This book examines John Locke's claims about the nature and workings of language. Walter Ott proposes a new interpretation of Locke's thesis that words signify ideas in the mind of the speaker, and argues that rather than employing such notions as sense or reference, Locke relies on an ancient tradition that understands signification as reliable indication. He then uses this interpretation to explain crucial areas of Locke's metaphysics and epistemology, including essence, abstraction, knowledge, and mental representation. His discussion, which is (...) the first book-length treatment of its topic, challenges many of the current orthodox readings of Locke, and will be of interest to historians of philosophy and philosophers of language alike. (shrink)
Although a fascination with language is a familiar feature of 20th-century empiricism, its origins reach back at least to the early modern period empiricists. John Locke offers a detailed (if sometimes puzzling) treatment of language and uses it to illuminate key regions of the philosophical topography, particularly natural kinds and essences. Locke's main conceptual tool for dealing with language is 'signification'. Locke's central linguistic thesis is this: words signify nothing but ideas. This on its face seems absurd. Don't we need (...) words to signify things as well? But its very absurdity – our inclination to dismiss Locke as a 'linguistic idealist'– should signal to us that we have not yet understood Locke. Doing so must begin with an analysis of signification. Each of the three main interpretations on offer allows Locke to escape the charge of linguistic idealism, although they do so in very different ways. Locke's text also offers an influential account of linguistic particles, words like 'is', 'and' and 'if'. These signify, not ideas, but acts of the mind. These acts can either take place within a proposition, uniting its constituent ideas into a thought that admits of a truth-value, or they can take propositions as their objects, in which case they express attitudes like doubt, assertion and so on. Even this seemingly innocuous sketch of Locke's view is controversial, and many writers, from J.S. Mill onwards, have argued that Locke cannot make sense of propositional attitudes. Apart from the intrinsic interest of these questions, understanding how Locke thinks language works is a prerequisite for understanding his arguments against scholastic essentialism. It also illuminates later discussions of language in Berkeley, Hume and Mill. Author Recommends: 1. Losonsky, Michael. 'Language, Meaning, and Mind in Locke's Essay. ' The Cambridge Companion to Locke's Essay . Ed. Lex Newman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. 286–313. In addition to making some original points, Losonsky provides an excellent overview of the three main competing positions on Lockean signification: the Fregean reading, the Scholastic reading and the Indicator theory (see entries 2–5 in the following). 2. Kretzmann, Norman. 'The Main Thesis of Locke's Semantic Theory.' Locke on Human Understanding . Ed. I. C. Tipton. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1975. 123–40. Kretzmann's influential paper offers a broadly Fregean analysis, according to which primary signification is sense and secondary, reference. Locke can then avoid the charge of linguistic idealism, as it is not the case that words signify only ideas. 3. Ashworth, E. J. 'Do Words Signify Ideas or Things?' Journal of the History of Philosophy 19 (1981): 299–326. Ashworth rejects Kretzmann's view, partly on the grounds of anachronism, and sets Locke in his historical context. As she reads Locke, he holds a scholastic position, according to which signification amounts to 'making known' or 'expressing'. This preserves the portmanteau analysis of Kretzmann: words can primarily signify or express ideas, while secondarily signifying things. 4. Lowe, E. J. 'Language and Meaning,' chapter 4. Locke . London: Routledge, 2005. This is a spirited defense of Locke's claim that words signify ideas against contemporary prejudices. Like Ian Hacking (see entry 7 in the following), Lowe argues that Locke is not offering a semantic theory in anything like the contemporary sense; rather, he is concerned with explaining human communication. 