The argument against mind-‐body identity theory in Naming and Necessity is directed against a theory advocated in Place (1956), Smart (1963), Lewis (1966), and Armstrong (1968). Their psycho-‐physical identity theory attempted to vindicate the reality of mental processes by identifying pains, sensations, and consciousness itself with brain states and processes. It arose in reaction to phenomenalism and behaviorism, the latter in both its scientific form, illustrated by B.F. Skinner, and its philosophical or “logical” form, illustrated by Gilbert Ryle. Early versions didn’t specify which brain states and processes were identical with pain states, sensation states, or consciousness. That was a job for neuroscientists. The philosophical job was to defeat conceptual objections to the possibility that any such identification could be correct and to articulate the explanatory advantages of incorporating the mental into physical science.
Vagueness and precision alike are characteristics which can only belong to a representation, of which language is an example. They have to do with the relation between a representation and that which it represents. Apart from representation…there can be no such thing as vagueness or precision… Moreover, David Lewis asserts: “The only intelligible account of vagueness locates it in our thought and language.” And most philosophers nowadays agree that all vagueness is a feature of representations, and, in particular, a feature of language or thought.
The notion of a singular proposition has a variety of important applications and connections. It is tied up with questions about actualism and haecceitism, presentism, quantification into attitude clauses, reference and rigidity, acquaintance, perception and hallucination, and of course singular (‘de re’) thought. The latter connections in particular suggest that singular propositions have a central role to play in epistemology and philosophy of mind; Tyler Burge (2007) has argued that de re thought is necessary for language learning, that having any justified empirical beliefs (and hence empirical knowledge) requires having de re thoughts, and that de re thoughts are a prerequisite for the possibility of any thought at all.
One of the central goals of Propositions is to argue that propositions exist. My plan for the following is to explore the options for Merricks’ opponents (let’s just call them ‘nominalists’). I’m not sure whether, in the end, they have any entirely satisfactory strategy, but the discussion will still be of some interest. At least I hope to achieve some clarification of the initial arguments of the book and to prompt Merricks to elaborate on a few issues. Before continuing, I should say that I found many other challenging arguments throughout the book as well as much to agree with. I focus on the first chapter due to its foundational status with respect to the rest of the book, but every chapter is well worth careful thought and discussion.
As its title indicates, this book is about two kinds of properties of perceiving subjects: their phenomenal properties, and their representational properties. In particular, it focuses on three questions: What are phenomenal properties? What are representational properties? What is the relationship between phenomenal and representational properties? My answers to these questions are guided by two ideas, which have both been around for a long time. The first is that experience is transparent, in the sense that attention to one’s perceptual experiences is, or is intimately involved with, attention to the objects and properties those experiences present as in one’s environment. Though the label is due to Moore, versions of this idea can be found in earlier philosophers as well, and it has played a central role in recent work in the philosophy of perception.
Aristotle’s logic, especially his theory of the syllogism, has
had an unparalleled influence on the history of Western thought. It
did not always hold this position: in the Hellenistic period, Stoic
logic, and in particular the work of Chrysippus, took pride of place. However, in later antiquity, following the work of Aristotelian
Commentators, Aristotle’s logic became dominant, and
Aristotelian logic was what was transmitted to the Arabic and the
Latin medieval traditions, while the works of Chrysippus have not
survived. This unique historical position has not always contributed to the
understanding of Aristotle’s logical works.
It is not news that we often make discoveries or find reasons for a mathematical proposition by thinking alone. But does any of this thinking count as conducting a thought experiment? The answer to that question is “yes”, but without refinement the question is uninteresting. Suppose you want to know whether the equation [ 8x + 12y = 6 ] has a solution in the integers. You might mentally substitute some integer values for the variables and calculate. In that case you would be mentally trying something out, experimenting with particular integer values, in order to test the hypothesis that the equation has no solution in the integers. Not getting a solution first time, you might repeat the thought experiment with different integer inputs.
Heaven is a place where at least some of us go after we die. There, it is said, we live forever in the immediate presence of God. During our natural lives, God remains distant: we cannot perceive him, or at least not in any obvious or direct way. Observant and intellectually honest people can be entirely unaware that there is any sort of divine being. But in Heaven it is no more possible to be unaware of the divine being than for someone walking in the Sahara desert on a summer’s day to be unaware of the sun. This eternal life in the presence of God is taken to be the best possible state for a human being, and attaining it is the chief goal of Muslims, Christians, and many other religious people.
Scientific disciplines frequently divide the particulars they study
into kinds and theorize about those kinds. To say that a kind
is natural is to say that it corresponds to a grouping that
reflects the structure of the natural world rather than the interests
and actions of human beings. We tend to assume that science is often
successful in revealing these kinds; it is a corollary of scientific
realism that when all goes well the classifications and taxonomies
employed by science correspond to the real kinds in nature. The
existence of these real and independent kinds of things is held to
justify our scientific inferences and practices.
