Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Anon (Dan), Nelson Goodman and Will Kymlicka

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92 ideas

1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 5. Linguistic Analysis
Without words or other symbols, we have no world [Goodman]
     Full Idea: We can have words without a world but no world without words or other symbols.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.3)
     A reaction: Goodman seems to have a particularly extreme version of the commitment to philosophy as linguistic. Non-human animals have no world, it seems.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 5. Truth Bearers
Truth is irrelevant if no statements are involved [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Truth pertains solely to what is said ...For nonverbal versions and even for verbal versions without statements, truth is irrelevant.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.5)
     A reaction: Goodman is a philosopher of language (like Dummett), but I am a philosopher of thought (like Evans). The test, for me, is whether truth is applicable to the thought of non-human animals. I take it to be obvious that it is applicable.
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 5. Conceptions of Set / a. Sets as existing
Classes are a host of ethereal, platonic, pseudo entities [Goodman]
     Full Idea: I will not willingly use apparatus that peoples the world with a host of ethereal, platonic, pseudo entities.
     From: Nelson Goodman (The Structure of Appearance [1951], II.2), quoted by David Lewis - Parts of Classes 2.1
     A reaction: This represents the big gap that opened up with Goodman's former comrade in arms, Quine. Lewis quotes it in order to ask whether he means ethereal or platonic, as they are very different. I sympathise with Goodman.
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 8. Critique of Set Theory
Two objects can apparently make up quite distinct arrangements in sets [Goodman, by Burgess/Rosen]
     Full Idea: Goodman argues that the set or class {{a}},{a,b}} is supposed to be distinct from the set or class {{b},{a,b}}, even though both are ultimately constituted from the same a and b.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (The Structure of Appearance [1951]) by JP Burgess / G Rosen - A Subject with No Object I.A.2.a
     A reaction: I'm with Goodman all the way here, even though it is deeply unfashionable, particularly in the circles I move in. If there are trillion grains of sand on a beach, how many sets are we supposed to be committed to?
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 1. Mereology
The counties of Utah, and the state, and its acres, are in no way different [Goodman]
     Full Idea: A class (counties of Utah) is different neither from the individual (state of Utah) that contains its members, nor from any other class (acres of Utah) whose members exhaust the whole. For nominalists, distinction of entity means distinction of content.
     From: Nelson Goodman (The Structure of Appearance [1951], p.26), quoted by Achille Varzi - Mereology 3.1
     A reaction: This is a nice credo for the nominalist version of mereology. You can still have a mereology that commits you to the wholes as well as the parts. Cf. Lewis in Idea 10660.
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 4. Logic by Convention
If the result is bad, we change the rule; if we like the rule, we reject the result [Goodman]
     Full Idea: A rule is amended if it yields an inference we are unwilling to accept; an inference is rejected if it violates a rule we are unwilling to amend.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Fact, Fiction and Forecast (4th ed) [1954], p.64)
     A reaction: This is clearly in tune with Quine's assertion that logic is potentially revisable, and the idea is pragmatist in spirit. It is hard to deny that intuitions about what makes a good argument control our logic. I say the world controls our intuitions.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 4. Ontological Dependence
Being primitive or prior always depends on a constructional system [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Nothing is primitive or derivationally prior to anything apart from a constructional system.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.4c)
     A reaction: Something may be primitive not just because we can't be bothered to analyse it any further, but because even God couldn't analyse it. Maybe.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 5. Supervenience / d. Humean supervenience
We don't recognise patterns - we invent them [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Recognising patterns is very much a matter of inventing or imposing them.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.7)
     A reaction: I take this to be false.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 3. Reality
Reality is largely a matter of habit [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Reality in a world, like realism in a picture, is largely a matter of habit.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.6)
     A reaction: I'm a robust realist, me, but I sort of see what he means. We become steeped in unspoken conventions about how we take our world to be, and filter out anything that conflicts with it.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 4. Anti-realism
We build our world, and ignore anything that won't fit [Goodman]
     Full Idea: We dismiss as illusory or negligible what cannot be fitted into the architecture of the world we are building.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.4d)
     A reaction: I'm trying to think of an example of this, but can't. Maybe poor people are invisible to the rich?
7. Existence / E. Categories / 5. Category Anti-Realism
A world can be full of variety or not, depending on how we sort it [Goodman]
     Full Idea: A world may be unmanageably heterogeneous or unbearably monotonous according to how events are sorted into kinds.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.4a)
     A reaction: We might expect this from the man who invented 'grue', which allows you to classify things that change colour with things that don't. Could you describe a bird as 'might have been a fish', and classify it with fish? ('Projectible'?)
