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In his paper ‘Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life’ David Wiggins identifies a certain framework in terms of which to tackle the question of life's meaning. I argue that his criticisms of this framework are justified, and develop an alternative which trades upon some themes from Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Levinas. This alternative remains in the spirit of Wiggins' own preferred standpoint, although he would take issue with its theological implications. I argue that such misgivings are misplaced, and that a move in the direction of God may be precisely what is needed if we are to provide an adequate alternative to the framework under attack.
H. A. Prichard ascribed to Aristotle a form of closeted hedonism. Aristotle allegedly misunderstood his own task: while his avowed goal in Nicomachean Ethics is to give an account of the nature of happiness, his real goal must be to offer an account of the factors most efficiently generating happiness. The reason is that the nature of happiness is enjoyment, and this fact is supposed to have been recognised by Aristotle and his audience. While later writers judged Prichard's view obviously mistaken, I argue that the issue is more complex. In the process of reconstructing the logical skeleton of Prichard's argument I show that Aristotle may have had to endorse the identification of the subject's good with that subject's psychological satisfaction. But I also argue that, while making prior assumptions about the meaning of ‘eudaimonia’, Aristotle made no such assumptions about the nature of eudaimonia.
W.V.Quine and Philip Kitcher have both developed naturalistic approaches to the philosophy of science which are partially based on a skeptical view about the possibility of rational inquiry into certain questions of value. Nonetheless, both Quine and Kitcher do not wish to give up on the normative dimension of the philosophy of science. I argue that Kitcher's recent argument against the specification of the goal of science in terms of truth raises a problem for Quine's account of the normative dimensions of the discipline. However Kitcher's alternative suggestion, that the goal of science is to be specified in terms of an ideal democratic procedure, does not escape this problem, given Kitcher's own limited skepticism about rational inquiry into certain questions of value.
Biologists' current habit of explaining each feature of human life separately through its evolutionary function – its assumed tendency to enhance each individual's reproductive prospects – is unworkable. It also sits oddly with these scientists' official rejection of teleology, since it treats all life as a process which does have an aim, namely, to perpetuate itself. But that aim is empty because it is circular.
If we want to understand the behaviour of living things (including humans) we have to treat them seriously as subjects, creatures with needs, tendencies and directions of their own. The supposedly objective idea of a world of objects without subjects is an unprofitable fantasy.
By making use of Aurel Kolnai's ethical writings I want to offer a more adequate understanding of moral conflicts and moral dilemmas. Insisting on Kolnai's phenomenological method, in particular, focussing on the agent's moral awareness (or conscience) and his deliberation, results in an understanding of moral conflicts as moments of moral choice rather than anomalies of moral theory. In this way, I argue that one can account for Bernard Williams's phenomenological description of moral conflicts without having to accept his anti-realist conclusions. Moreover, this approach indicates the adequacy of ordinary moral reasoning for decision-making and action guidance. Lastly and importantly, the essay illustrates the relevance of Kolnai's writings to contemporary moral philosophy.
In this paper I introduce my work in ethics, inviting others to draw on my approach to address the ethical issues that concern them. I set up the Centre for Ethical Philosophy at Durham University in 2007 to plug a puzzling gap in philosophical work to help us help the world. In 1. I set out ethical philosophy. In 2. I consider some implications, for example, that to do good we must pay much more attention to the beings around us, less to ourselves. In 3. I consider the implications for how we should think about war and peace. In 4. I draw out some implications for good political practice. In 5. I consider objections and conclude.