The 300 new ideas included in the latest update (of 2nd May), by Theme

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
Unlike knowledge, wisdom cannot be misused [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: A distinctive mark of wisdom is that it cannot be misused, whereas knowledge surely can be misused.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], I 1.2)
     A reaction: She will argue, with Aristotle, that this is because wisdom (and maybe 'true' knowledge) must include 'phronesis' (practical wisdom), which is the key to all the virtues, intellectual and moral. This idea is striking, and obviously correct.
1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 4. Later European Philosophy / d. Nineteenth century philosophy
Hegel inserted society and history between the God-world, man-nature, man-being binary pairs [Safranski]
     Full Idea: Before Hegel, people thought in binary oppositions of God and the world, man and nature, man and being. After Hegel an intervening world of society and history was inserted between these pairs.
     From: Rüdiger Safranski (Nietzsche: a philosophical biography [2000], 05)
     A reaction: This is what Popper later called 'World Three'. This might be seen as the start of what we islanders call 'continental' philosophy, which we have largely ignored. Analytic philosophy only discovered this through philosophy of language.
Hegel, Fichte and Schelling wanted to know Kant's thing-in-itself, as ego, or nature, or spirit [Safranski]
     Full Idea: The 'thing in iself' acted on Kant's successors like a hole in the closed world of knowledge...Hegel, Fichte and Schelling wanted to penetrate into what they presumed to be the heart of things, by the invention of means of 'ego', or 'nature', or 'spirit.,
     From: Rüdiger Safranski (Nietzsche: a philosophical biography [2000], 07)
     A reaction: [a bit compressed] Although no scientist claims to know the ultimate essence of matter, the authority of science largely comes from persuasively moving us several steps closer to the thing in itself (more persuasively than these three).
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 6. Despair over Philosophy
How many mediocre thinkers are occupied with influential problems! [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: It is a terrible thought to contemplate that an immense number of mediocre thinkers are occupied with really influential matters.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885]), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 03
     A reaction: [in a journal of 1867] What would he say now, with the plethora of academics and students aspiring to the highest levels of human thought? If I face up to the fact that I am 'mediocre', should I stop? And become mediocre at something else?
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 4. Ordinary Language
Grammar only reveals popular metaphysics [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The snares of grammar are the metaphysics of the people.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: If you have this elitist view of metaphysics, then linguistic analysis is just a branch of anthropology.
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 3. Scientism
Scientific knowledge is nothing without a prior philosophical 'faith' [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Strictly speaking there is no knowledge [science] without presuppositions; a philosophy, a 'faith', must always be there first of all, for knowledge to win from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.§24)
     A reaction: He sees philosophers as the creators of this faith, and laughs at anyone who tries to set philosophy on a scientific basis.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 2. Aims of Definition
Precision is only one of the virtues of a good definition [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Precision is but one virtue of a definition, one that must be balanced against simplicity, elegance, conciseness, theoretical illumination, and practical usefulness.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 2.1)
     A reaction: Illumination looks like the dream virtue for a good definition. Otherwise it is just ticked as accurate and stowed away. 'True justified belief' is a very illuminating definition of knowledge - if it is right. But it's not very precise.
2. Reason / E. Argument / 1. Argument
Objection by counterexample is weak, because it only reveals inaccuracies in one theory [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Objection by counterexample is the weakest sort of attack a theory can undergo. Even when the objection succeeds, it shows only that a theory fails to achieve complete accuracy. It does not distinguish among the various rival theories.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 2.1)
     A reaction: Typically counterexamples are used to refute universal generalisations (i.e. by 'falsification'), but canny theorists avoid those, or slip in a qualifying clause. Counterexamples are good for exploring a theory's coverage.
2. Reason / E. Argument / 7. Thought Experiments
So-called 'though experiments' are just philosophers observing features of the world [Cappelen]
     Full Idea: What are called 'thought experiments' in philosophy are in effect just philosophers drawing our attention to interesting features of the world.
     From: Herman Cappelen (Philosophy without Intuitions [2012], 11.3)
     A reaction: Thought experiments are said to rely (perhaps excessively) on 'intuition', but Cappelen says intuition is irrelevant, because we are merely making judgements. It think they ARE experiments, if one feature varies while the rest is held steady.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 4. Uses of Truth
Like animals, we seek truth because we want safety [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Even that nose for truth, which is, at bottom, the nose for safety, human beings have in common with animals.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 026)
     A reaction: After Darwin, Nietzsche immediately saw that we need an account of humanity which is continuous with animals. The first step to physical security is ascertaining the physical facts. This idea rings true.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 4. Naturalism
Laws of nature are universal, so everything must be understood through those laws [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: Nature's laws ....are everywhere and always the same; so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely through nature's universal laws and rules.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], Pt III Intro)
     A reaction: Leiter calls this Methodological Naturalism, which says that the procedures and findings of philosophy should conform to those of science. I think I'm also a Substantive Naturalist, who says 'that's all there is'.
First see nature as non-human, then fits ourselves into this view of nature [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: My task is the dehumanisation of nature, and then the naturalisation of humanity once it has attained the pure concept of 'nature'.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 9.525), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 10
     A reaction: Safranski sees this as summarising Nietzsche's project, and it could be a mission statement for naturalism. This idea pinpoints why I take Nietzsche to be important - as a pioneer of the naturalistic view of people.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 1. Powers
Storms are wonderful expressions of free powers! [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: How different the lightning, the storm, the hail, free powers, without ethics! How happy, how powerful they are, pure will, untarnished by intellect!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 2.122), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 02
     A reaction: Nietzsche was a perfect embodiment of the Romantic Movement! I take this to be a deep observation, since I think raw powers are the most fundamental aspect of nature. Schopenhauer is behind this idea.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 7. Chance
'Luck' is the unpredictable and inexplicable intersection of causal chains [Kekes]
     Full Idea: 'Luck' is loose shorthand. It stands for various causal chains that intersect and whose intersection we can neither predict nor explain, because we lack the relevant knowledge.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 01.2)
     A reaction: Aristotle's example is a chance meeting in the market place. The point about 'intersection' seems good, since luck doesn't seem to arise for an event in isolation.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 1. Knowledge
The strength of knowledge is not its truth, but its entrenchment in our culture [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The strength of knowledge does not depend on its degree of truth but on its age, on the degree to which it has been incoporated, in its character as a condition of life.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §110)
     A reaction: This seems to be the rather modern idea (in Foucault, perhaps) of knowledge as a central component of culture, rather than as an eternal revelation of facts. Note that he is talking about its 'strength', not its veracity or degree of support.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 2. Understanding
Epistemology is excessively atomic, by focusing on justification instead of understanding [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: The present obsession with justification and the neglect of understanding has resulted in a feature of epistemology already criticised by several epistemologists: its atomism.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 2.2)
     A reaction: All analytic philosophy has become excessively atomic, because it relies too heavily on logic for its grounding and rigour. There are other sorts of rigour, such as AI, peer review, programming. Or rigour is an idle dream.
Modern epistemlology is too atomistic, and neglects understanding [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: There are complaints that contemporary epistemology is too atomistic, and that the value of understanding has been neglected.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], I 2)
     A reaction: This is because of the excessive influence of logic in contemporary analytic philosophy, which has to reduce knowledge to K(Fa), rather than placing it in a human context.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 3. Value of Knowledge
The only real evil is loss of knowledge [Plato]
     Full Idea: The only real kind of faring ill is the loss of knowledge.
     From: Plato (Protagoras [c.380 BCE], 345b)
     A reaction: This must crucially involve the intellectualist view (of Socrates) that virtuos behaviour results from knowledge, and moral wickedness is the result of ignorance. It is hard to see how forgetting a phone number is evil.
The most important things in life are wisdom and knowledge [Plato]
     Full Idea: It would be shameful indeed to say that wisdom and knowledge are anything but the most powerful forces in human activity.
     From: Plato (Protagoras [c.380 BCE], 352d)
     A reaction: He lumps wisdom and knowledge together, and I think we can take 'knowledge' to mean something like understanding, because obviously mere atomistic propositional knowledge can be utterly trivial.
True opinions only become really valuable when they are tied down by reasons [Plato]
     Full Idea: True opinions are a fine thing and all the do is good, …but they escape from a man's mind, so they are not worth much until one ties them down by (giving) an account of the reason why.
     From: Plato (Meno [c.385 BCE], 98a3)
     A reaction: This gives justification the role of guarantee, stabilising and securing true beliefs (rather than triggering some new thing called 'knowledge').
Truth is valuable, but someone knowing the truth is more valuable [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Of course we value the truth, but the value we place on knowledge is more than the value of the truth we thereby acquire. …It also involves a valuabe relation between the knower and the truth.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 1)
     A reaction: Hard to assess this. I take truth to be a successful relationship between a mind and a fact. Knowledge needs something extra, to avoid lucky true beliefs. Does a truth acquire greater and greater value as more people come to know it? Doubtful.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / d. Cause of beliefs
Belief is not an intellectual state or act, because propositions are affirmed or denied by the will [Zagzebski on Descartes]
     Full Idea: Descartes claimed that belief is not purely an intellectual state or act, since it is not the intellect that affirms or denies a proposition proposed for its consideration, but the will.
     From: report of René Descartes (Meditations [1641], IV) by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind 4.2
     A reaction: This is the canonical idea of 'doxastic voluntarism' - that we choose what to believe or not believe. In modern times this view has become deeply unfashionable. I don't we should wholly reject the possibility of choosing to believe something.
Belief is a feeling, independent of the will, which arises from uncontrolled and unknown causes [Hume]
     Full Idea: Belief consists merely in a certain feeling or sentiment; in something, that depends not on the will, but must arise from certain determinate causes and principles, of which we are not master.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appen p.2)
     A reaction: This is the opposite of Descartes' 'doxastic voluntarism' (i.e. we choose what to believe). If you want to become a Christian, steep yourself in religious literature, and the company of religious people. It will probably work.
Some beliefs are fairly voluntary, and others are not at all so [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: My position is that beliefs, like acts, arrange themselves on a continuum of degrees of voluntariness, ranging from quite a bit to none at all.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], I 4.2)
     A reaction: I'm sure we have no idea how we came to hold many of our beliefs, and if we see a cat, nothing seems to intervene between the seeing and the believing. But if you adopt a religion, believing its full creed is a big subsequent effort.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 5. Aiming at Truth
Knowledge either aims at a quantity of truths, or a quality of understanding of truths [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Getting knowledge can be a matter either of reaching more truths or of gaining understanding of truths already believed. So it may be a way of increasing either the quality of true belief (cognitive contact with reality) or the quantity.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 2.1)
     A reaction: I'm not sure how one would increase understanding of currently believed truths if it didn't involve adding some new truths to the collection. There is only the discovery of connections or structures, but those are new facts.
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 2. Common Sense Certainty
Arguments that my finger does not exist are less certain than your seeing my finger [Moore,GE]
     Full Idea: This really is a finger ...and you all know it. ...I can safely challenge anyone to give an argument that it is not true, which does not rest upon some premise which is less certain than is the proposition which it is designed to attack.
     From: G.E. Moore (Some Judgements of Perception [1922], p.228), quoted by John Kekes - The Human Condition 01.3
     A reaction: [In Moore's 'Philosophical Studies'] This is a particularly clear statement from Moore of his famous claim. I'm not sure what to make of an attempt to compare a sceptical argument (dreams, demons) with the sight of a finger.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 1. Perception
We became incresingly conscious of our sense impressions in order to communicate them [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The emergence of our sense impressions into our consciousness, the ability to fix them and, as it were, exhibit them externally, increased proportionally with the need to communicate them to others by means of signs.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: He says in the same section that such ideas (plus his thoughts on consciousness) are the essence of his 'Perspectivism'. In effect, knowledge is not an individual activity, but a team game
12. Knowledge Sources / C. Rationalism / 1. Rationalism
Sensation prepares the way for intellectual knowledge, which needs the virtues of reason [Aquinas]
     Full Idea: Knowledge of truth is not consummated in the sensitive powers of apprehension, for these prepare the way to intellectual knowledge. And therefore in these powers there are none of the virtues by which we know truth; these are in the intellect or reason.
     From: Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologicae [1265], I-II q56 a5 obj3), quoted by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind III 2.2
     A reaction: A gem of a quotation for Zagzebski's thesis, that knowledge is defined in terms of the intellectual virtues. The only virtues of perception are in focusing and paying attention to features. Good eyesight is a biological 'virtue', I suppose.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Intuition
When analytic philosophers run out of arguments, they present intuitions as their evidence [Williamson]
     Full Idea: 'Intuition' plays a major role in contemporary analytic philosophy's self-understanding. ...When contemporary analytic philosophers run out of arguments, they appeal to intuitions. ...Thus intuitions are presented as our evidence in philosophy.
     From: Timothy Williamson (The Philosophy of Philosophy [2007], p.214-5), quoted by Herman Cappelen - Philosophy without Intuitions 01.1
     A reaction: Williamson says we must investigate this 'scandal', but Cappelen's book says analytic philosophy does not rely on intuition.
The word 'intuitive' often plays not role at all in arguments, and can be removed [Cappelen]
     Full Idea: Careful study of uses of 'intuitive' will reveal that it often plays no significant argumentative role, and that removal will improve overall argumentative transparency.
     From: Herman Cappelen (Philosophy without Intuitions [2012], 04.1)
     A reaction: This is a key part of Cappelen's argument that 'intuition' is a rather empty concept, and that philosophers do not really rely on it. In effect, he is consigning it to mere rhetoric. He gives lots of examples in support.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 2. Justification Challenges / b. Gettier problem
We avoid the Gettier problem if the support for the belief entails its truth [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: The way to avoid the Gettier problem is to define knowledge in such a way that truth is entailed by the other component(s) of the definition.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 3.1)
     A reaction: Thus she defines virtuous justification as being successful, as virtues tend to be. This smacks of cheating. Surely we can be defeated in a virtuous way? If the truth is entailed then of course Gettier can be sent packing.
Gettier cases arise when good luck cancels out bad luck [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: The procedure for generating Gettier cases involves 'double luck': an instance of good luck cancels out an instance of bad luck.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 3.2)
     A reaction: You can end up with the right answer in arithmetic if you make two mistakes rather than one. I'm picturing a life of one blundering error after another, which to an outsider seems to be going serenely well.
For internalists Gettier situations are where internally it is fine, but there is an external mishap [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: In internalist theories the grounds for justification are accessible to the believer, and Gettier problems arise when there is nothing wrong with the internally accessible aspects of the situation, but there is a mishap inaccessible to the believer.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 3.1)
     A reaction: I'm sure we could construct an internal mishap which the believer was unaware of, such as two confusions of the meanings of words cancelling one another out.
Gettier problems are always possible if justification and truth are not closely linked [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: As long as the concept of knowledge closely connects the justification component and the truth component but permits some degree of independence between them, justified true belief will never be sufficient for knowledge.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 3.1)
     A reaction: Out of context this sounds like an advertisement for externalism. Or maybe it just says we have to live with Gettier threats. Zagzebski has other strategies.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 1. Epistemic virtues
Intellectual virtues are forms of moral virtue [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: I argue that intellectual virtues are forms of moral virtue.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II Intro)
     A reaction: This contrasts with Sosa, who seems to think intellectual virtues are just the most efficient ways of reaching the truth. I like Zabzebski's approach a lot, though we are in a very small minority. I love her book. We have epistemic and moral duties.
