A young woman faces the decision of whether to marry a certain man whom she loves but who has deeply rooted, traditional ideas concerning marriage, family life, and the roles of men and women in each. A sober assessment of her future tell the woman that each of the two alternatives offers real but contrasting goods. One life offers the possibility of a greater degree of personal independence, the chance to pursue a career, perhaps more risk and adventure, while the other offers the rewards of parenting, stability, and a life together with a man whom, after all, she is in love with. In order to choose in a self-determined mode the woman must realize that the decision she faces involves more than the choice between two particular actions; it is also a choice between two distinct identities. In posing the questions Who am I? Which of the two lives is really me? she asks herself not a factual question about her identity but a fundamental practical question about the relative values of distinct and incommensurable goods. The point I take to be implicit in Tugendhat's (and Fichte's) view of the practical subject is that it would be mistaken to suppose that the woman had at her disposal an already established hierarchy of values that she must simply consult in order to decide whether to marry. Rather, her decision, if self-determined, must proceed from a ranking of values that emerges only in the process of reflecting upon the kind of person she wants to be.

~ Frederick Neuhouser

A system of justice does not need to pursue retribution. If the purpose of drug sentencing is to prevent harm, all we need to do is decide what to do with people who pose a genuine risk to society or cause tangible harm. There are perfectly rational ways of doing this; in fact, most societies already pursue such policies with respect to alcohol: we leave people free to drink and get inebriated, but set limits on where and when. In general, we prosecute drunk drivers, not inebriated pedestrians.In this sense, the justice system is in many respects a battleground between moral ideas and evidence concerning how to most effectively promote both individual and societal interests, liberty, health, happiness and wellbeing. Severely compromising this system, insofar as it serves to further these ideals, is our vacillation or obsession with moral responsibility, which is, in the broadest sense, an attempt to isolate the subjective element of human choice, an exercise that all too readily deteriorates into blaming and scapegoating without providing effective solutions to the actual problem. The problem with the question of moral responsibility is that it is inherently subjective and involves conjecture about an individuals’ state of mind, awareness and ability to act that can rarely if ever be proved. Thus it involves precisely the same type of conjecture that characterizes superstitious notions of possession and the influence of the devil and provides no effective means of managing conduct: the individual convicted for an offence or crime considered morally wrong is convicted based on a series of hypotheses and probabilities and not necessarily because he or she is actually morally wrong. The fairness and effectiveness of a system of justice based on such hypotheses is highly questionable particularly as a basis for preventing or reducing drug use related harm. For example, with respect to drugs, the system quite obviously fails as a deterrent and the system is not organised to ‘reform’ the offender much less to ensure that he or she has ‘learned a lesson’; moreover, the offender does not get an opportunity to make amends or even have a conversation with the alleged victim. In the case of retributive justice, the justice system is effectively mopping up after the fact. In other words, as far as deterrence is concerned, the entire exercise of justice becomes an exercise based on faith, rather than one based on evidence.

~ Daniel Waterman

Centuries of navel-gazing. Millennia of masturbation. Plato to Descartes to Dawkins to Rhanda. Souls and zombie agents and qualia. Kolmogorov complexity. Consciousness as Divine Spark. Consciousness as electromagnetic field. Consciousness as functional cluster.I explored it all.Wegner thought it was an executive summary. Penrose heard it in the singing of caged electrons. Nirretranders said it was a fraud; Kazim called it leakage from a parallel universe. Metzinger wouldn't even admit it existed. The AIs claimed to have worked it out, then announced they couldn't explain it to us. Gödel was right after all: no system can fully understand itself.Not even the synthesists had been able to rotate it down. The load-bearing beams just couldn't take the strain.All of them, I began to realize, had missed the point. All those theories, all those drugdreams and experiments and models trying to prove what consciousness was: none to explain what it was good for. None needed: obviously, consciousness makes us what we are. It lets us see the beauty and the ugliness. It elevates us into the exalted realm of the spiritual. Oh, a few outsiders—Dawkins, Keogh, the occasional writer of hackwork fiction who barely achieved obscurity—wondered briefly at the why of it: why not soft computers, and no more? Why should nonsentient systems be inherently inferior? But they never really raised their voices above the crowd. The value of what we are was too trivially self-evident to ever call into serious question.Yet the questions persisted, in the minds of the laureates, in the angst of every horny fifteen-year-old on the planet. Am I nothing but sparking chemistry? Am I a magnet in the ether? I am more than my eyes, my ears, my tongue; I am the little thing behind those things, the thing looking out from inside. But who looks out from its eyes? What does it reduce to? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?What a stupid fucking question. I could have answered it in a second, if Sarasti hadn't forced me to understand it first.

~ Peter Watts

In conscious life, we achieve some sense of ourselves as reasonably unified, coherent selves, and without this action would be impossible. But all this is merely at the ‘imaginary’ level of the ego, which is no more than the tip of the iceberg of the human subject known to psychoanalysis. The ego is function or effect of a subject which is always dispersed, never identical with itself, strung out along the chains of the discourses which constitute it. There is a radical split between these two levels of being — a gap most dramatically exemplified by the act of referring to myself in a sentence. When I say ‘Tomorrow I will mow the lawn,’ the ‘I’ which I pronounce is an immediately intelligible, fairly stable point of reference which belies the murky depths of the ‘I’ which does the pronouncing. The former ‘I’ is known to linguistic theory as the ‘subject of the enunciation’, the topic designated by my sentence; the latter ‘I’, the one who speaks the sentence, is the ‘subject of the enunciating’, the subject of the actual act of speaking. In the process of speaking and writing, these two ‘I’s’ seem to achieve a rough sort of unity; but this unity is of an imaginary kind. The ‘subject of the enunciating’, the actual speaking, writing human person, can never represent himself or herself fully in what is said: there is no sign which will, so to speak, sum up my entire being. I can only designate myself in language by a convenient pronoun. The pronoun ‘I’ stands in for the ever-elusive subject, which will always slip through the nets of any particular piece of language; and this is equivalent to saying that I cannot ‘mean’ and ‘be’ simultaneously. To make this point, Lacan boldly rewrites Descartes’s ‘I think, therefore I am’ as: ‘I am not where I think, and I think where I am not.

~ Terry Eagleton