Self-directed and self-evaluative attitudes are often connected to one’s social position. Before investigating the dependence relations between individual self-evaluation and social positioning, however, there is a prior question to answer: What are the conditions under which an individual can have any self-directed attitudes at all? In order to be the subject of self-directed or selfevaluative attitudes, I shall argue, an individual must have linguistic and social relations. I’ll discuss the first-person perspective, self-concepts and their acquisition—all from a radically nonCartesian, externalist (...) point of view. This paper will combine my work on first-person perspectives with my work on “content externalism” in the philosophy of mind in order to understand how someone can have self-directed attitudes at all. Having self-directed attitudes—attitudes about oneself—is a precondition for making any individual self-evaluation. Self-directed attitudes and self-evaluative attitudes—such as self-love, self-esteem and self-loathing—“are [in the words of our organizers] often closely tied to the position one occupies within a network of social relations.”1 Quite so. But before investigating the particular dependence relations between individual self-evaluation and social positioning, there is a prior question to answer: What are the conditions under which an individual can have any self-directed attitudes at all? That is the question that I want to address here. Then, I want to draw a moral about what it is to be a human person. In order to be the subject of self-directed or self-evaluative attitudes, I shall argue, an individual must have linguistic and social relations. Some self-directed attitudes obviously require the subject to have linguistic and social relations. For example, pride in one’s class rank requires comparison between oneself and others (as well as having the concept *class rank*.) By contrast, other attitudes of self-satisfaction (such as one’s self-satisfaction in sticking to a healthful diet) do not obviously require one to have linguistic and social relations.. (shrink)
After an undergraduate degree with a major in mathematics, I turned to philosophy—in part because philosophy had all the interest of math (and logic) plus an indefinitely wide range of subject matter. I began philosophy at an intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of science. My dissertation, Ontological and Linguistic Aspects of Temporal Becoming, was on the philosophy of time. A convinced physicalist, I defended the idea that past, present and future (the A-series) are merely “mind-dependent.” I spent a year as (...) a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, working mainly with Adolf Grünbaum, who was very generous to me with his time. Other members of the philosophical community in Pittsburgh suggested that there was no philosophical interest in nowness; the word ‘now’ exhausted whatever there was of real interest concerning the status of the present. I therefore turned my attention from the status of the present (nowness) to the word ‘now’. (shrink)
I want to raise three questions for discussion: 1. How are a philosopher’s concerns about the human mind related to a neuroscientist’s concerns? 2. Can neuroscience explain everything that we want to understand about the human mind? 3. Does neuroscience threaten our dignity or humanity (or anything else that we cherish about ourselves)? Let’s take these questions one at a time.
In the large recent literature on the nature of human persons, persons are usually studied in isolation from the world in which they live. What persons are most fundamentally, philosophers say, are human animals, or brains, or perhaps souls—without any consideration of the social and physical environments without which persons would not exist. I confess that I, too, have been guilty at times of focusing narrowly on persons without regard to the world in which they live.
My main reaction to "Intelligence without representation" is to applaud. Dreyfus's use of Merleau-Ponty is a refreshing new breeze in philosophy of psychology. About twenty or so years ago, philosophers struck an unfortunate course..
Amie Thomasson and I are in agreement about artifacts, in particular about the existential dependence of artifacts on human intentions. Thomasson says, “Since the very idea of an artifact is of something mind-dependent in certain ways, accepting mindindependence as an across-the-board criterion for existence gives us no reason to deny the existence of artifacts; it merely begs the question against them.” I agree entirely.
Amie Thomasson has won well-deserved praise for her book, Ordinary Objects. She defends a commonsense world view and gives us “reason to think that there are fundamental particles, plants and animals, sticks and stones, tables and chairs, and even marriages and mortgages.” (p. 181) Ordinary objects comprise a vast array of things—natural objects both scientific and commonsensical, artifacts, organisms, abstract social objects.
In his neglected treatise on education, the great eighteenth-century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, mentions that Benjamin Franklin “wondered why everyone didn’t learn to swim, since swimming is so pleasant and so useful.” Franklin..
Here’s what I intend to do. First, I want to summarize the paper as I see it. Then, as a philosopher is expected to do, I’ll present some questions and disagreements—both substantive and methodological—with Open Theism. Finally, despite the fact that I am an outsider, I want to comment on the debate over Open Theism within certain evangelical circles.
