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Although it adopts and adapts both realism and naturalism, Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) becomes, by Book Three (“Fate”), a modernist drama of consciousness. Native Son thus calls for a broad definition of the modern novel, one that reaches from Dostoevsky to Faulkner, includes Dreiser as well as Proust, and extends to Wright himself. Wright’s protagonist Bigger Thomas embodies the realist vision of the individual immersed in society and history as well as the modernist idea of alienation, for Bigger is both the doomed victim of forces beyond his control and the shaper of his own inner world of consciousness. By means of the tension between these perspectives, and by immersing the reader in Bigger’s internal quest for meaning at great length, Wright succeeds in crafting a novel that is modernist in its rejection of outmoded epistemologies yet eloquent on behalf of the voiceless.
One of the distinctive features of Maimonides’ approach to the problem of evil is that he treats the problem not only from a metaphysical viewpoint, but from a psychological one as well. He blends philosophical, biblical, talmudic, and midrashic insight with psychological acumen, just as he does in his writings and communications to beleaguered communities and individuals. In the area of theodicy, then, he tackles two sorts of issue: (1) How God could allow any evil; how, in particular, God could allow the righteous to suffer and the wicked to prosper and (2) How human beings should experience and cope with suffering and death, and behave in its presence. For example, they need to ask themselves whether their personal situations affect how they assess the amount of evil in the world, whether what they regard as evils are truly evils or instead just contrary to their interests, whether they are blaming God for evils they caused out of their own free will, and what they can do to better their condition. Maimonides sometimes commutes between the psychological and philosophical dimensions of the problem.
One of the most provocative chapters in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed is part 3, chapter 13. In this chapter, Maimonides criticizes anthropocentrism and teleology. He argues, inter alia, that it is pointless to seek the telos of the universe; that the universe was not created for the sake of humans; and that all beings were intended for their own sakes, not for the sake of something else. These views were rejected by many later philosophers, like Thomas Aquinas, Levi Gersonides, Moses Narboni, Hasdai Crescas, Isaac Arama, Saul Morteira, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Narboni wrote: “I am very perplexed by the Master! … [His words] contradict all the sciences. For the goal of all the sciences is to know the final end … This is no less than the abolition of the nature of the intellect!” Crescas wrote: “[It cannot be] what appears from the literal sense of the Master’s words. Heaven forfend that it should be attributed to God what would be a grave defect in any intelligent being,” namely, acting with no purpose! Arguably “[the most] systematic effort to rebut Maimonides’ discussion [in Guide 3.13]” was that of Saul Levi Morteira, Spinoza’s teacher. Spinoza, however, was not convinced by him. Indeed, he was the first major philosopher to embrace wholeheartedly Maimonides’ criticisms of anthropocentrism and teleology. Maimonides’ discussion in Guide 3.13, formatively influenced Spinoza’s celebrated assault on final causality in his appendix to part 1 of Ethics.
Maimonides is one of the most radical defenders of apophaticism, the view according to which no positive attribute can be truthfully applied to God, and that God is consequently ineffable. His apophatic theology has several important dimensions, and it is in the Guide for the Perplexed that he offers the most elaborate account of his views.
Late-Victorian novelists responded variously to experimental physiology during a period of disciplinary upheaval in the mental sciences. In the 1860s, leaders in this field included polymathic philosophers such as Herbert Spencer and George Henry Lewes. By contrast, later researchers tended to be university-trained scientists using specialized techniques. In the 1870s, British neurologist David Ferrier and John Hughlings Jackson used clinical studies and controversial animal experiments to link parts of the brain with specific movements, emotions, and behaviors.
Some novelists reacted positively to these scientific developments. French naturalist Émile Zola embraced both evolutionary theory and experimental physiology, opining that novelists must ‘dissect piece by piece’ their fictional characters. Zola’s British admirers and imitators included George Gissing, George Moore, and Thomas Hardy.
Authors of genre fiction responded more ambivalently. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Grant Allen, and H. G. Wells favored literary forms that mimicked the scientific method. Wells’s scientific romances tested an imaginary hypothesis (say, human invisibility) against a series of controls, while Allen’s and Doyle’s detective fiction borrowed diagnostic techniques from Victorian medicine. Late-Victorian Gothic novels, meanwhile, explored anxieties accompanying scientific ‘progress’. Taken together, these examples suggest how Victorian fictions responded productively, if sometimes critically, to experimental practices.
This chapter develops a conception of freedom that is at once rationalistic – our thought and action are free insofar as we follow our best understanding of the reasons relevant to the situation at hand – and compatibilistic – we are no less free if our thought and action also have their place in the causal order of nature, where by “nature” is meant the totality of all physical and psychological facts, which constitute the domain of the sciences. Both components are defended. But in addition the problem is confronted of how they can be combined, given what reasons are actually like. For reasons themselves are essentially normative in character and so, as such, not part of nature. How then can our thought and action be free in responding to the reasons there are and yet at the same time be shaped by the causal order of nature? The problem has to do with how reasons (not simply our ideas of reasons) can be causes, and this chapter explains how it is possible.