Intellectual and moral prejudice are the same vice (and there are other examples) [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Maybe the intellectual and the moral forms of prejudice are the same vice, and this may also be true of other traits with shared names, such as humility, autonomy, integrity, perseverance, courage and trustworthiness.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 3.1)
     A reaction: I find this claim very persuasive. The virtue of 'integrity' rather obviously embraces groups of both intellectually and morally desirable traits.
We can name at least thirteen intellectual vices [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Some examples of intellectual vices: pride, negligence, idleness, cowardice, conformity, carelessness, rigidity, prejudice, wishful thinking, closed-mindedness, insensitivity to detail, obtuseness (in seeing relevance), and lack of thoroughness.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 3.1)
     A reaction: There are thousands of vices for which we don't have names, like thinking about football when you should be doing metaphysics. The other way round is also a vice too, because football needs concentration. Discontent with your chair is bad too.
A justified belief emulates the understanding and beliefs of an intellectually virtuous person [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: A justified belief is what a person who is motivated by intellectual virtue, and who has the understanding of his cognitive situation a virtuous person would have, might believe in like circumstances.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 6.1)
     A reaction: This is a whole-hearted definition of justification in terms of a theory of intellectual virtues. Presumably this would allow robots to have justified beliefs, if they managed to behave the way intellectually virtuous persons would behave.
A reliable process is no use without the virtues to make use of them [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: It is not enough that a process is reliable; a person will not reliably use such a process without certain virtues.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 4.1.2)
     A reaction: This is a point against Sosa's reliabilist account of virtues. Of course, all theories of epistemic justification (or of morality) will fail if people can't be bothered to implement them.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 2. Pragmatic justification
We have no organ for knowledge or truth; we only 'know' what is useful to the human herd [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We simply lack any organ for knowledge, for 'truth'; we 'know' [das Erkennen] (or believe or imagine) just as much as may be useful in the interests of the human herd, the species; and this 'utility' is ultimately also a mere belief.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: [Section §354 is fascinating!] An odd idea, that we can only have truth is we have an 'organ' for it. It seems plausible that the whole brain is a truth machine. This seems like pure pragmatism, with all its faults. Falsehoods can be useful.
We shouldn't object to a false judgement, if it enhances and preserves life [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The falseness of a judgement is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgement. To what extent is it life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving. Our fundamental tendency is to assert that our falsest judgements are the most indispensable.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §004)
     A reaction: This is the standard objection to pragmatism, that what is false may still be useful, and that clever blighter Nietzsche embraces the idea!
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 3. Reliabilism / b. Anti-reliabilism
Epistemic perfection for reliabilism is a truth-producing machine [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Just as a utility-calculating machine would be the ideal moral agent according to utilitarianism, a truth-producing machine would be the ideal epistemic agent according to reliabilism,
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], I 1.2)
     A reaction: Love this one! For consequentialists a successful robot is morally superior to an average human being. The reliabilist dream is just something that churns out truths. But what is the role of these truths in subsequent life?
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
Evolutionary explanations look to the past or the group, not to the individual [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: In evolutionary explanations you may explain a population trait in terms of what it is for the sake of an individual, or explain it in terms of what it was for the sake of in earlier generations, but never in terms of what the trait is for the sake of.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 2 'Functions')
     A reaction: So my ears are for the sake of my ability to hear, but that does not explain why I have ears. Should we say there is 'impersonal teleology' here, but no 'personal teleology'? Interesting.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / f. Causal explanations
Not all explanation is causal. We don't explain a painting's beauty, or the irrationality of root-2, that way [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Not all explanation is causal. Explaining the beauty of a painting is not explaining why something happened. or why a move in chess is illegal, or why the square root of two is not a rational number.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 5 'Argument')
     A reaction: It is surely plausible that the illegality of the chess move is caused (or 'determined', as I prefer to say) by the laws created for chess. The painting example seems right, though; what determined its configuration (think Pollock!) does not explain it.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / d. Purpose of consciousness
All of our normal mental life could be conducted without conscious [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: We could think, feel, will and remember, and we could also 'act', and yet none of this would have to enter our consciousness. The whole of life would be possible without, as it were, seeing itself in a mirror.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: He credits Leibniz with this line of thought. Nowadays the unconscious aspects of thought are a commonplace, not just from Freud, but from neuroscience. We have no idea how conscious other animals are. Nietzsche attributes consciousness to communication.
Only the need for communication has led to consciousness developing [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: I surmise that consciousness has developed only under the pressure of the need for communication; ...consciousness is really only a net of communication between human beings.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: An interesting speculation, well ahead of its time. Given that thought does not require consciousness, as he claims, it is not quite clear why communication needs it. Presumably two robots can communicate. But Idea 20118 is good.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / e. Cause of consciousness
Only our conscious thought is verbal, and this shows the origin of consciousness [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Only conscious thinking takes the form of words, which is to say signs of communication, and this fact uncovers the origin of consciousness.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: Chicken-and-egg question here. Persinally I take consciousnes to be associated with meta-thought, which bestows huge power, and I take language to arise from meta-thought.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 2. Unconscious Mind
Most of our lives, even the important parts, take place outside of consciousness [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: By far the greatest proportion of our life takes place without this mirroring effect [of consciousness]; and this is true even of our thinking, feeling and willing life, however offensive this may sound to older philosophers.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: Nietzsche didn't just hint at the possibility of a (Freudian) sub-conscious - he was whole-heartedly committed to it, and Freud gave him credit for it. I think philosophers are only just beginning to digest this crucial idea.
Whatever moves into consciousness becomes thereby much more superficial [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Whatever becomes conscious becomes by the same token shallow, thin, relatively stupid, general, sign, herd signal; all becoming conscious involves a great and thorough corruption, falsification, reduction to superficialities, and generalisation.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §354)
     A reaction: Nietzsche would have made a great speech writer for someone. This vision is increasingly how I see people. It is a view reinforced by modern neuroscience, which suggests that we greatly overestimate the conscious part of ourselves.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 1. Faculties
Whether the mind has parts is irrelevant, since it obviously has distinct capacities [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It makes no difference if the soul is divided into parts or lacks parts, as it certainly has distinct capacities.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1219b32), quoted by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind II 3.1
     A reaction: I take this to endorse my view that the mind-body problem is of limited interest to philosophers. The focus should be on what the mind does, not how it is constructed. But then I presume the latter issue is revealed by neuroscience.
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 6. Denial of the Self
Everyone is other, and no one is himself [Heidegger]
     Full Idea: Everyone is other, and no one is himself.
     From: Martin Heidegger (Being and Time [1927], p.165), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 09
     A reaction: Safranski describes this as the idea of 'structural self-evasion'. He detects the same idea in Nietzsche's 'Daybreak'.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 2. Self-Knowledge
Things are the boundaries of humanity, so all things must be known, for self-knowledge [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Only when the human being has finally attained knowledge of all things will he have known himself. For things are merely the boundaries of the human being.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 048)
     A reaction: This seems to be a rather externalist view of the mind. If philosophy aims to disentangle mind from world then good knowledge of the world seems to be required.
The self is known as much by its knowledge as by its action [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: It seems to me that the concept of the self is constituted as much by what we know as by what we do.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], III 1)
     A reaction: People take pride in what they know, which indicates that it is of central importance to a person's nature. Hard to evaluate ideas such as this.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Free Will / c. Free will critique
Aristotle assesses whether people are responsible, and if they are it was voluntary [Zagzebski on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Aristotle makes the concept of moral responsibility more fundamental than the concept of the voluntary, the reverse of the typical contemporary approach. Given that we hold persons responsible, such acts must be voluntary.
     From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110-ish) by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind 4.2
     A reaction: Good for Aristotle. Whether we hold people responsible or not is widely understood, but whether they are 'free' to act is obscure, and may even be incoherent. We should look at praise and blame, and (above all) excuses.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 2. Free Will Theories / a. Fate
People used to think that outcome's were from God, rather than consequences of acts [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: People used to believe that the outcome of an action was not a consequence, but an independent, supplemental ingredient, namely God's. Is a greater confusion conceivable?
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 012)
     A reaction: Not sure how well documented or accurate this is, but Nietzsche was a great scholar, and it would explain the fatalism that runs through many older forms of society.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 3. Emotions
The feeling accompanying curiosity is neither pleasant nor painful [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Most feelings are experienced as pleasant or painful, but it is not evident that they all are; curiosity may be one that is not. [note: 'curiosity' may not be the name of a feeling, but a feeling typically accompanies it]
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 3.1)
     A reaction: If a machine generates a sliding scale from pain to pleasure, is there a neutral feeling at the midpoint, or does all feeling briefly vanish there? Not sure.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 1. Action Theory
Philosophy of action studies the roles of psychological states in causing behaviour [Mele]
     Full Idea: The central task of the philosophy of action is the exploration of the roles played by a collection of psychological states in the etiology of intentional behaviour.
     From: Alfred R. Mele (Springs of Action [1992], p.3), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 5 'Psychological'
     A reaction: Stout glosses this as a rather distinctive view, which endorses the causal theory of action (as opposed to citing reasons and justifications for actions). A key debate is whether the psychological inputs really do cause the outputs.
Philosophy of action studies the nature of agency, and of deliberate actions [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: The philosophy of action is concerned with the nature of agency: what it is to be a full-blown agent, and what it is to realise one's agency in acting deliberately on things.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 1 'Being')
     A reaction: 'Full-blown' invites the question of whether there could be a higher level of agency, beyond the capacity of human beings. Perhaps AI should design a theoretical machine that taps into those higher levels, if we can conceive of them. Meta-coherence!
Agency is causal processes that are sensitive to justification [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: My conclusion is that wherever you can identify causal processes that are sensitive to the recommendations of systems of justification, there you have found agency.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 9b 'Conclusion')
     A reaction: [the last paragraph of his book] Justification seems an awfully grand notion for a bee pollinating a flower, and I don't see human action as profoundly different. A reason might be a bad justification, but it might not even aspire to be a justification.
Actions include: the involuntary, the purposeful, the intentional, and the self-consciously autonomous [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: There are different levels of action, including at least: unconscious and/or involuntary behaviour, purposeful or goal-directed activity, intentional action, and the autonomous acts or actions of self-consciously active human agents.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1)
     A reaction: The fourth class is obviously designed to distinguish us from the other animals. It immediately strikes me as very optimistic to distinguish four (at least) clear categories, but you have to start somewhere.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 2. Duration of an Action
If one event cause another, the two events must be wholly distinct [Wilson/Schpall on Hume]
     Full Idea: Hume's maxim is that if one event cause another, then the two events must be wholly distinct.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 3
     A reaction: [Anyone know the original reference?] So we are not allowed to say that one part of an event caused another. The charged caused the victory, so they are two events, but in another context the whole battle is one event.
If one action leads directly to another, they are all one action [Wilson/Schpall on Davidson]
     Full Idea: Davidson (1980 ess 1) agreed with Anscombe that if a person Fs by G-ing, then her act F = her act G. For example, if someone accidentally alerts a burglar, by deliberately turning on a light, by flipping a switch, these are all the same action.
     From: report of Donald Davidson (Action, Reasons and Causes [1963]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 1.2
     A reaction: I would have thought there was obviously a strong conventional element in individuating actions, depending on interest. An electrician is only interest in whether the light worked. The police are only interested in the disturbance of the burglar.
Are actions bodily movements, or a sequence of intention-movement-result? [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Are actions identical with bodily movements? Or are they identical with sequences of things starting inside the agent's mind with their intentions, going through their body movements and finishing with the external results being achieved?
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 9 'What is action')
     A reaction: If bodily movements are crucial, this presumably eliminates speech acts. Speech or writing may involve some movement, but the movement is almost irrelevant to the nature of the action. Telepathy would do equally well.
If one action leads to another, does it cause it, or is it part of it? [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: When we do one action 'by' doing another, either the first action causes the process of the second, or the first action is part of the process of the second
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 9 'What is by')
     A reaction: Stout says the second view is preferable, because pressing a switch does not cause my action of turning on the light (though it does cause the light to come on).
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 3. Actions and Events
I do actions, but not events, so actions are not events [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: I do not do an event; I do an action; so actions are not events.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 5 'Are actions')
     A reaction: Sounds conclusive, but it places a lot of weight on the concepts of 'I' and 'do', which leaves room for some discussion. This point is opposed to the causal theory of action, because causation concerns events.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 4. Action as Movement
Bicycle riding is not just bodily movement - you also have to be on the bicycle [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: You do not ride a bicycle just by moving your body in a certain way. You have to be on the bicycle to move in the right sort of way
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 9 'Are body')
     A reaction: My favourite philosophical ideas are simple and conclusive. He also observes that walking involves the ground being walked on. In complex actions 'feedback' with the environment is involved.
Maybe bodily movements are not actions, but only part of an agent's action of moving [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Some say that the movement's of agent's body are never actions. It is only the agent's direct moving of, say, his leg that constitutes a physical action; the leg movement is merely caused by and/or incorporated as part of the act of moving.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1.2)
     A reaction: [they cite Jennifer Hornsby 1980] It seems normal to deny a twitch the accolade of an 'action', so I suppose that is right. Does the continual movement of my tongue count as action? Only if I bring it under control? Does it matter? Only in forensics.
Is the action the arm movement, the whole causal process, or just the trying to do it? [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Some philosophers have favored the overt arm movement the agent performs, some favor the extended causal process he initiates, and some prefer the relevant event of trying that precedes and 'generates' the rest.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1.2)
     A reaction: [Davidson argues for the second, Hornsby for the third] There seems no way to settle this, and a compromise looks best. Mere movement won't do, and mere trying won't do, and whole processes get out of control.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 5. Action as Trying
Bodily movements are not actions, which are really the tryings within bodily movement [Hornsby]
     Full Idea: Hornsby claims the basic description of action is in terms of trying, that all actions (even means of doing other actions) are actions of trying, and that tryings (and therefore actions) are interior to bodily movements (which are thus not essential).
     From: Jennifer Hornsby (Actions [1980]), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 9 'Trying'
     A reaction: [compression of his summary] There is no regress with explaining the 'action' of trying, because it is proposed that trying is the most basic thing in all actions. If you are paralysed, your trying does not result in action. Too mentalistic?
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 1. Acting on Desires
Motives involve desires, but also how the desires connect to our aims [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: A motive does have an aspect of desire, but it includes something about why a state of affairs is desired, and that includes something about the way my emotions are tied to my aim.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.6)
     A reaction: It is standard usage that a 'motive' involves some movement towards achieving the desire, and not merely having the desire. I'd quite like to stand on top of Everest, but have absolutely no motivation to try to achieve it.
