New Issue Of Lyceum: Volume XI, no.2 (Spring 2010)

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NEW ISSUE Volume 11-2 Now Available!

VolumeXI, No. 2                                                                                      Spring 2010

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LYCEUM

Rethinking Recollection and Plato’s Theory of Forms

Lydia Schumacher

Human Life and Its Value
Would You Want to Be a Brain in a Cyborg?

Robert D. Anderson

The Moral Virtues and Instrumentalism in Epicurus

Kristian Urstad

Anselm’s unum argumentu
and its Development in St. Bonaventure

Alessandro Medri

What Blindsight Can See

Jared Butler

A Publication of the
Saint Anselm Philosophy Department

The Burden Faced by External Norms: A Response to Bartol

The Burden Faced by External Norms: A Response to Bartol

Colin Wysman

In his follow-up to my recent article “Internal Injuries,” Jordan Bartol has touched upon what he takes to be some significant concerns with my criticism of Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition. I am glad to be given the chance to clarify and defend some of my previous claims in this short response.

First, I ask that the reader once again consider a key difference between internal and external critique as described by Antti Kauppinen. In his paper (2002), he describes the burden that external critique faces in terms of justifying norms as universal (pp. 481); a difficulty, he continues, that internal critique escapes because it draws its criticism from the internal values of a particular system. What I am concerned with here is that Honneth, in maintaining that recognition theory is a purely internal method of critique, uses the idea of a surplus of value as a premise without adequately justifying its universality. My main point, which I hope to clarify here, is not that recognition theory, based on the surplus of value idea, is an unacceptable form of critique; rather, I have simply argued that it is unable to stand alone as a form of internal critique.

I thus believe that Bartol has wrongly characterized my position as being a complete rejection of external critique. Indeed, external principles can be extremely valuable (and perhaps a necessity) for transhistorical critique. What I hope to have argued in my recent article is not that Honneth’s recognition theory ought to be rejected outright due to its reliance on the surplus of value idea. Rather, that by wrongly characterizing it as pure internal critique, the double burden explained by Kauppinen (2002) that demands that an external norm be both justified as universally valued and unambiguous enough to be practically applicable, is ignored. It appears as if Honneth himself is at least somewhat aware of the significance of this challenge, suggesting that without a plausible concept of moral progress, recognition theory is merely speculative (2002, pp. 518).

What I propose is that we seek a more fully developed moral theory that acknowledges any reliance on external norms and attempts to justify those norms as universally held. I believe that Bartol has made an important advance in our debate with his sketch of a universally grounded critique involving both internal and external principles. Though it is not something that I can fully address in such short space, I caution against presupposing the universality of an external premise without a rigorous justification as I feel Honneth has done with regards to the surplus of value aspect of recognition theory. While Bartol has certainly put forth a convincing theoretical model for a universally valid external critique, it is important not to ignore the burden that external norms face by wrongly characterizing them as internal.

University of Windsor

Windsor, Ontario, Canada


Works Cited

Honneth, Axel (2002). “Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions.”  Inquiry, 45, 499-519.

Kauppinen, Antti (2002). “Reason, Recognition, and Internal Critique.” Inquiry, 45(4), 479-498

New Issue Volume 10 Number 2 (Spring 2009)

http://www.lyceumphilosophy.com/?q=node/107

Volume X, No. 2                                                                                     Spring 2009

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LYCEUM


Lucretius’ Venus and Mars Reconsidered

M. D. Moorman

The Ethics of Memory in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan

Benjamin Tucker

Internal Injuries:
Some Further Concerns with Intercultural and Transhistorical Critique

Colin Wysman

Universal Injuries Need Not Wound Internal Values:
A Response to Wysman

Jordan Bartol

Enumerative Induction as a Subset of Inference to the Best Explanation

Laith Al-Shawaf

On Epistemology of the Celestial Realm

Aditya Singh

Unhappy Humans and Happy Pigs

Joshua Seigal

M. D. Moorman: Lucretius’ Venus and Mars Reconsidered

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Lucretius’ Venus and Mars Reconsidered

