Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

American Philosophical Quarterly: April 2011, Vol. 48, No. 2

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

American Philosophical Quarterly: April 2011, Vol. 48, No. 2

Article excerpt

A Plague on Both Your "Isms," P. M. S. HACKER

"Isms" can be the bane of critical thought, for they provide an array of ready-mades that are often used as substitutes for careful description and analysis. Today's "isms" also have a tendency, as Robert Hughes observed, to become tomorrow's "was-ms." Our characteristic "isms" come in pairs that purport to be exclusive and exhaustive answers to a given question, and we unthinkingly assume that a philosopher must be one corresponding "ist" or the other corresponding "ist"--little thinking that he may reject the question to which the pair of "isms" are severally answers.

Whose Naturalism? Which Wittgenstein? ANTHONY KENNY

Our first task is to clarify in what naturalism consists. One doughty naturalist, Kai Nielsen, more than once defined naturalism in the following way: "Naturalism denies that there are any spiritual or supernatural realities transcendent to the world, or at least that we have sound grounds for believing that there are such realities." Nature is all: there is nothing that exists that is not a part of nature and there is nothing beyond nature. At this point we look for, and fail to get, a clear and consistent account of what is meant by "nature" and "natural." Of course, the natural is contrasted with the supernatural, but that contrast by itself will not give us a noncircular account of nature.

Wittgenstein and the Background, JOHN R. SEARLE

For the past fifty or so years, the author has been engaged in a single philosophical project, and specific topics on which he has worked, such as speech acts, consciousness, intentionality, rationality, and social ontology, are all aspects of that larger project. He had done philosophy professionally for a couple of decades before he fully realized the nature of the overall project and how all the various parts fitted in. As a preliminary formulation we might say that the project is to give an account of the human reality--the reality of such phenomena as language, consciousness, intentionality, free will, rationality, aesthetic experiences, ethics, and society--in a way that is both consistent with, and a natural development from, the basic facts of the universe as described by physics, chemistry, and for our little corner of the universe, evolutionary biology. How, in a world that consists entirely of mindless, meaningless physical particles in fields of force, can there be speech acts, consciousness, intentionality, rationality, free will, ethics, and aesthetics, as well as the human social reality of money, property, government, marriage, and philosophy conferences? The author regards this as the central overriding question in contemporary philosophy, and indeed in contemporary intellectual life. His investigations deal with many traditional philosophical questions, such as those concerning mind and meaning, as well as some that have not been part of mainstream analytic philosophy, such as those concerning social ontology.

Presumptuous Naturalism: A Cautionary Tale, DANIEL D. HUTTO

Naturalism is the word of the day. It is the "ism" that most philosophers embrace (at least in English-speaking climes). Wearers of the badge are a wildly diverse bunch. This is because there are quite different ways of being a naturalist, and of conceiving of the naturalistic project. Some naturalists take a special interest in our everyday or folk commitments. For them, the interesting philosophical project is to determine how much, if any, of what we ordinarily think about various subject matters (for example, mentality, morality, aesthetics) is compatible with our best scientific understanding of what exists. To decide this, special methods have been created for (1) perspicuously representing our folk commitments and (2) examining if these outstrip the commitments of a certain scientific understanding of what nature comprises. By these lights, the naturalist's philosophical task is to determine if the folk are committed to something beyond what is posited by a certain scientific worldview. …

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