Let us call the Dependency Theses the view, first stated by Kant, that certain versions of the cosmological argument depend on the ontological argument. At least two different reasons have been given for the supposed dependence. Given the DT, some of Aquinas' views about God's essence, and about our knowledge of God's existence, can seem, at least at first, to be inconsistent. I consider two different ways of defending Aquinas against this suspicion of inconsistency. On the first defence, based on (...) a widespread understanding of his notion of ‘necessary being’, Aquinas' views fall outside the scope of the DT. The success of this defence is doubtful. There is, however, another defence to be found in Aquinas' work, one directed not to avoiding, but actually to rejecting, the DT. In this second defence, the DT is not a correct assessment even of those views that do fall within its scope. Its success means that Aquinas had available a principled refutation of the DT some five hundred years before it was first formulated. (shrink)
By whatever and by however many predicates we may think a thing – even if we completely determine it – we do not make the least addition to the thing when we further declare that this thing is. Otherwise, it would not be exactly the same thing that exists, but something more than we had thought in the concept; and we could not, therefore, say that the exact object of my concept exists.
: In rejecting Descartes's ontological proof for the existence of God, Gassendi maintained that existence is not a property and Kant said that it is not a "real predicate." It is commonly supposed that both are making the same claim. Some have even thought that they advance essentially the same argument for that same claim. I believe none of this is correct. Gassendi and Kant offer different arguments. And they are arguing for different conclusions. These differences stem from a more (...) fundamental one: they mean different things by existence. (shrink)
It is often said that the ontological argument fails because it wrongly treats existence as a first-level property or predicate. This has proved a controversial claim, and efforts to evaluate it are complicated by the fact that the words ‘existence is not a property/predicate’ have been used by philosophers to make at least three different negative claims: (a) one about a first-level phenomenon possessed by objects like horses, stones, you and me; (b) another about the logical form of assertions of (...) existence; and (c) still another about a second-level phenomenon possessed by concepts when they are instantiated. I argue that only the last of these claims, originally voiced by Kant, is both plausible and relevant to the ontological argument. And I try to show that the relevance of the Kantian version comes from its providing the underlying justification for a different, and far less controversial, criticism of the ontological argument. (shrink)
It is often said that the ontological argument fails because it wrongly treats existence as a first-level property or predicate. This has proved a controversial claim, and efforts to evaluate it are complicated by the fact that the words 'existence is not a property/predicate' have been used by philosophers to make at least three different negative claims: one about a first-level phenomenon possessed by objects like horses, stones, you and me; another about the logical form of assertions of existence; and (...) still another about a second-level phenomenon possessed by concepts when they are instantiated. I argue that only the last of these claims, originally voiced by Kant, is both plausible and relevant to the ontological argument. And I try to show that the relevance of the Kantian version comes from its providing the underlying justification for a different, and far less controversial, criticism of the ontological argument. (shrink)
Let us call the Dependency Theses (DT) the view, first stated by Kant, that certain versions of the cosmological argument depend on the ontological argument. At least two different reasons have been given for the supposed dependence. Given the DT, some of Aquinas' views about God's essence, and about our knowledge of God's existence, can seem, at least at first, to be inconsistent. I consider two different ways of defending Aquinas against this suspicion of inconsistency. On the first defence, based (...) on a widespread understanding of his notion of 'necessary being', Aquinas' views fall outside the scope of the DT. The success of this defence is doubtful. There is, however, another defence to be found in Aquinas' work, one directed not to avoiding, but actually to rejecting, the DT. In this second defence, the DT is not a correct assessment even of those views that do fall within its scope. Its success means that Aquinas had available a principled refutation of the DT some five hundred years before it was first formulated. (shrink)
Kant gave a two-fold answer to the question, ‘Is existence a predicate?’. His view that existence is not a first-level predicate, i.e., a predicate of objects like horses, stones, and you and me, is widely known. What is not so well-known, however, is his claim that existence is a second-level predicate, a predicate of concepts or of a collection of predicates. In this paper I hope to show why his arguments for both claims are unsuccessful.
