I argue that the most promising approach to understanding J.J. Gibson's "affordances" takes affordances themselves as ontological primitives, instead of treating them as dispositional properties of more primitive things, events, surfaces, or substances. These latter are best treated as coalescences of affordances present in the environment (or "coalescences of use-potential," as in Sanders (1994) and Hilditch (1995)). On this view, even the ecological approach's stress on the complementary organism/environment pair is seen as expressing a particular affordance relation between the world (...) and the analyst. That the world is parsed in any way among events and objects, perceivers and worlds, etc., reflects equally features of certain real or possible perspectives on the world and features of the world itself. In section 1, I begin by contending that, contrary to the apparent expectations of some in the field, the bare existence of affordances is surely quite uncontroversial. In section 2, I argue that the most reasonable approach to foundational ontology is a relativistic one. In section 3, I address the claim that affordances must be ontologically complemented by effectivities for the sake of completeness, and I shall argue against that claim on grounds that I take to reflect some of Gibson's most important insights. This work will help to clarify the way affordances are to be used in the fourth and final section, where I argue that ontological work, even within special sciences, should not be merely "regional," and that the most attractive general approach to ontological questions is one that is based on affordances, rather than upon things, events, surfaces, and the like. (shrink)
John Taurek has argued that, where choices must be made between alternatives that affect different numbers of people, the numbers are not, by themselves, morally relevant. This is because we "must" take "losses-to" the persons into account (and these don't sum), but "must not" consider "losses-of" persons (because we must not treat persons like objects). I argue that the numbers are always ethically relevant, and that they may sometimes be the decisive consideration.
While there are numerous differences between the approaches taken by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and James J. Gibson, the basic motivation of the two thinkers, as well as the internal logic of their respective views, is extraordinarily close. Both were guided throughout their lives by an attempt to overcome the dualism of subject and object, and both devoted considerable attention to their "Gestaltist" predecessors. There can be no doubt but that it is largely because of this common cause that the subsequent development (...) of their ideas is so similar. It is not my objective in what follows merely to demonstrate a similarity between two lines of thought. Instead, I will try to show that each approach gains considerably from attention to the other. There are numerous ways to begin such a project, each about as arbitrary as the next. For present purposes, I shall take as of central importance the question of the character of the perceived world, both in relation to the traditionally opposed mental and material "substances", and in relation to its identification and individuation of things vis a vis one another and vis a vis ourselves. This will implicate especially Gibson's "affordances" and Merleau-Ponty's thesis concerning the "materiality of meaning.". (shrink)
There is a great deal that might be said about justice in property claims. The strategy that I shall employ focuses attention upon the initial acquisition of property -- the most sensitive and most interesting area of property theory. Every theory that discusses property claims favorably assumes that there is some justification for transforming previously unowned resources into property. It is often this assumption which has seemed, to one extent or another, to be vulnerable to attack by critics of particular (...) justifications of property. Nevertheless, this assumption is frequently left undefended by property theorists, and where it is defended, the defense is often remarkably weak. That some initial claim to property be defensible is required by any theory which holds that certain present distributions may be justified, that certain transfers of property are justified, or that restitution ought to be made for previous injustice in transfer or acquisition. The initial acquisition of property, and its justification, is crucial to the remainder of property theory. (shrink)
This book consists of the edited proceedings of a debate among Jurgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Leszek Kolakowski that was held in Warsaw in May of 1995. It includes also commentary from those in attendance, including extensive remarks by Ernest Gellner. The debate marked the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and focussed primarily on topics related to historicism and cultural relativism.
