According to Immanuel Kant’s well-known account of his own intellectual development, it was the skeptic David Hume who roused him from his dogmatic slumber. According to some popular accounts of post-Kantian philosophy, it was the soporific speculation of the idealists that quickly returned German philosophy to the Procrustean bed of unverifiable metaphysics, where it dogmatically slept for half of the nineteenth century. This popular picture of post-Kantian German philosophy receives some apparent support from the relevant evidence. After all, Kant had (...) allegedly demonstrated the illegitimacy of all metaphysical speculation that transcends the bounds of experience, and the writings of the German idealists - filled as they are with references to what is putatively “absolute” and “unconditioned” - seem to violate Kant’s strictures. In place of this popular conception, I seek to sketch out a rather difference picture of German idealism. The development of post-Kantian German idealism is best described, not as a turning away from skepticism, but rather as a radicalization of it. The radicalization of skepticism from Kant through Fichte to Hegel, however, does not lead away from systematic philosophy. The movement of thought from Kant to Hegel coincides with the gradual realization that skeptical thought is not external to systematic philosophy, but is in fact internal to, or even identical with it. This thesis concerning the progressive “radicalization” or “internalization” of skepticism in German idealism receives some prima facie support form the relevant writings of Kant, Fichte, and Hegel. (shrink)
When it comes to understanding the genesis and development of Heidegger’s thought, it would be rather difficult to overestimate the importance of the “Aristotle-Introduction” of 1922, Heidegger’s “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle.” This text is both a manifesto which describes the young Heidegger’s philosophical commitments, as well as a promissory note which outlines his projected future work. This Aristotle-Introduction not only enunciates Heidegger’s broad project of a philosophy which is both systematic and historical; it also indicates, in particular, why (...) a principal (or fundamental) ontology can be actualized only through a destruction of the history of ontology. This text anticipates several central themes of Being and Time (e.g., facticity, death, falling), and also foreshadows some of the issues which were to occupy the later Heidegger (e.g., “truth” as a heterogenous process of unconcealment). There is no doubt that much can – and will – be written on the meaning and implications of this important text. But instead of making my own, early contribution to such a secondary literature, I have decided to limit myself in this “Preface” to a few brief remarks concerning the historical background to Heidegger’s “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle.”. (shrink)
Marx’s theory of historical materialism seeks to explain human history and development on the basis of the material conditions underlying all human existence. For Marx, the most important of all human activities is the activity of production by means of labor. With his focus on production through labor, Marx argues that it is possible to provide a materialistic explanation of how human beings not only transform the world (by applying the “forces of production” to it) but also transform themselves in (...) transforming the world (by entering into “relations of production” with one another). For Marx, the productive labor of human beings – and the resulting interplay between the forces and relations of production – function together as the engine which drives all historical change and development. By understanding how the productive activities of human beings give rise to the division of labor and class conflict, it becomes possible, according to Marx, to understand how different historical epochs succeed one another, and how the trajectory of human history points towards a communist society within which the division of labor and class conflict will be abolished. (shrink)
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68) was not a philosopher. In fact, Winckelmann had a strong interest in distancing himself from academic philosophy as he knew it. As Goethe reports, Winckelmann “complained bitterly about the philosophers of his time and about their extensive influence.” Still less was Winckelmann a Kantian philosopher; the first edition of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason did not appear until 1781, thirteen years after the fifty-year-old Winckelmann was shockingly murdered in Trieste. Nevertheless, many of Winckelmann’s ideas were (...) philosophically rich and suggestive and interestingly relevant to the philosophical problems that were later to be addressed by Kant and his philosophical contemporaries. It is no wonder, then, that Winckelmann’s influence can be detected in the works of some of the most important philosophically oriented thinkers of Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In addition to Kant himself, these thinkers included Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–81), Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805), Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843), Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854), and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831). (shrink)
In the history of philosophy, Fichte's thought marks a crucial transitional stage between Kant and post-Kantian philosophy. Fichte radicalized Kant's thought by arguing that human freedom, not external reality, must be the starting point of all systematic philosophy, and in Foundations of Natural Right, thought by many to be his most important work of political philosophy, he applies his ideas to fundamental issues in political and legal philosophy, covering such topics as civic freedom, rights, private property, contracts, family relations, and (...) the foundations of modern political organization. This volume offers a complete translation of the work into English, by Michael Baur, together with an introduction by Frederick Neuhouser that sets it in its philosophical and historical context. (shrink)
Kant’s “transcendental” or “critical” philosophy is an instance of what can be called the “critique of immediacy.” As part of his critical project, Kant argues that one cannot merely assume that there is a reestablished harmony between thought and being. Instead, one must effect a “return to the subject” and examine the forms of thought themselves, in order to determine the extent to which thought and being are commensurable. As a result of his “transcendental turn,” Kant concludes that what at (...) first appears as immediately given to thought is always already (at least partly) the result of some kind of activity or mediation on the part of the thought itself. Hegel approves of Kant’s critical orientation: Kant correctly demanded to know “how far the forms of thought were capable of leading to the knowledge of truth,” and correctly concluded that “the forms of thought must be made into an object of investigation.” However, for Hegel, the problem with Kant was that he aimed to examine the forms of thought as if they were necessarily separated from being itself. Thus the Kantian strategy, for Hegel, led to a twofold absurdly. (shrink)
This paper offers a brief account of Finnis' Natural Law Legal Theory (NLLT), primarily as it is presented in Natural Law and Natural Rights, and then defends Finnis' NLLT against the recent legal positivist criticism made by Matthew H. Kramer.