5. Ott, Walter. Locke's Philosophy of Language . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. On the interpretation offered in chapter 1, Lockean signification is indication: words signify ideas in the same sense in which clouds signify rain. If this view is correct, Locke is departing from the particular scholastic tradition Ashworth focuses on, and embracing instead a tradition running from the Stoics through Thomas Hobbes. http://www.springerlink.com/content/xv362655719101n3/ 6. Winkler, Kenneth. 'Signification, Intention, Projection.' Forthcoming, Philosophia . http://www.springerlink.com/content/xv362655719101n3 Although previous commentators acknowledge the role of intentions in Locke's view (see especially Kretzmann's argument from the uses of words), Winkler claims that they are far more central to Locke's view than has been supposed. In particular, Winkler uses these considerations to criticize the indicator interpretation. 7. Hacking, Ian. Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy? Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1975. Much broader in focus than these other works, Hacking's classic text has much to say about early modern views on language. Hacking argues that Hobbes and Locke do not, properly speaking, even have theories of meaning. Online Materials The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Locke, by William Uzgalis: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/ > The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Locke, author unknown: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/l/locke.htm > Sample Syllabus Weeks 1–2: What is Locke's linguistic thesis? Is it a semantic thesis at all? Ashworth, E. J. 'Do Words Signify Ideas or Things?' Journal of the History of Philosophy 19 (1981): 299–326. Kretzmann, Norman. 'The Main Thesis of Locke's Semantic Theory.' Locke on Human Understanding . Ed. I. C. Tipton. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1975. 123–40. Locke, Essay III. i–iii. Lowe, E. J. 'Language and Meaning,' chapter 4. Locke . London: Routledge, 2005. Week 3: Propositions and attitudes Locke, Essay III. vii. Ott, Walter. 'Propositional Attitudes in Modern Philosophy.' Dialogue 41 (2002): 1–18. Owen, David. 'Locke on Judgment.' The Cambridge Companion to Locke's Essay . Ed. Lex Newman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. 406–35. If one wanted to explore whether and how Locke applies his semiotic theory in his anti-essentialist argument, one might add (or perhaps replace Week 3 with): Week 4: Applications Bolton, Martha. 'The Relevance of Locke's Theory of Ideas to his Doctrine of Nominal Essence and Anti-Essentialist Semantic Theory.' Locke . Ed. Vere Chappell. Oxford: OUP, 1998. pp. 214–225 Locke, Essay III. vi; III.xi. 4–22. Ott, Walter. 'Locke's Argument from Signification.' Locke Studies 2 (2002): 145–76. Focus Questions 1. What is a semantic theory? What do we want out of such a theory, and does Locke even purport to provide one? 2. What are the differences among the three main competing readings of Locke? What is at stake here? What, if anything, turns on which of them accurately captures Locke's view? 3. How does Locke think his linguistic thesis tells against competing views, such as those of the scholastics? 4. What is the difference between a proposition and a list? Can Locke account for this difference? 5. There is clearly a difference between merely thinking that the cat is on the mat and asserting that it is. Can Locke account for this difference? (shrink)
On a currently popular reading of Locke, an idea represents its cause, or what God intended to be its cause. Against Martha Bolton and my former self (among others), I argue that Locke cannot hold such a view, since it sins against his epistemology and theory of abstraction. I argue that Locke is committed to a resemblance theory of representation, with the result that ideas of secondary qualities are not representations.