One of the deepest assumptions of Judaism and its offspring, Christianity, is that there is an important difference between human persons and everything else that exists in Creation. We alone are made in God’s image. We alone are the stewards of the earth. It is said in Genesis that we have “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps (...) upon the earth.” It is difficult to see how a traditional theist could deny the significance of the difference between human persons and the rest of Creation. We human persons are morally and ontologically special. (shrink)
I want to raise a question for which I have no definitive answer. The question is how to understand first-personal phenomena—phenomena that that can be discerned only from a first-personal point of view. The question stems from reflection on two claims: First, the claim of scientific naturalism that all phenomena can be described and explained by science; and second, the claim of science that everything within its purview is intersubjectively accessible, and hence that all science is constructed exclusively form the (...) third-personal point of view. Using these two claims as premises, we can construct a simple valid argument, which I’ll label ‘The Master Argument:’. (shrink)
We run into instances of material constitution everywhere we turn. Material constitution is the relation that obtains between an octagonal piece of metal and a Stop sign, between strands of DNA molecules and genes, between pieces of paper and dollar bills, between stones and monuments, between lumps of clay and statues, between human persons and their bodies—the list is endless. Although there has been a great deal of controversy recently about the nature of material constitution, I want to enter the (...) fray by setting out and defending an explicit definition of what it is for an object x to constitute an object y at time t. (shrink)
Bransen takes the first question to pose “the problem of man’s uniqueness,” and his ultimate aim is to dissolve that problem. His method of dissolving it is by way of a detailed answer to the second question, which is the most fundamental. I want to show that Bransen’s answer to the second question actually provides an answer to each of the other questions, and that instead of dissolving the problem of man’s uniqueness (posed by question #1), what he offers is (...) really a straightforward solution—albeit a partly normative one. To see this, we must look beyond Bransen’s answer to the metaphysical presuppositions on which, I believe, it rests. (shrink)
After centuries of reflection, the issue of human freedom remains vital largely because of its connection to moral responsibility. When I ask—What is human freedom?—I mean to be asking what kind of freedom is required for moral responsibility? Questions about moral responsibility are intimately connected to questions about social policy and justice; so, the issue of moral responsibility—of desert, of whether or not anyone is ever really praiseworthy or blameworthy—has practical as well as theoretical significance.
Abstract: On standard accounts, actions are caused by reasons (Davidson), and reasons are taken to be neural phenomena. Since neural phenomena are wholly understandable from a third-person perspective, standard views have no room for any ineliminable first-personal elements in an account of the causation of action. This article aims to show that first-person perspectives play essential roles in both human and nonhuman agency. Nonhuman agents have rudimentary first-person perspectives, whereas human agents—at least rational agents and moral agents—have robust first-person perspectives. (...) The author concludes with a view of intentional causation, according to which reasons are constituted by (but not identical to) neural phenomena. The idea of constitution without identity allows for a causal account of action that automatically includes first-personal aspects of agency. (shrink)
Nonphilosophers, if they think of philosophy at all, wonder why people work in metaphysics. After all, metaphysics, as Auden once said of poetry, makes nothing happen.1 Yet some very intelligent people are driven to spend their lives exploring metaphysical theses. Part of what motivates metaphysicians is the appeal of grizzly puzzles (like the paradox of the heap or the puzzle of the ship of Theseus). But the main reason to work in metaphysics, for me at least, is to understand the (...) shared world that we all encounter and interact with. And the shared world that we all encounter includes us self-conscious beings and our experience. The world that we inhabit is unavoidably a temporal world: the signing of the Declaration of Independence is later than the Lisbon earthquake; the Cold War is in the past; your death is in the future. There is no getting away from time. (shrink)
Anselm’s argument for the existence of God in Proslogion 2 has a little-noticed feature: It can be properly formulated only by beings who have the ability to think of things and refer to things independently of whether or not they exist in reality. The authors explore this cognitive ability and try to make clear the role it plays in the ontological argument. Then, we offer a new version of the ontological argument, which, we argue, is sound: it is valid, has (...) true premises, and does not beg any questions against the atheist. However, the new reconstruction of the argument falls short of Anselm’s goal of producing “a single argument that would require no other for its proof than itself alone; and alone would suffice to demonstrate that God exists.” The new reconstruction requires a subsidiary argument to show that God exists in the understanding. The subsidiary argument relies on premises that are both contingent and known a posteriori. However, the somewhat amplified argument, if it is sound as the authors believe it to be, does show that God exists in reality. Moreover, the new reconstruction escapes an important recent criticism by Peter Millican (2004, 2007) against ontological arguments generally. (shrink)
