Robert Stalnaker’s formal semantics for his indicative conditional (which his 1975 paper takes over from his 1968 paper and Stalnaker and Thomason 1968) validate modus ponens, as one might expect. But they do so at the cost of a tension between his philosophical remarks in his 1975 paper and his formal constraints. Stalnaker commits himself to the following: he defines a “context set” as “the possible worlds not ruled out by the presupposed background information” (Stalnaker 1975 p 142). He later (...) states a “pragmatic principle” that “normally a speaker is concerned only with possible worlds within the context set, since this set is defined as the set of possible worlds among which the speaker wishes to distinguish. So it is at least a normal expectation that the selection function should turn first to these worlds before considering counterfactual worlds—those presupposed to be non-actual” (p 144). Then two paragraphs later, in apparent reference to this principle he says “I would expect that the pragmatic principle stated above should hold without exception for indicative conditionals”. Yet when the actual world is not one in which the presuppositions all hold, from his definition of the “context set” it is not among the worlds of the context set, and elsewhere in his 1975 as well as his 1968 he stipulates that the selection function given the actual world and an antecedent true at the actual world yields the actual world (p 144 of Stalnaker 1975, condition 3 on p 104 of Stalnaker 1968). These remarks on the face of it lead to inconsistency if it is possible to presuppose falsehoods: for then the presuppositions create a context set which does not include the actual world (but may perfectly well nevertheless contain some possible worlds in which the antecedent of a given conditional holds when that antecedent is also actually true). In evaluating a conditional with a true antecedent which also holds in some world in the context set, Stalnaker enjoins us to employ a selection function which selects the actual world, and to (“without exception”) employ a selection function which selects some world in the context set in preference to any world outside it.. (shrink)
We discuss explanation of an earlier event by a later event, and argue that prima facie cases of backwards event explanation are ubiquitous. Some examples: (1) I am tidying my flat because my brother is coming to visit tomorrow. (2) The scarlet pimpernels are closing because it is about to rain. (3) The volcano is smoking because it is going to erupt soon. We then look at various ways people might attempt to explain away these prima facie cases by arguing (...) that in each case the 'real' explanation is something else. We argue that none of the explaining-away strategies are successful, and so any plausible account of explanation should either make room for backwards explanation, or have a good story to tell about why it doesn't have to. (shrink)
The question of the function of modal judgement is an interesting philosophical issue, and John Divers's paper (this volume) has persuaded me that it has not received the attention it deserves. I think it is an important and interesting question even apart from any more ambitious claims that are made about its role in settling other issues about modality. Even if we became convinced that the story about function put no constraints whatsoever, epistemologically or metaphysically, on a theory of modality, (...) it would still remain an interesting question about one of the pervasive and perhaps fundamental things we do in our cognitive lives. (shrink)
Bob Hale in Hale 1995b posed a dilemma for modal fictionalism (more specifically, Rosen's version of modal fictionalism). A modal fictionalist who maintains the version outlined in Rosen 1990 believes that the fiction of possible worlds (PW, to use Rosen and Hale's abbreviation) is not literally true. The question arises, however, about its modal status. Is it necessarily false, or contingently false? In either case, Hale argues, the modal fictionalist is in trouble. Should the modal fictionalist claim that the story (...) of possible worlds is necessarily false, then the modal fictionalist cannot gloss their "according to the fiction of possible worlds ... ." prefix as "were the fiction of possible worlds true, then ... would be true". This is because, according to Hale, conditional claims with antecedents which are necessarily false are automatically true, so it follows that if the fiction of possible worlds is taken to be necessarily false, all conditionals of the form "were the fiction of possible worlds true then ..." are true, and not merely the ones that the modal fictionalist wishes to endorse. If the modal fiction is to be useful, not everything should be true according to it: examples of claims that had better not be true according to it include the claim that 2+2=7, or the claim that there are no possible worlds. On the other hand, if the fiction of possible worlds (PW) is only contingently false, Hale claims this also lands the Rosen's fictionalism in unacceptable trouble, though it is not so clear why (see below). Let me discuss these horns in turn. (shrink)
