Metafizzical Essays and Others

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A judge who forgives a convicted criminal is not a candidate for sainthood but for impeachment. The morality of large social spheres is simply different from the morality of face-to-face systems. Arguments against capital punishment must take those differences into account, and so must our arguments for revised economic policies. According to this article, adequate nutrition is a basic human right. I say the spokesman is confused. Hunger may be an evil. How about fasting, an ancient and venerable religious tradition? But it is not an injustice, because no one intends the hunger of other people.

I can imagine someone intending to starve someone to death; that would be an injustice. But hunger is usually the product of a lot of interrelated choices, some of which may entail unjust acts but most of which probably do not. If you were concerned about adequate nutrition for everyone then you would achieve your goal not by labeling it a basic human right but by changing the whole web of incentives that people face. It is an economic problem much more than it is a moral problem.

Economists acquire their reputations for immorality by making statements like that; but I think it is our vocation to make such statements and I think I would be faithless to my vocation and therefore immoral if I said anything else. Is economics a science or an ideology? Does it provide trustworthy descriptions and reliable predictions? Or are the descriptions and predictions of economists distorted by ideological presuppositions and commitments? As recently as fifteen years ago it would have been difficult to assemble a session on those questions at a professional economics meeting in this country.

There were almost no Marxist economists in academic positions in the United States to press the argument that orthodox economics is bourgeois apologetics. The complacent consensus has been loudly shattered over the last decade. Those economists who remain convinced that economics is a purely positive science have found it increasingly difficult to ignore the charge that the theoretical corpus of their discipline is in large part an elaborate justification of capitalist society. Even the more determined Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] defenders of the positive-normative distinction now admit that the line is extraordinarily difficult to draw.

Facts do not organize themselves into concepts and theories just by being looked at; indeed, except within the framework of concepts and theories, there are no scientific facts but only chaos. There is an inescapable a priori element in all scientific work. Questions must be asked before answers can be given. The questions are an expression of our interest in the world, they are at bottom valuations. Valuations are thus necessarily involved already at the stage when we observe facts and carry on theoretical analysis, and not only at the stage when we draw political inferences from facts and valuations.

Metafizzical Essays and Others

The resulting situation is unsatisfactory from any responsible point of view. Many economists continue to affirm the possibility of a positive science of economics, continue to assure their students and one another that economists possess or can create a purely scientific, purely descriptive, value-free, logical-empirical system of thought and knowledge, and continue to condemn as unscientific any attempt to derive economic generalizations with the explicit aid of value judgments. Such a rigid adherence to an untenable position severely restricts dialogue and inquiry 16 and transforms suspicion into conviction for many who are beginning to wonder whether economics is not more ideology than science.

Where can dialogue begin? Surely it could begin with a universal agreement to abandon the positive-normative distinction. It is philosophically untenable, and all attempts to use it lead to question-begging procedures that stop discussion and impede the growth of knowledge. The analysis applies to every science, not just to the social sciences, as has been amply demonstrated by such distinguished and diverse students of the history and philosophy of science as E. Burtt, 20 R. The citation of names is hardly an argument; but the horse is too dead for flogging.

But the next constructive step is not so easy to discern. Myrdal has maintained that economists have an obligation to reveal their presuppositions as fully as possible so that readers can more easily assess the significance and limitations of any piece of analysis or description. There is an obvious deficiency in this procedure, however, that makes it at least as likely to mislead further as to reveal more fully. They tend to tire the reader well before they succeed in adequately exposing the crucial presuppositions.

Myrdal probably exaggerates the effectiveness of introspection and assigns insufficient importance to the role of criticism by others in detecting the preconceptions that shape our knowledge. They believe that the value judgments which enter inevitably into scientific inquiry are trivial or ones which all serious inquirers hold in common. But if that claim was ever defensible, it is no longer. The fact is that the guiding preconceptions which have shaped the development of economic theory are being disputed today, and disputed in quite specific and concrete ways. Economists are accused of doing economics on the basis of analytical preconceptions that cause them to count as solutions what their critics perceive as Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] problems and that prevent them from even seeing certain social relationships as in any sense problematic.

If someone were to suggest, for example, that college professors ought to do their own typing and a portion of the janitorial work in their own classrooms and offices, most economists would invoke the principle of comparative advantage in defense of present procedures. That is not an illegitimate response, but it is certainly a limited response.

Metafizzical Essays and Others

The principle of comparative advantage is at best a clumsy tool for dealing with the social meaning of work or the alienation that accompanies specialization and the hierarchical organization of labor, and at worst it is a tool of thought that conceals these problems altogether. This is hardly a trivial or peripheral objection. The principle of comparative advantage is at the very center of price theory, which is surely the closest thing to a ruling paradigm in contemporary economic science.

