The existence and nature of the a priori are defining issues for philosophy. A philosopher's attitude to the a priori is a touchstone for his whole approach to the subject. Sometimes, as in Kant's critical philosophy, or in Quine's epistemology, a major new position emerges from reflection on questions that explicitly involve the notions of the a priori or the empirical. But even when no explicit use is made of the notion of the a priori in the questions addressed, a philosopher's methodology, the range of considerations to which the philosopher is open, his conception of the goals of the subject, his idea of what is involved in justification — all of these cannot fail to involve commitments about the nature and the existence of the a priori. So understanding the a priori is of interest in itself.
‘A Promise Made is a Debt Unpaid’: Nietzsche on the Morality of Commitment and the Commitments of Morality
This article discusses what we can learn about promising and about Nietzsche’s critique of morality from his discussion of sovereign promising in the opening sections of the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morals. It argues that the philosophical focus of GM II: 1–2 is not the nature of promising in the narrow sense of making a pledge to do something for someone else, but the nature of pledging or committing oneself in general. It identifies the root difference between a moral obligation and a Nietzschean account of promissory fidelity. It argues that, in its focus on the difficult questions of what it means and how it is possible to bind oneself to a course of action, the Nietzschean account is philosophically deeper than the moral obligation account. Finally, the article considers misconceptions of revisionist readings of GM II: 1–2.
Freud embarked on his exploration of an unconscious domain hand in hand with his clinical practice. He was thus forced to think deeply about the relationship between doctor and patient. He could not afford—quite literally—to do otherwise. In the postscript to ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’ (1905), he pondered Dora’s abrupt decision to end treatment and spelled out what he had failed to appreciate in good time: transferences. Subsequent generations of psychoanalysts, particularly Melanie Klein, Bion, and Betty Joseph, pressed on along two separate—but certainly not parallel—tracks: first, stretching the concept of transference; second, introducing the concept of projective identification and rethinking countertransference. The first took off from the expansion of psychoanalytic practice to include children; the second from its expansion to include the seriously disturbed. Taken together these advances, in theory and in practice, led to reconceptualizing the analytic relationship.
This article provides an introduction to Abhidharma philosophy. The Abhidharma is a collection of texts intended to deal with what the Buddha taught. It is one of the three collections that make up the Buddhist canonical scriptures (the other two are the sūtras, the Buddha' discourses, and the vinaya, the rules of monastic discipline). All three are usually referred to as the “three baskets,” indicating the way in which the original palm-leaf manuscripts were stored. The discussion found in the Abhidharma texts comprises two main elements: categorizing lists and explicatory discussion of points of doctrine. This article focuses on three topics that are of particular philosophical interest and relate to questions in ontology, the philosophy of time, and metaphysics.
John Harris and Søren Holm
Abortion is one of those classic problems that has been discussed in all of the major ‘fertile periods’ of practical philosophy, from the flourishing of Greek thought, through the medieval period, in the Renaissance and from the start of modern applied ethics in the 1960s. This article begins with a brief historical overview of the discussion of the ethics of abortion, and then proceeds to a range of questions that have been prominent in the philosophical discussion about abortion since the 1960s. The two main areas of controversy have been how to understand the moral status of the fetus, and whether a right to abortion can be based in the mother's right to autonomy.
This chapter, which examines views about abortion and death, discusses claims about abortion and explains some ways for considering these claims to be true. It analyzes whether abortion causes the death of a fetus and whether bringing death to a fetus greatly harms it, also discussing the relevant issues of nonsentient fetus, intermediate judgment argument, and the unequal harm of death judgment.
The three major classical accounts of the morality of abortion are all subject to at least one major problem. Can we do better? This article aims to discuss three accounts that purport to be superior to the classical accounts. First, it discusses the future of value argument for the immorality of abortion. It defends the claim that the future of value argument is superior to all three of the classical accounts. It then goes on to discuss Warren's attempt to fix up her personhood account and David Boonin's attempt to fix up Tooley's desire account. Warren claims that her updated version of a personhood account is superior to any potentiality account, such as the future of value account. The article evaluates her claim. Boonin argues that his improved desire view both deals adequately with the apparent counterexamples to Tooley's original account and also is superior to the future of value account. The article evaluates his views as well.
