Landscapes of Wisdom seeks wisdom in contemporary thought. The author, as scholar, and seeker, examines scientific, religious and literary writings, to synthesize a way of knowing accessible to the modern mind, an intellectual path meeting the challenge of science with an equally universal message that speaks of the world and its workings, but also of transcendence and the deepest core of human experience.
Jonas Olson presents a critical survey of moral error theory, the view that there are no moral facts and so all moral claims are false. Part I explores the historical context of the debate; Part II assesses J. L. Mackie's famous arguments; Part III defends error theory against challenges and considers its implications for our moral thinking.
Jonas Olson writes that "a plausible moral error theory must be an error theory about all irreducible normativity". I agree. But unlike Olson, I think we cannot believe this error theory. I first argue that Olson should say that reasons for belief are irreducibly normative. I then argue that if reasons for belief are irreducibly normative, we cannot believe an error theory about all irreducible normativity. I then explain why I think Olson's objections to this argument fail. I end (...) by showing that Olson cannot defend his view as a partly revisionary alternative to an error theory about all irreducible normativity. (shrink)
Technology and responsibility: reflections on the new tasks of ethics.--Jewish and Christian elements in philosophy: their share in the emergence of the modern mind.--Seventeenth century and after: the meaning of the scientific and technological revolution.--Socio-economic knowledge and ignorance of goals.--Philosophical reflections on experimenting with human subjects.--Against the stream: comments on the definition and redefinition of death.--Biological engineering--a preview--Contemporary problems in ethics from a Jewish perspective.--Biological foundations of individuality.--Spinoza and the theory of organism.--Sight and thought: a review of "visual thinking."--Change and (...) permanence: on the possibility of understanding history.--The gnostic syndrome: typology of its thought, imagination, and mood.--The hymn of the pearl: case study of a symbol, and the claims for a Jewish origin of gnosticism.--Myth and mysticism: a study of objectification and interiorization in religious thought.--Origen's metaphysics of free will, fall, and salvation: a "divine comedy" of the universe.--The soul in gnosticism and Plotinus.--The abyss of the will: philosophical meditations on the seventh chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans. (shrink)
My aim in this essay is largely defensive. I aim to discuss some problems for moral error theory and to offer plausible solutions. A full positive defense of moral error theory would require substantial investigations of rival metaethical views, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. I will, however, try to motivate moral error theory and to clarify its commitments. Moral error theorists typically accept two claims – one conceptual and one ontological – about moral facts. The conceptual (...) claim is that moral facts are or entail facts about categorical reasons (and correspondingly that moral claims are or entail claims about categorical reasons); the ontological claim is that there are no categorical reasons – and consequently no moral facts – in reality. I accept this version of moral error theory and I try to unpack what it amounts to in Section 2.1 In the course of doing so I consider two preliminary objections: that moral error theory is (probably) false because its implications are intuitively unacceptable (what I call the Moorean objection) and that the general motivation for moral error theory is self-undermining in that it rests on a hidden appeal to norms. The above characterization seems to entail the standard formulation of moral error theory, according to which first-order moral claims are uniformly false. Critics have argued that the standard formulation is incoherent since – by the law of excluded middle – the negation of a false claim is true. Hence if ‘Torture is wrong’ is false, ‘Torture is not wrong’ is true. Contrary to what moral error theorists contend, then, moral error theory seems to carry first-order moral implications that by the theory’s own lights are uniformly false. In Section 3 I suggest a formulation that is consistent with the standard formulation of moral error theory, free of first-order moral implications, and subject to no logical difficulties. In Section 4 I consider and rebut Stephen Finlay’s recent attack on moral error theory. According to Finlay the conceptual claim is false because all moral claims – and indeed all normative claims – are, or should be understood as, relativized to some moral standard or system of ends. Moral error theorists thus attribute to ordinary speakers an error that simply isn’t there. I