A most unusual guide to the solar system, A Little Book of Coincidence suggests that there may be fundamental relationships between space, time, and life that have not yet been fully understood. From the observations of Ptolemy and Kepler to the Harmony of the Spheres and the hidden structure of the solar system, John Martineau reveals the exquisite orbital patterns of the planets and the mathematical relationships that govern them. A table shows the relative measurements of each planet in (...) eighteen categories, and three pages show the beautiful dance patterns of thirty six pairs of planets and moons. (shrink)
Eric T. Olson has argued that those who hold that two material objects can exactly coincide at a moment of time, with one of these objects constituting the other, face an insuperable difficulty in accounting for the alleged differences between the objects, such as their being of different kinds and possessing different persistence-conditions. The differences, he suggests, are inexplicable, given that the objects in question are composed of the same particles related in precisely the same way. In response, I show (...) that the differences are not at all inexplicable once it is recognized that the conditions for a persisting object to be composed by certain particles at a moment of time must involve facts concerning other moments of time, and that the relevant facts are different for persisting objects of different kinds. Philosophers who neglect this sort of constraint on composition principles may be said to be victims of the 'cinematographic fallacy'. (shrink)
Let thin properties be properties shared by coincident entities, e.g., a person and her body, and thick properties ones that are not shared. Thick properties entail sortal properties, e.g., being a person, and the associated persistence conditions. On the first account of realization defined here, the realized property and its realizers will belong to the same individual. This restricts the physical realizers of mental properties, which are thick, to thick physical properties. We also need a sense in which mental properties (...) can be realized in thin physical properties shared by a person and her body. Defining this in turn requires defining a sense in which the instantiations of sortal properties and of thick properties are realized in micro-structural states of affairs. A fourth notion of realization is needed to allow for the possibility of coincident entities that share a sortal property, e.g., coincident persons. (shrink)
Having no recourse to ways of knowing about the natural world, ethical non-naturalists are in need of an epistemology that might apply to a normative breed of facts or properties, and intuitionism seems well suited to fill that bill. Here I argue that the metaphysical inspiration for ethical intuitionism undermines that very epistemology, for this pair of views generates what I call the defeater from cosmic coincidence. Unfortunately, we face not a happy union, but a difficult choice: either ethical (...) intuitionism or ethical non-naturalism, but not both. (shrink)
This paper presents and defends an account of the coincidence of biological organisms with mereological sums of their material components. That is, an organism and the sum of its material components are distinct material objects existing in the same place at the same time. Instead of relying on historical or modal differences to show how such coincident entities are distinct, this paper argues that there is a class of physiological properties of biological organisms that their coincident mereological sums do (...) not have. The account answers some of the most pressing objections to coincidence, for example the so-called grounding problem , that material coincidence seems to require that coinciding objects have modal differences that do not supervene on any other properties. (shrink)
In ?Does Four-Dimensionalism Explain Coincidence?? Mark Moyer argues that there is no reason to prefer the four-dimensionalist (or perdurantist) explanation of coincidence to the three-dimensionalist (or endurantist) explanation. I argue that Moyer's formulations of perdurantism and endurantism lead him to overlook the perdurantist's advantage. A more satisfactory formulation of these views reveals a puzzle of coincidence that Moyer does not consider, and the perdurantist's treatment of this puzzle is clearly preferable.
What does it take to solve the exclusion problem? An ingenious strategy is Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes must be commensurate with their effects. Commensuration is a relation between events. Roughly, events are commensurate with one another when one contains all that is required for the occurrence of the other, and as little as possible that is not required. According to Yablo, one event is a cause of another only if they are commensurate. I raise three reasons to doubt that (...) this account solves the exclusion problem successfully. First, it leaves a mystery about what determines a particular’s causal capacities. Second, because there are two ways of construing coincidence between particulars, a dilemma arises: either the solution to the exclusion problem is threatened, or the account of coincidence loses an attractive feature concerning ontological economy. Third, even if we assume the commensuration constraint, a plausible principle about overdetermination seems to regenerate the exclusion problem. (shrink)
Can different material objects have the same parts at all times at which they exist? This paper defends the possibility of such coincidence against the main argument to the contrary, the ‘Indiscernibility Argument’. According to this argument, the modal supervenes on the nonmodal, since, after all, the non-modal is what grounds the modal; hence, it would be utterly mysterious if two objects sharing all parts had different essential properties. The weakness of the argument becomes apparent once we understand how (...) the modal is grounded in the nonmodal. By extending the ideas of combinatorialism so that we recombine haecceities as well as fundamental properties, we see how modal properties can be grounded in non-modal properties in a way that allows coincidence and yet also explains why there are differences in the modal properties of coinciding objects. Despite this, some de re modal facts are not grounded in the non-modal but instead are brute. However, although we cannot explain why a particular object has the basic modal properties it has, we can explain a closely related, semantic fact and, comparing the facts we can’t explain to more familiar brute facts, we understand why there should be no better explanation. As a result, we can see how coincidence is, after all, possible. (shrink)
For those who think the statue and the piece of copper that compose it are distinct objects that coincide, there is a burden of explanation. After all, common sense says that different ordinary objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. A common argument in favour of four-dimensionalism (or ?perdurantism? or ?temporal parts theory?) is that it provides the resources for a superior explanation of this coincidence. This, however, is mistaken. Any explanatory work done by the four-dimensionalist (...) notion of absolute parthood rests ultimately on notions equally available to the three-dimensionalist. Thus, a neutral explanation of coincidence is at least as good while avoiding commitment to temporal parts. ?Many thanks to David Christensen, Louis deRosset, Matti Eklund, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. (shrink)
Statues and lumps of clay are said by some to coincide - to be numerically distinct despite being made up of the same parts. They are said to be numerically distinct because they differ modally. Coincident objects would be non-modally indiscernible, and thus appear to violate the supervenience of modal properties on nonmodal properties. But coincidence and supervenience are in fact consistent if the most fundamental modal features are not properties, but are rather relations that are symmetric as between (...) coincident entities, relations such as "opposite-possibly surviving being squashed". (shrink)