This paper builds on the system of David Lewis’s “Parts of Classes” to provide a foundation for mathematics that arguably requires not only no distinctively mathematical ideological commitments (in the sense of Quine), but also no distinctively mathematical ontological commitments. Provided only that there are enough individual atoms, the devices of plural quantification and mereology can be employed to simulate quantification over classes, while at the same time allowing all of the atoms (and most of their fusions with which we (...) are concerned) to be individuals (that is, urelements of classes). The final section of the paper canvasses some reasons to be committed to the required ontology for other than mathematical reasons. (shrink)
In Jenkins’s groundbreaking analysis of flirtation (Jenkins 2006), she suggests that an act is an act of flirtation if, and only if, the following two conditions are satisfied: “First, the flirter should act with the intention to raise flirter/flirtee romance and/or sex to salience, in a knowing yet playful way. Second, he or she should believe that the flirtee can respond is in some significant way”. Jenkins also draws the useful distinction between flirtation proper and “flirtatious behaviour”: there is behaviour (...) that typically raises romance or sex to salience in a knowing but playful way, but it can occur without flirting. In Jenkins’s example, a woman touching her ear while chatting to a man in Italy, who has no knowledge that in Italy that can be a sexual come-on, may be behaving flirtatiously without flirting. On the other hand, there can be flirting that does not count as flirtatious behaviour. There can be one-off jokes or private codes that intentionally and playfully raise sex or romance to salience, but through behaviour that seems entirely innocuous (or perhaps just strange) to anyone besides the flirter and flirtee. (shrink)
We find out a lot about the world through people telling us things. And we can (and do) come to know many of these things that people tell us, without running background checks to make sure that the tellers are reliable (in the sense that they are likely to know what they are talking about), or trustworthy (in the sense that they are likely to tell us what they know, rather than just whatever is easiest to say, or whatever would (...) be most convenient to have us believe on that occasion). Believing what others say, as we do in testimony, seems a lot riskier than trusting our senses, for instance. Yet, we would know much less than we ordinarily take ourselves to know if we didn’t regularly form beliefs on the basis of testimony. The problem, then, is to explain how this can be, that is, how we can come to know things through people telling us, given that we don’t go to the trouble of making sure that the tellers are reliable and trustworthy. (shrink)
As is well known, Aristotelian natural philosophy, and many other systems of natural philosophy since, have relied heavily on teleology and teleological causation. Somehow, the purpose or end of an object can be used to predict and explain what that object does: once you know that the end of an acorn is to become an oak, and a few things about what sorts of circumstances are conducive to the attainment of this end, you can predict a lot about the sprouting (...) of the acorn and the subsequent behaviour of the piece of vegetation that results. Once you know that a rock seeks to move towards the centre of the Earth, you gain some insight into why it falls when released, and why it deforms the carpet or foot that it lands on. Once you know that the rabbit seeks to preserve itself, you can predict it will run from the fox. And so on. (shrink)
What would morality have to be like in order to answer to our everyday moral concepts'? What are we committed to when we make moral claims such as "female infibulation is wrong"; or "we ought give money to famine relief"; or "we have a duty to not to harm others", and when we go on to argue about these sorts of claims'? It has seemed to many Ã¢â¬â and it seems plausible to us Ã¢â¬â that when we assert and argue (...) about things such as these we presuppose at least the following. (shrink)
Abstract There are at least eight good reasons practicing historians should concern themselves with counterfactual claims. Furthermore, four of these reasons do not even require that we are able to tell which historical counterfactuals are true and which are false. This paper defends the claim that these reasons to be concerned with counterfactuals are good ones, and discusses how each can contribute to the practice of history. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-19 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9817-z Authors Daniel Nolan, School of Philosophy, (...) Australian National University, 0200 Canberra, Australia Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
Tracking accounts of knowledge formulated in terms of counterfactuals suffer from well known problems. Examples are provided, and it is shown that moving to a dispositional tracking theory of knowledge avoids three of these problems.
