Characterizations of philosophy abound. It is ‘the queen of the sciences’, a grand and sweeping metaphysical endeavour; or, less regally, it is a sort of deep anthropology or ‘descriptive metaphysics’, uncovering the general presuppositions or conceptual schemes that lurk beneath our words and thoughts. A different set of images portray philosophy as a type of therapy, or as a spiritual exercise, a way of life to be followed, or even as a special branch of poetry or politics. Then there is (...) a group of characterizations that include philosophy as linguistic analysis, as phenomenological description, as conceptual geography, or as genealogy in the sense proposed by Nietzsche and later taken up by Foucault. (shrink)
‘Reactionary modernism’ is a term happily coined by the historian and sociologist Jeffrey Herf to refer to a current of German thought during the interwar years. It indicates the attempt to ‘reconcil[e] the antimodernist, romantic and irrationalist ideas present in German nationalism’ with that ‘most obvious manifestation of means–ends rationality … modern technology’. Herf's paradigm examples of this current of thought are two best-selling writers of the period: Oswald Spengler, author of the massive domesday scenario The Decline of the West (...) in 1917 and, fifteen years later, of Man and Technics, and Ernst Jünger, the now centenarian chronicler of the war in which he was a much-decorated hero, whose main theoretical work was Der Arbeiter in 1932. The label is also applied by Herf to such intellectual luminaries as the legal theorist and apologist for the Third Reich, Carl Schmitt, and more contentiously Martin Heidegger. At a less elevated level, reactionary modernism also permeated the writings of countless, now forgotten engineers, who were inspired at once by the new technology, Nietzschean images of Promethean Übermenschen, and an ethos of völkisch nationalism. (shrink)
This engaging volume explores and defends the claim that misanthropy is a justified attitude towards humankind in the light of how human beings both compare with and treat animals. Reflection on differences between humans and animals helps to confirm the misanthropic verdict, while reflection on the moral and other failings manifest in our treatment of animals illuminates what is wrong with this treatment. Human failings, it is argued, are too entrenched to permit optimism about the future of animals, but ways (...) are proposed in which individual people may accommodate to the truth of misanthropy through cultivating mindful, humble and compassionate relationships to animals. Drawing on both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions David E. Cooper offers an original and challenging approach to the complex field of animal ethics. (shrink)
A subtitle for this paper might have been ‘The ugly face of Verstehen ’, for it asks whether the theory of Verstehen has, to switch metaphors, ‘dirty hands’. By the theory of Verstehen, I mean the constellation of concepts—life, experience, expression, interpretative understanding—which, according to Wilhelm Dilthey, are essential for the study of human affairs, thereby showing that ‘the methodology of the human studies [Geisteswissenschafteri] is … different from that of the physical sciences’ :1 for in the latter, these concepts (...) have no similar place. Even critics of Dilthey tend to agree that his heart, if not his head, was in the right place: that Verstehen was designed as an antidote to ‘dehumanizing’ attempts by positivists to reduce the categories used in explaining human behaviour to just those equally operative in the physical sciences. As Dilthey himself put it, ‘there is no real blood flowing in the veins’ of human beings as examined by the positivists and their precursors: they do not treat of ‘the whole man’. The idea of Verstehen, it seems, is doubly humane: a humanizing approach to the humane studies. (shrink)
Educational policy and discussion, in Britain and the USA, are increasingly dominated by the confused ideology of egalitarianism. David E. Cooper begins by identifying the principles hidden among the confusions, and argues that these necessarily conflict with the ideal of educational excellence - in which conflict it is this ideal that must be preserved. He goes on to criticize the use of education as a tool for promoting wider social equality, focussing especially on the muddles surrounding 'equal opportunities', 'social (...) mix' and 'reverse discrimination'. Further chapters criticize the 'new egalitarianism' favoured, on epistemological grounds, by various sociologists of knowledge in recent years and 'cultural egalitarianism' according to which standard criteria of educational value merely reflect parochial and economic interests. (shrink)
R. S. Peters has not only been the major philosopher of education in Britain during second half of the twentieth century, but by common consent, he has transformed the subject and brought it into the mainstream of contemporary philosophy. The ten essays in this book attest to his influence whether by critical examination of his ideas or by original treatment of topics in which has has inspired a new interest.
