Experimental studies are not representative of how badly people function. We study people under relatively innocuous conditions, where their self-interests are very low. In the real world, where people's self-interests are much higher, people are much worse a good deal of the time (some illustrations are cited). This is often “adaptive” for the perpetrators, but that doesn't make it “good” behavior. That people function so badly in our experiments, where self-interest is relatively minimal, is what is really terrifying.
Philosophers often distinguish in some way between two senses of life's meaning. Paul Edwards terms these a ‘cosmic’ and ‘terrestrial’ sense. The cosmic sense is that of an overall purpose of which our lives are a part and in terms of which our lives must be understood and our purposes and interests arranged. This overall purpose is often identified with God's divine scheme, but the two need not necessarily be equated. The terrestrial sense of meaning is the meaning people find (...) in their own lives apart from the place of their lives in any ultimate end or context. (shrink)
In The Existence of God Richard Swinburne argues that ‘if there is a God, any experience which seems to be of God, will be genuine – will be of God.’ On the face of it this claim of the essential veridicality of any religious experience, given the existence of God, is incredible. Consider what is being claimed by looking at a particularly dramatic example – but one that is well within the purview of Swinburne's claim. The ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ who murdered (...) at least thirteen women, claimed to hear voices telling him to kill. He took these voices to be divine. While it is easy enough to suspect the killer's sanity, it is not so easy to doubt his sincerity. Yet since Swinburne claims that God probably exists, he is committed to the view that the Ripper had a series of genuine religious experiences – so much for the arduous preparations sometime taken as necessary for a ‘vision’ of God. (shrink)
Through various applications of the ‘deep structure’ of moral and religious reasoning, I have sought to illustrate the value of a morally informed approach in helping us to understand the complexity of religious thought and practice…religions are primarily moved by rational moral concerns and…ethical theory provides the single most powerful methodology for understanding religious belief. Ronald Green, Religion and Moral Reason.
I shall argue that the question ‘Can we speak literally of God?’ is fundamentally an epistemological question concerning whether we can know that God exists. If and only if we can know that God can exist can we know that we can speak literally of God.
Justice Stephen J. Field was the champion of a form of liberalism often said to be especially friendly to capitalism, the approach to the Constitution traditionally identified with “Lochnerism,” i.e., a laissez-faire oriented judicial activism. More recently a form of judicial revisionism has arisen, challenging the accepted descriptions of “Lochnerism” and of Field's jurisprudence. This article is an attempt to extend the revisionist approach by arriving at a more satisfactory understanding of the grounding of Field's jurisprudence in the natural rights (...) philosophy. Field, it turns out, orienting around natural rights, was not so unambiguously friendly to capitalism as previous generations of scholars maintained, but his approach is surely friendlier than the constitutional theories that have replaced natural rights since Field's day. (shrink)
Let us follow Robert Oakes in describing a self-authenticating experience of God as one that ‘would have the epistemic uniqueness of guaranteeing –all by itself – its veridicality to the person who had it.’ The idea that there could be self-authenticating experiences of God has been criticized often in recent years. It seems that the only experiences that could be self-authenticating are those about one's own current psychological states. Nevertheless, the individual who claims to have such an experience of God (...) is clearly using ‘experience’ in such a way as to suppose that one's experience of God is logically independent of the existence of God, but still self-authenticating. (shrink)
Two theses are central to foundationalism. First, the foundationalist claims that there is a class of propositions, a class of empirical contingent beliefs, that are ‘immediately justified’. Alternatively, one can describe these beliefs as ‘self–evident’, ‘non–inferentially justified’, or ‘self–warranted’, though these are not always regarded as entailing one another. The justification or epistemic warrant for these beliefs is not derived from other justified beliefs through inductive evidential support or deductive methods of inference. These ‘basic beliefs’ constitute the foundations of empirical (...) knowledge. One can give a reason for the justification of a basic belief even though the justification for that belief is not based on other beliefs. Thus, according to Chisholm, if asked what one's justification was for thinking that one knew, presently, that one is thinking about a city one takes to be Albuquerque, one could simply say ‘what justifies me…is simply the fact that I am thinking about a city I take to be Albuquerque’. (shrink)
Why does the paradox play such a crucial role in Kierkegaard's notion of truth as subjectivity? Richard Schacht explains it as follows: Eternal happiness is possible for a man only if it is possible for him to relate himself to God. A man, however, is a being who exists in time; and it would not be possible for such a being to enter into a ‘God-relationship’ if God had not also at some point existed in time. Through the ‘leap of (...) faith’ in which one affirms the proposition that God did exist in time, one is able to enter a ‘God-relationship’ and thereby attains ‘an eternal happiness’. (shrink)
