Evidence from molecular genetics bolsters the claim that color is not a perceptuolinguistic and behavioral universal. Neurobiology continues to fill in many details about the flow of color information from photon reception to central processing in the brain. Humans have the most acute color vision in the biosphere because of natural selection and adaptation, not coincidence.
My aim in what follows is to sketch with a broad brush fundamental changes involving the concept of obligation in British ethics of the early modern period, as it developed in the direction of the view that obligatory force is a species of motivational force – an idea that deeply informs present thought. I shall also suggest, although I can hardly demonstrate it conclusively here, that one important source for this view was a doctrine which we associate with Kant, and (...) which it may seem surprising to find in British ethics, especially of the early modern period, viz., that rational agents are obligated by motives available through a form of practical thinking necessary for rational autonomy. (shrink)
Anyone who wishes to talk about angels has to respond to the mocking question, how many of them can dance on the point of a pin. The answer is: ‘just as many as they please’. Angels being immaterial intellects do not occupy space to the exclusion of any other such intellectual substance, and their being ‘on’ the point of a pin can only mean that they attend to it. The question, however, is not one that concerned our mediaeval predecessors, although (...) it seems as difficult to persuade anyone of this as it is to clear Canute of the charge of insane conceit. (shrink)
Philosophers of earlier ages have usually spent time in considering thenature of marital, and in general familial, duty. Paley devotes an entire book to those ‘relative duties which result from the constitution of the sexes’,1 a book notable on the one hand for its humanity and on the other for Paley‘s strange refusal to acknowledge that the evils for which he condemns any breach of pure monogamy are in large part the result of the fact that such breaches are generally (...) condemned. In a society where an unmarried mother is ruined no decent male should put a woman in such danger: but why precisely should social feeling be so severe? Marriage, the monogamist would say, must be defended at all costs, for it is a centrally important institution of our society. Political community was, in the past, understood as emerging from or imposed upon families, or similar associations. The struggle to establish the state was a struggle against families, clans and clubs; the state, once established, rested upon the social institutions to which it gave legal backing. (shrink)
Cartesian accounts of the mental make it axiomatic that consciousness is transparent: what I feel, I know I feel, however many errors I may make about its cause. ‘I’ names a simple, unextended, irreducible substance, created ex nihilo or eternally existent, and only associated with the complete, extended, dissoluble substance or pretend-substance that is ‘my’ body by divine fiat. Good moderns take it for granted that ‘we’ now realize how shifting, foggy and deconstructible are the boundaries of the self; ‘we’ (...) know that our own motives, feelings and intentions constantly escape us; ‘I’ names only the current speaker, or the momentarily dominant self among many fluid identities. (shrink)
According to Aristotle, the goal of anyone who is not simply stupid or slavish is to live a worthwhile life. There are, no doubt, people who have no goal at all beyond the moment's pleasure or release from pain. There may be people incapable of reaching any reasoned decision about what to do, and acting on it. But anyone who asks how she should live implicitly agrees that her goal is to live well, to live a life that she can (...) think worth living. That goal, eudaimonia , is something that is sought for its own sake, and for nothing else. Anyone who asks herself how she should live can answer that she should live well. The answer, admittedly, needs further comment. Aristotle went on to suggest that ‘living well’ amounted to living in accordance with virtue, or if there is more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. Eudaimonia , happiness, is virtuous activity over a whole life. To live a worthwhile life we must acquire and practice habits of doing the right thing, for the right reason. Equivalently, we must do what a virtuous person would, and in the way she would, for the sake of to kalon , or beauty. (shrink)
There are good reasons for being suspicious of the very concept of ‘a religion’, let alone a ‘world religion’. It may be useful for a hospital administrator to know a patient's ‘religion’ – as Protestant or Church of England or Catholic or Buddhist – but such labels clearly do little more than identify the most suitable chaplain, and connote groupings in the vast and confusing region of ‘religious thought and practice’ that are of very different ranks. By any rational, genealogical (...) taxonomy ‘Protestant’, ‘Anglican’, ‘Catholic’ connote species, genera or families within Christianity, which is in turn a taxon within the multivariant tradition traced back to Abraham. ‘Buddhism’ includes as many variants as would ‘Abrahamism’. Most Abrahamists, traditionally, have been theists, but it is difficult not to suspect that Marxist socialism is an atypical variant which has inherited a linear view of time, a contest between the chosen agents of justice and the doomed powers-that-be, and the prospect of a future in which ‘there shall be no more sea’. (shrink)
Practitioners of disciplines whose problems are debated by moral philosophers regularly complain that the philosophers are engaged in abstract speculation, divorced from ‘real-life’ consequences and responsibilities, that it is the practitioners who must take the decisions, and that they cannot act in accordance with strict abstract logic.