Hegel’s most abiding aspiration was to be a volkserzieher (an educator of the people) in the tradition of thinkers of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), and Friedrich Schiller (159-1786). No doubt, he was also deeply interested in epistemology and metaphysics, but this interest stemmed at least in part from his belief (which Kant also shared) that human beings could become truly liberated to fulfill their vocations as human beings, only if they were also liberated from the illusions and (...) contradictions that plagued uncritical thinking about self, world, and God. Thus to appreciate Hegel’s work in epistemology and metaphysics, one must first appreciate how he (following Kant) sought to think beyond the “special metaphysics” of self, world, and God as developed by Descartes and other pre-critical philosophers. The aim of this chapter is to analyze aspects of Hegel’s critical appropriation and transformation of Kantian thought, shedding light not only on Hegel’s own understanding of his move beyond Kant, but also on the philosophical reasons that might justify such a move. (shrink)
In his paper, "Free Choice, Incommensurable Goods and the Self-Refutation of Determinism,"' Joseph Boyle seeks to show how the argument for the self-refutation of determinism - first articulated over twenty-five years ago - is an argument whose force depends on (first) a proper understanding of just what free choice is, and (secondly) a proper understanding of how free choice is a principle of moral responsibility. According to Boyle, a person can make a genuinely free choice only if he is presented (...) with alternative options that are incommensurable in their goodness or desirability. If the goodness or desirability of alternative options could be commensurated, or compared in accordance with some common standard, then it would be possible in principle for a person to determine which of the two options offered more, and which offered less, of the same sort of good represented by the two options. But if this sort of commensuration or comparison were possible, according to Boyle, then there would really be no need to choose. Rather, the only task that would have to be performed in order to determine the person's selection among alternative options would be the task clarifying or calculating which of the alternative options offered most fully what it is that makes both options desirable in the first place. Once the clarification or calculation is done, there would be no need-and in fact, no possibility--of really choosing: the calculation alone would settle which option is the best option, and thus which option is to be selected. Now if genuinely free choice requires that the choosing person be presented with options that are incommensurable in goodness or desirability, then it also seems to be the case that genuine choice-and the moral responsibility that goes along with it-requires that the person be presented with alternative possibilities from which to choose. And yet some compatibilist thinkers have held that moral responsibility does not really require the presence of alternative possibilities. In particular, Harry G. Frankfurt has sought to show (by means of counter-example) that a person can be a moral agent and morally responsible, even if the person did not, in fact, have any alternative possibilities available to him (that is, even if the person could not have done otherwise). Frankfurt's counter-example offers a direct challenge to the sort of incompatibilism that Boyle seeks to defend; and so Boyle is quite right to address Frankfurt head-on. For if Frankfurt is right, then it is erroneous to hold "the principle of alternative possibilities" (the principle that a person can be morally responsible for what he has done, only if he had alternative possibilities, or only if he could have done otherwise). But if it is erroneous to hold the principle of alternative possibilities, then it also seems erroneous to hold the more robust position that Boyle wishes to defend: namely, the position that moral responsibility requires not only alternative possibilities, but also alternative possibilities representing options that are incommensurable in their goodness. (shrink)
In the modern period, the most original and influential theories about law and politics were developed in connection with a set of far-reaching, interrelated questions about the definition of law, the purpose of law, the relationship between law and morality, and the existence of natural law and natural rights. In this entry I summarize the contributions of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu; William Blackstone; Jeremy Bentham; and Immanuel Kant as exemplars of the history of modern (...) thought on law and politics. (shrink)
One of the defining characteristics of Kant’s “critical philosophy” is what has been called the “critique of immediacy” or the rejection of the “myth of the given.” According to the Kantian position, no object can count as an object for a human knower apart from the knower’s own activity or spontaneity. That is, no object can count as an object for a human knower on the basis of the object’s givenness alone. But this gives rise to a problem: how is (...) it possible to accept the Kantian critique of immediacy while also giving an epistemologically adequate account of the constrained or finite character of human knowing (i.e., an account that does not rely on some appeal to what is simply “given”)? This paper examines how this crucial question is addressed (with more or less success) in the “critical philosophies” of Kant, Lonergan, and Fichte. (shrink)