What is truth? Michael Lynch defends a bold new answer to this question. Traditional theories of truth hold that truth has only a single uniform nature. All truths are true in the same way. More recent deflationary theories claim that truth has no nature at all; the concept of truth is of no real philosophical importance. In this concise and clearly written book, Lynch argues that we should reject both these extremes and hold that truth is a functional property. (...) To understand truth we must understand what it does, its function in our cognitive economy. Once we understand that, we'll see that this function can be performed in more than one way. And that in turn opens the door to an appealing pluralism: beliefs about the concrete physical world needn't be true in the same way as our thoughts about matters -- like morality -- where the human stain is deepest. (shrink)
The “received” concept of wilderness as a place apart from and untouched by humans is five-times flawed: it is not universalizable, it is ethnocentric, it is ecologically naive, it separates humans from nature, and its referent is nonexistent. The received view of wilderness leads to dilemmas and unpalatable consequences, including the loss of designated wilderness areas by political and legislative authorities. What is needed is a more flexible notion of wilderness. Suggestions are made for a revised concept of wilderness.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, many philosophers in Europe and America turned towards social pragmatist and holistic accounts of concepts and theories. In this paper, I make the case that many forms of relativism—moral and otherwise—that emerge from this turn are misguided. While we must always operate from some framework of practices in which things may serve as reasons for us, most forms of relativism in recent decades have more boldly granted us immunity from external rational scrutiny. (...) I argue that this strong form of relativism is possible only with sharp divisions between communities of speakers that I call “strict boundaries” and that these are implausible. We are left with the possibility of social pragmatist theories that do not entail strong relativism. (shrink)
In this engaging and spirited text, Michael Lynch argues that truth does matter, in both our personal and political lives. He explains that the growing cynicism over truth stems in large part from our confusion over what truth is.
Know-it-All Society is about how we form and maintain our political convictions, and the ways in which political ideologies, human psychology and technology conspire to make our society more dogmatic, less intellectually humble and ultimately less democratic.
Janna Thompson dismisses environmental ethics primarily because it does not meet her criteria for ethics: consistency, non-vacuity, and decidability. In place of a more expansive environmental ethic, she proposes to limit moral considerability to beings with a “point of view.” I contend, first, that a point-of-view centered ethic is unacceptable not only because it fails to meet the tests of her own and other criteria,but also because it is precisely the type of ethic that has contributed to our current environmental (...) dilemmas. Second, I argue that the holistic, ecocentric land ethic of Aldo Leopold, as developed by J. Baird Callicott, an environmental ethic that Thompson never considers, nicely meets Thompson’s criteria for acceptable ethics, and may indeed be the cure for our environmental woes. (shrink)
Leo Strauss and his alleged political influence regarding the Iraq War have in recent years been the subject of significant media attention, including stories in the _Wall Street Journal _and _New York Times._ _Time_ magazine even called him “one of the most influential men in American politics.” With _The Truth about Leo Strauss_, Michael and Catherine Zuckert challenged the many claims and speculations about this notoriously complex thinker. Now, with _Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy_, they turn (...) their attention to a searching and more comprehensive interpretation of Strauss’s thought as a whole, using the many manifestations of the “problem of political philosophy” as their touchstone. For Strauss, political philosophy presented a “problem” to which there have been a variety of solutions proposed over the course of Western history. Strauss’s work, they show, revolved around recovering—and restoring—political philosophy to its original Socratic form. Since positivism and historicism represented two intellectual currents that undermined the possibility of a Socratic political philosophy, the first part of the book is devoted to Strauss’s critique of these two positions. Then, the authors explore Strauss’s interpretation of the history of philosophy and both ancient and modern canonical political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke. Strauss’s often-unconventional readings of these philosophers, they argue, pointed to solutions to the problem of political philosophy. Finally, the authors examine Strauss’s thought in the context of the twentieth century, when his chief interlocutors were Schmitt, Husserl, Heidegger, and Nietzsche. The most penetrating and capacious treatment of the political philosophy of this complex and often misunderstood thinker, from his early years to his last works, _Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy_ reveals Strauss’s writings as an attempt to show that the distinctive characteristics of ancient and modern thought derive from different modes of solving the problem of political philosophy and reveal why he considered the ancient solution both philosophically and politically superior. (shrink)
Chapter 1 makes a persuasive case for the “worthiness of worth thinking” within moral thought. Perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates that any systematic attempt to consider the meaning of a good and worthwhile life must seriously address the concept of worth: “we need ideals of worthiness to address the more threateningly and excitingly open questions about how to live”.
