18th-century British aesthetics addressed itself to a
variety of questions: What is taste? What is beauty? Is there is a
standard of taste and of beauty? What is the relation between the
beauty of nature and that of artistic representation? What is the
relation between one fine art and another? How ought the fine arts be
ranked one against another? What is the nature of the sublime and
ought it be ranked with the beautiful? What is the nature of genius
and what is its relation to taste? Although none of these questions was peripheral to
18th-century British aesthetics, not all were equally
Hume’s position in ethics, which is based on his
empiricist theory of the mind,
is best known for asserting four theses: (1) Reason alone
cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the
“slave of the passions” (see
(2) Moral distinctions are not derived from reason (see
Section 4). (3) Moral distinctions are derived from the moral sentiments: feelings of
approval (esteem, praise) and disapproval (blame) felt by spectators
who contemplate a character trait or action (see
Section 7). (4) While some virtues and vices are natural (see
others, including justice, are artificial (see
Adolf Reinach was a leading representative of the so-called realist
tradition within phenomenology who has been described as
Husserl's “first real co-worker in the development of the
phenomenological movement” (Willard 1969, p. 194). Although his
life was tragically cut short, and his corpus of writings modest in
size, Reinach's essays on general ontology, on the philosophy of
law and on the philosophy of language, are remarkably clear and
original examples of the phenomenological approach to philosophizing. His principal distinction lies in his 1913 monograph “On the
A Priori Foundations of the Civil Law”, whose analysis
of the act of promising anticipates several crucial aspects of the
speech act theories of Austin and Searle.
Developments in genetic engineering may soon allow biologists to clone organisms from extinct species. The process, dubbed “de-extinction,” has been publicized as a means to bring extinct species back to life. For theorists and philosophers of biology, the process also suggests a thought experiment for the ongoing “species problem”: given a species concept, would a clone be classified in the extinct species? Previous analyses have answered this question in the context of specific de-extinction technologies or particular species concepts. The thought experiment is given more comprehensive treatment here. Given the products of three de-extinction technologies, twenty-two species concepts are “tested” to see which are consistent with the idea that species may be resurrected. The ensuing discussion considers whether or not de-extinction is a conceptually coherent research program and, if so, whether or not its development may contribute to a resolution of the species problem. Ultimately, theorists must face a choice: they may revise their commitments to species concepts (if those concepts are inconsistent with de-extinction) or they may recognize de-extinction as a means to make progress in the species problem.
Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one half the
great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I
should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to
arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her
all but unrivaled wisdom.
—J. S. Mill (1977, 216)
Harriet Taylor Mill (1807–1858) poses a unique set of problems
for an encyclopedist. The usual approach to writing an entry on a
historical figure, namely presenting a straightforward summary of her
major works and then offering a few words of appraisal, cannot be
carried out in her case.
Philippa Foot produced a slim output of articles, most of which are
collected in two volumes, and one monograph on moral philosophy; the
articles treated issues in metaethics, moral psychology, and applied
ethics. Throughout her career, she defended the objectivity of
morality against various forms of noncognitivism and tangled with
issues of moral motivation, notoriously changing her mind about
whether moral judgments necessarily provide rational agents with
reasons for action. To the wider world, and perhaps especially to
undergraduate philosophy students, she is best known for inventing the
Trolley Problem, which raises the question of why it seems permissible
to steer a trolley aimed at five people toward one person while it
seems impermissible to do something such as killing one healthy man to
use his organs to save five people who will otherwise die.
This paper offers an account of the property Feuerbach and Marx called “species-being,” the human being’s distinctive tendency to identify herself as a member of her species, and to think of the species as a “we.” It links the notion to Kant’s theory of rights, arguing that every claim of right commits the maker of that claim to something like world government, and therefore to the conception of humanity as a collective agent. It also links species-being to the concept of practical identity, arguing that the conceptions under which we find our lives and actions valuable are ones according to which we make a positive contribution to the life of the species. It then argues that the resulting conception of humanity, together with certain considerations about the nature of the good, provides grounds for challenging the familiar claim that death is generally worse for human beings than for animals. On the other hand, because of species-being, the extinction of our species is a much worse prospect for human beings than for the other animals.
