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.
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.
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). …
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. …
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.
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. …
Can we maintain that purple seems composed of red and blue without giving up the impenetrability of the red and blue parts that compose it? Brentano thinks we can. Purple, according to him, is a chessboard of red and blue tiles which, although individually too small to be perceived, are together indistinctly perceived within the purple. After a presentation of Brentano’s solution, we raise two objections to it. First, Brentano’s solution commits him to unperceivable intentional objects (the chessboard’s tiles). Second, his chessboard account fails in the end to explain the phenomenal spatial continuity of compound colours. We then sketch an alternative account, which, while holding fast to the phenomenal compoundedness of the purple and to the impenetrability of component colours, avoids introducing inaccessible intentional objects and compromising on the continuity of the purple. According to our proposal, instead of being indistinctly perceived spatial parts of the purple, red and blue are distinctly perceived non-spatial parts of it.
Thomas Polger and Lawrence Shapiro, The Multiple Realization Book (OUP, 2016)
In our first post we explained how we came to write The Multiple Realization Book, we articulated our general approach, and we set out our criteria for multiple realization. …
My paper Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments Against Physicalism, which was a product of the online consciousness conference, directly grew out of blog discussions I had around here shortly after I started this blog in May of 2007 (which, by the way, I just noticed, means that the 10 year anniversary of Philosophy Sucks! …
Thomas Polger and Lawrence Shapiro, The Multiple Realization Book (OUP, 2016)
First, we’d like to thank John Schwenkler for giving us the opportunity to talk about The Multiple Realization Book (OUP 2016) on Brains. …
A great strength of the analytic tradition in philosophy (I count myself among it) is its affiliation with the mathematical logic of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Gödel, and Tarski: all graduate students are forced to learn its basics, and soon come to discipline their thoughts to fit its structures. This makes for a lingua franca, an admirable prevailing level of clarity and rigor, and interdisciplinary permeability with cognate fields sharing this affiliation. These all contribute to the continuing growth and dynamism of the global analytic-philosophical research community, which shows no sign of losing steam. But mathematical logic is not theory-neutral. Its characteristic use of truth as the fundamental analysans for validity and entailment reflects its origins as a tool for representing the discourse of the natural sciences, which aim at the truth from ‘outside’ their subject-matter. And—though this would conflict with the ‘unity of science’ (Carnap 1928/1927, Oppenheim and Putnam 1958) characteristically embraced by the analytic tradition—perhaps the discourse of the ‘human’ sciences is fundamentally different.
It was, I think, till recently broadly assumed among working analytic metaphysicians that metaphysics, or at least that branch of it called ontology, is concerned with issues of existence, and that one’s known arguments that one can resist positing Meinongian unreal objects by accepting his theory of descriptions. However, it would be a mistake to read Russell as nothing more than a proto-Quinean. This will no doubt already be conceded for the period of Russell’s career in which he thought there were notions of “existence” not explicable by means of the existential quantifier, or embraced a distinction between existence and mere being or subsistence (e.g., PoM §427, Papers 4, 486–89, PP 100). However, in what follows I want to argue that this is true even for mature Russell, during the period (starting roughly 1913) in which he officially held the position that all existence claims are to be understood quantificationally. In particular, metaphysical position is more or less exhausted by one’s position on while mature Russell understood “Fs exist” as expressing p(∃v)Fvq, the question of what entities there are, or what entities exist. This he would not have taken the truth of this claim necessarily to set-likely stemmed from Quine’s well-known paper “On What There Is”, tle the metaphysical or ontological status of Fs. Russell had, run-views is determined by what things its quantifiers range over: “To be is to be the value of a variable,” as he succinctly put it (Quine 1948, 15). Of course, Quine’s views were never universal, but at least most ning alongside his account of existence, a conception of belonging to what is, as he variously put it, “ultimate,” “fundamental”, the “bricks of the universe”, the “furniture of the world”, something “really there”.
Alcmaeon of Croton was an early Greek medical writer and
philosopher-scientist. His exact date, his relationship to other early
Greek philosopher-scientists, and whether he was primarily a medical
writer/physician or a typical Presocratic cosmologist, are all matters
of controversy. He is likely to have written his book sometime between
500 and 450 BCE. The surviving fragments and testimonia focus
primarily on issues of physiology, psychology, and epistemology and
reveal Alcmaeon to be a thinker of considerable originality. He was
the first to identify the brain as the seat of understanding and to
distinguish understanding from perception.
