Latest Research News on Philosophy : July – 2020

Intention, Agency and Criminal Liability: Philosophy of Action and the Criminal Law

The book (originally published in 1990, now out of print, but occasionally still requested) aims to introduce law students to some of the philosophical dimensions of their subject, and to show philosophy students (in particular students of moral philosophy and philosophy of action) how attention to topics in criminal law theory can illuminate their subjects. It discusses a range of issues concerning concepts of action and their bearing on criminal liability: in particular, actus reus and mens rea; the meaning and legal significance of intention; recklessness; action; criminal attempts; responsibility. [1]

Thought Experiments in Philosophy

Philosophy and science employ abstract hypothetical scenarios- thought experiments – to illustrate, defend, and dispute theoretical claims. Since thought experiments furnish no new empirical observations, the method prompts two epistemological questions: whether anything may be learnt from the merely hypothetical, and, if so, how. Various sceptical arguments against the use of thought experiments in philosophy are discussed and criticized. The thesis that thought experiments in science provide a priori knowledge through non-sensory grasping of abstract entities is discussed and rejected. The thesis that thought experimentation consists in manipulations of mental models is examined and found to be of limited epistemological relevance. It is argued that thought experiments are associated with characteristic arguments in a manner similar to ordinary experiments. It is further argued that thought experiments function in the same way as experiments in general: by providing premises for their associated arguments. Like other experiments, a thought experiment is successful when the premises it provides are true. This holds both for philosophical and scientific thought experiments. An argument schema is proposed and shown to be a formal analogue to that associated with ordinary experiments; similar in being subject to epistemological holism; but differing in being modal: in employing statements about possibility and necessity. The evaluation of thought experiments thus depends on how modal statements may be justified. Intuition and conceivability are discussed as sources of modal justification and found problematic. Instead it is suggested that evaluation proceed by accommodation of the statements describing the experiment’s hypothetical scenario. The method of accommodation is developed and applied to five influential thought experiments in philosophy: the brain in a vat; Putnam’s Twin Earth; Burge’s arthritis example; Searle’s Chinese Room; and Newcomb’s problem. Its application shows some of these to be failed, others to be successful only relative to controversial philosophical doctrines. [2]

Molyneux’s question: Vision, touch and the philosophy of perception

  1. Molyneux’s famous question (If a man born blind were to gain his sight in later life, would he be able to identify the objects he saw around him?), which was central to the 18th century controversy over innatism and abstract ideas, is reexamined in the light of J. Locke’s negative answer; the contributions of G. Berkeley, abbé de Condillac, D. Diderot, and F.-M. Voltaire; the factual account of early cataract operations; and the most recent laboratory studies. The conceptual and technical difficulties imposed by the original question suggest the need for collaboration between philosophy and experimental psychology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved) [3]

The Ontological Foundation of the Cooperative Microfinance System in African Philosophy

The cooperative microfinance system in african philosophy is aimed at developing a savings account network involving peer groups, age-grades, peasants or farmers associations or workers unions at micro or rural settings. It is a disinterested non-profit and non-governmental organisation aimed at promoting individual economic well-being at the level of group interest mechanism. The methodology for this system is called in pigeon english ‘contribution’, which, however, does not crystallise the ontological foundation, meaning and objective of the saving co-operative banking. The igbo language and cultural group in nigeria call it isusu, while the yoruba ethnic group call it osusu. These names reflect their respective cultural backgrounds and economic communitarian ontology. At the economic market level, it involves contributing to one another’s economic welfare. If there are ten people in the team, a through j, they would raise, say, ngn 50,000 each to make a pool of ngn 500,000, which is disbursed to the first person a in the first month, say, january and by october, while in the tenth month, the last person j would collect his own n500, 000 and the rotation continues. However, this is not invariable, as any member of the group could from any position in the ring of money circulation indicate his or her need not to be able to wait for his designated turn and hence could take upfront his own share, while forfeiting his earlier position, so long as she/he continues her/his contribution every month. There are other equitable and just methods of sharing the contribution, osusu or isusu, which is entirely based on trust, the ontological foundation of interpersonal subjective relationship and authentic theistic humanistic communalism and belongingness. In conclusion it is a microfinance system embedded in the mystery of faith and god immanent in all centres of human activities and which jealously guards against man’s descent into in-authenticity, alienation and degradation from a person into a thing. It is a communalistic economy without conflicts of opposites, and degradation of the other. [4]

Father Antonio Rosmini-Serbati: A Discourse on His Philosophical and Theological System with an Imprint of Fundamental Rights

Rosmini’s works and philosophical ideals purport to propitiate Catholic theology with the susceptibilities of modern day political and social thought. With regard to his instruction from Pope Pius VII, Rosmini found himself wedged between the obligation to renew Catholic philosophy and finding his work on the Index. The former is of much concern according to the tenor of this study. In his task for renewal, Rosmini engaged the theological and philosophical principles of the “ideal being” in order to postulate man’s relationship with God, the Absolute Being. In order to determine and materialise such relationship, Rosmini was forced to evoke the principles of anthropology, cosmology and ontology. This path will steer Rosmini to actuate a Christian tradition in which fundamental rights will be maintained. Rosmini beliefs that in a Christian culture the role between man and God must be firmly established. He would make us belief that his model is inspired by the (divine) light of reason. Although man has some divine qualities (such as the soul or reason which was infused by God into man) he cannot be God. Man would though be able to use these divine qualities bestowed upon him by God to conduct good relations with each other in society and to uphold the fundamental rights of others. This will engendered also a respect of one’s fundamental rights even the government or State. Only a Christian society could accommodate this notion in full. [5]


[1] Duff, R.A., 1990. Intention, agency and criminal liability: Philosophy of action and the criminal law.

[2] Haggqvist, S., 1998. Thought experiments in philosophy.

[3] Morgan, M.J., 1977. Molyneux’s question: Vision, touch and the philosophy of perception. Cambridge U Press.

[4] Dukor, M. (2014) “The Ontological Foundation of the Cooperative Microfinance System in African Philosophy”, Journal of Economics, Management and Trade, 5(3), pp. 290-298. doi: 10.9734/BJEMT/2015/10043.

[5] P. Swartz, N. (2016) “Father Antonio Rosmini-Serbati: A Discourse on His Philosophical and Theological System with an Imprint of Fundamental Rights”, Journal of Scientific Research and Reports, 12(1), pp. 1-11. doi: 10.9734/JSRR/2016/26363.