As complicated an affair as it may be to give a fully acceptable general characterization of professional codes of ethics that will capture every nuance, one theme that has attracted widespread attention portrays them as contrivances whose primary function is to secure certain obligations of professionals to clients, or to the external community. In contrast to such an "externalist" characterization of professional codes, it has occasionally been contended that, first and foremost, they should be understood as internal conventions, adopted among (...) professionals as a device for securing the "interests" of the professionals themselves. In what follows, I will argue that both of these lines are incomplete. As important as service to the community and the interests of professionals may be in the full understanding of the multiple role that "codes of ethics" play in many professions, it is equally important to see them as expressive of the romance of a profession. Professional codes should be understood not only in terms of their utility to the community, or in terms of their utility to practitioners, but as expressions of callings. Analyses of professional codes of ethics that do not take into consideration their role in evoking the romance of a professional calling are thus not entirely adequate. Professional standards and codes can be fully understood only if one appreciates that they are designed to contribute to and evoke feelings of dignity, self-worth-and, for better or for worse, even the superiority--of the professionals themselves; the code may seem to them to express essential features of what the profession really is. (shrink)
In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick argues, first, that free-market anarchism is unstable -that it will inevitably lead back to the state; and, second, that without a certain "redistributive" proviso, the model is unjust. If either of these things is the case, the model defeats itself, for its justification purports to be that it provides a morally acceptable alternative to government (and therefore to the state). I argue, against Nozick's contention, that his "dominant protection agency" neither meets his monopoly (...) condition for statehood nor need run afowl of his redistributive requirement. This being the case, his argument against free market anarchism fails. (shrink)
I try in this essay to accomplish two things. First I offer some first thoughts toward a clarification of the ethical foundations of private property rights that avoids pitfalls common to more strictly Lockean theories, and is thus better prepared to address arguments posed by critics of standard private property arrangements. Second, I'll address one critical argument that has become pretty common over the years. While versions of the argument can be traced back at least to Pierre Joseph Proudhon, I'll (...) focus on a formulation given it by Jeremy Waldron. The basic idea is that the only sound arguments for private property rights lead to the conclusion that society has an obligation to insure that every citizen possess private property. In Waldron's formulation, what is justifiable is a general, rather than a special, right to private property. I shall try to suggest that this conclusion is unwarranted. (shrink)
This collection addresses the central issue of political philosophy or, in a couple of cases, issues very close to the heart of that question: Is government justified? This ancient question has never been more alive than at the present time, in the midst of continuing political and social upheaval in virtually every part of the world. Only two of the pieces collected here have been published previously. All the other contributions were, at the time of the inception of the volume, (...) fresh from the pens, or still to emerge from the pens, of their authors. (shrink)
My objective in this paper is to address a handful of issues that typically get raised in discussions of philosophical anarchism. Some of these issues arise in discussions among partisans of anarchism, and some are more likely to be raised in efforts to defend the state against its opponents. My hope is to focus the argument in such a way as to make clearer the main issues that are at stake from the point of view of at least one version (...) of philosophical anarchism. (shrink)
Against David Schenck's interpretation, I argue that it is not absolutely clear that Merleau-Ponty ever meant to replace what Schenck refers to as the "unity of meanings" interpretation of "structure" with a "material meanings" interpretation. A particular problem-setting -- for example, an attempt to understand the "truth in naturalism" or the "truth in dualism" -- may very well require a particular mode of expression. I argue that the mode of expression chosen by Merleau-Ponty for these purposes, while unfortunate in some (...) of its apparent implications, need not be interpreted as recommitting him to the doctrine he spent his life working to renounce. I have argued that this would have been clearer had he been able to avail himself of James J. Gibson's notion of affordances, which capture perfectly what he was reaching for. (shrink)
Interest in "embodiment", and over how one may best express the implications of embodiment, is no parochial question, of interest only to a small number of effete philosophers. It confronts perceptual psychologists, developmental psychologists, and psychotherapists, of course. It may not be surprising, either, that it has become an important issue to some students of history and sociology, and to linguists, literary theorists and aestheticians. But that's not all. As physicists -- working within the very bastion of "objective" analysis -- (...) have tried to find expression for what seems to be going on in the domain of sub-atomic nature, they have begun to suggest that physical description itself is inevitably situated. And within the study of artificial intelligence, support is growing for the contention that intelligence cannot be understood entirely formalistically. Intelligence must at least be embodied -- it must somehow display "engaged agency" -- if it is to be recognizable as intelligence. It is within this context that the contribution offered by this essay must be understood. I shall contend that a particular conception -- that of "affordances" -- can, when suitably qualified, offer a conceptual tool of quite exceptional value in the construction of a positive theory of embodied agency, and of its philosophical consequences. (shrink)