argue that Finlay’s view has some very implausible implications and that it does not avoid commitment to various forms of error theory. This becomes especially clear when we focus on fundamental moral claims. In Section 5 I consider the worry that error theorists’ rejection of categorical reasons proves too much; in particular, the worry that error theorists’ qualms about categorical reasons apply equally to claims about hypothetical reasons, that is, claims to the effect that there is reason to take the means to one’s ends. In my view error theorists such as Mackie and Joyce have failed to pay due consideration to this problem. What the challenge establishes, I submit, is that error theorists cannot just take for granted that hypothetical reasons are metaphysically unproblematic; they must offer an account of hypothetical reasons that shows that they are. I argue that the only plausible account available to error theorists is one according to which claims about hypothetical reasons reduce to non-normative claims about relations between means and ends. (shrink)
Moral particularism is commonly presented as an alternative to ‘principle- or rule-based’ approaches to ethics, such as consequentialism or Kantianism. This paper argues that particularists' aversions to consequentialism stem not from a structural feature of consequentialism per se, but from substantial and structural axiological views traditionally associated with consequentialism. Given a particular approach to value, there need be no conflict between moral particularism and consequentialism. We consider and reject a number of challenges holding that there is after all such a (...) conflict. We end by suggesting that our proposed position appears quite appealing since it preserves attractive elements from particularism as well as consequentialism. (shrink)
According to T.M. Scanlon's buck-passing account of value, to be valuable is not to possess intrinsic value as a simple and unanalysable property, but rather to have other properties that provide reasons to take up an attitude in favour of their owner or against it. The 'wrong kind of reasons' objection to this view is that we may have reasons to respond for or against something without this having any bearing on its value. The challenge is to explain why such (...) reasons are of the wrong kind. This is what I set out to do, after illustrating the objection more thoroughly. (shrink)
I argue that recent attempts to deflect Access Problems for realism about a priori domains such as mathematics, logic, morality, and modality using arguments from evolution result in two kinds of explanatory overkill: the Access Problem is eliminated for contentious domains, and realist belief becomes viciously immune to arguments from dispensability, and to non-rebutting counter-arguments more generally.
Jonas Olson defends a moral error theory in (2014). I will first argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral nonnaturalism in his own opinion. I will then argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral contextualism either (although the latter is not a matter of his own opinion).
Can art, religion, or philosophy afford ineffable insights? If so, what are they? The idea of ineffability has puzzled philosophers from Laozi to Wittgenstein. In Ineffability and its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in Art, Religion and Philosophy, Silvia Jonas examines different ways of thinking about what ineffable insights might involve metaphysically, and shows which of these are in fact incoherent. Jonas discusses the concepts of ineffable properties and objects, ineffable propositions, ineffable content, and ineffable knowledge, examining the metaphysical pitfalls (...) involved in these concepts. Ultimately, she defends the idea that ineffable insights as found in aesthetic, religious, and philosophical contexts are best understood in terms of self-acquaintance, a particular kind of non-propositional knowledge. Ineffability as a philosophical topic is as old as the history of philosophy itself, but contributions to the exploration of ineffability have been sparse. The theory developed by Jonas makes the concept tangible and usable in many different philosophical contexts. (shrink)
A classic of phenomenology and existentialism and arguably Jonas's greatest work, The Phenomenon of Life sets forth a systematic and comprehensive philosophy -- an existential interpretation of biological facts laid out in support of Jonas ...
The so-called Wrong Kind of Reason (WKR) problem for Scanlon's account of value has been much discussed recently. In a recent issue of Utilitas Gerald Lang provides a highly useful critique of extant proposed solutions to the WKR problem and suggests a novel solution of his own. In this note I offer a critique of Lang's solution and respond to some criticisms Lang directs at a Brentano-style approach suggested by Sven Danielsson and me.