Like their contemporary counterparts, early modern philosophers find themselves in a predicament. On one hand, there are strong reasons to deny that sensations are representations. For there seems to be nothing in the world for them to represent. On the other hand, some sensory representations seem to be required for us to experience bodies. How else could one perceive the boundaries of a body, except by means of different shadings of color? -/- I argue that Nicolas Malebranche offers an extreme (...) – and ultimately unworkable – attempt to solve this riddle. Most commentators claim that Malebranche defends an adverbial theory of sensation, according to which a sensation is merely a way in which an act of sensing happens. The adverbial reading is wrong, or so I argue. Once we arrive at a more accurate reading, we shall see that his position is much more strange than is currently thought. -/- Nevertheless, Malebranche’s view is similar to the adverbial theory in one respect, albeit it at a very high level of generality. His view thus inherits two of the main problems that afflict adverbial theories. Although Malebranche fails to solve them, his ingenious attempts to do so are instructive. (shrink)
[I’m posting this version on philpapers in the hope of soliciting objections prior to submission to a press.] -/- Sounds seem to be at a distance; colors are on objects; feels define their boundaries. And yet none of these features is real. Given that the world is not as we perceive it, how do we come to perceive it as we do? -/- This is a book about how two kinds of experiences – the veridical and the non-veridical, the sensory (...) and the merely sensory – fit together. Having made such a sharp distinction between them, we’re hard pressed to put them back together. -/- By considering the views of the moderns as well as of contemporary figures like Michael Tye and Sydney Shoemaker, I develop a novel view that, even if false, should be of interest to others working on related topics in philosophy of mind and its history. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Locke is not in fact agnostic about the ultimate nature of the mind. In particular, he produces an argument, much like Jaegwon Kim's exclusion argument, to show that any materialist view that takes mental states to supervene on physical states is committed to epiphenomenalism. This result helps illuminate Locke's otherwise puzzling notion of 'superaddition.'.
The popular Cartesian reading of George Berkeley's philosophy of mind mischaracterizes his views on the relations between substance and essence and between an idea and the act of thought in which it figures. I argue that Berkeley rejects Descartes's tripartite taxonomy of distinctions and makes use of a fourth kind of distinction. In addition to illuminating Berkeley's ontology of mind, this fourth distinction allows us to dissolve an important dilemma raised by Kenneth Winkler.
Despite their influence on later philosophers such as Hume, Malebranche's central arguments for occasionalism remain deeply puzzling. Both the famous ‘no necessary connection’ argument and what I call the epistemic argument include assumptions – e.g., that a true cause is logically necessarily connected to its effect – that seem unmotivated, even in their context. I argue that a proper understanding of late scholastic views lets us see why Malebranche would make this assumption. Both arguments turn on the claim that a (...) volition is the only candidate for a cause, because only a volition can include an effect as its intentional content. (shrink)
The first thing that the reader notices when taking up John Shook's The God Debates is his refreshingly conciliatory tone. In a time when the "New Atheists" crowd the best-sellers lists with mud-slinging tomes and Evangelical Christians and others seem all too ready to return fire, Shook offers his work as a contribution to "ecumenical conversation" (p. 2), extending intrafaith and interfaith dialogue to include the nonreligious. In this book, Shook focuses his attention on the question of God's existence. This (...) is, in part, a tactic to keep the conversation above the fray of what he calls "religious criticism" (pp. 2ff), or the attack on religions that results from a harsh evaluation of the atrocities .. (shrink)
Unlike many of Descartes’s other followers, Pierre-Sylvain Re´gis resists the temptations of occasionalism. By marrying the ontology of mechanism with the causal structure of concurrentism, Re´gis arrives at a novel view that both acknowledges God’s role in natural events and preserves the causal powers of bodies. I set out Re´gis’s position, focusing on his arguments against occasionalism and his responses to Malebranche’s ‘no necessary connection’ and divine concursus arguments.
In place of traditional approaches in environmental ethics, I suggest an improved approach, with respect to the goal of improving the condition of the natural environment, called 'world mediation' through the use of Hannah Arendt's theory of the vita activa . This approach focuses on the relationship between human made worlds and nature, from which a theory of value is suggested. Intrinsic value theory and nature-culture monism are both criticized for an insufficient attention paid toward the human-nature relationship.
I claim that Berkeley's main argument against abstraction comes into focus only when we see Descartes as one of its targets. Berkeley does not deploy Winkler's impossibility argument but instead argues that what is impossible is inconceivable. Since Descartes conceives of extension as a determinable, and since determinables cannot exist as such, he falls within the scope of Berkeley's argument.
