Ted Shotter's founding of the London Medical Group 50 years ago in 1963 had several far reaching implications for medical ethics, as other papers in this issue indicate. Most significant for the joint authors of this short paper was his founding of the quarterly Journal of Medical Ethics in 1975, with Alastair Campbell as its first editor-in-chief. In 1980 Raanan Gillon began his 20-year editorship . Gillon was succeeded in 2001 by Julian Savulescu, followed by John Harris and Soren Holm (...) in 2004, with Julian Savulescu starting his second and current term in 2011. In 2000 an additional special edition of the JME, Medical Humanities , was published, under the founding joint editorship of Martyn Evans and David Greaves. In 2003 Jane Macnaughton succeeded David Greaves as joint editor. Deborah Kirklin, under whose auspices MH became an independent journal, took over in 2008, and she was succeeded in 2013 by Sue Eckstein. This short paper offers reminiscences and reflections from the two journals’ various editors.From the start the JME was committed to clearly expressed reasoned discussion of ethical issues arising from or related to medical practice and research. In particular, both Edward Shotter and Alastair Campbell, each a cleric , were at pains to make clear that the JME was not a religious journal and that it had no sort of partisan axe to grind.Campbell's appointment as founding editor was something of a surprise, as the original intention had been to appoint a medical doctor, who could be expected to know medical practice from the inside. However, in 1972 Campbell, a Joint Secretary of the Edinburgh Medical Group, had published Moral dilemmas in medicine. …. (shrink)
This article explores the use of walking interviews as a research method. In spite of a wave of interest in methods which take interviewing out of the "safe," stationary environment, there has been limited work critically examining the techniques for undertaking such work. Curiously for a method which takes an explicitly spatial approach, few projects have attempted to rigorously connect what participants say with where they say it. The article reviews three case studies where the authors have used different techniques, (...) including GPS, for locating the interview in space. The article concludes by arguing that researchers considering using walking interviews need to think carefully about what kinds of data they wish to generate when deciding which approach to adopt. (shrink)
The ‘Problem of Evil’ has been the focus of a number of articles in Think. Here, Timothy Chambers offers an unusual perspective on this seemingly intractable difficulty facing theists. ‘Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the poor? But when I looked for good, evil came; and when I waited for light, darkness came.’.
Kant's short essay is a reflection on the contemporary structure of academic studies; he examines this structure in terms of the functions of the State and of the Universities which form part of it. His analysis links the empirical facts with conceptual distinctions, in ways that are familiar from his more general and abstract philosophy. His main aim is to ground a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate ways in which different Faculties of the University may approach intellectual issues that are (...) of common interest to them. I then consider to what extent and how a Kantian analysis might be applied to our contemporary University situation. Despite the societal and intellectual differences between Kant's environment and ours, I argue that significant parallels exist between the two cases and that Kant's proposals and strictures for his own time have application for us today. (shrink)
I understand Pluralism to be the doctrine that, either generally or with reference to some particular area of judgement, there is more than one basic principle. It endorses the possibility that some particular case may arise which will be adjudicated in one way if one principle is applied while another principle points otherwise and to an answer which, at least in practice, is incompatible. Thus in morality, according to pluralism there may be more than one correct answer to the question (...) of which of the decisions available in some particular situation is the best. (shrink)
At the risk of a tremendous over-simplification, I believe it is helpful to categorize views of Christianity which have appeared in the west in the last two hundred years into three major groups. First there are the unbelievers, those for whom Christianity is straightforwardly untrue, unknowable, or unbelievable . This group would include those who try to salvage some form of essentially humanistic religion as well as those who simply turn away from religious belief altogether, either to put their ultimate (...) hopes in political ideology, or science, or simply to attempt to limit themselves to hopes which are finite and non-ultimate in character. (shrink)
If some philosophers had not existed, the history of philosophy would have to invent them. After all, what would the introduction to philosophy teacher do without good old Berkeley, the notorious denier of common sense, or Hume, the infamous sceptic. In some cases, in fact, philosophers have been invented by the history of philosophy. I don't mean to suggest that historians of philosophy have actually altered the past by bringing into being real flesh and blood philosophers. Rather, I mean to (...) say that the textbook caricatures of famous philosophers are often a creation of the tradition, encrusted layers of hoary myths and legends which often hold the actual philosopher prisoner, the myths of Berkeley and Hume which I just alluded to being excellent examples. (shrink)
Tradition in either of its two senses—the act of handing on , and what is handed on—is a particular instance of a law of human existence that men live in dependence on one another and by the processes of giving and receiving. So a sociologist can write, ‘If we are able to speak of real tradition, we must find the past spontaneously taken into account as the meaning of the present, without any discontinuity of social time, and without any consideration (...) of the past as irrelevant’ . ‘If democracy’, wrote Chesterton, ‘means that I give a man a vote even though he is my chauffeur, tradition means that I give a man a vote even though he is my great-great-grandfather’. What is handed on, however, is not existence of a purely biological kind, to remain always what it has been or to change very slowly over a space of aeons. Except in primitive tribes even tradition is not simply passed on as something static and timeless, and it is received by men who, though themselves in time, are not totally time-bound or restricted by what they receive. They believe themselves to be capable of significant action which is more than the repetition and reproduction of what has gone before. They are able to grasp a span of time and to call it history; they believe themselves to have a history, and they write history. (shrink)
