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
How should we explain ‘what it is like’ to perceive colour? One of the reasons why naïve realist theories of colour are interesting is that they promise to contribute towards a solution to the problem of consciousness. …
The synchronic conception of possibility and necessity as describing simultaneous alternatives is closely associated with Leibniz and the notion of possible worlds. The notion seems never to have been noticed in the ancient world, but is found in Arabic discussions, notably in al-Ghazali in the late eleventh century, and in the Latin west from the twelfth century onwards, elaborated in particular by Scotus. In Aristotle, the prevailing conception was what (Hintikka 1973: 103) called the “statistical model of modality”: what is possible is what sometimes happens. So what never occurs is impossible and what always occurs is necessary. Aristotle expresses this temporal idea of the possible in a famous passage in De Caelo I 12 (283b15 ff.), and in Metaphysics θ 4 (1047b4-5):
Xenocrates (of Chalcedon, a city on the Asian side of the Bosporus
opposite Byzantium, according to Diogenes Laertius (D.L.) iv 14),
became head of the Academy after Speusippus died, in 339/338
(“in the second year of the 110th Olympiad”). D.L. says he
held that position for twenty-five years, and died at 82. So his dates
work out to 396/395–314/313. On the death of Plato, when Speusippus became head of the Academy,
Xenocrates and Aristotle may have left Athens together at the
invitation of Hermeias of Atarneus (see Strabo XIII 57, printed in
Gaiser 1988, 380–381, discussed at 384–385), and
Xenocrates returned to succeed Speusippus.
Suppose a Newtonian universe where an elastic and perfectly round ball is dropped. At some point in time, the surface of the ball will no longer be spherical. If an object is F at one time and not F at another, while existing all the while, at least normally the object changes in respect of being F. I am not claiming that that is what change in respect of F is (as I said recently in a comment, I think there is more to change than that), but only that normally this is a necessary and sufficient condition for it. …
The second main claim made by the naïve realist is that colours are distinct from the physical properties of objects. In saying that colours are distinct from the physical properties of objects, the naïve realist is not necessarily saying that are ‘perfectly simple’ properties whose nature cannot be described further; indeed, on the face of it this is inconsistent with the claim, outlined in yesterday’s post, that colours are mind-independent properties. …
Mereological nihilists hold that composition never occurs, so that nothing is ever a proper part of anything else. Substance dualists generally hold that we are each identical with an immaterial soul. In this paper I argue that every popular objection to substance dualism has a parallel objection to composition. This thesis has some interesting implications. First, many of those who reject composition, but accept substance dualism, or who reject substance dualism and accept composition, have some explaining to do. Second, one popular objection to mereological nihilism, one which contends that mereological nihilism is objectionable insofar as it is incompatible with the existence of people, is untenable.
It is remarkably difficult to describe any aspect of Gottfried Leibniz’s metaphysical system in a way that is completely uncontroversial. Interpreters disagree widely, even about the most basic Leibnizian doctrines. One reason for these disagreements is the fact that Leibniz characterizes central elements of his system in multiple different ways, often without telling us how to reconcile these different accounts. Leibniz’s descriptions of the most fundamental entities in his ontology are a case in point, and they will be the focus of this paper. Even if we look only at texts from the monadological or mature period—that is, the period starting in the mid-1690s—we find Leibniz portraying the inhabitants of the metaphysical ground floor in at least three different ways. In some places, he describes them as mind-like, immaterial substances that perceive and strive, or possess perceptions and appetitions—analogous in many ways to Cartesian souls. Elsewhere, he presents them as hylomorphic compounds, each consisting of primary matter and a substantial form. In yet other passages, he characterizes them in terms of primitive and derivative forces.
According to the naïve realist, colours are mind-independent properties of objects that are distinct from their physical properties. In today’s post I outline the argument for the first part of the view: the claim that colours are mind-independent. …
The thesis of physical supervenience (PS) is widely understood and endorsed as the weakest assertion that all facts are tethered to the physical facts. Here I entertain a weaker tethering relation, stochastic physical supervenience (SPS), the possibility of which is suggested by analogy with the apparent failure of causal determinism (CD) in certain areas of physical science. Puzzling over this possibility helps to clarify the commitments of and the motivations for accepting the PS thesis.
Logicism is typically defined as the thesis that mathematics reduces to, or is an extension of, logic. Exactly what “reduces” means here is not always made entirely clear. (More definite articulations of logicism are explored in section 5 below.) While something like this thesis had been articulated by others (e.g., Dedekind 1888 and arguably Leibniz 1666), logicism only became a widespread subject of intellectual study when serious attempts began to be made to provide complete deductions of the most important principles of mathematics from purely logical foundations. This became possible only with the development of modern quantifier logic, which went hand in hand with these attempts. Gottlob Frege announced such a project in his 1884 Grundlagen der Arithmetik (translated as Frege 1950), and attempted to carry it out in his 1893–1902 Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (translated as Frege 2013). Frege limited his logicism to arithmetic, however, and it turned out that his logical foundation was inconsistent.
