In 1950, Quine inaugurated a strange new way of talking about philosophy. The hallmark of this approach is a propensity to take ordinary colloquial sentences that all of us utter routinely when we are not thinking about philosophy, or (more often) other sentences that very directly and obviously logically entail such sentences, and treat those sentences (i) as having a clear content, calling for little or no elucidation, and (ii) as proper objects of philosophical controversy. Questions like ‘are there numbers?’ (...) and ‘are there tables?’ were now placed on a par with questions like ‘are there immaterial souls?’ and ‘are there sense-data?’. Of course philosophers have always had a propensity to say things that sound odd to vulgar ears. What was new with Quine was a systematic policty of privileging these kinds of formulations over more distinctively philosophical idioms. Jargon which had been central to the practice of metaphysics—’logical construction’, ’nothing over and above’, ‘reduce’, ‘ground’, ‘in virtue of’, ‘fundamental’, ‘consist in’...—were shifted to a much more peripheral role. The tradition inaugurated by Quine raises some hard interpretative questions for anyone who, like me and Dave, thinks that there is a range of different propositions that people brought up as English-speakers might be tempted to try to get across by uttering one of these sentences. On the one hand, Dave and I agree that the propositions that any ordinary, unphilosophical use of a sentence like ‘there are some free tables at the back of the café’ would be intended to get across are (in many cases) extremely obvious. The idea that when ontologists assert ‘there are no tables’, or treat this claim as calling for serious debate, they are intending to call into question propositions as obvious as that seems implausibly uncharitable. On the other hand, it is also a hallmark of the Quinean tradition that it claims to be using words in their ordinary sense, at least to the extent that (unlike its founder) it is willing to trafﬁc in talk of meanings at all.. (shrink)
Some ways in which they might not be: (i) They are meaningless. (ii) They are (in some relevant way) ambiguous, or perhaps context-sensitive—at any rate, capable of being used literally to express many different propositions. We must make sure we are using them in the same way. (iii) They are often used nonliterally—so often that it takes work to make our interlocutors focus on the literal interpretation.
Argument that Q∃ expresses more than one proposition: (1) Q∃ expresses the proposition that Q∃ expresses some proposition that isn’t true. ((E)) (2) If Q ∃ expresses only true propositions, then the proposition that Q ∃ expresses some proposition that isn’t true is true. ((1)) (3) If Q∃ expresses only true propositions, then some proposition expressed by Q∃ is not true. (2, T) (4) Some proposition expressed by Q ∃ is not true. ((3)) (5) The proposition that Q ∃ expresses (...) some proposition that isn’t true is true. (4, T) (6) Q∃ expresses at least one true proposition. (1,5) (7) Q∃ expresses at least two propositions. (3, 6) (A parallel argument shows that Q∀ expresses both true and false propositions. (shrink)
(Q)! x and y are qualitatively indiscernible =df there is a global isomorphism π such that π(x)=y. (R)! π is an isomorphism =df ! (i) π(x) = x whenever x is a property or relation ! (ii) π(x) instantiates π(p) iff x instantiates p ! (iii) π(x) bears π(r) to π(y) iff x bears r to y, etc.
Let me regale you with yet another variant of the story of Sleeping Beauty. In this one, the experiment takes place in a room with a skylight, so that Beauty can see what the weather is like outside as soon as she wakes up. The weather can be in any one of n different states on any given day. Beauty regards each of these states as equiprobable; moreover, she takes there to be no correlation between the weather on Monday and (...) the weather on Tuesday, or between the weather on either day and the coin-toss. The rest of the story works as usual: Beauty will be awoken on Monday, after which a coin will be tossed; if it lands Tails, she will be woken again on Tuesday having had her memories of the Monday awakening erased; otherwise, she will stay asleep until Wednesday.1 The weather is the only source of variation in her wakings, so if it should happen that the weather is the same on Monday and Tuesday, her total evidence will be exactly the same on both wakings. (shrink)
cation we have in mind is that of formulating the laws of a classical meration space to the complex numbers. But what is it for such a function chanics of point-particles living in Newtonian absolute space, one espe-.
