In this paper I want to propose that we see solipsism as arising from certain problems we have about identifying ourselves as subjects in an objective world. The discussion will centre on Wittgenstein’s treatment of solipsism in his Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus. In that work Wittgenstein can be seen to express an unusually profound understanding of the problems faced in trying to give an account of how we, who are subjects, identify ourselves as objects in the world. We have in his (...) compressed remarks, the kernels of a number of arguments which all come together to form what can be called the problem of self-identification. I want to argue that the solipsism of the Tractatus arises at least in part as a solution to, or – to put it less optimistically – as a symptom or articulation of this problem. In approaching Wittgenstein’s early discussion of solipsism in this way I will obviously be in disagreement with some other interpretations of the work. For example, there are those who think that there is no ‘solipsism of the Tractatus’.1 In fact, the Tractarian arguments presented below as motivating solipsism have been seen as fulfilling the quite opposite function of refuting it. I do not intend in this piece to engage with alternative interpretations. Let me say a little bit about why I have granted myself the licence not to do so. First, the focus of my concern with solipsism is on how it connects with what I have called the problem of self-identification. While it is a concern that emerged in an attempt to make sense of Wittgenstein’s remarks in. (shrink)
How was the world generated and how does matter continue to be ordered so that the world can continue functioning? Questions like these have existed as long as humanity has been capable of rational thought. In antiquity, Plato's Timaeus introduced the concept of the Demiurge, or Craftsman-god, to answer them. This lucid and wide-ranging book argues that the concept of the Demiurge was highly influential on the many discussions operating in Middle Platonist, Gnostic, Hermetic and Christian contexts in the first (...) three centuries AD. It explores key metaphysical problems such as the origin of evil, the relationship between matter and the First Principle and the deployment of ever-increasing numbers of secondary deities to insulate the First Principle from the sensible world. It also focuses on the decreasing importance of demiurgy in Neoplatonism, with its postulation of procession and return. (shrink)
Lucy O'Brien argues that a satisfactory account of first-person reference and self-knowledge needs to concentrate on our nature as agents. Clearly written, with rigorous discussion of rival views, this book will be of interest to anyone working in the philosophy of mind and action.
O'Brien, Odhran Review of: Aapologia pro Beata Maria Virgine: John Henry Newman's defence of the Virgin Mary in Catholic doctrine and piety, by Robert M. Andrews, Palo Alto, CA: Academica, 2017, pp. 164, hardback, US$76.95.
O'Brien, Roderick When we held the Woods Centenary Seminar in 1989, the local Naracoorte Herald gave us excellent publicity. I recall sitting with the editor, Richard Peake, as he was briefed by the great Sr Margaret Press, assisted by Fr Kevin Horsell, the parish priest of Bordertown who brought his scientific background, and by me. The editor asked the question: 'If Mary MacKillop is to be canonised, why not Woods?'.
_An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge_ guides the reader through the key issues and debates in contemporary epistemology. Lucid, comprehensive and accessible, it is an ideal textbook for students who are new to the subject and for university undergraduates. The book is divided into five parts. Part I discusses the concept of knowledge and distinguishes between different types of knowledge. Part II surveys the sources of knowledge, considering both _a priori_ and _a posteriori_ knowledge. Parts III and IV provide (...) an in-depth discussion of justification and scepticism. The final part of the book examines our alleged knowledge of the past, other minds, morality and God. O'Brien uses engaging examples throughout the book, taking many from literature and the cinema. He explains complex issues, such as those concerning the private language argument, non-conceptual content, and the new riddle of induction, in a clear and accessible way. This textbook is an invaluable guide to contemporary epistemology. (shrink)
In this innovative and cogent presentation of her concept of sustainable happiness, Catherine O’Brien outlines how the leading recommendations for transforming education can be integrated within a vision of _well-being for all_. Solution-focused, the book demonstrates how aspects of this vision are already being realized, and the potential for accelerating education transitions that enable people and ecosystems to flourish. Each chapter assists educators to understand how to apply the lessons learned, both personally and professionally. The aim is to support educators (...) to experience themselves as change-makers with growing confidence to implement new teaching strategies and inspire their students to become change-makers as well—engaged in deep learning that develops character, connections with life, and invigorating collaborations that revitalize the very purpose of education. (shrink)
O'Regan & Noë (O&N) fail to address adequately the two most historically important reasons for seeking to explain visual experience in terms of internal representations. They are silent about the apparently inferential nature of perception, and mistaken about the significance of the phenomenology accompanying dreams, hallucinations, and mental imagery.
