Moral and social philosophers often assume that humans beings are and ought to be autonomous. This tradition of individualism, or atomism, underlies many of our assumptions about ethics and law; it provides a legitimating framework for liberal democracy and free market capitalism. In this powerful book, David Weissman argues against atomistic ontologies, affirming instead that all of reality is social. Every particular is a system created by the reciprocal causal relations of its parts, he explains. Weissman formulates an original metaphysics (...) of nature that remains true to what is known through the empirical sciences, and he applies his hypothesis to a range of topics in psychology, morals, sociology, and politics. The author contends that systems are sometimes mutually independent, but many systems—human ones especially—are joined in higher order systems, such as families, friendships, businesses, and states, that are overlapping or nested. Weissman tests this schematic claim with empirical examples in chapters on persons, sociality, and value. He also considers how the scheme applies to particular issues related to deliberation, free speech, conflict, and ecology. (shrink)
In_ Dispositional Properties_, David Weissman attacks a problem central to the philosophy of mind and, by implication, to the theory of being: Are there potentialities, capabilities, which dispose the mind to think in one way rather than another? The volume is arranged in the form of four arguments that converge upon a single point. First, there is an intricate discussion of the shortcomings of Hume's account of mind as ideas and impressions. Next comes a brief treatment of the arguments of (...) some of Weissman's contemporaries, including Carnap and Braithwaite. Third, Weissman discusses Wittgenstein's theories of learning and knowledge. Finally, there is a full discussion of Aristotle and his doctrine of potentialities. The question this book ultimately raises is how to steer between a doctrine of mind as no more than a series of acts, on the one hand, and a doctrine of mind as a kind of unitary object, on the other. The solution is to show first of all that there must be a potentiality in the universe, and then to show clearly and in detail that the mind is shot through with that potentiality. __. (shrink)
This book is an explication and defense of the author's modal realism. There are possible worlds and individuals, he says, different from the possibles realized in this world of ours. The reality of the many possibilities is a hypothesis needed for explaining the representational character of our language, as when we say that there might be talking donkeys, though there are none. It is the reality of these possibles, as worlds and individuals, that Lewis defends.
Cities are conspicuous among settlements because of their bulk and pace: Venice, Paris, or New York. Each is distinctive, but all share a social structure that mixes systems, their members, and a public regulator. Cities alter this structure in ways specific to themselves: orchestras play music too elaborate for a quartet; city densities promote collaborations unachievable in simpler towns. Cities, Real and Ideal avers with von Bertalanffy, Parsons, Simmel, and Wirth that a theory of social structure is empirically testable and (...) confirmed. It proposes a version of social justice appropriate to this structure, thereby updating Marx s claim that justice is realizable without the intervention of factors additional to society s material conditions.". (shrink)
I suggest that we may settle the question of their relatedness by way of two arguments. The first argument holds that two worlds might be identical in structure but different in their dispositions and subsequent behaviors. This argument loosens the relation of dispositional to structural properties; but, though plausible in itself, the argument has disastrous implications for the uniformity of processes within each world. The second argument supports our intuitive belief that the dependency of a thing’s dispositions upon its structure (...) must be complete, e.g., as the knife’s powers for cutting devolve only upon the fine edge of its rigid blade. This second argument is also a defence against the chaotic implications of the previous one. But it has these two effects only because of affirming that structural properties are, more accurately, geometrical-structural properties. Together, these arguments justify the conclusion that no theory of dispositions is comprehensive, unless it provides for these two factors: Geometrical-structural properties are necessary and sufficient to determine what a thing’s dispositions shall be; but these structural properties are distinguishable from dispositions as properties constitutive of a thing are different from its qualifications for relatedness, and especially causal relatedness, to other things. (shrink)
There is agency in all we do: thinking, doing, or making. We invent a tune, play, or use it to celebrate an occasion. Or we make a conceptual leap and ask more abstract questions about the conditions for agency. They include autonomy and self-appraisal, each contested by arguments immersing us in circumstances we don’t control. But can it be true we that have no personal responsibility for all we think and do? Agency: Moral Identity and Free Will proposes that deliberation, (...) choice, and free will emerged within the evolutionary history of animals with a physical advantage: organisms having cell walls or exoskeletons had an internal space within which to protect themselves from external threats or encounters. This defense was both structural and active: such organisms could ignore intrusions or inhibit risky behavior. Their capacities evolved with time: inhibition became the power to deliberate and choose the manner of one’s responses. Hence the ability of humans and some other animals to determine their reactions to problematic situations or to information that alters values and choices. This is free will as a material power, not as the conclusion to a conceptual argument. Having it makes us morally responsible for much we do. It prefigures moral identity. Closely argued but plainly written, Agency: Moral Identity and Free Will speaks for autonomy and responsibility when both are eclipsed by ideas that embed us in history or tradition. Our sense of moral choice and freedom is accurate. We are not altogether the creatures of our circumstances. (shrink)