M. D. Moorman

1. Asmis’ Interpretation

The opening sections of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura have been the source of much puzzlement and interpretive speculation. Why does Lucretius begin with an invocation of the goddess Venus when one of the key tenets of Epicureanism is that the gods inhabit a distant realm of tranquility and are unconcerned with the affairs of men? Indeed, the Epicureans saw religion as a source of self-deception, error, and evil. This paper will attempt to ease the paradoxical tension present in these opening passages.

We will begin by considering Elizabeth Asmis’ article, “Lucretius’ Venus and Stoic Zeus,”[1] which offers an interpretation that she believes is “the key to a solution”[2] to this problem. We will agree with Asmis that it is interpretively useful to see a substitution for Stoic Zeus taking place in the text. However, we will argue against her interpretation on three crucial points: (1) that Venus alone supplants Stoic Zeus, (2) that Venus triumphs “utterly” over Mars, and  (3) we will take strong exception to an argument she offers to ‘save the text’ via a distinction she draws between Zeus and Venus. We will then offer an alternative reading of the text, which, while falling well short of a “key to a solution,” may make better sense of the text. We will begin by sketching Asmis’ three central contentions, and then deal with them in reverse order.

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Benjamin Tucker: The Ethics of Memory in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan

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The Ethics of Memory in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan

Benjamin Tucker

Many commentators on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan have sought to explain Hobbes’ ethical theory and the implications that his ethical theory has on the whole of Leviathan. Much of this commentary places fear and absolute submission to the sovereign at the center of Hobbes’ ethical theory. The rationale for such a sovereign-centric reading of Leviathan is not altogether inaccurate, but based on my reading, none of these accounts adequately explain why Hobbes believed that a sovereign-centric ethic was the only way to peace. It is my view that memory, a key concept in Hobbes’ philosophy that could add a great deal to the current scholarly discussion, has been unjustly left out of a majority, if not all, of the commentaries on Hobbes’ ethical theory. In response to what I see as scholarly neglect of a key concept in Hobbes‘ philosophy, I intend to produce a memory-centric reading of the ethical theory that Hobbes develops in Leviathan.

I want to suggest that viewing memory, a concept that Hobbesian scholarship has pushed into the margins of Leviathan, as a foundational concept of Leviathan can produce new, exciting, and important interpretations of Hobbes’ theories of sovereignty, ethics, epistemology, the state of nature, the state of war, the social contract, nominalism, and psychological egoism. The primary focus of this paper and my guiding question will be: Is there an ethics and/or morality of memory in Leviathan and, if so, how substantial of role does Hobbes’ ethics and/or morality of memory occupy in regards to the main claims Leviathan?

The first concept that Hobbes creates and explains in Leviathan is imagination. The second concept that Hobbes creates is memory. Hobbes was a stout logician and, I will argue that as most logicians do, Hobbes begins his work by creating and explaining the most basic, foundational concepts of his complex argument. If this claim is true, the failure of Hobbesian scholars to consider memory and imagination as central concepts of Hobbes’ ethical theory is quite a serious error.

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Colin Wysman: Internal Injuries: Some Further Concerns with Intercultural and Transhistorical Criti

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Internal Injuries: Some Further Concerns with Intercultural and Transhistorical Critique

Colin Wysman

In the Fall 2008 issue of Lyceum, Jordan Bartol illuminates some problems with Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition, ultimately concluding that it is insufficient for cross-cultural critique. In this paper, I first examine the differences between internal and external critique as described by Antti Kauppinen, and where both he and Honneth think recognition theory fits. I then examine Honneth’s conceptions of self-realization and autonomy and argue that despite his attempts as establishing them as a universally held normative core for social critique, they are both individually and cultural relativistic. Furthermore, in an important departure from Bartol’s argument, I suggest that it is not the question of progressive priority that we need to ask of Honneth’s notion of historical moral progress. Rather, I contend that we must ask whether or not historical moral progress can be used for internal critique at all, since, as I argue, it points to external principles. Finally, I conclude that Honneth has insufficiently justified his theory of recognition as universalist internal critique and that at best, he advocates a mixed stance, composed of both internal and external methods of critique.