In our post-modern cultural climate we are often told that reality is value-free. Indeed sometimes it is even said to be fact-free. Yet almost all philosophers have been deeply concerned with matters of value, in addition to their other main pre-occupation: that is the nature of truth and our knowledge of it. The question therefore arises: why should these two – good and truth – be so powerfully connected? And why should this business of value continue to exert the hold (...) on philosophers that it evidently does? (shrink)
Over the past decade, patient-centered care has become increasingly prominent in discussions of health-care practice, policy, and organization. Patient-centered care is a holistic concept whereby health professionals individualize their encounters with each patient (Stewart 2001). Decision-making strategies, recommendations, and plans of care are all devised and acted upon in relation to the particular patient. The patient is assumed to have a unique configuration of elements comprising her identity, illness experience, and physical, social, and environmental context. While partnership is understood as (...) essential for the therapeutic encounter in a patient-centered approach, the patient herself is seen as guiding .. (shrink)
In The Varieties of Reference, Gareth Evans describes the acquisition of beliefs about one’s beliefs in the following way: ‘I get myself in a position to answer the question whether I believe that p by putting into operation whatever procedure I have for answering the question whether p.’ In this paper I argue that Evans’s remark can be used to explain first person authority if it is supplemented with the following consideration: Holding on to the content of a belief and (...) ‘prefixing’ it with ‘I believe that’ is as easy as it is to hold on to the contents of one’s thoughts when making an inference. We do not, usually, have the problem, in going, for example, from ‘p’ and ‘q’ to ‘p and q’, that one of our thought contents gets corrupted. Self-ascription of belief by way of Evans’s procedure is based on the same capacity to retain and re-deploy thought contents and therefore should enjoy a similar degree of authority. However, is Evans’s description exhaustive of all authoritative self-ascription of belief? Christopher Peacocke has suggested that in addition to Evans’s procedure there are two more relevant ways of self-ascribing belief. I argue that both methods can be subsumed under Evans’s procedure. (shrink)
This paper focuses on two enduring features of Gareth Evans’s work. The first is his rethinking of standard ways of understanding the Fregean notion of sense and the second his sustained attempt to undercut the standard opposition between Russellian and Fregean approaches to understanding thought and language.I explore the peculiar difficulties that ‘I’ poses for a Fregean theory and show how Evans’s account of the sense of the first person pronoun can be modified to meet those difficulties.
In his seminal paper, ‘Can There Be Vague Objects?’ (1978), Gareth Evans advanced an argument purporting to prove that the idea of indeterminate identity is incoherent. Aware that his argument was incomplete as it stands, Evans added a remark at the end of his paper, in which he explained how the original argument needed to be modified to arrive at an explicit contradiction. This paper aims to develop a modified version of Evans’ original argument, which I argue is more promising (...) than the modification that Evans proposed in his remark. Last, a structurally similar argument against the idea of indeterminate existence is presented. (shrink)
I propose to study one problem for epistemic dependence on experts: how to locate experts on what I will call cognitive islands. Cognitive islands are those domains for knowledge in which expertise is required to evaluate other experts. They exist under two conditions: first, that there is no test for expertise available to the inexpert; and second, that the domain is not linked to another domain with such a test. Cognitive islands are the places where we have the fewest resources (...) for evaluating experts, which makes our expert dependences particularly risky. -/- Some have argued that cognitive islands lead to the complete unusability of expert testimony: that anybody who needs expert advice on a cognitive island will be entirely unable to find it. I argue against this radical form of pessimism, but propose a more moderate alternative. I demonstrate that we have some resources for finding experts on cognitive islands, but that cognitive islands leave us vulnerable to an epistemic trap which I will call runaway echo chambers. In a runaway echo chamber, our inexpertise may lead us to pick out bad experts, which will simply reinforce our mistaken beliefs and sensibilities. (shrink)
A long line of writers on Evans – Andy Hamilton, Lucy O'Brien, Jose Bermudez, and Jason Stanley, to name just a few – assess Evans' account of first-person thought without heeding his warnings that his theory comprises an information and an action component. By omitting the action component, these critics are able to characterize Evans' theory as a perceptual model theory and reject it on that ground. This paper is an attempt to restore the forgotten element. With this component put (...) back in, the charge of Evans' theory as a perceptual model of such thoughts falls apart, and the theory turns out to have enough merit to project itself as a legitimate contender for a plausible account of 'I'-thought. (shrink)
I supply an argument for Evans's principle that whatever justifies me in believing that p also justifies me in believing that I believe that p. I show how this principle helps explain how I come to know my own beliefs in a way that normally makes me the best authority on them. Then I show how the principle helps to solve Moore's paradoxes.
This paper deals with what I take to be one woman’s literary response to a philosophical problem. The woman is Jane Austen, the problem is the rationality of Hume’s ‘sensible knave’, and Austen’s response is to deepen the problem. Despite his enthusiasm for virtue, Hume reluctantly concedes in the EPM that injustice can be a rational strategy for ‘sensible knaves’, intelligent but selfish agents who feel no aversion towards thoughts of villainy or baseness. Austen agrees, but adds that ABSENT (...) CONSIDERATIONS OF A FUTURE STATE, other vices besides injustice can be rationally indulged with tolerable prospects of worldly happiness. Austen’s creation Mr Elliot in Persuasion is just such an agent – sensible and knavish but not technically ‘unjust’. Despite and partly because of his vices – ingratitude, avarice and duplicity – he manages to be both successful and reasonably happy. There are plenty of other reasonably happy knaves in Jane Austen, some of whom are not particularly sensible. This is not to say that either Austen or Hume is in favor of knavery It is just that they both think that only those with the right sensibility can be argued out of it. (shrink)
This paper argues that communitarian philosophy can be an important philosophic resource for feminist thinkers, particularly when considered in the light of Jane Addams's (1860-1935) feminist-pragmatism. Addams's communitarianism requires progressive change as well as a moral duty to seek out diverse voices. Contrary to some contemporary communitarians, Addams extends her concept of community to include interdependent global communities, such as the global community of women peace workers.