We reply to recent papers by John Turri and Ben Bronner, who criticise the dispositionalised Nozickian tracking account we discuss in “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know.” We argue that the account we suggested can handle the problems raised by Turri and Bronner. In the course of responding to Turri and Bronner’s objections, we draw three general lessons for theories of epistemic dispositions: that epistemic dispositions are to some extent extrinsic, that epistemic dispositions can have manifestation conditions concerning circumstances where (...) their bearers fail to exist, and that contrast is relevant to disposition attributions. (shrink)
A lot of philosophers engage in debates about what claims are “metaphysically necessary”, and a lot more assume with little argument that some classes of claims have the status of “metaphysical necessity”. I think we can usefully replace questions about metaphysical necessity with five other questions which each capture some of what people may have had in mind when talking about metaphysical necessity. This paper explains these five other questions, and then discusses the question “how much of metaphysics is metaphysically (...) necessary?”, and each of its five replacements. (shrink)
The work which the Loeb Classical Library classifies as book 3 of the Oikonomika attributed to Aristotle is a curious piece. It has come down to us only via medieval translations into Latin. (I will be quoting the Loeb text and translation except where noted.) It is not certain that it is by Aristotle: and it is not certain whether it is even a part of the work attributed to Aristotle in ancient times. For want of a better name, let (...) me refer to its author, whoever that was, as “Aristotle”, and let me refer to this piece as book three of Ta Oikonomika – but with the caveats that it may not have been by the Stagirite, and its ancient source may not have even been one typically attributed to Aristole, although it was so attributed at some stage. (shrink)
Many people are inclined to think that consequences of actions, or perhaps reasonably expected consequences of those actions, have moral weight. Firing off shotguns in crowded areas is typically wrong, at least in part, because of the people who get maimed and killed. Committed consequentialists think that consequences (either actual consequences, or expected consequences, or intended consequences, or reasonably expected consequences, or maybe some other different shade) are all that matters, morally speaking. Lying and stealing are wrong, when they are (...) wrong, only because of the consequences they have – these may include direct consequences, such as the loss of property by another, or another’s hurt at being deceived, but also indirect consequences, such as setting a bad example or cultivating a disposition to lie or steal too easily that risks manifesting when the direct harm would be more serious. Consequentialists do not have to agree on much else – they may not agree what the morally relevant consequences are (Bentham thought they were a matter of pleasure and avoidance of pain, others may define a conception of human welfare, or preference satisfaction, or something else), they may disagree over whether there is one sort of consequence or many sorts that are relevant, and they can disagree about how the consequences matter. A maximiser thinks that as much as possible of the relevant consequences is morally important, others may think that beyond some point, consequences are indifferent, others may think that the average distribution of consequences across agents is what matters, or largely what matters, and so on.1.. (shrink)
One increasingly popular technique in philosophy might be called the "platitudes analysis": a set of widely accepted claims about a given subject matter are collected, adjustments are made to the body of claims, and this is taken to specify a “role” for the phenomenon in question. (Perhaps the best-known example is analytic functionalism about mental states, where platitudes about belief, desire, intention etc. are together taken to give us a "role" for states to fill if they are to count as (...) mental states.) We then look to our best theory of the world to see where this role is satisfied, if at all. Unfortunately, the platitudes analysis, so characterised, does not seem to help when we are doing fundamental metaphysics—when we want to know what, at base, our world is like (and not merely where things like e.g. the mental would be found in an already-specified ontology). Nevertheless, I will argue that the platitudes analysis, properly understood, does have the materials to help us answer questions in fundamental metaphysics as well. I will explore three different ways it can do so. (shrink)
forthcoming in American Philosophical Quarterly. We argue that it would seem to be a mistake to blame Liar-like paradox on certain features of the object language, since the effect can be created with very minimal object languages that contain none of the usual suspects (truth-like predicates, reference to their own truth-bearers, negation, etc.).
Quantum Mechanics, and apparently its successors, claim that there are minimum quantities by which objects can differ, at least in some situations: electrons can have various “energy levels” in an atom, but to move from one to another they must jump rather than move via continuous variation: and an electron in a hydrogen atom going from -13.6 eV of energy to -3.4 eV does not pass through states of -10eV or -5.1eV, let along -11.1111115637 eV or -4.89712384 eV.
