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The Apologetics of Evil

The Case of Iago

Richard Raatzsch

This book is a concise philosophical meditation on Iago and the nature of evil, through the exploration of the enduring puzzle found in Shakespeare's Othello. What drives Iago to orchestrate Othello's downfall? Instead of treating Iago's lack of motive as the play's greatest weakness, The Apologetics of Evil shows how this absence of motive is the play's greatest strength. Richard Raatzsch determines that Iago does not seek a particular end or revenge for a discrete wrong; instead, Iago is governed by a passion for intriguing in itself. Raatzsch explains that this passion is a pathological version of ordinary human behavior and that Iago lacks the ability to acknowledge others; what matters most to him is the difference between himself and the rest of the world.

The book opens with a portrait of Iago, and considers the nature and moral significance of the evil that he represents. Raatzsch addresses the boundaries dividing normality and pathology, conceptualizing evil as a pathological form of the good or ordinary. Seen this way, evil is conceptually dependent on the ordinary, and Iago, as a form of moral monster, is a kind of nonbeing. Therefore, his actions might be understood and defended, even if they cannot be justified. In a brief epilogue, Raatzsch argues that literature's presentation of what is monstrous or virtuous can constitute an understanding of these concepts, not merely illustrate them.

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A Defense of Hume on Miracles

Robert J. Fogelin

Since its publication in the mid-eighteenth century, Hume's discussion of miracles has been the target of severe and often ill-tempered attacks. In this book, one of our leading historians of philosophy offers a systematic response to these attacks.

Arguing that these criticisms have--from the very start--rested on misreadings, Robert Fogelin begins by providing a narrative of the way Hume's argument actually unfolds. What Hume's critics (and even some of his defenders) have failed to see is that Hume's primary argument depends on fixing the appropriate standards of evaluating testimony presented on behalf of a miracle. Given the definition of a miracle, Hume quite reasonably argues that the standards for evaluating such testimony must be extremely high. Hume then argues that, as a matter of fact, no testimony on behalf of a religious miracle has even come close to meeting the appropriate standards for acceptance. Fogelin illustrates that Hume's critics have consistently misunderstood the structure of this argument--and have saddled Hume with perfectly awful arguments not found in the text. He responds first to some early critics of Hume's argument and then to two recent critics, David Johnson and John Earman. Fogelin's goal, however, is not to "bash the bashers," but rather to show that Hume's treatment of miracles has a coherence, depth, and power that makes it still the best work on the subject.

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Hegel on Self-Consciousness

Desire and Death in the Phenomenology of Spirit

Robert B. Pippin

In the most influential chapter of his most important philosophical work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel makes the central and disarming assertions that "self-consciousness is desire itself" and that it attains its "satisfaction" only in another self-consciousness. Hegel on Self-Consciousness presents a groundbreaking new interpretation of these revolutionary claims, tracing their roots to Kant's philosophy and demonstrating their continued relevance for contemporary thought.

As Robert Pippin shows, Hegel argues that we must understand Kant's account of the self-conscious nature of consciousness as a claim in practical philosophy, and that therefore we need radically different views of human sentience, the conditions of our knowledge of the world, and the social nature of subjectivity and normativity. Pippin explains why this chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology should be seen as the basis of much later continental philosophy and the Marxist, neo-Marxist, and critical-theory traditions. He also contrasts his own interpretation of Hegel's assertions with influential interpretations of the chapter put forward by philosophers John McDowell and Robert Brandom.

