Fags, Hags and Queer Sisters is a provocative account of the importance of women and cross-gender identification in "gay" male culture. It offers a range of cultural readings from Tennessee William's classic A Streetcar Named Desire and Forster's 'gay' novel Maurice through Pulp Fiction, queer lifestyle magazines, Roseanne, slash fan fiction, and Jarman's Edward II to Almodovar's camp classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Theoretically sophisticated, yet passionate, accessible and opinionated, Fags, Hags and Queer Sisters takes issue (...) with many of the sacred cows of contemporary gay politics, and offers a number of new concepts in lesbian and gay theory. (shrink)
Aboutness has been studied from any number of angles. Brentano made it the defining feature of the mental. Phenomenologists try to pin down the aboutness-features of particular mental states. Materialists sometimes claim to have grounded aboutness in natural regularities. Attempts have even been made, in library science and information theory, to operationalize the notion. But it has played no real role in philosophical semantics. This is surprising; sentences have aboutness-properties if anything does. Aboutness is the first book to examine through (...) a philosophical lens the role of subject matter in meaning. A long-standing tradition sees meaning as truth-conditions, to be specified by listing the scenarios in which a sentence is true. Nothing is said about the principle of selection--about what in a scenario gets it onto the list. Subject matter is the missing link here. A sentence is true because of how matters stand where its subject matter is concerned. Stephen Yablo maintains that this is not just a feature of subject matter, but its essence. One indicates what a sentence is about by mapping out logical space according to its changing ways of being true or false. The notion of content that results--directed content--is brought to bear on a range of philosophical topics, including ontology, verisimilitude, knowledge, loose talk, assertive content, and philosophical methodology. Written by one of today's leading philosophers, Aboutness represents a major advance in semantics and the philosophy of language. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer presents a groundbreaking account of meaning and belief, and shows how it can illuminate a range of crucial problems regarding language, mind, knowledge, and ontology. He introduces the new doctrine of 'pleonastic propositions' to explain what the things we mean and believe are. He discusses the relation between semantic and psychological facts, on the one hand, and physical facts, on the other; vagueness and indeterminacy; moral truth; conditionals; and the role of propositional content in information acquisition and (...) explanation. This radical new treatment of meaning will command the attention of everyone who works on fundamental questions about language, and will attract much interest from other areas of philosophy. (shrink)
In the seventeenth century, a vision arose which was to captivate the Western imagination for the next three hundred years: the vision of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of nature. While fueling extraordinary advances in all fields of human endeavor, this vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda: the delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precise and manageable rational categories. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda—its illusions and its consequences for our (...) present and future world. "By showing how different the last three centuries would have been if Montaigne, rather than Descartes, had been taken as a starting point, Toulmin helps destroy the illusion that the Cartesian quest for certainty is intrinsic to the nature of science or philosophy."—Richard M. Rorty, University of Virginia "[Toulmin] has now tackled perhaps his most ambitious theme of all. . . . His aim is nothing less than to lay before us an account of both the origins and the prospects of our distinctively modern world. By charting the evolution of modernity, he hopes to show us what intellectual posture we ought to adopt as we confront the coming millennium."—Quentin Skinner, New York Review of Books. (shrink)
Can normative words like "good," "ought," and "reason" be defined in non-normative terms? Stephen Finlay argues that they can, advancing a new theory of the meaning of this language and providing pragmatic explanations of the specially problematic features of its moral and deliberative uses which comprise the puzzles of metaethics.
