Rae Langton offers a new interpretation and defense of Kant's doctrine of things in themselves. Kant distinguishes things in themselves from phenomena, and in so doing he makes a metaphysical distinction between intrinsic and relational properties of substances. Langton argues that his claim that we have no knowledge of things in themselves is not idealism, but epistemic humility: we have no knowledge of the intrinsic properties of substances. This interpretation vindicates Kant's scientific realism, and shows his primary/secondary quality distinction to (...) be superior even to modern-day competitors. And it answers the famous charge that Kant's tale of things in themselves is one that makes itself untellable. (shrink)
Something could be round even if it were the only thing in the universe, unaccompanied by anything distinct from itself. Jaegwon Kim once suggested that we define an intrinsic property as one that can belong to something unaccompanied. Wrong: unaccompaniment itself is not intrinsic, yet it can belong to something unaccompanied. But there is a better Kim-style definition. Say that P is independent of accompaniment iff four different cases are possible: something accompanied may have P or lack P, something unaccompanied (...) may have P or lack P. P is basic intrinsic iff (1) P and not-P are nondisjunctive and contingent, and (2) P is independent of accompaniment. Two things (actual or possible) are duplicates iff they have exactly the same basic intrinsic properties. P is intrinsic iff no two duplicates differ with respect to P. (shrink)
Rae Langton here draws together her ground-breaking and contentious work on pornography and objectification. She shows how women come to be objectified -- made subordinate and treated as things -- and she argues for the controversial feminist conclusions that pornography subordinates and silences women, and women have rights against pornography.
We defend the view of some feminist writers that the notion of silencing has to be taken seriously in discussions of free speech. We assume that what ought to be meant by ‘speech’, in the context ‘free speech’, is whatever it is that a correct justification of the right to free speech justifies one in protecting. And we argue that what one ought to mean includes illocution, in the sense of J.L. Austin.
The distinction at the heart of Kant's philosophy is a metaphysical distinction: things in themselves are substances, bearers of intrinsic properties; phenomena are relational properties of substances. Kant says that things as we know them are composed "entirely of relations", by which he means forces. Kant's claim that we have no knowledge of things in themselves is not idealism, but humility: we have no knowledge of the intrinsic properties of substances. Kant has an empiricist starting-point. Human beings are receptive creatures. (...) We must be affected by the things of which we come to have knowledge. Kant believes that humility follows from this fact of receptivity. Humility does follow from receptivity, once a further premise is supplied. Kant believes that relational properties, causal powers in particular, are not reducible to intrinsic properties, and that intrinsic properties are therefore causally inert. Receptivity implies that we can have knowledge only of what can affect us. Irreducibility implies, in Kant's view, that intrinsic properties cannot affect us. Humility follows from these. This interpretation finds support in a range of critical and pre-critical writings, but there is a special focus on an early anti-Leibnizian argument for irreducibility that has considerable philosophical merit. One advantage of this interpretation is that the following famous contradiction is dissolved: things in themselves exist, and are the causes of phenomena, and we have no knowledge of them as they are in themselves. Moreover Kant's scientific realism, surprising on an idealist interpretation, makes sense. It does not conflict with Kant's claim that he makes all the qualities secondary--he means that he makes them powers, or in Locke's terms, tertiary qualities. Kant's "primary"/secondary quality distinction is superior to widely accepted alternatives, and his application of the irreducibility argument to the primary qualities challenges some current orthodoxies. Kant's commitment to the unobservables of science is permitted by his understanding of receptivity: we can have knowledge of anything that can affect us. Kant's scientific realism, and his humility, thus have a common source. (shrink)
If, as many suppose, pornography changes people, a question arises as to how.1 One answer to this question offers a grand and noble vision. Inspired by the idea that pornography is speech, and inspired by a certain liberal ideal about the point of speech in political life, some theorists say that pornography contributes to that liberal ideal: pornography, even at its most violent and misogynistic, and even at its most harmful, is political speech that aims to express certain views about (...) the good life, 2aims to persuade its consumers of a certain political point of view—and to some extent succeeds in persuading them. Ronald Dworkin suggests that the pornographer contributes to the ‘moral environment, by expressing his political or social convictions or tastes or prejudices informally’, that pornography ‘seeks to deliver’ a ‘message’ , that it reflects the ‘opinion’ that ‘women are submissive, or enjoy being dominated, or should be treated as if they did’, that it is comparable to speech ‘advocating that women occupy inferior roles’.3 Pornography on this view is political speech that aims to persuade its listeners of the truth of certain ideas about women, and of course ‘the government must leave to the people the evaluation of ideas’.4 Another answer offers a vision that is not grand and noble, but thoroughly reductive. Pornography is not politically persuasive speech, but speech that works by a process of psychological conditioning. This view seems common enough in the social science literature. Consider, for example, this description of an early experiment, from a time that pre-dates contemporary political debate. (shrink)
This is a paper about two philosophers who wrote to each other. One is famous; the other is not. It is about two practical standpoints, the strategic and the human, and what the famous philosopher said of them. And it is about friendship and deception, duty and despair. That is enough by way of preamble.