Michael Baur, "Situating Hegel: From Transcendental Philosophy to a Phenomenology of Spirit," in the Palgrave Hegel Handbook, edited by Marian Bykova and Kenneth Westphal (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
According to some critics, the putative superficiality of Winckelmann's appropriation of the Greek legacy is just one instance of the emptiness that characterizes the appropriation of the Greeks by the Germans in general. Thus Eliza Maria Butler has spoken of the 'tyranny of Greece over Germany': 'If the Greeks are tyrants, the Germans are predestined slaves ... The Germans have imitated the Greeks more slavishly; they have been obsessed by them more utterly, and they have assimilated them less than any (...) other race.” Not coincidentally, the putative freedom or unfreedom of one's appropriation of the Greek ideal is one of the basic problems at issue in this chapter. In the following pages, I argue that Winckelmann not only understood this basic problem but also touched on its actual solution, albeit in an inadequate, aesthetic manner. I go on to suggest that Hegel articulated this solution in an adequate and properly philosophical manner. (shrink)
By way of engagement with the thought of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Heidegger, Lonergan, and neo-Thomism more broadly, Michael Baur and Gadamer discuss historicity, the Enlightenment and scientism, the epistemic implications of hylomorphism, and the nature of human finitude and death.
More than thirty-five years after its first release in 1971, Don McLean’s “American Pie” still resonates deeply with music listeners and consumers of popular culture. In a 2001 public poll sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America, McLean’s eight-and-a-half-minute masterpiece was ranked number 5 among the 365 “most memorable” songs of the twentieth century. In 2002, the song was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1997, Garth brooks performed “American Pie” (...) at a concert in Central Park, and in 2000, pop icon Madonna performed her own version of “American Pie” on the soundtrack of her movie The Next Best Thing. In 1999, American Pie became the title of a popular – and irreverently comical – coming-of-age movie starring Jason Biggs (the movie American Pie was followed by American Pie 2 in 2001, American Wedding in 2003, and American Pie Present – Band Camp in 2005). Like the movie to which it lent its name, the song “American Pie” presents a coming-of-age narrative; and, also like the movie, the song appealed strongly and immediately to its contemporary audience. Three months after its release in November of 1971, the song reached the number one slot on the charts in January of 1972, and it remained in the Top 40 for a total of seventeen weeks (longer than any other single during the year of 1972). Unlike the movie, however, the song “American Pie” is highly nuanced and sophisticated, containing multiple allusions and layers of meaning which challenge and heighten our understanding of rock ’n’ roll music and the possibility of self-reflection and self-critique in popular culture. (shrink)
The Hegelian and the Thomistic accounts of self-knowledge are solidly Aristotelian in their origins and motivations. In their conclusions and consequences, however, the two accounts exhibit significant differences. Hegel argues that genuine self-knowledge is necessarily social and historical, while Aquinas says nothing about history or society in his account of self-knowledge. The aim of this paper is not to decide the issue concerning historicity in favor of either Hegel or Aquinas. The aim here is rather to address a prior question: (...) what are the systematic and philosophical reasons for the difference between the two thinkers? In order to articulate this difference between the two, we might begin by considering an underlying similarity: their common Aristotelian background. (shrink)
As Richard Bernstein has suggested, there is a very rich and interesting story to be told about how the classical pragmatists (Dewey, Peirce, and James) understood G. W. R Hegel, made use of Hegel, and ultimately distanced themselves from Hegel. That story cannot be told here. Indeed, the story is so rich and complicated that even its beginnings cannot be told here. But what can be provided, perhaps, is a limited, though hopefully illuminating, perspective on a few salient aspects of (...) the relationship between the classical pragmatists and Hegel. While the following reflections offer no definitive answers about this relationship, they might at least suggest some fruitful lines of enquiry for future discussion. (shrink)
One of the best-known members of the United Nations Commission which drafted the 1948 "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Jacques Maritain, famously held that the "natural rights" or "human rights" possessed by every human being are grounded and justified by reference to the natural law.' In many quarters today, the notion of the natural law, and arguments for a set of natural rights grounded in the natural law, have come under fierce attack. One common line of attack is illustrated by (...) the arguments of some utilitarians, for whom "natural law thinking" is mistaken insofar as it implies that there is an absolute moral prohibition against violating any human being's "natural rights." Even if there is such a thing as "natural rights," these utilitarians argue, such rights - including even the natural "right to life" - are necessarily relational, and thus have meaning only within the context of a larger social whole. As a result, the argument goes, the supposed "natural rights" possessed by individual human beings are never inviolable