We are often told that we are morally obligated to produce equal opportunity for all. Therefore, it seems we should examine what power we have to produce that desirable state. For it would be nonsense to say we are required to provide what is beyond our power to provide. When we examine this question, we find our power limited by two sets of constraints. One set comprises formal constraints upon the idea itself of equal opportunity. We cannot do the logically (...) impossible. The other set comprises limits upon our ability to produce the directed socio-economic change, getting known outputs for known inputs. I illustrate the formal constraints by outlining the work of Douglas Rae. The constraints upon our abilities I illustrate with evidence from sociology and politics. At the end, we shall discover that our power to make opportunities equal is sharply though not unbearably limited. A critical but unbaised survey will reveal that in the past fifty years we have gone remarkably far towards doing all that we are presently capable of doing to equalize opportunities. Perhaps we shall go even farther when we learn how. The word ‘real’ in the title is opposed to ‘ideal’ or even ‘chimerical'. It may seem an interesting question what equality of opportunity should consist in were we able to produce directed socio-economic change at will. But we are not. Therefore, a more interesting and more important question is what equality of opportunity consists in given the very large number of constraints within which we must work to achieve it. (shrink)
Should a theory of meaning state what sentences mean, and can a Davidsonian theory of meaning in particular do so? Max Ko¨lbel answers both questions affirmatively. I argue, however, that the phenomena of non-homophony, non-truth-conditional aspects of meaning, semantic mood, and context-sensitivity provide prima facie obstacles for extending Davidsonian truth-theories to yield meaning-stating theorems. Assessing some natural moves in reply requires a more fully developed conception of the task of such theories than Ko¨lbel provides. A more developed conception is also (...) required to defend his positive answer to the first question above. I argue that, however Ko¨lbel might elaborate his position, it can’t be by embracing the sort of cognitivist account of Davidsonian semantics to which he sometimes alludes. (shrink)
Michael Devitt ([2006a], [2006b]) argues that, insofar as linguists possess better theories about language than non-linguists, their linguistic intuitions are more reliable. (Culbertson and Gross ) presented empirical evidence contrary to this claim. Devitt () replies that, in part because we overemphasize the distinction between acceptability and grammaticality, we misunderstand linguists' claims, fall into inconsistency, and fail to see how our empirical results can be squared with his position. We reply in this note. Inter alia we argue that Devitt's (...) focus on grammaticality intuitions, rather than acceptability intuitions, distances his discussion from actual linguistic practice. We close by questioning a demand that drives his discussion—viz., that, for linguistic intuitions to supply evidence for linguistic theorizing, a better account of why they are evidence is required. (shrink)
On his death in 2007, Richard Rorty was heralded by the New York Times as “one of the world’s most influential contemporary thinkers.” Controversial on the left and the right for his critiques of objectivity and political radicalism, Rorty experienced a renown denied to all but a handful of living philosophers. In this masterly biography, Neil Gross explores the path of Rorty’s thought over the decades in order to trace the intellectual and professional journey that led him to that (...) prominence. The child of a pair of leftist writers who worried that their precocious son “wasn’t rebellious enough,” Rorty enrolled at the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. There he came under the tutelage of polymath Richard McKeon, whose catholic approach to philosophical systems would profoundly influence Rorty’s own thought. Doctoral work at Yale led to Rorty’s landing a job at Princeton, where his colleagues were primarily analytic philosophers. With a series of publications in the 1960s, Rorty quickly established himself as a strong thinker in that tradition—but by the late 1970s Rorty had eschewed the idea of objective truth altogether, urging philosophers to take a “relaxed attitude” toward the question of logical rigor. Drawing on the pragmatism of John Dewey, he argued that philosophers should instead open themselves up to multiple methods of thought and sources of knowledge—an approach that would culminate in the publication of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature , one of the most seminal and controversial philosophical works of our time. In clear and compelling fashion, Gross sets that surprising shift in Rorty’s thought in the context of his life and social experiences, revealing the many disparate influences that contribute to the making of knowledge. As much a book about the growth of ideas as it is a biography of a philosopher, Richard Rorty will provide readers with a fresh understanding of both the man and the course of twentieth-century thought. (shrink)
Princess Diana’s death was a tragedy that provoked mourning across the globe; the death of a homeless person, more often than not, is met with apathy. How can we account for this uneven distribution of emotion? Can it simply be explained by the prevailing scientific understanding? Uncovering a rich tradition beginning with Aristotle, _The Secret History of Emotion_ offers a counterpoint to the way we generally understand emotions today. Through a radical rereading of Aristotle, Seneca, Thomas Hobbes, Sarah Fielding, and (...) Judith Butler, among others, Daniel M. Gross reveals a persistent intellectual current that considers emotions as psychosocial phenomena. In Gross’s historical analysis of emotion, Aristotle and Hobbes’s rhetoric show that our passions do not stem from some inherent, universal nature of men and women, but rather are conditioned by power relations and social hierarchies. He follows up with consideration of how political passions are distributed to some people but not to others using the Roman Stoics as a guide. Hume and contemporary theorists like Judith Butler, meanwhile, explain to us how psyches are shaped by power. To supplement his argument, Gross also provides a history and critique of the dominant modern view of emotions, expressed in Darwinism and neurobiology, in which they are considered organic, personal feelings independent of social circumstances. The result is a convincing work that rescues the study of the passions from science and returns it to the humanities and the art of rhetoric. (shrink)
