I thought the paper by Kai-yee Wong and Chris Fraser was fascinating and insightful. Two things I especially appreciated are the clarity with which they summarize my views. I think they are quite fair and accurate. Second, I appreciate their suggestion that the way to deal with the practical problem of weakness of will has much to do with the role of the Background in shaping our actions. I think they are especially on the right track when they say (...) that the improvement of Background skills may actually narrow the range of real options for action, (p. 21) nonetheless, they do not decrease freedom. As they say, “It is a process of strengthening the self, and the agent is likely to experience the concomitant restriction of ‘live’ options not as a limitation but as strength of character.” (p. 21). That seems to me very much on the right track. What they are suggesting, and it is a powerful addition to my own writings, is that we should not just think of the Background as facilitating languages, games and social practices generally, but for morality as well (p. 23). (shrink)
The Philosopher Queen: Feminist Essays on War, Love, and Knowledge. By Chris Cuomo. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003. The Philosopher Queen is a powerful illustration of what Cherríe Moraga calls a "theory in the flesh." That is, theorizing from a place where "physical realities of our lives—our skin color, the land or concrete we grow up on, our sexual longings—all fuse to create a politic [and, I would add, an ethics, spirituality, and epistemology] born out of (...) necessity" (Moraga 21). Cuomo's theory in the flesh combines standard philosophical essays with personal narratives and invites us to do philosophy from this joyful and witty place. Readers are invited to reframe and reexamine war, science, gender, sexuality, race, ecology, knowledge, and politics in a voice that is fearless, funny, faithful, and feminist—one that disrupts common understandings of how philosophy ought to be done. Instead philosophy should help us to "negotiate a wild, wicked world, and to provide some understanding of being and existence. The best philosophy aims to promote good and to produce knowledge, and therefore enable flourishing" (xi). Accepted philosophical approaches alone are inadequate. Life's challenges resist formulaic solutions. Knowledge is not always produced through neat deductions: truths are partial, power divides, stomachs growl, hearts are broken, and emotions influence... (shrink)
Why would anyone want there to be natural foundations for the social sciences? In a provocative essay exploring precisely that question, historian Chris Renwick uses an interwar debate featuring William Beveridge, Lancelot Hogben, and Friedrich Hayek to begin to imagine what might have been had such a program calling for biological knowledge to form the natural bases of the social sciences been realized at the London School of Economics. Yet perhaps Renwick grants too much attention to differences and “what-ifs” (...) and not enough to the historical question of “what happened” afterward. “Chickens and Eggs” offers an alternative view of this rather vexed question—one grounded in what happened, which suggests that Renwick’s concerns may be somewhat misplaced. (shrink)
We review Potts’ influential book on the semantics of conventional implicature (CI), offering an explication of his technical apparatus and drawing out the proposal’s implications, focusing on the class of CIs he calls supplements. While we applaud many facets of this work, we argue that careful considerations of the pragmatics of CIs will be required in order to yield an empirically and explanatorily adequate account.
In this comment on Firestone and Jacobs’s book, In Defense of Kant’s Religion, I take issue with (1) the authors’ strategy in demonstrating that it is possibleto positively incorporate religion and theology into Kant’s critical corpus, and (2) their intention to focus on the coherence of Kant’s theory without necessarily recommending it for Christianity. Regarding (1), I argue that in pursuing their strategy the authors ignore the fact that Kant has transposed what appear to be traditional religious doctrines to a (...) completely different level of reflection, in effect turning them into imaginary tropes intended to mask otherwise irreducible contradictions in his view of human agency. As for (2), I claim that the authors’ intention runs the risk of being disingenuous, since Kant presented his religion as the true religion, opposing it to historical Christianity (unless the latter, of course, is re-interpreted according to his own precepts). (shrink)
> On the question of reasons as causes, philosophers generally acknowledge > that reasons can be considered causes (or antecedents of 'regularities') > only to the extent that the reasons are physically realized (instantiated, > represented, embodied, implemented) in the brain. The problem is trying to > find a neural correlate for a mental state containing a 'reason', such that > the reason can become a ('real', 'physical' ) cause.