This paper investigates the form a modal realist analysis of possibility and necessity should take. It concludes that according to the best version of modal realism, the notion of a world plays no role in the analysis of modal claims. All contingent claims contain some de re element; the effect of modal operators on these elements is described by a counterpart theory which takes the same form whether the de re reference is to a world or to something else. This (...) fully general counterpart theory can validate orthodox modal logic, including the logic of 'actually'. (shrink)
A short follow-up to Anna Mahtani’s paper ‘Can Vagueness Cut Out at Any Order?’. I describe a model implementing Mahtani's idea of “variable accessibility ranges” in which, for every n, there is a sentence that is nth-order vague but n+1th-order precise, in the sense of Williamson’s paper ‘On the Structure of Higher-Order Vagueness’.
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, …’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, …’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals, according to which they express propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. This (...) paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework, using broadly Gricean resources. (shrink)
This paper defends the claim that although ‘Superman is Clark Kent and some people who believe that Superman flies do not believe that Clark Kent flies’ is a logically inconsistent sentence, we can still utter this sentence, while speaking literally, without asserting anything false. The key idea is that the context-sensitivity of attitude reports can be, and often is, resolved in different ways within a single sentence.
Lewis's notion of a "natural" property has proved divisive: some have taken to the notion with enthusiasm, while others have been sceptical. However, it is far from obvious what the enthusiasts and the sceptics are disagreeing about. This paper attempts to articulate what is at stake in this debate.
Suppose a sentence of the following form is true in a certain context: ‘Necessarily, whenever one believes that the F is uniquely F if anything is, and x is the F, one believes that x is uniquely F if anything is’. I argue that almost always, in such a case, the sentences that result when both occurrences of ‘believes’ are replaced with ‘has justification to believe’, ‘knows’, or ‘knows a priori’ will also be true in the same context. I also (...) argue that many sentences of the relevant form are true in ordinary contexts, and conclude that a priori knowledge of contingent de re propositions is a common and unmysterious phenomenon. However, because of the pervasive context-sensitivity of propositional attitude ascriptions, the question what it is possible to know a priori concerning a given object will have very different answers in different contexts. (shrink)
I explore some ways in which one might base an account of the fundamental metaphysics of geometry on the mathematical theory of Linear Structures recently developed by Tim Maudlin (2010). Having considered some of the challenges facing this approach, Idevelop an alternative approach, according to which the fundamental ontology includes concrete entities structurally isomorphic to functions from space-time points to real numbers.
According to a tradition stemming from Quine and Putnam, we have the same broadly inductive reason for believing in numbers as we have for believing in electrons: certain theories that entail that there are numbers are better, qua explanations of our evidence, than any theories that do not. This paper investigates how modal theories of the form ‘Possibly, the concrete world is just as it in fact is and T’ and ‘Necessarily, if standard mathematics is true and the concrete world (...) is just as it in fact is, then T’ bear on this claim. It concludes that, while analogies with theories that attempt to eliminate unobservable concrete entities provide good reason to regard theories of the former sort as explanatorily bad, this reason does not apply to theories of the latter sort. (shrink)
Ladyman, Ross and their collaborators (Spurrett is a co-author of two chapters, Collier of one) begin their book with a ferocious attack on "analytic metaphysics", as it is currently practiced. Their opening blast claims that contemporary analytic metaphysics 'contributes nothing to human knowledge': its practitioners are 'wasting their talents', and the whole enterprise, although 'engaged in by some extremely intelligent and morally serious people, fails to qualify as part of the enlightened pursuit of objective truth, and should be discontinued' (vii). (...) They set out on a 'mission of disciplinary rescue' in the spirit of Hume and the logical positivists, in which a fair proportion of philosophy as currently practiced -- as they realize, their critique applies far beyond the boundaries of metaphysics proper -- will be consigned to the flames. (shrink)
The Eternal Coin is a fair coin has existed forever, and will exist forever, in a region causally isolated from you. It is tossed every day. How confident should you be that the Coin lands heads today, conditional on (i) the hypothesis that it has landed Heads on every past day, or (ii) the hypothesis that it will land Heads on every future day? I argue for the extremely counterintuitive claim that the correct answer to both questions is 1.