Frege argued that 1) in making existence assertions we ascribe (or deny) the second-Level property, 'not being empty', To a first-Level concept. He inferred from this that 2) existence is a second-Level property, The property 'not being empty'. He therefore rejected the ontological proof of the existence of God because, He claimed, It depends on the assumption that existence is a first-Level, And not a second-Level, Property. In this paper it is argued, First, That frege is unsuccessful in his attempt (...) to establish claim 1). Moreover, Claim 2) does not follow from claim 1)--One could accept claim 1) and still maintain that existence is a first-Level property. Thus, Even if the ontological proof does depend on the assumption that existence is a first-Level property, Frege's objection to that proof fails. (shrink)
In a recent issue of "Religious Studies" Kevin Corcoran has criticized my arguments for the impossibility of theistic experience (i.e. an experience which is phenomenologically of God). Building on, and amending, criticisms already levelled against my views by Nelson Pike (in the latter's "Mystic Union"), Corcoran argues that my views are based on an account of what it is for an experience to be 'phenomenologically of' an individual (or kind of thing) which leads to 'wildly implausible' results. I here try (...) to show that Corcoran's criticisms are based on a misunderstanding of my views. (shrink)
Much work on mystical experience has taken for granted a certain view about the relation between experience and its interpretation. This ‘traditional view’ has received perhaps its most explicit statement in Stace's Mysticism and Philosophy . It is a view which is attractive to proponents of the doctrine of unanimity, the doctrine that at the phenomenological level all mystical experiences are basically similar. Recently, however, in a growing body of literature, the traditional view has come under heavy fire. Its critics (...) adopt a Kantian, indeed a hyper–Kantian, picture of experience. And they see the traditional view, accordingly, as ‘naïve’ and ‘simplistic’. In addition, hyper–Kantians typically reject the doctrine of unanimity. (shrink)
Much work on mystical experience has taken for granted a certain view about the relation between experience and its interpretation. This ‘traditional view’ has received perhaps its most explicit statement in Stace's Mysticism and Philosophy. It is a view which is attractive to proponents of the doctrine of unanimity, the doctrine that at the phenomenological level all mystical experiences are basically similar. Recently, however, in a growing body of literature, the traditional view has come under heavy fire. Its critics adopt (...) a Kantian, indeed a hyper–Kantian, picture of experience. And they see the traditional view, accordingly, as ‘naïve’ and ‘simplistic’. In addition, hyper–Kantians typically reject the doctrine of unanimity. (shrink)
In his long-awaited Mystic Union, Nelson Pike offers a phenomenology of mysticism. His account is based on the reports and descriptions of third parties, not on his own, first-person experience. So he calls his enterprise ‘phenomenography’, an attempt to describe the experiential content of conscious states by way of reports of them. Pike finds in the Christian mystical tradition three different kinds of experiences of mystic union, the ‘prayer of quiet’, the ‘prayer of union’ and ‘rapture’. These experiences differ phenomenologically, (...) i.e. in experiential content. But they are all ‘theistic’ experiences; that is, they are all phenomenologically of God. By this Pike means: whether these experiences are veridical or not, their object – what they are veridical or hallucinatory experiences of – is God; and that they are of God is part of, or given in, the phenomenological content of the experiences themselves. (shrink)
In his long-awaited Mystic Union , Nelson Pike offers a phenomenology of mysticism. His account is based on the reports and descriptions of third parties, not on his own, first-person experience. So he calls his enterprise ‘phenomenography’, an attempt to describe the experiential content of conscious states by way of reports of them. Pike finds in the Christian mystical tradition three different kinds of experiences of mystic union, the ‘prayer of quiet’, the ‘prayer of union’ and ‘rapture’. These experiences differ (...) phenomenologically, i.e. in experiential content. But they are all ‘theistic’ experiences; that is, they are all phenomenologically of God. By this Pike means: whether these experiences are veridical or not, their object – what they are veridical or hallucinatory experiences of – is God; and that they are of God is part of, or given in, the phenomenological content of the experiences themselves. (shrink)
This article re-examines the applicability of Kant's dependency thesis to Aquinas’ cosmological proofs for the existence of God. The first part of the article provides a summary of Kant's dependency thesis, followed by a review of a defence of Aquinas by J. WilliamForgie. The second part of the article explains some of the logical apparatus upon which Aquinas’ argument hinges – specifically his understanding of the a priori/a posteriori distinction. I conclude by calling attention to certain distinct (...) metaphysical assumptions within Kant's and Aquinas’ respective logical apparatus that would have to be addressed prior to the more specific question of whether Kant's critique of the cosmological argument is applicable to Aquinas. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the phenomenological possibility of peculiarly theistic experience. I present and explicate WilliamForgie's very powerful arguments against the possibility of such experience and Nelson Pike's recent response to Forgie. I argue that although Pike's refutation of Forgie ultimately miscarries, there are good reasons for rejecting what is the central thesis upon which all of Forgie's arguments rest. After canvasing several of these reasons and recommending an alternative thesis, I conclude that (...)Forgie has not succeeded in establishing the phenomenological impossibility of theistic experience. (shrink)
