: One of the most fundamental premises of feminist philosophy is the assumption of an invidious asymmetry between the genders that has to be overcome. Parallel to this negative account of asymmetry we also find a positive account, developed in particular within the context of so-called feminist philosophies of difference. I explore both notions of gender asymmetry. The goal is a clarification of the notion of asymmetry as it can presently be found in feminist philosophy. Drawing upon phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, Levinas) (...) as well as feminist difference theory (Irigaray), I argue that a gender asymmetry does exist that cannot—as in the first assumption—be transformed into symmetry. (shrink)
One of the most fundamental premises of feminist philosophy is the assumption of an invidious asymmetry between the genders that has to be overcome. Parallel to this negative account of asymmetry we also find a positive account, developed in particular within the context of so-called feminist philosophies of difference. I explore both notions of gender asymmetry. The goal is a clarification of the notion of asymmetry as it can presently be found in feminist philosophy. Drawing upon phenomenology as well as (...) feminist difference theory , I argue that a gender asymmetry does exist that cannot-as in the first assumption-be transformed into symmetry. (shrink)
Metaphilosophy is itself philosophy about philosophy. It is not something before or independent of philosophy. Both Kai Nielsen and Richard Rorty are deeply concerned (someone might say obsessively preoccupied) with metaphilosophy. They both are thoroughly historicist and contextualist resolutely rejecting any form of a transcendental or metaphysical turn. They argue against claims to absolute validity (as well as against absolutism in any form) and a natural order of reasons: some 'Reason' to which any rational agent must be committed. They both (...) see philosophy as a transitional genre first (historically speaking) from religion then metaphysics and more latterly from scientistic conceptions of the world. But they differ about what philosophy is transitional to. For Rorty it is historical narrative and utopian proposals; for Nielsen it is critical theory. Rorty claims this, Nielsen's intentions to the contrary notwithstanding, commits him to enlightenment rationalism. Nielsen replies that his form of critical theory is deeply historicist and contextual without being resolutely atheoretical. This plays out in political orientation to Nielsen's being a socialist while Rorty is a social democrat. (shrink)
This festschrift includes a dozen essays on issues that have been at the focus of Kai Nielsen's research, mainly issues in ethics and political philosophy. Among these are four essays on socialism and Marxism. There are also essays on philosophy of religion, epistemology, and meta-philosophy.
Nielsen [Nielsen, T. . Felt presence: Paranoid delusion or hallucinatory social imagery? Consciousness and Cognition, 16, 975–983.] raises a number of issues and presents several provocative arguments worthy of discussion regarding the experience of the felt presence during sleep paralysis . We consider these issues beginning with the nature of FP and its relation to affective-motivational systems and provide an alternative to Nielsen’s reduction of FP to a purely spatial hallucination. We then consider implications of the “normal social imagery” model. (...) We can find only one specific empirical hypothesis articulated within this framework and it turns out to be one that we explicitly addressed in our original paper. We also review our position regarding the possible relation of FP during SP to a number of related anomalous experiences and contrast FP to anomalous vestibular-motor phenomena. We review our position that the neuromatrix concept, in the light of available evidence, is more appropriately applied to V-M experiences than FP. Finally, we pursue speculations, raised in Nielsen’s commentary, on the wider implications of FP. (shrink)
Nielsen's covert REM process model explains much of the mentation found in REM and NREM sleep, but stops short of postulating an interaction of waking cognitive processes with the dream mechanisms of REM sleep. It ranks with the Hobson et al. paper as a major theoretical advance. The Solms article does not surmount the ever-present problem of defining dreams in a manner conducive to advancing dream theory. Vertes & Eastman review the REM sleep and learning literature, but make questionable assumptions (...) in doing so. [Hobson et al.; Nielsen; Solms; Vertes & Eastman]. (shrink)
Erratum: Volume 9, Number 4 , in the article “William James's The Fringe of Consciousness REM Mentation in Narcoleptics and Normals: Reply to Tore Nielsen,” by Roar Fosse, pages 514–515 ()On page 514, the title is incorrect as printed. The title should read “REM Mentation in Narcoleptics and Normals: Reply to Tore Nielsen.” “William James's The Fringe of Consciousness” should be a heading following this article in the Table of Contents and pertains to the articles that follow. Both the Fosse (...) reply and the heading are correct as printed in the Table of Contents in the print issue. (shrink)
Kai Nielsen’s recent book Philosophy and Atheism is discussed here. The main point is that Nielsen’s arguments against Christianity can be turned against his own rationalist atheism with similar results, namely that the position seems incoherent from its own point of view. Christianity is unempirical and irrational by certain arguments, but the position assumed underneath those arguments does not survive treatment by those same arguments. Nielsen’s dependence on arguments that undermine the position assumed in these arguments should make him open (...) to the suggestion that these arguments may not be relevant to the assessment of the validity of a religious position. (shrink)
In my Contemporary Critiques of Religion and in my Scepticism , I argue that non-anthropomorphic conceptions of God do not make sense. By this I mean that we do not have sound grounds for believing that the central truth-claims of Christianity are genuine truth-claims and that we do not have a religiously viable concept of God. I argue that this is so principally because of three interrelated features about God-talk. While purporting to be factual assertions, central bits of God-talk, e.g. (...) ‘God exists’ and ‘God loves man-kind’, are not even in principle verifiable in such a way that we can say what experienceable states of affairs would count for these putative assertions and against their denials, such that we could say what it would be like to have evidence which would make either their assertion or their denial more or less probably true. Personal predicates, e.g. ‘loves’, ‘creates’, are at least seemingly essential in the use of God-talk, yet they suffer from such an attenuation of meaning in their employment in religious linguistic environments that it at least appears to be the case that we have in such environments unwittingly emptied these predicates of all intelligible meaning so that we do not understand what we are asserting or denying when we utter ‘God loves mankind’ or ‘God created the heavens and the earth’ and the like. When we make well-formed assertions, it appears at least to be the case that a necessary condition for such wellformedness is that we should be able successfully to identify the subject of that putative statement so that we can understand what it is that we are talking about and thus understand that a genuine statement has actually been made. But, where God is conceived non-anthropomorphically, we have no even tolerably clear idea about how God, an infinite individual, occupying no particular place or existing at no particular time, and being utterly transcendent to the world, can be identified. Indeed we have no coherent idea of what it would be like to identify him and this means we have no coherent idea of what it would be like for God even to be a person or an it. He cannot be picked out and identified in the way persons and things can. (shrink)
Nielsen's concept of “covert REM sleep” accounts for more of the complexity in sleep psychophysiology than its conceptual predecessors such as the tonic-phasic model. With new neuroimaging findings, such concepts lead to more precise sleep psychophysiology including both traditional polysomnographic signs and neuronal activity in greater proximity to the actual point sources and distributed networks which generate dreaming. [Hobson et al.; Nielsen].