Cognitive science is ready for a major reconceptualization. This is not at all because efforts by its practitioners have failed, but rather because so much progress has been made. The need for reconceptualization arises from the fact that this progress has come at greater cost than necessary, largely because of more or less philosophical (at least metatheoretical) straightjackets still worn - whether wittingly or not - by those doing the work. These bonds are extremely hard to break. Even some of (...) those who have directed powerful arguments against them have failed entirely to shake them off. The bonds are often attributed to the work of René Descartes, but they are really much older than that. If even in the present effort, I fail entirely to remove the straightjacket myself (even though I am making every attempt to get it off), this will testify to its tight grip. The straightjacket I am thinking about, of course, is the vague picture of the human situation that imagines centralized, internal minds in control of bodily machines. While almost no one in the contemporary cognitive science arena imagines minds to be the kind of thing Descartes took them to be - instantiations of a unique, fully non-material substance - there is nevertheless a deep resistance, even among the most fervent professed "materialists," to giving up this picture. In what follows, I shall try to offer an approach which on the one hand capitalizes on the excellent progress that has been made in cognitive science in the last few decades, and which on the other hand offers a general approach that may help at some level in the attempt to shake "Cartesian" bonds. The approach, as the alert reader already knows from the title of the essay, is an "ecological" approach. (shrink)
My objective is to offer at least a rough sketch of a new model for understanding time. Since many people are quite content with the model they have, I will try to show why a new model might be desirable or necessary. The exposition will be broken down into three parts. In the first part, I’ll try to show that no one has ever experienced time as such. In the second part, I shall argue that one good reason for this (...) is that there is no such thing as time as such. Finally, in the third part, I’ll try to reassemble what’s left of the conception of time after all this demolition, and I’ll offer a positive model (albeit rather vague) of what I prefer to call “temporality”. The exposition will follow lines familiar to contemporary students of time, but will, I hope, lead to conclusions that are at least modestly novel. (shrink)
George Berkeley's apparently strange view – that nothing exists without a mind except for minds themselves – is notorious. Also well known, and equally perplexing at a superficial level, is his insistence that his doctrine is no more than what is consistent with common sense. It was every bit as crucial for Berkeley that it be demonstrated that the colors are really in the tulip, as that there is nothing that is neither a mind nor something perceived by a mind. (...) In what follows, I shall attempt to re-examine Berkeley's argument in terms of what it appears to have meant to him. I am especially interested in the connection between Berkeley's thought concerning the relation between perception and metaphysics and that of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, with whom, perhaps surprisingly, Berkeley shared a great many intuitions and concerns. Thus part of my objective is to compare and contrast the work of two thinkers who had many common interests, and whose thought frequently led them down similar paths. I shall be especially interested in apparent points of departure, both those that turn out to reflect real divergences and those which reflect confusions of one kind or another. My main objective, however, is not mere textual analysis. Like both Berkeley and Merleau-Ponty, my main hope is to make progress in clarifying how things are. As odd as some of Berkeley's pronouncements may sound to contemporary ears – concerning especially the metaphysical consequences of what he regarded as perceptual facts – I shall argue that, in substance, he was often not far wrong at all – at least as measured by important strands of more contemporary work on the subject. More particularly, I shall contend that for going a long way down an extraordinarily fruitful path which has been subsequently explored more fully by (especially) Martin Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Nelson Goodman and Hilary Putnam, Berkeley deserves considerably more credit than he is usually accorded as a progenitor of contemporary approaches to metaphysical issues. (shrink)
Both professors and institutions of higher education benefit from a vision of academic life that is grounded more firmly in myth than in history. According to the myth created by that traditional vision, scholars pursue research wherever their drive to knowledge takes them, and colleges and universities transmit the fruits of that research to contemporary and future generations as the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Yet the economic and social forces operating on colleges and universities as institutions, as well as (...) on the interests of faculty members within them, are making the myth embodied in the traditional ideal of the academy more and more difficult to sustain. Questions about what an institution of higher education ought to be, about what professors ought to do, and about what relations professors ought to have to the institutions which employ them are being raised and pushed to the fore. These are not theoretical questions, but practical questions of immediate import that must be answered relatively quickly -- and wisely -- if institutions of higher education and professors are not to find themselves inextricably in the grip of forces they cannot change. The myth of disinterested academic research-however beautiful -- and however beneficial -- is under siege. (shrink)
