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All Topic Reviews
A Theory of Feelings Anger and Forgiveness Philosophizing Madness from Nietzsche to Derrida"My Madness Saved Me"10 Good Questions about Life and Death12 Modern Philosophers50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a GodA Cabinet of Philosophical CuriositiesA Case for IronyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to Buddhist PhilosophyA Companion to FoucaultA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to HumeA Companion to KantA Companion to Phenomenology and ExistentialismA Companion to PragmatismA Companion to the Philosophy of ActionA Companion to the Philosophy of BiologyA Companion to the Philosophy of LiteratureA Conceptual History of PsychologyA Critical Overview of Biological FunctionsA Critique of Naturalistic Philosophies of MindA Cursing Brain?A Decent LifeA Delicate BalanceA Farewell to AlmsA Fragile LifeA Frightening LoveA Future for PresentismA Guide to the Good LifeA History of PsychiatryA History of the MindA Life Worth LivingA Manual of Experimental PhilosophyA Map of the MindA Metaphysics of PsychopathologyA Mind So RareA Minimal LibertarianismA Natural History of Human MoralityA Natural History of Human ThinkingA Natural History of VisionA Parliament of MindsA Philosopher Looks at The Sense of HumorA Philosophical DiseaseA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA Philosophy of BoredomA Philosophy of Cinematic ArtA Philosophy of CultureA Philosophy of EmptinessA Philosophy of FearA Philosophy of PainA Physicalist ManifestoA Place for ConsciousnessA Question of TrustA Research Agenda for DSM-VA Revolution of the MindA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Stroll With William JamesA Tapestry of ValuesA Tear is an Intellectual ThingA Theory of FreedomA Theory of Jerks and Other Philosophical MisadventuresA Thousand MachinesA Universe of ConsciousnessA Very Bad WizardA Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the CurtainA Virtue EpistemologyA World Full of GodsA World Without ValuesAbout FaceAbout the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the SelfAction and ResponsibilityAction in ContextAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionAction, Contemplation, and HappinessAction, Emotion and WillAdam SmithAdaptive DynamicsAddictionAddictionAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction and Self-ControlAddiction Is a ChoiceAdvances in Identity Theory and ResearchAftermathAfterwarAgainst AdaptationAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HappinessAgainst HealthAgainst MarriageAgency and ActionAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and EmbodimentAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAl-JununAlain BadiouAlain BadiouAlasdair MacIntyreAlien Landscapes?Altered EgosAmbivalenceAmbivalenceAn Anthology of Psychiatric EthicsAn Ethics for TodayAn Intellectual History of CannibalismAn Interpretation of DesireAn Introduction to EthicsAn Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy An Introduction to Philosophy of EducationAn Introduction to the Philosophy of MindAn Introduction to the Philosophy of MindAn Introduction to the Philosophy of PsychologyAn Introductory Philosophy of MedicineAn Odd Kind of FameAnalytic FreudAnalytic Philosophy in AmericaAncient AngerAncient Models of MindAncient Philosophy of the SelfAngerAnimal LessonsAnimal MindsAnimals Like UsAnnihilationAnother PlanetAnswers for AristotleAnti-ExternalismAnti-Individualism and KnowledgeAntigone’s ClaimAntipsychiatryAre We Hardwired?Are Women Human?Arguing about DisabilityArguing About Human NatureAristotle and the Philosophy of FriendshipAristotle on Practical WisdomAristotle's ChildrenAristotle's Ethics and Moral ResponsibilityAristotle's WayAristotle, Emotions, and EducationArt & MoralityArt After Conceptual ArtArt in Three DimensionsArt, Self and KnowledgeArtificial ConsciousnessArtificial HappinessAspects of PsychologismAsylum to ActionAt the Existentialist CaféAtonement and ForgivenessAttention is Cognitive UnisonAutobiography as PhilosophyAutonomyAutonomy and Mental DisorderAutonomy and the Challenges to LiberalismBabies by DesignBackslidingBadiouBadiou's DeleuzeBadiou, Balibar, Ranciere: Rethinking EmancipationBare Facts And Naked TruthsBasic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free WillBattlestar Galactica and PhilosophyBe Like the FoxBeautyBecoming a SubjectBecoming HumanBefore ConsciousnessBehavingBehavioral Genetics in the Postgenomic EraBeing AmoralBeing HumanBeing Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory Being No OneBeing Realistic about ReasonsBeing ReducedBeing YourselfBelief's Own EthicsBending Over BackwardsBerlin Childhood around 1900Bernard WilliamsBertrand RussellBest ExplanationsBetter than BothBetter Than WellBetween Two WorldsBeyond HealthBeyond Hegel and NietzscheBeyond KuhnBeyond LossBeyond MelancholyBeyond Moral JudgmentBeyond PostmodernismBeyond ReductionBeyond SchizophreniaBeyond the DSM StoryBioethicsBioethics and the BrainBioethics in the ClinicBiological Complexity and Integrative PluralismBiology Is TechnologyBiosBipolar ExpeditionsBlackwell Companion to the Philosophy of EducationBlindsight & The Nature of ConsciousnessBlues - Philosophy for EveryoneBlushBob Dylan and PhilosophyBody ConsciousnessBody Image And Body SchemaBody ImagesBody LanguageBody MattersBody WorkBody-Subjects and Disordered MindsBoundBoundaries of the MindBoyleBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain FictionBrain, Mind, and Human Behavior in Contemporary Cognitive ScienceBrain-WiseBrainchildrenBrains, Buddhas, and BelievingBrainstormingBrave New WorldsBreakdown of WillBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and FaithBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBritain on the CouchBritish Idealism and the Concept of the SelfBrute RationalityBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBut Is It Art?Camus and SartreCan Animals Be Persons?Cartesian LinguisticsCartographies of the MindCarving Nature at Its JointsCase Studies in Biomedical Research EthicsCassandra's DaughterCategories We Live ByCato's TearsCausation and CounterfactualsCauses, Laws, and Free WillChanging Conceptions of the Child from the Renaissance to Post-ModernityChanging the SubjectChaosophyCharacter and Moral Psychology Character as Moral FictionCharles DarwinCharles S. Peirce's PhenomenologyCherishmentChildhood and the Philosophy of EducationChildrenChildren, Families, and Health Care Decision MakingChoices and ConflictChoosing Not to ChooseChristmas - Philosophy for EveryoneCinema, Philosophy, BergmanCinematic MythmakingCity and Soul in Plato's RepublicClassifying MadnessClear and Queer ThinkingClinical EthicsClinical Psychiatry in Imperial GermanyCodependent ForevermoreCoffee - Philosophy for EveryoneCognition and the BrainCognition of Value in Aristotle's EthicsCognition Through Understanding: Self-Knowledge, Interlocution, Reasoning, ReflectionCognitive BiologyCognitive FictionsCognitive Neuroscience of EmotionCognitive Systems and the Extended MindCognitive Systems and the Extended Mind Cognitive Theories of Mental IllnessCoherence in Thought and ActionCollected Papers, Volume 1Collected Papers, Volume 2College SexComedy IncarnateCommitmentCommunicative Action and Rational ChoiceCompassionate Moral RealismCompetence, Condemnation, and CommitmentConcealment And ExposureConcepts and Causes in the Philosophy of DiseaseConceptual Analysis and Philosophical NaturalismConceptual Art and PaintingConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConfessionsConfucianismConnected, or What It Means to Live in the Network SocietyConquest of AbundanceConscience and ConvenienceConsciousnessConsciousnessConsciousnessConsciousness ConsciousnessConsciousness and Fundamental RealityConsciousness and Its Place in NatureConsciousness and LanguageConsciousness and Mental LifeConsciousness and MindConsciousness and the NovelConsciousness and the SelfConsciousness EmergingConsciousness EvolvingConsciousness ExplainedConsciousness in ActionConsciousness RecoveredConsciousness RevisitedConsciousness, Color, and ContentConsole and ClassifyConstructing the WorldConstructive AnalysisContemporary Debates In Applied EthicsContemporary Debates in Moral TheoryContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyContemporary Debates in Philosophy of MindContemporary Debates in Political PhilosophyContemporary Debates in Social PhilosophyContemporary Perspectives on Natural LawContested Knowledge: Social Theory TodayContesting PsychiatryContext and the AttitudesContinental Philosophy of ScienceControlControlling Our DestiniesConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCopernicus, Darwin and FreudCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating ConsilienceCreating HysteriaCreating Mental IllnessCreating Scientific ConceptsCreating the American JunkieCreation, Rationality and AutonomyCreatures Like Us?Crime and CulpabilityCrime, Punishment, and Mental IllnessCrimes of ReasonCritical New Perspectives on Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderCritical PsychiatryCritical PsychologyCritical ResistanceCritical Thinking About PsychologyCritical VisionsCross and KhoraCruel CompassionCTRL [SPACE]Cultural Psychology of the SelfCultural Theory: An IntroductionCulture and Psychiatric DiagnosisCulture and Subjective Well-BeingCulture of DeathCultures of NeurastheniaCurious EmotionsCurrent Controversies in Experimental PhilosophyCurrent Controversies in Values and ScienceCustom and Reason in HumeCustomers and Patrons of the Mad-TradeCutting God in Half - And Putting the Pieces Together AgainCylons in AmericaDamaged IdentitiesDamasio's Error and Descartes' TruthDangerous EmotionsDaniel DennettDaniel DennettDark AgesDarwin and DesignDarwin's Dangerous IdeaDarwin's LegacyDarwin, God and the Meaning of LifeDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinian ReductionismDarwinizing CultureDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeathDeathDeath and CharacterDeath and CompassionDeath and the AfterlifeDebating DesignDebating HumanismDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecomposing the WillDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeconstruction and DemocracyDeeper Than DarwinDeeper than ReasonDefending Science - within ReasonDefining Psychopathology in the 21st CenturyDegrees of BeliefDeleuze and the Concepts of CinemaDelusion and Self-DeceptionDelusions and BeliefsDelusions and Other Irrational BeliefsDelusions and the Madness of the MassesDementiaDemons, Dreamers, and MadmenDennett and Ricoeur on the Narrative SelfDennett’s PhilosophyDepression Is a ChoiceDepression, Emotion and the SelfDepthDerrida, Deleuze, PsychoanalysisDescartesDescartes and the Passionate MindDescartes' CogitoDescartes's Changing MindDescartes's Concept of MindDescribing Inner Experience?Descriptions and PrescriptionsDesembodied Spirits and Deanimated Bodies Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Desire and AffectDesire, Love, and IdentityDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDeveloping the VirtuesDiagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersDialectics of the SelfDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital SoulDimensional Models of Personality DisordersDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisjunctivismDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDispatches from the Freud WarsDisrupted LivesDistractionDisturbed ConsciousnessDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDo Apes Read Minds?Do Fish Feel Pain?Do We Still Need Doctors?Does Consciousness Cause Behavior?Does the Woman Exist?Doing PhilosophyDoing without ConceptsDon't be FooledDon't Believe Everything You ThinkDonald DavidsonDonald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the MentalDoubting Darwin?Down GirlDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDSM-IV SourcebookDSM-IV SourcebookDSM-IV-TR CasebookDworkin and His CriticsDying to KnowDynamics in ActionDysthymia and the Spectrum of Chronic DepressionsEccentricsEducational MetamorphosesEffective IntentionsElbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth WantingEmbodied Minds in ActionEmbodied RhetoricsEmbodied Selves and Divided MindsEmbryos under the MicroscopeEmergencies in Mental Health PracticeEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotionEmotion and ConsciousnessEmotion and PsycheEmotion ExperienceEmotion RegulationEmotion, Evolution, And RationalityEmotional IntelligenceEmotional ReasonEmotional ReasonEmotional TruthEmotions in Humans and ArtifactsEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions, Value, and AgencyEmpathyEmpathy and AgencyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpathy in the Context of PhilosophyEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEnactivist InterventionsEnchanted LoomsEngaging BuddhismEngineering the Human GermlineEnjoymentEnvyEpicureanismEpistemic LuckEpistemologyEpistemology and EmotionsEpistemology and the Psychology of Human JudgmentEros and the GoodErotic MoralityEssays in Social NeuroscienceEssays in the Metaphysics of Mind Essays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEssays on Nonconceptual ContentEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssays on Reference, Language, and MindEssays on the Concept of Mind in Early-Modern PhilosophyEssential Sources in the Scientific Study of ConsciousnessEsssential Philosophy of PsychiatryEternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical TheoryEthicsEthicsEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics Beyond the LimitsEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in PracticeEthics in Psychiatric ResearchEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEuropean Review of Philosophy. Vol. 5Everyday IrrationalityEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolutionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution's RainbowEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychologyExamined LifeExamined LivesExistential AmericaExistentialismExistentialism and Romantic LoveExperimental PhilosophyExperimental PhilosophyExperimental PhilosophyExperimental Philosophy, Rationalism, and NaturalismExperiments in EthicsExplaining ConsciousnessExplaining the BrainExplaining the Computational MindExplanatory PluralismExploding the Gene MythExploring HappinessExploring the SelfExpression and the InnerExpressions of JudgmentExtraordinary Science and PsychiatryFaces of IntentionFact and ValueFact and Value in EmotionFacts and ValuesFacts, Values, and NormsFads and Fallacies in the Social SciencesFaith and Wisdom in ScienceFatherhoodFear of KnowledgeFearless SpeechFeeling Pain and Being in PainFeelings and EmotionsFeelings of BeingFellow CreaturesFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminism and Philosophy of ScienceFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist Interpretations of Rene DescartesFeminist TheoryField Notes from ElsewhereFinding Consciousness in the BrainFingerprints of GodFlesh in the Age of ReasonFolk Psychological NarrativesFolk Psychology Re-AssessedForces of HabitForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and RetributionFoucault 2.0Foucault and PhilosophyFoucault NowFoucault, Psychology and the Analytics of PowerFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFour Views on Free WillFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Free WillFree WillFree WillFree WillFree Will and Action ExplanationFree Will and LuckFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will as an Open Scientific ProblemFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free WillFreedomFreedom and DeterminismFreedom And NeurobiologyFreedom and ResponsibiltyFreedom and ValueFreedom EvolvesFreedom RegainedFreedom vs. InterventionFreedom, Fame, Lying, and BetrayalFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud's AnswerFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFriedrich NietzscheFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Clinic to ClassroomFrom Complexity to LifeFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the HumanitiesFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Passions to EmotionsFrom Philosophy to PsychotherapyFrom Valuing to ValueFrontiers of ConsciousnessFrontiers of JusticeFurnishing the MindGalileo in PittsburghGenderGender and Mental HealthGender in the MirrorGender TroubleGenesGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenocide's AftermathGenomes and What to Make of ThemGerman Idealism and the JewGerman PhilosophyGetting HookedGilles DeleuzeGlobal PhilosophyGluttonyGod and Phenomenal ConsciousnessGoffman's LegacyGoing Amiss in Experimental ResearchGoodness & AdviceGrassroots SpiritualityGrave MattersGrave MattersGreedGreek Models of Mind and SelfGut ReactionsHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHabits of MindHallucinationHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of EmotionsHappinessHappinessHappinessHappinessHappiness and EducationHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHard LuckHarmful ThoughtsHaving the World in ViewHealing PsychiatryHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHealth, Illness and DiseaseHealth, Science, and Ordinary LanguageHegelHeidegger and a Metaphysics of FeelingHeidegger, Metaphysics and the Univocity of BeingHellenistic PhilosophyHermann von Helmholtz's MechanismHermeneutics As PoliticsHeterophobiaHeterosyncraciesHeuristics and BiasesHeuristics