Subjects classified visible 2-digit numbers as larger or smaller than 55. Target numbers were preceded by masked 2-digit primes that were either congruent (same relation to 55) or incongruent. Experiments 1 and 2 showed prime congruency effects for stimuli never included in the set of classified visible targets, indicating subliminal priming based on long-term semantic memory. Experiments 2 and 3 went further to demonstrate paradoxical unconscious priming effects resulting from task context. For example, after repeated practice classifying 73 as larger (...) than 55, the novel masked prime 37 paradoxically facilitated the “larger” response. In these experiments task context could induce subjects to unconsciously process only the leftmost masked prime digit, only the rightmost digit, or both independently. Across 3 experiments, subliminal priming was governed by both task context and long-term semantic memory. (shrink)
I propose to begin with some fairly unexciting and uncontroversial remarks about possibility-statements, and then in their light to examine two problems philosophers have raised about certain statements of this kind which might be made in Christian theology where it touches on the doctrine of the Incarnation.
The ‘traditional’ view among philosophical theologians, that God is eternal not merely in the sense of being everlasting but in the sense of being outside time altogether, has come under sharp criticism in recent years, both from biblical theologians and from philosophers. It is against the latter form of attack, particularly as represented by the detailed criticisms of Professor Nelson Pike, that I wish to try and defend the notion of a divine timelessness.
The social and environmental problems that we face at this tail end of twentieth-century progress require us to identify some cause, some spirit that transcends the petty limits of our time and place. It is easy to believe that there is no crisis. We have been told too often that the oceans will soon die, the air be poisonous, our energy reserves run dry; that the world will grow warmer, coastlands be flooded and the climate change; that plague, famine and (...) war will be the necessary checks on population growth. But here we are: sufficiently healthy and well-fed, connoisseurs of far-off catastrophe and horror movies, confident that something will turn up or that the prophecies of doom were only dreams. We are the descendants, after all, of creatures who did not despair, who hoped against hope that there would still be life tomorrow. We no more believe in the world's end than we believe that soldiers could break down the door and drag us off to torture and to death: we don't believe that they could even when we know that, somewhere altogether elsewhere, they did. Even if we can force ourselves to remember other ages, other lands or other classes, we are content enough. (shrink)
When we speak of philosophy and therapy, or of philosophy as therapy, the usual intent is to suggest that ‘philosophizing’ is or should be a way to clarify the mind or purify the soul. While there may be little point in arguing with psychoses or deeply-embedded neuroses our more ordinary misjudgements, biases and obsessions may be alleviated, at least, by trying to ‘see things clearly and to see them whole’, by carefully identifying premises and seeing what they – rationally – (...) support, and by seeking to eliminate the residual influence of premises that we have long since, rationally, dismissed. I don't intend to argue with this account – though of course it may be as well to remember that ‘philosophizing’ may have more dangerous effects. It is not obvious that philosophical argument will always help us ‘see things straight’, and the Athenian democracy was not altogether wrong to think that some of Socrates' followers or pupils learnt quite the wrong things from him. (shrink)
Philosophers of earlier ages have usually spent time in considering thenature of marital, and in general familial, duty. Paley devotes an entire book to those ‘relative duties which result from the constitution of the sexes’,1 a book notable on the one hand for its humanity and on the other for Paley‘s strange refusal to acknowledge that the evils for which he condemns any breach of pure monogamy are in large part the result of the fact that such breaches are generally (...) condemned. In a society where an unmarried mother is ruined no decent male should put a woman in such danger: but why precisely should social feeling be so severe? Marriage, the monogamist would say, must be defended at all costs, for it is a centrally important institution of our society. Political community was, in the past, understood as emerging from or imposed upon families, or similar associations. The struggle to establish the state was a struggle against families, clans and clubs; the state, once established, rested upon the social institutions to which it gave legal backing. (shrink)
Mr D. H. Mellor, in his article of this title in Religious Studies , Vol. 5 , distinguishes three senses of words such as ‘probable’ which might be used in a religious context, especially in that of attempted theistic proofs: statistical, subjective, and inductive probability. In each case he concludes that it is misleading to use these words in such contexts at all. With his discussion of the second I do not wish to quarrel; but there seem to me to (...) be serious defects in his discussions of the first and third. (shrink)
When philosophers approach philosophy of religion, they typically ask two questions: are there any sound arguments to prove the existence of God; and is talk about God even rationally intelligible? Theologians, for their part, primarily expound the meaning and relevance of Christianity. I am by profession a philosopher, but apart from Secs. VI and VII I am here writing as a puzzled twentieth-century man. My prime worry is whether we philosophers and theologians are beginning with the right questions.
