In _Vibrant Matter_ the political theorist Jane Bennett, renowned for her work on nature, ethics, and affect, shifts her focus from the human experience of things to things themselves. Bennett argues that political theory needs to do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events. Toward that end, she theorizes a “vital materiality” that runs through and across bodies, both human and nonhuman. Bennett explores how political analyses of public events might change were we to (...) acknowledge that agency always emerges as the_ _effect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces. She suggests that recognizing that agency is distributed this way, and is not solely the province of humans, might spur the cultivation of a more responsible, ecologically sound politics: a politics less devoted to blaming and condemning individuals than to discerning the web of forces affecting situations and events. Bennett examines the political and theoretical implications of vital materialism through extended discussions of commonplace things and physical phenomena including stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal, and trash. She reflects on the vital power of material formations such as landfills, which generate lively streams of chemicals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can transform brain chemistry and mood. Along the way, she engages with the concepts and claims of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Darwin, Adorno, and Deleuze, disclosing a long history of thinking about vibrant matter in Western philosophy, including attempts by Kant, Bergson, and the embryologist Hans Driesch to name the “vital force” inherent in material forms. Bennett concludes by sketching the contours of a “green materialist” ecophilosophy. (shrink)
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. An ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, it also offers a rich source of illumination and stimulation for graduate students (...) and professional philosophers. (shrink)
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this book, making it the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject.
"With an astonishing erudition... and in a direct no-nonsense style, Bennett expounds, compares, and criticizes Spinoza’s theses.... No one can fail to profit from it. Bennett has succeeded in making Spinoza a philosopher of our time." --W. N. A. Klever, _Studia Spinoza_.
In this study of events and their places in our language and thought, Bennett propounds and defends views about what kind of item an event is, how the language of events works, and about how these two themes are interrelated. He argues that most of the supposedly metaphysical literature is really about the semantics of their names, and that the true metaphysic of events--known by Leibniz and rediscovered by Kim--has not been universally accepted because it has been tarred with the (...) brush of a false semantic theory. (shrink)
In this major new book, the internationally renowned thinker Jonathan Bennett offers a deeper understanding of what is going on in our own moral thoughts about human behavior. The Act Itself presents a conceptual analysis of descriptions of behavior on which we base our moral judgements, and shows that this analysis can be used as a means toward getting more control of our thoughts and thus of our lives.
In this paper1 I shall present not just the conscience of Huckleberry Finn but two others as well. One of them is the conscience of Heinrich Himmler. He became a Nazi in 1923; he served drably and quietly, but well, and was rewarded with increasing responsibility and power. At the peak of his career he held many offices and commands, of which the most powerful was that of leader of the S.S. - the principal police force of the Nazi regime. (...) In this capacity, Himmler commanded the whole concentration-camp system, and was responsible for the execution of the so-called ‘final solution of the Jewish problem’. It is important for my purposes that this piece of social engineering should be thought of not abstractly but in concrete terms of Jewish families being marched to what they think are bath-houses, to the accompaniment of loud-speaker renditions of extracts from The Merry Widow and Tales of Hoffman, there to be choked to death by poisonous gases. Altogether, Himmler succeeded in murdering about four and a half million of them, as well as several million gentiles, mainly Poles and Russians. The other conscience to be discussed is that of the Calvinist theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards. He lived in the first half of the eighteenth century, and has a good claim to be considered America’s first serious and considerable philosophical thinker. He was for many years a widely-renowned preacher and Congregationalist minister in New England; in 1748 a dispute with his congregation led him to resign (he couldn’t accept their view that unbelievers should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper in the hope that it would convert them); for some years after that he worked as a missionary, preaching to Indians through an interpreter;, then in 1758 he accepted the presidency of what is now Princeton University, and within two months died from a smallpox inoculation. Along the way he wrote some first-rate philosophy: his book attacking the notion of free will is still sometimes read.. (shrink)
'Mr Bennett, as was to be expected, has written a first-rate book on Kant's Analytic. It is vivid, entertaining, and extremely instructive. It will be found of absorbing interest both by those who already know the Critique and by those - if there are any such - who have a developed interest in philosophy, yet no direct acquaintance with Kant. These last it will surely drive to the text and, as surely, will drive them to approach it in a truly (...) philosophical spirit. Bennett's Kant is not a giant immersed, or frozen, in time. He is a great contemporary - a little out of touch, admittedly, with recent developments in mathematics and physics - but one with whom we can all argue, against him, at his side, or obliquely to him. And so Bennett does argue, continuously, fiercely, and fruitfully; and summons to join in the argument, at appropriate moments, those older contemporaries, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume, and those younger contemporaries, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Ayler, Quine, Quinton, Warnock, and others. This is splendid, and a necessary corrective to that extraordinary isolation in which Kant tends to be islanded, partly indeed, by his own unique qualities, but partly by oceans of the wrong kind of respect. Bennett, continuously engaging his great antagonist, shows the right kind.'. (shrink)