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
Dispositions seem more ethereal than behaviour; a non-occult account of them would be nice [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Dispositions of a thing are as important to us as overt behaviour, but they strike us by comparison as rather ethereal. So we are moved to enquire whether we can bring them down to earth, and explain disposition terms without reference to occult powers.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Fact, Fiction and Forecast (4th ed) [1954], II.3)
     A reaction: Mumford quotes this at the start of his book on dispositions, as his agenda. I suspect that the 'occult' aspect crept in because dispositions were based on powers, and the dominant view was that these were the immediate work of God.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
If all and only red things were round things, we would need to specify the 'respect' of the resemblance [Goodman, by Macdonald,C]
     Full Idea: According to Goodman's 'companionship difficulty', resemblance nominalism has a problem if, say, all and only the red things were the round things, because we cannot distinguish the two different respects in which the things resemble one another.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (The Structure of Appearance [1951]) by Cynthia Macdonald - Varieties of Things Ch.6
     A reaction: Goodman opts for extreme linguististic nominalism in response to this (Idea 7952), whereas Russell opts for a sort of Platonism (4441). The current idea gives Russell a further problem, of needing a universal of the respect of the resemblance.
Without respects of resemblance, we would collect blue book, blue pen, red pen, red clock together [Goodman, by Macdonald,C]
     Full Idea: Goodman's 'imperfect community' problem for Resemblance Nominalism says that without mention of respects in which things resemble, we end up with a heterogeneous collection with nothing wholly in common (blue book, blue pen, red pen, red clock).
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (The Structure of Appearance [1951]) by Cynthia Macdonald - Varieties of Things Ch.6
     A reaction: This suggests Wittgenstein's 'family' resemblance as a way out (Idea 4141), but a blue book and a red clock seem totally unrelated. Nice objection! At this point we start to think that the tropes resemble, rather than the objects.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
If we apply the same word to different things, it is only because we are willing to do so [Goodman, by Macdonald,C]
     Full Idea: Predicate nominalism is the view that what all things to which the same word applies have in common is simply our willingness to apply the same word to them.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (The Structure of Appearance [1951], Ch.6) by Cynthia Macdonald - Varieties of Things
     A reaction: This is Goodman's 'extreme nominalist' position. This seems also to be an anti-realist position, as it denies any 'joints' to nature (Idea 7953). It strikes me as daft. WHY are we willing to apply words in certain ways?
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 3. Relative Identity
Things can only be judged the 'same' by citing some respect of sameness [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Identification rests upon organization into entities and kinds. The response to the question 'Same or not the same?' must always be 'Same what?'. ...Identity or constancy in a world is identity with respect to what is within that world as organised.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.4a)
     A reaction: And the gist of his book is that 'organised' is done by us, not by the world. He seems to be committed to the full Geachean relative identity, rather than the mere Wigginsian relative individuation. An unfashionable view!
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 9. Counterfactuals
Counterfactuals are true if logical or natural laws imply the consequence [Goodman, by McFetridge]
     Full Idea: Goodman's central idea was: 'If that match had been scratched, it would have lighted' is true if there are suitable truths from which, with the antecedent, the consequent can be inferred by means of a logical, or more typically natural, law.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals [1947]) by Ian McFetridge - Logical Necessity: Some Issues §4
     A reaction: Goodman then discusses the problem of identifying the natural laws, and identifying the suitable truths. I'm inclined to think counterfactuals are vaguer than that; they are plausible if coherent reasons can be offered for the inference.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / b. Pro-coherentism
Discovery is often just finding a fit, like a jigsaw puzzle [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Discovery often amounts, as when I place a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, not to arrival at a proposition for declaration or defense, but to finding a fit.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.7)
     A reaction: I find Goodman's views here pretty alien, but I like this bit. Coherence really rocks.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 3. Instrumentalism
Users of digital thermometers recognise no temperatures in the gaps [Goodman]
     Full Idea: To use a digital thermometer with readings in tenths of a degree is to recognise no temperature as lying between 90 and 90.1 degrees.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.4d)
     A reaction: This appears to be nonsense, treating users of digital thermometers as if they were stupid. No one thinks temperatures go up and down in quantum leaps. We all know there is a gap between instrument and world. (Very American, I'm thinking!)
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 5. Commensurability
We lack frames of reference to transform physics, biology and psychology into one another [Goodman]
     Full Idea: We have no neat frames of reference, no ready rules for transforming physics, biology and psychology into one another.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.2)
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Goodman argued that the confirmation relation can never be formalised [Goodman, by Horsten/Pettigrew]
     Full Idea: Goodman constructed arguments that purported to show that a satisfactory syntactic analysis of the confirmation relation can never be found. In response, philosophers of science tried to model it in probabilistic terms.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (Fact, Fiction and Forecast (4th ed) [1954]) by Horsten,L/Pettigrew,R - Mathematical Methods in Philosophy 4
     A reaction: I take this idea to say that Bayesianism was developed in response to the grue problem. This is an interesting light on 'grue', which never bothered me much. The point is it scuppered formal attempts to model induction.