In this paper I explore the possibility of explaining why there is such a thing as the good in naturalistic terms. More specifically, I seek an explanation of the fact that some things are good-for human beings and the other animals in the final sense of good: worth aiming at. I trace the existence of the final good to the existence of conscious agents. I propose that the final good for an animal is her own well-functioning as the kind of creature she is, taken as an end of action, and that having this as her final good makes her better at the activity she is necessarily engaged in, namely living.
In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit (1984) observed that most people are biased towards the future at least when it comes to pain and pleasure. That is, they regard a given amount of pain as less bad when it is in the past than when it is in the future, and a given amount of pleasure as less good. While Parfit (implicitly) held that this bias is rational, it has recently come under effective attack by temporal neutralists, who have offered cases that with plausible auxiliary assumptions appear to be counterexamples to the rationality claim. I’m going to argue that these cases and the rationale behind them only suffice to motivate a more limited rejection of future bias, and that constrained future bias is indeed rationally permissible. My argument turns on the distinct rational implications of action-guiding and pure temporal preferences. I’ll argue that future bias is rational when it comes to the latter, even if not the former. As I’ll say, Only Action Fixes Utility: it is only when you act on the basis of assigning a utility to an outcome that you rationally commit to giving it the same value when it is past as when it is in the future.
The use of modern medical technologies and interventions involves ethical and legal dilemmas which are yet to be solved. For the religious Jews the answer lies in Halakhah. The objective of this paper is to unscramble the difficult conundrum possessed by the halakhalic standing concerning the use of human embryonic cell for research. It also aims to take contemporary ethical issues arising from the use of technologies and medical advances made in human reproduction and study them from an abstract philosophical perspective. Instead of providing any Jewish practical ruling the paper have tried to incite, stimulate and encourage philosophical thoughts about the issue through the intensive understanding of traditional Jewish thoughts.
1. This post has no technical content. As the tag indicates, it’s entirely “Nerd Self-Help”—thoughts I’ve recently found extremely helpful to me, and that I’m hopeful some others might be able to apply to their own life situations. …
Descartes believed that non-human animals are automata, incapable of conscious experience. Kant wrote in the Anthropology that you and I are “through rank and dignity an entirely different being from things, such as irrational animals, with which one may do as one likes” (Kant 1798, 7: 127). Almost no philosopher would now defend these claims. They strike us as being antiquated, at best. Yet not long ago, a prominent contributor to these debates could write, in Philosophy and Public Affairs, that “people born autistic are incapable of forming deep personal relations” (McMahan 1996: 4). And it is a commonplace view in moral philosophy that humans born with severe congenital cognitive disabilities are ethically equivalent to pets.
Consider for a moment how you would answer the following question: what does God know? Regardless of your religious background or what you personally believe, the most likely answer is “everything.” This response is a common perception among people immersed in cultural contexts where monotheism is dominant. Could you, however, pinpoint a specific source from which you learned this information? If your answer wasn’t “everything,” do you at least appreciate that most people would give that response? Why do most people answer this way? What does it even mean to know everything?
The definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy. Whether art can be defined has also been a matter of controversy. The
philosophical usefulness of a definition of art has also been
debated. Contemporary definitions can be classified with respect to the
dimensions of art they emphasize. One distinctively modern,
conventionalist, sort of definition focuses on art’s
institutional features, emphasizing the way art changes over time,
modern works that appear to break radically with all traditional art,
the relational properties of artworks that depend on works’
relations to art history, art genres, etc.
Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all. John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration ( 1689) Over the past few decades, much ink has been spilled in attempts to understand the relationships between religion, intolerance and conflict. And, although, some progress has been made, religion‘s precise role in intolerance and intergroup conflict remains a poorly researched scientific topic. This oversight is remarkable given that the vast majority of the world is religious (Norris & Inglehart, 2004), and hardly a day goes by without religious conflict shaping events and making international headlines (The Washington Post, May 11, 2011).
