In Our Knowledge of the Internal World, Robert Stalnaker describes two opposed perspectives on the relation between the internal and the external. According to one, the internal world is taken as given and the external world as problematic, and according to the other, the external world is taken as given and the internal world as problematic. Analytic philosophy moved from the former to the latter, from problems of world-construction to problems of self-locating beliefs. I argue in this paper that these problems are equivalent: both arise because experience and objective, external facts jointly underdetermine their relation. Both can be seen as a problem of expressive completeness; of the internal language in the former case, and of the non-indexical language in the second.
Think of a pointillist painting: hundreds of tiny pixels depicting a leafy scene. Each leaf is a constellation of primary colors, some expertly proportioned and arranged dots of red, yellow, and blue paint. These pixels are mutually independent: the color at one does not depend on or constrain the decoration anywhere else. Collectively, though, they determine all the contents of our painting: duplicate the geometry of the canvas and the pointy distribution of pigments and we thereby duplicate the whole integrated scene.
In a recent article Martha Nussbaum identified three problems with the Stoic doctrine of respect for dignity: its exclusive focus on specifically human dignity, its indifference to the need for external goods, and its ineffectiveness as a moral motive. This article formulates a non-Stoic doctrine of respect for dignity that avoids these problems. I argue that this doctrine helps us to understand such moral phenomena as the dignity of nonhuman animals as well as the core human values of life, freedom, and equality. I end by arguing that Nussbaum underestimates the mutual support between motives of respect and other moral motives such as compassion.
The philosophy of Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.) was a complete and
interdependent system, involving a view of the goal of human life
(happiness, resulting from absence of physical pain and mental
disturbance), an empiricist theory of knowledge (sensations, together with
the perception of pleasure and pain, are infallible criteria), a
description of nature based on atomistic materialism, and a
naturalistic account of evolution, from the formation of the world to
the emergence of human societies. Epicurus believed that, on the basis
of a radical materialism which dispensed with transcendent entities
such as the Platonic Ideas or Forms, he could disprove the possibility
of the soul’s survival after death, and hence the prospect of
punishment in the afterlife.
When philosophers ponder whether machines could be conscious, they are generally interested in a particular form of AI: AGI, or artificial general intelligence. AGI doesn’t exist yet, but we now have domain specific intelligences like AlphaGo and Watson, the world Go and Jeopardy! champions, respectively. These systems outperform humans in specific domains, and they are impressive. But AI seems to be developing exponentially, and within the next ten or twenty years there will likely be forms of artificial general intelligence (AGI). AGI is a kind of general, flexible intelligence that can do things like make breakfast without burning the house down, while thinking of mathematics and answering the phone. Its intelligence is not limited to a single domain, like chess. Because AGIs are general, flexible, integrate knowledge across domains, and exhibit human-level intelligence or beyond, AGIs seem like better candidates for being conscious than existing systems.
It is difficult for the metaphysician to not be fascinated by Stephen Hawking’s question, ‘What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern?’ (Hawking, 1988, p. 174). Like a Tuscan countryside in the eyes of a painter, this statement inspires quite the stream of consciousness, at least in my idiosyncratic mind. For one thing, Hawking’s wording sounds as if abstract entities provide push and pull to the universe. Why would the equations govern anything, rather than merely describing how events tend to unfold? Objections aside though, I like Hawking’s question because it makes me wonder, given the mathematical nature of fundamental physical theories, what, in the realm of concreta, the lofty equations are describing. And, in another blip of consciousness, I am reminded of my Russellian monist friends, who would perhaps see, in Hawking’s question, the related question: how do we know what is ontologically fundamental, if science just details the nomological-causal structure of the world, and remains silent about its underlying categorical properties? Not quite like the rich hues of Tuscany at sunset, but alas, the mathematical nature of physics intrigues me.
With phenomenal characters, we seem finally to have come face to face with paradigmatic instances of intrinsic properties. The hurtfulness of pain, the acrid smell of sulphur, the taste and flavor of pineapple—these things are intrinsic qualities if anything is.
