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Volume XI • September 2000 Episteme is published under the auspices of the Denison University Department of Philosophy Granville, Ohio


Angelica Lemke

Philip D. Miller

Editorial Board Nina Clements Nathan Cook Jim Dunson Andrew Hiller Vivek Krishna Jason Shuba David Tulkin

Episteme aims to recognize and encour­ age excellence in undergraduate phi­ losophy by providing examples of some of the best work currently being done in undergraduate philosophy programs around the world. Episteme intends to offer undergraduates their first opportunity to publish philosophi­ cal work. It is our hope that the journal will help stimulate philosophical dia­ logue and inquiry among students and faculty at colleges and universities.

Episteme will consider papers written by undergraduate students in any area of philosophy; throughout our history we have published papers on a wide array of thinkers and topics, ranging from Ancient to Contemporary and philosophical traditions including Ana­ lytic, Continental, and Eastern. SubmiB~ sions should not exceed 4,000 words. All papers undergo a process of blind review by the editorial staff and are evaluated according to the following Episteme is published criteria: qualily of research, depth of annually by a staff of undergraduate philoso­ philosophical inquiry, creativity, origi­ phy students at Denison nal insight, and clarity. Final selections University. Please send are made by consensus of the editors all inquiries to: The Edi­ and the editorial board. Please provide three double spaced copies of each sub­ tors, Episteme, Depart­ ment of Philosophy, mission and a cover sheet including Blair Knapp Hall, Deni­ college or university name, major, class son University, year, mailing address, email, and tele­ Granville, Ohio 43023. phone number, as well as a 3.5" disk in Microsoft Word format. The deadline for submissions for Volume XII is 1 February, 2001. Faculty Advisor Steven Vogel


A Joumal of Undergraduate Philosophy September 2000

Volume XI

Contents The Call of Duty and Beyond: Problems Concerning Justification and Virtue in the Ethical Models of Epistemology ........................ 6

Peter J. Tedesco, College of the Holy Cross Aristotle's Theory of Sense Perception ......................................... 19

David Tulkin, Denison University Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness................................35

Benjamin McMyler, Beloit College Donagan and Heidegger: Two Conflicting Ideas of Authenticity ..................................................................................... 47

Herny C. Driscoll, Washington and Lee UniverSity Against the Necessity of Identity Statements.............................. .58

Philip D. Miller, Denison University

The editors express sincere appreciation to the Denison Univer足 sity Research Foundation, the Denison Office of Admissions, the Denison Honors Program, Pat Davis, and Faculty Advisor Steven Vogel for their assistance in making the publication of this jour足 nal possible. We also extend special gratitude to the Philosophy Department Faculty: Barbara Fulh1er, David Goldblatt, Tony Lisska, Jonathan Maskit, Mark Moller, Ronald E. Santoni, and Steven Vogel for their enthusiasm, support and creative input.

The Call of Duty and Beyond, Problems Concerning

Justification and Virtue in the Ethical Models of


Peter J. Tedesco

College of the Holy Cross

ontemporary epistemologists often borrow from act and rule-based ethical models in building their theo­ ries. The turn away from such models toward a virtue approach by certain ethicists has therefore attracted the attention of epistemologists as well. I argue in this paper that a theory of belief formation centering on the concept of epistemic virtue works only if it has a strong internalist component regard­ ing matters of justification. First, I critique a type of externalist reliabilism, Plantinga's theory of warrant, in order to illustrate why internalist considerations ought to be made in developing an epistemic theory regarding belief formation. Second, I demon­ strate how Linda Zagzebski's epistemic virtue theory inherits impoverished aspects of Plantingan r~liabilism, thereby helping me to illustrate the necessity of the internalist-virtue integration mentioned above. Third, I briefly outline one way in which internalist, deontic concepts and the concept of epistemic virtue may be integrated. Before demonstrating why Plantinga's theory of warrant is an insufficient account of belief formation, it is necessary to summarily indicate the differences between internalism and ex­ ternalism (particularly Plantinga's reliabilist theory of proper fUl1ction), and most importantly, the distinction between internal justification and Plantingan warrant. Internalists, like their deon­ tological counterparts in ethics, are essentially concerned with the permissibility of beliefs, or whether an agent is acting in accordance with epistemic duty. In order for a belief to be justi­ fied, the agent must have cognitive access to the grounds upon


Tedesro is a 2000 graduate ifthe Oi~ ifthe Hdy Ov;s 11here he studied OassU:s am Philaophy. He plans to pursue aPh.D. inPhilaophy. Episteme • Volume XI. • September 2000

The Call of Duty and Beyond which the justification depends. The ability to determine whether a belief is ·justified is within the believer's control. In contrast, externalist theories typically require no such internal cognitive access. The main concern of reliabilism, a popular form of exter­ nalism, is to form as many true beliefs as possible, with the reliability of the agent's cognitive mechanisms serving as the primary condition for the belief to be true. The ideas of warrant, a reliabilist requirement for true belief formation, and justifica­ tion are not to be conflated. On the difference between Plantin­ gan warrant and justification, John Zeis states: As Plantinga's critique in the Warrant volumes makes clear, one of the fundamental differences between what he conceives of as warrant and what he and most others conceive of as justifica­ tion is that warrant is (almost exclusively) an ex­ ternalist property of belief, whereas justification has a strong internalist constraint. What does such a difference entail? Most generally, I think it entails a difference in the level of reflective consid­ eration. A belief may be warranted in Plantinga's sense, and there may be little or virtually no reflec­ tive consideration of the belief. Such reflective consideration of course would typically involve the consideration of grounds, evidence, epistemic duty-fulfillment and the like. (33) The warrant of a belief depends upon factors that can be met without, or independent of, cognitive control on the part of the agent. On the other hand, the criteria for justification can be met only if the believer is in a certain amount of cognitive control, or as Zeis would suggest, engages in a sufficient "level of reflective considera tion."

I. At the heart of Plantinga's theory of epistemic warrant is the notion of proper function. He grants that this stipulation in itself is not sufficient for warrant, and goes on to outline other necessary conditions for its entailment, namely that an agent is in


Peter J. Tedesco


an epistemically sound environment and that his cognitive facul­ ties are working in accordance with their design plan: We may say that a belief B has warrant for 5 if and only if the relevant segments (the segments in­ volved in the production of B) are functioning properly in a cognitive environment sufficiently similar to that for which 5' s faculties are designed; and the modules of the design plan governing the production of Bare (1) aimed at truth, and (2) such that there is a high objective probability that a belief formed in accordance with those modules (in that sort of cognitive environment) is true; and the more firmly 5 believes B the more warrant B has for (Plantinga 19) The production" of a true belief and the "high objective proba­ bility" that this belief is true are major aspects of Plantinga's requirements for warrant that are reminiscent of a consequential­ ist model in ethics, utilitarianism. In a characteristically conse­ quentialist manner, the proper means required to produce true beliefs are not stipulated by the criteria Plantinga offers. Proper function itself is not a means to the end of producirig true beliefs, but rather is a necessary condition for warrant that does not require any conscious activity on the part of the belief forming agent. Further, quantitative consideration of the probability of truth value reminds us of the objective 'weighing' of conse­ quences associated with utilitarianism. The utilitarian agent acts in such a way that maximizes happiness, with the probability that this maximizai:ion will occur having been taken into consid­ eration before the action is carried out. 5ince the maxim for the reliabilist is truth (what would usually, be 'pleasure' or 'happiness' in a utilitarian theory of ethics), the end here is to produce as much truth as possible. Truth is therefore rendered calculable and the success of the agent's epistemic activity is quantitatively considered. When he introduces the notion of congenial cognitive environment to complement the proper functioning of the agent's belief-forming mechanism, Plantinga offers a short example: II

The Call of Duty and Beyond Your automobile might be in perfect working or足 der, despite the fact that it will not run well at the top of Pike's Peak, or under water, or on the moon. We must therefore add another component to warrant; your faculties must be in good working order; and the environment must be appropriate for your particular repertoire of epistemic power. (7) Now this example illustrates that an entity functioning properly must be situated in an environment conducive to its activity if that action is to actually take place properly. So it is evident here that external factors can inhibit a properly functioning mecha足 nism from realizing its proper ends. This point is self-evident and not one to be challenged in itself. But its implications in the context of Plantinga's theory are significant and ought to be paid mind. I use an example of my own that involves an automobile to show that there are internal considerations to be made that Plantinga overlooks: An automobile that I am accustomed to driving is functioning properly because all the mechanical parts are working. I can count on the fact that the vehicle will noE malfunction on its own accord. It is functioning properly, but driving it one day, I make a mistake and crash into a telephone pole. In this case I did not do my duty, or fulfill an obligation l'o use the mechanism properly.l Now a reliabilist might say in reply that my improper use of the vehicle might stem from some sort of outside, inhibiting factor, even one much less extreme than Plantinga's, that prevents me from using the mechanism prop足 erly. In other words, the state of reliability was hindered from without. In the case that my environment is conducive to proper driving, however, there are clear internal considerations to be made in this instance about the lack of fulfillment of my duties as a driver. An evaluation of this matter from the viewpoint that an external phenomenon must have c.aused me to crash the vehicle would skirt the issue that there are duties and obligations that I ought to fulfill in acting responsibly. For Plantinga, there are scenarios in which the agent's cognitive faculties function properly in a suitable environment but cannot sufficiently provide for the warrant of beliefs. My



Peter J. Tedesco criticisms cannot therefore stand to effectively challenge Plantinga's theory of warrant unless I consider its third compo足 nent, the design plan of an agent's cognitive mechanism. As is the case for an organ or other biological entities and systems, cogni足 tive faculties are said by Plantinga to have a particular design plan that serves as a "blueprint" of their particular function (13). He states, liThe purpose of the heart is to pump blood; that of our cognitive faculties (overall) is to supply us with reliable informa足 tion: about our environment, about the past, about the thoughts and feelings of others, and so on" (14). Now Plantinga runs into a problem here in trying to illustrate that the relationship between our cognitive purpose and the relevant faculties is of a similar nature to the purpose of such an organ as the heart and its relation to the applicable biological system. A primary distinction that Plantinga fails to draw is that the involuntary activity of the heart contrasts with the voluntary cognitive faculties involved in belief formation. Belief forming faculties, unlike the heart, require a degree of volition internal to the agent; I could choose to not form beliefs, or better true beliefs, in spite of the fact that the relevant cognitive faculties are in good working order. Even if my environment is suitable for such proper function, I can still choose to not engage in forming beliefs. Further, the design plan of the relevant segments of my cognitive faculties may be aimed at h'uth with the objective probability, of true belief formation being high, yet these faculties do not have to necessarily be used accordingly. Closely related to the voluntary nature of belief formation is the idea that the relevant cognitive mechanisms are under a certain amount of the agent's control. That is, belief formation can be initiated through a decision on the part of the agent, and further, carried out with accessibility to the mechanism that ultimately justifies the belief. Presumably, proper function itself is maintained insofar as phenomena like cognitive disorder or external pressures do not corrupt the agent's belief forming mechanism. These considerations, however, denote inhibiting factors not in the believer's controL As in my automobile exam足 ple, consideration of phenomena internal to the agent and within her control is necessary in evaluating belief formation. The notion of a design plan even further illustrates the

The Call of Duty and Beyond state of unawareness and lack of control allowed in achieving Plantingan warrant. If Plantinga posits that it is proper function in accordance with the design plan that entails warrant, then what conscious, controlled activities internal to the agent, if any, contribute to the warrant of belief? Now concessions could be made to Plantinga when we consider some of the necessary com足 ponents that any reasonable epistemologist would have to take into account when forming a theory of true belief. As most would agree, our cognitive faculties have to be functioning properly, or as they are supposed to, within a congenial environment for sound epistemic judgments to be made. But even if Plantinga is correct and such criteria are sufficient for warrant, then the idea of warrant itself (when considering the above arguments) is still insufficient in satisfying the requirements for producing true beliefs. We then need to incorporate a strong component of justification into a theory of belief formation, and I illustrate one way in which this may be accomplished after showing that Zagzebski's epistemic virtue theory collapses into a Plantingan type of reliabilism.

n. Linda Zagzebski raises an interesting criticism of reliabil足 ism by suggesting that there is room for luck in its theories. With an agent's belief-forming mechanism working reliably, relia足 bilists can assume that luck, under normal circumstances, will more times than not bring about true beliefs (Zagzebski 39). Now this point illustrates the dangers of reliabilism well. With the desire to seek truth should come the desire to avoid falsehood, but the inheritance of the utilitarian lradition by reliabilists has allowed them to go as far as to say that any epistemic means may be used so long as more truth is produced than falsehood. From a traditional internalist perspective and presumably from Zagzeb~ ski's standpoint, this lack of regulation on epistemic means is unacceptable. The guessing agent is not fulfilling his duty to form beliefs responsibly, while at the same time, the intellectual habit of guessing is certainly an epistemic vice. I demonstrate below how vicious epistemic means like guessing could still be em足 ployed within a virtue theory like Zagzebski's, thereby helping me make the case that epistemic virtue can only contribute to a



Peter J. Tedesco theory of belief formation if strong deontic concepts, like duty, are mandated for justification to exist. Zagzebski argues "that a virtue-based epistemology is well suited to analyze the traditional concepts of epistemology, namely, justification and knowledge" (11). For this virtue theo足 rist, the concept of epistemic virtue is not evaluated by identify足 ing whether a belief is formed properly, nor if an agent is disposed to believing correctly. Further, a virtue is not just a disposition to act in the 'right' way because virtuous action may not correspond to act-based, normative criteria (Zagzebski 15-6). The believer, from the perspective of theories based on act-based criteria, is not necessarily 'right' to the fullest extent, but simply 'not wrong.' Zagzebski emphasizes that, in a theory of epistemic virtue, 'right' does not simply mean 'not wrong.' She looks to virtue ethics to explain this point: The focus of this type of ethics is on avoiding blameworthiness rather than on achieving moral praiseworthiness. Virtue ethics, in contrast, allows for a greater range of evaluative levels and gives due regard to the fact that our moral aim is not only to avoid the bottom level of the moral scale but to end up as high on the scale as possible. (28) Zagzebski claims that her interpretation of deontic concepts is broad enough to correspond to almost any virtue theory (232). She states the following about the different types of virtue theo足 ries: According to a merely agent-focused theory, the behavior of virtuous persons does not make an act right but is simply the best way to determine rightness, whereas a pure virtue theory treats the rightness of an act as strictly dependent upon virtue. In a pure virtue theory, an act is right because it is the sort of act a virtuous person might do, whereas in an agent-focused theory, what is done by a virtuous person is just the best criterion of rightness. (232)

