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)
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.
Few people, if any, still argue that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. At the very least, values affect decisions about the choice of research problems to investigate and the uses to which the results of research are applied. But what about the actual doing of science? -/- As Science, Values, and Objectivity reveals, the connections and interactions between values and science are quite complex. The essays in this volume identify the crucial values that play a role (...) in science, distinguish some of the criteria that can be used for value identification, and elaborate the conditions for warranting certain values as necessary or central to the very activity of scientific research. -/- Recently, social constructivists have taken the presence of values within the scientific model to question the basis of objectivity. However, the contributors to <I>Science, Values, and Objectivity</I> recognize that such acknowledgment of the role of values does not negate the fact that objects exist in the world. Objects have the power to constrain our actions and thoughts, though the norms for these thoughts lie in the public, social world. -/- Values may be decried or defended, praised or blamed, but in a world that strives for a modicum of reason, values, too, must be reasoned. Critical assessment of the values that play a role in scientific research is as much a part of doing good science as interpreting data. (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)
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.
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)
Un révolutionnaire sommeille en chaque Français, prêt hier comme aujourd'hui à briser les rentes et les privilèges. Dans le même temps, un expert l'observe et le dirige, planifiant autoritairement la société. Et un geek lui tape sur l'épaule, l'entraînant dans le monde inconnu des nouvelles technologies qui fourmille de promesses et de menaces. Ces trois influences parfois contradictoires nous font tourner la tête. Gaspard Koenig propose donc de les interpréter à la lumière d'une nouvelle philosophie politique, fondée sur l'autonomie individuelle. (...) Car ce dont la France a besoin, ce n'est pas d'un énième diagnostic économique, mais de principes solides dont on pourra déduire des réformes radicales. Revenons au modèle révolutionnaire, ce «jacobinisme libéral» incarné par le député du tiers état Isaac Le Chapelier. Rejetons la tentation planiste, léguée par le régime de Vichy et responsable encore aujourd'hui de tant d'injustice et d'exclusion. Apprenons à maîtriser l'utopie numérique, en imaginant un nouvel humanisme qui réponde aux défis de la Silicon Valley et un Etat 2.0 qui nous redonne le contrôle de notre destin numérique. Pays des libertés, la France meurt de servitude volontaire. Terminons, enfin, notre Révolution! Et chacun deviendra son propre maître. (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)
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)
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)
This book is the only contemporary, systematic study of the relationship of time and conscious experience. Peter K. Mclnerney examines three tightly interconnected issues: how we are able to be conscious of time and temporal entities, whether time exists independently of conscious experience, and whether the conscious experiencer exists in time in the same way that ordinary natural objects are thought to exist in time. Insight is drawn from the views of major phenomenological and existential thinkers on these issues. (...) Building on a detailed explication and critique of the views of Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre, Mclnerney develops and defends his own positions. He argues that a revised version of Husserl’s three-feature theory of time-consciousness provides the best explanation of our awareness of temporal features, but that an independently real time is necessary to explain our experience of temporal passage. He also shows that human existence has some special temporal features in addition to those it shares with other entities. Time-consciousness, the conscious exercise of powers, and personal identity through time require that any temporal part of human existence be defined by and "reach across" to earlier and later parts. (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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
While well-known for his book-length work, philosopher Peter Unger's articles have been less widely accessible. These two volumes of Unger's Philosophical Papers include articles spanning more than 35 years of Unger's long and fruitful career. Dividing the articles thematically, this first volume collects work in epistemology and ethics, among other topics, while the second volume focuses on metaphysics. Unger's work has advanced the full spectrum of topics at the heart of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language and philosophy (...) of mind, and ethics. Unger advances radical positions, going against the so-called "commonsense philosophy" that has dominated the analytic tradition since its beginnings early in the twentieth century. In epistemology, his articles advance the view that nobody ever knows anything and, beyond that, argue that nobody has any reason to believe anything--and even beyond that, they argue that nobody has any reason to do anything, or even want anything. In metaphysics, his work argues that people do not really exist--and neither do puddles, plants, poodles, and planets. But, as Unger has often changed his favored positions, from one decade to the next, his work also advances the opposite, "commonsense" positions: that there are in fact plenty of people, puddles, plants and planets and, quite beyond that, we know it all to be true. On most major philosophical questions, both of these sides of Unger's significant work are well represented in this major two volume collection. Unger's vivid writing style, intellectual vitality, and fearlessness in the face of our largest philosophical questions, make these volumes of great interest not only to the philosophical community but to others who might otherwise find contemporary philosophy dry and technical. (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)
In this essay, we discuss how Descartes arrives at his mature view of material causation. Descartes position changes over time in some very radical ways. The last section spells out his final position as to how causation works in the world of material objects. When considering Descartes causal theories, it is useful to distinguish between vertical and horizontal causation. The vertical perspective addresses Gods relation to creation. God is essential being, and every being other than God depends upon God in (...) order to exist and to continue in existence.Thus, from the vertical perspective, the act of creating and fact of coming into existence are co-extensive notions. This metaphysical/theological framework is the basis of Descartes commitment to three interrelated notions: that genuine causes and effects occur simultaneously; that causing is appropriately the case only when the cause is acting; and the view that God is the efficient, total, and continuous cause of everything that exists and every action that occurs. So from the vertical perspective, things are nothing without Gods continuous creation, and there is a problem in articulating how they are said to have independent being and causal efficacy. It is in terms of these commitments that Descartes views on horizontal, or material, causation must be approached. We will make apparent the radical extent to which his account of intra-worldly causation abandons his earlier and more traditional views about material causation. To this end we discuss Descartes journey to his mature position by emphasizing the growing epistemic limitations of his philosophy, which culminate in what we call his epistemic stance. (shrink)