This book reconstructs Spinoza's theory of the human mind against the backdrop of the twofold notion that subjective experience is explainable and that its successful explanation is of ethical relevance, because it makes us wiser, freer, and happier.
. Reason’s genuine historicity: the establishment of a history of philosophy as a philosophical sub-discipline in Marburg Neo-Kantianism. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 29, Special Issue: Historical Thought in German Neo-Kantianism, Guest Editors: Katherina Kinzel and Lydia Patton, pp. 694-717.
This article discusses the question whether or not Cassirer’s philosophical critique of technological use of myth in The Myth of the State implies a revision of his earlier conception and theory of myth as provided by The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. In the first part, Cassirer’s early theory of myth is compared with other approaches of his time. It is claimed that Cassirer’s early approach to myth has to be understood in terms of a transcendental philosophical approach. In consequence, myth (...) is conceived as a form of cultural consciousness which is constituted by specific symbolic processes. In the second part, the theoretical assumptions underlying Cassirer’s criticism of myth are discussed and compared with his earlier theory. It is argued that there is a strong conceptual and theoretical continuity between Cassirer’s early views on myth as a symbolic form and his later critique of technological use of myth. (shrink)
Versucht man die philosophische Entwicklung von Hermann Cohen zu überblicken, so sticht ins Auge, dass er genuin rationalistischen Überzeugungen immer näher rückt. Welche Bedeutung dabei der Philosophie von Leibniz für die Entwicklung einer rein idealistischen Urteilslogik zukommt, ist bekannt. Ich denke aber darüber hinausgehend, dass Cohens Ansatz im Verlauf der Jahre ganz zentralen erkenntnistheoretischen Grundintuitionen des klassischen Rationalismus immer näher kommt.
In the introduction to the Leviathan, Hobbes famously defends the anthropological point of departure of his theory of the state by invoking the Delphic injunction ‘Know thyself!’ of which he presents a peculiar reading thereafter. In this paper, I present a reading of the anthropology of the Leviathan that takes this move seriously. In appealing to Delphic injunction, Hobbes wanted to prompt a particular way of reading his anthropology for which it is crucial that the reader relate the presented anthropological (...) views to his self-conception. The anthropology of the Leviathan is thus a kind of manual for a certain kind of self-reflection by which the reader's self-knowledge is to be improved. Furthermore, I will argue that Hobbes' interpretation of the Delphic injunction illuminates several theoretical issues relevant to the epistemology of that kind of ‘self-knowledge’ that was demanded by the Delphic injunction. While Hobbes does not solve all the epistemological problems related with the ideal appealed to by this inscription, he does provide some interesting insights into some general requirements that any epistemological account of Socratic self-knowledge has to meet. (shrink)
Relying on the assumption that Spinoza makes a double use of the principle of sufficient reason, Michael Della Rocca has defended a reconstruction of Spinoza’s approach as a metaphysical outlook according to which all particulars vanish in the only and one divine substance. This implies nothing less than a radical attempt to suggest a new and completely revisionary form of metaphysics. After a short discussion of Strawson’s distinction between revisionary and descriptive metaphysics and an exposition of the basic principles of (...) Della Rocca’s interpretation, I critically assess his attack of the use of intuitions in analytic philosophy. After discussing the extent to which the first book of Spinoza’s Ethics is appropriately described as a revisionary project, I conclude with an argument for the necessity of both descriptive and revisionary elements in metaphysics. (shrink)
Since the last two decades of the 20th century it has been widely accepted that testimony has to be acknowledged as a source of knowledge. As a side effect, any form of epistemic individualism has been discredited. The article provides some arguments against the dismissive attitude towards epistemic individualism. I distinguish between three forms of epistemic individualism, and I argue that only the most extreme form can be flatly rejected while there are good reasons for maintaining the other two forms (...) of epistemic individualism. I show that weak individualism, according to which individuals are the bearers of knowledge, is concerned with a necessary condition of the instantiation of knowledge. We only accept knowledge claims if there is good reason to believe that they are maintained by at least one individual. My main interest, however, is focused on a discussion of the third more challenging form of epistemic individualism, namely normative epistemic individualism, which claims that priority of one’s own epistemic experiences over the testimony of others. I first swow that such a priority claim can only be understood as a local device, i.e. if a belief based on our own experiences is challenged by other people’s assertations, then we are committed to trust our own experiences more than the words of others. In a second step, the relations between such a restricted version of the individualist priority claim and the ideal of rationality are discussed. (shrink)