In the midst of even the most tragic circumstances attending the aftermath of disaster, and co-existing with a host of complex emotions, arises a practical consideration: how might similar tragedies be prevented in the future? The complexity of such situations must not be neglected. More than mere prevention must usually be taken into consideration. But the practical question is of considerable importance. In what follows, I will offer some reasons for being concerned that efforts to fix the problem -- efforts, (...) that is, directed toward insuring that similar tragedies do not occur in the future -- can easily be obstructed by attempts to fix blame -- that is, efforts directed toward determining which agent among those involved is guilty of wrong-doing. This is the case, I shall contend, even where some agent or another really is guilty of wrong-doing. The problem is further complicated by a pervasive human tendency to imagine that some agent or another must be responsible in some way for any tragedy that occurs -- even when this is not really true -- but its influence is not at all limited to such cases. As I shall suggest, philosophical attitudes toward issues of determinism and free will may be implicated in the different approaches people take to the problem of assessing what has gone wrong in a particular case and how to fix it, but such deep philosophical problems need not be resolved here. The point is not that humans are never guilty of wrong-doing (since their actions, the argument might go, are all products of outside forces), but rather that whatever the case may be about guilt, tracking down guilty persons is a different business from fixing institutionally-embedded problems so as to lessen the likelihood of their recurrence. (shrink)
In this paper, I try to explain the philosophical problems that Niels Bohr felt had been exposed by the discovery of the "quantum of action," and by the emergence of the quantum theory that arose in large part as a result of his efforts. I won't have space to make the case adequately here, but my own view is that we have not yet fully digested the message brought to us by Bohr's "Copenhagen Interpretation" of Quantum Mechanics, and I suspect (...) that it will finally prove to be every bit as revolutionary as Bohr thought it was. (shrink)
This is a more detailed version of my "On 'Cuteness'", which appeared in the British Journal of Aesthetics in April 1992. For John Morreall, cuteness is an abstract general attribute of infants that causes adults to want to care for them (or which is the reason, or at least important reason, for such solicitousness). I shall try to show, in what follows, that this is, if not an altogether fallacious way of explaining the matter, at least an extremely misleading one. (...) As it stands, in particular, it is too easy to infer from Morreall's line of reasoning 1) that infants in general might conceivably never have developed cuteness, and 2) that infants, because of this deficiency, would then not be cared for as adequately by their parents. An equally wrong further implication, which further helps to express my difficulty with Morreall's formulation of the matter, would be that if baby spiders (for example) had happened to have the abstract general characteristic called 'cuteness', while human children did not have it, then human adults would have been more inclined to care for baby spiders than for baby humans. It is to avoid such oddities as these that, it seems to me, a further consideration of the problem is warranted. (shrink)
Benjamin Franklin's social and political thought was shaped by contacts with and knowledge of ancient aboriginal traditions. Indeed, a strong case can be made that key features of the social structure eventually outlined in the United States Constitution arose not from European sources, and not full-grown from the foreheads of European-American "founding fathers", but from aboriginal sources, communicated to the authors of the Constitution to a significant extent through Franklin. A brief sketch of the main argument to this effect is (...) offered in this essay. (shrink)
This paper examines the question of whether the theory of simply foreknowledge (SF) provides God with greater providential control than does the theory of present knowledge (PK). It is claimed by the proponents of SF that a deity lacking such knowledge would not be able to provide the sort of providential aid commonly thought by theists to be given by God. To see whether this is the case I first distinguish two different versions of how God’s foreknowledge is accessed according (...) to simple foreknowledge. These two versions are then utilized to examine seven different areas of divine providence to assess the utility of simple foreknowledge. I conclude that SF affords no greater providential control than PK. (shrink)
I examine the claim that the underlying importance given to freedom within a society's scheme of values varies with historical circumstance and social context (I shall sometimes call this the "relativist claim"). The point of the examination will be to attempt to determine the manner in which, and the extent to which, this claim really endangers the liberal argument, which seems to suggest that freedom is valuable everywhere and always. It will be seen that several apparent challenges may be dismissed, (...) since for one reason or another they do not really threaten traditional liberalism. When these apparent (but non-threatening) challenges are pared away from the relativist claim, it will be seen that the remaining threat is on the one hand weaker, and on the other hand more dubious, than might have been supposed at first. This rather formal work will then set the stage for a proffered definition of the sort of "freedom" that is at stake in this discussion, and for my own attempt to offer answers to the questions about the value of freedom that I raise. (shrink)
In The Libertarian Idea, Jan Narveson explains his interpretation of social contract theory this way: "The general idea of this theory is that the principles of morality are (or should be) those principles for directing everyone's conduct which it is reasonable for everyone to accept. They are the rules that everyone has good reason for wanting everyone to act on, and thus to internalize in himself or herself, and thus to reinforce in the case of everyone." It is plain, here, (...) that Narveson believes that social contract is to provide justification -- a foundation, in fact -- for 'the principles of morality'. The burden assumed in this essay is to examine how far Narveson has succeeded in making this foundational claim plausible. (shrink)
If the term "relativism" is understood as relativists take it, everyone is a relativist. If, on the other hand, one understands "relativism" as absolutists do, no one really could consistently be a relativist, despite what they might think. As I hope to show, however, much of this positioning of persons and philosophies is foolish. It misses much that is important in philosophical discussion and focuses attention in directions that lead to dead ends.