or unconditional, but instead always negotiable and subject to being "traded away" for the sake of greater social utility. Consider just one alleged counter-example to the notion that there are inviolable or unconditional "natural rights": it is well-known that approximately 36,000 people in the United States die every year as a result of influenza infections or influenza-related complications.' There is little doubt that hundreds, and probably even thousands, of human lives would be saved every year if local governments were to pass laws requiring flu vaccinations for all members of at-risk populations (e.g., the very young and the very elderly). It would seem that there would be broad support for mandated flu vaccinations- no matter what the expense - if human lives would be saved and if the natural "right to life" is inviolable or unconditional.' And yet no such life-saving laws exist, apparently because citizens and legislators believe that the social costs and inconveniences would be too great. According to the utilitarian position, this demonstrates - contrary to what Ronald Dworkin and others say about rights' - that rights do not trump utility, but in fact are quite regularly and reasonably trumped by utility. In light of such contemporary understandings and policies, can natural law thinking about natural rights be made credible? In what follows, I shall argue that utilitarian thinkers are correct to hold that rights are intrinsically relational; but they are wrong to conclude that the relational character of rights entails that "natural rights" are not inviolable or not unconditional. (shrink)
The movie Memento (2000) broaches several interrelated philosophical questions concerning human knowledge, personal identity, and the human search for meaning. For example, is our knowledge based mainly on conclusions reached through our own reason, or is it based instead on habituation and conditioning brought about by forces outside of us? What is the role that memory plays in our knowledge? Furthermore, what is the relationship between memory and personal identity? And what is the relationship between memory, personal identity, and the (...) human search for meaning? Can one meaningfully pursue projects in life that one has not chosen for oneself? While Memento does not resolve all of these issues, it does suggest some provocative answers that are bound to make us think differently about human knowledge, personal identity, and the meaning of life. (shrink)
One important element in Lonergan’s philosophical work is the attempt to demonstrate the essential continuity between Aristotle’s thought and the explanatory viewpoint of modern science. Among other things, this attempt is meant to serve a two-fold purpose: first of all, to defend both Aristotle’s intellectualist metaphysics and the explanatory aspirations of modern science over against the caricatured representations of each which grew out of the Renaissance debate between the Aristotelians and the proponents of modern science; and secondly, to demonstrate the (...) intrinsic limitations of modern scientific humanism in much the same way that Aquinas tried to demonstrate the essential incompleteness of Aristotle’s non-Christian world view. Now Gadamer would not deny that there is an essential continuity in thought from Aristotle to modern science; in fact, he explicitly affirms such a continuity. And like Lonergan, Gadamer insists that modern science must play a legitimate, though restricted, role within contemporary culture. Given these and other important similarities between Gadamer and Lonergan, it may be difficult to see just where the grounds for possible disagreement lie. As a result, Gadamer’s reservations concerning Lonergan’s philosophical project may appear to be somewhat puzzling. In what follows, I shall try to shed light on some of the reasons for Gadamer’s reservations. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer an immanent critique of John Rawls’s theory of justice which seeks to show that Rawls’s understanding of his theory of justice as criteriological and contractarian is ultimately incompatible with his claim that the theory is grounded on the primacy of the practical. I agree with Michael Sandel’s observation that the Rawlsian theory of justice rests on substantive metaphysical and epistemological claims, in spite of Rawls’s assurances to the contrary. But while Sandel argues for even more (...) substantive metaphysical and epistemological commitments, I argue in the opposite direction. Following J. G. Fichte, I argue for a normative theory of society, not based on some particular notion of the good or on some contentious account of what all reasonable persons would agree to, but based only on the radical primacy of the practical, that is, based only on the seemingly empty premise that free beings - precisely because they are free - cannot be imagined in advance as all agreeing to any particular thing at all. (shrink)
Decalogue Five tells the story of Waldemar Rekowski (Jan Tesarz), a jaded taxi driver, Piotr Balicki (Krzysztof Globisz), an idealistic, newly-licensed attorney, and Jacek Lazar (Mirosław Baka), a young and troubled drifter, whose lives intersect with one another as a result of fate, or contingent circumstance, or some combination of both. With brutal detail and detachment, the ﬁlm depicts Jacek’s seemingly aimless wanderings through Warsaw, his senseless killing of Waldemar, his interactions with Piotr (his court-appointed attorney), and his eventual execution (...) after a failed defense in court. Like other ﬁlms within the Decalogue series, Five illustrates what happens when human beings are forced to confront ethical dilemmas (and thus are forced to confront themselves as responsible moral decision makers) in a world that seems to offer little in the way of moral direction, meaning, purpose, and community with others. Discussing the overarching aim of the Decalogue series as a whole, Krzysztof Kies´lowski refers to the sense of alienation, aimlessness, and loneliness that often describes the human condition. (shrink)
