The thesis of this book is that moral evil is for Kant an ineradicable aspect of human existence; moreover the author argues that moral evil is a datum of experience which none of the rationalist systems which preceded Kant's, nor Hegel's system which came after, could assimilate, a rock upon which they all shattered. Reboul's concern is to investigate the "insondable profondeur du mal radical" as this theme appears in the forty years of Kant's active philosophic production; his interest reflects (...) the influence of his mentor, Karl Barth. Reboul is at his best in his clear depiction of Kant's ingenuity at reconciling the optimism of the Enlightenment with the Reformation's conviction of sin. For example, the very insufficiency of Leibniz' attempt to supply a ground for every decision of the will, his inability to explain the reality of willful evil, is used by Kant as an excuse for not going beyond Leibniz' theory. "Expliquer la liberté serait la détruire," writes Reboul. Kant assimilates the idea of progress by assigning it to the level of phenomenal or technical improvements. Moral value resides only in those acts by which we loosen the ties of sensible determination upon the will and render ourselves autonomous. The struggle for autonomy must be fought by each man for himself; there is a decisive limit to the help we can derive from "progress." For Kant man is bent towards evil not only by reason of his spontaneous attraction to sensible objects, but also in virtue of a basic perversion of his faculty of judgment, a perversion which comes close to being identified with liberty itself. It is significant, as Reboul notes, that all of Kant's examples of free will are also examples of moral evil. This low estimate of man's spontaneous faculties is at the basis of Kant's suspicion of all eudaimonistic ethics, his demand that every moral decision be "disinterested," that the moral law be the sole determinant of the will. Just as in the first Critique Kant insists on finding an adequate cause to ground the universality which attaches to the laws of science and mathematics, so in ethics he demands an adequate explanation of the radical character of evil present in the world; this he finds in a perversion of the human faculty of judgment, whereby a contingent element of experience is illegitimately raised to the status of a universal maxim by the will. The moral decision must be disinterested because every attraction by a sensible object threatens to become the occasion for such a definitive fixation of our moral character. But Kant's deeper originality lies in a view which bridges the Enlightenment and later periods. Kant breaks with a convention of systematic philosophical activity which had held sway from the Greeks through Leibniz, the view that reality must be consistent. For Kant, the principle of non-contradiction does not apply to the phenomenal world but only to the noumenal. For Kant, human existence can harbor contradictions; consequently man lives perpetually in tension. As a citizen of two worlds, he is committed to achieving a moral ideal which the basic perversion of his will renders unrealizable. This tension can be viewed optimistically, as with Hegel ; then the "positivity" of evil is interpreted as a necessary step, a " felix culpa," by which God rouses man to greater efforts and brings him to maturity, autonomy, and a vision of the real. The other alternative is the Schopenhauerian interpretation, wherein the tensions in the absurdity of the human condition are taken as too extreme to warrant further participation. Reboul is excellent in showing the form these tensions take in Kant's system: the mystery of how a basically perverted will can be converted into a "good faith," although this is the ethical command; the command never to feel oneself "justified" through having done one's duty, even though the moral command obligates us to strive perpetually for this condition. However, in stressing the harsh import of sin for Kant, and thus saving Kant from Hegel, has Reboul not placed Kant in the company of Schopenhauer, Sartre, and Camus?--P. M. (shrink)
The two pieces translated here, "Philosophy as a Rigorous Science" and "Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man" represent one of the earliest and one of the latest presentations by Husserl of the discipline of phenomenology. The first essay sets up his phenomenological method over against naturalism, psychologism, historicism, and Weltanschauung philosophy as the only way to secure a rigorous scientific basis for philosophy. The second essay was a lecture which introduced the major ideas of his last work, Die Krisis (...) der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. In it he identifies the telos of European civilization as the infinity contained in the ideas of reason. Modern European man's current spiritual crisis stems from his having naturalized the spirit making it a function of or an extension from the physical world. Only by returning to a spirit-centered science with the infinite task of exploring the ideal world of spirit of which nature is but a part can European man harmonize himself with his telos and resolve his spiritual crisis. Lauer's introduction to the whole of Husserl's philosophy is helpful.—P. M. (shrink)
Authentic existentialism turns out to be Thomism interpreted in the tradition of Maritain. The primacy of existence over essence is affirmed, but in such a way as to preserve essences and intelligibility. Philosophical positions outside the Thomist family are brought in only where they support the author's argument, never as serious alternative analyses of existence. Plato is distilled down to the idea that there are some relatively permanent aspects of reality after all, and Sartre appears simply as a modern Heraclitean (...) who sees that change permeates reality. The presentation and elaboration of the basic Thomist categories is clear; and the frequent summarization of the argument is helpful, making the book a good introduction to Thomist thinking if not to metaphysics or existentialism more broadly conceived.—P. M. (shrink)
Professor Lanczos combines an introduction to the special and general theories of relativity, geared to the layman's understanding, with an eulogy of Einstein and an appeal for a return to the speculative rather than the positivistic approach to physics. This layman found the theoretical explanations simple and clear, which, no doubt, makes them inappropriate for the advanced student.—P. M.