While there is substantial agreement that these are among the central points Moore wanted to make in Principia Ethica, there is substantial disagreement about what Moore was thinking of when he spoke of the naturalistic fallacy. There is also substantial disagreement about whether his claims about the naturalistic fallacy – whatever it may be -- deserve to be taken seriously. Some praise Moore’s discussion extravagantly; others dismiss it as a contemptible mess. In spite of these significant differences of opinion, commentators agree that arguments concerning the naturalistic fallacy played a big role in 20th Century Anglophone moral philosophy.
We consider a natural-language sentence that cannot be formally represented in a first-order language for epistemic two-dimensional semantics. We also prove this claim in the appendix. It turns out, however, that the most natural ways to repair the expressive inadequacy of the first-order language render moot the original philosophical motivation of formalizing a priori knowability as necessity along the diagonal. In this paper we investigate some questions concerning the expressive power of a first-order modal language with two-dimensional operators. In particular, a language endowed with a two-dimensional semantics intended to provide a logical analysis of the discourse involving a priori knowledge. We consider a natural-language sentence that cannot be formally represented in such a language. This was firstly conjectured in Lampert (manuscript), but here we present a proof. It turns out, however, that the most natural ways to repair this expressive inadequacy render moot the original philosophical motivation of formalizing a priori knowability as necessity along the diagonal.
Conceiving of fictional characters as types allows us to reconcile intuitions of sameness and difference about characters such as Batman that appear in different fictional worlds. Sameness occurs at the type level while difference occurs at the token level. Yet, the claim that fictional characters are types raises three main issues. Firstly, types seem to be eternal forms whereas fictional characters seem to be the outcome of a process of creation. Secondly, the tokens of a type are concrete particulars in the actual world whereas the alleged tokens of a fictional character are concrete particulars in a fictional world. Thirdly, many fictional characters, unlike Batman, only appear in one work of fiction, and therefore one can wonder whether it does make sense to treat them as types. The main aim of this paper is to address these issues in order to defend a creationist account of fictional characters as types.
In a short unpublished note, Gödel once remarked: [A]t least intuitively, if you divide a geometrical line at a point, you would expect that the two halves of the line would be mirror images of each other. Yet, this is not the case if the geometrical line is isomorphic to the real numbers. ([18, p. 3]) Because a division is exhaustive the ‘center’ point must fall either in the left half or in the right. And because a division is exclusive this point cannot be in both halves, leaving one half open in that it does not contain its boundary, and the other side closed in that it contains its boundary. How strange. Which side is the lucky one? Which side gets to have its own boundary as a part? Any attempt to answer would surely be arbitrary. That is, we feel an intuitive pull toward a certain kind of symmetry: if there is no principled difference between two objects, then there is no principled difference between their boundaries, either. When one object is open and another is closed, there should be some reason as to why. What is strange is not merely that it is possible to divide a line in such an asymmetric way, but rather that it is impossible to do so symmetrically.
Perichoresis — sometimes translated ‘co-inherence’ or ‘mutual indwelling’ — is an important concept in Christian theology, central to many historical and contemporary understandings of the doctrine of the Trinity. The persons of the Trinity are said to indwell one another, and this indwelling constitutes an intimate relationship between them. Perichoresis is used in different theological frameworks to ground various other aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity, such as the unity or oneness of the Trinity or the communication of attributes between the divine persons. This notion of interpenetration or mutual indwelling can seem confusing or even perhaps paradoxical, but I will suggest that a mereological understanding of this concept can serve to illuminate perichoresis. To be more precise: I argue that the relation of mutual parthood can provide a coherent model of mutual indwelling of the persons on the Trinity.
Grounding contingentism is the doctrine according to which grounds are not guaranteed to necessitate what they ground. In this paper I will argue that the most plausible version of contingentism (which I will label ‘serious contingentism’) is incompatible with the idea that the grounding relation is transitive, unless either ‘priority monism’ or ‘contrastivism’ are assumed.
