Recent Papers On Kant, Ethics, and Foucault


Kenneth F. Rogerson
Kant and Empirical Concepts
Although Kant is most well-known for his arguments in support of pure or a priori concepts, he also attempts to give an account of how empirical concepts are acquired. In this paper I want to take a close look at this account. Specifically, I am interested in a recent criticism that Kant’s explanation of empirical concept acquisition is, in some sense, circular. I will consider and criticize a recent attempt to solve this problem. Finally, I will argue for my own solution to the circularity problem relying, oddly enough, on Kant’s commitment to pure or a priori concepts of the understanding as well as the pure forms of the imagination. Briefly, I want to argue that Kant can give a coherent and non-circular account of empirical concept acquisition relying primarily on the a priori conceptual tools developed in the Critique of Pure Reason.
Sofie Møller (forthcoming). Rethinking Kant as a Public Intellectual.European Journal of Political Theory:1474885115611518.

In Kant’s Politics in Context, Reidar Maliks offers a compelling account of Kant’s political philosophy as part of a public debate on rights, citizenship, and revolution in the wake of the French Revolution. Maliks argues that Kant’s political thought was developed as a moderate middle ground between radical and conservative political interpretations of his moral philosophy. The book’s central thesis is that the key to understanding Kant’s legal and political thought lies in the public debate among Kant’s followers and that in this debate we find the political challenges which Kant’s political philosophy is designed to solve. Kant’s Politics in Context raises crucial questions about how to understand political thinkers of the past and is proof that our understanding of the past will remain fragmented if we limit our studies to the great men of the established canon.
Zeynep Direk (2014). Phenomenology and Ethics: From Value Theory to an Ethics of Responsibility.Studia Phaenomenologica 14:371-393.

There seems to be a shift in phenomenology in the 20th century from an ethics based on value theory to an ethics based on responsibility. This essay attempts to show the path marks of this transition. It begins with the historical development that led Husserl to address the question of ethical objectivity in terms of value theory, with a focus on Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. It then explains Husserl’s phenomenology of ethics as grounded in value theory, and takes into account Heidegger’s objections to it. Finally, it considers Sartre as a transitional figure between value theory and an ethics of responsibility and attempts to show in what sense, if at all, Levinas’ phenomenology of ethics could be an absolute break with a phenomenological ethics based on values.
Cristian Iftode (2015). The Ethical Meaning of Foucault’s Aesthetics of Existence.Cultura 12 (2):145-162.

In order to grasp the true ethical meaning of Foucault’s aesthetics of existence, I begin by explaining in what sense he was an anti-normativist, arguing that the most important thing about the “final” Foucault is his strong emphasis on the idea of human freedom. I go on with a brief discussion about Foucault’s sources of inspiration and a criticism of Rorty’s kindred plea for “aesthetic life”. I strongly reject the interpretation of Foucault’s aesthetics of existence in terms of narcissistic individualism, arguing, on the contrary, that it has a definite communitarian dimension. I also claim that it is rooted in the Socratic and Stoic understanding of “care of the self,” at the same time allowing new challenging developments fitted for our “post-duty” historical age, by way of analogy with the process of artistic making. I conclude with some short answers to a few questions regarding the status of this aesthetics of living.

Current Controversies in Virtue Theory

Mark Alfano (ed.)
Current Controversies in Virtue Theory

Mark Alfano (ed.), Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, Routledge, 2015, 161pp., $39.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780415658218.
Reviewed by Rebecca L. Walker, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In this book, Mark Alfano collects the perspectives of ten philosophers (including himself) on five questions in virtue theory: What is virtue? Does virtue contribute to flourishing? How are ethical and epistemic virtues related? How are virtues acquired? Can people be virtuous? The volume offers different and (to varying extents) competing perspectives on each general topic. The volume as a whole presents an interesting and helpful tour through various debates considered by Alfano to be on the cutting edge of virtue theory. By focusing on virtue theory rather than virtue ethics, the volume is able to expand its reach to issues in virtue epistemology as well as questions about virtue within deontological and utilitarian moral frameworks. Despite the different questions officially at play, the last four contributions address in some way the ‘situationist’ critique of virtue (and vice) based on empirical studies of behavior. Specifically, that the degree to which human behavior can be manipulated by morally (or epistemologically) irrelevant modifications of a subject’s situation is inconsistent with usual theoretical doctrine about virtues and vices as traits of character.