Hegel wrote in The Science of Logic that the deduction of the concept of science was accomplished at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit in ‘Absolute Knowledge.’ This chapter links the deduction claim to the metaphor of a ladder to science that Hegel discusses in the Phenomenology Preface, and to the sublation of the form of objectivity that is the focus of ‘Absolute Knowledge.’ It argues that this reconciliation of self-consciousness with objectivity coincides with the task of unifying the theoretical and practical domains. Once one appreciates that Hegel’s goal is such a unification, one can see why he holds that the agent of conscience is already quite close to possessing absolute knowledge. The agent’s knowledge in deliberation, together with the agent’s relation to other agents in the process of recognizing action on conscience, has the same conceptual form as the complete theoretical object, the expanded version of the Concept, or inferential objectivity.
Absolutism is a nineteenth-century term designed precisely to address the mismatch between doctrine and power. The intellectual resources of absolutism were far older than the Renaissance and Reformation. The absolutism of monarchs was a contingent and temporary corollary of the principal juridical development of the early modern period: the emergence of the concept of sovereignty. Absolute monarchy was a free rider on a concept that would later unseat it. Theorists of absolute sovereignty drew heavily on Roman law, and often invoked the idea of the translatio imperii, the inheritance by modern monarchies of Roman imperial authority. The sovereignty of kings, seeking to trump the divine imperium of the papacy, masqueraded its jurisprudence as the divinity of kings. The “divine right of kings” was a theological meditation on a juridical concept, not a species of mysticism, and rarely did absolutists endow monarchs with magical or sacerdotal attributes. Absolutism conspicuously appropriated religious form when expressed as a theory of obedience. Absolutist theory offered an account of the origins of civil authority.
This chapter offers an overview and analysis of an important ethical work by the early thinker Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakariyyāʾ al-Rāzī (251/865–313/925). In keeping with his main occupation as a medical doctor, this work approaches ethics as “spiritual medicine,” echoing the ancient idea of ethical improvement as a kind of regime the soul. The chapter shows how al-Rāzī drew on Galen in developing this idea, and explores the central idea of the treatise (taken ultimately from Plato, by way of Galen), which is that reason must rule the lower parts of the soul. Consideration is also given to whether the teaching of The Spiritual Medicine can be reconciled with another work of al-Rāzī’s, The Philosophical Life, and with his infamous cosmological theory.
Sheelagh McGuinness and Heather Widdows
If women are to have true equality with men, they must be able to control the number of children they have and the time of childbirth. Access to family planning services, particularly safe contraception and abortion, is key to this control and thus must be understood as basic reproductive rights. To disallow such access effectively bars women from attaining equality with men by denying minimal standards of bodily integrity. These rights must be understood not just in terms of noninterference but also in terms of ensuring an enabling environment to access to these services. International human rights norms are an important empowerment tool and are evolving towards protecting basic reproductive rights, but there is still more to be accomplished. An important threat to basic reproductive rights, which must be resisted, is the Global Gag Rule that prohibits funding to reproductive agencies which offer abortion services.
This chapter examines the role of the virtuous agent in the acquisition of virtue. It rejects the view of the virtuous agent as a direct model for imitation and instead focuses on recent research on the importance of phronesis. Phronesis is understood as a type of moral “know-how”—expertise that is supported by a variety of abilities, from emotional maturity, to self-reflection, to an empathic understanding of what moves others, to an ability to see beyond the surface and understand the complexities of human behavior. If we want to acquire virtue, instead of focusing on the virtuous agent as such, we should be trying to understand the abilities exemplified by his phronesis. As part of this project, the author also considers philosophers who seek inspiration from the empirical sciences to shed light on how phronetic expertise is developed and what relevance this may have for moral education.
Alfred R. Mele
What are actions? And how are actions to be explained? These two central questions of the philosophy of action call, respectively, for a theory of the nature of action and a theory of the explanation of actions. Many ordinary explanations of actions are offered in terms of such mental states as beliefs, desires, and intentions, and some also appeal to traits of character and emotions. Traditionally, philosophers have used and refined this vocabulary in producing theories of the explanation of intentional actions. An underlying presupposition is that common-sense explanations expressed in these terms have proved very useful. People understand their own and others' actions well enough to coordinate and sustain complicated, cooperative activities integral to normal human life, and that understanding is expressed largely in a common-sense psychological vocabulary. This article focuses on these issues.
