In the second of his three prefaces to On Authority and Revelation , Kierkegaard writes: ‘“My reader”, may I simply beg you to read this book, for it is important for my main effort, wherefore I am minded to recommend it’ The question I will put to myself to begin my reflections on the book is: why should Kierkegaard recommend it so strongly? What is Kierkegaard doing in this book? One notices in his recommendation that it is addressed to his (...) reader who, presumably, is not simply the reader of this book but the reader of his other books as well. The Concluding UnscientUc Postscript was being published about the same time , and so the reader may well have been familiar with most of Kierkegaard's main philosophical works. The recommendation then is set in this context. The book is, on the face of it, so unlike the other works, concerned with certain odd claims to a revelation by a Danish pastor named Adler. Much of the book discusses the details of a deposition of Adler given to the local bishop and some details of later defences which Adler gave of his revelation in several works and sermons. It appears to be a local squabble of no general interest and certainly not the sort of thing that had occupied Kierkegaard's philosophical attention to this point. The book, then, stands in need of a recommendation to Kierkegaard's reader who is not otherwise prepared for this genre. But the recommendation does not say, ‘Try this, though quite different, you may like it.’ It says rather that the reader should read it, and later he adds read it carefully, because it is ‘important for my main effort’. So the book is to be seen as of a piece with the other main works of Kierkegaard. This is what I should like to understand in the following discussion: how is this book important for Kierkegaard's main effort? (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to follow a lead of Prof. Stanley Cavell's in his paper, "Kierkegaard's On Authority and Revelation." The lead is: "to understand an utterance religiously you have to be able to share its perspective... The religious is a Kierkegaardian stage of life; and I suggest it should be thought of as a Wittgensteinian form of life." I try to present "form of life" as a larger picture sometimes necessary for understanding language-games, and to suggest that (...) what counts as a form of life will depend upon what particular language-game one is trying to understand. Sometimes then, a person's religious belief might figure into this process as a relevant form of life. I then try to represent Kierkegaard's religious stage by discussing three related concepts: paradox, ideal interpretation, and subjectivity. Paradox is one criterion for marking off the religious stage from the ethical and the aesthetical stages. In the religious stage, the talk of believers about God is such that it interprets the events in one's life according to that belief. In calling this an "ideal interpretation" Kierkegaard is calling our attention to the difference between this and the scientific talk of hypothesis, observation, and evidence. The religious stage is subjectivity—a way of life. In it, the truth of what one says is measured by how one lives in relation to it. This, I suggest, is quite close to Wittgenstein's idea of a form of life being important for understanding the language used within it. My conclusion is that Prof. Cavell's suggestion is a helpful lead in thinking about the connection between Wittgenstein's "form of life" and Kierkegaard's religious stage. (shrink)
The Search for the Legacy of the USPHS Syphilis Study at Tuskegee is a collection of essays from experts in a variety of fields seeking to redefine the legacy of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The essayists place the legacy of the study within the evolution of racial and ethnic relations in the United States. Contributors include two leading historians on the study, two former United States Surgeons General, and other prominent scholars from a wide range of fields.
The contemporary interpretation of the history of the aesthetics of nature has been analyzed by Allen Carlson, Ronald Hepburn, Theodor Adorno, and others. According to their interpretation, it has been maintained that pre-Kantian accounts of beauty (taken generally) prioritized natural beauty over art and that Kant was either the last to follow this model or the first to “humanize” aesthetics for reasons pertaining to his ethical system. This interpretation can be called into question via an analysis of the moral (...) and cultural aspects of pre-Kantian and Kantian aesthetics of nature, appealing, in particular, to the works of Lord Shaftesbury, John Dennis, and Joseph Addison. The main focus is on an explication of what this common contemporary interpretation of aesthetic history has to say about contemporary aesthetic theory. The pre-Kantian aesthetics of nature is so radically different from the work of these recent theorists that it is inaccurate to link members from those periods together as allies. Rather, this commonly depicted history of the aesthetic of nature, in which mid-twentieth century figures discuss a “turning away from nature,” is both historically problematic and in keeping with a general twentieth-century nostalgia for an idyllic past. (shrink)
In the last few years, there has been a notable surge of interest in the themes of civil religion and the battle against “priestcraft” among historians of political thought. Examples include Eric Nelson’s The Hebrew Republic; Paul Rahe’s Against Throne and Altar; Jeffrey Collins’s The Allegiance of Thomas Hobbes; Jonathan Israel’s work on the legacy of Spinoza; Justin Champion’s work on John Toland; and my own book, Civil Religion. Within the intellectual space created by this recent scholarship, this article focuses (...) on relevant themes in the work of the one of the two thinkers who J.G.A. Pocock identified as most responsible for the “implantation of the values of civic humanism in English political thought” – namely, James Harrington (the other being the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury). (shrink)
The word "truth" retains, in common use, traces of origins that link it to trust, troth, and truce, connoting ideas of fidelity, loyalty, and authenticity. The word has become, in contemporary philosophy, encased in a web of technicalities, but we know that a true image is a faithful portrait; a true friend a loyal one. In a novel or a poem, too, we have a feel for what is emotionally true, though we are not concerned with the actuality of events (...) and characters depicted. To have emotions is to care about certain things: we can wonder whether those things are really worth caring about. We can wonder whether our passions reflect who we are, and whether they constitute fitting responses to the vicissitudes of life. So there are two aspects to emotional truth: how well an emotion reflects the threats and promises of the world, and how well it reflects our own individual nature. That is the starting point of this book, which looks first at the analogies and disanalogies between strict propositional truth and a looser, "generic" sense of truth. As applied to emotions, generic truth is closer to those original meanings: as in a portrait's fidelity or friend's loyalty. Taken in this sense, the notion of emotional truth opens up large vistas on areas of life essential to our existence as social beings, and to our concerns with beauty, morality, love, death, sex, knowledge, desire, coherence, and happiness. Each of those topics illustrates some facet of the dominant theme of the book: the crucial but often ambivalent role of our emotions in grounding and yet also sometimes undermining our values. Emotions act, in holistic perspective, as ultimate arbiters of values where different and independently justified standards of value compete. (shrink)