_Eternal Possibilities: A Neutral Ground for Meaning and Existence_ builds on David Weissman's earlier_ Dispositional Properties_ and makes a signal contribution to the study of metaphysics. Here, broadening and enriching the point of view adopted in his earlier work, Weissman cites and criticizes a large number of theories proposed by authors from Plato to Wittgenstein and others exploring language theory and metaphysics. __ Students of Wittgenstein will be especially interested in Mr. Weissman's critical examination of Wittgenstein's claim in the_ Tractatus_ (...) that possibilities are the facts for logic. Weissman proposes a modal theory of properties: they exist in the first instance as possibilities. He argues that a sentence is meaningful if it signifies a property or complex of properties existing as a possible, and true if that possible is instantiated. The status of possibilities and their relation to actual states of affairs are considered in detail. (shrink)
Philosophic attention shifted after Hegel from Kant's emphasis on sensibility to criticism and analyses of the fine arts. The arts themselves seemed as ample as nature; a disciplined science could devote as much energy to one as the other. But then the arts began to splinter because of new technologies: photography displaced figurative painting; hearing recorded music reduced the interest in learning to play it. The firm interiority that Hegel assumed was undermined by the speed, mechanization, and distractions of modern (...) life. We inherit two problems: restore quality and conviction in the arts; cultivate the interiority--the sensibility--that is a condition for judgment in every domain. What is sensibility's role in experiences of every sort, but especially those provoked when art is made and enjoyed? (shrink)
Meaning and nature are this book’s principal topics. They seem an odd couple, like raisins and numbers, though they elide when meanings of a global sort—ideologies and religions, for example—promote ontologies that subordinate nature. Setting one against the other makes reality contentious. It signifies workmates and a coal face to miners, gluons to physicists, prayer and redemption to priests. Are there many realities, or many perspectives on one? The answer I prefer is the comprehensive naturalism anticipated by Aristotle and Spinoza: (...) "natura naturans, natura naturata." Nature naturing is an array of mutually conditioning material processes in spacetime. Each structure or event—storm clouds forming, nature natured—is self-differentiating, self-stabilizing, and sometimes self-disassembling; each alters or transforms a pre-existing state of affairs. This surmise anticipated discoveries and analyses to which neither thinker had access, though physics and biology confirm their hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt. Hence the question this book considers: Is reality divided:nature vrs. lived experience? Or is experience, with all its meanings and values, the complex expression of natural processes? (shrink)
Is something true because we believe it to be so or because it is true? How can a culturally bound community achieve scientific knowledge when values, attitudes, and desires shape its beliefs? In this book an eminent philosopher considers various schools of thought on the nature of truth. David Weissman argues that truth exists in the correspondence between statement and fact: what can be said about our world can be measured against a reality that has a character and existence independent (...) of any property we ascribe to it. Weissman begins by evaluating the transcendental paradigm of Kant that has exercised enormous influence in the development of Western thought over the past two hundred years. He develops his critique of the Kantian model, in which value judgments underlie the perception or construction of truth, asserting that it is seriously flawed because it renders a determination of truth impossible. Weissman examines various value-driven perspectives on truth developed by such philosophers as Foucault, Derrida, and Rorty, for whom truth is only the set of affirmations, principles, and procedures sanctioned by power and value. However, says Weissman, truth is the required adjunct to desire. Knowing who we are, where we have been, and the consequences of what we have done is the essential preparation for choosing what to do next. We must respect the integrity of a world we have not made and find our way within it with the help of attitudes and desires that have been informed by truth. (shrink)
Zone Morality describes systems families and businesses created by the causal reciprocities of their members. These relations embody the duties and permissions of a system s moral code. We move easily among core systems, though interests and moral demands may vary. Procedural democracy promises equity to people or systems having diverse interests when society fails to create a public that governs for the common interest.".