and the LawHidden ResourcesHidden SelvesHiding from HumanityHigh Art LiteHistorical OntologyHistory of Psychiatry and Medical PsychologyHistory, Historicity And ScienceHobbesHomosexualitiesHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisHot ThoughtHow Can I Be Trusted?How Can the Human Mind Occur in the Physical Universe?How Children Learn the Meanings of WordsHow Could Conscious Experiences Affect Brains?How Do We Know Who We Are?How Emotions WorkHow Emotions WorkHow History Made the MindHow Images ThinkHow is Nature Possible?How Propaganda WorksHow Science WorksHow Scientific Practices MatterHow Scientists Explain DiseaseHow The Body Shapes The MindHow the Body Shapes the Way We ThinkHow the Mind Explains BehaviorHow the Mind Uses the BrainHow to Be a StoicHow to Make Opportunity EqualHow to Solve the Mind-Body Problemhow to stop timeHow to Think More About SexHow We HopeHow We ReasonHuman CloningHuman Development, Language and the Future of MankindHuman EnhancementHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityHuman GoodnessHuman Identity and BioethicsHuman NatureHuman NatureHuman Nature and the Limits of ScienceHuman-Built WorldHumanismHumanism, What's That?HumanityHumans, Animals, MachinesHumeHumeHumeHume on Motivation and VirtueHume's True ScepticismHume’s Moral Philosophy and Contemporary PsychologyHusserlHystoriesI Am Dynamite!I of the VortexI Was WrongIdeas that MatterIdentifying the MindIdentity and Agency in Cultural WorldsIgnorance and ImaginationIllnessIllnessImagination and Its PathologiesImagination and the Meaningful BrainImagining NumbersImmortal RemainsImproving Nature?In Defense of an Evolutionary Concept of HealthIn Defense of SentimentalityIn Love With LifeIn Praise of Athletic BeautyIn Praise of DesireIn Praise of Natural PhilosophyIn Praise of the WhipIn Pursuit of HappinessIn Search of HappinessIn the Name of GodIn the Name of IdentityIn the Space of ReasonsIn the SwarmIn Two MindsInclusive EthicsIncompatibilism's AllureIndividual Differences in Conscious ExperienceInfinity and PerspectiveInformation ArtsInformed Consent in Medical ResearchIngmar Bergman, Cinematic PhilosopherInhuman ThoughtsInner PresenceInsanityIntegrating Psychotherapy and PharmacotherapyIntegrity and the Fragile SelfIntelligent VirtueIntentionIntentionality, Deliberation and AutonomyIntentions and IntentionalityIntentions and IntentionalityInterpreting MindsInterpreting NietzscheIntroducing Greek PhilosophyIntrospection and ConsciousnessIntrospection VindicatedIntuition, Imagination, and Philosophical MethodologyIntuitionismInvestigating the Psychological WorldIrrationalityIrrationalityIs Academic Feminism Dead?Is It Me or My Meds?Is Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Is Oedipus Online?Is Science Neurotic?Is Science Value Free?Is the Visual World a Grand Illusion?Is There a Duty to Die?Issues in Philosophical CounselingJacques LacanJacques RancièreJacques RanciereJean-Paul SartreJohn McDowellJohn SearleJohn Searle's Ideas About Social RealityJohn Stuart MillJohn Stuart Mill and the Writing of CharacterJoint AttentionJokesJonathan EdwardsJudging and UnderstandingJustice for ChildrenJustice in RobesJustice, Luck, and KnowledgeKantKant and MiltonKant and the Fate of AutonomyKant and the Limits of AutonomyKant and the Role of Pleasure in Moral ActionKant on Freedom, Law, and HappinessKant on Moral AutonomyKant's Anatomy of EvilKant's Anatomy of the Intelligent MindKant's Theory of VirtueKarl JaspersKarl PopperKarl Popper, Science and EnlightenmentKey Concepts in PhilosophyKierkegaardKierkegaard as PhenomenologistKierkegaard's Concept of DespairKierkegaard's MuseKinds of MindsKinds, Things, and StuffKnowing EmotionsKnowing, Knowledge and BeliefsKnowledge MonopoliesKnowledge, Belief, and CharacterKnowledge, Possibility, and ConsciousnessLacanLack of CharacterLack of CharacterLanguageLanguage in ContextLanguage, Consciousness, CultureLanguage, Culture, and MindLanguage, Vision, and MusicLaw and the BrainLaw, Liberty, and PsychiatryLaws, Mind, and Free WillLeaving YouLectures on the History of Political PhilosophyLevelling the Playing FieldLiberal Education in a Knowledge SocietyLiberatory PsychiatryLife and ActionLife at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997Life Is Not a Game of PerfectLife of the MindLife's FormLife's ValuesLife, Death, & MeaningLife, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of UtilityLife, Sex, and IdeasLight in the Dark RoomLike a Splinter in Your MindLiving and Dying WellLiving NarrativeLiving Outside Mental IllnessLiving with DarwinLiving With One’s PastLockeLocke LockeLogic and the Art of Memory Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology, and LiteratureLooking for SpinozaLooking for The StrangerLost in DialogueLost SoulsLOT 2LoveLoveLove's ConfusionsLove's VisionLove, Friendship, and the SelfLove, Sex & TragedyLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLustLyingMachine ConsciousnessMad for FoucaultMad TravelersMade with WordsMadness And Death In PhilosophyMadness and DemocracyMadness at HomeMadness Is CivilizationMaking Natural KnowledgeMaking Sense of EvolutionMaking Sense of Freedom and ResponsibilityMaking the DSM-5Making the Social WorldMaking TruthMale Female EmailMan, Beast, and ZombieMandated Reporting of Suspected Child AbuseManiaManic Depression and CreativityMapping the Edges and the In-betweenMapping the Future of BiologyMarcus AureliusMaster PassionsMatters of the MindMe++Meaning and Moral OrderMeaning and Value in a Secular AgeMeaning in LifeMeaning in Life and Why It MattersMeaning, Basic Self-Knowledge, and MindMeanings of ArtMeasuring HappinessMeasuring PsychopathologyMedia MadnessMedical Enhancement and PosthumanityMedical NihilismMedical ReasoningMedicine and Philosophy in Classical AntiquityMedicine of the PersonMedicine, Mental Health, Religion, Science and Well-BeingMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMelancholy And the Care of the SoulMelancholy and the Otherness of GodMementoMemory and NarrativeMental ActionsMental CausationMental Causation and OntologyMental HealthMental Health At The CrossroadsMental Health Policy in BritainMerit, Meaning, and Human BondageMerleau-PontyMerleau-Ponty and the Possibilities of PhilosophyMetacognition and Theory of MindMetacreationMetaethical SubjectivismMetaethicsMetal and FleshMetaphors of MemoryMetapoliticsMethods in MindMichel FoucaultMidlifeMill's UtilitarianismMindMindMindMind and ConsciousnessMind and CosmosMind and MechanismMind GamesMind in a Physical WorldMind in Everyday Life and Cognitive ScienceMind in LifeMind the BodyMind TimeMind's LandscapeMind, Brain and the Elusive SoulMind, Brain, and Free WillMind, Reason and ImaginationMinding MindsMindreadersMindreading AnimalsMinds and PersonsMinds, Brains, and LawMinds, Ethics, and ConditionalsMindshapingMindsightMindworldsMirror, MirrorMixed FeelingsMockingbird YearsModels of the SelfModern Social ImaginariesModern Theories of JusticeModernity and SubjectivityModernity and TechnologyMoody Minds DistemperedMoral BrainsMoral DimensionsMoral FailureMoral ImaginationMoral LiteracyMoral MachinesMoral ParticularismMoral PsychologyMoral Psychology and Human AgencyMoral Psychology, Volume 1Moral Psychology, Volume 2Moral Psychology, Volume 3Moral Psychology: Volume IVMoral RepairMoral Responsibility and Alternative PossibilitiesMoral TribesMoral Value and Human DiversityMorality and Self-InterestMorality in a Natural WorldMorality, Moral Luck and ResponsibilityMotherhoodMotive and RightnessMoving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New PsychiatryMultiple Analogies in Science and PhilosophyMultiple Identities & False MemoriesMusic, Madness, and the Unworking of LanguageMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Double UnveiledMy WayNarrativeNarrative and IdentityNarrative MedicineNarrative PsychiatryNarrative Theory and the Cognitive SciencesNatural Ethical FactsNatural Kinds and Conceptual ChangeNatural MindsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalism and the First-Person PerspectiveNaturalism and the Human ConditionNaturalism in the Philosophy of HealthNaturalism in the Philosophy of HealthNaturalized BioethicsNaturalizing the MindNatureNature and NarrativeNear Death ExperienceNeither Bad nor MadNeither Victim nor SurvivorNeuro-Philosophy and the Healthy MindNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroexistentialismNeurological Foundations of Cognitive Neuroscience Neurophilosophy at WorkNeurophilosophy of Free WillNeuropoliticsNeuropsychoanalysis in PracticeNeuroscience and PhilosophyNew Essays on the Explanation of ActionNew Philosophy for a New MediaNew Versions of VictimsNew Waves in Philosophy of ActionNietzscheNietzsche and Buddhist PhilosophyNietzsche and PsychotherapyNietzsche