A substantial portion of the developed world's population is increasingly dependent on machines to make their way in the everyday world. For certain privileged groups, computers, cell phones, PDAs, Blackberries, and IPODs, all permitting the faster processing of information, are commonplace. In these populations, even exercise can be automated as persons try to achieve good physical fitness by riding stationary bikes, running on treadmills, and working out on cross-trainers that send information about performance and heart rate.
Mechanical devices implanted in the body present implications for broad themes in religious thought and experience, including the nature and destiny of the human person, the significance of a person's embodied experience, including the experiences of pain and suffering, the person's relationship to ultimate reality, the divine or the sacred, and the vocation of medicine. Community-constituting convictions and narratives inform the method and content of reasoning about such conceptual questions as whether a moral line should be drawn between therapeutic or (...) enhancement interventions and/or between somatic and neural/cognitive interventions. By attending to these broader community-forming concepts, it is possible to identify three general orienting themes in religious perspectives on incorporated mechanical devices, which we shall designate as perspectives of “appropriation,” “ambivalence,” and “resistance.”. (shrink)
This paper rereads David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as dramatising a distinctive, naturalistic account of toleration. I have two purposes in mind: first, to complete and ground Hume's fragmentary explicit discussion of toleration; second, to unearth a potentially attractive alternative to more recent, Rawlsian approaches to toleration. To make my case, I connect Dialogues and the problem of toleration to the wider themes of naturalism, scepticism and their relation in Hume's thought, before developing a new interpretation of Dialogues part (...) 12 as political drama. Finally, I develop the Humean theory of toleration I have discovered by comparison between Rawls's and Hume's strategies for justification of a tolerant political regime. (shrink)
Philosophers of earlier ages have usually spent time in considering thenature of marital, and in general familial, duty. Paley devotes an entire book to those ‘relative duties which result from the constitution of the sexes’,1 a book notable on the one hand for its humanity and on the other for Paley‘s strange refusal to acknowledge that the evils for which he condemns any breach of pure monogamy are in large part the result of the fact that such breaches are generally (...) condemned. In a society where an unmarried mother is ruined no decent male should put a woman in such danger: but why precisely should social feeling be so severe? Marriage, the monogamist would say, must be defended at all costs, for it is a centrally important institution of our society. Political community was, in the past, understood as emerging from or imposed upon families, or similar associations. The struggle to establish the state was a struggle against families, clans and clubs; the state, once established, rested upon the social institutions to which it gave legal backing. (shrink)
Anyone who wishes to talk about angels has to respond to the mocking question, how many of them can dance on the point of a pin. The answer is: ‘just as many as they please’. Angels being immaterial intellects do not occupy space to the exclusion of any other such intellectual substance, and their being ‘on’ the point of a pin can only mean that they attend to it. The question, however, is not one that concerned our mediaeval predecessors, although (...) it seems as difficult to persuade anyone of this as it is to clear Canute of the charge of insane conceit. (shrink)
For the last few years, thanks to the Leverhulme Trust, I've been largely absent from my department, working on the late antique philosopher Plotinus. To speak personally – it's been a difficult few years, since my youngest daughter has been afflicted with anorexia during this period, and my own bowel cancer was discovered, serendipitously, and removed, at the end of 2005. Since then I've had ample occasion to consider the importance – and the difficulty – of the practice of detachment, (...) and also to worry about the moral some have drawn from Plotinian and similar philosophies, namely that the things of this world really do not matter much, and that we should withdraw ourselves from them. Maybe it is true, as Plotinus says, that ‘some troubles are profitable to the sufferers themselves, poverty and sickness for example’. But this is not an altogether helpful message for those afflicted by the bundle of disorders that lead to anorexia. It's difficult not to suspect, for example, that Simone Weil would have lived longer but for her Neo-Platonism. It has also been made obvious to me that we are much less in control of our own mental and emotional states even than I had thought before. None of this, of course, should have been any surprise: I have frequently pointed out – to myself and others – the importance of distinguishing between one's self and the states one finds oneself in, and the extreme difficulty of controlling the thoughts we say are ours. Any delusion that my knowledge of these facts is of itself enough to render me immune to them has been – at least for the moment – thoroughly debunked – though the facts themselves are such that this disillusionment, so to call it, is probably both temporary and almost entirely insincere! (shrink)
