The literature on normative non-naturalism is plagued by a lack of consensus about what it is for normative properties to be non-natural in the first place. Some take non-naturalism to be the claim that some normative properties are not identical to descriptive properties (e.g. Jackson (1998, Shafer- Landau (2003), and Parfit (2011)), while others take it to be the claim that some normative facts are not fully grounded in non-normative, descriptive facts (e.g. Schroeder (2007), Chang (2013), and Scanlon (2014)). But very few parties to the naturalism vs. non-naturalism debate address the taxonomical question of which is the best way to characterize the view. Most avoid this question altogether by simply stipulating what they take non-naturalism to be, and then arguing for or against that claim. While this is dialectically convenient, it has created a confusing literature wherein it’s unclear to what extent there’s genuine disagreement.
According to traditional Aristotelianism, what makes you and me be distinct entities is that although we are of the same species, we’re made of distinct chunks of matter. Here is a quick initial problem with this. …
In this talk, I propose to sketch the contents of Noether’s 1918 article, “Invariante Variationsprobleme”, as it may be seen against the background of the work of her predecessors and in the context of the debate on the conservation of energy that had arisen in the general theory of relativity.
This article is about the ontological dispute between finitists, who claim that only finitely many numbers exist, and infinitists, who claim that infinitely many numbers exist. Van Bendegem set out to solve the ‘general problem’ for finitism: how can one recast finite fragments of classical mathematics in finitist terms? To solve this problem Van Bendegem comes up with a new brand of finitism, namely so-called ‘apophatic finitism’. In this article it will be argued that apophatic finitism is unable to represent the negative ontological commitments of infinitism or, in other words, that which does not exist according to infinitism. However, there is a brand of infinitism, so-called ‘apophatic infinitism’, that is able to represent both the positive and the negative ontological commitments of apophatic finitism.
The concept of emergence is commonly invoked in modern physics but rarely defined. Building on recent influential work by Butterfield (2011a,b), I provide precise definitions of emergence concepts as they pertain to properties represented in models, applying them to some basic examples from spacetime and thermostatistical physics. The chief formal innovation I employ, similarity structure, consists in a structured set of similarity relations among those models under analysis—and their properties—and is a generalization of topological structure. Although motivated from physics, this similarity-structure-based account of emergence applies to any science that represents its possibilia with (mathematical) models.
Merely approximate symmetry is mundane enough in physics that one rarely finds any explication of it. Among philosophers it has also received scant attention compared to exact symmetries. Herein I invite further consideration of this concept that is so essential to the practice of physics and interpretation of physical theory. After motivating why it deserves such scrutiny, I propose a minimal definition of approximate symmetry—that is, one that presupposes as little structure on a physical theory to which it is applied as seems needed. Then I apply this definition to three topics: first, accounting for or explaining the symmetries of a theory emeritus in intertheoretic reduction; second, explicating and evaluating the Curie-Post principle; and third, a new account of accidental symmetry.
According to phenomenal functionalism, whether some object or event has a given property is determined by the kinds of sensory experiences such objects or events typically cause in normal perceivers in normal viewing conditions. This paper challenges this position and, more specifically, David Chalmers’s use of it in arguing for what he calls virtual realism.
Hill (2014) argues that perceptual qualia, i.e. the ways in which things look from a viewpoint, are physical properties of objects. They are relational in nature, that is, they are functions of objects’ intrinsic properties, viewpoints, and observers. Hill also claims that his kind of representationalism is the only view capable of “naturalizing qualia”. After discussing a worry with Hill’s account, I put forward an alternative, which is just as “naturalization-friendly”. I build upon Chirimuuta’s color adverbialism (2015), and I argue that we would better serve the “naturalizing project” if we abandoned representationalism and preferred a broadly adverbialist view of perceptual qualia.
Some non-reductionists claim that so-called ‘exclusion arguments’ against their position rely on a notion of causal sufficiency that is particularly problematic. I argue that such concerns about the role of causal sufficiency in exclusion arguments are relatively superficial since exclusionists can address them by reformulating exclusion arguments in terms of physical sufficiency. The resulting exclusion arguments still face familiar problems, but these are not related to the choice between causal sufficiency and physical sufficiency. The upshot is that objections to the notion of causal sufficiency can be answered in a straightforward fashion and that such objections therefore do not pose a serious threat to exclusion arguments.