The Call of Duty and Beyond Although she admits that her theory reads in such a way that her ideas may, at times, correspond most easily to pure virtue theo­ ries, Zagzebski nevertheless asserts that her first series of deontic definitions does not take internal states of the agent" into con­ sideration (235). For Zagzebski, a virtue approach to epistemology ex­ pands the realm of both praise and reproach in passing judg­ ments on a belief and the way in which it is formed. In other words, the judgments of permissibility (the formation of a belief that renders the agent simply wrong or not wrong) that charac­ terize epistemic evaluation in the act-based tradition are not the only evaluative criteria used in her virtue-based model. The agent's state of being right can extend beyond his just having done what is permissible-he can act in a praiseworthy manner (Zagzebski 233). She describes one way to characterize virtuous behavior: /I

A virtuous person's behavior arises out of virtuous motives and is reliably successful in achieving virtuous ends. What makes the virtuous person reliably successful in addition to her motive is her understanding of the rnoral and nonmoral facts about the situations she encounters. The level of understanding a virtuous person has, then, is whatever is sufficient to make her reliably success­ ful in producing the ends of virtue. (234) So, virtuous motivation leading to the reliable production of virtuous ends is essentially her take on the requirements of epistemic success. There are clearly aspects of this account that are both internalist and reliabilist in the sense that the motiva­ tional factors are internal and the reliable production of ends are reminiscent of Plantinga's reliabilist theory. The difference be­ tween this aspect of ZagzebsHs theory and Plantingafs reliabil­ ism is that the nature of the believer's motivation is necessarily virtuous and the end to be produced is virtuous as well. But the theory is still characteristically reliabilist in the sense that the epistemic goal is to produce true beliefs. Virtuous motivation is not enough to constitute a suffi­



Peter J. Tedesco dent internal aspect of this theory. I do not have to have cogni­ tive access to my belief-forming mechanism in order to be moti­ vated in such a way that Zagzebski describes. All that her inter­ 2 nalist feature does is add value to the epistemic end. I am motivated to produce this end, virtuously perhaps, but neverthe­ less there is no check on my belief forming process other than that it is directed toward virtue. Therefore, insofar as I seek to produce virtuous ends, with a reliable mechanism to produce such ends, I can achieve epistemic success. Clearly then, Zagzeb­ ski inherits aspects of the utilitarian model that are intrinsic to reliabilist theories like Plantinga's. Planting a concentrates little, if not at all, on stipulating the proper means by which true beliefs may be formed. The reliability of belief-forming mechanisms is a necessary condition under which beliefs may be warranted but not the means by which we may come to believe and be justified. So Zagzebski, if she is to separate herself from Plantinga at all, must make the case that a virtuously motivated agent who directs himself toward a virtuous end actually forms the belief virtu­ ously. However, cannot I be motivated in a certain way but not act in a way properly reflecting the nature of that motivation? In other words, can I use means that are characteristic of epistemic viciousness like guessing? If I can, then this component of Zagzebski's virtue theory collapses into a reliabilist model; I could act to produce an end without any definitive internal consideration of how I am to attain such an end. If we concentrate on Zagzebski's treatment of justifica­ tion, the dominating presence of reliabilism in her theory is made even more evident. She states, A justified belief is what a person who is motivated by intellectual virtue, and who has the under­ standing of his cognitive situation a virtuous person would have, might believe in like circumstances" (241). Key to our discussion is how we interpret what constitutes, for Zagzebski, an agent's "understanding of his cognitive situation." Now, if we refer to her description (which I cited earlier) of that which constitutes virtuous behavior, then this "understanding" implies an aware­ ness of the moral and non-moral facts of a particular situation. An awareness of such facts, however, does not necessarily sug­ gest a state of cognitive accessibility to the grounds that justify my belief because my cognitive situation, despite my awareness 1/

The Call of Duty and Beyond of relevant facts, may be one in which I am uncertain of which relevant facts lead to cognitive certainty. Zagzebski grants that her theory can be interpreted as having stTonger externalist tendencies than she herself attributes to it, for her concept of virtuous motivation could be changed to the extent that the internal component of the theory bears less significance. At the same time, she sees the theory as adaptable to an internalist framework if the production of virtuous ends is eliminated from the criterion of epistemic success and attention is given solely to motivational factors in defining intellectual virtue.3 The modifications suggested here to tailor the theory toward internalism are not suitable, and the concessions to exter­ nalism unnecessary, given the already prominent reliabilist fea­ tures of the theory. The internal motivational factors stipulated by Zagzebski need not be lessened for her theory to retain its great reliabilist appeaL As mentioned previously, even if I have virtuous motiva­ tions directed toward virtuous ends and I deem my cognitive mechanisms to be reliable, I may still use vicious or irresponsible means in order to produce such ends. As long as my primary goal is to produce ends, independent of the nature of these ends, I can use means unbecoming a virtuous agent. To use an example, let us say I have decided to go to a lecture given by a famous professor on Aristotle's theory of friendship. I drive to the lecture in the same reliable automobile mentioned in the earlier example. I am motivated to get to the lecture because I have this desire to understand Aristotle. Virtuously motivated to learn, I keep driv­ ing, only to realize that I am lost after coming to a stop sign. Not knowing whether I must turn right or left to find my destination, I randomly guess. Here, independent of whether I guessed cor­ rectly, I did not use virtuous means to attain a virtuous end. The use of a vicious epistemic means in this example, guessing, could have stemmed from a number of factors, but there is no basis for its permissibility. Further, I could have an awareness of the facts about the situation that I have encountered, an awareness that is one of the components that characterizes virtuous behavior for Zagzebski, while still failing to use virtuous means in resolving the situation. For instance, I know that during some point in my trip I became lost. Also, I am aware of my destination and the



Peter J. Tedesco reasons for my wanting to reach that destination. These are the facts surrounding the situation that I encounter, and my guessing which way I ought to turn is a means not in accord with the virtuous nature of both my motivation and goaL Zagzebski's understanding of the role that virtue plays in belief formation is not compatible with a strong internalism. She states, "Although I have rejected purely externalist accounts of knowledge, I have also argued that a weaker form of externalism is right since 'virtue' is a success term" (333). If virtue is such a kind of term, and strong virtuous motivations are to be the primary, if not the only internal criteria in her theory, then it would seem that our virtuous motivations still stem from a desire to produce virtuous ends. Since Zagzebski thinks weaker exter足 nal theories are right because of their understanding of virtue, then the sort of term 'virtue' is in the context of belief formation would have to change if we have strong internalist convictions. We are now faced with the questions about the terms of virtue. Early in Virtues of the Mind, Zagzebski states: The mark of a virtue theory of morality is that the primary object of evaluation is persons or inner traits of persons rather than acts. To describe a good person is to describe that person's virtues, and it is maintained that a virtue is reducible neither to the performance of acts independently identified as right nor to a disposition to perform such acts. There is both more and less to a moral virtue than a disposition to act in the right way. There is more because a virtue also includes being disposed to have characteristic emotions, desires, motives, and attitudes. There is less because a virtuous person does not invariably act in a way that can be fully captured by any set of indepen足 dent normative criteria. (15-6) Despite Zagzebski's claims that virtue theory often denotes inner characteristics of the agent that are out of the scope of normative criteria, I believe that the chief characteristic of virtue is that it disposes the individual to ultimately act in a good way. Now

The Call of Duty and Beyond virtue theory may require degrees of evaluation both above and below rightness, but an action-promoting disposition aids the individual, initially, to act in such a way that is 'right.' If Zagzebski is correct in saying that from an act-based perspective, 'right' means simply 'not wrong,' then virtue can initially dispose us to do just that-what is 'not wrong.' The virtuous agent is expected to go beyond obligation (beyond what is 'not wrong'), but can still be disposed toward action by the virtue even if that action cannot be deemed praiseworthy, or something else beyond 'not wrong.' The higher degrees of meritorious action are cer足 tainly characteristic of virtuous disposition, but every good act of any degree is, at bottom, 'not wrong.' This condition of being 'not wrong' is indeed a state of rightness, one that is ensured in belief formation by the minimum, deontic criteria of internal justification. Beyond these basic requirements for justification, it is the primary function of epistemic virtue to dispose us toward goodness in forming and holding true beliefs. III. A concept of epistemic virtue can complement traditional internalism to form a theory that takes into account a sufficient component of deontic concepts. At I:he au tseL, we sl10lild under足 stand justification as a term of rightness and virtue as a term of goodness. As in ethics, the right and the good should serve different functions here. An action is right if, at minimum, it meets the requirements of permissibility, thereby not violating any duty or obligation. In its negative sense, rightness therefore fundamentally designates that an action is 'not wrong.' Actions that exceed obligation or go beyond the call of duty are not only right, but can also be evaluated in terms of their goodness. Now, on the nature of the relationship between the good and the right, we can say that the right is necessary for the promotion of the good in the sense that it provides a foundation upon, or (I framework within which the good is cultivated. It is with this relationship in mind that I outline how internal justification and a concept of epistemic virtue may be unified. First, in forming true beliefs, an agent must have an awareness of the cognitive mechanisms that he uses to justify his beliefs. The process is then sufficiently under the agent's control


Peter J. Tedesco


when in having this awareness, he reflects on that which is cognitively accessible to him. If a belief is formed in such a state of cognitive control, then the agent is epistemically dutiful in that he has met the minimum requirements of justifying his belief. Being internally justified in such a way, the agent is 'right.' Second, the agent may be disposed toward good (we could use a variety of terms here that designate degrees of goodness) belief formation by epistemic virtue, therefore having gone beyond the call of duty. Virtue is both an epistemic aid and reward, for it con足 tributes to, and is cultivated by good belief formation. Since the minimum requirements for internal justification are purely deon足 tic here, however, epistemic virtue need not be a necessary factor in fulfilling such requirements. There are, of course, varying degrees of goodness that the virtuous person may be disposed toward in action. The same degrees of goodness apply to belief formation as well, but our epistemic standards should first and foremost establish what entails rightness in the belief forming process. 4 Notes I thank Stan Yeung for those late night discussions in which we strug足 fled with this example. Please see Zagzebski, p. 313. 3 Please see Zagzebski, p. 330. She has Plantinga's theory of proper function in mind here. 4 I thank Gavin Colvert for his undying guidance and the revisions he made on earlier drafts of this paper. I

Bibliography Plantinga, Alvin. Warrant and Proper Fundian. New York Oxford University Press, 1993. Zagzebski, Linda. VirtUf5 if the Mind: A nlnquiry into the Nature if Virtue and the E thical Foundations ifKnawed[!3. New York Cambridge University Press, 1996. Zeis, John. "Plantinga's Themyof Warrant: Religious Beliefs and f.Ii.gher Level Epistemic Judgments." A rmrican Cathdic Philo sophU:al Qiarterly vol. 72, no. 1,23-38.

Aristode's Theory of Sense Perception

David Tulkin

Denison University

or over ten years, Martha C. Nussbaum and Hilary Putnam have engaged with M. F. Burnyeat in a di­ alectic battle over issues surrounding Aristotle's the­ ory of perception. Putnam and Nussbaum argue for 11 a defense of the Aristotelian form-matter view as a happy alternative to material reductionism on the one hand, Cartesian dualism on the other-an alternative that has certain similarities with contemporary functionalism."l Burnyeat argues that the Putnam/Nussbaum conclusions are false because they fail to realize that the Aristotelian side of body/soul dualism is not compatible with modern functionalism. 2 Burnyeat also proposes, as an alternative to the Putnam/Nussbaum argument, a rival interpretation, which he suggests is held by John Philoponus, Thomas Aquinas and Franz Brentano. 3 Putnam and Nussbaum respond by suggesting "how even the greatest Christian inter­ preter of Aristotle, St Thomas Aquinas, was led by philosophy and theodicy together to reject Burnyeat's 'Christian interpreta­ tion' and to adopt one that is very close to ours.,,4


Two Fundamental Questions Within this discussion, two major questions must be asked: 1) What does Aristotle mean when he says that in percep­ tion, the sense-organ becomes like the thing perceived, is potentially such as the thing perceived is already, and receives the form of the thing without matter? 2) On the Burnyeat and Putnam/Nussbaum interpreta­ tions how is the esse naturale linked with the esse inten­

tionale? This is important in determining which view is correct,

Tulkin is an unierwaduate student at Denison Unhmity. He WIl graduate Wth a rmjarinphi1a;ophy in the class (2001. Episteme • Volume XI • September 2000


David Tulkin

because an adequate interpretation must be compatible with the well known Thomistic axiom borrowed from Aristotle, sensus in actu est sensibile in actu; i.e., the sense-faculty in operation is identical with the sense-object in action. Burnyeat argues that Aristotle's concept of the esse naturale is false and outdated; therefore Aristotle must be junked." Putnam and Nussbaum . argue that there need be no intentionality in esse intentionale and that there can still be an identity between matter and form. In this paper, I will present the arguments of Putnam and Nussbaum, 5 together with Burnyeat's response. In conclusion, I suggest that neither the Burnyeat interpretation, nor the Putnam/Nussbaum account is correct. We must opt for a "middle ground" between the two analyses. /I

Burllyeai's Analysis Burnyeat states that Putnam and Nussbaum claim that because Aristotle explains the relation of soul to body as a special case of the relation of form or function to the matter in 6 which it is realized," he is a functionalist. Based on this function足 alist framework, Putnam argues that humans are probabilistic automatons.' What Putnam and Nussbaum claim is that for perception to take place, it is not necessary that there be a particular set of physical and psychological limitations, although there must be some sort. In order to demonstrate this, Putnam and Nussbaum utilize an account of Aristotle's theory of perception proposed by Richard Sorabji. The Sorabji account addresses ques足 tion number one: What does Aristotle mean when he says that the sense organ becomes like the thing perceived? Sorabji's interpretation of Aristotle's taking on form without matter" is that" the organ of sense quite literally takes on B the color or smell perceived." Sorabji's interpretation allows perception to occur without any particular physical set-up. He believes that what Aristotle means by perception is that when the eye sees something red, the eye jelly" actually turns red; when you smell something, your nose turns "smelly." Burnyeat's second response to this interpretation is his 9 strongest. He points out that Aristotle goes to great lengths to tell us that during perception the following occur: 1) The being is affected by the sensible object; /I