It is the pursuit of comparative advantage that makes demand curves slope downward to the right and that establishes opportunity costs, thereby giving supply curves their tendency to slope upward to the right. The crucial concept of efficiency is defined in economics in terms of comparative advantage, and it is the pursuit of comparative advantage that establishes prices which are indicators of social scarcity, that induces efficient decisions, and that gives meaning to the concept of equilibrium in price theory.

The comparative advantage concept provides a theoretical orientation that is neither trivial in importance nor universally accepted by those who think systematically about social interaction. One may legitimately ask: Can economists defend the significant theoretical decision to view social reality through the prism of relative price theory and the principle of comparative advantage? One reply is to say simply that it works; that it yields good predictions or that it explains what we want to understand.

But that begs important questions. What are we trying to predict or explain? Which aspects of social reality are brought into prominence by our analytical procedures and which aspects are submerged or even distorted? Why this and not that? Economists and other practicing scientists easily become impatient with questions of this sort and are tempted to reply that each scientist, including the critic, has the right to study whatever interests him in whatever way he chooses.

But such an individualistic, laissez faire conception of science is unrealistic. The separate sciences are not collections of individuals who do as they please; they are professional communities with definite intellectual standards and substantial power to enforce those standards. They exercise this power by granting or withholding membership in the community, the rewards of income and recognition, and opportunities to influence society through the dissemination of research results.

The theoretical decisions of scientists have coercive power. The determination of some economists to find and enforce unambiguous criteria for genuinely scientific work arises in fact from their recognition of the social power of science. Genuine science leads to the progressive accumulation of warranted knowledge while other modes of inquiry do not—or at least do so less surely and effectively.

And knowledge is useful, not least in the social sciences, where the inevitable conflicts engendered by opposition of interests are so often exacerbated by disagreement over matters of fact. A purely scientific, purely descriptive, value-free, logical-empirical science of economics could be immensely useful as an impartial conciliator of social conflict. The Holy Grail is objectivity. But as soon as we speak less metaphorically we realize that it is always other subjects and never objects that confirm or disconfirm a judgment.

Hypotheses in biology concerning pigeons are confirmed by biologists, not by pigeons; and hypotheses in economics concerning business cycles are confirmed by economists, not by business cycles. There is consequently no way to establish the validity of a proposition in economic science except by persuading other economists.

To persuade anyone, it is necessary to begin with what he is willing to grant and to reply to the objections he raises. This is the method of science. Science is not a purely logical procedure whereby true judgments are inexorably extracted from objective reality by automata called scientists.

Science is a social activity, an activity of a community, and the cardinal rule of scientific procedure is: Submit your conclusions without reservation to the critical examination of others. It is true, of course, that scientists are not at liberty to accept or reject scientific conjectures on arbitrary or irrelevant grounds. But it is the scientific community that finally decides what is arbitrary or irrelevant. But they are relatively simple decisions only because and insofar as members of the scientific community have no serious doubts about the adequacy of their ruling paradigm.

The danger lies in the circularity of this system of community control. One must step outside a paradigm in order to examine realities that the paradigm overlooks or distorts, but work done outside the paradigm is not accepted as scientific. Extra ecclesiam nulla veritas. Scientists tend to reject with indignation the very possibility that someone doing competent scientific work might be excluded from influential journals or positions because he adheres to unpopular values. But such a rejection misconceives the problem.

The values at issue are ones that affect the content and presumptive quality of scientific work. The problem has even arisen in the natural sciences; 33 it is clearly far more serious in a discipline like economics where the very perception of problems to be studied depends so fundamentally upon conceptions of what human beings and human societies ought to be or can become.

Unfortunately, the view that value judgments cannot be fruitfully discussed because they are allegedly mere statements of subjective preference has acquired wide currency within the economics profession. Everyone agrees that political or value judgments must be added to positive economics in order to obtain policy recommendations. The positive-normative distinction implies that these judgments are essentially arbitrary, mere matters of personal preference that cannot be tested or revised through rational discourse.

The preceding argument is a modest one. Economists should stop talking about positive and normative economics and speak instead simply about the science of economics. No more is required. Science neither rests upon nor discovers indubitable truths. The theories and generalizations of economic science are conjectures; but they are warranted conjectures because and insofar as they have withstood attempts at critical refutation.

Such a conception of science clearly implies that scientists are not entitled to withhold any of their conjectures from criticism, and that the disciplinary boundaries within which they will inevitably work must be regarded as potential sources of error as well as guides to the discovery of truth. Furthermore, economists ought to re-examine their thinking on the whole subject of value judgments.