Goodman showed that every sound inductive argument has an unsound one of the same form [Goodman, by Putnam]
     Full Idea: Goodman has shown that no purely formal criterion can distinguish arguments that are intuitively sound inductive arguments for unsound ones: for every sound one there is an unsound one of the same form. The predicates in the argument make the difference.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (Fact, Fiction and Forecast (4th ed) [1954]) by Hilary Putnam - Why there isn't a ready-made world 'Causation'
     A reaction: This is to swallow grue whole. I think a bit more chewing is called for. By this date Putnam strikes me as a crazy relativist who has lost his grip on the world. Note the word 'formal' - but Putnam seems to think the argument is important.
Grue and green won't be in the same world, as that would block induction entirely [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Grue cannot be a relevant kind for induction in the same world as green, for that would preclude some of the decisions, right or wrong, that constitute inductive inference.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.4b)
     A reaction: This may make 'grue' less mad than I thought it was. I always assume we are slicing the world as 'green, blue and grue'. I still say 'green' is a basic predicate of experience, but 'grue' is amenable to analysis.
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 2. Self as Social Construct
The 'Kantian' self steps back from commitment to its social situation [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The 'Kantian' view of the self strongly defends the view that the self is prior to its socially given roles and relationships, and is free only if it is capable of holding these features of its social situation at a distance, and judging them by reason.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 6.3)
     A reaction: There is no correct answer here, because I am capable of Kantian distancing, and also capable of submersing myself in the social constructions around me. If society fosters rebellion (1810s, 1960s) then we become more Kantian.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 1. Defining Art
Art is a referential activity, hence indefinable, but it has a set of symptoms [Goodman]
     Full Idea: No definition of art is possible (since it is a referential activity), …but the symptoms of art are syntactic density, semantic density, syntactic repleteness, exemplificationality, and multiple and complex reference.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968], p.22-255), quoted by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics) 4
     A reaction: I wish these labels were more self-explanatory. Goodman seems to want to assimilate art to his earlier interests in linguistic anti-realism and mereology. I wouldn't have thought he now had many followers.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 5. Art as Language
Artistic symbols are judged by the fruitfulness of their classifications [Goodman, by Giovannelli]
     Full Idea: Artistic symbols are to be judged for the classifications they bring about, for how novel and insightful those classifications are, for how they change our world perceptions and relations.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968]) by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics) 4
     A reaction: This seems to be an awfully long way from our normal experience of art. I understand 'symbols' in early Flemish art, but not in Mondriaan, or even Rembrandt.
Art is like understanding a natural language, and needs a grasp of a symbol system [Goodman, by Gardner]
     Full Idea: In Goodman's account, knowing what a painting represents is logically like understanding a sentence in a natural language. It requires a grasp of the 'symbol system' to which the painting belongs.
     From: report of Nelson Goodman (The Languages of Art [1976]) by Sebastian Gardner - Aesthetics 2.3.2
     A reaction: This may fit some pictures well (e.g. early Flemish painting, with its complex iconography), but others hardly at all. You can enjoy a first experience of (say) ballet long before you get the hang of the 'symbol system' involved.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 7. Ontology of Art
A performance is only an instance of a work if there is not a single error [Goodman]
     Full Idea: The most miserable performance without actual mistakes does count as an instance of a work, …but the most brilliant performance with a single wrong note does not.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968], p.186), quoted by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics)
     A reaction: Mereological essentialism applied to art! You need to be a highly theoretical and technical philosopher (which Goodman was) to maintain such a weird and contrary-usage proposal.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 2. Copies of Art
A copy only becomes an 'instance' of an artwork if there is a system of notation [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Paintings and sculptures do not work within a notation; hence, there is no copying of an original that would preserve its originality. A copy of a painting is a copy, not an instance of the original.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Languages of Art (2nd edn) [1968], p.212), quoted by Alessandro Giovannelli - Nelson Goodman (aesthetics) 2
     A reaction: Sounds conclusive, but isn't. Is a poetry manuscript a 'notation' or an original? Why is an etching plate a notation, but painting on canvas is an original? Can I create a painting specifically so that it can be copied (by my students)? Intention matters.
22. Metaethics / C. The Good / 1. Goodness / c. Right and good
Teleological theories give the good priority over concern for people [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Teleological theories take concern for the good (e.g. freedom or utility) as fundamental, and concern for people as derivative.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.4.a.ii)
     A reaction: There's a nice fundamental question with which to begin a discussion of value: which matters most - abstract values, or individual people? Placing a collective of people first (Stalinism?) seems to fall between them.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / c. Particularism
Maybe the particularist moral thought of women is better than the impartial public thinking of men [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: There is a significant strand of contemporary feminism which argues that we should take seriously women's different morality. ...The particularistic thought women employ is a better morality than the impartial thought men employ in the public sphere.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 7.3)
     A reaction: I had taken Particularism to be an offshoot of virtue theory, as promulgated by Jonathan Dancy. Evidently the influence of feminism is strong. Personally I think the world would be a better place if it was run by women.