and Suffered Social HistoriesNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNietzsche's TherapyNietzsche, Culture and EducationNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNihil UnboundNihilismNoir AnxietyNormative EthicsNormativityNorms of NatureNotebooks 1951-1959Notes Toward a Performative Theory of AssemblyNothing So AbsurdOblivionOn AnxietyOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn Being AuthenticOn BeliefOn BetrayalOn BullshitOn DelusionOn DesireOn EmotionsOn HashishOn Human NatureOn Human RightsOn Loving Our EnemiesOn Nature and LanguageOn PersonalityOn ReflectionOn Romantic LoveOn the EmotionsOn the Freud WatchOn the Government of the LivingOn the Human ConditionOn the InternetOn the Meaning of LifeOn the Philosophy of LawOn the Pragmatics of CommunicationOn the Punitive SocietyOn TruthOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne Hundred DaysOnflowOnly a Promise of HappinessOntology of ConsciousnessOpen MindedOpen Your EyesOrgans without BodiesOther MindsOur Last Great IllusionOur Own MindsOur Posthuman FutureOur StoriesOut of Its MindOut of Our HeadsOxford Guide to the MindOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Studies in Experimental PhilosophyOxford Studies in Normative EthicsOxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 7Oxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPanic DisorderPanpsychismPanpsychism in the WestPartialityPassionate EnginesPassionate EnginesPathologies of BeliefPathologies of ReasonPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perceiving the WorldPerception & CognitionPerception and Basic BeliefsPerception, Hallucination, and IllusionPerceptual ExperiencePerfecting VirtuePerplexities of ConsciousnessPersistencePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal IdentityPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonal Identity and Fractured SelvesPersonhood and Health CarePersonsPersons and BodiesPersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPersons, Souls and DeathPerspectives on ImitationPerspectives on PragmatismPessimismPhenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal KnowledgePhenomenal ConsciousnessPhenomenal IntentionalityPhenomenologyPhenomenology and ExistentialismPhenomenology and Philosophy of MindPhenomenology of IllnessPhilosophersPhilosophers on MusicPhilosophers without GodsPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical DevicesPhilosophical Foundations of NeurosciencePhilosophical History and the Problem of ConsciousnessPhilosophical Issues in PharmaceuticsPhilosophical Issues in PsychiatryPhilosophical Issues in PsychiatryPhilosophical Issues in Psychiatry IIPhilosophical MethodologyPhilosophical MidwiferyPhilosophical Myths of the FallPhilosophical Perspectives on DepictionPhilosophical Perspectives on Technology and PsychiatryPhilosophical PracticePhilosophical Reflections on DisabilityPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophizing the EverydayPhilosophy and HappinessPhilosophy and LivingPhilosophy and PsychiatryPhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy and Science FictionPhilosophy and the EmotionsPhilosophy and the EmotionsPhilosophy and the Interpretation of Pop CulturePhilosophy and the Moving ImagePhilosophy and the NeurosciencesPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy As FictionPhilosophy BitesPhilosophy Bites BackPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for LifePhilosophy in a New CenturyPhilosophy in an Age of SciencePhilosophy in Children's LiteraturePhilosophy in the Roman EmpirePhilosophy of ActionPhilosophy of ActionPhilosophy of Action from Suarez to AnscombePhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of BodyPhilosophy of Film and Motion PicturesPhilosophy of LovePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An IntroductionPhilosophy of MedicinePhilosophy of MindPhilosophy of Mind and CognitionPhilosophy of Personal Identity and Multiple PersonalityPhilosophy of PsychologyPhilosophy of Public HealthPhilosophy of SciencePhilosophy of SciencePhilosophy of Sex and LovePhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhilosophy of the Social SciencesPhilosophy on TapPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy the Day after TomorrowPhilosophy Within Its Proper BoundsPhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy, Neuroscience and ConsciousnessPhilosophy, Politics, DemocracyPhotography and PhilosophyPhysical RealizationPhysicalism and Its DiscontentsPhysicalism and Mental CausationPhysicalism, or Something Near EnoughPhysician-Assisted DyingPillar of SaltPin-up GrrrlsPlanning, Time, and Self-GovernancePlant MindsPlatoPlatoPlato, Not Prozac!Platonic Ethics, Old and NewPleasurePluralistic CasuistryPolarities of ExperiencesPolitical EmotionsPopper, Objectivity and the Growth of KnowledgePornPorn StudiesPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPortrait of the Psychiatrist as a Young ManPositive NihilismPost-TruthPostcolonial DisordersPostpsychiatryPosttraumatic Stress DisorderPower and the SelfPower SplitPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical ConflictsPractical Identity and Narrative AgencyPractical PhilosophyPractical RulesPractical Tortoise RaisingPractically ProfoundPracticing Feminist Ethics in PsychologyPragmatic BioethicsPragmatismPragmatism, Old And NewPraise and BlamePredicative MindsPreferences and Well-BeingPrescriptions for the MindPresocraticsPrimary and Secondary QualitiesPrimates and PhilosophersPrimitive ColorsPrivacyPrivileged AccessProblems in MindProblems of RationalityProzac As a Way of LifeProzac BacklashProzac on the CouchPsyche and EthosPsyche and SomaPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric Cultures ComparedPsychiatric Diagnosis and ClassificationPsychiatric EthicsPsychiatric HegemonyPsychiatric PowerPsychiatric SlaveryPsychiatry and Philosophy of SciencePsychiatry and ReligionPsychiatry as a Human SciencePsychiatry as Cognitive NeurosciencePsychiatry in SocietyPsychiatry in the New MilleniumPsychiatry in the Scientific ImagePsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsycho-Physical Dualism TodayPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and PhilosophyPsychology and the Question of AgencyPsychology's Interpretive TurnPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPublic PhilosophyPunishmentPure ImmanencePurple HazePursuing MeaningQuality of Life and Human DifferenceQueer PhilosophyQuestions for FreudQuestions for FreudQuine and Davidson on Language, Thought and RealityRaceRace in Contemporary MedicineRadiant CoolRadical AlterityRadical ExternalismRadical HopeRational and Social AgencyRational CausationRational Choice in an Uncertain WorldRationality + Consciousness = Free WillRationality and FreedomRationality and the Reflective MindRationality in ActionRawls, Dewey, and ConstructivismRe-creating MedicineRe-EmergenceRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReading AutobiographyReading Bernard WilliamsReading SartreReadings in the Philosophy of TechnologyReal MaterialismReal Natures and Familiar ObjectsReal ScienceRealism in ActionReason & EmancipationReason in ActionReason in PhilosophyReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReasoning About Rational AgentsReasoning in Biological DiscoveriesReasons from WithinReasons without RationalismReclaiming CognitionReclaiming the SoulReconceiving SchizophreniaReconstructing Reason and RepresentationReconstructing the Cognitive WorldRecreative MindsRediscovering EmotionRediscovering EmpathyReference and ExistenceReference and the Rational MindReflections on Ethics and ResponsibilityReflections On How We LiveReframing Disease ContextuallyRefusing CareRegard for Reason in the Moral MindRegulating SexReinventing the SoulRelativism and Human RightsRelativism and the Foundations of PhilosophyRelativism and the Foundations of PhilosophyReliable ReasoningReligion without GodRelying on OthersRemembering HomeResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility from the MarginsResponsible BrainsRestraining RageRethinking ExpertiseRethinking IntrospectionRethinking Mental Health and DisorderRethinking RapeRethinking the DSMRethinking the Sociology of Mental HealthRethinking the Western Understanding of the SelfReturn to ReasonRevolt, She SaidRichard RortyRichard RortyRichard RortyRichard RortyRichard RortyRichard Rorty's New PragmatismRightsRights, Democracy, and Fulfillment in the Era of Identity PoliticsRise And 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Reason in PhilosophyReview - Reason in Philosophy
Animating Ideas
by Robert B. Brandom
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009
Review by Arto Laitinen
Jul 20th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 29)