The ontological argument in Anselm’s Proslogion II continues to generate a remarkable store of sophisticated commentary and criticism. However, in our opinion, much of this literature ignores or misrepresents the elegant simplicity of the original argument. The dialogue below seeks to restore that simplicity, with one important modification. Like the original, it retains the form of a reductio, which we think is essential to the argument’s great genius. However, it seeks to skirt the difficult question of whether 'exists' is a (...) genuine predicate by appealing instead to a distinction between having only mediated causal powers and having unmediated causal powers. Pegasus has no unmediated causal powers, but he has mediated causal powers through the thoughts, depictions, and literature in which he figures. This distinction allows us to argue about the existence of God without begging any questions. (shrink)
The expression ‘nonreductive materialism’ refers to a variety of positions whose roots lie in attempts to solve the mind-body problem. Proponents of nonreductive materialism hold that the mental is ontologically part of the material world; yet, mental properties are causally efficacious without being reducible to physical properties.s After setting out a minimal schema for nonreductive materialism (NRM) as an ontological position, I’ll canvass some classical arguments in favor of (NRM).1 Then, I’ll discuss the major challenge facing any construal of (NRM): (...) the problem of mental causation, pressed by Jaegwon Kim. Finally, I’ll offer a new solution to the problem of mental causation. (shrink)
The extended-mind thesis (EM) is the claim that mentality need not be situated just in the brain, or even within the boundaries of the skin. Some versions take "extended selves" be to relatively transitory couplings of biological organisms and external resources. First, I show how EM can be seen as an extension of traditional views of mind. Then, after voicing a couple of qualms about EM, I reject EM in favor of a more modest hypothesis that recognizes enduring subjects of (...) experience and agents with integrated bodies. Nonetheless, my modest hypothesis allows subpersonal states to have nonbiological parts that play essential roles in cognitive processing. I present empirical warrant for this modest hypothesis and show how it leaves room for science and religion to coexist. (shrink)
Saving God is a rich and provocative book. It aims to "save God" from idolatrous believers, who take God to be largely concerned with the welfare and destiny of human creatures. Banning idolatry, Johnston is led to a panentheistic conception of "the Highest One," who (or which) is not separable from Nature. With echoes of Spinoza and, to a lesser extent, Whitehead, Johnston argues that the natural world is all that there is, but, properly understood, can be seen as "the (...) site of the sacred.". (shrink)
Any artefact – a hammer, a telescope, an artificial hip – may malfunction. Conceptually speaking, artefacts have an inherent normative aspect. I argue that the normativity of artefacts should be understood as part of reality, and not just “in our concepts.” I first set out Deflationary Views of artefacts, according to which there are no artefactual properties, just artefactual concepts. According to my contrasting view – the Constitution View – there are artefactual properties that things in the world really have. (...) For example, there is a property of being a telephone per se; we apply our concept telephone to things that have that property. Things that have the property of being a telephone are constituted by, but not identical to, aggregates of particles. To be an artefact, an object must have an intended function, among other things. Telephones – in virtue of being the kind of objects that they are – are always subject to malfunction. And malfunctions, when they occur, are just as much part of the world as telephones are. The example of artefacts shows that what is in the world – what really exists – need not be “mind-independent” nor independent of our concepts. (shrink)
It is no news that you and I are agents as well as persons. Agency and personhood are surely connected, but it is not obvious just how they are connected. I believe that being a person and being an agent are intimately linked by what I call a ‘first-person perspective’: All persons and all agents have first-person perspectives. Even so, the connection between personhood and agency is not altogether straightforward. There are different kinds of agents, and there are different kinds (...) of first-person perspectives. On the one hand, all persons are agents, but not all agents are persons; on the other hand, all moral agents are persons, but not all persons are moral agents. (shrink)
Metaphysics has enjoyed a vigorous revival in the last few decades. Even so, there has been little ontological interest in the things that we interact with everyday—trees, tables, other people.1 It is not that metaphysicians ignore ordinary things altogether. Indeed, they are happy to say that sentences like ‘The daffodils are out early this year’ or ‘My computer crashed again’ are true. But they take the truth of such sentences not to require that a full description of reality mention daffodils (...) or computers. Many metaphysicians now interpret the apparent variety of things in the world as variety only of concepts applied to things that are basically of the same sort—for example, sums of particles or of temporal parts of particles. (shrink)
Eric Olson won the hearts of my graduate students by dedicating his book “to the unemployed philosophers.” (The students subsequently got fine jobs, but it’s the thought (or rather the sympathy) that counts.) As appreciated as the dedication was, however, I doubt that it was responsible for the wonderful reception that Olson’s book, The Human Animal, has had. Rather, the cleverness of his arguments, the vigor with which Olson writes, and the new interpretations of old thought experiments and arguments have (...) deservedly captured a great deal of philosophical attention in the past ten years. Despite the fact that I hold significantly different views from Olson’s, I am happy to be here today to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of his important book. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen has offered two versions of an influential argument that has come to be called ‘the Consequence Argument’. The Consequence Argument purports to demonstrate that determinism is incompatible with free will.1 It aims to show that, if we assume determinism, we are committed to the claim that, for all propositions p, no one has or ever had any choice about p. Unfortunately, the original Consequence Argument employed an inference rule (the β-rule) that was shown to be invalid. (McKay (...) and Johnson 1996) In response, van Inwagen revised his argument. I shall argue that the conclusion of the revised Consequence Argument is wholly independent of the premiss of determinism, and hence that the revised Consequence Argument is useless in showing that determinism is incompatible with free will. (shrink)
