What if your brain could talk to you? ’That’s a silly question’, I hear you say, ‘My brain already talks to me.’
To the best of our current knowledge, the mind is the brain, and the mind is always talking. …
Creativity is the production of things that are novel and valuable (whether physical artefacts, actions, or ideas). Humans are unique in the extent of their creativity, which plays a central role in innovation and problem solving, as well as in the arts. But what are the cognitive sources of novelty? More particularly, what are the cognitive sources of stochasticity in creative production? I will argue that they belong to two broad categories. One is associative, enabling the selection of goal-relevant ideas that have become activated by happenstance in an unrelated context. The other relies on selection processes that leverage stochastic fluctuations in neural activity. While the components appealed to in these accounts are well established, the ways in which I combine them together are new.
The idea of justice occupies centre stage both in ethics, and in
legal and political philosophy. We apply it to individual
actions, to laws, and to public policies, and we think in each case
that if they are unjust this is a strong, maybe even conclusive, reason
to reject them. Classically, justice was counted as one of the
four cardinal virtues (and sometimes as the most important of the
four); in modern times John Rawls famously described it as ‘the
first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971, p.3; Rawls,
1999, p.3). We might debate which of these realms of practical
philosophy has first claim on justice: is it first and foremost a
property of the law, for example, and only derivatively a property of
individuals and other institutions?
Loop quantum gravity has formalized a robust scheme in resolving classical singularities in a variety of symmetry-reduced models of gravity. In this essay, we demonstrate that the same quantum correction which is crucial for singularity resolution is also responsible for the phenomenon of signature change in these models, whereby one effectively transitions from a ‘fuzzy’ Euclidean space to a Lorentzian space-time in deep quantum regimes. As long as one uses a quantization scheme which respects covariance, holonomy corrections from loop quantum gravity generically leads to non-singular signature change, thereby giving an emergent notion of time in the theory. Robustness of this mechanism is established by comparison across large class of midisuperspace models and allowing for diverse quantization ambiguities. Conceptual and mathematical consequences of such an underlying quantum-deformed space-time are briefly discussed.
Harvey Brown’s Physical Relativity defends a view, the dynamical perspective, on the nature of spacetime that goes beyond the familiar dichotomy of substantivalist/relationist views. A full defense of this view requires attention to the way that our use of spacetime concepts connect with the physical world. Reflection on such matters, I argue, reveals that the dynamical perspective affords the only possible view about the ontological status of spacetime, in that putative rivals fail to express anything, either true or false. I conclude with remarks aimed at clarifying what is and isn’t in dispute with regards to the explanatory priority of spacetime and dynamics, at countering an objection raised by John Norton to views of this sort, and at clarifying the relation between background and effective spacetime structure.
One of the problems for the traditional ‘Rationalists and Empiricists’ story of early modern philosophy is that it is surprisingly difficult to define ‘rationalism’ and ’empiricism’ appropriately (see here for a previous discussion). …
Sometimes theists are accused of anthropomorphism in their concept of God. But it is important to note that theists hold that God is the entity least like humans. Rocks are closer to us in intellectual capacity than God is. …
I think one of the most powerful objections to divine command theory is MacIntyre’s question as to which divine attributes make it be the case that the obligatory is what God commands. It’s not God’s creating us: for imagine a naturalistic universe where a crazy scientist creates people—surely the crazy scientist’s commands do not constitute obligations. …
I argue that Emilie du Châtelet’s metaphysics of corporeal substance in the 1740s was a species of realism. This result challenges the ruling consensus, which takes her to have been decisively influenced by Leibniz, an idealist. In addition, I argue that du Châtelet’s ontology of body is a mixture of realism and idealism, likewise non-Leibnizian. This too questions the scholarly consensus; and opens the way for a long due and careful reassessment of her overall doctrine. I suggest that her view is best understood as dualism, a two-substance metaphysics that puts du Châtelet relatively close to Christian Wolff.
In his paper, ‘Regarding the ‘Hole Argument”, Weatherall suggests that models of general relativity related by a hole diffeomorphism must be regarded as being physically equivalent. At a later stage in the paper, however, he also argues that there is a sense in which two such models may be regarded as being empirically distinct—a fortiori physically distinct. We attempt to delineate the logic behind these two prima facie contradictory claims. We argue that the latter sense rests upon a misunderstanding of the import of shift arguments in the foundations of spacetime theories.
