The view that metaphysics is a waste of time appears to be gaining in popularity with every passing day. It is held openly by many scientists and even by many philosophers. I argue here that this is a consequence of the way metaphysics is often done, the futility of a certain approach to it, and not a reason to suppose that there is no useful knowledge to be acquired in metaphysics.
There is a widespread view that Buddhist philosophy embodies logical contradictions such that there would be 'true' contradictions, This article explains that this is not the case and that Buddhist philosophy, more generally the Perennial philosophy, denies all contradictions for the sake of a doctrine of Unity.
We often speak of 'Eastern' and 'Western' philosophy, yet it is not always easy to distinguish the key factors that justify this distinction. This essay explores the very different conceptions of the continuum that underlie these two traditions of thought and knowledge. The views of Hermann Weyl are given and it is proposed that they are correct. Attention is drawn to the mutually-exclusive visions of the continuum that separate the philosophies of East and West, and that give us a way (...) of pinning down a definition of these vague geographical terms so as to give them, in at least one respect, a clear philosophical and scientific meaning. (shrink)
Some time ago, in an article for the Journal of Consciousness Studies, David Chalmers challenged his peers to identify the ingredient missing from our current theories of consciousness, the absence of which prevents us from solving the 'hard' problem and forces us to make do with nonreductive theories. Here I respond to this challenge. I suggest that consciousness is a metaphysical problem and as such can be solved only within a global metaphysical theory. Such a theory would look very like (...) the information theory proposed by Chalmers, but with the addition of an extra phenomenon that would allow it to become fundamental. (shrink)
This essay proposes that metaphysics is best done as lazily as possible, and that a lazy approach, which some would call 'high level', is effective where it means that issues are simplified and unpleasant facts are faced with no wriggling on the hook. It sketches out the solution proposed by Buddhism or more generally mysticism. It suggest that the principle obstacle to a solution for metaphysics is Russell's Paradox, and that it can be overcome.
Issues of religious toleration might be thought dead and advocacy of religious toleration a pointless exercise in preaching to the converted, at least in most contemporary European societies. This paper challenges that view. It does so principally by focusing on issues of religious accommodation as these arise in contemporary multi-faith societies. Drawing on the cases of exemption, Article 9 of the ECHR, and law governing indirect religious discrimination, it argues that issues and instances of accommodation are issues and instances of (...) toleration. Special attention is given to issues that arise when the claims of religious belief conflict with those of other legally protected characteristics, especially sexual orientation. The paper uses a concept of toleration appropriate to a liberal democratic political order—one that replaces the ‘vertical’ ruler-to-subject model of toleration that suited early modern monarchies with a ‘horizontal’ citizen-to-citizen model appropriate to a political order that aims to uphold an ideal of toleration rather than itself extend toleration to those whose lives it regulates. (shrink)
A tongue-in-cheek marketing review of university philosophy prompted by a slow-down in sales and mounting criticism of the product. These problems are diagnosed as the consequence of an inward-looking culture that encourages a narrow and fixed focus on selling the traditional product while discouraging examination of its competitors.
Abstract I re-present my account of how a liberal democratic society can be tolerant and do so in a way designed to meet Peter Balint’s objections. In particular, I explain how toleration can be approached from a third-party perspective, which is that of neither tolerator nor tolerated but of rule-makers providing for the toleration that the citizens of a society are to extend to one another. Constructing a regime of toleration should not be confused with engaging in toleration. Negative appraisal (...) and power remain ‘possibility conditions’ of toleration but they are not necessary features of either a regime of toleration or the sponsors of such a regime. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-6 DOI 10.1007/s11158-012-9178-2 Authors Peter Jones, Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU UK Journal Res Publica Online ISSN 1572-8692 Print ISSN 1356-4765. (shrink)
We should cherish metaphysics for its power to overcome false views and yet we admonish it for its ongoing failure. Is it possible that this is for the embarrassingly simple reason that we usually ignore Aristotle’s definition for a legitimate contradictory pair?
