A provocative account of the creation of human meaning in history


Human Transactions

The Emergence of Meaning In Time

Gary H. Stahl

cloth EAN: 978-1-56639-287-7 (ISBN: 1-56639-287-X)
$89.50, Feb 95, Available
232 pp 6x9

"This is an original and provocative work that asserts—and arguably demonstrates—the conjunction between ethics and metaphysics. Stahl writes in an authentic and distinctive voice; he not only presents arguments—it is clear that he also believes them. The point he stresses repeatedly is not a version of 'compatibilism' between science and ethics, between the material and moral worlds—but the necessity of the relation between them (and so also, of course, of its possibility). This is an important thesis from which both moral philosophers and researchers in the sciences can learn. Stahl calls attention to significant issues in ethics and in the relation between ethics and epistemology—and does this in a way that is at once challenging and evocative. This is a valuable addition to the literature."
Berel Lang, State University of New York at Albany

Given the evolutionary and developmental processes that form a human being, can we plausibly believe that people can make rational and autonomous choices about their lives? How can such choices be non-arbitrary and compelling if there are no norms outside the historical process against which they can be judged? And if that historical process is simply an accidental episode in an indifferent universe, what sorts of meanings can individual lives and choices have?

These are the questions that Gary H. Stahl addresses in this original and provocative work. Drawing on arguments from biology and psychology as well as from the history of philosophy, Stahl examines the naturalistic meaning that can be assigned to moral agency, choice, and responsibility, in order to assert the conjunction between ethics and metaphysics. His focus is the process within which the self and the other, defined in terms of each other, emerge within evolution and development so as to generate an irreducible level of meaning.


Introduction: The Tree Original Questions

1. On Not Reducing Agents to Organisms
People and Process • Levels of Process • The Emergence of Persons within Process • Methodological Problems and Prospects

2. Biological and Ethical Processes
Health at Different Levels of Process • "Health" and "Disease" as Integrative Concepts • Morality as an Ordering Principle • Health and Morality as Levels of Integration • Emergent Levels of Space and Time • Replies to Some Criticisms • Implications of the Bioethical Parallels

3. The Exemplary Status of Moral Acts
Meaning in History • History and Evolution as Limits to Moral Meaning • Acts in Moral Space and Time • Moral Judgment as Both Reflective and Determinant • Transition to the Issues of History

4. W.W. Miller and the Midworld of Action
Miller's Role in the Discussion • Miller's Basic Philosophic Stance • The Finite Act as Constitutional • The Role of "Functional Objects" • Transition Back to the Original Questions

5. The Constitutional Status of the Three Original Questions
The Status of the Original Questions • The Questions as Representing the Dialectic of Process • Reformulations of Question 1 • Reformulations of Question 2 • Reformulations of Question 3 • Transition to Issues of Methodology

6. Self and the Focus of Significance
The Status of Inquiry in The Developmental Sciences • Organism and Environment Can Be Treated as Separate Entities • Similar Outcomes Are the Result of Similar Processes • Science Is Value Free • The Concept of "Locus of Significance" • Transition to Issues of Development

7. Meaning as the Order of Processes
The Continuity of Developmental Processes • Deprivation Experiments, Both Biological and Moral • The Inseparability of Subject and Object • The Drive toward Reductionism • Irreducible Outcome in Development • Taking the Outcome as the Locus of Significance

8. Albert Hofstadter and the Dialectic of Process
The Next Steps of the Argument • The Historical Dialectic of Aesthetic Theory • The Level of Truth of Statement • The Level of Truth of Things • The Level of Truth of Spirit • The Relations between the Three Modes of Truth • Relationships between the Levels of Ownness • The Interpenetration of the Three Modes of Truth • The Demand for Ownness with All That Is

9. Human Transactions as the Locus of Significance
What Remains to Be Done • Necessity Is in the Conditions of Process • Returning to Socrates' Question • The Problem of the Regress—One More Time • Dissolving the Problem of Schematism • The Emergence of Meaning in Time



About the Author(s)

Gary H. Stahl is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

In memoriam: "A full life is constituted by the history of its relations to others, and a full death must include these. We are dealing here with solidarity and unique relations among people, not with death that enforces a solitude apart from them."
—Gary H. Stahl (1932-1998)

Subject Categories

Philosophy and Ethics


© 2015 Temple University. All Rights Reserved. This page: http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/743_reg.html.