History of Philosophy
Carnap's Aufbau and the Legacy of Neutral Monism
in David Bell and Wilhelm Vossenkuhl eds. Science and Subjectivity, ISBN 3-05-002188-8, pp. 131-152
Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1992
It is a hallmark of positivism that it aspired to a neutral standpoint between apparently competing metaphysical or ontological positions. Positivists sought a starting point for philosophy, and for human knowledge, free of metaphysical or (taking the term in a fairly rich sense) ontological commitment. But they also tended to equate the real with the given in experience; so the positivist attempt to deny metaphysics without being metaphysical, generates a paradox familiar in post Kantian philosophy. Ernst Mach's The Analysis of Sensations, which comprises what is usually regarded as a phenomenalist construction of the world, represents an early and crude variety of positivist neutralism. However, as argued in the precursor to this article, Mach could not preserve the neutrality of his elements, and his 'neutral monism' collapses into the non neutral standpoints of either Millian phenomenalism or direct realism. Carnap's construction in Der Logische Aufbau der Welt was, in contrast to that of his predecessor, one of the earliest attempts to separate semantic from ontological questions, and thus achieve an effective neutrality with regard to the latter. Nonetheless, I will argue, the ambiguities of Mach's neutral monist standpoint continued to manifest themselves in the Aufbau, and the rationale for this later attempt at ontological neutrality remains in many ways bafflingly obscure. Click here to read more.
Phenomenalism and the Self
in Cambride Companion to Mill
Ed. J. Skorupski
"Matter, then, may be defined as the Permanent Possibility of Sensation". With this famous phrase, Mill put phenomenalism firmly on the philosophical map. The origins of phenomenalism - the standpoint which regards sensations as the basic constituents of reality, and attempts to construct the external world from sensations and the possibilities of sensation - can be traced back to Berkeley. But the analysis of matter as the "permanent possibility of sensation", and the attempted application of that analysis to mind, which comprise the most well-known chapters of Mill's An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, is the first developed presentation of the doctrine. After Mill, a commitment to phenomenalism became standard among scientific philosophers, until superseded by physicalism in the 1930's. Figures associated with the doctrine included Mach, Russell, Carnap, C.I. Lewis and A.J. Ayer, and with these it took an increasingly "linguistic" or "semantic" form. Click here to read more.
Ernst Mach and the Elimination of Subjectivity
Ratio, Dec. 1990
...one of the greatest advantages and attractions of true positivism seems to me to be the antisolipsistic attitude which characterizes it from the very beginning...perhaps the philosophy of Mach and Avenarius [is] one of the most consistent attempts to avoid [solipsism]... ...primitive experience is absolutely neutral...To see that primitive experience is not first person experience seems to me to be one of the most important steps which philosophy must take towards the clarification of its deepest problems.
These quotations from Schlick's late article "Meaning and Verification" (1936) illustrate the constant positivist desire to eliminate the subject, to transcend subjectivity.1 This ostensibly anti solipsistic "neutralism" was, as Schlick records, expressed earlier in the "neutral monist" philosophy of his predecessor as Professor of the History and Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences at Vienna, Ernst Mach. The present article is the first of two, concerned to explain the development and influence of this aspect of positivist "neutralism" from Mach to the Vienna Circle. Click here to read more.
Philosophy of Mind
Intention and the Authority of Avowals
Philosophical Explorations, Vol. 11, No. 1, March 2008, 23 - 37
There is a common assumption that intention is a complex behavioural disposition, or a motivational state underlying such a disposition. Associated with this position is the apparently commonsense view that an avowal of intention is a direct report of an inner motivational state, and indirectly an expression of a belief that it is likely that one will A. A central claim of this article is that the dispositional or motivational model is mistaken since it cannot acknowledge either the future-direction of intention or the authority of avowals of intention. I argue that avowals of intention - first-person, present-tense ascriptions - express direct knowledge of a future action, knowledge that is not based on examination of one's present introspectible states or dispositions. Such avowals concern a future action, not a present state or disposition; just as self-ascriptions of belief concern the outer not the inner, so self-ascriptions of intention concern the future outer, not the present inner. One way of capturing this future-direction is to say that avowals of intention - and perhaps sense intentions themselves - are a kind of prediction, and not a description of one's present state of mind. This position is suggested by Anscombe in her monograph Intention (1963), and treats avowals of intention as judgements about the future, which unlike ordinary predictions are not based on evidence. However, since talk of prediction everywhere suggests an evidence-based stance - that meaningful hypothesis about the likely occurrence of events is being proposed, an hypothesis that can be falsified by evidence - the description future-outer thesis is preferred. I defend this thesis against various objections, arguing that it complements Anscombe's characterisation of intentions as based on reasons. Click here to read more.
