John Hyman explores central problems in philosophy of action and the theory of knowledge, and connects these areas of enquiry in a new way. His approach to the dimensions of human action culminates in an original analysis of the relation between knowledge and rational behaviour, which provides the foundation for a new theory of knowledge itself.
I shall be mainly concerned with the question ‘What is personal propositional knowledge?’. This question is obviously quite narrowly focused, in three respects. In the first place, there is impersonal as well as personal knowledge. Second, a distinction is often drawn between propositional knowledge and practical knowledge. And third, as well as asking what knowledge is, it is also possible to ask whether and how knowledge of various kinds can be acquired: causal knowledge, a priori knowledge, moral knowledge, and so (...) on. I shall dwell briefly on each of these three points. First, there is the distinction between personal and impersonal knowledge – in other words, between the psychological concept of knowledge and the social one.1 We use the concept of knowledge to describe the cognitive condition of individuals; but we also use it to describe the progress of scientific and historical research. So for example we can speak or enquire about the state of knowledge in a particular field of biology or history. And if we do so, we are evidently not concerned with what anyone in particular knows about, say, the genetics of fruit flies or the career of Charlemagne, but rather with what the scientific or academic community knows. Needless to say, there is a close connection between personal and impersonal knowledge. But ‘It is known that p’ does not simply mean ‘Someone or other. (shrink)
“The longer you work, the more the mystery deepens of what appearance is, or how what is called appearance can be made in another medium."—Francis Bacon, painter This, in a nutshell, is the central problem in the theory of art. It has fascinated philosophers from Plato to Wittgenstein. And it fascinates artists and art historians, who have always drawn extensively on philosophical ideas about language and representation, and on ideas about vision and the visible world that have deep philosophical roots. (...) John Hyman’s _The Objective Eye_ is a radical treatment of this problem, deeply informed by the history of philosophy and science, but entirely fresh. The questions tackled here are fundamental ones: Is our experience of color an illusion? How does the metaphysical status of colors differ from that of shapes? What is the difference between a picture and a written text? Why are some pictures said to be more realistic than others? Is it because they are especially truthful or, on the contrary, because they deceive the eye? _The Objective Eye_ explores the fundamental concepts we use constantly in our most innocent thoughts and conversations about art, as well as in the most sophisticated art theory. The book progresses from pure philosophy to applied philosophy and ranges from the metaphysics of color to Renaissance perspective, from anatomy in ancient Greece to impressionism in nineteenth-century France. Philosophers, art historians, and students of the arts will find _The Objective Eye_ challenging and absorbing. (shrink)
theory of knowledge defended in Timothy Williamson's book Knowledge and its Limits is compared here with the theory defended in the author's articles ‘How Knowledge Works ’ and ‘ Knowledge and Self- Knowledge ’. It is argued that there are affinities between these theories, but that the latter has considerably more explanatory power.
In the past thirty years or so, the doctrine that actions are events has become an essential, and sometimes unargued, part of the received view in the philosophy of action, despite the efforts of a few philosophers to undermine the consensus. For example, the entry for Agency in a recently published reference guide to the philosophy of mind begins with the following sentence: A central task in the philosophy of action is that of spelling out the differences between events in (...) general and those events that fall squarely into the category of human action. There is no consensus about what events are. But it is generally agreed that, whatever events may prove to be, actions are a species or a class of events. We believe that the received view is mistaken: actions are not events. We concede that for most purposes, the kind of categorial refinement which is involved in either affirming or denying that actions are events is frankly otiose. Our common idiom does not stress the difference between actions and events, at least not in general terms, because it has no need to. Perhaps it sounds a little odd to say that some events are performed; but if we balked at describing, say, the abdication of Edward VIII as one of the politically significant events in Britain in 1936, it could not be for metaphysical reasons. And since actions, like events, are datable — though often, as we shall see, only imprecisely — actions are said to take place and to occur. But an important class of actions consist in moving something; indeed, according to many philosophers, every action consists in moving something. And when we consider actions of this sort from a theoretical point of view it becomes imperative to distinguish between actions and events. Or so we shall argue. (shrink)