Artifacts are objects intentionally made to serve a given purpose; natural objects come into being without human intervention. I shall argue that this difference does not signal any ontological deficiency in artifacts qua artifacts. After sketching my view of artifacts as ordinary objects, I’ll argue that ways of demarcating genuine substances do not draw a line with artifacts on one side and natural objects on the other. Finally, I’ll suggest that philosophers have downgraded artifacts because they think of metaphysics as (...) resting on a distinction between what is “mindindependent” and what is “mind dependent.” I’ll challenge the use of any such distinction as a foundation for metaphysics. (shrink)
Bransen takes the first question to pose ―the problem of man‘s uniqueness,‖ and his ultimate aim is to dissolve that problem. His method of dissolving it is by way of a detailed answer to the second question, which is the most fundamental. I want to show that Bransen‘s answer to the second question actually provides an answer to each of the other questions, and that instead of dissolving the problem of man‘s uniqueness (posed by question #1), what he offers is (...) really a straightforward solution—albeit a partly normative one. To see this, we must look beyond Bransen‘s answer to the metaphysical presuppositions on which, I believe, it rests. normative. (shrink)
Ever since the 1970’s, philosophers of mind have engaged in a lively discussion of Externalism. Externalism is the metaphysical thesis that the contents of one’s thoughts are determined partly by empirical features of one’s environment. Externalism appears to clash with another plausible thesis—the epistemological thesis that one can have knowledge of one’s own thoughts, without evidence or empirical investigation. Many have argued that the conjunction of these theses is incompatible. I have argued elsewhere for their compatibility.1 Here I’ll just assume (...) that they are compatible and explore some consequences of conjoining a particular externalist thesis about the contents of thoughts (Social Externalism) with a particular thesis about self-knowledge (First-Person Authority). (shrink)
The first-person perspective is a challenge to naturalism. Naturalistic theories are relentlessly third-personal. The first-person perspective is, well, first-personal; it is the perspective from which one thinks of oneself as oneself* without the aid of any third-person name, description, demonstrative or other referential device. The exercise of the capacity to think of oneself in this first-personal way is the necessary condition of all our self-knowledge, indeed of all our self-consciousness. As important as the first-person perspective is, many philosophers have not (...) appreciated the force of the data from the first-person perspective, and suppose that the first-person perspective presents no particular problems for the naturalizing philosopher. For example, Ned Block commented, “It is of course [phenomenal] consciousness rather than...self-consciousness that has seemed such a scientific mystery.” (Block 1995, 230) And <span class='Hi'>David</span> Chalmers says that self-consciousness is one of those psychological states that “pose no deep metaphysical enigmas.” (Chalmers 1996, 24). (shrink)
Theories of the human person differ greatly in their ability to underwrite a metaphysics of resurrection. This paper compares and contrasts a number of such views in light of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. In a Christian framework, resurrection requires that the same person who exists on earth also exists in an afterlife, that a postmortem person be embodied, and that the existence of a postmortem person is brought about by a miracle. According to my view of persons (the Constitution (...) View), a human person is constituted by—but not identical to—a human organism. A person has a first-person perspective essentially, and an organism has interrelated biological functions essentially. I shall argue for the superiority the Constitution View as a metaphysical basis for resurrection. (shrink)
We human persons have an abiding interest in understanding what kind of beings we are. However, it is not obvious how to attain such an understanding. Traditional analytic metaphysicians start with a priori accounts of the most general, abstract features of the world— e.g., accounts of properties and particulars—features that, they claim, in no way depend upon us or our activity.1 Such accounts are formulated in abstraction from what is already known about persons and other things, and are used as (...) constraints on metaphysical investigation of everything else. So, if we accept traditional metaphysics, we should be prepared to yield to abstruse pronouncements—either by giving up our most secure beliefs about the world that we encounter or by abandoning our conception of what those beliefs are really about. (shrink)
Social Externalism is the thesis that many of our thoughts are individuated in part by the linguistic and social practices of the thinker’s community. After defending Social Externalism and arguing for its broad application, I turn to the kind of defeasible first-person authority that we have over our own thoughts. Then, I present and refute an argument that uses first-person authority to disprove Social Externalism. Finally, I argue briefly that Social Externalism—far from being incompatible with first-person authority—provides a check on (...) first-personal pronouncements and thus saves first-person authority from being simply a matter of social convention and from collapsing into the subjectivity of “what seems right is right.”. (shrink)