So what is feminism anyway? Why are all the experts so reluctant to give us a clear definition? Is it possible to make sense of the complex and often contradictory debates? In this concise and accessible introduction to feminist theory, Chris Beasley provides clear explanations of the many types of feminism. She outlines the development of liberal, radical and Marxist//socialist feminism, and reviews the more contemporary influences of psychoanalysis, postmodernism, theories of the body, queer theory, and attends to the (...) ongoing significance of race and ethnicity. Given the diversity of feminist ideas, Chris Beasley a number of ways of looking at feminist theory and offer an open-ended approach which allows for variety and change. What is Feminism? is a clear and up-to-date guide to Western feminist theory for students, their teachers, researchers and anyone else who wants to understand and engage in current feminist debates. `Over the last three decades feminist theories and methodologies have become an increasingly complex as well as somewhat fraught terrain where ideas and egos alternately clash productively and destructively. This is an up-to-date and intelligent introduction to a field which remains a vital component of contemporary sociopolitical issues and debates' - Sneja Gunew, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, University of British Columbia. (shrink)
In social work there is seldom an uncontroversial `right way' of doing things. So how will you deal with the value questions and ethical dilemmas that you will be faced with as a professional social worker? This lively and readable introductory text is designed to equip students with a sound understanding of the principles of values and ethics which no social worker should be without. Bridging the gap between theory and practice, this book successfully explores the complexities of ethical issues, (...) while recognising the real-world context in which social workers operate. Key features of the text include: - Full of hands-on advice and tips for professional practice. - Engaging and student-friendly. Each chapter is packed with case studies, reader exercises, key definitions and useful summaries. - Comprehensive content. The book explores core issues such as moral philosophy; professionalism; religion; power; oppression; difference and diversity; and ethical codes of practice. - Satisfies all the curriculum and training requirements for the new social work degree. Mapping directly on to first year courses, this text is essential reading for all social work undergraduates. It is an ideal refresher text for upper-level undergraduates, postgraduate and post-qualifying students, and for professionals. `This introductory text succeeds in providing an accessible introduction to the subject area. The book is consistently structured, well planned and uniformly written in a conversational and immediate style…. The discussion manages to combine a sense of engagement with a balanced treatment of the issues. Readers who apply themselves will be well sensitised to the matters under discussion and should be able to take their understanding into the practical arena' - Chris Clark, University of Edinburgh. (shrink)
Studies on so-called Change Blindness and Inattentional Blindness have been taken to establish the claim that conscious perception of a stimulus requires the attentional processing of that stimulus. One might contend, against this claim, that the evidence only shows attention to be necessary for the subject to have access to the contents of conscious perception and not for conscious perception itself. This “Methodological Argument” is gaining ground among philosophers who work on attention and consciousness, such as Christopher Mole. I find (...) that, without the supporting evidence of inaccessible consciousness, this argument collapses into an indefensible form of inductive parsimony. The Methodological Argument is thus shown to be unsuccessful when used against the claim that attention is required for conscious perception, though I suggest that it may be successful against the more ambitious claim that attention is necessary for all conscious experience. (shrink)
In our increasingly instrumentalist culture, debates over the privatization of schooling may be beside the point. Whether we hatch some new plan for chartering or funding schools, or retain the traditional model of government-run schools, the ongoing instrumentalization of education threatens the very possibility of public education. Indeed, in the culture of performativity, not only the public school but public life itself is hollowed out and debased. Qualities are recast as quantities, judgments replaced by rubrics, teaching and learning turned into (...) exchange values. Schools should be central to public life: key locations for the regeneration of values, the cultivation of judgment, and the creation of the conditions for positive freedom. In this article Chris Higgins, drawing on Hannah Arendt and Alasdair MacIntyre, goes beyond typical treatments of the schools as equalizer of individual opportunity to explore three aspects of educational publicity: the school as an object of communal concern, schooling as preparation for public life, and the classroom as public space. (shrink)
