Skip to content

My Writings

Here is a menu of my writings:

Happiness

The problem! Am I right? It was the first philosophical problem I solved way back in '71? (he modestly averred) and it still looks good. In fact our secretary (Sally) while typing this ancient manuscript into the computer remarked to me (exhibiting a slight tone of surprise) "This is true". Download and enjoy. Cheques should be made out to 'Cash'.

Read More


Fun and Games

This paper is all about why some games are more fun to play than others. It features Marshall McLuhan's famous (well . . . now famous) definition of fun, viz., "Fun is the amusement born of rational detachment". Finding out what McLuhan meant by this was quite fascinating, especially finding out why 'Trivial Pursuits' is not that much fun to play and chess isn't fun at all! .

Read More


Aesthetic Transactions

This paper about aesthetic transactions ( i.e., the relations between the artist and her art and the spectator and his aesthetic reaction to it) provides a complete aesthetic based on Kant's Critique of Judgment. It introduces a wonderful new concept - the non-standard ontological framework- that reveals the essence of each art form. Frankly , once you have read this you are going to wonder how you ever managed to defend even the humblest aesthetic judgment without it.

Read More


The Abortion Debate

This Essay focuses on what I argue is  the psychological heart of the abortion debate, namely that factor which is most likely to determine how a woman will subsequently feel about her decision if she decides in favour of an abortion. 

Read More


Chapter Two of Morality and Agency

 Chapter Two of a book written by myself and Robyn Mcphail (Morality and Agency, University Press of America, 1988) contains a sustained comparison between the moral philosophy of Kant and the ethics of Spinoza. The Chapter contains a dialogue which answers the 64 dollar question: how can reason be practical? 

Read More


The Origin and Status of our Intuitions

 In the Critique of Judgment Kant argues that we possess a "sensus communis" a capacity that allows us to sense directly what our intuitions are about a given judgment, i.e., to what extent we believe it. In this paper I will explain how Kant thinks this sensus communis generates intuitions. I will use this explanation to show how, not only our sense of beauty, but also all the special senses (our moral sense, our sense of justice, our sense of certainty, etc.,) should be understood as modalities of this sensus communis. This account allows us to clarify the 'belief' aspect of the 'justified true belief' account of knowledge and to make explicit the status and origin of intuitions.

Read More


How to Tell Left from Right in Politics

The single central issue that divides Right and Left-how wide is the scope of personal responsibility-can be characterized in terms of the debate on this issue between John Rawls and Robert Nozick. The Right-represented by Nozick-places great emphasis on personal responsibility. They believe that people must lead their own lives and accept that their fate is largely a function of their own behavior. On the Left, people (in Rawls' phrase), 'agree to share each other's fate' on the grounds that one's fate is largely out of one's own hands. On this view there is a limited role for personal responsibility so that it makes sense for a society to be so organized that everyone will be looked after should things go badly for him or her.

Read More


Explaining Evil Behaviour

 Abstract I assume that we find it hard to understand, for example, how a person could harm another person in cold blood. I then set out Kant's reason's for thinking that, strictly speaking, evil behaviour is impossible: people may act on wicked desires but deliberate wrong-doing is not a genuine phenomenon. However, Kant's view is at odds with our common sense intuitions about morally evil behaviour, namely, that such behaviour is possible, albeit difficult to understand. I then suggest how Kant's analysis of the problem of evil behaviour can help us to understand under what conditions evil behaviour would be possible. Next, I introduce Peck's theory of how evil behaviour can manifest itself when a person suffers from malignant narcissism-a complaint that involves acting on principles which are not consciously acknowledged. I conclude that Kant's views on evil can be understood with reference to Peck's theory (and vice versa).

Read More


The Solution to the Problem of Akrasia

Read More


 What is Wrong with Hume's Analysis of Causality

 

 I argue that the idea of a causal relationship between two objects or events can be properly applied only within isolated or effectively isolated portions of the continuum. This isolation can be set up within the laboratory proper, or can be attributed to those quasi-laboratories which nature provides. Experimental situations are, then, the proper arena for the use of causal language. Talk about causal relations translates badly when we try to use it to describe events which are not isolated from the continuum . Thus we feel uneasy when we talk about the causes of the First World War, or the Depression. In such cases, where the nominated portion of the continuum cannot be isolated from the rest of the continuum, any event or events that we nominate as causes seem to be insufficient as causes. In these cases we seem to feel that everything which preceded the nominated event is relevant to its turning out the way it did. This is what makes the writing of history such a difficult business when it is regarded as an exercise in nominating the causes of the selected portion of the continuum under discussion. We appreciate intuitively that the concept of causality is not applicable to a situation in which we cannot isolate the process under examination and introduce external factors at will, ie., subject the process to experiment, to determine why things happened the way they did.

