Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Nicholas Royle: How to Read Shakespeare

My review will appear in Practical Philosophy.

Nicholas Royle
How to Read Shakespeare
London: Granta Books, 2005
ISBN-1-86207-730-4 (pb), pp. xii + 130

Of the books I have seen so far from Granta’s How to Read series, the Shakespeare volume is the most directly engaged in teaching its audience how to read texts. Nicholas Royle is not interested in working out what Shakespeare thought about any particular issue; rather, he seeks to help us recognize some of the ways that Shakespeare uses and manipulates words in order to create various effects. Although the author has written extensively on literary theory (including, among other works, a book on Derrida) the present book is blessedly uninterested in that topic. Instead of talking about talking about how to read Shakespeare, Royle never strays far from the actual words and passages from Shakespeare which are under discussion. Neither does he offer any abstract arguments for the validity of the interpretive strategies that he uses. Instead, we are tacitly invited to pragmatically judge his methods by their fruits; those who find Royle’s readings enlightening will no doubt follow in his footsteps. I personally found most of what he says agreeable, although he may occasionally read too much into certain details of the texts (if one is allowed to suggest that Shakespeare may be over-interpreted!). Some readers may also be annoyed when Royle indulges in a bit of his own faux-Shakespearian word play.

Each chapter of the book works like a microscope, zooming in and out on its subject at different degrees of magnification. At one level, a chapter is devoted to a particular play; at another level, it contains a close reading of a particular passage from that play; and finally, each chapter examines the role of a particular word as it appears in the passage, in the play, and throughout the Shakespearian oeuvre. Chapter seven, for example, discusses Antony and Cleopatra. More particularly, it analyzes a bit of dialogue that takes place between Antony and his loyal follower, Eros, which is found in act four, scene fourteen of that play. There Antony describes how, when looking at a cloud, we might see in it a “blue promontory with trees upon’t that nod unto the world.” Royle zooms in on the word “nod,” explicating its use in the passage against the background of its use in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julius Caesar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other chapters treat passages from The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth.

There is certainly much to be gained from this short book and it does inspire one to read or reread the works it discusses. Clearly this is what Royle hopes for, and he ends his book with a few useful pages of “Suggestions for Further Reading,” which describe editions of the plays, critical works, philological works, biographies, and websites that can all be of help and interest to budding Shakespearian scholars.

I do have two inter-connected quibbles with this book, both of which probably reflect my own preference for philosophy over literary criticism. Royle appears at times to be guilty, simultaneously, of both over-interpretation and under-interpretation of the texts he discusses. On the one hand, he finds great significance in the way Shakespeare uses particular words in different contexts. On the other hand, he rarely comes up with much in the way of clear conclusions about exactly what Shakespeare is trying to achieve or express by using words as he does. Lacking definite theses, the discussion sometimes descends (or ascends, according to taste) into a free-wheeling interpretive improvisation.

Royle writes in his introduction that, “My principle aim is to register and explore the strangeness [Royle’s emphasis] of Shakespeare’s writing… - its capacity to surprise and alter our sense of the world” (pg. 3). The book does reveal all manner of word-play and strangeness in Shakespearian texts, but there is a danger here: any natural human use of language can be shown to be quite strange and ambiguous when placed under a sufficiently powerful exegetical microscope.

Does Shakespeare merely want to play verbal tricks on us, or is he actually trying to say something? Royle offers some direction regarding certain themes that we should be looking out for. He points, for instance, to the tendency of Shakespeare’s dramatis personae to reflexively allude to the fact that they are merely actors in a play. However, while readers of his book will come away with new appreciation of Shakespeare’s language, they will not have gained any real understanding of his importance for western culture. Royle has convinced me; Shakespeare’s language is stranger than I had thought. However, it was not strangeness of language that inspired T. S. Eliot to write, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them, there is no third.” To understand Shakespeare’s greatness, we must look beyond this book.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College,
Akko, Israel

Harry G. Frankfurt: The Reasons of Love

My review will appear in Practical Philosophy.

Harry G. Frankfurt
The Reasons of Love
Princeton and London: Princeton University Press, 2004
ISBN0691126241 (pb), pp. 135.

This slim and elegantly written volume should be of obvious interest to anyone interested in the application of philosophy to sorting out the problems of life. After all, the first of its three chapters is actually titled, ’The Question: “How Should We Live?”’ More precisely, the book discusses how people should organise their desires, interests, and loves in the light of Frankfurt’s celebrated two-tiered model of human volition. The model could be crudely described as: human beings are motivated by immediate, first-order desires to have and do things in the world, as well as by reflexive second-order desires to possess specific first-order desires. Frankfurt’s main message is that in order to be healthy, effective, and happy human beings, it is necessary for there to be things and/or people whom we love in a wholehearted way. Surprisingly, self-love ends up having an essential role to play in the achievement of this volitional wholeness.

Frankfurt begins by distinguishing caring about something from merely desiring or preferring something, and even from ‘taking something to be intrinsically valuable’ (p. 12). Mobilising his model of volition, Frankfurt explains that we care about something when we both desire it and also have an enduring second level desire to continue desiring it. Such caring infuses our world with meaning, but the ultimate objects of our care are not themselves determined by further rational considerations or ulterior motives: ‘Formulating a criterion of importance presupposes possession of the very criterion that is to be formulated. The circularity is both inescapable and fatal’ (p. 26).

The next chapter investigates a concept very close to that of caring, i.e., ‘love’. The love Frankfurt is talking about can arise from an appreciation of the beloved’s special virtues or as the result of a natural psychological tendency, as in parental love. However, those are just contingent facts about the psychological impetus of love. We do not directly control our love or select its objects; rather our love for those objects is itself that which ultimately grounds and shapes our dispositions and conduct. The object of love is loved not merely for its valuable characteristics (if it does have any) or as a means for attaining some other thing of importance; it is cherished for its own sake and cannot be substituted. When we love a person, we identify with him or her. If we do not love at all we risk profound and debilitating boredom. When we do love we can overcome the ’inhibitions and hesitancies of self-doubt’ (p. 65) and become free to pursue an active life devoted to the objects of our love.

The final chapter develops Frankfurt’s most surprising thesis, that is, that self love is the conceptually purist and most important form of love. It is pure because it so clearly fits the criteria of love (i.e. we care about ourselves for our own sake, we identify with ourselves, etc.). It is important because Frankfurt does not understand self-love to be an expression of crass egocentrism. When I love someone else, I identify with them and care about them and thus love what they love. Similarly, self-love demands love of that which the self loves. What is this further object which the self loves? Through a somewhat suspicious dialectical move, Frankfurt tries to show that it cannot simply be the self all over again; it must be an external object. He claims that it is my self-love which drives me to ‘get a life’ (to borrow a colloquial expression) and this requires, according to Frankfurt, that I learn to love things and people besides myself. The remainder of the chapter treats the pathologies of will which occur when we cannot manage to identify with ourselves (an essential element of self-love), that is, when we fail to successfully reconcile conflicts between our loves for different objects. It is only when we can love objects outside ourselves wholeheartedly that we can genuinely love ourselves; it is our self-love which motivates us to seek wholehearted love of objects outside ourselves.

While by any account The Reasons of Love is well worth reading, I would like to mention three aspects of the book which might draw criticism. First of all, Frankfurt repeatedly downplays the importance of moral values in our lives. He is concerned with the wholeheartedness of our care, love, and action and is not very interested in whether the things we care about and the deeds we perform are morally commendable. Secondly, he is very wary of romantic love and would much rather talk about parental love for children. Thirdly, the ‘suspicious dialectical move’ mentioned above is suspicious. The god of Aristotle got along fine just thinking about his own thinking (at least in book 12 of the Metaphysics). Why can’t self-love be satisfied by loving the object of the self’s own self-love? In other words: why wouldn’t someone be able to infuse his life with meaning by becoming the sole member of a mutual admiration society?

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College,
Akko, Israel,

Mark Wrathall: How to Read Heidegger

My review will appear in Practical Philosophy.

Mark Wrathall
How to Read Heidegger
London: Granta Books, 2005
ISBN-13: 987-1-86207-766-9 (pb), pp. viii + 135.

This book offers introductory accounts of several central themes from Being and Time and from Heidegger’s later writings. As is the custom in the How to Read series, each chapter begins with a selection from a primary source (in this case, an English translation of a primary source). Given the notorious obscurity of Heideggerian texts, Mark Wrathal can hardly be blamed for not really equipping his readers with the tools and background implied by the series’ title. At best his readers will be able to discern some kind of a connection between the quoted passages and Wrathall’s explanations.

The book opens with a programmatic introduction that treats the question of how Heidegger should be approached by today’s reader. Wrathall is tired of the analytic/continental split in contemporary philosophy. Following the lead of writers such as Hubert Dreyfus, he wants to present Heidegger as a philosopher who can speak to the analytic tradition and who can serve as a corrective to its overly scientistic tendencies.

