Here is a menu of my writings:
The problem! Am I right? It was the first philosophical problem I solved way back in '71? (he modestly averred) and it still looks good. In fact our secretary (Sally) while typing this ancient manuscript into the computer remarked to me (exhibiting a slight tone of surprise) "This is true". Download and enjoy. Cheques should be made out to 'Cash'.
Fun and Games
This paper is all about why some games are more fun to play than others. It features Marshall McLuhan's famous (well . . . now famous) definition of fun, viz., "Fun is the amusement born of rational detachment". Finding out what McLuhan meant by this was quite fascinating, especially finding out why 'Trivial Pursuits' is not that much fun to play and chess isn't fun at all! .
This paper about aesthetic transactions ( i.e., the relations between the artist and her art and the spectator and his aesthetic reaction to it) provides a complete aesthetic based on Kant's Critique of Judgment. It introduces a wonderful new concept - the non-standard ontological framework- that reveals the essence of each art form. Frankly , once you have read this you are going to wonder how you ever managed to defend even the humblest aesthetic judgment without it.
The Abortion Debate
This Essay focuses on what I argue is the psychological heart of the abortion debate, namely that factor which is most likely to determine how a woman will subsequently feel about her decision if she decides in favour of an abortion.
Chapter Two of Morality and Agency
Chapter Two of a book written by myself and Robyn Mcphail (Morality and Agency, University Press of America, 1988) contains a sustained comparison between the moral philosophy of Kant and the ethics of Spinoza. The Chapter contains a dialogue which answers the 64 dollar question: how can reason be practical?
The Origin and Status of our Intuitions
In the Critique of Judgment Kant argues that we possess a "sensus communis" a capacity that allows us to sense directly what our intuitions are about a given judgment, i.e., to what extent we believe it. In this paper I will explain how Kant thinks this sensus communis generates intuitions. I will use this explanation to show how, not only our sense of beauty, but also all the special senses (our moral sense, our sense of justice, our sense of certainty, etc.,) should be understood as modalities of this sensus communis. This account allows us to clarify the 'belief' aspect of the 'justified true belief' account of knowledge and to make explicit the status and origin of intuitions.
How to Tell Left from Right in Politics
The single central issue that divides Right and Left-how wide is the scope of personal responsibility-can be characterized in terms of the debate on this issue between John Rawls and Robert Nozick. The Right-represented by Nozick-places great emphasis on personal responsibility. They believe that people must lead their own lives and accept that their fate is largely a function of their own behavior. On the Left, people (in Rawls' phrase), 'agree to share each other's fate' on the grounds that one's fate is largely out of one's own hands. On this view there is a limited role for personal responsibility so that it makes sense for a society to be so organized that everyone will be looked after should things go badly for him or her.
Explaining Evil Behaviour
Abstract I assume that we find it hard to understand, for example, how a person could harm another person in cold blood. I then set out Kant's reason's for thinking that, strictly speaking, evil behaviour is impossible: people may act on wicked desires but deliberate wrong-doing is not a genuine phenomenon. However, Kant's view is at odds with our common sense intuitions about morally evil behaviour, namely, that such behaviour is possible, albeit difficult to understand. I then suggest how Kant's analysis of the problem of evil behaviour can help us to understand under what conditions evil behaviour would be possible. Next, I introduce Peck's theory of how evil behaviour can manifest itself when a person suffers from malignant narcissism-a complaint that involves acting on principles which are not consciously acknowledged. I conclude that Kant's views on evil can be understood with reference to Peck's theory (and vice versa).
The Solution to the Problem of Akrasia
The problem of akrasia or weakness of will , has a wonderful pedigree. Socrates may be said to have invented it and to have supplied a tentative solution to it, which prompted Aristotle to suggest a few improvements etc. etc. And as things stand today it would be hard to take a degree in Philosophy without encountering this problem at some stage.