Aristode's Theory of Sense Perception 2) This change is a very special one; and 3) It is not a substantial change (in other words, it is a change in accidental jorm).10 These changes, Aristotle claims, are actualization of a potentiality"; perception, on the other hand, is not like this. To illustrate what this change is, Aristotle provides the following example. Consider these three cases: 1) A man who has the capacity to learn grammar but has not yet done so; 2) A man who has learned grammar; and 3) A man who has learned grammar and is currently using it. II

A green apple becoming red, is going from (1) to (2); a potentiality becomes actual. This is a qualitative change, the type of change 50rabji claims Aristotle refers to. The change involved in perception however, is like the transition from (2) to (3); this is a quantitative change. This is Burnyeat's claim. We already pos足 sess the capacity to perceive. Actually perceiving is our ability to use that capacity. The sense organ is not changed, it is realized. Burnyeat takes the above Aristotelian grammatical expla足 nation to reject the 50rabji view. lI For Aristotle, the 1/ causal agent" of the spedal change is the actual color or smell which is being perceived, not the perceiver. 12 On that note, I too believe we can dismiss the 50rabji interpretation. I do not claim that Burnyeat is correct; however I think his analysis has demon足 strated clearly that what Aristotle meant by taking on form without matter" is not that the eye jelly" turns red. The question now changes for Bumyeat; if what produces the perception of red or of middle C is red or middle C, how do we have an awareness of it?13 What Aristotle says here is that the sense organ must be natured; i.e., it must be "ready to take on" the sensible object, like the object of perception must be actual. Aristotle argues that the organ of touch, the hand or foot, must be in a mean state in respect to sensible opposites like hot and cold. H In contrast, Putnam and Nussbaum argue that being "natured" is not enough; there must be some physical change, such as /I




David Tulkin Sorabji's "the eye becoming red." They stress that the esse inten­ tionale is not as important as previously suggested, but rather, the esse naturale is. 111ey claim tha~ an id~ntity ~etwe~n th~ o~iect ~n~ the perceiver's concept is possIble wIthout mtentlOnahty. ThIs IS what the functionalist position allows, and this is why it is needed for their argument to hold philosophically. Without func­ tionalism, the esse naturale will not provide the sufficient justifica­ tion it needs to for their claims: therefore, the esse intentionale will be invaluable. This principle is not compatible with their argu­ ment. According to Burnyeat, what Aristotle argues is that t,he hand must be of a certain hardness or softness in order to perceive something. If your hand were as hard as the surface it was feeling, you would not notice that it was hard. This problem does not exist for other sense capacities; for example, the eye is "colorless" and the ears are "soundless." Therefore, we have a neutral medium to receive visual and auditory signals. The hand cannot be "feel-less" or absent of temperature, nor to some degree hard or soft. Therefore, we might not have any contrast between the perceiver and the object. Here, Burnyeat points out that the Sorabji interpretation must distinguish between the hand and the internal organ of touch, which Aristotle, in these texts, does not appear to do. 16 According to Burnyeat, we are therefore forced to con­ clude that the organ actually becoming like the object is not a literal change (e.g., the hand becoming warm), but noticing or realizing, or becoming aware of the warmth. What Aristotle suggests here appears similar to what Aquinas calls a "spiritual change/' a becoming aware of a sensible quality in the world. 17 In other worlds, it is not an actual change, rather, an intentional one. The Putnam/Nussbaum Response Before discussing that issue, I must first entertain the objections to Burnyeat's conclusions proposed by Putnam and Nussbaum. The first point they raise is that Burnyeat's analysis rests on evidence obtained from De Anima alone, and while this is a major text, it is not sufficient to consider as the central text. 18 Putnam and Nussbaum next discuss perception and the relationship between perceiving and desiring which results in

Aristode's Theory of Sense Perception animal movement. This is key for the functional interpretation of Aristotle. They start their analysis in chapter seven of De Moto by stating several questions and answers that Aristotle ponders in attempting to reach a conclusion about perception. Aristotle is interested in why, when an animal knows or realizes an object, the realization is followed by a bodily movement. He answers his own question by referring to desire, which sometimes, to be fulfilled by an animal, requires movement. The question that follows for Aristotle, is how can a mental process actually set a physical process in motion? Aristotle again answers his own question in that these processes are, in themselves, functions of the body. It is only natural for these processes to cause bodily movements. Putnam and Nussbaum contend that such changes permanently cOl~oin perception and other forms of cognitionJ including desire. 9 However, this is not evidence yet for a com­ plete material change, which Putnam and Nussbaum must demonstrate if their thesis is to hold. It is, however, foreshadow­ ing the path they will take to accomplish this. This complements their overall intentions because it demonstrates that, according to Aristotle, animal movement and perception denote a type of 20 function. Puhmm and Nussbaum conclude, "De Moto provides very powerful evidence that Aristotle conceives of both perceiv­ ing and desiring as thoroughly enmattered. Their activity is accompanied, of necessity, by a transition in matter.,,21 This, they say, indiscriminately shows that there is a necessary material change in perception but not necessarily a particular change. Therefore, the artifact model holds. Is Aristotle a Functionalist? Like Burnyeat, I see serious problems with this conclu­ sion. The functionalist claims that there is no necessary connec­ tion between a psychological state and its material realization. While there might be a change, it is not a particular change. I suggest that if we refer to Aristotle's concept of sight, touch, taste and smell, the functionalist position seems unlikely. As Aristotle argues, there must be a medium in order for perception to occur. For sight, the eye must be "clear" and the space between the object and the knower unobstructed; for hearing, there must be


David Tulkin


air "walled" up in the ear; for taste, the taste buds must be "clear"; and for touch, the hand must be in a medium state of temperature." How can one claim that these are not particular necessary conditions; they certainly are! The functionalist inter足 pretation holds that perception can occur in any state. Aristotle plainly argues that this is not true. Rather, there are ve~ specific conditions for the eye to see, the ear to hear, and so on. 2 On that note, it is necessary to discuss: /I

1) Burnyeat's alternative theory of perception, that held primarily by John Philoponus, Thomas Aquinas, and Franz Brentano; and 2) objections raised by Putnam and Nussbaum to this posltion.


According to Burnyeat, Philoponus, Aquinas, and Brentano believe that during perception, the eye merely becomes aware" of the color, rather than the eye literally becoming red. If the Sorabji position holds, then the being affected is the nose, which turns "smelly," or the eye, which turns red. If the Thomistic theory of intentionality is true, then the being affected is already in a cognate state: it is aware of the color, or smell, it is "natured." What, then, is the point to asking what more there is to perceivingi it is nothing more than becoming aware of a senSI'ble qua I'lty.24 In order to illustrate why the alternative theory holds and the Putnam/Nussbaum/Sorabji one does not, Burnyeat turns to De Anima (2.12). Here he seeks to answer the question of why Aristotle's biggest statement about his theory of perception is illustrated by using Plato's model of the wax block. In doing this, Aristotle objects to Plato and suggests that perception is aware足 ness, "articulated awareness, from the start." 25 In other words, Plato thought that cognitive life could only be explained in terms of a thinking soul; Aristotle, on the other hand, holds that all that is necessary is five separate senses. By using the wax model, Aristotle also substantiates the two claims that Burnyeat makes. The first claim is that the"reception of sensible forms is to be understood in terms of becoming aware of colors, sounds, smells, and other sensible qualities, not just a physiological /I

Aristdde's Theory of Sense Perception 26

change in the quality of the organ." For example, if I mark some wax with a circular ring, the wax does not become circular; rather it takes on and displays a circle. The circle is not displayed of the wax but rather in it. The second claim is that "no physiological change is needed for the eye or the organ of touch to become 27 aware of the appropriate perceptual objects.// This means the effect on the perceiver is the awareness, nothing else.28 It is this claim that seems to be in opposition to the Putnam/Nussbaum thesis because it means that in one sense, an animal's capacity to 29 perceive does not require any explanation. A Second PutnamfNussbaum Response Putnam and Nussbaum now responded to Burnyeat's 30 claims. They begin by referring to De Anima (2.1, 412b 4-25), where they make the following point: Because the soul is the first actuality of the body, it is not appropriate to ask whether or not the body and the soul are one. To illustrate this, Aristotle refers to the wax model, where he claims it is also not appropriate to inquire whether the wax and the shape are one. According to Burnyeat's reading, the relationship be足 tween the body and the soul is not one like that of the wax and its shape. Matter is the necessary causal condition for perception to occur; matter, therefore, merely supplies the means, but is /lot the 31 end. Putnam and Nussbaum however, state that the wax model is apt.// Aristotle's objection to asking whether the body and soul are one, is justified. liThe soul is not a thing merely housed in the body; its doings are the doings of body... the only thing there 32 is, is one natural thing.// What this all means in response to Bumyeat is the following: II

1) Perception and desire are mentioned by Aristotle, in De Sensu I, to be activities of the soul that are known or perceived in some type of material set-up. 2) Whatever this material set-up may be, it is not com足 pletely independent. Furthermore, while this may be ex足 plored, as Aristotle himself does in De Moto and the Parva Naturalia, one must make sure not to slip into conclusions of total reductionism for a complete explanation. 3) What Putnam and Nussbaum suggest is that even the



David Tulkin greatest Christian interpreter of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, was actually led to dismiss the view that Burnyeat thinks compatible with Aristotle. Aquinas opted 33 for a position more like theirs. To demonstrate this, Putnam and Nussbaum offer several propositions that Aquinas, and any other Christian, philosophi足 cally must hold by the fact that they are Christians. If the Burnyeat position is true, then they cannot consciously contend that these conditions are possible. The committed Christian philosophically must accept the following propositions: 1) The soul has such power to allow for a prosperous


2) If the body's capabilities are no\ wholly suited to fit

with the functions of the sout why did God not make

humans less arbitrary and more organic?

3) The resurrection of the body must be possible philo足


If the soul is removed from the body, which it must be in the resurrection, and there are not necessary material conditions for this activity to occur, then this long awaited event will be at worst a "divine blunder." In fact, Putnam and Nussbaum point out that while Aquinas did (in his Commentary on De Anima), claim that the reception of form without matter was as Burnyeat described, he also held that for perception to occur, there are necessary material conditions; these changes are alterations in the sense organ.34 It is difficult to determine exactly where Aquinas' position fits in. If there are necessary material conditions that result in the organ's changing, what are they? He is obviously not compatible with Burnyeat. Nonetheless, the Sorabji position is not a Thomistic one. We are left to ponder this question and I suggest that Putnam and Nussbaum do not offer any analysis of this set of issues. In the Summa Theologiae, (I, 75, 3), Aquinas writes,

Aristotle insists that. ..sensing and the related oper足 ations of the sensitive soul evidently happen to足

Aristotle's Theory of Sense Perception


gether with some change of the body...and so it is evident that the sensitive soul has no operation that is proper to itself; but all the operation of the sensitive soul is the operation of the com足 pound...sensing is not an operation of the soul by . lf.35 ltse Putnam and Nussbaum point out that for Aquinas, human per足 ception has necessary material conditions; furthermore, thinking needs phantasms, and phantasms themselves are realized by some matter. Therefore, both thinking and perceiving are forms of the human body, and perception is "the act of an activity embodied or realized in a corporeal organ": thinking, on the 36 other hand, is not. Putnam and Nussbaum suggest that, to this point they have not succeeded in disproving the alternative Thomistic position; they have simply shown why it is not their position. An Analysis of the PutnamfNussbaum Position I think it is appropriate to point out that the Putnam/ Nussbaum objections to Burnyeat's rival interpretation are futile and contain little punch. While Aquinas is certainly a Christian and a theologian, there is no such indication of his religion in his theory of perception. If we treat Aquinas as a philosopher when he writes on philosophical issues, we must refute his philosophi足 cal arguments with philosophical analysis, not theological ones. The issues are now all on the philosophical table. What are we to do with this? I submit the following conclusions:

1) The Sorabji position seems unlikely.

2) The rival interpretation suggested by Burnyeat will not


3) The proposed attempt to make Aristotle into a function足

alist has not been sufficiently demonstrated.

4) Putnam and Nussbaum have not refuted Burnyeat, and

he has not been able to do so to them.

5) None of the interpretations considered in this analysis

correctly link up the esse naturale and the esse intentionale:

this appears to be a necessary condition for any solution.

