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In Principia Ethica Moore held that the meaning of the word ‘good’ is a simple, unanalysable, non-natural property. Several features of this claim might be questioned. It might be questioned whether there are properties at all, and whether, even if there are, they are ever the meanings of words. Again, it might be questioned whether the word ‘good’ expresses a property, even assuming that some other words do. Moore considers this latter question, but not the former (in Principia Ethica). The two questions may seem connected by the fact that a negative answer to the first trivially leads to a negative answer for the second. But this triviality should be a caution to us. Otherwise we may confuse nominalism with ethical non-cognitivism or ‘anti-realism’.
My title has been taken from the following passage in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations:
Describe the aroma of coffee—why can't it be done? Do we lack the words? And for what are words lacking?—But how do we get the idea that such a description must after all be possible? Have you ever felt the lack of such a description? Have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded? (610).
The verb know has the following well-known property. If someone is correctly described as knowing that p then it is the case that p, and if someone is correctly described as knowing wh (what time it is, where the cat is, when lunch will be and so on), then any proposition which spells out what they know in knowing wh will be true.
A number of philosophers and legal scholars have pointed out a fact about punishment that had not been sufficiently appreciated by many traditional accounts, utilitarian, retributive, or ‘mixed’: that evil inflicted on the person punished is not an evil simpliciter, but rather the expression of an important social message—that punishment is a kind of language. The message which it is seen to communicate can broadly be described as condemnation by society of the crime committed. In what is still the only attempt at a general and critical discussion— Anthony Skillen's ‘How to say Things with Walls’—this way of understanding punishment is termed ‘expressionism’. In this paper I propose to sort out the main varieties of expressionism in the philosophy of punishment, and to discuss some of their pros and cons.
Thomas Nagel claimed that subjectivity is what distinguishes those states known in the vernacular as conscious or as experiences. And he argued that subjectivity eludes reductivist theories of mind, which are obliged to ignore it and hence to fail. I shall be concerned here primarily with the formulation of the concept of subjectivity. Nagel tried to delineate subjectivity in a well known phrase: ‘an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism’. Nagel offers to explain this condition of being host to conscious experience as the organism's having a point of view on the world, a point of view which is its own and nothing else's, however much or little the world as disclosed by it may agree with what is presented from other points of view.
Many years ago we often witnessed a testy insistence, on the part of some purist, that some very familiar philosophical ‘ism’ be defined before being discussed; when most people either thought that had been done already or were happy to wait for the discussion itself to identify the ‘ism’. The old new style, that featured those unexpected demands for definition, ended by trying people's patience in its turn. Today there is a widespread assumption that we know, well enough, what is meant in philosophy by Scepticism. Perhaps the majority view is something like this:
The philosophical term Scepticism admittedly covers a number of different stances. The one that a given philosopher wants to discuss may or may not be the most like that of the original ancient Skeptics. Still the context normally makes it clear enough what is meant, and there is more point in discussing whatever thing is meant than in quarrelling about the name. As for the way, or ways, in which the word scepticism with a small s is used when people are not referring to any traditional philosophical position—we can safely disregard colloquial usage in this context. As a rule the main point is to see how, if at all, the Scepticism in question is best combated or refuted.