According to the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, it is never the case that you ought to do something you cannot do. While many accept this principle in some form, it also has its share of critics, and thus it seems desirable if an argument can be offered in its support. The aim of this paper is to examine a particular way in which the principle has been defended, namely, by appeal to considerations of fairness. In a nutshell, the idea (...) (due to David Copp) is that moral requirements we cannot comply with would be unfair, and there cannot be unfair moral requirements. I discuss several ways of spelling out the argument, and argue that all are unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. (shrink)
David Enoch recently defended the idea that there are valid inferences of the form ‘it would be good if p, therefore, p’. I argue that Enoch's proposal allows us to infer the absurd conclusion that ours is the best of all possible worlds.
Some moral theories, such as objective forms of consequentialism, seem to fail to be practically useful: they are of little to no help in trying to decide what to do. Even if we do not think this constitutes a fatal flaw in such theories, we may nonetheless agree that being practically useful does make a moral theory a better theory, or so some have suggested. In this paper, I assess whether the uncontroversial respect in which a moral theory can be (...) claimed to be better if it is practically useful can provide a ground worth taking into account for believing one theory rather than another. I argue that this is not the case. The upshot is that if there is a sound objection to theories such as objective consequentialism that is based on considerations of practical usefulness, the objection requires that it is established that the truth about what we morally ought to do cannot be epistemically inaccessible to us. The value of practical usefulness has no bearing on the issue. (shrink)
There are two distinct views on how to formulate an objective consequentialist account of the deontic status of actions, actualism and possibilism. On an actualist account, what matters to the deontic status of actions is only the value of the outcome an action would have, if performed. By contrast, a possibilist account also takes into account the value of the outcomes that an action could have. These two views come apart in their deontic verdicts when an agent is imperfect in (...) an avoidable way, viz., when agent brings about less good than she could. In this paper, I offer an argument against actualism that draws on the connection between moral obligation and practical reasons. (shrink)
The characterization of objective, normative reasons to φ as facts (or truths) that count in favor of φ-ing is widely accepted. But are there any further conditions that considerations which count in favor of φ-ing must meet, in order to count as a reason to φ? In this brief paper, I consider and reject one such condition, recently proposed by Caspar Hare.
We argue that Wittgenstein’s philosophical perspective on Gödel’s most famous theorem is even more radical than has commonly been assumed. Wittgenstein shows in detail that there is no way that the Gödelian construct of a string of signs could be assigned a useful function within (ordinary) mathematics. — The focus is on Appendix III to Part I of Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. The present reading highlights the exceptional importance of this particular set of remarks and, more specifically, emphasises (...) its refined composition and rigorous internal structure. (shrink)
What is philosophy? How is it possible? This essay constitutes an attempt to contribute to a better understanding of what might be a good answer to either of these questions by reflecting on one particular characteristic of philosophy, specifically as it presents itself in the philosophical practice of Socrates, Plato and Wittgenstein. Throughout this essay, I conduct the systematic discussion of my topic in parallel lines with the historico-methodological comparison of my three main authors. First, I describe a certain neglected (...) aspect of the Socratic method. Then, exploring the flipside of this aspect, I show that despite the fact that both Socrates and Wittgenstein understand their philosophical approaches as being essentially directed at the particular problems and modes of understanding that are unique to single individuals, they nevertheless aspire to philosophical understanding of the more ‘mundane’ kind that is directed at the world. Finally, interpreting parts of Plato’s dialogues Phaedrus and Laches, I further develop my case for seeing the role of mutual understanding in philosophy as fundamentally twofold, being directed both at the individual and what they say (the word), and at things that are ‘external’ to this human relation at any particular moment of philosophical understanding (the world). (shrink)
The emergentist position that R. Keith Sawyer has formulated, nonreductive individualism, contains three propositions. First, that social characteristics must always be realized in individuals; second, that it is nevertheless possible to understand social properties as irreducible; and third, that therefore it is possible to demonstrate how social properties are able to exercise independent causal influences on individuals and their properties. It is demonstrated that Sawyer is not able to meet an objection that Kim has formulated against the analogous position in (...) the philosophy of mind. In his defense of the claim of irreducibility Sawyer refers to Fodor’s argument about multiple realizability, but this line of argument cannot preserve the claim for downward causation because Fodor’s claim for irreducibility rests on assumptions that are not compatible with a systematic formulation of downward causation. The article proposes a reading of Fodor’s argument that is consistent with individualism but not with nonreductive individualism. (shrink)
R. Keith Sawyer rightly claimed that the formulation of several cross-level regularities does not disprove the “autonomy” of sciences. Nevertheless, first, this autonomy becomes gradual because cross-level regularities narrow the scope for strong emergence and, second, these examples do not disprove the metaphysical premises of Kim’s critique. Sawyer and I concur on the thesis according to which the proof of strong emergence is in part an empirical question. However, it also depends on the concept of individualism applied whether a description (...) or explanation can count as reducible or not. Even if some of the examples given might leave open the possibility of strong emergence, to generalize, to consider relations or to point to the unpredictability of social processes do not prove the existence of irreducible multiple realization. (shrink)
Self-deception entails apparent conceptual paradoxes and poses the dilemma between two competing needs: the need for stability of the self-concept, on the one hand, and the need to accept reality, on the other. It is argued, first, that conceptual difficulties can be avoided by distinguishing two levels of explanation. Whereas, in a personal language, “the person” deceives him- or her-self, a cognitive approach explains this self-deception by reference to the interplay of cognitive processes of which the person is not aware. (...) Second, the tension between stability and adjustment of the self can be resolved by self-immunization, which maintains the stability of central self-conceptions by adjusting peripheral aspects and their diagnostic value for the central concepts. Processes of self-immunization were investigated in a series of studies operating on both levels of explanation. Implications for psychological explanations of personal phenomena such as self-images and self-insight are discussed. (shrink)
Exploring Rhees's analogy between everyday conversation and literature, the paper suggests a conception of form that encourages us to see literary works as contributions to conversation in virtue of their concern. How we might read for the concern of a literary work is exemplified by readings of Ibsen's Ghosts and The Wild Duck. These readings suggest that Rhees's analogy not only throws light on the communicative powers of literature: viewing everyday talk in the light of works of literature also gives (...) us a better grasp of what goes on in conversation. (shrink)
This book examines the relevance of François Laruelle’s innovative notion of non-standard philosophy to critical and constructive discourses in the humanities, bringing together essays from prominent Anglophone scholars of Laruelle’s work and includes a contribution from Laurelle himself.