Maybe your emotions arise from you motivations, rather than being their cause [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Instead of assuming that your motivation depends on your emotional state, we might say that your emotional state depends on how you are motivated to act.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 3 'Emotions')
     A reaction: [He says this move is made by Kant, Thomas Nagel and McDowell] Stout favours the view that it is external facts which mainly give rise to actions, and presumably these facts are intrinsically motivating, prior to any emotions. I don't disagree.
For an ascetic a powerful desire for something is a reason not to implement it [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: If wanting something most were the same as having the most powerful feelings about it, then as an ascetic (rejecting what you most powerfully desire), your wanting most to eat a bun would be your reason for not eating the bun.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 3 'The belief-')
     A reaction: This sounds like reason overruling desire, but the asceticism can always be characterised as a meta-desire.
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 2. Acting on Beliefs / a. Acting on beliefs
Acting for a reason is a combination of a pro attitude, and a belief that the action is appropriate [Davidson]
     Full Idea: Whenever someone does something for a reason he can be characterised as (a) having some sort of pro attitude towards action of a certain kind, and (b) believing (or knowing, perceiving, noticing, remembering) that his action is of that kind.
     From: Donald Davidson (Action, Reasons and Causes [1963], p.3-4), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 3 'The belief-'
     A reaction: This is the earlier Davidson roughly endorsing the traditional belief-desire account of action. He is giving a reductive account of reasons. Deciding reasons were not reducible may have led him to property dualism.
To control our actions better, make them result from our attitudes, not from circumstances [Kekes]
     Full Idea: We increase our control by making our actions more and more the effects of our attitudes, and less and less the effects of external forces acting on us independently of our attitudes.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 02.4)
     A reaction: He says that the attitudes should be focused on our well-being. Attitudes may also, however, serve some exernal ideal, such as altruism or patriotism. He has built a case for 'control' being a much more important value than 'free will'.
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 2. Acting on Beliefs / b. Action cognitivism
Strong Cognitivism identifies an intention to act with a belief [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: A Strong Cognitivist is someone who identifies an intention with a certain pertinent belief about what she is doing or about to do.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1.1)
     A reaction: (Sarah Paul 2009 makes this distinction) The belief, if so, seems to be as much counterfactual as factual. Hope seems to come into it, which isn't exactly a belief.
Weak Cognitivism says intentions are only partly constituted by a belief [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: A Weak Cognitivist holds that intentions are partly constituted by, but are not identical with, relevant beliefs about the action. Grice (1971) said an intention is willing an action, combined with a belief that this will lead to the action.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1.1)
     A reaction: [compressed] I didn't find Strong Cognitivism appealing, but it seems hard to argue with some form of the weak version.
Strong Cognitivism implies a mode of 'practical' knowledge, not based on observation [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Strong Cognitivists say intentions/beliefs are not based on observation or evidence, and are causally reliable in leading to appropriate actions, so this is a mode of 'practical' knowledge that has not been derived from observation.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1.1)
     A reaction: [compressed - Stanford is unnecessarily verbose] I see no mention in this discussion of 'hoping' that you action will turn out OK. We are usually right to hope, but it would be foolish to say that when we reach for the salt we know we won't knock it over.
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Practical reason is truth-attaining, and focused on actions good for human beings [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Practical reason [phronesis] is a truth-attaining intellectual quality concerned with doing, and with the things that are good for human beings.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], II 5.1), quoted by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind II 5.1
     A reaction: That sounds suspiciously like wisdom to me. Or maybe wisdom also has a contemplative aspect.
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
The 'motive' is superficial, and may even hide the antecedents of a deed [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The so-called 'motive' is another error. Merely a surface phenomenon of consciousness - something alongside the deed which is more likely to cover up the antecedents of the deed than to represent them.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols [1889], VI.3)
     A reaction: [Leiter gives 'VI.3', but I can't find it] As far as you can get from intellectualism about action, and is more in accord with the picture found in modern neuro-science. No one knows why they are 'interested' in something, and that's the start of it.
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / c. Reasons as causes
We assign the cause of someone's walking when we say why they are doing it [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Why is he going for a walk? We say 'to be healthy', and having said that we have assigned the cause.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 194b33-5), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 2 'Two kinds'
     A reaction: Stout gives this as the predecessor of Anscombe's account of intentions. The thought is that the explanation of the act is its purpose. Such teleology is more plausible than the Aristotelian teleology about non-human events.
Early Davidson says intentional action is caused by reasons [Davidson]
     Full Idea: In Davidson's earlier approach, intentional action requires causation by reasons.
     From: Donald Davidson (Action, Reasons and Causes [1963]), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 8 'Weakness'
     A reaction: A very Kantian idea, and one that seems to bestow causal powers on something which I take to be highly abstract. Thus Davidson was wrong (but in a nice way).
Actions are not mere effects of reasons, but are under their control [Audi,R]
     Full Idea: An action for a reason is one that is, in a special way, under the control of reason. It is a response to, not a mere effect of, a reason.
     From: Robert Audi (Action, Intention and Reason [1992], p.177), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 6 'Alien'
     A reaction: This modifies Davidson's 'reasons are causes'. Audi has a deviant causal chain which causes trouble for his idea, but Stout says he is right to focus on causal 'processes' (an Aristotelian idea) rather than causal 'chains'.
It is generally assumed that reason explanations are causal [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: The view that reason explanations are somehow causal explanations remains the dominant position.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], Intro)
     A reaction: I suspect that this is only because no philosopher has a better idea, and the whole issue is being slowly outflanked by psychology.
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 1. Intention to Act / a. Nature of intentions
Intentional actions are those which are explained by giving the reason for so acting [Anscombe]
     Full Idea: Intentional actions are those to which a certain sense of the question 'Why?' is given application; the sense is of course that in which the answer, if positive, gives a reason for acting.
     From: G.E.M. Anscombe (Intention [1957], p.9), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 2 'Two kinds'
     A reaction: This works better for grand large-scale actions than for small ones, like taking the knife out of the drawer before the fork. Kahnemann nowadays tells us that the reasons we articulate might not be the ones that are operative.
We explain an intention by giving an account of acting with an intention [Stout,R on Davidson]
     Full Idea: The early Davidson championed the approach that we explain the idea of having an intention by providing an account of what it is to act with an intention.
     From: report of Donald Davidson (Action, Reasons and Causes [1963]) by Rowland Stout - Action 7 'Conclusion'
     A reaction: This eliminates the distinction between a prior intention, and the intention that maintains a process such as speech. It sounds almost behaviourist.
An intending is a judgement that the action is desirable [Davidson]
     Full Idea: We can identify an intentional action ...with an all-out conditional judgement that the action is desirable. ...In the case of pure intending, I now suggest that the intention simply is an all-out judgement.
     From: Donald Davidson (Intending [1978], p.99), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 8 'Davidson's'
     A reaction: 'Pure' intending seems to be what Stout calls 'prior' intending, which is clearer. This still strikes me as obviously false. I judge that is desirable that I make a cup of coffee, but secretly I'm hoping someone else will make it for me.
Intentions are normative, requiring commitment and further plans [Wilson/Schpall on Bratman]
     Full Idea: Intentions involve normative commitments. We settle on intended courses, if there is no reason to reconsider them, and intentions put pressure on us to form further intentions in order to more efficiently coordinate our actions.
     From: report of Michael Bratman (Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason [1987]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 4
     A reaction: [a compression of their summary] This distinguishes them from beliefs and desires, which contain no such normative requirements, even though they may point that way.
Intentions must be mutually consistent, affirm appropriate means, and fit the agent's beliefs [Wilson/Schpall on Bratman]
     Full Idea: Bratman's three main norms of intention are 'internal consistency' (between a person's intentions), 'means-end coherence' (the means must fit the end), and 'consistency with the agent's beliefs' (especially intending to do and believing you won't do).
     From: report of Michael Bratman (Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason [1987]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 4
     A reaction: These are controversial, but have set the agenda for modern non-reductive discussions of intention.
An action may be intended under one description, but not under another [Kekes]
     Full Idea: People can usually be described as intending an action under one description, but not under another. ...Consequently the same action may reasonably be said to be both intentional and unintentional.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 07.2)
     A reaction: This is the terrorist/freedom fighter problem. The problem seems to arise with long-term intentions, rather than immediate ones. Maybe it is the significance of the intention, rather than the intention itself?
The causal theory says that actions are intentional when intention (or belief-desire) causes the act [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: The causal theory of action asserts that what characterises intentional action is the agent's intentions, or perhaps their beliefs and desires, causing their behaviour in the appropriate way.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 1 'Outline')
     A reaction: The agent's intentions are either sui generis (see Bratman), or reducible to beliefs and desires (as in Hume). The classic problem for the causal theory is said to be 'deviant causal chains'.
Deciding what to do usually involves consulting the world, not our own minds [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: In the vast majority of actions you need to look outwards to work out what you should do. An exam invigilator should consult the clock to design when to end the exam, not her state of mind.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 3 'The belief-')
     A reaction: Stout defends externalist intentions. I remain unconvinced. It is no good looking at a clock if you don't form a belief about what it says, and the belief is obviously closer than the clock to the action. Intellectual virtue requires checking the facts.
Should we study intentions in their own right, or only as part of intentional action? [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Should we try to understand what it is to have an intention in terms of what it is to act intentionally, or should we try to understand what it is to have an intention independently of what it is to act intentionally?
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Acting')
     A reaction: Since you can have an intention to act, and yet fail to act, it seems possible to isolate intentions, but not to say a lot about them. Intention may be different prior to actions, and during actions. Early Davidson offered the derived view.
You can have incompatible desires, but your intentions really ought to be consistent [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Intentions are unlike desires. You can simultaneously desire two things that you know are incompatible. But when you form intentions you are embarking on a course of action, and there is a much stronger requirement of consistency.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Relationship')
     A reaction: I'm not sure why anyone would identify intentions with desires. I would quite like to visit Japan, but have no current intention of doing so. I assume that the belief-plus-desire theory doesn't deny that an uninteresting intention is also needed.
An intention is a goal to which behaviour is adapted, for an individual or for a group [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: An individual intention is a goal to which an individual's behaviour adapts. A shared intention is a goal to which a group of people's behviour collectively adapts.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Shared')
     A reaction: This is part of Stout's externalist approach to actions. One would have thought that an intention was a state of mind, not a goal in the world. The individual's goal can be psychological, but a group's goal has to be an abstraction.
The normativity of intentions would be obvious if they were internal promises [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: One way to incorporate this [normative] feature of intentions would be to treat them like internal promises.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 8 'Intention')
     A reaction: Interesting. The concept of a promise is obviously closely linked to an intention. If you tell your companion exactly where you intend your golf ball to land, you can thereby be held accountable, in a manner resembling a promise (but not a promise).
To be intentional, an action must succeed in the manner in which it was planned [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: If someone fires a bullet to kill someone, misses, and dislodges hornets that sting him to death, this implies that an intentional action must include succeeding in a manner according to the original plan.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 2)
     A reaction: [their example, compressed] This resembles Gettier's problem cases for knowledge. If the shooter deliberately and maliciously brought down the hornet's nest, that would be intentional murder. Sounds right.
If someone believes they can control the lottery, and then wins, the relevant skill is missing [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: If someone enters the lottery with the bizarre belief that they can control who wins, and then wins it, that suggest that intentional actions must not depend on sheer luck, but needs competent exercise of the relevant skill.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 2)
     A reaction: A nice companion to Idea 20022, which show that a mere intention is not sufficient to motivate and explain an action.
We might intend two ways to acting, knowing only one of them can succeed [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: If an agent tries to do something by two different means, only one of which can succeed, then the behaviour is rational, even though one of them is an attempt to do an action which cannot succeed.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 2)
     A reaction: [a concise account of a laborious account of an example from Bratman 1984, 1987] Bratman uses this to challenge the 'Simple View', that intention leads straightforwardly to action.
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 1. Intention to Act / b. Types of intention
Intention is either the aim of an action, or a long-term constraint on what we can do [Wilson/Schpall on Bratman]
     Full Idea: We need to distinguish intention as an aim or goal of actions, and intentions as a distinctive state of commitment to future action, a state that results from and subsequently constrains our practical endeavours as planning agents.
     From: report of Michael Bratman (Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason [1987]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 2
     A reaction: I'm not sure how distinct these are, given the obvious possibility of intermediate stages, and the embracing of any available short-cut. If I could mow my lawn with one blink, I'd do it.
Intentional agency is seen in internal precursors of action, and in external reasons for the act [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: It is plausible that we find something characteristic of intentional agency when we look inward to the mental precursors of actions, and also when we look outward, to the sensitivity of action to what the environment gives us reasons to do.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 1 'How')
     A reaction: This is Stout staking a claim for his partly externalist view of agency. I warm less and less to the various forms of externalism. How often does the environment 'give us reasons' to do things? How can we act, without internalising those reasons?
Speech needs sustained intentions, but not prior intentions [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: The intentional action of including the word 'big' in a sentence does not require a prior intention to say it. What is required is that you say it with the intention of saying it.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Relationship')
     A reaction: This seems right, but makes it a lot harder to say what an intention is, and to separate it out for inspection. You can't speak a good English sentence while withdrawing the intention involved.
We can keep Davidson's account of intentions in action, by further explaining prior intentions [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Davidson's original account of intentions might still stand if we could accept that prior intentions are different in kind from intentions with which one acts.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 8 'Davidson's')
     A reaction: Davidson says prior intention is all-out judgement of desirability. Prior intentions are more deliberate, with the other intentions as a presumed background to action. Compare Sartre's dual account of the self.
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 1. Intention to Act / c. Reducing intentions
Davidson gave up reductive accounts of intention, and said it was a primitive [Wilson/Schpall on Davidson]
     Full Idea: Later Davidson dropped his reductive treatment of intentions (in terms of 'pro-attitudes' and other beliefs), and accepted that intentions are irreducible, and distinct from pro-attitudes.
     From: report of Donald Davidson (Intending [1978]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 2
     A reaction: Only a philosopher would say that intentions cannot be reduced to something else. Since I have a very physicalist view of the mind, I incline to reduce them to powers and dispositions of physical matter.
Bratman rejected reducing intentions to belief-desire, because they motivate, and have their own standards [Wilson/Schpall on Bratman]
     Full Idea: Bratman motivated the idea that intentions are psychologically real and not reducible to desire-belief complexes by observing that they are motivationally distinctive, and subject to their own unique standards of rational appraisal.
     From: report of Michael Bratman (Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason [1987]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 4
     A reaction: If I thought my belief was a bit warped, and my desire morally corrupt, my higher self might refuse to form an intention. If so, then Bratman is onto something. But maybe my higher self has its own beliefs and desires.
On one model, an intention is belief-desire states, and intentional actions relate to beliefs and desires [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: On the simple desire-belief model, an intention is a combination of desire-belief states, and an action is intentional in virtue of standing in the appropriate relation to these simpler terms.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 4)
     A reaction: This is the traditional view found in Hume, and is probably endemic to folk psychology. They cite Bratman 1987 as the main opponent of the view.
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 1. Intention to Act / d. Group intentions
Bratman has to treat shared intentions as interrelated individual intentions [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Bratman has to construe what we think of as shared intentions as not literally involving shared intentions, but as involving interrelating of individual intentions.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Conclusion')
     A reaction: Stout rejects this, for an account based on adaptability of behaviour. To me, naturalism and sparse ontology favour Bratman (1984) . I like my idea that shared intentions are conditional individual intentions. If the group refuses, I drop the intention.