The existence of fundamental moral disagreements is a central problem for moral realism and has often been contrasted with an alleged absence of disagreement in mathematics. However, mathematicians do in fact disagree on fundamental questions, for example on which set-theoretic axioms are true, and some philosophers have argued that this increases the plausibility of moral vis-à-vis mathematical realism. I argue that the analogy between mathematical and moral disagreement is not as straightforward as those arguments present it. In particular, I argue (...) that pluralist accounts of mathematics render fundamental mathematical disagreements compatible with mathematical realism in a way in which moral disagreements and moral realism are not. 11. (shrink)
This paper questions the adequacy of the explicit cancellability test for conversational implicature as it is commonly understood. The standard way of understanding this test relies on two assumptions: first, that that one can test whether a certain content is conversationally implicated, by checking whether that content is cancellable, and second, that a cancellation is successful only if it results in a felicitous utterance. While I accept the first of these assumptions, I reject the second one. I argue that a (...) cancellation can succeed even if it results in an infelicitous utterance, and that unless we take this possibility into account we run the risk of misdiagnosing philosophically significant cases. (shrink)
The Received View on quantum non-individuality is, roughly speaking, the view according to which quantum objects are not individuals. It seems clear that the RV finds its standard expression nowadays through the use of the formal apparatuses of non-reflexive logics, mainly quasi-set theory. In such logics, the relation of identity is restricted, so that it does not apply for terms denoting quantum particles; this “lack of identity” formally characterizes their non-individuality. We face then a dilemma: on the one hand, identity (...) seems too important to be given up, on the other hand the RV seems to require that identity be given up. In this paper we shall discuss how the specific characterization of the RV through non-reflexive logics came to be framed. We examine some of the main objections to this version of the RV and argue that they are misguided under this specific “non-reflexive” understanding of the RV. Finally, we shall also argue that this non-reflexive view is not the only option for a metaphysical articulation of the RV: less radical approaches to identity and logic are open. In particular, some of these alternative approaches to the RV we present may be immune to most of the criticisms presented against the non-reflexive approach. (shrink)
Jonas' philosophical biology is an attempt to overcome the dualism, i.e., the alienation between man and world, which characterizes both Gnostic thinking and the Heiddegerian existentialist approach that Jonas had applied in its interpretation. This dualism leads both approaches to despise or, at least, to neglect nature.Jonas' philosophical biology is intended to provide an insight into the phenomenon of life that is more than a mere reflection of scientific epistemology. Rather, it regards itself as a cognitively significant (...) approach towards the living in its own right. At the same time, philosophical biology is not intended as an alternative to the scientific enterprise, but instead as a desirable and even necessary complement of it. In developing philosophical biology, Jonas additionally aims at securing a place for man in the order of the living that is more than just locating him somewhere in the order of primates. (shrink)
Ontic Structural Realism is a version of realism about science according to which by positing the existence of structures, understood as basic components of reality, one can resolve central difficulties faced by standard versions of scientific realism. Structures are invoked to respond to two important challenges: one posed by the pessimist meta-induction and the other by the underdetermination of metaphysics by physics, which arises in non-relativistic quantum mechanics. We argue that difficulties in the proper understanding of what a structure is (...) undermines the realist component of the view. Given the difficulties, either realism should be dropped or additional metaphysical components not fully endorsed by science should be incorporated. (shrink)
In a recent article published in this journal, Kris McDaniel proposes a variant of Peter van Inwagen’s argument against the principle of sufficient reason that makes crucial use of plural grounding. In this response paper I object to McDaniel’s argument. I argue that there is no notion of plural grounding available that is both irreflexive in the sense required for the argument to go through and general enough to formulate the principle of sufficient reason as proposed by McDaniel.
The article deals with present day challenges related to the employ of technology in order to reduce the exposition of the human being to the risks and vulnerability of his or her existential condition. According to certain transhumanist and posthumanist thinkers, as well as some supporters of human enhancement, essential features of the human being, such as vulnerability and mortality, ought to be thoroughly overcome. The aim of this article is twofold: on the one hand, we wish to carry out (...) an enquiry into the ontological and ethical thinking of Hans Jonas, who was among the first to address these very issues with great critical insight; on the other hand, we endeavour to highlight the relevance of Jonas’ reflections to current challenges related to bioscience and biotechnological progress. In this regard, we believe that the transcendent and metaphysical relevance of the «image of man» introduced by Jonas is of paramount importance to understand his criticism against those attempts to ameliorate the human being by endangering his or her essence. (shrink)