Through an absorbing investigation into recent, high-profile scandals involving one of the largest kosher slaughterhouses in the world, located unexpectedly in Postville, Iowa, Aaron S. Gross makes a powerful case for elevating the category of the animal in the study of religion. Major theorists have almost without exception approached religion as a phenomenon that radically marks humans off from other animals, but Gross rejects this paradigm, instead matching religion more closely with the life sciences to better theorize human (...) nature. Gross begins with a detailed account of the scandals at Agriprocessors and their significance for the American and international Jewish community. He argues that without a proper theorization of "animals and religion," we cannot fully understand religiously and ethically motivated diets and how and why the events at Agriprocessors took place. Subsequent chapters recognize the significance of animals to the study of religion in the work of Ernst Cassirer, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, Jonathan Z. Smith, and Jacques Derrida and the value of indigenous peoples' understanding of animals to the study of religion in our daily lives. Gross concludes by extending the Agribusiness scandal to the activities at slaughterhouses of all kinds, calling attention to the religiosity informing the regulation of "secular" slaughterhouses and its implications for our relationship with and self-imagination through animals. (shrink)
In this collection edited by Alan G. Gross and Arthur E. Walzer, scholars in communication, rhetoric and composition, and philosophy seek to “reread” Aristotle’s Rhetoric from a purely rhetorical perspective.
In this book, Patrick G. Stefan argues that the subversive message of resurrection was instrumental in Christianity’s expansion. Using Foucault’s analysis of how material conditions shape and create individual subjects, Stefan shows how the idea of resurrection undermined Caesar’s control over those living in his domain.
Who are the best subjects for judgment tasks intended to test grammatical hypotheses? Michael Devitt ( [2006a] , [2006b] ) argues, on the basis of a hypothesis concerning the psychology of such judgments, that linguists themselves are. We present empirical evidence suggesting that the relevant divide is not between linguists and non-linguists, but between subjects with and without minimally sufficient task-specific knowledge. In particular, we show that subjects with at least some minimal exposure to or knowledge of such tasks tend (...) to perform consistently with one another—greater knowledge of linguistics makes no further difference—while at the same time exhibiting markedly greater in-group consistency than those who have no previous exposure to or knowledge of such tasks and their goals. (shrink)
There is a long tradition of drawing metaphysical conclusions from investigations into language. This paper concerns one contemporary variation on this theme: the alleged ontological significance of cognitivist truth-theoretic accounts of semantic competence. According to such accounts, human speakers’ linguistic behavior is in part empirically explained by their cognizing a truth-theory. Such a theory consists of a finite number of axioms assigning semantic values to lexical items, a finite number of axioms assigning semantic values to complex expressions on the basis (...) of their structure and the semantic values of their constituents, and a finite number of production schemata. The theory enables the derivation of truth-conditions for each sentence of the language: something of roughly the form ‘S is true iff P’.1 The claim that speakers stand in a cognitive relation to such theories is advanced, not as a conceptual analysis of semantic competence or understanding, but rather as an empirical hypothesis about human speakers in particular, one part of a broader empirical account of our linguistic competence and cognition generally. It therefore must mesh with the rest of our theorizing in these areas and whatever relevant data from neighboring inquiries there may be. The precise nature of the cognitive relation a speaker is supposed to bear to a truththeory is a matter of some dispute. I speak of ‘‘cognizing’’ (following. (shrink)
This paper aims to give a substantive account of how Feynman used diagrams in the first lectures in which he explained his new approach to quantum electrodynamics. By critically examining unpublished lecture notes, Feynman’s use and interpretation of both "Feynman diagrams" and other visual representations will be illuminated. This paper discusses how the morphology of Feynman’s early diagrams were determined by both highly contextual issues, which molded his images to local needs and particular physical characterizations, and an overarching common diagrammatic (...) style, which facilitated Feynman’s movement between different diagrams despite their divergent forms and significance. (shrink)
According to cognitivist truth-theoretic accounts of semantic competence, aspects of our linguistic behavior can be explained by ascribing to speakers cognition of truth theories. It's generally assumed on this approach that, however much context sensitivity speakers' languages contain, the cognized truththeories themselves can be adequately characterized context insensitively—that is, without using in the metalanguage expressions whose semantic value can vary across occasions of utterance. In this paper, I explore some of the motivations for and problems and consequences of dropping this (...) assumption. (shrink)