A request to pass the salt shares an intention that the request be passed on [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: When one person says to another 'please pass the salt', and the other engages with this utterance and understands it, they share the intention that this request is passed from the first person to the second.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Shared')
     A reaction: Simple and intriguing. We form an intention, and then ask someone else to take over our intention. When the second person takes over the intention, I give up the intention to acquire the salt, because it is on its way. It's political.
An individual cannot express the intention that a group do something like moving a piano [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: It is unnatural to describe an individual as intending that the group do something together. ...What could possibly express my intention that we move the piano upstairs?
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Shared')
     A reaction: Two possible answers: it makes sense if I have great authority within the group. 'I'm going to move the piano - you take that end'. Or, such expressions are implicitly conditional - 'I intend to move the piano (if you will also intend it)'.
Groups may act for reasons held by none of the members, so maybe groups are agents [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Rational group action may involve a 'collectivising of reasons', with participants acting in ways that are not rationally recommended from the individual viewpoint. This suggests that groups can be rational, intentional agents.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 2)
     A reaction: [Pettit 2003] is the source for this. Gilbert says individuals can have joint commitment; Pettit says the group can be an independent agent. The matter of shared intentions is interesting, but there is no need for the ontology to go berserk.
If there are shared obligations and intentions, we may need a primitive notion of 'joint commitment' [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: An account of mutual obligation to do something may require that we give up reductive individualist accounts of shared activity and posit a primitive notion of 'joint commitment'.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 2)
     A reaction: [attributed to Margaret Gilbert 2000] If 'we' are trying to do something, that seems to give an externalist picture of intentions, rather like all the other externalisms floating around these days. I don't buy any of it, me.
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / b. Volitionism
Merely willing to walk leads to our walking [Descartes]
     Full Idea: Our merely willing to walk has the consequence that our legs move and we walk.
     From: René Descartes (The Passions of the Soul [1649], 18), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 1 'Volitionism'
     A reaction: Stout attributes this to Descartes' dualism, as if legs are separate from persons. Stout says the idea of a prior mental act is not usually now considered as part of an action, or even to exist at all. If the volition is intentional, there is a regress.
If the action of walking is just an act of will, then movement of the legs seems irrelevant [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: If volitionism identifies the action with an act of will, this has the unpalatable consequence (for a Cartesian dualist) that walking does not happen in the material world. It would be the same act of walking if you had no legs, or no body at all.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 1 'Volitionism')
     A reaction: Is this attacking a caricature version of volitionism? Descartes would hardly subscribe to the view that no legs are needed for walking. If my legs spasmodically move without an act of will, we typically deny that this is an action.
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / c. Weakness of will
If you can judge one act as best, then do another, this supports an inward-looking view of agency [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Weakness of will is a threat to the outward-looking approach to agency. It seems you can hold one thing to be the thing to do, and at the same time do something else. Many regard this as a decisive reason to follow a more inward-looking approach.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 8 'Weakness')
     A reaction: It hadn't struck me before that weakness of will is a tool for developing an accurate account of what is involved in normal agency. Some facts that guide action are internal to the agent, such as greed for sugary cakes.
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 1. Explanations of Actions
Maybe the explanation of an action is in the reasons that make it intelligible to the agent [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Some have maintained that we explain why an agent acted as he did when we explicate how the agent's normative reasons rendered the action intelligible in his eyes.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], Intro)
     A reaction: Modern psychology is moving against this, by showing how hidden biases can predominate over conscious reasons (as in Kahnemann's work). I would say this mode of explanation works better for highly educated people (but you can chuckle at that).
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 2. Causes of Actions
If a desire leads to a satisfactory result by an odd route, the causal theory looks wrong [Chisholm]
     Full Idea: If someone wants to kill his uncle to inherit a fortune, and having this desire makes him so agitated that he loses control of his car and kills a pedestrian, who turns out to be his uncle, the conditions of the causal theory seem to be satisfied.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Freedom and Action [1966]), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 6 'Deviant'
     A reaction: This line of argument has undermined all sorts of causal theories that were fashionable in the 1960s and 70s. Explanation should lead to understanding, but a deviant causal chain doesn't explain the outcome. The causal theory can be tightened.
Mental states and actions need to be separate, if one is to cause the other [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: If psychological states and action results cannot be identified independently of one another, then it does not make sense to describe one as causing the other.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 5 'Conclusion')
     A reaction: This summarises a widely cited unease about the causal theory of action. Any account in action theory will need to separate out some components and explain their interrelation. Otherwise actions are primitives, and we can walk away.
In order to be causal, an agent's reasons must be internalised as psychological states [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: It is widely accepted that to get involved in the causal process of acting an agent's reasons must be internalised as psychological states.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 5 'Psychological')
     A reaction: This doesn't say whether the 'psychological states' have to be fully conscious. That seems unlikely, given the speed with which we perform some sequences of actions, such as when driving a car, or playing a musical instrument.
Beliefs, desires and intentions are not events, so can't figure in causal relations [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Beliefs, desires and intentions are states of mind rather than events, but events are the only things that figure in causal relations.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 5 'Do beliefs')
     A reaction: This is exactly why we have the concept of 'the will' - because it is a mental state to which we attribute active causal powers. We then have to explain how this 'will' is related to the other mental states (which presume motivate or drive it?).
Causalists allow purposive explanations, but then reduce the purpose to the action's cause [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Most causalists allow that reason explanations are teleological, but say that such purposive explanations are analysable causally, where the primary reasons for the act are the guiding causes of the act.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 3)
     A reaction: The authors observe that it is hard to adjudicate on this matter, and that the concept of the 'cause' of an action is unclear.
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 3. Agent Causation
Reid said that agent causation is a unique type of causation [Stout,R on Reid]
     Full Idea: Thomas Reid said that an agent's causing something involves a fundamentally different kind of causation from inanimate causing.
     From: report of Thomas Reid (Essays on Active Powers 1: Active power [1788]) by Rowland Stout - Action 4 'Agent'
     A reaction: I'm afraid the great philosopher of common sense got it wrong on this one. Introducing a new type of causation into our account of nature is crazy.
There has to be a brain event which is not caused by another event, but by the agent [Chisholm]
     Full Idea: There must be some event A, presumably some cerebral event, which is not caused by any other event, but by the agent.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Freedom and Action [1966], p.20), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 4 'Agent'
     A reaction: I'm afraid this thought strikes me as quaintly ridiculous. What kind of metaphysics can allow causation outside the natural nexus, yet occuring within the physical brain? This is a relic of religious dualism. Let it go.
If you don't mention an agent, you aren't talking about action [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Once you lose the agent from an account of action it stops being an account of action at all.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 4 'Agent')
     A reaction: [he refers to Richard Taylor 1966] This could be correct without implying that agents offer a unique mode of causation. The concept of 'agent' is reducible.
Most philosophers see causation as by an event or state in the agent, rather than the whole agent [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: Most philosophers are uneasy with understanding the causal aspect of actions in terms of an 'agent' making something happen. They prefer to think of some event in the agent, or state of the agent, making something happen.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 4 'The causal')
     A reaction: There is a bit of a regress if you ask what caused the event or state of affairs. It is tempting to stop the buck at the whole agent, or else carry the reduction on down to neurons, physics and the outside world.
Freedom of action needs the agent to identify with their reason for acting [Wilson/Schpall]
     Full Idea: Frankfurt says that basic issues concerning freedom of action presuppose and give weight to a concept of 'acting on a desire with which the agent identifies'.
     From: Wilson,G/Schpall,S (Action [2012], 1)
     A reaction: [the cite Frankfurt 1988 and 1999] I'm not sure how that works when performing a grim duty, but it sounds quite plausible.
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 4. Justifying an Action
The rationalistic approach says actions are intentional when subject to justification [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: The rationalistic approach to agency says that what characterises intentional action is that it is subject to justification.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 2 'Conclusion')
     A reaction: [Anscombe is the chief articulator of this view] This seems to incorporate action into an entirely intellectual and even moral framework.
There may be a justification relative to a person's view, and yet no absolute justification [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: In a relativistic notion of justification, in a particular system, there is a reason for a vandal to smash public property, even though, using an absolute conception of justification, there is no reason for him to do so.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 3 'The difference')
     A reaction: I suppose Kantians would say that the aim of morality is to make your personal (relative) justification coincide with what seems to be the absolute justification.
A standard view says that the explanation of an action is showing its rational justification [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: The idea running through the work of Aristotle, Kant, Anscombe and Davidson is that explanation of action involves justifying that action or making it rationally intelligible.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 5 'Psychological')
     A reaction: Stout goes on to say that instead you could give the 'rationalisation' of the action, which is psychological facts which explain the action, without justifying it. The earlier view may seem a little optimistic and intellectualist.
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 5. Responsibility for Actions
An action is only yours if you produce it, rather some state or event within you [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: For action to be properly yours it must be you who is the causal originator of the action, rather than some state or event within you.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 4 'Agent')
     A reaction: [He invokes Chisholm 1966] The idea here is that we require not only 'agent causation', but that the concept of agent must include free will. It seems right we ought to know whether or not an action is 'mine'. Nothing too fancy is needed for this!
21. Aesthetics / F. Arts / 1. Music
Without music life would be a mistake [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Without music life would be a mistake.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols [1889], Maxim 33)
     A reaction: Everyone who loves music has to love this glorious thought. If you, dear reader, don't love music, then I sincerely hope that there is something in your life which can match it. Loving a person or a pet might do it.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / a. Nature of value
Values help us to control life, by connecting it to what is stable and manageable [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Values are attempt to cope with contingencies by making the connection between our well-being and actions less contingent and more within our control.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], Intro)
     A reaction: This sounds more like principles than values, since the former tell you what to do, but a value in itself is just a picture of possibilities.
We are bound to regret some values we never aspired to [Kekes]
     Full Idea: We inevitably feel regret for the many values we could have, but did not, try to realize.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 04.5)
     A reaction: He's obviously talking about working harder at our projects.
Innumerable values arise for us, from our humanity, our culture, and our individuality [Kekes]
     Full Idea: There is an irreducible plurality of values that follow from the universal requirements of human well-being, from a shared cultural identity, and from individual conceptions of well-being.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 05 Intro)
     A reaction: This strikes me as a very helpful division. It seems reasonably obvious, but I have not encountered it elsewhere. It is an obvious foundation for international negotiations. We can criticise another culture by appealing to human values.
Cultural values are interpretations of humanity, conduct, institutions, and evaluations [Kekes]
     Full Idea: I distinguish four types of cultural values likely to be found in a particular society: interpretations of human values; forms of expression and conduct; institutions and practices within them; and modes of evaluation.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 05.2)
     A reaction: He proceeds to enlarge on these four. This sub-divides the second of his three main areas of value. I like philosophers who do that sort of thing. It gives you the reassuring feeling that you can break a problem down into elements we understand....
Kant focuses exclusively on human values, and neglects cultural and personal values [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Kant grossly inflated the importance of the human dimension of value in which moral considerations are indeed overriding. He unjustifiably denied the perfectly reasonable contributions of the cultural and personal dimensions to human well-being.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 05.5)
     A reaction: Excellent to see someone talking about the ultimate values that reside behind Kant's theory. Without such assumptions his theory is, frankly, ridiculous (as Mill explained).
The big value problems are evil (humanity), disenchantment (cultures), and boredom (individuals) [Kekes]
     Full Idea: The major problem for the human dimension of values is the prevalence of evil; for the cultural dimension it is widespread disenchantment; and for the personal dimension it is pervasive boredom.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 05.5)
     A reaction: Boldly simple claims, but quite persuasive. Presumably it is the evil in human beings, rather than natural evil (like earthquakes) that is the problem. Disenchantment must come through alienation from social values. Powerlessness, rather than boredom?
There are far more values than we can pursue, so they are optional possibilities [Kekes]
     Full Idea: A significant feature of our system of values is that it provides many more values than we could pursue. ...We encounter values as possibilities, and we must accept or reject them.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 03.1)
     A reaction: This immediately invites the lovely question of what values you are going to invoke when you discriminate among the values available in your culture. Nietzsche says it comes down to 'taste'.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / d. Value of life
Human beings are not majestic, either through divine origins, or through grand aims [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Formerly one tried to get a feel for the majesty of human beings by pointing backward toward their divine descent: this has now become a forbidden path. ...So now the path humanity pursues is proof of its majesty. Alas, this too leads nowhere!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 049)
     A reaction: I love the breadth of Nietzsche's vision, both across history, and in the great scheme. He goes on to say that we are no more a 'higher order' than ants and earwigs.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / e. Ultimate value
Our attitudes include what possibilities we value, and also what is allowable, and unthinkable [Kekes]
     Full Idea: The beliefs, emotions, motives, and desires that form our attitudes ...include not only what possibilities we value, but also the limits we should not transgress. ...The strongest limit is what I call 'the unthinkable'.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 03.2)
     A reaction: Another chance to link to my favourite idea from Democritus! Ideally we want a theory which shows how a vision of the possibilities immediately points to the limits, and to what is unthinkable.
Unconditional commitments are our most basic convictions, saying what must never be done [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Unconditional commitments are the most basic convictions we have. They tell us what we must not do no matter what, what we regard as outrageous, horrible, beyond the pale, or, in religious language, as sacrilegious.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 03.3)
     A reaction: The Aztecs should have made rather different unconditional commitments from the ones they ended up with. How do you persuade someone to make such an unconditional commitment. Abortion seems to involve huge clashes here.
Doing the unthinkable damages ourselves, so it is more basic than any value [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Doing the unthinkable causes deep, often irreparable, damage to our sense of ourselves. ...That is why the unthinkable indicates a more basic commitment than what we have to any value.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 03.3)
     A reaction: Kekes makes the interesting claim that what is unthinkable is so basic that it doesn't even count as a value - it is more like a fact of your own nature, which is prior to your values. Not sure about that.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 2. Goodness / b. Candidates for the Good
True goodness is political, and consists of love of and submission to the laws [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: The good man is he whose goodness is not Christian, but rather political, in the sense I have given. Such a man loves the laws of his land and is moved to act by them.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], Intro)
     A reaction: I take this to have a lot in common with Aristotle, whose simple slogan for virtue I take to as 'be a good citizen'.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
Nowadays we doubt the Greek view that the flourishing of individuals and communities are linked [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Modern moral philosophers have been considerably more skeptical than were the ancient Greeks about the close association between the flourishing of the individual and that of the community.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.2)
     A reaction: I presume this is not just a change in fashion, but a reflection of how different the two societies are. In a close community with almost no privacy, flourishing individuals are good citizens. In the isolations of modern liberalism they may be irrelevant.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
A happy and joyous life must largely be a quiet life [Russell]
     Full Idea: A happy life must to a great extent be a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness [1930], 4)
     A reaction: Most people's image of happiness is absorption in an interesting task, or relaxing in good company. The idea that happiness is wild excitement exists, but is a minority view.
