A friend bought this for me, though said it was hard to find a book on this topic that wasn't written for children... Why can't adults be curious abouA friend bought this for me, though said it was hard to find a book on this topic that wasn't written for children... Why can't adults be curious about nocturnal animals? ...more
-"... the Golden Rule is theoretically inferior [to 2 other principles]. But this rule may be, for practical purposes, the best ofTwo great passages:
-"... the Golden Rule is theoretically inferior [to 2 other principles]. But this rule may be, for practical purposes, the best of these three principles. By requiring us to imagine ourselves in other people's position, the Golden Rule may provide what is psychologically the most effective way of making us more impartial, and morally motivating us. That may be why this rule has been the world's most widely accepted fundamental moral idea" (330).
- quoting Williams: "deep attachments to other persons... cannot embody the impartial view, and... also run the risk of offending against it... yet unless such things exists, there will not be enough substance or convictions in a man's life to compel his allegiance to life itself" (387). In other words, we have to be partial to ourselves and our people, otherwise life sucks bad....more
“There is one thing a professor can be absolutely sure of; almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is r“There is one thing a professor can be absolutely sure of; almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative” (Allan Bloom).
This is really a short argument (under 100 pages) against relativism. First the defines relativism (R): “the nature and existence of items of knowledge, quantities, values or logical entities non-trivially obtain their natures and/or existence from certain aspects of human activity, including, but not limited to, beliefs, cultures, languages, etc” (not the greatest definition). Then he provides a short history (including one author’s comment that Protagoras’ “man is the measure of all things” contains even more vital meaning into few words than the Delphic “know thyself” (but the latter does contain fewer words). Then he examines different forms of R, starting with the epistemological (E) variety. ER’s core is the idea that there are no neutral (non question-begging) standards by which we can assess the justification of any knowledge claim. Mosteller’s response is key since he refers to this in regards to other forms of R as well: we may not have “global neutrality” (that hold in every dispute), but we do have “local neutrality” (the laws of logic are often one example of the latter; standards that are not in question in that particular dispute). He also approvingly cites an author as saying “to defend [R] is to defend it non-relativistically, which is to give it up; to ‘defend’ it relativistically is not to defend it at all”. Which means there is no juice in saying “Hey everyone, R is true to me”, but this is the most a proponent could consistently say. He ends the section by supporting Putnam’s claim that ER leads to solipsism. Next he tackles ontological relativism (OR), which has its roots in Kant (not a relativist). He considers Putnam’s conceptual relativism, which comes out when our answer to "How many objects are there in a world with X, Y, and Z" depends on what our concepts are. Mosteller sees this as problematic. He goes on to Ethical Relativism (ER). Here he says first, just because there is disagreement doesn’t mean there is no truth to an issue. Second, really smart people have argued for the objectivity of morality for milenia. Third, there is a lot of agreement (Lewis put together a list in The Abolition of Man). The tolerance that seems to come from ER is good, but maybe we need to distinguish moral from political tolerance. Then, perhaps the argument of the book comes from James Rachels: if ER, then MLK, Gandhi, and Mother Theresa were acting wrongly! Aesthetic R (AR) argues that properties like height and weight are in objects, but properties like beauty or ugliness are in the mind of a perceiver (for nothing can be both all green and all blue for example, so how could something be beautiful to one person and ugly to another?). Hume argued against AR and said we can know ugly or pretty things by training and practice of our sense organs. He ends the section saying “In art or in ontology, universal generalizations denying the possibility of existence or reality are self-defeating”. The chapter on Relativistic Worldviews is where things take a weird turn, perhaps this is where the author tries to put forth his own original ideas. He looks at the work of MacIntyre, Kuhn, and (interestingly), the issue of blasphemy. Key issue: I love the idea of local vs. global neutrality, but isn’t what is local depend or is relative to who the arguers are? Now it does not seem trivially so, as when someone says “I am holding a pen” and it is true relative to who says it and when. I’m not sure what to think here and the author has not responded to my email on this issue. ...more
