Volume 04 Abstracts

Volume 4, Numbers 1 & 2, Spring & Summer 1997 

 

An Incrementalist View of Proposed Uses of Information Technology in Higher Education
Marvin J. Croy
A number of national educational organizations and individual authors have called for the use of information technology to radically reform higher education. Several projections of how this reformation will unfold are presented here. Three different approaches to critically assessing these projections are considered in this article, two briefly and one in more detail. Brief consideration is given to an approach based on educational values and to an approach based on cost/benefit analysis. After some discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, a third approach deriving from a theory of technology control (incrementalism) is elaborated in more detail and is found to offer helpful criticisms of the called for revolution in higher education. Some recommendations for how these new technologies can be developed in responsible ways are also offered.

 

Authority, Autonomy, Authenticity: An Etiological Understanding
Charles W. Harvey
This essay attempts to understand the search for authenticity in terms of the breakdown of authority in the modern world. The sense of autonomy, I argue, emerges from the need to choose the authorities one will accept. The ever-increasing difficulty of choosing from among authorities is internalized and is experienced as a difficulty of choosing, or “finding,” oneself. The shattered authorities on the outside become a fragmented self on the inside. The search for the authentic self, then, is the search for an authority on the inside that has been broken and lost on the outside. The prospects for achieving such selfhood are critically evaluated.

 

On Cyberspace and Being: Identity, Self, and Hyperreality
Lucas D. Introna
Does it make sense to talk about cyberspace as an alternative social reality? Is cyberspace the new frontier for the realization of the postmodern self? For philosophers Taylor and Saarinen, and the psychologist Turkle, cyberspace is the practical manifestation of a postmodern reality, or rather hyperreality (Baudrillard). In hyperreal cyberspace, they argue, identity becomes plastic, “I can change my self as easily as I change my clothes.” I will argue using Martin Heidegger that our being is being-in-the-world. To be-in-the-world means to be involved in the world; to have an involvement whole that is the always already present significance of what I do. Furthermore, that the making or choosing of self is only existentially meaningful in a horizon of significance, and involvement whole. I will argue that identity is tied to community, and community involves accepting some level of already there thrownness. Every cyber-traveler will eventually have to deal with the fact of being, always already, in-the-world.

 

Matters of Meaning: Authenticity, Autonomy, and Authority in Kierkegaard
Peter J. Mehl
I argue that at least some of Kierkegaard’s authorship is designed to make a rational case for a religious and specifically Christian existence; he is not a total fideist. He argues that anything short of the existential stance of the “strong spiritual/moral evaluator” is despair. To overcome this we are compelled to reach for religious or transcendent sources of meaning; the authentic life is the life of constant ethical and spiritual evaluation grounded in the authority of God. But I ask how does Kierkegaard justify the stance of the strong evaluator in the first place? I argue that he crafts an existential and pragmatic case for it, but that this approach does not have the strength he suggests. Indeed, I argue that because this defense reflects his own Protestant Christian context, his case for Christian existence (as an existence of strong spiritual/moral evaluation) is seriously weakened.

 

Consumerism, the Procedural Republic, and the Unencumbered Self
Roger Paden
Communitarians have offered a number of arguments against liberalism that connect liberalism to consumerism. In this paper, I examine an argument to this effect developed by Michael Sandel. I argue that Sandel’s argument fails to undermine liberalism, but that it does demonstrate that many contemporary liberals have placed too great an emphasis on the principle of political neutrality. I argue that liberalism, properly understood, requires both limited neutrality and an emphasis on democratic deliberation. If this is the case, than Sandel’s argument misses its target. However, it does point out how contemporary liberalism needs to be reformed. By emphasizing more local democratic control over the economy, liberalism would not only become more theoretically consistent, but it would distance itself from consumerism.

 

One Oppression Or Many?
Lani Roberts
Enquiry into the relationship between kinds of oppression raises several possibilities. Perhaps there are multiple yet distinct oppressions. If this is so, are there philosophical relationships among them? What are the theoretical distinctions between racism and sexism, for example. The question raised here has to do with the philosophical structure of social dominance, rather than the discrete manifestations usually based on distinct target groups. Although the characteristics of peoples who are targets of each of the individual kinds of oppression are different, and even though many people are multiply oppressed, there is good reason to question the underlying assumption that each form of oppression is fundamentally separate and distinct from the others. There are many deep correspondences shared by specifically focused theories of oppression. It is plausible to suggest there is a single phenomenon called oppression. Perhaps there is only one monster with several heads, rather than many monsters hiding in our communal closet.

