Archives For John Williams

Author Information: John Williams, Singapore Management University, johnwilliams@smu.edu.sg

Williams, John. “True Succession and Inheritance of Traditions: Looking Back on the Debate.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 9 (2014): 15-29.

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Introduction

Starting with my (1988) and largely continued by David Ruben’s instructive (2013a), a lively debate has occurred over how one is to analyze the concepts of true succession and membership of a tradition in order to identify the source of the intractability typically found in disputes in which two groups each claim that it, but not its rival, is in the tradition of some earlier group.

This debate was initially between myself (2013a, 2013b) and Ruben (2013b, 2013c) but later involved Samuel Lebens (2013a, 2013b), Jonathan Payton (2013a, 2013b), Martin Beckstein (2014a, 2014b) and Ruben (2013d, 2014a, 2014b). The time seems ripe to summarize the main lines of the debate to try to draw some lessons from it as we go along and then indicate possible further lines of inquiry.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: David-Hillel Ruben, University of London, Emeritus, david.ruben1@yahoo.co.uk

Ruben, David-Hillel. “Internal and External Perspectives: Reply to Beckstein ” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 3 (2014): 55-56.

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I want to pick up on a perspective at the end of Martin Beckstein’s contribution, and (I now see) one that Beckstein continues from Samuel Lebens earlier contributions, that I had missed entirely.

My original article was written entirely from an external, ‘objective’ perspective as if by someone outside the dispute about the continuity of a tradition over time. I offered criteria that can be applied by an outsider to ‘judge’ which if either party has a better claim to membership in a tradition. Continue Reading…

Author Information:Martin Beckstein, University of Zurich, martin.beckstein@philos.uzh.ch

Beckstein, Martin. “Traditions and True Successors: A Few Pragmatic Considerations” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 3 (2014): 30-36.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1jo

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Building upon previous work by John Williams, David-Hillel Ruben has launched an exciting discussion about traditions and true successors that Williams and Ruben themselves, as well as Samuel Lebens and Jonathan Payton, have taken several steps further. In particular, I consider Payton’s proposal for the concept of inheritance of a tradition through a causal-similarity chain convincing (Payton 2013a, 43, “Inheritance*”). While I also concur with Payton in regard to his proposed modifications of Ruben’s initial concept of true succession (Payton 2013a, 41, “Successor*”), I suggest that some further modifications be made. These modifications include, on the one hand, that we incorporate a causal connection into the concept of true successorhood and, on the other hand, that we exclude the possibility that a true successor may develop a retrograde or degenerate version of the predecessor’s cultural heritage. Moreover, I propose to make a small change in the wording, in order to make the concept slightly more flexible and perhaps accommodate to some extent a point made by Lebens. (This change in the wording should, analogically and for the same reasons, be made with regard to the concept of inheritance of a tradition.)  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Jonathan Payton, University of Toronto, jonathan.payton@mail.utoronto.ca

Payton, Jonathan. 2013. “Ruben’s account of traditions and true successors: Two modifications and an extension.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (11): 40-46.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-14u

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In his “Traditions and True Successors,” David-Hillel Ruben offers the following analysis of what it is for Y to be the true successor of X:

Successor: Y is a true successor of X if and only if (i) Y is a temporal successor of X and (ii) the beliefs and practices of Y are qualitatively similar, to a very high degree, to those of X. (2013, 43)

This analysis gets built into an analysis of what it is for Y to inherit a tradition which X either originates or belongs to:

Inheritance: Y is an inheritor of X’s tradition iff (i) Y is a true successor of X, and (iii) Y develops SY because X develops SX, where ‘because’ signals causal influence. (ibid. 41)

In this discussion I urge two modifications to Ruben’s view: one to Successor, and one to Inheritance. With the modified view in place, I then suggest how it could be extended to encompass the account offered by Samuel Lebens in his “True Successors and Counterfactual Approval.” Continue Reading…

Author Information: Samuel Lebens, University of Notre Dame, samuel_lebens@hotmail.com

Lebens, Samuel. 2013. “True Successors and Counterfactual Approval.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (10): 26-31.