For quite some time, critics have attacked religious language on the grounds that theologians employed metaphors that were irreducible. By irreducible, they meant metaphors that could not be paraphrased in literal language. And any such language that could not be reduced to words that can be taken in a literal sense, would be devoid of cognitive meaning or truth value. Since theologians claimed that statements like ‘God is love’ cannot be reduced to a literal sense without robbing the concept of (...) God of its transcendent status, sceptics replied that such failures merely indicated the meaninglessness of religious language. Or, if apologists did assert that ‘God is love’ can be paraphrased by statements describing the love of one man for another, the sceptic claimed that such a move reduced religious language to anthropological language where terms like ‘God’ were superfluous. Critics argued that metaphors of religion posed the following dilemma: either religious metaphors could not be reduced to literal paraphrases and were, therefore, meaningless; or, religious metaphors could be reduced to literal paraphrases, but the method by which they were reduced eliminated the necessity for theological terminology. (shrink)
Professor Narveson's comments about my papers on equality are both penetrating and comprehensive. I cannot hope to discuss all the issues he raises in any detail. But there is a special problem: his main question is about what I have not said. He asks how I might defend equality of resources other than simply by describing a version of it, and of course this question will require some extended discussion. But he is right to say that this is his most (...) important question, and I should hate to lose the opportunity of encouraging discussion of it. So I shall begin with some general remarks about the defence of the idea of equality and then take up, in a very hasty and summary way, the other problems he discusses or raises. Please allow me, however, this apology and caution. I know that what I shall say about the defense of equality is at many points dogmatic and at others unmindful of very natural objections and replies. I want to answer Narveson only by showing in a rough and general way how far I think a defense of equality is possible, what kind of defense this can be, and what form it should take. (shrink)
Very often moral disagreements can be resolved by appealing to factual considerations because in these cases the parties to the dispute agree as to which factual considerations are relevant. They agree, that is, with respect to their basic moral standards. Hence, when their disagreement about the non-moral facts is resolved, so is their moral disagreement. But sometimes moral disagreement persists in spite of agreement on factual considerations. When this happens, and when neither party is guilty of illogical thinking, we have (...) a case of moral deadlock. (shrink)
Recent defenders of the cognitive significance of religious language have had to face opponents from two directions; from those who demand that religious language be capable of some form of empirical verification and from those who demand that for religious language to be meaningful it must be capable of being understood in ordinary language. Apologists who have taken the first challenge seriously have strained to show that religious statements can be verified by ‘religious experience’, or by an ‘odd discernment’ or (...) by an ‘eschatological verification’. Each of these responses raises further problems for the defender of religion, but in general they all are subject to their failure to provide an adequate criterion or standard by which they could be inter-subjectively tested. Facing in the other direction, theological apologists have attempted to justify religious expressions by showing that they could be subsumed under special categories of ordinary language; namely those of ‘convictional language’ and ‘performative language’. Although these defenders have shown that religious language has an ‘ordinary usage’, they have not shown that the cognitive elements of this usage can be reduced to the ‘use of ordinary language’. (shrink)
The prefrontal cortex has long been suspected to play an important role in cognitive control, in the ability to orchestrate thought and action in accordance with internal goals. Its neural basis, however, has remained a mystery. Here, we propose that cognitive control stems from the active maintenance of patterns of activity in the prefrontal cortex that represent goals and the means to achieve them. They provide bias signals to other brain structures whose net effect is to guide the flow of (...) activity along neural pathways that establish the proper mappings between inputs, internal states, and outputs needed to perform a given task. We review neurophysiological, neurobiological, neuroimaging, and computational studies that support this theory and discuss its implications as well as further issues to be addressed. (shrink)
It has long been recognized that Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling is a cryptogram. Encoded within a series of reflections and commentaries on Genesis 22 is a deeper message directed at a reader or readers presumably capable of deciphering the hidden meaning. That this is true is suggested by the book's epigraph: ‘What Tarquinius Superbus said in the garden by means of the poppies, the son understood but the messenger did not.’.
In some recent theological writing, imagination is presented as a power of the mind with crucial importance for religion, but one whose role has often suffered neglect. Its fuller acknowledgment has become a live issue today. ‘Theologians’, wrote Professor J. P. Mackey, ‘have recently taken to symbol and metaphor, poetry and story, with an enthusiasm which contrasts very strikingly with their all-but-recent avoidance of such matters’ . As well as relevant writings by Eliade and Ricoeur, there have been treatments of (...) religious imagination by Professor John Mclntyre in his Faith, Theology and Imagination and in J. P. Mackey's composite volume entitled Religious Imagination. (shrink)