David Tulkin


Are we therefore forced to accept Burnyeat's conclusion and "junk" Aristotle? I do not think that position follows. Burnyeat's interpretation, I submit, pays too much attention to the esse naturale; he goes so far that the Aristotelian position we had when we began our analysis is removed. Putnam and Nuss足 baum, on the other hand, devote their time to the esse intentionale; yet they modify it beyond Aristotle to the point where it seems that the possibility of intentionality is removed from the knower's capacity. Sorabji is just plain wrong. I propose instead that we must look further for a proper analysis and interpretation. The resolution we seek must contain many parts, which, while present in parts in the above interpreta足 tions, are never united under one roof. A proper and through solution to Aristotle's theory of perception must contain the following propositions: 1) Aristotle's taking on form without matter" must be interpreted somewhere between Burnyeat and Putnam/ Nussbaum/Sorabji. It cannot be a total physical transition like Sorabji, nor can there be no transition like Burnyeat. Furthermore, we cannot pay too much attention to the psychological transition in the capacity like Putnam and Nussbaum's analysis. We need a middle ground between the totally physical and totally mental, which appears to be Aristotle's position. The solution must be balanced between the two. 2) The esse naturale is equally united with the esse inten足 tionale. This means that the object in nature is exactly the same as the perceived awareness; there must exist an "identity./I /I

liThe doctrine of intentionality should not be treated as a doctrine of the similarity of forms, but as a doch'ine of the identity 37 of forms." In order for this to be possible, equal weight must be given to both the physical object in the world and the knowing capacities in the human body. The material aspects must be considered, along with the physiological and psychological. As Anthony Kenny once wrote:

Aristotle's Theory of Sense Perception When I think of redness, what makes my thought to be a thought of redness is the form of redness. When I think of a horse, similarly, it is the form of horse which makes the thought be a thought of a horse and not of a cow .... In the one case it has esse naturale, existence in nature; in the mind it has 38 a different kind of existence, esse intentionale. If we find a solution that contains these two main "middle ground" aspects, then I believe we will have found the right analysis. Recent attempts to manipulate Aristotelian concepts to fit into contemporary philosophy of mind discussions fail. As Aristotle himself once noted, one mistake in the beginning of an analysis leads to many more in the future. Aristotle is Aristotle, and we must not forget that. He was writing in a time very unlike ours, and his concepts and theories must be analyzed in terms of philosophical realism. He is not a modern philosopher and his philosophic positions must be treated as such. To find a solution we must first look back at what Aristotle was really discussing, how he was talking about it, and most of all, why he was talking about it. If we can answer these seemingly easy questions, we will be one step further in discovering how one takes on form without matter." II

Notes Nussbaum, Martha C, and Hilary Putnam "Changing Aristotle's Mind." In Essays on Aristotle '8 De Anima, Martha Nussbaum and Amelie Oksenberg Rorty, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992,27. 2 Burnyeat, M.F. "Is an Aristotelian Philosophy of Mind Still Credi颅 ble?" In: Nussbaum and Rorty, 1992,16. 3 Ibid, 17. 4 Putnam & Nussbaum, 52. 5 A little history will help set the stage. In 1978, Howard Robinson's essay, "Mind and Body in Aristotle," (Classical Quarterly, 28, 105路路24) criticized philosophers like Putnam who attempted to assimilate Aristo颅 tle into certain modern philosophies of mind by rendering Aristotle a functionalist. Independently, both Putnam and Nussbaum responded to Robinson in their essays titled "Aristotelian Dualism: Reply to Howard I



David Tulkin Robinson" (In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, J. Annas, ed., 2, 197-:;07) and "Philosophy and Our Mental Life" (.\{illd. Language, and ReaJi(\': Philosophical papers. I 1,291-303. Cambridge: Cambridge Cni\"ersity Press). Both suggested a similar view concluding that Aris­ totle was indeed a type of functionalist. In the mid 19805, Bumyeat dis­ covered that the Putnam and ::-':ussbaum papers had expressed the same ,'iew and responded and objected to them in his now published essay "Is an Aristotelian Philosophy of Mind Still Credible?" From that, Put­ nam and Xussbaum "took up arms together in response to an attack." They offer a counteract to the objections raised by Burnyeat. This pa­ per will focus on Bumyeat's 1992 paper and the Putnam and Nussbaum response to him. ;, Bumyeat, 16. - The Putnam/Nussbaum thesis is coined, "Turing machine functional­ ism." This uses as its model a special theoretical mechanical device. This machine (a) receives input, (b) carries out the instructions of the input program, (c) changes its internal state, and (d) produces an ap­ propriate output based on the input and instructions. For example, a soda machine shows all of these features insofar as it has instructions on several inputs (the buttons for Mountain Dew, Coke, Pepsi, Slice, 7­ Up) with corresponding behavioral outputs (the machine releasing the drink you requested). Functionalism, therefore, holds that perception is a function, rather then, as Bumyeat claims, an actualization. (Internet Encyclopedia ofPhilosoph}' <http://W\vw.utm.edulresearchliep/func­ tion.html> 2/21199 7:46 PM) S Sorabji, Richard. "Intentionality and Physiological Processes: Aristo­ tle's Theory of Sense-Perception." In Nussbaum and Rorty, 1992,213. q His first objection is that Aristotle's view is rather that the "physiological process of taking on the color red, constitutes seeing red, as a piece of bronze constitutes a statue." In his favor, Sorabji re­ calls the last sentence of De Anima 2.12: "What then is smelling apart from being affected? Or is smelling just awareness?" (18). Here I ques­ tion Sorabji; isn't he making a big jump from something smelly one is trying to perceive and one's nose actually becoming smelly? Bumyeat certainly thinks so, and he refutes Sorabji's position by mentioning that in this text there is a separation of the physiological process and the awareness. This awareness is not just the simple relationship between the physical or causal interaction and the object of perception. There­ fore, it follows that the Sorabji position seems unlikely. Iil Bumyeat, 19.

11 The Sorabji view of the eye becoming red is more like the move from

(1) to (2), which is not what Aristotle described. If it was from (2) to



Aristode's Theory of Sense Perception

3 ) as Aristotle suggests, then the eye could not take on smell like the

~an took on grammar but rather that he learned his capacity that he

already had.

;2 This is in opposition to the Putnam and Nussbaum thesis, which de-

ends on Sorabji's account to make the functionalist position possible. This is where the discussion of esse intentionale and esse naturale becomes important. Whichever interpretation we accept to be true must shoW that the esse naturale, the smell of the goat, the red of the apple, the sweet sugar, is exactly the same as the esse intentionale, the human perceived concept of the "smelly-ness," the "redness," and the "sweetness. "

14 Bumyeat, 20.

IS Anthony Kenny would claim that this is impossible. There can be no

"identity" without the esse intentionale and esse naturale. Kenny, An­

thony, "Aquinas: Intentionality," in The Legacy of Wittgenstein, An­ thony Kenny, ed. Oxford, 1984 . • 6 Sorabji later tries to remedy this dilemma by claiming that the heart "hardens" in place of the hand when it touches something solid, say a rock. As we noted earlier, this is a far different explanation for sense perception then we have been discussing in this paper, and the alien explanation demonstrates that Sorabji is not consistent in this section of his interpretation. In his article "Intentionality and Physiological Pro­ cesses: Aristotle's Theory of Sense-Perception" Sorabji again attempts to defend and strengthen his position that Burnyeat criticizes. He writes that "The organ of touch cannot be freed from the qualities of heat, cold, fluidity. and dryness, for these, as explained in On Generation and Corruption, are the defining characteristics of the four sublunary elements" (204). Following from this, he says, we must conclude that the human being has a particular blind spot for that particular tempera­ ture, diho tou homoios thermou kai psuchrou e sklerou kai malokou ouk aisthanometha, (De Anima, 424a2-2). Therefore, in the case of touch it must be not hot, not cold, not soft, nor dry, but rather, both, presumably in potentiality (De Anima, 424a7-1 0, Sorabji 204). These facts, Sorabji claims, can be used to support his claim that Bumyeat ob­ jects to. First, he says, we must come up with a reason why Aristotle, in the middle of the De Anima, makes reference to On Generation and Corruption. Secondly, and most crucially of all, the diho (that is why) at 424a2 appears to become unintelligible on other interpretations, diho offers to explain why there is a barrier to perceiving ce11ain tempera­ tures (215). Lastly, we must ask the question of why Aristotle says that the human who is going to perceive two binary opposites such as hot and cold, white and black, must be potentially both. Whether or not




David Tulkin these claims refute Bumyeat is questionable. Sorabji later proposes why this is a "mid-point" in the analysis of Aristotelian perception, but it is cenainly not the mid-point We are looking for here. 'Vhile they seem to raise important issues, in tern1S of perception and touch, the issue has obviously not been fuIly solved. Sorabji must still demon­ strate how the heart "hardens." I"'" Burynyeat. 21. Putnam and !'\ussbaum. 27. ibid. 38. :0 First. I think it is appropriate to note that there does exist a difference in "function." Plato brushing his teeth before bed, which he does auto­ matically at 9 P~1 every night. is one type of function, while a center fielder chasing after a fly ball is another. An animal running down prey is also a function but certainly none of these should be talked about and compared to the function in perception. The word "function" can be applied to many situations and it is ridiculous to use them all in the same context. Secondly. Putnam and Nussbaum then refer to De Moto, \vhere the above position is stated (701 b2-32). They refer to one of Aristotle's metaphors where he compares animals to automatic puppets and also to a toy cart. His main point is that even a small change in a central part of an automaton can bring about a large change in other parts. '\That this suggests, according to Putnam and Nussbaum, is that "the animal moves as it does because of the fact that its psychological processes are realized in physiological transitions that set up move­ ments that culminate in fully-fledged local movement" (38). This, they claim, is why Aristotle is truly a functionalist. In this passage, Aristotle uses the word alloiosis, which they believe can be translated as "material transition." Therefore, this material transition is a necessary condition for perceiving, imagining, and even desire (40). They con­ clude from this that material change is intrinsic to what goes on when perceiving takes place, and this is necessary for a fun explanation of animal movement. Bumyeat'sanalysis has problems here, although they are not fatal. He cannot deny that the alloioseis is a material tran­ sition without making the entire contents of chapters 7-10 ambiguous to the point of hopelessness; nor can he disagree that this interpretation is consistent \\'ith De Allima in that perception is an energy, and Aristo­ tle's general non-reductionism in regard to animal motion. All Burnyeat can do here is to suggest that the material transition is not as­ sociated with all perceiving but only certain instances. - Putnam and Nussbaum, 1992,41. 22 Burnyeat's interpretation can get around this problem because he claims that physiological necessary conditions are only states of recep­ ~I

Aristotle's Theory of Sense Perception tivity, not processes or alterations. As Marc Cohen writes "This clinches his case against the functionalist interpretation, Burnyeat thinks. For it shows that Aristotle would have to hold that an organ­ ism's perceptual capacities are fundamental, not supervenient." (Sorabji even agrees with this point, see 217.) I too believe that this clinches Bumyeat's argument against the functionalist; however, like Cohen, I am not claiming his rival interpretation is correct. 23 Bumyeat, 18.

Ibid. Ibid. 26 Ibid, 21-2 27 Ibid. 2S Ibid. 24


For Aristotle, the existence of life is the explanation for why we have the physical make-up that we have, not vice versa. The secondary qual­ ities (proper and common sensibles) are already present in the world; all that is needed to perceive them is the corresponding capacities to do so; i.e., the smell of a pig is already in the world; all we need is a nose to smell it. From this, he argues that we can derive conclusions about the organs we must have to do this; i.e. the eye must be clear and trans­ parent, and the hand must have middle ground of hot and cold to per­ ceive temperature. These are only the necessary conditions for percep­ tion to take place; they are not part of a more complex story to work up "from material tel111S to a set of sufficient conditions for the perception ofcolol's and temperature" (Bumyeat, 22). According to Aristotle'S view, via BUl11yeat, there is no more story to be told, whereas the func­ tionalist position asserts that there is one, but we are just not in a posi­ tion to tell it. 3D In summary, they are as follows: 1) For an animal to perceive something, the "reception of sen­ sible forms is to be understood in terms of becoming aware of colors, sound, smells, and other sensible qualities, not just a physiological change in quality in the organ" (Burnyeat, 21-2) 2) No physiological change is needed for the eye or the organ of touch to become aware ofthe appropriate perceptual objects. 3) The Sorabji position is false, and what Aristotle really means by perception is the same as what Philoponus, Aquinas, and Brentano suggest. Rather than the eye literally becoming red, when trying to perceive it, the eye merely just becomes aware of the color.


Ibid, 45. Ibid. 33 Ibid, 52. 31



David Tulkin

34 Ibid, 53. Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Kenny, 1984,86. 38 Ibid, 82-3. 34 35

Bibliography Burnyeat, M. "Is an Aristotelian Philosophy of Mind Still Oedi足 bIe?" In Essct)5 anA ristaleJs De A mnt:l, Martha Nussbaum and Amelie Oksenberg Rotty, eds. New York: Oxford Uni足 versityPress, 1992,15-26. Kenny, Anthony" Aquinas: Intentionality." In The Leg:uy cfWzt:twnr stein, Anthony Kenny, ed. Oxford, 1984. Nussbaum, Martha G, and Hilary Putnam "Changing Aristode's Mind." In Essct)5 anA nstale's De A nirru, Martha Nussbaum and Amelie Oksenberg Ratty, eds. New York: Oxford Uni足 versity Press, 1992,27-56. Sorabji, Richard "Intentionality and Physiological Processes: Aristo足 de's Theoryof Sense-Perception." In Essct)5 anAristct/e's De A mm:t, Martha Nussbaum and Amelie Oksenberg Rarty, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, 195-226.

Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness

Benjamin McMyler

Beloit CDllege


ubert Dreyfus has recently made a distinction be­ tween two types of resoluteness, and hence two types of authenticity, found in Martin Heidegger's 1 Being and Time. The first he associates with the so­ cial virtuoso, Aristotle's Phronemos, while the second he associ­ ates with the cultural master, the world-creating individual. The distinction between these two types of authentic being-in-the­ world may, in fact, serve to explain in part the radical divergence that has taken place between Heidegger's self-proclaimed follow­ ers in the Continental tradition. While thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty have inherited the ideal of the strong poet, the world-defining individual, others have embraced the more Aristotelian account, concentrating on our practical situat­ edness in the world. 2 The work of Hans-Georg Gadamer has all too often been associated with that of the former, subjecting him to the associ­ ated charges of subjectivism and relativism. However, it is here that Dreyfus' distinction becomes important, for Gadamer's thougl1t is much more closely related to the Aristotelian side of Heidegger than it is to the pernicious, Nietzschean side. More specifically, Dreyfus' formulation of the Aristotelian form of authenticity found in Heidegger can help us to understand how Gadamer's notion of openness, a frequently misunderstood con­ cept, functions within his philosophical hermeneutics. The pur­ pose of this paper will thus be to explore the authenticity of openness, the sense in which Gadamer's conception of openness entails a notion of authenticity that is directly connected to practical, ethical concerns. In the end, this project will require that we relate openness to ethics, in a Socratic sense, as a shared striving towards the good. Gadamer states in the "Preface to the

McM)ieris a philaopbymtjor in thedass c{2000 at Beloit ~ Heplans topt«­ sue graduate study in Contirental Philaopby. Episteme • Volume XI • September 2000


