Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. An ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, it also offers a rich source of illumination and stimulation for graduate students (...) and professional philosophers. (shrink)
"With an astonishing erudition... and in a direct no-nonsense style, Bennett expounds, compares, and criticizes Spinoza’s theses.... No one can fail to profit from it. Bennett has succeeded in making Spinoza a philosopher of our time." --W. N. A. Klever, _Studia Spinoza_.
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this book, making it the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject.
In this paper1 I shall present not just the conscience of Huckleberry Finn but two others as well. One of them is the conscience of Heinrich Himmler. He became a Nazi in 1923; he served drably and quietly, but well, and was rewarded with increasing responsibility and power. At the peak of his career he held many offices and commands, of which the most powerful was that of leader of the S.S. - the principal police force of the Nazi regime. (...) In this capacity, Himmler commanded the whole concentration-camp system, and was responsible for the execution of the so-called ‘final solution of the Jewish problem’. It is important for my purposes that this piece of social engineering should be thought of not abstractly but in concrete terms of Jewish families being marched to what they think are bath-houses, to the accompaniment of loud-speaker renditions of extracts from The Merry Widow and Tales of Hoffman, there to be choked to death by poisonous gases. Altogether, Himmler succeeded in murdering about four and a half million of them, as well as several million gentiles, mainly Poles and Russians. The other conscience to be discussed is that of the Calvinist theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards. He lived in the first half of the eighteenth century, and has a good claim to be considered America’s first serious and considerable philosophical thinker. He was for many years a widely-renowned preacher and Congregationalist minister in New England; in 1748 a dispute with his congregation led him to resign (he couldn’t accept their view that unbelievers should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper in the hope that it would convert them); for some years after that he worked as a missionary, preaching to Indians through an interpreter;, then in 1758 he accepted the presidency of what is now Princeton University, and within two months died from a smallpox inoculation. Along the way he wrote some first-rate philosophy: his book attacking the notion of free will is still sometimes read.. (shrink)
In this major new book, the internationally renowned thinker Jonathan Bennett offers a deeper understanding of what is going on in our own moral thoughts about human behavior. The Act Itself presents a conceptual analysis of descriptions of behavior on which we base our moral judgements, and shows that this analysis can be used as a means toward getting more control of our thoughts and thus of our lives.
'Mr Bennett, as was to be expected, has written a first-rate book on Kant's Analytic. It is vivid, entertaining, and extremely instructive. It will be found of absorbing interest both by those who already know the Critique and by those - if there are any such - who have a developed interest in philosophy, yet no direct acquaintance with Kant. These last it will surely drive to the text and, as surely, will drive them to approach it in a truly (...) philosophical spirit. Bennett's Kant is not a giant immersed, or frozen, in time. He is a great contemporary - a little out of touch, admittedly, with recent developments in mathematics and physics - but one with whom we can all argue, against him, at his side, or obliquely to him. And so Bennett does argue, continuously, fiercely, and fruitfully; and summons to join in the argument, at appropriate moments, those older contemporaries, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume, and those younger contemporaries, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Ayler, Quine, Quinton, Warnock, and others. This is splendid, and a necessary corrective to that extraordinary isolation in which Kant tends to be islanded, partly indeed, by his own unique qualities, but partly by oceans of the wrong kind of respect. Bennett, continuously engaging his great antagonist, shows the right kind.'. (shrink)
In this study of events and their places in our language and thought, Bennett propounds and defends views about what kind of item an event is, how the language of events works, and about how these two themes are interrelated. He argues that most of the supposedly metaphysical literature is really about the semantics of their names, and that the true metaphysic of events--known by Leibniz and rediscovered by Kim--has not been universally accepted because it has been tarred with the (...) brush of a false semantic theory. (shrink)
