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Inscribed Know what you are getting into when purchasing rare books, and learn the difference between signed books and inscribed books. A special order item has limited availability and the seller may source this title from another supplier. Do you understand why they started to water? It would seem so: because you just started chopping some onions.
It was not the chopping of the celery or the carrots that led to the watering; based on your years of experience in the kitchen, you know it was the onions. Or again, suppose you are in your living room and your TV suddenly springs to life. You look to your left and you notice that your daughter has her thumb on the power button of the remote control.
Here as well, I take it, you understand why the TV just turned on. It was not because the dog just walked into the room, or a new song just appeared on the radio. It was because your daughter just pressed the power button on the remote. These examples help us to appreciate two different points. First, there is an important level of understanding or intelligibility we have achieved when we have identified factors like the chopping of the onions or the pushing of the power button as the causes of events. Although I have used commonplace examples to illustrate the point, this is the same kind of understanding that a scientist such as Ignaz Semmelweis achieved when he identified the unsanitary practices of physicians as the cause or source of childbed fever in Vienna in the s see both Hempel and Lipton for discussion.
More exactly, it is the sort of understanding or intelligibility one has achieved when one has identified the variable or variables upon which the explanandum depends. To a certain extent, one now understands what was responsible for producing the effect, so that one can now make accurate predictions, for instance, as well as appropriate counterfactual inferences. But if all this holds in the case of the onions or the power button, then there seems to be no reason to deny that it holds in Gordon's case of the gibbous moon too—that is, that one could achieve a genuine type of understanding here as well.
That said, and moving now to the second point, there are clearly lingering questions that remain unaddressed at this level of understanding.
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And it is when one moves to these further questions that several of the distinctive features of humanistic understanding begin to emerge. Ylikoski In the case of the onions, a more careful analysis would lead to the conclusion that it is the sulphuric elements of the onion that lead to the watering, and that the texture of the sulpuric bonds irritates the retina and triggers a tear response.
The process is again one of isolating variables, determining relations of dependence, and so on. When it comes to understanding the actions of other people, however, the inquiry moves in quite a different direction. What is more, and I will explore in more detail shortly, in order to understand the action I do not simply need to be able to identify what Sam took to be desirable or choiceworthy about the goal—in short, what he took to be good about the goal—but I also need to be able to recognize it myself as a good.
Failing that, it would seem that the action will be unintelligible to me. Or, perhaps better, that while it will be comprehensible or understandable along one dimension it will be unintelligible along others. What this suggests so far is that there is more to understanding human actions than simply grasping structure. But what else might be involved?
And can those further elements themselves be naturalized, or do they resist?
I. Understanding in the Natural Sciences
In the following section I will show how considerations of coherence play an important role in understanding human actions, but I will also argue that these considerations do not present a problem for naturalism. In Section VI. I will then present what I take to be a more serious challenge for the naturalistic stance. The way to make a case for the importance of coherence in understanding human action is as follows.
Still the thought goes , identifying that pair is not sufficient for understanding the action because there might be other aspects of the person's psychology that undercut or tell against or in some way make that particular explanation unintelligible.
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The intelligibility of action therefore requires more than simply grasping isolated bits of structure—as we saw, perhaps, in the TV remote case, or in the onion case. Instead, it involves appreciating how the parts fit into, or cohere with, the larger whole. And it is this appeal to the holistic character of the mental, arguably, that spells trouble for the naturalizing picture. That is likely all a bit abstract. I snatch them from the hands of the scientist who is preparing to analyse them and gobble them down.
I like fruit. For in the context of this kind of scientific practice eating something just because one felt hungry is not an intelligible way of behaving. The practice imposes norms which constrain and limit the expression of immediate desire in the institutionalised social settings informed by the practice.
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MacIntyre : Although MacIntyre appeals to the norms associated with a practice in order to explain the sort of understanding or intelligibility at issue here, I do not think we need to take that step. The most obvious reason why his eating of the fruit is unintelligible, despite his rationalizing explanation in terms of the desire for the fruit, is that we are presupposing in this situation that his desire to prevent widespread starvation is much stronger.
Alternatively, we are presupposing that he takes it to be much more important to prevent starvation than to satisfy a passing urge, and we are puzzled because the action fails to cohere with this judgment of importance.