Critics and defenders of William James both acknowledge serious tensions in his thought, tensions perhaps nowhere more vexing to readers than in regard to his claim about an individual’s intellectual right to their “faith ventures.” Focusing especially on “Pragmatism and Religion,” the final lecture in Pragmatism, this chapter will explore certain problems James’ pragmatic pluralism. Some of these problems are theoretical, but others concern the real-world upshot of adopting James permissive ethics of belief. Although Jamesian permissivism is qualified in (...) certain ways in this paper, I largely defend James in showing how permissivism has philosophical advantages over the non-permissivist position associated with evidentialism. These advantages include not having to treat disagreement as a sign of error or irrationality, and mutual support relations between permissivism and what John Rawls calls the "reasonable pluralism" at the heart of political liberalism. (shrink)
The relationship between William James and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) has recently been the subject of intense scholarly research. We know for instance that the later Wittgenstein's reflections on the philosophy of psychology found in James a major source of inspiration. Not surprisingly therefore, the pragmatist nature of the philosophy of the later Wittgenstein is increasingly acknowledged, in spite of Wittgenstein’s adamant refusal of being labeled a “pragmatist”. In this brief paper I merely want to piece together some of the (...) available evidence of Wittgenstein’s high regard for William James, not only for his thoughts, but even more so for his character. (shrink)
In this short paper I try to present William James’s connection with the Argentinian writer Macedonio Fernández (1874-1952), who was in some sense a mentor of Borges and might be considered the missing link between Borges and James.
While some scholars neglect the theological component to William James’s ethical views in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,” Michael Cantrell reads it as promoting a divine command theory (DCT) of the foundations of moral obligation. While Cantrell’s interpretation is to be commended for taking God seriously, he goes a little too far in the right direction. Although James’s view amounts to what could be called (and what Cantrell does call) a DCT because on it God’s demands are (...) necessary and sufficient for the highest obligations, this is a view with characteristics unusual for a DCT. It only holds for some obligations; on it moral obligation does not derive from God’s authority; it is not obvious that James believes the God required by it even exists; we do not know what God’s demands are; and, finally, since we do not know them, we cannot act on them. -/- (Lest there be any confusion, the titular phrase "taking God seriously, but not too seriously" describes William James' view of God and morality, not my own view.). (shrink)
The year of the centennial of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges is probably the right time to exhume one of the links that this universal writer had with William James. In 1945, Emece, a publisher from Buenos Aires, printed a Spanish translation of William James’s book Pragmatism, with a foreword by Jorge Luis Borges.
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)
ABSTRACT: Central to both James’s earlier psychology and his later philosophical views was a recurring distinction between percepts and concepts. The distinction evolved and remained fundamental to his thinking throughout his career as he sought to come to grips with its fundamental nature and significance. In this chapter, I focus initially on James’s early attempt to articulate the distinction in his 1885 article “The Function of Cognition.” This will highlight a key problem to which James continued to return throughout his (...) later philosophical work on the nature of our cognition, including in his famous “radical empiricist” metaphysics of “pure experience” around the turn of the century. We shall find that James grappled insightfully but ambivalently with the perceptual and conceptual dimensions of the “knowledge relation” or the “cognitive relation,” as he called it—or what, following Franz Brentano, philosophers would later call our object-directed thought or intentionality more generally. Some philosophers have once again returned to James’s work for crucial insights on this pivotal topic, while others continue to find certain aspects of his account to be problematic. What is beyond dispute is that James’s inquiries in this domain were both innovative and of lasting significance. (shrink)
Kalam cosmological arguments have recently been the subject of criticisms, at least inter alia, by physicists---Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking---and philosophers of science---Adolf Grunbaum. In a series of recent articles, William Craig has attempted to show that these criticisms are “superficial, iII-conceived, and based on misunderstanding.” I argue that, while some of the discussion of Davies and Hawking is not philosophically sophisticated, the points raised by Davies, Hawking and Grunbaum do suffice to undermine the dialectical efficacy of kalam cosmological arguments.