The notion of autonomy has come to mean many different things – self-legislation, thinking for oneself, self-governance. But it was Kant who introduced the term into philosophy, and he meant by it the idea that we ourselves, as rational beings, are the authors of the principles by which we think and act. This chapter argues that such an idea is incoherent. Reason is essentially a receptive faculty, consisting in our capacity for responding to reasons. This chapter also explores why Kant, and many others after him, were led to this idea, namely their adherence to a naturalistic conception of the world of experience. It therefore goes on to sketch a better metaphysical conception of reality
This chapter takes up the question of what we must understand the world to be like if we regard moral judgments, or more generally normative judgments about how we ought to think or act, as not merely expressing attitudes of approval and disapproval, but instead as fundamentally aiming to get it right, to embody knowledge of how we should indeed comport ourselves. Then how are reasons for belief and action, which are thus the central object of their knowledge-claims, to be understood? What does it mean to say, what is entailed by saying, that they exist? This question is pursued by examining the writings of Derek Parfit and T. M. Scanlon. Both hold that normative judgments are true or false and are thus able to embody knowledge of the reasons there are. Yet both recoil from following through on the ontological implications of their views. Both fail to acknowledge the metaphysics that the objective existence of reasons really entails and that this chapter goes on to sketch.
Nature for Plotinus is near the limit of intelligibility in the hierarchical universe. It is the lowest part of the soul of the cosmos. Hence, all problems in cosmology and biology, prior to their solution, need to be situated within the framework of the ultimate metaphysical explanatory principles of the One, Intellect and Soul. This chapter explores the sense in which Plotinus is and is not receptive of panpsychism, the contemporary philosophical view according to which mentality or consciousness is ubiquitous in the world. Plotinus argues for the idea that nature contemplates which seems, perhaps surprisingly, compatible with the radically anti-Platonic naturalism of panpsychists.
This chapter explores Brecht’s understanding of political theater and sets it in the context of other contemporary approaches, including the work of director Erwin Piscator. It explains why Brecht did not view naturalism or expressionism as acceptable aesthetic models, and it demonstrates how he rooted his theater in a material approach to reality, showing the social and economic influences on, and implications of, characters’ decisions and actions. Epic theater creates the scope for the agency that Brecht found lacking in naturalist drama: it shows that characters have choices, enabling audiences to imagine how different decisions or circumstances might yield different results.
I argue that philosophers of religion should not merely focus on religions but should pay much more attention to the secular outlooks on life emerging in contemporary society. To compare these outlooks, I suggest that we use the notion of worldview, and contrast religious worldviews with secular worldviews − rather than contrasting religions with nonreligions, which scholars of religion have recently tended to do. Accordingly, religious people should be contrasted with secular people and not with religious ‘nones’. I also explore the specific contribution of philosophy of religion to worldviews studies, and discuss why such a contribution is considered controversial within religious studies circles. I contend that it should instead be a legitimate and essential part of the academic study of worldviews.
Ibsen engaged with many of the dominant scientific ideas of his time, especially those in the natural sciences, such as evolution and heredity. This chapter explores such scientific contexts and shows how and why Ibsen oscillated between respecting science, medicine and technology’s role in humanity’s progress and disparaging their destructive capabilities. The discussion also points out how science underpins some of Ibsen’s revolutionary innovations in theatrical form and content: his explorations of Zola’s naturalism, his dramatization of Darwin’s ideas, his foregrounding of the family unit as the subject of drama, his depiction of the constant tension between the twin forces of heredity and environment, and his radical scenographic vision of nature and landscape.
Ibsen, more than any other playwright, established realism as a vital mode in the theatre. The nature of Ibsen’s realism, however, warrants careful description. Realism for Ibsen is simultaneously a theatrical technique and a philosophical stance. We find realism at work in Ibsen’s dialogue, scenery and characterization, as well as in the plays’ relentless critique of bourgeois ideals. Ibsen was not the first realist dramatist, but he remains its most influential practitioner. This legacy is somewhat ironic, given the disturbing surreality that leeches through the realist surface of his plays. And yet, the spark of recognition the plays continue to ignite bears witness to realism’s effectiveness, as audiences continue to find themselves represented, in all their faults, in his towering dramas.