Jonathan Greig (LMU Munich) posted the picture above to Twitter the other day, crediting Laura Castelli with finding it. It’s from a 14th Century illuminated manuscript by Thomas Le Myésier, Breviculum ex artibus Raimundi Lulli electum, and depicts Aristotle, Averroes, and Ramon Llull leading an army charging the Tower of Falsehood. …
One of the key ideas in my new book The Philosophical Parent is that we see children as self-like because they "come from us"—in one of several senses. I can't state this as any kind of a universal truth, but it tends to be true, and I think it's with good reason that we see children this way. …
According to Michael Friedman’s theory of explanation, a law X explains laws Y1 2, ... , Yn precisely when X unifies the Y’s, where unification is understood in terms of reducing the number of independently acceptable laws. Philip Kitcher criticized Friedman’s theory but did not analyze the concept of independent acceptability. Here we show that Kitcher’s objection can be met by modifying an element in Friedman’s account. In addition, we argue that there are serious objections to the use that Friedman makes of the concept of independent acceptability.
It’s often unclear what we ought to do. Much of the time this is because it’s unclear what ma%ers. Suppose, for instance, that we’re poultry farmers wondering whether we ought to put our chickens in cages or let them roam free. We know that we’ll make more profit if we put them in cages but also that they’ll suffer more if we do. Still, if we want to know what we ought to do, we need to know whether minimizing the suffering of our chickens is something that ma%ers, and, if so, how much it ma%ers in comparison to our maximizing profits.
There are good reasons to believe that the classical structure of space-time, as it appears in general relativity, breaks down at small length scales of the order of the Planck scale . This poses a problem in particular for any theory of quantum gravity, which should extend to such short length scales. Assuming that the classical concept of space-time (described as a manifold) is no longer viable as a fundamental concept in such a theory, one needs to explain how it emerges as an approximate concept in the appropriate (long distance) limit.
This paper attempts to reconcile critics and defenders of inclusive fitness by constructing a synthesis that does justice to the insights of both. I argue that criticisms of the regression-based version of Hamilton’s rule, although they undermine its use for predictive purposes, do not undermine its use as an organizing framework for social evolution research. I argue that the assumptions underlying the concept of inclusive fitness, conceived as a causal property of an individual organism, are unlikely to be exactly true in real populations, but they are approximately true given a specific type of weak selection that Hamilton took, on independent grounds, to be responsible for the cumulative assembly of complex adaptation. Finally, I reflect on the uses and limitations of “design thinking” in social evolution research.
In a series of recent papers, two of which appeared in this journal, a group of philosophers, physicists, and climate scientists have argued that something they call the ‘hawkmoth effect’ poses insurmountable difficulties for those who would use nonlinear models, including climate simulation models, to make quantitative predictions or to produce ‘decision-relevant probabilites.’ Such a claim, if it were true, would undermine much of climate science, among other things. Here, we examine the two lines of argument the group has used to support their claims. The first comes from a set of results in dynamical systems theory associated with the concept of ‘structural stability.’ The second relies on a mathematical demonstration of their own, using the logistic equation, that they present using a hypothetical scenario involving two apprentices of Laplace’s omniscient demon. We prove two theorems that are relevant to their claims, and conclude that both of these lines of argument fail. There is nothing out there that comes close to matching the characteristics this group attributes to the ‘hawkmoth effect.’
A fellow philosopher just sent me this very interesting quote from an article in a reputable medical journal:
[I]f it was conclusively shown that the sole or principal mode of action [of the IUD] was to prevent the embryo from implanting, then this method, as in the case with emergency contraception, would be considered by the Roman Catholic church as causing an early abortion. …
Suppose that a contraceptive has the following properties:
Fewer than 1% of users have a pregnancy annually. At least 5% of users annually experience a cycle where the contraceptive fails to prevent fertilization but does prevent implantation. …
A counterpossible conditional is a counterfactual with an impossible antecedent. Common sense delivers the view that some such conditionals are true, and some are false. In recent publications, Timothy Williamson has defended the view that all are true. In this paper we defend the common sense view against Williamson’s objections.
On a very intuitive way of thinking, if it is already determined that some event will happen, then there is no non-trivial chance (no chance between 0 and 1) of it failing to happen, and if it is already determined that some event will not happen, then there is no non-trivial chance of it happening. On this way of thinking, it does not make sense to claim both that it is already determined that Always Dreaming will win this year’s Kentucky Derby and that the chance of Classic Empire winning instead is 1/2.
