The speculative power of theoretical reason is not only incapable of grounding itself, but is also powerless to integrate and unify all of the different aspects of our intellectual and spiritual life. This impotency of what Schelling called negative philosophy gives rise to the demand for a positive philosophy that supplies the integrative grounding in which das Unvordenkliche—that before which nothing can be thought—is rooted. I contrast what Schelling calls an “inverted concept” with Huineng’s account of wu-nien (no-thought) found in (...) the Platform Sutra (Tun-Huang Manuscript). Both Schelling and Huineng advance their respective ideas as not only the necessary basis of their thinking, but as a necessary experience one must undergo in order to realize and thus truly comprehend their teaching. Huineng connects this lived knowing with sudden enlightenment, while Schelling speaks of the exuberant fullness of ecstasy. I close with a brief account of Schelling’s appeal for pluralistic tolerance among different philosophical and religious traditions, in which he argues that such traditions are in error to the degree they lay claim to exclusive and infallible truth. (shrink)
The deflationary aim of this book, which occupies Part I, is to show that a widely held view has little to be said for it. The constructive aim, pursued in Part II, is to make plausible a measure-theoretic account of propositional attitudes. The discussion is throughout instructive, illuminating and sensitive to the many intricacies surrounding attitude ascriptions and how they can carry information about a subject's psychology. There is close engagement with cognitive science. The book should be read by anyone (...) seriously engaged with issues about propositional attitudes.According to the widely held view, which Matthews calls the Received View, the attitude of Φing that p is a matter of standing in a computational/functional relation to an explicit Representation that expresses the proposition that p, and thinking is ‘an inferential computational process defined over one or more of these Representations that eventuates in the production of either another Representation or a behavior’ . The representations are understood to be sentences in a language of thought and thus to have a compositional syntax and semantics . The theory that Matthews aims to make plausible has it that ascriptions of propositional attitudes in the form ‘X Φs that p’, ascribe a state to a person by relating that person to an abstract object that is the representative of the state in roughly the way that numbers on a scale are the measure-theoretic representations of certain physical magnitudes . We are to think of the role of ‘Jones believes that interest rates will fall’ by analogy with that of ‘Jones weighs 150lbs’. The latter depends on there being arithmetical relations defined over numbers that enable its particular assignment of a number to Jones's weight to represent physical properties that Jones has in virtue …. (shrink)
A. J. Ayer, who died in 1989, was acknowledged as one of Britain's most distinguished philosophers. In this memorial collection of essays leading Western philosophers reflect on Ayer's place in the history of philosophy and explore aspects of his thought and teaching. The volume also includes a posthumous essay by Ayer himself: 'A defence of empiricism'. These essays are undoubtedly a fitting tribute to a major figure, but the collection is not simply retrospective; rather it looks forward to present and (...) future developments in philosophical thought that Ayer's work has stimulated. (shrink)
In contrast to many of his contemporaries, A. J. Ayer was an analytic philosopher who had sustained throughout his career some interest in developments in the work of his ‘continental’ peers. Ayer, who spoke French, held friendships with some important Parisian intellectuals, such as Camus, Bataille, Wahl and Merleau-Ponty. This paper examines the circumstances of a meeting between Ayer, Merleau-Ponty, Wahl, Ambrosino and Bataille, which took place in 1951 at some Parisian bar. The question under discussion during this meeting was (...) whether the sun existed before humans did, over which the various philosophers disagreed. This disagreement is tangled with a variety of issues, such as Ayer’s critique of Heidegger and Sartre, Ayer’s response to Merleau-Ponty’s critique of empiricism, and Bataille’s response to Sartre’s critique of his notion of ‘unknowing’, which uncannily resembles Ayer’s critique of Sartre. Amidst this tangle one finds Bataille’s statement that an ‘abyss’ separates English from French and German philosophy, the first recorded announcement of the analytic-continental divide in the twentieth century. (shrink)
Eetu Pikkarainen describes the educational thinking of Johann AmosComenius (1592-1670) from a perspective of Bildung -theoretical problems. Comenius has had a remarkable influence on modern education, particularly through his language-learning and general didactical methods and principles. However, Comenius’ broader pansophic views have had somewhat more benign later effects. Comenius developed a reformation programme concerning the ‘main areas’ of reality, from theology and education to philosophy and language to social questions and world peace. This program has important connections to the modern (...) theories of Bildung. Comenius connects individual human growth with global issues such as the growth of scientific knowledge, the justice of political systems, and world peace. In his philosophy, Comenius strongly criticises the problems of the rising modern thinking such as trapping to dualisms. From that angle, Comenius appears an almost postmodern thinker with surprising similarity to the thoughts of C S Peirce. (shrink)
This paper gives an account of the debate between F.A. Hayek and J.M. Keynes in the 1930s written for the general public. The purpose of this is twofold. First, to provide the general reader with a narrative of what happened, … More ›.