Robert Holkot, OP (d. 1349) belonged to the first generation of
scholars to absorb and develop the views of William Ockham. He is
particularly known for his “covenantal theology” and his
views on human freedom within the framework of a divine command
ethics. He developed an original theology grounded in Ockham’s
logic and metaphysics, and his works were influential into the
In his discussion of the four causes, Aristotle claims that ‘the hypotheses are material causes of the conclusion’ (Physics 2.3, Metaphysics Δ 2). This claim has puzzled commentators since antiquity. It is usually taken to mean that the premises of any deduction are material causes of the conclusion. By contrast, I argue that the claim does not apply to deductions in general but only to scientific demonstrations. In Aristotle’s view, the theorems of a given science are composites composed of the indemonstrable premises from which they are demonstrated. Accordingly, these premises are elements, and hence material causes, of the theorems. Given this, Aristotle’s claim can be shown to be well-motivated and illuminating.
John Wyclif (ca. 1330–84) was one of the most important and
authoritative thinkers of the Middle Ages. His activity is set in the
very crucial period of late Scholasticism, when the new ideas and
doctrines there propounded accelerated the transition to the modern
way of thought. On the one hand, he led a movement of opposition to
the medieval Church and to some of its dogmas and institutions, and
was a forerunner of the Reformation; on the other, he was also the
most prominent English philosopher of the second half of the
14th century. His logical and ontological theories are, at
the same time, the final result of the preceding realistic tradition
of thought and the starting-point of the new forms of realism at the
end of the Middle Ages, since many authors active during the last
decades of the 14th and the first decades of the
15th centuries (Robert Alyngton, William Penbygull,
Johannes Sharpe, William Milverley, Roger Whelpdale, John Tarteys, and
Very often in philosophy and in every-day life we say things that we do not hold to be literally true. I have in mind here statements such as (i) "even God couldn’t know the extension of a vague predicate" and (ii) "she’s struggling with her own personal demons ". Statements such as (i) and (ii) do not commit the speaker to gods or demons. What is intended in each case is clear enough but were there any confusion, the speaker could make the non-commitment to gods and demons clearer by retracting any such apparent commitment.
Multiverse theories like David Lewis’s or Donald Turner’s populate reality with a multitude of universes containing strange things like unicorns and witches riding broomsticks. One might think that positing unicorns and witches makes a theory untenable, but the theorists try to do justice to common sense by saying that the unicorns and witches aren’t here. …
Chapter 8 of The Given discusses the topic of cognitive phenomenology. My view of the matter is simple: either accept cognitive phenomenology or deny that there is such a thing as conscious thought. How can you deny the existence of conscious thought?! …
In the final chapter of The Given, I describe the rich complexity involved in experiencing emotions. I restrict my attention to occurrent emotional episodes that are not only conscious, but are also intentional. …
Aristotle is properly recognized as the originator of the scientific
study of life. This is true despite the fact that many earlier Greek
natural philosophers occasionally speculated on the origins of living
things and much of the Hippocratic medical corpus, which was written
before or during Aristotle’s lifetime, displays a serious
interest in human anatomy, physiology and pathology. Even Plato has
Timaeus devote a considerable part of his speech to the human body and
its functions (and malfunctions). Nevertheless, before Aristotle, only
a few of the Hippocratic treatises are both systematic and empirical,
and their focus is almost exclusively on human health and disease.
A physical theory is a partially interpreted axiomatic formal system (L, S), where L is a formal language with some logical, mathematical and physical axioms, and with some derivation rules, and the semantics S is a relationship between the formulas of L and some states of affairs in the physical world. In our ordinary discourse, the formal system L is regarded as an abstract object or structure, the semantics S as something which involves the mental/conceptual realm. This view is of course incompatible with physicalism. How can physical theory be accommodated in a purely physical ontology? The aim of this paper is to outline an account for meaning and truth of physical theory, within the philosophical framework spanned by three doctrines: physicalism, empiricism, and the formalist philosophy of mathematics.
What one finds intuitive changes--propositions initially found intuitive, counterintuitive, or neither intuitive nor counterintuitive can shift their status. In this paper I develop a puzzle about changes in what one finds intuitive: (1) Changes in what one finds intuitive partly consist in learning new facts; (2) If changes in what one finds intuitive partly consist in learning new facts, then these changes are changes in inferences not intuitions; (3) But changes in what one finds intuitive are changes in intuitions. I argue that changes in what one finds intuitive are changes in the contents of one’s intuition experiences due to a form of restructuring familiar from the literature on problem solving, and that this provides grounds for denying step (2) in the puzzle. I consider and reject alternatives that target steps (1) or (3). And I explore the significance my view of changes in what one finds intuitive has for recent controversies about philosophical methodology.
