Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) is typically, though quite wrongly,
considered a coarse social Darwinist. After all, Spencer, and not
Darwin, coined the infamous expression “survival of the
fittest”, leading G. E. Moore to conclude erroneously in
Principia Ethica (1903) that Spencer committed the
naturalistic fallacy. According to Moore, Spencer's practical
reasoning was deeply flawed insofar as he purportedly conflated mere
survivability (a natural property) with goodness itself (a non-natural
property). Roughly fifty years later, Richard Hofstadter devoted an entire
chapter of Social Darwinism in American Thought (1955) to
Spencer, arguing that Spencer's unfortunate vogue in late
nineteenth-century America inspired Andrew Carnegie and William Graham
Sumner's visions of unbridled and unrepentant capitalism.
Rampant moral relativism is widely decried as the leading source of the degeneracy of modern life. Though I proudly count myself a relativist, I rather doubt that relativism has anything like the cultural influence that its most ardent critics fearfully attribute to it. Much of what gets criticized under the rubric of relativism is often really no such thing. Relativists need not be hedonists, egoists, nihilists or even moral skeptics.
This is my first trip to South Africa. In fact, it is my first time on the continent of Africa, and even my first adventure south of the equator. I am honored to be speaking in South Africa, because I regard this nation as just about the only one whose history in the past half century might have the power to inspire us with hope. My own country, for instance, the United States, has long thought of itself (and even been thought of by others) as a defender of human rights and liberty. But during the past fifty years, it has become the world’s leading imperialist power. It now engages without hesitation in brutal wars of aggression. It regards its military power as exempting it from all international law and even from all recognized standards of human decency. At home as well as abroad, it turning into a sham all the conceptions of human rights, and all the ideals of democracy and freedom, to which it still has the arrogance to think of as its exclusive property.
Hegel spent most of his life as an educator. Between 1794 and 1800, he was a private tutor, first in Bern, Switzerland, and then in Frankfurt-am-Main. He then began a university career at the University of Jena, which in 1806 was interrupted by the Napoleonic conquest of Prussia, and did not resume for ten years. In the intervening years, he was director of a Gymnasium (or secondary school) in Nuremberg. In 1816, Hegel was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, then abruptly ascended to the chair in philosophy at the University of Berlin in 1818, where he remained until his sudden death from cholera in 1831.
If you ask a philosophy professor this question, there are several things you might hope to be told by way of an answer. You might want to hear how the professor thinks the subject of philosophy fits into an academic curriculum. You might want to watch the professor try to justify the place of philosophy, or of departments of philosophy, within a university. If you ask more than one professor, you might like to see different philosophers, representing different standpoints or specialties within the field, attempting to give an account of the field as a whole. You probably want to listen to them trying to vindicate their own philosophical positions or argue for the centrality (or at least the indispensability) of their own subfield.
Kant was among the first to break decisively with the eudaimonistic tradition of classical ethics by declaring that the moral principle is entirely distinct and divergent from the principle of happiness (G 4:393, KpV 5:21-27). I am going to argue that what is at issue in Kant’s rejection of eudaimonism is not fundamentally any question of ethical value or the priority among values. On the contrary, on these matters Kant shares the views which led classical ethical theory from Socrates onward to embrace eudaimonism. Instead, where Kant breaks with classical ethics is in the conception of human nature. Kant’s conception of human nature so altered the application of moral principles that it forced a change in the way happiness was conceived, leading to a reversal of what had earlier been thought about the relation of the principle morality to the pursuit of happiness.
Religion and subjectivity. In Part Four of Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant states his more or less official definition of ‘religion’: “Religion is (subjectively considered) the recognition of all our duties as divine commands” (Ak 6:153; cf. 6:443). To be religious, for Kant, is to view all one’s duties as commands issued to one by God. Kant’s wording of this definition, apparently restricting the definition to religion “subjectively considered”, might suggest that there could be another, “objective” way of considering religion, and this “objective religion” might have a different definition.
Freedom is important. Modern liberal societies are built around it. Citizens fight for their fundamental freedoms — rights to speech, thought, religious expression, education, work and so on — and governments are evaluated relative to their success in securing these freedoms. …
[Editor's Note: The following new entry by Helen De Cruz replaces the
on this topic by the previous author.] The relationship between religion and science is the subject of
continued debate in philosophy and theology. To what extent are
religion and science compatible? Are religious beliefs sometimes
conducive to science, or do they inevitably pose obstacles to
scientific inquiry? The interdisciplinary field of “science and
religion”, also called “theology and science”, aims
to answer these and other questions. It studies historical and
contemporary interactions between these fields, and provides
philosophical analyses of how they interrelate.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion of the value of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) as a measure of implicit bias — discussion generated largely by a new paper by Calvin Lai, Patrick Forscher and their colleagues that presents the results of a meta-analysis of studies conducted using the IAT, plus a provocative article in New York magazine by Jesse Singal that discusses that paper and the methodological controversy it’s a part of. …
The contributions presented in this symposium explore, from different perspectives, the relationship between pragmatism and history, that is, the empirical study of the human past. These connections run deep, and may be assessed on several counts. First of all, many pragmatist philosophers have devoted a great deal of attention to investigating the nature of historical knowledge and its relevance to philosophy. Classical pragmatists such as Peirce, Dewey and Mead laid a strong emphasis on processuality and evolution as fundamental philosophical categories. At the same time, they rejected intuitionist or a-priorist conceptions of knowledge, advocating instead a continuity between philosophy and empirical inquiry. This approach was also sustained by their general skepticism towards overly closed systems, and by a keen interest in individuality and the unexpected consequences of experience. In this sense, it is not an accident of their intellectual biographies that they also painstakingly reflected on the methodology of historiography, and dedicated themselves in first person to concrete historical studies (in particular, of science).