In chapter 7 of The Varieties of Reference, Gareth Evans claimed to have an argument that would present "an antidote" to the Cartesian conception of the self as a purely mental entity. On the basis of considerations drawn from philosophy of language and thought, Evans claimed to be able to show that bodily awareness is a form of self-awareness. The apparent basis for this claim is the datum that sometimes judgements about one’s position based on body sense are immune to (...) errors of misidentification relative to the first-person pronoun 'I'. However, Evans’s argument suffers from a crucial ambiguity. 'I' sometimes refers to the subject's mind, sometimes to the person, and sometimes to the subject's body. Once disambiguated, it turns out that Evans’s argument either begs the question against the Cartesian or fails to be plausible at all. Nonetheless, the argument is important for drawing our attention to the idea that bodily modes of awareness should be taken seriously as possible forms of self-awareness. (shrink)
I approach the study of echo chambers from the perspective of veritistic social epistemology. A trichotomous belief model is developed featuring a mechanism by which agents will have a tendency to form agreement in the community. The model is implemented as an agent-based model in NetLogo and then used to investigate a social practice called Impartiality, which is a plausible means for resisting or dismantling echo chambers. The implementation exposes additional factors that need close consideration in an evaluation of Impartiality. (...) In particular, resisting or dismantling echo chambers requires the selection of sufficiently low levels of doxastic entrenchment, but this comes with other tradeoffs. (shrink)
In her final fragmentary novel Sanditon, Jane Austen develops a theme that pervades her work from her juvenilia onward: illness, and in particular, illness imagined, invented, or self-inflicted. While the “invention of odd complaints” is characteristically a token of folly or weakness throughout her writing, in this last work imagined illness is also both a symbol and a cause of how selves and societies degenerate. In the shifting world of Sanditon, hypochondria is the lubricant for a society bent on (...) turning health into a commodity. As a result, people’s rationality and their moral character come under attack. Catherine Belling’s recent subtle study, A Condition of Doubt: The Meanings of Hypochondria, unveils hypochondria’s discursive and cultural character. Running sharply against the tenor of Austen’s treatment, however, she argues in defense of the rationality of hypochondriacs; the notion that the condition may involve morally significant defects is not entertained; any connection to the commercialization of health care is muted. Here, I contrast Austen’s morally and epistemically negative rendering of her hypochondriacal characters in Sanditon with Belling’s efforts to create a sympathetic understanding of people with hypochondria. I will argue that, despite time gaps and genre differences, joint consideration of these texts can help bioethicists better appreciate how medicine can intensify, pathologize, and exploit anxieties about illness and death, thus adding to the challenges of living well in the face of mortality and morbidity. (shrink)
This paper argues that Gareth Evans' treatment of first person reference based on the myriad ways we have of receiving information about our bodies and location, cannot secure the guaranteed reference exhibited by first person reference. It faces a problem both when a subject fails to receive such information about herself, and when she receives misinformation.
continent. 1.1 : 3-13. / 0/ – Introduction I want to propose, as a trajectory into the philosophically weird, an absurd theoretical claim and pursue it, or perhaps more accurately, construct it as I point to it, collecting the ground work behind me like the Perpetual Train from China Mieville's Iron Council which puts down track as it moves reclaiming it along the way. The strange trajectory is the following: Kant's critical philosophy and much of continental philosophy which has followed, (...) has been a defense against horror and madness. Kant's prohibition on speculative metaphysics such as dogmatic metaphysics and transcendental realism, on thinking beyond the imposition of transcendental and moral constraints, has been challenged by numerous figures proceeding him. One of the more interesting critiques of Kant comes from the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land stating, “Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.” And while Alain Badiou would certainly be opposed to the libidinal investments of Land's Deleuzo-Guattarian thought, he is likewise critical of Kant's normative thought-bureaucracies: Kant is the one author for whom I cannot feel any kinship. Everything in him exasperates me, above all his legalism—always asking Quid Juris? Or ‘Haven’t you crossed the limit?’—combined, as in today’s United States, with a religiosity that is all the more dismal in that it is both omnipresent and vague. The critical machinery he set up has enduringly poisoned philosophy, while giving great succour to the academy, which loves nothing more than to rap the knuckles of the overambitious [….] That is how I understand the truth of Monique David-Menard’s reflections on the properly psychotic origins of Kantianism. I am persuaded that the whole of the critical enterprise is set up to to shield against the tempting symptom represented by the seer Swedenborg, or against ‘diseases of the head’, as Kant puts it. An entire nexus of the limits of reason and philosophy are set up here, namely that the critical philosophy not only defends thought from madness, philosophy from madness, and philosophy from itself, but that philosophy following the advent of the critical enterprise philosophy becomes auto-vampiric; feeding on itself to support the academy. Following Francois Laruelle's non-philosophical indictment of philosophy, we could go one step further and say that philosophy operates on the material of what is philosophizable and not the material of the external world.  