Puzzles about persistence and change through time, i.e., about identity across time, have foundered on confusion about what it is for ‘two things’ to be have ‘the same thing’ at a time. This is most directly seen in the dispute over whether material objects can occupy exactly the same place at the same time. This paper defends the possibility of such coincidence against several arguments to the contrary. Distinguishing a temporally relative from an absolute sense of ‘the same’, we (...) see that the intuition, ‘this is only one thing’, and the dictum, ‘two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time’, are individuating things at a time rather than absolutely and are therefore compatible with coincidence. Several other objections philosophers have raised ride on this same ambiguity. Burke, originating what has become the most popular objection to coincidence, argues that if coincidence is possible there would be no explanation of how objects that are qualitatively the same at a time could belong to different sorts. But we can explain an object’s sort by appealing to its properties at other times. Burke’s argument to the contrary equivocates on different notions of ‘cross-time identity’ and ‘the statue’. From a largely negative series of arguments emerges a positive picture of what it means to say multiple things coincide and of why an object’s historical properties explain its sort rather than vice versa – in short, of how coincidence is possible. (shrink)
A major objection to the view that the relation of persons to human animals is coincidence rather than identity is that on this view the human animal will share the coincident person's physical properties, and so should (contrary to the view) share its mental properties. But while the same physical predicates are true of the person and the human animal, the difference in the persistence conditions of these entities implies that there will be a difference in the properties ascribed (...) by these predicates, with the result that the physical properties that determine the person's mental states will belong to the person and not to the human animal. (shrink)
Ned Markosian argues (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76:213-228, 1998a; Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82:332-340, 2004a, The Monist 87:405-428, 2004b) that simples are ‘maximally continuous’ entities. This leads him to conclude that there could be non-particular ‘stuff’ in addition to things. I first show how an ensuing debate on this issue McDaniel (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81(2):265-275, 2003); Markosian (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82:332-340, 2004a) ended in deadlock. I attempt to break the deadlock. Markosian’s view entails stuff-thing coincidence, which I (...) show is just as problematic as the more oft-discussed thing-thing coincidence. Also, the view entails that every particular is only contingently so. If there is a world W like our own, but with ether, then there would be only one object in W. But, since merely adding ether to a world does not destroy the entities in it, then W contains counterparts of all the entities in the actual world—they just are not things. Hence, if simples are maximally continuous, then every actual particular is only contingently so. This in turn entails the following disjunction: (i) identity is contingent or intransitive, or (ii) there are no things at all in the actual world, or (iii) the distinction between stuff and things is one without a difference. I recommend that we reject this stuff-thing dualism. (shrink)
It seems to be a platitude of common sense that distinct ordinary things cannot coincide, that they cannot ﬁt into the same place nor be composed of the same parts at the same time. The paradoxes of coincidence are instances of a breakdown of this platitude in light of counter-examples that are licensed by innocuous assumptions about particular sorts of ordinary thing. Since both the anti-coincidence principle and the assumptions driving the counterexamples ﬂow from the folk conception of (...) ordinary things, the paradoxes threaten this conception with inconsistency. (shrink)
The ‘paradoxes of coincidence’ are generally taken as an important factor for deciding between rival views on persistence through time. In particular, the ability to deal with apparent cases of temporary coincidence is usually regarded as a good reason for favouring perdurantism (or ‘four-dimensionalism’) over endurantism (or ‘three-dimensionalism’). However, the recent work of Gilmore ( 2007 ) and McGrath ( 2007 ) challenges this standard view. For different reasons, both Gilmore and McGrath conclude that perdurantism does not really (...) obtain support from the puzzles of temporary coincidence. In this paper, I will evaluate their arguments and defend the opposite view: that the paradoxes of coincidence do give some support to perdurantism. However, the way in which they do so is rather unexpected. As we will see, there are different ways in which coincidence scenarios may be thought to support perdurantism, some of which have not yet been sufficiently explored. Thus, my immediate goal is to explore one of those directions, bringing into focus a new argument from coincidence to perdurantism. And although I motivate my discussion by examining the arguments in the work of Gilmore and McGrath, the merits of this argument can be independently assessed. More generally, my overall purpose is to contribute to our general understanding of how the topics of coincidence and persistence bear on each other. (shrink)
In an important departure from current theories of causation, David Owens proposes that coincidences have no causes, and that a cause is something that ensures that its effects are no coincidence. He elucidates the idea of a coincidence as an event that can be divided into constituent events, the nomological antecedents of which are independent of each other. He also suggests that causal facts can be analyzed in terms of non-causal facts, including relations of necessity. Thus, causation is (...) defined in terms of coincidence, and coincidence without reference to causation. In a book that will be of particular interest to those concerned with the role of causation in the philosophy of mind, David Owens challenges ideas of Hume, Davidson and Lewis, and offers novel solutions to the problems still confronting theorists of causation. (shrink)
Theodore Sider distinguishes two notions of global supervenience: strong global supervenience and weak global supervenience. He then discusses some applications to general metaphysical questions. Most interestingly, Sider employs the weak notion in order to undermine a familiar argument against coincident distinct entities. In what follows, I reexamine the two notions and distinguish them from a third, intermediate, notion (intermediate global supervenience). I argue that (a) weak global supervenience is not an adequate notion of dependence; (b) weak global supervenience does not (...) capture certain assumptions about coincidence relations; (c) these assumptions are better accommodated by the stronger notion of intermediate global supervenience; (d) intermediate global supervenience, however, is also not an adequate notion of dependence; and (e) strong global supervenience is an adequate notion of dependence. It also fits in with anti-individualism about the mental. It does not, however, serve to rebut arguments against coincident entities. (shrink)
: This article explores the way in which the Yogavāsistha's account of causation as coincidence relates to its soteriological agenda and the view that the 'existence' of the world—deemed to be an illusion anyway—is a mere accident. Comparison is made to similar ideas about causality articulated by David Hume, who nonetheless stops short of drawing quite such radical metaphysical conclusions, in spite of his epistemological skepticism concerning the existence of external objects.