Well-being needs correct attitudes and well-ordered commitments to local values [Kekes]
     Full Idea: A reasonable conception of well-being requires mistake-free attitudes and well-ordered commitments to some values selected from our society's system of values.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 05 Intro)
     A reaction: This summarises where he has got to so far.
Control is the key to well-being [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Increasing control is the key to our well-being.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 04 Intro)
     A reaction: This slogan emerges from a sustained discussion. Hitler and Stalin increased control rather impressively, so we obviously need a bit more than this to get proper well-being. There's also something to be said for going with the flow.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 8. Love
Marriage upholds the idea that love, though a passion, can endure [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The institution of marriage stubbornly upholds the belief that love, though a passion, is, as such, capable of duration.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 027)
     A reaction: No wonder Nietzsche never married. Women must have been terrified of him, when he came out with this sort of remark. I doubt whether many couples who are celebrating their golden wedding would agree with him. [1/5/2017]
Friendly chats undermine my philosophy; wanting to be right at the expense of love is folly [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: My entire philosophy wavers after just an hour of friendly conversation with complete strangers. It strikes me as so foolish to insist on being right at the expense of love.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 6.37), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 09
     A reaction: [Letter to Gast, 1880] Strangers who met Nietzsche on walks reported how kind and friendly he was. Most people want to be right most of the time, but a few people have this vice in rather excessive form. Especially philosophers!
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 1. Morality
The very idea of a critique of morality is regarded as immoral! [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Even to think of criticising morality, to consider morality as a problem, as problematic: what? was that not - is that not - immoral?
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], Pref 3)
     A reaction: Offering critiques of the value of morality and of truth are perhaps Nietzsche's greatest achievements.
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 2. Moral Theory
Moral feelings are entirely different from the moral concepts used to judge actions [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The history of moral feeling is completely different from the history of moral concepts. The former are powerful before, the latter especially after an action in view of the compulsion to pronounce upon it.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 034)
     A reaction: I think he places the feelings in our animal origins, and the concepts in rather unnatural cultures.
Modern moral theory concerns settling conflicts, rather than human fulfilment [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Modern ethics generally considers morality much less a system for fulfilling human nature than a set of principles for dealing with individuals in conflict.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 7)
     A reaction: Historically I associate this move with Hugo Grotius around 1620. He was a great legalist, and eudaimonist virtue ethics gradually turned into jurisprudence. The Enlightenment sought rules for resolving dilemmas. Liberalism makes fulfilment private.
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 3. Morality as Convention
Relativists say all values are relative; pluralists concede much of that, but not 'human' values [Kekes]
     Full Idea: We must distinguish between pluralism and relativism about values. Pluralists accept that the validity of cultural and personal values is relative to societies and individuals. But they also hold that human values are objectively valid.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 09.4)
     A reaction: This is a very attractive response to global moral relativism. I see a problem in the neat division into three distinct forms of value. Each of the three sets of values ought to be sensitive to the other two areas. Humans are cultured individuals.
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 5. Moral Responsibility
A man is a responsible agent to the extent he has an intention, and knows what he is doing [Hampshire]
     Full Idea: A man becomes more and more a free and responsible agent the more he at all times knows what he is doing, in every sense of this phrase, and the more he acts with a definite and clearly formed intention.
     From: Stuart Hampshire (Thought and Responsibility [1960], p.178), quoted by John Kekes - The Human Condition 07.1
     A reaction: Kekes quote this (along with Frankfurt, Hart etc) as the 'received view' of responsibility, which he attacks.
Blame usually has no effect if the recipient thinks it unjustified [Williams,B]
     Full Idea: One of the most obvious facts about blame is that in many cases it is effective only if the recipient thinks that it is justified.
     From: Bernard Williams (How free does the will need to be? [1985], 5)
     A reaction: The point of the blame might not be reform of the agent, but a public justification for punishment as deterrence, in which case who cares what the agent thinks? Is blame attribution of causes, or reasons to punish?
Blame partly rests on the fiction that blamed agents always know their obligations [Williams,B]
     Full Idea: Blame rests, in part, on a fiction; the idea that ethical reasons, in particular the special kind of ethical reasons that are obligations, must, really, be available to the blamed agent.
     From: Bernard Williams (How free does the will need to be? [1985], 5)
     A reaction: In blaming someone, you may be telling them that they should know their obligations, rather than assuming that they do know them. How else can we give children a moral education?
Responsibility is unprovoked foreseeable harm, against society, arising from vicious character [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Full responsibility is when evil-doers can fully foresee the harm that results, their victims have not provoked it, it violates the requirements of physical protection in a society, the action reflects character, and it is viciously motivated.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 07.4)
     A reaction: [compressed] The point of this is to omit any reference to an explicit intention to perform an evil act. The Nazi Franz Stangl claimed that he never intended evil, but Kekes says that if true he is innocent, but the above definition makes him guilty.
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 8. Superman
Higher human beings see and hear far more than others, and do it more thoughtfully [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: What distinguishes the higher human being from the lower is that the former see and hear immeasurably more, and see and hear thoughtfully - and precisely this distinguishes human beings from animals, and the higher animals from the lower.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §301)
     A reaction: Since most people are well equipped with eyes and ears, I take it that this phenomenon, if true, arises from the 'higher' type of person having more interest in what they experience.
Nietzsche's higher type of man is much more important than the idealised 'superman' [Leiter on Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The 'superman' has received far more attention from commentators than it warrants: the higher type of human being (a Goethe or a Nietzsche) is much more important than the hyperbolic, and often obscure, Zarathustrian rhetoric about the über-mensch.
     From: report of Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885]) by Brian Leiter - Nietzsche On Morality 4 'Higher' n2
     A reaction: Leiter says the über-mensch idea almost entirely drops out of Nietzsche's mature work.
There is an extended logic to a great man's life, achieved by a sustained will [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: There is a logic in all of a great man's activities, hard to survey because of its length .... he has the ability to extend his will across great stretches of his life.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power (notebooks) [1888], 962 (1885))
     A reaction: This looks very close to Nietzsche's moral ideal - that one creates a life in impeccable taste, like a great work of art, by deliberately training one's nature, like a gardener. He talks of it as having 'style' in character.
Christianity is at war with the higher type of man, and excommunicates his basic instincts [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Christianity has waged a war to the death against the higher type of man, it has excommunicated all the fundamental instincts of this type.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Anti-Christ [1889], 05)
     A reaction: It seems rather insulting to say that the finest and most dedicated altruism practised by the most admirable Christians is the expression of a 'lower' instinct.
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 9. Morality critique
Morality prevents us from developing better customs [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Morality acts to prevent the rise of new and better mores: it stupefies.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 019)
     A reaction: Note that he wants 'better' customs, and not just different ones. So the deep question concerns the criteria for why some customs are better. He seems to want us to fulfil our natures more completely. Arts, sciences, great deeds...
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 2. Human Nature
Evil isn't explained by nature, by monsters, by uncharacteristic actions, or by society [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Four inadequate explanations of human evil attribute it to natural causes, moral monsters, uncharacteristic actions, and corrupting social conditions.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 06.3)
     A reaction: He is addressing the 'secular problem of evil', which arises if you assume that human beings are essentially good, and then look around you. He says evil explains corrupting social conditions, so we can't be circular about it.
Each person has a fixed constitution, which makes them a particular type of person [Leiter on Leiter]
     Full Idea: Nietzsche's view (which we may call the 'Doctrine of Types') is that each person has a fixed psycho-physical constitution, which defines him as a particular type of person.
     From: report of Brian Leiter (Nietzsche On Morality [2015], 1 'What kind') by Brian Leiter - Nietzsche On Morality
     A reaction: An interestesting variant, standing between the Aristotelian picture of one shared human nature, and the existentialist picture of our endlessly malleable nature. So what type am I, and what type are you? How many types are there?
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 4. Expressivism
Treating morality as feelings is just obeying your ancestors [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: To trust your feelings - that means obeying your grandfather and your grandmother and their grandparents more than the gods in us: our reason and our experience.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 035)
     A reaction: He says prior to this that feelings are just an inheritance, not our true natures. Stoics said 'live according to nature', by which they meant 'live by reason', because that is our true nature.
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 6. Ethics from Reason
Reason and morality do not coincide; immorality can be reasonable, with an ideology [Kekes]
     Full Idea: A central assumption of Western moral thought is mistaken: the requirements of reason and morality do not coincide. Immorality need not be unreasonable. ...Malevolent motives in combination with ideologies supply reasons for doing evil.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 06.5)
     A reaction: I presume that Kant would say the malevolent motives are irrational. If I perform an evil act because someone gives me a stupid reason for doing it, I am not thereby rational because I am acting for a reason. Wrong.
Practical reason is not universal and impersonal, because it depends on what success is [Kekes]
     Full Idea: The assumption that the requirements of reason are universal and impersonal false of practical reason that aims at successful action. Whether a belief is true depends on the facts. Whether an action is successful depends on what success consists in.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 08.5)
     A reaction: Kekes is trying to eliminate the Kantian idea that reason can lead us to the 'right' thing to do. He rightly points to the complex demands of human, cultural and personal values.
If morality has to be rational, then moral conflicts need us to be irrational and immoral [Kekes]
     Full Idea: The absurdity follows [from Kant's categorical imperative] that in the case of moral conflicts reason and morality require us to act irrationally and immorally.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 10.4)
     A reaction: We can't pick one from two equals if we must have a reason for the preference, but that does not make it 'irrational' to choose one of them, when it doesn't matter which one is chosen. Taking one of the cheese sandwiches is not irrational.
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 8. Will to Power
All animals strive for the ideal conditions to express their power, and hate any hindrances [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Every animal instinctively strives for an optimum of favourable conditions under which it can expend all its strength and achieve its maximal feeling of power; every animal abhors ...every hindrance that obstructs this path to the optimum.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.7)
     A reaction: This became the lynchpin of Nietzsche's account of the source of values. It is a highly naturalistic view, fitting it into evolutionary theory (thought running deeper than that), so I have a lot of sympathy with the view.
22. Metaethics / D. Consequentialism / 3. Moral Luck
Punishment has distorted the pure innocence of the contingency of outcomes [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: With this infamous art of interpreting the concept of punishment, people have robbed of its innocence the whole, pure contingency of events.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 013)
     A reaction: What a wonderfully subtle observation about moral luck! That whole problem is driven by the issue of whether the agent should be punished. When a chain of errors leads to disaster, we may see many innocent people doing a collective evil.
Moral luck means our praise and blame may exceed our control or awareness [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Because of moral luck, the realm of the morally praiseworthy / blameworthy is not indisputably within one's voluntary control or accessible to one's consciousness.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], I 4.2)
     A reaction: [She particularly cites Thomas Nagel for this] It is a fact that we will be blamed (more strongly) when we have moral bad luck, but the question is whether we should be. It seems harsh, but you can't punish someone as if they had had bad luck.
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
Morality is a compromise, showing restraint, to avoid suffering wrong without compensation [Plato]
     Full Idea: The origin and nature of morality is a compromise between the ideal of doing wrong without paying for it, and the worst situation, which is having wrong done to one while lacking the means of exacting compensation.
     From: Plato (The Republic [c.374 BCE], 359a)
     A reaction: This idea is from Glaucon, and is not endorsed by Socrates. Hobbes thought it was right, though he emphasised safety. Game theory makes this approach to moraliy much more plausible.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
Every moral virtue requires a degree of intelligence [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: Being reasonably intelligent within a certain area of life is part of having almost any moral virtue.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 3.1)
     A reaction: The fact that this bars persons of very limited intelligence from acquiring the Aristotelian virtues is one of the attractions of the Christian enjoinder to merely achieve 'love'. Anyone can have a warm heart. So is virtue elitist?
Virtue theory is hopeless if there is no core of agreed universal virtues [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: An analysis of virtue is hopeless unless we can assume that most of a selected list of traits count as virtues, in a way not strictly culture. ...These would include wisdom, courage, benevolence, justice, honesty, loyalty, integrity, and generosity.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.1)
     A reaction: This requirement needs there to be a single core to human nature, right across the species. If we are infinitely flexible (as existentialists imply) then the virtues will have matching flexibility, and so will be parochial and excessively relative.
A virtue must always have a corresponding vice [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: It is important for the nature of virtue that it have a corresponding vice (or two, in the doctrine of the mean). Claustrophobia is not a vice not only because it is involuntary, but also because there is no corresponding virtue.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.3)
     A reaction: Presumably attaining a virtue is an achievement, so we would expect a label for failure in the same field of endeavour. The failure is not purely negative, because bad things ensue if the virtue is not present.
Eight marks distingush skills from virtues [PG on Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: The difference between skills and virtues is that virtues must be enacted, are always desirable, can't be forgotten, and can be simulated, whereas skills are very specific, involve a technique, lack contraries, and lack intrinsic value.
     From: report of Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.4) by PG - Db (ideas)
     A reaction: [my summary of her II 2.4 discussion of the differences] She observes that Aristotle made insufficient effort to distinguish the two. It may be obscure to say that virtues go 'deeper' than skills, but we all know what is meant. 'Skills serve virtues'.
Virtues are deep acquired excellences of persons, which successfully attain desire ends [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: A virtue can be defined as 'a deep and enduring acquired excellence of a person, involving a characteristic motivation to produce a certain desired end and reliable success in bringing about that end'.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.7)
     A reaction: She puts this in bold, and it is the culminating definition of a long discussion. It rather obviously fails to say anything about the nature of the end that is desired. Learning the telephone book off by heart seems to fit the definition.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
Eudaimonia first; virtue is a trait which promotes it; right acts are what virtues produce [Zagzebski on Hursthouse]
     Full Idea: Hursthouse defines a virtue as a trait humans need to flourish or live well, 'eudaimonia' is conceptually foundational, the concept of virtue is then derived, and the concept of a right act is derived from that.
     From: report of Rosalind Hursthouse (Virtue Theory and Abortion [1992], p.226) by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind II.1
     A reaction: Zagzebski is mapping different types of virtue theory. The purest theories say that virtue is intrinsically good. The others seem to be instrumental, in varying degrees. Zagzebski makes good motivations prior.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / c. Particularism
Moralities extravagantly address themselves to 'all', when they never generalise [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: All moralities are baroque and unreasonable ...because they address themselves to 'all', because they generalise where one must not generalise.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], 198)
     A reaction: 'Particularism' is a recent label, but one finds passing remarks from many earlier philosophers which support that approach to ethics. No one was ever more opposed to strict moral rules than Nietzsche.
Virtue theory can have lots of rules, as long as they are grounded in virtues and in facts [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: A pure virtue theory can have as many rules as you like as long as they are understood as grounded in the virtuous motivations and understanding of the nonmoral facts that virtuous agents possess.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 6.1)
     A reaction: It is important, I think, to see that a virtue theorist does not have to be a particularist.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / d. Virtue theory critique
You are mastered by your own virtues, but you must master them, and turn them into tools [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: You had to become your own master, and also the master of your own virtues. Previously, your virtues were your master; but they must be nothing more than your tools.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], 006)
     A reaction: What on earth would Aristotle make of that? Nietzsche offers a sort of metatheory for virtues. I take this to be a form of particularism - that you live by your virtues, but occasionally you can discard a virtue if it seems right. Lie, steal...
