Spinoza insists that we can during the course of our lives increase that part of the mind that is constituted by knowledge, but he also calls that part of the mind its eternal part. How can what is eternal increase? I defend an interpretation on which there is a sense in which the eternal part of the mind can become greater without changing intrinsically at all.
It is puzzling that Spinoza both urges people to seek to preserve themselves and also holds that, as a matter of fact, people do strive to preserve themselves. I argue that the striving for self-preservation that characterizes all individuals grounds, for Spinoza, the claim that human beings seek only whatever they anticipate will lead to pleasure (laetitia). People desire ends other than self-preservation because they anticipate pleasure in those ends, and Spinoza urges people to seek to preserve themselves because he (...) thinks such desires misguided: the anticipation of pleasure in any end that does not conduce to self-preservation is mistaken. (shrink)
Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach was a philosopher, translator, and prominent social figure of the French Enlightenment. In his philosophical writings Holbach developed a deterministic and materialistic metaphysics which grounded his polemics against organized religion and his utilitarian ethical and political theory. As a translator, Holbach made significant contributions to the European Enlightenment in science and religion. He translated German works on chemistry and geology into French, summarizing many of the German advances in these areas in his entries in Diderot's (...) Encyclopedia. Holbach also translated important English works on religion and political philosophy into French. Holbach remains best known, however, for his role in Parisian society. The close circle of intellectuals that Holbach hosted and, in various ways, sponsored produced the Encyclopedia and a number of revisionary religious, ethical, and political works that contributed to the ideological basis for the French Revolution. Despite the radical views of many members of his coterie, however, Holbach's broader visiting guest list included many of the most prominent intellectual and political figures in Europe. His salon, then, was at once a shelter for radical thought and a hub of mainstream culture. (shrink)
: As Spinoza presents it, the knowledge of God is knowledge, primarily, of oneself and, secondarily, of other things. Without this know‐ledge, a mind may not consciously desire to persevere in being. That is why Spinoza claims that the knowledge of God is the most useful thing to the mind at IVP28. He claims that the knowledge of God is the highest good, however, not because it is instrumental to perseverance, but because it is also the best among those goods (...) that we seek for their own sakes. It is acquiescentia in se ipso, the highest form of laetitia. (shrink)
Spinoza insists in the Theological Political Treatise that philosophy and theology are two separate kingdoms. I argue here that there is a basis in the psychology of the Ethics for one of the major components of the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Under the kingdom of theology, religion's principal function is to overcome the influence of harmful passion that prevents people from living life according to a fixed plan: people can live according to a fixed plan because they can obey. (...) Through a series of arguments I show that Spinoza takes obedience to arise through devotion; devotion to associate with ideas of miracles and imaginative monotheism; and these ideas to be imaginative ideas of singular objects. On the psychology of the Ethics, ideas of this sort, although highly irrational, nevertheless give minds a power to resist harmful passion similar to that of ideas of reason. Although problems remain for the interpretation of the doctrine of the two kingdoms, this argument shows that Spinoza's psychology gr.. (shrink)
â€œOne moral truism that should not provoke controversy is the principle of universality: We should apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to othersâ€”in fact, more stringent ones,â€ writes Chomsky (Khaleej Times, August 6, 2004).
A review by Samantha Power in the Sunday New York Times Book Review of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, America's Quest for Global Dominance constitutes the most sympathetic, comparatively fair and balanced discussion of Chomsky's political writing in years appearing in these pages, with only a hint of Chomsky bashing.