How can Hume account for the meaning of causal claims? The causal realist, I argue, is, on Hume's view, saying something nonsensical. I argue that both realist and agnostic interpretations of Hume are inconsistent with his view of language and intentionality. But what then accounts for this illusion of meaning? And even when we use causal terms in accordance with Hume’s definitions, we seem merely to be making disguised self-reports. I argue that Hume’s view is not as implausible as it (...) sounds by exploring his conception of language. (shrink)
Philosophers of the modern period are often presented as having made an elementary error: that of confounding the atttitude one adopts toward a proposition with its content. By examining the works of Locke and the Port-Royalians, I show that this accusation is ill-founded and that Locke, in particular, has the resources to construct a theory of propositional attitudes.
This paper addresses the following questions: (a) what did Locke mean when he said that ‘words signify ideas’? and (b) what is Locke’s argument for this thesis, and how successful is it? The paper argues that the two most prominent interpretations, those of Norman Kretzmann and E. J. Ashworth, attribute to Locke an argument for his semantic thesis that is fallacious, and that neither can make good sense of two key passages in book 3 of the Essay concerning Human Understanding. (...) An alternative understanding of signification, drawn from the works of Hobbes and the Port-Royal logicians, is explored and shown to provide both a satisfactory interpretation of these two passages and an understanding of Locke’s argument for the thesis that absolves him of fallacy. (shrink)
Hume’s views on language have been widely misunderstood. Typical discussions cast Hume as either a linguistic idealist who holds that words refer to ideas or a proto-verificationist. I argue that both readings are wide of the mark and develop my own positive account. Humean signification emerges as a relation whereby a word can both indicate ideas in the mind of the speaker and cause us to have those ideas. If I am right, Hume offers a consistent view on meaning that (...) is neither linguistic idealism nor positivism but a genuine alternative to these, one that deserves to be taken seriously. (shrink)
John Dewey’s theory of value provides a strong alternative to traditional intrinsic value theory that can better address the need for a wide distribution of environmental values. Grounded in his theories of experience and inquiry, Dewey understands values as concrete practices acquired through the interaction of the human organism with its surroundings. Dividing value into acts of immediate valuation and acts of evaluation, Dewey shows that all values start out as desires and through reflective criticism eventuate in value practices. Value (...) inquiry is the practice of responding to problems in the world for which our established value practices are unable to respond adequately. This model of value is shown to be a much needed improvement over intrinsic value theory insofar as it is inclusive of human desire, limiting the capacity to value to human beings, avoids much of the metaphysical and ethical conflict in the biocentrism/ecocentrism debate, as well as rejects the artificial distinction between instrumental and intrinsic value. The case for Dewey’s theory of value is further strengthened by how closely Aldo Leopold’s experience-based practice of value in A Sand County Almanac parallels Dewey’s theory of value, especially with respect to the importance of desire, science, and education. (shrink)
Surgery is an important part of health care worldwide. Without access to surgical treatments, morbidity and mortality increase. Access to surgical treatment is a significant problem in global public health because surgical services are not equally distributed in the world. There is a disproportionate scarcity of surgical access in low-income countries. There are many charitable organizations around the world that sponsor surgical missions to under served nations. One such organization is Operation Smile International, a group with which both authors have (...) volunteered. This paper will describe the purpose and processes involved in Operation Smile and identify some of the key ethical issues that arise in short term medical volunteer work highlighting the importance of sustainability. (shrink)
On the face of it, Locke rejects the scholastics' main tool for making sense of talk of God, namely, analogy. Instead, Locke claims that we generate an idea of God by 'enlarging' our ideas of some attributes (such as knowledge) with the idea of infinity. Through an analysis of Locke's idea of infinity, I argue that he is in fact not so distant from the scholastics and in particular must rely on analogy of inequality.