The first six chapters are devoted to themes from Being and Time. Chapter one begins with a quick introduction to Heidegger’s phenomenological method and moves swiftly on to Heidegger’s vision of human beings as Dasein (entities for whom being is itself an issue) who can live in Eigentlichkeit, the authenticity achieved by Dasein when “it has become its own” (pg. 14). Although Eigentlichkeit does involve a kind of individual autonomy, Wrathall is careful to point out how Heidegger’s recognition of the limits placed upon our choices by the world contrasts with Sartre’s more radical view of a completely unencumbered human freedom. This leads naturally into chapter two, which describes Heidegger’s replacement of the Cartesian self/world dichotomy with the idea that Dasein is always already existing in a world. Heidegger insists that we do not relate to the world primarily as a collection of objects for our dispassionate observation, but rather we encounter the world as “that wherein all of our actions make sense” (pg. 28), a world containing (among other things) the immediately intelligible tools and materials with which we execute our projects. Unfortunately, Wrathall does not make it sufficiently clear to the reader that Heidegger is far from being a lone voice of anti-Cartesian dissent among twentieth century philosophers. Chapter three discusses how our moods and emotional attitudes inform our experience of the world, while chapter four concludes the discussion of Dasein’s world with an account of “understanding” and “interpretation.” In this context, these terms refer to our modes of grasping and making sense of the world, which are themselves integral to the practical business of existing in that world (as against purely intellectual theorizing about the world).

Chapters five and six complete Wrathall’s treatment of Being and Time with a return to issues of authenticity. First we are told about Heidegger’s das Man, the omnipresent “one” of “that’s what one does,” which represents the unquestioned societal norms that threaten the authenticity of the individual. Next comes an explanation of Heidegger’s dark insistence that one’s attitude towards one’s own mortality is essential for the achievement of authenticity.

The book’s remaining four chapters treat some of Heidegger’s most celebrated later essays. A chapter on “The Origin of the Work of Art” unpacks the claim that art reveals the truth about its subjects. The discussion of On the Way to Language deals with the way ordinary language serves as the orienting underpinning for the way we live our lives. Discussions of “The Question Concerning Technology” and “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” offer opportunities to explore Heidegger’s critique of modern technological existence.

All-in-all Wrathall has given us a quite readable and useful introduction to Heidegger’s thought. If only the Master himself had written so clearly! My only real qualm concerning this book is its nearly complete lack of critical perspective. While some pages are devoted to describing and denouncing Heidegger’s attachment to Nazism, Wrathall basically treats it as something of a tragic aberration, a terrible misapplication of a critique of modernity which is in itself basically sound.

Heidegger is the kind of philosopher who offers pronouncements rather than arguments. This makes it difficult to know even how to begin criticizing his work. By the time people manage to eke out meaning from his forbidding prose, they often have little energy left to consider whether what he says is actually true. As a result, expositors of Heidegger – especially those writing introductory expositions – bear a special responsibility to their readers to mention some of the main criticisms that have been directed against his work.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College
Akko, Israel

Penelope Deutscher: How to Read Derrida

My review will appear in Practical Philosophy.

Penelope Deutscher
How to Read Derrida
London: Granta Books, 2005
ISBN: 1-86207-768-1 (pb), pp. xii + 132.

Although it has been years since he occupied the pinnacle of academic fashion, it is doubtless that many aspiring intellectuals across the world would be thrilled to be taught How to Read Derrida by a short book of 132 pages, including a chronology, bibliography, and index. Unfortunately, while Penelope Deutscher does begin each of her chapters with a short passage from Derrida’s writings, she does not really offer much in the way of practical help to those who would like to trudge through, say, Of Grammatology on their own. Instead, she has written a reasonably lucid exposition of several of Derrida’s main themes. In a way, this may only serve to further exasperate those who attempt to read the original texts; if Deutscher can explain his ideas in a fairly straight-forward fashion, why did the Master himself have to torture us with his idiosyncrasies and neologisms?

Deutscher divides Derrida’s ideas into roughly two periods. The earlier of these spans the 1960s and 1970s, during which he produced the classic documents of deconstructionism. It was then that Derrida set out to expose the tensions inherent in any attempt to divide things up into a hierarchical dichotomy. For instance, while the Western tradition, as epitomized by Plato, favors “living” speech over “dead” writing, Derrida tries to demonstrate that speech itself may be characterized as possessing those very qualities that lead us to devalue writing. Any discourse that tries to uphold such dichotomies will have to resort to various rhetorical ploys in order to hide the inherent instability of its categories. The deconstructionist reader brings those ploys to light, exposing the conceptual weaknesses they were meant to conceal and undermining our confidence in the very dichotomies they were meant to protect. Here Deutscher does offer one essential hint for those who would dare read Derrida on their own: much confusion is generated by his tendency to expand the meaning of a term to include everything under the sun that shares certain qualities attributed (usually pejoratively) to the term’s usual referent. For instance: he may refer to speech as “writing” in order to say that speech itself possesses those very qualities that were thought to differentiate writing from it.

When the dichotomies involved refer to social hierarchies and to the delineation of membership on one’s own social group, the deconstructionist reading takes on political significance, forcing us to reconsider the status of people excluded from our own group, the famous “Other” of recent French philosophy. In this connection, Deutscher specifically discusses Derrida’s ideas on national identity and gender.

Next Deutscher discusses the “Afterword” of Derrida’s Limited Inc., which serves as a kind of bridge between the early and later periods of his writing. There Derrida develops a typical theme; that communication must inherently involve miscommunication. But how can communal life succeed if miscommunication is inevitable? His point is that we should never assure ourselves that perfect political solutions can be achieved through perfect communications. Sometimes incomprehension can even be valuable, especially if it signals the presence of wisdom beyond our comprehension. In any case, we must be prepared to endlessly “renegotiate” the way we understand both ourselves and others.

Derrida’s later writings further develop the theme of perfection vs. imperfection. Acts of mourning and hospitality, giving and forgiving, and the institution of jurisprudence are all considered as examples of the imperfectability of human life. Now, however, impossible moral and political ideals take on a new role in Derrida’s thinking. Rather than merely deconstruct such “pure” notions, he calls upon us to employ them heuristically for imagining new possibilities of human conduct. Instead of subjecting idealizing rhetoric to a deconstructive reading, Derrida wants to deconstruct the pragmatic language of those who cite the impossibility of ideal solutions in order to avoid radical progress. For example, if a French politician claims that it would be simply impossible to permit entrance to everyone who wants to live in France, Derrida will investigate the rhetoric required to shore up the notion of impossibility involved, thus making room for the discussion of a more radically hospitable policy. Finally, in a somewhat mystical mood, Derrida suggests that in some unthinkable way, acts of True Gift-Giving or True Forgiveness may actually be possible in this world. We can accomplish such moral feats without even knowing it - or perhaps only without knowing it! Unfortunately, Deutscher’s powers of exegesis fall somewhat short of giving us an entirely comprehensible account of this final mystery – but if she had it would not have remained a mystery.

In conclusion: this is a good short introduction to Derrida, but much more would be required to teach us “how to read” him. It seems that Deutscher is well aware of this herself. A more comprehensive guide would include suggestions regarding the order in which Derrida’s works should be read, warnings about the dangers of reading him in translation, and more information about the secondary literature. It might be said in Deutscher’s defense that she has made a more fundamental contribution to the popularization of Derrida’s idea; her book leaves the reader feeling that it will be worth while to make the effort to read his works.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College
Akko, Israel

Michael S. Gazzaniga: The Ethical Brain

My review will appear in Practical Philosophy.

Michael S. Gazzaniga
The Ethical Brain
Washington, DC: Dana Press, 2005, pp. xix + 201
ISBN: 1932594019 (hb), US$25

Michael S. Gazzaniga, a world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist, was invited to join the physicians, philosophers, and others who sit on the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics. That experience inspired him to write this book. Gazzaniga wishes to convince us that the new brain science will help solve the ancient perplexities of the philosophers. Unwittingly, he also demonstrates that, even in our hi-tech, bio-tech world, it is worthwhile for writers to acquaint themselves with the relevant philosophical literature before publishing pronouncements on ethical matters.

The book deals with a number of problems in ethics, including the moral status of embryos and euthanasia; brain enhancement via eugenics, training, and drugs; free will and moral responsibility; and the search for a universal ethics. Although his writing is sometimes disappointing when judged by the high standards set by the great science popularizers of our day such as Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould, Gazzaniga reviews the neuroscientific background of each of these topics with a reasonable degree of success.

As I have indicated, Gazzaniga’s application of his scientific knowledge to the questions at hand is not always entirely convincing. He tells us that since a fourteen day old embryo lacks a brain, it should not be granted human status. Unfortunately, so little argumentation is offered for this thesis that one can only wonder whether, if he had specialized in nephrology, Gazzaniga would recognize the humanity of embryos only after they had developed kidneys.

The chapter on the “Aging Brain” offers some useful information regarding the process of mental deterioration that comes with aging. However, when Gazzaniga tries to score a point against philosophers who write about dementia and euthanasia but have “never walked the neurology wards” (pg. 30), he ends up attacking a straw-man; the example he cites involves a relatively highly functional Alzheimer patient whose condition he conflates with “end-state” dementia.

The chapters on brain enhancement contain some very interesting scientific material. Once again, Gazzaniga’s philosophical insights are rather limited. He suggests that we stop worrying since people are generally good at adapting to new technologies. He seems to be unconcerned about the issue of how such new technologies may serve to radically widen the social and cultural gap between the rich (who will be able to avail themselves of artificial brain enhancement) and the poor (who most likely will not).