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Jordan Bartol: Universal Injuries Need Not Wound Internal Values: A Response to Wysman

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Universal Injuries Need Not Wound Internal Values: A Response to Wysman

Jordan Bartol

In his recent article, Internal Injuries: Some Further Concerns with Intercultural and Transhistorical Critique, Colin Wysman provides a response to my (2008) article, Is Internal Critique Possible?. In his article, Wysman offers a very complex and robust account of the failure of Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition.  Wysman ultimately supports my assertion – that Honneth’s theory fails to provide a universal ground for moral criticism – while arguing that the route by which I arrived at my conclusion was unnecessarily complicated.  In what follows, I will provide a brief recapitulation of my argument and expand on how I take my position to be situated relative to Wysman’s argument.  Doing so will necessarily require an explication of the difference between my assertion that Honneth must provide a universal ground for criticism – as opposed to a culturally relative ground – and Wysman’s insistence that Honneth provide an internal form of critique rather than an external one.  I will conclude with what I believe to be a very dense philosophical and meta-ethical question raised by this exchange about the relationship between internal moral critique and the universal grounds for moral critique.

In my original piece (Bartol, 2008), I explained that Honneth was forced to rely on a theory of moral progress when attempting to adjudicate between competing tokens of recognitive norms.[1] In these instances, Honneth (2002) asserts, we must rely on the presumption of moral progress to determine which of a set of competing and conflicting moral norms are antecedent and which are the latter.  It is Wysman’s contention that by appealing to diachronically prior norms, Honneth’s theory necessarily fails.  Wysman is correct in noting that this is an important departure from my critique of Honneth.  In my 2008 article, I asserted that we must illustrate the problems with the application of Honneth’s notion of moral progress before concluding that the theory fails.  For Wysman, however, the fact that Honneth appeals to moral progress at all is grounds for dismissal because the historically prior norms to which we appeal when using a theory of moral progress are external to the lifeworld in question.[2]

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Laith Al-Shawaf: Enumerative Induction as a Subset of Inference to the Best Explanation

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Enumerative Induction as a Subset of Inference to the Best Explanation

Laith Al-Shawaf

In his paper The Inference to the Best Explanation, Gilbert Harman explains his position on enumerative induction. He first argues that inferences that seem to be instances of enumerative induction are actually better explained as inferences to the best explanation (IBE). He claims that the former are actually “uninteresting special case[s] of the more general inference to the best explanation” (Harman, 1965). Indeed, according to Harman, all cases of enumerative induction can be explained using IBE, making the former redundant as a separate form of inference. By contrast, the use of IBE need never be accompanied by enumerative induction, i.e. there are no situations that can be explained by the latter but not by the former. Enumerative induction is the process whereby a conclusion about, say, type A, is drawn based on several examined cases of type A. An often-cited example is as follows: if we observe one white swan, and then observe another white swan, and then another, up to a very large number of observations of white swans (with no exceptions), then we are likely to conclude that all swans are white. We have thus extrapolated from observed instances to a general conclusion that applies to other cases that are as of yet unobserved. Harman’s second main argument in favor of his view is that in selecting a hypothesis to explain certain evidence, we often make use of certain lemmas. The use of these lemmas, according to Harman, is obscured if the process of hypothesis selection is described as one of enumerative induction, whereas the use of IBE appropriately highlights them as crucial steps in arriving at an explanation.