I am very much honoured to have been asked to make the closing speech at this Conference. Since this is the first time for over fifty years that a philosophical congress of this scope has been held in England, I hope that you will think it suitable for me to devote my lecture to the revival of the empiricist tradition in British philosophy during this century. I shall begin by examining the contribution of the Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore. Though (...) he first owed his fame to his book Principia Ethica regarded as a work of genius by the Cambridge Apostles and their associates in Bloomsbury, who did not venture to question Moore's mistaken view of ‘good’ as an unanalysable non-natural quality, his reputation now chiefly rests on his subsequent defence of common sense. (shrink)
There is a strong tendency in the scholarly and sub-scholarly literature on terrorism to treat it as something like an ideology. There is an equally strong tendency to treat it as always immoral. Both tendencies go hand in hand with a considerable degree of unclarity about the meaning of the term ‘terrorism’. I shall try to dispel this unclarity and I shall argue that the first tendency is the product of confusion and that once this is understood, we can see, (...) in the light of a more definite analysis of terrorism, that the second tendency raises issues of inconsistency, and even hypocrisy. Finally, I shall make some tentative suggestions about what categories of target may be morally legitimate objects of revolutionary violence, and I shall discuss some lines of objection to my overall approach. (shrink)
We all ‘know’ that public opinion came to prominence in the political vocabulary of the late eighteenth century. It may be that this dates its rise a bit late, but it is not relevant to argue the matter here. My concern is rather that we be equally aware of the purposes for which people made use of the concept. Here I wish to consider various possible contexts for speaking or writing of public opinion, or ‘opinion’, as it was usually called (...) prior to the mid-eighteenth century. It may be possible to define, more fully than heretofore, the work that the expression did in eighteenth-century thought. As contemporary students of public opinion have been learning, an answer to this question may not even be wholly irrelevant to the task of specifying the nature of public opinion in our own time. (shrink)
Q: If necessity is the mother of invention, whence necessity? A. : The matrix of necessity in God-talk is religious experience, philosophically interpreted. The interpreters, theists and non-thesists, have indeed been inventive.
Wittgenstein's book On Certainty which was first published in 1969, eighteen years after his death, is a collection of notes which he composed during the last eighteen months of his life. As his editors explain in their preface, these notes, which were written at four different periods, are all in the form of a first draft. They are more repetitive than they no doubt would have been if Wittgenstein had been able to revise them. Even so, they are characteristically succinct (...) and penetrating, and the argument which they develop is easier to follow than that of the general run of Wittgenstein's later work. (shrink)
The relationship between John Locke and Isaac Newton, his co-founder of, in the apt phrase of one recent writer, ‘the Moderate Enlightenment’ of the eighteenth century, has many dimensions. There is their friendship, which began only after each had written his major work, and which had its stormy interlude. There is the difficult question of their mutual impact. In what ways did each draw intellectually on the other? That there was some debt of each to the other is almost certain, (...) but its exact extent is problematic. Questions may be asked over a whole range of intellectual issues, but not always answered. Thus their theology, which was in many respects close, and which forms the bulk of their surviving correspondence, may yet reveal mutual influence. There is the question of their political views, where both were firmly Whig. But it is upon their philosophy, and certain aspects of their philosophy in particular, that this paper will concentrate. My main theme is the nature of their empiricism, and my main contention is that between them they produced a powerful and comprehensive philosophy. (shrink)
Peter Geach supports his case that the religion of Thomas Hobbes was both genuine and a version of Socinianism principally by comparing the theological and scriptural sections of Leviathan with the main doctrines of Socinianism and its latter-day developments in Unitarianism and Christadelphianism. He pays particular attention to comparisons with the Racovian Catechism, the theological writings of Joseph Priestley and the Christadelphian document Christendom Astray by Robert Roberts.