The grandeur of Brandom's book Reason in Philosophy (like that of his philosophical project more generally) lies in its ambitious and programmatic nature. The book tries to shed light on Selves, Norms, Concepts, Autonomy, Community, Freedom, History, Reason, Reality and Philosophy starting from a relatively small set of ideas constituting his (strong) inferentialist semantics and ideas about how norms are instituted. Part One of the book contains his Woodbridge lectures on the idealism of Kant and Hegel, showing how Hegel's social and historical approach built on Kant's normative approach to human mind, and Part Two has further essays on the nature of philosophy and reason today.

Brandom makes impressive points on all those topics, but given the restricted nature of the starting points, the resulting picture may remain one--sided but perhaps fruitfully so. In some cases, what he suggests as sufficient conditions are perhaps only necessary conditions, and in some cases the very problems discussed may be artifacts of the narrow restrictions accepted in the first place, but in many cases the only thing missing is more details. In what follows, I will focus on the first three chapters, and discuss Brandom's striking explanation of intentionality in terms of rational integration of commitments (§2), the related view of subjecthood or selfhood (§3), and the views on normativity and mutual recognition (§4), and on community (§5), after briefly mentioning Brandom's views on philosophy and reason that are more extensively developed in the latter part of the book (§1).

1. Philosophy and Reason

Kant rejected of questions of being and turned to the study of reason as the first philosophy.

Brandom sees the task of philosophy in a similar way:

"This book belongs to a venerable tradition that distinguishes us as rational animals, and philosophy by its concern to understand, articulate, and explain the notion of reason that is thereby cast in that crucial demarcating role." (p. 1)

The obvious question this raises is why philosophy should focus on nothing but reason, and not for example on the nature of rational animals, including the question how the "animality" of rational animals differs from that of other animals. And indeed, why should philosophy focus merely on us, and not the rest of what there is.

It is indeed a necessary and central task of philosophy to understand the nature of normativity, responsibility and reason, and Brandom may be right that premature ontological speculation will not help our understanding of normative matters. But one may note that good metaphysical questions remain, for example placing reason so understood in nature. What does it tell us about the natural reality, that it can evolve into creatures capable of all that? How do the normative and the natural hang together in the widest possible sense of the word? To have this curiosity is to share the Sellarsian view about philosophy as an attempt to arrive at a stereoscopic vision; Brandom here seems to promote a view of philosophy which is slightly narrower and limited only to analyzing reason, sapience or normativity and what goes with it. On the broader Sellarsian view, this is indeed necessary, but not yet sufficient.

Brandom's understanding of reason and normativity is further deliberately sharpened and narrowed in its starting point. He stresses inferential relations and, as a pragmatist, sees these as emerging from practices and processes of inferring. He explicitly puts aside possible other forms of reasoning, and quite centrally, puts aside any assumption that there might be an independent primitive notion of a normative reason such as a fact or consideration standing in favour of an action, intention or belief (suggested e.g. by Scanlon, Parfit, Dancy, Raz), or a related notion of what one overall ought to do given the normative significance of all such relevant facts. In Brandom's view reasons are premises from which conclusions can be drawn, so it is commitments made (and their implications), and not facts that provide rational guidance (note that this meta--conception concerning the nature of reasons has substantial repercussions: those starting with reasons have room to assume that there are some reasons independently of one's commitments -- such as reasons to avoid causing suffering).

So there may be a legitimate worry whether Brandom manages to capture all of normativity, or whole reason, with his inferentialism. Brandom takes a relaxed view:

"Even in the light of these considerations, I am concerned to see what sort of story can be told, what sort of illumination one can get, by focusing to begin with on the central inferential kind of reasons and the dimension of reasoning they pick out." (p. 4)

2. From the rational unity of commitments to intentionality?

The central concern in the first chapter is to articulate Kant's idea of the normativity of the mental.