In the past few years, the philosophical debate about self-knowledge has presented itself in a strikingly ‘pre-Kantian’ fashion. Some claimed that all sorts of self-knowledge can be analyzed in the manner of the empiricists, or in terms of cognitive psychology, whereas defenders of rationalism have not grown tired of voicing the claim that there must be some sort of self-knowledge present and underlying, as it were, all sorts of epistemic self-concern. It is against this background that this paper advocates what (...) I would call a ‘Kantian’ strategy to approach the problem of self-knowledge. Taking Kant as a model, it argues, we may come to see how the current divide between empiricism and rationalism may be overcome in philosophical theorizing about self-knowledge. (shrink)
Among the most peculiar traits of Kant’s critical philosophy is the contention that, while we can know our moral maxims and can thus reflect on our actions from a moral point of view, we cannot really know whether in a given situation our actions are actually motivated by those maxims. This means that, although we have a firm sense of our moral duties, we can never be certain whether some particular action of ours is done from duty or simply in (...) accordance with it. This view is voiced in several of Kant’s writings. Most prominent is its appearance in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, but we also find it in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason and in The Metaphysics of Morals, and it is even present in smaller writings such as “On a Miscarriage of all Philosophical Trials in Theodicy” or “On the Common Saying: That may be correct in theory, but is of no use in practice”. It is against this background that I revisit Kant’s remarks on the lack of self-knowledge regarding the motives of our proper actions. I suggest a reading of Kant’s views on this issue in the light of a tradition reaching back to Plato, in which man’s self-relation is shaped in an irreducible way by both self-consciousness and self-ignorance. (shrink)
The article reconstructs some of the basic decisions underlying Hermann Cohen′s theoretical philosophy by drawing a line to some claims of Winfrid Sellars′ and to one aspect of Robert Brandom′s philosophy. The first part is concerned with a comparison of the main theses of Cohen′s book Kants Theorie der Erfahrung and Sellars′ early essay entitled Some remarks on Kant′s Theory of Experience, both authors reading the Critique of Pure Reason as the discovery of a new, holistic concept of experience. The (...) second part discusses some of the parallels between Cohen′s and Sellars′ respective critique of the myth of the given, and it is shown how Cohen′s later critique of Kant can be understood against this background. In the third part I suggest interpreting Cohen′s logic along the lines of Robert Brandoms inferentialism. It is the declared intention of both philosophers to explain the origin of the content of epistemic claims without making use of any claim about mental representations. The article ends with a comparison of Cohen′s and Sellars′ visions of the systematic character of philosophy. It is argued that while both assume the compatibility of scientific realism with an irreducibly normative ethics, Cohen′s approach is more ambitious, insofar as it requests ethics to develop its own ethical theory of man, the task of which is to overcome the mythical presuppositions of our common sense views on morals. (shrink)
In ancient as well as in early modern theories of emotion, philosophy is often described as some kind of therapy. However, the assumption that philosophical reflection can influence our emotional life is only plausible, if the following requirements are met. First, one has to defend a realist account of self-knowledge. Second, one must allow for some kind of constructivism in regard to the description of one′s own experience. Finally, one has to maintain a strictly cognitivist conception of emotion. The article (...) discusses these three conditions and shows that, while the idea of a therapeutic influence of philosophical reflection is valid in principle, it is only of a restricted use. (shrink)
This chapter suggests a new interpretation of Spinoza’s concept of mind claiming that the goal of the equation of the human mind with the idea of the body is not to solve the mind-body problem, but rather to show how we can, within the framework of Spinoza’s rationalism, conceive of finite minds as irreducibly distinguishable individuals. To support this view, the chapter discusses the passage from E2p11 to E2p13 against the background of three preliminaries, i.e. the notion of a union (...) between mind and body as it appears in Thomas Aquinas’ refutation of Averroism, Spinoza’s views on knowledge of actually existing things in E2p8c, and the phenomenological character of E2a2-4. It argues that while this view on the human mind does not undermine radical rationalism, it does require its amendment by some irreducibly empirical concessions. (shrink)
