(180): While the American pragmatist CS Peirce and the twelfth-century Confucian thinker Zhu Xi (朱朱) lived and worked in radically different contexts, there are nevertheless striking parallels in their view of knowledge and inquiry. Both reject the strict separation of theoretical and practical knowledge, conceiving of theoretical inquiry in a way that closely parallels practical reasoning, and they appeal to the fundamental nature of reality in order to draw conclusions about the way in which inquiry can be a component of the path towards moral perfection. Yet they prominently diverge in their account not only of the fundamental nature of reality, but also in their account of the way in which we have epistemic access to it. These connections between metaphysical fundamentality or structure and epistemology, I propose, have the potential to illuminate current discussions about fundamentality in metaphysics. Contemporary approaches that appeal either to grounding relations or to joint-carving ideology in characterizing metaphysical structure, I propose, implicitly rest on distinct sets of epistemological presuppositions that resemble the respective views of Zhu Xi or Peirce.
A counterpossible is a counterfactual with an impossible antecedent. Counterpossibles present a puzzle for standard theories of counterfactuals, which predict that all counterpossibles are semantically vacuous. Moreover, counterpossibles play an important role in many debates within metaphysics and epistemology, including debates over grounding, causation, modality, mathematics, science, and even God. In this article, we will explore various positions on counterpossibles as well as their potential philosophical consequences.
Dupre and Nicholson (2018) defend the metaphysical thesis that the ‘living world’ is not composed of things or substances, as traditionally believed, but of processes. They advocate a process – as opposed to a substance – metaphysics and ontology, which results to be more empirically adequate to what contemporary biology suggests.
In this essay, I suggest that Spinoza acknowledges a distinction between formal reality that is infinite and timelessly eternal and formal reality that is non-infinite (i. e., finite or indefinite) and non-eternal (i. e., enduring). I also argue that if, in Spinoza’s system, only intelligible causation is genuine causation, then infinite, timelessly eternal formal reality cannot cause non-infinite, non-eternal formal reality. A denial of eternal-durational causation generates a puzzle, however: if no enduring thing – not even the sempiternal, indefinite individual composed of all finite, enduring things – is caused by the infinite, eternal substance, then how can Spinoza consistently hold that the one infinite, eternal substance is the cause of all things and that all things are modes of that substance? At the end of this essay, I sketch how Spinoza could deny eternal-durational causation while still holding that an infinite, eternal God is the cause of all things and that all things are modes. I develop the interpretation more in the companion essay.1
An old question in Spinoza scholarship is how finite, non-eternal things transitively caused by other finite, non-eternal things (i. e., the entities described in propositions like E1p28) are caused by the infinite, eternal substance, given that what follows either directly or indirectly from the divine nature is infinite and eternal (E1p21–23). In “Spinoza’s Monism I,”1 I pointed out that most commentators answer this question by invoking entities that are indefinite and sempiternal, but argued that perhaps we should not be so quick to assume that in Spinoza’s system, an infinite and eternal substance could cause such indefinite, sempiternal entities. But if such eternal-durational causation is denied, then it seems harder to see how Spinoza’s system could be coherent: if Spinoza holds that the infinite, eternal substance cannot cause anything that is not infinite and not eternal, then how can he also hold that all things are modes immanently caused by substance (E1p15, E1p18, E1p25)? In this essay, I explain how Spinoza’s system could be understood in light of a denial of eternal-durational causation. On the interpretation I offer, God is the cause of all things and all things are modes because the essences of all things follow from the divine nature and all essences enjoy infinite, eternal reality as modes immanently caused by the infinite, eternal substance. The same non-substantial essences can also be conceived as enjoying non-infinite, non-eternal reality, but so conceived, they are enduring, finite (or sempiternal, indefinite) entities that cannot be conceived as modes caused by and inhering in the one infinite, eternal substance. I conclude by pointing out that if we take this interpretive route, we do have to understand Spinoza as committed to acosmism, or a denial of the reality of the world – at least the world of enduring, finite things.
The historically-influential perceptual analogy states that intuitions and perceptual experiences are alike in many important respects. Phenomenalists defend a particular reading of this analogy according to which intuitions and perceptual experiences share a common phenomenal character. Call this the 'phenomenalist thesis'. The phenomenalist thesis has proven highly influential in recent years. However, insufficient attention has been given to the challenges it raises for theories of intuition. In this paper, I first develop one such challenge. I argue that if we take the idea that intuitions and perceptual experiences have a common phenomenal character seriously, then a version of the familiar problem of perceptual presence arises for intuitions. I call this the 'problem of intuitive presence'. In the second part of the paper I sketch a novel enactivist solution to this problem.