"what distinguishes judging and intentional doing from the activities of non-sapient creatures is not that they involve some special sort of mental processes, but that they are things knowers and agents are in a distinctive way responsible for. Judgments and actions make knowers and agents liable to characteristic kinds of normative assessment." (p. 14)

The mind in seen in terms of normative tasks of maintaining a rational unity (of apperception). The task is to show how that normative process can provide us with a view of not only propositional (and conceptual) content, but also intentionality (that the judgments or commitments purport to be about objects), and a view of selfhood or subjectivity (the locus of whose commitments are at stake). These are to be explained pragmatically in terms of normatively responsive activity of judging.

Brandom summarizes the four questions he discusses in Chapter One as follows. His distinctive strategy is to make sense of each of these elements in terms of those that precede it. I'll quote:

"(1) What one must do in order in the relevant sense to be taking responsibility for or committing oneself to a judgeable content (or practical maxim). This is engaging in the activity of synthesizing an original unity of apperception, by integrating the content in question into the whole that comprises all of one's commitments in the light of the relations of material inferential consequence and incompatibility they stand in to one another.

(2) What one creates, sustains, and develops by doing that: the constellation of commitments that is an original synthetic unity of apperception (OSUA).

(3) The elements of that synthetic unity, what one takes responsibility for or commits oneself to. These are the judgeable contents that are integrated into the OSUA.

(4) What one thereby makes oneself responsible to. These are the objects that one comes to represent, in the sense of making oneself answerable (for the correctness of the endorsed judgeable contents that make up the OSUA) to objects, which one in that normative sense thereby counts as thinking (talking, judging) about."(pp. 40-41)

(Claims 1 & 2): Brandom stresses the Kantian view, that in endorsing a judgment one has made oneself liable to distinctive kinds of normative assessment. To count as judging in a responsible manner, one should take on certain tasks: the prospective tasks of maintaining a rational unity of such commitments (taken as a synchronous constellation of commitments), and the retrospective task of justifying the current set of commitments comparatively as better than its predecessors (and thus seeing some rationality in the development of the constellation).

Brandom puts the prospective task in terms of Kant's "synthetic unity of apperceptions":

"What one must do in order to be taking responsibility for or committing oneself to a judgeable content (or practical maxim) in the sense that matters for apperceptive (sapient) awareness is synthesize an original unity of apperception, by integrating the content in question into the whole that comprises all of one's commitments, in the light of the relations of material inferential consequence and incompatibility they stand in to one another." (p. 14)


"It has a rational unity in that the commitments it comprises are treated as reasons for and against other commitments, as normatively obliging one to acknowledge some further commitments and prohibiting acknowledgment of others." (p. 14)

Three tasks in more detail, are,

"One's critical responsibility is to weed out materially incompatible commitments"(p.36),  "One's amplialive responsibility is to extract the material inferential consequences of each commitment, including new ones, in the context of the auxiliary hypotheses and collateral premises provided by the rest of one's commitments."(p.36),  "One's justificatory responsibility is to be prepared to offer reasons for the commitments (both theoretical and practical) that one acknowledges, by citing prior commitments (or undertaking further commitments) that inferentially entitle one to those new commitments. Seeking to fulfill the first sort of responsibility is aiming at a whole constellation of commitments that is consistent. Seeking to fulfill the second is aiming at one that is complete. And seeking to fulfill the third is aiming at a constellation of commitments that is warranted."(p.36)

While the critical and justificatory tasks are clearly central, it is not entirely clear that we ought to aim at a complete constellation of commitments -- as it is often pointed out, why bother in cases the consequences are of no significance?

This prospective rational task is later complemented with a retrospective assessment of comparing the current set of commitments to past ones, leaving open the possibility that in future the current best set of commitments so far will be superseded.

"What Hegel adds is a retrospective notion of rationally reconstructing the process that led to the commitments currently being integrated (not just the new one, but all the prior ones that are taken as precedential for it, too). This is a kind of genealogical justification or vindication of those commitments, showing why previous judgments were correct in the light of still earlier ones-and in a different sense, also in the light of subsequent ones. Hegel calls this process 'Erinnerung,' or recollection." (p.90)

One way to see this is as broadening the Kantian idea,

"the rational unity that must he synthesized (the 'original synthetic unity of apperception') comprises the whole developmental process by which one arrived at one's current commitments, and not just the current time-slice of that ongoing enterprise." (pp.91--92)

Note that here Brandom gives the impression that the task of rational reconstruction is personalized. He may however mean it to concern whole communities, or traditions. Indeed, there is some unclarity in his views on whether a community is a context for individual commitments, or whether communities are loci or commitments of their own, see below (§5).

(Claim 3) A central point for Brandom is to ask whether the meaning or content of judgements, beliefs, or desires is given ("outsourced") from the viewpoint of one's account of reasoning or rationality (as Carnap or Kant assume), or whether meanings are normatively (inferentially) shaped as well (as Quine and Hegel, and Brandom assume). In this latter picture,

"justification (and so its cousins reason and inference) is not only a key concept in epistemological investigations of the nature of knowledge, but also and equally a key concept in semantic investigations of tile nature of meaning."(p.5) "the inferential relations sentences stand in to one another are an essential element of the meanings that they express."(p.7).

Inferentialism comes in two main variants. Weak semantic inferentialism claims only that inferential articulation is a necessary condition of conceptual contentfulness, whereas Strong semantic inferentialism claims further that inferential articulation is a sufficient condition (p.8). Given the wider appeal of weak inferentialism, many are bound to think that what Brandom suggests as a sufficient condition is really merely a necessary one. Brandom has defended strong inferentialism in his Making it Explicit, 1994, and in his other publications since, and is here concerned with some of the motivations and consequences of the view.


(Claim 4) Brandom's pragmatist and holist approach tries to cash out the very idea that our thoughts even seem to refer to objects, or the "representational purport" or aboutness or intentionality of the mental, in terms of the rational unity of the judgments:

"the relations of material incompatibility and inferential consequence among judgeable contents that we have seen are a necessary condition of synthesizing a rational unity of apperception (which is to say judging) already implicitly involve commitments concerning the identity and individuation of objects they can accordingly be understood as representing or being about. Why? The judgment that A is a dog is not incompatible with the judgment that B is a fox. The judgment that A is a dog is incompatible with the judgment that A is a fox. That means that taking a dog-judgment to be materially incompatible with a fox-judgment is taking them to refer to or represent an object: the same object."(43)

It is one of Brandom's main ideas, and main claims to fame, that he thinks that rational integration can explain "representation" or intentional aboutness, of-intentionality. He rightly thinks he manages to shed light on "Kant's dark but central claim that 'it is the unity of consciousness that alone constitutes the relation of representations to an object'" (p. 15; Kant quote from B137).