I shall present a problem about accountability, and its solution by Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Some readers of this don’t see it as a profound contribution to moral philosophy, and I want to help them. It may be helpful to follow up Strawson’s gracefully written discussion with a more staccato presentation. My treatment will also be angled somewhat differently from his, so that its lights and shadows will fall with a certain difference, which may make it serviceable even to the (...) converted. Also, I shall point to some disputable things in ‘Freedom and Resentment’, and offer repairs. So I wrote in the first published version of this paper. I wanted not only to be useful to others but also to elicit Strawson’s certificate of approval; and that hope was realized. In his ‘Reply’ Strawson wrote: ‘Bennett in the first eleven sections of his essay sets out and elaborates the essence of my position with such thorough and sympathetic understanding as to leave me little to say.’ I also tried, unsuccessfully, to analyse with more precision Strawson’s concept of reactive attitude, and to explore the extent of and reasons for the incompatibility between reactive attitudes and the objective attitude. I hoped that the display of my failures would induce Strawson to tackle the problems himself, with more success. No such luck! He wrote: ‘Bennett seeks . . . to produce a tighter and more unified organisation of the phenomena . . . than I achieved in “Freedom and Resentment”’, but he did not return to the fray. On the contrary: ‘It does not seem to me to matter if a strict definition [of ‘reactive’] is not to be had’; and he said nothing about reasons for the reactive/objective conflict. In the present version of the paper, I expound ‘Freedom and Resentment’ much as before. Since my attempts to tighten and deepen the theory failed to hook Strawson, and are not of much intrinsic interest, I now omit them. I shall, however, add an application of the doctrines of ‘Freedom and Resentment’ to the most basic philosophical question regarding punishment.. (shrink)
This paper will present a negative result—an account of my failure to explain why belief is involuntary. When I announced my question a year or so ahead of time, I had a vague idea of how it might be answered, but I cannot make it work out. Necessity, this time, has not given birth to invention. Still, my tussle with the question may contribute either towards getting it answered or showing that it cannot be answered because belief can be voluntary (...) after all. Most of the paper was written while I expected to get the question answered, and I have chosen not to hide that fact by revising the tone. I offer the paper as an essay in the ‘analytic’ manner in Descartes’s sense of that term. It is the manner of the Meditations—a presentation in the order of discovery or, in my case, of non-discovery. (shrink)
In this illuminating, highly engaging book, Jonathan Bennett acquaints us with the ideas of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this lucidly written work is an excellent introduction. For those already familiar with the time period, this book offers insight into the great philosophers, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, and teachers.
This article is a selective review of David Lewis's Counterfactuals, a challenging, provocative, absorbingly interesting attempt to analyze statements of the form “If it were the case that P, then it would be the case that Q.” I shall follow Lewis in calling these “counterfactuals,” and shall nearly follow him in abbreviating them to the form P→Q.Chapter 1, which is nearly a third of the whole, gives the analysis and proves that it endows counterfactuals with some properties which they evidently (...) do have. Chapter 2 presents some “alternative formulations” of the analysis—a logical jeu d'esprit which I shall not discuss except for the section about “cotenability.”. (shrink)
In this lecture I shall offer to make clear, deeply grounded, objective sense of a certain contrast: I call it the contrast between positive and negative instrumentality, and it shows up in ordinary speech in remarks about what happens because a person did do such and such, as against what happens because he did not. The line between positive and negative instrumentality lies fairly close to some others which are drawn by more ordinary bits of English. For instance, the difference (...) between positive and negative instrumentality in someone’s dying is cousin to the difference between killing a person and letting him die. The latter distinction has the advantage of being already encoded in plain. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descaretes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can be learned from its success or failure? For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an excellent (...) introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. (shrink)
Descartes propounded the allegedly "strange", "peculiar", "curious" and "incoherent" doctrine that necessary truths are made true by God's voluntary act. It is generally held that this doctrine must be kept out of sight while other Cartesian topics are being discussed. This paper offers an interpretation of this Cartesian doctrine under which it comes out as reasonable, consistent with the rest of his philosophy, and possible even true. According to this interpretation--which is more respectful of and close to Descartes's text than (...) is the customary one--Descartes equated the alethic modalities with facts about human intellectual limitations, somewhat in the manner of Wittgenstein. Thus, God created modalities creating humans in the way he did. (shrink)
P. T. Geach, notoriously, holds the Relative Identity Thesis, according to which a meaningful judgment of identity is always, implicitly or explicitly, relative to some general term. ‘The same’ is a fragmentary expression, and has no significance unless we say or mean ‘the same X’, where ‘X’ represents a general term (what Frege calls a Begriffswort or Begriffsausdruck). (P. T. Geach, Mental Acts (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), p. 69. I maintain that it makes no sense to judge whether (...) things are ‘the same’, or remain ‘the same’, unless we add or understand some general term - ‘the same F’. (P. T. Geach, Reference and Generality, third Edition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 63f. I am arguing for the thesis that identity is relative. When one says ‘x is identical with y’, this, I hold, is an incomplete expression; it is short for ‘x is the same A as y’, where ‘A’ represents some count noun understood from the context of utterance - or else, it is just a vague expression of a half-formed thought. (P. T. Geach, ‘Identity,’ Review of Metaphysics 21 (1967-8), p. 3.) One of the ways Geach seeks to support this is by tying it to the well nigh universally admired Fregean thesis about cardinality. (shrink)