They enter inevitably into scientific work. Their critical examination can sometimes contribute at least as much to the development of warranted knowledge as can the further refinement of data or the logical improvement of formal models. Economists will, of course, shy away from such a challenge if they continue to maintain that value judgments are nothing but statements of subjective preference. But this is itself a dogma that flies in the face of the undeniable fact that people do hold at least some value judgments to be interpersonally valid, that they do offer evidence and reasons to support their value judgments, and that rational discussion often does lead to consensus among people who began by holding or supposing that they held conflicting ethical or political positions.

How does contemporary American economics fare when we apply this criterion, openness to criticism, to determine whether it is scientific or ideological? Contrary to what most outside observers currently seem to believe, Edition: current; Page: [ 22 ] it satisfies the criterion remarkably well. Despite formal adherence to the positive-normative dichotomy, with all its potential for begging questions and deflecting fundamental criticism, the economics profession over the past decade has encouraged the publication of radical criticism, has paid attention to it, and has publicly responded to it.

This is not enough, of course, for those critics who define as ideological any position incompatible with their own or who distinguish science from ideology by looking at conclusions rather than procedures. And it will never be admitted by those who, whether from ignorance or malice, persist in caricaturing or flatly misrepresenting what economists are currently doing. The accusation of official indifference or conspiratorial silence in the face of radical criticism simply cannot be sustained by anyone who pays attention to what economists have actually been doing in the last decade.

On the contrary, it is the critics who have tended to substitute dogma for dialogue by failing to modify their criticisms in the light of the responses that have been given to their arguments. If the impossibility of intellectual communication between different groups of social scientists is accepted, these groups belong in different divinity schools rather than in social science faculties of universities.

Empathy is essential, of course, to genuine dialogue, but consensus is the goal of dialogue, not its precondition. While passion neither can nor should be excluded from scientific discussion, it does not entail or excuse abusive and ad hominem argument. And it surely does not justify a refusal to pay attention to what opponents are actually saying and doing. Anyone who follows the professional literature and also reads the complaints leveled against it must wonder occasionally about the good faith of the critics.

Did the critics perhaps overlook the publication of two comprehensive books on income distribution by two well-known economists in ? Ely Lecture to the meeting of the American Economic Association? Michael Spence, 46 or Doeringer and Piore?

Fortunately, an alternative hypothesis to that of bad faith can be constructed. And as we sketch it out we begin to discover the nature of the gulf that currently divides Marxists from so-called neoclassical economists. The radical critics of orthodox economics are reluctant to concede that any research undertaken within the framework of neoclassical theory could constitute genuine investigation of real problems. Marginal productivity theory is allegedly circular, empty, incoherent, and consequently nothing more than apologetics for capitalism.

It is the fundamental perspective of that broader theory to which radical critics are really objecting. The neoclassical perspective is a way of thinking about social phenomena that conceives society as composed entirely of individuals whose conscious actions aim at maximizing expected utility. People choose continuously among perceived options, weighing the expected benefits and costs of each decision and electing those actions through which they expect to secure for themselves the largest net advantage attainable.

Monetary prices are an important set of data for decision makers because they provide a common denominator through which the relative advantage of innumerable options can be precisely compared. The decisions people make entail offers and bids which ultimately establish these prices by moving them toward market clearing values. Neither selfishness, materialism, nor obsession with money is assumed.

The maximization of expected utility can lead to anything from self-sacrifice to self-aggrandizement; the self whose interests are pursued is not prescribed in the neoclassical perspective. Why is this perspective so offensive to most radical critics of economics? To begin with, it assigns fundamental importance to the actual preferences of individuals. But neoclassical economists place a heavy burden of proof upon anyone Galbraith, Nader, Marcuse, or the Federal Communications Commission who claims to know that what individuals want is not in their best interest.

Secondly, the neoclassical perspective assumes that each party to a voluntary exchange gains from that exchange; otherwise it would not occur. This is not the same as assuming a complete harmony of interests in society, as radical critics repeatedly claim. But voluntary exchange is the focus of attention and voluntary exchange is a method of inducing others to cooperate by adding to their range of opportunities rather than subtracting from them. Market interaction secures social cooperation, in short, through persuasion rather than coercion; and orthodox economic theory has developed over the last two centuries largely in an effort to explicate the coordinative potential in voluntary exchange.

Orthodox economists have paid far more attention to the deficiencies of market arrangements than advocates of socialism have paid to the deficiencies of central planning. This is closely related to a third major difference in approach. The neoclassical perspective views power as an insecure possession, because the advantages that power confers upon its possessor will tend to attract additional bids and offers that will undermine the power base. It is misleading to claim, as radicals do persistently, that orthodox economists ignore the Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] problem of power.

Ownership of resources is clearly recognized as power, and resource control coupled with the ability to exclude competitors is a constant object of study by neoclassical economists. And it is an empirical question, on which neoclassical theory sheds important light, whether particular private individuals or organizations in any society actually possess excessive power through disproportionate resource ownership. It is, furthermore, a critical difference between orthodox and Marxist economics that the former views competition as occurring between parties on the same side of the market.