Lynne Rudder Baker presents and defends a unique account of the material world: the Constitution View. In contrast to leading metaphysical views that take everyday things to be either non-existent or reducible to micro-objects, the Constitution View construes familiar things as irreducible parts of reality. Although they are ultimately constituted by microphysical particles, everyday objects are neither identical to, nor reducible to, the aggregates of microphysical particles that constitute them. The result is genuine ontological diversity: people, bacteria, donkeys, mountains and (...) microscopes are fundamentally different kinds of things - all constituted by, but not identical to, aggregates of particles. Baker supports her account with discussions of non-reductive causation, vagueness, mereology, artifacts, three-dimensionalism, ontological novelty, ontological levels and emergence. The upshot is a unified ontological theory of the entire material world that irreducibly contains people, as well as non-human living things and inanimate objects. (shrink)
This book presents and defends a unique account of the material world: the Constitution View. The Constitution View construes familiar things as irreducible parts of reality. Although ultimately constituted by physical particles, everyday things are neither identical to nor reducible to the aggregates of particles that constitute them The result is genuine ontological diversity: people, bacteria, donkeys, mountains and microscopes are fundamentally different kinds of things--all constituted by aggregates of particles. This view is supported by discussions of nonreductive causation, vagueness, (...) mereology, ontological novelty, ontological levels and emergence. (shrink)
On September 11, 2001, as everyone knows, the towers of the World Trade Center in New York were attacked. I want to discuss this event in order to motivate a nonreductionist view of the extensions of everyday concepts. Next, I shall set out, and begin to defend, the particular view of nonreductionism that I favor—the Constitution View. Then, I shall consider two venerable metaphysical issues (the nature of vagueness and the mind-independent/mind- dependent distinction) in light of the Constitution View. If (...) the Constitution View is correct, then everyday concepts are a good guide to reality. My aim is to offer a metaphysical theory that acknowledges the genuine reality of what our everyday concepts (as well as our scientific concepts) are concepts of. (shrink)
“Form follows function,” the slogan of modernist architecture, could well be a slogan of artefacts generally. Since the choice of material for a tool is guided by the function of the tool, we may be tempted to think that having a functional nature distinguishes artefacts from natural objects. But that would be a mistake. Certain natural objects—especially biological entities like mammalian hearts—have functional natures too.
Traditionally, Anglophone philosophers have assumed that the identity of a thought is determined wholly by the subject's intrinsic states--e.g., her brain states. In the 1970's, this traditional view (lately called 'individualism' or ‘internalism’) was challenged by Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge, who argued that the contents of one’s beliefs, desires, intentions are partly determined by one's physical, social and/or linguistic environment. The question is not whether the environment causes one to think what one does. Rather, the question is one of (...) the identity of thoughts: In virtue of what is a thought the particular thought that it is? According to Putnam and Burge, the answer lies partly in the environment. What makes the belief expressed by ‘water is wet’ the belief that it is depends on the presence of H2O in the environment, not just on the believer’s internal states. The view that thoughts are individuated in part by environmental factors has come to be called ‘anti-individualism’ or ‘externalism’. (shrink)
The term ‘human interpretation’ itself has two interpretations: interpretation by human beings and interpretation of human beings. We are all familiar with both kinds of interpretation in ordinary life. Marie interprets Sam’s remark as a sexual invitation; Joseph interprets the famous guest’s attire as an insult to the host. But as the organizers of our conference point out, we have no systematic explanation of human interpretation—either ‘of’ or ‘by’ human beings. Before embarking on a theory of human interpretation, however, we (...) need to do some preliminary work. What is the explanandum of a theory of human interpretation? What is an explanation of human interpretation supposed to be an explanation of? (shrink)
According to the Constitution View of persons, a human person is wholly constituted by (but not identical to) a human organism. This view does justice both to our similarities to other animals and to our uniqueness. As a proponent of the Constitution View, I defend the thesis that the coming-into-existence of a human person is not simply a matter of the coming-into-existence of an organism, even if that organism ultimately comes to constitute a person. Marshalling some support from developmental psychology, (...) I give a broadly materialistic account of the coming-into-existence of a human person. I argue for the metaphysical superiority of the Constitution View to Biological Animalism, Thomistic Animalism, and other forms of Substance Dualism. I conclude by discussing the single implication of the Constitution View for thinking about abortion. Footnotesa Thanks to Gareth Matthews and Catherine E. Rudder for comments. I am also grateful to other contributors to this volume, especially Robert A. Wilson, Marya Schechtman, David Oderberg, Stephen Braude, and John Finnis. (shrink)
Beginning with Aristotle, philosophers have taken artifacts to be ontologically deficient. This paper proposes a theory of artifacts, according to which artifacts are ontologically on a par with other material objects. I formulate a nonreductive theory that regards artifacts as constituted by - but not identical to - aggregates of particles. After setting out the theory, I rebut a number of arguments that disparage the ontological status of artifacts.