Benjamin McMyler First Edition" of his first major work, Plato's Dialectical Ethics, "I do not assert that Plato's 'ethics' is dialectical; rather, I ask whether and in what way Plato's dialectic is 'ethics'" (xxv). In a similar vein, I will here make a gesture towards explaining how Gadamer's advocation of openness, as a call to authenticity, may in fact constitute an ethics. Gadamer1s project in Truth and Method is from the start an obviously epistemological one, concerned with outlining the con­ ditions of possibility for all understanding. Integral to this en­ deavor is his analysis of the forestructure of understanding. Following Heidegger, Gadamer holds that all understanding is predicated upon a pre given set of meanings and purposes that we bring along with us into every attempt to understand. We continually bring pre given prejudices to bear on the situations in which we find ourselves, these prejudices helping to determine all understanding. In fact, these prejudices are wholly necessary in that they enable any understanding at all. In understanding an historical text, we each bring our own personal horizon consist­ ing of our meanings and purposes into contact with the historical horizon of the text in an endeavor to fuse those horizons in the event of understanding. Understanding, as an event, has the structure of a dialogue between our hermeneutical situation and the text or tradition that we seek to understand. Gadamer thus rescues prejudice from the Enlightenmenfs "prejudice against prejudice" in order to highlight the fact that those prejudices the Enlightenment viewed as distorting and negative are in fact required for any real dialogue to take place. For Gadamer, we are continually caught up in the dynamics of the hermeneutic circle such that all understanding involves a fusion of the part that is the text with the whole of our background in a tradition of meanings and purposes. In this sense, the dialogical structure of understanding dictates that understanding reaches its fullest potential only when it is also a self-understanding. All understanding requires an application to our specific historical situation. In fact, applica­ tion is necessary for any fusion of horizons, for any real dialogue, 3 to take place. Application thus becomes the key to saving the truth of the humanities from the shackles of scientific methodol­ ogy. It is the application of whatever it is we wish to understand,

Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness the universal, to our present situation, the particular, that works to comprise the dialogic structure of understanding. Application thus involves a mediation of the universal and the particular that in fact determines both, a basic statement of the hermeneutic circle. "[I]t explicitly and consciously bridges the temporal dis­ tance that separates the interpreter from the text and overcomes the alienation of meaning that the text has undergone" (Truth and Method, TM, 311). It is through the dialogical encounter of the interpreter and the text that both come into their true being as they are synthesized amidst the understanding of the subject matter that rises up between them. A hermeneutics based on the notion of application is, in this sense, intimately connected to many of the concerns of Aristotelian ethics. Gadamer claims that the dynamics of applica­ tion, and indeed of hermeneutics in general, are modeled in Aristotle1s conception of phronesis. Phronesis is Aristotle1s formula­ tion of moral knowledge, knowledge based on the correct appli­ cation of reason to moral action. In fact, Aristotle1s conception of moral knowledge is very different from any form of knowledge derived from methodological concerns due to the fact that"in the moral (applied) sphere, method is in fact determined by the object itself.4 The peculiar fact of moral knowledge is that it is only as it is applied; it is necessarily connected to the particular situation in which it is applied and, inasmuch as the situation is in part determined by the nature of the one who is in it, to the s very being of the moral agent. The remaining possibility, then, is that intelligence is a state grasping the truth, involving reason, concerned with action about what is good or bad for a human being. (Nicomachean Ethics, 6.43) It is important to note that Gadamer considers a hermeneutics

governed by the notion of application to function in the same way. All understanding necessarily involves an application to the particular situation in which the interpreter is called to partici­ pate. The knowledge arising out of understanding is thus for­ mally akin to moral knowledge. Its purpose is to say something about the engaged situation in which we find ourselves, not to



Benjamin McMyler contemplate in a state of detached neutrality a purely objective 6 reality. Understanding is in fact something that occurs to us. Gadamer goes on to elucidate the occurrence of under足 standing by claiming that it has the structure of an expe~ence (Elj".11mmg) and is thus an epistemologically basic concept.' The activity of understanding consists of the dialogue in which we take part. This dialogue, motivated by the aspect of application, seeks to reconcile the foreignness of the historical horizon of the text with the situation of the interpreter. Understanding of the subject matter grmvs up in between this dialogue and has the structure of an experience (Erfahnmg). It is something that speaks to us, affects us, and moves us in certain directions. Gadamer thus claims that experience is essentially negative, futural, and constitutive of openness. It is negative in that it tells us something that is other from us or in some sense objective. It is futural in that it projects a sense of expectations of what will occur in the future. And it is constitutive of openness in that it reveals something to us about our situation that opens us to reality, namely our radical finitude. These three moments of experience are in fact a reflection of the to and fro motion of Gadamer's conception of dialogue, and hence of the very structure of understanding itself. The negativity of experience is a reflection of the recognition of the Other, of the historical horizon of the text that speaks to us from outside of our own situation. Still, this Other is essentially tied to s us as a Thou. The negativity of experience is thus productive in that it not only says something, but it says something to us that has a meaning for us. What it says, as something that is essen足 tially applied, pushes us into future possibilities. Being pushed as such, we are forced to realize our own inherent limitations. We are creatures always striving to understand but never able to fully bridge the gap between our knowledge and the call of the real. The truth of experience always implies an orienta足 tion toward new experience. That is why a person who is called experienced has become so not only through experiences but is also open to new experi足 ences ... the experienced person proves to be ...

Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness


-----------------------------------------------------someone who is radically undogmatic; who, be足 cause of the many experiences he has had and the knowledge he has drawn from them, is particu足 larly well equipped to have new experiences and to learn from them. The dialectic of experience has its proper fulfillment not in definitive knowledge but in the openness to experience that is made possible by experience itself. (TM, 355, italics his) The realization of our essential finitude thus cultivates a sense of openness in that it forces us to pay ever-increasing attention to the real, that which is disclosed through genuine thinking. This is actually the true purpose of the dialectic of experience as Gadamer conceives it, for openness is itself a condition of under足 standing. Only if we are prepared to accept something that is against us can understanding, as a fusion of horizons, occur at all. The experienced person is open to further experiences and thus open to understanding itself. The virtue of the experienced per足 son is thus not that she knows, but that she is open to knowing, that she has the peculiar ability to reach an understanding over and over again in a variety ~f different circumstances. It will be helpful here to relate Gadamer's conception of openness to Heidegger's discussion of authenticity. Though it may not be obvious at first glance, it is my contention that there is a real sense in which Gadamer's advocation of openness is a 9 call for us to become authentic, to real-ize our Situation. This becomes especially apparent when one takes into account the distinction Dreyfus has made between the Aristotelian and Kierkegaardian forms of authenticity present in Being and Time. For the Aristotelian Heidegger, the resolute real-ization of our unique Situation that constitutes authenticity is not a conscious recognition of the structure of our being-in-the-world. Rather, it involves a radical opening of ourselves to being moved into action by the Situation. As Dreyfus quotes from a 1953 lecture of Heidegger's: The essence of resoluteness (Ent-schlossenheit) lies in the opening (Ent-borgenheit) of human Dasein into the clearing of being, and not at all in a storing


Benjamin McMyler up of energy for "action" ... Its relation to being is one of letting-be. (Dreyfus, 1991,318) The resoluteness of authenticity is in no wayan intentionalistic phenomenon oriented toward any specific form of action. Rather, the facing up to guilt that is the hallmark of authenticity here lO involves a giving ourselves over. Authenticity involves a recog­ nition of our being thrown into a world of meanings and pur­ poses that are not strictly our own. This, in turn, opens us to that world, giving us the ability to truly take it up. Our openness to this world is thus truly consecrated in terms of active participa­ tion rather than detached knowledge. The phenomenon set forth with the term resolute­ ness can hardly be confused with an empty "habitus" and an indefinite "velleity." Resolute­ ness does not first represent and acknowledge a situation to itself, but has already placed itself in it. Resolute, Da-sein is already acting . .. But resolute­

ness is only the authenticity of care itself, cared for in care and possible as care. (Being and Time, BT, 300, italics his) The openness to the Situation that authenticity demands is nei­ ther a purely practical nor a purely theoretical affair. Rather, it is connected to the very being of Dasein itself as a recognition of its basis in care,l1 a recognition that one does not 'have' but actually 'does' by acting, by resolutely taking up the projects our culture and tradition hand over to us. The projects we take up authenti­ cally are in fact indistinguishable from those we take up inau­ thentically. It is rather the self-consciousness with which we take up those projects that distinguishes authenticity. For Heidegger, the transformation to authenticity signals a transformation in the form of my every­ day activity, leaving the content unchanged. I en­ act my authenticity in all my absorbed involved activity ... The transformation to owning up to Dasein's nullity is, of course, the same transforma­

Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness tion we have already described as becoming open to the Situation. (Dreyfus, 1991, 322) Thus, in responding to the concrete Situation the resolute individual is recognized as a model; not of what general thing to do, but of how to respond in an especially appropriate way. (Dreyfus, 1999, 12) What is definitive of resoluteness is not the content of activity or even a general method of acting. Rather, resoluteness involves the ability to respond to the situation appropriately, correctly, what足 ever that may be. Heidegger's Aristotelian formulation of authen足 ticity thus amounts to a giving oneself over to openness in such a way as to engage oneself in thinking. Of course, this is not the end of the story for Heidegger. He goes on from here to discuss the authenticity involved in anticipatory resoluteness towards death, a much more Christian resoluteness that requires a pri足 mordial understanding of Dasein itself. This understanding of Dasein then makes possible a distinct transformation of self and world that is exemplified in the cultural master, someone who is able to take up marginal practices present in one's cultural past in such a way as to disclose a truly new world. However, as Dreyfus notes, Heidegger is never able to fully synthesize these two notions of authenticity, leaving his account of resoluteness some' 12 W h at amb rguous. I believe, despite the fact that Gadamer never refers to authenticity as such in his writings, pOSSibly in order to avoid the implications of Heidegger's Kierkegaardian account, that we can gain a better understanding of his conception of openness by relating it to Heidegger's Aristotelian account of authenticity as I have outlined it here. The hermeneutic call to openness should be read as a natural outgrowth of the nature of understanding. Guided by the principle of application, all understanding is something that occurs to us and has the structure of an experi足 ence. Understanding is dialogical. Its essential negativity, its experience of the Other, continually reveals to itself its own finitude, thus opening it to further experience, experience of the real.



Benjamin McMyler Thus experience is experience of human finitude. The truly experienced person is one who has taken this to heart, who knows that he is master neither of time nor the future. The experienced man knows that all foresight is limited and all plans uncertain. In him is realized the true value of experience ... Experience teaches us to acknowl­ edge the reaL The genuine result of experience, then-as of all desire to know-is to know what is. (TM,357) Just as Heidegger1s social virtuoso has faced guilt in such a way as to resolutely take up the projects of tradition, the truly experi­ enced person, for Gadamer, has accepted the radical finitude of the human situation in such a way as to become open to the truth of the real as it is revealed in genuine understanding. What distinguishes the person who is guided by openness is thus not what one does generally, but rather the appropriateness of one1s response to each particular situation. As a condition of under­ standing, openness is exemplified in each particular event of understanding. The open person is thus the one who understands most readily, just as Heidegger1s social virtuoso is the one who is 13 simply able to respond appropriately to the Situation. Impor­ tantly, Gadamer1s account of openness cannot be something that guides us in our endeavor to understand generally. Openness is simply a condition of every particular understanding qua under­ standing and can1t be abstracted to the point of a guiding princi­ ple or method. Admittedly, Gadamer1s seeming advocation of openness often appears to have a pseudo-methodological intent. It is for this reason that many of his critics have labeled him a conserva­ tive, claiming his call to openness with regard to the way in which we approach language and tradition bars us from being able to adequately criticize those institutions. Yet, our discussion of openness here has led us to the conclusion that it is simply a condition of authentic understanding. Like Heideggerls Aris­ totelian conception of authenticity, it is not a general ideal with which we can approach texts, traditions, other people, etc., but rather an instance of every appropriate understanding. This in­

Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness terpretation also has the advantage of taking seriously Gadamer1s fervent insistence that he is merely describing what takes place in every genuine understanding. As he boldly states in the "Forward to the Second Edition" of Truth and Method, //My real concern was and is philosophic: not with what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing" (xxvii). How then do we account for Gadamer's seeming advocation of openness? It is my contention that Gadamer's call to openness, as a condition of every genuine understanding, is in fact an ethics. In his first major work, Plato's Dialectical Ethics, Gadamer claims that Platonic dialectic, as a shared striving towards the good, in fact coincides with Socratic ethics. He thus focuses on the form of the Platonic dialogues, noting that the inquiry into any particular subject matter that takes place there also functions in such a way as to bring the inquirers into their ownmost being-in-themselves and being-together. This he connects to the "positive" function of Socratic refutation, the bringing about of a shared search for an agreement with oneself and with others that is both a means to and the leading instance of the good. What we learn through dialectic, and thus through understanding in its most basic sense, is not merely the subject matter involved, but the basic being足 with that constitutes Dasein1s existential structure. This general sense of dialectic as man's giving an accounting regarding the existential possibilities to which he lays claim and regarding his claim to knowledge of entities in general makes dialectic important, at the same time, in a way that reaches beyond each particular object of investigation and accounting: it makes us, in general, JJ more dialecti足 cal," by grasping the possibility (which is inherent in human existence) of understanding ourselves and of justifying the claim to knowledge wherever it is made. (PDE, 100) We noted earlier that the true purpose of the dialectic of experi足 ence is the recognition of our own human finitude. The distin足 guishing feature of the experienced person is the willingness to



Benjamin McMyler accept something that is against oneself in such a way as to be able to understand. Though this cannot amollnt to a method of understanding due to the fact that openness is simply a condition ...f cyery genuine understanding, it can ~ viewed as an ethics, as a way of relating t~, others and to the world. in short, as a , ..' ay of making liS ,. more dialecticaL" This ethics admittedlv functions somewhat behind the sct:'nes in T rut/; llnd .\letiwd. StilL it constitutes a major concern in both Gadamer'$ earlier and later writings. Indeed, as Bernstein has noted, there is a latent radical strain present in Gadamer's ,",;ark that pulls us toward the notions of freedom and solidarity.14 In fact, Gadamer considers his philosophical hermeneutics to function as a corrective to the expansion and domination of technology and planning reason. The hermeneutic consciousness, which must be awakened and kept awake, recognizes that in the age of science philosophy's claim of superiority has something chimerical and unreal about it. But though the of man is more than ever intensify足 ing its criticism of what has gone before to the point of becoming a utopian or eschatological con足 sciousness, the hermeneutic consciousness seeks to confront that will v,.'ith something of the truth of remembrance: with what is still and ever again real. (TM, xxxvii)


The basis of this corrective is in fact the ethics associated here with openness. If we heed the call to openness, we will then be in a position to recognize our finitude, and hence those things that are against us, not in such a way as to methodically facilitate understanding in general, but rather in order to come into our true being-with-others. Dialectic, here, is truly an ethics in that only through dialogical understanding, and the openness this presupposes, do we arrive at a genuine relationship with the world, with others, and with ourselves. Notes


"Could anything be more Intelligible than Everyday Intelligibility?:


Gadamer and the Authenticity of Openness


Reinterpreting Division I of Being and Time in the light of Division II."