Against the Belief Model of Delusion
To appear in Chung, Fulford and Graham eds.,
The central aim of this article is to criticise the received opinion that delusions are beliefs. I will argue that in many psychotic and non-psychotic cases, the basic level of description of delusion falls short of the ascription of belief. In monothematic, behaviourally inert cases at least, I maintain that although the delusion shares some features of belief, the disanalogies are sufficient to justify withholding a clear belief-attribution. My thesis is not quite that in many cases delusions are not beliefs; rather, it is that there is no fact of the matter concerning whether S believes that p. Click here to read more.
Proprioception as Basic Knowledge of the Body
Forthcoming 2005 in R. Woudenberg ed.,
The Epistemology of Basic Belief,
Proprioception provides knowledge of bodily position and movement. This article offers a critique of representative and perceptual models, and proposes instead that proprioception yields direct, immediate knowledge of one's body. This account is analogous to a direct knowledge account of memory. The knowledge is non-inferential, and I do not have to do anything to acquire it. Indeed, I do not really "acquire" it at all; I "just know" that my legs are crossed. Proprioception seemingly involves knowledge of an object, yet that knowledge is groundless; it is intermediate between perceptual knowledge from the five senses, and sensations such as pain. This is basic knowledge of one's body in the same sense that one moves one's body basically - as in normal uses of "I am moving my arm". Proprioception must not be assimilated to propositional knowledge based on evidence. "He knows that his legs are crossed" is mostly as absurd as "He knows he's in pain". More generally, the case of proprioception suggests that basic knowledge, and not basic belief, is fundamental.
'Scottish Commonsense' about Memory: A Defence of Thomas Reid's Direct Knowledge Account
Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 81:2,
June 2003, pp. 229-45.
Reid rejects the image theory - the representative or indirect realist position - that memory-judgments are inferred from or otherwise justified by a present image or introspectible state. He also rejects the trace theory, which regards memories as essentially traces in the brain. In contrast he argues for a direct knowledge account in which personal memory yields unmediated knowledge of the past. He asserts the reliability of memory, not in currently fashionable terms as a reliable belief-forming process, but more elusively as a principle of Commonsense. There is a contemporary consensus against Reid's position. I argue that Reid's critique is essentially sound, and that the consensus is mistaken; personal memory judgments are spontaneous and non-inferential in the same way as perceptual judgments. But I question Reid's account of the connection between personal memory and personal identity. My primary concern is rationally reconstructive rather than scholarly, and downplays recent interpretations of Reid's faculty psychology as a precursor of functionalism and other scientific philosophies of mind. Click here to read more.
The Authority of Avowals and the Concept of Belief
European Journal of Philosophy, 8:1, 2000
The concept of belief is profoundly puzzling. It has affinities both with conscious states and with dispositions, and as a result some writers have wanted to analyse it into two distinct concepts. The conception of belief as judgment, feeling or mental act - as a mode of conscious thought - persisted at least from Descartes and Hume to Russell and Ramsay. Ryle and Wittgenstein effectively undermined this conception, opening the way for the present consensus that belief is a complex behavioural disposition, or a functional or informational state underlying such a disposition - or, most usually, a combination of these. I will refer to the consensus as the disposition model. Click here to read more.
A New Look at Personal Identity
The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 180. ISSN 0031-8094; July 1995
The account of personal identity that follows may at first sight appear to offer a 'psychological' criterion, since it lends support to Locke's claim that memory suffices for personal identity. But I am not engaged in the traditional project of providing necessary and sufficient conditions whose specification does not presuppose identity. There are no such criteria. The essentially self-conscious ways of knowing about oneself, including memory, constitute, and do not merely furnish evidence for, personal identity; there is a benign circularity here. As I shall argue, the traditional distinction between 'psychological' and 'bodily' criteria is ill-founded, since, for self-conscious subjects, the body is not simply a mass of physicall 'stuff', and 'bodily' criteria have an essential psychological component. Thus in other respects my account is not Lockean; his sharp distinction between the human being and the person was, I think, disasterous. It was an inspiration for the current science-fiction approach to personal identity, an approach which continues to exhibit all the philosophical insight of a Star Trek convention. Click here to read more.
