School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Davidson's Objective: language & the concept of objectivity
    Barham, Ross Campbell ( 2018)
    The thesis critically examines Donald Davidson’s claim that language plays a non-trivial role in explaining possession of the concept of objectivity. After showing that a priori arguments do not establish this claim, different versions of Davidson’s triangulation argument are developed and found wanting. Drawing on Michael Tomasello’s work on joint attention and Robert Brandom’s Inferentialist account of objectivity, the final chapter suggests how a naturalistic account of language and triangulation may nonetheless be essential to explaining possession of the concept of objectivity.
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    Philosophical conceptions of saintliness
    Barham, Ross Campbell ( 2006)
    This thesis is principally concerned with philosophical conceptions of saintliness. Ultimately, I explicate an original, philosophically adequate characterisation of saintliness. To achieve this end, I firstly provide a genealogical account of Western Philosophical conceptions of saintliness as they have appeared in the writings of a number of philosophers belonging to the Western canon. Having thereby achieved a heightened appreciation of the concept, I characterise 'saintliness' in terms of exceptional devotion to The Good, and elaborate accordingly. The following is a section-by-section synopsis of the main arguments advanced: 1. Pre-Modern conceptions of saintliness were entirely dependent upon Christian conceptions. 1.1. St Augustine's metaphysical emphasis reveals that contentious metaphysics cannot serve as the foundation for a philosophically adequate conception of saintliness. 1.2 St Thomas Aquinas' conception suggests the same of Theological authority. 1.3 Erasmus' satire, although not convincing and unable to sway the philosophical fanatic, nevertheless enables speculation concerning the psychology of saint veneration. 1.4 Martin Luther's attack on Roman Catholic doctrine suggests that philosophical conceptions of saintliness should also be wary of ecclesiastical authority. 1.5 Voltaire and David Hume signal the end of Pre-Modern conceptions as they both shifted ethical criticism to the phenomenon of saintliness itself. 2.1 Arthur Schopenhauer occasioned the advent of Modern philosophical conceptions of saintliness as his philosophy sought to construct a self-sustained metaphysical system to support his notion of saintliness. 2.2 The methodology that William James employed to arrive at his conception of the 'universal saint' is philosophically prudent, to the discredit of Schopenhauer's characterisation 2.3 Aldous Huxley's assertions of saintly homogeneity are unfounded, yet reveal the potentially biased nature of various forms of hagiography. 2.4 Nietzsche's conception was heavily influenced by Schopenhauer, but eventually rebelled against transcendental claims. 2.5 Jean-Paul Sartre refined Nietzsche's attitude to saintliness, but was misguided in doing so. 3. Contemporary conceptions of saintliness are essentially ethical. 3.1 J. O. Urmson's saintly supererogation collapses on metaethical grounds. 3.2 Susan Wolf s moral saint mistakenly besmirched saintly terminology. 3.3 Raimond Gaita's saintly love, although reliant upon religious language, is not thereby compelled to adopt attendant metaphysical commitments. Whether or not a saint must be psychologically dependent upon religious belief is unresolved. 4.1 Saintliness has been a dynamic, culturally dependent, and often problematic notion. That this is too often neglected thereby demands the explication of a philosophically adequate conception. 4.2 Preliminarily defined, saintliness is an exceptional devotion to The Good. 4.3 Saintliness is a term of commendation that bears no attendant metaphysical commitments. 4.4 Saintly devotion must be exceptional in both quality and quantity. 4.5 The Good' is able to encompass any moral ideal. Saints have and may. continue to embody various instantiations of The Good. 4.6 While there may be an essential nature to saintliness, pragmatic constraints permit only a normative understanding. 4.7 The conception of saintliness explicated herein is philosophically adequate.