This article explores the way in which the Yogavāsiṣṭha's account of causation as coincidence relates to its soteriological agenda and the view that the 'existence' of the world-deemed to be an illusion anyway-is a mere accident. Comparison is made to similar ideas about causality articulated by David Hume, who nonetheless stops short of drawing quite such radical metaphysical conclusions, in spite of his epistemological skepticism concerning the existence of external objects.
THERE ARE TWO CONCEPTS OF MIRACLE: AS (A) THE VIOLATION OF A NATURAL LAW, AND AS (B) A STRIKING COINCIDENCE WITHIN NATURAL LAW. DIFFICULTIES IN (A) HAVE BEEN WIDELY DISCUSSED, E.G., BY R SWINBURNE. THOSE IN (B) HAVE NOT. I ARGUE THAT IF DIFFICULTIES IN (A) FORCE A RETREAT TO (B), THEN A PLACE MUST BE FOUND FOR A GOD TO ACT TO PRODUCE (B). SEVERAL POSSIBILITIES ARE CONSIDERED; NONE ARE FOUND SATISFACTORY EXCEPT POSSIBLY THE GOD INFLUENCING UNNOTICED AN (...) ANIMATE OBJECT. I CONCLUDE WITH A NEW AND FAVORABLE LOOK AT HUME’S CONTRARY MIRACLES ARGUMENT. (shrink)
Four-dimensionalists claim that their take on the temporal versions of the puzzles of coincidence favors their view over three-dimensionalism. In this paper I argue otherwise. In particular, I argue that the four-dimensionalist’s treatment of such puzzles doesn’t give her an edge over so-called `standard theorists’, i.e. three-dimensionalists according to whom there are distinct material objects that coincide at some time. I look at two ways in which the dispute between four-dimensionalists and standard theorists might be construed. First, as an (...) issue about commitment to distinct coincident material objects: the purported advantage of the four-dimensionalist’s approach is supposed to lie in its being compatible with there being no such things. Second, as an issue about explanation of such objects: the alleged superiority of the four-dimensionalist’s view is supposed to lie in its being able to provide a better account of how distinct material things manage to share their parts and exact location at some time. I argue that four-dimensionalism falls short of expectations in either case: the existence of distinct overlapping worms requires the existence of distinct coincident material objects, and temporal parts do not afford any better an explanation of such things than is available to the standard theorist. (shrink)
How can a statue and a piece of alloy be coincident at any time at which they exist and yet differ in their modal properties? I argue that this question demands an answer and that the only plausible answer is one that posits a difference in the form of the two objects.
Achille Varzi  has suggested a nice response to the familiar argument purporting to establish the existence of perfectly coinciding objects – objects which, if they existed, would trouble mereological extensionality and the “Minimalist View” of ontology. The trick is to defend Minimalism without tarnishing its status as a meta-principle: that is, without making any firstorder ontological claims. Varzi’s response, though seeming to allow for a comfortable indifference about metaphysical matters peripheral to Minimalism, is not general enough to stave off (...) attacks on extensionality from more sophisticated corners. However, Varzi’s argument bears a kinship with a more general argument against coincident objects. I consider how such an argument sits with the meta-doctrinal status of Minimalism. (shrink)
Rada Iveković reflects on the significance of modernity in contemporary Indian philosophy. Where the orient has been figured as the other for western philosophers, she asks how Indian philosophy depicts the west, how philosophers such as Kant have been interpreted, and how thematics such as pluralism, tolerance, relativity, innovation, and curiosity about the foreign have been figured in both ancient and contemporary Indian philosophy. While working on the western side with such authors as Lyotard, Deleuze, Serres, or Irigaray, Iveković doesn't (...) exactly indulge in comparative philosophy. Rather, she tries to make the most of the existing "coincidences," using both western and Asian thought in order to open a new area for the production of concepts and a new field for philosophy in general. (shrink)
So-called Locke's thesis is the view that no two things of the same kind may coincide, that is, may be completely in the same place at the same time. A number of counter-examples to this view have been proposed. In this paper, some new and arguably more convincing counter-examples to Locke's thesis are presented. In these counter-examples, a particular entity (a string, a rope, a net, or similar) is interwoven to obtain what appears to be a distinct, thicker entity of (...) the same kind. It is argued that anyone who subscribes to certain standard metaphysical arguments, which are generally taken for granted in the debate about Locke's thesis, is virtually compelled to accept the counter-examples. (shrink)
Coincidentalism is the view that distinct material things can be composed of the same microphysical simples at the same time. The existence of distinct coincidents is incompatible with any microphysical criterion of identity over time of material composites. This incompatibility constitutes a problem for the coincidentalist only if the coincidentalist needs a microphysical criterion of identity over time. What does the coincidentalist need such a criterion for? I will show that the coincidentalist needs such a criterion for an explanation of (...) cardinal supervenience, of the thesis that facts concerning how many composite material things exist supervene on facts about microphysical simples. (shrink)
Many philosophers deny that two different material objects can “coincide”, i.e. share their spatial location and microscopic parts. But, there seems to be a difficulty in identifying these coinciding objects, since we have many kinds of predicates that appear to show differences between them. One prominent strategy to avoid such a difficulty is to argue that such “problematic” predicates merely indicate our ways of describing objects, and thus that any difference between coinciding objects is only apparent. I call this move (...) "the semantic solution". The goal of this paper is to show that the semantic solution is unmotivated. The semantic solution, I argue, must distinguish problematic predicates from ones that indicate genuine properties. But the trouble is that in doing so it bringsmassive indeterminacy into our understanding of vast numbers predicates. Furthermore, indeterminacy would be hopelessly massive if every actual material object is made of “atomless gunk”, i.e. matter divisible into proper parts ad infinitum. (shrink)
