Good question! There is reason to think that at various points in his life Wittgenstein was very much gripped by religious forms of life. According to McGuinness, during the first world war Wittgenstein was so taken by Tolstoy's The Gospel in Brief that "he read and reread it, and had it always with him, under fire and at all times, and was known by other soldiers as 'the one with the Gospels'." Long after the war he said to O.C. Dury "I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view." While Wittgenstein changed his mind on various matters, he seems to have always had a kind of sacred wonder about the world (or existence) itself. In the Tractatus he wrote: "The mystical is not how the world is, but that it is." And later in his 1929 "A Lecture on Ethics" he described the experience of "seeing the world as a miracle." He noted that when he had such wonder at the existence of the world this was "exactly what people were referring to when they said...
I am reading Tolstoy's My Confession for my philosophy class and had a question about it. What does he mean when he says "What meaning has my finite existence in this infinite world"? I understand what he means by the 'finite', but what is the meaning behind the 'infinite'? Does he just mean the unknown?
Good question. While it has been many years since I read Tolstoy's confessions, I suggest that in the passage you cite he is struggling with the apparent void or endless, apparent meaningless of life (and a universe) without God. I recall him claiming that if one really took seriously the idea that life was utterly void of meaning, the only way to live would be to be drunk most of the time! Many philosophers today disparage Tolstoy's position --they think life itself can have meaning, whether or not God exists or they reject questions about the meaning of life as somehow confused (sentences and language have meaning, but life itself?) But I think Tolstoy raises a vital, philosophically interesting set of questions and his reported discovery of meaning in relationship to God is profoundly deep and worth taking seriously. The famous 20th century Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein was very impressed by Tolstoy's thinking about life's meaning and values. I might add that while Tolstoy's outlook evolved...
Do academics in particular have a moral responsibility to be outspokenly critical of social injustice?
I suggest that all people have a moral responsibility to be outspokenly critical of social injustice (under normal conditions when being outspoken does not provoke even more injustice, and so on) and because academics are people (let us hope so!), they too have such a duty. But I take it you are asking, more specifically, about the particular duties that an "academic" has; does a scholar, teacher, professor, administrator functioning in an educational academy have a special duty in this matter? I am not sure it is a duty, but I think it is certainly permissible for academics and an academy itself to take a stand on social injustice. The American Philosophical Association has done so from time to time, and it has censored institutions that it believes use unfair practices of discrimination.
Good question. I think there is considerable influence: Heidegger's notions of contingency, authenticity, death, our "thrownness" into being, the importance of time or temporality in our identity, are all in play in Sartre's Being and Nothingness. In my view, there is something magisterial about both books (S's Being and Nothingness and H's Being and Time) and H's Being and Time has received the most attention, and yet Sartre's work contains more arguments to engage and colorful thought experiments (perhaps reflecting his novelistic ability) that invite engagement. I think it is also an interesting question to consider to what extent Simone de Beauvoir's (Sartre's partner) thought influenced Sartre. I suggest that her influence on Sartre has been quite underestimated. Good wishes in your further reading!
What's the philosophical response to Nietzsche's contention that all morality is merely a trick that the weak play upon the strong to get the strong to rein in their strength?
I think it would be tough to identify "the" philosophical response --as there have been many. Probably the most effective reply (in my view) is Max Scheler's (1874-1928) book Ressentiment in which he argues for the positive content of an ethic of compassion for the vulnerable and exposes some of the troubling consequences of Nietzsche's more aristocratic valorization of strength. When I began this reply by questioning whether there is "the" (singular) response to Nietzsche I may have been a little hasty. What I mean is that there are many alternative ethical systems (ranging from utilitarianism and Kantianism to the Christian ethic Nietzsche attacks in Beyond Good and Evil and elsewhere), but there is a general philosophical tendency not to discount a theory because of its origin. Imagine Nietzsche published his will to power philosophy, not because he believed it, but to win a bet with Wagner or Mary Wollstoncraft was actually into patriarchal governance --even so, we would have to assess N's work on...
Hi, I have chosen to write an essay about kant's moral argument for the existence of God and evaluate his contribution to philosophy of religion as an option. However, I am not getting much help. What must I read to cover in the essay and how much of Kant's philosophy must I be familiar with?
Thank you for your help in advance.
Good wishes! I believe you can address Kant's moral argument without having to know a great deal of Kant's views in, say, The Critique of Pure Reason or Critique of Judgement. You could instead focus on Kant's Critique of Practical Reason. You can find a good discussion of the argument in the first and second edition of the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Religion. There is a version of the moral argument in the recent Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology worthy of attention. If you wanted an overview of Kant's argument, along with some attention to his other views on religion, you could check out chapter five, "Kantian Philosophy of Religion" in the Cambridge University Press book: Evidence and Faith; Philosophy and religion since the seventeenth century. Good wishes, Greta! CT
First let me say that I truly appreciate the time you all put in to answering questions from the public. Hopefully I can add one more decent inquiry.
I've been reading Parfit's fascinating "Reasons and Persons" and there's something that's been nagging at me. Since I'm reading it for pleasure and I'm not a formal student of Philosophy, I don't have access to professors for assistance. I was hoping one (or some) of you might be willing to help me out.