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David-Hillel Ruben and John Williams have treated us to a fascinating discussion about the nature of true-succession, faithful-succession, intellectual traditions, and traditions of practice. In these comments, I want to focus on two related aspects of their ongoing discussion, in the hope of forging either (a) a new approach to identity-conditions of a tradition over time, or, at least, (b) a new disambiguation of the term ‘tradition’.

Direction

One issue that has divided the two thinkers can be called the ‘direction debate’. Williams (1988, 161) had once argued that one of the criteria for being a true-successor of a past individual (or, we can widen it to being a true-successor of a past group or community) would have to be forward-looking, from the perspective of the predecessor. The criterion in question (which I paraphrase in my own words) was this:

FORWARD-LOOKING CRITERION: An individual (or group) B is a true successor of an individual (or group) A iff A would, all things being equal, have developed more or less the same central ideas (or practices) as those actually developed by B. Continue Reading…

Author Information: David-Hillel Ruben, University of London, Emeritus, david.ruben1@yahoo.co.uk

Ruben, David-Hillel. 2013. “Reply to Williams’ Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (10): 21-22.

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I wish to thank John Williams again for his careful and insightful response to my earlier reply. I discern three issues from his response that I would like to address.

Issue 1

The analysis of the concept of true succession. On this, I think that Williams is partly right and partly wrong. I think we need two concepts:

(a) One on which a later group or individual merely holds similar and consistent beliefs with an earlier one, and;
(b) Another on which the latter group is additionally influenced by the earlier.

I am not overly concerned about the names we give those two concepts.  I called (a) true succession. But I think that Williams is right in contending that my use of faithful succession as a synonym for true succession might be misleading. Continue Reading…

Author Information: John Williams, Singapore Management University, johnwilliams@smu.edu.sg

Williams, John. 2013. “Further Reflection on True Successors and Traditions.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (9) 12-16.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-Ww

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In his “Reply to Williams” (2013), a response to my “David-Hillel Ruben’s ‘Traditions and True Successors’: A Critical Reply.” (2013), David Ruben reports that there is much that we disagree about concerning the nature of true succession. I am not entirely persuaded by what he says of these disagreements.

I claimed that in some sense a true successor must be influenced by her predecessor (Williams 2013, 42) and I proposed an analysis of true succession, namely that

An individual B is a true intellectual successor of an individual A if and only if

B’s central ideas were developed after those of A and the central ideas of B are largely consistent with those of A, largely similar to them, yet a valuable advancement over them, because they were influenced by them (Williams 2013, 44). Continue Reading…

Author Information: David-Hillel Ruben, University of London, Emeritus, david.ruben1@yahoo.co.uk

Ruben, David-Hillel. 2013. “Reply to Williams.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (8): 8-9.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-Ri

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I hope it is clear from my paper (2013) the respect in which I hold Williams’ original paper (“Confucius, Mencius and the notion of true succession”, 1988). He was a pioneer, in my view, in addressing the questions I address. It was his paper that first got me to think about these issues in a philosophical way. If there were anything I could see that he didn’t see, it would only be because I am standing on his shoulders. Continue Reading…

Author Information: John Williams, Singapore Management University, johnwilliams@smu.edu.sg

Williams, John. 2013. “David-Hillel Ruben’s ‘Traditions and True Successors’: A Critical Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (7): 40-45.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-Px

Please refer to: Ruben, David-Hillel. 2013. “Traditions and true successors.” Social Epistemology 27 (1): 32-46.

Editor’s Note: Originally posted on 21 June 2013, this article was revised substantively on 22 June 2013.

In 1988 I became interested in the relationship between the ideas of Confucius and those of Mencius. I noticed that what appeared in one form or other in discussions of this relationship was the unelucidated notion of ‘true succession’.[1]

The relation has some interesting features. Nietzsche probably had no true successor and Wittgenstein was not his own true successor. Although Marx was a true successor of Hegel and Lenin was a true successor of Marx, Lenin was not a true successor of Hegel. Thus true succession is not transitive. Zeno was a true successor of Pythagoras, but so too was Parmenides. Thus true succession is a one-to-many relation. Continue Reading…