This stimulating work takes the concept of 'rationality', a concept that more than any other is supposed to express the essence of what it means to be human, and submits it to a careful and penetrating analysis. The conclusions drawn often challenge those previously suggested by both philosophers and psychologists.
The purpose of this note is to tidy up some matters concerning ascriptions of intention and the employment of the doctrine of double effect (henceforth DDE). I first argue that JonathanBennett’s efforts to show that DDE is a foolish doctrine are unsatisfactory. I then consider a puzzle of Mark Johnston’s that seems to pose a problem for the defender of DDE. I turn to possible solutions to the puzzle, criticize one, and then offer the one I find (...) most appealing. I then show how my proposal for employing DDE enables it to make some distinctions between courses of conduct without issuing foolish pronouncements about moral permissibility. (shrink)
'Mr Bennett, as was to be expected, has written a first-rate book on Kant's Analytic. It is vivid, entertaining, and extremely instructive. It will be found of absorbing interest both by those who already know the Critique and by those - if there are any such - who have a developed interest in philosophy, yet no direct acquaintance with Kant. These last it will surely drive to the text and, as surely, will drive them to approach it in a (...) truly philosophical spirit. Bennett's Kant is not a giant immersed, or frozen, in time. He is a great contemporary - a little out of touch, admittedly, with recent developments in mathematics and physics - but one with whom we can all argue, against him, at his side, or obliquely to him. And so Bennett does argue, continuously, fiercely, and fruitfully; and summons to join in the argument, at appropriate moments, those older contemporaries, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume, and those younger contemporaries, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Ayler, Quine, Quinton, Warnock, and others. This is splendid, and a necessary corrective to that extraordinary isolation in which Kant tends to be islanded, partly indeed, by his own unique qualities, but partly by oceans of the wrong kind of respect. Bennett, continuously engaging his great antagonist, shows the right kind.'. (shrink)
"With an astonishing erudition... and in a direct no-nonsense style, Bennett expounds, compares, and criticizes Spinoza’s theses.... No one can fail to profit from it. Bennett has succeeded in making Spinoza a philosopher of our time." --W. N. A. Klever, _Studia Spinoza_.
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. JonathanBennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this book, making it the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject.
This article examines the issues that are at stake in the current resurgence of interest in the subject of habit. We focus on the role that habit has played in conceptions of the relations between body and society, and the respects in which such conceptions have been implicated in processes of governance. We argue that habit has typically constituted a point of leverage for regulatory practices that seek to effect some realignment of the relations between different components of personhood – (...) will, character, memory and instinct, for example – in order to bring about a specific end. In reviewing its functioning in this regard across a range of modern disciplines – philosophy, psychology, sociology – we explore the tensions between its use and interpretation in different lineages: in particular, the Cartesian–Kantian/ravaisson–bergson–deleuze lineages. The article then identifies how these questions are addressed across the contributions collected in this special issue. (shrink)
In this study of events and their places in our language and thought, Bennett propounds and defends views about what kind of item an event is, how the language of events works, and about how these two themes are interrelated. He argues that most of the supposedly metaphysical literature is really about the semantics of their names, and that the true metaphysic of events--known by Leibniz and rediscovered by Kim--has not been universally accepted because it has been tarred with (...) the brush of a false semantic theory. (shrink)
Few stage plays have much to do with analytic philosophy: Tom Stoppard has written two of them— Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Jumpers . The contrast between these, especially in how they involve philosophy, could hardly be greater. Rosencrantz does not parade its philosophical content; but the philosophy is there all the same, and it is solid, serious and functional. In contrast with this, the philosophy which is flaunted throughout Jumpers is thin and uninteresting, and it serves the play (...) only in a decorative and marginal way. Its main effect has been to induce timidity in reviewers who could not see the relevance to the play of the large stretches of academic philosophy which it contains. Since the relevance doesn't exist, the timidity was misplaced, and so the kid gloves need not have been used. Without doubting that I would have enjoyed the work as performed on the London stage, aided by the talent of Michael Hordern and the charm of Diana Rigg, I don't doubt either that Jumpers is a poor effort which doesn't deserve its current success. I shan't argue for that, however. I want only to explain why Jumpers is not a significantly philosophical play, before turning to the more important and congenial task of showing that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is one. (shrink)
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. JonathanBennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. An ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, it also offers a rich source of illumination and stimulation for (...) graduate students and professional philosophers. (shrink)
The only way to settle conclusively what any part of a language means is to discover the circumstances, both linguistic and non-linguistic, in which the speakers of the language are prepared to use it. This is not a new doctrine, but Wittgenstein gave it new life by dramatising the following question: If someone used an expression in a radically non-standard way, could anything he said about his state of mind convince us that he nevertheless meant it in a standard way? (...) To answer ‘No’ to this, and to generalize that answer, is to say that the last-resort criteria for what something means lie in the way in which it is used - a fairly plain statement which I shall call ‘the behavioural theory (of meaning)’ and with which I shall here have no quarrel at all. What I wish to do in the following pages is to consider the relationship between the behavioural theory and some aspects of the concept of proof. It is beyond dispute that one can be led, by one’s acceptance of certain premisses, to accept a certain conclusion. There is, though, a problem about the nature of this ‘leading’. On the one hand, it is usual to think of it as sometimes having the nature of a forcing: ‘If you say that, you are committed to admitting this also; you cannot accept the one and reject the other.’ On the other hand, the behavioural theory of meaning makes it difficult to see how there can possibly be such a relationship between the premisses and the conclusion of any proof. There are many ways of bringing out the apparent clash between the behavioural theory and the notion of logical forcing or committal. Perhaps the clearest of them arises from asking how there can be room for a concept of committal in a purely behavioural study. In this spirit, we might grant that our knowledge of some of the ways in which the parts of a language are used may lead us to expect to find certain sorts of further use and not others; and we could compare such expectations with those of an anthropologist who finds that a certain society has a matriarchal system of authority and then proceeds to investigate its inheritance laws.. (shrink)
In this major new book, the internationally renowned thinker JonathanBennett offers a deeper understanding of what is going on in our own moral thoughts about human behavior. The Act Itself presents a conceptual analysis of descriptions of behavior on which we base our moral judgements, and shows that this analysis can be used as a means toward getting more control of our thoughts and thus of our lives.