Philosophers constantly discuss Responsibility. Yet in every discussion of which I am aware, a rather obvious point is ignored. The obvious point is that responsibility is ascribed to collectives, as well as to individual persons. Blaming attitudes are held towards collectives as well as towards individuals. Responsibility is often ascribed to nations, towns, clubs, groups, teams, and married couples. ‘Germany was responsible for the Second World War’; ‘The club as a whole is to blame for being relegated’. Such statements are (...) not rare. (shrink)
Not long after the historian, Seeley, had defined ‘perfect liberty’ as ‘the absence of all government’, Oscar Wilde wrote that a man can be totally free even in that granite embodiment of governmental constraint, prison. Ten years after Mill's famous defence of civil freedoms, On Liberty , Richard Wagner declaimed: I'll put up with everything—police, soldiers, muzzling of the press, limits on parliament… Freedom of the spiriti is the only thing for men to be proud of and which raises them (...) above animals. (shrink)
By addressing specific global problems and placing them within an ethical context, "The Environment in Question" provides the reader with both a theoretical and practical understanding of environmental issues. The contributors are internationally known figures drawn from the various disciplines which bear upon these issues, such as geography, psychology, social policy, and philosophy. The contributions range from those tackling individual concrete issues to those addressing matters of policy, principle and attitude. "The Environment in Question" is designed as a text for (...) students of philosophy, environmental science, environmental education, ecology, and teacher education. It can be used as an inter-disciplinary, self-contained course book or in conjunction with relevant material. In addition, as the essays directly and controversially address current environmental debates in a non-technical manner, it is of great interest both to professionals in those areas and to readers who care about the planet's future. The substantial cross-section of concerns and approaches will enable all readers to develop the necessary level of understanding required to initiate and sustain debate on environmental issues. Contributors: Robert Allsion, David E. Cooper, Barry S. Gower, F. G. T. Holliday, C. A. Hooker, Mary Midgley, Philip Neal, Joy A. Palmer, Robert Prosser, Holmes Rolston III, Mark Sagoff, Vandana Shiva, Stephen Sterling, Rosemary J. Stevenson, Jennifer Trusted. (shrink)
In 1929, doubtless to the discomfort of his logical positivist host Moritz Schlick, Wittgenstein remarked, ‘To be sure, I can understand what Heidegger means by Being and Angst ’ . I return to what Heidegger meant and Wittgenstein could understand later. I begin with that remark because it has had an instructive career. When the passage which it prefaced was first published in 1965, the editors left it out—presumably to protect a hero of ‘analytic’ philosophy from being compromised by an (...) expression of sympathy for the arch-fiend of ‘continental’ philosophy. It was as if a diary of Churchill's had been discovered containing admiring references to Hitler. This was the period, after all, when Heidegger was, as Michael Dummett recalls, a ‘joke’ among Oxford philosophers, the paradigm of the sort of metaphysical nonsense Wittgenstein had dedicated himself to exposing. (shrink)
David e cooper has argued that it makes no sense to credit a young child with beliefs or concepts of any sort, since the young child lacks a fairly sophisticated linguistic system. in my paper i attempt to show that such a position cannot consistently be maintained. in fact, most of the arguments put forward by cooper to defend his position implicitly assume that the child has a conceptual system of some kind.
Throughout the twentieth century, aestheticians and art theorists declared the 'death' of beauty as a serious, meaningful concept for aesthetics and art practice. Such declarations are better understood as polemical provocations, making their obituarism premature. Careful attention to the writings of those cited testify to the persistence of beauty, albeit in new, 'difficult', 'challenging' forms. Beauty persists, taking on new forms and inflections.
Aside from aperçus of Kant, Nietzsche, and of course, Aristotle, metaphor has not, until recently, received its due. The dominant view has been Hobbes': metaphors are an ‘abuse’ of language, less dangerous than ordinary equivocation only because they ‘profess their inconstancy’.
