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)
An ancient doctor who advocated the therapeutic benefits of wine and passive exercise was bound to be successful. However, Asclepiades of Bithynia did far more than reform much of traditional Hippocratic therapeutic practice; he devised an extraordinary physical theory which he used to explain all biological phenomena in uniformly simple terms. His work laid the theoretical basis for the anti-theoretical medical sect called Methodism. For his trouble he was despised by his intellectual progeny and, more importantly perhaps, by Galen. None (...) of his work survives intact, but copious ancient testimonia relating to him allow us to reconstruct many details of the theory. His ideas offer us a fascinating glimpse of how Hellenistic philosophy and medicine interacted, and provide an introduction to one of the most intriguing doctrinal disputes in Greek science. (shrink)
In Animal Rites, Cary Wolfe examines contemporary notions of humanism and ethics by reconstructing a little known but crucial underground tradition of theorizing the animal from Wittgenstein, Cavell, and Lyotard to Lévinas, Derrida, ...
The role of probability is one of the most contested issues in the interpretation of contemporary physics. In this paper, I’ll be reevaluating some widely held assumptions about where and how probabilities arise. Larry Sklar voices the conventional wisdom about probability in classical physics in a piece in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy, when he writes that “Statistical mechanics was the first foundational physical theory in which probabilistic concepts and probabilistic explanation played a fundamental role.” And the conventional wisdom (...) about quantum probabilities is that they are basic, not reducible to the types of probabilities we see in statistical mechanics. In the first section of this paper, I’ll argue that in fact classical physics was steeped in probability long before statistical mechanics came on the scene, specifically, that an objective measure over phase space is an indispensable component of any informative physical theory. In the next section, I’ll argue that this objective measure is the fundamental form of physical probability and that quantum probabilities can be defined in terms of it. In the last, I’ll raise some questions about the metaphysical status of the fundamental measure. (shrink)
In 1687 Isaac Newton ushered in a new scientific era in which laws of nature could be used to predict the movements of matter with almost perfect precision. Newton's physics also posed a profound challenge to our self-understanding, however, for the very same laws that keep airplanes in the air and rivers flowing downhill tell us that it is in principle possible to predict what each of us will do every second of our entire lives, given the early conditions of (...) the universe. Can it really be that even while you toss and turn late at night in the throes of an important decision and it seems like the scales of fate hang in the balance, that your decision is a foregone conclusion? Can it really be that everything you have done and everything you ever will do is determined by facts that were in place long before you were born? This problem is one of the staples of philosophical discussion. It is discussed by everyone from freshman in their first philosophy class, to theoretical physicists in bars after conferences. And yet there is no topic that remains more unsettling, and less well understood. If you want to get behind the façade, past the bare statement of determinism, and really try to understand what physics is telling us in its own terms, read this book. The problem of free will raises all kinds of questions. What does it mean to make a decision, and what does it mean to say that our actions are determined? What are laws of nature? What are causes? What sorts of things are we, when viewed through the lenses of physics, and how do we fit into the natural order? Ismael provides a deeply informed account of what physics tells us about ourselves. The result is a vision that is abstract, alien, illuminating, and-Ismael argues-affirmative of most of what we all believe about our own freedom. Written in a jargon-free style, How Physics Makes Us Free provides an accessible and innovative take on a central question of human existence. (shrink)
It has been a common assumption that words are substances that instantiate or have properties. In this paper, I question the assumption that our ontology of words requires posting substances by outlining a bundle theory of words, wherein words are bundles of various sorts of properties (such as semantic, phonetic, orthographic, and grammatical properties). I argue that this view can better account for certain phenomena than substance theories, is ontologically more parsimonious, and coheres with claims in linguistics.