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Kant and Skepticism

Michael N. Forster

This book puts forward a much-needed reappraisal of Immanuel Kant's conception of and response to skepticism, as set forth principally in the Critique of Pure Reason. It is widely recognized that Kant's theoretical philosophy aims to answer skepticism and reform metaphysics--Michael Forster makes the controversial argument that those aims are closely linked. He distinguishes among three types of skepticism: "veil of perception" skepticism, which concerns the external world; Humean skepticism, which concerns the existence of a priori concepts and synthetic a priori knowledge; and Pyrrhonian skepticism, which concerns the equal balance of opposing arguments. Forster overturns conventional views by showing how the first of these types was of little importance for Kant, but how the second and third held very special importance for him, namely because of their bearing on the fate of metaphysics. He argues that Kant undertook his reform of metaphysics primarily in order to render it defensible against these types of skepticism. Finally, in a critical appraisal of Kant's project, Forster argues that, despite its strengths, it ultimately fails, for reasons that carry interesting broader philosophical lessons. These reasons include inadequate self-reflection and an underestimation of the resources of Pyrrhonian skepticism.

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Locke on Personal Identity

Consciousness and Concernment

Galen Strawson

John Locke’s theory of personal identity underlies all modern discussion of the nature of persons and selves—yet it is widely thought to be wrong. In this book, Galen Strawson argues that in fact it is Locke’s critics who are wrong, and that the famous objections to his theory are invalid. Indeed, far from refuting Locke, they illustrate his fundamental point.

Strawson argues that the root error is to take Locke’s use of the word "person" as merely a term for a standard persisting thing, like "human being." In actuality, Locke uses "person" primarily as a forensic or legal term geared specifically to questions about praise and blame, punishment and reward. This point is familiar to some philosophers, but its full consequences have not been worked out, partly because of a further error about what Locke means by the word "conscious." When Locke claims that your personal identity is a matter of the actions that you are conscious of, he means the actions that you experience as your own in some fundamental and immediate manner.

Clearly and vigorously argued, this is an important contribution both to the history of philosophy and to the contemporary philosophy of personal identity.

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Michael Oakeshott's Skepticism

Aryeh Botwinick

The English philosopher Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) is known as a conservative who rejected philosophically ambitious rationalism and the grand political ideologies of the twentieth century on the grounds that no human ideas have ultimately reliable foundations. Instead, he embraced tradition and habit as the guides to moral and political life. In this book, Aryeh Botwinick presents an original account of Oakeshott's skepticism about foundations, an account that newly reveals the unity of his thought.

Botwinick argues that, despite Oakeshott's pragmatic conservatism, his rejection of all-embracing intellectual projects made him a friend to liberal individualism and an ally of what would become postmodern antifoundationalism. Oakeshott's skepticism even extended paradoxically to skepticism about skepticism itself and is better described as a "generalized agnosticism." Properly conceived and translated, this agnosticism ultimately evolves into mysticism, which becomes a bridge linking philosophy and religion. Botwinick explains and develops this strategy of interpretation and then shows how it illuminates and unifies the diverse strands of Oakeshott's thought in the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, epistemology, political theory, philosophy of personal identity, philosophy of law, and philosophy of history.

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Simon Keller

We are partial to people with whom we share special relationships--if someone is your child, parent, or friend, you wouldn't treat them as you would a stranger. But is partiality justified, and if so, why? Partiality presents a theory of the reasons supporting special treatment within special relationships and explores the vexing problem of how we might reconcile the moral value of these relationships with competing claims of impartial morality.

Simon Keller explains that in order to understand why we give special treatment to our family and friends, we need to understand how people come to matter in their own rights. Keller first presents two main accounts of partiality: the projects view, on which reasons of partiality arise from the place that people take within our lives and our commitments, and the relationships view, on which relationships themselves contain fundamental value or reason-giving force. Keller then argues that neither view is satisfactory because neither captures the experience of acting well within special relationships. Instead, Keller defends the individuals view, on which reasons of partiality arise from the value of the individuals with whom our relationships are shared. He defends this view by saying that we must accept that two people, whether friend or stranger, can have the same value, even as their value makes different demands upon people with whom they share different relationships. Keller explores the implications of this claim within a wider understanding of morality and our relationships with groups, institutions, and countries.

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Philosophical Myths of the Fall

Stephen Mulhall

Did post-Enlightenment philosophers reject the idea of original sin and hence the view that life is a quest for redemption from it? In Philosophical Myths of the Fall, Stephen Mulhall identifies and evaluates a surprising ethical-religious dimension in the work of three highly influential philosophers--Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. He asks: Is the Christian idea of humanity as structurally flawed something that these three thinkers aim simply to criticize? Or do they, rather, end up by reproducing secular variants of the same mythology?

Mulhall argues that each, in different ways, develops a conception of human beings as in need of redemption: in their work, we appear to be not so much capable of or prone to error and fantasy, but instead structurally perverse, living in untruth. In this respect, their work is more closely aligned to the Christian perspective than to the mainstream of the Enlightenment. However, all three thinkers explicitly reject any religious understanding of human perversity; indeed, they regard the very understanding of human beings as originally sinful as central to that from which we must be redeemed. And yet each also reproduces central elements of that understanding in his own thinking; each recounts his own myth of our Fall, and holds out his own image of redemption. The book concludes by asking whether this indebtedness to religion brings these philosophers' thinking closer to, or instead forces it further away from, the truth of the human condition.

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Physicalism, or Something Near Enough

Jaegwon Kim

Contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind have largely been shaped by physicalism, the doctrine that all phenomena are ultimately physical. Here, Jaegwon Kim presents the most comprehensive and systematic presentation yet of his influential ideas on the mind-body problem. He seeks to determine, after half a century of debate: What kind of (or "how much") physicalism can we lay claim to? He begins by laying out mental causation and consciousness as the two principal challenges to contemporary physicalism. How can minds exercise their causal powers in a physical world? Is a physicalist account of consciousness possible?

The book's starting point is the "supervenience" argument (sometimes called the "exclusion" argument), which Kim reformulates in an extended defense. This argument shows that the contemporary physicalist faces a stark choice between reductionism (the idea that mental phenomena are physically reducible) and epiphenomenalism (the view that mental phenomena are causally impotent). Along the way, Kim presents a novel argument showing that Cartesian substance dualism offers no help with mental causation.

Mind-body reduction, therefore, is required to save mental causation. But are minds physically reducible? Kim argues that all but one type of mental phenomena are reducible, including intentional mental phenomena, such as beliefs and desires. The apparent exceptions are the intrinsic, felt qualities of conscious experiences ("qualia"). Kim argues, however, that certain relational properties of qualia, in particular their similarities and differences, are behaviorally manifest and hence in principle reducible, and that it is these relational properties of qualia that are central to their cognitive roles. The causal efficacy of qualia, therefore, is not entirely lost.

According to Kim, then, while physicalism is not the whole truth, it is the truth near enough.

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Public Goods, Private Goods

Raymond Geuss

Much political thinking today, particularly that influenced by liberalism, assumes a clear distinction between the public and the private, and holds that the correct understanding of this should weigh heavily in our attitude to human goods. It is, for instance, widely held that the state may address human action in the ''public'' realm but not in the ''private.'' In Public Goods, Private Goods Raymond Geuss exposes the profound flaws of such thinking and calls for a more nuanced approach. Drawing on a series of colorful examples from the ancient world, he illustrates some of the many ways in which actions can in fact be understood as public or private.

The first chapter discusses Diogenes the Cynic, who flouted conventions about what should be public and what should be private by, among other things, masturbating in the Athenian marketplace. Next comes an analysis of Julius Caesar's decision to defy the Senate by crossing the Rubicon with his army; in doing so, Caesar asserted his dignity as a private person while acting in a public capacity. The third chapter considers St. Augustine's retreat from public life to contemplate his own, private spiritual condition. In the fourth, Geuss goes on to examine recent liberal views, questioning, in particular, common assumptions about the importance of public dialogue and the purportedly unlimited possibilities humans have for reaching consensus. He suggests that the liberal concern to maintain and protect, even at a very high cost, an inviolable ''private sphere'' for each individual is confused.

Geuss concludes that a view of politics and morality derived from Hobbes and Nietzsche is a more realistic and enlightening way than modern liberalism to think about human goods. Ultimately, he cautions, a simplistic understanding of privacy leads to simplistic ideas about what the state is and is not justified in doing.

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