Cognitive scientists have increasingly turned to cultural transmission to explain the widespread nature of religion. One key hypothesis focuses on memory, proposing that that minimally counterintuitive (MCI) content facilitates the transmission of supernatural beliefs. We propose two caveats to this hypothesis. (1) Memory effects decrease as MCI concepts become commonly used, and (2) people do not believe counterintuitive content readily; therefore additional mechanisms are required to get from memory to belief. In experiments 1–3 (n = 283), we examined the relationship between MCI, belief, and memory. We found that increased tendencies to anthropomorphize predicted poorer memory for anthropomorphic-MCI content. MCI content was found less believable than intuitive content, suggesting different mechanisms are required to explain belief. In experiment 4 (n = 70), we examined the non-content-based cultural learning mechanism of credibility-enhancing displays (CREDs) and found that it increased participants’ belief in MCI content, suggesting this type of learning can better explain the transmission of belief.
Humanity is teeming with breathtaking theodiversity—in religious beliefs, behaviors, and traditions, as well as in various intensities and forms of disbelief. Yet the origins and consequences of this diversity have received limited attention in psychology. I first describe how evolved psychological processes that influence and respond to cultural evolutionary trajectories generate and channel religious diversity. Next, I explore how theodiversity in turn shapes human psychology, and discuss three cultural dimensions of religious diversity in relation to psychological processes: (a) the cultural shift from small foraging bands and their local religious practices and beliefs to large and complex groups and their world religions, (b) cultural variability among world religions, and (c) secularization and the ensuing cultural divide between religious and nonreligious societies and subcultures. The contributions of psychology to the scientific study of religion will increase with a deeper understanding of theodiversity.
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I address three common empirical questions about the connection between religion and morality: (1) Do religious beliefs and practices shape moral behavior? (2) Do all religions universally concern themselves with moral behavior? (3) Is religion necessary for morality? I draw on recent empirical research on religious prosociality to reach several conclusions. First, awareness of supernatural monitoring and other mechanisms found in religions encourage prosociality towards strangers, and in that regard, religions have come to influence moral behavior. Second, religion’s connection with morality is culturally variable; this link is weak or absent in small-scale groups, and solidifies as group size and societal complexity increase over time and across societies. Third, moral sentiments that encourage prosociality evolved independently of religion, and secular institutions can serve social monitoring functions; therefore religion is not necessary for morality.
Establishing whether Big Gods helped drive the cultural evolution of large-scale cooperation requires the synthesis of multiple lines of evidence. Survey data and lab-based studies suggest that belief in (or priming the concept of) a powerful moralizing god can increase individual prosocial behavior (Norenzayan, Henrich, & Slingerland,
In both the Nicomachean and the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle divides the human soul into the rational (to logon echon) and the non-rational (to alogon) part (NE 1.13, 1102a28). Although the details of this division are contested, there is a general agreement that the rational part is or contains reason (and so that it is capable of thinking) and that the non-rational part contains non-rational desires (i.e., appetite and spirit). It is also clear that, on Aristotle’s view, the virtuous disposition of character involves harmonizing the two parts in such a way that they become in some sense unified with respect to actions and feelings: they are supposed to ‘chime together’ (homophonei) (NE 1.13, 1102b29-30). This means that in an appropriately unified soul, the non-rational part does not merely happen to desire what the rational part prescribes but desires it somehow as a result of the rational part prescribing it (NE 1.13, 1102b33-3a1).
Imagine seeming to see a box of matches on a table. Now imagine moving slightly, while trying to keep the matchbox in view. You would be startled if the box of matches were suddenly to stop looking to you like a box, instead apparently morphing into a toy car. We thus tend to betray our implicit visual expectations, by responding with sudden surprise to visual experiences that are suitably discontinuous with their immediate predecessors. The surprise illustrated there is different to the more considered surprise that we often feel in other contexts. I would be taken aback if an ordinarily reliable informant told me that an eight-year old child recently ran a marathon in just over two hours. But the surprise that I would then feel is different to the startlement illustrated in the previous paragraph. While the surprise in the earlier case is doubtless shaped by one’s experiences of the world, it seems to arise independently of the relatively sophisticated processes of learning that lead us to our beliefs about, say, age-related marathon times.
This paper contributes to the underdeveloped field of experimental philosophy of science. We examine variability in the philosophical views of scientists. Using data from Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, we analyze scientists’ responses to prompts on philosophical issues (methodology, confirmation, values, reality, reductionism, and motivation for scientific research) to assess variance in the philosophical views of physical scientists, life scientists, and social and behavioral scientists. We find six prompts about which differences arose, with several more that look promising for future research. We then evaluate the difference between the natural and social sciences and the challenge of interdisciplinary integration across scientific branches.