Through the ages, Christians have almost automatically been Mind-Body dualists. The Bible portrays us as spiritual beings, and one obvious way to be a spiritual being is to be (or to have) an immaterial soul. Since it is also evident that we have bodies, Christians naturally have thought of themselves as composite beings, made of two substances—a material body and a nonmaterial soul. Despite the historical weight of this position, I do not think that it is required either by Scripture (...) or by Christian doctrine as it has developed through the ages. So, I want to argue that there is a Christian alternative to Mind-Body Dualism, and that the reasons in favor of the alternative outweigh those in favor of Mind-Body Dualism. (shrink)
Book Information Objects and Persons. Objects and Persons Trenton Merricks . Oxford: Clarendon Press , 2001 , pp. xii + 203 , £30 ( cloth ), £14.99 ( paper ) . By Trenton Merricks. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. xii + 203. £30 (cloth:), £14.99 (paper:).
The prevailing view of Christian philosophers today seems to be that Christianity requires a libertarian conception of free will. Focusing on Augustine’s mature anti-Pelagian works, I try to show that the prevailing view is in error. Specifically, I want to show that---on Augustine’s view of grace-a libertarian account of free will is irrelevant to salvation. On Augustine’s view, the grace of God through Christ is sufficient as weIl as necessary for salvation. Salvation is entirely in the hands of God, totally (...) independent of anything that any human being might do. And faith, the human response to salvation, is best understood in terms of a compatibilist account of freedom. (shrink)
With all the attention given to the study of consciousness recently, the topic of self-consciousness has been relatively neglected. “It is of course [phenomenal] consciousness rather than...self-conscious that has seemed such a scientific mystery,” a prominent philosopher comments.1 Phenomenal consciousness concerns the aspect of a state that feels a certain way: roses smell like this; garlic tastes like that; middle C sounds like this, and so on. Although phenomenal consciousness is surely a fruitful area of scientific investigation, I hope to (...) demonstrate here that investigation of selfconsciousness offers its own rewards, ontologically speaking. (shrink)
This article aims to vindicate the commonsensical view that what we think affects what we do. In order to show that mental properties like believing, desiring and intending are causally explanatory, I propose a nonreductive, materialistic account that identifies beliefs and desires by their content, and that shows how differences in the contents of beliefs and desires can make causal differences in what we do.
1. Primary-kind properties. Rosenkrantz does not see how a single primary-kind property can be had by x essentially and by y contingently (where x ≠ y). He offers a reductio ad absurdum of the view that a primary can be had accidentally or derivatively. The reductio has as a premise the following: “[S]omething has a primarykind property, F-ness, derivatively only if the primary-kind property of a nonderivative F, i.e., the property which determines what a nonderivative F most fundamentally is, is (...) nonderivative F-ness (rather than F-ness).” However, this premise is simply a denial of my view. (shrink)
1. Suppose that John and Jane are junior colleagues in an academic department of a university. John, who thinks of Jane as his competitor, has seen her flirt with the head of the department. He tells his other colleagues that Jane is trying to gain an unfair advantage over him. He comes to dislike Jane, and often in conversation with people outside the department, he enjoys saying bad things about Jane.