Although there are many different philosophical hares that could be started by the use of the term ‘historical fact’ I am interested in pursuing one that is related to the historian's attitude to testimony. By way of preliminary, however, I should say something about my use of the word ‘fact’. A contrast that sets off my use best is probably that between fact and theory. This distinction is at once methodological and epistemological in that it concerns the structure of inquiry (...) as well as the structure of secure belief. As far as inquiry is concerned it is plausible to suppose that an investigation begins with a problem or a puzzle, the delineation of which requires certain data in the form of propositions that are known to be true, or are taken for granted or commonly agreed upon as sufficiently secure to provide a grounding for the inquiry. It is to cover such data that I am using the word ‘fact’ and hence it will not refer to just any true proposition. Theories however stand as the outcome of inquiry and involve generality and inference and classification in a way that facts do not. It is interesting that the term ‘datum’ came into use in English at the same time that the word ‘fact’, which had meant ‘a deed or action’, acquired the sort of meaning that interests me here. (shrink)
The ‘beautiful axiom’ to which Dickens refers is a central feature of Thomas Hobbes' thinking but its precise role in his moral philosophy remains unclear. I shall here attempt both to dispel the unclarity and to evaluate the adequacy of the position that emerges. Given the high level of contemporary interest in Hobbes' thought, both within and beyond philosophical circles, this is an enterprise of considerable importance. None the less, my interest is not merely interpretative, since the assessment of Hobbes' (...) attitude to ‘the beautiful axiom’ raises important and difficult questions about what might be termed the preconditions of morality. (shrink)
Names of Romans in Josephus are notoriously liable to corruption. Two minor characters in his account of the assassination of Caligula have so far defied plausible emendation, ‘Timidius’ in A.J. 19.33–4 and ‘Bathybius’ in 19.91. The sources of Josephus’ account of this dramatic episode were unquestionably high class—two, rather than one, Latin historians, as Wiseman has demonstrated, the main one being Cluvius Rufus, the other possibly Fabius Rusticus.
J.A. Hobson is known for his views on economy and imperialism. He was also concerned with social psychology and especially with the phenomenon of crowds, which was much discussed at the beginning of the twentieth century. As crowd behaviour was both collective and apparently irrational, it could undermine liberalism. However, Hobson uses crowd phenomena to bolster his own brand of social-democratic liberalism. He perceives mass behaviour as a constituent of the social dialogue favoured by liberals since J. S. Mill, and (...) argues that alterity and festivity are themselves human traits that merit political and legal recognition. This expanded view of human nature grounds a perception of rights which includes entitlements to leisure and structureless sociability: the welfare measures which guarantee such entitlements are thus made constituents of a revised liberalism. His interpretation of the crowd also serves Hobson as a warning to social theory itself, which, he argues, should acknowledge its distance from the world it attempts to analyse. This perception of theory further acts to strengthen liberalism, as it points to the contingent, open-ended character of any view of society and hence favours dialogue and open expression of varying opinions. (shrink)
The determination of “who is a J” within a society is treated as an aggregation of the views of the members of the society regarding this question. Methods, similar to those used in Social Choice theory are applied to axiomatize three criteria for determining who is a J: 1) a J is whoever defines oneself to be a J. 2) a J is whoever a “dictator” determines is a J. 3) a J is whoever an “oligarchy” of individuals agrees is (...) a J. (shrink)
In this article I pursue two main lines of argument. First, I seek to delineate two distinctive modes of justifying imperialism found in nineteenth-century political thought (and beyond). The 'liberal civilizational'li model, articulated most prominently by John Stuart Mill, justified empire primarily in terms of the benefits that it brought to subject populations. Its proponents sought to 'civilize'lthe 'barbarian'. An alternative `republican' model focused instead on the benefits - glory, honour and power above all - that accrued to the imperial (...) state. Less concerned with spreading civilization, its proponents concentrated on fortifying the imperial polity. Second, I offer a 'republican' interpretation of the writings of the historian and public moralist J.A. Froude (1818-94), arguing that he both diagnosed the problems of modern Britain and prescribed imperial solutions to those problems, based on his reading of the fate of the Roman republic. (shrink)
