In these challenging pages, Unger argues for the extreme skeptical view that, not only can nothing ever be known, but no one can ever have any reason at all for anything. A consequence of this is that we cannot ever have any emotions about anything: no one can ever be happy or sad about anything. Finally, in this reduction to absurdity of virtually all our supposed thought, he argues that no one can ever believe, or even say, that anything is (...) the case. (shrink)
The topic of personal identity has prompted some of the liveliest and most interesting debates in recent philosophy. In a fascinating new contribution to the discussion, Peter Unger presents a psychologically aimed, but physically based, account of our identity over time. While supporting the account, he explains why many influential contemporary philosophers have underrated the importance of physical continuity to our survival, casting a new light on the work of Lewis, Nagel, Nozick, Parfit, Perry, Shoemaker, and others. Deriving from (...) his discussion of our identity itself, Unger produces a novel but commonsensical theory of the relations between identity and some of our deepest concerns. In a conservative but flexible spirit, he explores the implications of his theory for questions of value and of the good life. (shrink)
By contributing a few hundred dollars to a charity like UNICEF, a prosperous person can ensure that fewer poor children die, and that more will live reasonably long, worthwhile lives. Even when knowing this, however, most people send nothing, and almost all of the rest send little. What is the moral status of this behavior? To such common cases of letting die, our untutored response is that, while it is not very good, neither is the conduct wrong. What is the (...) source of this lenient assessment? In this contentious new book, one of our leading philosophers argues that our intuitions about ethical cases are generated not by basic moral values, but by certain distracting psychological dispositions that all too often prevent us from reacting in accord with our commitments. Through a detailed look at how these tendencies operate, Unger shows that, on the good morality that we already accept, the fatally unhelpful behavior is monstrously wrong. By uncovering the eminently sensible ethics that we've already embraced fully, and by confronting us with empirical facts and with easily followed instructions for lessening serious suffering appropriately and effectively, Unger's book points the way to a compassionate new moral philosophy. (shrink)
This bold and original work of philosophy presents an exciting new picture of concrete reality. Peter Unger provocatively breaks with what he terms the conservatism of present-day philosophy, and returns to central themes from Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Russell. Wiping the slate clean, Unger works, from the ground up, to formulate a new metaphysic capable of accommodating our distinctly human perspective. He proposes a world with inherently powerful particulars of two basic sorts: one mental but not physical, the (...) other physical but not mental. Whether of one sort or the other, each individual possesses powers for determining his or her own course, as well as powers for interaction with other individuals. It is only a purely mental particular--an immaterial soul, like yourself--that is ever fit for real choosing, or for conscious experiencing. Rigorously reasoning that the only satisfactory metaphysic is one that situates the physical alongside the non-physical, Unger carefully explains the genesis of, and continual interaction of, the two sides of our deeply dualistic world. Written in an accessible and entertaining style, while advancing philosophical scholarship, All the Power in the World takes readers on a philosophical journey into the nature of reality. In this riveting intellectual adventure, Unger reveals the need for an entirely novel approach to the nature of physical reality--and shows how this approach can lead to wholly unexpected possibilities, including disembodied human existence for billions of years. All the Power in the World returns philosophy to its most ambitious roots in its fearless attempt to answer profoundly difficult human questions about ourselves and our world. (shrink)
In this short but meaty book, Peter Unger questions the objective answers that have been given to central problems in philosophy. As Unger hypothesizes, many of these problems are unanswerable, including the problems of knowledge and scepticism, the problems of free will, and problems of causation and explanation. In each case, he argues, we arrive at one answer only relative to an assumption about the meaning of key terms, terms like "know" and like "cause," even while we arrive at (...) an opposite answer relative to quite different assumptions, but equally arbitrary assumptions, about what the key terms mean. (shrink)
During the middle of the twentieth century, philosophers generally agreed that, by contrast with science, philosophy should offer no substantial thoughts about the general nature of concrete reality. Instead, philosophers offered conceptual truths. It is widely assumed that, since 1970, things have changed greatly.
Traditionally it has been thought that scientific controversies can always be resolved on the basis of empirical data. Recently, however, social constructionists have claimed that the outcome of scientific debates is strongly influenced by non-evidential factors such as the rhetorical prowess and professional clout of the participants. This volume of previously unpublished essays by well-known philosophers of science presents historical studies and philosophical analyses that undermine the plausibility of an extreme social constructionist perspective while also indicating the need for a (...) richer and more realistic account of scientific rationality. (shrink)
The current research applied a mid-level evolutionary theory that has been successfully employed across numerous animal species—life history theory—in an attempt to understand the Dark Triad personality trait cluster (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism). In Study 1 (N = 246), a measure of life history strategy was correlated with psychopathy, but unexpectedly with neither Machiavellianism nor narcissism. Study 2 (N = 321) replicated this overall pattern of results using longer, traditional measures of the Dark Triad traits and alternative, future-discounting indicators of (...) life history strategy (a smaller-sooner, larger-later monetary dilemma and self-reported risk-taking behaviors). Additional findings suggested two sources of shared variance across the Dark Triad traits: confidence in predicting future outcomes and openness to short-term mating. (shrink)
In _The Metaphysics of Media_, award-winning media critic Peter K. Fallon tackles the complicated question of how a succession of dominant forms of media have supported—and even to some extent created—different conceptions of reality. To do so, he starts with the basics: a critical discussion of the very idea of objective reality and the various postmodern responses that have tended to dominate recent philosophical approaches to the subject. From there, he embarks on a survey of the evolution of communication (...) through four major eras: orality; literacy; print; and electricity. Within each era, Fallon argues, the dominant form of media supported particular ways of understanding the world, from the ascendance of reason that followed the development of alphabets to the obliteration of space and time that we associate with electronic communications. Fallon concludes with a hard look at the mass ignorance that prevails today despite the sea of information with which contemporary life is surrounded. A stirring, philosophically rich investigation, _The Metaphysics of Media_ offers not only a clear picture of where our society has been but also a road map to a more engaged, informed, and fully human future. (shrink)
For some fifty years now, nearly all work in mainstream analytic philosophy has made no serious attempt to understand the _nature of_ _physical reality,_ even though most analytic philosophers take this to be all of reality, or nearly all. While we've worried much about the nature of our own experiences and thoughts and languages, we've worried little about the nature of the vast physical world that, as we ourselves believe, has them all as only a small part.