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is not a decision-procedure; choice of the best procedure is an open question [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Utilitarianism is essentially a 'standard of rightness', not a 'decision-procedure'. ...It is an open question whether we should employ a utilitarian decision-procedure - indeed, this question itself is to be answered by examining its consequences.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.3.b)
     A reaction: The point is that the aim is to maximise happiness, and you might do that by just maximising baked bean consumption, and not even thinking about happiness. This idea is labelled 'indirect utilitarianism'. Happiness does seem to be a by-product.
One view says start with equality, and infer equal weight to interests, and hence maximum utility [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The first main argument for utilitarianism is that people matter equally, and hence each person's interests should be given equal weight, and hence morally right acts will maximise utility.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.4.a)
     A reaction: The point is that this starts from the aim of equality, and infers maximum utility as its consequence. Equality has a primitive value. Whenever you dig down to a primitive value in a theory, I just find myself puzzled. What can justify basic equality?
A second view says start with maximising the good, implying aggregation, and hence equality [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The second main argument for utilitarianism defines the right in terms of maximising the good, which leads to the utilitarian aggregation standard, which as a mere consequence treats people's interests equally.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.4.b)
     A reaction: This takes maximum good as a primitive, and arrives at equality as the way to achieve it. So which is more morally fundamental, a maximum of goodness, or human equality? Kymlicka says this idea is too impersonal.
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 2. Population / a. Human population
To maximise utility should we double the population, even if life somewhat deteriorates? [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Morally, should we double the population, even if it means reducing each person's welfare by almost half (since that will still increase overall utility)?
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.4.b)
     A reaction: [He cites Derek Parfit for this] The key word is 'almost', which ensures a small increase in overall utility. I think this is a particularly good objection to utilitarianism, which aims to maximise an abstraction called 'utility'.
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 4. Original Position / c. Difference principle
The difference principles says we must subsidise the costs of other people's choices [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The difference principle does not make any distinction between chosen and unchosen inequalities, ....but the difference principle requires that some people subsidise the costs of other people's choices.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 3.3.b.2)
     A reaction: We do this in education, allowing people to study things in which we can see little point. We subsidise public ceremonies which strike us as ridiculous.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 2. State Legitimacy / a. Sovereignty
Liberal state legitimacy is based on a belief in justice, not in some conception of the good life [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: For liberals the basis of state legitimacy is a shared sense of justice, not a shared conception of the good.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'legitimacy')
     A reaction: For a liberal state to work, the citizens have to roughly believe in the core values of liberalism, which are primarily freedom and equality (and hence justice).
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 2. State Legitimacy / c. Social contract
Social contract theories are usually rejected because there never was such a contract [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Social contract theories have all been subjected to the same criticism - that there never was such a state of nature, or such a contract. Hence neither citizens nor government are bound by it. Contracts only create obligations if they are actually agreed.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 3.3)
     A reaction: Even if they have been agreed in the past, why should subsequent generations be bound to them? Modern Germans aren't bound by their grandparents' oaths of allegiance to fascism.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 4. Citizenship
Some liberals thinks checks and balances are enough, without virtuous citizens [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Many classical liberals believed that a liberal democracy could function effectively even in the absence of an especially virtuous citizenry, by creating checks and balances. …One set of private interests would check another set of private interests.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: This seems to be the view of those who think a completely free market will evolve into a flourishing and just society. There is a basic debate about the importance of the character of the citizens in any polity. Marxists say they are entangled.
Good citizens need civic virtues of loyalty, independence, diligence, respect, etc. [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Galston says responsible citizenship requires four types of civic virtue: general (law-abiding, loyal), social (independent, open-minded), economic (diligent, restrained, adaptable), and political (respect, sensible, judgement, engagement).
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: [Galston's 'Liberal Purposes' 1991] (compressed) This immediately seems to be asking too much, especially for those who know little, or are short of money.
Liberals accept that people need society, but Aristotelians must show that they need political activity [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: To defend Aristotelian republicanism it is not enough to show that individual require society - liberals do not deny this. They must also show that individuals need to be politically active.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: Interesting. People are not just inactive because they have been rendered powerless. In any group of people there are some who are keen to have a voice, or lead, and others who are largely happy to follow.
Minimal liberal citizenship needs common civility, as well as mere non-interference [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Minimal citizenship is often seen as simply requiring non-interference with others, but that ignores a basic requirement of liberal citizenship, which is the social virtue of 'civility' or 'decency'.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: He makes the point that the minimal requirement has to be given up when there is a crisis, which needs much more involvement. This largely describes modern Britain, prior to the Brexit rift.
Modern non-discrimination obliges modern citizens to treat each other as equals [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The extension of non-discrimination from government to civil society …involves a radical extension of the obligations of liberal citizenship. The obligation to treat people as equal citizens now applies to everyday decisions.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: This is very difficult for an older generation who felt their 'entitlement' as leading citizens, or who routinely favoured their local traditional community. But they just have to 'get over it'!