This is a print on demand book and is therefore non- returnable. An exceptional, comprehensive work on the long- standing and much-debated question regarding the ultimate destiny of those who die without hearing the gospel. Sanders thoroughly examines the major positions that Christians throughout history have formulated, the spectrum ranging from restrictivism to universalism and including several in- between views. The discussion of each major view includes key biblical texts, theological considerations, leading defenders, an evaluation, and a historical bibliography. Foreword (...) by Clark H. Pinnock. (shrink)
Analyzing three key cases that arose in 1993, I argue that the practice of sending in "testers" -- persons posing as job applicants -- to ferret out workplace discrimination is easier to defend from an ethical standpoint in an agency's investigation stems from an actual complaint. By contrast, defendants may rightfully challenge the legitimacy of the procedures used for "test" subjects when an investigation is based solely on the general goals of an antidiscrimination agency.
Progress in the last few decades in what is widely known as “Chaos Theory” has plainly advanced understanding in the several sciences it has been applied to. But the manner in which such progress has been achieved raises important questions about scientific method and, indeed, about the very objectives and character of science. In this presentation, I hope to engage my audience in a discussion of several of these important new topics.
Sensation should be understood globally: some infant behaviors do not make sense on the model of separate senses; neonates of all species lack time to learn about the world by triangulating among different senses. Considerations of natural selection favor a global understanding; and the global interpretation is not as opposed to traditional work on sensation as might seem.
In response to Professor Rorty’s reaction to Professor Habermas’s paper in this symposium, I confess that I am still not sure I understand Rorty’s hostility to ideals such as the ideal of truth. Such ideals as the ideal of truth -- and ideals like those of reason and morality surely stand and fall with the ideal of truth -- seem plainly to have an enormous pragmatic value. They lure us out of our too-constrained, too-limited ethnocentric or idiosyncratic frames of reference. (...) It is always possible, of course, that such ideals may be abused; they have frequently been deployed, in particular, as clubs used to beat down views and modes of behavior that are threatening or otherwise disliked. But they need not be abused. Their proven and potential value is quite extraordinary. They offer us standards which pay explicit respect to the principle that the criteria we use for evaluating ideas and modes of behavior should be nonethnocentric and nonidiosyncratic. They offer us standards that we can appeal to in luring ourselves or others to step outside of our relatively narrow present points of view here and now and toward a broader perspective that can serve us better tomorrow and elsewhere. (shrink)
Harry Heft's Ecological Psychology in Context is an important book in many ways. For one thing, it adds considerably to our understanding of the historical background of J.J. Gibson's thought. But more than that, Heft aims to place ecological psychology not just historically, but philosophically. He says "This volume shows that radical empiricism stands at the heart of Gibson's ecological program, and it can usefully be employed as the conceptual centerpiece for ecological psychology more broadly construed" (p. xvi). While I (...) was impressed with Harry's argument to this effect, I'm not yet entirely persuaded. In these brief remarks I'll try to explain why. (shrink)
Ksiazka Roberta Paula Wolfa Apologia anarchizmu, ktora ukazala sie w roku 1970, stala sie niezwyklym wydarzeniem w rozwoju dwudziestowiecznej filozofii zachodniej: oto bowiem szacowny filozof, reprezentujacy (mniej wiecej) glowny nurt swej dziedziny, przedstawial argumenty zyczliwe wobec anarchizmu.