Oaksford & Chater (O&C) have rejected logic in favor of probability theory for reasons that are irrelevant to mental-logic theory, because mental-logic theory differs from standard logic in significant ways. Similar to O&C, mental-logic theory rejects the use of the material conditional and deals with the completeness problem by limiting the scope of its procedures to local sets of propositions.
O Banquete de Platão serve-se de recursos dramáticos diversos, tais como a história-moldura, a organização dos discursos e o ensino de Diotima enquanto meios de orientação do leitor pela mensagem filosófica subjacente, a qual inclui um exame do sistema socrático de educação. Os discípulos de Sócrates demonstram notável entusiasmo pela filosofia, mas parecem incapazes de distinguir o amor por Sócrates do amor pela sabedoria. Agatão ocupa posição de destaque: devido a um trocadilho com o seu nome, a jornada do jantar (...) em sua casa se tornará na ascensão em direção ao Bem. Além disso, ele representa a educação sofística e poética, assim como cada um dos oradores representa algum tipo particular de conhecimento, o que implica que não se deveria simplesmente impingir pedantismo a Eurixímaco, ou tomar o discurso de Aristófanes enquanto um interlúdio cômico. Eles formam, antes, uma complexa rede intertextual. Alcibíades exibe as fraquezas de um homem inábil ou relutante em seguir a totalidade do ensino socrático. Sua solicitação de ser conduzido por Agatão simboliza a incapacidade de encontrar o próprio caminho do Bem, ao passo que a interrupção da ordem bem organizada do banquete pelos boêmios lembra a atitude dos tiranos e de outros homens hostis à filosofia. Apesar dessa crítica aos estudantes de Sócrates, o Banquete finaliza com uma nota positiva. As ações finais de Sócrates ocupam-se das outras pessoas – uma crítica implícita a quem sustenta que a filosofia subverte os laços sociais. (shrink)
Most models of corporate social responsibility revolve around the controversy as to whether business is a single dimensional entity of profit maximization or a multi-dimensional entity serving greater societal interests. Furthermore, the models are mostly descriptive in nature and are based on the experiences of western countries. There has been little attempt to develop a model that accounts for corporate social responsibility in diverse environments with differing socio-cultural and market settings. In this paper an attempt has been made to fill (...) this gap by developing a two-dimensional model of corporate social responsibility and empirically testing its validity in the context of two dissimilar cultures – Australia and Bangladesh. The two dimensions are the span of corporate responsibility and the range of outcomes of social commitments of businesses. The test results confirm the validity of the two-dimensional model in the two environments. The Factor analysis revealed two leading dimensions. Cluster analysis pointed to two distinctive clusters of managers in both Australia and Bangladesh, one consisting of managers with a broad contemporary concept of social responsibility, and the other with a limited narrow view. The paper concludes that corporate social responsibility is two-dimensional and universal in nature and that differing cultural and market settings in which managers operate may have little impact on the ethical perceptions of corporate managers. (shrink)
John Rawls’s political liberalism and its ideal of public reason are tremendously influential in contemporary political philosophy and in constitutional law as well. Many, perhaps even most, liberals are Rawlsians of one stripe or another. This is problematic, because most liberals also support the redefinition of civil marriage to include same-sex unions, and as I show, Rawls’s political liberalism actually prohibits same- sex marriage. Recently in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, however, California’s northern federal district court reinterpreted the traditional rational basis review (...) in terms of liberal neutrality akin to Rawls’s “public reason,” and overturned Proposition 8 and established same-sex marriage. (This reinterpretation was amplified in the 9th Circuit Court’s decision upholding the district court on appeal in Perry v. Brown.) But on its own grounds Perry should have drawn the opposite conclusion. This is because all the available arguments for recognizing same-sex unions as civil marriages stem from controversial comprehensive doctrines about the good, and this violates the ideal of public reason; yet there remains a publicly reasonable argument for traditional marriage, which I sketch here. In the course of my argument I develop Rawls’s politically liberal account of the family by drawing upon work by J. David Velleman and H. L. A. Hart, and discuss the implications of this account for political theory and constitutional law. (shrink)
This paper argues that a number of entrenched posthumanist positions are seriously flawed as a result of their dependence on a technical interpretive approach that creates more problems than it solves. During the course of our discussion we consider in particular the question of personhood. After all, until we can determine what it means to be a person we cannot really discuss what it means to improve a person. What kinds of enhancements would even constitute improvements? This in turn leads (...) to an examination of the technical model of analysis and the recurring tendency to approach notions like personhood using this technical model. In looking to sketch a Heideggerian account of personhood, we are reaffirming what we take to be a Platonic skepticism concerning technical models of inquiry when it comes to certain subjects. Finally we examine the question as to whether the posthumanist looks to apply technology’s benefits in ways that we have reflectively determined to be useful or desirable or whether it is technology itself (or to speak as Heidegger would – the “essence” of technology) which prompts many posthumanists to rely on an excessively reductionist view of the human being. (shrink)
Any creature that must move around in its environment to find nutrients and mates, in order to survive and reproduce, faces the problem of sensorimotor control. A solution to this problem requires an on-board control mechanism that can shape the creature’s behaviour so as to render it “appropriate” to the conditions that obtain. There are at least three ways in which such a control mechanism can work, and Nature has exploited them all. The first and most basic way is for (...) a creature to bump into the things in its environment, and then, depending on what has been encountered, seek to modify its behaviour accordingly. Such an approach is risky, however, since some things in the environment are distinctly unfriendly. A second and better way, therefore, is for a creature to exploit ambient forms of energy that carry information about the distal structure of the environment. This is an improvement on the first method since it enables the creature to respond to the surroundings without actually bumping into anything. Nonetheless, this second method also has its limitations, one of which is that the information conveyed by such ambient energy is often impoverished, ambiguous and intermittent. (shrink)
The author proposes an analysis of boredom. The analysis he proposes is that boredom is an unpleasant mental state consisting of weariness, restlessness, and lack of interest, where certain causal relations exist among the components. He goes on to elaborate on and defend his analysis, concluding with some thoughts on the idea that boredom has some grand metaphysical significance.
The twelve specially written essays in this volume investigate the neglected topic of mental action, and show its importance for the metaphysics, epistemology, and phenomenology of mind. The essays investigate what mental actions are, how we are aware of them, and what is the relationship between mental and physical action.
