Academic discussion of pornography is generally restricted to issues arising from the depiction of adults. I argue that child-pornography is a more complex matter, and that generally accepted moral judgements concerning pornography in general have to be revised when children are involved. I look at the question of harm to the children involved, the consumers, and society in general, at the question of blame, and at the possibility of a morally acceptable form of child-pornography. My approach involves an objectivist meta-ethics (...) and a utilitarian view of practical ethics, and I bring out the advantages of these theories to the consideration of moral issues such as this one. (shrink)
 In twelve quite demanding chapters, outstanding scholars provide an overall view of the key issues of Scotus’s philosophical thought. To this a very concise introduction is added, concerning the life and works of John Duns (very good, especially the survey of works and the information on critical editions etc.). Throughout the book, I find the information clear and the difficult topics well explained. Moreover, the volume gives a quick entrance to the vast literature. Among the topics discussed are: ‘Metaphysics’ (...) (Peter King), ‘Universals and Individuation’ (Timothy Noone), ‘Modal Theory’ (Calvin Normore), ‘Natural Theology’ (James Ross & Todd Bates), ‘Philosophy of Mind’ (Richard Cross), ‘Cognition’ (Robert Pasnau), ‘Moral Dispositions’ (Bonnie Kent). What strikes the eye is the absence of important theological subjects: Trinity, Christology, sin and grace, to name a few. Since the cover text promises that ‘the essays in this volume systematically survey the full range of Scotus’ thought’, this omission is remarkable. It stems, I guess, from the strict philosophical scope of the series of the Cambridge Companions, but such a limitation should have been recognised explicitly: this companion provides, in fact, an introduction to John Duns’s philosophy—i.e., philosophy in our modern sense. Of course, this separation of philosophical from theological thought is not from Scotus. Most of his innovative ‘philosophical’ ideas are developed in a profoundly theological context! (shrink)
Philosophical work on testimony has flourished in recent years. Testimony roughly involves a source affirming or stating something in an attempt to transfer information to one or more persons. It is often said that the topic of testimony has been neglected throughout most of the history of philosophy, aside from contributions by David Hume (1711–1776) and Thomas Reid (1710–1796).1 True as this may be, Hume and Reid aren’t the only ones who deserve a tip of the hat for recognizing the (...) importance of testimony: St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) affirms the place of testimony in human cognition, at least in his later writings. (shrink)
I argue that Abelard was the author of the first theory of mental language in the Middle Ages, devising a “language of thought” to provide the semanticsfor ordinary languages, based on the idea that thoughts have linguistic character. I examine Abelard’s semantic framework with special attention to his principleof compositionality (the meaning of a whole is a function of the meanings of the parts); the results are then applied to Abelard’s distinction between complete andincomplete expressions, as well as the distinction (...) between sentences and the statements which the sentences are used to make. Abelard’s theory of mental language is shown to be subtle and sophisticated, the forerunner of the great theories of the fourteenth century. (shrink)
Children therefore, whether they be brought up and preserved by the father, or by the mother, or by whomsoever, are in most absolute subjection to him or her, that so bringeth them up, or preserveth them. And they may alienate them, that is, assign his or her dominion, by selling, or giving them, in adoption or servitude to others; or may pawn them for hostages, kill them for rebellion, or sacriﬁce them for peace, by the law of nature, when he (...) or she, in his or her conscience, think it to be necessary. —The Elements of Law 23.8.. (shrink)
In his commentary on Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias,1 Abelard distinguishes the form of an expression2 (oratio) from what it says, that is, its content. The content of an expression is its understanding (intellectus). This distinction is surely the most well-known and central idea in Abelard’s commentary. It provides him with the opportunity to distinguish statements (enuntiationes) from other kinds of expressions without implying a diference in their content, since the ability of a statement to signify something true or false (verum vel (...) falsum)3 cannot be found in its content. More precisely, Abelard distinguishes statements both from complete expressions (orationes perfectae) that are not statements but rather questions, requests, commands, etc. and from incomplete expressions, that is, mere word strings (orationes imperfectae), such as homo albus. These kinds of expressions, according to Abelard, do not differ in the understanding they present but in the way they present it. (shrink)