A lot of people believe that distinct objectscan occupy precisely the same place for theentire time during which they exist. Suchpeople have to provide an answer to the`grounding problem' – they have to explain howsuch things, alike in so many ways, nonethelessmanage to fall under different sortals, or havedifferent modal properties. I argue in detailthat they cannot say that there is anything invirtue of which spatio-temporally coincidentthings have those properties. However, I alsoargue that this may not be as bad as (...) it looks,and that there is a way to make sense of theclaim that such properties are primitive. (shrink)
I compare a Lewisian defence of monism with Kit Fine's defence of pluralism. I argue that the Lewisian defence is, at present, the clearer in its explanatory intent and ontological commitments. I challenge Fine to explain more fully the nature of the entities that he postulates and the relationship between continuous material objects and the parts of those rigid embodiments in terms of which he proposes to explain crucial, modal and sortal, features of those objects.
Suppose we take a pound of gold and mold it into the shape of Hermes. Then, it would seem, we shall have a golden statue of Hermes, beautiful to behold. We shall also have a lump of gold. And we have the makings of a well-known philosophical puzzle. Many people find it obvious that if we crushed the statue or melted it down, we should destroy the statue but not the lump of gold. The lump can be deformed and still (...) continue to exist, but the statue cannot; that is the nature of lumps and statues. So the lump can outlive the statue. Since nothing can outlive itself, it is natural to conclude that the one-pound gold statue and the one-pound lump of gold in our example are numerically different. And as statues are to lumps, they say, so are brick houses to heaps of bricks, living organisms to masses of matter, and people to their bodies. More generally, certain atoms (or elementary particles or what have you) often compose two numerically different material objects at once. To put it another way, two different material objects may have all the same proper parts (the same parts except themselves) at once.  Because of its many defenders and its intuitive attraction, I will call this the Popular View about lumps and statues and other familiar material objects. (shrink)
Locke thought that it was impossible for there to be two things of the same kind in the same place at the same time. I offer (what looks to me like) a counterexample to that principle, involving two ships in the same place at the same time. I then consider two ways of explaining away, and one way of denying, the apparent counterexample of Locke's principle, and I argue that none is successful. I conclude that, although the case under discussion (...) does not refute Locke's principle, it constitutes a serious challenge to it. (shrink)
It is often said that the same particles can simultaneously make up two or more material objects that differ in kind and in their mental, biological, and other qualitative properties. Others wonder how objects made of the same parts in the same arrangement and surroundings could differ in these ways. I clarify this worry and show that attempts to dismiss or solve it miss its point. At most one can argue that it is a problem we can live with.
This essay responds to a review of my book Wittgenstein Flies A Kite: A Story of Models of Wings and Models of the World by Peter Simons that appears in the March 2009 issue of the journal Metascience.
Cartwright argues for being a realist about theoretical entities but non-realist about theoretical laws. Her reason is that while the former involves causal explanation, the latter involves theoretical explanation; and inferences to causes, unlike inferences to theories, can avoid the redundancy objection--that one cannot rule out alternatives that explain the phenomena equally well. I sketch Cartwright's argument for inferring the most probable cause, focusing on Perrin's inference to molecular collisions as the cause of Brownian motion. I argue that either the (...) inference she describes fails to be a genuinely causal one, or else it too is open to the redundancy objection. However, I claim there is a way to sustain Cartwright's main insight: that it is possible to avoid the redundancy objection in certain cases of causal inference from experiments (e.g., Perrin). But, contrary to Cartwright, I argue that in those cases one is able to infer causes only by inferring some theoretical laws about how they produce experimental effects. (shrink)
A philosophical standard in the debates concerning material constitution is the case of a statue and a lump of clay, Lumpl and Goliath respectively. According to the story, Lumpl and Goliath are coincident throughout their respective careers. Monists hold that they are identical; pluralists that they are distinct. This paper is concerned with a particular objection to pluralism, the Grounding Problem . The objection is roughly that the pluralist faces a legitimate explanatory demand to explain various differences she alleges between (...) Lumpl and Goliath, but that the pluralistâ€™s theory lacks the resources to give any such explanation. In this paper, I explore the question of whether there really is any problem of this sort. I argue (i) that explanatory demands that are clearly legitimate are easy for the pluralist to meet; (ii) that even in cases of explanatory demands whose legitimacy is questionable the pluralist has some overlooked resources; and (iii) there is some reason for optimism about the pluralistâ€™s prospects for meeting every legitimate explanatory demand. In short, no clearly adequate statement of a Grounding Problem is extant, and there is some reason to believe that the pluralist can overcome any Grounding Problem that we havenâ€™t thought of yet. (shrink)
Endurantism, the view that material objects are wholly present at each moment of their careers, is under threat from supersubstantivalism, the view that material objects are identical to spacetime regions. I discuss three compromise positions. They are alike in that they all take material objects to be composed of spacetime points or regions without being identical to any such point or region. They differ in whether they permit multilocation and in whether they generate cases of mereologically coincident entities.
