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.
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)
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)
Philosophical hermeneutics provides a model of interreligious dialogue that acknowledges the interpretive variability of truth claims while maintaining their relation to a preinterpretive reality. The dialectic and tensive structure of philosophical hermeneutics directly parallels the tension between the diversity of belief and the ultimacy of the sacred. By placing philosophers like Gadamer, Ricoeur, Peirce, and Whitehead in conversation, J. R. Hustwit describes religious truth claims as coconstituted by the planes of linguistic convention and uninterpreted otherness. Only when we recognize (...) that religious claims emerge from a dalliance back and forth across the limits of the understanding can we appreciate the engagement between religions. In terms of dialogue, this approach treats religious truth claims as tentative hypotheses, but hypotheses that are frequently commensurable and rationally contestable. Interreligious dialogue goes beyond facilitating bonhomie or negotiating tolerance; dialogue can and should be a disciplined space for rationally adjudicating claims about what lies beyond the limits of human understanding. (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)
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)
Evidentialism is a view about the conditions under which a person is epistemically justified in having a particular doxastic attitude toward a proposition. Evidentialism holds that the justified attitudes are determined entirely by the person's evidence. This is the traditional view of justification. It is now widely opposed. The essays included in this volume develop and defend the tradition. Evidentialism has many assets. In addition to providing an intuitively plausible account of epistemic justification, it helps to resolve the problem of (...) the criterion, helps to disentangle epistemic and ethical evaluations, and illuminates the relationship between epistemic evaluations of beliefs and the evaluation of the methods used to form beliefs. These issues are all addressed in the essays presented here. External world skepticism poses the classic problem for an epistemological theory. The final essay in this volume argues that evidentialism is uniquely well qualified to make sense of skepticism and to respond to its challenge. Evidentialism is a version of epistemic internalism. Recent epistemology has included many attacks on internalism and has seen the development of numerous externalist theories. The essays included here respond to those attacks and raise objections to externalist theories, especially the principal rival, reliabilism. Internalism generally has been criticized for having unacceptable deontological implications, for failing to connect epistemic justification to truth, and for failing to provide an adequate account of what makes basic beliefs justified. Each of these charges is answered in these essays. The collection includes two previously unpublished essays and new afterwords to five of the reprinted essays; it will be the definitive resource on evidentialism for all epistemologists. (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)
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)
"Remarkable how well Bouwsma understood Wittgenstein's approach to philosophical problems and how intelligently he was able to recount Wittgenstein's discussions. The bits about sensation are especially good. And the asides about the other philosophers--e.g. Dewey, Russell, Anscombe--are, while not frivolous, gossipy and titillating." --Riley Wallihan, Western Oregon University.
Though the very task of modeling God implies that the reality of God is to some degree unknowable, there are a variety of positions one may take concerning the degree to which one has epistemic access to God. If our models of God are too influenced by subjectivity, it makes no sense to test them against each other in rational competition. In this essay, I define four possible positions that may underlie the task of God-modeling: mysteriosophy, theopoetics, critical realism, and (...) fallibilism. Of these four, I propose that fallibilism is the most appropriate method for constructing models of God. Fallibilism simultaneously assumes that our models are able to refer to a divine reality, and yet always with a tentative stance, as absolute confirmation or universal consensus concerning them will almost certainly never be obtained. Models of God can engage in rational competition, but a final decision will probably be delayed indefinitely. This paper was delivered during the APA Pacific 2007 Mini-Conference on Models of God. (shrink)
Is it possible for a person to understand that what he proposes to do is morally wrong and yet prefer to do it nonetheless? I shall argue that wickedness consists in a defect of character that results in one's often having just such preferences. Yet many philosophers think that wickedness so conceived is impossible, because, for them, having such a preference is incompatible with believing, or at least knowing, that the act would be wrong.
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)
This is an introduction to metaphysics for students and non-philosophers. (Philosophers: it's supposed to be the kind of book you can give to your friends and family, when they ask what you do for a living.) Contents: personal identity, fatalism, time, God, why not nothing?, free will, constitution, universals, necessity and possibility, what is metaphysics? (There is a second edition, which adds chapters on meta-metaphysics and the metaphysics of ethics.).