ABSTRACT In Making Things Up, Bennett defends the intriguing idea that causation should be included among the building relations. I critique Bennett’s arguments for inclusion, and claim that inclusion distorts her own treatments of causation, relative fundamentality, and absolute fundamentality. Instead, I argue for treating causation and grounding as separate species of generative, explanatory difference-making.
JonathanBennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can we learn from its success or its failure? These questions reflect Bennett's dedication to engaging with philosophy as (...) philosophy, not as museum exhibit, and they require a close and demanding attention to textual details; these being two features that characterize all Bennett's work on early modern philosophy. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an excellent introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. (shrink)
In this paper1 I shall present not just the conscience of Huckleberry Finn but two others as well. One of them is the conscience of Heinrich Himmler. He became a Nazi in 1923; he served drably and quietly, but well, and was rewarded with increasing responsibility and power. At the peak of his career he held many offices and commands, of which the most powerful was that of leader of the S.S. - the principal police force of the Nazi regime. (...) In this capacity, Himmler commanded the whole concentration-camp system, and was responsible for the execution of the so-called ‘final solution of the Jewish problem’. It is important for my purposes that this piece of social engineering should be thought of not abstractly but in concrete terms of Jewish families being marched to what they think are bath-houses, to the accompaniment of loud-speaker renditions of extracts from The Merry Widow and Tales of Hoffman, there to be choked to death by poisonous gases. Altogether, Himmler succeeded in murdering about four and a half million of them, as well as several million gentiles, mainly Poles and Russians. The other conscience to be discussed is that of the Calvinist theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards. He lived in the first half of the eighteenth century, and has a good claim to be considered America’s first serious and considerable philosophical thinker. He was for many years a widely-renowned preacher and Congregationalist minister in New England; in 1748 a dispute with his congregation led him to resign (he couldn’t accept their view that unbelievers should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper in the hope that it would convert them); for some years after that he worked as a missionary, preaching to Indians through an interpreter;, then in 1758 he accepted the presidency of what is now Princeton University, and within two months died from a smallpox inoculation. Along the way he wrote some first-rate philosophy: his book attacking the notion of free will is still sometimes read.. (shrink)
I shall present a problem about accountability, and its solution by Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Some readers of this don’t see it as a profound contribution to moral philosophy, and I want to help them. It may be helpful to follow up Strawson’s gracefully written discussion with a more staccato presentation. My treatment will also be angled somewhat differently from his, so that its lights and shadows will fall with a certain difference, which may make it serviceable even to the (...) converted. Also, I shall point to some disputable things in ‘Freedom and Resentment’, and offer repairs. So I wrote in the first published version of this paper. I wanted not only to be useful to others but also to elicit Strawson’s certificate of approval; and that hope was realized. In his ‘Reply’ Strawson wrote: ‘Bennett in the first eleven sections of his essay sets out and elaborates the essence of my position with such thorough and sympathetic understanding as to leave me little to say.’ I also tried, unsuccessfully, to analyse with more precision Strawson’s concept of reactive attitude, and to explore the extent of and reasons for the incompatibility between reactive attitudes and the objective attitude. I hoped that the display of my failures would induce Strawson to tackle the problems himself, with more success. No such luck! He wrote: ‘Bennett seeks . . . to produce a tighter and more unified organisation of the phenomena . . . than I achieved in “Freedom and Resentment”’, but he did not return to the fray. On the contrary: ‘It does not seem to me to matter if a strict definition [of ‘reactive’] is not to be had’; and he said nothing about reasons for the reactive/objective conflict. In the present version of the paper, I expound ‘Freedom and Resentment’ much as before. Since my attempts to tighten and deepen the theory failed to hook Strawson, and are not of much intrinsic interest, I now omit them. I shall, however, add an application of the doctrines of ‘Freedom and Resentment’ to the most basic philosophical question regarding punishment.. (shrink)
In this illuminating, highly engaging book, JonathanBennett acquaints us with the ideas of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this lucidly written work is an excellent introduction. For those already familiar with the time period, this book offers insight into the great philosophers, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, and teachers.