Defenders of the Psychological Approach to Personal Identity (PAPI) insist that the possession of some kind of mind is essential to us. We are essentially thinking beings, not living creatures. We would cease to exist if our capacity for thought was irreversibly lost due to a coma or permanent vegetative state. However, the onset of such conditions would not mean the death of an organism. It would survive in a mindless state. But this would appear to mean that before the (...) loss of cognition and the destruction of the person, the organism and the person were spatially coincident entities – two beings composed of the same matter at the same time and place. Perhaps the most problematic aspect of positing spatially coincident material entities is that it would seem to result in there being one too many thinkers. Since the person can obviously think, the organism should also have such a capacity as a result of possessing the same brain as well as every other atom of the person. This means that there now exist two thinking beings under the reader’s clothes! (shrink)
In a series of articles, Fine (Monist 83:357–361, 2000; Mind 112:195–234, 2003; Mind 115:1059–1082, 2006) presents some highly compelling objections to monism, the doctrine that spatially coincident objects are identical. His objections rely on Leibniz’s Law and linguistic environments that appear to be immune to the standard charge of non-transparency and substitution failure. In this paper, I respond to Fine’s objections on behalf of the monist. Following Schnieder (Philosophical Quarterly 56:39–54, 2006), I observe that arguments from Leibniz’s Law are valid (...) only if they involve descriptive, rather than metalinguistic, negation. Then I show that the monist is justified in treating the negation in Fine’s objections as metalinguistic in nature. Along the way I make a few methodological remarks about the interaction between the study of natural language and metaphysics. I also present evidence that some of the linguistic environments which Fine relies on are, contrary to appearances, non-transparent. (shrink)
Carl Jung coined the term "synchronicity" to describe meaningful coincidences that conventional notions of time and causality cannot explain. Working with the great quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Jung sought to reveal these coincidences as phenomena that involve mind and matter, science and spirit, thus providing rational explanations for parapsychological events like telepathy, precognition, and intuition. Synchronicity examines the work of Jung and Pauli, as well as noted scientists Werner Heisenberg and David Bohm; identifies the phenomena in ancient and modern mythologies, (...) particularly the Greek legend of Hermes the Trickster; and illustrates it with engaging anecdotes from everyday life and literature. (shrink)
I examine the implications of positing stuff (which occupies an ontological category distinct from things) as a way to avoid colocation in the case of the statue and the bronze that constitutes it. When characterising stuff, it’s intuitive to say we often individuate stuff kinds by appealing to things and their relations (e.g., water is water rather than gold because it is entirely divisible into subportions which constitute or partially constitute H2O molecules). I argue that if this intuition is correct, (...) there are important restrictions on how we can characterise stuff in order to avoid colocated portions of stuff. (shrink)
The naïve see causal connections everywhere. Consider the fact that Evelyn Marie Adams won the New Jersey lottery twice. The naïve find it irresistible to think that this cannot be a coincidence. Maybe the lottery was rigged or perhaps some uncanny higher power placed its hand upon her brow. Sophisticates respond with an indulgent smile and ask the naïve to view Adams’ double win within a larger perspective. Given all the lotteries there have been, it isn’t at all surprising (...) that someone would win one of them twice. No need to invent conspiracy theories or invoke the paranormal – the double win was a mere coincidence. (shrink)
Although all mathematical truths are necessary, mathematicians take certain combinations of mathematical truths to be ‘coincidental’, ‘accidental’, or ‘fortuitous’. The notion of a ‘mathematical coincidence’ has so far failed to receive sufficient attention from philosophers. I argue that a mathematical coincidence is not merely an unforeseen or surprising mathematical result, and that being a misleading combination of mathematical facts is neither necessary nor sufficient for qualifying as a mathematical coincidence. I argue that although the components of a (...) mathematical coincidence may possess a common explainer, they have no common explanation; that two mathematical facts have a unified explanation makes their truth non-coincidental. I suggest that any motivation we may have for thinking that there are mathematical coincidences should also motivate us to think that there are mathematical explanations, since the notion of a mathematical coincidence can be understood only in terms of the notion of a mathematical explanation. I also argue that the notion of a mathematical coincidence plays an important role in scientific explanation. When two phenomenological laws of nature are similar, despite concerning physically distinct processes, it may be that any correct scientific explanation of their similarity proceeds by revealing their similarity to be no mathematical coincidence. (shrink)
Within metaphysics, there are two competing theories of Laws of Nature. On one account, the Regularity Theory, Laws of Nature are statements of the uniformities or regularities in the world; they are mere descriptions of the way the world is. On the other account, the Necessitarian Theory, Laws of Nature are the “principles” which govern the natural phenomena of the world. That is, the natural world “obeys” the Laws of Nature. This seemingly innocuous difference marks one of the most profound (...) gulfs within contemporary philosophy, and has quite unexpected, and wide-ranging, implications. (shrink)