The right wing sees citizenship in terms of responsibility to earn a living, rather than rights [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: According to the New Right, to promote active citizenship-for-all or entitlements, we must focus instead on people's responsibility to earn a living.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: Every creature has to earn a living, but one method is to successfully sponge off others. A cushy job is a sort of sponging. An excessively well paid job is a sort of sponging. Citizenship must involve responsibilities of some sort.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 5. Culture
Liberals say state intervention in culture restricts people's autonomy [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: According to liberal theory, a state which intervenes in the cultural market place to encourage any particular way of life restricts people's autonomy.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'social')
     A reaction: The communitarian idea is that the state should intervene, in order to foster the best aspects of communal culture. The dangers are obvious, and can be seen in any totalitarian state. A gentle hand on the tiller, perhaps? Increase the options?
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 4. Social Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is no longer a distinctive political position [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Modern utilitarianism, despite its radical heritage, no longer defines a distinctive political position.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.6)
     A reaction: This is his final sentence on the topic. I suppose utilitarianism exists as a moral theory at too high a level of generality to count as a political theory.
The quest of the general good is partly undermined by people's past entitlements [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The existence of past entitlements on the part of particular people partially pre-empts, or constrains, the utilitarian quest to maximise the general good.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.3.a)
     A reaction: In other words, there is never a clean slate in politics (except in some hideously violent revolution). You might be able to justify to someone a withdrawal of their past entitlements. E.g. confiscating a stolen painting that was bought in ignorance.
We shouldn't endorse preferences which reject equality, and show prejudice and selfishness [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Equality should enter into the very formation of our preferences. ....Prejudiced and selfish preferences should be excluded from the start, for they already reflect a failure to show equal consideration.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.5.b)
     A reaction: This is meant to block utilitarian summing of preferences like racism, but it feels like a rather desperate attempt to get righteous liberal values in at the beginning, where they can't be questioned. How can you justify equal respect and treatment?
Using utilitarian principles to make decisions encourages cold detachment from people [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Acting directly on utilitarian grounds is counter-productive, for it encourages a contingent and detached attitude towards what should be whole-hearted personal and political commitments.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.7)
     A reaction: I've always seen this as an objection to utilitarianism, but I now see that it is only an objection to the decision procedure. We should be warm-hearted and committed, in the knowledge that this will increase benefits to all. Hm. A bit schizoid.
Utilitarianism is irrational if it tells you to trade in your rights and resources just for benefits [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Utilitarianism is an irrational choice, for it is rational to ensure your basic rights and resources are protected, even if you thereby lessen your chance of receiving benefits above and beyond the basic goods that you seek to protect.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 3.3)
     A reaction: [He's discussing Rawls] Utilitarians would obviously respond to this by saying that the rights and resources are needed to protect future benefits, so it would be short-termism to trade them in now.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 5. Democracy / a. Nature of democracy
Modern democratic theory focuses on talk, not votes, because we need consensus or compromise [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Modern discussion has shifted from 'vote-centric' (or 'aggregative') to 'talk-centric' democracy. The vote-centric model has no mechanism for developing a consensus, or shaping public opinion, or even formulating an honourable compromise.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: I'm struck by the fact that a person's preferences betweent these two is a reflection of character, or basic attitudes to morality. Some people think democratically about their relationships, and others very obviously don't.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / a. Liberalism basics
In a liberal democracy all subjects of authority have a right to determine the authority [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: A liberal-democratic system is one in which those people who are subject to political authority have a right to participate in determining that authority.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.4)
     A reaction: This applies to immigrants. The most anti-democratic move in recent democracies is the strategy of trying to make it more difficult to vote, perhaps by demanding identification documents, or creating huge queues.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / b. Liberal individualism
Modern liberalism has added personal privacy to our personal social lives [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Modern liberalism is concerned not only to protect the private sphere of social life, but also to carve out a realm within the private sphere where individuals can have privacy.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 7.2.b)
     A reaction: Interestingly, he associates this development with the romantic movement, which designated social interaction as public and political, creating a need for true privacy. Privacy is the blessing and blight of the modern world.
We have become attached to private life because that has become greatly enriched [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Our attachment to private life, I believe, is the result not (or not only) of the impoverishment of public life, but the enrichment of private life.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 7)
     A reaction: Interesting. Perhaps a sentiment expected more from a university lecturer than from a poorly-paid labourer. Does he mean watching innumerable TV shows instead of having sing-songs in the local pub? Increased leisure is indisputable.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / d. Liberal freedom
Liberalism tends to give priority to basic liberties [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: One way of differentiating liberalism is that it gives priority to the basic liberties.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 3.1.b)
     A reaction: [He is citing Rawls for this] This is not the same as extreme libertarianism, which makes liberty the only priority. The issue would be over which liberties count as 'basic'. Taxation would be a good test case.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / e. Liberal community
Liberals are not too individualistic, because people recognise and value social relations [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: It is alleged that liberals fail to recognise that people are naturally social or communal. …But liberals believe that people form and join social relations in which they come to understand and pursue the good.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Liberal Individualism and Liberal Neutrality [1989], Conc)
     A reaction: This is particulary aimed at communitarians, who see liberalism as based on a distorted concept of people as isolated beings. Personally I am beginning to shift my views from Aristotelian communitarianism to modern liberalism, so I like this idea.