Beyond this, the Kantian scheme of nestling human thinking between our limited empirical powers and transcendental guarantees of categorical coherence, forms of thinking which stretch beyond either appear illegitimate, thereby liquefying both pre-critical metaphysics and the ravings of the mad in the same critical acid. In rejecting the Kantian apparatus we are left with two entities – an unsure relation of thought to reality where thought is susceptible to internal and external breakdown and a reality with an uncertain sense of stability. These two strands will be pursued, against the sane-seal of post-Kantian philosophy by engaging the work of weird fiction authors H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti. The absolute inhumanism of the formers universe will be used to describe a Shoggothic Materialism while the dream worlds of the latter will articulate the mad speculation of a Ventriloquil Idealism. But first we must address the relation of philosophy to madness as well as philosophy to weird fiction. /1/ – Philosophy and Madness There is nothing that the madness of men invents which is not either nature made manifest or nature restored. Michel Foucault. Madness and Civilization. The moment I doubt whether an event that I recall actually took place, I bring the suspicion of madness upon myself: unless I am uncertain as to whether it was not a mere dream. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Idea, Vol. 3. Madness is commonly thought of as moving through several well known cultural-historical shifts from madness as a demonic or otherwise theological force, to rationalization, to medicalization psychiatric and otherwise. Foucault's Madness and Civilization is well known for orientating madness as a form of exclusionary social control which operated by demarcating madness from reason. Yet Foucault points to the possibility of madness as the necessity of nature at least prior to the crushing weight of the church. Kant’s philosophy as a response to madness is grounded by his humanizing of madness itself. As Adrian Johnston points out in the early pages of Time Driven pre-Kantian madness meant humans were seized by demonic or angelic forces whereas Kantian madness became one of being too human. Madness becomes internalized, the external demonic forces become flaws of the individual mind. Foucault argues that, while madness is de-demonized it is also dehumanized during the Renaissance, as madmen become creatures neither diabolic nor totally human reduced to the zero degree of humanity. It is immediately clear why for Kant, speculative metaphysics must be curbed – with the problem of internal madness and without the external safeguards of transcendental conditions, there is nothing to formally separate the speculative capacities for metaphysical diagnosis from the mad ramblings of the insane mind – both equally fall outside the realm of practicality and quotidian experience. David-Menard's work is particularly useful in diagnosing the relation of thought and madness in Kant's texts. David-Menard argues that in Kant's relatively unknown “An Essay on the Maladies of the Mind” as well as his later discussion of the Seer of Swedenborg, that Kant formulates madness primarily in terms of sensory upheaval or other hallucinatory theaters. She writes: “madness is an organization of thought. It is made possible by the ambiguity of the normal relation between the imaginary and the perceived, whether this pertains to the order of sensation or to the relations between our ideas” Kant's fascination with the Seer forces Kant between the pincers of “aesthetic reconciliation” – namely melancholic withdrawal – and “a philosophical invention” – namely the critical project. Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis is a combination and reversal of Kant's split, where an aesthetic over engagement with the world entails prolific conceptual invention. Their embrace of madness, however, is of course itself conceptual despite all their rhizomatic maneuvers. Though they move with the energy of madness, Deleuze and Guattari save the capacity of thought from the fangs of insanity by imbuing materiality itself with the capacity for thought. Or, as Ray Brassier puts it, “Deleuze insists, it is necessary to absolutize the immanence of this world in such a way as to dissolve the transcendent disjunction between things as we know them and as they are in themselves”. That is, whereas Kant relied on the faculty of judgment to divide representation from objectivity Deleuze attempts to flatten the whole economy beneath the juggernaut of ontological univocity. Speculation, as a particularly useful form of madness, might fall close to Deleuze and Guattari’s shaping of philosophy into a concept producing machine but is different in that it is potentially self destructive – less reliant on the stability of its own concepts and more adherent to exposing a particular horrifying swath of reality. Speculative madness is always a potential disaster in that it acknowledges little more than its own speculative power with the hope that the gibbering of at least a handful of hysterical brains will be useful. Pre-critical metaphysics amounts to madness, though this may be because the world itself is mad while new attempts at speculative metaphysics, at post-Kantian pre-critical metaphysics, are well aware of our own madness. Without the sobriety of the principle of sufficient reason we have a world of neon madness: “we would have to conceive what our life would be if all the movements of the earth, all the noises of the earth, all the smells, the tastes, all the light – of the earth and elsewhere, came to us in a moment, in an instant – like an atrocious screaming tumult of things”. Speculative thought may be participatory in the screaming tumult of the world or, worse yet, may produce its spectral double. Against theology or reason or simply commonsense, the speculative becomes heretical. Speculation, as the cognitive extension of the horrorific sublime should be met with melancholic detachment. Whereas Kant's theoretical invention, or productivity of thought, is self -sabotaging, since the advent of the critical project is a productivity of thought which then delimits the engine of thought at large either in dogmatic gestures or non-systematizable empirical wondrousness. The former is celebrated by the fiction of Thomas Ligotti whereas the latter is espoused by the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. /2/ – Weird Fiction and Philosophy. Supernatural horror, in all its eerie constructions, enables a reader to taste treats inconsistent with his personal welfare. Thomas Ligotti Songs of a Dead Dreamer. I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best—one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve,momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which forever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis H.P. Lovecraft. “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” Lovecraft states that his creation of a story is to suspend natural law yet, at the same time, he indexes the tenuousness of such laws, suggesting the vast possibilities of the cosmic. The tension that Lovecraft sets up between his own fictions and the universe or nature is reproduced within his fictions in the common theme of the unreliable narrator; unreliable precisely because they are either mad or what they have witnessed questions the bounds of material