•  931
    Merleau-Ponty on Meaning, Materiality, and Structure
    Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 25 (1): 96-100. 1994.
    Against David Schenck's interpretation, I argue that it is not absolutely clear that Merleau-Ponty ever meant to replace what Schenck refers to as the "unity of meanings" interpretation of "structure" with a "material meanings" interpretation. A particular problem-setting -- for example, an attempt to understand the "truth in naturalism" or the "truth in dualism" -- may very well require a particular mode of expression. I argue that the mode of expression chosen by Merleau-Ponty for these purpos…Read more
  •  913
    Why the numbers should sometimes count
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 17 (1): 3-14. 1988.
    John Taurek has argued that, where choices must be made between alternatives that affect different numbers of people, the numbers are not, by themselves, morally relevant. This is because we "must" take "losses-to" the persons into account (and these don't sum), but "must not" consider "losses-of" persons (because we must not treat persons like objects). I argue that the numbers are always ethically relevant, and that they may sometimes be the decisive consideration.
  •  848
    Merleau-ponty, Gibson and the materiality of meaning
    Man and World 26 (3): 287-302. 1993.
    While there are numerous differences between the approaches taken by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and James J. Gibson, the basic motivation of the two thinkers, as well as the internal logic of their respective views, is extraordinarily close. Both were guided throughout their lives by an attempt to overcome the dualism of subject and object, and both devoted considerable attention to their "Gestaltist" predecessors. There can be no doubt but that it is largely because of this common cause that the sub…Read more
  •  665
    An Ontology of Affordances
    Ecological Psychology 9 (1): 97-112. 1997.
    I argue that the most promising approach to understanding J.J. Gibson's "affordances" takes affordances themselves as ontological primitives, instead of treating them as dispositional properties of more primitive things, events, surfaces, or substances. These latter are best treated as coalescences of affordances present in the environment (or "coalescences of use-potential," as in Sanders (1994) and Hilditch (1995)). On this view, even the ecological approach's stress on the complementary organ…Read more
  •  636
    Honor Among Thieves
    Professional Ethics, a Multidisciplinary Journal 2 (3): 83-103. 1993.
    As complicated an affair as it may be to give a fully acceptable general characterization of professional codes of ethics that will capture every nuance, one theme that has attracted widespread attention portrays them as contrivances whose primary function is to secure certain obligations of professionals to clients, or to the external community. In contrast to such an "externalist" characterization of professional codes, it has occasionally been contended that, first and foremost, they should b…Read more
  •  560
    The free market model versus government: A reply to Nozick
    Journal of Libertarian Studies 1 (1): 35-44. 1977.
    In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick argues, first, that free-market anarchism is unstable -that it will inevitably lead back to the state; and, second, that without a certain "redistributive" proviso, the model is unjust. If either of these things is the case, the model defeats itself, for its justification purports to be that it provides a morally acceptable alternative to government (and therefore to the state). I argue, against Nozick's contention, that his "dominant protection agency…Read more
  •  528
    George Berkeley's apparently strange view – that nothing exists without a mind except for minds themselves – is notorious. Also well known, and equally perplexing at a superficial level, is his insistence that his doctrine is no more than what is consistent with common sense. It was every bit as crucial for Berkeley that it be demonstrated that the colors are really in the tulip, as that there is nothing that is neither a mind nor something perceived by a mind. In what follows, I shall attempt t…Read more
  •  518
    Justice and the Initial Acquisition of Property
    Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 10 (2): 367-99. 1987.
    There is a great deal that might be said about justice in property claims. The strategy that I shall employ focuses attention upon the initial acquisition of property -- the most sensitive and most interesting area of property theory. Every theory that discusses property claims favorably assumes that there is some justification for transforming previously unowned resources into property. It is often this assumption which has seemed, to one extent or another, to be vulnerable to attack by critics…Read more
  •  391
    Experience, memory and intelligence
    The Monist 68 (4): 507-521. 1985.
    What characterizes most technical or theoretical accounts of memory is their reliance upon an internal storage model. Psychologists and neurophysiologists have suggested neural traces (either dynamic or static) as the mechanism for this storage, and designers of artificial intelligence have relied upon the same general model, instantiated magnetically or electronically instead of neurally, to do the same job. Both psychology and artificial intelligence design have heretofore relied, without mu…Read more
  •  380
    On ‘cuteness’
    British Journal of Aesthetics 32 (2): 162-165. 1992.