We discuss the idea that superpositions in quantum mechanics may involve contradictions or contradictory properties. A state of superposition such as the one comprised in the famous Schrödinger’s cat, for instance, is sometimes said to attribute contradictory properties to the cat: being dead and alive at the same time. If that were the case, we would be facing a revolution in logic and science, since we would have one of our greatest scientific achievements showing that real contradictions exist.We analyze that (...) claim by employing the traditional square of opposition.We suggest that it is difficult to make sense of the idea of contradiction in the case of quantum superpositions. From a metaphysical point of view the suggestion also faces obstacles, and we present some of them. (shrink)
Contextualism about vagueness (hereafter ‘Contextualism’) is the view that vagueness consists in a particular species of context-sensitivity and that properly accommodating this fact into our semantic theory will yield a plausible solution to the sorites paradox., But Contextualism, as many commentators have noted, faces the following immediate objection: if we hold the context fixed, vagueness still remains, therefore vagueness is not a species of context-sensitivity. Call this ‘the simple objection’. Absent a convincing reply to the simple objection, Contextualism is in (...) very bad shape. Oddly enough, defenders of Contextualism have said very little in reply. Proponents of the objection have tended to assume that this is because no reply is in the offing—the simple objection is taken to be unassailable. In this short paper, we sketch two replies to the simple objection which result in two very different kinds of Contextualism: Epistemicist Contextualism and Radical Contextualism. With these two theories in hand, the simple objection loses its force. (shrink)
Let intentionalism be the view that what proposition is expressed in context by a sentence containing indexicals depends on the speaker’s intentions. It has recently been argued that intentionalism makes communicative success mysterious and that there are counterexamples to the intentionalist view in the form of cases of mismatch between the intended interpretation and the intuitively correct interpretation. In this paper, I argue that these objections can be met, once we acknowledge that we may distinguish what determines the correct interpretation (...) from the evidence that is available to the audience, as well as from the standards by which we judge whether or not a given interpretation is reasonable. With these distinctions in place, we see that intentionalism does not render communicative success mysterious, and that cases of mismatch between the intended interpretation and the intuitively correct one can easily be accommodated. The distinction is also useful in treating the Humpty Dumpty problem for intentionalism, since it turns out that this can be treated as an extreme special case of mismatch. (shrink)
This article addresses the growing industry of retail socially responsible investment (SRI) profiled mutual funds. Very few previous studies have examined the final consumer of SRI profiled mutual funds. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to, in an exploratory manner, examine the impact of a number of pro-social, financial performance, and socio-demographic variables on SRI behavior in order to explain why investors choose to invest different proportions of their investment portfolio in SRI profiled funds. An ordinal logistic regression analysis (...) on 528 private investors revealed that two of the three pro-social variables had a positive impact on how much the consumer invested in SRI profiled funds. Moreover, there was proof of a non-altruistic motive for investing in SRI as consumers who perceive that financial return of SRI is equal or better than "regular" mutual funds, invested a greater proportion of their portfolio in SRI profiled mutual funds. Furthermore, the results showed that women and better-educated investors were more likely to invest a greater proportion of their investment portfolio in SRI. Overall, the findings indicate that both financial perceptions and pro-social attitudes are connected to consumer investment in SRI. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that some truths or facts don’t have a minimal full ground [see e.g. Fine ]. Every full ground of them contains a smaller full ground. In this paper I’ll propose a minimality constraint on immediate grounding and I’ll show that it doesn’t fall prey to the arguments that tell against an unqualified minimality constraint. Furthermore, the assumption that all cases of grounding can be understood in terms of immediate grounding will be defended. This assumption guarantees that (...) the proposed minimality constraint is significant for all cases of grounding. With its help one can get a clear grip on the relevance of grounding, a feature that will be put to use in the penultimate section. (shrink)
According to the communication desideratum (CD), a notion of semantic content must be adequately related to communication. In the recent debate on indexical reference, (CD) has been invoked in arguments against the view that intentions determine the semantic content of indexicals and demonstratives (intentionalism). In this paper, I argue that the interpretations of (CD) that these arguments rely on are questionable, and suggest an alternative interpretation, which is compatible with (strong) intentionalism. Moreover, I suggest an approach that combines elements of (...) intentionalism with other subjectivist approaches, and discuss the role of intuitions in developing and evaluating theories of indexical reference. (shrink)
According to ‘Fitting Attitude’ (FA) analyses of value, for an object to be valuable is for that object to have properties—other than its being valuable—that make it a fitting object of certain responses. In short, if an object is positively valuable it is fitting to favour it; if an object is negatively valuable it is fitting to disfavour it. There are several variants of FA analyses. Some hold that for an object to be valuable is for it to be such (...) that it ought to be favoured; others hold that value is analyzable in terms of reasons or requirements to favour. All these variants of the FA analysis are subject to a partiality challenge : there are circumstances in which some agents have reasons to favour or disfavour some object—due to the personal relations in which they stand to the object—without this having any bearing on the value of the object. A. C. Ewing was one of the first philosophers to draw attention to the partiality challenge for FA analyses. In this paper I explain the challenge and consider Ewing's responses, one of which is preferable to the other, but none of which is entirely satisfactory. I go on to develop an alternative Brentano-inspired response that Ewing could have offered and that may well be preferable to the responses Ewing actually did offer. (shrink)