Consistent materialists are almost bound to suggest that ‘conscious experience’, if it exists at all, is no more than epiphenomenal. A correct understanding of the real requires that everything we do and say is no more than a product of whatever processes are best described by physics, without any privileged place, person, time or scale of action. Consciousness is a myth, or at least a figment. Plotinus was no materialist: for him, it is Soul and Intellect that are more real (...) than the phenomena we misdescribe as material. Nor does he suppose that consciousness depends on language : wordless experience is actually superior. And much of what counts towards our present consciousness is to be discarded. It is better not to remember most of what now seems more significant to us; better to discard images; better that the intellect be ‘drunk’ than ‘sober’, losing any sense of separation between subject and object. The goal of the Plotinian intellectual is to join ‘the dance of immortal love’, but it is a mark of the good dancer that she is not conscious of what she does. There is therefore a strange confluence between Plotinus and modern materialists: our experience at least is transitory, deceitful, epiphenomenal, and ‘reality’ is to be encountered when we have shed our illusions. (shrink)
When we speak of philosophy and therapy, or of philosophy as therapy, the usual intent is to suggest that ‘philosophizing’ is or should be a way to clarify the mind or purify the soul. While there may be little point in arguing with psychoses or deeply-embedded neuroses our more ordinary misjudgements, biases and obsessions may be alleviated, at least, by trying to ‘see things clearly and to see them whole’, by carefully identifying premises and seeing what they – rationally – (...) support, and by seeking to eliminate the residual influence of premises that we have long since, rationally, dismissed. I don't intend to argue with this account – though of course it may be as well to remember that ‘philosophizing’ may have more dangerous effects. It is not obvious that philosophical argument will always help us ‘see things straight’, and the Athenian democracy was not altogether wrong to think that some of Socrates' followers or pupils learnt quite the wrong things from him. (shrink)
While philosophers feel relatively comfortable about talking of the present and the past, some of them feel uncomfortable about talking in just the same way of future events. They feel that, in general, discourse about the future differs significantly from discourse about the past and present, and that these differences reflect a logical asymmetry between the past and future beyond the merely defining fact that the future succeeds, and the past precedes, the present time. The problem is: how can we (...) talk about events which have not yet happened, or at any rate are not yet bound to happen, or whose participants do not yet exist? The effect of these worries has led them to claim to recognise restrictions on our talk about the future which do not govern talk about the past and present. The most famous of these views is Aristotle's. According to one familiar interpretation, he holds that a statement about a future event which is not yet settled, a contingent event in the future, is neither true nor false, even though the statement that the event either will or will not happen is necessarily true. Proponents of this view felt that if a future-tensed statement were already true then the fact that it stated would already be settled. I do not propose to discuss this well-known and muchdiscussed doctrine of Aristotle's, but I do want to consider some allied views which have been aired recently, and to look at their philosophical significance. Before I look at these, however, it will be convenient to recall three of the main reasons why the Aristotelian doctrine is unpopular. In the first place it is paradoxical to accept that a statement of the form p v ∼ p is true while claiming that neither of its disjuncts is true. Then there are misgivings about the notion of truth involved: many feel that truth is essentially an attribute of timeless propositions and that it is nonsense to talk of a statement's becoming true as you would of Aristotle's views if the event described became inevitable. There is also the difficulty of accounting for the meaning of a