I found Gazzaniga’s discussion of “Free Will, Personal Responsibility, and the Law” to be the strongest section of his book. That is not to say that it is philosophically informed. How can someone write about this topic today without, so it seems, even being aware of the work of Harry Frankfurt? Fortunately, Gazzaniga devotes most of the discussion to explanations of recent research on the limitations of human memory and the latest developments in lie-detection technology. He makes a strong case that, given what is now known about human memory, the legal system should rethink its traditional reliance on eye-witness testimony. Anyone who deals with the analysis of personal narratives — including philosophical practitioners — would be well advised to take his message to heart.

The final section of the book, “The Nature of Moral Beliefs and the Concept of Universal Ethics”, is philosophically the weakest. Gazzaniga appears here as a naïve son of the Enlightenment: science will complete the unfinished business left by religion and philosophy and finally offer humanity a universal basis for ethics. The idea is that all human brains are genetically “hard-wired” for certain universal moral tendencies, and although these values are diffracted and distorted by the lenses of different cultural environments, they remain discoverable by the scientific method. In fact, they have already been partially uncovered by a study of ethical decision-making done via a website questionnaire. Unfortunately, Gazzaniga never asks himself why ethical predispositions, apparently formed by an evolutionary process that took place against the backdrop of prehistoric life in the African grasslands, would remain particularly functional in the twenty-first century. It is not immediately obvious that Stone Age ethics can handle issues such as artificial brain enhancement and the use of neural scanners for lie-detection. It is also a bit embarrassing that someone so celebrated for his experimental work does not realize that surveys run on the Internet tell us very little about “universal human nature.” Even if the respondents come from far-flung lands and subscribe to various different religions, they all belong to the global elite of people who have Internet access, are fluent readers of English, and are sufficiently computer literate to stumble upon and participate in an online survey.

Berel Dov Lerner

C. Mantzavinos: Naturalistic Hermeneutics

My review will be published in Practical Philosophy.
C. Mantzavinos
Naturalistic Hermeneutics
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. xv + 180
ISBN: 0521848121 (hb), £40, US$65

This book takes on one of the most popular theses of the modern philosophy of the social sciences, i.e., the claim that the human sciences must adopt a methodology fundamentally different from that of the natural sciences. More particularly, the human sciences should aim to interpret the meanings connected with human thought, speech, and action, while the natural sciences should devise causal explanations of phenomena in the physical world. Those causal explanations are themselves based upon empirically testable natural laws or invariances. Mantzavinos argues that there is nothing peculiar to the human sciences – or even to the interpretation of meanings – that should keep them from applying methodologies that are essentially similar to those of the natural sciences.

German philosophical hermeneutics is perhaps the most prestigious tradition demanding the methodological autonomy of the human sciences. In the first three chapters of his book, Mantzavinos offers a dismissive critique of the tradition’s three most celebrated representatives: Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. He seems to find these writers so repellent that he barely makes an effort to present a charitable and comprehensible reading of their work. As described by Mantzavinos, their doctrines appear either preposterous or trivial. The assumption of his opponents’ alleged incomprehensibility makes Mantzavinos’s own arguments against them difficult to follow. It would have been much more instructive if he had chosen to discuss works that criticize the use of law-based explanations in the human sciences by authors whose philosophical style he might find more generally attractive, such as Peter Winch, John Searle, and Charles Taylor.

In the second part of the book Mantzavinos marshals philosophical arguments and literature, as well as relevant material from the scientific literature, to present and defend his own ‘naturalistic’ position. Some readers will no doubt feel that he makes his job a bit too easy for himself. ‘Naturalistic’ methodology shades off into ‘hypothetico-deductive’ methodology, and anyone who is willing to test claims against some kind of reality (including the content of a particular text, instances of some person’s behaviour, etc.) may be said to employ the hypothetico-deductive method. Mantzavinos dismisses the fact that empathic understanding may play a special role in the human sciences as being of little philosophical consequence. After all, empathy does its work in the context of discovery, i.e., in the anarchic process of hypothesis construction that is everywhere ruled by luck and intuition. Good positivists such as Mantzavinos are perfectly willing to limit their methodological doctrines to the more orderly realm of the context of validation. The bright side of this is that Mantzavinos avoids falling into a trap of doctrinaire naturalism. For instance, he is perfectly willing to admit that, ‘Since the creative element is omnipresent in human praxis, it should be more difficult for us to discover regularities in human action than regularities in nature’ (pg. 112).

A fair bit of the later chapters is devoted to criticizing a methodological assumption that underlies much contemporary work in the social and behavioural sciences, i.e., the notion that humans should be viewed as being essentially rational creatures. Mantzavinos claims that such assumptions cannot give rise to genuine explanations of behaviour, but rather only to ‘rational reconstructions’. Similarly, while he admits that principles of charity (i.e., the assumption that an author or speaker usually makes sense) have proven useful to the work of interpretation, contra philosophers such as Donald Davidson, Mantzavinos believes that they are not crucial. However, it seems that he does not properly appreciate that without some kind of charitable assumption of rationality, it would be simply impossible to identify what someone is doing as being a particular action. (Unless we discount the possibility that someone could be so crazy that he might believe that any action might produce any result, how can we ever identify his behaviour as an instance of some purposeful act? We see him insert coins into a parking meter but for all we know, he might be trying to conduct a symphony orchestra.)

In a particularly weak moment, Mantzavinos addresses a classic criticism of naturalism in the social sciences: since human behaviour is radically informed by ever-changing historical circumstances, it is not consistently describable by the kind of unvarying concepts that allow for the formulation of law-like generalizations that can underlie causal explanations of the kind produced in the physical sciences. He tries to defuse the criticism with a facile demonstration of its own alleged self-contradiction: ‘What can the thesis of the radical historicity of standpoints mean other than that man and his actions possess a constant property, precisely this historicity?’ (Pg. 94). An invariant absence of invariance hardly bodes well for the construction of law-like generalizations!

While recent advances in cognitive neuroscience have done much to weaken the position of those who oppose any role for naturalism in the study of human thought and behaviour, the battle is yet to be completely decided. This book may help re-ignite the debate. Though brief – perhaps too brief – it is not an easy read and it assumes a fair acquaintance with the field. Perhaps it would be most profitably read by philosophers – and philosophical counsellors – who still support the categorical separation of the human sciences from the natural sciences.

Berel Dov Lerner

Ray Monk: How to Read Wittgenstein, Practical Philosophy

My review originally appeared in Practical Philosophy, Volume 8, No 1, Summer 2006, p. 59.

Ray Monk
How to Read Wittgenstein
London: Granta Books, 2005
ISBN: 1-86207-724-X (pb), pp. viii + 114.

Oceans of ink have been spilled in the course of the past half century in debates about ‘How to read Wittgenstein’. Having authored the much-celebrated biography, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (1990), Ray Monk was almost uniquely qualified to write this new addition to Simon Critchey’s How to Read series. He manages, in very limited compass of this slender volume, to offer the reader a guiding thread by which to follow the development of Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language. He also troubles himself to occasionally acquaint us with some major alternatives to his own reading.

Books of the How to Read series are comprised of original texts and interpretive comments. Interestingly, Monk chooses to begin with a rather obscure piece; Wittgenstein’s first published work, a short review of the long-forgotten P. Coffey’s long-forgotten The Science of Logic. Monk deftly expounds upon the review to describe Wittgenstein’s state of mind as an undergraduate at Cambridge and enthusiastic convert to the “new logic” of Frege and Russell. This first chapter also helps set the intellectual backdrop for Wittgenstein’s own original contributions to philosophy.

The next four chapters are concerned with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. While explaining the basics of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy, Monk is especially exercised by the famously self-destructive paradox at the heart of the Tractatus, i.e., that it apparently declares itself to be meaningless. He mentions Cora Diamond and James Conant’s radical view that Wittgenstein genuinely devised the Tractatus as an example of the kind of out-and-out nonsense we must learn to avoid. Monk’s own mind, however, tends towards the more common view that Wittgenstein thought his book somehow points the reader towards a true vision of the relationship between language and the world.

Chapter six uses the paper, “Some Remarks on Logical Form” to clearly delineate the first signs of Wittgenstein’s growing unhappiness with the system he had worked out in the Tractatus. It offers a short and masterful explanation of Wittgenstein’s technical doubts regarding the nature of the contradiction between statements which attribute different colours to the same ‘place’ at the same time, and how such doubts could eventually help bring Wittgenstein’s early philosophy crashing down in ruins. It is perhaps the best short presentation available of this crucial crisis in Wittgenstein’s intellectual development.

The next three chapters of the book outline Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. The passages are mostly drawn from the Philosophical Investigations, but other late works are also quoted. Monk wants us to read Wittgenstein as a therapeutic philosopher whose illuminating examples and challenging questions will free us of the maladies of systematic philosophy and help us discover new connections between different aspects of our experience. He is unhappy with those who have founded their doctrinaire relativism upon Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘language games,’ and with those who purport to find a knock-down-drag-out argument against ‘private languages’ in the Philosophical Investigations.

