Critical notice assessing the use of information theory in the attempt to build a design inference, and to re-establish some aspects of the program of natural theology, as carried out in this third major monograph devoted to the subject of intelligent design theory by mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski, after The Design Inference (1998) and No Free Lunch (2002).
That law is coercive is something we all more or less take for granted. It is an assumption so rooted in our ways of thinking that it is taken as a given of social reality, an uncontroversial datum. Because it is so regarded, it is infrequently stated, and when it is, it is stated without any hint of possible complications or qualifications. I will call this the “prereflective view,” and I want to examine it with the care it deserves.
My intention in this essay is to open up a question I cannot fully resolve: the relationship between democracy and value pluralism. By “value pluralism” I mean the view propounded so memorably by the late Isaiah Berlin and developed in various ways by thinkers including Stuart Hampshire, Steven Lukes, Thomas Nagel, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Stocker, Bernard Williams, Charles Taylor, John Kekes, and John Gray, among others. I shall define and discuss this view in some detail in Section III. For now, (...) suffice it to say that value pluralism is the view that what we value in our lives turns out to be multiple, heterogeneous, not reducible to a common measure, and not hierarchically ordered with a single dominant value or set of values binding on all persons in all circumstances. I use the phrase “value pluralism” rather than “moral pluralism” to indicate that this view encompasses nonmoral as well as moral goods. (shrink)
This essay focuses on what I shall call “cosmopolitan altruism”—the motivationally effective desire to assist needy or endangered strangers. Section I describes recent research that confirms the existence of this phenomenon. Section II places it within interlocking sets of moral typologies that distinguish among forms of altruism along dimensions of scope, interests risked, motivational source, and baseline of moral judgment. Section III explores some of the relationships between altruism—a concept rooted in modern moral philosophy and Christianity—and the understanding of virtue (...) and friendship characteristic of Aristotelian ethical analysis. Finally, Section IV argues that cosmopolitan altruism does not represent moral progress simpliciter over other, less inclusive views, and that the widening of moral sympathy to encompass endangered strangers entails significant moral costs. (shrink)
This essay explores the ways in which a broadly pluralist outlook can help illuminate longstanding issues of constitutional theory and practice. It begins with a common-sense understanding of pluralism as the diversity of observed practices within a general category. It turns out that many assumptions Americans and others often make about constitutional essentials are valid only locally but not generically. The essay then turns to pluralism in a more technical and philosophical sense—specifically, the account of value pluralism adumbrated by Isaiah (...) Berlin and developed by his followers. Section 3 sketches this version of pluralism, and section 4 brings it to bear on a range of familiar constitutional issues. In the process, a distinction emerges between, on the one hand, areas of variation among constitutions and, on the other, some general truths about political life that define core constitutional functions. The essay concludes with some brief reflections on the normative thrust of pluralist constitutional theory—in particular, a presumption in favor of the maximum accommodation of individual and group differences consistent with the maintenance of constitutional unity and civic order. (shrink)
This article defends the project of giving a single pleasure-based account of goodness against what may seem a powerful challenge. Aristotle, Peter Geach and Judith Thomson have argued that there is no such thing as simply being good; there is only being a good knife or a good painting, being serene or good to eat, or being good in essence or in qualities. But I argue that these philosophers’ evidence is friendly to the hedonist project. For, I argue, hedonistic accounts (...) of goodness tend to imply that the unqualified term ‘good’ has little or no application to the things we talk about; while if we qualify hedonic goodness in certain ways, we generate usable predicates that match the varieties of goodness recognized by the three philosophers. And those qualifications happen to be natural interpretations of signals we do use alongside ‘good’, such as ‘knife’. (shrink)
I have before me a letter dated January 5, 2000 from Bradford Wilson, the executive director of the NAS. It begins, “I really enjoyed your contribution to the recent symposium in the January issue of First Things, so much so that I’ve also decided to invite you to join the NAS. Many of your fellow contributors including Robert George, Jeffrey Satinover, and Father Neuhaus are among our current members, and I think you’d find it well worth your while if you (...) joined ranks with us yourself.”. (shrink)
This paper analyzes William A. Dembski’s theory of intelligent design. According to Dembski, it is possible to empirically detect signs of intelligence in the world by examining properties of observed events. In order to detect design, Dembski has developed the criterion of specified complexity, by means of which he claims to be able to distinguish events that are designed from those that are caused by necessity or chance. Five problems regarding Dembski’s theory are identified and discussed. It is revealed (...) that Dembski’s theory is not rigorously enough defined to be deemed to be a scientific theory. (shrink)
As every philosopher knows, “the design argument” concludes that God exists from premisses that cite the adaptive complexity of organisms or the lawfulness and orderliness of the whole universe. Since 1859, it has formed the intellectual heart of creationist opposition to the Darwinian hypothesis that organisms evolved their adaptive features by the mindless process of natural selection. Although the design argument developed as a defense of theism, the logic of the argument in fact encompasses a larger set of issues. (...) class='Hi'>William Paley saw clearly that we sometimes have an excellent reason to postulate the existence of an intelligent designer. If we find a watch on the heath, we reasonably infer that it was produced by an intelligent watchmaker. This design argument makes perfect sense. Why is it any different to claim that the eye was produced by an intelligent designer? Both critics and defenders of the design argument need to understand what the ground rules are for inferring that an intelligent designer is the unseen cause of an observed effect. (shrink)
My object is to suggest some ways of amplifying and applying Bochenski's account, 1 in order to bring out its value for philosophical investigation of the doctrines of particular religious communities.
