Claims about ‘the meaning of life’ have tended to be made and discussed in conjunction with bold metaphysical and theological affirmations. For life to have meaning, there must be a comprehensive divine plan to give it meaning, or there must be an intelligible cosmic process with a ‘telos’ that a man needs to know if his life is to be meaningfully orientated. Or, it is thought to be a condition of the meaningfulness of life, that values should be ultimately ‘conserved’ (...) in some way, that no evil should be unredeemable and irrational. And it may be claimed that if death were to end our experience, meaninglessness would triumph. (shrink)
In an important article in the opening issue of Religious Studies , Professor H. H. Price states that: ‘Epistemologists have not usually had much to say about believing “in”, though ever since Plato's time they have been interested in believing “that”’ . We are all considerably in debt to Professor Price for his extremely lucid analysis which will, I think, go a very long way towards filling the lacuna to which he points. As I find myself in agreement with almost (...) every point which Price has made, my purpose here is not to make a ‘reply’ to his article in the usual sense but to suggest that his analysis of believing is curiously and disappointingly incomplete. I shall offer some reasons of my own in support of this suggestion, not so much in criticism of Price's thesis as in hopes of finding some way out of the difficulties which, I take it, forced Price to stop short just where he did. It will be the burden of my argument to show that a more complete and satisfactory account of believing must include a description of its ‘metaphysical element’ as well as of its epistemological and psychological conditions. For it is at the point of what I shall call the ‘metaphysics of believing’ that Price's analysis and description of belief ‘in’ and belief ‘that’ stops short. 1. (shrink)
There are numerous ‘solutions’ to the problem of evil, from which theists can and do freely take their pick. It is fairly clear that any attempt at a solution must involve a scaling-down of one or more of the assertions out of whose initial conflict the problem arises – either by a downward revision of what we mean by omnipotence, or omniscience, or benevolence, or by minimizing the amount or condensing the varieties of evil actually to be found in the (...) universe. And indeed, in one or more of these different ways, the charge of logical inconsistency can no doubt always be vouchsafed at least a formal answer. Unfortunately, the mere ironing-out of formal inconsistencies does not of itself go very far towards providing a solution to this central problem of theism which will be morally, religiously, and intellectually convincing and acceptable as well as logically impeccable. Everything depends on how the inconsistencies are ironed out. For every attempt at a solution of the problem of evil has to be made at a price, in keeping with the scale and type of conceptual or ethical readjustments which it requires of us. And if the solutions which are generally offered seldom seem to carry much conviction, this is because the price they require us to pay nearly always seems far too high. A ‘solution’ to the problem of evil that is to count as a genuine solution must not require us to make any conceptual or ethical readjustments which it would not on independent grounds be entirely reasonable to make. A ‘solution’ that was finally to count as the solution of the problem of evil would presumably need to be that particular one which required us to make only those conceptual and ethical readjustments which were on independent grounds the ones that it was the most reasonable to make. What follows is offered as a solution, in the above sense, of the problem of evil. However, I shall not here attempt to argue that it is the solution. (shrink)
It is by no means unusual in works of philosophy for writers to make use of examples from literature or to bemoan the lack of literary examples in the work of other philosophers. Nor is it unusual for philosophers to write substantial tomes without ever mentioning any work of literature or to condemn the use of literary examples as a threat to clarity of thought. This contradiction in practice and principle might lead us to suspect that what we are here (...) dealing with is at least to some extent a philosophical disagreement, and I believe this to be the case. Unfortunately, what is extremely unusual is any direct discussion of the philosophical issues involved, that is to say any discussion of what philosophers are doing when they appeal in their writings to works of literature, and of what if anything is lost by those who fail to do so. (shrink)
There is always a danger in philosophy, that what is intended initially as simply one explanation of some form of activity, should come to be regarded as the only possible form of explanation. Nor does this danger seem to be diminished where a philosopher's aim is itself that of attacking limited notions of what is possible as an explanation. This is one, though not the only, reason why it is often the case that what at first appears as a revolutionary (...) and illuminating solution of certain philosophical difficulties, later gives rise to even more intractable problems of its own. (shrink)
Fr. Bernard Lonergan's writings have not so far received much discussion in British philosophical journals, although they contain one of the most fully-developed contemporary presentations of Catholic Christianity and have a substantial and distinctive philosophical content. They have not lacked theological commentators, both in print and in conferencediscussions. The present article has three aims: to draw attention to Lonergan's work and its philosophical relevance; to notice the publication of his latest book, Method in Theology , and to venture some critical (...) comments on certain arguments about the intelligibility of being, being and the good, and God, in his book Insight . These arguments are central to Lonergan's account of theism, a theism which, in its orthodox Roman Catholic form, is presupposed by Method in Theology . The books are organically interrelated. One admirer of Lonergan described the newer book as ‘the book [Lonergan] originally set out to write’. (shrink)