In Brandom's Copernican view this kind of sapient consciousness, its intentionality, reference to objects, can be fully cashed out in terms of inferentialist connections. He asks:

"What does one have to do to count as taking or treating it as a representing of something? The answer is that treating it as standing in relations of material incompatibility and inferential consequence to other such things is taking or treating it as a representation, as being about something."(p.45)

This is an ingenuous answer, but it is not clear that there is a genuine question. For example, the step to sapience need not bring with it intentionality, if a non--sapient relation to world is intentional already. On a rival view, a horse can see the cart before it if there is one, and its conscious life is not mere "organic feeling" or booming buzzing confusion.  [Cf. Brandom's remark on merely "organic feeling", which I take is a phenomenon without intentionality: "Such discursive activity is the exercise of a distinctive kind of consciousness. It is sapient, rather than merely sentient, consciousness or awareness. For it depends on the sort of conceptual understanding that consists in practically knowing one's way about in the inferentially articulated space of reasons and concepts, rather than the sort of organic feeling we share with animals that are not rational animals."(p. 10)] As theorized say by Gibson, The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception (1979), non--linguistic animals can perceptually locate objects in relation to themselves. The intentionality of the mind can be independent of the rational unity of one's commitments. Whereas Brandom might think it is a scandal of philosophy that representational purport isn't demonstrated, others may well think it is a scandal to think it needs demonstration. Note however that even if the rational unity of commitments may not be all there is to the idea that our thoughts are about objects, it may well be a necessary element of sapient intentionality.

3. Selves and subjects

The process of synthesizing judgments into a constellation of commitments has not only an object pole (the objects represented) but also a subject pole. Both objects and subjects "repel" incompatibilities, but in a different manner. 

"Subjects are what repel incompatible commitments in that they ought not endorse them, and objects are what repel incompatible properties in that they cannot exhibit them. (Subjects are obliged to endorse the consequences of their commitments, and objects necessarily exhibit the properties that are consequences of their properties.)" (p.53)

Treating someone (e.g. oneself) as a single subject, analogously to treating something as a single object, is a matter of what excludes what:

"Committing myself to the animal's being a fox, or to driving you to the airport tomorrow morning, normatively precludes me from committing myself to its being a rabbit, or to my sleeping in tomorrow (in the sense that I cannot be entitled to such commitments), but it does not in the same way constrain the commitments others might undertake." (p.34)


In this book, Brandom's formulations seem to be about "subjects" or "selves" in two or three senses; I'm not sure whether the first one is really intended by him:

First, Brandom sometimes writes as if the "constellation of commitments" is what the self or subject is (resembling views of the "thick" self or practical identity which take it that one's self or "identity", who one is, is to be cashed out in terms of one's goals and commitments).

"Because the kind of normative unity distinctive of the synthetic unity of apperception must be understood in terms of the synthetic-integrative activity that produces it, the cognitive-practical subject or self that is identified with a synthetic unity of apperception is not happily thought of using the traditional category of substance."(41), "Engaging in those integrative activities is synthesizing a self or subject"(52).

A similar idea of the person as a constellation of commitments has been put forward by Carol Rovane (The Bounds of Agency, 1998), and it is a kind of "rationally integrated bundle view" of a subject. The subject is an "integrate" (to use Philip Pettit's terminology), not a "mere" bundle.

Certainly such a constellation of commitments may have interesting features (more or less coherent, more or less focused on sports, etc), but they are different features from what a thinker has (quick, perceptive, patient etc). So definitely the thinker seems to be a different thing from the resulting set of commitments, however integrated.

What, secondly, is the subject then the one doing the thinking, committing, criticizing, reflecting? At least Brandom often refers to that agent with personal pronouns, and the whole unity of commitments rests on the activity and practices, which are presumably undertaken by someone. So another sense of "subject" refers to that someone or something, who actually does the things in question. But that active subject has priority to the resulting rational unity of constellations (just like a painter has a kind of priority to the painting -- the painter is not fully a result of the painting).

But there is a third sense in which the category of subject is at play in the task of maintaining a rational unity, that is, the locus of the commitments of the question. Just like the synthetic unity refers to an object, the commitments are someone's responsibility.

"Engaging in those integrative activities is synthesizing a self or subject, which shows up as what is responsible for the component commitments into which it is articulated."(p.52)

This subject could in principle be different than the active committer, for example in cases of collective commitments -- a representative can do the judging, but the whole group gets the responsibility. The obvious question then is how these two or three kinds of subjects or selves are to be integrated with one another. A similar kind of challenge is probably faced by all "self--constitution" approaches to subjectivity and agency -- they are likely to view all three (the active subject, the locus of commitments and the web of commitments made) as three "aspects" of the self in question, but one would like to hear more on how this is done.  [Brandom puts forward an explicit view on this in his earlier paper "The Structure of Desire and Recognition", 2007.]

4. Normativity: attitude--dependence and mutual recognition

Brandom defends what he calls "Enlightenment view" of attitude--dependence of normativity. There is a basic set of concerns that any attitude--dependent views must face, and the concern can be put in terms of Euthyphro question: is something normatively correct because it is taken to be so by some relevant X? Is the X free of any normative constraints it does not impose on its self? If yes, it seems that anything goes, and if no, it seems that X's attitudes are not the ultimate source of normativity. Brandom is consistent in rejecting any given constraints -- all normativity is attitude--dependent. He nicely shows how past commitments build up to an elaborate structure which significantly narrows down one's options -- but within these options, valid normative claims are brought into existence by fresh decisions or committings to take them as valid.

Those of a more 'objectivist' sentiment might object to this picture of historically accumulating unrestricted commitments, and opt for attitude--independent views of normativity. Note that they can nonetheless have an attitude--dependent view about positive norms, voluntary commitments and exercises of normative powers, and can hold that they are very important subspecies of all normativity. Those positions would grant that what Brandom gets at is something necessary, but not sufficient. And they would have at their disposal a direct explanation (in terms of the attitude--independent normative significance) to how such positive norms can be better or worse, and how the decisions made by the institutors can be better or worse.

On the follow--up question on whose attitudes are constitutive, Brandom further proposes a seemingly democratic or universalist "mutual recognition model" which combines elements both of the Kantian "Autonomy-model" and the "Obedience-model" it seeked to replace. The Kantian autonomy model holds that one is only subject to norms that one acknowledges oneself, whereas the obedience model holds that one is subject to norms instituted by authorities other than oneself. Brandom suggests that the Hegelian mutual recognition model combines the best of both.

Brandom points out a central problem for the autonomy model: anything would be right, if one could re--define the contents of the commitment oneself as one goes. In the mutual recognition model this can be solved, as the others have a say as well. And in the obedience model, there is the obvious problem that one is at the mercy of others, whom one is normatively bound to obey, whereas the MR model avoids this -- one need not obey orders from anyone whose authority one does not acknowledge.

The MR view is that a subject is bound by norms that are accepted by both the agent, and everyone the agent authorizes as relevant norm--institutors. The basic idea seems to be that of direct democracy with everyone having veto--rights on all issues: what people together accept as a norm is the norm.

"Taking someone to be responsible or authoritative, attributing a normative deontic status to someone, is the attitude-kind that Hegel (picking up a term of Fichte's) calls 'recognition' (Anerkennung). Hegel's view is what you get if you take the attitudes of both recognizer and recognized, both those who are authoritative and those who are responsible, to be essential necessary conditions of the institution of genuine nonnative statuses, and require in addition that those attitudes be symmetric or reciprocal (gegenseitig). In a certain sense…, Hegel also takes it that those individually necessary normative attitudes are jointly sufficient to institute normative statuses. What institutes normative statuses is reciprocal recognition. Someone becomes responsible only when others hold him responsible, and exercises authority only when others acknowledge that authority. One has the authority to petition others for recognition in an attempt to become responsible or authoritative. To do that, one must recognize others as able to hold one responsible or acknowledge one's authority. This is according those others a certain kind of authority. To achieve such statuses, one must be recognized by them in turn. That is to make oneself in a certain sense responsible to them. But they have that authority only insofar as one grants it to them by recognizing them as authoritative." (p.70)

Brandom presents such a MR model as taking the best of both the autonomy and obedience model.