I show that given JonathanBennett's theory of 'even if,' the following statement is logically true iff the principle of conditional excluded is valid: (SE) If Q and if P wouldn't rule out Q, then Q even if P. Hence whatever intuitions support the validity of (SE) support the validity of Conditional Excluded Middle, too. Finally I show that Bennett's objection to John Bigelow's theory of the conditional can be turned into a (perhaps) more telling one, viz. (...) that on Bigelow's theory 'if P then Q' and 'if P and Q then R' do not jointly entail 'if P then R'. (shrink)
JonathanBennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descaretes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can be learned from its success or failure? For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is (...) an excellent introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. (shrink)
This paper will present a negative result—an account of my failure to explain why belief is involuntary. When I announced my question a year or so ahead of time, I had a vague idea of how it might be answered, but I cannot make it work out. Necessity, this time, has not given birth to invention. Still, my tussle with the question may contribute either towards getting it answered or showing that it cannot be answered because belief can be voluntary (...) after all. Most of the paper was written while I expected to get the question answered, and I have chosen not to hide that fact by revising the tone. I offer the paper as an essay in the ‘analytic’ manner in Descartes’s sense of that term. It is the manner of the Meditations—a presentation in the order of discovery or, in my case, of non-discovery. (shrink)
It is well known that Berkeley had two arguments for the existence of God. A while ago, in trying to discover what these arguments are and how they fit into Berkeley's scheme of things, I encountered certain problems which are hardly raised, let alone solved, in the standard commentaries. I think that I have now solved these problems, and in this paper I present my results.
JonathanBennett's analysis of the second half of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, in which Kant concerns himself with topics such as substance, the nature of the self, the cosmos, freedom and the existence of God, continues to be an engaging and accessible exploration of Kant's major work. Presented in a fresh twenty-first-century series livery, and including a specially commissioned preface written by Karl Ameriks, illuminating its enduring importance and relevance to philosophical enquiry, this influential work has been (...) revived for a new generation of readers. (shrink)
In this lecture I shall offer to make clear, deeply grounded, objective sense of a certain contrast: I call it the contrast between positive and negative instrumentality, and it shows up in ordinary speech in remarks about what happens because a person did do such and such, as against what happens because he did not. The line between positive and negative instrumentality lies fairly close to some others which are drawn by more ordinary bits of English. For instance, the difference (...) between positive and negative instrumentality in someone’s dying is cousin to the difference between killing a person and letting him die. The latter distinction has the advantage of being already encoded in plain. (shrink)
This article is a selective review of David Lewis's Counterfactuals, a challenging, provocative, absorbingly interesting attempt to analyze statements of the form “If it were the case that P, then it would be the case that Q.” I shall follow Lewis in calling these “counterfactuals,” and shall nearly follow him in abbreviating them to the form P→Q.Chapter 1, which is nearly a third of the whole, gives the analysis and proves that it endows counterfactuals with some properties which they evidently (...) do have. Chapter 2 presents some “alternative formulations” of the analysis—a logical jeu d'esprit which I shall not discuss except for the section about “cotenability.”. (shrink)
P. T. Geach, notoriously, holds the Relative Identity Thesis, according to which a meaningful judgment of identity is always, implicitly or explicitly, relative to some general term. ‘The same’ is a fragmentary expression, and has no significance unless we say or mean ‘the same X’, where ‘X’ represents a general term (what Frege calls a Begriffswort or Begriffsausdruck). (P. T. Geach, Mental Acts (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), p. 69. I maintain that it makes no sense to judge whether (...) things are ‘the same’, or remain ‘the same’, unless we add or understand some general term - ‘the same F’. (P. T. Geach, Reference and Generality, third Edition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 63f. I am arguing for the thesis that identity is relative. When one says ‘x is identical with y’, this, I hold, is an incomplete expression; it is short for ‘x is the same A as y’, where ‘A’ represents some count noun understood from the context of utterance - or else, it is just a vague expression of a half-formed thought. (P. T. Geach, ‘Identity,’ Review of Metaphysics 21 (1967-8), p. 3.) One of the ways Geach seeks to support this is by tying it to the well nigh universally admired Fregean thesis about cardinality. (shrink)
In the New Essays on Human Understanding, Leibniz argues chapter by chapter with John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, challenging his views about knowledge, personal identity, God, morality, mind and matter, nature versus nurture, logic and language, and a host of other topics. The work is a series of sharp, deep discussions by one great philosopher of the work of another. Leibniz's references to his contemporaries and his discussions of the ideas and institutions of the age make this a fascinating (...) and valuable document in the history of ideas. The work was originally written in French, and the version by Peter Remnant and JonathanBennett, based on the only reliable French edition, first appeared in 1981 and has become the standard English translation. It has been thoroughly revised for this series and provided with a new and longer introduction, a chronology on Leibniz's life and career and a guide to further reading. (shrink)