Risk is not always nasty. Risk can be the cost of opportunity, of course; but sometimes risk is regarded not as a cost at all, but as a close attendant of pleasure. Many things that people invest considerable time and resources in would not be pursued at all if not for the attendant risk. Attempting to offer clarification of the role that risk plays in human affairs is thus itself a risky business. People largely want to avoid unnecessary risk except (...) when they deliberately seek it out. One might be tempted to say that people are funny that way. In what follows, I shall attempt to undermine the temptation to say this. I shall argue that there is nothing at all odd or funny about the fact that people are sometimes drawn to and sometimes repelled by risk. I would contend, further, that a clear understanding of the way value enters human affairs not only allows but requires this. (shrink)
Pragmatists, as I understand them, have their own view of what truth and progress are. William James, quite famously, offered a straightforward pragmatic definition of truth. In rejecting in general the idea of truth, Richard Rorty indicates thereby a rejection of this part of the pragmatic tradition. Perhaps Professor Rorty can clarify, in his response, what stops a pragmatist -- armed with the pragmatic definition of truth -- from saying that progress toward the truth was made (for example) through the (...) Copernican revolution in astronomy. (shrink)
What characterizes most technical or theoretical accounts of memory is their reliance upon an internal storage model. Psychologists and neurophysiologists have suggested neural traces (either dynamic or static) as the mechanism for this storage, and designers of artificial intelligence have relied upon the same general model, instantiated magnetically or electronically instead of neurally, to do the same job. Both psychology and artificial intelligence design have heretofore relied, without much question, upon the idea that memory is to be understood as a (...) matter of internal storage. In what follows, I shall first sketch the most important reasons for skepticism about this model, and I shall then propose an outline of an alternative way of talking about memory. This will provide an appropriate framework for suggesting a few implications for future work in artificial intelligence. (shrink)
Freedom is generated in at least two distinct ways: as the ability to avoid perceived dangers and pursue perceived goods, and even to pursue complicated plans in those directions, freedom evolves. But as a social and political matter, freedom seems more subject to human will. The best social institutions -- the kind that serve to encourage or constrain freedom of choice -- also appear to be evolutionary products in some sense. Can there be too much freedom? Of course there can. (...) No constraint at all would guarantee personal and social disaster. Individual activity can pose serious dangers to nature and to culture. But how may we ensure that the constraints we may chose to impose our ones that are good for us? What we need to do is to find, as consistently as possible with the necessity that human individuals be able to use their local perception of local opportunity in pursuit of their own interests, a framework that emerges out of human practice; we should take advantage of lessons learned about evolution: those strategies work that are in tune with the forces at work within the niche. In our attempts to solve social problems, we can't afford to take our eyes off the characteristics of the individuals that make up the social world we hope to change. And in my view, here as elsewhere, the smallest intervention is likely to be the best. (shrink)
The most important voices concerning the changes now occurring in Central and Eastem Europe are those that come from within, for those voices are informed not only by indifferent data and objective reports, but by personal hopes, fears, desires and needs. Without careful consideration of what such voices say, judgment can only be sterile. Furthermore, policy decisions made without the benefit of the intemal perspective are likely to be flawed, and ineffectual. Policies won’t work if they do not take into (...) account the point of view of those who are supposed to be affected by them. There nevertheless remains an important role for outsiders to play in the discussion of the impact of political change on the future of philosophical thought, especially if the outside perspective can serve as a test of the internal view. (shrink)
György Lukács first published the original Hungarian language version of Soul and Form in 1910. It included eight of the ten essays later to be published in subsequent German, Italian, and English editions. This current centennial edition adds to the mix one additional Lukács essay, "On Poverty of Spirit", written at roughly the same time as the others and bearing a vital relationship to them. Finally, in this edition we have added to the Lukács material an important introductory essay by (...) Judith Butler, as well as a concluding essay, by Katie Terezakis, which draws out connections between the Lukácsian concept of form and its elaboration and critique in Lukács’s own work and in works of critical theory and philosophy up to the present. (shrink)
People have been arguing about natural law for at least a couple of thousand years now. During that time, a number of substantially different sorts of theory have been identified as falling within the natural law tradition. Even within each sort of natural law theory, there has been a variety of quite different arguments proposed, both in behalf of and in opposition to the theory. These facts about the natural law tradition serve to confound its critics. It's extremely tough to (...) get a tidy formulation of just what natural law theory is, and such a formulation is needed if the theory is to be analyzed as to its adequacy, truth, value, or whatever. I am going to try to perform such an analysis nonetheless, and to do it as neatly as possible within a fairly short space. (shrink)