Aquinas's account of law as an ordering of reason for the common good of a community depends on the mereology that covered his theory of parthood relations, including the relations of parts to parts and parts to wholes. Aquinas argued that 'all who are included in a community stand in relation to that community as parts to a whole', and 'every individual person is compared to the whole community as part to whole'. Aquinas held that the perfection of wholes through (...) the proper ordering of their parts does not entail the elimination of diversity, but in many cases requires diversity. Aquinas argued that there are two ways of ordering parts within a whole. Firstly, the parts are ordered with respect to one another, and secondly, the parts are ordered toward an end. The ordering of a whole's parts to one another is always for the sake of the ordering of the whole to its extrinsic end. Aquinas argued that the good toward which the law directs a community is called the 'common good' of that community. The common good or common end toward which members of a community are ordered can be the sort of end that the agents bring into existence through their own actions such as justice within a community, or the sort of end that can exist apart from the actions of the agents. (shrink)
The thought of G. W. F. Hegel (1770 -1831) has had a deep and lasting influence on a wide range of philosophical, political, religious, aesthetic, cultural and scientific movements. But, despite the far-reaching importance of Hegel's thought, there is often a great deal of confusion about what he actually said or believed. G. W. F. Hegel: Key Concepts provides an accessible introduction to both Hegel's thought and Hegel-inspired philosophy in general, demonstrating how his concepts were understood, adopted and critically transformed (...) by later thinkers. The first section of the book covers the principal philosophical themes in Hegel's system: epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethical theory, political philosophy, philosophy of nature, philosophy of art, philosophy of religion, philosophy of history and theory of the history of philosophy. The second section covers the main post-Hegelian movements in philosophy: Marxism, existentialism, pragmatism, analytic philosophy, hermeneutics and French poststructuralism. The breadth and depth of G. W. F. Hegel: Key Concepts makes it an invaluable introduction for philosophical beginners and a useful reference source for more advanced scholars and researchers. (shrink)
In his 2009 encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI calls for a deeper, theological and metaphysical evaluation of the category of “relation” to achieve a proper understanding of the human being’s “transcendent dignity.” For some contemporary thinkers, this position might seem to be hopelessly paradoxical or even incoherent. After all, many contemporary thinkers are apt to believe that the human creature can have “transcendent dignity” only if the being and goodness of the human creature is not conditioned by (...) or dependent upon any relation or relatedness to anything else, including the natural environment. This chapter seeks to show that apparent paradoxes in Benedict XVI’s statement will begin to disappear if one resists the rather understandable temptation to interpret his thought by relying on presuppositions borrowed from contemporary ethical theories. More specifically, this chapter aims to show that Benedict XVI’s teachings— embedded as they are within a rich tradition of Catholic “natural law” thinking—are importantly distinguishable from contemporary utilitarian and deontological views. Furthermore, this chapter seeks to demonstrate that Benedict XVI’s “natural law” account offers an intellectually defensible alternative to contemporary modes of environmental thinking. (shrink)
With his contribution on "The Natural Law in the American Tradition," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain has begun the indispensable task of laying the groundwork for sound jurisprudential reasoning in the natural law tradition. It is on the basis of this groundwork that we can begin to appreciate what natural law reasoning might mean, and what it does not mean, for contemporary American legal thinking. More specifically, it is on the basis of this groundwork that one can begin to articulate what might (...) be called a "third way" of jurisprudential reasoning. This "third way" would steer clear of two opposed and equally problematic jurisprudential views; that is, it would steer clear of what we might call "standard legal positivism" (on the one hand), and (on the other hand) what Judge O'Scannlain calls the "aggressive" natural law jurisprudence of some contemporary theorists. (shrink)
This chapter argues that it is possible to identify, in the coming to be of knowledge, the three elements that Aristotle says are involved in any kind of coming to be whatsoever (viz., matter, form, and the generated composite object). Specifically, it is argued that in this schema the passive intellect (pathetikos nous) corresponds to the matter, the active intellect (poetikos nous) corresponds to the form, and the composite object corresponds to the mind as actually knowing.