Technology assessment (TA) is â for several reasons â not detachable from ethical questions. The development of institutions and concepts for TA, especially in the USA and Western Europe, has been marked by an increasing tendency to focus evaluative and normative questions. In the following paper, we point out, in as far as the common notions of TA are implicitly normative, why reflection upon conceptual options of TA inevitably leads to ethical questions, and that the key question of participation necessarily (...) comes up in the context of societal decisions made under conditions of risk or uncertainty. Arrangements of participatory and discoursive TA are referred to as possible applications of discourse ethics, but there are consequences to consider, which result from discourses in TA not being ideal discourses. Concepts and performance of TA arrangements on biotechnology and gene technology in different European countries are compared, analysing what similarities and differences can be found with respect to ethical clarification. Crucial questions of how to conceptualise participatory TA (pTA) and current topics in ethics of technology are shown to coincide. A proposal is presented of how these â theoretical normative and empirical descriptive â considerations can be used in a comprehensive conception for participatory and discoursive TA. (shrink)
Service-Robotic—mainly defined as “non-industrial robotics”—is identified as the next economical success story to be expected after robots have been ubiquitously implemented into industrial production lines. Under the heading of service-robotic, we found a widespread area of applications reaching from robotics in agriculture and in the public transportation system to service robots applied in private homes. We propose for our interdisciplinary perspective of technology assessment to take the human user/worker as common focus. In some cases, the user/worker is the effective subject (...) acting by means of and in cooperation with a service robot; in other cases, the user/worker might become a pure object of the respective robotic system, for example, as a patient in a hospital. In this paper, we present a comprehensive interdisciplinary framework, which allows us to scrutinize some of the most relevant applications of service robotics; we propose to combine technical, economical, legal, philosophical/ethical, and psychological perspectives in order to design a thorough and comprehensive expert-based technology assessment. This allows us to understand the potentials as well as the limits and even the threats connected with the ongoing and the planned implementation of service robots into human lifeworld—particularly of those technical systems displaying increasing grades of autonomy. (shrink)
In a 2007 interview, then senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama, called Reinhold Niebuhr, “one of my favorite philosophers.” When his interviewer, David Brooks, followed by asking, “What do you take away from him?” Obama answered, “I take away the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I (...) take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.”1 One part of Niebuhr’s political theology that Obama has clearly embraced is Niebuhr’s justification .. (shrink)
Objective Adolescents have had very limited access to research on biomedical prevention interventions despite high rates of HIV acquisition. One concern is that adolescents are a vulnerable population, and trials carry a possibility of harm, requiring investigators to take additional precautions. Of particular concern is preventive misconception, or the overestimation of personal protection that is afforded by enrolment in a prevention intervention trial. Methods As part of a larger study of preventive misconception in adolescent HIV vaccine trials, we interviewed 33 (...) male and female 16–19-year-olds who have sex with men. Participants underwent a simulated HIV vaccine trial consent process, and then completed a semistructured interview about their understanding and opinions related to enrolment in a HIV vaccine trial. A grounded theory analysis looked for shared concepts, and focused on the content and process of adolescent participants’ understanding of HIV vaccination and the components of preventive misconception, including experiment, placebo and randomisation. Results Across interviews, adolescents demonstrated active processing of information, in which they questioned the interviewer, verbally worked out their answers based upon information provided, and corrected themselves. We observed a wide variety of understanding of research concepts. While most understood experiment and placebo, fewer understood randomisation. All understood the need for safer sex even if they did not understand the more basic concepts. Conclusions Education about basic concepts related to clinical trials, time to absorb materials and assessment of understanding may be necessary in future biomedical prevention trials. (shrink)
The paper at hand analyzes the economic implications of service robots as expected important future technology. The considerations are embedded into global trends, focusing on the interdependencies between services and industry not only in the context of the provision of services but already starting at the level of the innovation process. It is argued that due to the various interdependencies combined with heterogenous application fields, the resulting implications need to be contextualized. Concerning the net labor market effects, it is reasonable (...) to assume that the field of service robotics will generate overall job creation that goes along with increasing skill requirements demanded from involved employees. It is analyzed which challenges arise in evaluating and further developing the new technology field and some policy recommendations are given. (shrink)
We argue that the materials which appear to maximize the superconducting transition temperature can be regarded as living at the interface between chemistry and physics. ?In honour of James L. Smith's 65th birthday.