This chapter explores what was distinctive about the French response to Ibsen. It discusses key points and examples that illustrate Ibsen’s complex relationship to France and French history, politics, and culture, and how Ibsen and French culture have subtly influenced one another for nearly 150 years. To Ibsen, France stood for revolutionary idealism. The chapter gives an overview of Ibsen’s breakthrough in France in a succession of modes, from realist to naturalist to symbolist, and discusses the theatrical and cultural contexts that shaped the translations, productions and reception of his plays. Examples of specific productions reveal there was another side to the French Ibsen, as he was often adapted to the boulevard theatres in ways that radically altered the plays, for instance by dampening their feminism.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century in Germany, Ibsen had become a household name for promoting sociocultural change. Different avant-garde movements such as the Freie Bühne and the prominent theatre maker Max Reinhardt placed Ibsen’s plays at the centre of theatrical innovation. The twentieth century saw Ibsen represented in newly imagined theatre spaces, early silent cinema and later the Regietheater of Peter Stein and Peter Zadek. This German tradition continues until the present day when Thomas Ostermeier’s touring productions have become key reference points for theatre makers and scholars alike. But what often appears as a continuous success story reveals itself as a complex performance history of setbacks, struggles and reactionary reappropriations, such as by the film industry of the Third Reich. This account of Ibsen’s German reception draws out the nuanced and often contradictory dynamics that made Ibsen one of the most important dramatists of German theatre.
This chapter reads the late nineteenth-century genres of American naturalism and regionalism through the prism of climate, and finds that their authors depict characters whose characteristics are shaped by their responses to their ambient environments, including climate, and by the inherited effects of their ancestors’ adaptations to theirs. It argues that their thinking about climate was informed by the popular Lamarckian science of their post-Darwinian evolutionary era, by the climate theory of the historian Hippolyte Taine, and by turn-of-the-century geography. In the decades during which Frank Norris, Charles Chesnutt, Edith Wharton, and Hamlin Garland were at work on questions of determinism and/or a “determined indeterminacy,” climatic, genetic, medico-psychiatric, and sociological models of identity vied for authority. The writers drew their representations of the making of Americans from these competing claims.
This chapter explores the close, if often vexed, relationship between the novel and the Republic towards the end of the nineteenth century. It examines how the dominant aesthetic of prose fiction in this period, naturalism, framed itself as an ally of democracy – most directly with its expansion of the novel’s horizons to include, and do justice to, the experience, idiom, and political claims of the working classes. The political use of the naturalist novel as a critical document of social life resided, as Émile Zola saw it, precisely in its declared objectivity. But the form of naturalist fiction produced more contradictions than its theory allowed. This chapter returns the evolution of the naturalist novel to its political context, while tracking the rise of its rival forms (Symbolist and Decadent literature; the psychological novel), which often repudiated those central tenets of the Republic: positivism, scientism, democracy, anti-clericalism. Maurice Barrès and Paul Bourget scrutinised the academic and intellectual principles of a generation schooled by the Third Republic, in ways which offered an alternative pedagogy. By the time of the Dreyfus Affair, the novel had become a prime vehicle for conflicting ideological visions of a nation that was increasingly divided against itself.
This chapter evaluates Hume’s positive account of benevolence in Section 2 and his critique of the selfish theories in Appendix 2 of the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. The chapter’s first part elucidates Hume’s definition of the concepts of benevolence and self-love and explains the difference between the sentiments of benevolence and humanity. In Hume’s view, this first part further highlights, the virtue of benevolence belongs to a class of social virtues distinct from justice. A second part focuses on the example of Pericles on his deathbed in Section 2 to illustrate Hume’s positive account of benevolence as well as the reductionist and skeptical suspicion of the selfish theories concerning benevolence and the social virtues. A third part offers a critical examination of Hume’s critique of the selfish theories and shows how Appendix 2 gives further evidence in favor of Hume’s nonreductionist account of benevolence and the social virtues. In the last part, focusing on the intriguing Section 9, some concluding reflections are offered on Hume’s avowal of the unorthodox character of his own benevolence-based moral theory and his appraisal of a modified self-love as constitutive of the flourishing of the sentiment of humanity.
Tarski’s conception of what he calls “the mathematical” is analysed at length. We carve out what we see as the philosophy of the logical work, going on to categorise this philosophical position as a form of naturalism. We suggest that the logic-philosohical framework underpinning Tarski’s approach to metamathematics can take the form of squeezing arguments. We then take up the contemporary debate on logicality, inspired as it was by Tarski’s invariance criterion. Gil Sagi’s work on logicality is discussed as well that that of Feferman, McGee and others. An improvement of McGee's theorem is presented.
This chapter is a close reading of Julie Taymor’s 1999 Titus and Ralph Fiennes’s 2010 Coriolanus. Both films challenge the stock image of historical Rome in Taymor’s case by extensive allusion to other iconic films, costumes and settings; in Fiennes’s case by updating the film’s action to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. In these differing ways, both films insist on the omnipresence of violence. The chapter concludes that this apparent rejection of a stereotypical or immediately recognisable Roman setting is actually closer to the ambiguous sense of the classical seat of empire that Shakespeare’s first audiences may have harboured. Rome is less a physical place and more of an idea but it is an idea riddled with contradictions. Neither film attempts to erase these contradictions; indeed, their stress on anachrony causes both to recapitulate the uncertainties, regarding Rome, of the plays’ early audiences.