Many virtues are harmful traps, but that is why other people praise them [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Virtues like industriousness, obedience, chastity, filial piety and justice are usually harmful to those who possess them. When you have a real, whole virtue you are its victim. But your neighbour praises your virtue precisely on that account.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §021)
     A reaction: This is the conspiracy theory of virtue. We want people to do menial or undesirable jobs, so we dress them up as wonderful virtues, and make people feel good for possessing them. There must be some truth in this.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / j. Unity of virtue
We need phronesis to coordinate our virtues [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: We need phronesis (practical wisdom) to coordinate the various virtues into a single line of action or line of thought leading up to an act or to a belief.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 5.2)
     A reaction: If I have a conflicting virtue and vice in a single situation, something must make sure that the virtue dominates. That sounds more like Kant's 'good will' than like phronesis.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Unlike us, the early Greeks thought envy was a good thing, and hope a bad thing [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Hesiod reckons envy among the effects of the good and benevolent Eris, and there was nothing offensive in according envy to the gods. ...Likewise the Greeks were different from us in their evaluation of hope: one felt it to be blind and malicious.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 038)
     A reaction: Presumably this would be understandable envy, and unreasonable hope. Ridiculous envy can't possibly be good, and modest and sensible hope can't possibly be bad. I suspect he wants to exaggerate the relativism.
The Jews treated great anger as holy, and were in awe of those who expressed it [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The Jews felt differently about wrath than we do and decreed it holy; in return, they, as a people, viewed the foreboding majesty of the individual with whom wrath showed itself connected, at a height at which a European is incapable of imagining.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 038)
     A reaction: If you thought wrath was really wonderful then presumably you would aspire to partake of it, but I see no signs of the Jews having been an especially wrathful people. It sounds like the tantrums of Tudor monarchs, which was their royal privilege.
Christianity replaces rational philosophical virtues with great passions focused on God [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Christianity disallows all moral value to the virtue of philosophers - the triumph of reason over affects - and demands that affects reveal themselves in splendour, as love of God, fear before God, fanatical faith in God, and blindest hope in God.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 058)
     A reaction: Faith, hope and charity are the three great Christian virtues that were added to the four cardinal virtues of the Greeks.
For the virtue of honesty you must be careful with the truth, and not just speak truly [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: It is not sufficient for honesty that a person tells whatever she happens to believe is the truth. An honest person is careful with the truth.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 3.2)
     A reaction: Not sure about that. It matches what Aristotle says about courage, which also needs practical reason [phronesis]. But being sensitive and careful with truth seems to need other virtues. If total honesty is not a virtue, then is honesty a virtue at all?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / d. Courage
The courage of an evil person is still a quality worth having [Zagzebski]
     Full Idea: In the case of a courageous Nazi soldier, my position is that a virtue is worth having even in those cases in which it makes a person worse overall.
     From: Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (Virtues of the Mind [1996], II 2.2)
     A reaction: A brave claim, which seems right. If a nasty Nazi reforms, they will at least have one good quality which can be put to constructive use.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / f. Compassion
Pity consoles those who suffer, because they see that they still have the power to hurt [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: The pity that the spectators express consoles the weak and suffering, inasmuch as they see that , despite all their weakness, they still have at least one power: the power to hurt.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], §050)
     A reaction: This pinpoints how the will to power led to the inversion of values.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 1. Existentialism
We could live more naturally, relishing the spectacle, and not thinking we are special [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: I can imagine a life much more simple...than the present one. ...One would live among men and with oneself as in nature, without praise, reproach, overzealousness, delighting in things as in a spectacle. One would no longer feel one was more than nature.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human [1878], §034)
     A reaction: [compressed] Safranski says this passage is a big turning point for Nietzsche, replacing his earlier idea that art could be salvation. Eternal Recurrence puts a seal on this new view. Nietzsche adds that this life needs to be 'cheerful'.
Nietzsche tried to lead a thought-provoking life [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: All of us ponder our existences, but Nietzsche strove to lead the kind of life that would yield food for thought.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 01), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 01
     A reaction: Could Nietzsche possibly be a role model for us in this respect? If I were starting afresh, guided by this thought, I'm not sure how I would go about it. It is Nietzsche's astonishing independence of thought that hits you.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 2. Nihilism
The ethical teacher exists to give purpose to what happens necessarily and without purpose [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: That what happens necessarily, spontaneously and without any purpose, may henceforth appear to be done for some purpose, and strike man as rational and an ultimate commandment, the ethical teacher comes on stage, as teacher of the purpose of existence.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science [1882], §001)
     A reaction: This doesn't look like much of a solution to the problem of nihilism, unless the teacher plants an idea in us which endures and grows. Nietzsche's 'eternal recurrence' was supposed to be just such an idea.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 4. Boredom
Flight from boredom leads to art [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Flight from boredom is the mother of all art.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 8.432), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography Intro
     A reaction: I might even say that all human achievement comes from boredom.
Boredom always involves not being fully occupied [Russell]
     Full Idea: It is one of the essentials of boredom that one's faculties must not be fully occupied.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness [1930], 4)
     A reaction: He gives running for your life as an example of non-boredom. I suspect that this is only the sort of boredom that troubled Russell, and not the sort of profound boredom that led the actor George Sanders to suicide (according to his last note).
Life is now more interesting, but boredom is more frightening [Russell]
     Full Idea: We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness [1930], 4)
     A reaction: I get the impression that the invention of the powerful mobile phone has largely banished boredom from human life, except when you are obliged to switch it off. The fear of boredom may hence be even greater now.
Happiness involves enduring boredom, and the young should be taught this [Russell]
     Full Idea: A certain power of enduring boredom is essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness [1930], 4)
     A reaction: As an example he suggests that Wordsworth would never have written 'The Prelude' is he had never been bored when young. Which suggests that Russell doesn't really get boredom, seeing it merely as a stimulus to work.
Boredom is an increasingly strong motivating power [Russell]
     Full Idea: Boredom has been, I believe, one of the great motive powers throughout the historical epoch, and is so at the present day more than ever.
     From: Bertrand Russell (The Conquest of Happiness [1930], 4)
     A reaction: Most of his essay tells us how to avoid boredom, rather than how it motivates.
Boredom destroys our ability to evaluate [Kekes]
     Full Idea: The threat of boredom is the dissolution of the evaluative dimension of our life.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 09.1)
     A reaction: This seems right. If nothing is interesting, then there is no scale of values left, except perhaps 'of possible interest to other people'.
Boredom is apathy and restlessness, yearning for something interesting [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Boredom combines apathy and restlessness. ...We crave stimulation, worthwhile activities, and objects that engage our interest.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 09.1)
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 5. Existence-Essence
It is absurd to think you can change your own essence, like a garment [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Man is necessity down to his last fibre, and totally 'unfree', that is if one means by freedom the foolish demand to be able to change one's 'essentia' arbitrarily, like a garment.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks [1873], p.7), quoted by Brian Leiter - Nietzsche On Morality 2 'Realism'
     A reaction: This is the big difference between the existentialism of Nietzsche and the more famous Sartrean approach, where the idea of being able to remake your essence is the most exciting and glamorous proposal. I'm with Nietzsche.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 6. Authentic Self
We can cultivate our drives, of anger, pity, curiosity, vanity, like a gardener, with good or bad taste [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: One can dispose of one's drives like a gardener and, though few know it, cultivate the shoots of anger, pity, curiosity, vanity as productively and profitably as a beautiful fruit tree on a trellis; one can do it with the good or bad taste of a gardener.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 560)
     A reaction: This sort of existentialism I find very appealing. You take what you are given, the cards you are dealt, and try to make something nice out of it. This is quite different from the crazy freedom of later existentialists.
To become what you are you must have no self-awareness [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: To become what one is, one must not have the faintest notion of what one is.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Ecce Homo [1889], II.9), quoted by Brian Leiter - Nietzsche On Morality 3 'fatalism'
     A reaction: [Don't understand 'II.9'] Enigmatic but striking. As I understand it, Nietzsche thought that knowing what you are is virtually impossible, though he spent a lifetime studying himself. Would you recognise someone who had become what they are?
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 7. Existential Action
Nietzsche was fascinated by a will that can turn against itself [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Nietzsche was fascinated by the idea of a will that turns against itself, against its usual impulses.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885]), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 03
     A reaction: This strikes me as very existentialist - a case of existence before essence.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 8. Eternal Recurrence
Reliving life countless times - this gives the value back to life which religion took away [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: "Is this something I want to do countless times?" ....Let us etch the image of eternity onto our own lives! This thought embodies more than all religions, which taught us to disdain life as something ephemeral and to look toward an unspecified other life.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 9.496,503), quoted by Rüdiger Safranski - Nietzsche: a philosophical biography 10
     A reaction: You can't get away from eternal recurrence being an imaginative trick, to focus value onto our choices. For a while Nietzsche tried to persuade himself that the recurrence actually occurred, but we all know it doesn't.
The great person engages wholly with life, and is happy to endlessly relive the life they created [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: There is an ideal ...of the most exuberant, most living and most world-affirming man, who has not only learned to get on and treat with all that was and is, but who wants to have it again as it was and is to all eternity.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §056)
     A reaction: This seems to be the main point of the idea of eternal recurrence. Could we inculcate this vision into the teenagers of our nation - that they should each try to design for themselves a life which they would be happy to endlessly repeat? Hm.
Eternal recurrence is the highest attainable affirmation [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Eternal recurrence is the highest formula of affirmation that is at all attainable.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Ecce Homo [1889], III.Z-1?), quoted by Brian Leiter - Nietzsche On Morality
     A reaction: Did Nietzsche have in mind an even higher formulation that was unattainable? The aim of eternal recurrence is to offer the highest possible ideal that remains rooted in the nature of ordinary life. It is a cut-down version of the Form of the Good.
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 6. Double Effect
Describing a death as a side-effect rather than a goal may just be good public relations [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: The real signficance of the doctrine of double effect can be public relations. You can put a better spin on an action by describing a death as an unfortunate collateral consequence, rather than as a goal of the action
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 7 'Doctrine')
     A reaction: The problem is that it the principle is usually invoked in situations where it is not clear where some bad effect is intended, and it is very easy to lie in such situations. In football, we can never quite decide whether a dangerous tackle was intended.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / b. The natural life
Primitive people would be too vulnerable and timid to attack anyone, so peace would reign [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: A being concerned only with preservation would be very timid. In such a state every man would feel himself an inferior; he could scarcely imagine himself an equal. No one would seek to attack anyone else; peace would be the first law of nature.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.02)
     A reaction: Exactly the idea that Rousseau took up, and they both attack Hobbes for describing a more advanced stage of society, instead of focusing on the original state. A solitary individual would be crazy to launch attacks on other individuals.
Men do not desire to subjugate one another; domination is a complex and advanced idea [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: It is unreasonable to impute to men, as Hobbes does, the desire to subjugate one another. The idea of sovereignty [l'empire] and domination is so complex and depends on so many other ideas, that it could not be the first to occur to men.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.02)
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / c. A unified people
People are drawn into society by needs, shared fears, pleasure, and knowledge [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: To his sense of weakness, man would soon add his needs. Encouraged by indications that their fear was shared, men would soon come together. They would feel the pleasure (and sexual attraction) of their own species. Knowledge then draws them into society.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.02)
     A reaction: He doesn't make the point about 'knowledge' very clear.
People are guided by a multitude of influences, from which the spirit of a nation emerges [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Men are ruled by many causes: climate, religion, laws, maxims of government, examples drawn from the pasts, customs, manners. Out of them is formed the general spirit of a nation.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 19.04)
     A reaction: This is one step away from Rousseau's general will, which is an attempt to give precise expression to this 'spirit of a nation'.
Society is alienating if it lacks our values, and its values repel us [Kekes]
     Full Idea: We feel estranged from our society if the values we prize are not available, and if we do not want to live by the available values.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 04.4)
     A reaction: There are two pictures here, for a monolithic culture, and for pluralism. For example, the values of Islam are fairly available in the Christian/atheist UK - but not sharia law. Pluralism can embrace a huge array of moderate values, but not extremes?
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 5. Original Position / b. Veil of ignorance
The rich would never submit to a lottery deciding which part of their society should be slaves [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: I do not believe that anyone of [that small part of a nation that is rich and voluptuous] would submit to a lottery determining which part of the nation would be free, and which slave.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.09)
     A reaction: Wonderful! This is exactly Rawls's 'initial position' and 'veil of ignorance'. It is used here to deconstruct implausible arguments in favour of slavery.
25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
All states aim at preservation, and then have distinctive individual purposes [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Although all states share the same general objective, to preserve themselves, each has its own particular purpose (such as aggrandisement, war, religion, commerce, tranquillity, navigation, liberty, pleasures of the ruler, glory, individual independence).
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 11.05)
     A reaction: [he gives examples for each of the list in brackets] I'm trying to think of the distinctive purpose of the UK, and can't get beyond sport, music gigs and comedy shows.
The ideal of an ideology is embodied in a text, a role model, a law of history, a dream of the past... [Kekes]
     Full Idea: The ideal in an ideology may be set down in a sacred text, exemplified in an exceptional life, dictated by laws of history, sociology, or psychology, located in a past uncorrupted idyllic past, or in a future Utopia of perfected human nature, and so on.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 06.4)
     A reaction: A bit grumpy, but a fair observation about an awful lot of slightly mad social endeavours.
Ideologies have beliefs about reality, ideals, a gap with actuality, and a program [Kekes]
     Full Idea: Ideologies have a set of beliefs about the world, an ideal of life, an explanation of the gap between the ideal and actuality, and a program for closing the gap.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 06.4)
     A reaction: [compressed] Kekes emerges as a bit right of centre in his politics. He clearly despises such ideologies, yet his book is an optimistic program for correcting things. Maybe the enemy is dogmatic ideologies. Kekes gives an undogmatic account of values.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / a. Sovereignty
Nowadays sovereignty (once the basis of a state) has become relative [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: In the twenty-first century, sovereignty, once the basis of the nation state, has become a relative concept. ...Powerlessness is the key word of our time.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 1 'Crisis')
     A reaction: The point is that nation states now have limited power, in the face of larger unions, multinational companies, and global problems.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / c. Natural authority
The state begins with brutal conquest of a disorganised people, not with a 'contract' [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Some pack of blond beasts of prey, on a war footing, unscrupulously lays its dreadful paws on a populace which is shapeless. In this way the 'state' began on earth. I think I have dispensed with the fantasy which has it begin with a 'contract'.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.17)
     A reaction: [compressed] It is certainly likely that a tribe which got itself well organised and focused on some end would achieve total dominance over other tribes that just focus on food.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / e. General will
Today it seems almost impossible to learn the will of the people [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: Imagine having to develop a system today that would express the will of the people.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'electoral')
     A reaction: Our recent Brexit referendum didn't do the job, because it was confined to a single question. Van Reybrouck laughs at the idea of expressing it through a polling both. How about a council of 500, drawn by lots? Meet for three months.