Throughout his illustrious career, Roderick Chisholm was concerned with the nature of persons. On his view, persons are what he called ‘entia per se.’ They exist per se, in their own right. I too have developed an account of persons—I call it the ‘Constitution View’—an account that is different in important ways from Chisholm’s. Here, however, I want to focus on a thesis that Chisholm and I agree on: that persons have ontological significance in virtue of being persons. Although I’ll (...) make the notion of ontological significance more precise later, the rough idea is that Fs (persons, or whatever) have ontological significance just in case a new F is a new thing and not just a change in some already-existing thing. (shrink)
Many Christians assume that there are only two possibilities for what a human person is: either Animalism (the view that we are fundamentally animals) or Immaterialism (the view that we are fundamentally immaterial souls). I set out a third possibility: the Constitution View (the view that we are material beings, constituted by bodies but not identical to the bodies that now constitute us.) After setting out and briefly defending the Constitution View, I apply it to the doctrine of resurrection. I (...) conclude by giving reasons for Christians to prefer the Constitution View of human persons to both Animalism and Immaterialism. (shrink)
How should philosophy be pursued? I want to defend a conception of philosophy in mediis rebus—philosophy in the middle of things. The more familiar Latin phrase is ‘in medias res,’ but Latin distinguishes two readings of ‘in the middle of things.’ There’s the middle of things from which one starts, and there’s the middle of things into which one jumps. ‘In medias res’ is the middle of things into which one jumps; I, however, mean to invoke the middle of things (...) from which one starts. Thus, risking an accusation of pedantry, I use ‘in mediis rebus.’. (shrink)
During the past couple of decades, philosophy of mind--with its siblings, philosophy of psychology and cognitive science--has been one of the most exciting areas of philosophy. Yet, in that time, I have come to think that there is a deep flaw in the basic conception of its object of study--a deep flaw in its conception of the so-called propositional attitudes, like belief, desire, and intention. Taking belief as the fundamental propositional attitude, scientifically-minded philosophers hold that beliefs, if there are any, (...) are brain states. I call this conception of belief. (shrink)
The topics that I shall consider are these: (1) Causal Explanatoriness of the Attitudes (Dretske, Elugardo); (2) The “Brain-Explain” Thesis and Metaphysical Constraints on Explanation (Antony, Elugardo); (3) Causal Powers of Beliefs (Meyering); (4) Microreduction (Beckermann); (5) Non-Emergent, Non-Reductive Materialism (Antony); (6) The Master Argument Against the Standard View (Dretske, Antony, Elugardo); (7) Practical Realism Extended (Meijers); (8) Alternative to Both the Standard View and Practical Realism (Newen).
What is a human person, and what is the relation between a person and his or her body? In her third book on the philosophy of mind, Lynne Rudder Baker investigates what she terms the person/body problem and offers a detailed account of the relation between human persons and their bodies. Baker's argument is based on the 'Constitution View' of persons and bodies, which aims to show what distinguishes persons from all other beings and to show how we can be (...) fully material beings without being identical to our bodies. The Constitution View yields answers to the questions 'What am I most fundamentally?', 'What is a person?', and 'What is the relation between human persons and their bodies'? Baker argues that the complex mental property of first-person perspective enables one to conceive of one's body and mental states as one's own. (shrink)
Commonsense psychological explanations are an integral part of a comprehensive commonsense background that includes almost everything that we deal with everyday— from traffic jams to paychecks to cozy dinners for two. It is the comprehensive commonsense background that I think is not wholesale refutable by science. A good deal of the comprehensive commonsense background itself depends on there being beliefs, desires, intentions and other propositional attitudes. If there never have been propositional attitudes, then there never have been statues or schools (...) or terrorists or Nobel prizes. Since I think it unreasonable to suppose that science will reveal that there never has been a statue, or a school or a terrorist or a Nobel prize, I also think it unreasonable to suppose that science will reveal that nobody has ever had a belief, desire, intention or other propositional attitude.1. (shrink)
relation between, say, a lump of clay and a statue that it makes up, or between a red and white piece of metal and a stop sign, or between a person and her body? Assuming that there is a single relation between members of each of these pairs, is the relation “strict” identity, “contingent” identity or something else?1 Although this question has generated substantial controversy recently,2 I believe that there is philo- sophical gain to be had from thinking through the (...) issues from scratch. Many of the charges and countercharges are based on the following dichotomy: For any x and y that are related as the lump of clay is to the statue that it makes up, either x is identical to y, or x and y are separate entities, independent of each other. By giving up this dichotomy, we will be able to begin to make sense, I hope, of an intermediate unity relation that holds promise for solving a raft of philosophical problems, including the problem of how persons are related to their bodies.3 And if I am correct, then this relation—constitution without identity—is ubiquitous and interesting in its own right, apart from the light that it sheds on human persons. (shrink)