Abstract This essay examines the theory of ritual propriety presented in the Xúnzǐ and criticisms of Xunzi-like views found in the classical Daoist anthology Zhuāngzǐ . To highlight the respects in which the Zhuāngzǐ can be read as posing a critical response to a Xunzian view of ritual propriety, the essay juxtaposes the two texts' views of language, since Xunzi's theory of ritual propriety is intertwined with his theory of language. I argue that a Zhuangist critique of the presuppositions of (...) Xunzi's stance on language also undermines his stance on ritual propriety. Xunzi contends that state promulgation of anelaborate code of ritual propriety is a key to good social order ( zhi ) and that state regulation of language is a key to smooth communication and thus also good order. The Zhuāngzǐ provides grounds for doubting both contentions. Claiming that ritual propriety causally produces social order is analogous to claiming that grammar causally produces smooth linguistic communication, when in fact it is more likely our ability to communicate that allows us to develop shared rules of grammar. Humans have fundamental social and communicative capacities that undergird our abilities to speak a language or engage in shared ritual performances. It is these more fundamental capacities, not their manifestation in a particular system of grammar or ritual norms, that provide the root explanation of our ability to communicate or to live together harmoniously. The Xunzi-Zhuangzi dialectic suggests that ritual is indispensable, but normatively justified rituals will be less rigid, less comprehensive, less fastidious, and more spontaneous than a Xunzian theorist would allow. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-26 DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0303-7 Authors Chris Fraser, Department of Philosophy, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
What is the purpose of social science and management research? Do scholars/researchers have a responsibility to generate insights and knowledge that are of practical (implementable) value and validity? -/- We are told we live in turbulent and changing times, should this not provide an important opportunity for management researchers to provide understanding and guidance? Yet there is widespread concern about the efficacy of much research: -/- These are some of the puzzles/pressing problems that Chris Argyris addresses in this short (...) book. -/- Argyris is one of the best known management scholars in the world - a leading light whose work has consistently addressed fundamental organizational questions, and who has provided some of the key concepts and building blocks of our understanding of organizational learning - single and double learning, theory in use, and espoused theory etc. -/- In this book he questions many of the assumptions of organizational theory and research, and his investigation is not confined to academic analysis. He also scrutinizes that capacity for 'unproductive reasoning' (self-deception and rationalization) that is common amongst managers, consultants, and indeed more generally. As well as engaging with the work of leading organizational researchers (Sennett, Gabriel, Burgelman, Czarniawska, Grint, for example)he also ponders the work of the consultants, commentators, and accountants who endorsed Enron. -/- Throughout his purpose is to affirm the goal and values of useful knowledge. His style/enquiry is direct but fair, challenging, if at times uncompromising. Drawing on his own wealth of experience of researching and working with organizations, this book will be a reference point for all concerned to develop useful knowledge and confront the defences and deceptions that are only too commonplace in the business and academic worlds. (shrink)
Correspondence: Chris Fraser (J) (Assistant Professor) Department of Philosophy Rm. 430, Fung King Hey Bldg. Chinese University of Hong Kong Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong Telephone: 852-9782-0560 Fax: 852-2603-5323 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org..
Consciousness has many elements, from sensory experiences such as vision, audition, and bodily sensation, to nonsensory aspects such as volition, emotion, memory, and thought. The apparent unity of these elements is striking; all are presented to us as experiences of a single subject, and all seem to be contained within a unified field of experience. But this apparent unity raises many questions. How do diverse systems in the brain co-operate to produce a unified experience? Are there conditions under which this (...) unity breaks down? Is conscious experience really unified at all? -/- In recent years, these questions have been addressed by researchers in many fields, including, neurophysiologists and computational modellers, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, and philosophy. With chapters from some of the leading thinkers on consciousness, this is a thought-provoking book that attempts to answer some of the big questions. -/- Contributors include - Chris Frith, David Chalmers, Guilio Tononi, Anne Treisman, Andrew Young, Sydney Shoemaker, Glyn Humphreys, Rodney Cotterill, Zoltan Dienes, Susan Hurley, Randall O'Reilly, Andreas Engel, Pierre Perruchet, Catherine Tallon-Baudry, and Francisco Varela. -/- . (shrink)