The Aesthetics of Imperfection Re-Conceived: Improvisations, compositions and mistakes
In The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, volume 78, issue 3: 289-302, 2020
Ted Gioia associated the “aesthetics of imperfection” with improvised music. In an earlier article, I extended it to all musical performance. This article reconceives my discussion, offering more precise analyses: (1) The aesthetics of imperfection is now argued to involve open, spontaneous response to contingencies of performance or production, reacting positively to idiosyncratic instruments; apparent failings in performance, and so on. Perfectionists, in contrast, prefer a planning model, not readily modified in face of contingencies. (2) Imperfection is not toleration of errors and imperfections, as Gioia assumes, but a positive aesthetic, as in Japanese wabi‐sabi. Imperfections can become new styles or kinds of perfection—and so true imperfectionism is a constant striving for new contingencies to respond to. (3) A subtler, more complex relation between composition and improvisation is proposed, in which both have broad and narrow senses. Composition involves (a) works, usually desk produced and notated; or more generally, (b) putting things together in an aesthetically rewarding form. Thus, improvisation is a (broad sense) compositional method. (4) Improvisation and composition are interdependent; both involve structure and spontaneity. (5) Imperfectionism is an aesthetics of performance—of compositions as well as improvisations. Improvisation is no risker, or prone to mistakes, than performance of compositions. Click here to read the full article.
Rhythm and Movement: the conceptual interdependence of music, dance and poetry
Midwest Studies in Philosophy, volume 44, issue 1: 161-182, 2019
I argue that dance, poetry, and music are interpenetrating, unified practices and concepts; they form a conceptual holism, that is, they cannot be understood independently of each other. They are conceptually interdependent in that rhythm is essential to each; music does not have a hegemony over the other arts. than performance of compositions. Click here to read the full article.
The Autonomy of Architecture
In Scruton's Aesthetics
eds. A. Hamilton and N. Zangwill
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012
For Roger Scruton, architecture is autonomous from – that is, independent of – what are considered the high arts, and distinct from them in its lack of autonomy in other respects. That is, it is not an expressive art with a highly-developed artistic conception, like sculpture, but is essentially vernacular, functional and public. Given its public nature, Scruton holds, architects have a responsibility to communal values; and its essential vernacularity means that it is defined through its everyday manifestations. These facts are, he holds, neglected by modernist theorists, who assume a high art conception. This article addresses these claims, and in particular Scruton's defence of the classical vernacular. It agrees with his account of architecture’s functionality, and concedes that its public nature imposes special responsibilities on architects compared to practitioners of the other arts. But it disputes his claim that architecture is an essentially vernacular art, and furthermore, questions the conclusions concerning its artistic conception that Scruton draws from his data. My conclusion is that architecture can have a strong artistic conception, even though its artistic autonomy is qualified in some of the ways that Scruton suggests. His antipathy to modernism in architecture, as elsewhere, can be detached from the rest of his humane, Kantian aesthetics. Click here to read full article.
Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, Vol. 71, October 2012
According to Wittgenstein, in the remarks collected as Culture and Value, ‘People nowadays think, scientists are there to instruct them, poets, musicians etc. to entertain them. That the latter have something to teach them; that never occurs to them.’ 18th and early 19th century art-lovers would have taken a very different view. Dr. Johnson assumed that the poets had truths to impart, while Hegel insisted that ‘In art we have to do not with any agreeable or useful child’s play, but with an unfolding of the truth.’ Though it still exerts a submerged influence, the concept of artistic truth has since sustained hammer-blows both from modernist aestheticism, which divorces art from reality, and from postmodern subjectivism about truth. This article aims to resurrect it, seeking a middle way between Dr. Johnson’s didactic concept of art, and the modernist and postmodernist divorce of art from reality. Click here to read more.
The Aesthetics Of Design
In Fashion and Philosophy
eds. J. Kennett and J. Wolfendale
My overall thesis is that design exhibits a fundamental duality: solving functional problems, and improving the look or feel of the product through style, decoration and embellishment, are both are involved, and hard to separate. Design does not essentially involve appeal to consumers. Underlying that thesis is a general standpoint about design aesthetics. I believe that there are design classics, such as Henry Dreyfuss's classic black handset for Bell Telephone, or Dieter Rams' austere but very practical clocks and other products for German manufacturers Braun, that are worthy of serious aesthetic attention – even if that attention is not of the order owed to a high artistic classic such as a Rembrandt self-portrait or Mahler symphony. The anti-aestheticism of proponents of "material culture" should be rejected. Click here to read full article.