The conclusion of this chapter is that higher-order vagueness is universal: no sentence whatsoever is definitely true, definitely definitely true, definitely definitely definitely true, and so on ad infinitum. The argument, of which there are several versions, turns on the existence of Sorites sequences of possible worlds connecting the actual world to possible worlds where a given sentence is used in such a way that its meaning is very different. The chapter attempts to be neutral between competing accounts of the (...) nature of vagueness and definiteness. (shrink)
I explicate and defend the claim that, fundamentally speaking, there are no numbers, sets, properties or relations. The clarification consists in some remarks on the relevant sense of ‘fundamentally speaking’ and the contrasting sense of ‘superficially speaking’. The defence consists in an attempt to rebut two arguments for the existence of such entities. The first is a version of the indispensability argument, which purports to show that certain mathematical entities are required for good scientific explanations. The second is a speculative (...) reconstruction of Armstrong's version of the One Over Many argument, which purports to show that properties and relations are required for good philosophical explanations, e.g. of what it is for one thing to be a duplicate of another. (shrink)
I argue that there is a conflict between two positions defended by David Lewis: counterpart theory, and the identification of propositions with sets of possible worlds. There is no adequate answer to the question whether a world where Humphrey has one winning and one losing counterpart is or is not a member of the set that is the proposition that Humphrey wins. If one says it is, it will follow that it is possible for that proposition to be true without (...) Humphrey winning; if one says that it is not, it will follow that it is possible for Humphrey to win without that proposition being true. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt two things. First, I argue that one can coherently imagine different communities using languages structurally similar to English, but in which the meanings of the quantifiers vary, so that the answers to ontological questions, such as ‘Under what circumstances do some things compose something?’, are different. Second, I argue that nevertheless, one can make sense of the idea that of the various possible assignments of meanings to the quantifiers, one is especially fundamental, so that there (...) is still room for genuine debate as regards the answers to ontological questions construed in the fundamental way. My attempt to explain what is distinctive about the fundamental senses of the quantifiers involves a generalisation of the idea that claims of existence are never analytic.<br>. (shrink)
Presupposing that most predicates do not correspond directly to genuine relations, I argue that all genuine relations are symmetric. My main argument depends on the premise that there are no brute necessities, interpreted so as to require logical and metaphysical necessity to coincide for sentences composed entirely of logical vocabulary and primitive predicates. Given this premise, any set of purportedly primitive predicates by which one might hope to express the facts about non-symmetric relations order their relata will generate an objectionable (...) multiplication of possibilities. In the final section I give a different argument, based on the weaker premise that brute necessities should not be multiplied without necessity. (shrink)
I motivate and briefly sketch a linguistic theory of vagueness, on which the notion of indeterminacy is understood in terms of the conventions of language: a sentence is indeterminate iff the conventions of language either forbid asserting it and forbid asserting its negation, under the circumstances, or permit asserting either. I then consider an objection that purports to show that if this theory (or, as far as I can see, any other theory of vagueness that deserved the label "linguistic" were (...) true, there would be no such thing as indeterminacy. I respond to this objection by arguing on independent grounds against its main premise, the widely-accepted claim that if it is indeterminate whether P, no human being knows whether P. I defend an alternative view according to which, when it is indeterminate whether P, it is often also indeterminate whether we know that P. (shrink)
Even if non-cognitivists about some subject-matter can meet Geach’s challenge to explain how there can be valid implications involving sentences which express non-cognitive attitudes, they face a further problem. I argue that a non-cognitivist cannot explain how, given a valid argument whose conclusion expresses a belief and at least one of whose premises expresses a non-cognitive attitude, it could be reasonable to infer the conclusion from the premises.
Argues for the "thirder" solution to the Sleeping Beauty puzzle. The argument turns on an analogy with a variant case, in which a coin-toss on Monday night determines whether one's memories of Monday are permanently erased, or merely suspended in such a way that they will return some time after one wakes up on Tuesday.
Region R Question: How many objects — entities, things — are contained in R? Ignore the empty space. Our question might better be put, 'How many material objects does R contain?' Let's stipulate that A, B and C are metaphysical atoms: absolutely simple entities with no parts whatsoever besides themselves. So you don't have to worry about counting a particle's top half and bottom half as different objects. Perhaps they are 'point-particles', with no length, width or breadth. Perhaps they are (...) extended in space without possessing spatial parts (if that is possible). Never mind. We stipulate that A, B and C are perfectly simple. We also stipulate that they are connected as follows. A and B are stuck together in such a way that when a force is applied to one of them, they move together 'as a unit'. Moreover, the two of them together exhibit behavior that neither would exhibit on its own — Perhaps they emit a certain sound, or glow in the dark — whereas C is.. (shrink)