(Paper presented at the Inaugural Meeting of the International Society

for Phenomenological Studies, Asilomar, California, July 19-23, 1999).

2 See also Charles Taylor's distinction between authenticity (A) and

authenticity (B) in his The Ethics ofAuthenticity (Cambridge: Harvard

University Press, 1991, 66).

3 "In the process of understanding, a real fusing of horizons occurs­

which means that as the historical horizon is projected, it is simultane­

ously superseded. To bring about this fusion in a regulated way is the

task of what we called historically effected consciousness. Although

this task was obscured by aesthetic-historical positivism following on

the heels of romantic hermeneutics, it is, in fact, the central problem of

hermeneutics. It is the problem of application, which is to be found in

all understanding" (TM, 307).

4 "As we see, the problem of method is entirely determined by the ob­

ject-a general Aristotelian principle-and the important thing for us is

to examine more closely the relation between moral being and moral

consciousness that Aristotle sets out in his Ethics" (TM, 313).

5 "For moral knowledge, as Aristotle describes it, is clearly not objec­

tive knowledge-i.e., the knower is not standing over against a situa­

tion that he merely observes; he is directly confronted with what he

sees. [t is something that he has to do" (TM, 314).

6 "For the hermeneutical problem too is clearly distinct from 'pure!

knowledge detached from any particular kind ofbeing" (TM, 314, ital­

ics his).

7 "This is precisely what we have to keep in mind in analyzing histori­

cally effected consciousness: it has the structure of an experience

~Erfahrung)" (TM, 346).

"Thus the negativity of experience has a curiously productive mean­ , ing. It is not simply that we see through a deception and hence make a correction, but we acquire a comprehensive knowledge. We cannot, therefore, have a new experience of any object at random, but it must be of such a nature that we gain better knowledge through it, not only of itself, but of what we thought we knew before-i.e., of a universal. The negation by means of which it achieves this is a determinate nega­ tion. We call this kind of experience dialectical" (TM, 353). lj For Heidegger, Situation, as opposed to everyday situation, refers to our authentic 'place' within the temporal structure of being-in-the­ world. It is important to note that having such a Situation is predicated on resoluteness. Situation is not something we all have and must simply recognize. Actually, the existential attributes of a resolute Da-sein cre­ ate Situation in the first place (BT,299-300).

Benjamin McMyler


"Ent-schlossellheit, then, is the openness that results from acceptance of the breakdown of the ethical illusion oflucid total choice, and the realization that the self is impotent and empty. It is therefore mislead­ ing to call the change choosing to choose. Dasein does not choose at all. Rather, Dasein as a disclosing way of being accepts the call to ac­ knowledge its essential empty openness" (Dreyfus, 1991,318). II The concept of care, for Heidegger, encompasses the existential whole of Da-sein 's ontological structure (BT, 193). 12 "It is hard to reconcile this claim that only anticipatory resoluteness reveals Dasein authentically and fully with the claim in the earlier dis­ cussion of the resoluteness of facing guilt that 'we have now arrived at that truth ofDasein which is most primordial because it is authentic.' (343) I think Heidegger was simply confused as to how he wanted to relate the two kinds ofresoluteness" (Dreyfus, 1999,26). 13 "The Situation cannot be calculated in advance or presented like something occurrent which is waiting for someone to grasp it. It only gets disclosed in free resolving which has not been determined before­ hand but is open to the possibility of such determination" (BT, 355). 14 See Bernstein, Richard. "What is the Difference that Makes a Differ­ ence? Gadamer, Habennas, and Rorty." In Hermeneutics and Modern Philosophy. Brice R. Wachterhauser, ed. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986,343-376.) 10

Bibliography Aristotle. Niwm:uheanEthia. Terence Invin, trans. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1985. Bernstein, RichardJ. "What is the Difference that Makes a Differ­ ence? Gadarner, Habermas, and Rorty." In Herm::neutics and MaiemPhilaophy. Brice R Wachterhauser, ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986. Dreyfus, Hubert L. Beirfi!;in-tIJe. World. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. - . " Could anything be more Intelligible than Everyday Intelligibil­ ity?: Reinterpreting Division I of Beirrg, and Tim; in the light of Division II." Paper presented at the Inaugural Meeting of the International Society for Phenomenological Studies. Asilomar, California. July 19-23, 1999. Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Tmth andMetJxx:L New York: ContinuUlTI, 1998. - . Plato~ Diak:tical Ethics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. Heidegger, Martin. Beingarxl Tim;. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. Taylor, Charles. The Ethia ifA uthenticity. Cambridge: Harvard Uni­ versi Press 1991.

Donagan and Heidegger: Two Conflicting Ideas of


Henry C. Driscoll

Washington and Lee University

hile some are inclined to search more deeply than others for the most appropriate way to lead a human life, any person who takes up the question "how should I live?" exhibits a kind of ethical concern. Further along the line of inquiry into how one should live one's life, one may ask, "what is my nature as a human being?" "what is the good in a human life?" or "what, if anything, is required of me as a human being?" To inquire even more deeply and indeed more philosophically, one may ask, "how is it even possible that I can understand what we call the ethical?" A collision of thoughts on these questions is presented in Alan Donagan's The Theory of Morality. At the end of Chapter Four, Donagan briefly levels what appears to be a deft and important criticism at what he takes to be. existentialist doctrine. Donagan uses R. G. Collingwood's concept of "corrupt con­ sciousness" to describe the kind of mentality of which he believes the existentialist thought of Heidegger and Sartre is an expres­ sion. Donagan believes that existentialist doctrine requires only one thing of man: that he see through the pretense that anything is required of man as such, other than that he act in full aware­ ness of the fact that he is mortal and that nothing is required of him" (Theory of Morality, 142). In terms of existentialism, this paper is concerned not at all with Sartre but mainly with Heideg­ ger. With respect to Heidegger, it is not part of the project of his phenomenological explica tion of human existence to uncover or create a prescription for a way of living a moral life. 1 But this does not necessarily mean that because of his phenomenological findings in which he did not bring forth any ethical requirements /I

Driscdl is a 2000 waduateifWcrshinllf,onarxiLre UniW'SityWlha nujarinphih­ ophy. He plans onforther study Wlh the aim if~ a psy.hiatrist. Episteme • Volume XI • September 2000


Henry C. Driscoll for living that he does not see that man is free from ethics and free to do whatever he wants. That Heidegger does not bring forth a binding ethical requirement in Being and Time does not warrant the criticism that his is an expression of corrupt con­ sciousness. To get these concerns clear, first, one must under­ stand Donagan's conception of human beings as rational crea­ tures, and the kind of morality which follows from valuing rationality as an intrinsic good. Then I will bring out his com­ ments on Heidegger. Once Donagan's criticisms of authenticity are clear, it will be necessary to understand Heidegger's concep­ tions of conscience, authenticity, and his thoughts on moral requirement or obligation. My goal is to make a good and fair assessment of the legitimacy of Donagan's criticisms of Heideg­ ger's thought. Although Donagan conceives of human nature as consist­ ing in our moral and intellectual fallibility, he also sees rationality as the fundamental part of our nature. Donagan's formulation of what he takes to be traditional Judeo-Christian morality rests on the intrinsic value of rationality.2 According to Donagan, al­ though traditional Judeo-Christian morality is not necessarily theologically-dependent, it is a system of laws or precepts bind­ ing on rational creatures as such, and the content of this morality is ascertainable by human reason. The fundamental principle of traditional Judeo-Christian morality as Donagan eventually for­ mulates it is that one must respect rationality in all rational agents such that" it is impermissible not to respect every human being, oneself or any other, as a rational creature" (Donagan, 66). Donagan establishes this principle by appealing to reason itself: to be rational and to act rationally is to accept t.his fundamental principle; to reject the fundamental principle is to reject rational­ ity as an end in itself. Donagan arrives at the fundamental principle in this way: if one respects one's own rationality then it follows that one must respect it in all others since rationality is not a property exclusive to oneself. Donagan argues that this fundamental principle is accessible to all humans in virtue of their rationality; the funda­ mental principle is, in the Cartesian sense, clear and distinct to rational thought. Since the fundamental principle is accessible to all rational creatures, the principle and its subsequent moral

Donagan and Heidegger precepts are binding on all rational creatures because of the intrinsic value of rationality: in virtue of the fact that one values one's own rationality, it follows that one values it in others because rationality is a property held by all rational creatures. Thus, by the fundamental principle of morality, one is morally bound to respect the rationality in all rational creatures, includ­ ing oneself. In this sense, insofar as one is rational, one is required to respect other rational creatures. Donagan's conception of conscience also plays a role in the way one understands the permissibility or impermissibility of one's own actions and one's own culpability or inculpability as a rational actor. For Donagan, conscience is reason's apprehension of its own principles, or to put it more colloquially, it is the part of one's consciousness which says According to my principles, as I understand them, I think this is right." Donagan seems to agree with the Thomistic conception of conscience: "the verdicts of conscience derive from a disposition of ordinary human reason/,3 (Donagan, 134) where conscience has the character of a kind of "court of justice," in the Kantian sense (Heidegger, 293). [Page references in Heidegger are to the standard German edition of Bein.g and Time, Ed.] This disposition, in the Thomistic sense, is developed through a kind of moral education, or, in other words, through incorporating the fundamental moral principles into one's consciousness.' According to Donagan, since the fundamen­ tal principle is clear and distinct to reason, and since conscience gives a kind of verdict for what one ought to do, then it is an appeal to determine how one ought to act. So in all cases it is culpable to act against conscience" (Donagan, 138). The verdicts from conscience determine the permissibility or impermissibility of an action and whether or not we act according to that verdict determines our culpability. Donagan brings out a human complication for acting according to conscience when, in light of the thought of Colling­ wood, he asserts that "the moral conscience may be vitiated by a corrupt consciousness" (Donagan, 141). It is at this point in his book that he criticizes existentialist doctrine as being an expres­ sion of a corrupt consciousness. For Donagan, the corrupt con­ sciousness consists in rejecting what Donagan posits as the truth of one's moral requirements as a human being, i.e. regarding the 1/



Henry C. Driscoll


fundamental principle as not really binding on all rational crea足 tures. According to Donagan, existentialism is an expression of a corrupt consciousness because it alleges that nothing is required of man except that he see through the pretense" that anything moral is required of him. The corruption of consciousness is a possible psychical phenomenon because according to Donagan, a man will be aware or not aware of what is presented to his consciousness according as he pays attention to it or not, and that it is in his power to withdraw attention from most of what is presented to him" (Donagan, 139). In Donagan's thought, even in matters of conscience wherein every human knows in some deep part of his or her soul that he or she is morally bound or obligated to respect rationality in all humans and so live according to the fundamental principle, a human can nevertheless control what appears to his or her consciousness. Consequently, one may shirk that which one most deeply knows to be morally required of him or her. What needs to be shown is that Donagan is not justified in criticizing Heideggerian thought in the manner in which he has understood it. Is it actually Heidegger's thought that nothing is required of man other than that he recognize his own mortality?4 Donagan's criticisms of Heidegger reveal his misunderstandings of Heidegger. Now I will turn to understand Heidegger so that one may better see what Donagan did not see so clearly. Donagan has a certain idea of what existentialist doctrine consists in and, more specifically, he has his own idea of what authenticity means: existentialist doctrine requires human beings to be authentic which "consists neither more nor less than in seeing through the pretense that anything is required of man as such, other than that he act in full awareness of the fact that he is mortal and that nothing is required of him" (Donagan, 142). It is understandable that one could conceive of existentialism in these terms and make the following criticisms of it: it tends to under足 mine ethics; it necessarily leads to nihilism; those who espouse existentialist doctrine do so by shirking their inherent moral responsibility as human beings. One may also further conclude justly that these existentialists then share in common a corrupt consciousness. If one grants that Donagan's interpretation of Heidegger's conception of authenticity is accurate and that Hei足 degger's thought is representative of existentialist doctrine, then If


Donagan and Heidegger by all means Donagan's criticisms of each are warranted. But has Donagan conceived of authenticity in a way faithful to what Heidegger meant by it? Is Heidegger actually formulating exis­ tential doctrine? Does Heidegger actually say that a moral requirement or obligqtion is a "pretense"? Moreover, does Hei­ degger ever say that humans are required to see through this pretense or be or do anything at all? What does Heidegger say concerning moral requirements or obligations? Authenticity is an important and incidentally an easily misunderstood concept in Heidegger's thought since its meaning appears deep and manifold. As Donagan understands it, authen­ ticity represents a way of living in which one understands oneself as being required to do nothing else but see one's selfhood as consisting in absolute freedom,S and that man be nothing else but true to himself about his actions and mindful of his own mortal­ ity. Donagan would seem to think that in being authentic, one places more value on being true to oneself than on being moral. This understanding of authenticity is very limited and in many ways not even faithful to what Heidegger meant when he used the term. What I take authenticity to mean in the way Heidegger uses the term is as follows: authenticity is the mode ofbeing to which

Dasein is called by conscience out of inauthenticity to a recognition of one's own being in the world which consists in attesting to one's primordial guilt and understanding death as the ultimate possibility of life. Heidegger uses authenticity" as a phenomenological de­ 1/

scription of a certain mode of being; it is not an evaluative term--being authentic entails no necessary moral implications one way or the other. Now, it is understandable that Donagan may criticize the lack of moral implications of authenticity. Dona­ gan may think that the amoral nature of the concept of authentic­ ity implicates it as an expression of a corrupt consciousness; in other words, for Donagan, this means that by being morally neutral, the authentic mode of being would purport to slough off the moral reqUirements which bind all rational creatures. But Donagan's criticism may be better addressed once we have un­ derstood Heidegger's concept of conscience. In terms of conscience, authenticity is a kind of condition for the possibility of Dasein's understanding a moral injunction. Only on the basis of authenticity does an ethics even become