Cartesian accounts of the mental make it axiomatic that consciousness is transparent: what I feel, I know I feel, however many errors I may make about its cause. ‘I’ names a simple, unextended, irreducible substance, created ex nihilo or eternally existent, and only associated with the complete, extended, dissoluble substance or pretend-substance that is ‘my’ body by divine fiat. Good moderns take it for granted that ‘we’ now realize how shifting, foggy and deconstructible are the boundaries of the self; ‘we’ (...) know that our own motives, feelings and intentions constantly escape us; ‘I’ names only the current speaker, or the momentarily dominant self among many fluid identities. (shrink)
R. M. Hare has argued 1 that there are conceivable circumstances in which it would be right not to abolish the institution of slavery: in the imaginary land of Juba established slave-plantations are managed by a benevolent elite for the good of all, no ‘cruel or unusual ’ punishments are in use, and citizens of the neighbouring island of Camaica, ‘free ’but impoverished, regularly seek to become slaves. Hare adds that it is unlikely, given human nature, that ‘masters ’would treat (...) ‘slaves ’humanely, and avoid a gradual corruption of their moral consciousness which would cancel out any possible advantages of the system. Slavery is wrong, he argues, not because it violates ‘fundamental human rights’, but I because it would in practice generally increase misery. (shrink)
I have come to believe that the whole framework of our current thought is about to begin a long and radical transformation, based on what I shall call a new science of pure consciousness. The content of most of the matters to be considered by this science have hitherto been the concern of some areas of religion, particularly what in our culture we call ‘mysticism’; but the treatment of it would legitimately be called scientific. Thus one aspect of the transformation (...) would be to overcome that apparent conflict between ‘science’ and ‘religion’, which has been so characteristic of our culture over the last few centuries. (shrink)
Persons are creatures with a range of personal capacities. Most known to us are also people, though nothing in observation or biological theory demands that all and only people are persons, nor even that persons, any more than people, constitute a natural kind. My aim is to consider what non-personal minds are like. Darwin's Earthworms are sensitive, passionate and, in their degree, intelligent. They may even construct maps, embedded in the world they perceive around them, so as to be able (...) to construct their tunnels. Other creatures may be able to perceive that world as also accessible to other minds, and structure it by locality and temporal relation, without having many personal qualities. Non-personal mind, on both modern materialist and Plotinian grounds, may be the more usual, and the less deluded, sort of mind. (shrink)
According to Aristotle, the goal of anyone who is not simply stupid or slavish is to live a worthwhile life. There are, no doubt, people who have no goal at all beyond the moment's pleasure or release from pain. There may be people incapable of reaching any reasoned decision about what to do, and acting on it. But anyone who asks how she should live implicitly agrees that her goal is to live well, to live a life that she can (...) think worth living. That goal, eudaimonia , is something that is sought for its own sake, and for nothing else. Anyone who asks herself how she should live can answer that she should live well. The answer, admittedly, needs further comment. Aristotle went on to suggest that ‘living well’ amounted to living in accordance with virtue, or if there is more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. Eudaimonia , happiness, is virtuous activity over a whole life. To live a worthwhile life we must acquire and practice habits of doing the right thing, for the right reason. Equivalently, we must do what a virtuous person would, and in the way she would, for the sake of to kalon , or beauty. (shrink)
The notion of autonomy commonly employed in medical ethics literature and practices is inadequate on three fronts: it fails to properly identify nonautonomous actions and choices, it gives a false account of which features of actions and choices makes them autonomous or nonautonomous, and it provides no grounds for the moral requirement to respect autonomy. In this paper I offer a more adequate framework for how to think about autonomy, but this framework does not lend itself to the kinds of (...) practical application assumed in medical ethics. A general problem then arises: the notion of autonomy used in medical ethics is conceptually inadequate, but conceptually adequate notions of autonomy do not have the practical applications that are the central concern of medical ethics. Thus, a revision both of the view of autonomy and the practice of “respect for autonomy” are in order. (shrink)
This paper attempts to explore a number of conceptual issues surrounding genetic testing. It looks at the meaning of the terms, genetic information and genetic testing in relation to the definition set out by the Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing in the UK, and by the Task Force on Genetic Testing in the USA. It argues that the special arrangements that may be required for the regulation of genetic tests should not be determined by reference to the nature or technology (...) of the test, but by considering those morally relevant features that justify regulation. Failure to do so will lead to the regulation of genetic tests that need not be regulated, and would fail to cover other tests which should be regulated. The paper also argues that there is little in the nature of the properties of gene tests, using DNA or chromosomes, that in itself justifies a special approach. (shrink)
Practitioners of disciplines whose problems are debated by moral philosophers regularly complain that the philosophers are engaged in abstract speculation, divorced from ‘real-life’ consequences and responsibilities, that it is the practitioners who must take the decisions, and that they cannot act in accordance with strict abstract logic.