Modern liberals see a community as simply a society which respects freedom and equality [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Most contemporary liberal philosophers have little to say about the ideal of community. …It is often seen as derivative of liberty and equality - a society lives up to the ideal of community if its members are treated as free and equal persons.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'Intro')
     A reaction: He cites Rawls as an example. This is the central idea which was attacked by modern communitarians. A collection of scattered self-seeking isolated individuals doesn't seem to amount to a healthy communal life. Maybe community needs further rights?
Liberals must avoid an official culture, as well as an official religion [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Just as liberalism precludes the establishment of an official religion, so too there cannot be official cultures that have preferred status.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.3)
     A reaction: This becomes tricky in schools, where the old way of teaching national literature and particular types of music has been eroded in modern times. But once wide diversity is allowed there is no single story which can be taught.
Liberals need more than freedom; they must build a nation, through a language and institutions [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Liberals need to replace the idea of 'benign neglect', and recognise the central role of nation-building in a democracy. …This means promoting a common language, and equal access to institutions operating in that language.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.3)
     A reaction: 'Benign neglect' is non-interference with citizens' lives. Obviously the institutions include education, but is a state health service implied? Can equal access by guaranteed to private institutions?
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / f. Multiculturalism
Some individuals can gain citizenship as part of a group, rather than as mere individuals [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: On the view of 'differentiated citizenship', members of certain groups would be incorporated into the community, not only as individuals, but also through the group, and their rights would depend in part on their group membership.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8)
     A reaction: This is obviously a strategy to enable marginalised individuals to be fully included in society. The downside is that individuals gain their social identity through a label, rather than through themselves, which pure liberals dislike. 'Identity politics'.
The status hierarchy is independent of the economic hierarchy [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The evidence suggests that (contrary to the Marxist view) the status hierarchy is not reducible to the economic hierarchy.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8)
     A reaction: Kymlicka is particularly thinking of racism, which lowers the status of certain groups, even if they are economically successful. I console myself for my modest economic status by getting lots of education.
Some multiculturalists defended the rights of cohesive minorities against liberal individualism [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Defending multiculturalism initially involved endorsing the communitarian critique of liberalism, and viewed minority rights as defending cohesive minority groups against the encroachment of liberal individualism.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.1)
     A reaction: Liberal individualists have to accept these criticisms from Marxists, communitarians and multiculturalists. The lone individual has no group that guarantees support, and individuals (especially the young) can easily sink.
'Culturalist' liberals say that even liberal individuals may need minority rights [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The 'liberal culturalist' position is that minorities which share basic liberal principles nonetheless need minority rights.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.2)
     A reaction: Disabled liberals are an obvious example. This strikes me as a promising version of liberalism, which accepts the criticisms of extreme individualism.
Multiculturalism may entail men dominating women in minority groups [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Many feminists express concern that multiculturalism in practice typically means giving male members of the group the power to control the women in the group.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.2)
     A reaction: The way the young are treated might also be a problem. The underlying question is whether the minority group is more or less civilised than the central state. Liberalism always fights for the rights of the least powerful.
Liberals must prefer minority right which are freedoms, not restrictions [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Liberal defenders of multiculturalism must distinguish 'bad' minority rights which are restrictions from 'good' minority rights which supplement individual rights.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.2)
     A reaction: Presumably no sensible liberal wants to remove all restrictions, so deeper values must be invoked to justify the mode of approved minority rights. A list of human goods seems needed.
Why shouldn't national minorities have their own right to nation-build? [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Why should national minorities not have the same powers of nation-building as the majority?
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.4)
     A reaction: A 'national minority' is marked by a different language, or a different religion, or both. No one doubts the majority's right to nation-build. Some further principle would be needed to deny that right to a minority. Maybe the minority was there first?
Multiculturalism is liberal if it challenges inequality, conservative if it emphasises common good [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Liberal multiculturalism challenges status inequalities while preserving individual freedom. …Conservative multiculturalism replaces liberal principles with a communitarian politics of the common good, at least at the local or group level.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8.6)
     A reaction: [compressed] This sounds a bit simplistic. Recent emphasis on 'the common good', in the face of white supremacists etc., seems admirable, but surely challenging inequalities promotes the common good? Minority cultures are often conservative.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 6. Liberalism / g. Liberalism critique
Marxists say liberalism is unjust, because it allows exploitation in the sale of labour [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The fundamental flaw of liberal justice, Marxists claim, is that it licences the continuation of the worker by the capitalist, since it licences the buying and selling labour.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 5.2.a)
     A reaction: I can't see that all sale of labour is exploitation, if (for example) the wage paid was extremely high (maybe even higher than the employer's wage, which is possible). So exploitation involves something more.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 7. Communitarianism / a. Communitarianism
Community can focus on class or citizenship or ethnicity or culture [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: In recent centuries the ideal of community has taken many forms, from class solidarity or shared citizenship to a common ethnic descent or cultural identity.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'Intro')
     A reaction: Language and religion are not explicitly mentioned, but must be implied. Supporting a major sports team is also worth mentioning.