Although ostensibly defending speculative philosophy, Reck is doubtful that any unprejudiced speculative philosophy can exist: "No matter how much a philosopher may strive for neutrality, his test for the true philosophy is always predicated on the assumptions that his conception of being presents being as it is and that the conceptions of being his rivals uphold are partial or false." In the pursuit of neutrality, Reck attempts a mere chronicle of the distinctive conceptions of being which he feels have animated (...) the various metaphysical traditions: "Realism holds that whatever is in any sense is real; idealism that mind and its content alone are real; materialism that matter and its patterns alone are real; and process philosophy that process and the factors in process are real." The historical development of each of the four types is presented in masterly fashion. This book truly stands head and shoulders over its nearest rival in the Metaphilosophical literature for the depth of historical comprehension, the brilliant but controlled use made of a wealth of scholarship. A graduate student reviewing for comprehensive exams could do worse than to use Reck’s book. Those systems motivated at least in part by the drive-to-synthesis are disqualified a priori of being viable alternatives, motivated by distinctive intuitions. Realism, further, is found to have an inherent difficulty: "The task for the realist is to explain how the different levels or kinds of being can be related in a hierarchically ordered cosmos. The task is nothing short of explicating the bond of being." When Leibniz tries to relate finite particulars through a "Supreme Monad," he is faulted for "veering dangerously" close to Monism. Sympathetic toward Realism, Reck suggests a modification of Leibniz’s theory: not a rendering of the relations between man and God less mechanical, but a reduction of the "first Monad" from being supreme to a finite particular, struggling, like us, to overcome the hindrances posed by his environment. Reck concedes that the cognitive use of speculative philosophy, even when it redefines its project as Metaphilosophy, may be "futile"; however, he underscores the aesthetic value of the various systems, as Santayana would, when we can "bracket" the question of existence or truth and simply contemplate these cultural masterpieces as pure "essences." "Happy are those students who can suspend their critical search for truth sufficiently to savor the aesthetic values the systems of philosophy contain!" Reck refrains from judging between rival theories because such a judgment is always delivered from a view of what one takes to exist; and the impulse to go beyond "essence" to "existence" is, as Santayana teaches, prompted by fear, pain, instinct, or necessity. Rather than being a disinterested wonder at what "is," this passion is an "irrational agency of animal faith." "Needless to add," writes Reck, "animal faith is no more trustworthy than God’s existence to guarantee the truth of knowledge." This view can raise problems for Reck’s "finite" god. The finite god he prefers is perhaps "strong" enough to provide enough interconnection between existing particulars to justify a "Metaphilosophical" science, if not a properly "Philosophical" one, in the traditional sense; Reck could point to his own successful Metaphilosophy as evidence that his "god" is at least this strong. But isn't even this finite god an existential belief which, as the basis for a criticism, compromises one’s neutrality and thus constitutes a flaw in one’s Metaphilosophical theory? Is it possible that a totally adequate Metaphilosophical theory, on Reck’s canons, could not save enough interconnection between particulars to justify even a Metaphilosophy, as well as a Philosophy?—P. M. (shrink)
Contrary to the implications of its title, this volume does little to trace actual historical influences. It rather is concerned to compare classical Greek thought from the Milesians through Plato with teachings of Zoroaster. The author urges that divine revelation recurs cyclically through such prophets as Zoroaster, giving to mankind directly the ultimate premisses necessary for the development of human thought and culture. In the absence of such direct revelation, man must search dialectically for these ultimate premisses as the Greeks (...) did. However the dialectical search for first principles can succeed in finding premisses of spiritual ultimacy and adequacy for thought and culture only if it pays attention to religious transmissions of divine revelation, which it may test and confirm. The book is weak in historical and philosophical arguments for the author's central theses. What value it may have lies in its elucidation of Zoroaster's teachings vis-à-vis the Greeks.—P. M. (shrink)
Professor Lee presents us with a thoroughly worked out and clear epistemology from a pragmatic-naturalist standpoint; his acknowledged intellectual mentors have been C. I. Lewis, G. H. Mead, and H. Bergson. A neo-Kantian without Kant’s fixed structures, Lee holds that the categories by which we interpret the "intuitive flux" need not be rigid because the flux itself is not of this character. "The concepts are derived from experience; thus there is no mystery or miracle involved in their application to experience." (...) Where does the necessary or apodictic element in knowledge come from? There is none; Lee holds it to be the distinctive advance of twentieth-century science to have recognized the hypothetical-deductive nature of all knowledge. It is to critically underscore this open-ended dimension to knowledge that Lee introduces his concept of the "continuum." Lee attempts to find an epistemic locus in an experience of continuity or "passage," "the vaguely felt wholeness that contains no gaps or separateness," but argues his case chiefly by exploiting the discoveries in mathematics of the discrepancy between our "intuition" of continuity on the one hand, and our ability to express this intuition in a formal system or work our way back to it from discrete parts. The fallacy of "misplaced discreteness" consists in taking a selection from the continuous flux as an adequate representation or definitive characterization of the entire flux. But "a continuum is not to be obtained from discrete parts, no matter how tightly they are jammed up against each other." Lee attacks the view that "one and only one analysis of the situation is correct. Such a demonstration is impossible if events are cut from a continuum; the assumption of a single analysis is unjustified.". (shrink)
The series of five short lectures were delivered by Husserl in 1907 and contain his first ex position of the phenomenological reduction that was basic to his later philosophy. Also included is Husserl's own brief summary of the lectures, which together with the translator's introduction make this book valuable as a simple concise account of Husserl's phenomenological method.—P. M.