Is part of a perfectly natural, or fundamental, relation? Philosophers have been hesitant to take a stand on this issue. One of reason for this hesitancy is the worry that, if parthood is perfectly natural, then the perfectly natural properties and relations are not suitably “independent” of one another. (Roughly, the perfectly natural properties are not suitably independent if there are necessary connections among them.) In this paper, I argue that parthood is a perfectly natural relation. In so doing, I argue that this “independence” worry is unfounded. I conclude by noting some consequences of the naturalness of parthood.
Marsilius of Inghen, master at the Universities of Paris (1362–1378)
and Heidelberg (1386–1396), wrote a number of treatises on logic,
natural philosophy and theology popular at many late medieval and
early modern universities. He adopted the logico-semantic approach of
William of Ockham and John Buridan while at the same time defending
the traditional views of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure. His thinking
sheds light on the discussion between nominalists and realists and
allows insight into the changing interests of philosophy and theology,
from the critical attitude of many fourteenth-century authors to the
search for tradition which was characteristic of the fifteenth
The account of experience sketched below is one to which I was led by a reflection on empirical thinking and, more specifically, on empirical reasoning and empirical dialectic. Sometimes when we reason—for example, when we are proving an arithmetical claim—our reasoning is independent of the experiences we undergo as we reason. The contents of our claims as well as the legitimacy of our inferential moves—including the introduction of new terms through definitions—do not depend on our concurrent experiences. They do not depend on things we happen to be seeing or hearing or touching or tasting or smelling as we reason. At other times, this is not so: our reasonings at these times do depend on the experiences we undergo as we reason. For example, the content and legitimacy of a claim we make during a stretch of reasoning can depend on our tactile experiences as we make that claim (e.g., the claim “this ball is hot” made of a ball one is holding). For another example, the legitimacy of a term we introduce through an ostensive definition (e.g., “call that color ‘yellow’”) can depend on our visual experience when we issue the definition. It is thus plain that our reasonings do sometimes depend on our experiences. It is not plain, however, what the character of this dependence is. Indeed, the character of the dependence has often been grossly misconceived, with detrimental consequences for our conception of empirical rationality and, especially, theoretical empirical reason. The account of experience sketched below appealed to me because it helps make sense of empirical reasoning and it illuminates thereby empirical rationality and the workings of theoretical empirical reason.
via Google Scholar I became aware of a forthcoming paper in Philosophical Studies by Sascha Benjamin Fink on Phenomenal Imagery, Introspection, and Indeterminacy. The paper is interesting and addresses issues raised in my Myth of Phenomenological Overflow paper so I thought I would jot down some thoughts in response. …
What are we? The question has many answers. Some are evident and undisputed: we are people; we are subjects of consciousness; we are human beings (and not Martian foundlings). Others are subject to debate: we are creatures made in God’s image; we are products of evolution by natural selection; we are material things, made up entirely of chemical atoms. One such disputed answer is that we are biological organisms. We are material things of a specific sort: animals of the primate species Homo sapiens. This is the view known as animalism. Before discussing why it is disputed and whether it’s true, I want to distinguish it from some similar-sounding claims.
Derek Parfit’s argument against the platitude that identity is what matters in survival does not work given his intended reading of the platitude, namely, that what matters in survival to some future time is being identical with someone who is alive at that time. I develop Parfit’s argument so that it works against the platitude on the intended reading.
First, [Brown] cites my 1990 discussion piece “How Cartesian dualism might have been true”, in which I argued that creatures who live in simulated environments with separated simulated cognitive processes would endorse Cartesian dualism. …
This week’s Virtual Colloquium paper is “How to be a Rational Foundationalist” by Chad McIntosh. McIntosh is a PhD student at Cornell writing a dissertation entitled Rational Foundationalism. His work has appeared in Religious Studies and Res Cogitans. …
By “paradox” one usually means a statement claiming
something which goes beyond (or even against) ‘common
opinion’ (what is usually believed or held). Paradoxes form a
natural object of philosophical investigation ever since the origins
of rational thought; they have been invented as part of complex
arguments and as tools for refuting philosophical theses (think of the
celebrated paradoxes credited to Zeno of Elea, concerning motion, the
continuum, the opposition between unity and plurality, or of the
arguments entangling the notions of truth and vagueness, credited to
the Megarian School, and Eubulides of Miletus).