Thus employers compete against employers, employees against employees. The radical contention that orthodox economists deliberately conceal the class basis of the distribution of income ought to be, but largely is not, supported by arguments and evidence showing that a class-oriented analysis can better explain actual changes over time in patterns of income distribution. Finally, neoclassical economics, by focusing on the efficient allocation of resources, implicitly asserts that the task of assigning resources to their most advantageous use is a task of great importance and complexity.

This follows from the almost incalculable variety of presumably legitimate wants that individuals have and from the infinitely varied ways in which resources can be combined. Marxist economists deny the fundamental importance or difficulty of the allocative task and assert that efficient coordination is a relatively simple problem. If the Marxists are correct, markets are a dispensable social institution and central planning will encounter no major information problems.

If the neoclassical perspective is more nearly correct, the problem of information may not be solvable except through decentralized decision-making and market coordination. The thesis of this entire essay has been that the enemy is dogmatism, and the requirements of brevity have at the end led to a manner of statement which is unfortunately dogmatic in tone if not in intent.

But perhaps these insufficiently qualified interpretations of the principal radical-orthodox disagreements will serve to focus attention on the depth of the divisions that give rise today to controversies over theory. Debates about marginal productivity theory are symptoms of divergent visions.

It could not be wholly a waste of scientific energy for economists to explore, through critical but empathetic dialogue, the conflicting conceptions of human nature and society that the West and, increasingly, the entire world has inherited from the Enlightenment. We might begin, for example, with the French Revolution and ask to what extent liberty presupposes fraternity and the circumstances under which equality is the enemy and the circumstances under which it is the precondition of defensible liberty and genuine fraternity.

But that is clearly a task too large to begin here. Among those who lecture or write about economics and ethics, the market system generally has a dubious reputation. That reputation rises and falls in response to historical events and the shifting discontents of civilization. But even in those times when ethicists are speaking well of capitalism or the market system, they usually do so with faint damns rather than genuine praise.

They may grant that it works, that it gets people fed, clothed and housed. They may even be willing to concede that alternatives cannot be made to work nearly as well—at least not yet. Why is this? What is the basic moral flaw, or supposed moral flaw, in the market economy? Why have so many eminent and respectable moral thinkers looked upon capitalism and pronounced it an unfortunate necessity at best? I want to argue this evening that the condemnation rests largely upon a set of interrelated misunderstandings.

But these are not, I also want to maintain, the misunderstandings of which people in the Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] business community usually complain when they set out to defend the profit system against its critics. The misunderstandings run deeper than the customary rejoinders recognize, which is why the arguments in defense of capitalism rarely silence the critics or even slow them down. Or else they know in advance where the speaker stands and have only come out in order to hear once again that old-time religion that so comforts the heart.

They want to nod approvingly while the speaker flails the greed and materialism of the corporate sector or, on the other side, flails the ignorance and self-righteousness of those who flail the greed and materialism of the corporate sector. This is not a complaint. Nonetheless, I mean to try. The issues are extremely important both for the way in which we organize our political life and for the way in which we think about ourselves and our society.

Alfred North Whitehead was profoundly correct when he contended, more than half a century ago, that a great society was a society whose principal members thought greatly of their functions. In a society dominated as ours is by the business mind, it is essential that business and economic activity be seen, at least by those who participate in it, as a worthy vocation. Is that possible? The answer will depend in large part on our moral assessment of the free-market economy.

What should we consider when we want to assess the morality of a social system? Two criteria immediately suggest themselves: the criteria of justice and efficiency. Social systems must obviously be just or fair if they are to be ethically acceptable. But they also have to be efficient in the sense that they enable us to accomplish our purposes.

Is anything more required? In particular, do we also want to take account of intentions, of motives, as we ordinarily do when we pass ethical judgment on the actions of individuals? The law agrees. Attempted murder is a more serious crime, with more severe penalties, than involuntary homicide. Should this distinction also be applied to social systems? The temptation to personify non-persons is sometimes irresistible. We curse chairs over which we stumble and we blame the weather when it upsets our plans. Of course, we also realize that these are irrational responses, signs of our own frustration rather than of any genuine intentions on the part of chairs or the weather.

But what about social systems and institutions? Since they seem to have intentions as well as consequences, we are disposed to judge them, as we judge individual persons, by what they are aiming at as well as by what they finally achieve. But this whole line of argument is fundamentally mistaken. Social systems, including the market economy, have no intentions at all, and to suppose that the motives or intentions of those who participate in the system are the motives and intentions of the system itself is a confusion of thought that can lead us seriously astray.