The final two chapters should be of particular interest to those involved in philosophical counselling. They describe Wittgenstein’s disdain for modern culture and his insistence that science is inadequate for the understanding of people, art, and all things spiritual. More generally, the therapeutic conception of philosophy which informs all of Wittgenstein’s later work can obviously play an important role in the practice of philosophical counselling. However, I would add a personal caveat to this. To the extent that Monk is right and the later Wittgenstein genuinely disavowed any systematic doctrine, all is well and good. However, if one is trying to convince an audience to accept a particular philosophical view, it might be more honest to set it out in a straight-forward manner than to cajole one’s interlocutors into agreement through what might become a dangerously manipulative ‘therapy’.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee Academic College
Akko, Israel

Mark Ridley: How to Read Darwin

My review originally appeared in Practical Philosophy, Volume 8, No 1, Summer 2006, pp. 58-9.

Mark Ridley
How to Read Darwin
London: Granta Books, 2005
ISBN: 1-86207-782-2 (pb), pp. viii + 119

This book belongs to the How to Read series, which is edited by Simon Critchley. The idea of the series is to introduce general readers to the work of great thinkers by having them read several short extracts from original works, each followed by several pages of background and explanations. Mark Ridley, a member of Oxford’s Department of Zoology and the author of an important textbook on evolution, took on the Darwinian canon. The first six of the book’s ten chapters sketch major themes from The Origin of Species. They are followed by three chapters on The Descent of Man and a final chapter treating The Expression of the Emotions.

As Ridley is well aware, it is not immediately obvious why the intelligent layman should care to know ‘how to read Darwin’ in the first place. Darwin was, of course, a truly revolutionary figure in the history of science, but the revolution he began has continued to take additional crucial steps forward. As a result, reading Darwin is not a particularly effective way to become acquainted with modern evolutionary biology. While Darwin is reputed to be a talented writer, the selections chosen by Ridley do not strike me as being written in a particularly engaging style. At the end of the day, it seems that Darwin should be read mostly for his historical importance.

Readers of Practical Philosophy will probably be most interested in the seventh and tenth chapters, which treat issues of psychological importance. Chapter seven explains Darwin’s views on the evolutionary development of human morality and altruism, as set out in The Descent of Man. This issue continues to be hotly debated by socio-biologists, evolutionary psychologists, and their various detractors. Ridley finds three lines of explanation in Darwin’s work. First of all, to the extent that altruistic behaviour invites reciprocation by other group members, it can be directly beneficial to the individual’s chances of survival. Secondly, altruism can evolve as a by-product of sensitivity to praise and blame, which may be a beneficial trait in its own right. (A variant of this second explanation has it that the heroic reputations enjoyed by those who risk danger to save others offer reproductive advantages that outweigh the risk of heroic death.) Finally, Darwin was willing to entertain explanations in terms of group selection; while self-sacrifice may not be conducive to the individual’s survival, it may be conducive to the survival of his group. The notion of ‘kin selection’ – that it might be socio-biologically rational to risk one’s life in order to save others possessing a common genetic inheritance – was not available to Darwin.

Chapter ten deals with The Expression of the Emotions. Here we find Darwin arguing that human expression of emotions derives directly from analogous animal behaviours. He brings three principles to bear upon the explanation of various human displays of emotion: 1) An emotional gesture or body-attitude can constitute a ‘serviceable associated habit’, such as the clenched fists which accompany anger and are useful offensive weapons. 2) The adoption of a gesture clearly different from that of some ‘serviceable associated habit’ is used to communicate that one is not possessed by the emotion that goes with the ‘serviceable associated habit’ in question. (An obviously open hand might mark one as not being emotionally prepared for violent confrontation). 3) Bodily conditions such as trembling derive directly from the state of the nervous system.

Ridley succeeds in conveying the main points of Darwin’s legacy, placing it in historical context and pointing out weaknesses that would be addressed by later scientists. Unfortunately, Ridley’s explanations are occasionally less than perfectly clear. Chapter eight, which deals with ‘the geological succession’, cries out for the inclusion of a table or diagram to help the reader keep track of the various dates given by different scientists to the Cambrian, Silurian, etc., geological periods. Nevertheless, this book is probably the best short introduction to Darwin for people who are interested in reading his own words.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee Academic College
Akko, Israel

William J. Wainwright: Religion and Morality

My review originally appeared in Philosophy in Review, 26:2:146-148, April 2006.

WILLIAM J. WAINWRIGHT Religion and Morality. Hants, England and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate 2005. xii and Pp. 252.
Cloth ISBN: 0 7546 1631 2 $99.95/£55.00
Paper ISBN: 0 7546 1632 0 $34.95/£18.99

This book offers an up-to-date survey of what philosophers have had to say about the relationship between religion and morality. Wainwright divides his subject-matter under three headings, to each of which he devotes a part of the book: “Moral Arguments for the Existence of God,” “Divine Command Theory and Its Critics,” and finally, “Human Morality and Religious Requirements,” which deals with the apparent contradictions between ethics and the practices of various religious traditions. The book is almost exclusively concerned with the work of analytically-oriented philosophers and theologians who write in the English language. It makes no mention of postmodern thought; Kant and Kierkegaard are the only continental thinkers seriously discussed. Within those limits, its compass is quite comprehensive.

Part One begins with a lucid and charitable description of Kantian ethics, leading up to Kant’s famous claim that God’s existence must be postulated in order to make ethics fully comprehensible. Wainwright does not limit himself to setting out a single possible reading of Kant; he also contrasts the views of different interpreters (e.g., Peter Byrne and Allen Wood), creating a kind of exegetical dialectic.

Next for consideration is John Henry Newman’s argument that the phenomenon of moral conscience points to the existence of God. Wainwright describes the criticisms of Newman proffered by John Mackie and S.A. Grave, subjecting each to subtle critique. However, he is troubled by the apparent fact that many people simply do not possess the kind of moral conscience described by Newman, and that Newman disposes of this problem in ways that render his doctrine unfalsifiable.

The final chapter of this section deals with attempts to prove God’s existence from the assumed premise that moral values are objective. First, Wainwright presents and rejects W. R. Surley’s contention that if values are objective they must exist in God’s mind. He is more favorably disposed towards Richard Adams’s theory that values gain their objectivity from their resemblance to Divine attributes. Wainwright concludes by allowing that in as much as such arguments offer good explanations for the objectivity of values, they offer some basis for belief in God’s existence.

Part two opens with a chapter describing the historical background of the controversy surrounding the so-called “Euthyphro Problem,” i.e., does God command us to do certain things because they are moral obligations, or are those things moral obligations because God commanded them? Pierre d’Ailley (1350-1420), Martin Luther and Renee Descartes are cited as champions of the Divine Command theory of ethics, which takes the latter view. Ralph Cudworth’s A Treatise Concerning True and Immutable Morality (1731) is examined in some detail in order to explain the traditional criticisms of Divine Command theory. Chapter six continues the exposition with thorough accounts of the two leading modern versions of the theory. These are Robert Adam’s “Modified Divine Command Theory,” which is based upon the premise that the fact that an imperative is commanded by God is constitutive of its status as an ethical obligation, and Phillip Quinn’s “Causal Divine Command Theory,” which is notable for allowing the possibility that some moral truths may be necessary truths.

While chapter six does describe some of the controversies surrounding the ideas of Adams and Quinn, chapter seven is devoted wholly to criticism of Divine Command Theory. Wainwright wisely avoids critiques based upon atheistic arguments (if you can prove there is no God, then Divine Command Theory has little to offer) that would lead him astray into metaphysical issues that are not really the book’s concern. Instead, he concentrates on arguments that can also appeal to some theists. These attacks on Divine Command Theory invoke a broad range of issues: whether non-believers would be able to become cognizant of divinely commanded ethical obligations; whether the “ought” of ethical obligations may be derived from the “is” of “It is commanded by God;” whether God can command us to do evil; what are we to make of the claim that God is good if He Himself invents the criteria of goodness as He wishes; and finally, whether Divine Command Theory contradicts Kant’s notion of human moral autonomy. All of this is followed by yet another well-argued chapter making Wainwright’s own “Case for Divine Command Theory.” His tentative conclusion views the glass as half-full: “At this point in time, it is not unreasonable to prefer theological voluntarism (i.e. Divine Command Theory – B.D.L.) to other forms of theistic ethical theory” (pg. 144).

The final section of the book considers whether the ideas of actual religious traditions may contradict rational moral norms. Consequently, it devotes a good deal of space to establishing and describing relevant aspects of those traditions. It begins with chapter eight, which offers a well-informed discussion of Christian and Buddhist endorsements of pacifism and considers whether unwillingness to fight may sometimes interfere with the performance of moral obligations. Building upon Reinhold Neibuhr’s critique of Christian pacifism, Wainwright takes this problem very seriously, and concludes that, “we have uncovered a real clash between certain religious requirements and the requirements of rational morality” (pg. 174).

Chapter ten deals with the theologically challenging story of “The Binding of Isaac” from the Book of Genesis. Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion revolves around Kierkegaard’s classic study, Fear and Trembling, and it recent interpretations. Once again, the views of Quinn and Adams are also discussed in detail. Although Wainwright devotes about two pages to Jerome Gellman’s views on Kierkegaard, Religion and Morality’s lack of any references to Jewish thought becomes especially glaring in this chapter. After all, Gellman’s discussion of Kierkegaard appears in his (2003) Abraham! Abraham! Kierkegaard and the Hasidim on the Binding of Isaac. It is a shame that Wainwright does not seem to be acquainted with Michael J. Harris’s (2003) Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives.