In his paper “Quotation”, Donald Davidson contrasts three theories about how quotation marks do their work, that is, about how tokens like this one: "sheep” refer to the type of which the following is a token: sheep. He rejects the “proper name” and “spelling” theories, and propounds and defends a new account of quotation which he calls the “demonstrative theory”. I shall argue that the truth about how quotation works has points of resemblance with both the spelling and demonstrative theories, (...) though it is not a mere combination of elements from those two. It is closer to Davidson’s theory than to the other, and I have reached it by developing the pioneering start that he provided. (shrink)
There was a duel at dawn between A and B. A shot B, who lingered on until dusk of that day, and then died of his bulletwound. Certain background conditions are satisfied which make it right to say not just that A caused B's death but that he killed him. So, A shot B and killed him. This seems to be structurally different from "A shot B and he kicked him," but what is this structural difference? How does the shooting (...) relate to the killing? (shrink)
When it is wrong to bring into existence someone who will be miserable, what makes it wrong is not the threat of misery hanging over the possible person, but rather the fact that if one does it there will be real misery for an actual person. This belongs in the same category as the wrongness of making a happy person miserable, or of failing to make a person less miserable than he is. These arc all matters of the (dis)utilities—the ill-fare (...) and welfare—of present and future actual people. (shrink)
Following Moore, I use ‘P entails Q’ as a convenient shorthand for ‘Q can be deduced logically from P’, ‘From P, Q follows logically’, ‘There is a logically valid argument with P as sole premise and Q as conclusion’, and the like.1 Apart from a minor point to be raised in Section XVI, distinctions within this cluster do not matter for present purposes. An analysis of the concept of entailment is answerable to careful, educated uses of expressions such as those. (...) An analysis which condemned nearly everything we say about what follows from what simply would not be an analysis of the common concept of entailment. If the concept were inconsistent, some common uses of it would be condemned; but only by standards established by the others. C. I. Lewis maintained this: to say that P entails Q is to say that it is logically impossible that (P & ¬Q).2 If Quine is right, then ‘entails’ and ‘impossible’ are as suspect as all other intensional terms. So perhaps they are; but their uses are not wholly without structure, and there are wrong ways of interrelating them. Lewis’s contention is about the internal geography of the intensional area, not its relations to the surrounding conceptual territory: it is an attempted analysis of one intensional expression in terms of another. I shall argue that Lewis was right, and also - by implication - that his thesis is helpful and clarifying - that is, that it is a genuine analysis. As is well known, Lewis’s analysis implies that each impossible proposition entails every proposition. Accepting the analysis, I accept this result. For one thing, Lewis has an argument for it (I use ‘→’ to abbreviate ‘entails’): (1) P & ¬P.. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett's analysis of the second half of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, in which Kant concerns himself with topics such as substance, the nature of the self, the cosmos, freedom and the existence of God, continues to be an engaging and accessible exploration of Kant's major work. Presented in a fresh twenty-first-century series livery, and including a specially commissioned preface written by Karl Ameriks, illuminating its enduring importance and relevance to philosophical enquiry, this influential work has been revived for (...) a new generation of readers. (shrink)
The aim of this paper1 is to attack Quine’s views on the analytic-synthetic distinction (ASD), but more than half of it will be devoted to arguing that an attack is still required. This preliminary thesis is based on the claim that what Quine presents as (1) an attack on the ASD, followed by (2) some remarks about confirmation and disconfirmation, offers a more formidable obstacle to the adherent of the traditional ASD if (2) is built into (1) as a positive (...) but unwelcome theory of the.. (shrink)
Kant seems to have been the first to notice that there is something peculiar about the difference between right and left, but he failed to say exactly what the peculiarity is. His clearest account of the matter is in his inaugural lecture (see Bibliography at the end of the paper): We cannot describe [in general terms] the distinction in a given space between things which lie towards one quarter, and things which are turned towards the opposite quarter. Thus if we (...) take solids which are completely equal and similar but incongruent, such as the right and left hands . . . . although in every respect which admits of being stated in terms intelligible to the mind through a verbal description they can be substituted for one another, there is yet a diversity which makes it impossible for their boundaries to coincide. (shrink)