Meta-ontology (in van Inwagen's sense) concerns the methodology of ontology, and a controversial meta-ontological issue is to what extent ontology can rely on linguistic analysis while establishing the furniture of the world. This paper discusses an argument advanced by some ontologists (I call them unifiers) against supporters of or coincident entities (I call them multipliers) and its meta-ontological import. Multipliers resort to Leibniz's Law to establish that spatiotemporally coincident entities a and b are distinct, by pointing at a predicate F (...) () made true by a and false by b . Unifiers try to put multipliers in front of a dilemma: in attempting to introduce metaphysical differences on the basis of semantic distinctions, multipliers either (a) rest on a fallacy of verbalism, entailed by a trade-off between a de dicto and a de re reading of modal claims, or (b) beg the question against unifiers by having to assume the distinction between a and b beforehand. I shall rise a tu quoque, showing that unifiers couldn't even distinguish material objects (or events) from the spatiotemporal regions they occupy unless they also resorted to linguistic distinctions. Their methodological aim to emancipate themselves from linguistic analysis in ontological businesses is therefore problematic. (shrink)
Some relations - like supervenience and composition - can appear very much like identity. Sometimes, the relata differ only in modal, or modally-involved features. Yet, in some cases, we judge the pairs to be identical (water/H2O; Hesperus/Phosphorus), while in others, many judge one of the weaker relations to hold (c-fiber firing/pain; statues/lumps). Given the seemingly same actual properties these pairs have, what can justify us in sometimes believing identity is the relation, and sometimes something weaker? I argue that it can (...) only be knowledge of differences of individuative criteria that we know a priori because they are built into the meanings of the words/concepts involved. Possible metaphysical conclusions are considered. (shrink)
Are a statue and the lump of clay that constitutes it one object or two? Many philosophers have answered ‘two’ because the lump seems to have properties, such as the property of being able to survive flattening, that the statue lacks. This answer faces a serious problem: it seems that nothing grounds the difference in properties between colocated objects. The statue and lump are in the same environment and inherit properties from the same composing parts. But it seems that differences (...) in properties should be grounded. For this reason, philosophers including Mark Heller, Dean Zimmerman, Theodore Sider, Trenton Merricks, and Eric Olson have rejected the answer ‘two’. -/- I offer a solution to the grounding problem, in order to revive the traditional account. I argue that extrinsic relations contribute to the supervenience base of many kinds or sorts, and these extrinsic relations ground differences between colocated objects, such as statues and lumps of clay, human beings and lumps of tissue, and planets and masses of matter. The same collection of parts can stand in more than one extrinsic relation, with each relation grounding the composition of a distinct kind of object. In cases in which this happens, the properties of each object differ from the properties of other objects that share the same parts. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction. Fortune and the prepared mind Iain Morley and Mark de Rond; 1. The stratigraphy of serendipity Susan E. Alcock; 2. Understanding humans - serendipity and anthropology Richard Leakey; 3. HIV and the naked ape Robin Weiss; 4. Cosmological serendipity Simon Singh; 5. Serendipity in astronomy Andrew C. Fabian; 6. Serendipity in physics Richard Friend; 7. Liberalism and uncertainty Oliver Letwin; 8. The unanticipated pleasures of the writing life Simon Winchester.
The literary scene of Kant’s day goes unmentioned by philosophical commentators. Yet some of its salient features have a clear relation to his problems and positions, not demonstrably causal in every detail, but too close overall to be coincidence in the random sense (which is only number 5 in the OED!). Kant’s critical view of society and his establishing of an independent aesthetic realm parallel the themes, and the arguments in self-defence, of contemporaneous radical writing; his discussion of how (...) to exemplify ethical arguments bears on the general Enlightenment problem of how to embody abstractions persuasively, while his theoretical and practical difficulties over written style have consequences for the reception of his own work, and were responsible for divisions among writers of the day who might otherwise have made common cause. All this adds a valuable dimension to our understanding of both Kant’s aesthetics and his time. (shrink)
In no possible world does a time traveler succeed in killing herearlier self before she ever enters a time machine. So if many,many time travelers went back in time trying to kill theirunprotected former selves, the time travelers would fail inmany strange, coincidental ways, slipping on bananapeels, killing the wrong victim, and so on. Such cases producedoubts about time travel. How could ``coincidences'' beguaranteed to happen? And wouldn't the certainty of coincidentalfailure imply that time travelers are not free to killtheir (...) earlier selves? But if so, what would inhibit theirfreedom? Despite initial appearances, these and other doubtsmay be answered: the possibility of time travel survives yetanother challenge. (shrink)
In this paper I consider two objections raised by Nick Smith (1997) to an argument against the probability of time travel given by Paul Horwich (1995, 1987). Horwich argues that time travel leads to inexplicable and improbable coincidences. I argue that one of Smith's objections fails, but that another is correct. I also consider an instructive way to defend Horwich's argument against the second of Smith's objections, but show that it too fails. I conclude that unless there is something faulty (...) in the conception of explanation implicit in Horwich's argument, time travel presents us with nothing that is inexplicable. (shrink)
Existing puzzles about coinciding objects can be divided into two types, corresponding to the manner in which they bear upon the endurantism v. perdurantism debate. (Endurantism is the view that material objects lack temporal extent and persist through time by being wholly present at each moment of their careers. Perdurantism is the opposing view that material objects persist by being temporally extended and having different temporal parts located at different times.) Puzzles of the first type, which involve temporary (...) spatial co-location, can be solved simply by abandoning endurantism in favor of perdurantism, whereas those of the second type, which involve career-long spatial co-location, remain equally puzzling on both views. I show that the possibility of backward time travel (either via discontinuous jumps or via closed timelike curves) would give rise to a new type of puzzle. The new puzzles confront perdurantists and can be solved just by shifting to endurantism. (shrink)
