Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Ralph Cudworth, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury and Curt Ducasse

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25 ideas

2. Reason / D. Definition / 2. Aims of Definition
A correct definition is what can be substituted without loss of meaning [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: A definition of a word is correct if the definition can be substituted for the word being defined in an assertion without in the least changing the meaning which the assertion is felt to have.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §1)
     A reaction: This sounds good, but a very bland and uninformative rephrasing would fit this account, without offering anything very helpful. The word 'this' could be substituted for a lot of object words. A 'blade' is 'a thing always attached to a knife handle'.
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 3. Innate Knowledge / c. Tabula rasa
If the soul were a tabula rasa, with no innate ideas, there could be no moral goodness or justice [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: The soul is not a mere rasa tabula, a naked and passive thing, with no innate furniture of its own, nor any thing in it, but what was impressed upon it without; for then there could not possibly be any such thing as moral good and evil, just and unjust.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Bk IV Ch 6.4)
     A reaction: He goes on to quote Hobbes saying there is no good in objects themselves. I don't see why we must have an innate moral capacity, provided that we have a capacity to make judgements.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
Senses cannot judge one another, so what judges senses cannot be a sense, but must be superior [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: The sight cannot judge of sounds, nor the hearing of light and colours; wherefore that which judges of all the senses and their several objects, cannot be itself any sense, but something of a superior nature.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.II.VI.1)
     A reaction: How nice to find a seventeenth century English writer rebelling against empiricism!
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 7. Anti-Physicalism / a. Physicalism critique
Sense is fixed in the material form, and so can't grasp abstract universals [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: Sense which lies flat and grovelling in the individuals, and is stupidly fixed in the material form, is not able to rise up or ascend to an abstract universal notion.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.III.III.2)
     A reaction: This still strikes me as being one of the biggest problems with reductive physicalism, that a lump of meat in your head can grasp abstractions (whatever they are) and universal concepts. Personally I am a physicalist, but it is weird.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 2. Aesthetic Attitude
The disinterested attitude of the judge is the hallmark of a judgement of beauty [Shaftesbury, by Scruton]
     Full Idea: Shaftesbury explained the peculiar features of the judgement of beauty in terms of the disinterested attitude of the judge.
     From: report of 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Characteristics [1711]) by Roger Scruton - Beauty: a very short introduction 1
     A reaction: Good. I take our vocabulary to mark a distinction between expressions of subjective preference, and expressions of what aspire to be objective facts. 'I love this' versus 'this is good or beautiful'.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / c. Objective value
Keeping promises and contracts is an obligation of natural justice [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: To keep faith and perform covenants is that which natural justice obligeth to absolutely.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.II.4)
     A reaction: A nice example of an absolute moral intuition, but one which can clearly be challenged. Covenants (contracts) wouldn't work unless everyone showed intense commitment to keeping them, even beyond the grave, and we all benefit from good contracts.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / g. Consequentialism
A person isn't good if only tying their hands prevents their mischief, so the affections decide a person's morality [Shaftesbury]
     Full Idea: We do not say that he is a good man when, having his hands tied up, he is hindered from doing the mischief he designs; …hence it is by affection merely that a creature is esteemed good or ill, natural or unnatural.
     From: 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699], I.II.I)
     A reaction: Note that he more or less equates being morally 'ill' with being 'unnatural'. We tend to reserve 'unnatural' for extreme or perverse crimes. Personally I would place more emphasis on evil judgements, and less on evil feelings.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / d. Sources of pleasure
People more obviously enjoy social pleasures than they do eating and drinking [Shaftesbury]
     Full Idea: How much the social pleasures are superior to any other may be known by visible tokens and effects; the marks and signs which attend this sort of joy are more intense and clear than those which attend the satisfaction of thirst and hunger.
     From: 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699], II.II.I)
     A reaction: He presumably refers to smiles and laughter, but they could be misleading as they are partly a means of social communication. You should ask people whether they would prefer a nice conversation or a good pork chop. Nice point, though.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / c. Ethical intuitionism
Fear of God is not conscience, which is a natural feeling of offence at bad behaviour [Shaftesbury]
     Full Idea: Conscience is to find horribly offensive the reflection of any unjust action or behaviour; to have awe and terror of the Deity, does not, of itself, imply conscience; …thus religious conscience supposes moral or natural conscience.
