Pardon the indulgence, but let me begin with some autobiography. When, in the summer of 2009, I first read the influential papers of Fine (2001) and Rosen (2010) on ground, my immediate impression was that they were onto something. The concept of ground they presented seemed intuitive and familiar, and at the same time useful in framing a number of philosophical debates. In particular, it struck me that some of the questions in metaphysics I was thinking about at the time were well articulated as questions about what grounds what, so I started thinking about them in those terms.
God is alive, angels are alive, people are alive, dogs are alive, worms are alive and trees are alive. What is it that makes them all be alive, while the Milky Way, the Sun, Etna, a car, a Roomba, and an electron are not? …
Deontology is true. A finite being could not have the kind of dignity that deontology ascribes to human beings. So, human beings are infinite. (1-2)
If human beings are infinite, they are infinite synchronically or diachronically. …
Since its introduction, multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA), or “neural decoding”, has 8 transformed the field of cognitive neuroscience. Underlying its influence is a crucial inference, 9 which we call the Decoder’s Dictum: if information can be decoded from patterns of neural activity, then this provides strong evidence about what information those patterns represent. Although the Dictum is a widely held and well-motivated principle in decoding research, it has received scant philosophical attention. We critically evaluate the Dictum, arguing that it is false: decodability is a poor guide for revealing the content of neural representations. However, we also suggest how the Dictum can be improved on, in order to better justify inferences about neural representation using MVPA.
Brian Loar  observed that communicative success with singular terms requires more than correct referent assignment. For communicative success to be achieved the audience must assign the right referent in the right way. Loar, and others since, took this to motivate Fregean accounts of the semantics of singular terms. Ray Buchanan  has recently responded, maintaining that although Loar is correct to claim that communicative success with singular terms requires more than correct referent assignment, this is compatible with direct reference approaches, as long as one also endorses independently motivated Gricean view of communicative intentions. This paper argues that Buchanan's Gricean view cannot account for the full range of Loar cases. In doing so it aims to explicate the structure of Loar's cases and thus clarify the conditions a theory must meet in order to adequately meet Loar's challenge.
According to their broadly Fregean, essentialist theory of concepts, the moral fixed points are conceptual truths in virtue of the semantic relation of satisfaction necessarily obtaining among the essences of the involved constituent concepts. That is, in the case of moral conceptual truths (i.e., “X is F”) the essence of the moral property the predicate F picks out necessarily satisfies the essence of the subject X and applies to its substantive content. It could not be the case, metaphysically speaking, that something is X but not F (i.e., torturing of kids for fun but not pro tanto wrong).
Yesterday Ryan Mandelbaum, at Gizmodo, posted a decidedly tongue-in-cheek piece about whether or not the universe is a computer simulation. (The piece was filed under the category “LOL.”)
The immediate impetus for Mandelbaum’s piece was an blog post by Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist who will likely be familiar to regulars here in the nerdosphere. …
Consider the crucible of character theodicy, that we are permitted by God to meet with great evils in order to form a character with virtues like courage and sacrificial love whose significant exercise requires significant evils. …
Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that the value of our most important activities depends on the Afterlife: the continued existence of the human species in future generations. The argument begins with a speculative psychological hypothesis: that we would lose interest in most things if we believed that our species was about to go extinct (e.g. through general infertility of the current generation). I argue that even if we accept this hypothesis, it wouldn't follow that the Afterlife is a condition for the value of our activities. For many of our most important activities, the imminent extinction of the species would not affect the properties that make them worth pursuing. I go on to propose an alternative way of thinking about Scheffler’s hypothesis, showing that it reflects psychic trauma on the part of those who are aware that they are the last generation of the species.
One of the many rich and interesting themes in Gary Watson’s very impressive body of philosophical work is the idea that moral responsibility involves a distinctive kind of interpersonal address. There is a characteristic practice of addressing moral standards to other agents that is associated with at least one prominent form of responsibility, and this practice can help us to understand both the nature of moral requirements and the conditions of responsible moral agency.