"Wherever possible," said Bertrand Russell, "substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities." Metaphysics in this style is the activity of formulating and applying a calculus. We are to supply a list of primitive ideas, with a specification of the rules for combining them, and a sample of complexes created by combining these simples. Every obscure idea is to be reformulated as the complex deriving from these simples. The values impelling us include economy, clarity, decidability, and fruitfulness.
In the Tractatus Wittgenstein espouses a theory of mind and knowledge that is like Plato’s: he exhibits the theory as he argues that propositional signs picture states of affairs. That is the conclusion for which I shall argue in this paper.
The assessment and management of pain is a significant public health problem in the United States. Long-term care facilities face unique barriers and challenges to pain management due to the large population of cognitively impaired residents, little physician contact and poor pain education for nurses and nurse assistants. In addition, common misconceptions about pain and pain treatment in the elderly along with health professional and resident fears of addiction and drug toxicity, add to the problem of pain management. The basic (...) principles of pain treatment in long-term care are identical to all other health care settings – utilizing a combination of drug and non-drug treatments. Recent efforts to institutionalize improved pain management practices, through assessment procedures and defined pain management policies, standards and education programming, is a promising venue for systemically improving pain treatment in long-term care settings. (shrink)
ONE ASSUMPTION ABOUT METAPHYSICS is often shared by those who renounce it. Metaphysical theories are not true, they say, because of being neither true nor false. Opponents of one sort excoriate the theories as meaningless. Others say that truth and falsity are irrelevant to metaphysics, as they are to literature. Like novelists and playwrights, we metaphysicians are said to formulate the stories used for thinking about possible worlds, such as the imaginary ones of fiction and this actual world. Metaphysics, this (...) implies, differs from literature only because its stories have a wider scope. Where novelists devote themselves to incidents and personalities, we metaphysicians tell stories that emphasize the categorial features of a world. Either way, these activities are motivated by a single objective: we formulate interpretations in order to use them for creating thinkable worlds. All of the intelligibility credited to any possible world--all its differentiations and relations--originate within these interpretations. But no one should suppose that interpretations are true or false; for these conceptualizations are not the representations of preexisting states of affairs. They are, instead, the very condition for the existence of possible worlds. Why? Because these worlds exist only as they are prefigured within, and created by, the interpretations used for thinking them. (shrink)
Some of us might think that a logician turned metaphysical has lost his way. Everyone else can enjoy the persistence and rigor of this daring book. The Faces of Existence demands that we find a place, within a physicalist ontology and a realist theory of knowledge, for many of the topics which normally baffle those theories. There are chapters or sections about subjectivity, value, God, and metaphor, all within a context where there is said to be no difference within these (...) domains without a conditioning physical difference. This is a non-reductionist physicalism: each of these faces is said to be an autonomous domain of meaning and truth. (shrink)
Abstract: The quality of peer-reviewed journals is vulnerable to the absence of declared standards for book reviews. Reviewers should agree to several simple rules before undertaking to review books and while writing them. Sensitivity to an author's aims is one requirement; familiarity with an author's previous and relevant publications is another. Critical judgment is always appropriate, but it can be set apart from an account of the ideas reviewed.
Traditional moral theory usually has either of two emphases: virtuous moral character or principles for distributing duties or goods. “Zone morality” introduces a third: families and businesses are systems created by the causal reciprocities of their members. These relations embody the duties and permissions of a system's moral code. Core systems satisfy basic interests and needs; we move easily among them, hardly noticing that moral demands vary from system to system. Moral conflicts arise because of discord within or among systems (...) but also because morality has three competing sites: personal attitudes and practices (benevolence or hostility), the moral codes of systems, and regulative principles that enhance social cohesion. A strong church or central government reduces conflict by imposing its rules. A democracy responds by encouraging persons and systems to participate in forums where claims are made; it promises fairness by requiring that all satisfy its legal procedures. (shrink)
Recognition of the harms done by free speech is a function of the social ontology presupposed. An atomist ontology implies that the harms suffered are restricted to individual people. This paper suggests an alternate ontology—one that describes systems established by the causal reciprocities of their proper parts. It proposes a consequentialist moral theory, and considers the harms suffered by these systems when speech exposes their internal, otherwise private, behaviors or features, when speech is malicious and false, and when speech is (...) monopolistic. Does the proposed ontology have objectionable implications for public policy? Alternative answers are considered briefly. (shrink)