 

Language, Meaning, and Ethics: A Phenomenological Correlation of Morality and Self-Conscious Signification
James B. Sauer
This paper takes up an underdeveloped argument of Charles Taylor that linguisticality is constitutive of moral agency. Taylor’s position is part of a set of contemporary arguments that language, especially as dialogue or discourse, is the normative framework which grounds or validates fundamental norms or values. Taylor’s contribution to this “dialogical turn” is substantial and innovative, but it is not without weakness. Rather than deal with all the issues involved in this dialogical turn, I argue just that language does ground morality as a distinctively human way of creating meaning, that is, as Taylor argues, constitutive of the self and self-understanding. Self-understanding, or the appropriation of moral self-consciousness, is what is meant by the authenticity and autonomy which constitute moral authority. I argue in essence that language provides a necessary and constitutive link between private and public spheres of meaning in a way that renders moral discourse meaningful and constitutively human.

 

Against Cartmill on Hunting: Kinship with Animals and the Midcentric Fallacy
Forrest Wood, Jr.
Three recent books offer alternative views of hunting: Matt Cartmill’s A View to A Death in the Morning (Cartmill, 1993), James Swan’s In Defense of Hunting (Swan 1995), and Forrest Wood’s The Delights and Dilemmas of Hunting (Wood,1997). First, I argue that Cartmill’s claim of continuity of kind between animals and persons is both overstated and logically disconnected from the hunting/anti-hunting debate. Second, I argue that Cartmill’s claim that the suffering of sentient animals is somehow intrinsically undesirable exhibits an unjustified prejudice toward middle-sized organisms.

 

Volume 4, Number 3, Fall 1997

 

Wallace Stevens: A Portrait of the Artist as a Phenomenologist
James A. Clark
Confusing modern poetry with philosophy is a common fault of literary criticism. Yet, the work of some poets can benefit critically from philosophical interpretations. Wallace Stevens is a poet who manifested an abiding interest in philosophy. His poems consistently display, in both their syntax and modulation of thought, philosophical parallels. Stevens’ dominant mode of thought is phenomenological. This can be shown by analyzing parallels between phenomenological methodology and Stevens’ poetry. Particularly three poems–“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” (1917), “The Snow Man” (1921), and “The Latest Freed Man” (1938)–embody, respectively, the poem as doing phenomenology, the poem as a description of the phenomenological mind, and the poem as a portrait of the phenomenologist.

 

Impartialism, Care, and the Self
Carmela Epright
In this paper, I discuss the ethics of care as a response to impartialist ethical theories. In section 1, I contrast Gilligan’s critique of impartial ethical theories with other objections to impartialism. In section 2, I analyze some of the ways in which impartialists have attempted to understand the ethics of care since the publication of Gilligan’s text. In section 3, I argue against proponents of impartialism and show that care constitutes an ethical theory in its own right, not one which is dependent or parasitic upon impartialism. In section 4, I contrast care ethic’s conception of the self with that offered by traditional ethical theories, and argue that the most important distinction between the care and impartialist accounts of morality lies in the conception of the moral self which informs each of these approaches.

 

Ontological Assumptions: Descartes, Searle, and Edelman
Gregg E. Franzwa
The proposition that there is a purely causal explanation of subjective states of human consciousness is a philosophical one. The affirmation of such a proposition must be a premise to research. And the justification for such a premise will be found in part in the fundamental ontological assumptions of the researcher. By examining the assumptions of Rene Descartes, at the beginning of the scientific age, I hope to show a similar set of assumptions behind the thought of two recent contributors to the debate, John Searle and Gerald Edelman. I will conclude that a crucial question begged by all three.

 

The View From Nowhere and the Meaning of Life in Thomas Nagel
Larry D. Harwood
Thomas Nagel contends that the actual philosophical problem in the meaning of life is the independent world we live in, and only requires a self-transcendent being who glimpses and independent world. I argue that Nagel is mistaken to think that self-transcendence evokes the same anxiety for humans living in the world of Dante as Darwin. Nagel’s view from nowhere is rather a modern version of the world. Secondly, while I concede that there is a common anxiety felt by self-transcendence in glimpsing an independent objective world, we also view that world through a set of beliefs that conditions how we see that world.