The Doctrine of Original Sin seems to require that human nature has literally undergone a change from its prelapsarian to its postlapsarian condition.It is not clear that this claim makes sense. How can human nature, the feature(s) in virtue of which human beings are what they are, change in time? (Think of the parallel claim about √2.) I consider three medieval attempts to resolve this problem: (1) Augustine’s two theories about shared human nature; (2) Anselm’s proposal that original sin is (...) an individual deficiency; (3) the “biological” proposal suggested by Odo of Cambrai and developed by Pseudo-Joscelin. (shrink)
In his 1988 review of On the Plurality of Worlds (Lycan ), William Lycan argued that what he called Lewis's 'mad-dog modal realism' (also 'rape-and-loot modal realism' and 'nuclear-holocaust modal realism' - I suspect that some reference to the supposed extremity of Lewis's position is intended) rested upon an unanalysed modal notion. Lycan accepted that actualists all seemed to be stuck with such unanalysed notions (adding that his own was the notion of compatibility as applied to pairs of properties), but (...) argued that Lewis's notion of worlds was also a modal primitive: 'World' for him has to mean 'possible world', since the very flesh-and-bloodiness [which relieves him of the sort of abstraction indulged in by actualists] prevents him from admitting impossibilia. (Lycan , p.46) Lycan's main concerns in this review go back to his earlier paper 'The Trouble with Possible Worlds' (Lycan ), and are taken up again in his PAS paper: The ruling out of impossible worlds is a serious liability [...] For semantics needs impossible worlds. Though standard modal logics may trade just in possible states of affairs, the semantics of conditionals must deal with inconsistent beliefs. (Lycan , p.224) He goes on to claim that the actualist has no problem with impossible worlds. An impossible world is just - e.g. - a set of propositions (one of which happens to be inconsistent). (loc.cit.) Whatever the truth of this in principle, most actualists have either explicitly or implicitly excluded possible worlds from their theories.* It is true, nevertheless, that Lewis has a clear problem with the very idea of worlds at which logically incompatible propositions are true. Lycan attempts to exploit this as follows. (shrink)
Mediaeval psychological theory was a “faculty psychology”: a confederation of semiautonomous sub-personal agents, the interaction of which constitutes our psychological experience. One such faculty was intellective appetite, that is, the will. On what grounds was the will taken to be a distinct faculty? After a brief survey of Aristotle's criteria for identifying and distinguishing mental faculties, I look in some detail at the mainstream mediaeval view, given clear expression by Thomas Aquinas, and then at the dissenting views of John Duns (...) Scotus and William of Ockham. I conclude with some reflections on why the mainstream mediaeval view was discarded by Descartes. (shrink)
Socrates, for example, has an essence that includes more than his human nature, which is his specific essence; he has an essence proper to himself alone, an essence that cannot be had by anyone else. Although Socrates does have singular (individualized) forms, his singular essence is not a form—there is no form Socrateity for the singular essence parallelling the form humanity for the specific essence. Instead, Socrates has his singular essence in consequence of being an individual, that is, in consequence (...) of having an ‘individual differentia’. Scotus further rejects the distinction between identity and individuality, maintaining that what it is for Socrates to be Socrates is the same as what it is for him to be an individual. Socrates, in the end, is his singular essence. (shrink)
One answer: Because medieval philosophy is just the continuation of ancient philosophy by other means—the Latin language and the Catholic Church— and, as Wallace Matson pointed out some time ago, the mind-body problem isn’t ancient.
possible, your investigation is unlikely ever to get off the ground), there’s no such excuse for philosophers. The philosopher should be unrestricted by fashions in thought, including the unquestioning acceptance of whatever scientific theories are currently dominant. The fact is, however, that in this field and in the philosophy of mind, many.
Wilfrid Sellars charged that mediaeval philosophers confused the genuine intentionality of thinking with what he called the “pseudo-intentionality” of sensing. I argue that Sellars’s charge rests on importing a form of mind/body dualism that was foreign to the Middle Ages, but that he does touch on a genuine difficulty for mediaeval theories, namely whether they have the conceptual resources to distinguish between intentionality as a feature of consciousness and mere discriminative responses to the environment. In the end, it seems, intentionality (...) cannot be “the mark of the mental” as contemporary philosophy usually takes it. (shrink)