Understood in its widest sense, the term “hermeneutics” can be taken to refer to the theory and/or practice of any interpretation aimed at uncovering the meaning of any expression, regardless of whether such expression was produced by a human or non-human source. Understood in a narrower sense, the term “hermeneutics” can be taken to refer to a particular stream of thought regarding the theory and/or practice of interpretation, developed mainly by German-speaking theorists from the late eighteenth through to the late (...) twentieth century. “Hermeneutics” in its broadest sense dates at least as far back as the ancient Greeks and is linked etymologically to the ancient Greeks’ mythological deity Hermes, who was said to deliver and interpret messages from the gods to mortals. “Hermeneutics” in its narrower sense emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, initially for the purpose of addressing problems in the interpretation of classical and biblical tests and then later for the purpose of articulating a more “universalized” theory of interpretation of general. This chapter traces the development of hermeneutics in its narrow sense through the work of Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002), and then concludes with some observations about what Hegel’s own hermeneutical thought might mean against the backdrop of this development. (shrink)
In this book, Fukuyama seeks to provide affirmative answers to two fundamental questions: Has the ideal of liberal democracy effectively triumphed throughout the world so that we can now speak of the end of humankind's ideological development and thus the end of history? If so, is this a good thing?
Shortly after the bus and subway bombings in London on July 7, 2005, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan called upon world leaders to reach consensus on a definition of terrorism, one that would facilitate 'moral clarity' and underwrite the United Nations convention against terrorism. The Secretary General's plea to world leaders help to highlight the practical significance and urgency of having a workable definition of terrorism. For the task of defining terrorism is not only theoretically or academically important; it (...) is important for far-reaching practical, moral, and political purposes as well. For without at least some semblance of a workable definition of terrorism, it is impossible to identify and collect data on acts of terrorism throughout the world; to understand and address the root causes of terrorism; and to reach international agreement and undertake collective action in addressing terrorism. And yet in spite of practical and moral urgency of the task at hand, consensus on an acceptable definition of terrorism has been notoriously elusive. (shrink)
In spite of their lack of interest in traditional philosophy and their explicit disavowals about the deeper meaning of their songs, there are also good reasons to approach and interpret the Beatles and their work from a philosophical point of view. In his Playboy interview from September of 1980, John praised Paul for the philosophical significance of the song, “The End,” which appeared on the Abbey Road album: “That’s Paul again. . . . he had a line in it – (...) “The love you take is equal to the love you make’ – which is a very cosmic, philosophical line. Which again proves that if [Paul] wants to, he can think” (Beatlesongs, p. 929). And in a similar vein, Paul revealed in an interview that Beatles songs are meant to be interpreted from different perspectives and on different levels: “You put your own meaning at your own level to our songs, and that’s what’s great about them” (Beatlesongs, p. 143). Of course, there are many things that are “great” about Beatles songs; but one of the great things – certainly for those who want to be thoughtful and reflective about popular culture – is that they can be interpreted philosophically and thus appreciated in light of philosophical ideas and theories. One such theory is what might be called “idealistic monism.”. (shrink)
In the opening chapter of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke explains that the self-understanding or self-measure of the human mind includes an account of the mind’s limits, and so the mind’s self-understanding can provide adequate grounds for intellectual self-moderation or self-control: “If we can find out, how far the Understanding can extend its view; how far it has Faculties to attain Certainty; and in what Cases it can only judge and guess, we may learn to content our selves (...) with what is attainable by us in this State.” Furthermore: “If we can find out those Measures, whereby a rational Creature put in that State, which Man is in, in this World, may, and ought to govern his Opinions, and Actions depending thereon, we need not be troubled, that some other things escape our Knowledge.” Compared to Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre may appear to exemplify the very opposite of intellectual modesty and self-control. Unlike Locke, Fichte argues that a true system of knowledge should not seek to limit or moderate itself by reference to what is allegedly unknowable outside of it. A true system of knowledge, writes Fichte, “. . . only has to agree with itself. It can be explained only by itself, and it can be proven - or refuted - only on its own terms.” Furthermore, Fichte suggests that an appreciation of his system of knowledge requires not modesty in his readers, but rather an implicit sense of superiority: “I wish to have nothing to do with those who, as a result of protracted spiritual servitude, have lost their own selves and, along with this loss of themselves, have lost any feeling for their own conviction . . .” In this essay, I shall seek to show that, contrary to initial impressions, it is Fichtean idealism, and not Lockean (or any similar) realism, that is truly modest. According to my account, Locke’s explicit declarations concerning the modesty and limitedness of his own project exhibit a certain ignorance concerning the genuine problems at issue. In his claim to be modest, the realist Locke professes to know more than he actually does, and thus manifests his own immodesty. By contrast, the idealist Fichte must refrain from such direct claims to modesty and must appear to be immodest, precisely because he has a greater understanding of how radically limited human knowledge always is. Like Plato’s Charmides, Fichte realizes that any explicit claim to self-limitation and self-moderation would actually give lie to itself. (shrink)
Kant’s “moral proof” for the existence of God has been the subject of much criticism, even among his most sympathetic commentators. According to the critics, the primary problem is that the notion of the “highest good,” on which the moral proof depends, introduces an element of contingency and heteronomy into Kant’s otherwise strict, autonomy-based moral thinking. In this paper, I shall argue that Kant’s moral proof is not only more defensible than commentators have typically acknowledged, but also has some very (...) interesting implications (e.g. the moral proof is “circular” and thus implicitly self-validating). My account shall proceed in five stages: 1. Preliminary Discussion of the Moral Proof 2. the Argument of the Moral Proof 3. Critics of the Moral Proof 4. Defense of the Moral Proof 5. Implications of the Moral Proof: Circularity and Self-referentiality.” . (shrink)
Alasdair MacIntyre has argued that our contemporary discourse about “rights,” and “natural rights” or “human rights,” is alien to the thought of Aristotleand Aquinas. His worry, it seems, is that our contemporary language of rights is often taken to imply that individuals may possess certain entitlement-conferringproperties or powers (typically called “rights”) entirely in isolation from other individuals, and outside the context of any community or common good. In thispaper, I accept MacIntyre’s worries about our contemporary language of “rights”; however, I (...) seek to show that some of our contemporary language or discourseabout “justice” and “rights” is not altogether misguided, but does—in fact—reflect a properly critical (Aristotelian-Thomistic) understanding of what is meant by“justice” and “rights.”. (shrink)
As Alexander D’Entrees observed over forty years ago, the case for natural law “is not an easy one to put clearly and convincingly.” Furthermore, even if one can make the case for natural law in a clear and convincing manner, one should not expect such an argument to be clear and convincing for all time. Instead, the case for natural law must be an ongoing argument, addressing itself perpetually to the needs of the time as these needs shift and change. (...) In short, the case for natural law “must needs appear in a different light according to the angle in time or in place from which it is looked at.” With this precept in mind, I seek to examine Thomas Aquinas’s natural law teaching on the legislation of virtue in light of concerns that are especially acute from the perspective of contemporary liberalism. (shrink)
American in rem, or civil, forfeiture laws seem to implicate constitutional concerns insofar as such laws may authorize the government to confiscate privately owned property, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the owner. Historically, the justification of in rem forfeiture law has rested on the legal fiction that “[t]he thing is . . . primarily considered as the offender, or rather the offense is attached primarily to the thing.” Last Term, in Bennis v. Michigan, the Supreme Court upheld the (...) constitutionality of a public nuisance statute that authorized the government to abate a car-owner’s property interest, even though there had been no showing of negligence or wrongdoing on the part of the owner herself. Referring to this country’s “longstanding practice” of in rem forfeiture proceedings, the Court held that abatement under the Michigan statute neither offended due process nor violated the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against takings without just compensation. By basing its decision on precedent, the Court prudently resisted the temptation to legislate from the bench. The Court also reached the right result in denying relief to Mrs. Bennis. Unfortunately, the Court’s appeal to past practice did not adequately address the constitutional concerns raised by the case. If the Court had said more about the traditional purpose and limits of in rem forfeitures, it could have addressed these concerns, while still avoiding the dangers of judicial activism. (shrink)
Twentieth-century Canadian philosopher Bernard J. F. Lonergan and nineteenth-century German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel regarded themselves as Aristotelian thinkers. As Aristotelians, both affirmed that human knowing is essentially a matter of knowing by identity: in the act of knowing, the knower and the known are formally identical. In spite of their common Aristotelian background and their common commitment to the idea that human knowing is knowing by identity, Lonergan and Hegel also differed on a number of crucial points. This (...) essay discusses some key similarities and differences between Lonergan and Hegel on the issue knowing, in the hope that such a discussion might uncover a few possible avenues for further philosophical dialogue about these two important thinkers. (shrink)