What, if anything, has faith to do with intention? By ‘faith’ I have in mind the attitude described by William James: Suppose … that I am climbing in the Alps, and have had the illluck to work myself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Being without similar experience, I have no evidence of my ability to perform it successfully; but hope and confidence in myself make me sure I shall not miss my aim, (...) and nerve my feet to execute what without those subjective emotions would perhaps have been impossible. But suppose that, on the contrary, the emotions of fear and mistrust preponderate; or suppose that…I feel it would be sinful to act upon an assumption unverified by previous experience,—why, then I shall hesitate so long that at last, exhausted and trembling, and launching myself in a moment of despair, I miss my foothold and roll into the abyss.… There are then cases where faith creates its own verification. Believe, and you shall be right, for you shall save yourself; doubt, and you shall again be right, for you shall perish. (shrink)
In responding to the challenge that we cannot know that animals feel pain, Peter Singer says: We can never directly experience the pain of another being, whether that being is human or not. When I see my daughter fall and scrape her knee, I know that she feels pain because of the way she behaves—she cries, she tells me her knee hurts, she rubs the sore spot, and so on. I know that I myself behave in a somewhat similar—if more (...) inhibited—way when I feel pain, and so I accept that my daughter feels something like what I feel when I scrape my knee. The basis of my belief that animals can feel pain is similar...1 . Singer here suggests that the epistemological problem facing animal ethics is really the more general problem of other minds: the Cartesian problem of how to escape solipsism, how to cross the bridge from my own thoughts and feelings to the thoughts and feelings of any other being. The suggestion is that no-one can seriously be in the thrall of this sceptical problem. The method for building the bridge to other minds is familiar to us all: we use it every day in our ascriptions of thoughts and feelings to people near and dear, and to those far away. And we use it every day in our ascriptions of thoughts and feelings to animals. (shrink)
In ‘The Harm in Hate Speech’ Waldron’s most interesting and ground-breaking contribution lies in a distinctive epistemological role he assigns to hate speech legislation: it is necessary for assurance of justice, and thus for justice itself. He regards public social recognition of what is owed to citizens as a public good, contributing to basic dignity and social standing of citizens. His claim that hate speech in the public social environment damages assurance of justice has wider implications, I argue: for hate (...) speech conducted in private; for pornography; and indeed for any speech that thwarts knowledge of what justice requires. (shrink)
Kant’s claim that we are ignorant of things in themselves is a claim that we cannot know ‘the intrinsic nature of things’, or so at least I argued in Kantian Humility.2 I’m delighted to find that Lucy Allais is in broad agreement with this core idea, thinking it represents, at the very least, a part of Kant’s view. She sees some of the advantages of this interpretation. It has significant textual support. It does justice to Kant’s sense that we are (...) missing out on something, in our failure to know things as they are in themselves. And it makes tellable, after all, Kant’s at first sight untellable tale, about the knowable existence of unknowable things: for we can know that things exist, without knowing what their intrinsic properties are. However, Allais is critical of the way I fill out this core idea, and she has an alternative to offer. She thinks Kant’s distinction between things in themselves and phenomena is not a distinction between two kinds of properties, intrinsic and relational. She is critical of my interpretation of causal powers, which I take to be the relevant relational properties: my idea, first, that causal powers are in fact relational properties; second, that causal powers are only contingently associated with intrinsic properties, so that creating substances with intrinsic properties is insufficient for creating causal power; and, third, that intrinsic properties are causally inert. Her criticisms of these three ideas.. (shrink)
What, if anything, has faith to do with intention?1 By ‘faith’ I have in mind the attitude described by William James: Suppose...that I am climbing in the Alps, and have had the ill-luck to work myself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Being without similar experience, I have no evidence of my ability to perform it successfully; but hope and confidence in myself make me sure I shall not miss my aim, and nerve (...) my feet to execute what without those subjective emotions would perhaps have been impossible. But suppose that, on the contrary, the emotions of fear and mistrust preponderate; or suppose that...I feel it would be sinful to act upon an assumption unverified by previous experience,—why, then I shall hesitate so long that at last, exhausted and trembling, and launching myself in a moment of despair, I miss my foothold and roll into the abyss....There are then cases where faith creates its own verification. Believe, and you shall be right, for you shall save yourself; doubt, and you shall again be right, for you shall perish.2.. (shrink)