reality. In “The Call of Cthulhu” Lovecraft writes: The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. Despite Lovecraft's invocations of illusion, he is not claiming that his fantastic creations such as the Old Ones are supernatural but, following Joshi, are only ever supernormal. One can immediately see that instead of nullifying realism Lovecraft in fact opens up the real to an unbearable degree. In various letters and non-fictional statements Lovecraft espoused strictly materialist tenets, ones which he borrowed from Hugh Elliot namely the uniformity of law, the denial of teleology and the denial of non-material existence. Lovecraft seeks to explore the possibilities of such a universe by piling horror upon horror until the fragile brain which attempts to grasp it fractures. This may be why philosophy has largely ignored weird fiction – while Deleuze and Guattari mark the turn towards weird fiction and Lovecraft in particular, with the precursors to speculative realism as well as contemporary related thinkers have begun to view Lovecraft as making philosophical contributions. Lovecraft's own relation to philosophy is largely critical while celebrating Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. This relationship of Lovecraft to philosophy and philosophy to Lovecraft is coupled with Lovecraft's habit of mercilessly destroying the philosopher and the figure of the academic more generally in his work, a destruction which is both an epistemological destruction and an ontological destruction. Thomas Ligotti's weird fiction which he has designated as a kind of “confrontational escapism” might be best described in the following quote from one of his shortstories, “The human phenomenon is but the sum of densely coiled layers of illusion each of which winds itself on the supreme insanity. That there are persons of any kind when all there can be is mindless mirrors laughing and screaming as they parade about in an endless dream”. Whereas Lovecraft's weirdness draws predominantly from the abyssal depths of the uncharted universe, Ligotti's existential horror focuses on the awful proliferation of meaningless surfaces that is, the banal and every day function of representation. In an interview, Ligotti states: We don't even know what the world is like except through our sense organs, which are provably inadequate. It's no less the case with our brains. Our whole lives are motored along by forces we cannot know and perceptions that are faulty. We sometimes hear people say that they're not feeling themselves. Well, who or what do they feel like then? This is not to say that Ligotti sees nothing beneath the surface but that there is only darkness or blackness behind it, whether that surface is on the cosmological level or the personal. By addressing the implicit and explicit philosophical issues in Ligotti's work we will see that his nightmarish take on reality is a form of malevolent idealism, an idealism which is grounded in a real, albeit dark and obscure materiality. If Ligotti's horrors ultimately circle around mad perceptions which degrade the subject, it takes aim at the vast majority of the focus of continental philosophy. While Lovecraft's acidic materialism clearly assaults any romantic concept of being from the outside, Ligotti attacks consciousness from the inside: Just a little doubt slipped into the mind, a little trickle of suspicion in the bloodstream, and all those eyes of ours, one by one, open up to the world and see its horror [...] Not even the solar brilliance of a summer day will harbor you from horror. For horror eats the light and digests it into darkness. Clearly, the weird fiction of Lovecraft and Ligotti amount to a anti-anthrocentric onslaught against the ramparts of correlationist continental philosophy. /3/ – Shoggothic Materialism or the Formless Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes—viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells—rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile—slaves of suggestion, builders of cities—more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative—Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old Ones willing to use and to carve such things? H.P. Lovecraft. “At the Mountains of Madness” On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit. Georges Bataille. “Formless”. The Shoggoths feature most prominently in H.P. Lovecraft's shortstory “At the Mountains of Madness” where they are described in the following manner: It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train – a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self -luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter. The term is a litmus test for materialism itself as the Shoggoth is an amorphous creature. The Shoggoths were living digging machines bio engineered by the Elder Things, and their protoplasmic bodies being formed into various tools by their hypnotic powers. The Shoggoths eventually became self aware and rose up against their masters in an ultimately failed rebellion. After the Elder Ones retreated into the oceans leaving the Shoggoths to roam the frozen wastes of the Antarctic. The onto-genesis of the Shoggoths and their gross materiality, index the horrifyingly deep time of the earth a concept near and dear to Lovecraft's formulation of horror as well as the fear of intelligences far beyond, and far before, the ascent of humankind on earth and elsewhere. The sickly amorphous nature of the Shoggoths invade materialism at large, where while materiality is unmistakably real ie not discursive, psychological, or otherwise overly subjectivist, it questions the relation of materialism to life. As Eugene Thacker writes: The Shoggoths or Elder Things do not even share the same reality with the human beings who encounter them—and yet this encounter takes place, though in a strange no-place that is neither quite that of the phenomenal world of the human subject or the noumenal world of an external reality. Amorphous yet definitively material beings are a constant in Lovecraft's tales. In his tale “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadatth” Lovecraft describes Azathoth as, “that shocking final peril which gibbers unmentionably outside the ordered universe,” that, “last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blashphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity,” who, “gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time”. Azathoth's name may have multiple origins but the most striking is the alchemy term azoth which is both a cohesive agent and a acidic creation pointing back to the generative and the decayed. The indistinction of generation and degradation materially mirrors the blur between the natural and the unnatural as well as life and non-life. Lovecraft speaks of the tension between the natural and the unnatural is his short story “The Unnameable.” He writes, “if the psychic emanations of human creatures be grotesque distortions, what coherent representation could express or portray so gibbous and infamous a nebulousity as the spectre of a malign, chaotic perversion, itself a morbid blasphemy against Nature?”