I shall present a problem about accountability, and its solution by Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Some readers of this don’t see it as a profound contribution to moral philosophy, and I want to help them. It may be helpful to follow up Strawson’s gracefully written discussion with a more staccato presentation. My treatment will also be angled somewhat differently from his, so that its lights and shadows will fall with a certain difference, which may make it serviceable even to the (...) converted. Also, I shall point to some disputable things in ‘Freedom and Resentment’, and offer repairs. So I wrote in the first published version of this paper. I wanted not only to be useful to others but also to elicit Strawson’s certificate of approval; and that hope was realized. In his ‘Reply’ Strawson wrote: ‘Bennett in the first eleven sections of his essay sets out and elaborates the essence of my position with such thorough and sympathetic understanding as to leave me little to say.’ I also tried, unsuccessfully, to analyse with more precision Strawson’s concept of reactive attitude, and to explore the extent of and reasons for the incompatibility between reactive attitudes and the objective attitude. I hoped that the display of my failures would induce Strawson to tackle the problems himself, with more success. No such luck! He wrote: ‘Bennett seeks . . . to produce a tighter and more unified organisation of the phenomena . . . than I achieved in “Freedom and Resentment”’, but he did not return to the fray. On the contrary: ‘It does not seem to me to matter if a strict definition [of ‘reactive’] is not to be had’; and he said nothing about reasons for the reactive/objective conflict. In the present version of the paper, I expound ‘Freedom and Resentment’ much as before. Since my attempts to tighten and deepen the theory failed to hook Strawson, and are not of much intrinsic interest, I now omit them. I shall, however, add an application of the doctrines of ‘Freedom and Resentment’ to the most basic philosophical question regarding punishment.. (shrink)
This paper will present a negative result—an account of my failure to explain why belief is involuntary. When I announced my question a year or so ahead of time, I had a vague idea of how it might be answered, but I cannot make it work out. Necessity, this time, has not given birth to invention. Still, my tussle with the question may contribute either towards getting it answered or showing that it cannot be answered because belief can be voluntary (...) after all. Most of the paper was written while I expected to get the question answered, and I have chosen not to hide that fact by revising the tone. I offer the paper as an essay in the ‘analytic’ manner in Descartes’s sense of that term. It is the manner of the Meditations—a presentation in the order of discovery or, in my case, of non-discovery. (shrink)
In this illuminating, highly engaging book, Jonathan Bennett acquaints us with the ideas of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this lucidly written work is an excellent introduction. For those already familiar with the time period, this book offers insight into the great philosophers, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, and teachers.
In this lecture I shall offer to make clear, deeply grounded, objective sense of a certain contrast: I call it the contrast between positive and negative instrumentality, and it shows up in ordinary speech in remarks about what happens because a person did do such and such, as against what happens because he did not. The line between positive and negative instrumentality lies fairly close to some others which are drawn by more ordinary bits of English. For instance, the difference (...) between positive and negative instrumentality in someone’s dying is cousin to the difference between killing a person and letting him die. The latter distinction has the advantage of being already encoded in plain. (shrink)
This article is a selective review of David Lewis's Counterfactuals, a challenging, provocative, absorbingly interesting attempt to analyze statements of the form “If it were the case that P, then it would be the case that Q.” I shall follow Lewis in calling these “counterfactuals,” and shall nearly follow him in abbreviating them to the form P→Q.Chapter 1, which is nearly a third of the whole, gives the analysis and proves that it endows counterfactuals with some properties which they evidently (...) do have. Chapter 2 presents some “alternative formulations” of the analysis—a logical jeu d'esprit which I shall not discuss except for the section about “cotenability.”. (shrink)
We argue that 'multimorbidity' is the manifestation of interconnected physiological network processes _within an individual in his or her socio-cultural environment_. Networks include genomic, metabolomic, proteomic, neuroendocrine, immune and mitochondrial bioenergetic elements, as well as social, environmental and health care networks. Stress systems and other physiological mechanisms create feedback loops that integrate and regulate internal networks within the individual. Minor and major stressful life experiences perturb internal and social networks resulting in physiological instability with changes ranging from improved resilience to (...) unhealthy adaptation and 'clinical disease'. Understanding 'multimorbidity' as a _complex adaptive systems response_ to biobehavioural and socio-environmental networks is essential. Thus, designing integrative care delivery approaches that more adequately address the underlying disease processes as the manifestation of a state of physiological dysregulation is essential. This framework can shape care delivery approaches to meet the individual's care needs in the context of his or her underlying _illness experience_. It recognizes 'multimorbidity' and its symptoms as the end product of complex physiological processes, namely, stress activation and mitochondrial energetics, and suggests new opportunities for treatment and prevention. The future of 'multimorbidity' management might become much more discerning by combining the balancing of physiological dysregulation with targeted personalized biotechnology interventions such as small molecule therapeutics targeting specific cellular components of the stress response, with community-embedded interventions that involve addressing psycho-socio-cultural impediments that would aim to strengthen personal/social resilience and enhance social capital. (shrink)