Conscious experiences are characterized by mental qualities, such as those involved in seeing red, feeling pain, or smelling cinnamon. The standard approach to modeling mental qualities is to develop a quality-space model, where mental qualities are represented by points in multidimensional spaces and where distances between points inversely correspond to degrees of phenomenal similarity. I begin by arguing that the standard framework cannot capture precision structure: for example, consider the phenomenal contrast between seeing an object as crimson in foveal vision versus seeing an object merely as red in peripheral vision. Then I develop a new formal framework that models mental qualities using regions, rather than points. I explain how this new framework not only provides a natural way of modeling precision, but also yields a variety of further theoretical fruits: it enables us to formulate novel hypotheses about the space and structures of mental qualities, formally differentiates two dimensions of phenomenal similarity, generates a quantitative model of the phenomenal so-rites, and provides a new theoretical tool for the empirical investigation of conscious experiences. A noteworthy consequence of the framework is that the structure of the mental qualities of conscious experiences is fundamentally different from the structure of the perceptible qualities of external objects.
I survey from a modern perspective what spacetime structure there is according to the general theory of relativity, and what of it determines what else. I describe in some detail both the “standard” and various alternative answers to these questions. Besides bringing many underexplored topics to the attention of philosophers of physics and of science, metaphysicians of science, and foundationally minded physicists, I also aim to cast other, more familiar ones in a new light.
Based on three common interpretive commitments in general relativity, I raise a conceptual problem for the usual identification, in that theory, of timelike curves as those that represent the possible histories of (test) particles in spacetime. This problem affords at least three different solutions, depending on different representational and ontological assumptions one makes about the nature of (test) particles, fields, and their modal structure. While I advocate for a cautious pluralism regarding these options, I also suggest that re-interpreting (test) particles as field processes offers the most promising route for natural integration with the physics of material phenomena, including quantum theory.
Christian List  has recently proposed a category-theoretic model of a system of levels, applying it to various pertinent metaphysical questions. We modify and extend this framework to correct some minor defects and better adapt it to application in philosophy of science. This includes a richer use of category theoretic ideas and some illustrations using social choice theory.
This review concerns the notions of physical possibility and necessity as they are informed by contemporary physical theories and the reconstructive explications of past physical theories according to present standards. Its primary goal is twofold: first, to motivate and introduce a range of accessible issues of philosophical relevance around these notions; and second, to provide extensive references to the research literature on them. Although I will have occasion to comment on the direction and shape of this literature, pointing out certain lacunae in argument or scholarly attention, I intend to advance no overriding thesis or point of view, aside from the selection of issues I deem most interesting.
I review and amplify on some of the many uses of representing a scientific theory in a particular context as a collection of models endowed with a similarity structure, which encodes the ways in which those models are similar to one another. This structure, which is related to topological structure, proves fruitful in the analysis of a variety of issues central to the philosophy of science. These include intertheoretic reduction, emergent properties, the epistemic connections between modeling and inference, the semantics of counterfactual conditionals, and laws of nature. The morals are twofold: first, the further adoption of formal methods for describing similarity (and related topological) structure has the potential to aid in decisive progress in philosophy of science; and second, the selection and justification of such structure is not a matter of technical convenience, but rather often involves great conceptual and philosophical subtlety. I conclude with various directions for future research.
Recent work on the hole argument in general relativity by Weatherall (2016b) has drawn attention to the neglected concept of (mathematical) models’ representational capacities. I argue for several theses about the structure of these capacities, including that they should be understood not as many-to-one relations from models to the world, but in general as many-to-many relations constrained by the models’ isomorphisms. I then compare these ideas with a recent argument by Belot (2017) for the claim that some isometries “generate new possibilities” in general relativity. Philosophical orthodoxy, by contrast, denies this. Properly understanding the role of representational capacities, I argue, reveals how Belot’s rejection of orthodoxy does not go far enough, and makes better sense of our practices in theorizing about spacetime.