This is a reply to nielsen's discussion in "philosophical investigations" (vol. 3, No. 4, Fall 1980) of my two papers 'wisdom's philosophy of religion' ("c. J. P." dec. 1975). In it I attempt to correct some misunderstandings and reply to some criticisms regarding what I said in my papers about 'religious transcendence', 'the relation between religion and life', 'religious truth', 'religion and myth', 'experience of god', And 'philosophy and religious belief'.
Nielsen's model presents a new isomorphic brain-mind viewpoint, according to which the sole dream generator is found in a REM-on (explicit or covert REM) mechanism. Such a model cannot explain the dreamlike activity during SWS (slow wave sleep), SO (sleep onset) and in the last period of sleep. Moreover the hypothesis contrasts with Solms's data, which show that dreaming is present also in case of destruction of the REM generator. [Nielsen; Solms].
Kai Nielsen's work truly is a model for what engaged philosophical argument can and should aspire to be. He is militantly committed to clarity and to the rejection of dogma. His palpable good faith and sincerity are evident in everything he writes. I can't pretend to have read more than a fraction of Nielsen's voluminous writings, but one of my favorite passages of his is from a recent essay and is reprinted in Globalization and Justice:.
One of the central claims of most religious people is that morality is based upon religion or, more specifically, on a belief in God. A morality which is not God-centred not only cannot provide a genuine basis for moral beliefs but is really and truly groundless. For without a belief in the sovereignty of God, there can be no genuine adequate foundation for moral beliefs. In his recent book, Ethics Without God , Kai Nielsen claims that this view is grossly (...) mistaken. According to Nielsen, morality cannot be based on religion because moral claims cannot be derived from religious cosmological claims such as ‘God is Creator’, or ‘God exists’. ‘God wills X’, ‘God commands X’, do not entail ‘X ought to be done’, or ‘I ought to do X’. It is perfectly in order for someone to say that God wills X, but is X good? It is also perfectly in order for someone to say that God commands me to do X, but why should I obey God? Surely it cannot be because God is powerful and, if I do not obey his commands, he will punish me. It may be prudent and expedient to obey God because I am afraid of punishment, but this is surely not a morally good reason for obeying him. Moral obligations follow God's commands only if it is assumed that God is morally perfect or that he is good or that his commands are right . But I cannot know that God is good without an understanding of what it is for something to be good. To be sure, ‘God is good’, is a truth of language, but in order to understand it we must have a prior understanding of goodness- an understanding which is ‘logically prior to, and independent of, any understanding or acknowledgement of God’ . Moreover, Nielsen argues, the religious quest is a quest to find a being that is ‘worthy of worship’, but it is by our own moral insight that we decide that any being, any Z, is ‘worthy of worship’. The decision that there is a Z such that Z is worthy of worship is a moral judgment which is in no way dependent upon the will of God. But more than this, ‘God’, in ‘God is worthy of worship’, is, in most cases, used analytically so that anyone who is brought to say ‘My God’, or ‘My Lord and my God’, is using ‘God’ evaluatively and by implication making a moral judgment - a moral judgment which is logically prior to the will or command of God. This leads Nielsen to conclude. (shrink)
‘For the inference involved in our knowledge of other minds is not, after all, an inference to them as bodily existences…’ In his recent and typically thought-provoking paper, ‘On the Rationality of Radical Theological Non-Naturalism’, Kai Nielsen attacks those who, like Terence Penelhum, believe that ‘there is no good reason to think that we could not, with a little ingenuity, think up some non-theistic statements which would serve, if true, to put some theistic conclusions beyond reason-able doubt’.
Kai Nielsen is one of Canada’s most distinguished political philosophers. In a career spanning over 40 years, he has published more than 400 papers in political philosophy, ethics, meta-philosophy, and philosophy of religion. He has engaged much of the best work in Anglophone political philosophy, shedding light on many of the central debates and controversies of our time but throughout has remained a unique voice on the political left. _ Pessimism of the Intellect _presents a thoughtful collection of Nielsen’s essays (...) complemented by an extended reflective interview with Nielsen. This collection allows the reader to grasp the systematic scope of his thought and methodology. (shrink)