The idea that two words can be instances of the same word is a central intuition in our conception of language. This fact underlies many of the claims that we make about how we communicate, and how we understand each other. Given this, irrespective of what we think words are, it is common to think that any putative ontology of words, must be able to explain this feature of language. That is, we need to provide criteria of identity for word-types (...) which allow us to individuate words such that it can be the case that two particular word-instances are instances of the same word-type (on the assumption that there are such types). One solution, recently further developed by Irmak (2018), holds that words are individuated by their history. In this paper, I argue that this view either fails to account for our intuitions about word identity, or is too vague to be a plausible answer to the problem of word individuation. (shrink)
The natural name theory, recently discussed by Johnson (2018), is proposed as an explanation of pure quotation where the quoted term(s) refers to a linguistic object such as in the sentence ‘In the above, ‘bank’ is ambiguous’. After outlining the theory, I raise a problem for the natural name theory. I argue that positing a resemblance relation between the name and the linguistic object it names does not allow us to rule out cases where the natural name fails to resemble (...) the linguistic object it names. I argue that to avoid this problem, we can combine the natural name theory with a type-realist metaphysics of language, and hold that the name is natural because the name is an instance of the kind that it names. I conclude by reflecting on the importance of the metaphysics of language for questions in the philosophy of language. (shrink)
It is a standard view that the concept of chance is inextricably related to the technical concept of credence . One influential version of this view is that the chance role is specified by (something in the neighborhood of) David Lewis's Principal Principle, which asserts a certain definite relation between chance and credence. If this view is right, then one cannot coherently affirm that there are chance processes in the physical world while rejecting the theoretical framework in which credence is (...) defined, namely the Bayesian framework. This is surprising; why should adopting a theory that says there are chances at work in nature put any particular constraints on our theorizing about epistemology and rational choice? It is quite plausible that in order for anything to count as the referent of our concept chance , it would have to be related to epistemic rationality in a certain way—roughly, it is rational to have more confidence that something will happen the greater you think its chance is. But this commonsensical idea does not seem to be inherently committed to any particular theoretical approach to rationality, so why should we think that adopting the Bayesian approach is a prerequisite for thinking coherently about chance? I propose and defend a replacement for the Principal Principle which makes no use of the concept of credence. I also argue that this replacement is advantageous for the project of theorizing about the nature of chance. (shrink)
Galton and subsequent investigators find wide divergences in people's subjective reports of mental imagery. Such individual differences might be taken to explain the peculiarly irreconcilable disputes over the nature and cognitive significance of imagery which have periodically broken out among psychologists and philosophers. However, to so explain these disputes is itself to take a substantive and questionable position on the cognitive role of imagery. This article distinguishes three separable issues over which people can be "for" or "against" mental images. Conflation (...) of these issues can lead to theoretical differences being mistaken for experiential differences, even by theorists themselves. This is applied to the case of John B. Watson, who inaugurated a half-century of neglect of image psychology. Watson originally claimed to have vivid imagery; by 1913 he was denying the existence of images. This strange reversal, which made his behaviorism possible, is explicable as a "creative misconstrual" of Dunlap's "motor" theory of imagination. (shrink)
In this study, we analyzed the academic integrity policies of colleges in Ontario, Canada, casting a specific lens on contract cheating. We extracted data from 28 individual documents from 22-publicly-funded colleges including policies and procedures and code of conduct. We analyzed the characteristics of the documents from three perspectives: document type and titles; policy language; and policy principles. Then we examined five core elements of the documentation including access; approach; responsibility; detail; and support. Key findings revealed that specific and direct (...) language pertaining to contract cheating was largely absent from the policy documents, that underlying policy principles lacked clear definition, and that exemplary policy has yet to be developed in this context. We conclude with recommendations for increased policy research in the area of academic integrity and a call for policy revision in Canadian higher education institutions to more explicitly address the issue of contract cheating, as well as provide more support to students and other campus stakeholders to better understand how contract cheating impacts and impedes teaching and learning. (shrink)
Underlying many of our uneasy debates about the social and moral responsibilities of professionals is a form of scepticism about the role of reason in morals. This claim is illustrated by examples drawn from both the pure-knowledge and applied-knowledge professionals. Hume's sceptical views about the role of reason in our knowledge of matters of fact and in morals are critically examined. An alternative theory of reasonableness that combines elements of foundationalism and coherentism, cognitivism and emotivism, and that emphasizes a process (...) of congruence achieved through reflection, dialectic and dialogue is sketched and illustrated. It is claimed that this notion of reasonableness is the one actually involved in science, law and morals. (shrink)
This article discusses the role of moment-to-moment affect dynamics in mental disorder and aims to integrate recent literature on this topic in the context of complex dynamical system theory. First, we will review the relevance of temporal and contextual aspects of affect dynamics in relation to psychopathology. Related to this, we will discuss recent insights resulting from a network view on affect dynamics in psychopathology. Next, we explore how we can reconcile literature findings from a perspective of complex dynamical system (...) theory. Finally, future directions with regard to personalized assessment of risk and diagnostic use are discussed. (shrink)
Mental imagery (varieties of which are sometimes colloquially refered to as “visualizing,” “seeing in the mind's eye,” “hearing in the head,” “imagining the feel of,” etc.) is quasi-perceptual experience; it resembles perceptual experience, but occurs in the absence of the appropriate external stimuli. It is also generally understood to bear intentionality (i.e., mental images are always images of something or other), and thereby to function as a form of mental representation. Traditionally, visual mental imagery, the most discussed variety, was thought (...) to be caused by the presence of picturelike representations (mental images) in the mind, soul, or brain, but this is no longer universally accepted. (shrink)
