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Philosophical Topics

Volume 44, Issue 1, Spring 2016
Essays on the Philosophy of Frederick Stoutland

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Displaying: 1-14 of 14 documents

1. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Martin Gustafsson Introduction
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2. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Lilli Alanen Self-Awareness and Cognitive Agency in Descartes’s Meditations
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There are two main strands in the afterlife of Descartes’s famous redefinition of mind in terms of thinking likely to color one’s reading of his notion of mind or self. The one stressed most by his posterity and developed from early on in the empiricist tradition sees consciousness as its main characteristic. The other focuses on reason and rationality. This paper discusses the textual support for the first reading promoted by Ryle and his followers and aligns itself with the second arguing that it is the exercise of its rational, cognitive capacities that are essential to the Cartesian mind and not consciousness, which is merely a presupposition for its rational activity. It examines the interrelation and respective roles of awareness on the one hand, and reason on the other in Descartes’s account of mind or self. But it also suggests that the role given by Descartes to the will in judgment and his separation of will and intellect into two distinct powers may be seen as contributing to a transformation of the very notion of reason and of self as a cognitive and moral agent.
3. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Jeff Malpas Why an Aristotelian Account of Truth Is (More or Less) All We Need
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This paper advances an account of truth that has as its starting point Aristotle’s comments about truth at Metaphysics 1011b1. It argues that there are two key ideas in the Aristotelian account: that truth belongs to ‘sayings that’; and that truth involves both what is said and what is. Beginning with the second of these apparent truisms, the paper argues for the crucial role of the distinction between ‘what is said’ and ‘what is’ in the understanding of truth, on the grounds that it is essential to the distinction between truth and falsity and, indeed, to the very possibility of any critical assessment of statements. However, this distinction cannot be used to ground any account of truth in terms that refer to anything other than truth—there is thus no relation that underlies truth even though truth may be construed (in a certain limited sense) relationally. Returning to the first point, it is argued that while truth should indeed be understood as belonging to statements, it should not be construed as attaching to ‘propositions’, but to uttered sentences. The account of truth advanced is minimalist, and yet not deflationist; objectivist, and yet not independent of actual linguistic practice.
4. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Dorothea Frede The Social Aspects of Aristotle’s Theory of Action
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Some contemporary philosophers of action have contended that the intentions, decisions, and actions of collective social agency are reducible to those of the individuals involved. This contention is based on two assumptions: (1) that collective agency would require super-minds, and (2) that actions presuppose causes that move our bodies. The problem of how to account for collective action had not been regarded as a problem in the history of philosophy earlier.The explanation of why ancient Greek philosophers did not see joint agency as a problem is not, as sometimes assumed, that they had no, or only a weak, sense of individuality. Nor is it because they simply overlooked the difference between individual and collective agency. It is, rather, as Aristotle’s conception of humans as ‘social’ or ‘political’ animals indicates, that the aims and ends of actions, and the means to bring them about by acting together, is the result of practice from early on. Without the acquisition of language and moral habituation humans would not become humans. There is, then, a shared understanding about common agency from infancy on. Individuals may disagree about some particular aim and action, and act only because it is a decision of the majority. But no super-minds are required to explain the communality of wishes. That Aristotle ignored the fact that all motion starts in individual bodies is explained by the difference between motions and actions: moves that are not determined by their ends are mere motions, not actions. So what moves an individual body can be the wish to bring about a joint action with another person or with a collective of persons.
5. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Tomas Ekenberg Voluntarism, Intellectualism, and Anselm on Motivation
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According to the standard reading of Anselm’s De casu diaboli 12 through 14, the angels are morally responsible only if their own wills are in a radical way within their own power. By giving to angels two wills, i.e., two basic inclinations or volitional dispositions, Anselm’s God yields to the angels room for a free choice—indeed imparts on them the necessity of such a choice: in the case where an angel’s own happiness is incommensurable with justice, the angel must choose or “will” which disposition to act in accordance with. The standard reading thus takes Anselm to argue for a form of voluntarism. In this paper I argue that the underlying moral psychology of De casu diaboli is neither voluntarist nor intellectualist. A voluntarist reading renders Anselm’s views on motivation incoherent, whereas his views on the conditions of morally right action run afoul of crucial intellectualist assumptions.
6. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
James Conant Why Kant Is Not a Kantian
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A central debate in early modern philosophy, between empiricism and rationalism, turned on the question which of two cognitive faculties—sensibility or understanding—should be accorded logical priority in an account of the epistemic credentials of knowledge. As against both the empiricist and the rationalist, Kant wants to argue that the terms of their debate rest on a shared common assumption: namely that the capacities here in question—qua cognitive capacities—are self-standingly intelligible. The paper terms this assumption the Layer-Cake Conception of Human Mindedness and focuses on Kant’s argument against the empiricist version of the assumption, in particular, as that argument is developed in the B version of the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason. The paper seeks to show how a proper understanding of the structure of the B Deduction reveals its aim to be one of making sense of each of these two capacities (sensibility and understanding) in the light of the other. For the front of the argument that is directed against the empiricist, this means coming to see how a reading of the text that is informed by the layer-cake conception (and which therefore takes the Transcendental Aesthetic to furnish us with the full story about the nature of our faculty for sensory apprehension) is mistaken. For the front of the argument which is directed against the rationalist, this requires coming to see how a mere inversion of the central claim of such a reading would be equally wrong. It would require seeing how a discursive faculty of understanding able to traffic in nothing more than empty concepts would no more amount to a genuinely cognitive power than would a faculty of intuition able to traffic in nothing more than blind intuitions. That is, it requires seeing how each of these faculties depends on its relation to the other to be the sort of faculty that it is in a finite rational being.
7. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Jennifer Hornsby “A Contrast between Two Pictures”: The Case of Perception
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I speak to some of Frederick Stoutland’s thinking over the years. In his last published paper, Stoutland brought together Davidson’s accounts of action and of perception, taking both to belong in a picture “of how we are related to the world” which “has its roots in the Cartesian revolution.” I suggest that Stoutland’s early criticisms of Davidson’s account of action expose the faults in such a picture. And I try to point up the attractions of a different picture in which Davidson’s account of perception fits no better than his account of action.
8. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Anton Ford On What Is in Front of Your Nose
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The conclusion of practical reasoning is commonly said to rest upon a diverse pair of representations—a “major” and a “minor” premise—the first of which concerns the end and the second, the means. Modern and contemporary philosophers writing on action and practical reasoning tend to portray the minor premise as a “means-end belief”—a belief about, as Michael Smith puts it, “the ways in which one thing leads to another,” or, as John McDowell puts it, “what can be relied on to bring about what.” On this point there is little difference between followers of Davidson and followers of Anscombe, or between those who invoke Hume’s legacy and those who invoke Aristotle’s. But Aristotle himself held a very different position. According to him, the minor premise concerns particulars, a sphere controlled by perception. The perception of particulars—that is, of the really-existing people and things confronted in the field of action—plays no essential role in the modern account of rational agency. Because it does not, the modern account fails to explain how one could act for a reason, or how practical reasoning could deliver any conclusion.
9. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Stina Bäckström Expression and Self-Consciousness
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This article argues that nonverbal spontaneous expressions of mental states in human beings involve self-consciousness. We—language-using rational creatures—are capable of knowing our smiles, winces, and frustrated frowns in a self-conscious way. This distinguishes expressions from mere reflexes and mere physiological responses. Such a capacity is, further, essential to such forms of behavior. This is shown by the difficulty of constructing a coherent scenario where we—keeping our rational and conceptual capacities otherwise intact—can nonverbally express our mental states but where we lack a capacity to self-consciously self-ascribe them. Moreover, the article argues that we should not take the connection between nonverbal spontaneous expression and self-consciousness to imply that expressions are intentional actions. Such an implication is due to a commonly accepted but false dichotomy of intentional action and mere behavior.
10. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Will Small Bodily Movement and Its Significance
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I trace the development of one aspect of Fred Stoutland’s thought about action by considering the central role given by contemporary philosophy of action to bodily movement. Those who tell the so-called standard story of action think that actions are bodily movements (arm raisings, leg bendings, etc.) caused by beliefs and desires, that cause further effects in the world (switch flippings, door movements, etc.) in virtue of which they can be described (as flippings of switches, shuttings of doors, etc.). Those who hold a disjunctive conception of bodily movement think that actions are bodily movements that involve intentions essentially, but they too think that when an agent raises a glass, there is an action (an arm raising, perhaps) that causes a distinct event (a glass rising), in virtue of which the action (= the bodily movement) may be redescribed as a raising of a glass. Against both views, it might be held that actions may constitutively involve the changes wrought on their patients—that action is, in the first instance, transaction. But if action consists fundamentally not in an agent’s moving herself, but in her moving (or otherwise changing) something else, then how should we think about the nature and philosophical significance of bodily movement?
11. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Martin Gustafsson Anscombe’s Bird, Wittgenstein’s Cat: Intention, Expression, and Convention
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This paper offers an interpretation of Anscombe’s account of animal versus human intention, and of her notorious claim that the expression of intention is purely conventional. It engages in a criticism of Richard Moran’s and Martin Stone’s recent exegesis of these views of Anscombe’s, and proposes an alternative reading which explains how she can accept both that speechless brutes have intentions and that human intention is essentially linguistic.
12. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Elinor Hallén Film Noir and Weakly Intentional Actions: An Anscombian Analysis
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Human agency is typically thought of as intentional, purposeful, reflective and, in many cases, autonomous. This paper discusses human agency that is compromised in some of these respects, and actions that are actions only in a qualified sense. The object of study is the agency of the leading character, Jeff, in the film noir Out of the Past, and Elizabeth Anscombe’s Intention is the primary source in analyzing Jeff’s behavior.Two excerpts from the film are presented and analyzed. The analysis of the first excerpt reveals agency that is merely weakly intentional; that is lacking in purposiveness and which displays ambivalence. Anscombe’s example of the man pumping water helps us see that Jeff’s actions are only intentional under some, basic, descriptions; that there is no intention of the action. Jeff does not really know his way about and his actions are not sufficiently grounded in reason. This, it is argued, is largely because he is not the author of his own actions: he is thrown into a situation set up by someone else. He enters in medias res and feels forced to act although he has limited knowledge of the meaning or purpose of the full action in which he partakes. In Anscombian vocabulary, he lacks the first-person practical knowledge typical of intentional action.In the second episode, Jeff protects Kathie the femme fatale, even when knowing that she has killed a man, stolen money, lied to Jeff, and is trying to frame him for murder. It is argued, in dialogue with Anscombe and Stoutland, that this case may be understood in terms of a mental cause rather than as an intentional action: Jeff’s actions and neglect to act is motivated by his passion for Kathie, it blinds him from considering what is reasonable and right to do.
13. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Lisa Van Alstyne Theory, Interpretation, and Law: Some Worries about Dworkin’s Account of Their Relation
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This paper explores Ronald Dworkin’s influential theory of constructive interpretation. It points out that this theory admits of two readings, which I call the “undemanding” and the “demanding” conceptions of constructive interpretation respectively. As I argue, Dworkin’s own presentation of the theory equivocates between these two conceptions, the former of which is utterly unproblematic, but the latter of which incorporates certain philosophical prejudices as to what it must mean for a practice to be purposive.
14. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Lars Hertzberg Stoutland vs. Metaphysics
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In his essay “Analytic Philosophy and Metaphysics,” Frederick Stoutland argues that an unspoken metaphysical spirit underlies much of twentieth-century analytic philosophy, in spite of the fact that the word “metaphysics” has had a pejorative ring. The metaphysical habit of mind results in an activity which at best is an unproductive diversion, at worst a dialectical illusion, making claims which only appear to be truth-evaluable. I agree with Stoutland’s diagnosis, which is inspired by Wittgenstein, Georg Henrik von Wright, and Cora Diamond, but argue that there is a bifurcation in the metaphysical temptation which Stoutland overlooks. One form is the assumption that questions of meaning can be raised outside the context of meaningful use of an expression, the other is the urge to impose a scientific form of inquiry onto philosophy, the aims of which are quite different from those of science. The former temptation is the deeper one, running through the history of philosophy, while the attempt to model philosophical inquiry onto scientific explanation is the contemporary form taken by this temptation. As an example of the metaphysical spirit Stoutland criticizes Marion David’s defense of the correspondence theory of truth. I argue that David’s progress could have been cut off at an earlier stage, by pointing out that the examples of truth claims David uses as his starting points are themselves bewildering and far removed from anything that would intelligibly be said in the course of a normal conversation.