The View from Here looks at a range of retrospective attitudes that humans take toward things that have happened in the past. Some tendency to react emotionally toward past occurrences, I contend, is an ineluctable concomitant of investment in the ongoing world of value. Thus to value or cherish someone or something is, inter alia, to be disposed not only to anxiety when it is threatened and to satisfaction when it fares well, but also to sadness or distress when it is damaged or destroyed. The book focuses primarily on two extreme forms of retrospective attitude that stand in opposition to each other, which I call all-in regret and unconditional affirmation. I suggest that the second of these distinctive attitudes is characteristic of attachment: the kind of emotional investment in persons and projects that typically gives our lives meaning and personal significance. To be attached in this way is, I suggest, to be prone to affirming unconditionally both the objects of one’s attachments and the historical conditions of their existence, in ways that preclude all-in regret about those very things. The upshot is that we can be committed, in virtue of our attachments, to affirming past decisions that may have been unjustified at the time when they were taken, and even monstrous historical conditions that cannot possibly be thought to be worthy of being affirmed.
Kant famously claims that being is “obviously not a real predicate” (KrV, A 598/B 626) , i.e. a determination or a property of a thing. As Frege similarly states that existence is not a first-level predicate of objects but a second-level predicate of concepts, it is not surprising that the two philosophers have been compared on this point. Indeed, Jonathan Bennett speaks of the “Kant-Frege view”, according to which Frege first gave solid logical foundations for Kant’s claim (Bennett 1974, 62–5, 231). To my mind, although there is some truth to the Kant-Frege view, there is a fundamental disparity between Kant’s and Frege’s conceptions of existence that far outweighs their similarities.
Common-sense morality includes various agent-centred constraints, including ones against killing unnecessarily and breaking a promise. However, it’s not always clear whether, had an agent φ-ed, she would have violated a constraint. And sometimes the reason for this is not that we lack knowledge of the relevant facts, but that there is no fact about whether her φ-ing would have constituted a constraint-violation. What, then, is a constraint-accepting theory (that is, a theory that includes such constraints) to say about whether it would have been permissible for her to have φ- ed? In this paper, I canvass various possible approaches to answering this question and argue that teleology offers the most plausible approach—teleology being the view that every act has its deontic status in virtue of how its outcome (or prospect) ranks relative to those of its alternatives. So although, until recently, it had been thought that only deontological theories can accommodate constraints, it turns out that teleological theories not only can accommodate constraints, but can do so more plausibly than deontological theories can.
This is a phenomenological description of what is happening when we experience the death of another that interprets surviving or living on after such death by employing the term event. This term of art from phenomenology and hermeneutics is used to describe a disruptive and transformative experience of singularity. I maintain that the death of the other is an experience of an event because such death is unpredictable or without a horizon of expectation, excessive or without any principle of sufficient reason, and transformative or a death of the world itself.
I am teaching Introduction to Neuroscience this spring semester and am using An Introduction to Brain and Behavior 5th edition by Kolb et al as the textbook (this is the book the biology program decided to adopt). …
Here is a simple argument against abortion:
(1) If an entity (X) has a right to life, it is, ceteris paribus, not permissible to terminate that entity’s existence. (2) The foetus has a right to life. …
The biological understanding of male and female is something like this. Some species reproduce sexually. Some species that reproduce sexually exhibit a consistent difference in size between the two gametes that come together in sexual reproduction. …
Brute weak necessities
Posted on Monday, 20 Mar 2017
The two-dimensionalist account of a posteriori (metaphysical)
necessity can be motivated by two observations. First, all good examples of a posteriori necessities follow a priori
from non-modal truths. …
In the last few posts (here and here), I've been exploring how we should extend the probabilistic aggregation method of linear pooling so that it applies to groups that contain incoherent individuals (which is, let's be honest, just about all groups). …
Does time pass? A-theorists say it does; B theorists disagree. However both sides of the debate generally agree that it at least appears to us as though time passes, with B theorists standardly taking the passage of time to be some kind of cognitive illusion. This paper rejects the idea that temporal passage forms part of our conscious representation of the world. I consider a range of explanatory strategies for the aspects of our temporal experience generally taken to be passage-like—which I term ‘temporal qualia’—, and defend a reductionist account, according to which our temporal qualia are nothing more than our generally veridical experience of change, motion, succession, and other such features of the world well studied by empirical psychology. As such, I argue that our experience of time is neither illusory nor corresponds to temporal passage, and show that reductionism about temporal qualia is both continuous with and well supported by empirical work on time perception.
