Predrag Cicovacki: Reverence for Life: A Moral Value or the Moral Value?

§1.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) became well-known for his ethics of reverence for life. While Schweitzer’s life and his ethics have had an enormous appeal to wide audiences all over the world, philosophers have generally ignored his contribution. This may be a loss for philosophy, for, despite some internal problems, Schweitzer’s ethics of reverence for life promises a viable alternative to consequentialism, Kantianism, and virtue ethics.

The task of this paper is the following: Schweitzer argues that reverence for life is the basic ethical principle and the highest moral value. After a brief presentation of Schweitzer’s life and moral philosophy, I will consider two questions: 1. Can Schweitzer show that reverence for life is the highest moral value (principle)? 2. Is reverence for life a moral value (principle) in the first place? I will argue that, with some provision, Schweitzer’s position is tenable.

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Martin Alexander Vezér: On the Concept of Personhood: A Comparative Analysis of Three Accounts

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What does it mean to be a person? Is there a special set of criteria that must be met in order for one to be correctly called a ‘person’? Are all humans persons? Or can it be that some humans are not persons? What about nonhuman beings; can anything nonhuman be categorized as a person? All of these questions aim at discovering the nature of personhood and determining the kinds of entities that can properly be considered persons. When addressing these questions, however, the answers that one comes up with may vary according to the way one defines ‘personhood’. In this essay, I will focus on these questions by comparing the accounts of personhood given by three contemporary thinkers who hold contrasting positions on the issue: Harry Frankfurt, Joseph Raz and Gary Watson. The first section of this essay explains Frankfurt’s account of personhood. The second section focuses on a criticism of Frankfurt’s view waged by Raz and the alternative account of personhood that Raz advocates. Similarly, the third section focuses on a criticism of Frankfurt’s view posited by Watson and the alternative account of personhood that Watson advances. Throughout the course of this essay, I will highlight the flaws of Frankfurt’s account which I think make his theory rather problematic. Since the scope of this essay is mainly concentrated on Frankfurt’s thesis, I will mention the accounts of personhood that Raz and Watson offer only for comparative purposes, without delving into a critique of their theories as well.

1. Frankfurt’s Account of Personhood.

In his essay “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” Harry Frankfurt argues that the criteria of personhood demand more than just a certain type of genetic constitution. A person is a special entity whose existence is more profound than one’s biological happenstance. Being of the species Homosapien is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of personhood. Conceptually speaking, the philosophic notion of ‘personhood’ is defined in a way that neither necessarily includes all human entities nor precludes all nonhuman entities from qualifying as persons. In Frankfurt’s words,

Our concept of ourselves as persons is not to be understood… as a concept of attributes that are necessarily species-specific. It is conceptually possible that members of novel or even of familiar nonhuman species should be person; and it is also conceptually possible that some members of the human species are not persons. (Harry Frankfurt, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” Journal of Philosophy, Jan. 1971, p. 6.)

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Kristian Urstad: Happiness and Freedom in Socrates and Callicles

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Callicles holds a desire-fulfilment conception of happiness; it is something like, that is, the continual satisfaction of desires that constitutes happiness for him. He claims that leading the happy life consists in having many desires, letting them grow as strong as possible and then being able to satisfy them (e.g. 491e, 494c). For Callicles, this life of maximum pursuit of desires consists in a kind of absolute freedom, where there is very little practice of restraint; happiness consists of luxury, unrestraint, and freedom (492b-c). Socrates develops his objections to Callicles’ life of freedom by appealing to two myths once told to him by a wise man. I draw out what I think are the two primary objections and consider to what extent they might be seen to damage Callicles’ position. I conclude that Callicles’ view on freedom can adequately meet one of Socrates’ objections but not the other.

Socrates’ Myth-Rejoinders

As mentioned, Socrates’ initial response to Callicles’ “life of freedom” proposal comes in the form of two myths he heard once (493aff). The myths are introduced on the heels of a crucial discussion about temperance, an important traditional Greek virtue. Socrates has just asked Callicles whether he takes an individual “ruling himself” to mean being temperate and self-mastering over the pleasures and desires in oneself (491e), and Callicles has responded by mocking such a view; self-control or self-mastery is for stupid people, he says. He goes on to state that a man cannot be happy if he’s enslaved to anyone at all, including himself (491e). Socrates clearly takes this, and the myths which follow, with the utmost seriousness, as he begs Callicles not to let up in any way, so that it may really become clear how one ought to live (492d).

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Sean McGovern: The Being of Intentionality

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My limbs moved with a positiveness and precision
With which I seemed to have
Nothing at all to do.
(Gary Snyder, from John Muir on Mt. Ritter)

The philosophical relationship between Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl is a peculiar one.

In the third decade of the twentieth century, Heidegger was Husserl’s protégé, expected to carry on Husserl’s phenomenological project. In 1927, with Being and Time, though a book dedicated to Husserl, Heidegger made his diverging philosophical interests clear to his mentor. Husserl conceived of his phenomenology as the a priori science of consciousness, the ground for the empirical sciences. Tellingly, Heidegger mentions “consciousness” only twice in his magnum opus. Some have seen this as a sharp break with Husserl, although his phenomenological influence clearly looms large. Others see Heidegger as continuing Husserl’s project, however past the limits with which its originator had envisioned. The movement from Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology to Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology is surely a long and complicated evolution of ideas. We will specifically look at the philosophies of these two as articulated mainly in the 1920s. The current paper will attempt to orient this transition towards the revitalization and reinvestigation of the notion of intentionality. We will explore continuities and differences in terms of the methods and aims that each thinker associates with the enterprise of “philosophy.”

Heidegger claims to be doing phenomenology, though understood in his own way. Heidegger is apparently unconcerned with many of the central concepts of Husserl’s system, e.g. the epoche, consciousness, subjectivity, etc. He writes of Being, Dasein, Being-in-the-world, and other neologisms. An important difference is how they conceive of phenomenology. Husserl thought of phenomenology as the rigorous study of that which is given to us in phenomenological reflection, in order to arrive at the essential features of experience. For Heidegger, phenomenology is a method through which one can apprehend the Being of beings. The uniting concern for both is the problematic of intentionality. Intentionality is the impetus for the birth of transcendental philosophy as well as the key to understanding its evolution under Heidegger’s influence. We will see that it is due to Heidegger’s phenomenological reconception of intentionality in terms of his ontological interests which leads to a fresh understanding of human experience.

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New Issue (Volume 9-1)

Volume IX, No. 1 Fall 2007

LYCEUM

Reverence for Life: A Moral Value or the Moral Value?
Predrag Cicovacki

On the Concept of Personhood:
A Comparative Analysis of Three Accounts
Martin Alexander Vezér

Happiness and Freedom in Socrates and Callicles
Kristian Urstad

The Being of Intentionality
Sean McGovern

A Publication of the
Philosophy Department
Saint Anselm College