The fundamental question of political reparation is: why should a state provide redress for an injustice? The predominant answer justifies redress in terms of debts—the perpetration of an injustice creates a debt, and a state is required to make redress for the same reasons that it is required to repay its debts . Other approaches justify redress on the grounds that it will facilitate the achievement of some broader political goal, like the fair distribution of social resources or political reconciliation.In (...) Transitional Justice in Established Democracies, Stephen Winter provides a novel answer to this fundamental question in terms of political legitimacy. On Winter’s “legitimating account,” the state’s perpetuation of certain injustices compromises its political legitimacy. Redress is a required for a (liberal, democratic) state to bolster its legitimacy and to live up to its political commitments.Winter’s book makes a number of contributions to thinking about redress and transitional .. (shrink)
This paper engages with the idea at the core of my co‐symposiast's paper ‘Ethics of Substance’ : that the Aristotelian concept of substantial being has ethical implications, and an alternative understanding of existence in terms of affecting and being affected will help us more easily to accommodate relational values, which are thought to sit uneasily within the Aristotelian framework.I focus on two questions. First, is there really is a tension between an Aristotelian metaphysics of substance and concern for others? The (...) answer depends on how we understand the relation between my valuing something indeterminate but determinable and my valuing the particular way in which that determinable is contingently determined. I agree that Carpenter is correct in identifying the tension she does.Second, does the alternative Buddhist influenced view of what it is to exist shift our attention from ethical values such as independence and autonomy onto interpersonal and relational values? I consider an example which reflects another aspect of Aristotle's outlook: his account of the ontological status of the simple material elements. I suggest that once we abandon the idea that such elements exist in virtue of specific intrinsic structures, then questions about their persistence through the changes by reference to which they are identified at the very least admit of no determinate answer. This suggestion also supports the line taken in Carpenter's paper. (shrink)
To understand H.L.A. Hart's general theory of law, it is helpful to distinguish between substantive and methodological legal positivism. Substantive legal positivism is the view that there is no necessary connection between morality and the content of law. Methodological legal positivism is the view that legal theory can and should offer a normatively neutral description of a particular social phenomenon, namely law. Methodological positivism holds, we might say, not that there is no necessary connection between morality and law, but rather (...) that there is no connection, necessary or otherwise, between morality and legal theory. The respective claims of substantive and methodological positivism are, at least on the surface, logically independent. Hobbes and Bentham employed normative methodologies to defend versions of substantive positivism, and in modern times Michael Moore has developed what can be regarded as a variant of methodological positivism to defend a theory of natural law. (shrink)
The peculiar features of the climate change problem pose substantial obstacles to our ability to make the hard choices necessary to address it. Climate change involves the convergence of a set of global, intergenerational and theoretical problems. This convergence justifies calling it a 'perfect moral storm'. One consequence of this storm is that, even if the other difficult ethical questions surrounding climate change could be answered, we might still find it difficult to act. For the storm makes us extremely vulnerable (...) to moral corruption. (shrink)
Bernard Williams's motivational reasons-internalism fails to capture our first-order reasons judgements, while Derek Parfit's nonnaturalistic reasons-externalism cannot explain the nature or normative authority of reasons. This paper offers an intermediary view, reformulating scepticism about external reasons as the claim not that they don't exist but rather that they don't matter. The end-relational theory of normative reasons is proposed, according to which a reason for an action is a fact that explains why the action would be good relative to some end, (...) where the relevant end for any ascription of reasons is determined by the speaker's conversational context. Because these ends need not be the agent's ends, Williams is wrong to reject the existence of external reasons. But contra Parfit, a reason for action is only important for an agent if it is motivationally internal to that agent. (shrink)
[Stephen Makin] Aristotle draws two sets of distinctions in Metaphysics 9.2, first between non-rational and rational capacities, and second between one way and two way capacities. He then argues for three claims: [A] if a capacity is rational, then it is a two way capacity [B] if a capacity is non-rational, then it is a one way capacity [C] a two way capacity is not indifferently related to the opposed outcomes to which it can give rise I provide explanations (...) of Aristotle's terminology, and of how [A]-[C] should be understood. I then offer a set of arguments which are intended to show that the Aristotelian claims are plausible. \\\ [Nicholas Denyer] In De Caelo 1: 11-12 Aristotle argued that whatever is and always will be true is necessarily true. His argument works, once we grant him the highly plausible principle that if something is true, then it can be false if and only if it can come to be false. For example, assume it true that the sun is and always will be hot. No proposition of this form can ever come to be false. Hence this proposition cannot be false. Hence it is necessarily true, and so too is anything that follows from it. In particular, it is necessarily true that the sun is hot. Moreover, if the sun not only is and always will be hot, but also always has been, then it follows by similar reasoning that the sun not only cannot now fail to be hot, but also never could have failed. Anything everlastingly true is therefore, in the strictest sense of the term, necessarily true. (shrink)
Causation is everywhere in the world: it features in every science and technology. But how much do we understand it? Mumford and Anjum develop a new theory of causation based on an ontology of real powers or dispositions. They provide the first detailed outline of a thoroughly dispositional approach, and explore its surprising features.