In addition, it involves a sensitivity to how the apparent dependence fits with the person's overall beliefs and desires. In the gibbous moon case, notice, this sort of fit was implicitly taken for granted. Even though we might continue to wonder what it is about this phase of the moon that leads to Sam's running, there is nothing in the story to suggest the running fails to cohere with Sam's deeper beliefs or desires.
Suppose at any rate that understanding others does turn on these sorts of considerations of coherence, or a sensitivity to how someone's action falls within the overall network of his beliefs and desires. It doesn't seem so. The type of unintelligibility or failure of understanding we see in MacIntyre's case arises from an internal failure of fit—a falling short of coherence, given the status of his other believes and desires—that any third person observer should be able to appreciate.
Within the larger context of the fruit gobbler's psychology, for instance, it would be instrumentally irrational to pursue such a minor benefit at the expense of a lifelong goal, and there is nothing naturalistically mysterious about instrumental rationality. In the next section I will consider a further dimension or variety of understanding that offers a more serious challenge.
What sort is that? It is the sort of understanding or intelligibility that concerns the goods that are desired in the first place, rather than with having a coherent or internally consistent plan for bringing about these goods. Suppose, to adopt one of Anscombe's examples, someone were to claim that his overarching goal in life was to collect saucers of mud.
Suppose too that his other beliefs and desires all aligned with this idea, so that they displayed the sort of internal consistency or coherence we found wanting in the last example. Anscombe's basic insight is that even though there would be some sense in which we could discern structure in the person's actions relations of dependence between beliefs, desires, and actions, e.
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It would be a surd that would simply stare back at us. While Anscombe's notion of a desirability characterization is regularly cited in the philosophy of action literature, 7 7 See, e. For it helps us to appreciate that part of what makes an action intelligible for us is to be able to see the goal of the action as not just desired but as desirable, as not just chosen but as choiceworthy.
For our purposes, the idea that one needs to see a goal as desirable or choiceworthy is particularly important because this sort of seeing plausibly requires a different cognitive attitude—and hence, apparently, a different cognitive method—that we need to draw upon when we try to understand other human beings. I am not sure what else can be said—or at least, what else I can manage to say—to further describe this cognitive act of seeing or taking or regarding a goal as desirable or choiceworthy. For instance, it is not obvious to me that one needs to explain this sort of seeing or taking as an act of empathy, one that employs mirror neurons or the like.
Instead, we might simply say that whatever capacity it is that allows our own actions to be intelligible to us—because it allows us to take our actions as pursued for some legitimate or choiceworthy end more on this in Section IX. More than that, I think what Anscombe's case reveals is the limitations of simulation theory, reenactment theory, or the like. This gives me a perspective not just from what R. But what this account leaves out is that unless I can see or regard particular goals as worth desiring in the first place, mere simulation will still leave an important residue of unintelligibility.
I might realize that the person I am simulating is devoted to collecting the saucers of mud and predict his my? Simulation, therefore, is not sufficient for this deeper level of understanding or intelligibility that goes beyond a grasp of structure or a recognition of coherence. For this further sort of intelligibility or understanding, something deeper is needed.
We can now turn to a few clarifications. To be sure, the mere fact that the goals someone is pursuing at first strike you as unintelligible does not mean that the task of understanding is hopeless. Suppose you at first tell me that you are collecting the saucers of mud for their own sake, which strikes me as absurd, but a little more familiarity with your beliefs and desires makes it clear that you are really collecting the saucers because this was your favorite childhood activity, and the collecting is a kind of homage to your past.
When I can see the action in this light, it will then become intelligible to me for the first time. And of course a clarification process along these lines occurs almost any time we encounter a foreign culture. A ritual or pattern of behavior might at first seem unintelligible to us until we recognize it as an instance of what we take to be a genuine good. For instance, we might see the behavior as an attempt to fulfill one's obligations, or to gain respect, or to preserve harmony with others.
Some may take this as an objection, but I think it is a welcome consequence of the view. Thanks to Michael Hannon for this point. The aim would be to try to be struck by what might have struck the target philosopher. I take it that this is close to how simulation theorists think of simulation. The complaint originally goes back to Hempel On the view here, being able to recognize the goal of an action as desirable or choiceworthy is an essential part of the achievement of understanding itself, not a ladder to be kicked away.
The background of intelligibility is not wholly static.