Claims that the self and experience in general are narrative in structure are increasingly common, but it is not always clear what such claims come down to. In this paper, I argue that if the view is to be distinctive, the element of narrativity must be taken as literally as possible. If we do so, and explore the consequences of thinking about our selves and our lives in this manner, we shall see that the narrative view fundamentally confusues art and (...) life. We learn from art itself that our selves and lives transcend narratives and that thinking in a narrative manner ignores the rich complexity of individual persons. Footnotes1 I am grateful to John Cottingham, Galen Strawson, Bart Streumer and Douglas Farland for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. (shrink)
Our attitude towards cynicism is ambivalent: On the one hand we condemn it as a character failing and a trend that is undermining political and social life; on the other hand, we are often impressed by the apparent realism and honesty of the cynic. My aim in this paper is to offer an account of cynicism that can explain both our attraction and aversion. After defending a particular conception of cynicism, I argue that most of the work in explaining the (...) fault of cynicism can be done by referring not to the cynic’s beliefs about humanity, but to the attitude cultivated as a response to that belief. This attitude is hostile to the virtues of faith, hope and charity, upon which relationships and our sense of moral community depend. In conclusion, I suggest that holding the cynical belief is itself immoral, and that cynicism is disrespectful and destructive of morality. (shrink)
Taking hunting as an example, an account of animal beauty as animation can be developed. Our delight in many kinds of animals is crucially a matter of an aesthetic property which can be called “the animate” or “animation.” A proper response to animate animal beauty is a virtuous character trait that hunters lack. The beauty of animals calls for particular responses from observers: it brings along certain duties and requires the cultivation of certain traits of character—ones that are incompatible with (...) hunting animals. An argument against hunting animals can move from aesthetic value to ethical value relying on the aesthetic notion of disinterestedness. (shrink)
This is an essay in appreciation of The Abundant Herds, a study of the amaZulu's naming practices for their Nguni cattle. The book reveals an aesthetic vision in which contemplative and practical attention are intertwined and a complex classificatory system does not undermine an appreciation of the individuality of the cattle. The book and the practices it celebrates permit a richer account of the beauty of farm animals to the standard functionalist approach.
Few contemporary philosophers have made as wide-ranging and insightful a contribution to philosophical debate as John Cottingham. This collection brings together friends, colleagues and former students of Cottingham, to discuss major themes of his work on moral philosophy. Presented in three parts the collection focuses on the debate on partiality, impartiality and character; the role of emotions and reason in the good life; the meaning of a worthwhile life and the place of theistic considerations in it. The original contributions to (...) this volume celebrate Cottingham’s work by embracing and furthering his arguments and, at times, in the best spirit of philosophical engagement, challenging and confronting them. The volume concludes with Cottingham’s specially commissioned responses to the contributions. (shrink)
It seems to be a phenomenon of contemporary life that we consider goodness embarrassing and rather dull. In contrast, the activities and inner lives of villains are deemed more complex and fascinating than those of good people. This paper attempts to understand the conception of goodness that underlies this phenomenon, and I suggest that informing it is the combination of two ideas, in tension with each other: firstly, a distorted understanding of the ancient conception of full virtue as the absence (...) of all inner conflict; and secondly, the intuition that real goodness is only apparent and generated in inner conflict. In response, I offer an alternative picture of goodness as an ongoing, active and progressive relation to value, and conclude that in order to render goodness attractive again we need more adequate portraits of goodness from both philosophy and art. (shrink)
This book presents a novel account of the aesthetics of animals. The author argues that the appreciation of animal beauty carries profound ethical consequences for our relations to our fellow creatures.
Gerald Dworkin's influential account of Personal Autonomy offers the following two conditions for autonomy: Authenticity - the condition that one identify with one's beliefs, desires and values after a process of critical reflection, and Procedural Independence - the identification in must not be "influenced in ways which make the process of identification in some way alien to the individual" . I argue in this thesis that there are cases which fulfil both of Dworkin's conditions, yet are clearly not cases of (...) autonomy. Specifically, I argue that we can best assess the adequacy of Dworkin's account of autonomy through literature, because it provides a unique medium for testing his account on the very terms he sets up for himself - ie. that autonomy apply to, and make sense of, persons leading lives of a certain quality. The examination of two novels - Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady - shows that Dworkin's explanation of identification and critical reflection is inadequate for capturing their role in autonomy and that he does not pay enough attention to the role of external factors in preventing or supporting autonomy. As an alternative, I offer the following two conditions for autonomy: critical reflection of a certain kind - radical reflection, and the ability to translate the results of into action - competence. The novels demonstrate that both conditions are dependent upon considerations of the content of one's beliefs, desires, values etc. Certain of these will prevent or hinder the achievement of autonomy because of their content, so autonomy must be understood in relation to substantial considerations, rather than in purely formal terms, as Dworkin argues. (shrink)
This paper is a response to recent student protests at South African universities, and the essentialising rhetoric and practices that characterise South African public debates. I explore the likely responses of white South Africans to views that seem to make their whiteness inescapable and necessarily morally bad.
This paper considers Tabensky's method of critical introspection, and in particular the conception of personhood that informs it. By interrogating the lives of pure hedonism, divinity and immortality from our already existing conception of personhood, Tabensky argues that such lives are incompatible with what it is to be a person, and desiring to live them is therefore irrational. Concentrating on the example of immortality, I argue that, while there are undoubtedly disadvantages associated with the immortal life, these are contingent rather (...) than essential to the notion of being a person. In fact, we have very little idea of the boundaries of that concept. The paper concludes by looking at the consequences of Tabensky's approach for issues surrounding moral vision and improvement, and new technologies of the person. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.23(4) 2004: 365-374. (shrink)