Jazz as Classical Music
In M. Santi ed.,
Improvisation: Between Technique and Sponteneity,
Scholar Press, 2010
My question is: what is the relation between improvised and classical music? In particular, in what sense is jazz an art music? This music has many of the features of art music, despite evidently being less contrived than the great works of the Western canon. Jazz is still able to draw for its material on the charms of ephemeral pop music - what Noel Coward described dismissively as the "potency of cheap music" - which consist in their powers of association for individual listeners. When those materials are used as they are in jazz, an art of great power can be created. Jazz provides a test case in the dialectic between popular and art music. [rw] This dialectic gives rise to central aesthetic questions which are much-discussed in musicology and sociology of music, but whose deeper roots philosophical aesthetics tends to neglect. My suggestion is that jazz shares some of the features of Western art music - that apparently unique, autonomous art music which contrasts with traditional art musics such as gagaku, courtly gamelan and Indian classical music. Unlike Western art music, however, jazz is essentially an art music based on popular materials, whose artistry consists not in composition, but in the improvisation on those materials. Click here to read full article.
Abstraction and Depiction: Paintings As Pictures and As Mere Design
This article appears in Italian translation in G. Tomasi ed.,
Sulla Rappresentazione Pittorica,
Palermo: Centro Internazionale Studi di Estetica, 2010
This article assesses modernist claims by Greenberg and Harrison that abstract paintings exhibit at least residual depth and thus pictorial quality; and that they must do so, in order to avoid becoming mere designs. As Harrison writes, abstract paintings' status as "potential forms of high art...depends upon our tendency to look at their surfaces as other than merely flat ‐ to look at them...as potentially figurative"; they have "a degree of content or meaning sufficient to satisfy the expectation that paintings ‐ rather than 'mere designs' ‐ had traditionally aroused". Weak and strong abstraction are distinguished, and the modernist claim that abstract painting exhibits residual spatiality is defended. Concerning the requirement that abstraction must avoid becoming mere design, the case is less clear. The article argues that there is a sector of overlap between high art and mere design, but also that there are many cases of mere design that cannot function as high art, and vice versa. Click here to read more.
The Sound of Music
In Sounds and Perception: New Philosophical Essays
eds. M. Nudds and C. O'Callaghan,
Oxford University Press, 2009
According to the acousmatic thesis defended by Roger Scruton and others, to hear sounds as music is to divorce them from the source or cause of their production. Non-acousmatic experience involves attending to the worldly cause of the sound; in acousmatic experience, sound is detached from that cause. The acousmatic concept originates with Pythagoras, and was developed in the work of 20th century musique concrete composers such as Pierre Schaeffer. The concept yields important insights into the nature of musical experience, but Scruton's version of the acousmatic thesis cannot overcome objections arising from timbral and spatial aspects of music, which seem to relate sounds to the circumstances of their production. These objections arise in part from music's status as a performing art rooted in human gesture and behaviour. Hence I defend a two-fold thesis of "hearing-in", which parallels Richard Wollheim's concept of "seeing-in": both acousmatic and non-acousmatic experience are genuinely musical and fundamental aspects of musical experience. Musical sounds are essentially part of the human and material worlds. While the acousmatic thesis is ultimately unpersuasive, however, the concept of the acousmatic places an interesting interpretation on traditional debates. It is also the case that a more developed musical understanding tends towards the acousmatic. I conclude by considering some implications for the metaphysics of sound, arguing that the two-fold thesis of the experience of music implies that one can experience the location and production of sounds through hearing alone. Click here to read full article.
Adorno and the Autonomy of Art
In Stefano Giacchetti, ed.
'Nostalgia for a Redeemed Future: critical theory'
Publisher: John Cabot University Press, 2009
Adorno's unique brand of Western Marxism, in which the ideals of art for art's sake and absolute music remain salient, presents a complex and elusive treatment of the autonomy of art, which it is the task of this article to examine. It may seem puzzling how any kind of Marxist could believe in the autonomy of art. Autonomy is normally taken to mean that art is governed by its own rules and laws, and that artistic value makes no reference to social or political value. Autonomy is taken to oppose the economic conditioning of culture assumed by classical Marxism. However, Western Marxism questioned the base/superstructure model, and Adorno's version of it offers the subtlest account of that relation. It is a mark of the perspicacity of Adorno's treatment that he was able to do justice both to the social situation of art and music, and to their autonomy status - indeed he did justice to each through the other. Adorno delineates the functionlessness of art, and its social situation in virtue of that functionlessness. For Adorno, autonomous artworks have a social situation but - as I will put it - no direct social function: "Insofar as a social function may be predicated of works of art, it is the function of having no function". That is, autonomous art has as its "purpose" the creation of something without direct purpose or function - pre-bourgeois art such as religious or theatre music, in contrast, does have a direct social function. Another way of putting this claim is to say that autonomous art constitutes an autonomous practice that does not serve any other practice. That is, it is an end in itself - just as religious practice is also autonomous and lacks direct social function. Adorno's picture is that as the artist became free of church and aristocratic patronage towards the end of the 18th century, their work simultaneously became autonomous and commodified through entry into the capitalist market-place. Click here to read more.