Read More

 


THE OTHER PROBLEM OF EVIL: USING KANT AND M. SCOTT PECK TO ILLUMINATE THE PROBLEM OF EVIL BEHAVIOUR

Abstract: I begin by noting that the problem of evil behaviour lies in the fact that it is difficult to explain. I then set out Kant's contention that, strictly speaking, evil behaviour is impossible: people may be bad (i.e., wicked or self- indulgent) but moral evil is not a genuine phenomenon. I note that Kant's view is at odds with our intuitions about evil behaviour, namely that such behaviour is possible, albeit difficult to understand. (These intuitions are exemplified in a series of quotations from Parkin's Anthropology of Evil, 1985). I then suggest how Kant's analysis of the problem of evil behaviour can help us to understand under what conditions evil could be possible. I continue by introducing Peck's theory of how evil behaviour is possible (Peck 1981). I conclude by noting how Kant's views on evil can be understood with reference to Peck's theory and how the notion of a private principle serves to integrate the two views. I have included parts of a letter from Michael Stone which provides a running commentary on this article from the point of view of a psychiatrist.

Read More


EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS: BRINGING ARISTOTLE UP TO SPEED

Abstract: Charles Pigden in his 'Geach on Good' thinks it unlikely that a viable evolutionary ethic is possible but concedes that such an ethic would be possible if it met three conditions. I investigate the possibility of fulfilling these conditions by taking Aristotle's approach to ethics and giving it an evolutionary twist.

Read More

 


FORM AND CONTENT IN KANT AND WITTGENSTEIN

Abstract
This paper takes a fresh look at the form-content distinction. It is motivated by Rorty's criticism of Kant's use of this distinction, a criticism which derives from the later Wittgenstein. To see how this distinction is employed in the philosophy of Kant we need to see it at work, a) in the study of English literature (where it illuminates Wittgenstein's contention that form and content cannot be separated), and b), in relation to the study of Physics (where the use of the form-content distinction illuminates Kant's use of the distinction in his transcendental psychology). I conclude that the use of the distinction in philosophy is usually illegitimate but that its transcendental employment is valid. A novel element in the discussion is the role of Kant's doctrine concerning intensive magnitudes: this relates to the 'world creation' problem that Rorty regards as stemming (ultimately) from Kant's introduction of the form-content distinction.

Read More


The Highest Good and The Happy Ending

 

Read More


LOCKE: PRIMARY AND SECONDARY QUALITIES

 

Read More


THE METAPHYSICAL UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE AND THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM

 

Read More


Making the Implicit, Explicit: Looking at the philosophical method employed in P4C (Philosophy for Children)

 Ee have a capacity to detect whether or not what we hear or read follows the rules that govern the concepts we employ in our language. When I say "That doesn't make sense", or "I don't follow you" or "That doesn't sound right'" these are our common ways of signaling that we have detected some inconsistency in the use of these rules. Now given that we have this inbuilt capacity to detect potential philosophical problems, how can we move forward in such a way that our subsequent discussion will constitute a philosophical discussion of the problem detected. The techniques that P4c employs are meant to ensure that the subsequent discussion will be philosophical.

 

 

Read More


KANT AND THE PATCHWORK QUILT

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), perhaps the most important European philosopher of modern times, provides in his Critique of Judgement, explanations of charm and beauty which provide especially apt tools with which to articulate our aesthetic response to patchwork quilts.

 

Read More


The Ruin of Philosophy as a Discipline

 

Read More


 

Strange Emotions: Kant's Aesthetic Theory Applied to the Problem Presented by Musical Emotions

What prompts discussion of this topic is the curious fact that people find it difficult to articulate the emotional effect that music has upon them. That it has an emotional effect-and a potent one-is what everyone admits. Furthermore, each of our emotional reactions to different musical lines seem to be unique and significant: our feelings exactly fit the music which prompts them and thus these feelings seems like wonderfully accurate judgments. But beyond a few lame characterizations of these emotional judgments (the music is 'happy' or 'sad') we seem to be stuck. In this paper we present an argument that explains why musical emotions have this special character.

Read More


A SEMANTIC 'TRANSLATION' OF THE ONTOLOGICAL PASSAGES IN WITTGENSTEIN'S TRACTATUS

Read More


Publications

Read More


Fun and Games