The 'Kantian' view of the self misses the way it is embedded or situated in society [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Communitarians believe that the 'Kantian' view of the self is false, because it ignores the fact that the self is 'embedded' or 'situated' in existing social practices, so that we cannot always stand back and opt out of them.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 6.3)
     A reaction: [Hegel and Charles Taylor 1979 seem to be the sources for this] I have several times been told that I am so typical of the culture I arose in that it is almost comical. This was quite disconcerting, but I got used to it, and now I love it.
Communitarians say we should pay more attention to our history [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Communitarians like to say that political theory should pay more attention to the history of each culture.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 6.4.c)
     A reaction: I like this. Kylicka says communitarians tend not to do this, partly because history might reveal an unpleasant basis for present society (such as English country house life benefiting from slavery). The ignorance of history among politicians appals me.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 7. Communitarianism / b. Against communitarianism
Communitarianism struggles with excluded marginalised groups [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The problem of the exclusion of historically marginalised groups is endemic to the communitarian project.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'legitimacy')
     A reaction: Put simply, old-fashioned styles of community are probably impossible in large modern states, some with rather arbitrary borders.
Communitarian states only encourage fairly orthodox ideas of the good life [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: A communitarian state can and should encourage people to adopt conceptions of the good that conform to the community's way of life, while discouraging conceptions of the good that conflict with it.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 6.2)
     A reaction: This is the conservative aspect of communitarianism which many people (notably liberals) find uncongenial. This conservatism is implicit in Aristotle's account of virtue. I have become more conservative to accommodate it.
Feminism has shown that social roles are far from fixed (as communitarians tend to see them) [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Communitarians say that some of our social roles must be regarded as fixed when planning our lives, …but the women's movement has shown how deeply entrenched social roles can be questioned and rejected.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'Embedded')
     A reaction: True, but parents walking out on young children also shows that. The ideal must be some sort of balance.
Participation aids the quest for the good life, but why should that be a state activity? [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Communitarians rarely distinguish between collective activities and political activities. Shared participation aids intelligent decisions about the good life, but why should that be organised through the state, rather than by free individuals?
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'need')
     A reaction: Kylicka points out later that local groups can be very unintelligent or prejudiced. Modern media have changed that picture, because participation can be with geographically remote people.
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 1. Slavery
If everyone owned himself, that would prevent slavery [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The best way to prevent enslavement of one person to another is to give each person ownership over himself.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 4.2.c)
     A reaction: [The idea comes from Nozick, but Kymlicka is assessing how it should be understood] The best way to block any social evil like slavery is to make it unthinkable. Legislation is second best. Presumably I could sell myself into slavery (like Faust)?
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 4. Free market
Libertarians like the free market, but they also think that the free market is just [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Not everyone who favours the free market is a libertarian, for they do not all share the libertarian view that the free market is inherently just.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 4.1.a)
     A reaction: Illuminating. It would appear that exploitation is possible within a strictly free market, so it seems unlikely that free markets are inherently just (unless you don't acknowledge that 'exploitation' is wrong).
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 5. Freedom of lifestyle
The most valuable liberties to us need not be the ones with the most freedom [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Different liberties promote different interests for many different reasons, and there is no reason to assume that the liberties which are most valuable to us are the ones with the most freedom.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.4.a.iii)
     A reaction: As I grow older I come more and more to think that freedom is overvalued. But have you tried the other thing? We complacently take huge freedoms for granted. Be passionate about fundamental freedoms, and relaxed about the rest.
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 6. Political freedom
Ancient freedom was free participation in politics, not private independence of life [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The liberty of the ancients was their active participation in the exercise of political power, not the peaceful enjoyment of personal independence.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 7.2.a)
     A reaction: Interesting. It takes a feat of imagination to grasp a world where the desire for freedom to sit at home and compile a database of philosophical ideas never even crossed anyone's mind.
25. Social Practice / B. Equalities / 2. Political equality
Equal opportunities seems fair, because your fate is from your choices, not your circumstances [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The ideology of equal opportunity seems fair to many people in our society because it ensures that people's fate is determined by their choices, rather than their circumstances.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 3.2)
     A reaction: Is it that we surmise that people have 'free will', and then engineer a situation where it can be exercised? Is it that the rest of us don't want to feel guilty when someone else's life goes awry (because it was 'their fault')?
Equal opportunity arbitrarily worries about social circumstances, but ignores talents [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The prevailing view [of equal opportunity] only recognises differences in social circumstances, while ignoring differences in natural talents (or treating them as if they were a choice). This is an arbitrary limit on the theory's central intuition.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 3.2)
     A reaction: Of course we (society) can do a lot about your social circumstances, but very little about your talents, other than to develop them or thwart them. Talented children need more than mere 'opportunity'.