The final chapter asks whether mysticism, as represented by figures and movements in the Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions is a help or a hindrance to morality. Wainwright classifies some of these a forms of ethical egoism; the mystic is really only interested in his or her own enlightenment. He claims that more theistically-oriented forms of mysticism tend to be more concerned with morality; they often take the shape of “mixed forms” of religious life, which balance contemplation with ethically-grounded action.

All-in-all, Wainwright is to be commended for producing such a lucid, comprehensive, and philosophically sophisticated book. It should be on the “must-read” list of anyone with a serious interest in the philosophy of religion. However, lay readers and teachers of undergraduates should take note: despite the clarity of his presentation, Wainwright’s technical subtlety makes parts of his book heavy going for the philosophical novice.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College, Israel

Yaakov Malkin: Secular Judaism: Faith, Values, and Spirituality

My review originaaly appeared in Reviews in Religion and Theology 12:1:17-19, Feb. 2005.

Secular Judaism: Faith, Values, and Spirituality, Yaakov Malkin, London, Valentine Mitchell 2004 (0-85303-512-1), pp. x + 150, Hb £42.50/$62.50, Pb £17.50/$26.50

This book offers the Jewish public a detailed programmatic statement of its author’s vision of secular Judaism. Malkin is ideologically opposed to theism; he rejects the existence of God and the authority of God’s purported commands. He promotes a secular Judaism that replaces divine commandments with universal human values, which he explicitly identifies with Kantian ethics and liberal political ideals. Well aware that secular world-views risk the danger of leaving human spiritual cravings unfulfilled, Malkin suggests that love and concern for others, community-feeling, and the aesthetic enjoyment of the world’s great art should take the place of traditional theistic spirituality.

What then is particularly Jewish about this seemingly generic re-vamping of Enlightenment ideals? While Malkin rejects ‘nationalistic’ claims for the superiority of one culture or ethnicity over another, he considers it only natural for human beings to identify with and belong to a particular nationality. The Jewish People constitutes one such national community. During the past few hundred years the explicitly religious foundation of Jewish national identity has weakened, leaving room for the development of various options for secular Jewish identity based upon group solidarity, a homeland, a common language, and shared history and culture. In fact, he claims, Jewish national identity has never really hinged upon adherence to a particular religious creed. Thus, while many Jews have been critical of those biblical Israelites who had embraced Canaanite religion, none has ever questioned their membership in the Jewish People. Malkin goes so far as to claim that during biblical times, contemporary alternatives (e.g., Baal-worship) to the various forms of biblical monotheism constituted legitimate elements of a pluralistic Jewish culture.

Although Malkin appreciates the various options for secular Judaism that had developed in the Diaspora, he claims that all alternatives to Zionism ‘died (or, more precisely, were murdered) in the Shoah’ (pg.1). He views the creation of the State of Israel as the great historical triumph of the Jewish People. The state serves as the setting for the flourishing of a dynamic and pluralistic Jewish society while it continues to embrace democratic and humanistic ideals. Israel seeks to uncover and develop the foundations of those ideals within Jewish tradition and foster critical and creative encounters with all earlier forms of Judaism. These encounters bear fruit with the development of new modes for the observance of Jewish holidays and life-cycle events, and new ways to continue the tradition of Jewish learning.

While the Talmud has been of crucial importance for “normative” Judaism, the Hebrew scriptures are uniquely classic creations of Jewish culture; they constitute practically the only body of texts which have been universally treasured by all Jews since their canonization. Malkin celebrates the Hebrew Bible as the textual core of the Jewish cultural tradition and as an essential part of the world’s great literature. True to his secularist creed, he suggests that we view God of scripture as an ingenuous, yet morally ambiguous, invention of the Jewish literary imagination.

Although this book was translated from Hebrew by a team of three translators, it is clearly written and includes a glossary that explains terms that may be unfamiliar to the general reader. However, the translators must also bear partial responsibility for the book’s occasional lapses of scholarship, such as the idiosyncratic transliteration of some Hebrew terms. For example, it refers to the Lubavitcher Hassidic sect as Khabad instead of Chabad or Habad, a mistake that could not have been made by anyone familiar with the usual conventions of transliteration. More serious gaffs include listing the ‘philosophical…essay’ as a Biblical genre (in what must have been a reference to wisdom literature, which was left unmentioned) (pg. 116). One also finds the disturbingly anachronistic claim that, ‘the study of the literature of…Kabalah…[is] explicitly prohibited in the Bible’ (pg.120).

Malkin presents a somewhat distorted and ideologically charged picture of the contemporary Israeli scene. On the one hand, he seems to count just about every Israeli Jew who does not practice Orthodox Judaism as an adherent of secular Judaism. Surely there are many theists among those Israeli Jews who choose to drive their cars on the Sabbath, and, just as surely, there are many secular Israelis who simply do not devote much thought to their Jewish identity. On the other hand, Malkin caricatures the ideas and practices of contemporary Orthodoxy, largely truncating its wide variety of sects and movements into a single stereotype of stagnant and anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodoxy. It would appear that he simply lacks first-hand acquaintance with the people he derides. He does not find a single contemporary Orthodox or even theistic Jewish thinker worthy of his attention. (Excluding Martin Buber, whose thought is drained of theistic content by Malkin’s interpretation). That having been said, Malkin deserves credit for giving his readers a useful picture of how the seemingly oxymoronic notion of “secular Judaism” may be fleshed-out as a genuine spiritual alternative for contemporary Jews.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee Academic College

Michael J. Harris: Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives

My review originally appeared in Religious Studies 40:383-386, 2004.

Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives by Berel Dov Lerner
© COPYRIGHT 2004 Cambridge University Press
Michael J. Harris Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives. (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon,
2003). Pp. xiii + 207. [pounds sterling]55.00 (Hbk). ISBN 0 145 29769 9.

This book, based upon a doctoral thesis and written by an Orthodox rabbi, attempts to determine how the Jewish tradition answers Plato’s famous ’Euthyphro question’, restated as (3):

Is it the case that:
(1) an act is right because God commanded (or wanted, or
willed or approved) it,
or, alternatively, is it the case that:
(2) God commanded (or wanted or willed or approved) this act
because it is right?

In order properly to assess the doctrinal tendencies of different authoritative Jewish texts, it is necessary to pin down precisely what kinds of ideas belong to (1) (referred to by Harris as DCT--divine command theory), and which ideas are versions of (2) (referred to by Harris as SMU--the shared moral universe of God and humanity). One of the book’s major points is that each horn of Plato’s dilemma refers to whole families of theses regarding the relationship between divine
commands and morality. In his opening chapter, Harris arms the reader with a list of no fewer than seven different versions of DCT, four versions of SMU, and two versions of M, a mixed compromise thesis. Some of these make claims regarding the Torah’s moral authority; others refer to the role of God’s ’unrevealed will’ in ethics. Some are concerned with
the source of our moral knowledge, while others talk about what endows human actions with moral qualities. This conceptual taxonomy allows for some confusing possibilities. A theory might easily be counted as an instance of SMU because it views morality as ontologically independent of God, while simultaneously instantiating DCT, inasmuch as it views God as the only reliable source of true moral knowledge.

Readers acquainted with Judaism’s relative lack of concern for doctrinal (as opposed to practical) orthodoxy might well wonder why anyone would expect the tradition to side wholly with either party to the Euthyphro debate. Indeed, Harris himself ultimately concludes that the Jewish canon is largely ambiguous regarding these issues. The second chapter, ’DCT and SMU in philosophy and Jewish thought’, tacitly explains the book’s real motivation. After a perfunctory nod to Christian philosophers, Harris proceeds to catalogue quotations from the works of various prominent contemporary Jewish thinkers who appear to claim that Judaism firmly embraces one option or the other: Immanuel Jakobowitz, Marvin Fox, and Len Goodman identify Judaism with DCT, while Aharon Lichtenstein, David Hartman, and Shubert Spero support SMU. Yeshayahu Leibowitz proposes a ’conflict solution’, claiming that the body of divine commands known as Jewish law is radically God-oriented and completely unconcerned with the anthropocentric goals of the moral realm. If so many authors insist on taking sides on the Jewish DCT/SMU question, perhaps even a demonstration of the tradition’s ambiguity might constitute a move towards the light. Most importantly, two respected Israeli philosophers, Avi Sagi and Daniel Statman, have published detailed defences of the notion that Judaism is, in the main, committed to SMU. Much of Harris’s book is devoted to explicit criticism of their work.

Chapter 3 considers the bearing of several biblical texts on the issue at hand. The first encounter with biblical evidence foreshadows much of what follows. Harris considers an argument suggested by Shubert Spero and Ze’ev Falk: the divine commands of the Torah are presented by scripture as the stipulations of a covenantal agreement between God and
Israel. However, covenantal obligations can only be binding upon people who already recognize the prerequisite moral obligation to observe covenantal agreements. The Torah must assume that at least one moral obligation (the obligation to fulfil covenants) preceded God’s commands, implying SMU. Harris counters this argument by bringing in one of the many subtle versions of DCT formulated in his first chapter (DCTNW). That version remains true whenever ’God’s unrevealed will is a necessary condition of the moral rightness of an act’ (7). The biblical account does not rule out the possibility that the obligation to fulfil covenantal agreements gains its force from its agreement with God’s unrevealed will, leaving scripture safe for DCTNW.

