Vol 1, Issue 2
Artwork by David Alexander Smith
Table of Contents
There is a popular idea that a shift from a Principle of Charity to a Principle of Humanity, as famously advocated by Richard Grandy (1973), offers considerable advantages in constructing theories of meaning for natural languages. My claim is that Grandy’s case for the superiority of the Principle of Humanity does not tell against the Principle of Charity developed by Donald Davidson. The paper outlines important developments in Davidson’s Principle of Charity, and his refinement of the Principle of Charity that he found in Quine’s writings. I argue that Grandy’s criticisms, whilst sound against the Quinean principle he had in mind, do not extend to Davidson’s refined Principle of Charity. I then raise two further issues that face advocates of the Principle of Humanity as an improvement on Davidson’s Principle of Charity.
This critical notice argues for the existence of a new trend in bioethics, a complex and dynamic field of philosophical enquiry that goes beyond applied ethics and professional deontological codes. This trend supplements their traditionally “minimalist” ethics—and its concern with harm, rights or justice—with “inflationary” positions open to an integration of medicine with the humanities. By comparing and contrasting the views of two quite different philosophers, Diego Gracia and Alfred Tauber, and placing them within the theoretical background delineated by George Khushf, I argue that the main contribution of this “inflationary bioethics” is an understanding of health and disease as intrinsically normative concepts, which in turn brings about a blurring of the distinction between facts and values. By refusing to construe the distinction as a dichotomy, a post-positivist philosophy of medicine must become more epistemological in order to help us clarify concepts (such as that of “need for health care”) in which the evaluative and the factual are impossible to separate. As a result, the “language of principles” in standard bioethics is being substituted by a more encompassing “language of values”; health and disease are increasingly understood as biopsychosocial phenomena; and the field is open to a process of moralization that challenges traditional models of patient autonomy and physician responsibility.
In Book II of Xenophon’s Memorabilia, in a discussion with Socrates, the hedonist Aristippus speaks very briefly, though quite emphatically, about a kind of freedom with regards to desires, pleasures and happiness. Much of the later testimony on him suggests a similar concern. My interest in this paper is in understanding the nature of this freedom. In order to do so however I begin with a brief elucidation into some of Socrates’ and Callicles’ proclamations in Plato’s Gorgias about their own conceptions of freedom and the larger socio-philosophical contexts within which they are embedded. Though I hope this elucidation offers some interesting insights of its own, my purpose for including it is mostly dialectical and expositional. That is, I want to use it in order to bring out certain key features with I think, later, will, through comparison and contrast, provide for a clearer and hopefully more substantial understanding of Aristippus’ particular notion of freedom. In sum, I argue that Aristippus is promoting a unique kind of internal state or condition of the soul, one which apparently allows its possessor to engage in all sorts of pleasures without being worsted by them in any way. Part of Aristippus’ motivation here, I argue, is to challenge the popular conception of freedom connected to restraint and abstinence, and the accompanying idea that short-term or momentary pursuit of pleasure necessarily undermines the control of life by reason.