Henry C. Driscoll possible for Dasein. In the preliminary analysis from Being and Time of conscience and guilt, Heidegger makes explicit the three negativities of Dasein and these negativities are what constitute the nullity of Dasein. Dasein is a nullity in that Dasein lacks in three ways: 1) With respect to the past, Dasein is fraught with a sense of lacking because Dasein was thrown into the world without having chosen to be put in the world. Heidegger writes, /lIn the structure of throwness ... essentially lies a nullity" where throwness is a kind of abandonment which Dasein senses in being in the world (285). 2) In the present, Dasein is lacking because Dasein is ordinarily not his or her true authentic selfi in fact, for the most part Dasein is falling from his or her own authentic self in that Dasein is most often taken in by the they-self" where the they-self is characterized by being in such a way that one is not individual. One acts in the mode of being nobody in particular. 3) In the future, Dasein also lacks because he/ she knows that in time he/ she is not to be at all. In fact, Dasein knows that he/ she is destined to die. "In the structure of...the project essentially lies a nullity" where project is a kind of throwing forth into the future and understanding of what is to come (285). /I

Because of these negativities, Dasein's being lies in nul足 lity.6 Because Dasein's being lies in nullity, Dasein is left with this primordial guilt without even explicitly knowing it.7 What is the connection between guilt and lacking? " .. .[G]uilt is... necessar足 ily defined as a lack, when something which ought to be and can be is missing" (283). What Dasein understands that he/ she can be and ought to be is authentic. s To be authentic, Dasein must come back from the they-self to which Dasein ordinarily falls prey. It is in Dasein's recognition that he/she ordinarily falls from his/her own authentic self to the '''they'' that he/she is guilty.9 What Dasein could be is authentic but since Dasein is for the most part falling into the inauthenticity of the they-self, insofar as Dasein lacks authenticity, he/she is gUilty. Because


Donagan and Heidegger Dasein is primordially guilty amidst the three negativities it becomes possible for him/her to be called back in authenticity to recognize his/her nullity. In understanding the call of conscience back to being authentic, Dasein understands him/herself as wanting to have a conscience, in fact "Dasein calls itself to itself" (254). If Dasein did not want to hear a summons of conscience, Dasein could not understand a moral injunction. Let me explain further. An" analysis of conscience reveals it as a call" (269). What is the call"? The call is a call from oneself back to the authentic wherein one recognizes one's being as lacking in the way that I have described above. "Call" is a summons to attest to one's primordial guilt where, as clarified above, Dasein is called back to itself to recognize in authenticity its own guilt. Being able to Understand the summons means: wanting to have a conscience" (265). In wanting to have a conscience Dasein wants to come back to authenticity instead of falling prey to the "they-self." How does conscience relate to guilt? Heidegger says, "Wanting to have aconscience is rather the most primordial existential presupposition for the possibility of becoming factically guilty" (288). Because Dasein wants to have a conscience which means that Dasein wants to be called back to authenticity, it is then possible for Dasein to be guilty about lacking authenticity. This primordial kind of guilt then precedes obligation, including moral obligation. In another part of Being and Time, Heidegger characterizes "authentically understanding the call [to authenticity] as wanting to have a conscience" (272). In a primordial sense, Dasein wants a conscience. If it was not "given" (or factical) that Dasein is primordially guilty (what Heidegger calls factically guilty) then Dasein would not be able to hear the call of conscience. If Dasein did not experience this factical, primordial guilt, he/she would not be able to "hear" the call of conscience or any kind of a moral injunction. Being guilty avails the hearing of the call of con足 science. Before any particular moral injunction comes, Dasein is factically constituted such that he/she is the kind of being that can hear a moral injunction: Dasein is fundamentally guilty because he/she falls away from his/her particular self to inau足 /I




Henry C. Driscoll thenticity. Consequently, one needs to be called back to authen揃 ticity. Because Dasein falls away from authenticity, Dasein is guilty and so he/she wants to have a conscience. Whether or not the authentic mode of being permits immorality or morality is not a question that one would ask if one has already understood the character of authenticity the way it is used in its primordial sense. My point is that the authentic mode of being is valuatively neutral, and not at all an existentialist requirement for living, as Donagan would try to conceive of it-~authenticity is not morally prescribed by anything or anyone; being authentic is not a command. Properly understood, in an authentic mode of being, Dasein understands the call of con足 science and in so doing it recognizes its wanting to be authentic; in hearing the call of conscience, Dasein is summoned to be guilty. As I am about to show in what follows, this guilt precedes indebtedness and obligation; because we are guilty, we can be obligated-in short, because of Dasein's primordial guilt, an ethics becomes possible. Now, one can begin to see a conception of authenticity which is quite different from Donagan's charge that authenticity requires that man see through the pretense of ethical requirements. So far one may have an idea of how it is that guilt precedes obligation thus making a moral injunction understand~ able to the being of Dasein. But to grasp better what Heidegger means by this we must make a different attempt to understand guilt as the basis of a sense of indebtedness. Then subsequently it will become somewhat more explicit how on the basis of primor~ dial guilt, obligation and, subsequently, morality become possi足 ble. Heidegger says: "being guilhJ does not result from an indebted足 ness, but the other way around: indebtedness is possible only Ion the basis' of a primordial being guilty" (284). In being primordially guilty, Dasein is in a certain way indebted. This indebtedness expresses itself as needing something. I established that 'because of Dasein's nullity, he is primordially guilty, and then because he is guilty he wants to hear the call of conscience. In a similar way because of his sense of guilt-based indebtedness, it is possible for Dasein to feel obligated. The fundamental lacking, which is just

Donagan and Heidegger factically part of being Dasein, means that there is a primordial guilt prior to being obligated. Heidegger explicates the primor­ dial guilt which is a part of being in the world and primordial J

guilt makes it possible for Dasein to understand a moral injunction. Because of primordial guilt, one can feel obligated and subse­ quently one can recognize an ought." Perhaps this can be under­ stood in the following question: How can a being recognize a moral injunction if it is not at first in some sense open to it? Dasein is open to be obligated because of his primordial guilt; this guilt begets indebtedness and thus makes moral obligation possible. . The authentic mode of being is necessary for the possibil­ ity of an ethics for Dasein. Dasein cannot hear the call of con­ science amidst the" noise of the manifold ambiguity of everyday Inewl idle talk" of the inauthentic they-self. The call of conscience must call to Dasein in its authenticity so that Dasein may hear it. Thus, in this. way, authenticity is a condition for hearing a moral injunction; away from the idle chatter of the inauthentic they-self in silence Dasein may hear a moral injunction. This is qUite different from conceiving of authenticity as a call to see through the pretense of moral obligation. In ending his criticism of authenticity, Donagan says: "...moral nihilism is but one more of the innumerable devices by which a corrupt consciousness may disguise from a man what he is, and how he is called to live" (Donagan, 142). W11at is impor­ tant here in light of the prior discussion is Donagan's idea of how a man is called to live." For Donagan, man is called to live in such a way that he is morally bound to value rationality as an end in itself, and respect rationality in all rational creatures. But how is it that man can understand what he is "called to do by the fundamental principle of morality? Where Donagan begins his theory of morality with a moral injunction in the form of the fundamen­ tal principle, Heidegger explicates how it is possible for any moral injunction to be understood at all. Whence the need to turn to a universalized fundamental principle? Because Dasein already lacks. How is it that the fundamental principle can be understood as a moral injunction? It can be understood because Dasein is already guilty and subsequently indebted and disposed to being obligated. In his phenomenological explication of being in the It





Henry c. Drisco11


world, Heidegger describes how lacking is fundamental to Da-:­ sein. And this fundamental lack is what eventually makes an ethics possible. The absence of a moral requirement binding on all human beings in his phenomenological explication does not mean that authenticity is an expression of a corrupt consciousness. To the contrary, Heidegger explicates authenticity in non-valuative terms for methodological reasons: he is trying to get Dasein clear on itself, so that it may be free from the distractions which characterize being lost in the inauthentic they-self" so that in its own authentic mode of being it can recognize its own primordial guilt and hear the call of conscience, and thereby be open to understanding a moral injunction. Also important to note is that it is nowhere written in Being and Time that in being authentic anything moral or otherwise is required of a human being, not even seeing through the pretense that anything is required of man" (Donagan, 142). Far from saying that moral requirements are pretenses, in an authentic mode of being Dasein can hear a moral injunction in a most primordial way. Because of conscience and authenticity, Dasein can be obligated and recognize a moral injunction. Finally, it is possible for Dasein to understand the meaning of the ethical, and Dasein may begin to discern how a life ought to be lived. tO /I


Notes I An example of an ethical prescription of this sort is seen most clearly in Kant's conception of the categorical imperative in which one's own reason commands One to act morally. 2 Conceived in this way, rationality consists in understanding the struc­ tures of means and ends and of being able to recognize and be dissatis­ fied with contradictions. 3 Synderesis is the faculty from which verdicts of conscience proceed (Donagan, 132). 41 wish Donagan would have given a footnote indicating where in Hei­ degger's literature he found this claim that Heidegger says that man is only required to see through all pretenses that anything is required of man at all. sI know this is plainly Sartre's conception but Donagan makes no dis­ tinction or specification of it one way or another. In fact, Donagan per­ ilously and erroneously confiates the thought of Sartre and Heidegger. The truth is that Heidegger's thought is original and unique and conse­


Donagan and Heidegger quentlv different from S~rtdreh's. W?hile Sh~rtre defined his thought as existenti~list, Heidegg er sal t at nelt er IS thought nor he himself were

existentialist. 'The being of Dasein which is "care" is "itself in its essence thor足 (285).

ghly permeated with nullity" ou . d'IaI th an any knowing about it" (286). - "Being guilty is more pnm~r. S Dasein understands authentIcIty as what he/she ought to be where the word "ought" is not used in any moral or normative sense. Dasein is just constituted such that he i~ ~rimordia~ly ~uilty be~ause he character足 istically falls short of authenticIty by fallIng 1Oto the mauthentic they!\

self. 9 "The calling back in which conscience calls forth gives Dasein to un足 derstand that Dasein itself-as the null ground of its null project, stand足 ing in the possibility of its being-must bring itself back to itself from its lostness in the they, and this means that it is guilty" (287). 10 I would like to acknowledge Professor Sessions' indispensable help in revising this paper for pUblication. Also Professor Pemberton's time and invaluable insights, both of which helped me better understand Heideggerian thought.

Bibliography Heidegger, Martin. Being and Tim, Albany, NY: State University of Ne~ York Press, Albany, 1996. Donagan, Alan. The Theory if A1oraiity, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977. Collingwood, RG. The Prirxip!f3 if A rt. Oxford: Oarendon Press, 1942.


Against the Necessity of Identity Statements

Philip D. Miller

Denison University

n Naming and Necessity, Saul Kripke argues that names are rigid designators. For Kripke, a term "rigidly designates" an object if it picks out that object wherever it exists, in all possible worlds. Additionally, to employ David Bostock's analysis, Kripke argues that identity-statements in which both terms are rigid designators are necessarily true if they are true at all" (313). Here Kripke has in mind statements of the sort a is b," in which the verb, is, has the character of identity (as opposed to predication, etc.), e.g. "a square is a parallelogram having four equal sides and four right angles." Kripke writes that philoso­ phers have been interested in identity statements of three sorts: those employing descriptions, identity statements between names, and theoretical statements in science. He contends that identity statements involving descriptions, e.g., "the first Post­ master General of the United States is the inventor of bifocals/' are contingent. Of names and theoretical statements in science, however, true identity statements of this sort are true necessarily so. Initially in this essay, I will provide an account of Kripke's claim regarding the necessity of identity statements. I will give a systematic analysis of the structure of Kripke's argument, facili­ tating an examination of the mechanics of the argument and my critique thereof. My criticism lies in the challenge to Kripke's intuitive claim that proper names are rigid designators, and that therefore the relation expressed in an identity statement between a name and the object it picks out is a necessmy one. I will argue that identity statements (employing descriptions, in names, and in statements in science) are contingent, not necessary, under­ mining Kripke's notion of the a posteriori identity. Ultimately, this critique challenges Kripke's fundamental notion of rigid designa-




Miller is astudent rfphilaophy at Denison Uniwsity, from ruhere he expros eei/lEa B.A. inMay, 2001. Episteme • Volume Xl • September 2000

to rt'­

Against the Necessity of Identity Statements tion, the implications of which will be indicated in the conclu­ sion. Kripke on the Necessity of Identity Statements I begin my analysis with the distinction Kripke notes between a statement which is necessarily true and a statement which is contingently so. This distinction will prove useful in the analysis throughout the paper. He writes: We ask whether something might have been true, or might have been false. Well, if something is false, it's obviously not necessarily true. If it is true, might it have been otherwise? Is it possible that, in this respect, the world should have been different from the way it is? If the answer is no/' then this fact about the world is a necessary one. If the answer is yes/' then this fact about the world is a contingent one. (258) /I


The key to Kripke's account seems to be the question of whether or not something might have turned out. otherwise. For some­ thing to be necessarily true, it could not have been different from the way it is. A necessary truth implies that the world could not possibly be different in this respect. In contrast, contingent facts are such that they are not necessarily so. We could imagine the world in a way such that a contingent fact may have turned out otherwise. At this point, Kripke wants to note the distinction be­ tween necessary and a priori. Truths about the world which are necessary could not have been otherwise; this is not to say that they are discovered a priori on Kripke's account. He writes, /lIt's certainly a philosophical thesis, and not a matter of obvious definitional equivalence, either that everything a priori is neces­ sary or that everything necessary is a priori" (258). Here he cites a fundamental difference between the metaphysical nature of nec­ essary truths and the epistemological character of a priori knowl­ edge. Kripke's assertion regarding true identity statements with terms that are rigid designators, then, is that the world could not have possibly turned out otherwise. This is especially important