The consequences of Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment epitomized in his treatment of the term ‘Pegasus’ in “On What There Is” are evaluated in terms of Quine’s own work, in particular in “The Variable” and “Variables Explained Away”. There is a cost to maintaining this criterion with regard to the empirical consequences of some non-existent objects, given considerations prompted by Quine’s holism. This cost can be reduced by adopting a noneist position according to which non-existent objects can be values of bound variables as well.
This paper argues that the theory of structured propositions is not undermined by the Russell-Myhill paradox. I develop a theory of structured propositions in which the Russell- Myhill paradox doesn’t arise: the theory does not involve ramification or compromises to the underlying logic, but rather rejects common assumptions, encoded in the notation of the λ-calculus, about what properties and relations can be built out of others. I argue that the structuralist had independent reasons to reject these underlying assumptions. The theory is given both a diagrammatic representation, and a logical representation in a special purpose language.
Brentanians defend the view that there are distinct types of object, but that this does not entail the admission of different modes of being. The most general distinction among objects is the one between realia, which are causally efficacious, and irrealia, which are causally inert. As for being, which is equated with existence, it is understood in terms of “correct acknowledgeability.” This view was defended for some time by Brentano himself and then by his student Anton Marty. Their position is opposed to Bolzanian, Husserlian, and Meinongian ontologies, in which a distinction in the (higher) types of object implies a distinction in their mode of being. These Austro-German discussions anticipate much of the contemporary debate between Quineans, who accept only differences in objects, and neo-Meinongians or other ontological pluralists, who accept different modes of being. My paper first presents the Brentanian view in detail and then evaluates its philosophical significance.
Franz Brentano is well known for highlighting the importance of intentionality, but he said curiously little about the nature of intentionality. According to Mark Textor, there is a deep reason for this: Brentano took intentionality to be a conceptual primitive the nature of which is revealed only in direct grasp. Although there is certainly textual support for this interpretation, it appears in tension with Brentano’s repeated attempts to analyze intentionality in terms of ‘notional constituents’ – aspects which cannot come apart in reality but which can be conceptually distinguished. After bringing out this tension, I explore some options for resolving it, ultimately offering my own favored interpretation.
According to Descartes, we come to know about the mind and the body as separate substances by way of philosophical meditation, while we see that mind and body may interact as a union by ‘‘using only life and ordinary conversation’’ and ‘‘abstaining from meditating.’’ What is significant, indeed, far more significant than has been appreciated by commentators so far, is that we, thereby, are supposed to answer what has come to be considered one of the most central questions of Descartes’ philosophy, the question ‘‘How do minds and bodies interact?’’, not by way of Descartes’ official method of meditation through methodological doubt and clear and distinct perception, but by explicitly acting against the recommendations of this method. Since meditation is supposed to provide an unshakeable epistemic foundation for claims to knowledge, this raises the question whether there is any sense in which we, on Descartes’ view, can be said to know anything about the mind-body union.
Abstraction principles and grounding can be combined in a natural way ([Ros10, 117]; [Sch11, 362]). However, some ground-theoretic abstraction principles entail that there are circles of partial ground ([Don17, 793]). I call this problem auto-abstraction. In this paper I sketch a solution. Sections 1 and 2 are introductory. In section 3 I start comparing different solutions to the problem. In section 4 I contend that the thesis that the right-hand side of an abstraction principle is (metaphysically) prior to its left-hand side motivates an independence constraint, and that this constraint leads to predicative restrictions on the acceptable instances of ground-theoretic abstraction principles. In section 5 I argue that auto-abstraction is acceptable unless the left-hand side is essentially grounded by the right-hand side. In section 6 I highlight several parallelisms between auto-abstraction and the puzzles of ground. I finally compare my solution with the strategies listed in section 3.