In this paper I argue that Aquinas’ account of analogy provides resources for resolving the prima facie conflict between his claims that (1) the divine relations constituting the persons are “one and the same” with the divine essence; (2) the divine persons are really distinct, (3) the divine essence is absolutely simple. Specifically, I argue that Aquinas adopts an analogical understanding of the concepts of being and unity, and that these concepts are implicit in his formulation of claims about substance and relation in the Trinity. I then show how Aquinas appeals to key structural features of analogical concepts, notably, the simpliciter/secundum quid characterization, to resolve apparent conflicts between the unity of substance and distinction of relations in the Trinity.
Many physicists have thought that absolute time became otiose with the introduction of Special Relativity. William Lane Craig disagrees. Craig argues that although relativity is empirically adequate within a domain of application, relativity is literally false and should be supplanted by a Neo-Lorentzian alternative that allows for absolute time. Meanwhile, Craig and co-author James Sinclair have argued that physical cosmology supports the conclusion that physical reality began to exist at a finite time in the past. However, on their view, the beginning of physical reality requires the objective passage of absolute time, so that the beginning of physical reality stands or falls with Craig’s Neo-Lorentzian metaphysics. Here, I raise doubts about whether, given Craig’s NeoLorentzian metaphysics, physical cosmology could adequately support a beginning of physical reality within the finite past. Craig and Sinclair’s conception of the beginning of the universe requires a past boundary to the universe. A past boundary to the universe cannot be directly observed and so must be inferred from the observed matter-energy distribution in conjunction with auxilary hypotheses drawn from a substantive physical theory. Craig’s brand of Neo Lorentzianism has not been sufficiently well specified so as to infer either that there is a past boundary or that the boundary is located in the finite past. Consequently, Neo Lorentzianism implicitly introduces a form of skepticism that removes the ability that we might have otherwise had to infer a beginning of the universe. Furthermore, in analyzing traditional big bang models, I develop criteria that Neo-Lorentzians should deploy in thinking about the direction and duration of time in cosmological models generally. For my last task, I apply the same criteria to bounce cosmologies and show that Craig and Sinclair have been wrong to interpret bounce cosmologies as including a beginning of physical reality.
One body of research in experimental philosophy indicates that non-philosophers by and large do not employ the concept of phenomenal consciousness. Another body of research, however, suggests that people treat phenomenal consciousness as essential for having free will. In this chapter, we explore the tension between these findings. We suggest that the dominant, ordinary usages of ‘consciousness’ concern notions of being awake, aware, and exercising control, all of which bear a clear connection to free will. Based on this, we argue that findings purporting to show that people take the capacity for phenomenal consciousness to be necessary for free will are better interpreted in terms of a non-phenomenal understanding of consciousness. We explore this suggestion by calling on extant work on the dimensions of mind perception, and we expand on it, presenting the results of a new study employing a global sample.
Is freedom compatible with determinism? Davidson (in “Mental Events”) famously rephrased this question by replacing “freedom” with “anomaly of the mental”, that is, failure to fall under a law. In order to prove that the anomaly of the mental is compatible with other conjectures he makes, in particular that: (a) there is psycho-physical causation; (b) “where there is causality, there must be a law” (Davidson 1970, p. 208); and (c) the mental supervenes on the physical, Davidson proposed a model (i.e., an interpretation under which all these conjectures are true), that came to be known as anomalous monism.
Our approach aims at accounting for causal claims in terms of how the physical states of the underlying dynamical system evolve with time. Causal claims assert connections between two sets of physicals states—their truth depends on whether the two sets in question are genuinely connected by time evolution such that physical states from one set evolve with time into the states of the other set. We demonstrate the virtues of our approach by showing how it is able to account for typical causes, causally relevant factors, being ‘the’ cause, and cases of overdetermination and causation by absences.
As we saw in the previous post, the private language discussion brings along with it a critique of the “object-in-a-box" conception of mind, and it is this latter conception that Wittgenstein turns to in §§246-255 (with a detour concerning a priori propositions in §§251-252). …
Fictionalists propose that some apparently fact-stating discourses do not aim to convey factual information about the world, but rather allow us to engage in a fiction or pretense without incurring ontological commitments. Some philosophers have suggested that using mathematical, modal, or moral discourse, for example, need not commit us to the existence of mathematical objects, possible worlds, or moral facts. The mental fictionalist applies this reasoning to our mental discourse, suggesting that we can use ‘belief’ and ‘desire’ talk without committing to the existence of beliefs and desires as mental entities. Most arguments for mental fictionalism are based on two key suppositions: first, that there are ontological concerns about mental entities; and second, that these ontological concerns justify a fictionalist interpretation of mental discourse. This paper challenges both suppositions and argues that the standard arguments for mental fictionalism are substantially weaker than arguments for other forms of fictionalism in the philosophical literature.