PhUip D. Miller for theoretical statements in science, for instance, which on Kripke's analysis consist of two rigid designators and reveal a necessary truth about the world, even though scientific facts are obviously discovered empirically. This leads to an investigation of the notion of rigid desig足 nation, and the terms to which it applies. Kripke defines the rigid designator as that which picks out the same object in every possible world; " ... a designator rigidly designates a certain object if it designates that object wherever that object exists" (259). Intuitively, he claims that proper names are rigid designators. This means that 'Sinatra,' for instance, picks out the same person "wherever that object exists." In any possible way we can think of the world, then, 'Sinatra' must designate that same person, viz., Sinatra. On Kripke's analysis, though Sinatra may not have been the leader of the Rat Pack, it is not the case that he might not have been Sinatra (even had he not been called 'Sinatra'). Identity statements between names, then, become an important focus for Kripke's analysis. Statements like IICicero is Tully," or "Hesperus is Phosphorus," express a necessary identity on Kripke's account as these proper names necessarily pick out the same object in every possible world. If, for Kripke, these identity statements are true at all, they are true necessarily so. The same analysis applies, for Kripke, to identily state足 ments regarding scientific theory. That light is a stream of pho足 tons; that heat is a form of energy proportional to the molecular motions of a substance; that water is H 20, all express necessary identity relations. On Kripke's account, then, (and certainly Put足 nam's as well), water is H 20 in all possible worlds. It is important to keep in mind that both terms in the identity statement are rigid designators. Thus, in an interesting sense, 'water' designates H 20 in all possible worlds as 'H20' designates H 20 in all possible worlds. Similarly, regarding names, the rigid designator 'Hesperus' picks out Venus in all possible worlds as does 'Phosphorus.' (As does 'Venus,' for that matter.) Writes Kripke in the construction of a counterfactual example: Someone goes by and he calls two different stars IIHesperus" and "Phosphorus." It may even be under the same conditions as prevailed when we

Against the Necessity of Identity Statements introduced the names "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus." But are those circumstances in which Hesperus is not Phosphorus or would not have been Phosphorus? It seems to me that they are not. Now, of course I'm committed to saying that they're not, by saying that such terms as "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus," when used as names, are rigid designators. They refer in every possible world to the planet Venus. (267) Kripke therefore argues that in every possible world, even one in which the terms "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus" identify different objects, 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus/ as we use the terms, still both refer to Venus. As such, the identity statement, "Hesperus is Phosphorus" is necessarily true: 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' designate the object Venus wherever that object exists. The notion that Kripke defends here is that true identity statements discovered a posteriori are necessarily true. E.g., state足 ments like "light is a stream of photons/' or "Hesperus is Phos足 phorus/, which are discovered empirically, are necessarily h'ue on Kripke's account. This analysis overturns the traditional philo足 sophical claim that facts discovered a posteriori are contingent, not necessary. The question I will examine, then, is: does this account make sense? Can, we accept Kripke's intuitive claim that true a posteriori identity statements express necessarily true relations, and what are the implications of our conclusion? Structural Analysis of Kripke's Argument To further the analysis, I will examine the mechanics of Kripke's theory following the systematic account given by Micllael Wreen in the article "Proper Names and the Necessity of Identity Statements." Wreen analyzes the argument of Kripke into four distinct propositions, illustrated by Kripke's discussion of the necessary relationship of identity between Hesperus and Phosphorus. The first point of the argument is that,

a. 'Hesperus' designates Hesperus (Venus). This, according to Kripke is, of course, true. Additionally,

b. 'Phosphorus' designates Phosphorus (Venus). These are uncontroversial claims regarding the way in which we



Philip D. Miller use the terms 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus/ and these being true, c. 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' designate the same object (viz., Venus). On Kripke's analysis, then, this being the case, d. Hesperus is Phosphorus. It is essential to note, however, that the naming of a term, e.g., '''Hesperus' designates Hesperus (Venus)" is contingent. (As well as that '''Phosphorus' designates Phosphorus (Venus).") Kripke writes, " .. .in a counterfactual world in which 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' were not used in the way that we use them, as names of this planet, but as names of some other objects, one could have had qualitatively identical evidence and concluded that 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' named two different objects" (268). This is important to note, as the way the terms 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' are used may certainly have been otherwise. We need not go so far at this point even to assume a counterfac足 tual situation in which 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' designate two distinct objects. All I need to indicate here is that it is a contingent fact that we use the term 'Hesperus' to designate Venus and the term 'Phosphorus' to designate Venus. An additional point which is essential to note here is that according to Kripke's causal theory of reference, causal connec足 tions themselves are contingent. On this account, the reference of a term is determined by a causal chain of users of tha t term, who intend to refer to the same object as did the persons from whom they learned the term, ultimately grounded in the object itself. Kripke writes, "An initial 'baptism' takes place. Here the object may be named by ostension, or the reference of the name may be fixed by a description. When the name is 'passed from link to link,' the receiver of the name must, I think, intend when he learns it to use it with the same reference as the man from whom he heard it" (266). Here Kripke implies the contingency of causal connections, first, as the initial baptism" of a term certainly could have been different. Additionally, the referent of a term is entirely dependent upon the contingent meaning derived from a causal link in a community of speakers. Wreen comments: II

If [that causal connections are contingent] is true, and if token-names designate what they do in

Against the Necessity of Identity Statements virtue of being causally tied to the objects they designate, then the facts that 'Hesperus' desig­ nates Hesperus, and 'Phosphorus' designates Phosphorus would have to be contingent them­ selves. (322) It is certainly contingent that reference should be derived

through a causal link among speakers of a term. One cannot demonstrate a necessary relation between the "initial baptism" of a term and the term's referring to that same object in a community of speakers-using the term as understood through causal con­ nections. The fact that 'Hesperus' designates Hesperus and 'Phosphorus' designates Phosphorus is demonstrated, then, to be a contingent one. The Contingency of Identity Statements We have shown that the first two propositions of Kripke's argument are contingent, that 'Hesperus' designates Hesperus (Venus) and 'Phosphorus' deSignates Phosphorus (Venus). It follows, then, that the third pOint, '''Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' both pick out the same object (Venus)" is contingent as well. Wreen writes, "if it's contingent that a certain causal chain is grounded in an object, and contingent that a second causal chain is grounded in an object, it would certainly seem to be contingent that both causal chains are grounded in the same object" (322). The argument itself is simple: a is contingent, b is contingent, therefore, aand b are contingent. If '''Hesperus' designates Hespe­ rus (Venus) and 'Phosphorus' designates Phosphorus (Venus)" is contingent, then, that '''Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' pick out Venus" is also contingent. David Bostock takes up this point with a counterfactual example in which 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' refer to two different objects. He hypothesizes that two planets/stars may have had orbits such that the morning and evening appearances of "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus" are indistinguishable from what they are now. Bostock writes, "a situation in which Hespe­ rus has one orbit and Phosphorus another is evidently a situation in which they are different planets" (319). Kripke's analysis would seem to concede this point. However, Kripke goes on to



Philip D. Miller write, " ... still that's not a case in which Hesperus wasn't Phos­ phorus. For there couldn't have been such a case, given that Hesperus is Phosphorus" (267). On Kripke's account, what is key is the way in which we use the terms 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus.' To illustrate this, Kripke contends: But we, using the names as we do right now, can say in advance, that if Hesperus and Phosphorus are one and the same, then in no other possible world can they be different. We use "Hesperus" as the name of a certain body and "Phosphorus" as the name of a certain body. We use them as names of those bodies in all possible worlds. If, in fact, they are the same body, then in any other possible world we have to use them as a name of that object. And so in any other possible world it will be true that Hesperus is Phosphorus. (268) I should mention two significant points here relating to Kripke's analysis. The first is that Bostock's analysis, not Kripke's, accu­ rately reflects the way we use the terms 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus.' The hypothetical scenario posits a situation in which 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' actually do refer to two distinct objects. The construct of the other possible world itself thus ensures that the way these terms are used refers to different objects. The second point is that Kripke's analysis presupposes the very conclusion he is trying to prove. Kripke wants to get at the notion that in all possible worlds, 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' refer to the same object. He does this by asserting that 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' must, in every possible world, refer to the same object. Bostock's counterfactual example, how­ ever, provides a seemingly unconlTOversial account on which the terms do not both refer to Venus. In this situation, Hesperus is certainly not Phosphorus. Kripke's assertion seems to be, ironi­ cally, counterintuitive. It is important to keep in mind Kripke's analysis regarding the nature of necessary truths versus contin­ gent facts. Contingent facts are such that they could have been otherwise. The analysis here implies that the relationship of

Against the Necessity of Identity Statements identity between Hesperus and Phosphorus could have been otherwise, thus the identity relation itself is contingent. Rigid Designation and Other Possible Worlds The essential tenet to Kripke's notion of rigid designation is that the rigid designator picks out the same object wherever that object exists, in all possible worlds. It is interesting to note, however, that in certain circumstances (detailed by Kripke), a rigid designator may not actually pick out an object at all. Con­ sider Kripke's analysis of the proper name, Nixon. 'Nixon/ Kripke argues, would not only refer to the man Nixon had he not been called Nixon, but further, would refer to the man Nixon even if Nixon did not exist. The rigid designator, then,does not actually pick out one distinct object in every possible world. Additionally, consider the counterfactual situation detailed above. In it, 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' refer to two different objects, though in the actual" world, they refer to only one. Bostock summarizes the situation as such, the number of entities referred to when specifying a counterfactual situation need not be the same as the number of entities ill the situation so specified" (319). The Nixon example is such that one refers to an object not in the situation at all. JI":[esperus' and 'Phosphorus' refer twice to one planet, though in the scenario specified, there nre two. Thus Bostock concludes, there is no inference from rigidity of desig­ nation ... to what can coherently be supposed to happen in coun­ terfactual situations" (319). Kripke's argument for necessary identity is such that' a=b' is a necessary truth if a=b is true and a and b are rigid designators. It does not necessarily follow, how­ ever, that a or b must exist; in another possible world, a may designate an object while b does not. Here it is helpful to consider a thought experiment as introduced by Helen Steward in the article "Identity Statements and the Necessary A Posteriori." Her thought experiment is such that a rare particle, similar to a proton (named proton-B), is found in the nucleus of an atom and has a slightly stronger attraction to surrounding electrons than does a normal proton. This leads to variations in melting points and boiling points of various sub­ stances and ultimately may lead to entirely different experien­ tially physical manifestations of the same atomic structure. She II





Philip D. Miller writes: What is important is that all plausibility has gone out of the claim that H 20 and water are the very same substance, once the properties to which that particular chemical constitution gives rise are al­ lowed to vary in the way described. In the possible world envisaged, then, water is not identical with H 20. And so the claim that this identity is a neces­ sary truth must be false. (391) On Steward's analysis, H 20 may pick out an infinite number of different substances in other possible worlds. With a "normal" proton it may designate a clear liquid, while with "proton-B" it may be a purple solid. This indicates a fundamental problem with Kripke's notion of rigid designation and its relation to the necessity of identity statements. Steward argues, in fact, that H 20 cannot be a rigid designator as it fails to pick out the same object in every possible world. On Kripke's own account, then, the identity statement, "water=H20" could not be a necessary iden­ tity as both of the terms are not rigid designators. This analysis applies to other theoretical statements in science and proper names as well. 'Hesperus,' even as we use the term, does not need to designate the same object in all possible worlds, viz., Phosphorus. 'Hesperus/ as we use the term, picks out the object we see in the morning sky that is Venus, that in the "actuaY' world is Phosphorus. Given Bostock's scenario, how­ ever, 'Hesperus/ which still picks out the object we see in the morning sky, fails to designate the experientially indistinguish­ able Phosphorus. The underlying notion, then, is that the concept of rigid designation is problematic. Writes Steward: An important feature of the term 'H20' is that it picks out, in every possible world, the substance that has the chemical constitution H 20 in that world, so that, unless we have a watertight guar­ antee that the H 20 in every possible world is bound to be the same stuff, there will be possible worlds in which H 20 is not the familiar, clear, colorless substance we call water. (394)

Against 'the Necessity of Identity Statements Terms like 'H20' or 'Phosphorus' may, in other logically possible worlds, pick out objects other than they do in the actual world. This analysis certainly challenges Kripke's claim regarding neces­ sary identities and means that rigid designation becomes trivial: H 20 refers to H 20. This is a fundamental critique of Kripke's notion of the necessity of identity statements as it indicts his intuitive assump­ tion regarding the nature of proper names and natural kind terms. Kripke's principal argument for the necessity of identity statements is that rigid designation necessitates what can coher­ ently be supposed in counterfactual situations. Kripke contends that 'water' necessarily picks out H 20 in all possible worlds, thus the identity statement, "water is H20" is necessarily true. The analysis that rigid designation, however, fails to necessarily de­ termine identity in other possible worlds undermines this asser­ tion. Contingency in This World The analysis in the essay indicates the contingency of the statement, '''Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' pick out the same object (Venus)." The argument is initiated in the demonstrated contin­ gency of the fundamental identity statements themselves, I:hat 'Hesperus' picks out Hesperus (Venus) and that 'Phosphorus' picks out Phosphorus (Venus). The conclusion, then, is supported by the analysis of rigid. designation and other possible worlds. The notion of rigid designation fails when we construct other logically possible worlds in which "rigid designators" fail to pick out the same object. Given this account, Kripke's argument for the necessity of identity statements collapses. Here I want to push the argument that the statement '''Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' both pick out Venus" is contin­ gent. Kripke concludes that Hesperus is Phosphorus because the terms 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' necessarily pick out the sarne using the names as we do right now, [we] object. He writes, can say in advance, that if Hesperus and Phosphorus are one and the same, then in no other possible world can they be different" 1/ •••


Philip D. Miller


(268). Having shown, however, that circumstances could have been otherwise, that 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' contingently pick out the same object, it follows that the identity statement, "Hesperus is Phosphorus" is ultimately contingent. This argu­ ment fundamentally undermines Kripke's project of demonstrat­ ing the necessity of identity statements. Kripke's view has impor­ tant implications for the philosoPI:ty of language, beyond rigid designation to theories of reference and broader concerns regard­ ing essentialism and epistemology. What the analysis in the essay demonstrates is that rigid designators fail to necessarily identify the same object in all possible worlds and that Kripke's conclu­ sion regarding the necessity of identity statements from this analysis is flawed. If we conclude, then, that a posteriori identity statements are contingent, we move the discourse in the relevant fields forward, having gained an important insight. Bibliography Bostock, David. "Kripke on Identity and Necessity." PhilaophU:al Q#arterly, voL 27, 313-24. Kripke, Saul. "Naming and Necessity." In The Philaopby cfLa17f!lttf!!, ThirdEditian. A P. Martinich, ed. New York: Oxford Uni­ versity Press, 1996, 255-270. Steward, :Helen. '(Identity Statements and the Necessary A Paten~ TheJournd cfPhilaopby, vol. 87, no. 8, 385-98. Wreen, Michael J. "Proper Names and the Necessity of Identity Statements." Synthese, vol. 114, no. 2,319-35.


Vol. XI, Sept. 2000  

Denison's Undergraduate Philosophy Journal

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