In what follows, I will briefly discuss each debate as it occurs, homing in on particular exchanges that I found intriguing. First, however, two general remarks may be helpful for the reader. The first concerns the audience aim for the volume, which is somewhat unclear. As an introductory text useable in an undergraduate course the contributions by Nancy E. Snow and Heather Battaly, among others, are exemplary. They locate historical and philosophical trends that bear on their topic and address their issues in a way that does not rely on previous knowledge of virtue theory. At the other extreme, the contribution by Ernest Sosa, in his exchange with Jason Baehr, addresses his topic several levels into the debate and focuses initially on interpretive issues with less in the way of orienting examples and context. This exchange seems primarily of interest to those already engaged in the relevant ongoing debates within virtue epistemology. Second, the chapters vary significantly in the extent to which each author engages the views of the other chapter contributor. As the rationale for the volume relies on the fruitful nature of pairwise philosophical exchanges, it seems important to consider more intentionally the authors’ particular modes of engagement. Continue reading

Some Recent Papers On Method, Science, and Ethics

Souleymane Bachir Diagne
La Traduction Comme Methode
According to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in the pluralistic world in which we now live, there cannot be an overarching and vertical universal (universel de surplomb) anymore: we have now to find paths, methods, towards what he called, by contrast, a “lateral universality” (universalité latérale). When we consider the human tongues in their de facto plurality, none of them being by essence the language of the universal, that of philosophy and logos, we can see that one meaning of what is called “lateral universal” is translation. It could be said then, somehow, that, “translation is the language of languages” as the Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o wrote. The significance of translation as a method or path towards the “lateral universal” is the notion to be explored in this contribution.


Dagfinn Føllesdal
The Role of Arguments in Philosophy
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have been studied, commented upon and praised for more than 2000 years. What made their work so excellent? And what has made the philosophy produced by so many great philosophers after them insightful, inspiring and well worth studying? Their arguments. Arguments give insights, they help us see how “all weaves into one whole” to speak with Goethe, they “give unity to what was previously dispersed.” It is this “weaving together of what was dispersed” which is the core of arguments. This leads to a very inclusive notion of philosophy, where some of the finest works of art are philosophical. However, this openness to a wide variety of approaches to philosophy does not make all philosophy good philosophy. There are numerous kinds of weaknesses. Three examples are given, that illustrate the following three rules for good scholarship: (1) give proper credit, (2) familiarize yourself with fields outside philosophy that are pertinent to the problems you work on, (3) pay attention to work that has been done by others, especially when this work points to difficulties that you have not considered. These are trivial weaknesses, which should be spotted by editors and referees. Once they have been eliminated, we can concentrate on the arguments. It is the quality of arguments that distinguishes good philosophy from bad, and arguments come in many forms. We philosophers have a special responsibility for developing in ourselves and in others an ability to construct good arguments and to distinguish good arguments from bad ones. This is what Plato and Aristotle did, and it is a special challenge in our time when opinions more and more are shaped by mass media and not by arguments. We must teach good argumentation, and we must practice what we teach in our own philosophical work.
Maria Carla Galavotti
From the Philosophy of Science to the Philosophy of the Sciences
The philosophy of science took shape as an autonomous discipline in the first decades of the Twentieth Century in connection with the movement known as logical positivism or logical empiricism. According to logical empiricists philosophy of science ought to perform a “rational reconstruction” aimed at exhibiting the logical structure of scientific theories and inferential processes involved in the acquisition of scientific knowledge. While focusing on the syntactical and semantical aspects of scientific language, logical empiricists left out of the realm of the philosophy of science the sociological and psychological aspects of theory formation, as well as all methodological aspects belonging to experimentation. Starting from the early Sixties this conception gradually changed, and philosophy of science underwent a radical transformation, leading to a significant broadening of its scope. New issues and problems were addressed, belonging to fields neglected by the traditional approach. This paper sketches the main features of the discipline as it is understood today as opposed to its traditional outlook, and suggests that the term “philosophy of the sciences” is better suited than “philosophy of science” to describe its present state.
Keiichi Noe
Philosophy and Science after the East Japan Disaster
The severe accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant caused by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 was a typical disaster in the age of “trans-science,” which means the situation that science and politics are closely connected and inseparable. The stage of trans-science requires a philosophy of trans-science instead of a philosophy of science such as logical positivism. I would like to characterize norms for techno-scientists in the risk society as RISK, which includes Regulatory deliberation, Intergenerational ethics, Social accountability and Knowledge-product liability.
Dorothea Frede
Aristotle on the Importance of Rules, Laws, and Institutions in Ethics
In recent years rule-scepticism has been dominant among experts concerning Aristotle’s ethics. The present paper addresses three points that speak for this sceptical attitude: (i) Aristotle’s caveat against precision in ethics; (ii) the emphasis on the particular conditions of actions and on experience; (iii) the fact that moral education relies on habituation rather than teaching. At a closer look it emerges that all these considerations presuppose universal rules, laws, and institutions rather than exclude them, for they concern the adjustment of universal principles to particular cases. Knowledge of these principles may not be necessary in routine cases, but the emphasis on a master-science that provides the laws necessary for every well-functioning community and the appropriate education of the citizens shows that these principles are the indispensable foundation of both ethics and politics. It is Aristotle’s aim to provide the groundwork of such a master science that is the common concern of his ethics and politics.
Kostas Kalimtzis
Aristotle on Scholê and Nous as a Way of Life
My paper is an inquiry into the political significance of Aristotle’s concept of scholê, a word usually translated as ‘leisure.’ The words ‘school’ and ‘scholar’ are derived from scholê, which indicates a richness of meanings that go far beyond anything suggested by the word “leisure.” Perhaps taking up the subject as a political issue seems untimely during this troubled period of economic crisis. And yet, if seen from the perspective in which it was first raised, that is as a response to the question put forth by Socrates—‘what type of life is worth living?’—then inquiry into its nature may help us entertain the possibility that our economic and social ills have arisen from wrong answers that we have given to the Socratic question. Before examining Aristotle’s thoughts on leisure, I will first briefly turn to Plato’s concept of scholê so as to economically bring to the fore the difficulties involved when leisure is projected unto an entire republic as an overarching aim of public life.