This volume is the first to focus on a particular complex of questions that have troubled Wittgenstein scholarship since its very beginnings. The authors re-examine Wittgenstein’s fundamental insights into the workings of human linguistic behaviour, its creative extensions and its philosophical capabilities, as well as his creative use of language. It offers insight into a variety of topics including painting, politics, literature, poetry, literary theory, mathematics, philosophy of language, aesthetics and philosophical methodology.
Rob Lovering has recently argued that God is not omniscient on the grounds that (1) in order to be omniscient a subject must not only know all truths always but also know what it's like not to know a truth, and (2) God cannot fulfil both of these requirements. I show that Lovering's argument is unsuccessful since he inadequately supports (1) and (2), and since there are several serious doubts about (2). I also show that Lovering does not otherwise indicate (...) that God is not maximally great. (shrink)
In his article, The Substance View: a critique, Rob Lovering argues that the substance view – according to which the human embryo is a person entitled to human rights – leads to such implausible implications that this view should be abandoned. In this article I respond to his criticism by arguing that either his arguments fail because the proponents of the substance view are not obligated to hold positions which may be considered absurd, or because the positions which they are (...) assumed to be obligated to hold, are not absurd at all. (shrink)
Rob Reich’s claim that fruitful discussions about the balance among state, parental, and children’s educational interests would benefit by contemplating the widespread phenomenon of homeschooling is a welcome suggestion. His policy recommendations, however, place an unjustified burden on parents to show the adequacy of homeschooling arrangements instead of placing the burden on the state to clarify commonly agreed‐upon outcome measures. In this essay, Perry Glanzer argues that Reich places the burden on parents by overstating the threat that the freedom given (...) to homeschooling parents represents to the interests of liberal democratic states and children. Reich, Glanzer contends, also underestimates the state’s tendency to use regulation to weaken the civil society essential for liberal democracy. To counter Reich’s proposal, Glanzer offers recommendations regarding the proper limits of parental authority in education in general and in the case of homeschooling in particular. (shrink)
In The Virtual, Rob Shields puts virtuality in with the key categories of contemporary social theory such as subjectivity, agency, structure, and the spaces and temporalities between the modern and the postmodern. Shields has rescued the term and the idea of the virtual from utopian futurists like Howard Rheingold and Nicholas Negroponte who use it to hype emergent technologies and forms of culture as the magical vehicles and entry points to new worlds and identities. The works of these digerati, ideologues (...) for multimedia technology and culture, now appear ideological, outdated, and no more than huckstering of the new when confronted with the current state of affairs in the technoculture and its attendant war- and terrorism-torn world. (shrink)
In his response to my earlier criticism, Rob Lawlor argues that the benefits I suggest can be derived from teaching moral theories in applied ethics courses can be obtained in other ways. In my reply, I note that because I never claimed the benefits could be obtained only from teaching moral theories, Dr Lawlor’s response fails to refute my earlier argument that some attention to moral theories is an option in applied ethics courses.
First exhibited in 1999, Jean-Luc Moulène's 24 Objets de Grève is a photographic archive printed in a range of different formats, portraying a variety of products made by French workers on strike between the 1970s and the 1990s. These comprise of scarves, T-shirts, dolls, geographical maps, cigarettes, facsimile banknotes, perfume bottles and other items. The objects were aimed at financially supporting the strikers and attracting the solidarity of the general public. Often destroyed after their use, they were not created with (...) the intention of being collected and exhibited as works of art. 24 Objets de Grève lends itself to multiple and seemingly contradictory readings: it can be read as a Rancerian celebration of the creativity of the working class or as its undue appropriation; as a commemoration of the history of the workers movement or as an act of forgetting and reification. This article explores the ambivalences, hiatuses and limitations of Moulène's project in relation to its representational strategies and the notion of emancipatory aesthetic elaborated by Jacques Rancière. (shrink)