This paper addresses several questions related to the nature, production, and use of animal-human (a-h) chimeras. At the heart of the issue is whether certain types of a-h chimeras should be brought into existence, and, if they are, how we should treat such creatures. In our current research environment, we recognize a dichotomy between research involving nonhuman animal subjects and research involving human subjects, and the classification of a research protocol into one of these categories will trigger different ethical standards (...) as to the moral permissibility of the research in question. Are a-h chimeras entitled to the more restrictive and protective ethical standards applied to human research subjects? We elucidate an Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysical framework in which to argue how such chimeras ought to be defined ontologically. We then examine when the creation of, and experimentation upon, certain types of a-h chimeras may be morally permissible. (shrink)
This article was written as a commentary on a target article by Peter W. Ross entitled "The Location Problem for Color Subjectivism" [Consciousness and Cognition 10(1), 42-58 (2001)], and is published together with it, and with other commentaries and Ross's reply. If you or your library have the necessary subscription you can get PDF versions of the target article, all the commentaries, and Ross's reply to the commentaries here. However, I do not think that it is by any means essential (...) for you to have read Ross's piece in order to understand this one. Ross defends a view called "color physicalism" or color realism that holds (simplifying somewhat) that colors are real physical properties (in typical cases, spectral reflectances of object surfaces). This is in opposition to what is probably a more widely held "subjectivist" view of color, holding that color qualities really exist only in the mind. In my commentary I suggest that a realist view of qualitative properties, such as Ross's, together with a direct, active view of perception, and a concept of "extended mind" (Clark & Chalmers, 1998) may provide the materials for a real solution to the notorious hard problem of consciousness. I sketch this solution in outline. - N.J.T.T. (shrink)
Primitives are both important and unavoidable, and which set of primitives we endorse will greatly shape our theories and how those theories provide solutions to the problems that we take to be important. After introducing the notion of a primitive posit, I discuss the different kinds of primitives that we might posit. Following Cowling (2013), I distinguish between ontological and ideological primitives, and, following Benovsky (2013) between functional and content views of primitives. I then propose that these two distinctions cut (...) across each other leading to four types of primitive posits. I then argue that theoretical virtues should be taken to be meta-theoretical ideological primitives. I close with some reflections on the global nature of comparing sets of primitives. (shrink)
A theory of the structure and cognitive function of the human imagination that attempts to do justice to traditional intuitions about its psychological centrality is developed, largely through a detailed critique of the theory propounded by Colin McGinn. Like McGinn, I eschew the highly deflationary views of imagination, common amongst analytical philosophers, that treat it either as a conceptually incoherent notion, or as psychologically trivial. However, McGinn fails to develop his alternative account satisfactorily because (following Reid, Wittgenstein and Sartre) he (...) draws an excessively sharp, qualitative distinction between imagination and perception, and because of his flawed, empirically ungrounded conception of hallucination. His arguments in defense of these views are rebutted in detail, and the traditional, passive, Cartesian view of visual perception, upon which several of them implicitly rely, is criticized in the light of findings from recent cognitive science and neuroscience. It is also argued that the apparent intuitiveness of the passive view of visual perception is a result of mere historical contingency. An understanding of perception (informed by modern visual science) as an inherently active process enables us to unify our accounts of perception, mental imagery, dreaming, hallucination, creativity, and other aspects of imagination within a single coherent theoretical framework. (shrink)
Defining Imagery: Experience or Representation? Historical Development of Ideas about Imagery Subjective Individual Differences in Imagery Experience Theories of Imagery, and their Implications for Consciousness Picture theory Description theory Enactive theory.
"Only a wayfarer born under unruly stars would attempt to put into practice in our epoch of proliferating knowledge the Heraclitean dictum that `men who love wisdom must be inquirers into very many things indeed.'" Thus begins this remarkable interdisciplinary study of time by a master of the subject. And while developing a theory of "time as conflict," J. T. Fraser does offer "many things indeed"--an enormous range of ideas about matter, life, death, evolution, and value.
Commentary on: Olaf Blanke, Thomas Metzinger, Full-body illusions and minimal phenomenal selfhood, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 7-13, ISSN 1364-6613, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.10.003.
The intuitive difference between a system that choreographs the motion of its parts in the service of goals of its own formulation and a system composed of a collection of parts doing their own thing without coordination has been shaken by now familiar examples of self-organization. There is a broad and growing presumption in parts of philosophy and across the sciences that the appearance of centralized information-processing and control in the service of system-wide goals is mere appearance, i.e., an explanatory (...) heuristic we have evolved to predict behavior, but one that will eventually get swept away in the advancing tide of self-organization. I argue that there is a distinction of central importance here, and that no adequate science of complex systems can dispense with it. (shrink)
This paper addresses the ontological status of the ontological categories as defended within E.J. Lowe’s four-category ontology (kinds, objects, properties/relations, and modes). I consider the arguments in Griffith (2015. “Do Ontological Categories Exist?” Metaphysica 16 (1):25–35) against Lowe’s claim that ontological categories do not exist, and argue that Griffith’s objections to Lowe do not work once we fully take advantage of ontological resources available within Lowe’s four-category ontology. I then argue that the claim that ontological categories do not exist has (...) no undesirable consequences for Lowe’s brand of realism. (shrink)
Against a wider background of rationales for deregulation within a modern economy, and as an exercise of subjecting a theory to the hard discipline of a particular case, a detailed analysis is given of a recent proposal for a form of deregulation for engineering in Ontario. The proposal of the Staff Study of the Professional Organizations Committee set up by the Ontario Government is analyzed in terms of its Posnerian foundations, and is critized theoretically, empirically and normatively. Attention is drawn (...) to two wider issues: the protection by self-regulating professionals of third parties against negative externalities, and the adverse effects of the proletarianization of professionals in large organizations. (shrink)