future-tensed sentence which may express a statement that is neither true nor false simply because what it states is not yet settled. It could not be said of the sentence expressing such a statement that you know what it means if you know what it is for the sentence to express a true statement. I know the meaning of the present-tensed sentence ‘A sea-battle is now being waged’ if I know that it can normally be used to make a true statement precisely in the event of there being a sea-battle being waged at present. But I do not know the meaning of the future-tensed sentence ‘A sea-battle will be waged tomorrow’ simply by knowing that the sentence expresses a true statement if it is already settled that there is going to be a battle: the statement doesn't mean that the battle is already settled, otherwise it would not lack a truth-value when the matter was still open – it would be false. (shrink)
The social and environmental problems that we face at this tail end of twentieth-century progress require us to identify some cause, some spirit that transcends the petty limits of our time and place. It is easy to believe that there is no crisis. We have been told too often that the oceans will soon die, the air be poisonous, our energy reserves run dry; that the world will grow warmer, coastlands be flooded and the climate change; that plague, famine and (...) war will be the necessary checks on population growth. But here we are: sufficiently healthy and well-fed, connoisseurs of far-off catastrophe and horror movies, confident that something will turn up or that the prophecies of doom were only dreams. We are the descendants, after all, of creatures who did not despair, who hoped against hope that there would still be life tomorrow. We no more believe in the world's end than we believe that soldiers could break down the door and drag us off to torture and to death: we don't believe that they could even when we know that, somewhere altogether elsewhere, they did. Even if we can force ourselves to remember other ages, other lands or other classes, we are content enough. (shrink)
Cartesian accounts of the mental make it axiomatic that consciousness is transparent: what I feel, I know I feel, however many errors I may make about its cause. ‘I’ names a simple, unextended, irreducible substance, created ex nihilo or eternally existent, and only associated with the complete, extended, dissoluble substance or pretend-substance that is ‘my’ body by divine fiat. Good moderns take it for granted that ‘we’ now realize how shifting, foggy and deconstructible are the boundaries of the self; ‘we’ (...) know that our own motives, feelings and intentions constantly escape us; ‘I’ names only the current speaker, or the momentarily dominant self among many fluid identities. (shrink)
According to Aristotle, the goal of anyone who is not simply stupid or slavish is to live a worthwhile life. There are, no doubt, people who have no goal at all beyond the moment's pleasure or release from pain. There may be people incapable of reaching any reasoned decision about what to do, and acting on it. But anyone who asks how she should live implicitly agrees that her goal is to live well, to live a life that she can (...) think worth living. That goal, eudaimonia , is something that is sought for its own sake, and for nothing else. Anyone who asks herself how she should live can answer that she should live well. The answer, admittedly, needs further comment. Aristotle went on to suggest that ‘living well’ amounted to living in accordance with virtue, or if there is more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. Eudaimonia , happiness, is virtuous activity over a whole life. To live a worthwhile life we must acquire and practice habits of doing the right thing, for the right reason. Equivalently, we must do what a virtuous person would, and in the way she would, for the sake of to kalon , or beauty. (shrink)
When I was first approached to read a paper at the conference from which this volume takes its beginning I expected that Flint Schier, with whom I had taught a course on the Philosophy of Biology in my years at Glasgow, would be with us to comment and to criticize. I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing once again my own sense of loss. I am sure that we would all have gained by his presence, and hope that he (...) would find things both to approve, and disapprove, in the following venture. (shrink)
Persons are creatures with a range of personal capacities. Most known to us are also people, though nothing in observation or biological theory demands that all and only people are persons, nor even that persons, any more than people, constitute a natural kind. My aim is to consider what non-personal minds are like. Darwin's Earthworms are sensitive, passionate and, in their degree, intelligent. They may even construct maps, embedded in the world they perceive around them, so as to be able (...) to construct their tunnels. Other creatures may be able to perceive that world as also accessible to other minds, and structure it by locality and temporal relation, without having many personal qualities. Non-personal mind, on both modern materialist and Plotinian grounds, may be the more usual, and the less deluded, sort of mind. (shrink)