It is an extraordinary thing that Descartes' famous Cogito argument is still being puzzled over; this paper is another fragment in an untiring tradition of puzzlement. The paper will argue that, if I were to ask the question the Cogito could provide for a positive answer. In particular, my aim in this is to argue, in opposition to recent discussion by John Campbell, that there is a way of construing conscious thinking on which the Cogito can be seen to provide (...) a non-question begging argument for one's own existence. (shrink)
The “New Natural Law” Theory (NNL) of Germain Grisez, John Finnis, Joseph Boyle, and their collaborators offers a distinctive account of intentional action, which underlies a moral theory that aims to justify many aspects of traditional morality and Catholic doctrine. -/- In fact, we show that the NNL is committed to premises that entail the permissibility of many actions that are irreconcilable with traditional morality and Catholic doctrine, such as elective abortions. These consequences follow principally from two aspects of the (...) NNL. The first aspect is its distinctive version of the planning theory of intention, in which adopting the 'first-person perspective' of an agent is a sufficient, and not merely necessary, condition for determining the nature of his intentional action; this planning theory rests upon an implicitly Cartesian conception of human behavior, in which behavior chosen by an agent has no intrinsic “intentionalness” apart from what he confers upon it as part of his plan. The second aspect is the NNL's distinctive account of basic human goods' incommensurability, according to which there is no common factor shared by basic human goods that allows them to be comparatively ranked in any way that directs practical deliberation. -/- The entailments of these two aspects of the NNL, we argue, amount to a reductio ad absurdum. Pace the proponents of the NNL account, we sketch an alternative hylomorphic conception of intentional action that avoids untoward moral implications by grounding human agency in the exercise of basic powers that are either (a) essential constituents of human nature or (b) acquired through participation in social practices. This conception of intentional action provides a stronger foundation for natural law theory. (shrink)
The Catholic Church proscribes methods of birth control other than sexual abstinence. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes abstinence as an acceptable method of birth control in research studies, some pharmaceutical companies mandate the use of artificial contraceptive techniques to avoid pregnancy as a condition for participation in their studies. These requirements are unacceptable at Catholic health care institutions, leading to conflicts among institutional review boards, clinical investigators, and sponsors. Subjects may feel coerced by such mandates to (...) adopt contraceptive techniques inconsistent with their personal situation and beliefs; women committed to celibacy or who engage exclusively in non-heterosexual activities are negatively impacted. We propose principles to insure informed consent to safeguard the rights of research subjects at Catholic institutions while mitigating this ethical conflict. At the same time, our proposal respects the interests of pharmaceutical research agencies and Catholic moral precepts, and fully abides by regulatory guidance. (shrink)
When cognitive scientists apply computational theory to the problem of phenomenal consciousness, as many of them have been doing recently, there are two fundamentally distinct approaches available. Either consciousness is to be explained in terms of the nature of the representational vehicles the brain deploys; or it is to be explained in terms of the computational processes defined over these vehicles. We call versions of these two approaches _vehicle_ and _process_ theories of consciousness, respectively. However, while there may be space (...) for vehicle theories of consciousness in cognitive science, they are relatively rare. This is because of the influence exerted, on the one hand, by a large body of research which purports to show that the explicit representation of information in the brain and conscious experience are _dissociable_, and on the other, by the _classical_ computational theory of mind – the theory that takes human cognition to be a species of symbol manipulation. But two recent developments in cognitive science combine to suggest that a reappraisal of this situation is in order. First, a number of theorists have recently been highly critical of the experimental methodologies employed in the dissociation studies – so critical, in fact, it’s no longer reasonable to assume that the dissociability of conscious experience and explicit representation has been adequately demonstrated. Second, classicism, as a theory of human cognition, is no longer as dominant in cognitive science as it once was. It now has a lively competitor in the form of _connectionism; _and connectionism, unlike classicism, does have the computational resources to support a robust vehicle theory of consciousness. In this paper we develop and defend this connectionist vehicle theory of consciousness. It takes the form of the following simple empirical hypothesis: _phenomenal experience consists in the explicit_ _representation of information in neurally realized PDP networks_.. (shrink)
Although connectionism is advocated by its proponents as an alternative to the classical computational theory of mind, doubts persist about its _computational_ credentials. Our aim is to dispel these doubts by explaining how connectionist networks compute. We first develop a generic account of computation—no easy task, because computation, like almost every other foundational concept in cognitive science, has resisted canonical definition. We opt for a characterisation that does justice to the explanatory role of computation in cognitive science. Next we examine (...) what might be regarded as the “conventional” account of connectionist computation. We show why this account is inadequate and hence fosters the suspicion that connectionist networks aren’t genuinely computational. Lastly, we turn to the principal task of the paper: the development of a more robust portrait of connectionist computation. The basis of this portrait is an explanation of the representational capacities of connection weights, supported by an analysis of the weight configurations of a series of simulated neural networks. (shrink)
If stem cell-based therapies are developed, we will likely confront a difficult problem of justice: for biological reasons alone, the new therapies might benefit only a limited range of patients. In fact, they might benefit primarily white Americans, thereby exacerbating long-standing differences in health and health care.