     From: 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699], II.II.I)
     A reaction: The reply from religion would be that the Deity has implanted natural conscience in each creature, though this seems to deny our freedom of moral judgment. Personally I am inclined to think that values are just observations of the world - such as health.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / h. Expressivism
If an irrational creature with kind feelings was suddenly given reason, its reason would approve of kind feelings [Shaftesbury]
     Full Idea: If a creature wanting reason has many good qualities and affections, it is certain that if you give this creature a reflecting faculty, it will at the same instant approve of gratitude, kindness and pity.
     From: 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699], I.III.III)
     A reaction: A wonderful denunciation of the authority of reason, which must have influenced David Hume. I think, though, that the inverse of this case must be considered (if suddenly given feelings, they would fall in line with reasoning). We reason about feelings.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
Self-interest is not intrinsically good, but its absence is evil, as public good needs it [Shaftesbury]
     Full Idea: Though no creature can be called good merely for possessing the self-preserving affections, it is impossible that public good can be preserved without them; so that a creature wanting in them is wanting in natural rectitude, and may be esteemed vicious.
     From: 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699], II.I.III)
     A reaction: Aristotle held a similar view (Idea 92). I think maybe Shaftesbury was the last call of the Aristotelians, before being engulfed by utilitarians and Kantians. This idea is at the core of capitalism.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
Every creature has a right and a wrong state which guide its actions, so there must be a natural end [Shaftesbury]
     Full Idea: We know there is a right and a wrong state of every creature; and that his right one is by nature forwarded, and by himself affectionately sought. There being therefore in every creature a certain interest or good; there must also be a natural end.
     From: 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699], I.II.I)
     A reaction: This is an early modern statement of Aristotelian teleology, just at the point where it was falling out of fashion. The underlying concept is that of right function. I agree with Shaftesbury, but you can't stop someone damaging their health.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 6. Authentic Self
There is a self-determing power in each person, which makes them what they are [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: This hegemonicon (self-power) always determines the passive capability of men's nature one way or other, either for better or for worse; and has a self-forming and self-framing power by which every man is self-made into what he is.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (Treatise of Freewill [1688], §X)
     A reaction: The idea that we can somehow create our own selves seems to me the core of existentialism, and the opposite of the Aristotelian belief in a fairly fixed human nature. See Stephen Pinker's 'The Blank Slate' for a revival of the old view.
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 2. The Law / c. Natural law
Obligation to obey all positive laws is older than all laws [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: Obligation to obey all positive laws is older than all laws.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.II.3)
     A reaction: Clearly villains can pass wicked laws, so there can't be an obligation to obey all laws (even if they are 'positive', which seems to beg the question). Nevertheless this is a good reason why laws cannot be the grounding of morality.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
Causation is defined in terms of a single sequence, and constant conjunction is no part of it [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: The correct definition of the causal relation is to be framed in terms of one single case of sequence, and constancy of conjunction is therefore no part of it.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], Intro)
     A reaction: This is the thesis of Ducasse's paper. I immediately warm to it. I take constant conjunction to be a consequence and symptom of causation, not its nature. There is a classic ontology/epistemology confusion to be avoided here.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / a. Observation of causation
We see what is in common between causes to assign names to them, not to perceive them [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: The part of a generalization concerning what is common to one individual concrete event and the causes of certain other events of the same kind is involved in the mere assigning of a name to the cause and its effect, but not in the perceiving them.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §5)
     A reaction: A nice point, that we should keep distinct the recognition of a cause, and the assigning of a general name to it. Ducasse is claiming that we can directly perceive singular causation.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
Causes are either sufficient, or necessary, or necessitated, or contingent upon [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: There are four causal connections: an event is sufficient for another if it is its cause; an event is necessary for another if it is a condition for it; it is necessitated by another if it is an effect; it is contingent upon another if it is a resultant.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §2)
     A reaction: An event could be a condition for another without being necessary. He seems to have missed the indispensable aspect of a necessary condition.