Innovation has become a very popular concept over the twentieth century. However, few have stopped to study the origins of the category and to critically examine the studies produced on innovation. This paper conducts such an analysis on one type of innovation, namely technological innovation. The study of technological innovation is over one hundred years old. From the early 1900s onward, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and economists began theorizing about technological innovation, each from his own respective disciplinary framework. However, in the (...) last forty years an economic and “dominant” understanding of technological innovation has developed: technological innovation defined as commercialized invention. This paper documents the origins of this representation and the tradition of research to which it gave rise: “innovation studies.” More specifically, it analyzes what distinguishes this tradition from that concerned with technological change as the use of inventions in industrial production, and looks at why such a tradition originated in Europe. (shrink)
Chris Horner and Emrys Westacott present a clear and accessible introduction to some of the central problems of philosophy through challenging and stimulating the reader to think beyond the conventional answers to fundamental questions. No previous knowledge is assumed, and in lively and provocative chapters the authors invite the reader to explore questions about the nature of science, religion, ethics, politics, art, the mind, the self, knowledge and truth. Each chapter includes inset boxes providing links to classic philosophy texts (...) on the issues discussed. In addition, the book relates the adventure of philosophy to some of the key principles of critical thinking. (shrink)
This book is about how we make choices. It is a compelling analysis of the nature of free will, drawing together evidence from chemistry, literature, politics, history and beyond. Psychiatrist Chris Nunn elegantly explores the revolutions in medicine, genetics, bioethics and neuroscience spurred by Julien de la Mettrie's 300-year-old tract Man the Machine . Nunn concludes that a mechanistic view of the human brain, though once fruitful, is now moribund. He proposes a powerful alternative: that stories, recorded in our (...) memories throughout life, are the mediators of free choice. Nunn demonstrates how this original approach could reconcile the latest brain-imaging results and our seemingly contradictory intuition about decision making and responsibility. (shrink)
Many contemporary philosophers rate error theories poorly. We identify the arguments these philosophers invoke, and expose their deficiencies. We thereby show that the prospects for error theory have been systematically underestimated. By undermining general arguments against all error theories, we leave it open whether any more particular arguments against particular error theories are more successful. The merits of error theories need to be settled on a case-by-case basis: there is no good general argument against error theories.
Hedonism and the desire-satisfaction theory of welfare ("desire satisfactionism") are typically seen as archrivals in the contest over identifying what makes one's life go best. It is surprising, then, that the most plausible form of hedonism just is the most plausible form of desire satisfactionism. How can a single theory of welfare be a version of both hedonism and desire satisfactionism? The answer lies in what pleasure is: pleasure is, in my view, the subjective satisfaction of desire. This thesis about (...) pleasure is clarified and defended only after we proceed through the dialectics that get us to the most plausible forms of hedonism and desire satisfactionism. (shrink)
This appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59:473-93, as a response to four papers in a symposium on my book The Conscious Mind . Most of it should be comprehensible without having read the papers in question. This paper is for an audience of philosophers and so is relatively technical. It will probably also help to have read some of the book. (There is a corresponding precis of the book, written for the symposium.) The papers I'm responding to are: (...) class='Hi'>Chris Hill & Brian McLaughlin, There are fewer things in reality than are dreamt of in Chalmers' philosophy Brian Loar, David Chalmers' The Conscious Mind Sydney Shoemaker, On David Chalmers' The Conscious Mind Stephen Yablo, Concepts and consciousness Contents. (shrink)
To whom is egalitarian justice owed? Our fellow citizens, or all of humankind? If the latter, what form might a global brand of egalitarianism take? This paper examines some recent debates about the justification, and content, of global egalitarian justice. It provides an account of some keenly argued controversies about the scope of egalitarian justice, between those who would restrict it to the level of the state and those who would extend it more widely. It also notes the cross-cutting distinction (...) between relationists (whose views on scope are derived from a belief about which relations, practices or institutions give rise to the demands of equality) and non-relationists (who place no such importance on empirical facts about the relations between individuals). Beyond this, it sets out some of the different principles that might flow from a commitment to global egalitarianism. One of the key goals is to highlight the increasing diversity within debates on global justice, so that even those with a shared commitment to global equality may espouse different views about the justifications for equality, as well as the nature of, and proper sites for, egalitarian principles. (shrink)
