When do two mental items belong to the same life? We could be content with the answer -just when they have certain volitional qualities in common. An affinity is noted between that theory and Berkeley's early doctrine of the self. Some rivals of the volitional theory invoke a spiritual or physical owner of mental items. They run a risk either of empty formality or of causal superstition. Other rivals postulate a non-transitive and symmetrical relation in the set of mental items. (...) They must allow in consequence either for joint ownership of one and the same mental item, or for incompatible simultaneous decisions by one and the same person, or for new forms of death. This makes them disquieting. Another rival invokes a transitive and symmetrical relation defined in terms of co-consciousness. Even that allows for incongruous simultaneities. The volitional theory is free from such disadvantages. (shrink)
A systematic study of rational or justified belief, which throws fresh light on current debates about foundations and coherence theories of knowledge, the validation of induction and moral scepticism. Dr Nathan focuses attention on the largely unsatisfiable desires for active and self-conscious assurance of truth liable to be engendered by philosophical reflection about total belief-systems and the sources of knowledge. He extracts a kernel of truth from the doctrine that a regress of justification is both necessary and impossible, contrasts the (...) resultant scepticism with more familiar complaints about the inapplicability of supposedly essential cognitive concepts and explores the feasibility of non-Humean modes of consolation. This is an original and carefully constructed book, which will interest professional philosophers and advanced students of epistemology. (shrink)
Beneath metaphysical problems there often lies a conflict between what we want to be true and what we believe to be true. Nathan provides a general account of the resolution of this conflict as a philosophical objective, showing that there are ways of thinking it through systematically with a view to resolving or alleviating it. The author also studies in detail a set of interrelated conflicts about the freedom and the reality of the will. He shows how difficult it is (...) to find a freedom either of decision or of action which is both an object of reflective desire and an object of rational belief. He also examines conflicts about volition as such, contending that the veridicality of volitional experience is no less easy to doubt than the veridicality of our experience of colors. In this context, arguments emerge for a voluntarist theory of the self. Nathan's important book will be essential reading for all philosophers interested in free will, volition, the self, and the methodology of metaphysics. (shrink)
Some people have supposed that utility is good in itself, non-in-strumentally good, as distinct from good because conducive to other good things. And in modern versions of this view, utility often means want-satisfaction, as distinct from pleasure or happiness. For your want that p to be satisfied, is it necessary that you know or believe that p, or sufficient merely that p is true? However that question is answered, there are problems with the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good. (...) What if you want something only because you have a false belief? What if the time at which you want that p is fifty or five hundred years before the time to which p itself refers? To meet these difficulties, qualifications have to be introduced, and much has been written about how exactly these qualifications are to be framed.1 There is however what may be a rather more serious objection to the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good, or rather to the combination of that view with the principle that it is sufficient for your want that p to be satisfied simply that p is true. The objection is that this combination forces you to give undue weight to the mere acquisition of desires when you come to make judgements about changes in the value of things. It forces you to say that for any true proposition p, which initially you do not want to be true, your mere acquisition of a desire that p will, other things being equal, make the world better. Non-instrumental value can be increased merely by multiplying desires, even though everything else remains the same. Surely, however, improving the world is not as easy as that. (shrink)
You have a body, but you are a soul or self. Without your body, you could still exist. Your body could be and perhaps is outlasted by the immaterial substance which is your soul or self. Thus the substance dualist. Most substance dualists are Cartesians. The self, they suppose, is essentially conscious: it cannot exist unless it thinks or wills or has experiences. In this paper I sketch out a different form of substance dualism. I suggest that it is not (...) consciousness but another immaterial feature which is essential to the self, a feature in one way analogous to a non-dispositional taste. Each self has moreover a different feature of this general kind. If this is right then simple and straightforward answers are available to some questions which prove troublesome to the Cartesian, consciousness-requiring type of substance dualist. I mean the questions, How can the self exist in dreamless sleep?, What distinguishes two simultaneously existing selves, and What makes a self the same self as a self which exists at some other time? (shrink)
