Archive for the ‘Indirect Responses’ Category



Think you’re open-minded? This interesting discussion of open-mindedness, the burden of proof and supernatural beliefs might interest you… Advertisements

This review essay of two recent books provides a useful introduction to some of the philosophical problems surrounding the compatibility of religion and science.  Prof. Coyne thinks that religion and science can never really be made compatible – but is this right?  How might one form an ‘indirect’ response to this kind of  view? It […]

As mentioned in a previous lesson, Wittgenstein is noted for having developed two distinct philosophies. In the early work (like the Tractatus) Wittgenstein tried to spell out precisely what a logically constructed language can (and cannot) be used to say. Its seven basic propositions simply state that language, thought, and reality share a common structure, […]

You might find this 1970s programme about Wittgenstein useful. They don’t make them like this any more, but perhaps they should. You can find parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 on YouTube.



Another direct response to this form of skepticism is behaviourism, which in philosophy is associated with Skinner, Carnap and Ryle. In psychology, behaviourism is the view that all human activities (including inner mental life) are exhaustively described by accounts of behaviour. In philosophy of mind behaviourism is the thesis that when we refer to psychological […]

Like Heidegger, Wittgenstein wants to show that scepticism about the external world does not make sense. How does he go about this? It is important to note that Wittgenstein is unusual among philosophers in having presented two significantly different philosophies (referred to as ‘early’ (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the only book published in his lifetime) and ‘late’ […]

Heidegger was a student of Husserl, founder of phenomenology. Husserl was a ‘transcendental phenomenologist’ who thought that there was a direct correlation between our experiences and the world around us. As such, conscious experiences (phenomena) could provide a reliable basis for scientific knowledge. Unlike Heidegger, he retained the subject/object distinction and the transcendental ego.In his […]

Bertrand Russell was one of the most well-known of British philosophers of the 20th century.  Here’s what he had to say about Nietzsche in his History of Western Philosophy.

Nietzsche gives his account of the origins of our moral prejudices in Zur Genealogie der Moral (‘On the Genealogy of Morals’).  You can find the whole text online at:  

 You might be interested in this BBC documentary about Nietzsche…  You can see striking footage of Nietzsche on his death-bed on my other website at 

May I be forgiven the discovery that all moral philosophy hitherto has been boring – and that ‘virtue’ has in my eyes been harmed by nothing more than…by this boringness of its advocates; in saying which, however I should not want to overlook their general utility. It is important that as few people as possible […]

A word now against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defense. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the […]

The ‘eternal return’ is supposed to regulate how ‘life affirming’ or ‘life-denying’ an action or morality is. This is the classic formulation that Nietzsche offers: “The greatest weight.– What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live […]

“The mechanistic world is imagined only as sight and touch imagine a world (as “moved” ) –so as to be calculable– thus causal unities are invented, “things” (atoms) whose effect remains constant (–transference of the false concept of subject to the concept of the atom)… If we eliminate these additions, no things remain but only […]

Nietzsche began his career as a philologist (student of ancient text and languages) and developed an overriding interest in the Ancient Greeks, who he thought represented the peak of Western civilization before the onset of ‘slave’ or ‘herd’ morality which culminated in Christian, Utilitarian and Kantian systems of ethics (among others). Like Callicles, Nietzsche argued […]

Flew was well known for a work entitled ‘Theology and Falsification’ which has become something of required reading for atheists. Here’s a section which is reprinted in this anthology.Theology and FalsificationLet us begin with a parable. It is a parable developed from a tale told by John Wisdom in his haunting and revelatory article ‘Gods’. […]

“No! No one who was great in the world will be forgotten, but everyone was great in his own way, and everyone in proportion to the greatness of that which he loved. He who loved himself became great by virtue of himself, and he who loved other men became great by his devotedness, but he […]

A useful summary of this work by D. Anthony Storm can be found here.  Chapter 1 – the ‘Panegyric Upon Abraham’ is reproduced here.

Kierkegaard’s thought is characteristic of what we might term the ‘indirect response’ to scepticism. Kierkegaard was a Danish 19th Century philosopher, writer and theologian. His thought is difficult to engage with, partly because he was an unconventional writer who employed irony, contradiction and pseudonymous authorship because he did not want his though to be interpreted […]