There are no united monolothic 'peoples', and no 'national gut feelings' [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as one monolithic 'people' (every society has its diversity), nor is there anything that could be described as a 'national gut feeling'.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'populism')
     A reaction: Rousseau yearned for a republic no bigger than Geneva. I don't see why we should give up on the general will in huge modern societies. It is likely, though, to be an anodyne lowest common denominator. No bad thing, perhaps.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / a. Autocracy
The natural power of a father suggests rule by one person, but that authority can be spread [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Some have thought that because nature has established the power of the parent, the most natural government is that of a single person. But the example of paternal power proves nothing. The inheritance by a father's brothers would support rule by the many.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.03)
     A reaction: [last bit compressed] Locke pointed out that the mother has similar entitlement, and he and Rousseau agree in rejecting this idea.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / b. Monarchy
Ambition is good in a monarchy, because the monarch can always restrain it [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a republic ambition is pernicious, but in a monarchy it has a good effect; it gives life to that type of government. Its advantage lies in that it is not dangerous, because a monarchy can continue to restrain it.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 03.07)
     A reaction: That is sometimes offered as a defence of the very weak British monarchy.
The nobility are an indispensable part of a monarchy [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a sense, nobility is one part of the essence of monarchy, whose fundamenta maxim is: 'without a monarchy, no nobility; without a nobility, no monarchy'. There are, of course, despots, but they are something else.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.04)
     A reaction: Hence the worst vice associated with a monarchy is patronage, even when the monarch is weak and 'constitutional'.
Monarchs must not just have links to the people; they need a body which maintains the laws [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a monarchy, it is not enough to have intermediary ranks; there must also be a body that is a depositary of laws. They must announce the laws when they are made, and recall them to the public's attention when they are forgotten.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.04)
     A reaction: This is the crucial difference between a monarch and a despot, because the monarch must be subservient to the law.
In monarchies, men's actions are judged by their grand appearance, not their virtues [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In monarchies, men's actions are judged, not by whether they are good, but whether they appear attractive [belles]; not by whether they are just, but whether they appear grand; not by whether they are reasonable, but by whether they appear extraordinary.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 04.02)
     A reaction: A person that comes to mind is the Duke of Buckingham under James I and Charles I. Or the Earl of Essex under Elizabeth I.
In a monarchy, the nobility must be hereditary, to bind them together [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a monarchy, the laws must make the nobility hereditary, not to serve as the boundary between the power of the ruler and the weakness of the people, but as the tie that binds them together....
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.09)
     A reaction: This seems rather disingenuous. If the nobility are bound together in some tight manner, this immediately serves as a sharp boundary between them and the rest of the people. Monarchs are bound to want the strict boundary.
Monarchies can act more quickly, because one person is in charge [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Monarchical government has the great advantage that, since public business is guided by a single person, the executive power can operate more speedily.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.10)
     A reaction: Liberal democracies are particularly hopeless at quick action, because so many views have to be heard.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / c. Despotism
Despots are always lazy and ignorant, so they always delegate their power to a vizier [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Anyone whom his senses inform continually that he is everything, and others nothing, is naturally lazy, voluptuous, and ignorant. Hence the establishment of a vizier, with power the same as his own, is a law fundamental to a despotic state.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.05)
Despotism and honour are incompatible, because honour scorns his power, and lives by rules [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: How could a despot permit honour? Honour depends upon scorning life; the despot has power only because he can deprive men of life. How could honour tolerate the despot? Honour has fixed rules, ...but the despot has no rule.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 03.08)
     A reaction: The old German aristocracy seem to have been utterly alienated and isolated by the Nazi regime.
Tyranny is either real violence, or the imposition of unpopular legislation [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: There are two sorts of tyranny: that which is real and consists of the violence of government; and the tyranny of opinion, when those who govern institute things contrary to a nation's mode of thought.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 19.03)
     A reaction: By this reckoning the abolition of the death penalty by the UK partliament was tyrannous, as it went against popular enthusiasm for it. Representative democracy is always in danger of drifting towards mild tyranny.
A despot's agents must be given power, so they inevitably become corrupt [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: A government cannot be unjust without putting some power in the hands of its agents; it is impossible that they not profit from their position. Embezzlement is, therefore, natural to such governments.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.15)
The will of a despot is an enigma, so magistrates can only follow their own will [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Under despotism, the law is nothing more than the will of the ruler. Even if the despot were wise, how could a magistrate follow a will unknown to him? He has no choice but to follow his own.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.16)
No authority ever willingly accepts criticism [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: As long as the world has existed, no authority has ever willingly permitted itself to become the object of critique.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], Pref 3)
     A reaction: A political remark, but it leads into speaking of conventional morality as just such an authority. Nowadays teachers have feedback forms, and leaders have to endure party conferences. But on the whole it remains true.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / d. Elites
If the nobility is numerous, the senate is the artistocracy, and the nobles are a democracy [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: When the nobility is numerous, there must be a senate to regulate those matters which the body of nobles is incapable of deciding. Thus aristocracy of a kind resides in the senate, democracy in the body of nobles, while the people is nothing.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.03)
     A reaction: This presumes that the body of nobles elects the senate.
Aristocracy is democratic is they resemble the people, but not if they resemble the monarch [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Aristocratic families ought to be, as much as possible, members of the people. The more an aristocracy resembles a democracy, the more perfect it is; the more it resembles a monarchy, the more imperfect.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.03)
     A reaction: Aristocrats far from the big cities seem remarkably like the rest of the people. As soon as they approach the monarch's court, they aspire to dignity and power, and begin to spurn the citizens.
Great inequality between aristocrats and the rest is bad - and also among aristocrats themselves [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In aristocratic state there are two main sources of disorders: excessive inequality between those who govern and those who are governed, and the same degree of inequality among the different members of the ruling group [corps].
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.08)
     A reaction: This sounds like a very historically accurate observation, since aristocrats are always at one another's throats. But maybe junior aristocrats just need to be kept more firmly in their place.
Only aristocratic societies can elevate the human species [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Every elevation of the type 'man' has thitherto been the work of an aristocratic society - and so it will always be: a society which believes in a long scale of orders of rank and differences of worth between man and man, and needs slavery in some sense.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886], §257)
     A reaction: The aim of 'elevating the type "man"' does not figure in works of political philosophy very much! I doubt whether one could base a political party on the idea, and win a general election. Could the people still be sold the idea of aristocracy?
Technocrats may be efficient, but they lose legitimacy as soon as they do unpopular things [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: Efficiency does not automatically generate legitimacy, and faith in the technocrat melts away as soon as spending cuts are implemented.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'democracy')
     A reaction: They can hang on to legitimacy if they can come up with some technical mumbo-jumbo like 'monetarism' which the people will swallow.
Technocrats are expert managers, who replace politicians, and can be long-term and unpopular [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: Technocracy is a system where experts are charged with looking after the public interest. ...Technocrats are managers who replace politicians, so they can concentrate on long-term solutions and announce unpopular measures.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'technocracy')
     A reaction: I like technocrats. They just need to be accountable. In the UK we have far more respect for the governor of the Bank of England than for any politician.
25. Society / B. The State / 6. Government / a. Government
A government has a legislature, an international executive, and a domestic executive [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In every government there are three sorts of powers: the legislative; the executivem in regard to those matters determined by the laws of nations; and the executive, in regard to those matters determined by civil law.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 11.06)
If a government is to be preserved, it must first be loved [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Government is like everything else in this world: if it is to be preserved, it must first be loved.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 04.05)
     A reaction: Nice one! Right now there seems to be a declining love for representative democracy, even though almost everyone endorses it.
25. Society / B. The State / 6. Government / b. Legislature
The judiciary must be separate from the legislature, to avoid arbitrary power [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Were the judicial power joined to the legislative, the life and liberty of the citizens would be subject to arbitrary power. For the judge would then be the legislator.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 11.06)
     A reaction: This is the key 'separation of powers', which seems to be a mantra for nearly all theories of the state.
25. Society / B. The State / 8. Religion in Society
Religion has the most influence in despotic states, and reinforces veneration for the ruler [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In these [despotic] states, religion has more influence than anywhere else; it is fear added to fear. The peoples of the Mohammedan empires in part derive from their religion their extraordinary veneration for their rulers.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.14)
     A reaction: I suppose religions have submission to authority built into them.
French slavery was accepted because it was the best method of religious conversion [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Louis XIII was made extremely uneasy by the law that enslaved all the negroes in his colonies. But when told that this was the most efficacious way of converting them, he gave his consent.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.04)
     A reaction: That is a spectaculary bad advert for giving an established religion a leading role in society. It is relevant to the upbringing of children, as well as to slaves.
Religion can support the state when the law fails to do so [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Religion can support the state when the laws themselves lack the power to do so.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 24.16)
     A reaction: A thought which didn't occur to Spinoza, but then the thought merely confirms that religion offers a rival to the rule of law.
The clergy are essential to a monarchy, but dangerous in a republic [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: The power of the clergy is as dangerous in a republic, as it is appropriate to a monarchy.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.04)
     A reaction: This makes me look at the UK in a new light, with the clergy hovering around when the monarch is crowned, and the bishops sitting by right in the House of Lords.
25. Society / B. The State / 8. Culture
Every culture loses its identity and power if it lacks a major myth [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Without myth every culture loses its natural healthy creating power: only a horizon encircled with myths can mark off a cultural movement as a discrete unit.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Works (refs to 8 vol Colli and Montinari) [1885], 1.145)
     A reaction: In the early part of his career this was a big idea for Nietzsche, especially associated with Wagner's Ring, but he moved away from the idea later.
25. Society / B. The State / 9. Population / a. State population
In small republics citizens identify with the public good, and abuses are fewer [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a small republic, the public good is more keenly felt, better known, closer to every citizen; abuses are spread less widely, and consequently, are less tolerated.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 08.16)
     A reaction: This idea of very small republics now seems outdated, but this idea still applies. Small states like the Baltic States (or Scotland?) have a better chance of the citizens identifying with the whole community.
In a large republic there is too much wealth for individuals to manage it [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a large republic, there are large fortunes, and therefore but little moderation in the minds of men. its resources are too considerable to be entrusted to a citizen.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 08.16)
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 4. Conservatism
Fans of economic freedom claim the capitalism is self-correcting [Micklethwait/Wooldridge]
     Full Idea: The central laissez-faire conceit is that capitalism is a self-correcting mechanism.
     From: Micklethwait,J/Wooldridge,A (The Fourth Revolution [2014], 3)
     A reaction: This was Keynes's rather left-wing criticism of standard capitalist views. These resurfaced in the 1980s with mantras about the virtues of 'market forces'.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / a. Nature of democracy
If deputies represent people, they are accountable, but less so if they represent places [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: When the deputies represent the body or estate of the people, as in Holland, they ought to be accountable to their constituents. When the deputies represent boroughs, as in England, the situation is not the same.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 11.06)
     A reaction: Not sure how this works. Modern UK MPs are accountable to the residents of their borough. Did the Dutch actually name the citizens that a deputy represented?
Democracy is the best compromise between legitimacy and efficiency [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: Democracy is the least bad form of all governments precisely because it attempts to find a healthy balance between legitimacy and efficiency.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 1 'Crisis')
     A reaction: There seems to be a widespread feeling that democracy is declining in efficiency, and that may be because our remoteness from government decreases legitimacy, so we have less commitment to getting things done.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / b. Consultation
The fundamental laws of a democracy decide who can vote [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: The laws fundamental to a democracy are those that establish who is eligible to vote. (p.118 No less fundamental is the method of voting itself).
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.02)
     A reaction: Tricky groups now are teenagers, convicted criminals, people with damaged brains, and citizens who live abroad. Maybe people who evade paying tax should lose the right to vote.
It is basic to a democracy that the people themselves must name their ministers [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: A democratic people may be said to have ministers only when these have been named by the people itself. Thus it is a maxim fundamental to this type of government that the people must name its ministers.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.02)
     A reaction: In the UK we don't do this. We elect local representatives, usually of a preferred party, and then they chose the ministers, and even the leader. The people who run our country are a long way from direct democracy.
Voting should be public, so the lower classes can be influenced by the example of notable people [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: When the people votes it should do so in public. ...For it is necessary that the lower classes be enlightened by those of higher rank, that the precipitous qualities of the lower classes be held in check by the grave example of certain notables.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.02)
     A reaction: This sounds shocking to us, but the lower classes were largely illiterate. Nowadays we have television to tell us how the notables are going to vote, and the less notables seem to be increasingly unimpressed.
All citizens (apart from the very humble poor) should choose their representatives [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: All citizens ought to have the right to choose their representatives by election. The only exception concerns those whose condition is so base that they are considered to have no will of their own.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 11.06)
     A reaction: This is an amazingly liberal view of the franchise for its time (though he may not be including women), but with a rather breathtaking coda! It may be hard for us now to grasp the very humble state of an illiterate peasant.
A referendum result arises largely from ignorance [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: In a referendum you ask everyone to vote on a subject that usually only a few know anything about.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 4 'remedies')
     A reaction: Tell me about it! I was forced to vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and felt thoroughly out of my depth on such a complex economic question.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / c. Direct democracy
A democratic assembly must have a fixed number, to see whether everyone has spoken [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: It is essential to fix the number of citizens who can participate in assemblies. Otherwise it would be uncertain whether all the people had spoken, or only a part of it. At Sparta the number was fixed at ten thousand.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.02)
     A reaction: This looks like an immediate injustice to the citizen who came 10,001 in the rankings. 10,000 is just a smallish football crowd, so we could manage it today. We could pick the 10,000 by sortition (by lot). Most people are fairly sensible!
In a democracy the people should manage themselves, and only delegate what they can't do [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a democracy, the people, which holds the sovereign power, ought itself to do everything it can do well; that which it cannot do well must be done by its ministers.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 02.02)
     A reaction: This is just what you see when a group of residents manages their own building. Citizens in representative democracies become utterly lazy about running their society, so that they won't even pick up litter, or report communal problems.
You don't really govern people if you don't involve them [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: Even with the best of intentions, those who govern the people without involving them, govern them only in a limited sense.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 4 intro)
     A reaction: But if they are highly involved, who is governing who? Do we want the people to become happier about being governed, or do we want them more involved in doing the governing?
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / d. Representative democracy
In the 18th century democratic lots lost out to elections, that gave us a non-hereditary aristocracy [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: The drawing of lots, the most democratic of all political instruments, lost out in the eighteenth century to elections, a procedure that was not invented as a democratic instrument, but as a means of bringing a new non-hereditary aristocracy to power.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 3 'democratisation')
     A reaction: This is the basic thesis of Van Reybrouck's book. He argues for the extensive use of lots ('sortition') for getting people involved in modern democracies. I love the idea that in a good democracy you get an occasional chance to rule.