What is Wrong with Hume's Analysis of Causality
I argue that the idea of a causal relationship between two objects or events can be properly applied only within isolated or effectively isolated portions of the continuum. This isolation can be set up within the laboratory proper, or can be attributed to those quasi-laboratories which nature provides. Experimental situations are, then, the proper arena for the use of causal language. Talk about causal relations translates badly when we try to use it to describe events which are not isolated from the continuum . Thus we feel uneasy when we talk about the causes of the First World War, or the Depression. In such cases, where the nominated portion of the continuum cannot be isolated from the rest of the continuum, any event or events that we nominate as causes seem to be insufficient as causes. In these cases we seem to feel that everything which preceded the nominated event is relevant to its turning out the way it did. This is what makes the writing of history such a difficult business when it is regarded as an exercise in nominating the causes of the selected portion of the continuum under discussion. We appreciate intuitively that the concept of causality is not applicable to a situation in which we cannot isolate the process under examination and introduce external factors at will, ie., subject the process to experiment, to determine why things happened the way they did.
THE OTHER PROBLEM OF EVIL: USING KANT AND M. SCOTT PECK TO ILLUMINATE THE PROBLEM OF EVIL BEHAVIOUR
Abstract: I begin by noting that the problem of evil behaviour lies in the fact that it is difficult to explain. I then set out Kant's contention that, strictly speaking, evil behaviour is impossible: people may be bad (i.e., wicked or self- indulgent) but moral evil is not a genuine phenomenon. I note that Kant's view is at odds with our intuitions about evil behaviour, namely that such behaviour is possible, albeit difficult to understand. (These intuitions are exemplified in a series of quotations from Parkin's Anthropology of Evil, 1985). I then suggest how Kant's analysis of the problem of evil behaviour can help us to understand under what conditions evil could be possible. I continue by introducing Peck's theory of how evil behaviour is possible (Peck 1981). I conclude by noting how Kant's views on evil can be understood with reference to Peck's theory and how the notion of a private principle serves to integrate the two views. I have included parts of a letter from Michael Stone which provides a running commentary on this article from the point of view of a psychiatrist.
EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS: BRINGING ARISTOTLE UP TO SPEED
Abstract: Charles Pigden in his 'Geach on Good' thinks it unlikely that a viable evolutionary ethic is possible but concedes that such an ethic would be possible if it met three conditions. I investigate the possibility of fulfilling these conditions by taking Aristotle's approach to ethics and giving it an evolutionary twist.
FORM AND CONTENT IN KANT AND WITTGENSTEIN
This paper takes a fresh look at the form-content distinction. It is motivated by Rorty's criticism of Kant's use of this distinction, a criticism which derives from the later Wittgenstein. To see how this distinction is employed in the philosophy of Kant we need to see it at work, a) in the study of English literature (where it illuminates Wittgenstein's contention that form and content cannot be separated), and b), in relation to the study of Physics (where the use of the form-content distinction illuminates Kant's use of the distinction in his transcendental psychology). I conclude that the use of the distinction in philosophy is usually illegitimate but that its transcendental employment is valid. A novel element in the discussion is the role of Kant's doctrine concerning intensive magnitudes: this relates to the 'world creation' problem that Rorty regards as stemming (ultimately) from Kant's introduction of the form-content distinction.
The Highest Good and The Happy Ending
Now there is another 'ought' that crops up in the Critique of Practical Reason and in life. It is the idea that the virtuous ought to enjoy happiness and that the wicked should not prosper. It is the idea that people ought to get what they deserve-the idea of justice being done. Kant introduces it as follows: "for to be in need of happiness and also worthy of it and yet not to partake in it could not be in accordance with the complete volition of an omnipotent rational being if we assume such only for the sake of the argument . . .
LOCKE: PRIMARY AND SECONDARY QUALITIES
Locke's common sense - and ours - derives from an adherence to the distinctions enshrined in the accepted usage of the language we speak. Thus, for example, Locke knows, as we know, that to answer the question - "How do you know that what you say is true?" - you must, if you are to follow the accepted practice in such matters, present your evidence in one of two ways: If you are putting forward a statement about the world, a synthetic statement (e.g., 'The grass is green.') you must present empirical evidence (show that the way things are in the world in fact corresponds to what you have said about it). If you are making an analytic statement, e.g., 'All bachelors are unmarried males.' you would present linguistic evidence (show that the rules governing the use of the terms you have used have in fact been followed in this case).