1. I want to discuss a new area of scientific research called neuro-aesthetics, which is the study of art by neuroscientists. The most prominent champions of neuroaesthetics are V.S. Ramachandran and Semir Zeki, both of whom have both made ambitious claims about their work. Ramachandran says boldly that he has discovered “the key to understanding what art really is”, and that his theory of art can be tested by brain imaging experiments, although he does not describe these experiments, or explain (...) what results the theory predicts (Ramachandran and Hirstein 1999, 17). Zeki, who originally coined the term “neuro-aesthetics”, claims to have laid the foundations for understanding “the biological basis of aesthetic experience”, and to have formulated a “neurobiological definition of art” (Zeki 1999, 2, 22). If these claims are true, we are at the dawn of a new age in the study of art. Up to now, most of the people studying art have been historians, some of whom can read Latin, but hardly any of whom have mastered even the rudiments of brain science. And aesthetics has been in the hands of philosophers, who still disagree among themselves about ideas that were stated in the fourth century BC. Neuroaesthetics is different. As Ramachandran (2000, 19) says: “These ideas have the advantage that, unlike the vague notions of philosophers and art historians, they can be tested experimentally”. So, is neuro-aesthetics the next big thing? I want to assess its prospects, starting with Ramachandran. (shrink)
Recent work on dispositions offers a new solution to the long-running dispute about whether explanations of intentional action are causal explanations. The dispute seemed intractable because of a lack of percipience about dispositions and a commitment to Humean orthodoxies about causation on both sides.
This paper argues that we need to distinguish between two different ideas of a reason: first, the idea of a premise or assumption, from which a person’s action or deliberation can proceed; second, the idea of a fact by which a person can be guided, when he modifies his thought or behaviour in some way. It argues further that if we have the first idea in mind, one can act for the reason that p regardless of whether it is the (...) case that p , and regardless of whether one believes that p . But if we have the second idea in mind, one cannot act for the reason that p unless one knows that p . The last part of the paper briefly indicates how the second idea of a reason can contribute to a larger argument, showing that it is better to conceive of knowledge as a kind of ability than as a kind of belief. (shrink)
In the Meno, Socrates asks why knowledge is a better guide to acting the right way than true belief. The answer he proposes is ingenious, but it fails to solve the puzzle, and some recent attempts to solve it also fail. I shall argue that the puzzle cannot be solved as long as we conceive of knowledge as a kind of belief, or allow our conception of knowledge to be governed by the contrast between knowledge and belief.
In this article, I oppose the view that knowledge is a species of belief, and argue that belief should be defined in terms of knowledge, instead of the other way round. However, I reject the idea that the concept of knowledge has a primary or basic role or position in our system of mental and logical concepts, because I reject the hierarchical conception of philosophical analysis implicit in this idea. I approach the topic of knowledge and belief from a discussion (...) of Richard Holton’s views about facts and factive verbs. (shrink)
§1 Analytic philosophers interested in depiction have focused for the most part on two problems: first, explaining how pictures represent; second, describing the distinctive kinds of artistic value pictures can possess, or the distinctive ways in which they can embody artistic values that extend more broadly across the arts. I shall discuss the first problem here. The main concepts I shall be concerned with are depiction, resemblance, sense and reference.