Because the goal of military medicine is salvaging the wounded who can return to duty, military medical ethics cannot easily defend devoting scarce resources to those so badly injured that they cannot return to duty. Instead, arguments turn to morale and political obligation to justify care for the seriously wounded. Neither argument is satisfactory. Care for the wounded is not necessary to maintain an army's morale. Nor is there any moral or logical connection between the right to health care (a (...) universal human right) and the duty to defend one's nation (a local political duty). Once badly wounded, soldiers enjoy the same right to medical care as any similarly ill or injured individual. National health care systems grasp this point and offer few additional health care benefits to veterans. In the United States, however, lack of universal health coverage skews the debate to focus on special entitlements for veterans without considering the health care rights that other citizens enjoy. (shrink)
This paper motivates two bases for ascribing propositional semantic knowledge (or something knowledgelike): first, because it’s necessary to rationalize linguistic action; and, second, because it’s part of an empirical theory that would explain various aspects of linguistic behavior. The semantic knowledge ascribed on these two bases seems to differ in content, epistemic status, and cognitive role. This raises the question: how are they related, if at all? The bulk of the paper addresses this question. It distinguishes a variety of answers (...) and their varying philosophical and empirical commitments. (shrink)
Unlike most Western nations, Israel does not recognize full separation of church and state but seeks instead a gentle fusion of Jewish and democratic values. Inasmuch as important religious norms such as sanctity of life may clash with dignity, privacy, and self-determination, conflicts frequently arise as Israeli lawmakers, ethicists, and healthcare professionals attempt to give substance to the idea of a Jewish-democratic state. Emerging issues in Israeli bioethics—end-of-life treatment, fertility, genetic research, and medical ethics during armed conflict—highlight this conflict vividly.
Donald Davidson aims to illuminate the concept of meaning by asking: What knowledge would suffice to put one in a position to understand the speech of another, and what evidence sufficiently distant from the concepts to be illuminated could in principle ground such knowledge? Davidson answers: knowledge of an appropriate truth-theory for the speaker’s language, grounded in what sentences the speaker holds true, or prefers true, in what circumstances. In support of this answer, he both outlines such a truth-theory for (...) a substantial fragment of a natural language and sketches a procedure—radical interpretation—that, drawing on such evidence, could confirm such a theory. Bracketing refinements (e.g., those introduced to.. (shrink)
Responsible citizens are expected to combine ethical judgement with judiciously exercised social activism to preserve the moral foundation of democratic society and prevent political injustice. But do they? Utilizing a research model integrating insights from rational choice theory and cognitive developmental psychology this book carefully explores three exemplary cases of morally inspired activism: Jewish rescue in wartime Europe, abortion politics in the United States, and peace and settler activism in Israel. From all three analyses a single conclusion emerges: the most (...) politically competent individuals are, most often, the least morally competent. This is the central paradox of political morality. These findings cast doubt on strong models of political morality characterized by enlightened moral reasoning and concerted political action while affirming alternative weak models that fuse activism with sectarian moral interests. They provide empirical support to further upend the liberal vision of democratic character, education, and society. (shrink)
When a debate seems intractable, with little agreement as to how one might proceed towards a resolution, it is understandable that philosophers should consider whether something might be amiss with the debate itself. Famously in the last century, philosophers of various stripes explored in various ways the possibility that at least certain philosophical debates are in some manner deficient in sense. Such moves are no longer so much in vogue. For one thing, the particular ways they have been made have (...) themselves undergone much critical scrutiny, so that many philosophers now feel that there is, for example, a Quinean response to Carnap, a Gricean reply to Austin, and a diluting proliferation of Wittgenstein interpretations.2 Be that as it may,3 there do of.. (shrink)
Scientific discovery and scientific progress are made by scientists, not philosophers. Philosophers sometimes overlook this fact. It appears to be completely ignored by those who call themselves feminist philosophers of science. A favored claim among them is that the production of a feminist epistemology, or of a feminist society, or of both together, will produce something called ‘feminist science’. Feminist science will be different, they say, from the science we now have. One leading proponent of this view, Sandra Harding, writes: (...) “[t]he sciences that gain world ascendancy in the future are unlikely to be so distinctively Western and androcentric as are the dominant tendencies today.” But just how will they differ? Like all utopians these feminists are short on specifics and we are never told what such a science as science would look like, even in outline, much less in detail, nor how it is likely to differ as science from swnh. (shrink)
In this note, I clarify the point of my paper “The Nature of Semantics: On Jackendoff’s Arguments” (NS) in light of Ray Jackendoff’s comments in his “Linguistics in Cognitive Science: The State of the Art.” Along the way, I amplify my remarks on unification.