There is a recent and growing trend in philosophy that involves deferring to the claims of certain disciplines outside of philosophy, such as mathematics, the natural sciences, and linguistics. According to this trend— deferentialism , as we will call it—certain disciplines outside of philosophy make claims that have a decisive bearing on philosophical disputes, where those claims are more epistemically justified than any philosophical considerations just because those claims are made by those disciplines. Deferentialists believe that certain longstanding philosophical problems (...) can be swiftly and decisively dispatched by appeal to disciplines other than philosophy. In this paper we will argue that such an attitude of uncritical deference to any non-philosophical discipline is badly misguided. With reference to the work of John Burgess and David Lewis, we consider deference to mathematics. We show that deference to mathematics is implausible and that main arguments for it fail. With reference to the work of Michael Blome-Tillmann, we consider deference to linguistics. We show that his arguments appealing to deference to linguistics are unsuccessful. We then show that naturalism does not entail deferentialism and that naturalistic considerations even motivate some anti-deferentialist views. Finally, we set out deferentialism’s failings and present our own anti-deferentialist approach to philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
According to intellectualism, what a person knows is solely a function of the evidential features of the person's situation. Anti-intellectualism is the view that what a person knows is more than simply a function of the evidential features of the person's situation. Jason Stanley (2005) argues that, in addition to “traditional factors,” our ordinary practice of knowledge ascription is sensitive to the practical facts of a subject's situation. In this paper, we investigate this question empirically. Our results indicate that Stanley's (...) assumptions about knowledge ascriptions do not reflect our ordinary practices in some paradigmatic cases. If our data generalize, then arguments for anti-intellectualism that rely on ordinary knowledge ascriptions fail: the case for anti-intellectualism cannot depend on our ordinary practices of knowledge ascription. (shrink)
The most famous objection to the ontological argument is given in Kant’s dictum that existence is not a real predicate. But it is not obvious how this slogan is supposed to relate to the ontological argument. Some, most notably Alvin Plantinga, have even judged Kant’s dictum to be totally irrelevant to Anselm’s version of the ontological argument. In this paper, I argue, against Plantinga and others, that Kant’s claim is indeed relevant to Anselm’s argument, in the straightforward sense that if (...) the claim is true, then Anselm’s argument is unsound. (shrink)
Open-minded people should endorse dogmatism because of its explanatory power. Dogmatism holds that, in the absence of defeaters, a seeming that P necessarily provides non-inferential justification for P. I show that dogmatism provides an intuitive explanation of four issues concerning non-inferential justification. It is particularly impressive that dogmatism can explain these issues because prominent epistemologists have argued that it can’t address at least two of them. Prominent epistemologists also object that dogmatism is absurdly permissive because it allows a seeming to (...) provide justification even if the seeming was caused in some apparently inappropriate way. I conclude by disarming this objection. (shrink)
In response to Mole 2009, I present an argument for zombie action. The crucial question is not whether we are zombie agents but to what extent. I argue that current evidence supports only minimal zombie agency. [Note: this is forthcoming with a response from Chris Mole].
The sci-fi premise of the 2002 film Solaris allows director Steven Soderbergh to tell a compelling and distinctly philosophical love story. The “visitors” that appear to the characters in the film present us with a vivid thought experiment, and the film naturally prods us to dwell on the following possibility: If confronted with a duplicate (or near duplicate) of someone you love, what would your response be? What should your response be? The tension raised by such a far-fetched situation reflects (...) a tension that exists in real life: that between an attraction to qualities possessed by a person and attraction to the person in a manner that transcends such an attachment to qualities. In short, this cinematic thought-experiment challenges us to reflect on what we really attach to when we fall in love: is it the person, or is it merely the cluster of characteristics the person manifests? Which sort of attachment is appropriate? Which