates, as biobanks have faced unexpected challenges in participant recruitment during the first years of their operations. As a result, the concept of a willing population was redirected to problematise the necessity of informed consent. Second, we question whether it is even meaningful to assume the existence of an informed and engaged population with regard to biobanking. Therefore, we suggest that it is problematic to talk about a willing population at the same time as the relevance of the informed consent system is being questioned by biobank actors and policy makers. We analyse this tension in relation to existing data on Finnish people’s attitudes, pointing out that positive, supportive views do not directly transform into high participation rates; nor do they justify the claims of policy makers and biobank proponents that people are willing to participate, when in fact surveys report that people know very little about biobanks. (shrink)
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)
The Limits of Medical Paternalism defines and morally assesses paternalistic interventions, especially in the context of modern medicine and health care, particular emphasis is given to the analysis of the conceptual background of the paternalism issue. In this book an anti-paternalistic view is presented and defended.
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)
_The Limits of Medical Paternalism_ defines and morally assesses paternalistic interventions, especially in the context of modern medicine and health care, particular emphasis is given to the analysis of the conceptual background of the paternalism issue. In this book an anti-paternalistic view is presented and defended.
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)
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)
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)
ABSTRACTIn this paper, our purpose is to show what George Berkeley really said about ethics and the background conditions of religious life. The point is that true happiness is only possible in a religious sense; it means happiness in afterlife. The major threat to this is freethinking, or what we see as emerging enlightened modernism. His rather quixotic fix against freethinking shows the man as he is behind all the conventional panegyrics. He is a real Anglican soldier who anticipated but (...) never admitted a critical defeat in the most important of all battles. Interest in George Berkeley’s life’s work has been exceptionally selective. Yet his revolutionary immaterialism is only an early episode in his struggles towards a better society and religious life for all the people, regardless of their denomination. From this point of view, Alciphron is central. But he also develops his ethical ideas in his various minor writings, which have been largely overlooked. (shrink)
One of the core issues in medical ethics has been and still is autonomy, people's right to make their own self-regarding choices in situations where more than one option is available. Depending on the case, these choices may be influenced by personal life history, one's ethical and other values, and one's future expectancies. A professional soccer player may risk an operation, which for a less athletic individual would represent an unnecessary risk that might jeopardize her ability to even walk. Saying (...) no to painkillers may sound irrational to those who do not see anything ennobling in avoidable suffering, and preferring homeopathic medicine to more evidence-based medicine may lead others to seriously doubt the logic of one's thinking. But although these situations may be difficult,1 they seldom lead to an impasse. Even if serious value conflicts emerge in these patient–medical personnel encounters, they can be overcome by the fact that, in Western countries, honoring patients' autonomy has been widely accepted as part of medical professionalism. (shrink)
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)
According to what one might call ‘indirect” forms of utilitarian thinking, the proper end of all human action is the greatest happiness of the greatest number of individuals, but due to the fallibility of moral agents this end cannot, and must not, be directly pursued. Instead, according to at least one version of the indirect theory, moral agents have a duty to act in conformity with a set of general rules which, in their turn, have been designed to promote the (...) greatest happiness of humankind. But acts which conform to such general rules can under exceptional circumstances occasion more suffering than happiness. This is clearly problematical to indirect utilitarians. If they follow the rules regardless of the evil consequences, it can be argued that they have abandoned the basic principles of utilitarianism. If, on the other hand, they refuse to follow the rules which normally promote the general good, their view can be seen to collapse into the direct form of the creed. (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.
[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)
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’.
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.
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)
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)