Jonathan Edwards identified the central act of faith as ‘the cordial consent of beings to Being in general’, which is to say to God . That equation, of Being, Truth and God, is rarely taken seriously in analytical circles. My argument will be that this is to neglect the real context of a great deal of past philosophy, particularly the very Cartesian arguments from which so many undergraduate courses begin. All too many students issue from such courses immunized against enthusiasm, (...) in the conceit that they have answers to all the old conundrums, which were in any case no more than verbal trickery. ‘By uttering the right words but failing to use them in propria persona , philosophy induces a kind of soporific amnesia bewitching us into forgetting our God-given task. That task is, of course, to do what Socrates did and to live as he lived' . Burrell's words are not wholly fair to academic philosophers, nor to the Lady Philosophy. Plenty of philosophers really mind about the truth, and want to be Socratic in pursuit of it. But the danger is a real one. If all that matters is debunking past philosophers, how does that differ from the repeated refutation of the Chaldaean Oracles or the Prophecies of Nostradamus? A pretty enough pastime for the young, but hardly serious business for adults . ‘If the history of philosophy is a process of ‘salvaging’ what you yourself have already thought, then why bother?’. (shrink)
The social and environmental problems that we face at this tail end of twentieth-century progress require us to identify some cause, some spirit that transcends the petty limits of our time and place. It is easy to believe that there is no crisis. We have been told too often that the oceans will soon die, the air be poisonous, our energy reserves run dry; that the world will grow warmer, coastlands be flooded and the climate change; that plague, famine and (...) war will be the necessary checks on population growth. But here we are: sufficiently healthy and well-fed, connoisseurs of far-off catastrophe and horror movies, confident that something will turn up or that the prophecies of doom were only dreams. We are the descendants, after all, of creatures who did not despair, who hoped against hope that there would still be life tomorrow. We no more believe in the world's end than we believe that soldiers could break down the door and drag us off to torture and to death: we don't believe that they could even when we know that, somewhere altogether elsewhere, they did. Even if we can force ourselves to remember other ages, other lands or other classes, we are content enough. (shrink)
Consistent materialists are almost bound to suggest that ‘conscious experience’, if it exists at all, is no more than epiphenomenal. A correct understanding of the real requires that everything we do and say is no more than a product of whatever processes are best described by physics, without any privileged place, person, time or scale of action. Consciousness is a myth, or at least a figment. Plotinus was no materialist: for him, it is Soul and Intellect that are more real (...) than the phenomena we misdescribe as material. Nor does he suppose that consciousness depends on language : wordless experience is actually superior. And much of what counts towards our present consciousness is to be discarded. It is better not to remember most of what now seems more significant to us; better to discard images; better that the intellect be ‘drunk’ than ‘sober’, losing any sense of separation between subject and object. The goal of the Plotinian intellectual is to join ‘the dance of immortal love’, but it is a mark of the good dancer that she is not conscious of what she does. There is therefore a strange confluence between Plotinus and modern materialists: our experience at least is transitory, deceitful, epiphenomenal, and ‘reality’ is to be encountered when we have shed our illusions. (shrink)
Persons are creatures with a range of personal capacities. Most known to us are also people, though nothing in observation or biological theory demands that all and only people are persons, nor even that persons, any more than people, constitute a natural kind. My aim is to consider what non-personal minds are like. Darwin's Earthworms are sensitive, passionate and, in their degree, intelligent. They may even construct maps, embedded in the world they perceive around them, so as to be able (...) to construct their tunnels. Other creatures may be able to perceive that world as also accessible to other minds, and structure it by locality and temporal relation, without having many personal qualities. Non-personal mind, on both modern materialist and Plotinian grounds, may be the more usual, and the less deluded, sort of mind. (shrink)