is philosophical defensible? The protagonist Chris Kelvin’s ambivalence at encountering this bizarre possibility is gripping because it tracks our own ambivalence about such matters. Frankly most of us don’t know just how we would react to such a situation. The thought that accepting and embracing such a “visitor” involves a violation to the original person is natural and pervasive, especially if the acceptance comes with a failure to acknowledge the distinction between the original person and the “visitor”. At the same time, a deep attraction to such a person would surely also be entirely natural and perhaps even inescapable. We, like Kelvin, are torn in different directions by this (thankfully) far-fetched possibility. One philosopher who affirms that accepting a duplicate as though it were the original is the rational thing to do is Derek Parfit. His argument for “the unimportance of identity” is both powerful and radical, and though I’ll be critical of his approach, in the final section of the paper I suggest that it does offer up the resources for an intriguing interpretation of the end of this complex and ambiguous film. (shrink)
One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other issues: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about either pleasure or welfare (...) commits one to recognizing that desires do provide reasons for action – i.e., commits one to abandoning the value-based theory of reasons. The purpose of this paper is to show that this is not so. All of the following can be true: pleasure and welfare provide reasons; pleasure and welfare are to be understood in terms of desire; desires never provide reasons, in the relevant way. (shrink)
If I understand him correctly, Derek Parfit’s views place us, philosophically speaking, in a very small box. According to Parfit, normativity is an irreducible non-natural property that is independent of the human mind. That is to say, there are normative truths - truths about what we ought to do and to want, or about reasons for doing and wanting things. The truths in question are synthetic a priori truths, and accessible to us only by some sort of rational intuition. Parfit (...) supposes that if we are to preserve the irreducibility of the normative, this is just about all we can say, at least until we bring in some actual intuitions to supply the story with some content. (shrink)
The Neo-Moorean Deduction (I have a hand, so I am not a brain-in-a-vat) and the Zebra Deduction (the creature is a zebra, so isn’t a cleverly disguised mule) are notorious. Crispin Wright, Martin Davies, Fred Dretske, and Brian McLaughlin, among others, argue that these deductions are instances of transmission failure. That is, they argue that these deductions cannot transmit justification to their conclusions. I contend, however, that the notoriety of these deductions is undeserved. My strategy is to clarify, attack, defend, (...) and apply. I clarify what transmission and transmission failure really are, thereby exposing two questionable but quotidian assumptions. I attack existing views of transmission failure, especially those of Crispin Wright. I defend a permissive view of transmission failure, one which holds that deductions of a certain kind fail to transmit only because of premise circularity. Finally, I apply this account to the Neo-Moorean and Zebra Deductions and show that, given my permissive view, these deductions transmit in an intuitively acceptable way—at least if either a certain type of circularity is benign or a certain view of perceptual justification is false. (shrink)
That laws of nature play a vital role in explanation, prediction, and inductive inference is far clearer than the nature of the laws themselves. My hope here is to shed some light on the nature of natural laws by developing and defending the view that they involve genuine relations between properties. Such a position is suggested by Plato, and more recent versions have been sketched by several writers.~ But I am not happy with any of these accounts, not so much (...) because they lack detail or engender minor difficulties, though they do, but because they share a quite fundamental defect. My goal here is to make this defect clear and, more importantly, to present a rather different version of this general conception of laws that avoids it. I begin by considering several features of natural laws and argue that these are best explained by the view that laws involve properties, that this involvement takes the form of a genuine relation between properties, and, finally, that the relation is a metaphysically necessary one. In the second section I start at the other end, and by reflecting on the nature of properties arrive at a similar account of natural laws. In the final section I develop this account in more detail, with emphasis on the nature of the relation between properties it invokes. Along the way several natural objections to the account are answered. (shrink)
We defend Joseph Melia's thesis that the role of mathematics in scientific theory is to 'index' quantities, and that even if mathematics is indispensable to scientific explanations of concrete phenomena, it does not explain any of those phenomena. This thesis is defended against objections by Mark Colyvan and Alan Baker.
