The Spiritual Dimension offers a new model for the philosophy of religion, bringing together emotional and intellectual aspects of our human experience, and embracing practical as well as theoretical concerns. It shows how a religious worldview is best understood not as an isolated set of doctrines, but as intimately related to spiritual praxis and to the search for self-understanding and moral growth. It argues that the religious quest requires a certain emotional openness, but can be pursued without sacrificing our philosophical (...) integrity. Touching on many important debates in contemporary philosophy and theology, but accessible to general readers, The Spiritual Dimension covers a range of central topics in the philosophy of religion, including scientific cosmology and the problem of evil; ethical theory and the objectivity of goodness; psychoanalytic thought, self-discovery and virtue; the multi-layered nature of religious discourse; and the relation between faith and evidence. (shrink)
How can a system of criminal punishment be justified? In particular can it be justified if the moral demand that we respect each other as autonomous moral agents is taken seriously? Traditional attempts to justify punishment as a deterrent or as retribution fail, but Duff suggests that punishment can be understood as a communicative attempt to bring a wrong-doer to repent her crime. This account is supported by discussions of moral blame, of penance, of the nature of the law's demands, (...) and of the proper meaning and purpose of the criminal process of trial and verdict: it deals both with the ideals that should inform a system of criminal law and the extent to which those ideals are actualised in existing institutions and practices. The conclusion is pessimistic: punishment cannot be justified within our legal system; and this gap between the ideal and the actual presents us with serious moral dilemmas. (shrink)
This volume brings together some of the best articles on Descartes published in the last fifty years. Edited by the renowned Descartes specialist John Cottingham, the selection covers the full range of Descartes's thought, including chapters on the central issues in Cartesian metaphysics, the relationship between mind and body, human nature and the passions, and the structure of scientific explanation.
While finding no fault with Darwinism as a scientific theory, this paper argues that there are serious problems for the scientistic construal of Darwinism that interprets the universe as nothing but a purely random and contingent flow of events. Life in a godless impersonal universe is beset by contingency, alienation, despair, failure and fragility. Notwithstanding Alan Holland's claim that we can evade these problems though self-affirmation, I argue that human beings can achieve meaningful lives only by acknowledging our dependency and (...) accepting the authority of values we did not create. (shrink)
The virtue of integrity does not appear explicitly in either the Aristotelian or the Judaeo- Christian list of virtues, but elements of both ethical systems implicitly acknowledge the importance of a unified and integrated life. This paper argues that integrity is indispensible for a good human life; the fragmented or compartmentalized life is always subject to instability, in so far as unresolved psychological conflicts and tensions may threaten to derail our ethical plans and projects. Achieving a stable and integrated life (...) requires self-awareness; and (drawing on insights from the psychoanalytic tradition) it is suggested that self-awareness is not a simple matter, but requires a complex process of self-discovery. The paper’s final section argues that although vitally necessary for the good life, integrity cannot be sufficient. Against the view of influential writers such as Bernard Williams and Harry Frankfurt, our commitment to our chosen projects, however authentic and integrated, cannot in itself give our lives meaning and value. The good and meaningful life cannot be a matter of authenticity alone, but requires us, whether we like it or not, to bring our projects into line with enduring objective values that we did not create, and which we cannot alter. (shrink)
John Cottingham explores central areas of Descartes's rich and wide-ranging philosophical system, including his accounts of thought and language, of freedom and action, of our relationship to the animal domain, and of human morality and the conduct of life. He also examines ways in which his philosophy has been misunderstood. The Cartesian mind-body dualism that is so often attacked is only a part of Descartes's account of what it is to be a thinking, sentient, human creature, and the way he (...) makes the division between the mental and the physical is considerably more subtle, and philosophically more appealing, than is generally assumed. Although Descartes is often considered to be one of the heralds of our modern secular worldview, the 'new' philosophy which he launched retains many links with the ideas of his predecessors, not least in the all-pervasive role it assigns to God (something that is ignored or downplayed by many modern readers); and the character of the Cartesian outlook is multifaceted, sometimes anticipating Enlightenment ideas of human autonomy and independent scientific inquiry, but also sometimes harmonizing with more traditional notions of human nature as created to find fulfilment in harmony with its creator. (shrink)
Can philosophy enable us to lead better lives through a systematic understanding of our human nature? John Cottingham's thought-provoking study examines three major philosophical approaches to this problem. Starting with the attempts of Classical philosophers to cope with the recalcitrant forces of the passions, he moves on to examine the moral psychology of Descartes, and concludes by analyzing the insights of modern psychoanalytic theory into the human predicament. His study provides a fresh and challenging perspective on moral philosophy and psychology (...) for students and specialists alike. (shrink)