I argue that itches, tickles, aches and pains—sensations of all sorts—are generally in the places where we say they are. So, for example, if I say that I have an itch in the big toe on my left foot, then, by and large, that is the very place where the itch is. James denied this in the 1890s; Russell and Broad denied it in the 1920s; Wittgenstein and Ryle denied it in the 1940s; Lewis and Armstrong denied it in the (...) 1960s; and since then various kinds of materialists have denied it. But if itches etc. are states of the sensitive parts of bodies, then it is true. (shrink)
Human agency has four irreducibly different dimensions -- psychological, ethical, intellectual, and physical -- which the traditional idea of a will tended to conflate. Twentieth-century philosophers criticized the idea that acts are caused by 'willing' or 'volition', but the study of human action continued to be governed by a tendency to equate these dimensions of agency, or to reduce one to another. Cutting across the branches of philosophy, from logic and epistemology to ethics and jurisprudence, Action, Knowledge, and Will defends (...) comprehensive theories of action and knowledge, and shows how thinking about agency in four dimensions deepens our understanding of human conduct and its causes. (shrink)
One of the most exciting developments in philosophy in the last fifty years is the resurgence in the philosophy of action. The concept of action now occupies a central place in ethics, metaphysics and jurisprudence. This collection of original essays, by some of the most astute and influential philosophers working in this area, covers the entire range of the philosophy of action. Topics covered include the nature of actions themselves; how the concepts of act, agent, cause and event are related (...) to each other; self-knowledge, emotion, autonomy and freedom in human life; and the place of the concept of action in criminal law. The volume concludes with a major essay by one of America's leading authorities in the philosophy of law on 'the 3.5 billion dollar question': was the destruction of the World Trade Center one event or two? (shrink)
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;Metaphor and analogy are the scaffolding of science. Kepler's theory of the retinal picture could not have been built without the analogy between an eye and a camera obscura, and, two hundred and fifty years later, Charles Darwin devoted most of the first chapter of The origin of Species to discussion of pigeon fanciers. Unlike Darwin, Kepler was bewitched by his own imagination and was led to wonder "how (...) this image or picture is joined to the visual faculty, which is situated in the retina and in the nerve, and whether it is placed within the hollows of the brain, before the soul or tribunal of the visual faculty, or whether the visual faculty, like a magistrate sent by the soul from the administrative chamber of the brain, descends into the optic nerve or retina to meet this image, as though to a lower court" . ;The theory of the retinal image answered the crucial question of medieval optics: the scaffolding had served its purpose and should have been dismantled. Instead, Kepler mistook it for a part of the building: what he construed as a scientific problem was nothing more than the extension of a metaphor. As a result, and in spite of his remarkable achievement, he left the theory of vision in a state of confusion. ;I intend to show that Descartes revolutionized visual theory by manipulating the pair of analogies which had dominated visual theory since its inception and by advancing a theory of depiction which has since become orthodox. Advocates of the first analogy suggest that seeing the world is rather like seeing pictures of it; Kepler's analogy between the eye and a camera obscura, which was anticipated by Leonardo de Vinci, was a variation on this theme. Advocates of the second analogy compare vision to the use of a walking-stick: the air transmits an impression of a visible object to the eye rather as a walking-stick enables us to find our way around in the dark by transmitting pressures to the hand. As I shall show, Descartes' rejection of the pictorial analogy in favour of the walking-stick analogy and his theory of depiction were designed to salvage Kepler's theory of the retinal picture, a pearl of great price, from its murky setting. ;Descartes aimed to show that whilst Kepler's theory of the retinal picture correctly described the optics of the eye, the pictorial analogy was misleading and stood in the way of a mechanistic theory of perception. ;Current visual theory is Cartesian in some respects and un-Cartesian in others. The walking-stick analogy is no longer used, but the explanatory pattern that it served to illustrate is adhered to closely where the perception of brightness and colour are concerned, and the causal theory of depiction commands widespread support. At the same time, the pictorial analogy has not lost its appeal. (shrink)
Pluralism—the incommensurability and, at times, incompatibility of objective ends—is not relativism, nor, a fortiori, subjectivism, nor the allegedly unbridgeable differences of emotional attitude on which some modern positivists, emotivists, existentialists, nationalists and, indeed, relativistic sociologists and anthropologists found their accounts.
Philosophers have shown little interest in the concept of voluntariness during the last fifty years, mainly because Anscombe's book Intention persuaded us that it plays a relatively minor role in thought about human action, compared to the concept of acting intentionally or acting for a reason, and does not raise any interesting problems of its own, once the nature of intentional action has been explained. But this seems to be wrong. The nature of voluntariness, and its relationship with guilt, coercion, (...) obligation, intention, knowledge and choice, merit careful analysis. This article makes a start. (shrink)
This paper is about the semantic structure of verbal and deverbal noun phrases. The focus is on noun phrases which describe actions, perceptions, sensations and beliefs. It is commonly thought that actions are movements of parts of the agent’s body which we typically describe in terms of their effects, and that perceptions are slices of sensible experience which we typically describe in terms of their causes. And many philosophers hold that sensations and beliefs are states of the central nervous system (...) which we generally describe in terms of their typical causes and effects. For example ‘Brutus’s killing of Caesar’ is thought to describe a movement of a part of Brutus’s body – e.g. the thrust of an arm – in terms of one of its effects, namely, Caesar’s death. And ‘ Hyman ’s visual perception of a table in front of him’ is thought to describe the visual experience I’m having right now in terms of its cause. The object of the paper is to show that these doctrines misrepresent the semantic structure of verbal and deverbal noun phrases. (shrink)
In 1931, Wittgenstein listed ten influences on his intellectual development: ‘I don’t believe I have ever invented a line of thinking,’ he wrote, ‘I have always taken one over from someone else. I have simply straightway seized upon it with enthusiasm for my work of clarification. That is how Boltzmann, Hertz, Schopenhauer, Frege, Russell, Kraus, Loos, Weininger, Spengler, Sraffa have influenced me.’ (CV, 1980, p.19) The order in which these names occur is probably the order in which Wittgenstein encountered them, (...) or their ideas. As we shall see, the title of this article derives from Kraus. But its subject is Loos’s influence on Wittgenstein. (shrink)
The questions considered are whether colours are relative to systems of colour concepts, to the conditions in which they are observed, or to observers or communities of observers; and whether the relativity of colours, such as it is, implies that they are less real than shapes or intervals in time. The argument is based on the thought that Special Relativity provides the best available intellectual framework for thinking about the supposed relativity of qualities of physical things.