As I use the term, ‘entitlement’ is any warrant one has by default—i.e. without acquiring it. Some philosophers not only affirm the existence of entitlement, but also give it a crucial role in the justification of our perceptual beliefs. These philosophers affirm the Entitlement Thesis: An essential part of what makes our perceptual beliefs justified is our entitlement to the proposition that I am not a brain-in-a-vat. Crispin Wright, Stewart Cohen, and Roger White are among those who endorse this controversial (...) claim. In this paper, I argue that the Entitlement Thesis is false. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes revolutionary fictionalism from other forms of fictionalism and also from other philosophical views. The paper takes fictionalism about mathematical objects and fictionalism about scientific unobservables as illustrations. The paper evaluates arguments that purport to show that this form of fictionalism is incoherent on the grounds that there is no tenable distinction between believing a sentence and taking the fictionalist's distinctive attitude to that sentence. The argument that fictionalism about mathematics is ‘comically immodest’ is also evaluated. In place (...) of those arguments, an argument against fictionalism about abstract objects of any kind is presented in the last section. This argument takes the form of a trilemma against the fictionalist. (shrink)
It will always remain a remarkable phenomenon in the history of philosophy, that there was a time, when even mathematicians, who at the same time were philosophers, began to doubt, not of the accuracy of their geometrical propositions so far as they concerned space, but of their objective validity and the applicability of this concept itself, and of all its corollaries, to nature. They showed much concern whether a line in nature might not consist of physical points, and consequently that (...) true space in the object might consist of simple [discrete] parts, while the space which the geometer has in his mind [being continuous] cannot be such. (shrink)
Over the past few years, a number of authors in the new field of neuroethics have claimed that there is an ethical challenge presented by the likelihood that the findings of neuroscience will undermine many common assumptions about human agency and selfhood. These authors claim that neuroscience shows that human agents have no free will, and that our sense of being a “self” is an illusory construction of our brains. Furthermore, some commentators predict that our ethical practices of assigning moral (...) blame, or of recognizing others as persons rather than as objects, will change as a result of neuroscientific discoveries that debunk free will and the concept of the self. I contest suggestions that neuroscience’s conclusions about the illusory nature of free will and the self will cause significant change in our practices. I argue that we have self-interested reasons to resist allowing neuroscience to determine core beliefs about ourselves. (shrink)
In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant grounds his postulate for the immortality of the soul on the presupposed practical necessity of the will’s endless progress toward complete conformity with the moral law. Given the important role that this postulate plays in Kant’s ethical and political philosophy, it is hard to understand why it has received relatively little attention. It is even more surprising considering the attention given to his other postulates of practical reason: the existence of God and freedom. (...) The project of this paper is to examine Kant’s postulate of the immortality of the soul, examine critiques of this argument, and show why the argument succeeds in showing that belief in the moral law also obligates one to believe in the soul’s immortality. (shrink)
The properties of Turing’s famous ‘universal machine’ has long sustained functionalist intuitions about the nature of cognition. Here, I show that there is a logical problem with standard functionalist arguments for multiple realizability. These arguments rely essentially on Turing’s powerful insights regarding computation. In addressing a possible reply to this criticism, I further argue that functionalism is not a useful approach for understanding what it is to have a mind. In particular, I show that the difficulties involved in distinguishing implementation (...) from function make multiple realizability claims untestable and uninformative. As a result, I conclude that the role of Turing machines in philosophy of mind needs to be reconsidered. (shrink)
This paper is an enquiry into the logical, metaphysical, and physical possibility of time travel understood in the sense of the existence of closed worldlines that can be traced out by physical objects. We argue that none of the purported paradoxes rule out time travel either on grounds of logic or metaphysics. More relevantly, modern spacetime theories such as general relativity seem to permit models that feature closed worldlines. We discuss, in the context of Gödel's infamous argument for the ideality (...) of time based on his eponymous spacetime, what this apparent physical possibility of time travel means. Furthermore, we review the recent literature on so-called time machines, i.e., of devices that produce closed worldlines where none would have existed otherwise. Finally, we investigate what the implications of the quantum behaviour of matter for the possibility of time travel might be and explicate in what sense time travel might be possible according to leading contenders for full quantum theories of gravity such as string theory and loop quantum gravity. (shrink)
We discuss a recent attempt by Chris Daly and Simon Langford to do away with mathematical explanations of physical phenomena. Daly and Langford suggest that mathematics merely indexes parts of the physical world, and on this understanding of the role of mathematics in science, there is no need to countenance mathematical explanation of physical facts. We argue that their strategy is at best a sketch and only looks plausible in simple cases. We also draw attention to how frequently Daly (...) and Langford find themselves in conflict with mathematical and scientific practice. (shrink)