A discussion of Aristotle’s thought on determinism and culpability, _Necessity, Cause, and Blame_ also reveals Richard Sorabji’s own philosophical commitments. He makes the original argument here that Aristotle separates the notions of necessity and cause, rejecting both the idea that all events are necessarily determined as well as the idea that a non-necessitated event must also be non-caused. In support of this argument, Sorabji engages in a wide-ranging discussion of explanation, time, free will, essence, and purpose in nature. He also (...) provides historical perspective, arguing that these problems remain intimately bound up with modern controversies. “_Necessity, Cause and Blame_ would be counted by all as one of Sorabji’s finest. The book is essential for philosophers—both specialists on the Greeks and modern thinkers about free will—and also compelling for non-specialists.”—Martha Nussbaum “Original and important... The book relates Aristotle’s discussions to both the contemporary debates on determinism and causation and the ancient ones. It is especially detailed on Stoic arguments about necessity... and on the social and legal background to Aristotle’s thought.”—_Choice_ “It is difficult to convey the extraordinary richness of this book.... A Greekless philosopher could read it with pleasure... At the same time, its learning and scholarship are enormous.”—G. E. M. Anscombe, _Times Literary Supplement _. (shrink)
This book provides a collection of sources, many of them fragmentary and previously scattered and hard to access, for the development of Peripatetic philosophy in the later Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire. It also supplies the background against which the first commentator on Aristotle from whom extensive material survives, Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. c. AD 200), developed his interpretations which continue to be influential even today. Many of the passages are here translated into English for the first time, (...) including the whole of the summary of Peripatetic ethics attributed to 'Arius Didymus'. (shrink)
Art is without doubt a powerful agent in determining how nature appears to us. Andrew Forge describes seeing tree leaves in sunlight, and ‘thinking Pissarro’. ‘I am wrapped round by Impressionism and the leaves look like brush strokes’. To Harold Osborne, once one has been impressed by Van Gogh's painting of certain objects, ‘it is difficult ever again to see the objects uninfluenced by Van Gogh's vision of them’.
The Hellenistic philosophers and schools of philosophy are emerging from the shadow of Plato and Aristotle and are increasingly studied for their intrinsic philosophical value. They are not only interesting in their own right, but also form the intellectual background of the late Roman Republic. This study gives a comprehensive and readable account of the principal doctrines of the Stoics, Epicureans and various sceptical traditions from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. to around 200 A.D. Discussions are (...) arranged topically in order to address underlying issues and to make clear what the different schools have in common and how they differ. At the same time the coherence of each system as a whole is emphasized. (shrink)
The Cambridge Histories of philosophy, extending from Thales to the seventeenth century, are not a formal series. Nevertheless, they have a distinctive character: authoritative accounts that combine general coverage of a period with the individual contributions of their authors and indicate scholarly controversies. This volume is a worthy continuation of the tradition.
This is a relatively short but important book. Boys-Stones argues for the following : Both Platonists and Christians from the end of the first century A.D. onwards grounded the authority of a doctrine in its antiquity. Christian writers claimed that Christianity is the expression of an ancient wisdom from which both Judaism and pagan philosophy are deviations. Platonists claimed that Plato gave the fullest expression to an ancient wisdom also preserved, though less perfectly, in the supposed writings of Orpheus and (...) Pythagoras. This approach is itself a development from the attempts of Platonists to resist skeptical arguments from the disagreements between different schools by claiming that the philosophical schools that developed after Plato changed his doctrines for the worse, this explaining their disagreements, combined with the appeal, developed by the Stoics and more widely influential in the early Imperial period, to a supposed wisdom of earlier mankind preserved in imperfect form in mythological doctrines. Boys-Stones draws careful distinctions: while the early Stoics distinguished between the pre-philosophical, natural understanding of the earliest humans, and the subsequent development of a conscious inquiry into nature, Posidonius argued for the presence of philosophers even in the Golden Age, resisting an innate human tendency towards evil. Boys-Stones describes how the first-century A.D. Stoic Cornutus took the further step of arguing that the early philosophers themselves expressed their doctrines in allegorical form, whereas for the early Stoics the contributions of poets had obscured the truth rather than expressing it. A new emphasis on antiquity is also apparent, Boys-Stones argues, in Josephus’s responses to Hellenistic anti-Semitic arguments, and in Philo of Alexandria’s readiness to interpret Greek myths as allegorical expressions of the truth. Thus, for Boys-Stones, and together gave rise to the view that Plato gave the fullest expression to truths which derived their authority from their antiquity. (shrink)
This article looks at the vigorous questioning of the immortality of the soul during the early modern period. It offers an account of some significant aspects of the philosophy of the soul in the early modern period and of its transformation across that period. It proposes a thesis about the place of the soul in early modern conceptions of what it meant to be a human animal and traces the contribution of the early modern philosophy of the soul to the (...) enlightened science of human nature. (shrink)
The position on the question of divine providence of the Aristotelian commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias is of particular interest. It marks an attempt to find a via media between the Epicurean denial of any divine concern for the world, on the one hand, and the Stoic view that divine providence governs it in every detail, on the other.2 As an expression of such a middle course it finds a place in later classifications of views concerning providence.3 It is also of (...) topical interest: Alexander's fullest discussion, in his treatise De providentia , has only recently been edited and translated,4 although some aspects of his position had long been known from other texts preserved in Greek.5. (shrink)