Eric T. Olson has argued that any view of personal identity in terms of psychological continuity has a consequence that he considers untenable-namely, that he was never an early-term fetus. I have several replies. First, the psychological-continuity view of personal identity does not entail the putative consequence; the appearance to the contrary depends on not distinguishing between de re and de dicto theses. Second, the putative consequence is not untenable anyway; the appearance to the contrary depends on not taking seriously (...) an idea that underlies a plausible view of persons that I call `the Constitution View.' Finally, Olson's own "Biological View of personal identity" has liabilities of its own. (shrink)
What is this thing called ‘Commonsense Psychology’? The first matter to settle is what the issue is here. By ‘commonsense psychology,’ I mean primarily the systems of describing, explaining and predicting human thought and action in terms of beliefs, desires, hopes, fears, expectations, intentions and other so-called propositional attitudes. Although commonsense psychology encompasses more than propositional attitudes--e.g., emotions, traits and abilities are also within its purview--belief-desire reasoning forms the core of commonsense psychology. Commonsense psychology is what we use to explain (...) intentional action as ordinarily described--e.g., Jack went to the store because he wanted some ice cream. Commonsense psychology also is used to explain mental states--e.g., Jill feared that she would be late because she thought that the meeting began at 4:00. Commonsense psychology is the province of everyone; we all use it all the time. (shrink)
Self-consciousness, many philosophers agree, is essential to being a person. There is not so much agreement, however, about how to understand what self-consciousness is. Philosophers in the field of cognitive science tend to write off self-consciousness as unproblematic. According to such philosophers, the real difficulty for the cognitive scientist is phenomenal consciousness--the fact that we (and other organisms) have states that feel a certain way. If we had a grip on phenomenal consciousness, they think, self-consciousness could be easily handled by (...) functionalist models. For example, recently Ned Block commented,. (shrink)
Explaining Attitudes was not intended to be hostile to science. Its target is what I called the Standard View, a conception of the attitudes that is held almost universally. The heart of the Standard View is the thesis that beliefs (and other..
Explaining Attitudes offers a timely and important challenge to the dominant conception of belief found in the work of such philosophers as Dretske and Fodor. According to this dominant view beliefs, if they exist at all, are constituted by states of the brain. Lynne Rudder Baker rejects this view and replaces it with a quite different approach - practical realism. Seen from the perspective of practical realism, any argument that interprets beliefs as either brain states or states of immaterial souls (...) is a 'non-starter'. Practical realism takes beliefs to be states of the whole persons, rather like states of health. What a person believes is determined by what a person would do, say and think in various circumstances. Thus beliefs and other attitudes are interwoven into an integrated, commonsensical conception of reality. (shrink)
Although prominent Christian theologians and philosophers have assumed the truth of mind/body dualism, I want to raise the question of whether the Christian ought to be a mind/body dualist. First, I sketch a picture of mind, and of human persons, that is not a form of mind/body dualism. Then, I argue that the nondualistic picture is compatible with a major traditional Christian doctrine, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Finally, I suggest that if a Christian need not be (...) a mind/body dualist, then she should not be a mind/body dualist. (shrink)
Although prominent Christian theologians and philosophers have assumed the truth of mind/ixrdy dualism, I want to raise the question of whether the Christian ought to be a mind/body dualist. First, I sketch a picture of mind, and of human persons, that is not a form of mind/body dualism. Then, I argue that the nondualistic picture is compatible with a major traditional Christian doctrine, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Finally, I suggest that if a ChristianÂ»eedÂ»ot be a mind/body (...) dualist, then she shou(d Â»ot be a mind/body dualist. (shrink)
materialist that beliefs are not immaterial soul-states, I think that the conception of beliefs as brain states is badly misguided. I hope to show that "beliefs are brain states or soul states" is a false dichotomy. I am using the phrase 'beliefs as brain states' to cover several familiar theses: the token-identity thesis, according to which beliefs are identical to brain-state tokens; nonreductive materialism, according to which beliefs are constituted by brain states (as pebbles are constituted by..
My aim is twofold: first, to root out the metaphysical assumptions that generate the problem of mental causation and to show that they preclude its solution; second, to dissolve the problem of mental causation by motivating rejection of one of the metaphysical assumptions that give rise to it. There are three features of this metaphysical background picture that are important for our purposes. The first concerns the nature of reality: all reality depends on physical reality, where physical reality consists of (...) a network of events.1 The second concerns the nature of causation, and the third concerns the conception of behavior. I try to vindicate a robust idea of mental causation. (shrink)