Although not known as a philosopher of history, George Herbert Mead wrote and taught seriously about the nature of the past and about historical investigation throughout his career. The paper identifies the major documentary sources and interpretive literature with which to reconstruct Mead’s radically social and dynamic conceptualization of history and extends beyond the existing literature to develop striking implications of Mead’s approach in response to possible criticisms and challenges. By connecting Mead’s writings on history with his broader social theory of action, democracy, and consciousness, the paper shows how Mead provides a novel grounding of our understandings of history in ongoing social processes and suggests that better historical knowledge may be related to participatory, inclusive social practices. As a result, historians have a responsibility to social reconstruction and society’s self-reflection, in Mead’s view. Because of the novel ways in which Mead’s approach explores the relationship between history and social progress he warrants renewed attention and scrutiny from researchers and theorists of history.
In this paper I shall examine how the pragmatists regarded the context of a single self in time (the problem of personal development over the life course) and the context of a single self in social space (the problem not only of surrounding individuals but also of surrounding and fundamentally different groups). After a quick glance at the ontologies of the earlier pragmatists, I discuss the problems of individual development and social difference as they emerged society-wide during and after the first pragmatist generation. Having specified these problems, I can set the second pragmatist generation in the context they provide. The paper concludes with a discussion of the centrality of accounts of development and difference in a processualized social ontology.
In this introduction I closely read Marquand’s arguments in “On Scientific Method in the Study of Art” both in relation to their sources and in relation to Marquand’s own subsequent scholarship. My thesis is that Charles Sanders Peirce’s writing is the most conspicuous and important inspiration for the essay; however I also contend that Marquand’s handwritten corrections to the surviving manuscript of the text reveal a struggle with Peirce’s ideas that can – especially in light of Marquand’s later writing – be read to expose an ambivalent or potentially even critical attitude toward central aspects of Peirce’s thought. I conclude by noting that Marquand’s intellectual relationship with Peirce speaks to both the past, present, and future of art historical scholarship.
In this paper, the authors address the perceived recent trend of funding and publishing bodies that seem to have taken a regard of qualitative research as a subordinate to, or even a subset of, quantitative research. In this reflection, they pull on insights that Hans-Georg Gadamer offered around the history of the natural and human science bifurcation, ending with a plea that qualitative research needs to be received, appraised, judged, and promoted by different lenses and criteria of value.
A cash transfer recipient in Kenya, in front of the house he built with the money, in 2014. Photo: GiveDirectly. The New Statesman journalist Stephen Bush recently predicted that, having achieved their life-long dream of taking Britain out of the EU, the right-wing press’s next target will be DfiD and Britain’s commitment to foreign aid. …
Biologist Steve Jones claims that a piece of research cannot be science if the person who did the research does not communicate their findings. He then dismisses Fermat’s proof of his last theorem as something that Fermat might as well not have done. I give reasons to reject the argument Jones offers for his communication requirement, the requirement itself and what he says about Fermat’s last theorem.
“Feminist aesthetics” does not label a variety of
aesthetics in the way that, for example, the terms “virtue
theory” and “naturalized epistemology” qualify types
of ethics and theories of knowledge. Rather, to refer to feminist
aesthetics is to identify a set of perspectives that pursue certain
questions about philosophical theories and assumptions regarding art
and aesthetic categories. Feminists in general have concluded that,
despite the seemingly neutral and inclusive theoretical language of
philosophy, virtually all areas of the discipline bear the mark of
gender in their basic conceptual frameworks.
Both advocates and critics of experimental philosophy often describe it in narrow terms as being the empirical study of people’s intuitions about philosophical cases. This conception corresponds with a narrow origin story for the field—it grew out of a dissatisfaction with the uncritical use of philosophers’ own intuitions as evidence for philosophical claims. In contrast, a growing number of experimental philosophers have explicitly embraced a broad conception of the sub-discipline, which treats it as simply the use of empirical methods to inform philosophical problems. And this conception has a corresponding broad origin story—the field grew out of a recognition that philosophers often make empirical claims and that empirical claims call for empirical support. In this paper, I argue that the broad conception should be accepted, offering support for the broad origin story.