This paper takes Udo Thiel’s The Early Modern Subject: Self-Consciousness and Personal Identity from Descartes to Hume as an example of a study that aims to provide an account of a particular philosophical development, and discusses both the methodological requirements and the philosophical commitments connected with this ambition. In a first step, I distinguish between two fundamentally different ways of thinking about philosophical development, viz. externalism and internalism with regard to historical developments in philosophy, and I consider two ways of (...) defining the two respective positions. Next, I specify certain methodological decisions that are relevant when writing a study on a particular philosophical development, and I characterize Udo Thiel’s book with respect to them. While no definitive position is taken with regard to the issues raised, the paper does advocate a reflective approach to them. (shrink)
In this paper, we reconstruct the development of Spinoza’s theory of judgment against the backdrop of the development of his political views. In this context we also look at the difference between Descartes’ meta-act theory of judgment, which Spinoza criticises, and his own all-inclusive approach. By “meta-act theory” we understand the claim that content and judgment about the truth of the content are metaphysically really distinct mental items. By an “all-inclusive theory” we understand the claim that judgment and content constitute (...) only one mental act. We show further how the core intuitions of this all-inclusive theory are developed by Spinoza in an increasingly radical manner and how the practical implications of his all-inclusive theory come to the fore in the Theological-Political Treatise: given that content and act are not really distinct, it is metaphysically impossible that human subjects can give up their ability to judge, which is why Spinoza can plausibly contend that everybody has an inalienable right to form their own judgment. (shrink)
The acquisition of self-knowledge is often described as one of the main goals of philosophical inquiry. At the same time, some sort of self-knowledge is often regarded as a necessary condition of our being a human agent or human subject. Thus self-knowledge is taken to constitute both the beginning and the end of humans' search for wisdom, and as such it is intricately bound up with the very idea of philosophy. Not surprisingly therefore, the Delphic injunction 'Know thyself' has fascinated (...) philosophers of different times, backgrounds, and tempers. But how can we make sense of this imperative? What is self-knowledge and how is it achieved? What are the structural features that distinguish self-knowledge from other types of knowledge? What role do external, second- and third-personal, sources of knowledge play in the acquisition of self-knowledge? How can we account for the moral impact ascribed to self-knowledge? Is it just a form of anthropological knowledge that allows agents to act in accordance with their aims? Or, does self-knowledge ultimately ennoble the self of the subjects having it? Finally, is self-knowledge, or its completion, a goal that may be reached at all? The book addresses these questions in fifteen chapters covering approaches of many philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Edmund Husserl or Elisabeth Anscombe. The short reflections inserted between the chapters show that the search for self-knowledge is an important theme in literature, poetry, painting and self-portraiture from Homer. (shrink)
This article addresses the question whether or not, in his Ethics, Spinoza is committed to a naturalized epistemology. In the first step, the cognitive psychological principles involved in the concept of imagination are discussed. It is shown that Spinoza does indeed suggest a causal account for the contents of human thought, yet, in contrast to many psychologist views he does not privilege physicalist explanations, but allows for historical as well as for linguistic accounts. In the second section, a similar differentiation (...) is made in regard to the theory of common notions. Whereas in claiming that human minds necessarily have adequate knowledge of certain properties of things, Spinoza does rely on certain psychological facts, his concept of common notions can better be explicated independently of psychological assumptions. A conclusive argument against a naturalist interpretation of Spinoza′s epistemology, however, is given in the third section via the analysis of the concepts of 'truth′ and 'true idea′. It shows that Spinoza not only embraces the idea of an epistemic normativity, but moreover admits the irrecucibilityof this normativity to natural properties. Since, in respect to moral normativity, Spinoza exhibits quite a different attitude, it can be assumed that he never wanted to provide naturalized epistemology. (shrink)