Traditionally, the story that opens chapter three of Genesis is called The Fall . David Daube, who was the greatest authority on ancient law in his generation, and a biblical scholar of exceptional brilliance, said that it should be called The Rise . I shall explain why shortly, but first let me remind you of the orthodox interpretation of the story.
Pictures have always played a prominent role in philosophical speculation about the mind, but the concept of a picture has itself been the object of philosophical scrutiny only intermittently. As a matter of fact, it was studied most intensively in the course of a theological controversy in the Eastern Roman Empire, during the eighth century - which is a sufficient indication of its marginal place in the history of philosophy. Perhaps this is because pictures have never produced in us the (...) theoretical paralysis which Augustine famously associated with time, but have on the contrary generally seemed too unproblematic to deserve much time from philosophers. Even today, after several decades of accumulating theory, philosophers with no stake in the matter are often impervious to its charm. I feel some sympathy for this attitude, because the task of explaining the nature of depiction is, I believe, one which calls for the refinement rather than refutation of our first thoughts about it. But a precise understanding of depiction is both a necessary prolegomenon to a significant part of aesthetics, and a useful prophylactic against confusion in the theory of the imagination. Besides, there is also the pleasure of the chase, which J. L. Austin nonchalantly appealed to many years before the Research Assessment Exercise was inaugurated. (shrink)
In a recent paper in this journal, 'Pictures, Colour and Resemblance', Michael Newall criticizes my views about how colours are depicted. In this reply, I set out my views and then discuss Newall's criticism of them.
Thirteen leading contributors offer new essays in honour of the eminent philosopher and Wittgenstein scholar Peter Hacker. They discuss issues in the interpretation of Wittgenstein, investigate central topics in the history of analytic philosophy, and explore and assess Wittgensteinian ideas about language, mind, action, ethics, and religion.
What is the difference between the changes in your body that you yourself cause personally, such as the movements of your legs when you walk, or your lips when you speak, and the ones you do not cause personally, such as the contraction of your heart, or your foot bobbing up and down when your legs are crossed? Since the seventeenth century, most philosophers have said that will or intention makes the difference. I reject this answer and propose an alternative (...) that doesn't just apply to animals capable of having intentions, but to all agents with functionally differentiated parts. (shrink)
In this article, John Hyman argues that beauty does not consist in mathematical perfection; that Hume was mistaken in claiming that beauty exists only in the mind; that we can discover what is really beautiful by learning to give reasons for our preferences; and that some things in the world are beautiful—probably many more than we imagine.
I read Ernst Gombrichâ€™s wonderful book Art and Illusion in 1981. Iâ€™d completed my BA a few months earlier, and I was spending a year in Geneva on a scholarship, before returning to Oxford to begin the BPhil. The topic in philosophy that interested me most at that time was perception, and I was struck by the extent to which Gombrichâ€™s arguments relied on views about visual perception that he had inherited from the Helmholtzian tradition in psychology, and therefore indirectly (...) from Locke and Kant. I thought that arguments in the philosophy of perception exposed serious mistakes and confusions in this tradition, and that they could therefore shed important light on the fascinating questions about pictorial art that Gombrich discussed in his book. (shrink)