In 1907 William James was invited to give the Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College, Oxford. Initially he was reluctant to do so since he feared undertaking them would divert him from developing rigorously and systematically some metaphysical ideas of his own that had preoccupied him for some time. In the end, however, he relented and in the spring of 1908 gave the lectures which were subsequently published as A Pluralistic Universe. As it happened, though, in the course of these (...) lectures James presented some of those metaphysical ideas, though in a popular and informal style appropriate to lecturing. Later on he did get down to working out a systematic metaphysics in proper academic style, but the project was cut short by his untimely death in 1910. The incomplete Some Problems of Philosophy, posthumously published in 1911, recapitulates some major themes of A Pluralistic Universe. (shrink)
This new edition of William James’s 1909 classic, A Pluralistic Universe reproduces the original text, only modernizing the spelling. The books has been annotated throughout to clarify James’s points of reference and discussion. There is a new, fuller index, a brief chronology of James’s life, and a new bibliography—chiefly based on James’s own references. The editor, H.G. Callaway, has included a new Introduction which elucidates the legacy of Jamesian pluralism to survey some related questions of contemporary American society. -/- (...) A Pluralistic Universe was the last major book James published during his life time. It is a substantial philosophical work, devoted to a thorough-going criticism of Hegelian monism and Absolutism—and the exploration of philosophical and social-theological alternatives. Our world of some one hundred years on is much the better for James’s contributions; and understanding James’s pluralism deeply contributes even now to America’s self-understanding. At present, we are more certain that American is, and is best, a pluralistic society, than we are of what particular forms our pluralism should take. Keeping an eye out for social interpretations of Jamesian pluralism, this new philosophical reading casts light on our twenty-first century alternatives by reference to prior American experience and developments. -/- . (shrink)
Cross-cultural scholarship in ritual studies on women's laments provides us with a fresh vantage point from which to consider the function of women and women's complaining voices in the epic poems of William Blake. In this essay, I interpret Thel, Oothoon, and Enitharmon as strong voices of experience that unleash some of Blake's most profound meditations on social, sexual, individual, and institutional forms of violence and injustice, offering what might aptly be called an ethics of witness. Tracing the performative (...) function of Enion, Jerusalem, Vala, and Erin in Blake's later epics, The Four Zoas and Jerusalem , I argue for the close connection between the female laments and the possibility of redemption, though in Blake such "redemption" comes at the cost of the very voices of witness themselves. (shrink)
William Whewell was a giant of Victorian intellectual culture. His influence, whether recognized or forgotten, is palpable in areas as diverse as moral philosophy, mineralogy, architecture, the politics of education, physics, engineering, and theology. Recent studies of the place of the sciences in nineteenth-century Britain have repeatedly indicated the significance of Whewell's sweeping and critical proposals for a reformed account of scientific knowledge and moral values. However, until now there has been no detailed study of the context and impact (...) of his project. This collection of essays by recognized authorities in the fields of history, history of science, and philosophy thus represents the first attempt to do justice to a magisterial nineteenth-century intellectual. More generally, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian intellectual life and its aftermath. (shrink)
With this book, Jacques Barzun pays what he describes as an "intellectual debt" to William James—psychologist, philosopher, and, for Barzun, guide and mentor. Commenting on James's life, thought, and legacy, Barzun leaves us with a wise and civilized distillation of the great thinker's work.