Simplistic accounts of its history sometimes portray logic as having stagnated in the West completely from its origins in the works of Aristotle all the way until the 19th Century. This is of course nonsense. The Stoics and Megarians added propositional logic. Medievals brought greater unity and systematicity to Aristotle’s system and improved our understanding of its underpinnings (see e.g., Henry 1972), and important writings on logic were composed by thinkers from Leibniz to Clarke to Arnauld and Nicole. However, it cannot be denied that an unprecedented sea change occurred in the 19th Century, one that has completely transformed our understanding of logic and the methods used in studying it. This revolution can be seen as proceeding in two main stages. The first dates to the mid-19th Century and is owed most signally to the work of George Boole (1815–1864). The second dates to the late 19th Century and the works of Gott-lob Frege (1848–1925). Both were mathematicians primarily, and their work made it possible to bring mathematical and formal approaches to logical research, paving the way for the significant meta-logical results of the 20th Century. Boolean algebra, the heart of Boole’s contributions to logic, has also come to represent a cornerstone of modern computing. Frege had broad philosophical interests, and his writings on the nature of logical form, meaning and truth remain the subject of intense theoretical discussion, especially in the analytic tradition. Frege’s works, and the powerful new logical calculi developed at the end of the 19th Century, influenced many of its most seminal figures, such as Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Rudolf Carnap. Indeed, Frege is sometimes heralded as the “father” of analytic philosophy, although he himself would not live to become aware of any such movement.
The seventeenth-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche
(1638–1715) famously argued that ‘we see all things in
God.’ This doctrine of ‘Vision in God’ is intended
as an account both of sense perception of material things and of the
purely intellectual cognition of mathematical objects and abstract
truths. The theological motivation for this doctrine is clear: Vision
in God places us in immediate contact with God in our everyday
experience of the world and in some of our most private thoughts and
musings. Like his other signature doctrine,
‘Occasionalism’ or the view that God is the only genuine
cause, Vision in God is also rooted in Malebranche’s conviction that
we utterly depend on God in every way.
Parsons’ characterization of structuralism makes it, roughly, the view that (i) mathematical objects come in structures, and (ii) the only properties we may attribute to mathematical objects are those pertaining to their places in their structures. The chief motivation for (ii) appears to be the observation that in the case of those mathematical objects that most clearly come in structures, mathematical practice generally attributes to them no properties other than those pertaining to their places in structures. I argue that in mathematical practice there are exceptions to (i), though how many depends on how strictly one takes (i), and that there is an alternative interpretation available for the facts about mathematical practice motivating (ii).
A number of philosophers have recently found it congenial to talk in terms of grounding. Grounding discourse features grounding sentences that are answers to questions about what grounds what. The goal of this article is to explore and defend a counterpart-theoretic interpretation of grounding discourse. We are familiar with David Lewis’s applications of the method of counterpart theory to de re modal discourse. Counterpart-theoretic interpretations of de re modal idioms and grounding sentences share similar motivations, mechanisms, and applications. I shall explain my motivations and describe two applications of a counterpart theory for grounding discourse. But, in this article, my main focus is on counterpart-theoretic mechanisms.
Naturalism means different things to different people. But one significant strand in contemporary understandings of the term is physicalism. This is the doctrine that every thing is physical. In this chapter, we shall examine this doctrine and assess the strength of Physicalism has increased markedly in popularity in the Western world over the past century or so. In a recent survey of philosophers, 56% of the 3000‐plus respondents were in favor of physicalism, and only 27% definitely against. This is a relatively new phenomenon.
Proponents of physical intentionality argue that the classic hallmarks of intentionality highlighted by Brentano are also found in purely physical powers. Critics worry that this idea is metaphysically obscure at best, and at worst leads to panpsychism or animism. I examine the debate in detail, finding both confusion and illumination in the physical intentionalist thesis. Analysing a number of the canonical features of intentionality, I show that they all point to one overarching phenomenon of which both the mental and the physical are kinds, namely finality. This is the finality of ‘final causes’, the long-discarded idea of universal action for an end to which recent proponents of physical intentionality are in fact pointing whether or not they realise it. I explain finality in terms of the concept of specific indifference, arguing that in the case of the mental, specific indifference is realised by the process of abstraction, which has no correlate in the case of physical powers. This analysis, I conclude, reveals both the strength and weakness of rational creatures such as us, as well as demystifying (albeit only partly) the way in which powers work.