It is an especially dangerous confusion when we start to ask about the justice of social systems. Moreover, self-interest is not the same as selfishness, and the narrow pursuit of private purposes has no necessary connection with greed, materialism, or a lack of concern for others. This is a social system. From Boston to Bucharest to Bozeman, people would not be able to get from home to work and back again without the system of social coordination that we casually refer to as the traffic system.

Have you ever thought about how it works? Drivers sit in their own vehicles, cut off from any communication with the other drivers who surround them, pass them, meet them, and cross their path. Each of us decides what time to leave for work and what route to take, and we do so without even consulting anyone else. The urban traffic system, in short, is not like the air traffic control system. Now one could correctly say of this system, as Adam Smith said about investors in his day: Each person intends only his own gain. But is that Edition: current; Page: [ 33 ] selfish?

Is it selfish of me, while driving, to focus exclusively on getting to my chosen destination as quickly as is consistent with my personal well-being? Is it selfish of me to ignore completely, not even to think about, the welfare of other drivers? An important insight emerges from this: Responsible, ethical behavior will often require an exclusive preoccupation with the technical task at hand. Driving in traffic is an example that we will all concede. Might this also be true of most activity in the market?

He will almost certainly not persuade the cross-traffic to go on red; he will delay people behind him, who could well be on much more urgent missions than his own; and he will increase the likelihood of an accident by introducing substantial new uncertainties into the calculations of drivers who are observing and trying to anticipate his erratic behavior.

Is this also generally true of ordinary market activity, that it would come to a halt, at enormous cost to all participants, if they were all to act consistently on the principle of advancing the welfare of the most needy or the most worthy—rather than focusing on the accomplishment of their own personal goals? I have not mentioned a very important aspect of traffic systems: They are not systems of complete anarchy. There are definite rules of the game that must be obeyed by participants if the system is to work.

Drive to the right, stop for red lights, stay close to the legal speed limit, and, above all, do not touch the cars around you. We even have rules for suspending the rules: Everyone stops and yields to vehicles with sirens and flashing lights, and uniformed police officers may trump all the rules.

In the case of a social system for moving traffic, the rules are often arbitrary. Drive to the right. Why not to the left? Stop on red. Why not on green instead? What the rules stipulate is often unimportant. We have to know exactly what the rules are.

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This is why uniform rules are so desirable. Imagine the confusion if drivers had to keep remembering whether they were in a town that drove on the left or on the right, that required drivers to stop on red or on green, or that did or did not permit right-hand turns against a red light. Stability over time also promotes the clarity that is so essential for traffic rules, but in addition, it reduces the costs of adjusting to changes in the rules. All this is quite obvious and non-controversial.

Is it equally true—it is certainly less obvious and more controversial—with respect to economic systems in general? Does it matter greatly what the rules of the game are, Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] as long as they are clear and stable? In addition, of course, the rules must be obeyed. Let me now try to summarize in one sentence the social system for moving traffic with which we are all familiar. It is a system in which individuals pursue their own interests on the basis of the situation they perceive, obeying a few clear and stable rules of the game.

And let me follow that up with an equally brief definition of capitalism, or a free-market economy. It is also a social system in which individuals pursue their own interests on the basis of the situation they perceive, obeying a few clear and stable rules of the game. What emerges from the traffic system? Some fatal accidents.

More damaged fenders. A certain amount of anxiety. Occasional incidents of personal nastiness. The fact is that we do play the game, and we do so voluntarily, because we expect to be better off by playing than by not playing. We venture into traffic every day, and we regularly get back home in satisfactory condition.

The system works. But the system works astonishingly well as it is right now, with all its warts; and no one really knows how to design a better system for enabling people who live in dense population clusters to move about quickly, freely, safely, comfortably, and inexpensively. One of the elements that make it work is the mechanism of mutual accommodation that it embodies.

This mechanism becomes especially important and visible in large cities during the rush hours. Have you ever Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] wondered—we too seldom ask such absurdly instructive questions—why it never happens that everyone using the freeway chooses to drive in the same lane? Just too unlikely, you might think.

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A coincidence too improbable to be believed—until we notice how and why it happens. A lane carrying fewer than one-fourth of the traffic will move more quickly; that advantage will be noticed by a few drivers traveling in adjacent lanes; they will respond by changing lanes. As they do so, they slow down the lane which they enter and accelerate the lane which they left.

Through this continuous process of marginal adjustments, initiated by individual drivers responding to the perceived advantages to themselves of changing lanes, the traffic is continuously adjusted to keep each lane moving at approximately the same speed.

And thereby the sum of the time traveled by all of the commuters together is minimized. But he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. In a market economy, the changing net advantages that participants perceive are communicated not by different lane speeds but primarily by changing relative prices.