This paper considers prevailing environmental policy in the United States with the emphasis on liberty, markets, utilizing information, entrepreneurial discovery, and the economic analysis of political decisions. The general discussion is illustrated by the concern over global warming and policies for addressing this concern. The political incentives to confront environmental problems directly with mandates, restrictions, and subsidies ignore the power of liberty and market incentives to solve problems by fostering an impressive network of information transfer, increasing innovation, and expanding prosperity. (...) Indeed, most environmental policies systematically suppress liberty, censor the communication of information, and retard innovation and prosperity, with the result that they provide less environmental quality at greater cost than is possible. While such flawed policies might be justified in cases where pollution problems pose clear, serious, and immediate threats, we argue this is not true of global warming, and the most effective response to concerns over carbon emissions may be limiting the discretionary power of government to take direct action and rely on the indirect effects of liberty and market incentives to move us beyond the petroleum age more quickly and efficiently than will result from the direct action of government. (shrink)
Practitioners of disciplines whose problems are debated by moral philosophers regularly complain that the philosophers are engaged in abstract speculation, divorced from ‘real-life’ consequences and responsibilities, that it is the practitioners who must take the decisions, and that they cannot act in accordance with strict abstract logic.
Technology, according to Derry and Williams's Short History , ‘comprises all that bewilderingly varied body of knowledge and devices by which man progressively masters his natural environment’. Their casual, and unconscious, sexism is not unrelated to my present topic. Women enter the story as spinners, burden bearers and, at long last, typists. ‘The tying of a bundle on the back or the dragging of it along upon the outspread twigs of a convenient branch are contributions [and by implication the only (...) contributions] to technology which probably had a feminine origin’. Everything else was done by men , and what they did was master, conquer , and control . It is also significant that Derry and Williams take it for granted that ‘the men [sic] of the Old Stone Age, few and scattered, developed little to help them to conquer their environment’: until the advent of agriculture, and settled civilization, there was, they say, neither leisure nor surplus. (shrink)
Jonathan Edwards identified the central act of faith as ‘the cordial consent of beings to Being in general’, which is to say to God . That equation, of Being, Truth and God, is rarely taken seriously in analytical circles. My argument will be that this is to neglect the real context of a great deal of past philosophy, particularly the very Cartesian arguments from which so many undergraduate courses begin. All too many students issue from such courses immunized against enthusiasm, (...) in the conceit that they have answers to all the old conundrums, which were in any case no more than verbal trickery. ‘By uttering the right words but failing to use them in propria persona , philosophy induces a kind of soporific amnesia bewitching us into forgetting our God-given task. That task is, of course, to do what Socrates did and to live as he lived' . Burrell's words are not wholly fair to academic philosophers, nor to the Lady Philosophy. Plenty of philosophers really mind about the truth, and want to be Socratic in pursuit of it. But the danger is a real one. If all that matters is debunking past philosophers, how does that differ from the repeated refutation of the Chaldaean Oracles or the Prophecies of Nostradamus? A pretty enough pastime for the young, but hardly serious business for adults . ‘If the history of philosophy is a process of ‘salvaging’ what you yourself have already thought, then why bother?’. (shrink)
There are good reasons for being suspicious of the very concept of ‘a religion’, let alone a ‘world religion’. It may be useful for a hospital administrator to know a patient's ‘religion’ – as Protestant or Church of England or Catholic or Buddhist – but such labels clearly do little more than identify the most suitable chaplain, and connote groupings in the vast and confusing region of ‘religious thought and practice’ that are of very different ranks. By any rational, genealogical (...) taxonomy ‘Protestant’, ‘Anglican’, ‘Catholic’ connote species, genera or families within Christianity, which is in turn a taxon within the multivariant tradition traced back to Abraham. ‘Buddhism’ includes as many variants as would ‘Abrahamism’. Most Abrahamists, traditionally, have been theists, but it is difficult not to suspect that Marxist socialism is an atypical variant which has inherited a linear view of time, a contest between the chosen agents of justice and the doomed powers-that-be, and the prospect of a future in which ‘there shall be no more sea’. (shrink)