This essay deals with property rights in body parts that can be exchanged in a market. The inquiry arises in the following context. With some exceptions, the laws of many countries permit only the donation, not the sale, of body parts. Yet for some years there has existed a shortage of body parts for transplantation and other medical uses. It might then appear that if more sales were legally permitted, the supply of body parts would increase, because people would have (...) more incentive to sell than they currently have to donate. To allow sales is to recognize property rights in body parts. To allow sales, however, makes body parts into “commodities”—that is, things that can be bought and sold in a market. And some view it as morally objectionable to treat body parts as commodities. (shrink)
Perhaps the most salient feature of Rawls's theory of justice which at once attracts supporters and repels critics is its apparent egalitarian conclusion as to how economic goods are to be distributed. Indeed, many of Rawls's sympathizers may find this result intuitively appealing, and regard it as Rawls's enduring contribution to the topic of economic justice, despite technical deficiencies in Rawls's contractarian, decision-theoretic argument for it which occupy the bulk of the critical literature. Rawls himself, having proposed a “coherence” theory (...) of justification in metaethics, must regard the claim that his distributive criterion “is a strongly egalitarian conception” as independently a part of the overarching moral argument. The alleged egalitarian impact of Rawls's theory is crucial again in normative ethics where Rawls is thought to have developed a major counter-theory to utilitarianism, one of the most popular criticisms of which has been its alleged inadequacy in handling questions of distributive justice. Utilitarians can argue, however, as Brandt recently has, that the diminishing marginal utility of money, along with ignorance of income-welfare curves, would require a utility-maximizing distribution to be substantially egalitarian. The challenge is therefore for Rawls to show that his theory yields an ethically preferable degree of equality. (shrink)
Stephen Davies taught philosophy at the University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. His research specialty is the philosophy of art. He is a former President of the American Society for Aesthetics. His books include Definitions of Art (Cornell UP, 1991), Musical Meaning and Expression (Cornell UP, 1994), Musical Works and Performances (Clarendon, 2001), Themes in the Philosophy of Music (OUP, 2003), Philosophical Perspectives on Art (OUP, 2007), Musical Understandings and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Music (OUP, 2011), The (...) Artful Species: Aesthetics, Art, and Evolution (OUP, 2012), The Philosophy of Art (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016 second ed.), and Adornment: What Self-decorations Tells Us about Who We Are, (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020). (shrink)
Over the last fifteen years, an ambitious explanatory framework has been proposed to unify explanations across biology and cognitive science. Active inference, whose most famous tenet is the free energy principle, has inspired excitement and confusion in equal measure. Here, we lay the ground for proper critical analysis of active inference, in three ways. First, we give simplified versions of its core mathematical models. Second, we outline the historical development of active inference and its relationship to other theoretical approaches. Third, (...) we describe three different kinds of claim -- labelled mathematical, empirical and general -- routinely made by proponents of the framework, and suggest dialectical links between them. Overall, we aim to increase philosophical understanding of active inference so that it may be more readily evaluated. -/- This the final submitted version of the Introduction to the Topical Collection "The Free Energy Principle: From Biology to Cognition", forthcoming in Biology & Philosophy. (shrink)
For the last few years, thanks to the Leverhulme Trust, I've been largely absent from my department, working on the late antique philosopher Plotinus. To speak personally – it's been a difficult few years, since my youngest daughter has been afflicted with anorexia during this period, and my own bowel cancer was discovered, serendipitously, and removed, at the end of 2005. Since then I've had ample occasion to consider the importance – and the difficulty – of the practice of detachment, (...) and also to worry about the moral some have drawn from Plotinian and similar philosophies, namely that the things of this world really do not matter much, and that we should withdraw ourselves from them. Maybe it is true, as Plotinus says, that ‘some troubles are profitable to the sufferers themselves, poverty and sickness for example’. But this is not an altogether helpful message for those afflicted by the bundle of disorders that lead to anorexia. It's difficult not to suspect, for example, that Simone Weil would have lived longer but for her Neo-Platonism. It has also been made obvious to me that we are much less in control of our own mental and emotional states even than I had thought before. None of this, of course, should have been any surprise: I have frequently pointed out – to myself and others – the importance of distinguishing between one's self and the states one finds oneself in, and the extreme difficulty of controlling the thoughts we say are ours. Any delusion that my knowledge of these facts is of itself enough to render me immune to them has been – at least for the moment – thoroughly debunked – though the facts themselves are such that this disillusionment, so to call it, is probably both temporary and almost entirely insincere! (shrink)
Stephen Davies presents a fascinating exploration of the idea that art, and our aesthetic sensibilities more generally, should be understood as an element in human evolution. He asks: Do animals have aesthetics? Do our aesthetic preferences have prehistoric roots? Is art universal? What is the biological role of aesthetic and artistic behaviour?