    For John Morreall, cuteness is an abstract general attribute of infants that causes adults to want to care for them (or which is the reason, or at least important reason, for such solicitousness). I shall try to show, in what follows, that this is, if not an altogether fallacious way of explaining the matter, at least an extremely misleading one. As it stands, in particular, it is too easy to infer from Morreall's line of reasoning 1) that infants in general might conceivably never have develope…Read more
  •  357
    Interest in "embodiment", and over how one may best express the implications of embodiment, is no parochial question, of interest only to a small number of effete philosophers. It confronts perceptual psychologists, developmental psychologists, and psychotherapists, of course. It may not be surprising, either, that it has become an important issue to some students of history and sociology, and to linguists, literary theorists and aestheticians. But that's not all. As physicists -- working wi…Read more
  •  343
    Translation of "Von der Armut am Geiste; ein Dialog des jungen Lukács," by Ágnes Heller. This translation originally appeared in The Philosophical Forum, Spring-Summer 1972.
  •  339
    The State of Statelessness
    In John T. Sanders & Jan Narveson (eds.), For and Against the State: New Philosophical Readings, Rowman & Littlefield. 1996.
    My objective in this paper is to address a handful of issues that typically get raised in discussions of philosophical anarchism. Some of these issues arise in discussions among partisans of anarchism, and some are more likely to be raised in efforts to defend the state against its opponents. My hope is to focus the argument in such a way as to make clearer the main issues that are at stake from the point of view of at least one version of philosophical anarchism.
  •  327
    Knowledge and Description: Bohr's Epistemology
    In Jan Such & Malgorzata Szczesniak (eds.), Z epistemologii wiedzy naukowej, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Instytutu Filozofii. 1998.
    In this paper, I try to explain the philosophical problems that Niels Bohr felt had been exposed by the discovery of the "quantum of action," and by the emergence of the quantum theory that arose in large part as a result of his efforts. I won't have space to make the case adequately here, but my own view is that we have not yet fully digested the message brought to us by Bohr's "Copenhagen Interpretation" of Quantum Mechanics, and I suspect that it will finally prove to be every bit as revoluti…Read more
  •  319
    Stanislaw Leśniewski's Logical Systems
    Axiomathes 7 (3): 407-415. 1996.
    Stanislaw Lesniewski’s interests were, for the most part, more philosophical than mathematical. Prior to taking his doctorate at Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov, Lesniewski had spent time at several continental universities, apparently becoming relatively attached to the philosophy of one of his teachers, Hans Comelius, to the chapters of John Stuart Mill’s System of Logic that dealt specifically with semantics, and, in general, to studies of general grammar and philosophy of language. In these…Read more
  •  313
    The Myths of Academia: Open Inquiry and Funded Research
    Journal of College and University Law 19 (3): 227-50. 1993.
    Both professors and institutions of higher education benefit from a vision of academic life that is grounded more firmly in myth than in history. According to the myth created by that traditional vision, scholars pursue research wherever their drive to knowledge takes them, and colleges and universities transmit the fruits of that research to contemporary and future generations as the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Yet the economic and social forces operating on colleges and universities as ins…Read more
  •  268
    An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Science
    Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 1996 (Spring). 1996.
    Cognitive science is ready for a major reconceptualization. This is not at all because efforts by its practitioners have failed, but rather because so much progress has been made. The need for reconceptualization arises from the fact that this progress has come at greater cost than necessary, largely because of more or less philosophical (at least metatheoretical) straightjackets still worn - whether wittingly or not - by those doing the work. These bonds are extremely hard to break. Even some o…Read more
  •  244
    Political Authority
    The Monist 66 (4): 545-556. 1983.
    I begin this essay with a notion of "authority" that makes a sharp distinction between authority and power, and grant that such authority is not only legitimate, but perhaps even necessary in human affairs. I then trace the devaluation of this idea through varying degrees of institutionalization, culminating in its political cooptation. I argue, finally, that what goes by the name of political authority is the very antithesis of the legitimate and necessary element that we began with.
  •  232
    Progress in the last few decades in what is widely known as “Chaos Theory” has plainly advanced understanding in the several sciences it has been applied to. But the manner in which such progress has been achieved raises important questions about scientific method and, indeed, about the very objectives and character of science. In this presentation, I hope to engage my audience in a discussion of several of these important new topics.
  •  231
    Projects and Property
    In David Schmidtz (ed.), Robert Nozick, Cambridge University Press. 2002.
    I try in this essay to accomplish two things. First I offer some first thoughts toward a clarification of the ethical foundations of private property rights that avoids pitfalls common to more strictly Lockean theories, and is thus better prepared to address arguments posed by critics of standard private property arrangements. Second, I'll address one critical argument that has become pretty common over the years. While versions of the argument can be traced back at least to Pierre Joseph Pro…Read more
  •  230
    Retinae don't see
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6): 890-891. 2004.