The anthropic principle or the associated anthropic coincidences have been used by philosophers such as John Leslie (1989), William Lane Craig (1988) and Richard Swinburne (1990) to support the thesis that God exists. In this paper I shall examine Swinburne's argument from the anthropic coincidences. I will show that Swinburne's premises, coupled with his principle of credulity and the failure of his theodicy in The Existence of God, disconfirms theism and confirms instead the hypothesis that there exists a malevolent creator (...) of the universe. (shrink)
This paper compares four techniques for measuring the masses of galaxies and larger astrophysical systems from their dynamics. The apparent agreement of these techniques is sometimes invoked as reason for hypothesizing the existence of huge quantities of “dark matter” as the best solution to “the dynamical discrepancy”, the 100-fold disparity between the amount of mass visible in large scale astrophysical systems and the amount calculated from dynamics. This paper argues that the agreement, though suggestive, is not definitive. The coincident measurements (...) remain the best reason for preferring dark matter over revisions to General Relativity for solving the dynamical discrepancy, but the resulting warrant for this preference is weak. (shrink)
: Rada Ivekovic reflects on the significance of modernity in contemporary Indian philosophy. Where the orient has been figured as the other for western philosophers, she asks how Indian philosophy depicts the west, how philosophers such as Kant have been interpreted, and how thematics such as pluralism, tolerance, relativity, innovation, and curiosity about the foreign have been figured in both ancient and contemporary Indian philosophy. While working on the western side with such authors as Lyotard, Deleuze, Serres, or Irigaray, Ivekovic (...) doesn't exactly indulge in comparative philosophy. Rather, she tries to make the most of the existing "coincidences," using both western and Asian thought in order to open a new area for the production of concepts and a new field for philosophy in general. (shrink)
The anthropic coincidences are widely claimed to provide evidence for intelligent creation in the universe. However, neither data northeory support this conclusion. No basis exists for assuming that a random universe would not have some kind of life. Calculations of the properties of universes having different physical constants than ours indicate that long-lived stars are not unusual, and thus most universes should have time for complex systems of some type to evolve. A multi-universe scenario is not ruled out, since no (...) known principle requires that only one universe exist. (shrink)
Merleau-Ponty's reference to "a past which has never been present" at the end of "Le sentir" challenges the typical framework of the Phenomenology of Perception, with its primacy of perception and bodily field of presence. In light of this "original past," I propose a re-reading of the prepersonal as ground of perception that precedes the dichotomies of subject-object and activity-passivity. Merleau-Ponty searches in the Phenomenology for language to describe this ground, borrowing from multiple registers (notably Bergson, but also Husserl). This (...) "sensory life" is a coexistence of sensing and sensible—bodily and worldly—rhythms. Perception is, then, not a natural given, but a temporal process of synchronization between rhythms. By drawing on Bergson, this can be described as a process in which virtual life is actualized into perceiving subject and object perceived. Significantly, this process involves non-coincidence or delay whereby sensory life is always already past for perception. (shrink)
To what extent should we trust our natural instincts about knowledge? The question has special urgency for epistemologists who want to draw evidential support for their theories from certain intuitive epistemic assessments while discounting others as misleading. This paper focuses on the viability of endorsing the legitimacy of Gettier intuitions while resisting the intuitive pull of skepticism – a combination of moves that most mainstream epistemologists find appealing. Awkwardly enough, the “good” Gettier intuitions and the “bad” skeptical intuitions seem to (...) be equally strong. This chapter argues that it is not a coincidence that these two types of intuition register with equal force: they are generated by a common mechanism. However, the input to this mechanism is interestingly different in the two types of case, and different in a way that can support the mainstream view that Gettier cases tell us something about knowledge where skeptical intuitions involve systematic error. (shrink)
This is a study of a crucial and controversial topic in metaphysics and the philosophy of science: the status of the laws of nature. D. M. Armstrong works out clearly and in comprehensive detail a largely original view that laws are relations between properties or universals. The theory is continuous with the views on universals and more generally with the scientific realism that Professor Armstrong has advanced in earlier publications. He begins here by mounting an attack on the orthodox and (...) sceptical view deriving from Hume that laws assert no more than a regularity of coincidence between instances of properties. In doing so he presents what may become the definitive statement of the case against this position. Professor Armstrong then goes on to establish his own theory in a systematic manner defending it against the most likely objections, and extending both it and the related theory of universals to cover functional and statistical laws. This treatment of the subject is refreshingly concise and vivid: it will both stimulate vigorous professional debate and make an excellent student text. (shrink)
Part of the appeal of the biological approach to personal identity is that it does not have to countenance spatially coincident entities. But if the termination thesis is correct and the organism ceases to exist at death, then it appears that the corpse is a dead body that earlier was a living body and distinct from but spatially coincident with the organism. If the organism is identified with the body, then the unwelcome spatial coincidence could perhaps be avoided. It (...) is argued that such an identification would be a mistake. A living organism has a different part/whole relationship and persistence conditions than the alleged body. A case will be made that the concept ‘human body’ is a conceptual mess, vague in an unprincipled manner, and that an eliminativist stance towards dead bodies is the appropriate response. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Do mereological fusions have their parts necessarily? None of the axioms of non-modal formulations of classical mereology appear to speak directly to this question. And yet a great many philosophers who take the part-whole relation to be governed by classical mereology seem to assume that they do. In addition to this, many philosophers who make allowance for the part-whole relation to obtain merely contingently between a part and a mereological fusion tend to depart from non-modal formulations of classical mereology at (...) least when it comes to the axiom of Unique Fusion, which states that no two different mereological fusions ever fuse exactly the same objects. This is no coincidence. There are reasons of principle why one’s adherence to classical mereology should exert some pull towards the view that mereological fusions have their parts necessarily. There is, however, no direct route from the combination of classical mereology and propositional modal logic to the hypothesis that the part-whole relation obtains necessarily between a part and a mereological fusion. In order to bridge between a modal formulation of classical mereology and the hypothesis that fusions have their parts necessarily, one needs to strengthen the axiom of Unrestricted Fusion in a way that is agreeable to many philosophers on both sides of the debate. (shrink)
Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s “Eye and Mind” and Bergson’s Matière et mémoire and “La perception du changement,” I ask what resources are available in vision for interrupting objectifying habits of seeing. While both Bergson and Merleau-Ponty locate the possibility of seeing differently in the figure of the painter, I develop by means of their texts, and in dialogue with Iris Marion Young’s work, a more general phenomenology of hesitation that grounds what I am calling “critical-ethical vision.” Hesitation, I argue, stems from (...) affect and leads to critical memory. In hesitation, the seeming coincidence between my habits of seeing and the visible is decentered, revealing these habits and their social reference as the constitutive horizon of my field of vision. Hesitation, then, provides the phenomenological moment within which vision may become at once critically watchful, destabilizing its objectifying habits, and ethically responsive, recollecting its affective grounds. The critical and the ethical are here inseparable. Critically, this vision is an awareness of the structures of invisibility, diacritical and habitual, social and historical, to which my vision owes—dimensions which institute particular ways of seeing and being as norm while eliding others. Ethically, this is the recognition of how seeing is already seeing with others—others whose affective influence is operative within vision, even as their existence is reductively represented or denied. (shrink)
John McDowell has argued that for human needs to matter in practical deliberation, we must have already acquired the full range of character traits that are imparted by an ethical upbringing. Since our upbringings can diverge considerably, his argument makes trouble for any Aristotelian ethical naturalism that wants to support a single set of moral virtues. I argue here that there is a story to be told about the normal course of human life according to which it is no (...) class='Hi'>coincidence that there is agreement on the virtues. Because we are creatures who arrive at personhood only by learning from others in a relation of dependency, we cannot help but see ourselves as creatures for whom non-instrumental rationality is the norm. Those who train others in personhood must view the trainee's interests as having a value independent of their interests and must imbue the trainee with a sense of that value. Extending and preserving the sense of self-worth that we must acquire if we are to acquire personhood requires we see ourselves as creatures who need something like the virtues. (shrink)
There have been many objections to the possibility oftime travel. But all the truly interesting ones concern the possibility of reversecausation. What is objectionable about reverse causation? I diagnose that the trulyinteresting objections are to a further possibility: that of causal loops. I raisedoubts about whether there must be causal loops if reverse causation obtains; but devote themajority of the paper to describing, and dispelling concerns about, various kinds ofcausal loop. In short, I argue that they are neither logically nor (...) physically impossible.The only possibly objectionable feature that all causal loops share is that coincidenceis required to explain them. Just how coincidental a loop will be varies: some arereally quite ordinary, and some are incredibly unlikely. I end by speculating thatthe tendency amongst physicists to avoid discussion of causal loops involving intentionalaction may have been unfortunate, since intentional action is an excellent way tonon-mysteriously bring about what otherwise would have been an unlikely coincidence. Hencecausal loops may be more likely in a world with beings like us, than in one without. (shrink)
Imagine that you and a duplicate of yourself are lying unconscious, next to each other, about to undergo a complete step?by?step exchange of bits of your bodies. It certainly seems that at no stage in this exchange of bits will you have thereby switched places with your duplicate. Yet it also seems that the end?result, with all the bits exchanged, will be essentially that of the two of you having switched places. Where will you awaken? I claim that one and (...) the same person possesses both bodies, occupies both places and will experience both awakenings, just as a person whose brain has been bisected must at once experience both of the unconnected fields of awareness, even though each of these will falsely appear to him as the entirety of his experience. I also claim that the more usual apparent boundaries of persons are as illusory as those in brain bisection; personal identity remains unchanged through any variation or multiplication of body or mind. In all conscious life there is only one person ? I ? whose existence depends merely on the presence of a quality that is inherent in all experience ? its quality of being mine, the simple immediacy of it for whatever is having experience. One powerful argument for this is statistical: on the ordinary view of personhood it is an incredible coincidence for you (though not for others) that out of 200,000,000 sperm cells the very one required on each occasion for your future existence was first to the egg in each of the begettings of yourself and all your ancestors. The only view that does not make your existence incredible, and that is not therefore (from your perspective) an incredible view, is that any conscious being would necessarily have been you anyway. It is a consequence that self?interest should extend to all conscious organisms. (shrink)