My aim in this paper is to articulate further what may be called an agency theory of self-knowledge. Many theorists have stressed how important agency is to self- knowledge, and much work has been done drawing connections between the two notions.<sup>2</sup> However, it has not always been clear what _epistemic_ advantage agency gives us in this area and why it does so. I take it as a constraint on an adequate account of how a subject knows her own mental states (...) and acts, that it construe the known mental states and acts realistically and as independent of their self-ascription, and that it deliver genuine epistemic standing to the knower. The main task of the paper will, then, be to explore how our having rational agency with respect to our mental states may be able to secure genuine epistemic warrant for our self-ascriptions of states or acts independent of the ascriptions. This task will be carried out by focussing on the question of what account we should give of our knowledge of what I call our acts of judging. In the remainder of this section, I will do a little to clarify what is meant by that question. Section 2 will attempt to introduce us to elements of the best way to approach the question by considering some alternative strategies. Section 3 is devoted to forming some idea of what _kind_ of warrant we are looking for when considering how agency might give us self-knowledge. Section 4 aims to present a suggestion as to how agency gives us the kind of warrant identified over our acts of judging. Section 5 deals with some objections. (shrink)
It is commonplace for both philosophers and cognitive scientists to express their allegiance to the "unity of consciousness". This is the claim that a subjects phenomenal consciousness, at any one moment in time, is a single thing. This view has had a major influence on computational theories of consciousness. In particular, what we call single-track theories dominate the literature, theories which contend that our conscious experience is the result of a single consciousness-making process or mechanism in the brain. We argue (...) that the orthodox view is quite wrong: phenomenal experience is not a unity, in the sense of being a single thing at each instant. It is a multiplicity, an aggregate of phenomenal elements, each of which is the product of a distinct consciousness-making mechanism in the brain. Consequently, cognitive science is in need of a multi-track theory of consciousness; a computational model that acknowledges both the manifold nature of experience, and its distributed neural basis. (shrink)
Book description: * Seventeen brand-new essays by leading philosophers and psychologists * Genuinely interdisciplinary work, at the forefront of both fields * Includes a valuable introduction, uniting common threads Leading philosophers and psychologists join forces to investigate a set of problems to do with agency and self-awareness, in seventeen specially written essays. In recent years there has been much psychological and neurological work purporting to show that consciousness and self-awareness play no role in causing actions, and indeed to demonstrate that (...) free will is an illusion. The essays in this volume subject the assumptions that motivate such claims to sustained interdisciplinary scrutiny. Patients with Anarchic Hand syndrome sometimes find their hands perform apparently goal-directed actions which the patients disown, yet seem to be unable to suppress (for example, reaching out for someone else's food in a restaurant). On the face of it, these patients lack the kind of control and self-awareness we ordinarily take ourselves to have when acting intentionally. Questions raised by this phenomenon include: What is involved in being aware of an action as one's own? What is the nature of the control these patients are lacking and which characterizes normal intentional actions? What is the relation between a priori explanations of consciousness and self-consciousness, on the one hand, and empirical work on the information-processing mechanisms involved in action control, on the other? Questions of action control and self-awareness tend to be treated separately in both philosophy and psychology. The central idea behind this volume is that outstanding unresolved issues on both topics, and in both disciplines, can only be resolved by an interdisciplinary examination of the relations between them. The editors' useful introductory essay offers a guide to cross-disciplinary reading of the contributions, and makes connections between them explicit. The book will be compulsory reading for psychologists and philosophers working on action explanation, and for anyone interested in the relation between the brain sciences and consciousness. (shrink)