This essay seeks to give philosophical expression to the vitality, willfullness, and recalcitrance possessed by nonhuman entities and forces. It also considers the ethico-political import of an enhanced awareness of "thing-power." Drawing from Lucretius, Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, and others, it describes a materialism of lively matter, to be placed in conversation with the historical materialism of Marx and the body materialism of feminist and cultural studies. Thing-power materialism is a speculative onto-story, an admittedly presumptuous attempt to depict the (...) nonhumanity that flows around and through humans. The essay concludes with a preliminary discussion of the ecological implications of thing-power. (shrink)
It is a commonplace that the modern world cannot be experienced as enchanted--that the very concept of enchantment belongs to past ages of superstition. Jane Bennett challenges that view. She seeks to rehabilitate enchantment, showing not only how it is still possible to experience genuine wonder, but how such experience is crucial to motivating ethical behavior. A creative blend of political theory, philosophy, and literary studies, this book is a powerful and innovative contribution to an emerging interdisciplinary conversation about the (...) deep connections between ethics, aesthetics, and politics. As Bennett describes it, enchantment is a sense of openness to the unusual, the captivating, and the disturbing in everyday life. She guides us through a wide and often surprising range of sources of enchantment, showing that we can still find enchantment in nature, for example, but also in such unexpected places as modern technology, advertising, and even bureaucracy. She then explains how everyday moments of enchantment can be cultivated to build an ethics of generosity, stimulating the emotional energy and honing the perceptual refinement necessary to follow moral codes. Throughout, Bennett draws on thinkers and writers as diverse as Kant, Schiller, Thoreau, Kafka, Marx, Weber, Adorno, and Deleuze. With its range and daring, The Enchantment of Modern Life is a provocative challenge to the centuries-old ''narrative of disenchantment,'' one that presents a new ''alter-tale'' that discloses our profound attachment to the human and nonhuman world. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descaretes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can be learned from its success or failure? For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an excellent (...) introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. (shrink)
This book analyzes contemporary visual art produced in the context of conflict and trauma from a range of countries, including Colombia, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Australia. It focuses on what makes visual language unique, arguing that the "affective" quality of art contributes to a new understanding of the experience of trauma and loss. By extending the concept of empathy, it also demonstrates how we might, through art, make connections with people in different parts of the world whose experiences differ (...) from our own. The book makes a distinct contribution to trauma studies, which has tended to concentrate on literary forms of expression. It also offers a sophisticated theoretical analysis of the operations of art, drawing on philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, but setting this within a postcolonial framework. _Empathic Vision_ will appeal to anyone interested in the role of culture in post-September 11 global politics. (shrink)
Descartes propounded the allegedly "strange", "peculiar", "curious" and "incoherent" doctrine that necessary truths are made true by God's voluntary act. It is generally held that this doctrine must be kept out of sight while other Cartesian topics are being discussed. This paper offers an interpretation of this Cartesian doctrine under which it comes out as reasonable, consistent with the rest of his philosophy, and possible even true. According to this interpretation--which is more respectful of and close to Descartes's text than (...) is the customary one--Descartes equated the alethic modalities with facts about human intellectual limitations, somewhat in the manner of Wittgenstein. Thus, God created modalities creating humans in the way he did. (shrink)
P. T. Geach, notoriously, holds the Relative Identity Thesis, according to which a meaningful judgment of identity is always, implicitly or explicitly, relative to some general term. ‘The same’ is a fragmentary expression, and has no significance unless we say or mean ‘the same X’, where ‘X’ represents a general term (what Frege calls a Begriffswort or Begriffsausdruck). (P. T. Geach, Mental Acts (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), p. 69. I maintain that it makes no sense to judge whether (...) things are ‘the same’, or remain ‘the same’, unless we add or understand some general term - ‘the same F’. (P. T. Geach, Reference and Generality, third Edition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 63f. I am arguing for the thesis that identity is relative. When one says ‘x is identical with y’, this, I hold, is an incomplete expression; it is short for ‘x is the same A as y’, where ‘A’ represents some count noun understood from the context of utterance - or else, it is just a vague expression of a half-formed thought. (P. T. Geach, ‘Identity,’ Review of Metaphysics 21 (1967-8), p. 3.) One of the ways Geach seeks to support this is by tying it to the well nigh universally admired Fregean thesis about cardinality. (shrink)