. Lovecraft explores exactly the tension outlined at the beginning of this chapter, between life and thought. At the end of his short tale Lovecraft compounds the problem as the unnameable is described as “a gelatin—a slime—yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory”. Deleuze suggests that becoming-animal is operative throughout Lovecraft's work, where narrators feel themselves reeling at their becoming non-human or of being the anomalous or of becoming atomized. Following Eugene Thacker however, it may be far more accurate to say that Lovecraft's tales exhibit not a becoming-animal but a becoming-creature. Where the monstrous breaks the purportedly fixed laws of nature, the creature is far more ontologically ambiguous. The nameless thing is an altogether different horizon for thought. The creature is either less than animal or more than animal – its becoming is too strange for animal categories and indexes the slow march of thought towards the bizarre. This strangeness is, as aways, some indefinite swirling in the category of immanence and becoming. Bataille begins “The Labyrinth” with the assertion that being, to continue to be, is becoming. More becoming means more being hence the assertion that Bataille's barking dog is more than the sponge. This would mean that the Shoggotth is altogether too much being, too much material in the materialism. Bataille suggests that there is an immanence between the eater and the eaten, across the species and never within them. That is, despite the chaotic storm of immanence there must remain some capacity to distinguish the gradients of becoming without reliance upon, or at least total dependence upon, the powers of intellection to parse the universe into recognizable bits, properly digestible factoids. That is, if we undo Deleuze's aforementioned valorization of sense which, for his variation of materialism, performed the work of the transcendental, but refuse to reinstate Kant's transcendental disjunction between thing and appearance, then it must be a quality of becoming-as-being itself which can account for the discernible nature of things by sense. In an interview with Peter Gratton, Jane Bennett formulates the problem thusly: What is this strange systematicity proper to a world of Becoming? What, for example, initiates this congealing that will undo itself? Is it possible to identify phases within this formativity, plateaus of differentiation? If so, do the phases/plateaus follow a temporal sequence? Or, does the process of formation inside Becoming require us to theorize a non-chronological kind of time? I think that your student’s question: “How can we account for something like iterable structures in an assemblage theory?” is exactly the right question. Philosophy has erred too far on the side of the subject in the subject-object relation and has furthermore, lost the very weirdness of the non-human. Beyond this, the madness of thought need not override. /4/ - Ventriloquial Idealism or the Externality of Thought My aim is the opposite of Lovecraft's. He had an appreciation for natural scenery on earth and wanted to reach beyond the visible in the universe. I have no appreciation for natural scenery and want the objective universe to be a reflection of a character. Thomas Ligotti. “Devotees of Decay and Desolation.” Unless life is a dream, nothing makes sense. For as a reality, it is a rank failure [….] Horror is more real than we are. Thomas Ligotti. “Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror”. Thomas Ligotti's tales are rife with mannequins, puppets, and other brainless entities which of replace the valorized subject of philosophy – that of the free thinking human being. His tales such as “The Dream of the Manikin” aim to destroy the rootedness of consciousness. James Trafford has connected the anti-egoism of Ligotti to Thomas Metzinger – where the self is at best an illusion and we plead desperately for someone else to acknowledge that we are real. Trafford has stated it thus, “Life is played out as an inescapable puppet show, an endless dream in which the puppets are generally unaware that they are trapped within a mesmeric dance of whose mechanisms they know nothing and over which they have no control”. An absolute materialism, for Ligotti, implies an alienation of the idea which leads to a ventriloquil idealism. As Ligotti notes in an interview, “the fiasco and nightmare of existence, the particular fiasco and nightmare of human existence, the sense that people are puppets of powers they cannot comprehend, etc.” And then further elaborates that,“[a]ssuming that anything has to exist, my perfect world would be one in which everyone has experienced the annulment of his or her ego. That is, our consciousness of ourselves as unique individuals would entirely disappear”. The externality of the idea leads to the unfortunate consequence of consciousness eating at itself through horror which, for Ligotti, is more real than reality and goes beyond horror-as-affect. Beyond this, taking together with the unreality of life and the ventriloquizing of subjectivity, Ligotti's thought becomes an idealism in which thought itself is alien and ultimately horrifying. The role of human thought and the relation of non-relation of horror to thought is not completely clear in Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Ligotti argues in his The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,that the advent of thought is a mistake of nature and that horror is being in the sense that horror results from knowing too much. Yet, at the same time, Ligotti seems to suggest that thought separates us from nature whereas, for Lovecraft, thought is far less privileged – mind is just another manifestation of the vital principal, it is just another materialization of energy. In his brilliant “Prospects for Post-Copernican Dogmatism” Iain Grant rallies against the negative definition of dogmatism and the transcendental, and suggests that negatively defining both over-focuses on conditions of access and subjectivism at the expense of the real or nature. With Schelling, who is Grant's champion against the subjectivist bastions of both Fichte and Kant, Ligotti's idealism could be taken as a transcendental realism following from an ontological realism. Yet the transcendental status of Ligotti's thought move towards a treatment of the transcendental which may threaten to leave beyond its realist ground. Ligotti states: Belief in the supernatural is only superstition. That