Few contemporary philosophers have made as wide-ranging and insightful a contribution to philosophical debate as John Cottingham. This collection brings together friends, colleagues and former students of Cottingham, to discuss major themes of his work on moral philosophy. Presented in three parts the collection focuses on the debate on partiality, impartiality and character; the role of emotions and reason in the good life; the meaning of a worthwhile life and the place of theistic considerations in it. The original contributions to (...) this volume celebrate Cottingham’s work by embracing and furthering his arguments and, at times, in the best spirit of philosophical engagement, challenging and confronting them. The volume concludes with Cottingham’s specially commissioned responses to the contributions. (shrink)
Western Philosophy: An Anthology provides the most comprehensive and authoritative survey of the Western philosophical tradition from ancient Greece to the leading philosophers of today. Features substantial and carefully chosen excerpts from all the greats of philosophy, arranged thematically and chronologically Readings are introduced and linked together by a lucid philosophical commentary which guides the reader through the key arguments Embraces all the major subfields of philosophy: theory of knowledge and metaphysics, philosophy of mind, religion and science, moral philosophy (theoretical (...) and applied), political theory, and aesthetics Updated edition now includes additional contemporary readings in each section Augmented by two completely new sections on logic and language, and philosophy and the meaning of life. (shrink)
Volumes I and II provide a completely new translation of the philosophical works of Descartes, based on the best available Latin and French texts. Volume III contains 207 of Descartes' letters, over half of which have not been translated into English before. It incorporates, in its entirety, Anthony Kenny's celebrated translation of selected philosophical letters, first published in 1970. In conjunction with Volumes I and II it is designed to meet the widespread demand for a comprehensive, accurate and authoritative edition (...) of Descartes' philosophical writings in clear and readable modern English. (shrink)
The article argues that descartes' inclusion under the label 'thought' ("cogitatio") of willing, Perceiving, Feeling, Etc., Is a deliberate and ("pace" anscombe and geach) idiosyncratic move. It is not an arbitrary extension of usage, But requires careful diagnosis. The proper diagnosis reveals the philosophical reason for the labelling: the various operations listed are "cogitationes" only and precisely insofar as they include a reflective cognitive act-The mind's intellectual awareness of itself which descartes terms "conscientia". The upshot is that when descartes calls (...) himself a "res cogitans" there is an important and illuminating sense in which he means precisely that-A thing which "thinks". (shrink)
Descartes occupies a position of piviotal importance as one of the founding fathers of modern philosophy; he is, perhaps the most widely studied of all philosophers. In this authoritative collection an international team of leading scholars in Cartesian studies present the full range of Descartes' extraordinary philosophical achievement. His life and the development of his thought, as well as the intellectual background to and reception of his work are treated at length. At the core of the volume are a group (...) of chapters on his metaphysics: the celebrated "Cogito" argument, the proofs of God's existence, the "Cartesian circle" and the dualistic theory of the mind and its relation to his theological and scientific views. Other chapters cover the philosophical implications of his work in algebra, his place in the 17th century scientific revolution, the structure of his physics, and his work on physiology and psychology. (shrink)
To be able to believe that a dog with a broken paw is not really in pain when it whimpers is a quite extraordinary achievement even for a philosopher. Yet according to the standard interpretaion, this is just what Descartes did believe. He held, we are informed, the ‘monstrous’ thesis that ‘animals are without feeling or awareness of any kind’. The Standard view has been reiterated in a recent collection on animal rights, which casts Descartes as the villain of the (...) piece for his alleged view that animals merely behave ‘ as if they feel pain when they are, say, kicked or stabbed’. The basis for this widely accepted interpretation is Descartes' famous doctrine of ‘animal machine’ ; a doctrine that one critic condemns as ‘a grim fortaste of a mechanically minded age’ which ‘brutally violates the old kindly fellowship of living things’. (shrink)
Let me begin with what may seem a very minor point, but one which I think reveals something about how many philosophers today conceive of their subject. During the past few decades, there has been an increasing tendency for references in philosophy books and articles to be formatted in the ‘author and date’ style (‘see Fodor (1996)’, ‘see Smith (2001)’.) A neat and economical reference system, you may think; and it certainly saves space, albeit inconveniencing readers by forcing them to (...) flip back to the end of the chapter or book to find the title of the work being referred to. But what has made this system so popular among philosophers? A factor which I suspect exerts a strong subconscious attraction for many people is that it makes a philosophy article look very like a piece of scientific research. For if one asks where the ‘author-date’ system originated, the answer is clear: it comes from the science journals. And in that context, the choice of referencing system has a very definite rationale. In the progress-driven world of science, priority is everything, and it’s vitally important for a career that a researcher is able to proclaim his work as breaking new ground. Bloggs (2005) developed a technique for cloning a certain virus; Coggs (2006) showed how certain bits of viral DNA could be spliced; and now Dobbs (2007) draws on both techniques to develop the building blocks of a new vaccine. The idea is that our knowledge-base is enhanced, month by month and year by year, in small incremental steps (perhaps with occasional major breakthroughs); and in the catalogue of advances, the date tagged to each name signals when progress was made, and by whom. (shrink)
(2000). Caring at a Distance: (Im)partiality, Moral Motivation and the Ethics of Representation - Partiality, Distance and Moral Obligation. Ethics, Place & Environment: Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 309-313. doi: 10.1080/713665894.