Representative elections were developed in order to avoid democracy [Reybrouck]
     Full Idea: Bernard Manin (1995) revealed how, immediately after the American and French revolutions, the electoral-representative system was chosen with the intention of keeping at bay the tumult of democracy.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 3 'procedure')
     A reaction: At the time America and France were two of the largest countries in the world, and communication and transport were slow. That has changed.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 6. Liberalism
Classical liberalism seeks freedom of opinion, of private life, of expression, and of property [Micklethwait/Wooldridge]
     Full Idea: The classical liberals agreed on a basic list of freedoms: of opinion (including religion), of private life, of expression, and of property
     From: Micklethwait,J/Wooldridge,A (The Fourth Revolution [2014], 9)
     A reaction: Mill is main articulator of this. Modern neo-liberals focus on economic freedom. Neither of them seem to make freedom of opportunity central, though I suspect our modern Liberal Party would.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 7. Communism
For communists history is driven by the proletariat [Micklethwait/Wooldridge]
     Full Idea: For the communists the proletariat rather than the state was the locomotive of history.
     From: Micklethwait,J/Wooldridge,A (The Fourth Revolution [2014], 3)
     A reaction: I feel increasingly reluctant to support any party which appears to mainly represent the interests of a single social class, no matter how large that class may be. An attraction of liberalism is that it makes no reference to class.
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 9. Socialism
The welfare state aims at freedom from want, and equality of opportunity [Micklethwait/Wooldridge]
     Full Idea: In the classical liberal tradition freedom meant freedom from external control, and equality meant equality before the law. In the welfare state (of Beatrice Webb) freedom was reinterpreted as freedom from want, and equality as equality of opportunity.
     From: Micklethwait,J/Wooldridge,A (The Fourth Revolution [2014], 3)
     A reaction: The authors call this the 'third revolution' in government, after 17th century centralisation and early 19th century accountability. Tawney 1931 is the key text.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 1. Legal Rights / c. Property rights
Roman law entrenched property rights [Micklethwait/Wooldridge]
     Full Idea: Roman law entrenched property rights.
     From: Micklethwait,J/Wooldridge,A (The Fourth Revolution [2014], 1 Intro)
     A reaction: Normally attributed to Locke, so this is a good corrective. Was the principle gradually forgotten before Locke?
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 2. Social Freedom / a. Slavery
Slavery is entirely bad; the master abandons the virtues, and they are pointless in the slave [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: There is nothing good about the nature of slavery. The slave can achieve nothing by being virtuous. The master acquires all sorts of bad habits, and is accustomed to behaving with a total lack of moral virtues.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.01)
     A reaction: Most slavery of that time took place in colonies, far remote from the moral judgments of the mother country. The temptations of such power over others are far too great for most masters to live virtuously.
Slaves are not members of the society, so no law can forbid them to run away [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: What civil law could prevent a slave from running away? Since he is not a member of society, why should the laws of society concern him?
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.02)
     A reaction: Hm. Does this apply to children, who can't vote or stand for office?
The demand for slavery is just the masters' demand for luxury [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: The demand for slavery is the demand for luxury and voluptuousness; it has nothing to do with concern for public felicity.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.09)
     A reaction: True monarchists and aristocratic elitists presumably think that a society should have one part which lives in great luxury. Where else are the fine arts and wonderful buildings going to come from?
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 2. Social Freedom / b. Freedom of belief
Without liberty of thought there is no trust in the state, and corruption follows [Spinoza]
     Full Idea: If liberty of thought is suppressed ...this would undemine the trust which is the first essential of a state; detestable flattery and deceit would flourish, giving rise to intrigues and every sort of honest behaviour.
     From: Baruch de Spinoza (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus [1670], 20.11)
     A reaction: Spinoza specifically defends philosophy, as the epitome of freedom of thought.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 2. Social Freedom / c. Free speech
Freedom of speech and writing, within the law, is essential to preserve liberty [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: If a state is to enjoy and preserve liberty, everyone must be able to say what he thinks. In a free state, therefore, a citizen may speak and write anything not expressly forbidden by the laws.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 19.27)
     A reaction: A commonplace now, but fairly bold then. I blame Freeborn John Lilburne for wild ideas like these.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 2. Social Freedom / e. Freedom of lifestyle
One principle of liberty is to take turns ruling and being ruled [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: One principle of liberty is for all to rule and to be ruled in turn.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 6.2), quoted by David van Reybrouck - Against Elections 3 'procedure'
     A reaction: [need the exact reference] This is a lovely challenge to our modern idea of liberty, which largely consists of being left alone.
Freedom in society is ability to do what is right, and not having to do what is wrong [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In a society where laws exist, liberty can consist only in being able to do what one ought to will, and in not being contrained to do what one ought not to will. ...If a citizen could do what the law prohibits, all others would have the same power.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 11.03)
     A reaction: This sounds pretty quaint in 2017, but I love it.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 3. Social Equality / a. Grounds of equality
Jew and Greeks, bond and free, male and female, are all one in Christ [Paul]
     Full Idea: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
     From: St Paul (09: Galatians [c.55], 3.28)
     A reaction: No wonder women and slaves were enthusiastic about Christianity. This verse is powerful and influential, even if it was largely ignored by Christian rulers. Consider the relative positions of women in Islam and Christendom.
Equality is not command by everyone or no one, but command and obedience among equals [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: The spirit of true equality consists, not in creating a situation in which everyone commands, or in which no one is commanded, but rather in obeying or commanding only our equals.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 08.03)
     A reaction: I love this idea, but it is so easy to feel superior when you command, or to feel inferior when you are commanded. I take the solution to be the appointment of everyone in authority by those they will command (but fat chance of that).
No one even thinks of equality in monarchies and despotism; they all want superiority [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In monarchies and despotic states, no one aspires to equality. Not even the idea occurs; everyone aspires to superiority. People of the very lowest rank only wish to rise in order to become masters of others.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.04)
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 3. Social Equality / b. Political equality
Democracy is corrupted by lack of equality, or by extreme equality (between rulers and ruled) [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Democracy is corrupted in two ways: when it loses the spirit of equality, and when the spirit of equality becomes extreme, that is, when everyone wishes to be the equal of those he has chosen to command him.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 08.02)
     A reaction: The latter seems to be what happens when a referendum is called (as in Brexit 2016). The winners come to despise the elected representatives, if the latter disagree with the outcome.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 3. Social Equality / d. Economic equality
Democracies may sometimes need to restrict equality [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: In some cases, equality among citizens may be denied by democracy for the utility of democracy.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.05)
     A reaction: He cites people who make sacrifices for the public, and lower orders who are getting above themselves! The desire for equality quickly comes into conflict with other values.
Some equality can be achieved by social categories, combined with taxes and poor relief [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Equality is so difficult that exactitude is not possible. It is enough to place citizens by a census within categories that reduce or fix differences. Then laws compensate for inequalities by taxes on the rich and relief given to the poor.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 05.05)
     A reaction: [compressed] Placing citizens within categories (e.g. 'nobility') has long gone out of fashion. He doesn't say whether you tax the capital or the income of the rich.
Equal distribution is no good in a shortage, because there might be no one satisfied [Kekes]
     Full Idea: It is useless to distribute insufficient resources equally, because the equal distribution of insufficient resources may result in the even worse outcome that no one's reasonable expectations are met.
     From: John Kekes (The Human Condition [2010], 01.5)
     A reaction: He gives a shortage of oxygen tanks as a persuasive example, but that is hardly typical of the sorts of things that we normally want to distribute.
25. Society / D. Social Rights / 4. Right to Punish / a. Right to punish
The death penalty is permissible, because its victims enjoyed the protection of that law [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: It is permissible to put a criminal to death because the law that punishes him was made to protect him. For example, a murderer has enjoyed the benefits of the law by which he is condemned.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.02)
     A reaction: Dubious! We could add torture, and life imprisonment for parking offences, if this argument is sufficient justification.
If religion teaches determinism, penalties must be severe; if free will, then that is different [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: When religion teaches that human actions are predetermined, penalties imposed by law ought to be more severe, for without these measures men would behave with complete abandon. If the dogma of religion is free will, the situation is altogether different.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 24.14)
     A reaction: Presumably persuasion and influence come into the free will picture. Calvinist Geneva was determinist, and Catholic France for free will.
Get rid of the idea of punishment! It is a noxious weed! [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: People of diligence and goodwill, lend a hand in the one work of eradicating from the face of the earth the concept of punishment, which has overrun the whole world! There is no more noxious weed!
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 013)
     A reaction: Nietzsche never tried his hand at school teaching or parenting or running a youth club. But I still love this idea. In really good families I suspect that punishment is almost unknown.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 2. The Law / b. Natural law
Prior to positive laws there is natural equity, of obedience, gratitude, dependence and merit [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: The relations of equity precede the positive laws that establish them. It is right to conform to laws in a society; intelligent beings should be grateful for benefits; we remain dependent on those who create us; an injury merits the same in return.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.01)
     A reaction: [the examples are compressed] A nice statement of the idea of natural law. It doesn't follow that because an injury merits retaliation, that it should be implemented (just that no one can complain if it happens).
Sensation gives animals natural laws, but knowledge can make them break them [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Animals have natural laws because they are united by sensation, ...but they do not invariably follow thieir natural laws; these are better observed by vegetables, which have neither knowledge nor sensation.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.02)
     A reaction: With the example of vegetables the concept of natural law is drifting into the laws of nature, and evidently Montesquie makes no sharp distinction here.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. Education / b. Aims of education
In monarchies education ennoble's people, and in despotisms it debases them [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Just as the purpose of education in monarchies is to ennoble men's hearts, so its purpose in despotic states is to debase them. In despotic states education must be servile.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 04.03)
     A reaction: This is an early insight into the way that all social institutions, such as education, are largely pawns of a larger political system.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. Education / c. Teaching
Teaching is the best practice of the general virtue that leads us to love everyone [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: It is when we instruct others that we can best practice that general virtue which teaches us to love everyone.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], Preface)
     A reaction: A very nice thought. One tricky issue is that some people dislike, and even resent, being taught. If we all just adored both teaching and learning, we would be in a sort of paradise, but it doesn't seem to happen.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 6. War
The only right victors have over captives is the protection of the former [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: War can confer only one right over captives, and that is to ensure that they no longer harm victors.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 15.02)
     A reaction: He is arguing against both the killing of captives, and their enslavement.
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / a. Space
Hilbert Space is an abstraction representing all possible states of a quantum system [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: The elements of the abstract mathematical entity called Hilbert Space represent all the possible states of a quantum system
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 1017.02.04)
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / e. Existence of time
Entropy is puzzling, so we may need to build new laws which include time directionality [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: Smolin observes that if entropy increases, the early universe must have been highly ordered, which we cannot explain. Maybe we need to build time directionality into the laws, instead of making time depend on entropy.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2017.02.04)
     A reaction: [compressed]
Entropy is the only time-asymmetric law, so time may be linked to entropy [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: All our physical laws are time-symmetric, things can run forwards or backwards. But entropy is an exception, saying that disorder increases over time. Many physicists therefore suspect that the flow of time is linked to entropy.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2017.02.04)
Quantum theory relies on a clock outside the system - but where is it located? [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: After general relativity, quantum mechanics reinstated our familiar notion of time. The buzzing of the quantum world plays out according to the authoritative tick of a clock outside the described system, ...but where is this clock doing its ticking?
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2017.02.04)
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 5. Space-Time
Space-time may be a geometrical manifestation of quantum entanglement [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: A promising theory (based on the 'Maldacena duality' - that string equations for gravity are the same as quantum equations for surface area) is that space-time is really just geometrical manifestations of quantum entanglement.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2015.11.07)
     A reaction: This is a speculation which might unite the incompatible quantum and general relativity theories.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Aristotelian causation involves potentiality inputs into processes (rather than a pair of events) [Stout,R]
     Full Idea: In the Aristotelian approach to causation (unlike the Humean approach, involving separate events), A might cause B by being an input into some process (realisation of potentiality) that results in B.
     From: Rowland Stout (Action [2005], 9 'Trying')
     A reaction: Stout relies quite heavily on this view for his account of human action. I like processes, so am sympathetic to this view. If there are two separate events, it is not surprising that Hume could find nothing to bridge the gap between them.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / c. Essence and laws
Laws are the necessary relations that derive from the nature of things [Montesquieu]
     Full Idea: Laws, in the broadest meaning of the term, are the necessary relations that derive from the nature of things.
     From: Baron de Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws (rev. 1757) [1748], 01.01)
     A reaction: Montesquieu is about to discuss social laws, but this is the clearest statement I have ever met of the essentialist view of the laws of nature.
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / l. String theory
In string theory space-time has a grainy indivisible substructure [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: String theory suggests that space-time has a grainy substructure - you can't keep chopping it indefinitely into smaller and smaller pieces.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2015.11.07)
     A reaction: Presumably the proposal is that strings are the true 'atoms'.
It is impossible for find a model of actuality among the innumerable models in string theory [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: String theory has more than 10-to-the-500th solutions, each describing a different sort of universe, so it is nigh-on impossible to find the one solution that corresponds to our geometrically flat, expanding space-time full of particles.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2015.11.07)
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 2. Movement
Motion fulfils potentiality [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Motion is the fulfilment of what exists potentially, in so far as it exists potentially.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 201a10-11), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 6 'Two'
     A reaction: We might put that as 'all motion is the fulfilment of a natural power'. But that gives the source of motion, and not its intrinsic nature.
27. Natural Reality / C. Biology / 3. Evolution
Enquirers think finding our origin is salvation, but it turns out to be dull [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: Investigators of knowledge ...have regularly presupposed that the salvation of humanity depended on insight into the origin of things. ...but with insight into origin comes the increasing insignificance of origin.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 044)
     A reaction: This sounds like the etymological fallacy, of thinking that the origin of a word gives you a true grasp of its meaning.
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 5. General Relativity
Einstein's merging of time with space has left us confused about the nature of time [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: Our hunt for the most basic ingredients of reality has left us muddled about the status of time. One culprit for this was Einstein, whose theory of general relativity merged time with space.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2017.02.04)
Black holes have entropy, but general relativity says they are unstructured, and lack entropy [New Sci.]
     Full Idea: Black holes have a temperature, and hence entropy. ...But if a black hole are just an extreme scrunching of smooth space-time, it should have no substructure, and thus no entropy. This is probably the most obvious incompleteness of general relativity.
     From: New Scientist writers (New Scientist articles [2013], 2015.11.07)
29. Religion / C. Monotheistic Religion / 3. Christianity / a. Christianity
Life aims at the Beatific Vision - of perfect happiness, and revealed truth [Zagzebski on Aquinas]
     Full Idea: Aquinas describes the ultimate end of human life as the Beatific Vision, a state that is simultaneously the enjoyment of perfect happiness and a perfect revelation of truth.
     From: report of Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologicae [1265]) by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind II 4.2
     A reaction: I like that a lot, even though my idea of the revelation of truth is very distant from that of Aquinas. Ignorant happiness is not much of an aspiration.
Christianity hoped for a short cut to perfection, that skipped the hard labour of morality [Nietzsche]
     Full Idea: You can say what you like: Christianity wanted to liberate humanity from the burden of the demands of morality by pointing out a shorter way to perfection, or so it believed.
     From: Friedrich Nietzsche (Dawn (Daybreak) [1881], 059)
     A reaction: This conjures up Graham Greene's Catholic heroes, who wallow in sin, but hope for salvation at the last moment.