During the last couple of decades, several attempts have been made to come up with a theory that can handle the various semantic, logical and philosophical problems raised by the vagueness of natural languages. One of the most influential ideas that have come into fashion in recent years is the idea that vagueness should be analysed as a form of context sensitivity. Such contextualist theories of vagueness have gained some popularity, but many philosophers have remained sceptical of the prospects of (...) finding a tenable contextualist solution to the problems of vagueness. This paper provides an introduction to the most popular contextualist accounts, and a discussion of some of the most important arguments for and against them. (shrink)
‘Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism’ (published in Social Research , 1952) is indeed one of Hans Jonas’ most famous essays, to which its author reserved very deep attention during his philosophical career. As a former pupil of Martin Heidegger and Rudolf Bultmann, Jonas started to deal with religious topics, and specifically with Gnosticism, from the very outset of his philosophical career in the 1920s. After gaining recognition thanks to his remarkable philosophical-existential interpretation of Gnosticism, he returned to the modern (...) age and its philosophical characters. Principally, Jonas discovered that modern philosophy up to Heidegger and Sartre suffered from a peculiar spiritual disease – namely, nihilism – that he had already traced in ancient Gnosticism and that he intended to reject. Therefore, Jonas’ acquaintance with ancient religion and thinking gave him a deep insight into the modern age and provided him with a first glimpse of what was later to become his biological philosophy. However, whoever could imagine that the idea of tracing similarities between Gnosticism and modern thinking came to Jonas at the beginning of 1950 from the famous philosopher and biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy? In this article, I shall endeavour to demonstrate this thesis by quoting from unpublished documents. However, I shall also try to prove that Jonas did not follow von Bertalanffy’s advice completely. The overall aim is, therefore, both to highlight the origins of an essential turning point in the thinking of Hans Jonas, and, on such a basis, to outline the innovation and originality of his philosophical contribution. (shrink)
I propose a pragmatic approach to the kind of reference-shifting occurring in indexicals as used in e.g. written notes and answering machine messages. I proceed in two steps. First, I prepare the ground by showing that the arguments against such a pragmatic approach raised in the recent literature fail. Second, I take a first few steps towards implementing this approach, by sketching a pragmatic theory of reference-shifting, and showing how it can handle cases of the relevant kind. While the immediate (...) scope of the paper is restricted to indexicals and reference-shifting, and the discussion is confined to a specific range of theories and cases, the approach proposed is compatible with a fairly broad range of more or less semantically conservative theories, and many of the conclusions drawn are significant for the evaluation of pragmatic explanations in philosophy more generally. The overall goal is to offer a new perspective on the issues under discussion, and to prompt philosophers to reconsider some of the established methods by which pragmatic explanations are evaluated. (shrink)
Habermas’ ‘ethics of citizenship’ raises a number of relevant concerns about the dangers of a secularistic exclusion of religious contributions to public deliberation, on the one hand, and the dangers of religious conflict and sectarianism in politics, on the other. Agreeing largely with these concerns, the paper identities four problems with Habermas’ approach, and attempts to overcome them: the full exclusion of religious reasons from parliamentary debate; the full inclusion of religious reasons in the informal public sphere; the philosophical distinction (...) between secular and religious reasons; and the sociological distinction between ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ religions. The result is a revised version of the ethics of citizenship, which I call moderate inclusivism. Most notably, moderate inclusivism implies a replacement of Habermas’ ‘institutional translation proviso’ with a more flexible ‘conversational translation proviso’. (shrink)
The paper distinguishes between two rival views about the nature of final value (i.e. the value something has for its own sake) — intrinsicalism and conditionalism. The former view (which is the one adopted by G.E. Moore and several later writers) holds that the final value of any F supervenes solely on features intrinsic to F, while the latter view allows that the final value of F may supervene on features non-intrinsic to F. Conditionalism thus allows the final value of (...) F to vary according to the context in which F appears. Given the plausible assumption that there is an intimate tie between final values and appropriate attitudinal responses, it appears that conditionalism is the better approach for mainly the following three reasons: First, intrinsicalism is too indiscriminate, which makes it subject to what I call ‘location problems’ of final value. I illustrate this problem by discussing alleged examples of Moorean organic unities. Second, intrinsicalism evokes symptoms of ‘evaluative schizophrenia’. Third, considerations of theoretical economy tell in favour of conditionalism. Thereafter I respond to some recent challenges to conditionalism. An appendix surveys some meritorious implications that conditionalism offers for various substantial versions of such structurally different views about value as monism, pluralism, and particularism. (shrink)