The Hypocrisy Fallacy

You have probably heard it violated many times but never thought about it. It sounds so convincing that an attempt to refute the charge of “hypocrite” is just a waste of time. However, this charge gets used so much that now there it has been accepted to misuse it.  Allow me to explain.

Jeb Bush is against the use of marijuana. Jeb also admitted to having smoked marijuana. For this example it doesn’t matter if he inhaled or not, how many pounds he smoked, lets just assume he was a marijuana fanatic.

First, calling someone a “hypocrite” is a pretty safe bet. As fallible human beings we engage in hypocrisy more regularly than we think. In our day to day lives we regularly live inconsistently with our personal ideals. On this alone the charge of hypocrisy isn’t as scathing as many want to believe.

In a different example what if a person does something that they are opposed to later in their lives? Does that make them a hypocrite? An example, Jeb Bush says he’s against marijuana. Jeb then admits to using marijuana as a youth. Does this make him a hypocrite?  Rand Paul says yes. Paul explains, “I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people, who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that,”

I’m afraid I don’t follow. It sounds like Paul is saying hypocrisy is a person changing their mind. According to Paul people who see their pot smoking during adolescence as a mistake are not allowed to take a stand against it or they become hypocritical. Does this mean that I am to hold to my system of ethics that I held as a teenager or become a hypocrite? I did many rotten things as a teen that I don’t want me kids to do. Does that make me a hypocrite?

The answer is no. We can’t throw that term around any time we want and hope that it sticks. Hypocrisy can only take place when a persons actions are inconsistent with their present beliefs. In Jeb’s case he subscribed to one set of beliefs and found them to be detrimental so he adopted a new set of beliefs.  Now if Jeb came out against marijuana then later went out and smoked the duchi that would be hypocrisy.

Now here is a case where we can call Jeb a hypocrite. If Jeb held to the belief that marijuana was bad but opted not to respond consistently with that message that would be grounds for us to call him a hypocrite.   In this case he would believe one thing but his behavior would show us something else. That is a classic case of hypocrisy.

In closing, we all have our bouts with hypocrisy. However, in order to call someone out their current belief must be inconsistent with their current behavior. It isn’t enough to call out their hypocrisy when their belief negates their behavior in the past when their beliefs were different.

But maybe not. Tell me what you think.