Mackie doubted anything objective could have the motivational properties of a value. In thinking we are morally required to act in a certain way, he said, we attribute objective value to the action. Since nothing has objective value, these moral judgments are all false. As to whether Mackie proved his error theory, opinions vary. But there is broad agreement on one issue. A litany of examples, ranging from amoralism to depression to downright evil, has everyone convinced that Mackie vastly overstated (...) the motivational implications of moral judgment. Mackie did go overboard. But did he have to? I think not. Even on the most modest motivational assumptions, Mackie can make objective value look queer and morality look like a sham. I begin with a sketch. (shrink)
Hume's sceptical arguments regarding induction have not yet been successfully answered. However, I shall not in this paper discuss the important attempts to answer Hume since that would be too lengthy a task. On the supposition that Hume's sceptical arguments have not been met, the empirical world is a place where, as the popular metaphor goes, all the glue has been removed. For the Humean sceptic, the only empirical knowledge that we can have is given to us in immediate perception. (...) We have no reason to believe that the patterns of future events will in any way resemble patterns of events in the present or past. We have no reason to believe even that present events not observed resemble present events that are observed, or that knowledge of past and present can be any guide in making new discoveries about what took place in the past. What we have is an ideal setting for the calculation of a priori probabilities. We have a field of distinct events having no logical or evidential ties to one another. The attempt to justify induction that I wish to present is an appeal to a priori probability. (shrink)
Nietzsche has the reputation of being a virulent misogynist, so why are feminists interested in his philosophy? The essays in this volume provide answers to this question from a variety of feminist perspectives. The organization of the volume into two sets of essays, "Nietzsche's Use of Woman" and "Feminists' Use of Nietzsche," reflects the two general approaches taken to the issue of Nietzsche and woman. First, many debates have focused on how to interpret Nietzsche's remarks about women and femininity. Are (...) all of Nietzsche's comments to be read literally, or is he being ironic, perhaps even parodying and subverting stereotypes about women? Second, is his philosophy useful to feminist theory? Can we separate his philosophy from his seemingly derogatory remarks about women? Can feminists use his criticisms of truth, objectivity, reason, and the autonomous subject to challenge the exclusion of women from the history of philosophy? Some view his critiques of dualism and essentialism as well as his perspectivism and social constructivism as adumbrating later feminist positions. Others find troubling his privileging of masculinity and paradigms of domination; they see Nietzsche's sexual dualism as countering otherwise transgressive themes. Contributors are Debra Bergoffen, Maudmarie Clark, Daniel Conway, Jacques Derrida, Jean Graybeal, Kathleen Higgins, Luce Irigaray, Sarah Kofman, Tamsin Lorraine, Kelly Oliver, David Owen, Marilyn Pearsall, Ofelia Schutte, Linda Singer, Lynne Tirrell, and Kathleen Wininger. (shrink)
This review commemorates the 20th anniversary of Stephen Clark’s explication of ecological thought. After appraising both philosophical and theological perspectives, Clark argues that society must awaken to Earth’s “Otherness.” I describe Clark’s ecological consciousness and highlight the significance of his book for 21st-century readers.
Throughout his discussion, Clark speaks constantly of phenomenal and qualitative properties. But properties, like any other posited entities, ought to earn their explanatory keep, and this I don't think Clark's phenomenal or qualitative properties actually do. I argue that all the work he enlists for them could be done better by purely intentional contents of our sentient states; that is, they could better be regarded as mere intentional properties, not real ones. Clark eschews such intentionalism, but I (...) see no reason for him to resist a properly deflated version of it that I sketch. Moreover, such intentionalism seems to me to stand a better chance than Clark's reliance on properties in explaining the peculiar ways in which experience appears to us that so concern the qualiaphile. (shrink)