There are two motivations commonly ascribed to historical actors for taking up statistics: to reduce complicated data to a mean value (e.g., Quetelet), and to take account of diversity (e.g., Galton). Different motivations will, it is assumed, lead to different methodological decisions in the practice of the statistical sciences. Karl Pearson and W. F. R. Weldon are generally seen as following directly in Galton’s footsteps. I argue for two related theses in light of this standard interpretation, based on a reading (...) of several sources in which Weldon, independently of Pearson, reflects on his own motivations. First, while Pearson does approach statistics from this "Galtonian" perspective, he is, consistent with his positivist philosophy of science, utilizing statistics to simplify the highly variable data of biology. Weldon, on the other hand, is brought to statistics by a rich empiricism and a desire to preserve the diversity of biological data. Secondly, we have here a counterexample to the claim that divergence in motivation will lead to a corresponding separation in methodology. Pearson and Weldon, despite embracing biometry for different reasons, settled on precisely the same set of statistical tools for the investigation of evolution. (shrink)
Historical materialism I take to be the view expressed in the well-known Preface to the Critique of Political Economy and exemplified in Capital and in many other writings by Marx and by Marxists. I shall begin with a few introductory remarks, next sketch in the theory, and finally contend that, despite real attractions, it too far limits the scope of legitimate historical enquiry to be ultimately acceptable.
This paper describes the ‘idealist liberalism’ of R.F.A. Hoernlé (1880-1843), who taught in Britain, the United States, but also at the South African College and at the University of the Witwatersrand. I argue that this liberalism was strongly influenced by the British idealism of Bernard Bosanquet and T.H. Green, but also by key features of Hoernlé's South African experience. Hoernlé's idealist liberalism, I maintain, not only offered a response to the challenges of living in a multi-ethnic and multi-racial state such (...) as South Africa in the first half of the 20th century, but bears on similar challenges found in contemporary liberal democracies. (shrink)
The idea of absolute goodness and the idea of an absolute requitement tend nowadays to be viewed with suspicion in the world of English-speaking philosophy. The tendency is well rooted and has not just arisen by osmosis from the temper of the times. There are various lines of thought, all of them attractive, by which a recent or contemporary academic practitioner of the subject could have been induced into scepticism about an ethics of absolute conceptions.
My tribute to R. F. Holland focuses on what he calls “absolute goodness.” I try to explain what he means by it and how it connects with the common belief that moral absolutism entails that some acts must not be done “whatever the consequences.” I argue that Holland believes that this sense of absolute value should be understood in the light of a conception of the kind he develops of absolute goodness; that he is right to believe that “absolute ethics” (...) (his expression) conflicts with the nature of politics, but that he is wrong to believe that consequentialism is the ethics of politics. Holland believes that it is important to an adequate discussion of absolute ethics and politics to acknowledge that there are things a saints would find morally impossible to do. I defend him against the charger that this begs all the important questions, and I argue further that it is important to understand, even when thinking about politics, that there are things that only a saint could do. (shrink)
This paper features Derk Pereboom’s replies to commentaries by Victor Tadros and Saul Smilansky on his non-retributive, incapacitation-focused proposal for treatment of dangerous criminals; by Michael McKenna on his manipulation argument against compatibilism about basic desert and causal determination; and by Alfred R. Mele on his disappearing agent argument against event-causal libertarianism.
My topic lies on conceptual terrain that is quite familiar to philosophers. For others, a bit of background may be in order. In light of what has filtered down from quantum mechanics, few philosophers today believe that the universe is causally deterministic. That is, to use Peter van Inwagen's succinct definition of “determinism,” few philosophers believe that “there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future.” Even so, partly for obvious historical reasons, philosophers continue to argue about whether free (...) will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism. Compatibilists argue for compatibility, and incompatibilists argue against it. Some incompatibilists maintain that free will and moral responsibility are illusions. But most are libertarians, libertarianism being the conjunction of incompatibilism and the thesis that at least some human beings are possessed of free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Does Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics give one consistent answer to the question what life is best or two mutually inconsistent answers? In the First Book he says that we can agree to say that the best life is eudaimonia or eupraxia but must go on to say in what eudaimonia consists . By considering the specific nature of man as a thinking animal he reaches a conclusion: eudaimonia , the human good , is the activity of soul in accordance (...) with virtue , and if there are more than one virtue in accordance with the best and most complete , and in a complete life . Aristotle states that his formula is no more than a sketch or outline , but that a good sketch is important since, if the outline is right, anyone can articulate it and supply details. He seems to be thinking here not just of the rest of his own treatise but of the work of pupils and successors; he speaks, as at the end of the Topics , of progress in a science. (shrink)
Given the fact that both R.G. Collingwood and P.F. Strawson introduced, inspired by Kant, a 'reform of metaphysics' and thereby used a strikingly similar terminology, the absence of an extensive article about the comparison between their concepts of a 'reformed metaphysics' is, to say the least, rather surprising. The first aim of this article is filling up this gap. But there is more at stake. Traditionally, a twofold connection is laid between their concepts of metaphysics. First, there is the fact (...) that both authors consider metaphysics as a reflexion about the basic presuppositions of our thought and so subscribe to Kant's 'reform of metaphysics'. Subsequently, the central point of difference to be considered is that Strawson sets basic presuppositions as universal and invariable and so more directly leans against Kant than Collingwood who ascribes to these presuppositions a variable and cultural-historical character. In this article — and that is its central aim — I would like to make some critical remarks to this interpretation. First, I try to show how the resemblances between their concepts of metaphysics originate from their adoption of both Kants 'Copernican revolution' and his repudiation of transcendent metaphysics. Furthermore, I want to point out the differences between both their concepts of metaphysics, starting from their respective interpretations of Kant s transcendental idealism. While Strawson propounds an 'anodyne' interpretation of transcendental idealism, Collingwood proposes a 'radicalization' of transcendental idealism. Against the backdrop of these different interpretations, the contrast between the universal character of Strawson's metaphysics and the so-called historical-relativist character of Collingwood s metaphysics can be clarified. Finally, I will dwell on six repercussions of both their views of metaphysics. (shrink)
I discuss John Henry Newman's correspondence with William Froude, F.R.S., (1810–79) and his family. Froude remained an unbeliever, and I argue that Newman's disputes with him about the ethics of belief and the relationship between religion and science not only reveal important aspects of his thought, but also anticipate modern discussions on foundationalism, the ethics of beliefs and scientism.