25. Social Practice / B. Equalities / 3. Legal equality
Marxists say justice is unneeded in the truly good community [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Marxists believe that justice, far from being the first virtue of social institutions, is something that the truly good community has no need for.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 5.1)
     A reaction: This seems to imply that in the truly good community there are nothing but truly good individuals, which is taking social determinism to its limits. Are all the citizens of a bad community inherently bad?
25. Social Practice / C. Rights / 1. Basis of Rights
The Lockean view of freedom depends on whether you had a right to what is restricted [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The Lockean camp defines freedom in terms of the exercise of our rights. Whether or not a restriction decreases our freedom depends on whether or not we had a right to do the restricted thing.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 2.4.a.iii)
     A reaction: My first instinct is to be sympathetic to this, since a detached and general notion of 'freedom' strikes me as suspect. He offers the rival 'Spenserian' view of freedom as just having the choice.
Rights are a part of nation-building, to build a common national identity and culture [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Extending citizenship to include common social rights was a tool of nation-building, intended in part to construct and consolidate a sense of common national identity and culture.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8)
     A reaction: Kymlicka explains a lot of politics and society in terms of the desire of governments to 'build' their nation. You have to make people who are essentially powerless feel that they are at least in some way involved, and benefiting.
Rights derived from group membership are opposed to the idea of state citizenship [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The organisation of society on the basis of rights or claims that derive from group membership is sharply opposed to the concept of society based on citizenship.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8)
     A reaction: [from John Porter 1987] Does this imply that you might have rights as part of a group which you don't have as a state citizen? Positive discrimination, for example. Differential rights sounds like potential trouble.
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 1. Basis of justice
Justice corrects social faults, but also expresses respect to individuals as ends [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Justice is more than a remedial virtue. It does remedy defects in social co-ordination, ...but it also expresses the respect individuals are owed as ends in themselves, not as mean's to someone's good, or even to the common good.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (1st edn) [1990], 5.1)
     A reaction: That is, I take it, that justice operates at two different levels in our theoretical social thinking.
Communitarians see justice as primarily a community matter, rather than a principle [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Communitarians believe either that community replaces the need for principles of justice, or that the community is either the source of such principles or should play a greater role in deciding their content.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'Intro')
     A reaction: [compressed] The idea that a racist or chauvinist or puritanical or insular community should decide justice for all its members sounds horrible. It drives you to liberal individualism, just thinking about it.
Justice resolves conflicts, but may also provoke them [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Justice can help mediate conflicts, but it also tends to creat conflicts, and to decrease the natural expression of sociability.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Community [1993], 'limits')
     A reaction: [He is discussing Michael Sandel on liberalism] Family life might not go well if all of its members continually demanded justice for themselves as individuals. Maybe our concept of justice is too individualistic? Do we need a sense of 'group' justice?
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 3. Welfare provision
The welfare state helps to integrate the working classes into a national culture [Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: The development of the welfare state has been quite successful in integrating the working classes into national cultures throughout the Western democracies.
     From: Will Kymlicka (Contemporary Political Philosophy (2nd edn) [2002], 8)
     A reaction: Hard-line capitalists tend to hate the welfare state, as unfair to high earners, but it not only makes workers feel involved, but also provides a healthier, happier, more knowledgeable work force for employers.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 1. Nature
If the world is one it has many aspects, and if there are many worlds they will collect into one [Goodman]
     Full Idea: If there is but one world, it embraces a multiplicity of contrasting aspects; if there are many worlds, the collection of them all is one. One world may be taken as many, or many worlds taken as one; whether one or many depends on the way of taking.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking [1978], 1.2)
     A reaction: He cites 'The Pluralistic Universe' by William James for this idea. The idea is that the distinction 'evaporates under analysis'. Parmenides seems to have thought that no features could be distinguished in the true One.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 3. Laws and Generalities
We don't use laws to make predictions, we call things laws if we make predictions with them [Goodman]
     Full Idea: Rather than a sentence being used for prediction because it is a law, it is called a law because it is used for prediction.
     From: Nelson Goodman (Fact, Fiction and Forecast (4th ed) [1954], p.21), quoted by Stathis Psillos - Causation and Explanation §5.4
     A reaction: This smacks of dodgy pragmatism, and sounds deeply wrong. The perception of a law has to be prior to making the prediction. Why do we make the prediction, if we haven't spotted a law. Goodman is mesmerised by language instead of reality.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / a. Immortality
Resurrection developed in Judaism as a response to martyrdoms, in about 160 BCE [Anon (Dan), by Watson]
     Full Idea: The idea of resurrection in Judaism seems to have first developed around 160 BCE, during the time of religious martyrdom, and as a response to it (the martyrs were surely not dying forever?). It is first mentioned in the book of Daniel.
     From: report of Anon (Dan) (27: Book of Daniel [c.165 BCE], Ch.7) by Peter Watson - Ideas
     A reaction: Idea 7473 suggests that Zoroaster beat them to it by 800 years.