Emerging as a hot topic in the mid-twentieth century, causality is one of the most frequently discussed issues in contemporary philosophy. Thinking about Causes brings together top philosophers from the United States and Europe to focus on causality as a major force in philosophical and scientific thought.
Violence in schools is a pervasive, highly emotive and, above all, global problem. Bullying and its negative social consequences are of perennial concern, while the media regularly highlights incidences of violent assault - and even murder - occurring within schools. This unique and fascinating text offers a comprehensive overview and analysis of how European nations are tackling this serious issue. _Violence in Schools: The Response in Europe_, brings together contributions from all EU member states and two associated states. Each chapter (...) begins by clearly outlining the nature of the school violence situation in that country. It then goes on to describe those social policy initiatives and methods of intervention being used to address violence in schools and evaluates the effectiveness of these different strategies. Commentaries from Australia, Israel and the USA and an overview of the book's main themes by eminent psychologist Peter K. Smith complete a truly international and authoritative look at this important - and frequently controversial - subject. This book constitutes an invaluable resource for educational administrators, policymakers and researchers concerned with investigating, and ultimately addressing, the social and psychological causes, manifestations and effects of school violence. (shrink)
Courts and commentators have struggled for years to identify rules to explain and justify certain widely-shared intuitions about impossibility attempts, and they have proposed rules variously based upon (1) what mistakes actors make, (2) what intentions actors possess, and (3) what conduct actors perform. None of the proposals fully succeeds, however, and none is able to explain the widely-shared intuition, which underlies Sandy Kadish's inventive hypothetical regarding Mr. Law and Mr. Fact, that some attempts based upon mistakes of law are (...) just as blameworthy as attempts based upon mistakes of fact. I propose an alternative rule that, I believe, not only explains where and why people possess widely-shared intuitions regarding impossibility attempts (including regarding Mr. Law and Mr. Fact), but also explains where and why people have conflicting intuitions. I argue that widely-shared intuitions of blameworthiness and non-blameworthiness regarding impossibility attempts are a function, respectively, of whether informed citizens of the jurisdiction that enacted the statutory offense that the defendant allegedly attempted to commit widely believe or disbelieve that he would have been a threat to interests that the statute seeks to protect - a determination, in turn, that is a function of whether they widely believe or disbelieve that he would have committed the offense under counterfactual circumstances that they fear could have obtained. (shrink)
In everyday life people frequently recognize that a person at a time may be more or less strongly motivated to carry out an intentional action and that “trying harder” frequently affects the successful completion of an intentional action. In “Rational Choice and Action Omnipotence,” John Pollock provides an original account of rational choice in which “trying to do an action” is a basic factor. This paper argues that Pollock’s “expected-utility optimality prescription” is deficient because it lacks a parameter for intensity (...) of trying. The paper also indicates specific ways in which this deficiency could be corrected. (shrink)
It is generally agreed that about 7,000 languages are spoken across the world today and at least half may no longer be spoken by the end of this century. This state-of-the-art Handbook examines the reasons behind this dramatic loss of linguistic diversity, why it matters, and what can be done to document and support endangered languages. The volume is relevant not only to researchers in language endangerment, language shift and language death, but to anyone interested in the languages and cultures (...) of the world. It is accessible both to specialists and non-specialists: researchers will find cutting-edge contributions from acknowledged experts in their fields, while students, activists and other interested readers will find a wealth of readable yet thorough and up-to-date information. (shrink)
The HarperCollins College Outline series summarizes an area of study in a format that assures easy comprehension for students as well as the general reader. INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY covers areas ranging from the Nature of God to Theories of Personal Identity Through Time to Feminism and Purposes of Government.
This paper outlines an interpretation of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s remark in the _Big Typescript_ in which he compares the philosopher bewitched by the workings of language to “the suffering of an ascetic”. The interpretation takes as its starting point Friedrich Nietzsche’s terse account of the philosopher, the history of philosophy, and his diagnosis of ascetic self-misunderstanding, from the Third Essay, “What do ascetic ideals mean?”, in _On the Genealogy of Morality_. In its assumption of an affinity between Wittgenstein’s remark and Nietzsche’s (...) descriptions, and in its analysis, this paper introduces a “method of voice borrowing” to approach the question: “Wittgenstein and Nietzsche?” The juxtaposition of Wittgenstein’s conception of the philosopher’s linguistic self-misunderstanding with Nietzsche’s notion of the ascetic self-misunderstanding leads finally to the question of what is gained by introducing this method, and hence by reading Wittgenstein’s remark on the suffering of an ascetic with the help of Nietzsche’s voice. (shrink)