In what follows I will use the phrase "category term" to mean any term which indicates a species or genus of physical object, as for example "dog" and "animal." I will use the word "category" for a range of types going from ultimate genus to ultimate species, a type being a genus or species.
Those who in the past tended to say that being is a genus, coupled their assertion with the belief that the genus is univocal, thus making being univocal—a position which can easily be overturned. Others failed to distinguish between being as meaning essence, and so divisible into the ten categories, and being as meaning existence. The consequence was that they restricted the Divine Being to a genus of being, thereby denying God’s transcendence. As far as I know, the theory which (...) combines the two doctrines that the genus is analogical and that the being which is held to be a genus is only essence, has never been propounded. It merits investigation. (shrink)
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 1999 Academic debates about pluralism and truth have become increasingly polarized in recent years. One side embraces extreme relativism, deeming any talk of objective truth as philosophically naïve. The opposition, frequently arguing that any sort of relativism leads to nihilism, insists on an objective notion of truth according to which there is only one true story of the world. Both sides agree that there is no middle path. In Truth in Context, Michael Lynch (...) argues that there is a middle path, one where metaphysical pluralism is consistent with a robust realism about truth. Drawing on the work of Hilary Putnam, W.V.O. Quine, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others, Lynch develops an original version of metaphysical pluralism, which he calls relativistic Kantianism. He argues that one can take facts and propositions as relative without implying that our ordinary concept of truth is a relative, epistemic, or "soft" concept. The truths may be relative, but our concept of truth need not be. (shrink)
Evidence-based medicine has always required integration of patient values with ‘best’ clinical evidence. It is widely recognized that scientific practices and discoveries, including those of EBM, are value-laden. But to date, the science of EBM has focused primarily on methods for reducing bias in the evidence, while the role of values in the different aspects of the EBM process has been almost completely ignored.
Pluralism about truth is the view that there is more than one way for a proposition to be true. When taken to imply that there is more than one concept and property of truth, this position faces a number of troubling objections. I argue that we can overcome these objections, and yet retain pluralism's key insight, by taking truth to be a multiply realizable property of propositions.
Beginning in earnest in the late 1990s, educational researchers devoted increasing attention to the study of “active learning,” leading to a robust literature on the topic in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Meanwhile, during largely the same period, political theorists discovered the radical philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, which soon after began to ripple through more radical forms of philosophy of education. While both the SoTL works on active learning and writings of “Agambenian” philosophers of education have offered new insights (...) into their respective fields, active learning has not yet received a systematic philosophical reflection and the community of Agambenian philosophy of education has not yet been systematized. This article addresses both gaps, first through an outline of existing Agambenian approaches to the philosophy of education and second by theorizing active learning as a form of “destituent potential.” The systematic reflection on the three threads of Agambenian philosoph... (shrink)
The Western world is currently gripped by an obsessive concern for the rights of animals - their uses and abuses. In this book, Leahy argues that this is a movement based upon a series of fundamental misconceptions about the basic nature of animals. This is a radical philosophical questioning of prevailing views on animal rights, which credit animals with a self-consciousness like ours. Leahy's conclusions have implications for issues such as bloodsports, meat eating and fur trading.