In humans, the reuse of neural structure is particularly pronounced at short, task-relevant timescales. Here, an argument is developed for the claim that facts about neural reuse at task-relevant timescales conflict with at least one characterization of neural reuse at an evolutionary timescale. It is then argued that, in order to resolve the conflict, we must conceptualize evolutionary-scale reuse more abstractly than has been generally recognized. The final section of the paper explores the relationship between neural reuse and human nature. It is argued that neural reuse is not well-described as a process that constrains our present cognitive capacities. Instead, it liberates those capacities from the ancestral tethers that might otherwise have constrained them.
Epistemic Counterparts 2: Acquaintance, files, and suitable roles
Posted on Tuesday, 19 May 2020
This is part 2 of a series on epistemic counterpart semantics. Part 1 is here. I want to defend what I called the "Quine-Kaplan model" of de re belief ascriptions. …
In the philosophy of mind, the multiple realizability thesis contends
that a single mental kind (property, state, event) can be realized by
many distinct physical kinds. A common example is pain. Many
philosophers have asserted that a wide variety of physical properties,
states, or events, sharing no features in common at that level of
description, can all realize the same pain. This thesis served as a
premise in the most influential argument against early theories that
identified mental states with brain states (psychoneural, or
mind-brain identity theories). It also served in early arguments for
Here is an old joke: what is black and white and red all over? A newspaper. Why though? As we assume that nothing could really be black and white and red all over, we infer that ‘red’ should be heard as ‘read.’ In the grand philosophical tradition of making even humour unfunny, I want to take issue with this assumption. My thesis is that it is possible to see two objects in black and white, while at the same time seeing one of them as redder than the other. More generally, I argue that it is possible to perceptually represent colour relations between two objects, without perceptually representing their colours. I call this primitive relational colour representation (PRCR). This goes against the orthodox view that we represent colour relations by virtue of representing colours. This orthodoxy has been challenged by several authors in the recent literature, and I here add my name to the chorus.
Schoen eld has constructed examples of proper inaccuracy measures that value verisimilitude (in a certain sense) in spaces of worlds equipped with a particular variety of verisimilitude metric. However, Schoen eld left it as an open question whether `for every space of worlds, there is a proper inaccuracy measure that values verisimilitude.' Here we answer this question in the armative.
A common adage runs that, given a theory manifesting symmetries, the syntax of that theory should be modified in order to construct a new theory, from which symmetry-variant structure of the original theory has been excised. Call this strategy for explicating the underlying ontology of symmetry-related models reduction. Recently, Dewar has proposed an alternative to reduction as a means of articulating the ontology of symmetry-related models—what he calls (external) sophistication, in which the semantics of the original theory is modified, and symmetry-related models of that theory are treated as if they are isomorphic. In this paper, we undertake a critical evaluation of sophistication about symmetries—we find the programme underdeveloped in a number of regards. In addition, we clarify the interplay between sophistication about symmetries, and a separate debate to which Dewar has contributed—viz., that between interpretational versus motivational approaches to symmetry transformations.
In this paper I will present a puzzle about visual appearance. There are certain necessary constraints on how things can visually appear. The puzzle is about how to explain them. I have no satisfying solution. My main thesis is simply that the puzzle is a puzzle. I will develop the puzzle as it arises for representationalism about experience because it is currently the most popular theory of experience and I think it is along the right lines. However, everyone faces a form of the puzzle, including the naïve realist. In §1 I explain representationalism about experience. In §§2-3 I develop the puzzle and criticize a response due to Ned Block and Jeff Speaks and another response based on a novel form of representationalism (“sensa representationalism”). In §4 I argue that defenders of “perceptual confidence” face an instance of the puzzle. In §5 I suggest that everyone faces a form of the puzzle.
What are the fundamental properties of our world, and what is the best metaphysical account of them? Many assume we should look to physics to answer these questions. Physics refers to properties such as mass, spin and charge, and seems to characterise these properties in exclusively dispositional terms. Mass, for example, is characterised in terms of gravitational attraction and resistance to acceleration; charge is characterised in terms of attraction and repulsion. Perhaps, then, we should conclude that the fundamental properties of our world are dispositions: properties essentially defined in terms of how they dispose their bearers to behave. This, at least, is the argument of dispositional essentialists.