introduced the concept of effective demand in the nascent science of economics; his discussions of astronomy were acute enough to raise Duhem’s interest. Neither are Buridan’s credentials as a nominalist in doubt, although investigation into his precise relation to William of Ockham continues: he rejected all abstract entities, whether universals, common natures, the complexe significabile, or types above and beyond tokens; for Buridan, every thing which exists is a concrete individual. His anti-realism included an epistemological component as well, for Buridan (...) maintained that the source of all knowledge is experience. (shrink)
Aristotle was the first thinker to devise a logical system. He drew upon the emphasis on universal definition found in Socrates, the use of reductio ad absurdum in Zeno of Elea, claims about propositional structure and negation in Parmenides and Plato, and the body of argumentative techniques found in legal reasoning and geometrical proof. Yet the theory presented in Aristotle’s five treatises known as the Organon—the Categories, the De interpretatione, the Prior Analytics, the Posterior Analytics, and the Sophistical Refutations—goes far (...) beyond any of these. (shrink)
stance, Scotus adopts Anselm’s notion of a ‘(pure) perfection’ and elevates it to a fundamental principle of his metaphysics. Again, he distills Anselm’s Ontological Argument into something like its original Monologion components, and then treats each component part of the argument with a rigor and attention to detail far beyond anything Anselm suggested. In the case of Anselm’s so-called ‘two-wills’ theory, however, Scotus’s revisions are so extensive that they amount to a rejection of Anselm’s account, even though Scotus retains some (...) of Anselm’s terminology. I’ll begin by looking at Anselm’s initial presentation of the two-wills theory in his De casu diaboli (§1), and his later refinements of that account in his De concordia (§2). I’ll then look at Scotus’s deployment, revision, and rejection of Anselm’s theory in his three discussions of angelic sin: Lect. 2 d. 6 q. 2 (§3), Ord. 2 d. 6 q. 2 (§4), and Rep. 2 d. 6 q. 2 (§5). This will be followed by a brief look at whether Scotus’s theory of the self-regulating will is an adequate replacement for Anselm’s account (§6). (shrink)
In the ﬁrst volume of Capital, Marx introduces a labor theory of value. The theory is supposed to form the basis of his “laying bare” the “inner workings” of capitalism. The theory rests on two claims, and at the outset Marx uses it to explain four features of capitalist production. Yet by the end of the ﬁnal volume of Capital, he abandons both claims and oﬀers alternative accounts of all four features of capitalism. We hold that Marx’s introduction of the (...) labor theory of value is not the presentation of an alternative economic theory, but serves to introduce his analysis of the class structure of capitalism. (shrink)
phers] to be a demonstration of the fact that the human species (and in every case the species of all generable and corruptible individuals) began to exist at a time when previously it had not existed at all, a question is raised: whether, following the Philosopher’s method, the human species (and in every case any given species of generable and corruptible [individuals]) began to exist at a time when previously it had not existed at all.
Augustine and Anselm form a common tradition in mediæval thought about angelic sin, a tradition rooted in patristic thought and centred on their attempts to give a philosophically coherent account of moral choice. Augustine concentrates on the reasons and causes of angelic sin, especially in reference to free will; Anselm adopts Augustine’s analysis and extends it to issues about the rationality of sinful choice. Each takes Lucifer’s primal sin to be the paradigm case. Lucifer, undistracted by bodily desires and unencumbered (...) by history, committed the first moral misdeed in an entirely good universe newly created by an entirely good God. The challenge is to give a philosophical account that permits us to understand how the best and brightest of all angels nevertheless made a sinful choice in such uniformly positive circumstances. (shrink)
In one corner Socrates; in the other, on the mat, his cat Felix. Socrates, of course, thinks (correctly) that Felix the Cat is on the mat. But there’s the rub. For Socrates to think that Felix is on the mat, he has to be able to think about Felix, that is, he has to have some sort of cognitive grasp of an individual — and not just any individual, but Felix himself. How is that possible? What is going on when (...) we think about things? (shrink)
That it is: According to the Commentator, Met. 7 com. 11 ([Iuntina 8 fol. 76r]): The deﬁnition is the same as the substance of the thing. Hence it is in some way outside the soul, and consequently all its parts are in some way outside the soul. But the deﬁnition is composed of universals. Hence [the universal is outside the soul].