Stephen Cole Kleene was one of the greatest logicians of the twentieth century and this book is the influential textbook he wrote to teach the subject to the next generation. It was first published in 1952, some twenty years after the publication of Godel's paper on the incompleteness of arithmetic, which marked, if not the beginning of modern logic. The 1930s was a time of creativity and ferment in the subject, when the notion of computable moved from the realm (...) of philosophical speculation to the realm of science. This was accomplished by the work of Kurt Gode1, Alan Turing, and Alonzo Church, who gave three apparently different precise definitions of computable. When they all turned out to be equivalent, there was a collective realization that this was indeed the right notion. Kleene played a key role in this process. One could say that he was there at the beginning of modern logic. He showed the equivalence of lambda calculus with Turing machines and with Godel's recursion equations, and developed the modern machinery of partial recursive functions. This textbook played an invaluable part in educating the logicians of the present. It played an important role in their own logical education.". (shrink)
Consistent materialists are almost bound to suggest that ‘conscious experience’, if it exists at all, is no more than epiphenomenal. A correct understanding of the real requires that everything we do and say is no more than a product of whatever processes are best described by physics, without any privileged place, person, time or scale of action. Consciousness is a myth, or at least a figment. Plotinus was no materialist: for him, it is Soul and Intellect that are more real (...) than the phenomena we misdescribe as material. Nor does he suppose that consciousness depends on language : wordless experience is actually superior. And much of what counts towards our present consciousness is to be discarded. It is better not to remember most of what now seems more significant to us; better to discard images; better that the intellect be ‘drunk’ than ‘sober’, losing any sense of separation between subject and object. The goal of the Plotinian intellectual is to join ‘the dance of immortal love’, but it is a mark of the good dancer that she is not conscious of what she does. There is therefore a strange confluence between Plotinus and modern materialists: our experience at least is transitory, deceitful, epiphenomenal, and ‘reality’ is to be encountered when we have shed our illusions. (shrink)
The authors of Habits of the Heart charge that America is losing the institutions that help “to create the kind of person who could sustain a connection to a wider political community and thus ultimately support the maintenance of free institutions.” Bellah fears that “individualism may have grown cancerous – that it may be destroying those social integuments that Tocqueville saw as moderating its more destructive potentials, that it may be threatening the survival of freedom itself.” Proponents of the liberal (...) free market order should, I will argue, take seriously the concerns that motivate Bellah and company: citizens of a liberal regime cannot live by exchanges alone. Liberal constitutionalism depends upon a certain level and quality of citizen virtue. But while the need for virtue is often neglected by liberal theorists, it is far from clear that the actual workings of liberal institutions have drastically undermined virtue in the way Bellah's dire account suggests. That analysis serves, moreover, as the springboard for a radically transformist argument that seeks, not so much to elevate and shape, but to transcend and deny, the self-interestedness that the free market exercises. Having argued against Bellah's analysis and prescriptions, I shall attempt to show how the phenomena he describes are open to an interpretation that is happier from the point of view of a concern with virtue. I shall end by using Tocqueville to suggest that combining liberal capitalism with intermediate associations like voluntary groups and state and local government helps elevate and shape self-interest, promoting a citizenry capable of and insistent upon liberal self-government. (shrink)
Persons are creatures with a range of personal capacities. Most known to us are also people, though nothing in observation or biological theory demands that all and only people are persons, nor even that persons, any more than people, constitute a natural kind. My aim is to consider what non-personal minds are like. Darwin's Earthworms are sensitive, passionate and, in their degree, intelligent. They may even construct maps, embedded in the world they perceive around them, so as to be able (...) to construct their tunnels. Other creatures may be able to perceive that world as also accessible to other minds, and structure it by locality and temporal relation, without having many personal qualities. Non-personal mind, on both modern materialist and Plotinian grounds, may be the more usual, and the less deluded, sort of mind. (shrink)
Practitioners of disciplines whose problems are debated by moral philosophers regularly complain that the philosophers are engaged in abstract speculation, divorced from ‘real-life’ consequences and responsibilities, that it is the practitioners who must take the decisions, and that they cannot act in accordance with strict abstract logic.
Climate change is a global problem that is predominantly an intergenerational conflict, and which takes place in a setting where our ethical impulses are weak. This "perfect moral storm" poses a profound challenge to humanity. This book explains how the "perfect storm" metaphor makes sense of our current malaise, and why a better ethics can help see our way out.
Jonathan Edwards identified the central act of faith as ‘the cordial consent of beings to Being in general’, which is to say to God . That equation, of Being, Truth and God, is rarely taken seriously in analytical circles. My argument will be that this is to neglect the real context of a great deal of past philosophy, particularly the very Cartesian arguments from which so many undergraduate courses begin. All too many students issue from such courses immunized against enthusiasm, (...) in the conceit that they have answers to all the old conundrums, which were in any case no more than verbal trickery. ‘By uttering the right words but failing to use them in propria persona , philosophy induces a kind of soporific amnesia bewitching us into forgetting our God-given task. That task is, of course, to do what Socrates did and to live as he lived' . Burrell's words are not wholly fair to academic philosophers, nor to the Lady Philosophy. Plenty of philosophers really mind about the truth, and want to be Socratic in pursuit of it. But the danger is a real one. If all that matters is debunking past philosophers, how does that differ from the repeated refutation of the Chaldaean Oracles or the Prophecies of Nostradamus? A pretty enough pastime for the young, but hardly serious business for adults . ‘If the history of philosophy is a process of ‘salvaging’ what you yourself have already thought, then why bother?’. (shrink)