said, a sense of the supernatural, as Conrad evidenced in Heart of Darkness, must be admitted if one's inclination is to go to the limits of horror. It is the sense of what should not be- the sense of being ravaged by the impossible. Phenomenally speaking, the super-natural may be regarded as the metaphysical counterpart of insanity, a transcendental correlative of a mind that has been driven mad. Again, Ligotti equates madness with thought, qualifying both as supernatural while remaining less emphatic about the metaphysical dimensions of horror. The question becomes one of how exactly the hallucinatory realm of the ideal relates to the black churning matter of Lovecraft's chaos of elementary particles. In his tale “I Have a Special Plan for This World” Ligotti formulates thus: A: There is no grand scheme of things. B: If there were a grand scheme of things, the fact – the fact – that we are not equipped to perceive it, either by natural or supernatural means, is a nightmarish obscenity. C: The very notion of a grand scheme of things is a nightmarish obscenity. Here Ligotti is not discounting metaphysics but implying that if it does exist the fact that we are phenomenologically ill-equipped to perceive that it is nightmarish. For Ligotti, nightmare and horror occur within the circuit of consciousness whereas for Lovecraft the relation between reality and mind is less productive on the side of mind. It is easier to ascertain how the Kantian philosophy is a defense against the diseases of the head as Kant armors his critical enterprise from too much of the world and too much of the mind. The weird fiction of both Lovecraft and Ligotti demonstrates that there is too much of both feeding into one another in a way that corrodes the Kantian schema throughly, breaking it down into a dead but still ontologically potentiated nigredo. The haunting, terrifying fact of Ligotti's idealism is that the transcendental motion which brought thought to matter, while throughly material and naturalized, brings with it the horror that thought cannot be undone without ending the material that bears it either locally or completely. Thought comes from an elsewhere and an elsewhen being-in-thought. The unthinkable outside thought is as maddening as the unthought engine of thought itself within thought which doesn't exist except for the mind, the rotting décor of the brain. /5/ - Hyperstitional Transcendental Paranoia or Self -Expelled Thought Weird fiction has been given some direct treatment in philosophy in the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land. Nick Land along with others in the 1990s created the Cyber Culture Research Unit as well as the research group Hyperstition. The now defunct hyperstitional website, an outgrowth of the Cyber Culture Research Unit, defined hyperstition in the following fourfold: 1-Element of effective culture that makes itself real. 2-Fictional quantity functional as a time-traveling device. 3-Coincidence intensifier. 4-Call to the Old Ones. The distinctively Lovecraftian character of hyperstition is hard to miss as is its Deleuzo-Guattarian roots. In the opening pages of A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari write, “We have been criticized for over-quoting literary authors. But when one writes, the only question is which other machine the literary machine can be plugged into”. The indisinction of literature and philosophy mirrors the mess of being and knowing as post-correlationist philosophy, where philosophy tries to make itself real where literature, especially the weird, aims itself at the brain-circuit of horror. The texts of both Lovecraft and Ligotti work through horror as epistemological plasticity meeting with proximity as well as the deep time of Lovecraft and the glacially slow time of paranoia in Ligotti. Against Deleuze, and following Brassier, we cannot allow the time of consciousness, the Bergsonian time of the duree, to override natural time, but instead acknowledge that it is an unfortunate fact of existence as a thinking being. Horror-time, the time of consciousness, with all its punctuated moments and drawn out terrors, cannot compare to the deep time of non-existence both in the unreachable past and the unknown future. The crystalline cogs of Kant's account of experience as the leading light for the possibility of metaphysics must be throughly obliterated. His gloss of experience in Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics could not be more sterile: Experience consists of intuitions, which belong to the sensibility, and of judgments, which are entirely a work of the understanding. But the judgments which the understanding makes entirely out of sensuous intuitions are far from being judgments of experience. For in the one case the judgment connects only the perceptions as they are given in sensuous intuition [....] Experience consists in the synthetic connection of appearances in consciousness, so far as this connection is necessary. Here it is difficult to dismiss the queasiness that Kant's legalism induces upon sight for both Badiou and David-Menard. Kant's thought becomes, as Foucault says when reflecting on Sade's text in relation to nature, “the savage abolition of itself”. For Badiou, Kant's philosophy simply closes off too much of the outside, freezing the world of thought in an all too limited formalism. Critical philosophy is simply the systematized quarantine on future thinking, on thinking which would threaten the formalism which artificially grants thought its own coherency in the face of madness. Even the becoming-mad of Deleuze, while escaping the rumbling ground, makes grounds for itself, mad grounds but grounds which are thinkable in their affect. The field of effects allows for Deleuze's aesthetic and radical empiricism, in which effects and/or occasions make up the material of the world to be thought as a chaosmosis of simulacra. Given a critique of an empiricism of aesthetics, of the image, it may be difficult to justify an attack on Kantian formalism with the madness of literature, which does not aim to make itself real but which we may attempt to make real. That is, how do Lovecraft's and Ligotti's materials, as materials for philosophy to work on, differ from either the operative formalisms of Kant or the implicitly formalized images of Deleuzian empiricism? It is simply that such texts do not aim to make themselves real, and make claims to the real which are more alien to us than familiar, which is why their horror is immediately more trustworthy. This is the madness which Blanchot discusses in The Infinite Conversation through Cervantes and his knight – the madness of book-life, of the perverse unity of literature and life a discussion which culminates in the discussion of one of the weird's masters, that of Kafka. The text is the knowing