THE METAPHYSICAL UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE AND THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM
In its contemporary incarnation, the mind-body problem has attempted to distance itself from its metaphysical origins and to present itself as a scientific problem. In its new guise it is characterized by the application of methods and insights derived from psychology, neurophysiology, evolutionary biology and, lately, quantum theory. However, the problem, treated as a scientific problem, is proving a tough nut to crack.
Making the Implicit, Explicit: Looking at the philosophical method employed in P4C (Philosophy for Children)
Ee have a capacity to detect whether or not what we hear or read follows the rules that govern the concepts we employ in our language. When I say "That doesn't make sense", or "I don't follow you" or "That doesn't sound right'" these are our common ways of signaling that we have detected some inconsistency in the use of these rules. Now given that we have this inbuilt capacity to detect potential philosophical problems, how can we move forward in such a way that our subsequent discussion will constitute a philosophical discussion of the problem detected. The techniques that P4c employs are meant to ensure that the subsequent discussion will be philosophical.
In 'Geach on Good'  Charles Pigden examines the progress made by the research programme (variously named 'Naturalism' or 'Neo-aristoteleanism') initiated by Professor Geach in his paper 'Good and Evil'  He concludes that that there has been little progress. Indeed, (he remarks): "the project of spinning a set of plausible moral requirements out of human nature seems to be unviable . . . .
KANT AND THE PATCHWORK QUILT
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), perhaps the most important European philosopher of modern times, provides in his Critique of Judgement, explanations of charm and beauty which provide especially apt tools with which to articulate our aesthetic response to patchwork quilts.
The Ruin of Philosophy as a Discipline
When I attended my first philosophy conference in 1969 there were four papers presented each day and everyone attending the conference attended each session. At the last philosophy conference I attended, in 2001, there were about 20 papers presented each day, four or five papers being presented concurrently at each of the four sessions. Attendance at each paper was unpredictable, from zero to perhaps fifteen. I enjoyed the first conference. Everyone attended each paper and everyone understood the ideas being presented in all of the papers. We all benefited from the fact that we spoke a common language, the canon of our discipline. I can't say that I enjoyed the last conference, at least not in the same way. There is no longer a canon that constitutes the discipline, and without a canon a common point of reference in terms of which all discussions are held, the sense of benefiting from the discussions is lost.
Strange Emotions: Kant's Aesthetic Theory Applied to the Problem Presented by Musical Emotions
What prompts discussion of this topic is the curious fact that people find it difficult to articulate the emotional effect that music has upon them. That it has an emotional effect-and a potent one-is what everyone admits. Furthermore, each of our emotional reactions to different musical lines seem to be unique and significant: our feelings exactly fit the music which prompts them and thus these feelings seems like wonderfully accurate judgments. But beyond a few lame characterizations of these emotional judgments (the music is 'happy' or 'sad') we seem to be stuck. In this paper we present an argument that explains why musical emotions have this special character.
A SEMANTIC 'TRANSLATION' OF THE ONTOLOGICAL PASSAGES IN WITTGENSTEIN'S TRACTATUS
With the early Wittgenstein, we are offered the premise that our language is intelligible (meaningful) because of its capacity to 'reach right out to reality'. In other words, he is arguing that the intelligibility of a language is a function of its being able to refer. The idea motivating the picture theory of meaning is that the capacity of language to refer would only be possible if the reality language described somehow matched the description. (This 'match' is the intuitive bridge which allows the referring-the reaching out to reality-to take place.)
Robyn McPhail, R. and Ward, D. E., Morality and Agency , Lanham MD, University Press of America , 1988 , 165p [ISBN 0-8191-6981-1]
Refereed Journal Articles
- Ward, D.E. and Oddie, G., The aesthetic inadequacy of copies. British Journal of Aesthetics, 29, No.3, 258-260 (l989)
- Ward, D.E., Explaining agency via Kant and Spinoza. Studia Spinozana, 7:57-68 (1991)
- Ward D.E., Naturalizing Kant. Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 3: 157-163 (1994)