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Brown, Jessica. Anti-individualism and knowledge
2004, MIT Press.
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Nick Novelli
Publisher's note: Contemporary philosophy of mind is dominated by anti-individualism, which holds that a subject's thoughts are determined not only by what is inside her head but also by aspects of her environment. Despite its dominance, anti-individualism is subject to a daunting array of epistemological objections: that it is incompatible with the privileged access each subject has to her thoughts, that it undermines rationality, and, absurdly, that it provides a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. In this rigorous and persuasive study, Jessica Brown defends anti-individualism from these epistemological objections. The discussion has important consequences for key epistemological issues such as skepticism, closure, transmission, and the nature of knowledge and warrant. According to Brown's analysis, one main reason for thinking that anti-individualism is incompatible with privileged access is that it undermines a subject's introspective ability to distinguish types of thoughts. So diagnosed, the standard focus on a subject's reliability about her thoughts provides no adequate reply. Brown defuses the objection by appeal to the epistemological notion of a relevant alternative. Further, she argues that, given a proper understanding of rationality, anti-individualism is compatible with the notion that we are rational subjects. However, the discussion of rationality provides a new argument that anti-individualism is in tension with Fregean sense. Finally, Brown shows that anti-individualism does not create a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. While rejecting solutions that restrict the transmission of warrant, she argues that anti-individualists should deny that we have the type of knowledge that would be required to use a priori knowledge of thought content to gain a priori knowledge of the world.

Comment: A very interesting defense of anti-individualism. Contains interesting discussion on the topics of semantic externalism and introspection. Sections of it could be taught in any epistemology course covering these topics.

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Cordova, Viola. How It Is: The Native American Philosophy of V. F. Cordova
2007, Kathleen Dean Moore, Kurt Peters, Ted Jojola & Amber Lacy (eds.), University of Arizona Press.
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Added by: Sonja Dobroski and Quentin Pharr
Publisher’s Note: Viola Cordova was the first Native American woman to receive a PhD in philosophy. Even as she became an expert on canonical works of traditional Western philosophy, she devoted herself to defining a Native American philosophy. Although she passed away before she could complete her life’s work, some of her colleagues have organized her pioneering contributions into this provocative book. In three parts, Cordova sets out a complete Native American philosophy. First she explains her own understanding of the nature of reality itself—the origins of the world, the relation of matter and spirit, the nature of time, and the roles of culture and language in understanding all of these. She then turns to our role as residents of the Earth, arguing that we become human as we deepen our relation to our people and to our places, and as we understand the responsibilities that grow from those relationships. In the final section, she calls for a new reverence in a world where there is no distinction between the sacred and the mundane. Cordova clearly contrasts Native American beliefs with the traditions of the Enlightenment and Christianized Europeans. By doing so, she leads her readers into a deeper understanding of both traditions and encourages us to question any view that claims a singular truth. From these essays—which are lucid, insightful, frequently funny, and occasionally angry—we receive a powerful new vision of how we can live with respect, reciprocity, and joy

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Midgley, Mary. Individualism and the Concept of Gaia
2001, Science and Poetry, chapter 17. Routledge.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion

Abstract: The idea of Gaia—of life on earth as a self-sustaining natural system—is not a gratuitous, semi-mystical fantasy. It is a really useful idea, a cure for distortions that spoil our current world-view. Its most obvious use is, of course, in suggesting practical solutions to environmental problems. But, more widely, it also attacks deeper tangles which now block our thinking. Some of these are puzzles about the reasons why the fate of our planet should concern us. We are bewildered by the thought that we might have a duty to something so clearly non-human. But more centrally, too, we are puzzled about how we should view ourselves. Current ways of thought still tend to trap us in the narrow, atomistic, seventeenth-century image of social life which grounds today's crude and arid individualism, though there are currently signs that we are beginning to move away from it. A more realistic view of the earth can give us a more realistic view of ourselves as its inhabitants.

Comment: This is an easy text to read and so would be fine for less experienced philosophers. Midgley argues that Lovelock’s Gaia constitutes a way of seeing the world (or myth) that has important consequences for multiple aspects of our lives (social, political, moral, etc.) by combating the unhelpful individualism she sees as stemming from the social contract myth. Whilst this text is easy to read, there is a lot going on under the surface which arguably conflicts with standard assumptions about philosophical practice (in particular, Midgley’s pluralism and account of myths). As such, it is a great text for bringing these things to the fore and exploring a different view of what philosophy is for. It would be suitable for courses pertaining to environmental ethics, animal ethics or interdisciplinary discussions regarding the environment and ecology.

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