A compilation of all previously published writings on philosophy and the foundations of mathematics from the greatest of the generation of Cambridge scholars that included G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Maynard Keynes.
It is fortunate for my purposes that English has the two words ‘almighty’ and ‘omnipotent’, and that apart from any stipulation by me the words have rather different associations and suggestions. ‘Almighty’ is the familiar word that comes in the creeds of the Church; ‘omnipotent’ is at home rather in formal theological discussions and controversies, e.g. about miracles and about the problem of evil. ‘Almighty’ derives by way of Latin ‘omnipotens’ from the Greek word ‘ pantokratōr ’; and both this (...) Greek word, like the more classical ‘ pankratēs ’, and ‘almighty’ itself suggest God's having power over all things. On the other hand the English word ‘omnipotent’ would ordinarily be taken to imply ability to do everything; the Latin word ‘omnipotens’ also predominantly has this meaning in Scholastic writers, even though in origin it is a Latinization of ‘ pantocratōr ’. So there already is a tendency to distinguish the two words; and in this paper I shall make the distinction a strict one. I shall use the word ‘almighty’ to express God's power over all things, and I shall take ‘omnipotence’ to mean ability to do everything. (shrink)
My topic is personal identity, or rather, our identity. There is general, but not, of course, unanimous, agreement that it is wrong to give an account of what is involved in, and essential to, our persistence over time which requires the existence of immaterial entities, but, it seems to me, there is no consensus about how, within, what might be called this naturalistic framework, we should best procede. This lack of consensus, no doubt, reflects the difficulty, which must strike anyone (...) who has considered the issue, of achieving, just in one's own thinking, a reflective equilibrium. The theory of personal identity, I feel, provides a curious contrast. On the one side, it seems highly important to know what sort of thing we are, but, on the other, it is hard to find any answer which has a ‘solid’ feel. (shrink)
In recent years philosophers have given much attention to the ‘ontological problem’ of events. Donald Davidson puts the matter thus: ‘the assumption, ontological and metaphysical, that there are events is one without which we cannot make sense of much of our common talk; or so, at any rate, I have been arguing. I do not know of any better, or further, way of showing what there is’. It might be thought bizarre to assign to philosophers the task of ‘showing what (...) there is’. They have not distinguished themselves by the discovery of new elements, new species or new continents, nor even of new categories, although there has often been more dreamt of in their philosophies than can be found in heaven or earth. It might appear even stranger to think that one can show what there actually is by arguing that the existence of something needs to be assumed in order for certain sentences to make sense. More than anything, the sober reader will doubtlessly be amazed that we need to assume , after lengthy argument, ‘that there are events’. (shrink)
It is a widely held belief that one can will to believe, disbelieve, and withhold belief concerning propositions. It is sometimes said that we have a duty to believe certain propositions. These theses have had a long and respected history. In one form or another they receive the support of a large number of philosophers and theologians who have written on the relationship of the will to believing. In the New Testament Jesus holds his disciples responsible for their beliefs, reprimands (...) them for doubting, and speaks of the ability to believe as if it were optional. Paul makes it clear that he thinks propositional belief is a necessary condition for salvation. If a man confesses Christ as Lord with his lips and believes in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he shall be saved . The writer of Hebrews implies that unless we have certain propositional beliefs we cannot please God . In the New Testament most cases of pistis involve more than a propositional attitude. They involve the idea of trust and faithfulness. Nevertheless, a prima facie case for saying that the volitional theses can be found in the New Testament can be made. Forms of volitionalism can be found stated more explicitly in the writings of the early Church, in the writings of Irenaeus, in the Athanasian Creed, and in Augustine. Acquinas describes faith as an act of the intellect moved by the will. Descartes is perhaps the classic example of a volitionalist, holding that if we were not responsible for our beliefs , then God would be - which is tantamount to blasphemy in that it makes God into a deceiver. (shrink)
The criminal law presently distinguishes between actions and omissions, and only rarely proscribes failures to avert consequences that it would be an offense to bring about. Why? In recent years it has been persuasively argued by both Glover and Bennett that, celeris paribus, omissions to prevent a harm are just as culpable as are actions which bring that harm about. On the other hand, and acknowledging that hitherto “lawyers have not been very successful in finding a rationale for it,” Tony (...) Honoré has sought to defend the law's differential treatment. He proposes a “distinct-duties theory” that in addition to the general duties we owe to everyone, we also owe distinct duties to a more limited collection of people and associations, specified by features of our relationship with them. Where a distinct duty holds, breach by omission may well be no better than breach by positive action. But absent a distinct duty, omissions, per Honoré, are less culpable. They are mere failures to intervene and improve or rectify things, whereas actions are positive interventions which make things worse. And, thus, the law has good reason to differentiate between them. (shrink)
Throughout its history philosophy has been thought to be a member of a community of intellectual disciplines united by their common pursuit of knowledge. It has sometimes been thought to be the queen of the sciences, at other times merely their under-labourer. But irrespective of its social status, it was held to be a participant in the quest for knowledge – a cognitive discipline.
This is a transcript of a conversation between P F Strawson and Gareth Evans in 1973, filmed for The Open University. Under the title 'Truth', Strawson and Evans discuss the question as to whether the distinction between genuinely fact-stating uses of language and other uses can be grounded on a theory of truth, especially a 'thin' notion of truth in the tradition of F P Ramsey.
In medieval writers an important distinction was drawn between two applications of the term ‘ logica ’: there was logica utens , the practice of thinking logically about this or that subject-matter, and there was logica docens , the construction of logical theory. Of course the English word ‘logic’ and its derivative ‘logical’ have a corresponding twofold meaning, and we ignore the distinction at the risk of serious confusion. ‘Logical thought’ may mean thinking that is being commended as orderly, consistent, (...) and consequent, whatever its subject-matter; or it may mean the thinking of logicians about logic, which alas has not always exhibited these virtues. Similarly for ‘teaching logic’: there is trying to get people, by precept and example, to be orderly, consistent, and consequent in their thinking, and there is the endeavour to train logicians for the next generation. In any respectable philosophy department there will be someone teaching logic in the first sense; in my own university there are very many first-year undergraduates who do a course called Reason and Argument with this aim. But we hold that the teacher of such logica utens must himself have a sufficient skill in logica docens if he is to do his job properly; and we undertake the further task of training people in logical theory so that some of them, who have sufficient native ability and motivation, may take up the torch from their teachers. (shrink)