    Sensation should be understood globally: some infant behaviors do not make sense on the model of separate senses; neonates of all species lack time to learn about the world by triangulating among different senses. Considerations of natural selection favor a global understanding; and the global interpretation is not as opposed to traditional work on sensation as might seem.
  •  227
    Benjamin Franklin and the League of the Haudenosaunee
    In St Petersburg Center for the History of Ideas (ed.), The Philosophical Age, Almanac 32: Benjamin Franklin and Russia, to the Tercentenary of His Birth, St. Petersburg Center For the History of Ideas. 2006.
    Benjamin Franklin's social and political thought was shaped by contacts with and knowledge of ancient aboriginal traditions. Indeed, a strong case can be made that key features of the social structure eventually outlined in the United States Constitution arose not from European sources, and not full-grown from the foreheads of European-American "founding fathers", but from aboriginal sources, communicated to the authors of the Constitution to a significant extent through Franklin. A brief sketch…Read more
  •  201
    This is a more detailed version of my "On 'Cuteness'", which appeared in the British Journal of Aesthetics in April 1992. For John Morreall, cuteness is an abstract general attribute of infants that causes adults to want to care for them (or which is the reason, or at least important reason, for such solicitousness). I shall try to show, in what follows, that this is, if not an altogether fallacious way of explaining the matter, at least an extremely misleading one. As it stands, in particular, …Read more
  •  180
    I examine the claim that the underlying importance given to freedom within a society's scheme of values varies with historical circumstance and social context (I shall sometimes call this the "relativist claim"). The point of the examination will be to attempt to determine the manner in which, and the extent to which, this claim really endangers the liberal argument, which seems to suggest that freedom is valuable everywhere and always. It will be seen that several apparent challenges may be dis…Read more
  •  179
    How Ethical Is Investigative Testing?
    Employment Testing Law and Policy Reporter 3 (2). 1994.
    Analyzing three key cases that arose in 1993, I argue that the practice of sending in "testers" -- persons posing as job applicants -- to ferret out workplace discrimination is easier to defend from an ethical standpoint in an agency's investigation stems from an actual complaint. By contrast, defendants may rightfully challenge the legitimacy of the procedures used for "test" subjects when an investigation is based solely on the general goals of an antidiscrimination agency.
  •  171
    My main objective, in this paper, is to present at least a rough sketch of a new model for understanding time. Since many people are quite content with the model that they have, it will be worth while to show why a new model might be desirable, or even necessary. As it happens, looking at the problems involved in the more usual conception of time leads one naturally to look in certain directions for solutions, and such an introduction can therefore explain why the new model looks the way it does…Read more
  •  168
    In response to Professor Rorty’s reaction to Professor Habermas’s paper in this symposium, I confess that I am still not sure I understand Rorty’s hostility to ideals such as the ideal of truth. Such ideals as the ideal of truth -- and ideals like those of reason and morality surely stand and fall with the ideal of truth -- seem plainly to have an enormous pragmatic value. They lure us out of our too-constrained, too-limited ethnocentric or idiosyncratic frames of reference. It is always possibl…Read more
  •  163
    In The Libertarian Idea, Jan Narveson explains his interpretation of social contract theory this way: "The general idea of this theory is that the principles of morality are (or should be) those principles for directing everyone's conduct which it is reasonable for everyone to accept. They are the rules that everyone has good reason for wanting everyone to act on, and thus to internalize in himself or herself, and thus to reinforce in the case of everyone." It is plain, here, that Narveson belie…Read more
  •  147
    Harry Heft's Ecological Psychology in Context is an important book in many ways. For one thing, it adds considerably to our understanding of the historical background of J.J. Gibson's thought. But more than that, Heft aims to place ecological psychology not just historically, but philosophically. He says "This volume shows that radical empiricism stands at the heart of Gibson's ecological program, and it can usefully be employed as the conceptual centerpiece for ecological psychology more broadl…Read more
  •  145
    Assessing Responsibility: Fixing Blame versus Fixing Problems
    Business and Professional Ethics Journal 12 (4): 73-86. 1993.
    In the midst of even the most tragic circumstances attending the aftermath of disaster, and co-existing with a host of complex emotions, arises a practical consideration: how might similar tragedies be prevented in the future? The complexity of such situations must not be neglected. More than mere prevention must usually be taken into consideration. But the practical question is of considerable importance. In what follows, I will offer some reasons for being concerned that efforts to fix the pro…Read more