Jonathan Edwards identified the central act of faith as ‘the cordial consent of beings to Being in general’, which is to say to God . That equation, of Being, Truth and God, is rarely taken seriously in analytical circles. My argument will be that this is to neglect the real context of a great deal of past philosophy, particularly the very Cartesian arguments from which so many undergraduate courses begin. All too many students issue from such courses immunized against enthusiasm, (...) in the conceit that they have answers to all the old conundrums, which were in any case no more than verbal trickery. ‘By uttering the right words but failing to use them in propria persona , philosophy induces a kind of soporific amnesia bewitching us into forgetting our God-given task. That task is, of course, to do what Socrates did and to live as he lived' . Burrell's words are not wholly fair to academic philosophers, nor to the Lady Philosophy. Plenty of philosophers really mind about the truth, and want to be Socratic in pursuit of it. But the danger is a real one. If all that matters is debunking past philosophers, how does that differ from the repeated refutation of the Chaldaean Oracles or the Prophecies of Nostradamus? A pretty enough pastime for the young, but hardly serious business for adults . ‘If the history of philosophy is a process of ‘salvaging’ what you yourself have already thought, then why bother?’. (shrink)
Consistent materialists are almost bound to suggest that ‘conscious experience’, if it exists at all, is no more than epiphenomenal. A correct understanding of the real requires that everything we do and say is no more than a product of whatever processes are best described by physics, without any privileged place, person, time or scale of action. Consciousness is a myth, or at least a figment. Plotinus was no materialist: for him, it is Soul and Intellect that are more real (...) than the phenomena we misdescribe as material. Nor does he suppose that consciousness depends on language : wordless experience is actually superior. And much of what counts towards our present consciousness is to be discarded. It is better not to remember most of what now seems more significant to us; better to discard images; better that the intellect be ‘drunk’ than ‘sober’, losing any sense of separation between subject and object. The goal of the Plotinian intellectual is to join ‘the dance of immortal love’, but it is a mark of the good dancer that she is not conscious of what she does. There is therefore a strange confluence between Plotinus and modern materialists: our experience at least is transitory, deceitful, epiphenomenal, and ‘reality’ is to be encountered when we have shed our illusions. (shrink)
For the last few years, thanks to the Leverhulme Trust, I've been largely absent from my department, working on the late antique philosopher Plotinus. To speak personally – it's been a difficult few years, since my youngest daughter has been afflicted with anorexia during this period, and my own bowel cancer was discovered, serendipitously, and removed, at the end of 2005. Since then I've had ample occasion to consider the importance – and the difficulty – of the practice of detachment, (...) and also to worry about the moral some have drawn from Plotinian and similar philosophies, namely that the things of this world really do not matter much, and that we should withdraw ourselves from them. Maybe it is true, as Plotinus says, that ‘some troubles are profitable to the sufferers themselves, poverty and sickness for example’. But this is not an altogether helpful message for those afflicted by the bundle of disorders that lead to anorexia. It's difficult not to suspect, for example, that Simone Weil would have lived longer but for her Neo-Platonism. It has also been made obvious to me that we are much less in control of our own mental and emotional states even than I had thought before. None of this, of course, should have been any surprise: I have frequently pointed out – to myself and others – the importance of distinguishing between one's self and the states one finds oneself in, and the extreme difficulty of controlling the thoughts we say are ours. Any delusion that my knowledge of these facts is of itself enough to render me immune to them has been – at least for the moment – thoroughly debunked – though the facts themselves are such that this disillusionment, so to call it, is probably both temporary and almost entirely insincere! (shrink)
1. Believing Enough to Think The Scottish system of university education requires most aspirants to an Ordinary Degree to study some philosophy. Philosophers in Scottish Universities must therefore contend with enormous first-year classes, stocked with youngsters who have little real desire to be philosophers, or even to philosophize. Some years ago, at Glasgow, a question in the final exam was as follows: ‘“Philosophy is of no use, and so should not be studied.” Discuss’. A couple of hundred students answered, more (...) or less fluently, that one should not assume that what was of no use should not be studied, since some things were worth studying in their own right, but that in any case the study of philosophy was useful since it helped one to question what authoritative figures said. No essayist, apparently, saw any paradox in this reply, which was, of course, taken word for word from the professor's lectures. (shrink)
When I was first approached to read a paper at the conference from which this volume takes its beginning I expected that Flint Schier, with whom I had taught a course on the Philosophy of Biology in my years at Glasgow, would be with us to comment and to criticize. I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing once again my own sense of loss. I am sure that we would all have gained by his presence, and hope that he (...) would find things both to approve, and disapprove, in the following venture. (shrink)