William James makes several major claims about truth: (i) truth means agreement with reality independently of the knower, (ii) truth is made by human beings, (iii) truth can be verified, and (iv) truth is necessarily good. These claims give rise to a few puzzles: (i) and (ii) seem to contradict each other, and each of (ii), (iii), and (iv) has counter-intuitive implications. I argue that Richard Gale's interpretation of James' theory of truth is inadequate in dealing with these puzzles. (...) I propose an alternative interpretation and show how it can solve these puzzles. (shrink)
Academic popularizers of the new field of evolutionary psychology make notable appeals to William James to bolster their doctrine. In particular, they cite James’ remark that humans have all the “impulses” animals do and many more besides to shore up their claim that people’s “instincts” account for their flexibility. This essay argues that these scholars misinterpret James on the instincts. Consciousness (which they find inscrutable) explains cognitive flexibility for James. The evolutionary psychologists’ appeal to James is, therefore, unwarranted and, (...) given the conditions relevant to the public and professional audiences they address, also ineffective as a rhetorical tool for enlisting new recruits. (shrink)
William James's Varieties of Religious Experience is a classic psycho-philosophical study of the experience of the sacred and of its practical effects on the ordinary life of extraordinary persons. In a pragmatic variation of Kant's proof of god's existence, James uses personal accounts of converts to empirically demonstrate that there's “something” that has causal effects on the well-being of the person. While the article is largely sympathetic to James explorations of the mystical, it offers a sociological variation on the (...) Varieties that foregrounds the social, cultural and political aspects of religion. (shrink)
William James’ declared intention is to oppose Clifford’s claim that it “is wrong always, everywhere, and for every one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence”. But I argue that he is confused about his doxastic prescriptions. He isn’t primarily concerned, as he thinks he is, with the legitimacy of belief in the absence of sufficient evidence. The most important contribution of his essay is a suggestion - a highly insightful and contentious one - as to what it is to (...) believe in accordance with the evidence. (shrink)
As suggested in the subtitle, A New Philosophical Reading, the editor aspires in his Introduction and his notes to “facilitate a deeper understanding and a critical evaluation (...) of this crucial and difficult philosophical work” (p. ix). This was the last important book which James published during his lifetime. With it James aims at a critical evaluation of Hegelian monism and an exploration of the philosophical and theological alternatives. “Our world of some one hundred years on”—the editor says (p. ix)—“is (...) much the better for James’ contribution, and understanding William James on pluralism deeply contributes even now to America’s self-understanding.”. (shrink)
El artículo constituye una breve investigación histórica y teórica en torno a los principales nexos entre el pensamiento temprano de William James y el trabajo desplegado por Edmund Husserl en las Investigaciones lógicas. A través de un examen preliminar de las relaciones personales entre ambos autores, pasaremos a un estudio sobre el aparato conceptual desarrollado por James, sobre todo en Principios de psicología, con el objetivo de contrastarlo con el planteado por Husserl, mostrando cómo el primer autor esbozó, entre (...) otros, los conceptos fenomenológicos de intencionalidad y objetividad ideal. (shrink)
William James undertook to steer his way between a rationalistic system that was not empirical enough and an empirical system so materialistic that it could not account for the value commitments on which it rested. In arguing against both the absolutists (gnostics) and the empiricists (agnostics), he defined a position of pluralistic moralism that seemed equally distant from both, leaving himself vulnerable to the criticism that he had rescued morality from scientism only by reducing religion to morals. Such criticism, (...) however, ignores distinctions James made between religion and theology and between monistic theology and dualistic theology. When these distinctions are taken into account, it becomes evident that James can be criticized for reducing religion to morality only from the point of view of either absolute monism or religious humanism and that radical empiricism not only embraces a significant number of nonmoral religious experiences but also leaves open the possibility of belief in the particular historical God of traditional Christianity. (shrink)
This book is my new scholarly edition of William James, A Pluralistic Universe. The original text has been recovered, annotations to the text added to identify James' authors and events of interest, there is a new bibliography chiefly based on James' sources, a brief chronology of James' career, and I have added an expository and critical Introduction and a comprehensive analytical index.
Leading Harvard philosophy professor William Ernest Hocking , author of 17 books and in his day second only to John Dewey in the breadth of his thinking, is now largely forgotten, and his once-influential writings are out of print. This volume, which combines a rich selection of Hocking's work with incisive essays by distinguished scholars, seeks to recover Hocking's valuable contributions to philosophical thought.