It is a noticeable feature of intellectual life that many people research the same topics, but do so using different conceptual and disciplinary baggage, and consequently fail to appreciate how the conclusions they reach echo or complement the conclusions reached by others. …
Participants evaluated whether emotions expressed in facial displays by self and a stranger were responses to particular emotion-eliciting photos or not. Performance on self was superior to a stranger when paired eliciting stimuli produce different emotions (e.g. sad vs cute), but not the same emotion (e.g. both amusing), supporting a “common code” not memory account.
and future in moral judgment, we administered a well-established moral judgment battery to individuals with hippocampal damage and deficits in episodic thought (insert Greene et al. 2001). Healthy controls select deontological answers in high-conflict moral scenarios more frequently when they vividly imagine themselves in the scenarios than when they imagine scenarios abstractly, at some personal remove. If this bias is mediated by episodic thought, individuals with deficits in episodic thought should not exhibit this effect. We report that individuals with deficits in episodic memory and future thought make moral judgments and exhibit the biasing effect of vivid, personal imaginings on moral judgment. These results strongly suggest that the biasing effect of vivid personal imagining on moral judgment is not due to episodic thought about the past and future. VC 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
John Rawls (b. 1921, d. 2002) was an American political philosopher in
the liberal tradition. His theory of justice as fairness
describes a society of free citizens holding equal basic rights and
cooperating within an egalitarian economic system. His theory of
political liberalism delineates the legitimate use of
political power in a democracy, and envisions how civic unity might
endure despite the diversity of worldviews that free institutions
allow. His writings on the law of peoples set out a liberal
foreign policy that aims to create a permanently peaceful and tolerant
I am preparing for a new course this semester on philosophy and cognitive science. In the third and final part of the class, we are going to read and discuss Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen (OUP 2009). …
Frederick Douglass (c. 1817–1895) is a central figure in United
States and African American
history.[ 1 ]
He was born a slave, circa
1817;[ 2 ]
his mother was a Negro slave and his father was reputed to be his
white master. Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and rose to become
a principal leader and spokesperson for the U.S. Abolition movement. He would eventually develop into a towering figure for the U.S. Civil
Rights Movement, and his legacy would be claimed by a diverse span of
groups, from liberals and integrationists to conservatives to
nationalists, within and without black America.
The concept of political representation is misleadingly simple:
everyone seems to know what it is, yet few can agree on any particular
definition. In fact, there is an extensive literature that offers many
different definitions of this elusive concept. [Classic treatments of
the concept of political representations within this literature include
Pennock and Chapman 1968; Pitkin, 1967 and Schwartz, 1988.] Hanna
Pitkin (1967) provides, perhaps, one of the most straightforward
definitions: to represent is simply to “make present
again.” On this definition, political representation is the
activity of making citizens' voices, opinions, and perspectives
“present” in public policy making processes.
One of the profound appeals of Kant’s mature practical philosophy lies in his systematic arguments that right and ethics are formally distinct departments of a single morality of reason and freedom. These arguments locate Kant in a venerable tradition, according to which justice is, although a genuine part of morality, formally distinct from the (other) virtues. According to this tradition, while all vicious action involves wrongdoing, unjust action is a species of wrongdoing that is relational in a special sense. For injustice is wrongdoing that is essentially and primarily doing wrong to another. Kant’s philosophy of right is, arguably, the most profound attempt in the tradition to systematically develop this insight into a division of moral duties.
In a choice between saving five people or saving another person, is it better to save the five, other things being equal? According to utilitarianism, it would be better to save the five if the combined gain in well-being for them would be greater than the loss for the one. A standard objection is that adding up the gains or losses of different people in this manner is a problematic form of interpersonal aggregation. It is far from clear, however, what more precisely is supposed to be problematic about utilitarian aggregation. The aggregation sceptics—that is, among others, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Thomas Nagel, John M. Taurek, and T. M. Scanlon—have not offered a clear criterion for what counts as a morally problematic form of aggregation and what does not. Hence it is hard to know what to make of this objection.
Consider a Humean package view of rationality where:
Then end of practical rationality is desire satisfaction. All the rational motivational drive in our decisions comes from our desires. There are no rational imperatives to have desires. …
When it comes to war, the good news is that close-range cold-blooded killing is impossible for the vast majority of human beings; the bad news is that militaries have had thousands of years to figure out ways of circumventing that fact. The necessity of training, organizing, and equipping soldiers to enable killing behavior betrays a tension between organism and mechanism in the military’s treatment of the soldier: they are human beings subject to emotional waves flowing in the small and large groups to which they belong while also being – or at least trained with an eye to becoming – replaceable units in a great machine. Those emotional waves toggle between the threat reactions of fear and anger, so the military must learn how to transform fear in its soldiers into the anger needed to progress to the act of killing, without, however, allowing too much anger. So for this paper, we will take it that conscious emotional states of fear and anger are looped into motivation.