Questions about necessity (or what has to be, or what cannot be otherwise) and possibility (or what can be, or what could be otherwise) are questions about modality. Fictionalism is an approach to theoretical matters in a given area which treats the claims in that area as being in some sense analogous to fictional claims: claims we do not literally accept at face value, but which we nevertheless think serve some useful function. However, despite its name, “Modal Fictionalism” in its (...) usual manifestations is not primarily fictionalism about claims of necessity and possibility, but rather a fictionalist approach to claims about possible worlds. (For instance, modal fictionalism is not normally fictionalist about the claim that “it is possible that there be a species of tail-less kangaroo”, but rather about the claim that “there is a possible world in which there is a species of tail-less kangaroo”.) The practice of taking possible worlds to be merely convenient fictions, or of treating talk about possible worlds as being useful without being literally correct, is quite common in philosophical circles. It is only recently, however, that philosophers have seriously examined the implications of taking possible worlds to be merely fictional objects, like Sherlock Holmes or a frictionless surface. (shrink)
To what extent do true predications correspond to truthmakers in virtue of which those predications are true? One sort of predicate which is often thought to not be susceptible to an ontological treatment is a predicate for instantiation, or some corresponding predication (trope-similarity or set-membership, for example). This paper discusses this question, and argues that an "ontological" approach is possible here too: where this ontological approach goes beyond merely finding a truthmaker for claims about instantiation. Along the way a version (...) of the problem of the regress of instantiation is posed and solved. (shrink)
I argue that Graham Priest's story 'Sylvan's Box' has an attractive consistent reading. Priest's hope that this story can be used as an example of a non-trivial 'essentially inconsistent' story is thus threatened. I then make some observations about the role 'Sylvan's Box' might play in a theory of unreliable narrators.
When invited to consider the methodology of contemporary metaphysics, quite a number of procedures spring to mind as part of the metaphysician's toolkit. These include: eliciting and relying on intuitions; solving location problems and using “conceptual analysis”; inference to the best theory, both on internal metaphysical grounds and drawing from the theoretical reaches of the sciences; working on topics clearly close to, or even overlapping, those of other areas of inquiry using techniques of those other areas; achieving coherence with other (...) theories developed with other aims; and employing deductive reasoning to yield surprising conclusions. Many of these techniques are associated with significant and growing literatures about their scope, epistemic justification, suitability to different metaphysical problems, and so on. (shrink)
As is well known, Aristotelian natural philosophy, and many other systems of natural philosophy since, have relied heavily on teleology and teleological causation. Somehow, the purpose or end of an obj ect can be used to predict and explain what that object does: once you know that the end of an acorn is to become an oak, and a few things about what sorts of circumstances are conducive to the attainment of this end, you can predict a lot about the (...) sprouting of the acorn and the subsequent behaviour of the piece of vegetation that results. Once you know that a rock seeks to move towards the centre of the Earth, you gain some insight into why it falls when released, and why it deforms the carpet or foot that it lands on. Once you know that the rabbit seeks to preserve itself, you can predict it will run from the fox. And so on. There are at least three features of Aristotle’s teleology, and more generally of an Aristotelian frame of mind about teleology, that may induce suspicion. One is that an end can serve as a "cause": as well as the sort of causation we all recognize, efficient causation, there are other forms, one of which is teleological causation. However, this can look less odd if we think of causes as things that figure in "because" answers to "why" questions. Whether or not self-preservation, or the rabbit’s continued existence, or something similar, causes the rabbit to run, the reply "because it seeks to continue in existence" certainly makes sense as an answer, or part of an answer, to a question about why it ran from the fox. (At present we are only. (shrink)
The surviving sources on the Stoic theory of division reveal that the Stoics, particularly Chrysippus, believed that bodies, places and times were such that all of their parts themselves had proper parts. That is, bodies, places and times were composed of gunk. This realisation helps solve some long-standing puzzles about the Stoic theory of mixture and the Stoic attitude to the present.