 

The Duty of Solidarity: Feminism and Catholic Social Teaching
Sally J. Scholz
Catholic Social Teaching of late has a lot more in common with feminist moral theory than might be evident at first glance, After a brief explanation of Catholic Social Teaching’s duty of solidarity, and a look at some of the feminist critiques of this solidarity, I point out some of the significant similarities between feminist ethics and the duty of solidarity. The last section focuses on community and care, the epistemological role of experience and the world view of the other, the centrality of self-determination, and the final goal of both the duty of solidarity and feminist ethics: liberation from oppression.

 

Community of Choice and Community of Origin: Insights into Dewey’s Theory of Communication
Roger Ward
This essay unearths the meaning of community in John Dewey’s Experience andNature, using Marilyn Friedman’s terms “community of choice” and “community of origin.” The authority of communication as determinative of Dewey’s community comes out. In fact, communication seems to be the philosophical point of Dewey’s descriptions in that book, which reveals his anticipation of a community wherever communication obtains. Dewey is shown, in conclusion. to call us beyond communities of choice or origin to a community of authority which holds both peculiar promise for, and demands of, individuals.

 

Volume 4, Number 4, Winter 1998

 

APA Central Division Group Session G1-3, May 7, 1998, Chicago, Illinois:
Richard Cohen on Levinas and Rosenzweig
Engaging Transcendence: Can We Think G-d and Philosophy Together?
James B. Sauer
No Abstract

 

It’s (Almost) All Greek To Me: Levinas’s “Ethics As First Philosophy” and Analytic Philosophy
Stiv Fleishman
No Abstract

 

Responses to Sauer and Fleishman
Richard A. Cohen
No Abstract

 

Community and Alterity: A Gadamerian Approach
Donald M. Maier
In this paper, I ask how we, as linguistically constituted subjects, form communities that respect difference. Whatever “commonality” we find in our multicultural society cannot be grounded in a narrow concept of reason, a singular method of inquiry, or an a priori logic, but in language. By examining Hans-Georg Gadamer’s concept of linguisticality, we see that there can be a universal ground of meaning that will foster the formation of communities without recourse to the traditional foundations of thinking. Gadamer contends that language presents philosophy an infinite task that urges us to consider our fundamental linguisticality, the linguistic experience from which languages develop. By examining Augustine’s notion of the “innerword”, Gadamer explains our capacity to understand others, even when understanding seems least likely. Gadamer’s hermeneutics encourages us to understand the Other’s language. I conclude that a Gadamerian community allows us to understand each other without requiring that the Other become like us.

 

Multinational Ethics At Work in Nigeria
Eddy Souffrant
Cases of intervention in international affairs are often thought justifiable if the intervention is exercised against rogue political leaders and delinquent nation-states. The author offers an argument for the inclusion of an increasingly ubiquitous international agent, the profit generating corporation. This done, the paper argues that a cosmopolitan ethics of responsibility is an attractive mode of evaluation that renders corporations accountable in the international environment. This ethics of responsibility is applied to the particular case of British/Dutch Shell, Inc., in Nigeria to argue the merits of international intervention.

 

Reclaiming Hermes: Guardian of the Public Sphere
Patricia J. Thompson
In an earlier paper, Hestia (R. Vesta)–guardian of the family hearthfire and center of household/family ritual activities in the ancient Greek oikos–was re-claimed as a metaphor for philosophical analysis of the private sphere in everyday life (SPCW, 1996). This paper undertakes a comparable project of reclamation for Hermes (R. Mercury), guardian of the public sphere of the ancient Greek polis and its later manifestations. The goal of this project of reclamation is not to introduce unnecessary neologisms or to support “New Age” spirituality. It is, rather, to help philosophers and social theorist to hold in mind two distinctive systems of human action within a single explanatory paradigm. Doing so allows us to compare and contrast in a consistent and coherent manner events, institutions, and actions in each of two systems operating in everyday life without privileging one (usually the polis and the political ) over the other (the oikos and the familial). It is hoped that doing so may promote a dual standpoint theory that can take contemporary feminist theory (which seems to have painted itself into a corner) beyond gender.