Dan Marshall and Josh Parsons note, correctly. that the property of being either a cube or accompanied by a cube is incorrectly classified as intrinsic under the definition we have given unless it turns out to be disjunctive. Whether it is disjunctive, under the definition we gave, turns on certain judgements of the relative naturalness of properties. They doubt the judgements of relative naturalness that would classify their property as disjunctive. We disagree. They also suggest that the whole idea of (...) judging relative naturalness is a dubious business. We reply that, like them or not, such judgements cannot easily be avoided. (shrink)
Did God give things 'accidental powers not rooted in their natures', powers not rooted in intrinsic properties? For Leibniz, no. For Locke, the answer is disputed. On a voluntarist reading, yes, secondary and tertiary qualities are superadded (Margaret Wilson). On a mechanist reading, no, as for Leibniz (Michael Ayers). Since Locke viewed these qualities as relational, his view of relations ought to bear on the dispute. Locke said relation is 'not contained in the real existence of things'. Bennett says Locke (...) means relations are reducible (as Leibniz thought), which supports the mechanist reading. Bennett is mistaken: Locke means relations are irreducible, in harmony with his voluntarism. (shrink)
On a consequentialist account of virtue, a trait is virtuous if it has good consequences, vicious if it has bad. Clumsiness and dimness are therefore vices. Should I resent the clumsy and the dim?, says the consequentialist, counterintuitively - at any rate, Yes’ on an accuracy measure of resentment's virtue: resentment should be an accurate response to consequentialist vice, and these are vices. On a usefulness measure of resentment's virtue, the answer may be different: whether resentment is virtuous depends on (...) whether resentment itself is useful. Equally counterintuitive, this answer divorces resentment from assessment of vice. Consequentialism is thus mistaken not only about when resentment is virtuous, but about what resentment is. Moreover it alienates the philosopher, for whom accuracy applies, from the agent, for whom usefulness applies. But abandoning this double standard would mean giving up philosophy. (shrink)
This book will be enjoyed not only by those philosophers interested in Kant, but by those interested in metaphysics and epistemology more generally. Van Cleve is fascinated both by Kant and by the problems that fascinated Kant; so in attending to Kant’s arguments about space, substance, the a priori, we learn much about space, substance, the a priori. He writes with directness, accessibility, and care; there can be few recent books on the problems of Kant’s First Critique that treat so (...) great a range of arguments with such seriousness and sophistication.. (shrink)
In Kantian Humility I argue that, for Kant, ignorance of things in themselves is ignorance of the intrinsic properties of substances, and that this is epistemic humility, rather than idealism: some aspects of reality, the intrinsic aspects, are beyond our epistemic grasp.The interpretation draws upon what Falkenstein takes to be ‘a novel and not implausible understanding of Kant's distinction between things in themselves and appearances’ which views it as a distinction between the intrinsic and the relational. He concedes that Kant (...) frequently puts his distinction in just these terms, that I make ‘a strong textual case for it’, that it is ‘plausible and intriguing’ and that it may even be ‘correct, at least for a certain strand of Kant's thought’. He presumably also allows that this distinction between ‘things as they are in relation to other things and things as they are on their own’ is at base a metaphysical distinction, which makes no mention of how things look to us, appear to us or depend on our minds. I am pleased to find sympathy for this understanding of Kant's distinction in a review whose overall tenor is so critical. (shrink)
Matter’s real essence is a ground for certain features of phenomena. Things in themselves are likewise a ground for certain features of phenomena. How do these claims relate? The former is a causal essentialism about physics, Stang argues; and the features so grounded are phenomenally nomically necessary. The latter involves a distinctive ontology of things in themselves, I argue; but the features so grounded are not noumenally nomically necessary. Stang’s version of Kant’s modal metaphysics is admirable, but does not go (...) far enough. Kant’s causal essentialism involves the essences of fundamental properties, as well as of matter. And things in themselves are grounds, because they are substances, the ‘substrate’ of phenomena. (shrink)