The thesis I am called upon to defend is this: given any collection of objects, no matter how disparate or widely scattered, there is a further object composed of them all. For example, there is an object composed of my left tennis shoe and the lace that is threaded through its eyelets—so far, perhaps, no surprise. But there are all of the following objects as well: the object composed of the lace threaded through my left shoe and the lace threaded through my right shoe; the object composed of the Eiffel Tower and the tip of my nose; the object composed of the moon and the six pennies scattered across my desktop. For any objects a through z, whatever and wherever they may be, there is an object having those objects as its parts. This thesis goes by several names: conjunctivism (Chisholm), unrestricted composition (Lewis), and mereological universalism (van Inwagen). It is often thought to fly in the face of common sense, but it has won the allegiance of several philosophers, and it is a standard element in the formal theory of part and whole as it was developed in the twentieth century. In what follows I shall explain why I believe it to be true.
Discussions of whether perceptual states have nonconceptual content typically define the issue in a way that is bound to be confusing to anyone entering the debate for the first time—they conflate questions about the nature of contents per se with questions about the requirements on perceivers if they are to be in states with those contents. My principal aim in what follows is to provide a more perspicuous way of setting up the issue, building on work by Speaks, Byrne, and Crowther. My secondary aim is to sharpen and endorse one of the arguments for the nonconceptuality of perceptual states— the argument from experience as a source of concepts.
In a series of articles in this journal, Michael Tye (2002) and Paul Noordhof (2001, 2002) have sparred over the correct explanation of the putative invalidity of the following argument: the pain is in my fingertip; the fingertip is in my mouth; therefore, the pain is in my mouth. Whereas Tye explains the failure of the argument by stating that “pain” creates an intensional context, Noordhof maintains that the “in” in “the pain is in my fingertip” is not spatial, but has state-attributing character. In this paper, we offer a third account, explaining the failure of the argument through state-attributing pragmatic implicatures. Empirical evidence is provided in support of this account.
The standard view in philosophy treats pains as phenomenally conscious mental states. This view has a number of corollaries, including that it is generally taken to rule out the existence of unfelt pains. The primary argument in support of the standard view is that it supposedly corresponds with the commonsense conception of pain. In this paper, we challenge this doctrine about the commonsense conception of pain, and with it the support offered for the standard view, by presenting the results of a series of new empirical studies that indicate that lay people not only tend to believe that unfelt pains are possible, but actually, quite common.
A central question for philosophical psychology is which mental faculties form natural kinds. There is hot debate over the kind status of faculties as diverse as consciousness, seeing, concepts, emotions, constancy and the senses. In this paper, I take emotions and concepts as my main focus, and argue that questions over the kind status of these faculties are complicated by the undeservedly overlooked fact that natural kinds are indeterminate in certain ways. I will show that indeterminacy issues have led to an impasse in the debates over emotions and concepts. I examine possible ways to resolve this impasse, and argue against one of them. I then suggest a different method, which places more emphasis on a close analysis of predictive and explanatory practices in psychology. I argue that when we apply this method, a new position emerges: that it is indeterminate whether concepts or emotions are natural kinds. They are neither determinately natural kinds, nor determinately not natural kinds. Along the way, we will see that natural kinds have been put to two completely different theoretical uses, which are often been blurred together, and that they are ill-suited to fulfil one of them.
I thank Galen Strawson for his passionate attack on my views, since it provides a large, clear target for my rebuttal. I would never have dared put Strawson’s words in the mouth of Otto (the fictional critic I invented as a sort of ombudsman for the skeptical reader of Consciousness Explained) for fear of being scolded for creating a strawman. A full-throated, table-thumping Strawson serves me much better. He clearly believes what he says, thinks it is very important, and is spectacularly wrong in useful ways. His most obvious mistake is his misrepresentation of my main claim: If [Dennett] is right, no one has ever really suffered, in spite of agonizing diseases, mental illness, murder, rape, famine, slavery, bereavement, torture, and genocide. And no one has ever caused anyone else pain.
Any successful account of the metaphysics of mechanistic causation must satisfy at least five key desiderata. In this paper, I lay out these five desiderata and explain why existing accounts of the metaphysics of mechanistic causation fail to satisfy them. I then present an alternative account which does satisfy the five desiderata. According to this alternative account, we must resort to a type of ontological entity that is new to metaphysics, but not to science: constraints. In this paper, I explain how a constraints-based metaphysics fits best with the emerging consensus on the nature of mechanistic explanation.