But the MR model may retain some weaknesses of both models. Brandom's MR model shares with the autonomy model the "veto right" of the person not to commit themselves. Put bluntly, it retains the view that it is wrong to harm others only if the person has committed oneself to not harming others. Even if others that one recognizes accept the norm that one ought not harm others, one's own endorsement is still necessary. This collapses any distinction between claims which are dependent on one's own endorsement (such as adopting beliefs, intentions or maxims on how to lead one's life, making promises) and claims that are not (general moral oughts, general epistemic principles).

And Brandom's MR model shares with the obedience model the view that persons who one has recognized as authorities, can bind one normatively. And even if MR at most accepts willing servitude, one may ask whether the exercise of authority is always acceptable if the subject only has given acceptance to the authority. Perhaps the subject should not have given the authorization, or should withdraw it. Say, maybe there are independent reasons against slavery and extreme servitude, even if one would get some benefits from it and even if one had consented to it at some point.


In any case, it seems that there are various open questions about the MR model, due to the general and undetailed presentation in this book (Brandom has of course written a lot about details elsewhere). Recognition at its most general level here means taking and treating someone as a locus of commitments, responsibility, judgments, intentions -- a rational normatively guided animal as opposed to some other kind of natural object. Such persons can in principle know each others' commitments, and assess their rationality. But this need not be in fact possible (they might not be in position to communicate) or normatively acceptable (some of A's commitments might not be B's business). Recognition at its most general may imply something concerning respecting others, but what it implies is on Brandom's view dependent on the instituted norms. This most general recognition, which can take place when no interaction takes place, is an important phenomenon but it is not clear how it can be a source of normativity -- if the two don't communicate how can their commitments travel and participate in co--constituting normative truths, or normative assessment of each other's commitments? Or do B's views affect what A is entitled only when actually expressed? For those functions, it seems we need a more specific type of recognition, which will necessary narrow down the extent of the relevant recognizers.

The unqualified MR model is most plausible in democratic contexts -- on collective "co-authorship" of public norms that shared issues and bind everyone. But Brandom's MR model is more abstract than, say, theories of majoritarian democracy, where the majority can claim authority for decisions that the minority did not support. In democratic theory it is typical to claim that within reasonable limits (protection of everyone's rights etc), the collective decisions have authority and also those who voted against, must obey; and that there is a right to civil disobedience on issues where the democratic decisions have been outrageous.

It seems further that there is a great difference in the kind of responsibility discussed by Brandom that "one ought to have reasons for one's commitments" and the kind of responsibility that affects others -- there's a difference in whether one is failing to live up to the standards or rationality, or whether one is wronging others. There are important differences between one's responsibility for, first, (private) intentions and beliefs, second, expressed intentions and beliefs, and third, promises and testimonies. Brandom's model which stresses actual mutual recognition on all of these, may be too demanding on private issues, threatening to make it impossible to have secrets or private issues -- are we really accountable to one another concerning them as well, over and above to their effects on the lives of others? And it may not be differentiated enough to capture the full force of commitments to others, or collective commitments -- as it does not distinguish between kinds of responsibility. (And it may get agents off the hook too easily concerning duties which are not dependent on commitments at all). Having said that, Brandom is here focusing on the general difference between agents capable of making commitments at all, and being held responsible at all, and other agents, and not fine--tuning the account to different types of responsibility. All Brandom would need to add is that the participants accept the norm that such and such issues come with such and such responsibility. But then it starts to seem less clear whether such actual acceptances have taken place and the problems typical to social contract traditions start to emerge: are we talking about actual acceptances, or ideal ones? Do they have to be irreducibly collective? etc.

5. Community

The MR model stresses the role of community in the constitution of normativity, and the role of mutual recognition in the constitution of the community What kind of normative recognitive community is at stake? Whose attitudes are constitutive of the norms that are in force for me? Is it the community of all persons, all of "us"? If so, has there ever been actual acknowledgement of any norms by all of them? What if two people recognize each others but disagree on the validity of some norms -- if both have a veto--right, does this mean that there is no norm in force at all?

One of Brandom's explicit answers concerning the relevant community is:

"a normative recognitive community of those recognized by and who recognize that normative subject: a community bound together by reciprocal relations of authority over and responsibility to each other." (p. 69)

Note that this definition gives one recognitive community for each person: all those who stand in one--to--one relationships with the subject in question. In Ann's community, both Ben and Dan may be members, but Ben and Dan may not have recognized each other, entitled each others to have authority over and responsibility to each other. Dan may be a stranger that Ann happens to know and recognize. This may give Ben some reason to recognize Dan as well, and Dan some reason to recognize Dan, but they may have other things to think, and given their autonomy, they may come explicitly to reject such recognition. Brandom does not formulate this point but I find it quite intriguing. For everyone, there is exactly one constitutive recognitive community, and a different one for each. We can think of the situation as one where there is an author, committing herself to a number of claims, and a number of commentators who seek to critically engage with those claims, and check if there are internal contradictions etc -- without being collectively committed to those claims. We can call this the Author--Commentator --model of community.

Another answer emerges from Brandom's appeal to linguistic community, or a tradition. Here the picture seems to be that there is the same community, and same community--based norms, for all the speakers of that language. Brandom (pp. 84ff.) suggests that the development of a tradition (as a locus of colletive commitments, it seems) can be viewed in the fashion of the common law. A common law judge has the relevant normative power -- his decision is the law, as long as it recognizes the force of the precedents, and recognizes that later decisions may change matters.

But there seems to be a crucial disanalogy between a MR community and the common law. The MR community seems centerless, no one is in the unique position to decide for all. In the Author--commentator -- model, the author is in a position to decide. So we may slide back to a picture, where everyone has a tradition of its own, with normative powers to make fresh commitments and incorporate those made by ones one recognizes. Or then, there are genuine collective commitments, but it is unclear what Brandom would think these are. Is the picture that of what is generally accepted in a community, and everyone's practices partake in sustaining or changing the generalization? Or is the community explicitly a locus of commitments itself (like in theories of, say, Margaret Gilbert or Raimo Tuomela)? The MR model of normativity and community should answer these and similar questions.

It is especially important to get a definite answer to these questions if one, like Brandom, thinks that representational purport, intentionality and selfhood are at stake. Brandom sides with Hegel and Quine (against Carnap and Kant) in holding that conceptual contents are linked with normativity, which in turn is linked with sociality, with mutual recognition. Without recognition, it seems, one's thoughts would have no content. What kind of recognition by whom, and recognition as what (as a rational agent? As committed to a particular view, whose meaning is co--determined by others?) is constitutive of what (one's status as a rational agent? One's being a member of some particular community? One's being committed to a view? One's being entitled to a view? The contents of the view?). In this text, Brandom does not provide answers to these questions, but having said that, it's good to remember that he has discussed many of these issues elsewhere.

Brandom is one of the great, original thinkers of our era, and this book is vintage Brandom. Especially the Woodbridge lectures provide an accessible developmental account of the Brandomian problems in Kant and Hegel. Many detailed questions may remain without answers, but I'm happy to be able to say that in this book, Brandom demonstrates how some central ideas of the idealism of Kant and Hegel have retained their power to animate receptive and imaginative philosophical minds even today.


© 2010 Arto Laitinen


Arto Laitinen, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies


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