When deciding how ‘death’ should be defined, it is helpful to consider cases in which vital functions are restored to an organism long after those vital functions have ceased. Here I consider whether such restoration cases can be used to refute termination theses. Focusing largely on the termination thesis applied to human animals (the view that when human animals die they cease to exist), I develop a line of argument from the possibility of human restoration to the conclusion that in many actual cases, human animals continue to exist after they die. The line of reasoning developed here can be extended to show that other organisms survive death in many actual cases. This line of reasoning improves on other arguments that have been offered against termination theses. And if my argument regarding human animals surviving death is successful, then assuming that human persons are animals, we can also conclude that human persons in many actual cases continue to exist after death.
Wiggins’ (2012) argument against propositional accounts of knowing how is based on a development of some considerations taken from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle argued that the knowledge needed for participation in an ethos cannot be codified in propositional form so as to let it be imparted to someone who did not already have it. This is because any putative codification would be incomplete, and require that knowledge in order to extend it to novel cases. On a reasonable interpretation of his argument, Wiggins claims that the same goes for practical knowledge in general, and that this shows that a propositional view of knowing how is incorrect. This paper shows that this argument is unsound.
Omnipotence is maximal power. Maximal greatness (or perfection)
includes omnipotence. According to traditional Western theism, God is
maximally great (or perfect), and therefore is omnipotent. Omnipotence
seems puzzling, even paradoxical, to many philosophers. They wonder,
for example, whether God can create a spherical cube, or make a stone
so massive that he cannot move it. Is there a consistent analysis of
omnipotence? What are the implications of such an analysis for the
nature of God?
Until fairly recently secession has been a neglected topic among
philosophers. Two factors may explain why philosophers have now begun
to turn their attention to secession. First, in the past two decades
there has been a great increase not only in the number of attempted
secessions, but also in successful secessions, and philosophers may
simply be reacting to this new reality, attempting to make normative
sense of it. The reasons for the frequency of attempts to secede are
complex, but there are two recent developments that make the prospect
of state-breaking more promising: improvement in national security and
liberalization of trade.
We reflect on the information paradigm in quantum and gravitational physics and on how it may assist us in approaching quantum gravity. We begin by arguing, using a reconstruction of its formalism, that quantum theory can be regarded as a universal framework governing an observer’s acquisition of information from physical systems taken as information carriers. We continue by observing that the structure of spacetime is encoded in the communication relations among observers and more generally the information flow in spacetime. Combining these insights with an information-theoretic Machian view, we argue that the quantum architecture of spacetime can operationally be viewed as a locally finite network of degrees of freedom exchanging information. An advantage – and simultaneous limitation – of an informational perspective is its quasi-universality, i.e. quasi-independence of the precise physical incarnation of the underlying degrees of freedom. This suggests to exploit these informational insights to develop a largely microphysics independent top-down approach to quantum gravity to complement extant bottom-up approaches by closing the scale gap between the unknown Planck scale physics and the familiar physics of quantum (field) theory and general relativity systematically from two sides. While some ideas have been pronounced before in similar guise and others are speculative, the way they are strung together and justified is new and supports approaches attempting to derive emergent spacetime structures from correlations of quantum degrees of freedom.
Are you a liberal, socialist or conservative? Are you fiscally conservative but socially liberal? Or socially conservative and fiscally liberal? Are you a classical liberal or a neo-liberal? Are you a Marxist socialist or a neo-Marxist socialist? …
1. Synthese recently published Pierre Wagner's article Carnapian and Tarskian Semantics, which outlines some important differences between semantics as Tarski conceived it (at least in the 1930s-40s) and as Carnap conceived it. …
According to the Fine-Tuning Argument (FTA), the existence of life in our universe confirms the Multiverse Hypothesis (HM). A standard objection to FTA is that it violates the Requirement of Total Evidence (RTE). I argue that RTE should be rejected in favor of the Predesignation Requirement, according to which, in assessing the outcome of a probabilistic process, we should only use evidence characterizable in a manner available prior to observing the outcome. This produces the right verdicts in some simple cases in which RTE leads us astray; and, when applied to FTA, it shows that our evidence does confirm HM.
Although the proper definition of ‘rape’ is itself a
matter of some dispute, rape is generally understood to involve sexual
penetration of a person by force and/or without that person's consent. Rape is committed overwhelmingly by men and boys, usually against
women and girls, and sometimes against other men and boys. (For the
most part, this entry will assume male perpetrators and female
victims.) Virtually all feminists agree that rape is a grave wrong, one too
often ignored, mischaracterized, and legitimized. Feminists differ,
however, about how the crime of rape is best understood, and about how
rape should be combated both legally and socially.