Philosophers have debated for millennia about whether moral requirements are always rational to follow. The background for these debates is often what I shall call “the self-interest model.” The guiding assumption here is that the basic demand of reason, to each person, is that one must, above all, advance one's self-interest. Alternatively, debate may be framed by a related, but significantly different, assumption: the idea that the basic rational requirement is to develop and pursue a set of personal ends in (...) an informed, efficient, and coherent way, whether one's choice of ends is based on self-interested desires or not. For brevity I refer to this as “the coherence-and-efficiency model.” Advocates of both models tend to think that, while it is sufficiently clear in principle what the rational thing to do is, what remains in doubt is whether it is always rational to be moral. They typically assume that morality is concerned, entirely or primarily, with our relations to others, especially with obligations that appear to require some sacrifice or compromise with the pursuit of self-interest. (shrink)
Affirmative action programs remain controversial, I suspect, partly because the familiar arguments for and against them start from significantly different moral perspectives. Thus I want to step back for a while from the details of debate about particular programs and give attention to the moral viewpoints presupposed in different types of argument. My aim, more specifically, is to compare the “messages” expressed when affirmative action is defended from different moral perspectives. Exclusively forward-looking arguments, I suggest, tend to express the wrong (...) message, but this is also true of exclusively backward-looking arguments. However, a moral outlook that focuses on cross-temporal narrative values suggests a more appropriate account of what affirmative action should try to express. Assessment of the message, admittedly, is only one aspect of a complex issue, but it is a relatively neglected one. My discussion takes for granted some common-sense ideas about the communicative function of action, and so I begin with these. Actions, as the saying goes, often speak louder than words. There are times, too, when only actions can effectively communicate the message we want to convey and times when giving a message is a central part of the purpose of action. What our actions say to others depends largely, though not entirely, upon our avowed reasons for acting; and this is a matter for reflective decision, not something we discover later by looking back at what we did and its effects. The decision is important because “the same act” can have very different consequences, depending upon how we choose to justify it. (shrink)
This stimulating collection of essays in ethics eschews the simple exposition and refinement of abstract theories. Rather, the author focuses on everyday moral issues, often neglected by philosophers, and explores the deeper theoretical questions which they raise. Such issues are: Is it wrong to tell a lie to protect someone from a painful truth? Should one commit a lesser evil to prevent another from doing something worse? Can one be both autonomous and compassionate? Other topics discussed are servility, weakness of (...) will, suicide, obligations to oneself, snobbery, and environmental concerns. A feature of the collection is the contrast of Kantian and utilitarian answers to these problems. The essays are crisply and lucidly written and will appeal to both teachers and students of philosophy. (shrink)
Thomas Hill, a leading figure in the recent development of Kantian moral philosophy, presents a set of essays exploring the implications of basic Kantian ideas for practical issues. The first part of the book provides background in central themes in Kant's ethics; the second part discusses questions regarding human welfare; the third focuses on moral worth-the nature and grounds of moral assessment of persons as deserving esteem or blame. Hill shows moral, political, and social philosophers just how valuable moral (...) theory can be in addressing practical matters. (shrink)
Back to Kant is a study of the rise of the neo-Kantian movement from its origins in the 1850s to its academic preeminence in the years before World War I. Thomas E. Willey describes early neo-Kantianism as a reaction of scientists and scientific philosophers against both the then discredited Hegelianism and Naturphilosophie of the preceding era and the simplistic and deterministic scientific materialism of the 1850s. "Back to Kant" was the slogan of a revolt against theories of knowledge which (...) seemed inadequate to recent discoveries in thermodynamics, physiology, optics and other fields. Because Immanuel Kant was the philosopher who placed Newtonian physics on new epistemological foundations and demonstrated the possibility of universal scientific truth, he was the right thinker for a generation of scholars living through a new scientific revolution in Germany and dissatisfied with both speculative idealism and crude materialism. The second wave of neo-Kantians continued to discuss problems of scientific epistemology in the 1880s and after, but they also showed a keen interest in political and social matters, attempting to bridge liberalism and socialism with Kantian ethics. Neo-Kantians had to face questions of socialism, the place of the working class in society, the phenomenon of social welfare, the challenge of political democracy. Willey uses the biographical approach to develop the relationship between unity and diversity in the movement, and to underscore the importance of personality in history. While individual dissertations and monographs have been written on various thinkers and schools within neo-Kantianism, this is the first wide-ranging history of the entire phenomenon. Willey observes that the movement did succeed in reasserting ethical values and in separating humanistic studies from the methods of physical science. He also discusses the possibility that a wider acceptance of neo-Kantian ideals among bourgeois intellectuals and socialist leaders might have reduced class antagonisms and sustained a stronger feeling of community between Germany and the West. (shrink)
This essay first distinguishes different questions regarding moral objectivity and relativism and then sketches a broadly Kantian position on two of these questions. First, how, if at all, can we derive, justify, or support specific moral principles and judgments from more basic moral standards and values? Second, how, if at all, can the basic standards such as my broadly Kantian perspective, be defended? Regarding the first question, the broadly Kantian position is that from ideas in Kant's later formulations of the (...) Categorical Imperative, especially human dignity and rational autonomous law-making, we can develop an appropriate moral perspective for identifying and supporting more specific principles. Both the deliberative perspective and the derivative principles can be viewed as “constructed,” but in different senses. In response to the second question, the essay examines two of Kant's strategies for defending his basic perspective and the important background of his arguments against previous moral theories. (shrink)
Respect, Pluralism, and Justice is a series of essays which sketches a broadly Kantian framework for moral deliberation, and then uses it to address important social and political issues. Hill shows how Kantian theory can be developed to deal with questions about cultural diversity, punishment, political violence, responsibility for the consequences of wrongdoing, and state coercion in a pluralistic society.
Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy is an accessible and thought-provoking examination of the way films raise and explore complex philosophical ideas. Written in a clear and engaging style, Thomas Wartenberg examines films’ ability to discuss, and even criticize ideas that have intrigued and puzzled philosophers over the centuries such as the nature of personhood, the basis of morality, and epistemological skepticism. Beginning with a demonstration of how specific forms of philosophical discourse are presented cinematically, Wartenberg moves on to (...) offer a systematic account of the ways in which specific films undertake the task of philosophy. Focusing on the films The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Modern Times, The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Third Man, The Flicker , and Empire , Wartenberg shows how these films express meaningful and pertinent philosophical ideas. This book is essential reading for students of philosophy with an interest in film, aesthetics, and film theory. It will also be of interest to film enthusiasts intrigued by the philosophical implications of film. (shrink)
Ancient moral philosophers, especially Aristotle and his followers, typically shared the assumption that ethics is primarily concerned with how to achieve the final end for human beings, a life of “happiness” or “human flourishing.” This final end was not a subjective condition, such as contentment or the satisfaction of our preferences, but a life that could be objectively determined to be appropriate to our nature as human beings. Character traits were treated as moral virtues because they contributed well toward this (...) ideal life, either as means to it or as constitutive aspects of it. Traits that tended to prevent a “happy” life were considered vices, even if they contributed to a life that was pleasant and what a person most wanted. The idea of “happiness” was central, then, in philosophical efforts to specify what we ought to do, what sort of persons we should try to become, and what sort of life a wise person would hope for. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant is known for his ideas about duty and morally worthy acts, but his conception of virtue is less familiar. Nevertheless Kant’s understanding of virtue is quite distinctive and has considerable merit compared to the most familiar conceptions. Kant also took moral education seriously, writing extensively on both the duty of adults to cultivate virtue and the empirical conditions to prepare children for this life-long responsibility. Our aim is, first, to explain Kant’s conception of virtue, second, to highlight some (...) distinctive and potentially appealing features of the Kantian account of virtue, third, to summarize and explain Kant’s prescriptions for educating young children and youth as well as the duty of moral self-improvement that he attributes to all adults, and, fourth, to respond to some common objections that we regard as misguided or insubstantial. (shrink)
I examine the thesis that Otto Neurath anticipated the programme of naturalised epistemology already at the time of the Vienna Circle and consider the relation between Neurath's proposals and those of two contemporary theorists whose research programmes he would thus have broadly anticipated. The thesis is confirmed by reference to Neurath's own writings. The connection between Neurath's programme and the programmes of his two successors considered here, however, is found to be highly indirect in one case and nonexistent in the (...) other — despite their undeniable overlap. (shrink)
The tendency to attribute foundationalist ambitions to the Vienna Circle has long obscured our view of its attempted revolution in philosophy. The present paper makes the case for a consistently epistemologically anti-foundationalist interpretation of all three of the Circle's main protagonists: Schlick, Carnap, and Neurath. Corresponding to the intellectual fault lines within the Circle, two ways of going about the radical reorientation of the pursuit of philosophy will then be distinguished and the contemporary potential of Carnap's and Neurath's project explored.