Direct Realists believe that perception involves direct awareness of an object not dependent for its existence on the perceiver. Howard Robinson rejects this doctrine in favour of a Sense-Datum theory of perception. His argument against Direct Realism invokes the principle ‘same proximate cause, same immediate effect’. Since there are cases in which direct awareness has the same proximate cerebral cause as awareness of a sense datum, the Direct Realist is, he thinks, obliged to deny this causal principle. I suggest that (...) although Direct Realism is in more than one respect implausible, it does not succumb to Robinson’s argument. The causal principle is true only if ‘proximate cause’ means ‘proximate sufficient cause’, and the Direct Realist need not concede that there is a sufficient cerebral cause for direct awareness of independent objects. (shrink)
Some people believe that God made it a condition for His forgiveness even of repentant sinners that Jesus died a sacrificial death at human hands. Often, in the New Testament, this doctrine of Objective Atonement seems to be implied, as when Jesus spoke of his blood as ‘shed for many for the remission of sins’ , or when St Paul said that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ . And for many centuries the doctrine was indeed accepted (...) by most if not all Christian theologians. It seems in fact to be an essential part of Christianity, which adherents of that religion cannot reject without undermining the authority both of their scriptures and of a very long tradition. It looks then as if objections to the doctrine are objections to the Christian scheme itself. Here is one of them. As the Gospels present it Jesus was murdered, by one or more of Pilate, the Sanhedrin and the Jewish mob. Given Objective Atonement, God ordained the sacrificial death of Jesus, and so, as it seems, this murder. Murder requires freedom on the killer's part. And many have doubted that an action can be both free and ordained by God. Leave that aside. A good God would in any case not make it a condition for our forgiveness that someone acquired the guilt of murder. (shrink)
The self is one of the perennial topics in philosophy, and also one of the most debated. Its existence has been both defended and contested in equal measure by philosophers including Descartes and Hume. A Map of Selves: Beyond Philosophy of Mind proposes an original and compelling defense of selfhood. N. M. L. Nathan argues that the self is an enduring substance with a unique quality not shared with any other substance. He criticizes the panpsychist theory that material objects are (...) composed of selves analogous to ours and argues for the existence of at least one transcendent self, whose activity explains both our own existence and the existence of the natural world. He concludes by considering how the world would be for us if such selves did not exist, and we were, as some philosophers think we are, not selves, but, e.g., brains or simply sequences of mental events. A radical and innovative philosophical theory of the self, A Map of Selves: Beyond Philosophy of Mind will be of interest to those working on the philosophy of self and personal identity, philosophy of mind and metaphysics. (shrink)
1. The ideal of spatio-temporally unrestricted generalisation, which marks all post-mythological thinking about nature, marks no more than the continuity of totemism in political casuistry. No unrestricted principle of Socialism or Conservatism or Liberal Democracy is defensible unless it is accorded a moral ultimacy which almost no one fully conscious of what he was about would actually want to accord it. If this bare platitude is to be fully assimilated, it needs both concrete exemplification and support of the systematic kind. (...) Liberal principles are well provided for in these respects: J. F. Stephen showed in brilliant detail that, from a utilitarian point of view, the question whether liberty even in advanced societies is irrespective of time and place a good or a bad thing is an irrational question—”as irrational as the question whether fire is a good or a bad thing.” But demonstrations and illustrations of the restricted nature of our other popular political principles are not so easily come by, and the critical survey of standard prodemocratic arguments, which makes up Part III of this paper, is meant to supply a part of the deficiency. (shrink)
I argue for two principles by combining which we can construct a sound cosmological argument. The first is that for any true proposition p's if ‘there is an explanation for p's truth’ is consistent then there is an explanation for p's truth. The second is a modified version of the principle that for any class, if there is an explanation for the non-emptiness of that class, then there is at least one non-member of that class which causes it not to (...) be empty. (shrink)
I argue for two principles by combining which we can construct a sound cosmological argument. The first is that for any true proposition p's if 'there is an explanation for p's truth' is consistent then there is an explanation for p's truth. The second is a modified version of the principle that for any class, if there is an explanation for the non-emptiness ofthat class, then there is at least one non-member ofthat class which causes it not to be empty.
Some Christians combine a doctrine about Christ which implies that there is more than one divine self with the doctrine that God revealed to the Jews a monotheism according to which there is just one divine self. I suggest that it is less costly for such Christians to achieve consistency by abandoning the second of these doctrines than to achieve it by abandoning the first.
After briefly vindicating casuistries which successively apply a number of different moral principles, I describe some of the principles of justice liable to figure in such casuistries, assess the relative popularity of these principles and show that some of the most popular cannot be consistently applied in all circumstances.