In recent years, theoretical biologists and philosophers of biology have made increasing efforts to defend organisms as biological players in their own right against overly gene-centred views of life both in developmental and evolutionary biology (in the latter case specifically in the context of the so-called Modern Synthesis). Pursuing a non-reductionist systems biological approach, these scholars emphasise the autonomous character of organisms as selforganising biological systems (e.g., Moreno & Mossio 2015, Walsh 2015, Rosslenbroich 2014), thereby referring back to the older theory of autopoiesis (Varela 1979, Maturana & Varela 1980). Organisms and their characteristic development, it is argued, cannot be understood by looking at their parts only; it is the specific interplay of the parts, their organisation, that needs to be studied as giving rise to a functioning autonomous whole. This is believed to provide new avenues also for the understanding of evolution. Evolution, on this view, turns out to be ‘enacted’ by organisms as “autonomous, purposive systems” (Walsh 2015, 217).
Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide substantive reasons to decide difficult cases. This is illustrated by showing how life-history theory clarifies the status of so-called diseases of old age. The selected effect account of function deserves a more prominent place in the philosophy of medicine than it currently occupies.
Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind argues that a careful examination of the scientific literature reveals a foundational role for reasoning in moral thought and action. Grounding moral psychology in reason then paves the way for a defense of moral knowledge and virtue against a variety of empirical challenges, such as debunking arguments and situationist critiques. The book attempts to provide a corrective to current trends in moral psychology, which celebrates emotion over reason and generates pessimism about the psychological mechanisms underlying commonsense morality. Ultimately, there is rationality in ethics not just despite but in virtue of the neurobiological and evolutionary materials that shape moral cognition and motivation.
Unless presently in a coma, you cannot avoid witnessing injustice. You will find yourself judging that a citizen or a police officer has acted wrongly by killing someone, that a politician is corrupt, that a social institution is discriminatory. In all these cases, you are making a moral judgment. But what is it that drives your judgment? Have you reasoned your way to the conclusion that something is morally wrong? Or have you reached a verdict because you feel indignation or outrage? Rationalists in moral philosophy hold that moral judgment can be based on reasoning alone. Kant argued that one can arrive at a moral belief by reasoning from principles articulating one’s duties. Sentimentalists hold instead that emotion is essential to distinctively moral judgment. Hume, Smith, and their British contemporaries argued that one cannot arrive at a moral belief without experiencing appropriate feelings at some point—e.g. by feeling compassion toward victims or anger toward perpetrators. While many theorists agree that both reason and emotion play a role in ordinary moral cognition, the dispute is ultimately about which process is most central.
Reflexivity has a considerable history as an idea in the social sciences, with many specific meanings and applications, although it generally has involved a mutual interaction between at least two separate agents or groups. Complexity also has many meanings, although often these involve some higher level emergence, the idea of wholes being greater than the sum of their parts. It has been argued by some in economics especially that there may be a relationship between these two as the dynamic interactions in reflexive systems may be more likely to bring about forms of complex emergence. The ideas of John B. Davis on this will be especially considered, but those of others will be examined as well, including some of those more critical of the usefulness of these concepts. A new idea put forth in this paper is that some forms of reflexivity may be more conducive to bringing about patterns of complex emergence than others. This may involve more subtle interactions of indirect self-referencing through reflexive system such as those that underlay proofs of incompleteness. An artistic analogy can be seen in the work of M.C. Escher, with many writing about reflexivity citing his “Drawing Hands” as an example, which depicts two hands drawing each other. But this may show the sort of reflexivity that is not so associated with complexity. Rather another may do so better, Escher’s “Picture Gallery” that shows a man standing in a picture gallery and looking at a picture of a city that contains a picture gallery that turns out to be the one in which he is standing.
Some things, such as human life, love, the arts and humor, are very valuable. An interesting question to ask is why they are so valuable? A potential answer is that they have their value because we value (desire, prefer, etc.) …
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I now know firsthand what it’s like to be arrested by armed police officers, handcuffed, and sharply interrogated, while one’s wife and children look on helplessly. …