Process theism typically refers to a family of theological ideas
originating in, inspired by, or in agreement with the metaphysical
orientation of the English philosopher-mathematician Alfred North
Whitehead (1861–1947) and the American philosopher-ornithologist
Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000). For both Whitehead and
Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to be fully involved
in and affected by temporal processes. This idea contrasts neatly with
traditional forms of theism that hold God to be or at least conceived
as being, in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging
(immutable,) and unaffected by the world (impassible).
Thomas Hofweber’s Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics (2016) contains lots of interesting and challenging ideas and arguments, together amounting to an original, systematic, well-argued perspective on metaphysics. Hofweber’s work is a highly significant contribution to the contemporary metaphysical discussion. Some parts of Hofweber’s book are devoted to consideration of specific ontological questions – about natural numbers, properties and propositions and about ordinary objects. Other parts are devoted to more a more general discussion of ontology and the title of the book, Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics, relates to those parts. Hofweber uses the conclusions of the specific discussions to help support the more general claims. Already Hofweber’s discussions of the specific ontological disputes are of great significance. But I will here focus on his general discussion of ontology. For the purposes of my discussion, I will not question whether Hofweber is right about what he says regarding natural numbers, properties and propositions.
Gottfried Leibniz is well known for his claim to have “rehabilitated” the substantial forms of scholastic philosophy, forging a reconciliation of the New Philosophy of Descartes, Mersenne and Gassendi with Aristotelian metaphysics (in his so-called Discourse on Metaphysics, 1686). Much less celebrated is the fact that fifty years earlier (in his Hypomnemata Physica, 1636) the Bratislavan physician and natural philosopher Daniel Sennert had already argued for the indispensability to atomism of (suitably re-interpreted) Aristotelian forms, in explicit opposition to the rejection of substantial forms by his fellow atomist Sébastien Basson.
An important part of Hume’s philosophy is grounded in a fundamental distinction between two kinds of perceptions: impressions and ideas. Existing views of the distinction are that the former are livelier than the latter, that the former are causally prior to the latter, that the latter are copies of the former, that the former but not the latter are perceptions of an objective realm, and that the former are feelings whereas the latter are thoughts. I argue that all of these views of the distinction are problematic, and should be replaced by the Reflection view, according to which (simple) ideas are, while impressions are not, the direct products of reflection on other perceptions.
Failures of supervenience reveal gaps. There is a mental-physical gap if the mental facts fail to supervene on the physical facts. There is a nomic-categorical gap if the nomic facts fail to supervene on the categorical facts. In the same way, there may be macro-micro gaps. Some terminology: let an atom be any object in spacetime without proper parts; let a composite be any object in spacetime with proper parts; let the micro facts be the facts about the atoms, their identities, their intrinsic properties, and their relations to one another; and let the macro facts be the facts about the composites, their identities, their properties, their relations to one another, and their relations to the atoms. There is a macro-micro gap just if the macro facts fail to supervene on the micro facts.
Consciousness is one of the most elusive phenomena of the natural world. But it is, after all, part of the natural world. It has presumably evolved at some point, as a result of certain natural processes taking place within the causally integrated spatiotemporal system we call Nature. What need is there, then, for a philosophy of consciousness? As a natural phenomenon, should it not submit to theoretical explanation by the natural sciences? There is no philosophy of owls; owls are natural phenomena, so the theory of owls is part of a natural science – zoology. We now also have a lively science of consciousness, conducted by cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists among others. What do philosophers have to contribute here?
You feel a tickle in your toe, you taste a tangy lemon drop, you smell coffee brewing. These experiences have a distinctive feel, a qualitative character that constitutes what it’s like to feel a tickle or taste lemon or smell coffee. Dualism about consciousness says that this qualitative character is something over and above the physical processes associated with such experiences.
Attributes sit at the very heart of Spinoza’s metaphysics. They enable us to understand and talk about an extended world and a
thinking world in terms of which we understand such things as bodies and minds. Furthermore, it is due to the relation of attributes to one another and
to the infinite substance that an elegant resolution to the Cartesian
mind–body problem is possible. Attributes furnish Spinoza’s
substance with variety while preventing it from being an ephemeral,
homogenous totality—an eleatic “one” of which nothing
can be said or known. They constitute variety without dissolving the
infinite substance into multiple substances.