At Columbia University in 1906, William James gave a highly confrontational speech to the American Philosophical Association (APA). He ignored the technical philosophical questions the audience had gathered to discuss and instead addressed the topic of human energy. Tramping on the rules of academic decorum, James invoked the work of amateurs, read testimonials on the benefits of yoga and alcohol, and concluded by urging his listeners to take up this psychological and physiological problem. What was the goal of this (...) unusual speech? Rather than an oddity, Francesca Bordogna asserts that the APA address was emblematic—it was just one of many gestures that James employed as he plowed through the barriers between academic, popular, and pseudoscience, as well as the newly emergent borders between the study of philosophy, psychology, and the “science of man.” Bordogna reveals that James’s trespassing of boundaries was an essential element of a broader intellectual and social project. By crisscrossing divides, she argues, James imagined a new social configuration of knowledge, a better society, and a new vision of the human self. As the academy moves toward an increasingly interdisciplinary future, William James at the Boundaries reintroduces readers to a seminal influence on the way knowledge is pursued. (shrink)
William James's theory of emotion is often criticized for placing too much emphasis on bodily feelings and neglecting the cognitive aspects of emotion. This paper suggests that such criticisms are misplaced. Interpreting James's account of emotion in the light of his later philosophical writings, I argue that James does not emphasize bodily feelings at the expense of cognition. Rather, his view is that bodily feelings are part of the structure of intentionality. In reconceptualizing the relationship between cognition and affect, (...) James rejects a number of commonplace assumptions concerning the nature of our cognitive relationship with the world, assumptions that many of his critics take for granted. (shrink)
ABSTRACT. May scientists rely on substantive, a priori presuppositions? Quinean naturalists say "no," but Michael Friedman and others claim that such a view cannot be squared with the actual history of science. To make his case, Friedman offers Newton's universal law of gravitation and Einstein's theory of relativity as examples of admired theories that both employ presuppositions (usually of a mathematical nature), presuppositions that do not face empirical evidence directly. In fact, Friedman claims that the use of such presuppositions is (...) a hallmark of "science as we know it." But what should we say about the special sciences, which typically do not rely on the abstruse formalisms one finds in the exact sciences? I identify a type of a priori presupposition that plays an especially striking role in the development of empirical psychology. These are ontological presuppositions about the type of object a given science purports to study. I show how such presuppositions can be both a priori and rational by investigating their role in an early flap over psychology's contested status as a natural science. The flap focused on one of the field's earliest textbooks, William James's Principles of Psychology. The work was attacked precisely for its reliance on a priori presuppositions about what James had called the "mental state," psychology's (alleged) proper object. I argue that the specific presuppositions James packed into his definition of the "mental state" were not directly responsible to empirical evidence, and so in that sense were a priori; but the presuppositions were rational in that they were crafted to help overcome philosophical objections (championed by neo-Hegelians) to the very idea that there can be a genuine science of mind. Thus, my case study gives an example of substantive, a priori presuppositions being put to use—to rational use—in the special sciences. In addition to evaluating James's use of presuppositions, my paper also offers historical reflections on two different strands of pragmatist philosophy of science. One strand, tracing back through Quine to C. S. Peirce, is more naturalistic, eschewing the use of a priori elements in science. The other strand, tracing back through Kuhn and C. I. Lewis to James, is more friendly to such presuppositions, and to that extent bears affinity with the positivist tradition Friedman occupies. (shrink)
William James was one of the most frequently cited authors in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but the attention paid to James’s Principles of Psycho- logy in that work is typically explained in terms of James having ‘committed in a clear, exemplary manner, fundamental errors in the philosophy of mind.’ (Goodman 2002, p. viii.) The most notable of these ‘errors’ was James’s purported commitment to a conception of language as ‘private’. Commentators standardly treat James as committed to a conception of language (...) as private, and the most notorious instance of this commitment can purportedly be found in his discussion of the feelings associated with logical terms like ‘and’, ‘if ’ and ‘but’ in the Principles’s chapter, ‘The Stream of Thought’. However, the received view stands in need of serious re-evaluation. In particular, there is little reason to think that James’s notorious discussion of the ‘if-feeling’ should be understood as an attempt to give an account of the meaning of ‘if ’ (indeed, there is little reason to even think that Wittgenstein interpreted him this way). The picture of our ideas developed in ‘The Stream of Thought’ sits badly with any theory that identifies meanings with ideas in this way, and while James’s chapter on ‘Conception’ (as well as some portions of Some Problems of Philosophy) has also been portrayed as committing James to the in principle privacy of language, it will be argued here that James’s account of our ‘conceptions’ is radically different from that of the private linguist. (shrink)