I reply to each of the contributions in this issue. I agree with much that Hillel Steiner argues, especially his insistence that the associated ideas of impartiality and discontinuity are crucial to dealing satisfactorily with a diversity of competing claims. I am, however, less willing to conceive provision for that diversity as the role, rather than a role, that we should ascribe to rights. I question the success of David Miller?s endeavour to provide a unified justification of human rights grounded (...) in the concept of need. It is the notion of a minimally decent human life, rather than need itself, that does most of the justificatory work in Miller?s argument and, arguably, that notion does not deliver a genuinely unitary account of human rights. I concede the case for state funding of opera and the arts more generally to John Horton?s argument, but defend neutralism, and its associated distinction between the right and the good, as a strategy for dealing with diversity, including cultural diversity. I resist Richard Bellamy?s attempt to ground all basic rights in democracy and suggest that his argument relies upon idealized assumptions about the functioning of democracy. I share much of his objection to substituting judicial for political decision-making but argue that a strong moral commitment to rights need not imply a shift in power from democratic processes to courts. I endorse Albert Weale?s argument for favouring a beneficial design approach over a rights approach to healthcare and to many other social goods. Rights should not monopolize our moral and political thinking. (shrink)
In recent years there has been much debate over whether recognition has displaced, or should displace, redistribution as the pre?eminent concern of contemporary politics. That debate is not about whether we should continue to pursue an egalitarian ideal, since equality is as much a goal for the politics of recognition as it is for the politics of redistribution. In this essay, I address only issues of recognition and ask what kind of equal recognition we can reasonably demand or pursue. I (...) argue that we can expect to secure equal recognition of difference or particularity only if that recognition is mediated by more general forms of recognition. Certainly that approach is implied if we hold that difference should be recognised because that difference matters to the recognised rather than to the recogniser. Thus, I challenge the prevailing view that the politics of difference should replace the politics of universalism; rather, the politics of difference presupposes a form of universalism. I also use a distinction between status and merit recognition to indicate the difficulties that confront the goal of equal recognition if we insist that particularity or difference should be the object of unmediated recognition. I use cultural and religious identities as the main foci for my argument, but I also consider how far that argument translates to issues of sexuality and gender. (shrink)
How should we deal with social diversity if we conceive it as cultural diversity? Appeals to cultural relativism and to the collective good of diversity provide inadequate answers. Taking cultural diversity seriously requires that we respond to it fairly or justly and that, in turn, requires an approach that is impartial (or neutral) amongst cultures. Claims of impartiality are often thought peculiarly implausible when applied to cultural diversity, but an impartialist approach is in fact peculiarly appropriate to that form of (...) diversity. The issue is not whether we can be impartial, but whether we are ready to accept the implications of describing a diversity as ?cultural? and, if we are, what form our impartiality should take. Attempts to avoid claims of impartiality by dealing with diversity through deliberative processes are misguided since those processes must embody commitments to impartiality if their outcomes are to be just. (shrink)
The paper reflects on the relationship between the understanding of human activity which Marx expresses in Capital and the theoretical model of activity offered by an influential contemporary variant of Activity Theory. The paper argues that this variant departs significantly from Marx’s conception of human activity and its role in what he calls the ‘labour process’. In particular, Activity Theory has failed to distinguish between the labour process and the valorization process, a distinction which is fundamental to Capital and to (...) Marx’s theoretical and political perspective more generally. The paper also argues that this conceptual conflation is also evident in the theoretical discourse of the founders of the Activity Theory tradition. The paper goes on to consider the theoretical and practical implications of this departure from the method and conclusions of Capital. (shrink)