Stewart Shapiro’s book develops a contextualist approach to vagueness. It’s chock-full of ideas and arguments, laid out in wonderfully limpid prose. Anyone working on vagueness (or the other topics it touches on—see below) will want to read it. According to Shapiro, vague terms have borderline cases: there are objects to which the term neither determinately applies nor determinately does not apply. A term determinately applies in a context iff the term’s meaning and the non-linguistic facts determine that they do. The (...) non-linguistic facts include the “external” context: “comparison class, paradigm cases, contrasting cases, etc.” (33) But external-contextsensitivity is not what’s central to Shapiro’s contextualism. Even fixing external context, vague terms’ (anti-)extensions exhibit sensitivity to internal context: the decisions of competent speakers. According to Shapiro’s open texture thesis, for each borderline case, there is some circumstance in which a speaker, consistently with the term’s meaning and the non-linguistic facts, can judge it to fall into the term’s extension and some circumstance in which the speaker can judge it to fall into the term’s anti-extension: she can “go either way.” Moreover, borderline sentences are Euthyphronically judgment- dependent: a competent speaker’s judging a borderline to fall into a term’s (anti- )extension makes it so. For Shapiro, then, a sentence can be true but indeterminate: a case left unsettled by meaning and the non-linguistic facts (and thus indeterminate, or borderline) may be made true by a competent speaker’s judgment. Importantly, among the non-linguistic facts that constrain speakers’ judgments (at least in the cases Shapiro cares about) is a principle of tolerance: for all x and y, if x and y differ marginally in the relevant respect (henceforth, Mxy), then if one competently judges Bx, one cannot competently judge y in any other manner in the same (total) context.1 This does not require that one judge By: one might not consider the matter at all.. (shrink)
Military medical ethics is garnering growing attention today among medical personal in the American and other armies. Short courses or workshops in “battlefield ethics” for military physicians, nurses, medics, social workers, and psychologists address the nature of patient rights in the military, care for detainees, enemy soldiers and local civilians, problems posed by limited resources, ethical questions arising in humanitarian missions, as well as end-of-life issues, ethics consultations, care for veterans, advance directives, and assisted suicide. Although many of these issues (...) are the core subjects of any bioethics curriculum, military medical ethics presents unique challenges to bioethics educators. (shrink)
Social scientists have traditionally attempted to avoid extending strategies for acquiring experimental knowledge to the sphere of the social. Bruno Latour, however, has introduced a notion of the collective experiment, an experiment conducted by and with us all. In this short paper I seek to explore, by way of elucidating the talk of collective experiments, that Latour's notion has long since existed in the theory and practice of ecological design and restoration. Practitioners in ecological restoration projects find themselves in a (...) situation of double contingency, since neither do they know how nature will respond to their intervention nor is their interpretation of these responses already certain. Experimental practice in society then becomes the proceduralization of this contingency. (shrink)
Aesthetics is today widely seen as the philosophy of art and/or beauty, limited to artworks and their perception. In this paper, I will argue that today's aesthetics and the original programme developed by the German Enlightenment thinker Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten in the first half of the eighteenth century have only the name in common. Baumgarten did not primarily develop his aesthetics as a philosophy of art. The making and understanding of artworks had served in his original programme only as an (...) example for the application of his philosophy. What he really attempts to present is an alternative philosophy of knowledge that goes beyond the purely rationalist, empiricist, and sensualist approaches. In short, Baumgarten transcends the old opposition between rationalism and sensualism. His core theme is the improvement (perfectio) of human knowledge and cognition and the ways to reach this goal. The study of Baumgarten's foundational works on aesthetics should not be undertaken merely out of antiquarian interest. I will argue, instead, that Baumgarten's importance and contemporary relevance lies in this: that his Aesthetica may serve as a profound contribution to the philosophy of the cultural sciences and humanities. Revisiting Baumgarten's original idea of aesthetics will lead us to a more inclusive concept of that philosophical discipline. (shrink)
This paper examines Ian Hacking's arguments in favor of entity realism. It shows that his examples from science do not support his realism. Furthermore, his proposed criterion of experimental use is neither sufficient nor necessary for conferring a privileged status on his preferred unobservables. Nonetheless his insight is genuine; it may be most profitably seen as part of a more general effort to create a space for a new form of scientific and philosophical certainty, one that does not require foundations.