Harris has equipped himself with so many weak and variegated formulations of DCT that it is hardly surprising that the prophets and rabbis failed to produce a text that was strictly inconsistent with all of them. In fact, it would be quite difficult to produce such a text unless the author had a copy of Harris’s book to hand, in order to know exactly what to avoid! Similarly, weak versions of SMU guarantee that practically no text will unambiguously rule out either horn of Plato’s dilemma. And so chapter 3 continues, offering informed and intelligent readings of the sin of Adam and Eve, Abraham’s dialogue with God regarding the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so on. In each instance, Harris considers which of the various versions of DCT and SMU are refuted, supported, or left untouched by the text in question.

Chapter 4 investigates rabbinic texts and concepts that might be thought to support SMU. Here, we get to see Harris take advantage of his classical Talmudic education. He presents these materials very clearly, supplying the uninitiated reader with background explanations as needed. The passages cited invite a variety of arguments for SMU. For instance, the Talmudic claim that there are ethical commandments, ’which, if they had not been written [in the Torah], by right should have been written’ (73), clearly supports the notion of moral obligations whose force does not derive from revelation. However, as Harris once again points out, it is still possible that those obligations are ultimately grounded in God’s unrevealed will. Talmudic sages sometimes challenge the morality of divine commands, and such challenges would appear to be grounded in an independent SMU ethic. Harris points out that these challenges might also be understood as stemming from a moral sensibility informed by the Torah itself. In that case, apparent challenges to the morality of particular divine commands would be better understood as demands that those commands be interpreted in a manner consistent with the body of divine law as a whole. And so Harris continues, examining additional Talmudic texts and concepts, along with the writings of individual thinkers, including Saadia Gaon, Nissim Gaon, Maimonides, Judah Halevi, Nachmanides, Meir Halevi Abulafia, Abraham Isaac Kook, and Meir Simkhah of Dvinsk. In each case, he offers interpretations that leave at least the weaker forms of DCT unscathed. It becomes clear, however, that there is some kind of general consensus in the tradition that the revealed Torah does not constitute the only means of access to ethical knowledge.

Chapter 5 interrogates rabbinic texts that would appear to support DCT. Harris contends that many of them are indeed most naturally read as implying various forms of DCT. Most strikingly, one Talmudic statement condemns a certain liturgical formulation because it ’[indicates that] the commandments of the Holy One [are an expression of] mercy, whereas [in fact] they are simply divine decrees’ (107). He also finds support for DCT in quotations from various famous rabbis, including Ovadiah of Bertinoro, Abraham Isaiah Karelitz, Abraham Isaac Kook, and Samson Raphael Hirsch. In spite of this evidence, Harris does not claim to have demonstrated that the tradition as a whole should be understood as supporting DCT. Rather, he uses these quotations to counter Sagi and Statman’s claims for SMU, while explicitly criticizing their own interpretations of the particular texts in question.

Chapter 6 treats the story of the binding of Isaac (in Hebrew: the Akedah), the biblical episode most closely associated with the Euthyphro question. Harris is anxious to demonstrate that the Akedah does not necessarily imply DCT. First he considers the ’conflict thesis’, which he identifies with Kierkegaard’s ’teleological suspension of the ethical’, as well as with Leibowitz’s views mentioned above: divine commands do not underwrite moral obligations, but they do trump moral obligations. Harris is somewhat uncomfortable with a doctrine that strips morality of its categorical authority. He prefers to develop a reading of the Akedah that is indifferent to the SMU/DCT controversy. Citing the Hebrew text of Genesis, Harris argues that God did not command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but rather requested it of him. The Akedah becomes a personal test of Abraham’s willingness to give up freely to God that which is most precious to him. A person of faith simply cannot ignore a direct divine request. The ethical weight of Isaac’s apparently impending murder is neutralized by Abraham’s certainty that God will somehow arrange for everything to work out for the best. The story’s ’happy ending’ bears out Abraham’s faith. The remainder of the chapter describes how traditional Jewish exegesis also tries to neutralize the ethical conundrum posed by the Akedah.

The final chapter considers the biblical commandment to wipe out the nation called Amalek. Harris believes that the unadorned Deuteronomic text obviously clashes with conventional ethics, so that it must imply either the ’conflict thesis’ or some form of DCT. In order to leave room for SMU, he entertains the rather surprising suggestion (especially from the pen of an Orthodox rabbi!) that the biblical verses involved may have been interpolated into the text of Deuteronomy by Satan.

Moving on to rabbinic interpretations of the commandment, Harris again contests the views of Avi Sagi, who has made the rabbinic treatment of the Amalek issue a main pillar of his argument for the pervasiveness of SMU in the Jewish tradition. Sagi tried to demonstrate that the rabbis were always uncomfortable with the Amalek commandment: either they emphasized Amalek’s depravity in order to justify its annihilation, or they removed the command’s moral sting by treating it as merely allegorical. In their legal discussions, the rabbis piled up legal technicalities, reducing the irksome biblical command to a dead letter. Sagi claims that the rabbis’ consternation points to their tacit assent to SMU. If the rabbis had favoured DCT, they would have assumed that, like any other divine command, the Amalek commandment must be moral by definition, and they would never have been troubled by it to begin with.

Harris offers a number of responses to Sagi. First, he mentions that some classical exegetes remained silent on the Amalek issue, implying their indifference to its alleged ethical difficulties. Furthermore, the rabbis’ consternation may be interpreted as stemming from the apparent contradiction between the Amalek command and certain general principles of revealed Torah morality, rather than from respect for the dictates of purely human morality. Harris also tries to demonstrate that the legal discussions regarding Amalek were rarely motivated by moral unease or intended to neutralize the commandment’s practical significance.

Unfortunately, this book leaves several crucial methodological issues almost untouched. (1) What precautions must be taken when assigning opinions to ancient writers regarding an issue which, apparently, did not directly interest many of them? (An extremely exaggerated analogy: some biblical texts describe arithmetic calculations; does it make sense to ask whether their authors believed that mathematical equations are analytic truths?) (2) Jewish law self-consciously combines elements of divine revelation with creative human interpretation. How does one ask the Euthyphro question in connection with the obligations formulated by this joint divine/human project? (3) When we look for conflicts between divine commands and morality in ancient texts, exactly whose moral ideas should we take into account? For instance, Harris’s discussion of Amalek assumes that genocidal warfare is immoral. Would the original readers of Deuteronomy have agreed?

In any event, this book should certainly be required reading for anyone interested in Jewish attitudes towards the Euthyphro question. It makes a large collection of relevant traditional texts available and understandable, even to an audience unacquainted with rabbinic literature, and it offers careful and informed discussions of their philosophical significance. The book’s many endnotes and copious bibliography may also serve as a guide to the relevant contemporary Jewish literature.

Western Galilee Academic College, Israel

Wilfrid J. Waluchow: The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory and S. Jack Odell: On Consequentialist Ethics

This review originally appeared in Philosophy in Review 24:2:136-140 April 2004.

These two books cover much of the same ground, but achieve quite different degrees of success.

Waluchow has produced a very useful textbook. Within the brief compass of less than 250 moderately-sized pages of uncrowded text, it covers just about all of the major concepts, theories, and arguments that a student should be exposed to in an introductory ethics course. These are organized and explained with great care, in order to make the material as digestible as possible for undergraduates lacking any background in philosophy. By combining brevity with clarity of exposition, Waluchow has written a textbook which even reluctant young scholars will be likely to actually read.

The book is comprised of two large sections; the first five chapters deal with meta-ethics, the latter five with normative ethical theories. Chapter one opens with a discussion of the meaning of ethics, distinguishing it from aesthetics and prudence. It continues with a broad outline of the book’s concerns, and describes the issues which ethical theories are expected to address.

Chapter two sets out the main themes of meta-ethics, and manages to introduce the reader to a large assortment of ideas and theories. These include: the difference between judgments of obligation, value, and virtue, supererogation, consequentialism, deontology, theories of value, moral rights, emotivism, and prescriptivism. My only complaint regarding this chapter is that Waluchow may have gone into too much detail in his taxonomy of different kinds of rights. For a few pages he loses the fine balance between comprehensiveness and conciseness, making a number of passages read like lists of definitions.

Chapter three crisply describes the major arguments for and against moral relativism. Anyone who has taught introductory ethics has had to deal with the notion that relativism makes it pointless to debate moral issues. Waluchow effectively inoculates the reader against such moves by carefully explaining how moral judgments made in the context of relativistic ethics remain open to criticism on the basis of factual disagreements, disagreements over the correct application of socially endorsed rules, and demands for internal consistency.

Chapter three examines the relationship between ethics and religious belief. It opens with an explanation of the difference between divine command theories which claim that God’s will establishes the difference between right and wrong, as against those theories which view God’s commands as offering the only reliable guide for distinguishing between right and wrong, and offers a Leibnizian argument for preferring the latter. It is further pointed out that all divine command theorists must face up to the limited capacity of humans to correctly identify and interpret ostensible divine commands. The rest of the chapter is devoted to an overview of Aquinas’ theory of natural law, ending with an explanation of how questions regarding natural law invite its substitution with social contract theories, which are the subject of the next chapter.