As I hope to show in this paper, Fichte’s rejection of traditional social contractarian accounts of human social relations is related to his rejection of the search for a criterion, or external standard, by which we might measure our knowledge in epistemology. More specifically, Fichte’s account of the impossibility of a normative social contract (as traditionally construed) is related to his account of the impossibility of our knowing things as they might be “in themselves,” separate from and independent of our (...) own activity in knowing them. Addressing the question of whether we finite human knowers can ever transcend the limits of our own consciousness, Fichte argues that Hume was not sufficiently critical: “…the Humean system holds open the possibility that we might someday be able to go beyond the boundary of the human mind, whereas the Critical system proves that such progress is absolutely impossible, and it shows that the thought of a thing possessing existence and specific properties in itself and apart from any faculty of representation is a piece of whimsy, a pipe dream, a nonthought.” In a very real sense, then, Fichte aims to “out-Hume” Hume on the question of whether we can ever know “things-in-themselves” or an external criterion for testing our knowledge. That is, Fichte goes beyond Hume and insists on the necessary – and not merely contingent – character of our ignorance of so-called things-in-themselves (i.e., things that supposedly exist antecedent to and independent of our consciousness of them). But unlike Hume, Fichte argues that radical skepticism regarding all possible knowledge of things-in-themselves does not undermine – but actually confirms and sustains – our belief in the emancipatory power of reason. (shrink)
According to the received view of scientific theories, a scientific theory is an axiomatic-deductive linguistic structure which must include some set of guidelines (“correspondence rules”) for interpreting its theoretical terms with reference to the world of observable phenomena. According to the semantic view, a scientific theory need not be formulated as an axiomatic-deductive structure with correspondence rules, but need only specify models which are said to be “isomorphic” with actual phenomenal systems. In this paper, I consider both the received and (...) semantic views as they bear on the issue of how a theory relates to the world (Section 1). Then I offer a critique of some arguments frequently put forth in support of the semantic view (Section 2). Finally, I suggest a more convincing “meta-methodological” argument (based on the thought of Bernard Lonergan) in favor of the semantic view (Section 3). (shrink)
Immanuel Kant's "critical philosophy" is rightly renowned for its criticism of the metaphysical pretensions of reason unaided by experience. It therefore seems ironic that, within a single generation, some of Kant's most important followers argued that the critical philosophy could be made fully critical only by recourse to the very metaphysical themes that Kant had apparently criticized. The story of the emergence of German Idealism has never been fully told. The story is full of tensions, contradictions, and reversals, all of (...) which seemingly conspire to render a meaningful and unified account impossible. While defying any simple or simplistic explanation, the various and sometimes conflicting impulses that led to the emergence of German Idealism together constitute an intelligible and rich line of development. In this volume, an international group of leading scholars shows how the various aspirations at work in the emergence of German Idealism―moral, religious, aesthetic, political, and epistemological―can be understood as both consummating and overcoming Kant's critical philosophy. The volume also includes a chronology of the major works in the development of German Idealism, as well as a new translation of the seminal and still-controversial essay, "The Earliest System Programme of German Idealism.". (shrink)
The so-called problem of arguing “from what is to what ought to be” was popularized by G.E. Moore in Principia Ethica (1903), and has received much attention from modern philosophers. I would like to argue that this apparent problem rests on a false dichotomy between our knowing and our doing.
What one conceives philosophy to be is largely a function of one’s own philosophical position. So if the history of philosophy has been characterized by radical disagreement between different philosophical positions, it should be no surprise that a similar disagreement happens to characterize discussion on just what philosophy itself is. In the following essay, I shall attempt to suggest a set of criteria – named the questions that philosophers characteristically ask – for grounding an adequate definition of philosophy. The articulation (...) of these questions, and the examination of how different philosophers have given priority to certain questions over others, will then make possible some helpful generalizations concerning the history of philosophy as a whole. (shrink)
With its June 2004 statement Catholics in Political Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opened an important and far-reaching discussion about how Catholic individuals ought to comport themselves in political life, and-indirectly-about how Catholic institutions-including Catholic law schools-ought to decide whether or not to give awards, honors, or platforms to those whose views about key moral and political issues may differ from the views expressed in the teachings of the Catholic Church. On the basis of a simple and (...) straightforward reading of the 2004 statement, it might appear that the bishops wanted to say that no Catholic institution-and thus no Catholic law school-should give awards, honors, or platforms to those who endorse or promote views that differ from the fundamental moral teachings of the Church. An important part of the statement plainly declares: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." A few moments of reflection will reveal, however, that the issue here is somewhat more complicated than what one might infer from a simple and straightforward reading of the statement. The aim of the present paper is not to settle the question of whether and how a Catholic law school ought to give awards, honors, or platforms to certain individuals or groups. Instead, the aim is to begin articulating some of the underlying conceptual issues that perhaps ought to be addressed in preparation for answering the further question of whether and how a Catholic law school ought to give awards, honors, or platforms to certain individuals or groups. (shrink)