When a brick and a canary-song hit a window, we ignore the canary if we are interested in the breakage [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: If a brick and the song of a canary strike a window, which breaks....we can truly say that the song of the canary had nothing to do with it, that is, in so far as what occurred is viewed merely as a case of breakage of window.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §5)
     A reaction: This is the germ of Davidson's view, that causation is entirely dependent on the mode of description, rather than being an actual feature of reality. If one was interested in the sound of the breakage, the canary would become relevant.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / d. Selecting the cause
A cause is a change which occurs close to the effect and just before it [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: The cause of the particular change K was such particular change C as alone occurred in the immediate environment of K immediately before.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §3)
     A reaction: The obvious immediately difficulty would be overdetermination, as when it rains while I am watering my garden. The other problem would coincidence, as when I clap my hands just before a bomb goes off.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
Recurrence is only relevant to the meaning of law, not to the meaning of cause [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: The supposition of recurrence is wholly irrelevant to the meaning of cause: that supposition is relevant only to the meaning of law.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §4)
     A reaction: This sounds plausible, especially if our notion of laws of nature is built up from a series of caused events. But we could just have an ontology of 'similar events', out of which we build laws, and 'causation' could drop out (á la Russell).
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / b. Nomological causation
We are interested in generalising about causes and effects purely for practical purposes [Ducasse]
     Full Idea: We are interested in causes and effects primarily for practical purposes, which needs generalizations; so the interest of concrete individual facts of causation is chiefly an indirect one, as raw material for generalizations.
     From: Curt Ducasse (Nature and Observability of Causal Relations [1926], §6)
     A reaction: A nice explanation of why, if causation is fundamentally about single instances, people seem so interested in generalisations and laws. We want to predict, and we want to explain, and we want to intervene.
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 4. Divine Contradictions
An omnipotent will cannot make two things equal or alike if they aren't [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: Omnipotent will cannot make things like or equal one to another, without the natures of likeness and equality.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.II.I)
     A reaction: This is one of the many classic 'paradoxes of omnipotence'. The best strategy is to define omnipotence as 'being able to do everything which it is possible to do'. Anything beyond that is inviting paradoxical disaster.
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 6. Divine Morality / b. Euthyphro question
For Shaftesbury, we must already have a conscience to be motivated to religious obedience [Shaftesbury, by Scruton]
     Full Idea: Shaftesbury argued that no morality could be founded in religious obedience, or piety. On the contrary, a man is motivated to such obedience only because conscience tells him that the divine being is worthy of it.
     From: report of 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit [1699]) by Roger Scruton - Short History of Modern Philosophy Ch.8
     A reaction: This seems to me a good argument. The only alternative is that we are brought to God by a conscience which was planted in us by God, but then how would you know you were being obedient to the right hypnotist?
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 6. Divine Morality / d. God decrees morality
If the will and pleasure of God controls justice, then anything wicked or unjust would become good if God commanded it [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: If the arbitrary will and pleasure of God is the first and only rule of good and justice, it follows that nothing can be so grossly wicked or unjust but if it were commanded by this omnipotent Deity, it must forthwith become holy, just and righteous.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.I.I.5)
     A reaction: This is the strong (Platonic) answer to the Euthyphro Question (Idea 336). One answer is that God would not command in such a way - but why not? We may say that God and goodness merge into one, but we are interested in ultimate authority.
The requirement that God must be obeyed must precede any authority of God's commands [Cudworth]
     Full Idea: If it were not morally good and just in its own nature before any positive command of God, that God should be obeyed by his creatures, the bare will of God himself could not beget any obligation upon anyone.
     From: Ralph Cudworth (On Eternal and Immutable Morality [1688], Ch.II.3)
     A reaction: This strikes me as a self-evident truth, and a big problem for anyone who wants to make God the source of morality. You don't have to accept anyone's authority just because they are powerful or clever (though they do bestow a certain natural authority!).