In general I find the book brilliant and, needless to say, illuminating. I think my life will be changed by it. However, I'm struck by several sentences in which Parfit seems to let his personal judgements guide the direction of his work after he says many times in the book that we might need to shelve certain personal judgements in light of the strength of the arguments. For example, at the end of section 105 (page 318 in my copy), where he is discussing a particular "discount rate" applied to our actions' effects on our future selves, he writes: ...
Thank you for your kind words about this site! And I congratulate you on taking on Parfit's work. It is not easy! Parfit is very keen to avoid confusing personal (even eccentric) likes and dislikes from an appeal to what he sees as objective, normative reasons that should appeal to all people. In his most recent work, a two volume book called On What Matters, he makes this (I find amusing) confession: "I hate the feeling of touching velvet, the sound of buzzing house-flies, and the flattening deadening effect of most overhead lights"! What he seeks to do (in the book you are working through, but especially in On What Matters) is to distinguish cases like smoking which he thinks all of us have a reason to avoid and these more personal dislikes. I think you have put your finger on a problem that vexes a range of moral theories that work with a concept of human flourishing and goodness. Some accounts allow for what might be considered moderate self-harm or at least not optimal living (e.g. I think...
A recent while ago a person asked why their were so few religious persons in Philosophy departments these days. One philosopher responded that there were many opportunities for abstract thinking in the religion department of universities. Most religion departments are centered around particular religions such as Christianity while historically philosophers have often been spiritual but not affiliated with a religion. So I guess you could still ask why are so few philosophers spiritual in orientation and what educational department could they possibly turn to?
Interesting! There are significant numbers of self-identified "religious persons" throughout the world in different philosophy departments. You may find mostly Muslim philosophers in countries where the culture is Islamic, but that is not always true, as can be seen in the UK and USA. My own school includes a Hindu professor who shares a position with the religion and philosophy and you can find a guide to the many Christian philosophers working in the English-speaking world by looking at the Society of Christian Philosophers website. As for philosophy and spirituality, there are a few secular philosophers who have sought to promote a kind of spirituality without any religious affiliation or theistic framework (this was a project of Robert Solomon, for example). For a fascinating essay by one of the greatest living philosophers on the desire for some kind of spirituality, you should check out Thomas Nagel's essay "Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament." I think this is on his NYU ...
It seems today that in mainstream media and political discourse proponents of neoliberalism equate freedom with consumer choice. Many arguments about the restructuring of safety net programs, such as social security and medicare, along market logic of private competition and less government involvement, usually mention how this would bring about more "choice" for individuals and thus more freedom. Neoliberalism has brought a shift in discourse about freedom and liberty more inline with market type of discourse. The shift seems to be from having the freedom OF choice, to freedom IS choice. Much can be said about this from many different philosophical perspectives (an interesting one that comes to mind being Foucault and governmentality), but I want to go back to further, to Kant.
My question is what would Kant say about this idea of freedom, that freedom is equated with choice - specifically- consumer/market choice? This type of questions plagues me because this neoliberal logic seems to reduce,...
Interesting! I am not acquainted with the term "neoliberalism," but I think you are correct that Kant's notion of freedom was not developed with an eye to consumer / market choices. However, his view of freedom, autonomy in general, and both versions of the categorical imperative would have implications for one's behavior in the market, e.g. one would not have a healthy market if there was no promise-keeping, for example. For Kant's views on politics and markets and freedom, you might look at his work on history from a cosmopolitan point of view. You will find something like the liberalism of Adam Smith at work, the idea being that if persons are rational in their pursuit of interests the good of the whole will be served. FYI : Kant's work on history influenced President Wilson and his aim of spreading democracy throughout the world with the help of the League of Nations (a term that I believe was used by Kant). Perhaps a good counter-point to what you are calling "neoliberalism" may be...
I'm currently reading an excerpt from Descartes' Meditations, specifically the part where he attempts to prove the existence of god.
I found myself unable to properly understand his notions of 'formal' reality or truth as compared to 'objective' reality or truth.
The fact that an idea appears to him as something specifically, does not mean that it IS that something in reality (it might be merely appearance). However, taken purely in itself, at least the mental representation of the idea is real.
Is the former here what Descartes continues to denote with 'objective' reality and the latter 'former' reality, or the other way around? Every time I think I have it figured out what these two terms mean, he uses them in a confusing manner two sentences later. Please help! Sadly, I'm reading an (undoubtedly terrible) translation which does not contain original page numbers; I hope you are able to answer my question without these as reference!
Thanks in advance, and with regards,
Not having the text in front of me, I may not be the best guide, but I believe that there are two parts to the argument. One is what might be called a reality principle. There cannot be more reality in the effect than in the cause; the idea of God is the idea of a perfect being and it is unreasonable to believe that the cause of this idea may be something less perfect (ourselves or, more specifically, our minds. Descartes also holds that the idea of existence and and the idea of God are inseparable --like the idea of a mountain and valley. God, then (if God exists) exists necessarily and not contingently. Given that God's existence is possible and hence not impossible, it follows that God exists necessarily. It may sound bizarre, but I actually think the later is a good argument and defend it several places, e.g. Evidence and Faith (Cambridge University Press) and Philosophy of Religion; A Beginner's Guide (UK: OneWorld Press).