Human beings do a lot of imagining. We imagine what would happen if various things were to pass, how to get to various destinations, how to achieve various ends, and nearer to the target of this volume, what it is like for other people. Children and adults engage in imaginative play, and the use of the imagination is central to many forms of art. It is controversial how these different situations which we describe with the verb "to imagine" are related, and how much unity there is to the psychological capacities that we bring to them. It is widely suspected that in childhood development imaginative play, such as pretending that a banana is a telephone or that a teddy bear can understand what is said to him (Harris 2000), develops alongside the capacity for counterfactual thinking ("what would happen if I dropped this glass") (Williamson 2005), the capacity to reason from an assumption "for the sake of argument" (Johnson Laird 2006), and the capacity to imagine the feelings and reactions of others (Leslie 1987, Byrne 2005, Noordhof 2002, Tomasello & others 2005). And it is often argued that
The perfectly natural properties and relations are special – they are all and only those that “carve nature at its joints”. They act as reference magnets; form a minimal supervenience base; figure in fundamental physics and in the laws of nature; and never divide duplicates within or between worlds. If the perfectly natural properties are the (metaphysically) important ones, we should expect being a perfectly natural property to itself be one of the (perfectly) natural properties. This paper argues that being a perfectly natural property is not a very natural property, and examines the consequences.
I use Plotinus to present absolute divine simplicity as the consequence of principles about metaphysical and explanatory priority to which most theists are already committed. I employ Phil Corkum’s account of ontological independence as independent status to present a new interpretation of Plotinus on the dependence of everything on the One. On this reading, if something else (whether an internal part or something external) makes you what you are, then you are ontologically dependent on it. I show that this account supports Plotinus’s claim that any entity with parts cannot be fully independent. In particular, I lay out Plotinus’s case for thinking that even a divine self-‐‑understanding intellect cannot be fully independent.
Consider the black item to the right here on your screen. Is it a token of the Latin alphabet letter pee, the Greek letter rho or the Cyrillic letter er? The question cannot be settled by asking which font, and where in the font, the glyph is taken from, because I drew the drawing in Inkscape rather than using any font, precisely to block such an answer. …
Here is how Ephraim Glick puts the first premise of my argument for the existence of propositions: (M1) ∃xx ∃y (~(y<xx) & ☐(xx are true → y is true)) Glick’s (M1) is a better—a more precise—way of stating that premise than is the way I usually state it, which is: ‘there are modally valid arguments’.
This paper revisits the debate about cognitive phenomenology. It elaborates and defends an earlier proposal for resolving that debate, while showing how such proposals have been misunderstood or misused by others. The paper also demonstrates the proposal’s fruitfulness, since our operationalization can be used to make a case for forms of phenomenal consciousness that have been little discussed hitherto.
Speusippus of Athens was the son of Plato’s sister Potone; he became
head of the Academy on Plato’s death in 348/347 and remained its head
for eight years (Diogenes Laertius iv 1), apparently until his death. His date of birth is harder to get a fix on; it has reasonably been
estimated at ca. 410. He apparently wrote a lot: “a great many
treatises and many dialogues” (ibid. iv 4; Diogenes
lists about 30 titles, and his bibliography is on his own admission
incomplete). We have very little of what he wrote, if any (we have
something from a work later attributed to him, On Pythagorean
Numbers, discussed below, but this is not one of Diogenes’
titles; and we may have something preserved in Iamblichus, De
communi mathematica scientia iv, also discussed
The past two decades have witnessed a revival of interest in multiple realization and multiply realized kinds. Bechtel and Mundale’s (1999) illuminating discussion of the subject must no doubt be credited with having generated much of this renewed interest. Among other virtues, their paper expresses what seems to be an important insight about multiple realization: that unless we keep a consistent grain across realized and realizing kinds, claims alleging the multiple realization of psychological kinds are vulnerable to refutation. In this paper I argue that, intuitions notwithstanding, the terms in which their recommendation has been put make it impossible to follow, while also misleadingly insinuating that meeting their desideratum virtually guarantees mindbrain identity. Instead of a matching of grains, what multiple realization really requires is a principled method for adjudicating upon differences between tokens. Shapiro’s (2000) work on multiple realization can be understood as an attempt to adumbrate such a method.
And then there is the theory put forward by philosopher Colin McGinn that our vertigo when pondering the Hard Problem is itself a quirk of our brains. The brain is a product of evolution, and just as animal brains have their limitations, we have ours…[and so we]…can't intuitively grasp why neural information processing observed from the outside should give rise to subjective experience on the inside.
In this paper, I’d like to describe and motivate a new species of mathematical structuralism. In the philosophy of mathematics, structuralism is a genus of theses concerning the subject matter and ontology of mathematics, as well as the correct semantics for mathematical language. Each species that belongs to that genus is motivated by the observation that mathematicians are agnostic about the intrinsic or internal nature of the objects that they study. In this sense, structuralism is very much a philosophy of mathematics that is inspired by and guided by mathematical practice. Mathematicians are indifferent to the non-mathematical features of the objects they study. They care only about the so-called structural features of those objects. For instance, they care that 2 is less than 3 and that π is transcendental. They do not care whether 2, 3, or π is a set or a class of sets, a Dedekind cut in the rationals or an equivalence class of Cauchy sequences of rationals, a universal or a particular, an abstract object or a concrete one, a necessary existent or an entity that exists only contingently, and so on.