Technology, according to Derry and Williams's Short History , ‘comprises all that bewilderingly varied body of knowledge and devices by which man progressively masters his natural environment’. Their casual, and unconscious, sexism is not unrelated to my present topic. Women enter the story as spinners, burden bearers and, at long last, typists. ‘The tying of a bundle on the back or the dragging of it along upon the outspread twigs of a convenient branch are contributions [and by implication the only (...) contributions] to technology which probably had a feminine origin’. Everything else was done by men , and what they did was master, conquer , and control . It is also significant that Derry and Williams take it for granted that ‘the men [sic] of the Old Stone Age, few and scattered, developed little to help them to conquer their environment’: until the advent of agriculture, and settled civilization, there was, they say, neither leisure nor surplus. (shrink)
Anyone who wishes to talk about angels has to respond to the mocking question, how many of them can dance on the point of a pin. The answer is: ‘just as many as they please’. Angels being immaterial intellects do not occupy space to the exclusion of any other such intellectual substance, and their being ‘on’ the point of a pin can only mean that they attend to it. The question, however, is not one that concerned our mediaeval predecessors, although (...) it seems as difficult to persuade anyone of this as it is to clear Canute of the charge of insane conceit. (shrink)
There are good reasons for being suspicious of the very concept of ‘a religion’, let alone a ‘world religion’. It may be useful for a hospital administrator to know a patient's ‘religion’ – as Protestant or Church of England or Catholic or Buddhist – but such labels clearly do little more than identify the most suitable chaplain, and connote groupings in the vast and confusing region of ‘religious thought and practice’ that are of very different ranks. By any rational, genealogical (...) taxonomy ‘Protestant’, ‘Anglican’, ‘Catholic’ connote species, genera or families within Christianity, which is in turn a taxon within the multivariant tradition traced back to Abraham. ‘Buddhism’ includes as many variants as would ‘Abrahamism’. Most Abrahamists, traditionally, have been theists, but it is difficult not to suspect that Marxist socialism is an atypical variant which has inherited a linear view of time, a contest between the chosen agents of justice and the doomed powers-that-be, and the prospect of a future in which ‘there shall be no more sea’. (shrink)
Large populations fuelled by immigration have damaging effects on natural environments. Utilitarian approaches to immigration are inadequate, since they fail to draw the appropriate boundaries between people, as are standard rights approaches buttressed by sovereignty concerns because they fail to include critical environmental concerns within their pantheon of rights. A right to a healthy environment is a basic/subsistence right to be enjoyed by everyone, resident and immigrant alike. Current political-economic arrangements reinforced by familiar ethical positions that support property rights and (...) preference satisfaction favours residents while directly or indirectly denying basic rights to potential immigrants and should be abandoned and a basic rights procedure adopted. (shrink)
‘Jason…chosen leader because his superior declines the honour, subordinate to his comrades, except once, in every trial of strength, skill, or courage, a great warrior only with the help of magical charms, jealous of honour but incapable of asserting it, passive in the face of crisis, timid and confused before trouble, tearful at insult, easily despondent, gracefully treacherous in his dealings with the love-sick Medea but cowering before her later threats and curses, coldly efficient in the time-serving murder of an (...) unsuspecting child , reluctant even in marriage.’ So Carspecken put the case against Jason's heroism. In the face of such an indictment, Lawall's plea in mitigation, ‘it must be admitted that [Jason] often reveals the qualities of a true gentleman’, seems somehow inadequate. Criticism since Carspecken has found various overlapping categories for Jason which both take account of the earlier negative judgements and preserve the centrality of his ‘personality’ and character in the poem: Jason is the quiet diplomat who works through consensus rather than force, his is a heroism of sex-appeal, he is an anti-hero, the embodiment of Sceptic ‘suspension of judgement’, or, alternatively, he is ‘one of us’, credible and lifelike. Carspecken himself tried a different tack: the poem is concerned not with individual heroism but with the heroism of the group. (shrink)
This paper explores the use of advance directives in clinical dementia research. The focus is on advance consent to participation of demented patients in non-therapeutic research involving more than minimal risks and/or burdens. First, morally relevant differences between advance directives for treatment and care, and advance directives for dementia research are discussed. Then attention is paid to the philosophical issue of dementia and personal identity, and the implications for the moral authority of research advance directives. Thirdly, a number of practical (...) shortcomings of advance directives for non-therapeutic dementia research are explored and attention is paid to the role of proxies. It is concluded that upon a closer look the initial attractiveness of advance directives for dementia research is lessened, and that it is doubtful whether these instruments can compensate for the lack of subject consent in case of non-therapeutic dementia research involving more than minimal risks and/or burdens for the incompetent demented subject. (shrink)