I called my book The Given (Oxford University Press, 2016) because I set out to answer the question, What is given in experience? What does one have to do in order to give an adequate characterization of how the world is given to us, an adequate characterization of how we sense, feel, and think about—live in—the world? …
Although mathematicians often use it, mathematical beauty is a philosophically challenging concept. How can abstract objects be evaluated as beautiful? Is this related to the way we visualise them? Using a case study from graph theory (the highly symmetric Petersen graph), this paper tries to analyse aesthetic preferences in mathematical practice and to distinguish genuine aesthetic from epistemic or practical judgements. It argues that, in making aesthetic judgements, mathematicians may be responding to a combination of perceptual properties of visual representations and mathematical properties of abstract structures; the latter seem to carry greater weight. Mathematical beauty thus primarily involves mathematicians’ sensitivity to aesthetics of the abstract.
It can seem incoherent to fully characterize fundamentality in terms of grounding, given that the fundamental is precisely that which cannot be fully characterized independently. I argue that there is no such incoherence.
This paper addresses a famous objection against David Lewis’ Best System Analysis (BSA) of laws of nature. The objection—anticipated and discussed by Lewis (1994)—focuses on the standards of simplicity and strength being (in part) a matter of psychology. Lewis’ answer to the objection relies on his metaphysics of natural properties and its ability to single out the robustly best system, a system that is expected to come out far ahead of its rivals under any standard of simplicity and strength. The main task of this paper is to argue that Lewis’ reply to the objection in terms of nature being kind to us does not succeed, if nature’s kindness is understood in terms of the naturalness of the properties composing the Humean mosaic. For epistemic access to natural properties is downstream to any previous identification of the best system. A possible Lewisian rejoinder in terms of cross-world Humean mosaic of natural properties is considered and rebutted. The paper concludes by suggesting that Lewis could instead avail himself of a better answer to the objection, if the standards of simplicity and strength were reinterpreted along perspectivalist lines.
Consider Hirsch-type deflationary views on which many differences in ontology are simply verbal differences. A standard case is nihilism and universalism about composition: the nihilist says that multiple things can never compose a whole and the universalist says that every plurality must compose a whole. …
We can classify theories of consciousness along two dimensions. The first dimension is a theory’s answer to the question of whether consciousness is “something over and above” the physical. Physicalism, dualism, and Russellian monism are the three possible positions on this dimension. The second dimension is a theory’s answer to the question of how conscious states causally interact with physical states. The three possible answers to this question are nomism (the two interact through laws or necessary principles), acausalism (they do not causally interact), and anomalism (they interact but not through laws or necessary principles). This paper explores the potential and viability of anomalous dualism, a combination of views that has not been explored. I suggest that a specific version of anomalous dualism, emergent anomalous panpsychism, can address the two most pressing issues for dualist views, the problem of mental causation and the mapping problem (the problem of predicting mind-body associations). There is no positive evidence for emergent anomalous panpsychism, but it seems to be the only theory that can reconcile all the evidence that has been offered by dualists and physicalists.
Philosophers traditionally recognize two main features of mental states: intentionality and phenomenal consciousness. To a first approximation, intentionality is the aboutness of mental states, and phenomenal consciousness is the felt, experiential, qualitative, or “what it’s like” (Nagel 1974) aspect of mental states. In the past few decades, these features have been widely assumed to be distinct and independent. But several philosophers have recently challenged this assumption, arguing that intentionality and consciousness are importantly related. This article overviews the key views on the relationship between consciousness and intentionality and describes our favored view, which is a version of the phenomenal intentionality theory, roughly the view that the most fundamental kind of intentionality arises from phenomenal consciousness.
Alexander was a Peripatetic philosopher and commentator, active in the
late second and early third century CE. He continued the tradition of
writing close commentaries on Aristotle’s work established in the
first century BCE by Andronicus of Rhodes, the editor of Aristotle’s
‘esoteric’ writings, which were designed for use in his
school only. This tradition reflected a gradual revival of interest in
Aristotle’s philosophy, beginning in the late second century BCE, and
helped to reestablish Aristotle as an active presence in philosophical
debates in later antiquity. Aristotle’s philosophy had fallen into
neglect and disarray in the second generation after his death and
remained in the shadow of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Academic
skeptics throughout the Hellenistic age.
Hegel spent most of his life as an educator. Between 1794 and 1800, he was a private tutor, first in Bern, Switzerland, and then in Frankfurt-am-Main. He then began a university career at the University of Jena, which in 1806 was interrupted by the Napoleonic conquest of Prussia, and did not resume for ten years. In the intervening years, he was director of a Gymnasium (or secondary school) in Nuremberg. In 1816, Hegel was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, then abruptly ascended to the chair in philosophy at the University of Berlin in 1818, where he remained until his sudden death from cholera in 1831.
Guest post by Susan Schneider
If AI outsmarts us, I hope its conscious. It might help with the horrifying control problem – the problem of how to control superintelligent AI (SAI), given that SAI would be vastly smarter than us and could rewrite its own code. …
Necessitarianism, dispositionalism, and dynamical laws
Posted on Saturday, 14 Jan 2017
Necessitarian and dispositionalist accounts of laws of nature have
a well-known problem with "global" laws like the conservation of
energy, for these laws don't seem to arise from the dispositions of
individual objects, nor from necessary connections between fundamental