Leon Goldstein’s critical philosophy of history has suffered a relative lack of attention, but it is the outcome of an unusual story. He reached conclusions about the autonomy of the discipline of history similar to those of R. G. Collingwood and Michael Oakeshott, but he did so from within the Anglo-American analytic style of philosophy that had little tradition of discussing such matters. Initially, Goldstein attempted to apply a positivistic epistemology derived from Hempel’s philosophy of natural science to (...) historical knowledge, but gradually formulated an anti-realistic epistemology that firmly distinguished historical knowledge of the past not only from the scientific perspective but also from fictional and common-sense attitudes to the past. Among his achievements were theories of the distinctive nature of historical evidence and historical propositions, of the constructed character of historical events, and of the relationship between historical research and contemporary culture. Taken together, his ideas merit inclusion among the most important twentieth-century contributions to the problem of historical knowledge. (shrink)
This paper deals with Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Though both concepts have been very influential for science studies in general, and both have been subject to numerous interpretations, their accounts have, somewhat surprisingly, hardly been comparatively analyzed. Both Fleck and Polanyi relied on the physiology and psychology of the senses in order to show that scientific knowledge follows less the path of logical principles than the path of accepting or rejecting (...) specific conventions, where these may be psychologically or sociologically grounded. It is my aim to show that similarities and differences between Fleck and Polanyi are to be seen in the specific historical and political context in which they worked. Both authors, I shall argue, emphasized the relevance of perception in close connection to their respective understanding of science, freedom, and democracy. (shrink)
A common epistemological assumption in contemporary bioethics held b y both proponents and critics of non-traditional forms of cognitive enhancement is that cognitive enhancement aims at the facilitation of the accumulation of human knowledge. This paper does three central things. First, drawing from recent work in epistemology, a rival account of cognitive enhancement, framed in terms of the notion of cognitive achievement rather than knowledge, is proposed. Second, we outline and respond to an axiological objection to our proposal that draws (...) from recent work by Leon Kass (2004), Michael Sandel (2009), and John Harris (2011) to the effect that ‘enhanced’ cognitive achievements are (by effectively removing obstacles to success) not worthy of pursuit, or are otherwise ‘trivial’. Third, we show how the cognitive achievement account of cognitive enhancement proposed here fits snugly with recent active externalist approaches (e.g., extended cognition) in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. (shrink)
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, (...) however, that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos. (shrink)
Ethical debate surrounding human enhancement, especially by biotechnological means, has burgeoned since the turn of the century. Issues discussed include whether specific types of enhancement are permissible or even obligatory, whether they are likely to produce a net good for individuals and for society, and whether there is something intrinsically wrong in playing God with human nature. We characterize the main camps on the issue, identifying three main positions: permissive, restrictive and conservative positions. We present the major sub-debates and lines (...) of argument from each camp. The review also gives a flavor of the general approach of key writers in the literature such as Julian Savulescu, Nick Bostrom, Michael Sandel, and Leon Kass. (shrink)
The eminent historian and philosopher of biology, Michael Ruse, has written several books that explore the relationship of evolutionary theory to its larger scientific and cultural setting. Among the questions he has investigated are: Is evolution progressive? What is its epistemological status? Most recently, in "Darwin and Design: Does Evolution have a Purpose?," Ruse has provided a history of the concept of teleology in biological thinking, especially in evolutionary theorizing. In his book, he moves quickly from Plato and Aristotle (...) to Kant and such British thinkers as Paley and Whewell. His main focus, though, is on Darwin's theory and its subsequent fate. Ruse rests his history on some shaky historical and philosophic assumptions, particularly the unexamined notion that evolutionary theory is an abstract entity that is unproblematically realized in different historical periods. He also assumes that Darwin conceived nature as if it were a Manchester spinning loom -- a clanking, dispassionate machine. A more subtle analysis, which Ruse eschews, might discover that Darwin's conception of nature owed a strong debt to German Romanticism and that he contrived to infuse nature with moral and aesthetic values, not to suck them from nature. Ruse proves he is a thinker to contend with, and this essay is quite contentious. (shrink)
In Consciousness and persons, Michael Tye (Tye, M. (2003). Consciousness and persons. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.) develops and defends a novel approach to the unity of consciousness. Rather than thinking of the unity of consciousness as involving phenomenal relations between distinct experiences, as standard accounts do, Tye argues that we should regard the unity of consciousness as involving relations between the contents of consciousness. Having developed an account of what it is for consciousness to be unified, Tye goes on (...) to apply his account of the unity of consciousness to the split-brain syndrome. I provide a critical evaluation of Tye's account of the unity of consciousness and the split-brain syndrome. (shrink)
This is a review of Michael Devitt's collection of previously published articles entitled Putting Metaphysics First: Essays on Metaphysics and Epistemology. The review also suggests a new way of formulation the realism/anti-realism contrast on the basis of Devitt's work. This contrast is understood in terms explanatory priority: should we in a given domain begin our theorizing from metaphysics (realism) or semantics (anti-realism)?
Although it goes against a widespread significant misunderstanding of his view, Michael Smith is one of the very few moral philosophers who explicitly wants to allow for the commonsense claim that, while morally required action is always favored by some reason, selfish and immoral action can also be rationally permissible. One point of this paper is to make it clear that this is indeed Smith’s view. It is a further point to show that his way of accommodating this claim (...) is inconsistent with his well-known “practicality requirement” on moral judgments: the thesis that any rational person will always have at least some motivation to do what she judges to be right. The general conclusion is that no view that, like Smith’s, associates the normative strength of a reason with the motivational strength of an ideal desire will allow for the wide range of rational permissibility that Smith wants to capture. (shrink)