There’s an argument around from so-called “linguistic theories of vagueness”, plus some relatively uncontroversial considerations, to powerful metaphysical conclusions. David Lewis employs this argument to support the mereological principle of unrestricted composition, and Theodore Sider employs a similar argument not just for unrestricted composition but also for the doctrine of temporal parts. This sort of argument could be generalised, to produce a lot of other less palatable metaphysical conclusions. However, arguments to Lewis’s and Sider’s conclusions on the basis of considerations (...) about vagueness are uncompelling, even if we accept the crucial premises about vagueness. And a good thing too, since the generalised form of the argument would prove far too much. (shrink)
A pressing problem for many non-realist1 theories concerning various specific subject matters is the challenge of making sense of our ordinary propositional attitude claims related to the subject in question. Famously in the case of ethics, to take one example, we have in ordinary language prima facie ascriptions of beliefs and desires involving moral properties and relationships. In the case, for instance, of “Jason believes that Kylie is virtuous”, we appear to have a belief which takes Kylie to be a (...) certain way. If Jason desires that Kylie acts as she ought, he appears to have a desire which has as its content that Kylie perform actions of a certain sort (i.e. the actions that she ought to perform). However, for non-cognitivists in ethics who reject the idea that sentences such as “Kylie is virtuous” or “Kylie acts as she ought” are in the business of making truth-apt claims, or representing that certain moral features are possessed by objects or events, or even, in extreme cases, that such claims express propositions at all, the semantic analysis of the example propositional attitude claims made about Jason will have to be non-standard. (This is merely an application of the well-known “Frege-Geach problem” (see Geach 1965) to the case of embedding moral vocabulary in propositional-attitude ascriptions.). (shrink)
In this paper we introduce a distinct metaethical position, fictionalism about morality. We clarify and defend the position, showing that it is a way to save the 'moral phenomena' while agreeing that there is no genuine objective prescriptivity to be described by moral terms. In particular, we distinguish moral fictionalism from moral quasi-realism, and we show that fictionalism possesses the virtues of quasi-realism about morality, but avoids its vices.
The question of what truths are necessary in the broadest possible sense is a difficult one to answer, as is the question of what the limits are to what is possible. (Most people would see these two questions as different sides of the same coin, of course, since many think the question of what is possible is just the question of what is not necessarily ruled out). We have three general sorts of strategies for determining whether something is necessary (or (...) possible). We can identify it in a class that we were previously sure was a class of things that are necessary – we might show it is a theorem of a logical system that we have confidence in, or that the sentence appears to be true simply in virtue of the meanings of the words, or that it is a true statement involving names or about natural kinds of the “necessary a posteriori” sort discussed by Kripke and Putnam, and there are perhaps other classes of claims which we are prepared to accept are necessary if true.1 Likewise, we might establish the possibility of something occurring by reference to a class of well-established or uncontroversial possibilities: e.g. we are inclined to think that it is possible (in the broadest sense) for an event to occur in the future if one of the same kind has occurred in the past. (shrink)
One very popular kind of semantics for subjunctive conditionals is aclosest-worlds account along the lines of theories given by David Lewisand Robert Stalnaker. If we could give the same sort of semantics forindicative conditionals, we would have a more unified account of themeaning of ``if ... then ...'' statements, one with manyadvantages for explaining the behaviour of conditional sentences. Such atreatment of indicative conditionals, however, has faced a battery ofobjections. This paper outlines a closest-worlds account of indicativeconditionals that does better (...) than some of its cousins in explaining thebehaviour of such conditionals. The paper then discusses objectionsoffered by Dorothy Edgington and Frank Jackson to closest-worldsaccounts of indicative conditionals, and shows that these objections canbe met by the account outlined. (shrink)
This book discusses a range of important issues in current philosophical work on the nature of possible worlds. Areas investigated include the theories of the nature of possible worlds, general questions about metaphysical analysis and questions about the direction of dependence between what is necessary or possible and what could be.
the virtues which are desirable for scientific theories to possess. In this paper I discuss the several species of theoretical virtues called 'fertility', and argue in each case that the desirability of 'fertility' can be explicated in terms of other, more fundamental theoretical virtues.
In this paper, I motivate the view that quantitative parsimony is a theoretical virtue: that is, we should be concerned not only to minimize the number of kinds of entities postulated by our theories (i. e. maximize qualitative parsimony), but we should also minimize the number of entities postulated which fall under those kinds. In order to motivate this view, I consider two cases from the history of science: the postulation of the neutrino and the proposal of Avogadro's hypothesis. I (...) also consider two issues concerning how a principle of quantitative parsimony should be framed. (shrink)
This paper discusses the principle of recombination for possible worlds. It argues that arguments against unrestricted recombination offered by Forrest and Armstrong and by David Lewis fail, but a related argument is a challenge, and recommends that we accept an unrestricted principle of recombination and the conclusion that possible worlds form a proper class.