William James and the early Jean-Paul Sartre share strikingly similar similar views on ethics, despite their radically divergent approaches and styles. The strengths and weaknesses of their ethical relativism and/or subjectivism are examined in an attempt to show that these positions are problematic, and tenable only with careful qualifications. This evaluation is a result of a critical, yet constructive assessment of their ethical views. ;Specifically, I question whether Sartre's phenomenological ontology in Being and Nothingness can imply an ethics, and (...) the extent to which his ontological terminology is itself meaningful or useful for developing his ontology, and for accepting his ethics. Sartre's major concepts of freedom, bad faith, consciousness, and relations with the Other are critically evaluated in order to show their ethical implications. I argue that his earlier views are a moral subjectivism, despite the possibility that freedom can be understood as an objective value. Sartre's descriptive ethics as existential psychoanalysis is discussed in such works as Anti-Semite and Jew. ;William James's ethical position is best presented in his essays, primarily "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life" and the Principles of Psychology. In that work, his strong empiricism serves as the foundation for his theory of consciousness and ethics, which has a subjectivist-relativist perspective. These views are examined through his positions on the free-will, social-political liberalism, theory of the stream of consciousness, pragmatism, and theory of universals. ;I contend that a meaningful and significant rapproachement can exist between these two philosophers because of their common ethical views and perspectives. This can have implications for future discourse between mainstream analytic philosophers and philosophers sympathetic to phenomenology. (shrink)
Wisdom -- because he understands that ideas are best taught not by giving them a monopoly (which is how evolutionary theory is currently presented in all high school biology textbooks) but by being played off against well-supported competing ideas.
Suppose you take a tour of the Louvre, that great museum in Paris housing one of the finest art collections in the world. As you walk through the museum, you come across a painting by someone named Leonardo da Vinci -- the Mona Lisa. Suppose this is your first exposure to da Vinci -- you hadn't heard of him or seen the Mona Lisa before. What could you conclude? Certainly you could conclude that da Vinci was a consummate painter. Nevertheless, (...) just from the Mona Lisa you couldn't conclude that da Vinci was also a consummate engineer, musician, scientist, and inventor, whose ideas were centuries ahead of their time. (shrink)
A few years back, well-known skeptic Michael Shermer and I were speakers at Baylor’s The Nature of Nature conference. During evening refreshments, we discussed how we could generate funds for our respective causes—he to promote skepticism and debunk people like me, and me to promote intelligent design and debunk Darwinism (which underwrites Shermer’s brand of skepticism). We agreed that we should start a highly visible campaign against each other in which we argue the dangers of the other’s position. Having escalated (...) the conflict between us, we could then go to our natural constituencies and urge them to fund each of us against the other. Of course, nothing ever came of that conversation. But we had a chuckle. And both our causes have since done quite well financially. (shrink)
How a designer gets from thought to thing is, at least in broad strokes, straightforward: (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) Finally, the designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials.
In his introduction to this collection, John representative. McDermott presents James's thinking in all its manifestations, stressing the importance of radical empiricism and placing into perspective the doctrines of pragmatism and the will to believe. The critical periods of James's life are highlighted to illuminate the development of his philosophical and psychological thought. The anthology features representive selections from The Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe , and The Variety of Religious Experience in addition to the complete Essays in (...) Radical Empiricism and A Pluralistic Universe . The original 1907 edition of Pragmatism is included, as well as classic selections from all of James's other major works. Of particular significance for James scholarship is the supplemented version of Ralph Barton Perry's Annotated Bibliography of the Writings of William James , with additions bringing it up to 1976. (shrink)
William James once replied to the critics of the new pragmatic philosophy with the caution not to be too sharp or logic-chopping but to evaluate pragmatism as a whole, and especially weigh it against its possible alternatives. This is fair advice indeed. All too often the opponents of pragmatism have seized upon one of its formulations and, oblivious of its context and surrounding qualifications, have proclaimed the absurdity of the whole enterprise. James himself admitted that some of his expressions (...) were infelicitous and misleading, but he believed that the intelligent and indulgent reader would grasp his meaning and not impute to him doctrines he never held. Indeed, the reader of James soon comes to realize that he cannot stop at any one formulation of pragmatism but must hurry on to the next in order to see it in a broader and fuller context. He is aware, then, that pragmatism in James’s view is not a doctrine or system but a method and spirit of philosophizing, or, as we would say today, a way of doing philosophy. It is this spirit and perspective that must be appreciated if one is to do justice to the pragmatism of William James. (shrink)
According to William Craig, the notion of explanatory priority is the Achilles' heel of Robert Adams' argument against Molinism. Specifically, Craig contends that (1) the notion of explanatory priority is employed equivocally in the argument; (2) Adams is guilty of conflating reasons and causes; and (3) one of the intermediate conclusions of the argument is invalidly inferred, as can be seen by a counterexample. I argue that Craig is mistaken on all counts, and that Adams' argument emerges unscathed.