[Editor's Note: The following new entry by Natalja Deng replaces the
on this topic by the previous author.] The term “eternity” plays a key role in discussions about
how the God of Western theism relates to time. These discussions have
a long and venerable history. They are also of lively contemporary
interest. The reason for this long-standing and continued interest is
straightforward. How one sees God’s relationship to time has
repercussions throughout philosophy of religion and philosophical
theology. How much and in what ways does God’s relationship to
time, and thus his nature, differ from ours?
Van Inwagen proposes that besides simples only living organisms exist as composite objects. This paper suggests expanding van Inwagen’s ontology by also accepting composite objects in the case that physical bonding occurs (plus some extra conditions). Such objects are not living organisms but rather physical bodies. They include (approximately) the complete realm of inanimate ordinary objects, like rocks and tables, as well as inanimate scientific objects, like atoms and molecules, the latter filling the ontological gap between simples and organisms in van Inwagen’s original picture. We thus propose a compositional pluralism claiming that composition arises if and only if bonding or life occurs.
The laws of physics have an interesting internal explanatory structure. Some principles explain others; some constraints fall out of the dynamic equations, and others help determine them. This leads to interesting, and non-trivial, questions for metaphysicians of laws. What sort of explanation is this? Which principles are explananda, and which explanandum?
It is often claimed that the social sciences cannot be reduced to a lower-level individualistic science. The standard argument for this position (usually labelled explanatory holism) is the Fodorian multiple realizability argument. Its defenders endorse token-token(s) identities between “higher-level” social objects and pluralities/sums of “lower-level” individuals (a position traditionally called ontological individualism), but they maintain that the properties expressed by social science predicates are often multiply realizable, entailing that type-type identities between social and individualistic properties are ruled out. In this paper I argue that the multiple realizability argument for explanatory holism is unsound. The social sciences are indeed irreducible, but the principled reason for this is that the required token-token(s) identifications cannot in general be carried through. In consequence, paradigmatic social science predicates cannot be taken to apply to the objects quantified over in the lower-level sciences. The result is that typical social science predicates cannot even be held to be co-extensive with individualistic predicates, which means type-type identifications are ruled out too. Multiple realizability has nothing to do with this failure of co-extensiveness, because the relevant social science predicates are not multiply realized in the sense intended by the explanatory holists, a sense which presupposes reductive token-token(s) identifications.
It is natural to think of causes as difference-makers. What exact difference causes make, however, is an open question. In this paper, I argue that the right way of understanding difference-making is in terms of causal processes: causes make a difference to a causal process that leads to the effect. I will show that this way of understanding difference-making nicely captures the distinction between causing an outcome and helping determine how the outcome happens and, thus, explains why causation is not transitive. Moreover, the theory handles tricky cases that are problematic for competing accounts of difference-making.
Plausible assumptions from Cosmology and Statistical Mechanics entail that it is overwhelmingly likely that there will be exact duplicates of us in the distant future long after our deaths. Call such persons “Boltzmann duplicates,” after the great pioneer of Statistical Mechanics. In this paper, I argue that if survival of death is possible at all, then we almost surely will survive our deaths because there almost surely will be Boltzmann duplicates of us in the distant future that stand in appropriate relations to us to guarantee our survival.
Substantivalists believe that there are regions of space or
spacetime. Many substantivalists also believe that there are entities
(people, tables, social groups, electrons, fields, holes, events,
tropes, universals, …) that are located at regions. These philosophers face questions about the relationship between
located entities and the regions at which they are located. Are
located entities identical to their locations, as
supersubstantivalists maintain? Are they entirely separate from their
locations, in the sense that they share no parts with them? Without prejudging these metaphysical questions, some philosophers
have formulated logics of location—typically in the form
of groups of axioms or axiom-schemas governing a location relation and
its interaction with parthood and other mereological relations.
Naturalistic moral realists hold that moral properties are part of the natural world.1 They can accept either reductionism or nonreductionism about how moral properties relate to properties invoked in the best natural and social scientific explanations, which I call “scientific properties.”2 This article argues that reductionism is the best form of naturalistic moral realism. Reductionism and nonreductionism differ about whether moral properties and scientific properties are identical.3 Reductionists see moral properties as identical to individual scientific properties or disjunctions of scientific properties. Supposing for illustration that hedonism is the true theory of moral value, reductionism treats goodness as identical to pleasure, just as water is identical to H2O.4 Nonreductionists see moral properties as natural properties supervening on and constituted by scientific properties without being identical to them.5