This article investigates the history of the relation between idealism and pragmatism by examining the importance of the French idealist Charles Renouvier for the development of William James's ‘Will to Believe’. By focusing on French idealism, we obtain a broader understanding of the kinds of idealism on offer in the nineteenth century. First, I show that Renouvier's unique methodological idealism led to distinctively pragmatist doctrines and that his theory of certitude and its connection to freedom is worthy of reconsideration. (...) Second, I argue that the technical vocabulary and main structure of the argument from the ‘Will to Believe’ depend upon Renouvier's idealist theory of knowledge and psychology of belief, and that taking account of this line of influence is of crucial importance for establishing the correct interpretation of James's work. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to use Sir William Crookes‘ researches into psychical phenomena as a sustained case study of the role of epistemic virtues within scientific enquiry. Despite growing interest in virtues in science, there are few integrated historical and philosophical studies, and even fewer studies focusing on controversial or ‗fringe‘ sciences where, one might suppose, certain epistemic virtues (like open-mindedness and tolerance) may be subjected to sterner tests. Using the virtue of epistemic courage as my focus, (...) it emerges that Crookes‘ psychical researches were indeed epistemically courageous, but that this judgment must be grounded in sensitivity to the motivational complexity and context-sensitivity of the exercise of epistemic virtues. The paper then considers Crookes‘ remarks on the relationship between epistemic virtuousness and the intellectual integrity and public duties of scientists, thereby placing epistemic virtues in the context of wider debates about the authority of science in late modern societies. I conclude that Crookes‘ researches into psychical phenomena offer instructive lessons for historians of science and virtue epistemologists concerning the complexity and contextuality of epistemic virtues, and the profitable forms that future studies of virtues in science could take. (shrink)
William James is notorious for the large number of inconsistencies and at least apparent contradictions in his writings. Many readers conclude that he should be appreciated more for his profound but erratic insights than for any coherent philosophical perspective. Ellen Kappy Suckiel disagrees. She argues that James is far more careful and systematic than many readers realize. Her work on James is guided by the attempt to lay bare his coherent philosophical vision and the consistent philosophical methodology underlying it. (...) As a result of this approach, Suckiel's work on James is both sympathetic to his philosophical insights and carefully argued. In her first book, The Pragmatic Philosophy of William James (1982), Suckiel applies this approach to James's philosophy as a whole. The result is a work of remarkable clarity and insight that serves as a wonderful introduction to James's thought. In her more recent book, Suckiel applies this approach specifically to James's philosophy of religion, with similar felicitous results. Heaven's... (shrink)
Abstract If asked about the Darwinian influence on William James, some might mention his pragmatic position that ideas are “mental modes of adaptation,” and that our stock of ideas evolves to meet our changing needs. However, while this is not obviously wrong, it fails to capture what James deems most important about Darwinian theory: the notion that there are independent cycles of causation in nature. Versions of this idea undergird everything from his campaign against empiricist psychologies to his theories (...) of mind and knowledge to his pluralistic worldview; and all of this together undergirds his attempts to challenge determinism and defend freewill. I begin this paper by arguing that James uses Darwinian thinking to bridge empiricism and rationalism, and that this merger undermines environmental determinism. I then discuss how Darwinism informs his concept of pluralism; how his concept challenges visions of a causally welded “block universe”; and how it also casts doubt on the project of reducing all reality to physical reality, and therewith the wisdom of dismissing consciousness as an inert by-product of physiology. I conclude by considering how Darwinism helps him justify the pragmatic grounds upon which he defends freewill. (shrink)