It is by now something of a cliché of Green discourse that environmental degradation and devastation is grounded in a sharp opposition – the legacy, it is often charged, of Christian metaphysics – between the human and the non-human, between the realms of culture and nature. If one is to understand, let alone endorse, the very general environmentalist ambition to dissolve the dualism of the human and the non-human, it is by questioning rather more tractable and particular dichotomies, like that (...) between art and nature appreciation, where it would seem wise to begin. (shrink)
The week, twenty-five years ago, of the Apollo spacecraft's return visit to the moon was described by Richard Nixon as the greatest since the Creation. Across the Atlantic, a French Academician judged the same event to matter less than the discovery of a lost etching by Daumier. Attitudes to technological achievement, then, differ. And they always have. Chuang-Tzu, over 2,000 years ago, relates an exchange between a Confucian passer-by and a Taoist gardener watering vegetables with a bucket drawn from a (...) well. ‘Don't you know that there is a machine with which 100 beds are easily watered in a day?’—‘How does it work?’—‘It's a counterbalanced ladle’—‘too clever to be good … all machines have to do with formulae, artificiality [which] destroy native ingenuity … and prevent the Tao from residing peacefully in one's heart’. ‘Engines of mischief, in the words of the Luddite song, or testaments to ‘the nobility of man [as] the conqueror of matter’, in those of Primo Levi, the products of technology continue to inspire phobia and philia. (shrink)
This paper defends the description of Buddhism—by Schopenhauer and many other nineteenth-century figures—as pessimistic. Pessimism, in the relevant sense, is a dark, negative judgment on the psychological, social, and moral condition of humankind and the prospects for its amelioration. After discussing texts in the Pali canon that provide prima facie support for the charge of pessimism, two familiar responses are considered. One emphasizes the positive aspects of the human condition recognized by the Buddha; the other emphasizes the prospect held out (...) by him for the cessation of dukkha. It is argued that neither response is persuasive—not least because of a failure to appreciate the gulf between ordinary “worldling” existence and that of the arahant or enlightened person. A final section discusses the description of the arahant as “transcending the world” and the human condition. If correct, this supports the charge of pessimism. This is because pessimism is a claim about the human condition, about our being-in-the-world, and cannot therefore be refuted by the prospect of a mode of being that transcends this condition. (shrink)
Traditionally, philosophical writings on personal identity have taken the form of attempts to discover the dominant criterion for deciding when a person at one time is identical with a person at some other time. Among the candidates for the role of dominant criterion have been bodily continuity and memory . In the normal case, where a person P is identical with a person P′ at an earlier time, it is true that P and P′ share a continuous body, that P (...) can remember experiences of P′, and that many other relationships hold between P and P′. Consequently, the debate as to which of the normal criteria is the dominant one has usually taken the form of imagining strange cases in which one or more of the normal criteria are lacking, and attempting to say, in such cases, who is identical with who. The scene was set, at least for modern times, by Locke's prince/pauper example, in which, according to Locke, the ability to remember experiences of a person having a different body guarantees, nevertheless, that one is that person—and hence that the memory criterion is dominant over the bodily identity one. (shrink)
Do Buddhist ‘moral’ principles, such as generosity, equanimity, and compassion, consistently map onto Greek and, more generally, Western ‘virtues’? In other words, is it at all possible to talk about a Buddhist ‘virtue ethics’? Should equanimity, for instance, be understood as having the same function in Buddhist moral thought as temperance has for Plato, Aristotle, or the Stoics? Does the Buddha’s effort to embody certain cardinal virtues (sīla) resemble the classical Greek and Roman pursuit of a life of personal flourishing (...) (eudaimonia)? And, to take one step further – Is Buddhism’s perceived enlightened attitude toward the environment suggestive of a new ethics aimed at confronting the global ecological crisis? Buddhism, Virtue, and Environment, a volume co-authored by David Cooper and Simon James, addresses these questions and concerns in a systematic and philosophically sophisticated way. (shrink)
This essay charts the author’s philosophical journey from schoolboy enthusiasms for Sartre, Plato, and Buddhism to the equally intercultural themes of his writings over the last few decades. It tells of his disillusion with the dominant style of philosophy in 1960s Oxford and of the liberating effect of working for three years in the USA. The author relates the revival of his interest in Existentialism and how his reading of Heidegger led to an increasing appreciation of Asian traditions of thought. (...) The essay explains why it is important for philosophers to be acquainted with non-western traditions. This importance is illustrated by the ways in which the author draws upon various world philosophies in his recent writings on, for example, mystery, our relationship to nature, and the significance of beauty. (shrink)
We shall argue that there is adequate moral justification for capital punishment with linkage, that is, with linkage to keeping non-murderers from dying. We present the argument with two aims in mind. The first is to question the conventional wisdom, seldom challenged even by proponents of capital punishment, that being an abolitionist is closely connected to having a civilized respect for human life. This conventional wisdom, we hope to show, is somewhat off the mark. To this end we exhibit structural (...) similarities between so-called lifeboat dilemmas and the public's relationship to a murderer. In a lifeboat dilemma one must choose between saving this life or that, since the lifeboat will not hold both persons. Now if this life were an innocent's and that one a murderer's, a choice to save the latter would not be met with accusations of callousness towards human life. We hope to project everyone's intuitions about this case onto the more baffling case of a society's relationship to the murderers and dying innocents in its midst. (shrink)