It appears as though Cogito was a philosophy magazine/journal aimed at a popular audience and these interviews, fittingly, all contain some material It appears as though Cogito was a philosophy magazine/journal aimed at a popular audience and these interviews, fittingly, all contain some material on the philosophers as men and women (Pyles quotes Hume as saying “Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man”). I must say I was let down: I thought it’d give me an accessible look at a broader range of philosophers and topics than I normally might encounter, though I found that lacking. Could it be the lay-out? I’m not sure. This was a journal in England, so that shows at times (a number of interviewees refer to Gilbert Ryle, for example). Putnam is here, and when asked what makes a good philosopher, he quotes Burnyeat as saying philosophy needs “vision and arguments”. Dawkins says “moths fly into candle flames not from some urge to commit suicide but because candle flames are not a salient part of the environment in which their genes were naturally selected” (answering a question that came up for my lady recently). I did find myself enjoying Dennet and his work on philosophy of mind (including the story he told of having his daughter “push her pain” into his hand). The chapter on Bernard Williams was one of my favorites, both because he lists the only 6 moral philosophers worth reading (Plato, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Kant’s Groundwork, Mill’s On Liberty, Nietzsche’s Genealogy and Beyond, and Hobbes’ Leviathan), and the quote of the book (“I’ve always been impressed by the thought that if you took morality absolutely as seriously as it demands, almost nothing that we value would exist”; 159). Despite this, Williams is politically active (which makes this statement all the more powerful). Macintyre is hard to understand, but Strawson has a real way with words. Parfit says the puzzling claim “I do not accept the Buddhist no self view, since I believe that persons exist. We are persons. But I believe that persons are not entities of a kind that must be recognized in any adequate conceptual scheme” (191). I always thought he did accept the no self view. Maybe it’s just that “identity is not what matters”. He goes on to say “I know that, after a few more years, I shall not exist. That fact can seem very disturbing. But, on my view, it can be redescribed. It is the fact that, after a certain time, none of the experiences that occur will be connected in certain ways to my present experiences. That does not seem so bad. In that redescription, my death seems to disappear.” Parfit then says “I imagined someone who was temporally neutral, and who cared in the same way about good or bad experiences, whether they were in the future or the past. Such a person would not be disturbed if he was about to die. Though he would have nothing to look forward to, he would have his whole life to look backward to. His position would be no worse than if he had only just started to exist, and had nothing to look backward to.” (194). This is a nice way of looking at things. Nussbaum ends things off, including her saying “I think that this realization that preferences are not a neutral bedrock, but are malleable, and are often shaped by public policies, is one of the greatest revolutions in modern economics” (245). She also talks about laws that are too specific.
OK, maybe this book wasn’t so bad, but I thought it was going to be better. ...more
I like Forrest, but I think I liked him less after reading this book. He's pretty crazy and can be annoying. Still, I did learn how to properly poke sI like Forrest, but I think I liked him less after reading this book. He's pretty crazy and can be annoying. Still, I did learn how to properly poke someone in the eye....more
I got this from the basement of my local library: where customers aren't allowed to go. Its a pretty obscure book, so much so that I had to manually aI got this from the basement of my local library: where customers aren't allowed to go. Its a pretty obscure book, so much so that I had to manually add it to goodreads and amazon has almost no info on it. It's obscure for a reason: its not very good and its about a subject matter that doesn't interest a lot of people. BUT, it was the only book on this in the library...
This was a big meeting, organized by the Pope in the 1960s, of all the big-shots of the Christian church (over 3 thousand people) to try to make some changes to the church. One of the changes that resulted is that the Mass was to be said in the local langauge, and not just latin (as was the norm beforehand).
The author was there in Rome when this was happening, but he misses some of the bigger picture philosophical debates that were going on.