The following argument is widely assumed to be invalid: there is a pain in my finger; my finger is in my mouth; therefore, there is a pain in my mouth. The apparent invalidity of this argument has recently been used to motivate the conclusion that pains are not spatial entities. We argue that this is a mistake. We do so by drawing attention to the metaphysics of pains and holes and provide a framework for their location which both vindicates the argument’s validity and explains why it appears invalid. To this end, we show that previously proposed explanations for the apparent invalidity of the argument fail. Moreover, we show that our account accommodates and explains seemingly opposing linguistic data. We conclude that the ‘pain-in-mouth argument’ does not undermine the view that pains are spatial entities.
Realisms Interlinked is a sublime work. It reanimates theoretical philosophy with a distinctive synthesis of ideas and methods drawn from the commonsense metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language of classical India (mainly via the Nyāya school) and 20th century analytic philosophy (mainly via Strawson). In pursuing this agenda, the book lights up a new possible future for the study of world and mind, rooted in a borderless history of philosophy that should hopefully be better known among coming generations of analytic philosophers. Partly for this reason, it provides a refreshing contrast to other recent metaphysical and meta-metaphysical atlases like Sider (2011), Chalmers (2012), Thomasson (2014), Hofweber (2016), and Bennett (2017). It deserves to be read alongside these works; while Chakrabarti doesn’t discuss them and they don’t discuss him, a conversation between the traditions would, I’ll suggest, prove illuminating.
Substances, according to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716),
always act; furthermore, since even finite, created substances are
naturally indestructible and thus immortal, substances continue to act
forever. To what or to whom do substances causally owe their action? In Leibniz’s day, this question more or less becomes a question
about the causal role of God. Is God the only genuine causal agent in
nature? Or does God’s causal contribution, at least in the
ordinary development of nature, consist “merely” in the
creation and conservation of created substances? We will see that
Leibniz holds that both God and created substances are causally
responsible for changes in the states of substances.
The use of counterfactuals has become increasingly popular in the machine learning community for many reasons such as making sense of algorithmic fairness or explainability in automated decision-making for consequential social contexts [4, 9, 14, 18, 29, 35, 42, 47, 51]. As a result, machine learning algorithms coupled with counterfactuals could be used for making high-stakes decisions with ethical and legal impacts in domains such as insurance, predictive policing, and hiring.
Is rational insight mysterious? What, if so, is the nature of the mystery? And just how serious is it: does it simply mean we lack a complete theory of how rational insight works? Or does it mean we should reject the whole idea of rational insight? These questions, and others related to them, are of central importance to the epistemology of the a priori.
In the first part I argue that Buddhism and Hinduism can be unified by a Pure Consciousness thesis, which says that the nature of ultimate reality is an unconditioned and pure consciousness and that the phenomenal world is a mere appearance of pure consciousness. In the second part I argue that the Pure Consciousness thesis can be supported by an argument from quantum physics. According to our best scientific theories, the fundamental nature of reality consists of quantum fields, and it seems that quantum fields have merely particle-like appearances—particles seem to be mere epiphenomena. This interpretation can be generalized. There appear to be individual entities, small and large, and their ontological reality is precisely what it appears to be—they are mere appearances.
Buddhism and Hinduism appear to be separated by irreconcilable differences. I argue that this apparent gulf can be overcome. The argument has three main parts. First, I argue that the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arising is not a metaphysical principle of real causation, but a principle of fabrication. Second, I argue that this interpretation of dependent arising enables a unification of the main schools of Buddhism. Third, I argue that Buddhism can be unified fully with Advaita Vedānta, the most important philosophical school of Hinduism, and I argue that a substantial unity can be established between Buddhism and the three main schools of Vedānta. In particular, Buddhism and Vedānta can agree that the highest aim and good consists in the direct realization of an unconditioned and pure mind or consciousness.
We suggest that four of the deepest problems in science are closely related and may share a common resolution. These are 1) the foundational problems in quantum theory, 2) the problem of quantum gravity, 3) the role of qualia and conscious awareness in nature, 4) the nature of time. We begin by proposing an answer to the question of what a quantum event is: an event is a process in which an aspect of the world which has been indefinite becomes definite. We build from this an architecture of the world in which qualia are real and consequential and time is active, fundamental and irreversible.