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Aditya Singh: On Epistemology of the Celestial Realm

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On Epistemology of the Celestial Realm

Aditya Singh

1.1 Introduction

Astronomy is the branch of science concerned with the study of matter in outer space. The methods of constructing knowledge in astronomy are unlike those which are used in other fields of scientific inquiry. This is particularly so because astronomers deal with processes which, many-a-time, cannot be either explored experimentally or observed given present day technology. In this paper, Rationalistic tools, like mathematics and logic, and Empirical tools, like sense observations and quantitative measurements, are discussed as complementary approaches for constructing astronomical knowledge.

From the discussion that follows, it will be shown that for producing a sound and reliable theory in astronomy, one must follow a mathematico-deductive pattern of starting with a rationalistic approach and developing a general relation describing a phenomenon. This relation should then be confirmed empirically through specific observed data. On the other hand, inductively forming a generalization by directly using empirical data in a conventional hypothetico-deductive model faces a high risk of resulting in inaccurate astronomical knowledge.

1.2 Scope of Thesis

The argument presented shall work on the assumption that nature is uniform, and the analytic rules of logic and mathematics relate to the physical world as shown by the equations and theorems. Uniformity of Nature implies that an event that occurs at one place and time will occur again at any other place and time if the relevant conditions are the same. This assumption is required for the working of any law.

Also, for the purposes of discussion, empiricism will be discussed in the context of Direct Realism, where sensory perceptions are a reliable source of information of the external world. This assumption is necessitated for a pragmatic analysis of the scientific method, as sensory observations are considered essential components for constructing knowledge in the sciences.

Also, as Immanuel Kant pointed out, ‘all our knowledge begins with experience, but it does not follow that all our knowledge arises out of experience’. The difference between the two should be understood, since an empirical observation is required to kick-start any search for knowledge, even in the case of astronomy. However, the empiricists’ point discussed in this paper is the one that claims that sense datum can be used to construct knowledge vis-à-vis the scientific method in astronomy.

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Joshua Seigal: Unhappy Humans and Happy Pigs

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Unhappy Humans and Happy Pigs

Joshua Seigal

John Stuart Mill is famous for having expanded Bentham’s utilitarianism to incorporate ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the dictum “better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”[1] In this paper I argue that this dictum is inconsistent with utilitarianism’s own conception of the ‘good’. My argument shall proceed through several stages: In section one I present and defend a form of ‘hedonic calculus’, the use of which will be essential if we are to quantify happiness (as utilitarianism aims to do.) The calculus I suggest will be based on considerations as to how we might compare a human being’s happiness with that of a lower animal. I present some arguments as to why I think a utilitarian should accept this calculus. In section two I examine Mill’s conception of the ‘good’, and analyze his famous quotation in the light of this. I argue that, by this very criterion, it is not necessarily better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. In section three I examine how best to extricate ourselves from this situation, and I put forward the suggestion that if we want to maintain the belief that it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied (a belief which, intuitively, we probably do wish to maintain), it cannot be based on utilitarian considerations.

Mill’s quotation refers to ‘satisfaction’; henceforth I shall follow Bernard Williams[2] in using ‘happiness’ and ‘satisfaction’ interchangeably, so the question of whether or not it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied is equivalent to the question of whether or not it is better to be an unhappy human than it is to be a happy pig. I therefore argue that by the criteria of utilitarianism it is not better to be an unhappy human than it is to be a happy pig. It may be argued that pigs, unlike humans, are not really capable of happiness. However, since the quotation sees fit to use ‘satisfaction’ as applicable to both, and since I am using the terms ‘satisfied’ and ‘happy’ interchangeably, this need not be problematic.

Furthermore, it may be claimed[3] that the reason it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied is that the human has the capacity to contribute to a greater net level of happiness in society. In this essay I propose to isolate an individual human and an individual pig, and compare only the respective happiness of each, independently of the greater good to which they may or may not have the capacity to contribute.

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