John Morreall argues that “ . . . cuteness was probably essential in human evolution” because “ . . . our emotional and behavioral response . . . to cute things . . . has had survival value for the human race.” Cuteness, for Morreall, is an abstract general attribute of infants that causes adults to want to care for them (or which is the reason, or at least an important reason, for such solicitousness). I try to show that this (...) is, if not an altogether fallacious way of explaining the matter, at least an extremely misleading one. (shrink)
Stanislaw Lesniewski’s interests were, for the most part, more philosophical than mathematical. Prior to taking his doctorate at Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov, Lesniewski had spent time at several continental universities, apparently becoming relatively attached to the philosophy of one of his teachers, Hans Comelius, to the chapters of John Stuart Mill’s System of Logic that dealt specifically with semantics, and, in general, to studies of general grammar and philosophy of language. In these several early interests are already to be (...) found the roots of the work that was to occupy Lesniewski’s life: a search for a definitive doctrine of what sorts of things there are in the world, or better, of what language must be like if it is adequately and efficiently to represent the world. (shrink)
For John Morreall, cuteness is an abstract general attribute of infants that causes adults to want to care for them (or which is the reason, or at least important reason, for such solicitousness). I shall try to show, in what follows, that this is, if not an altogether fallacious way of explaining the matter, at least an extremely misleading one. As it stands, in particular, it is too easy to infer from Morreall's line of reasoning 1) that infants in general (...) might conceivably never have developed cuteness, and 2) that infants, because of this deficiency, would then not be cared for as adequately by their parents. An equally wrong further implication, which further helps to express my difficulty with Morreall's formulation of the matter, would be that if baby spiders (for example) had happened to have the abstract general characteristic called 'cuteness', while human children did not have it, then human adults would have been more inclined to care for baby spiders than for baby humans. It is to avoid such oddities as these that, it seems to me, a further consideration of the problem is warranted. (shrink)
Which risks are bad? This is not an easy question to answer in any non-circular way. Not only are risks sought out for various reasons, but risks are plainly discounted in many situations. What may seem "risky" when examined all by itself, may not seem risky when encountered in a real lived situation. Thus risks that are imposed by others, in particular, might seem horrendous when considered in abstraction, but quite acceptable when encountered in life. What we need to do, (...) among other things, is to examine this "seeming." Are people being deluded or distracted when they fail to take seriously the riskiness of activities undertaken by others, or does this make some rational sense? There can be no doubt that people sometimes are deluded, of course. We are all fallible. But risks are not unalloyed evils. They are typically taken because of their association with something positive. So questions about whether people are making wise judgments when they don’t care about certain risks that they take, or, on the other side of the coin, when they become absolutely hysterical when confronted with a risk that appears to others to be insignificant, hinge on a web of further factors. (shrink)
I begin this essay with a notion of "authority" that makes a sharp distinction between authority and power, and grant that such authority is not only legitimate, but perhaps even necessary in human affairs. I then trace the devaluation of this idea through varying degrees of institutionalization, culminating in its political cooptation. I argue, finally, that what goes by the name of political authority is the very antithesis of the legitimate and necessary element that we began with.
While I strongly agree with Patrick Grim that abstract relationships are real, and that it is possible to get them right, the danger that we will get them wrong is just as real. The use of visual representation of abstract phenomena, precisely because of our predilection to see patterns in everything and because we don't have to think so hard about visible representations generally, may lead us to see things that aren't there.
György Lukacs was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, writer, and literary critic who shaped mainstream European Communist thought. _Soul and Form_ was his first book, published in 1910, and it established his reputation, treating questions of linguistic expressivity and literary style in the works of Plato, Kierkegaard, Novalis, Sterne, and others. By isolating the formal techniques these thinkers developed, Lukács laid the groundwork for his later work in Marxist aesthetics, a field that introduced the historical and political implications of text. For (...) this centennial edition, John T. Sanders and Katie Terezakis add a dialogue entitled "On Poverty of Spirit," which Lukács wrote at the time of _Soul and Form_, and an introduction by Judith Butler, which compares Lukács's key claims to his later work and subsequent movements in literary theory and criticism. In an afterword, Terezakis continues to trace the Lukácsian system within his writing and other fields. These essays explore problems of alienation and isolation and the curative quality of aesthetic form, which communicates both individuality and a shared human condition. They investigate the elements that give rise to form, the history that form implies, and the historicity that form embodies. Taken together, they showcase the breakdown, in modern times, of an objective aesthetics, and the rise of a new art born from lived experience. (shrink)