Criticism, Connoisseurship and Appreciation
Eds. Carol Adlam and Juliet Simpson,
Critical Exchange: Art Criticism of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries in Russia and Western Europe.
(Oxford: Peter Lang, 2008). ISBN 978-3-03911-556-3
In the discussion of criticism in the arts, and indeed of aesthetics in general, the following concepts seem to go together: appreciation, beauty, connoisseurship, evaluation, taste, quality. They are contrasted with: interpretation, meaning, theory, truth, understanding. I believe that the opposition between these two sets of concepts must be overcome, and in particular I am concerned to locate the truth inherent in a so-called "taste" aesthetic, under which a commitment to connoisseurship is often subsumed. In doing so, I will be concerned to re-evaluate conceptions of artistic criticism current in the eighteenth century, comparing them favourably with some assumptions held by twentieth-century art history. I conclude that, while the notion of connoisseurship in particular and criticism in general has come under increasing attack from the direction of the academic discipline of art history, it may be vindicated through a defence of an appreciative model of artistic criticism. Connoisseurship is traditionally the prototype for appreciation, and I will advocate a democratic treatment of both appreciation and connoisseurship by appealing to eighteenth-century treatments by David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Click here to read more.
Indeterminacy and Reciprocity: Contrasts and Connections Between Natural and Artistic Beauty
In Journal of Visual Art Practice, vol. 5, issue 3, 2006,
This article offers a vindication of the indeterminacy of natural beauty, first through a dissolution of the antinomy between a critical and a positive aesthetics of nature, then through a resolution of the frame problem. These arguments are developed, finally, through a defence of the reciprocity thesis prominent in post-Kantian aesthetics, which claims that there is a conceptual connection between the aesthetic appreciation of art and that of nature. I am concerned to defend indeterminacy against objections from environmental aesthetics and aesthetic realism, and to give qualified support to Adorno's historicist position in Aesthetic Theory. Underlying my approach is a Kantian emphasis on the ubiquity of the aesthetic and the democracy of taste. Click here to read full article.
The Art of Improvisation and the Aesthetics of Imperfection
British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 40, No. 1, January 2000
In conclusion...It would be wrong to give the impression that improvisers and composers are in two mutually incomprehending camps; this no longer reflects the situation on the ground, at least among the avant-garde in America. But there are many pervasive misunderstandings of improvisation which I hope this essay helps to correct. Despite the qualifications of it presented here, I believe that the aesthetics of imperfection is right to focus on music as event. This position perhaps points to the primacy of the performance over the work, subverting the standard account whereby works are exemplified in performance. But that is material for another occasion.
"J.S. Mill's Elitism: A Classical Liberal's Response to the Rise of Democracy"
E. Kofmel ed. Anti-Democratic Thought (Imprint Academic)
Elitism today is the residue of the liberal scepticism concerning democratic government. Classical liberals in the early decades of the 19th century had profound forebodings concerning the apparently inevitable advent of democracy. In response, they advocated elitism as a brake on the "tyranny of the majority". While other liberals were concerned with the danger of "democratic despotism", J.S. Mill meant diagnosed a culture of mediocrity engendered by democratic forms of government. Mill at first followed Coleridge and Comte in espousing illiberal elitism, the view that the intellectual and cultural elite should constitute an estate of society - a Church or Caste with formal powers. He subsequently rejected illiberal elitism on the grounds that it did not foster individual autonomy, but still maintained liberal elitism, according to which the intellectual elite must exert influence through recognition of their authority in their sphere. In On Liberty his position is further nuanced, so that it is questionable whether he really was an elitist at all. I advocate a position that constitutes a middle way between elitism and populism. Elitism should be contrasted with populism, and not with (i) egalitarianism, or (ii) individualism in the sense of Mill's Liberty Principle. I conclude by considering the relation between elitism and a meritocratic standpoint which affirms individual autonomy. Click here to read full article.
Andy Hamilton interviewed by Anne-Marie McCallion (full interview available here)
Andy Hamilton interviewed by Richard Marshall for 3:am Magazine