This essay contributes to the debate over whether there is, or can be, any place for metaphysics in pragmatism, in William James's pragmatism, in particular. The paper defends the possibility of pragmatist metaphysics, seeking to show how interesting forms of such metaphysics with a grounding in key Jamesian texts can, pragmatically, be put to work. This task is interesting from the perspective of both James scholarship and the ongoing re-evaluation and critical transformation of the pragmatist tradition. Furthermore, we need (...) metaphilosophical discussion of the possibility and prospects of metaphysics in a situation in which many philosophers believe metaphysics to be dead and buried, partly thanks to the classical pragmatists and their followers. Thus, the present paper examines critically the widespread idea that pragmatism is an inherently non- or even antimetaphysical philosophy (a view held not only by radical neopragmatists like Richard Rorty but also by scholars of classical pragmatism such as Charlene Haddock Seigfried). (shrink)
This paper continues a debate about the relation between Christian philosophers and theologians begun by Gordon Kaufman, who argued that Christian theologians need not be interested in “evidentialism.” In particular it replies to a paper by William Hasker charging that an earlier defense of Kaufman’s position introduced tensions because it required judgments about the merits of “evidentialism” which could be defended only by using the evidentialist arguments whose importance Kaufman denied. This reply denies that there are the tensions Hasker (...) claims and argues that the judgments need not rest on a detailed assessment of evidentialist arguments. (shrink)
William C. Gentry was both an academic philosopher, perfectly willing to engage in the philosophical 'conversations' of the written word and, more importantly, a true philosopher, in the Platonic and Socratic style. Engaging with those around him in discourse, in live conversations, which are the vehicle of actual philosophical inquiry and discovery. These essays are the product of those conversations. Gentry's thoughts consisted of investigations into the deepest and most profound questions of human nature, ethics, and knowledge. This volume (...) is a tribute both to his role as a teacher and philosopher. As a teacher, friend, and colleague, Gentry was the epitome of the philosopher: questioning, exploring, critiquing, discovering. (shrink)
Leading Harvard philosophy professor William Ernest Hocking (1873-1966), author of 17 books and in his day second only to John Dewey in the breadth of his thinking, is now largely forgotten, and his once-influential writings are out of print. This volume, which combines a rich selection of Hocking’s work with incisive essays by distinguished scholars, seeks to recover Hocking’s valuable contributions to philosophical thought.
This article responds to William Scheuerman’s analysis of Edward Snowden as someone whose acts fit within John Rawls’ account of civil disobedience understood as a public, non-violent, conscientious breach of law performed with overall fidelity to law and a willingness to accept punishment. It rejects the narrow Rawlsian notion in favour of a broader notion of civil disobedience understood as a constrained, conscientious and communicative breach of law that demonstrates opposition to law or policy and a desire for lasting (...) change. The article shows that, according to Rawls’ unduly narrow conception, Edward Snowden is not a civil disobedient. But, according to the more plausible, broader conception, he is. It then identifies some advantages of the broader conception in contemporary analyses of new forms of disobedience, including globalized disobedience and digital disobedience. (shrink)
On the centenary of Max Weber’s “Science as a Vocation,” his essay still performs interpretative work. In it, Weber argues that the vocation of a scientist is to produce specialized, rationalized knowledge that will be superseded. Weber says this vocation is a rationalized version of the Protestant conception of calling or vocation, tragically disenchanting the world and leaving the idea of calling as a worthless remains. A similar trajectory can be seen in the physician William Osler’s writings, especially his (...) essay “Internal Medicine as a Vocation,” in which the calling of a physician is described as both rational and noble. While Osler’s conception of the physician’s vocation has been formative for contemporary medicine, physicians are reporting burnout and leaving medical practice at escalating rates. As physicians abandon their noble vocations, an alternative conception of a physician’s vocation is needed. From the worthless remains of the physician’s rational and noble vocation, the labor of a physician can find grounding in humility. (shrink)