The consensus among spacetime substantivalists is to respond to Leibniz’s classic shift arguments, and their contemporary incarnation in the form of the hole argument, by pruning the allegedly problematic metaphysical possibilities that generate these arguments. Some substantivalists do so by directly appealing to a modal doctrine akin to anti-haecceitism. Other substantivalists do so by appealing to an underlying hyperintensional doctrine that implies some such modal doctrine. My first aim in this paper is to pose a challenge for all extant forms of this consensus position. My second aim is to show what form substantivalism must take in order to uphold the consensus while addressing this challenge. The result is a novel “plenitudinous” substantivalist view, which predicts that certain modal facts about spacetime are vague or indeterminate. I then argue against this view on independent grounds, concluding that substantivalists should reject the consensus position. The paper also discusses the way forward for substantivalists in light of this conclusion.
Artists often think of themselves as engaged in a project of understanding things. Many of those who look at, listen to, or read works of art think that they emerge from the experience with their understanding enriched: that’s the point of it, they think. What do all these people think they understand through art? Everything: people, life, the world. Here’s an ambitious claim which I think they’re committed to: (A) One of the principal functions of representational art is to enable us to understand the world as it is in itself in a particular, distinctive way.
The definition of elements to be reappraised from a philosophical point of view in this chapter is well known among chemists and historians of chemistry. It plainly says: An element is any substance that we, at the current state of our art, cannot decompose further by chemical analysis. Lavoisier was perhaps the most forceful advocator of that definition. However, from an epistemological point of view, it does not matter who first formulated the definition, for what reasons, in what context, and if such formulations were consistent with other views by the respective author. It is sufficient to acknowledge that the definition was accepted by the vast majority of chemists around 1800, but even the exact date is largely unimportant. The reason for the neglect of such details is not motivated by disinterest in the history of chemistry, but justified by the epistemological status of definitions. A definition is not to be confounded with a discovery, a hypothesis, or a theory, achievements for which we can frequently give credit to an individual. In contrast, a definition defines the meaning of a term, here “element,” which serves communicational purposes. Individuals can suggest a new definition and provide arguments pro and con its adoption, but only a community can agree upon a definition by convention.
I am honoured and humbled that these 21 incredible scientists and thinkers have responded to my work. These essays have both challenged and stimulated me. There is much disagreement, as there should be in these matters about which there is little consensus. But there are also many of us who are journeying to the same location, albeit via different paths.
Our ordinary conception of imagination takes it to be essentially a conscious phenomenon, and traditionally that’s how it had been treated in the philosophical literature. In fact, this claim had often been taken to be so obvious as not to need any argumentative support. But lately in the philosophical literature on imagination we see increasing support for the view that imagining need not occur consciously. In this paper, I examine the case for unconscious imagination. I’ll consider four different arguments that we can find in the recent literature—three of which are based on cases and one that is based on considerations relating to action guidance. To my mind, none of these arguments is successful. I conclude that the case for postulating unconscious imagining has not yet been well motivated.
We discuss Lorenzen’s consistency proof for ramified type theory without reducibility, published in 1951, in its historical context and highlight Lorenzen’s contribution to the development of modern proof theory, notably by the introduction of the ω-rule.
What is the relationship between philosophical and scientific theories of perception? We should not expect there to be a straightforward answer to this question, not least because of the multitude of subdisciplines and methodologies involved. The philosophy of perception, for example, includes research on the epistemic role of perceptual states, the subjective qualities of perceptual experience, and the metaphysical relation between perceivers and the world. Research in the science of perception involves computational models of perceptual algorithms, neurobiological models of perceptual systems, and behavioural models of the relation between perception, attention, and action. In this paper, I will be narrowing my focus to the relationship between two particular debates about perception: the debate between naïve realists, intentionalists, and others, which I will refer to as the ‘Metaphysical debate’, and the debate between ecological theorists and constructivist theorists, which I will refer to as the ‘Psychological debate’.
This essay describes and evaluates the conception of mereological structure that underpins Deleuze’s account of ontogenesis in Difference and Repetition. A theory of mereology is a theory of composition: it asks what it is to be a part making a whole, what it is to be a whole collecting its parts; in short, in what the relation of making or composing consists. The locus classicus for modern mereology is the third of Husserl’s Logical Investigations (‘On the Theory of Wholes and Parts’), which deduces the definitions, axioms and principles governing the relation of parthood and associated notions, such as wholeness, separation, simplicity and complexity. My question is this: what happens to these notions when they are no longer the terms of a ‘calculus of individuals’ and, instead, become the terms of a differential calculus of individuation?
In practice theoretical terms are open-‐ended in not being attached to anything completely specific. This raises a problem for scientific realism: If there is no one completely specific kind of thing that might be in the extension of “atom”, what is it to claim that atoms exist? A realist’s solution is to say that in theoretical contexts of mature atom-‐theories there are things that play the role of atoms as characterized in that theory-‐context. The paper closes with a laundry list of problems that this more careful statement of scientific realism still faces.