The prices that rise relative to other prices induce suppliers to offer more and demanders to ask for less. The prices that decline encourage demanders and discourage suppliers. These responses begin to close the gaps that had opened up between what producers were offering and what users were requesting, which in turn checks the relative price movements that had induced the mutually accommodating responses.

Changing money prices serve both as information and as incentive in that remarkable system of social co-operation that we call a market economy. Productivity and efficiency are in fact far less important in our time and society than they were in the Europe of Adam Smith. In the eighteenth century, a decline in national wealth or what we today call gross national product meant actual destitution for masses of people, including the possibility of starvation. The issue is complicated by the fact that the costs of a recession are so unevenly distributed; most of the costs fall upon a small percentage of the total population.

For Americans, an economic reverse entails principally the frustration of expectations. We fail to obtain what we had hoped to obtain and counted on obtaining. I am not trying to minimize these costs of economic failure. Pages: Size: A doctor's fascinating view of what medicine was, and what it has become. Thomas first learned about medicine by watching his father practice in an era when doctors comforted rather than healed. Looking back upon his experiences as a medical student, When Faye Travers is called upon to appraise the estate of a family in her small New Hampshire town, she isn t surprised to discover a forgotten cache of valuable Native American artifacts.

However, she stops dead in her tracks when she finds a rare drum Professor Emrich's exhaustive critical analysis of Kafka's extant oeuvre was the first to suggest that, rather than being symbolic Freudian allegories, his writings are instead better understood as parables. Form, content, style, background and Abyss, she was awarded countless literary honors, culminating with her election In the tradition of the 1 best-seller SeinLanguage, Bantam Books proudly presents the first book by Paul Reiser, television's sharpest, funniest observer of love, marriage and other mysteries of life.

A veteran comic performer, Reiser is best-known as Since, however, we can be aware that someone else is in some conscious state, it seems that simply being aware that a thought is occurring is insufficient to render that thought conscious. Arguably, what is required is that one be aware that one is in the relevant first-order state. That is, one represents oneself as being in the state in question. Since this seems to involve a form of self-awareness, the HOT and HOP theories can be understood as holding that consciousness entails self-consciousness Gennaro Given this, it is natural to think of the distinction between HOT and HOP theories of consciousness as closely related to that between conceptual and non-conceptual self-consciousness.

Such accounts are higher-order views that deny that the first and second-order states are distinct. As with both HOT and HOP, self-representationalism can be thought of as supporting the view that a form of self-consciousness is a necessary condition of consciousness. Kapitan Aristotle, considering a version of the HOP theory, argued that the view suffered from a regress problem since the higher-order perception must itself be conscious and so be accompanied by a HOP, which would itself be conscious, and so on De Anima 3.

The standard way to diffuse such a worry is to deny that the higher order state, be it perception or thought, need be conscious. An alternative, of course, is to endorse a self-representational account. There are other objections to higher order views, however, each of which applies to one or more versions of the view. They include worries about the possibility of objectless and non-veridical higher order states Byrne ; Block , about whether it can account for the conscious states of infants and non-humans Dretske ch.

As such, higher-order and self-representational theories of consciousness, that posit a necessary connection between consciousness and self-consciousness, are far from being established. If consciousness cannot be reduced to self-consciousness, perhaps the latter is nevertheless a necessary condition of the former. A different non-reductive, and broadly Kantian, argument for the claim that self-consciousness is a necessary condition of consciousness first of all claims that conscious experience is necessarily unified and, second, that this unity of consciousness in turn depends on self-awareness.

One reason for supposing that there is a connection between self-consciousness and the unity of consciousness is given by Kant, who writes,. As Kant famously puts it,. On this view, it is the unity of the self that guarantees that co-conscious experiences are jointly self-ascribable; that unity requires self-consciousness there is a question as to whether self-consciousness is here supposed to explain the unity of consciousness; cf. This Kantian picture is associated with the claim that unified self-consciousness requires a conception of the world as objective; as transcending the perspective that one has on it.

The claim that the unity of consciousness requires self-consciousness can be criticised in a number of different ways. How one evaluates the claim will depend on whether one has conceptual or non-conceptual self-consciousness in mind. As Bayne points out, the claim that the unity of consciousness requires that one possess the concept of oneself seems, implausibly, to imply that conceptually unsophisticated infants and non-human animals could not possess a unified stream of consciousness of course, this worry applies quite generally to views that connect consciousness with self-consciousness.

The concern is addressed to the view that self-consciousness is not merely a necessary condition of the unity of consciousness but is that in virtue of which it is unified. For if the self-ascription of experiences is taken to be that which is responsible for the unity of consciousness, how can we account for the fact that the self-conscious thoughts are themselves unified with the first-order experiences that they supposedly unify?