Phenomenal conservatism holds, roughly, that if it seems to S that P, then S has evidence for P. I argue for two main conclusions. The first is that phenomenal conservatism is better suited than is proper functionalism to explain how a particular type of religious belief formation can lead to non-inferentially justified religious beliefs. The second is that phenomenal conservatism makes evidence so easy to obtain that the truth of evidentialism would not be a significant obstacle to justified religious belief. (...) A natural objection to phenomenal conservatism is that it makes evidence too easy to obtain, but I argue this objection is mistaken. (shrink)
Kant's views on revolution are notoriously paradoxical: on the one hand he appears to condemn all instances of revolution, but on the other he expresses enthusiasm for the French Revolution and other revolutionary acts. I argue that we can reconcile Kant’s views on revolution by examining instances when an individual is under a moral obligation to revolt. First, I show how Kant reconciles his position on the French Revolution with his position on revolution in general. His answer, however, raises additional (...) questions involving revolution in relation to his overall philosophical theory. Next, I present what is generally understood to be Kant’s philosophy on revolution, and Christine Korsgaard’s analysis using this traditional understanding to reconcile his seemingly contradictory views. After critiquing her position, I present my own analysis of Kant’s philosophy, and show how this apparent paradox can be resolved by examining an individual’s overriding moral obligation to leave the state of nature and establish civil society. (shrink)
Non-presentist A-theories of time (such as the growing block theory and the moving spotlight theory) seem unacceptable because they invite skepticism about whether one exists in the present. To avoid this absurd implication, Peter Forrest appeals to the "Past is Dead hypothesis," according to which only beings in the objective present are conscious. We know we're present because we know we're conscious, and only present beings can be conscious. I argue that the dead past hypothesis undercuts the main reason for (...) preferring non-presentist A-theories to their presentist rivals, rivals which straightforwardly avoid skepticism about the present. (shrink)
We survey some philosophical aspects of the search for a quantum theory of gravity, emphasising how quantum gravity throws into doubt the treatment of spacetime common to the two `ingredient theories' (quantum theory and general relativity), as a 4-dimensional manifold equipped with a Lorentzian metric. After an introduction (Section 1), we briefly review the conceptual problems of the ingredient theories (Section 2) and introduce the enterprise of quantum gravity (Section 3). We then describe how three main research programmes in quantum (...) gravity treat four topics of particular importance: the scope of standard quantum theory; the nature of spacetime; spacetime diffeomorphisms, and the so-called `problem of time' (Section 4). These programmes are the old particle-physics approach, superstring theory, and canonical quantum gravity. By and large, these programmes accept most of the ingredient theories' treatment of spacetime, albeit with a metric with some type of quantum nature; but they also suggest that the treatment has fundamental limitations. This prompts the idea of going further: either by quantizing structures other than the metric, such as the topology; or by regarding such structures as phenomenological. We discuss this in Section 5. (shrink)
In "The Insignificance of Personal Identity to Bioethics," David Shoemaker argues that, contrary to common opinion, considerations of personal identity have no relevance to certain important debates in bioethics. My aim is to show that Shoemaker is mistaken concerning the relevance of personal identity to the abortion debate -– in particular, to Don Marquis’ well-known anti-abortion argument.
It is a common idea that morality, or moral truths, if there are any, must have some sort of source, or grounding. It has also been claimed that constructivist theories in metaethics have an advantage over realist theories in that the former but not the latter can provide such a grounding. This paper has two goals. First, it attempts to show that constructivism does not in fact provide a complete grounding for morality, and so is on a par with realism (...) in this respect. Second, it explains why it seems that morality in fact couldn't have a source. (shrink)
Necessity holds that, if a proposition A supports another B, then it must support B. John Greco contends that one can resolve Hume's Problem of Induction only if she rejects Necessity in favor of reliabilism. If Greco's contention is correct, we would have good reason to reject Necessity and endorse reliabilism about inferential justification. Unfortunately, Greco's contention is mistaken. I argue that there is a plausible reply to Hume's Problem that both endorses Necessity and is at least as good as (...) Greco's alternative. Hence, Greco provides a good reason for neither rejecting Necessity nor endorsing inferential reliabilism. (shrink)
An important and widely-endorsed argument for moral realism is based on alleged parallels between that doctrine and epistemic realism -- roughly the view that there are genuine epistemic facts, facts such as that it is reasonable to believe that astrology is false. I argue for an important disanalogy between moral and epistemic facts. Epistemic facts, but not moral facts, are plausibly identifiable with mere descriptive facts about the world. This is because, whereas the much-discussed moral open-question argument is compelling, the (...) little-discussed epistemic open-question argument is not. This paper is a critical notice of Terence Cuneo's The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism (Oxford University Press, 2007). (shrink)