Leading philosophers reflect on what belief in God, or its absence, means for the subject and what difference it makes to the flow and perceived significance of someone’s life. A stimulating juxtaposition of views including the different perspectives of Christians, Buddhists, Jews, atheists and agnostics Contributors include Sir Anthony Kenny, Alvin Plantinga, John Haldane, Richard Norman, David Benatar and John Cottingham Enables the reader to see how crucial issues about the nature and significance of religious belief are dealt with from (...) widely differing philosophical and religious perspectives. (shrink)
Let me begin with what may seem a very minor point, but one which I think reveals something about how many philosophers today conceive of their subject. During the past few decades, there has been an increasing tendency for references in philosophy books and articles to be formatted in the ‘author and date’ style ’, ‘see Smith ’.) A neat and economical reference system, you may think; and it certainly saves space, albeit inconveniencing readers by forcing them to flip back (...) to the end of the chapter or book to find the title of the work being referred to. But what has made this system so popular among philosophers? A factor which I suspect exerts a strong subconscious attraction for many people is that it makes a philosophy article look very like a piece of scientific research. For if one asks where the ‘author-date’ system originated, the answer is clear: it comes from the science journals. And in that context, the choice of referencing system has a very definite rationale. In the progress-driven world of science, priority is everything, and it's vitally important for a career that a researcher is able to proclaim his work as breaking new ground. Bloggs developed a technique for cloning a certain virus; Coggs showed how certain bits of viral DNA could be spliced; and now Dobbs draws on both techniques to develop the building blocks of a new vaccine. The idea is that our knowledge-base is enhanced, month by month and year by year, in small incremental steps ; and in the catalogue of advances, the date tagged to each name signals when progress was made, and by whom. (shrink)
To confront the philosophical system of Rene Descartes is to contemplate a magnificently laid out map of human cognitive endeavour. In following Descartes arguments, the reader is drawn into some of the most fundamental and challenging issues in all of philosophy. In this dictionary, John Cottingham presents an alphabetied guide to this most stimulating and widely-studied of philosophers. He examines the key concepts and ideas in Cartesian thought and places them in the context both of the seventeenth-century intellectual climate and (...) of subsequent interpretation. The entries range over a wide variety of areas including cosmology, physics, theology, psychology and ethics. The book is designed to appeal to the newcomer to Descartes, whether student or general reader, while also providing detailed critical comment and precise textual references for the more advanced reader. Also included are a general introduction describing Descartes' life and works, and bibliographic guide to the Cartesian texts and the mass of interpretative literature on Descartes. (shrink)
Descartes's proof of the existence of material things is dissected as a paradigm of the style of reasoning in the "meditations". A tension emerges between two senses of "the teachings of nature", Which sometime denotes the light of reason, And sometimes merely a strong conviction. The tension continues later in meditation six: nature in one sense tells us that we are embodied beings, But in another sense that we are incorporeal minds. It is never properly resolved.
The seventeenth century saw a major revolution in our ways of thinking about such issues as the method appropriate to philosophy and science, the relation between mind and body, the nature of substance, and the place of humanity in nature. While not neglecting the lesser but still influential figures, such as Arnauld and Malebranche, John Cottingham focuses primarily on the three great "rationalists": Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. He examines how they approached central problems of philosophy, and shows how closely their (...) ideas are related, despite the radically different philosophical systems they produced. He not only places the major thinkers in their historical and philosophical contexts, but engages their ideas in a vigorously critical way, revealing their capacity to throw light on major philosophical topics that are still very much alive today. (shrink)
The vicious person may have considerable enjoyment – much of their life may be, to use a notion that Don Giovanni draws on in one of his arias, diverting. But happiness has to be assessed not in terms of particular pleasurable episodes, but in more holistic terms, over a life taken as a whole. And many moral philosophers, including the atheist Scottish philosopher David Hume in the eighteenth century, have argued that vice can’t make you happy in the long run.