The eleven papers in this volume were initially presented at one or another of the Marquette University Workshops in Philosophy held in recent years. The majority of the papers are written from the point of view of Aristotelian realism, with physicist Eugene Wigner's Kantian interpretation of science and George Shrader's idealistic reduction of value to meaning as notable exceptions. Two of the most original contributions are by Paul Weiss on "The Elements of the Physical Universe" and Robert J. Henle on (...) "Man's Knowledges of Physical Reality." Both of these stress the multiple facets of physical reality revealed by multiple cognitive approaches to it. Several other papers are of value primarily in interpreting classical and medieval positions on sensation and demonstration.—P. M. (shrink)
Father Klubertanz has written a work of concrete and practical philosophy that is not without theoretical value. The philosophical background of the work is the Aristotelian-Thomistic conceptions of habit and virtue, i.e., the acquired internal principles of human activity, good and bad. The traditional doctrines are flexibly elaborated to interpret more modern studies in psychology in the context of moral theory. The book helps to fill an important but currently rather neglected part of ethics, namely the shaping of the personality (...) of the ethical agent in relation to the ethical good, which is one part of relating the "is" and the "ought." Klubertanz recognizes that different habits may be mutually exclusive, but not that virtues themselves may be at odds. What one misses in the book is a recognition of the elements of sacrifice, decision, and creativity in the formation of personality.—P. M. (shrink)
The author sees his work as uniting the philosophy of mind and computer research. Each of these fields can benefit the other, philosophy of mind providing conceptual analyses and computers providing models for understanding human mental processes. A case in point providing the focus of this book is the problem of the mechanical simulation of the human ability to recognize handwritten script. Present difficulties in designing machines that can read human script point to a conceptual muddle in which classification and (...) recognition are confused. The author untangles the confusion by ordinary language analysis and then speculates as to how a more successful machine for recognizing the letters of human script might be designed. The language analysis is somewhat tedious, but the speculations about perceptual acts and mechanical letter recognition are intriguing.—P. M. (shrink)
This paper explores structuralism as a way to model theories from scientific practice. As a case study I analyzed a theory about the dynamics of the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is involved in Parkinson's disease. After introducing the case study I explore how to structurally represent qualitative assumptions about disease, intervention and dynamical systems in general. I further explicate the structure of the basal ganglia theory in detail, how it explains Parkinson's disease and how it implies (...) treatments. I close with a consideration of how a structuralist representation could be useful in practice to explore and develop theories with the aid of a computer. (shrink)
Kaufmann's reinterpretation of Hegel's philosophy is based upon insights into the man Hegel and his situation gleaned from letters and other documents not available to or else not used by earlier commentators. Translations by Kaufmann of some of these letters as well as a new translation of the Preface to the Phenomenology are contained in the book. The author is concerned to explode the existentialist myth of a passionless, abstracted, professorial Hegel. Rather we should read Hegel as a man of (...) concrete insight and fluid thought who sometimes, however, cramped his style by an overly disciplined systematic ideal of philosophy. "The System" was never intended to be the final rigid structure of knowledge it is often construed to be. Kaufmann at times gets bogged down in philological minutiae at the expense of expounding the content of Hegel's thought, but he does provide a helpful background to supplement and sometimes correct previous commentaries.—P.M. (shrink)
In this book on philosophy of God, Bonansea, emeritus professor of philosophy of the Catholic University of America, gives the results of many years’ reflection and teaching. It comprises three parts. The first is a discussion of various forms of atheism. The second is a consideration of forms of theistic proofs for the existence of God. The third is a treatment of issues concerning the relationship between God and the world.