For the last few years, thanks to the Leverhulme Trust, I've been largely absent from my department, working on the late antique philosopher Plotinus. To speak personally – it's been a difficult few years, since my youngest daughter has been afflicted with anorexia during this period, and my own bowel cancer was discovered, serendipitously, and removed, at the end of 2005. Since then I've had ample occasion to consider the importance – and the difficulty – of the practice of detachment, (...) and also to worry about the moral some have drawn from Plotinian and similar philosophies, namely that the things of this world really do not matter much, and that we should withdraw ourselves from them. Maybe it is true, as Plotinus says, that ‘some troubles are profitable to the sufferers themselves, poverty and sickness for example’. But this is not an altogether helpful message for those afflicted by the bundle of disorders that lead to anorexia. It's difficult not to suspect, for example, that Simone Weil would have lived longer but for her Neo-Platonism. It has also been made obvious to me that we are much less in control of our own mental and emotional states even than I had thought before. None of this, of course, should have been any surprise: I have frequently pointed out – to myself and others – the importance of distinguishing between one's self and the states one finds oneself in, and the extreme difficulty of controlling the thoughts we say are ours. Any delusion that my knowledge of these facts is of itself enough to render me immune to them has been – at least for the moment – thoroughly debunked – though the facts themselves are such that this disillusionment, so to call it, is probably both temporary and almost entirely insincere! (shrink)
When we speak of philosophy and therapy, or of philosophy as therapy, the usual intent is to suggest that ‘philosophizing’ is or should be a way to clarify the mind or purify the soul. While there may be little point in arguing with psychoses or deeply-embedded neuroses our more ordinary misjudgements, biases and obsessions may be alleviated, at least, by trying to ‘see things clearly and to see them whole’, by carefully identifying premises and seeing what they – rationally – (...) support, and by seeking to eliminate the residual influence of premises that we have long since, rationally, dismissed. I don't intend to argue with this account – though of course it may be as well to remember that ‘philosophizing’ may have more dangerous effects. It is not obvious that philosophical argument will always help us ‘see things straight’, and the Athenian democracy was not altogether wrong to think that some of Socrates' followers or pupils learnt quite the wrong things from him. (shrink)
When I was first approached to read a paper at the conference from which this volume takes its beginning I expected that Flint Schier, with whom I had taught a course on the Philosophy of Biology in my years at Glasgow, would be with us to comment and to criticize. I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing once again my own sense of loss. I am sure that we would all have gained by his presence, and hope that he (...) would find things both to approve, and disapprove, in the following venture. (shrink)
Technology, according to Derry and Williams's Short History , ‘comprises all that bewilderingly varied body of knowledge and devices by which man progressively masters his natural environment’. Their casual, and unconscious, sexism is not unrelated to my present topic. Women enter the story as spinners, burden bearers and, at long last, typists. ‘The tying of a bundle on the back or the dragging of it along upon the outspread twigs of a convenient branch are contributions [and by implication the only (...) contributions] to technology which probably had a feminine origin’. Everything else was done by men , and what they did was master, conquer , and control . It is also significant that Derry and Williams take it for granted that ‘the men [sic] of the Old Stone Age, few and scattered, developed little to help them to conquer their environment’: until the advent of agriculture, and settled civilization, there was, they say, neither leisure nor surplus. (shrink)
Since the mid-1970s an amazing philosopher has blazed across the philosophic sky—Stephen R. L. Clark. To date he has written twelve books, including _From Athens to Jerusalem, Aristotle's Man, Animals and Their Moral Standing, Civil Peace and Sacred Order, God's World and the Great Awakening, The Mysteries of Religion, The Moral Status of Animals, The Nature of the Beast, and A Parliament of Souls,_ as well as dozens of articles. Critics find him "arresting," "profound," "amusing," and, paradoxically, "irritating." In (...) this first critical work on Stephen Clark, Daniel Dombrowski provides a complete view of this intriguing philosopher and his work. Primarily, Clark's writing has focussed on three seemingly distinct philosophical spheres: philosophy of religion, the moral status of animals, and political philosophy. Unfortunately however, those familiar with one realm of his work, tend not to be familiar with what he has done in the other areas. To truly understand any one of Clark's specific concepts, one must comprehend the overlying philosophy that weaves them together. Dombrowski meticulously and critically assesses a wealth of important ideas and philosophical and theological topics to provide us with a firm grasp of Clark's ideas about God, animals, the environment, and politics. _Not Even A Sparrow Falls_ also tackles the difficult problem of determining Clark's stance among the many ideas he presents with varying degrees of seriousness and with various rhetorical goals in mind, as expressed in _The Moral Status of Animals_: _I am Aristotelian on Mondays and Wednesdays, a Pyrrhonian Sceptic on Tuesdays and Fridays, a Neo- Platonist on Thursdays and Saturdays and worship in the local Episcopalian church on Sundays. _. (shrink)
S. A. Mrozowski, « Temps, rythme et espace. L'influence d'Henri Lefebvre dans le champ de l'archéologie historique », in P. Cingolani (dir.), Henri Lefebvre, une pensée devenue monde ?, 2013, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2013, p. 119-132. - Brèves.