This chapter enters into a debate with the analytic theory of action, especially the version developed by Donald Davidson, who makes it clear that the upsurge of a desire to perform a specific action is a natural event that is causally responsible for the action in question. The narrative interpretation of selfhood was initiated by Hannah Arendt. Selfhood is certainly assured on a passive and affective plane. Edmund Husserl maintains that in the passive sphere, a self is constituted preceding active reflection. As Paul Ricœur clearly determines, the complicity with reality entails a ‘decentred self’ that is strictly opposed to the self-centred, self-controlled, and self-assured ego of modern philosophy. Emmanuel Levinas never accepted Wittgenstein's constraint on philosophy to remain silent with regard to the ‘unsayable’.
In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein talks about action and the will. The main ideas we need to be acquainted with in order to understand Wittgenstein's remarks on this topic are, first, Arthur Schopenhauer's neo-Kantian theory of the will, which Wittgenstein seems to have fully accepted in 1916, and which still influenced his thinking in 1947, and second, the theory advanced in William James's The Principles of Psychology, which Wittgenstein encountered in the 1930s, and rejected root and branch. Schopenhauer and James were in turn reacting, in very different ways, to the empiricist theory of the will, which received its classic exposition in John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This article argues that Wittgenstein's treatment of action and the will in Philosophical Investigations is seriously flawed. Wittgenstein fails to disentangle the active/passive distinction and the voluntary/not voluntary distinction; he fails to see that voluntariness is not only an attribute of activity, but of passivity as well; and he confuses action and motion.
There are two main motivations for action-based approaches to perception: the parsimonious assumption that action and perception belong to a single overlapping functional system and the tendency to minimize the load of internal processing in perception. For example, according to the ecological paradigm, visual perception consists in detecting affordances for action. Many advocates of action-based accounts of perception reject the computational/representational approach and embrace instead an embodied approach to perception and an empiricist view of the contents of concepts. For example, enactivists argue for constitutive links between an agent’s bodily movements and the content of her perceptual experiences. While, enactivism is not easy to reconcile with evidence for the two-visual systems model of human vision, further support for action-based accounts of social perception has been derived from the discovery of mirror neurons and mirroring processes.
This chapter discusses Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s theory of the actual world as the best of all possible worlds. The chapter opens with Leibniz’s response to the two most basic questions of metaphysics: Why is there something rather than nothing? And, why do certain things exist while other equally possible things do not? It examines Leibniz’s critique of Baruch Spinoza’s metaphysics, with particular reference to the argument that God must make a choice among possible worlds because not all possibles are “compossible.” In addition, it explores Leibniz’s claim that the best of all possible worlds is the world containing the highest level of perfection or reality, intelligibility, order, and harmony. The chapter concludes by looking at three theological doctrines underlying Leibniz’s conception of the best of all possible worlds: divine creation, conservation, and concurrence.
James R. Otteson
The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) is Adam Smith's major contribution to ethical thought. Although it underwent six revisions during his lifetime, its primary arguments did not change, and this chapter focuses on those aspects that remain constant, beginning with an overview of Smith's theory followed by a discussion of the main elements of the theory. Smith presents morality as systems of overlapping spontaneous order that arise unintentionally based on continuous interactions, reactions, and responses to feedback. Although the philosopher can discover the relative utility of specific aspects of a community's moral standards, and thus make recommendations or encouragements to increase utility, Smith agrees with Hume that moral distinctions are not derived from reason.
James R. Otteson
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein argue for “libertarian paternalism,” defined as the strategy to devise policy that will “maintain or increase freedom of choice” and at the same time “influence people’s behavior in order to make their lives longer, healthier, and better”. These two goals are often in conflict, and striking the right balance between them has proved difficult in both theory and practice. Where does Adam Smith fall in this debate? This chapter argues that Smith developed his own version of “libertarian paternalism.” It differs in important ways from that of Thaler and Sunstein, but it shares with them an attempt to balance respect for individual autonomy with a desire to help people lead better lives. Smith’s position accommodates the importance of both liberty and paternalism in enabling individuals to construct lives worth living, while avoiding some of the problems that have beset more recent versions of libertarian paternalism.
Christian Pohl, Bernhard Truffer, and Gertrude Hirsch-Hadorn
In a number of European countries a particular understanding of transdisciplinarity has evolved over the last decades, initiated by research on environmental problems. The focus of this type of transdisciplinary research is on helping society solve wicked problems. A specific feature is that, in addition to researchers of different disciplines, representatives of civil society and the private and public sectors are involved in the research process. “Addressing Wicked Problems through Transdisciplinary Research” describes this type of transdisciplinary research, its roots, and the challenges to be dealt with when addressing wicked societal problems.