THE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF PHILOSOPHY ANNUAL LECTURES: PHILOSOPHERS OF OUR TIMES
This volume of the Annual Lectures of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, chairman of the lectures, is being published by Oxford University Press. The contributors are Thomas Nagel, Peter Strawson, Tyler Burge, Jerry Fodor, Ned Block, John McDowell, Christine Korsgaard, Tom Scanlon, Simon Blackburn, Mary Warnock, John Searle, Derek Parfit, Anthony Kenny, Noam Chomsky, Alasdair MacIntyre, Jurgen Habermas, Bernard Williams, and David Chalmers. Here is the Ted Honderich's introduction to the volume, followed by the Table of Contents.
is what it is like to be a bat related to the bat?
What are you really aware of in seeing?
Where did mind begin? With spiders?
Is there seeing without thinking?
Is there something you can call mental paint?
What is the intending in your acting?
there goods that are not goods for
What are reasons?
Is a fundamentalism about reasons in morality wrong?
What is natural and does it matter? At all?
Are you a human being?
Is belief in God possibly false but nonetheless reasonable?
there simple, available and refuting truths about terrorism, justice,
anticipatory self-defence, and more?
What about tolerance, religious tolerance, cultural rights, church bells and calls to prayer?
What are moral agents and what societies are against them?
has philosophy in general been, and what should it be?
Is there less progress in philosophy than in science, and if so, why?
These questions and their answers, five groups of them, are the stuff of seventeen Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Lectures and one paper that could have been a lecture that was not given. They are by Nagel, Strawson, Burge, Fodor, Block, McDowell, Korsgaard, Scanlon, Blackburn,Warnock, Searle, Parfit, Kenny, Chomsky, MacIntyre, Habermas, Williams,and Chalmers.
Mainstream philosophy in my view has
been and is a greater concentration than that of science on the logic of
ordinary intelligence -- on clarity, consistency and validity, completeness,
and generality. These lectures are instances of this reality of this philosophy
as it is in the Anglophone universities. They are, I say, about as good an
introduction to and exemplification of the subject in these times as you are
likely to lay hands on. They are not summaries of this or that great philosopher, not
birds-eye's views of centuries or sectors of philosophy, not one philosopher's take on the subject, not philosophy as
journalism can convey it. They are the stuff of the study of philosophy -- the
reading, the seminars, the commitments.
They have the extents of clarity that are to be expected in the work of leaders of the subject. But each is preceded by the editor's introduction that is a decent guide through what is to come. If reading mainstream philosophy is never like reading a novel, it is something you can be prepared for.
While waiting to go into prison for
sponsoring an anti-war pamplet in 1916, Bertrand Russell gave his Lectures on Logical Atomism in a lecture
room in Gordon Square in London's Bloomsbury, a lecture room to be much used
thereafter. Stanley Balfour, then Home Secretary in the government of the day,
instructed that he should have writing materials in his cell for the book Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy.
Russell, Balfour, and the liberal political theorist and sociologist L. T.
Hobhouse, and the socialist political theorist and economist Harold Laski were
the principal founders of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, in 1925.
The Royal Institute of Philosophy
Annual Lectures, which began in 1998, are indeed by leaders of the subject in
England and the United States. They were chosen by a democracy comparable to
the democracies in which we live, limited but real, maybe a little less
limited. Nominations were invited from the many members of the Council of the Royal
Institute and from other outside philosophers as well as some editors in
prominent publishers of the subject.
So this selection of lecturers, if
still a selection made in the real world of enthusiasms, loyalties to problems,
and human nature, was not the known method of quickly remembering pals, or of
high principles to do with anticiptions of reciprocity in the future. Nor,
although eminence by location in an ancient or other distinguished university will have
played a role, was the selection a choosing by a minority -- geographical, from
a favoured part or parts of a subject, guided by feminist or other high
principle, or influenced by email cabals however confident.
The first of the five groups of
questions above is concerned with the philosophy of mind, the second with moral or
value philosophy, the next group with the free-standing subjects of freedom and
determinism, personal identity, and religion, the fourth group with political
and social philosophy, and the last little group with philosophy in general.
That the first group of questions is a little larger is perhaps owed to the
prominence of the philosophy of mind in our times. Metaphysics, although
certainly represented in the lectures in the philosophy of mind, is not as much
to the fore as the philosophy of mind itself or moral philosophy.
listened to all the lectures
as chairman, and spent time with them again for the writing of the
introductions, I commend them to you with all the confidence allowed by
scepticism natural to the discipline of philosophy. They contain
distinctions, acuteness, judgements on other judgements, arresting
propositions, ingenuities, maybe some shocks, and a lot else, including
disagreement between lecturers in the morals and values section, and
two philosophers being in different philosophical worlds. Those two
lectures have light thrown on them by their predecessors and may throw
light on them.
Reading all the lectures is reading
main philosophy, which is unlike reading a novel or anything else.The lectures
have strengths and shortcomings not had by their counterparts in science, a
fact that the very last lecture in a way contemplates. They demonstrate the
falsehood, perhaps the hopeful falsehood, of the utterance of a noted scientist
that philosophy is dead, a scientist unaware of the truth among others that
philosophy has always buried its undertakers.
Most lectures in lecture rooms end with a question period. Certainly the Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Lectures as given ended with half an hour's questions from the audience, usually and properly enough asked out of different preoccupations of the questioners. The strongest philosophers, like the strongest philosophy, can be a little confused. They can be wrong -- at least usually in interesting ways. Remember that who wins in philosophy will be decided over time by those final judges, Logic and Fact. So you who read this book should also ask questions. By way of encouragement to the bashful, and indulgence in my portion of philosophical ego, I will mention one or two or some of my own questions at the ends of my introductions.
TABLE OF CONTENTSThomas Nagel, Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem
Christine Korsgaard, On Having a Good
Noam Chomsky, Simple Truths, Hard Choices: Some
Thoughts on Terror, Justice, and Self-Defence