Ted Honderich: Professor Ayer, you wrote Language, Truth and Logic when you were only twenty-four, in 1935, and achieved fame by way of it. Tell us a bit about the writing. A. J. Ayer: After I'd taken my Schools at Oxford—I read Greats—my tutor Gilbert Ryle suggested that I go away for a couple of terms. I had already been appointed Lecturer at Christ Church, and I wanted to go to Cambridge to study under Wittgenstein, but Gilbert said no, don't (...) do that. We've got a lot of people going to Cambridge and we've a vague idea of what Wittgenstein is up to, but I believe something very interesting is happening in Vienna, under Moritz Schlick. Why don't you go to Vienna? I'd just got married for the first time, and I thought Vienna would be a nice place to go to for a honeymoon. At this point I didn't speak much German, but I thought I'd pick up some, which I did, and so I went and worked with the Vienna Circle. I couldn't really take much part in their debates, but I understood what was going on and came back very enthusiastic about what they were doing. They were extremely empiricist, very anti-metaphysical, anti-religious, and this suited my cast of mind very much. I immediately started lecturing at Oxford on—I think it was Russell, Wittgenstein and Quine. Russell was at that time almost a forbidden subject at Oxford, and Wittgenstein and Quine were people who'd not been heard of. (shrink)
Hume's doctrine of natural belief allows that certain beliefs are justifiably held by all men without regard to the quality of the evidence which may be produced in their favour. Examples are belief in an external world and belief in the veracity of our senses. According to R. J. Butler, Hume argues in the Dialogues that belief in God is of this sort. More recently John Hick has argued that for some people it is as natural to believe in God (...) as to believe in an external world. I shall first inquire what Hume understands by reasonable belief and by natural belief. I shall then use the results of this investigation to argue, against Butler, that belief in God is not a natural belief; and against Hick, more briefly, that his thesis is not viable in as far as it depends upon Hume's doctrine of natural belief. These discussions are important to the philosophy of religion since by means of natural beliefs it could be urged that belief in God is something justifiable without reference to reason or evidence: a position which would be of immense value to the theist. (shrink)
SummaryThe purpose of this article is to critically undermine two commonly held and closely related contentions regarding the British idealist tradition. The first is that the British idealist tradition went into rapid and terminal decline shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The second is that J. A. Smith was largely responsible for it. These aims are achieved through a diachronic analysis of Smith's conception of human imperfection as well as an assessment of Smith's intellectual legacy. As this (...) article will show, contrary to the received view, Smith was a philosophical innovator who instigated an intellectual evolution within the British idealist. In particular, this article shows that Smith substituted aspects of his early Greenian philosophy with elements of Italian idealism. As a result, Smith was instrumental in moving British idealism away from its traditional underpinnings and towards more a Croce–Gentilian foundation. It is this neglected philosophical innovation which has given scholars the false impression of the tradition's collapse. By establishing Smith's intellectual innovation this article intends to show that Smith made a much more significant intellectual contribution to the philosophical tradition to which he belongs than has so far been recognised. (shrink)
Relations between J. A. C. Chaptal, pioneer of heavy chemical industry in France, and A. L. Lavoisier, reformer of chemical theory, are examined in the light of unpublished correspondence they exchanged in the period 1784–1790. The letters, together with Chaptal's early publications, allow a reconstruction of his conversion to Lavoisier's antiphlogistic chemistry. They also reveal a series of petitions that Chaptal made to Lavoisier, in the latter's official capacity as a director of the Régie des poudres et salpêtres, for relief (...) from the controlled price of saltpetre for his acid works in Languedoc. Finally, the relationship is explored as a window on the interplay between chemical theory and industrial practice during the period of the Industrial Revolution. (shrink)