In this paper we propose a formal theory of partitions (ways of dividing up or sorting or mapping reality) and we show how the theory can be applied in the geospatial domain. We characterize partitions at two levels: as systems of cells (theory A), and in terms of their projective relation to reality (theory B). We lay down conditions of well-formedness for partitions and we define what it means for partitions to project truly onto reality. We continue by classifying well-formed (...) partitions along three axes: (a) degree of correspondence between partition cells and objects in reality; (b) degree to which a partition represents the mereological structure of the domain it is projected onto; and (c) degree of completeness and exhaustiveness with which a partition represents reality. This classification is used to characterize three types of partitions that play an important role in spatial information science: cadastral partitions, categorical coverages, and the partitions involved in folk categorizations of the geospatial domain. (shrink)
Logical Empiricism is commonly regarded as uninterested in, if not hostile to sociological investigations of science. This paper reconstructs the views of Otto Neurath and Philipp Frank on the legitimacy and relevance of sociological investigations of theory choice. It is argued that while there obtains a surprising degree of convergence between their programmatic pronouncements and the Strong Programme, the two types of project nevertheless remain distinct. The key to this differences lies in the different assessment of a supposed dilemma facing (...) post-Mertonian sociologists of science. (shrink)
Big Ideas for Little Kids includes everything a teacher, a parent, or a college student needs to teach philosophy to elementary school children from picture books. Written in a clear and accessible style, the book explains why it is important to allow young children access to philosophy during primary-school education. Wartenberg also gives advice on how to construct a "learner-centered" classroom, in which children discuss philosophical issues with one another as they respond to open-ended questions by saying whether they agree (...) or disagree with what others have said. (shrink)
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) to different sites allows interfering with dysfunctional network function implicated in major depression. Because a prominent clinical feature of depression is anhedonia--the inability to experience pleasure from previously pleasurable activities--and because there is clear evidence of dysfunctions of the reward system in depression, DBS to the nucleus accumbens might offer a new possibility to target depressive symptomatology in otherwise treatment-resistant depression. Three patients suffering from extremely resistant forms of depression, who did not respond to pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, (...) and electroconvulsive therapy, were implanted with bilateral DBS electrodes in the nucleus accumbens. Stimulation parameters were modified in a double-blind manner, and clinical ratings were assessed at each modification. Additionally, brain metabolism was assessed 1 week before and 1 week after stimulation onset. Clinical ratings improved in all three patients when the stimulator was on, and worsened in all three patients when the stimulator was turned off. Effects were observable immediately, and no side effects occurred in any of the patients. Using FDG-PET, significant changes in brain metabolism as a function of the stimulation in fronto-striatal networks were observed. No unwanted effects of DBS other than those directly related to the surgical procedure (eg pain at sites of implantation) were observed. Dysfunctions of the reward system--in which the nucleus accumbens is a key structure--are implicated in the neurobiology of major depression and might be responsible for impaired reward processing, as evidenced by the symptom of anhedonia. These preliminary findings suggest that DBS to the nucleus accumbens might be a hypothesis-guided approach for refractory major depression. (shrink)
What, if anything, are we morally required to do on behalf of others besides respecting their rights? And why is such regard for others a reasonable moral requirement? These two questions have long been major concerns of ethical theory, but the answers that philosophers give tend to vary with their beliefs about human nature. More specifically, their answers typically depend on the position they take on a third-question: To what extent, if any, is it possible for us to act altruistically?
Neurath's proposal for the form of protocol statements explicates the multiple embedding of a singular sentence as specifying different conditions for the acceptance of such a sentence as a bona fide scientific datum. Before theories are accepted or rejected in the light of such evidence, however, a further condition must be met which Neurath did not formalize. The different conditions are discussed and shown to constitute a naturalistic theory of scientific data and a pragmatic theory of theory acceptance.
_Taking Picture Books Seriously: What can we learn about philosophy through children's books?_ This warm and charming volume casts a spell on adult readers as it unveils the surprisingly profound philosophical wisdom contained in children's picture books, from Dr Seuss's _Sneetches_ to William Steig's _Shrek!_. With a light touch and good humor, Wartenberg discusses the philosophical ideas in these classic stories, and provides parents with a practical starting point for discussing philosophical issues with their children. Accessible and multi-layered, it answers (...) questions like, Is it okay for adults to deceive kids? What's the difference between saying the Mona Lisa is a great painting and vanilla is your favorite flavor? Each chapter includes illustrations commissioned especially for this book. (shrink)
Thomas E. Hill, Jr., interprets and extends Kant's moral theory in a series of essays that highlight its relevance to contemporary ethics. He introduces the major themes of Kantian ethics and explores its practical application to questions about revolution, prison reform, and forcible interventions in other countries for humanitarian purposes.