As Hurley puts it,. To appeal to the third-order self-ascription of the self-conscious thought would appear to invite a regress. What is the connection between self-consciousness and the awareness of others? On some views self-consciousness requires awareness of others, on another view the awareness of others requires self-consciousness. A familiar account of our knowledge of others takes the form of an argument from analogy Slote ch. On this picture, self-awareness, as manifest in the judgement about my own case, is a necessary condition of knowledge of other minds.


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In this respect the view is related to contemporary simulation theory, standard versions of which see our capacity to attribute mental states to others as dependent on our capacity to attribute them to ourselves Heal ; Goldman ch. Associated with the argument from analogy is a view according to which our grasp of mental state concepts is an essentially first-personal affair. In opposition to this package stand views on which our grasp and application of mental state concepts is neutral between the first and third-person cases.

Theory theorists, for example, claim that we attribute mental states to both ourselves and others by means of a tacitly held psychological theory. They may also hold that possession of such a theory constitutes our grasp of mental state concepts Carruthers , ch. While such views accord no priority to the first-person case, they may see a tight connection between self-consciousness and our capacity to think about others: these are simply two aspects of the more general capacity to think about the mind.

Stern part II. On such a view the first-person case is treated as secondary, reversing the traditional picture associated with the argument from analogy. A more ambitious version of this approach to the relationship between self-consciousness and awareness of others, prioritizing the awareness of others, is to argue that knowledge of other minds is a necessary condition of the possibility of self-consciousness.

Well known examples of such arguments can be found in the work of P. Strawson ch. Since knowledge of other minds is typically considered to be open to sceptical doubt, and self-consciousness is not, such lines of reasoning are transcendental arguments and so potentially open to general criticisms of that form of argument Stroud ; R. Stern , Strawson 99; cf. In short, we must have knowledge of others' minds if we are self-conscious for the full argument, see P.

Strawson ff; for critical discussion, see R. Stern ch. At its heart is the claim that for my thoughts to have determinate content there must exist another subject who is able to interpret me.


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  8. As Davidson puts it,. Davidson — Since self-conscious subjects are aware of the contents of their thoughts, they must know that there are other minds, since the sort of intersubjective externalism that Davidson endorses guarantees it. Self-knowledge, on this view, entails knowledge of others for discussion, see R.

    At what age can human infants be credited with self-consciousness? Is self-consciousness present beyond homo sapiens? Others, for example Rosenthal , claim that phenomenal consciousness entails self-consciousness. If either view is correct then self-consciousness, of some kind, can plausibly be attributed to creatures other than adult humans. But when it comes to more sophisticated forms of self-awareness, matters are less clear.

    What is required is some empirical criterion for judging a creature self-conscious even if, as with infants and non-human animals, they are unable to provide evidence via their use of the first-person pronoun. It is easy to see why this might seem to be so since, if first-person thought involves thinking about oneself as oneself , then it is natural to suppose that a capacity to recognise that a subject seen in a mirror is oneself involves such a thought. With respect to human infants, the consensus is that success in the mirror test begins at around 15 to 18 months of age, and that by 24 months most children pass Amsterdam ; M.

    It is not universally accepted, however, that success in the mirror test is an indication of self-consciousness. For example, Heyes presents an influential critique of the claim that it is a marker of self-awareness, arguing that all that is required for success is that subjects be able to distinguish between novel ways of receiving bodily feedback in order to guide behaviour, on the one hand, and other forms of incoming sensory data, on the other.

    Such a view, however, needs to explain why it is that passing the mirror test seems to be connected with the phenomena arguably associated with self-consciousness, such as experiencing shame and embarrassment M. Lewis Another potential marker of self-consciousness is episodic memory, the capacity that we have to recollect particular episodes from our own past experience see Tulving ; Michaelian ; entry on memory.

    If it is correct that episodic memory essentially involves a form of self-consciousness, and we are able to test for the presence of episodic memory in non-linguistic infants and animals, then we have a way of detecting the presence of self-conscious abilities. Since, however, episodic memory is not the only form of self-consciousness, the lack of it does not indicate that a creature is not self-aware. Indeed, the much discussed case of K. For example whilst most 3 year old infants can remember presented information, most are unreliable when it comes to the question of how they know—did they see it, hear it, etc.

    The suggestion here is that the development of the reliable capacity to report how they know some fact reflects the development of the capacity to episodically remember the learning event. Another body of research pertaining to the question of self-consciousness in infants and non-human animals is the work on metacognition and metamemory. Smith ; Beran et al. The suggestion is that if a creature is able to monitor their own level of confidence, they are to that extent self-conscious. One common paradigm for testing metacognitive abilities involves presenting subjects with a stimulus that they must categorise in one of two ways.

    Crucially, they are also given the opportunity to opt out of the test, with correct categorisation resulting in the highest reward, opting out resulting in a lower reward, and incorrect categorisation resulting in no reward. The assumption is that the opt-out response reflects a meta-cognitive judgement of uncertainty.

    Evidence gathered from such a paradigm has been taken to show metacognitive abilities in some birds Fujita et. Smith et. The view that success on metacognitive opt-out tests is indicative of self-consciousness is not uncontroversial, however. On such an interpretation, the research on metacognition does not provide compelling evidence regarding self-consciousness in infants and non-human animals but for critical discussion see J.

    Smith ; J. The question of the significance of opt-out tests for attributions of self-consciousness remains controversial. Self-Consciousness First published Thu Jul 13, Self-Consciousness in the History of Philosophy 1. Self-Consciousness in Thought 2. Self-Consciousness in Experience 3. The Conditions of Self-Consciousness 4. One philosopher who accepts the former, intuition-based, account is Locke, who claims that we have an intuitive Knowledge of our own Existence , and an internal infallible Perception that we are. If Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley can be interpreted as accepting the view that there is an inner perception of the self, on this question Hume stands in stark contrast notoriously writing that whilst there are some philosophers, who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our self […] For my part when I enter most intimately into what I call myself , I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure.

    Perry 33 As Perry points out, he knew all along that the shopper with the torn sack was making a mess. As Wright puts it, a claim made on a certain kind of ground involves immunity to error through misidentification just when its defeat is not consistent with retention of grounds for existential generalization.

    The Conditions of Self-Consciousness Much of the philosophical work on self-consciousness concerns its relation to a variety of other phenomena. As Shoemaker puts it, to see rational responses to pain as pain behavior is to see them as motivated by such states of the creature as the belief that it is in pain, the desire to be rid of the pain, and the belief that such and such a course of behaviour will achieve that result.

    Shoemaker This belief, that she is in pain, is a self-conscious one; it is a belief that she herself is in pain. He writes, [t]o be capable of critical reasoning, and to be subject to certain rational norms necessarily associated with such reasoning, some mental acts and states must be knowledgeably reviewable. As she writes, [w]hen you deliberate it is as if there were something over and above all your desires, something which is you , and which chooses which desire to act upon.

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    Korsgaard Self-consciousness, on this view, is the source of reason. Burge The claim that there is a constitutive connection between self-consciousness and rationality has been met with scepticism by Kornblith , ch. One reason for supposing that there is a connection between self-consciousness and the unity of consciousness is given by Kant, who writes, only because I can comprehend their manifold in a consciousness do I call them altogether my representations; for otherwise I would have as multi-coloured diverse a self as I have representations of which I am conscious.

    As Kant famously puts it, [t]he I think must be able to accompany all my representations for otherwise something would be represented in me that could not be thought at all, which is as much as to say that the representation would either be impossible or else at least would be nothing for me. As Hurley puts it, self-conscious or first-person contents […] are just more contents , to which the problem of co-consciousness [i.

    Davidson — Since self-conscious subjects are aware of the contents of their thoughts, they must know that there are other minds, since the sort of intersubjective externalism that Davidson endorses guarantees it. Self-Consciousness in Infants and Non-Human Animals At what age can human infants be credited with self-consciousness? Bibliography Where applicable, page references are to reprinted versions. Allison, Henry E. Anderson, James R. Anscombe, G.

    Ross, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Ayer, A. Ayers, Michael, , Locke , 2 vols. Beran, Michael J. Black, Deborah L. Brandom, Robert B. Bratman, Michael E. Carruthers, Peter, Logan Fletcher, and J. Carruthers, Peter and Peter K. Smith eds. Chen, Cheryl K.

    Chisholm, Roderick M. Clayton, Nicola S. Dancy, Jonathan ed. Phillips Griffiths ed. Diamond, Cora and Jenny Teichman eds. Anscombe , Brighton: The Harvester Press. Strawson , Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. Reprinted in Evans — Ferrari, Michel and Robert J. Fitzpatrick, William J. Fleming, Stephen M. Frith eds. Stoothoff, in Michael Beaney ed.

    Gallup, Gordon G. Anderson, and Steven M. Platek, and Kristina N. Glock, Hans Johann and P. Goldman, Alvin I. Gopnik, Alison and Andrew N. Gordon, Robert, M. Hacker, P. Hampton, Robert, R. Hegel, G. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Lachterman, in Kristin Gjesdal ed. Heyes, Cecilia M. Howell, Robert J. Selby-Bigge, Second Edition, revised by P. Nidditch, Oxford: Clarendon, Hurley, Susan, and Nick Chater eds. Findlay, edited by Dermot Moran, London: Routledge, Kersten, Dordrecht: Kluwer, Jeshion, Robin ed.

    Kahn, Charles H. Klein, Stanley B. Kornell, Nate, Lisa K. Son, and Herbert S.