of madness, since madness, in its moment of becoming-more-mad, cannot be frozen in place but by the solidifications of externalizing production. This is why Foucault ends his famous study with works of art. Furthermore extilligence, the ability to export the products of our maligned brains, is the companion of the attempts to export, or discover the possibility of intelligences outside of our heads, in order for philosophy to survive the solar catastrophe. To borrow again from Deleuze, writing is inseparable from becoming. The mistake is to believe that madness is reabsorbed by extilligence, by great works, or that it could be exorcised by the expelling of thought into the inorganic or differently organic. Going out of our heads does not guarantee we will no longer mean we cannot still go out of our minds. This is simply because of the outside, of matter, or force, or energy, or thing-in-itself, or Schopenhauerian Will. In Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zahn” an “impoverished student of metaphysics” becomes intrigued by strange viol music coming from above his room. After meeting the musician the student discovers that each night he plays frantic music at a window in order to keep some horridness at bay, some “impenetrable darkness with chaos and pandemonium”. The aesthetic defenses provided by the well trained brain can bear the hex of matter for so long, the specter of unalterability within it which too many minds obliterate, collapsing everything before the thought of thought as thinkable or at least noetically mutable on our own terms. Transcendental paranoia is the concurrent nightmare and promise of Paul Humphrey's work, of being literally out of our minds. It is the gothic counterpart of thinking non-conceptually but also of thinking never belonging to any instance of purportedly solid being. As Bataille stated, “At the boundary of that which escapes cohesion, he who reflects within cohesion realizes there is no longer any room for him” Thought is immaterial only to the degree that it is inhuman, it is a power that tries, always with failure, to ascertain its own genesis. Philosophy, if it can truly return to the great outdoors, if it can leave behind the dead loop of the human skull, must recognize not only the non-priority of human thought, but that thought never belongs to the brain that thinks it, thought comes from somewhere else. To return to the train image from the beginning “a locomotive rolling on the surface of the earth is the image of continuous metamorphosis” this is the problem of thought, and of thinking thought, of being no longer able to isolate thought, with only a thought-formed structure.  One of the central tenets of Francois Laruelle's non-philosophy is that philosophy has traditionally operated on material already presupposed as thinkable instead of trying to think the real in itself. Philosophy, according to Laruelle, remains fixated on transcendental synthesis which shatters immanence into an empirical datum and an a prori factum which are then fused by a third thing such as the ego. For a critical account of Laruelle's non-philosophy see Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound. (shrink)
This comprehensive encyclopedia entry discusses the life and works of Jane Addams (1860-1935) who influenced contemporaries John Dewey, William James, and George Herbert Mead. Although not traditionally categorized as a philosopher, Addams was a prolific writer who developed a social philosophy of attentiveness and sympathetic knowledge that prefigures contemporary feminist care ethics.
Pytanie Molyneux brzmi następująco: „Wystawmy sobie, iż niewidomy od urodzenia, obecnie człowiek dorosły, nauczył się odróżniać dotykiem sześcian od kuli i że stojący opodal ów niewidomy przejrzał; zapytuję, czy za pomocą odzyskanego wzroku, zanim dotknie tych przedmiotów, będzie mógł je rozpoznać i powiedzieć, który z nich jest kulą, a który sześcianem?” W niniejszym artykule wskazuję, że odpowiedź twierdząca, udzielona na to pytanie przez brytyjskiego filozofa Garetha Evansa jest nieprzekonująca, przede wszystkim dlatego, iż Evans nieświadomie pomija ilościowy czynnik dostępności informacji zawartej (...) w doświadczeniu zmysłowym. (shrink)
A significant challenge faces any ethic that endorses the view that divine commands are sufficient to impose moral obligations; in this paper, I focus on Kierkegaard's ethic, in particular. The challenge to be addressed is the "modernized" problem of Abraham, popularized especially by Fear and Trembling: the dilemma that an agent faces when a being claiming to be God issues a command to the agent that, by the agent's own lights, seems not to be the kind of command that a (...) loving God would issue. Against a solution to this problem proposed by C. Stephen Evans in Kierkegaard's Ethic of Love, I argue that Kierkegaard regards this scenario as never actually resulting in a fully responsible agent's performance of some horrendous action on account of her non-culpable misinterpretation of God's will and/or failure to discern correctly whether a perceived moral imperative truly is divine in origin. (shrink)
_The Sub ject of Con scious ness_ is a rich, strik ingly orig i nal and ambi tious work. It makes an impor tant and timely con tri bu tion to cur rent debates on a num ber of issues which over the last few years have been tak ing cen tre stage in the phi los o phy of mind: for exam ple, self-consciousness, selec tive atten tion and the nature of bodily aware ness. What makes this achieve ment (...) some what unusual, and all the more remark able, is that _The Sub ject of Con scious ness_ was pub lished thirty years ago (Evans, 1970). The reviews it received at the time ranged from the hos tile to the deri sory. (shrink)
Evans attempted to develop a classical unified field theory of gravitation and electromagnetism on the background of a spacetime obeying a Riemann-Cartan geometry. In an accompanying paper I, we analyzed this theory and summarized it in nine equations. We now propose a variational principle for a theory that implements some of the ideas that have been (imprecisely) indicated by Evans and show that it yields two field equations. The second field equation is algebraic in the torsion and we can resolve (...) it with respect to the torsion. It turns out that for all physical cases the torsion vanishes and the first field equation, together with Evans’ unified field theory, collapses to an ordinary Einstein equation. (shrink)
The central aim of this paper is to argue against Evans’ hybrid theory of reference. I will show that Evans’ theory makes false predictions in the case of some thought-experiments. The paper has two sections. After providing a short presentation of Evans’ theory in the first section, I will move on to criticize it in the second section.