cause other than the very individual itself, and thus there is no ‘metaphysical’ problem of individuation at all—individuality, unlike generality, is primitive and needs no explanation. He supports this view in two ways. First, he argues that there are no nonindividual entities, whether existing in their own right or as metaphysical constituents either of things or in things, and hence that no real principle or cause of individuality (other than the individual itself) is required. Second, he oﬀers a ‘semantic’ interpretation (...) of what appear to be metaphysical diﬃculties about individuality by recasting the issues in the formal mode, as issues within semantics, such as how a referring expression can pick out a single individual. Yet although there is no ‘metaphysical’ problem of individuation, Buridan discusses two associated problems at some length: the identity of individuals over time and the discernibility of individuals. (shrink)
Some years ago I reviewed a collection of papers called African Philosophy: The Essential Readings , edited by Serequeberhan. My last comment in that review was the expression of the hope for collections of papers that would give an insight into what's going on in African philosophy, rather than into the debate over the existence and nature of African philosophy. My concern is echoed by the last line of a letter printed in the present volume of readings: "Hitherto most of (...) us have been talking about African philosophy, instead of doing African philosophy." (p.xlii) So when I received this book for review, I naturally hoped that it was what I'd been waiting for. I'm afraid that it isn't. (shrink)
Peter Abelard (1079 – 21 April 1142) [‘Abailard’ or ‘Abaelard’ or ‘Habalaarz’ and so on] was the pre-eminent philosopher and theologian of the twelfth century. The teacher of his generation, he was also famous as a poet and a musician. Prior to the recovery of Aristotle, he brought the native Latin tradition in philosophy to its highest pitch. His genius was evident in all he did. He is, arguably, the greatest logician of the Middle Ages and is equally famous as (...) the first great nominalist philosopher. He championed the use of reason in matters of faith (he was the first to use ‘theology’ in its modern sense), and his systematic treatment of religious doctrines are as remarkable for their philosophical penetration and subtlety as they are for their audacity. Abelard seemed larger than life to his contemporaries: his quick wit, sharp tongue, perfect memory, and boundless arrogance made him unbeatable in debate — he was said by supporter and detractor alike never to have lost an argument — and the force of his personality impressed itself vividly on all with whom he came into contact. His luckless affair with Héloïse made him a tragic figure of romance, and his conflict with Bernard of Clairvaux over reason and religion made him the hero of the Enlightenment. For all his colourful life, though, his philosophical achievements are the cornerstone of his fame. (shrink)
I frequently have trouble with words that other people use with what seems to be blithe understanding (friends tell me that the problem is that I think too much about words, but I find that not thinking doesn't really seem to help). In the case of `tolerance', though, I have no trouble at all - it's a wishy-washy weasel, a mealy-mouthed mink of a word. I suppose I don't want to claim that it has no decent place in the language (...) at all. I'm not particularly worried, for example, about our tolerating bad dramatic or musical performances by friends, close relatives, or children, nor about our tolerating the short tempers of those under great stress, and so on. What concerns me is the notion of tolerance that is so often to be found floating in the nebulous rhetoric of morality, both public and private. (shrink)
Mox de generibus et speciebus illud quidem siue subsistant siue in solis nudis purisque intellectibus posita sint siue ipsa subsistentia sint corporalia an incorporalia, et utrum separata an in sensibilibus et circa ea constantia, dicere recusabo. As regards genera and species, for the present I shall refuse to say whether they subsist or are postulated in understandings that are alone and bare and pure; or whether, if they subsist, they are corporeal or incorporeal; and whether they are separated from sensibles (...) or are postulated in sensibles and things going along with them. Abelard acknowledges the tradition but wants no part of it. (shrink)
B opens his discussion of the problem of universals, in his second commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge, with a destructive dilemma: genera and species either exist or are concepts; but they can neither exist nor be soundly conceived; therefore the enquiry into them should be abandoned (In Isag. maior . ). Boethius’ strategy to get around this dilemma is well known. He follows the lead of Alexander of Aphrodisias, distinguishing several ways in which genera and species (...) can be conceived, and he argues that at least one way involves no falsity. Hence it is possible to conceive genera and species soundly, and Porphyry’s enquiry into them is therefore not futile after all (. ). Boethius thus resolves the second horn of his opening dilemma. Yet he allows the ﬁrst horn of the dilemma, the claim that genera and species cannot exist, to stand. The implication is that he takes his arguments for this claim to be sound. If so, this would be a philosophically exciting and signiﬁcant result, well worth exploring in its own right. Yet there is no consensus, either medieval or modern, on precisely what Boethius’ arguments are, or even how many arguments he oﬀers, much less on their soundness. One reason for the lack.. (shrink)
each associate, and be means of which each unites himself to all, obeying only himself and still remaining as free as before. [The Solution]: Each of us puts in common his person and his entire power under the supreme direction of the general will (la..
I was born in Boston, Lincolnshire (actually in Wyberton West Hospital, which no longer exists), educated (if that's the word) first at St Mary's Primary School (run by nuns at the time, which probably explains a lot about my later career if you're a Freudian, which I'm not. Its new incarnation is here), then at Boston Grammar School . At the latter I successfully navigated 'O'-levels, but nearly half-way through my 'A'-levels I developed a number of extra-curricular interests which distracted (...) me from my studies. More importantly, I began to think rather more broadly than some of my teachers (and especially my appalling headmaster) cared for. This led to an almost total cessation of interest in my 'A'-levels. It did, however, involve a number of stage rôles at Blackfriars Theatre and elsewhere, and a good deal of time spent in the theatre bar. (shrink)
Susan James, in her recent work Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon 1997), prefaces her investigation of emotions in the seventeenth century with a series of remarks about the earlier career of the emotions, in particular their treatment in the Middle Ages. In brief, she takes the ‘new’ analyses of the passions put forward in the seventeenth century to be a philosophical sideshow to the main event: the dethronement of Aristotelian natural philosophy and metaphysics (22). She (...) describes the consequences for psychology as follows.. (shrink)