In chapter five, Waluchow takes David Gauthier and Thomas Hobbes as his primary representatives of social contract theory. This is fine for getting across the basic notion of the social contract, but Locke, Rousseau and Rawls (in a footnote) are barely even mentioned in passing. It would have been in better keeping with the book’s general level of comprehensiveness if some indication had been given of their unique contributions.

Chapter six opens the ‘Normative Ethical Theories’ section, and it deals with utilitarianism. Here again we find Waluchow painlessly imparting the core material of his subject including act vs. rule utilitarianism, the value theories of Bentham, Mill and Moore, etc. It would have been worthwhile mentioning Nozick’s ‘experience machine’ in the discussion of hedonism, but that is a minor quibble.

By this point, the reader should be well aware of the deficiencies of utilitarianism and is prepared for chapter seven, which introduces Kantian ethics. The chapter is built around the three different versions of the categorical imperative. Waluchow does an admirable job of bringing the reader to appreciate the value of Kant’s formulations without trying to sweep any of their difficulties under the rug.

Chapter eight deals with W. D. Ross’s ethical theory, which arrives as a kind of synthetic solution to the tensions between utilitarianism and deontological ethics. Besides setting out Ross’s views, the chapter also offers the reader a good illustration of how theories become messy when they try to satisfy all of out basic intuitions regarding moral obligations.

Chapter nine is devoted to Aristotle’s virtue ethics. It not only explains the central ideas of the Nichomacean ethics, but also discusses the relative advantages and disadvantages of virtue ethics as against theories of obligation. Waluchow concludes this discussion with the suggestion that virtue ethics might be symbiotically combined with a utilitarian or deontological theory of obligation.

The book ends with a chapter on feminist ethics, which, like virtue ethics, has largely developed in reaction to the perceived weaknesses of consequentialism and deontology. Again, Waluchow manages to touch upon all of the essential points (the notion of patriarchy, ethics of care, Carol Gilligan’s feminist moral psychology, etc.) with which a novice philosophy student should be acquainted. Beyond its more strictly feminist interest, this chapter also serves as an introduction to contemporary ‘anti-theory’ in ethics.

According to the publisher’s website, On Consequentialist Ethics is supposed to present ‘a general overview of Consequentialist Ethics,’ and ‘enable students to achieve quick familiarity with this philosophical topic as they prepare for in-class discussions or for reading relevant original sources.’ The book’s failure to fulfill these functions can be demonstrated in objective, even quantifiable terms. In reality, only two of the book’s seven chapters are devoted to an overview of consequentialism. The first three attempt to give a general account of ethical theory, while the last two are devoted to Odell’s own personal philosophical contribution, ‘Folk based practice consequentialism.’ The two chapters that actually do present ‘a general review of consequentialist ethics’ go into deeper detail than does Waluchow, but they are not written in a particularly clear fashion, and each suffers from fundamental deficiencies in the choice of material covered. Chapter four, entitled ‘Act, Rule and General Utilitarianism,’ devotes ten pages to the views of Bentham, Mill, and Moore, and another ten to the ethical writings of Bertrand Russell, making for a quite idiosyncratic account of the classical utilitarian literature. Chapter five, ‘Standard and Recent Criticisms and Recent Defenses of Utilitarianism,’ mentions no work published after 1984.

Some sections of the introductory chapters offer relatively straight-forward expositions of meta-ethics, deontology, and egoism, going into deeper detail than does Waluchow. However, they are often marred by confusing use of technical vocabulary, irrelevant side-discussions, and writing that simply cries out for an editor’s red pencil. A typical example of the latter: ‘David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher who is recognized by nearly every contemporary philosopher to be one of the most important philosophers in the history of western philosophy’ (36). Generally speaking, much of the book is written in a careless, flippant style that does not read like a final draft.

One section from the second chapter seriously compromises the book’s usefulness as a text for undergraduate courses in a more specific way. Odell’s gratuitous, uncharitable, and ill-informed discussion of divine command ethics is likely to undermine his scholarly authority and neutrality On Consequentialist Ethics in the eyes of religious students. We know that he is in trouble as soon as we find him telling us that, ‘nothing better captures this version of DCT’ than the hackneyed joke about the Ten Commandments whose punch line reads, ‘The good news is, according to Moses, “I got him down to ten!” The bad news is, “Adultery is still on the list!”’ (24). Later we are treated to a 19th century-style description of Judaism, based on a fragmented and literal reading of the Old Testament. Catholic students will discover that, ‘Sexual prohibitions of the kind institutionalized by the Catholic Church exemplify religion’s distortion of the folk ethic’ (32). The philosophical content of the section is almost completely restricted to a whirlwind critical presentation of traditional arguments for God’s existence.
The final two chapters treat Odell’s own pet theory, which, he repeatedly promises us throughout the book, overcomes the deficiencies of all previous doctrines. Chapter six explains that ‘Folk Based Practice Consequentialism’ urges us to behave in ways that everyone already believes will promote social harmony, inasmuch as everyone is correct in their assessment of what will promote social harmony. Odell’s moral program is reminiscent of Karl Popper’s call for ‘piece-meal social engineering.’ Changes in the actual list of prescriptions supported by this theory must pass the test of practical experience. If an existing moral principle is found to disrupt social harmony, it must be discarded, while new moral principles must be shown to improve social harmony. It is not clear why Odell believes that social harmony is the only desirable consequence worthy of serving as the goal of his ethics.

Chapter seven applies Odell’s new theory to the issues of euthanasia, the death penalty, abortion, cloning, and stem-cell research. In each instance, Odell first reviews and criticizes how various ethical theories approach the problem at hand, and then tries to demonstrate the superiority of his own views. The preliminary discussions hardly do justice to the efforts of other ethicists to confront these issues. The discussion of capital punishment does not consider the problem of false convictions, while the discussion of abortion makes no mention of even the best known work on the subject, such as that of Judith Jarvis Thomson and Don Marquis. Odell’s own solutions to these dilemmas are tautological. Whatever policy best serves social harmony will eventually be discovered by an historical process of trial and error, and that policy will be, by definition, identified with ‘Folk Based Practice Consequentialism.’

Given the criticisms cataloged above, I cannot recommend On Consequentialist Ethics for classroom use. Advanced students who are already acquainted with the material it covers may find parts of the book of some interest, especially its discussion of Kantian ethics (40-50). Of course, anyone interested in Odell’s own ethical theory must read his book.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee Academic College, Israel

Stephen P. Turner and Paul A. Roth, eds.: The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences

This review was originally published in Philosophy in Review 23:6:412-13, Dec. 2003.

STEPHEN P. TURNER and PAUL A. ROTH, eds. The Blackwell Guide to the Social Sciences. Oxford: Blackwell 2003. Pp. viii + 382.
$50.00 (ISBN 0-631-21537-9); $12.9514.99 (Paper: ISBN 0-631-21538-7)

This book contains a collection of important, newly commissioned essays that is intended to represent the current state of the art in various areas of interest in the philosophy of the social sciences. Anyone acquainted with the canonical anthology of the 1990s, M. Martin and L. C. McIntyre’s Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science (MIT Press, 1994), will immediately sense that the Blackwell Guide is built around a very different list of issues in the field. Law-based and functional explanations, and the debate over methodological individualism vs. holism, are out. Critical theory, practice theory, standpoint theory, mathematical modeling, decision theory and rhetorical analysis are among the topics afforded individual chapters. Phenomenology and the analytic tradition share equal billing in the discipline’s history.

The book opens with the editors’ useful introductory chapter, which lays out the historical background for their vision of the field. Three sections of essays follow: ‘Pasts’, which offers historical overviews of the field, ‘Programs’, which deals with the contemporary situation in a number of leading social sciences research programs, and ‘Problematics’, whose essays discuss important critiques of the social sciences.

The ‘Pasts’ section begins with Stephen Turner’s impressive essay on causality and teleology. No mere catalog of doctrines, this essay charts the course of its subject starting with Aristotle and mentioning (among others) Hobbes, the Enlightenment thinkers, Comte’s positivist project, Durkheim, Weber, all the way to G. A. Cohen’s functionalist reading of Marx, weaving them all into a comprehensible intellectual conversation.

Next comes Brian Fay’s chapter, which situates Schutz, Heiddeger, Merleau-Ponty, and ethnomethodology within the long struggle to overcome the solipsistic and overly abstract character of Edmund Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. A final dialectical twist points back to the earlier Phenomenology of Hegel, and its demand that forms of consciousness must not only be described, but also criticized.

Thomas Uebels’s chapter on the analytic tradition begins with a useful, if somewhat unenthusiastic, overview of post-war developments on the Anglo-American scene. The real heart of this chapter is its extensive discussion of Otto Neurath, whose pre-war work, Uebel convincingly argues, foreshadowed the latest advances of postpositivist philosophy of the social sciences.

The book’s ‘Programs’ section opens with James Bohman’s chapter on critical theory. Bohman both describes and champions the development of the critical program from a search for a liberating and scientifically objective theoretical critique of society to a free-wheeling dialogical inquiry, prepared to learn from all standpoints and methodologies. This new style of critical social science is not in the business of establishing eternal sociological truths, but rather in serving as a practical tool for making people, ‘more aware of the circumstances that restrict their freedom and inhibit their practical knowledge’ (107).