Non-relativistic quantum mechanics is grounded on ‘classical’ (Newtonian) space and time (NST). The mathematical description of these concepts entails that any two spatially separated objects are necessarily different, which implies that they are discernible (in classical logic, identity is defined by means of indiscernibility) — we say that the space is T2, or "Hausdorff". But quantum systems, in the most interesting cases, sometimes need to be taken as indiscernible, so that there is no way to tell which system is which, and this holds even in the case of fermions. But in the NST setting, it seems that we can always give an identity to them, which seems to be contra the physical situation. In this paper we discuss this topic for a case study (that of two potentially infinite wells) and conclude that, taking into account the quantum case, that is, when physics enter the discussion, even NST cannot be used to say that the systems do have identity. Keywords: identity of quantum particles, spatial identity, space and time in quantum mechanics.
In 1919, Lukács posed the question, “What is orthodox Marxism?” Even for Lukács, there was an undertone of irony: if by orthodoxy we mean devoutness, then “the most appropriate answer [is] a pitying smile.” But Lukács also points out that the question can be understood and asked in such a way that it invites or even requires a different kind of answer. If we understand it as a question about quintessence, Lukács’ answer is as follows: The quintessence of Marxism does not reside in the results of Marx’s research or a “‘belief’ in one or another proposition,” nor in the “exegesis of a ‘holy book.’” Rather, “orthodoxy in matters of Marxism refers exclusively to method.” In this essay I want to reapply Lukács’ question to Critical Theory: What is orthodox Critical Theory? And I’d like to advocate an approach that could be called orthodox in three respects.
In philosophy of statistics, Deborah Mayo and Aris Spanos have championed the following epistemic principle, which applies to frequentist tests: Severity Principle (full). Data x (produced by process G) provides good evidence for hypothesis H (just) to the extent that test T severely passes H with x . (Mayo and Spanos 2011, pp.162). They have also devised a severity score that is meant to measure the strength of the evidence by quantifying the degree of severity with which H passes the test T (Mayo and Spanos 2006, 2011; Spanos 2013). That score is a real number defined on the interval [0,1]. In this paper, I put forward a paradoxical feature of the severity score as a measure of evidence. To do this, I create a scenario where a frequentist statistician S is interested in finding out if there is a difference between the means of two normally distributed random variables. The null hypothesis (H0) states that there is no difference between the two means.
The third essay in Idealism and Christian Theology is “Idealistic Panentheism: Reflections on Jonathan Edwards’s Account of the God-World Relation” by Jordan Wessling. The essay is avowedly not interpretive, but rather aims at an evaluation of a certain view in philosophical theology, dubbed ‘idealistic panentheism,’ which has been attributed to Edwards. …
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher and
cultural critic who published intensively in the 1870s and 1880s. He
is famous for uncompromising criticisms of traditional European
morality and religion, as well as of conventional philosophical ideas
and social and political pieties associated with modernity. Many of
these criticisms rely on psychological diagnoses that expose false
consciousness infecting people’s received ideas; for that
reason, he is often associated with a group of late modern thinkers
(including Marx and Freud) who advanced a “hermeneutics of
suspicion” against traditional values (see Foucault  1990,
Ricoeur  1970, Leiter 2004).
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late
19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and
traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of
individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity,
power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those
situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of
“life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of
all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially
prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first
existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard
(1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading
figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets,
novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and
Last week, I wrote about a problem that arises if you wish to aggregate the credal judgments of a group of agents when one or more of those agents has incoherent credences. I focussed on the case of two agents, Adila and Benoit, who have credence functions $c_A$ and $c_B$, respectively. …
Thomas Polger and Lawrence Shapiro, The Multiple Realization Book (OUP, 2016)
In The Multiple Realization Book we articulate an account of multiple realization that is based on the idea that the “job description” for multiple realization is to be incompatible with brain-based theories of the mind and therefore to strongly favor functionalist and other realization-based theories. …
Today’s Virtual Colloquium is “Global and Local Atheisms” by Jeanine Diller. Dr. Diller received her PhD from the University of Michigan and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Program on Religious Studies of the University of Toledo in Ohio. …
In our view, behavior is to be understood as influenced by a number of different control systems. We shall focus in particular on what we will call the habit system, the desire system, and the planning system. These three systems are of crucial importance for determining almost all of our choices, addictive and otherwise. It seems likely that the first two of these systems are shared with other animals, but that the planning system is peculiar to humans. By describing these three systems, we aim to provide a framework that will clarify the mechanisms of addiction and the loss of control they involve.