This essay considers some major questions raised by civil and other forms of conscientious disobedience. What distinguishes that form of dissent? Can we recognise the legitimacy of a political system yet defy its laws? Is disobeying a democratic decision especially or entirely unacceptable, or can disobedience be an instrument of democracy? If a regime recognises rights, how should we regard disobedience that appeals to those rights in challenging the regimes laws? How should reasons for obedience figure in our thinking about (...) justified disobedience? The essay locates the contributions that make up this special issue of Res Publica within these debates about disobedience. It questions whether any general theory of justified disobedience can command agreement: the conditions that give rise to conscientious disobedience -- conflicting values and judgements -- seem to preclude consensus on when its use is justified. (shrink)
With some qualifications, this article endorses Brian Leiter’s argument that religious accommodation should not shift burdens from believers to non-believers. It argues that religious believers should take responsibility for their beliefs and for meeting the demands of their beliefs. It then examines the implications of that argument for British law on indirect discrimination as it relates to religion or belief: burden-shifting from believers to employers and providers of goods and services should be deemed acceptable only insofar as the burden incurred (...) by the employer or provider is ‘insignificant’. Legal exemptions should satisfy a similar test. Why should there be religious accommodation at all, even if it entails no significant burden-shifting? The author agrees with Leiter in finding the most plausible answer in the claims of conscience rather than in general theories of equality or features special to religion. Those claims can reasonably be made in respect of liberty of conscience but also when conscience is merely disadvantaged. (shrink)
An objection frequently brought against critical or satirical expressions, especially when these target religions, is that they are ‘offensive’. In this article, I indicate why the existence of diverse and conflicting beliefs gives people an incentive to formulate their complaints in the language of offence. But I also cast doubt on whether people, in saying they are offended really mean to present that as the foundation of their complaint and, if they do, whether their complaint should weigh with us. These (...) doubts do not apply to everything we might find offensive; in particular, they do not apply to simple cases of ‘sensory offence’; but they do apply to ‘belief-based offence’. Relying on offence also implies, inequitably, that different faiths should be differently protected depending on their susceptibility to offence; and the faithful themselves should worry about the flimsiness of claims based on ‘bare knowledge’ offence. I propose a principle of respect for beliefs as a differently grounded and more plausible reason for curbing our treatment of others’ beliefs. However, that principle has a limited compass and is hemmed in by the claims of free expression. It is also less suited to dictating the content of law than to influencing our conduct within the law. (shrink)
Two distinct senses of 'understanding', Neither implying that works of art have meaning, Or communicate: (1) 'cognitive', Referring to knowledge of character of work; (2) 'phenomenal', Parasitic on (1), Referring to what a viewer takes work to be, Or sees it as. Individuation and characterization of works is settled by contingent agreement. Understanding a work shares features with understanding persons, And arguments. It is an achievement concept, Partly passive, Partly active, Whose nature is unknown in advance. Critics create conventions for (...) talking about works; this leaves little room for pretending, At least in sense (2) which is an explicitly 'intentional' concept. (shrink)
The paper offers a critical reflection, inspired by the insights of integrational linguistics, on the conception of thinking and action within the distributed cognition approach of Edwin Hutchins. Counterposing a fictional account of a mutiny at sea to Hutchins’ observational study of navigation on board the Palau, the paper argues that the ethical fabric of communication and action with its ‘first person’ perspective must not be overlooked in our haste to appeal to ‘culture’ as an alternative to the internalist, computer (...) metaphor of thinking. The paper accepts Hutchins’ own critique of the ‘meaning in the message’ illusion but goes beyond this critique to argue for a view of communication, thinking and action as creative, ethically charged and morally accountable acts of engagement. (shrink)
Generally we think it good to tolerate and to accord recognition. Yet both are complex phenomena and our teaching must acknowledge and cope with that complexity. We tolerate only what we object to, so our message to students cannot be simply, 'promote the good and prevent the bad'. Much advocacy of toleration is not what it pretends to be. Nor is it entirely clear what sort of conduct should count as intolerant. Sometimes people are at fault for tolerating what they (...) should not, or for tolerating what they should find unexceptionable. So virtue does not always lie with toleration. Tolerance can also seem condescending; should we therefore replace it with recognition? But recognition may not be able to coexist with the disapproval that makes toleration necessary. However, not everything about toleration and recognition is controversial; there are fixed points from which students can grapple with the issues presented by both. (shrink)