Peter Rawlings makes a heroic effort to summarize the major results and controversies of philosophical interest in decision theory, including the work of (among others) von Neumann, Morgenstern, Ramsey, and Savage, as well as celebrated topics of discussion such as the ‘Prisoner’s dilemma’, ‘Dutch books’ and the ‘Constant Act Problem’. Quite understandably, Rawling makes use of mathematical nomenclature and concepts that do not appear elsewhere in this book.

Lars Udehn’s chapter on ‘The Methodology of Rational Choice’ takes a different tact, eschewing mathematical technicalities and instead concentrating on the fundamental question of whether and to what extent rational choice explanations can really be said to explain social phenomena. He charts the development and deployment of rational choice theories from classical economics through recent work in ‘public choice’, and also explains the opinions of Weber, Friedman and Popper on their legitimacy. Udhen argues that the applicability of rational choice explanations is an ‘empirical’ question that can only be determined on a case by case basis.

Paul Humphrey’s accessible chapter discusses the pros and cons of three basic styles of mathematical modeling in the social sciences: theory-based models, which translate social-scientific theories into mathematical systems, data-based models which are created by applying statistical analysis to empirical data, and computational models, which calculate the emergent behavior of a group of individual agents who interact with each other in accordance with a specific set of rules. Well aware of the modest degree of success achieved by mathematical models up to now, Humphrey holds out some hope for future applications of computational models.

David G. Stern’s balanced essay on practice theory concentrates on Heidegger (especially as interpreted by Hubert Dreyfus) and Wittgenstein (as interpreted by Peter Winch and Saul Kripke) as the two main inspirations of this popular family of strategies for avoiding the traditional conceptual oppositions of subject and object, individual and society, represented and representation, and so on. Stern also gives sympathetic hearings to Ernest Gellner and Stephen Turner’s objections to practice theory.

Steven Fuller’s chapter takes ‘Science and Technology Studies’ to task for not being sufficiently ‘critical and transformative’ (207) of the role of the science and of the scientific community in contemporary Western societies, especially in the U.S.A. He argues that contemporary Science Studies promote a view of the scientific community which serves state interests in a manner similar to the way Oxford anthropology produced a way of thinking about indigenous societies that served British interests. Touching upon the work of Karl Mannheim, Karl Popper, and Ian Hacking (among others), Fuller develops his theme into a thorough-going critique of the state of contemporary sociology of science.

The ‘Problematics’ section opens with Hans Kellner’s chapter on the rhetoric of the social sciences. Kellner first discusses the rise of the social sciences as defined disciplines concerned with the establishment of ‘facts’. He then reviews several important examinations of social scientific rhetoric, including the work of Charles Brazerman, Richard Harvey Brown, John Nelson, Deirdre McCloskey, and Hayden White. Kellner believes that such studies do not necessarily function as agents of a corrosive nihilism. Rather, they may serve to gradually transform the self-understanding of the social sciences in the direction of both greater sophistication as well as an appropriate epistemic modesty.

Lynn Hankinson Nelson offers a level-headed, accessible, and apolitical critique of the use of evolutionary explanations in the social and behavioral sciences. She reminds the reader that the bare fact that some behavioral trait may increase fitness does not constitute a complete demonstration that its presence results from a process of evolutionary adaptation. She further points out that although some aspect of human behavior across cultures may be described in terms of a universal rule, that does not prove that human behavior is actually guided by some genetically programmed version of that rule. Nelson also complains that such evolutionary explanations fail to develop convincing accounts of the historical environments and processes involved in the alleged developments of he behavioral traits in question.

Although Sandra Harding’s chapter appears in the book’s ‘Problematics’ section, she is no less keen to defend the validity of standpoint methodologies than she is to demonstrate how such methodologies may be used to criticize traditional social scientific endeavors. In a crucial endnote (306, no. 21) she concedes that we must avoid considering view-points of non-dominant groups when these do not reflect a progressive political program. Readers who are not already sympathetic to this school may well find Harding’s faith in the inevitably ‘progressive’ consequences of the conscious mix of science and politics proposed by standpoint methodology naïve, or even dangerous.

Paul Roth’s chapter’s largely restates his influential criticisms of ‘meaning realism’, i.e., the notion that human behaviors and artifacts reflect particular and definable social meanings. In this connection, he criticizes both Marshall Sahlins and Gananath Obeyesekere for assuming that some ‘nonnatural meaning’ stands behind the Hawaiian behavior whose interpretation was the subject of great controversy between them through the 1990s (317). Roth’s chapter concludes with a discussion of the debate surrounding Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s work on the Nazi Holocaust, which, although of intrinsic interest, may not be the best example to illustrate his general thesis.

All-in-all, the Blackwell Companion is required reading for anyone working in the philosophy of the social sciences. While all of its chapters are of high quality, their accessibility and comprehensiveness vary widely, so that some care must be exercised when assigning the book to students, especially undergraduates.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College, Israel

John D. Caputo: On Religion

My review was originally puiblished in Philosophy in Review 20:4: 256-7 August 2002

John D. Caputo. On Religion. London and New York: Routledge 2001. Pp. 147.
$50.00 (Cloth: ISBN 0-415-23332-1); $12.95 (Paper: ISBN 0-415-23333-x)

This book attempts to explain, and indeed to exuberantly preach, the good news that post-modern philosophy has to offer for religious faith. Like any good sermon, it is peppered with readings of verses from the New Testament. The leading proponent of the new gospel is Jacques Derrida, whose religious “turn” was the subject of another recent book by Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion Without Religion. On Religion offers an accessible introduction to and extension of themes from that earlier book. Remarkably, Caputo has produced a genuinely popular work of post-modern philosophy, almost completely shorn of arcane terminology and word-play, and aimed at a general readership.

On Religion is largely a meditation on a question asked by St. Augustine in his Confessions: “What do I love when I love God?” While Caputo empathizes with Augustine’s existential situation, he rejects his doctrinal solutions. In fact, Caputo celebrates faith’s unknowable mystic center. Any attempt to define the object of religious devotion merely trivializes it. Such is the sin of fundamentalism. While people who are convinced that they have achieved ultimate and final knowledge of God often possess tremendous spiritual energies, they are also prone to violent fanaticism and lack the humility required in order to appreciate the religious accomplishments of people outside their tradition. The overthrowing of all such ultimate and final answers is what deconstruction is all about.

The postmodern critique targets not only religious fundamentalism, but also the anti-religious tradition founded by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. There lies Caputo’s good news for religion: the deconstruction of secularism clears new intellectual space for the return of God and the religious life. While we must never forget the hard won lessons of the modernist critiques of religion, postmodern philosophy allows us to once again approach and learn from the old theological masters. Unfortunately, Caputo does not offer any detailed explanation of exactly how the Enlightenment’s deadly sting has been removed. In the book’s weakest chapter, he seeks out evidence of the postmodern religious revival in elements of popular culture ranging from the Hollywood spirituality of Star Wars to the angelic incorporeality of virtual life on the internet. One wonders what these phenomena have to do with a serious appreciation of the limits of the ‘Enlightenment project’.

The content of this new-style religion is, on principle, somewhat up for grabs. Traditional faiths still serve as useful repositories of potent symbols, myths and rituals, yet they must face up to their all-to-human origins and engage in constant self-criticism and growth. Otherwise they may succumb to the fundamentalist temptation. Postmodern religion (“religion without religion”) is less concerned with the cognitive content of theological doctrines than with living life as a morally engaged spiritual quest. The faithful have opened their minds to the realm of “the impossible”, i.e. to those goals and aspects of life that stand beyond the pale of prudential planning and control. Love, exuberant, inexpedient, indiscriminate, and disorienting, should be religion’s guiding virtue. Love becomes indiscernible from the Deity itself. Absolute justice, symbolically represented by the Messianic Age, is another “impossibly” imprudent religious compulsion. Here lies the hidden danger of Caputo’s vision. Love and justice find their broadest realization through political action, and politics is, after all, the art of the possible. Twentieth century history teaches us how easy it is for “impossible” politics to pave the road to hell with radically good intentions.

Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College

Robert C. Solomon (Editor): Thinking About Feeling

My review appears on the Metapsychology site: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=2618

Simon Blackburn: Lust

My review appears on the Metapsychology site: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=2287

Judith Jarvis Thomson: Goodness and Advice

My review appears on the Metapsychology site: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=1686

Steven Goldberg: Fads and Fallacies in the Social Sciences

My review appears on the Metapsychology site: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=1901

Onora O'Neill: A Question of Trust

My review appears on the Metapsychology site: http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=1418

Harry G. Frankfurt: On Bullshit

My review appeared in the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 7.1 Winter 2005. Read it at: http://www.jcrt.org/archives/07.1/lerner.pdf

Lynn Stephens and Gregory Pence: Seven Dilemmas in World Religions

My review appeared in the American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, Fall 1999 Volume 99, Number 1. Read it at: http://www.apa.udel.edu/apa/publications/newsletters/v99n1/teaching/bookrev-stephens.asp

Daniel M. Wegner: The Illusion of Conscious Will

My review appeared in Human Nature Review 2003 Volume 3: 360-362 ( 5 August ). Read it at: http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/wegner.html

Antony Flew. Thinking About Social Thinking, Second edition.

I reviewed this book in Volume 96, Number 2 (Spring 1997) of the American Philosophical Association Newsletters. Read review at: