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.
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 DanielNolan, School (...) of Philosophy, Australian National University, 0200 Canberra, Australia Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
Gerhard Lenski's ecological-evolutionary theory of human societies, originally presented and tested in Power and Privilege (1966) and Human Societies (1970), makes a number of general and specific predictions about the impact of subsistence technology on the fundamental features of societies, as well as identifying constraints that the techno-economic heritage of currently industrializing societies continue to exercise on their development trajectories. This paper reviews the strategies adopted for presenting and for testing the theory, critically analyzes and extends some important results of (...) its empirical tests, and explores issues confronting the future development and presentation of the theory. (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)
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)
Prompted by the lack of attention by sociologists and the challenge of materialist explanations of warfare in "precivilized" societies posed by Keeley (1996), this paper tests and finds support for two materialist hypotheses concerning the likelihood of warfare in preindustrial societies: specifically, that, as argued by ecological-evolutionary theory, dominant mode of subsistence is systematically related to rates of warfare; and that, within some levels of technological development, higher levels of "population pressure" are associated with a greater likelihood of warfare. Using (...) warfare measures developed by Ember and Ember (1995), measures of subsistence technology originally developed by Lenski (1966, 1970), and the standard sample of societies developed by Murdock and White (1969), this study finds evidence that warfare is more likely in advanced horticultural and agrarian societies than it is in hunting-and-gathering and simple horticultural societies, and that it is also more likely in hunting-and-gathering and agrarian societies that have above-average population densities. These findings offer substantial support for ecological-evolutionary theory and qualified but intriguing support for "population pressure" as explanations of cross-cultural variation in the likelihood of warfare. (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.).
Two general approaches characterize current theories of sociocultural evolution. The "external selection" approach stresses the importance of intersocietal selection; the "adaptive change" approach, the importance of intrasocietal selection. This chapter identifies and critically evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches and outlines strategies for integrating these divergent approaches into a single evolutionary perspective.
Nolan, Ann MC In the past fifty years there has been a stream of commentary on the documents of Vatican II. Have we not had so much commentary, so much interpretation, that further commentary is unnecessary? Fifty years on, one might ponder how to interpret the sixteen documents for the church of our times, indeed to wonder whether they continue to have any relevance at all. Faced with this thought, we could turn to one scholar whose works span almost (...) the whole of this fifty-year period, yet whose thought in relation to the documents has not remained static: the renaissance historian John O'Malley SJ. (shrink)
Allhoff, Fritz, Patrick Lin, and Daniel Moore. 2010. What is nanotechnology and why does it matter? From science to ethics Content Type Journal Article Pages 209-211 DOI 10.1007/s11673-011-9289-z Authors Jennifer Kuzma, University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 301 19th Ave So, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529 Journal Volume Volume 8 Journal Issue Volume 8, Number 2.
Rachael Briggs and DanielNolan attempt to improve on Nozick’s tracking theory of knowledge by providing a modified, dispositional tracking theory. The dispositional theory, however, faces more problems than those previously noted by John Turri. First, it is not simply that satisfaction of the theory’s conditions is unnecessary for knowledge – it is insufficient as well. Second, in one important respect, the dispositional theory is a step backwards relative to the original tracking theory: the original but not the (...) dispositional theory can avoid Gettier-style counterexamples. Future attempts to improve the tracking theory would be wise to bear these problems in mind. (shrink)
Transpersonal psychology first emerged as an academic discipline in the 1960s and has subsequently broadened into a range of transpersonal studies. Jorge Ferrer (2002) has called for a 'revisioning' of transpersonal theory, dethroning inner experience from its dominant role in defining and validating spiritual reality. In the current paradigm he detects a lingering Cartesianism, which subtly entrenches the very subject-object divide that transpersonalists seek to overcome. This paper outlines the development and current shape of the transpersonal movement, compares Ferrer's epistemology (...) with the heterophenomenology of Daniel Dennett, and speculates on the integration of the latter into transpersonal theory. (shrink)
The Forum and the Tower tackles a fascinating and perennial topic: the relationship between the academy and the world of politics. For all the talk about the remoteness of ivory tower ideas from 'the real world,' it is the case that ideas do in fact have consequences. In recent US history, the careers of Henry Kissinger and DanielPatrick Moynihan illustrate how ideas drive politics. Oftentimes the translations of ideas into action results in severe distortions of their original (...) meaning, but the relationship between ideas and revolutionary political and social change is a constant. The accomplished Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon traces this crucial relationship from Greek times, taking readers through the Roman Empire, Renaissance Italy, the English revolution, the Federalist era in the US, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the Concert of Europe, the progressive era, and the New Deal/World War II era. Her aim is to utilize history to show how intellectuals and politicians can work productively. That has in fact happened in recent times: the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the product of a team of philosophers and political theorists working alongside Eleanor Roosevelt. That declaration has had a lasting and positive effect on world politics, revolutionizing the terms of the discussion and setting new benchmarks for states to follow. She closes with a consideration of intellectuals in American politics in more recent times. (shrink)
One of the most influential philosophical voices in the consciousness studies community is that of Daniel Dennett. Outside of consciousness studies, Dennett is well-known for his work on numerous topics, such as intentionality, artificial intelligence, free will, evolutionary theory, and the basis of religious experience. (Dennett, 1984, 1987, 1995c, 2005) In 1991, just as researchers and philosophers were beginning to turn more attention to the nature of consciousness, Dennett authored his Consciousness Explained. Consciousness Explained aimed to develop both a (...) theory of consciousness and a powerful critique of the then mainstream view of the nature of consciousness, which Dennett called,. (shrink)
Moral anti-realism comes in two forms – noncognitivism and the error theory. The noncognitivist says that when we make moral judgments we aren’t even trying to state moral facts. The error theorist says that when we make moral judgments we are making statements about what is objectively good, bad, right, or wrong but, since there are no moral facts, our moral judgments are uniformly false. This development of moral anti-realism was first seriously defended by John Mackie. In this paper I (...) explore a dispute among moral error theorists about how to deal with false moral judgments. The advice of the moral abolitionist is to stop making moral judgments, but the contrary advice of the moral fictionalist is to retain moral language and moral thinking. After clarifying the choice that arises for the moral error theorist, I argue that moral abolitionism has much to recommend it. I discuss Mackie’s defense of moral fictionalism as well as a recent version of the same position offered by DanielNolan, Greg Restall, and Caroline West. Then I second some remarks Ian Hinckfuss made in his defense of moral abolitionism and his criticism of “the moral society.” One of the worst things about moral fictionalism is that it undermines our epistemology by promoting a culture of deception. To deal with this problem Richard Joyce offers a “non-assertive” version of moral fictionalism as perhaps the last option for an error theorist who hopes to avoid moral abolitionism. I discuss some of the problems facing that form of moral fictionalism, offer some further reasons for adopting moral abolitionism in our personal lives, and conclude with reasons for thinking that abolishing morality may be an essential step in achieving the goals well-meaning moralists and moral fictionalists have always cherished. (shrink)
Metaphysics: 5 Questions is a collection of short interviews based on 5 questions presented to some of the most influential and prominent philosophers in the field. We hear their views on metaphysics, the aim, the scope, the future direction of research and how their work fits in these respects. Interviews with Lynne Rudder Baker, Helen Beebee, Thomas Hofweber, Hugh Mellor, Peter Menzies, Stephen Mumford, DanielNolan, Eric T.Olson, L. A. Paul, Lorenz B. Puntel, Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra, Gideon Rosen, Jonathan (...) Schaffer, Peter Simons, Barry Smith, Michael Tooley, Peter van Inwagen, Dean Zimmerman. (shrink)
In The illusion of conscious will , Daniel Wegner offers an exciting, informative, and potentially threatening treatise on the psychology of action. I offer several interpretations of the thesis that conscious will is an illusion. The one Wegner seems to suggest is "modular epiphenomenalism": conscious experience of will is produced by a brain system distinct from the system that produces action; it interprets our behavior but does not, as it seems to us, cause it. I argue that the evidence (...) Wegner presents to support this theory, though fascinating, is inconclusive and, in any case, he has not shown that conscious will does not play a crucial causal role in planning, forming intentions, etc. This theory's potential blow to our self-conception turns out to be a glancing one. (shrink)
Questions about Leibniz's views on the ontological status of the corporeal world have been at the center of debate in Leibniz scholarship for more than two decades, and one of the major players in these debates has been Daniel Garber. Having sketched his influential position in a number of articles over the years, he now gives full expression to his view in this highly anticipated and long-awaited book.
Gideon Rosen’s [1990 Modal fictionalism. Mind, 99, 327–354] Modal Fictionalist aims to secure the benefits of realism about possible-worlds, whilst avoiding commitment to the existence of any world other than our own. Rosen [1993 A problem for fictionalism about possible worlds. Analysis, 53, 71–81] and Stuart Brock [1993 Modal fictionalism: A response to Rosen. Mind, 102, 147–150] both argue that fictionalism is self-defeating since the fictionalist is tacitly committed to the existence of a plurality of worlds. In this paper, I (...) develop a new strategy for the fictionalist to pursue in response to the Brock–Rosen objection. I begin by arguing that modal fictionalism is best understood as a paraphrase strategy that concerns the propositions that are expressed, in a given context, by modal sentences. I go on to argue that what is interesting about paraphrastic fictionalism is that it allows the fictionalist to accept that the sentence ‘there is a plurality of worlds’ is true without thereby committing her to the existence of a plurality of worlds. I then argue that the paraphrastic fictionalist can appeal to a form of semantic contextualism in order to communicate her status as an anti-realist. Finally, I generalise my conception of fictionalism and argue that DanielNolan and John O’Leary-Hawthorne [1996 Reflexive fictionalisms. Analysis, 56, 26–32] are wrong to suggest that the Brock-Rosen objection reveals a structural flaw with all species of fictionalism. (shrink)
In A New Form of Agent-Based Virtue Ethics , Daniel Doviak develops a novel agent-based theory of right action that treats the rightness (or deontic status) of an action as a matter of the action’s net intrinsic virtue value (net-IVV)—that is, its balance of virtue over vice. This view is designed to accommodate three basic tenets of commonsense morality: (i) the maxim that “ought” implies “can,” (ii) the idea that a person can do the right thing for the wrong (...) reason, and (iii) the idea that a virtuous person can have “mixed motives.” In this paper, I argue that Doviak’s account makes an important contribution to agent-based virtue ethics, but it needs to be supplemented with a consequentialist account of the efficacy of well-motivated actions—that is, it should be transformed into a mixed (motives-consequences) account, while retaining its net-IVV calculus. This is because I believe that there are right-making properties external to an agent’s psychology which it is important to take into account, especially when an agent’s actions negatively affect other people. To incorporate this intuition, I add to Doviak’s net-IVV calculus a scale for outcomes . The result is a mixed view which accommodates tenets (ii) and (iii) above, but allows for (i) to fail in certain cases. I argue that, rather than being a defect, this allowance is an asset because our intuitions about ought-implies-can break down in cases where an agent is grossly misguided, and our theory should track these intuitions. (shrink)
This note is to show that a well-known point about David Lewis’s (1986) modal realism applies to Timothy Williamson’s (1998; 2002) theory of necessary existents as well.1 Each theory, together with certain “recombination” principles, generates individuals too numerous to form a set. The simplest version of the argument comes from DanielNolan (1996).2 Assume the following recombination principle: for each cardinal number, ν, it’s possible that there exist ν nonsets. Then given Lewis’s modal realism it follows that there (...) can be no set of all (that is, Absolutely All) the nonsets. For suppose for reductio that there were such a set, A; let ν be A’s cardinality; and let µ be any cardinal number larger than ν. By the recombination principle, it’s possible that there exist µ nonsets; by modal realism, there exists a possible world containing, as parts, µ nonsets; each of these nonsets is a member of A. (shrink)
In a 1996 paper, DanielNolan showed that David Lewis's principle of Recombination entails that, for any cardinal number k, there are at least k urelements (non-sets). Call this proposition A. More recently, Ted Sider has shown that Nolan's basic argument can be reconstructed in the context of Williamson's theory of necessary existence. It is a simple matter to show in ZFCU (Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory with Choice and urelements) that A is incompatible with the proposition SoA that (...) there is a set of all urelements. But this is rather curious. For the iterative conception of set suggests that there should be a set of urelements regardless of how many there are; but the iterative conception is typically considered to provide the motivation for the intended models of ZFCU. In this paper I diagnose the source of this apparent disconnect and investigate possibilities for modifying ZFCU so as to render it consistent with the conjunction of A and SoA — hence with the existence of "wide" sets that have a definite rank but are too large to have a definite cardinality — without undermining its intuitive moorings in the iterative conception. (shrink)
As J. Baird Callicott has argued, Adam Smith’s moral theory is a philosophical ancestor of recent work in environmental ethics. However, Smith’s “all important emotion of sympathy” (Callicott 2001: 209) seems incapable of extension to entities that lack emotions with which one can sympathize. Drawing on the distinctive account of sympathy developed in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments , as well as his account of anthropomorphizing nature in “History of Astronomy and Physics,” I show that sympathy with non-sentient nature is (...) possible within a Smithian ethics. This provides the possibility of extending sympathy, and thereby benevolence and justice, to nature. (shrink)
Benjamin Libet, Do we have free will? -- Adina L. Roskies, Why Libet's studies don't pose a threat to free will? -- Alfred r. mele, libet on free will : readiness potentials, decisions, and awareness? -- Susan Pockett and Suzanne Purdy, Are voluntary movements initiated preconsciously? : the relationships between readiness potentials, urges, and decisions? -- William P. Banks and Eve A. Isham, Do we really know what we are doing? : implications of reported time of decision for theories of (...) volition? -- Elisabeth Pacherie and Patrick Haggard, What are intentions? -- Mark Hallett, Volition : how physiology speaks to the issue of responsibility? -- John-Dylan Haynes, Beyond Libet : long-term prediction of free choices from neuroimaging signals? -- F. Carota, M. Desmurget, and A. Sirigu, Forward modeling mediates motor awareness? -- Tashina Graves, Brian Maniscalco, and Hakwan Lau, Volition and the function of consciousness? -- Deborah Talmi and Chris D. Frith, Neuroscience, free will, and responsibility? -- Jeffrey P. Ebert and Daniel M. Wegner, Bending time to one's will? -- Thalia Wheatley and Christine Looser, Prospective codes fulfilled : a potential neural mechanism of the will? -- Terry Horgan, The phenomenology of agency and the libet results? -- Thomas Nadelhoffer, The threat of shrinking agency and free will disillusionism? -- Gideon Yaffe, Libet and the criminal law's voluntary act requirement? -- Larry Alexander, Criminal and moral responsibility and the libet experiments? -- Michael S. Moore, Libet's challenge(s) to responsible agency? -- Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Lessons from Libet?. (shrink)
Patrick Toner has recently criticized accounts of substance provided by Kit Fine, E. J. Lowe, and the author, accounts which say (to a first approximation) that substances cannot depend on things other than their own parts. On Toner’s analysis, the inclusion of this parts exception results in a disjunctive definition of substance rather than a unified account. In this paper (speaking only for myself, but in a way that would, I believe, support the other authors that Toner discusses), I (...) first make clear what Toner’s criticism is, and then I respond to it. Including the parts exception is not the adding of a second condition but instead the creation of a new single condition. Since it is not the adding of a condition, the result is not disjunctive. Therefore, the objection fails. (shrink)
We have never entirely agreed with Daniel Cohnitz on the status and rôle of thought experiments. Several years ago, enjoying a splendid lunch together in the city of Ghent, we cheerfully agreed to disagree on the matter; and now that Cohnitz has published his considered opinion of our views, we are glad that we have the opportunity to write a rejoinder and to explicate some of our disagreements. We choose not to deal here with all the issues that Cohnitz (...) raises, but rather to restrict ourselves to three specific points. (shrink)
Daniel Russell's Practical Intelligence and the Virtues is principally a defense of the Aristotelian claim that phronesis is part of every unqualified virtue—a defense of what Russell calls "hard virtue theory" and "hard virtue ethics." The main support for this is the further claim that we would be unable to act well reliably, or form our character reliably, without phronesis performing its "twin roles": correctly identifying the mean of each virtue, and integrating the mean of each virtue with those (...) of others so as to enable us to act in an overall virtuous manner. In following Russell's argument for these claims, we find much else of interest, including a persuasive account of right action and a resurrection of the old doctrine of cardinal virtues. Here I seek first to give readers a sense of the range and depth of this important book by summarizing the main lines of its argument. But I also raise some critical points, the most substantive of which concern his treatments of the unity of the virtues and of responsibility for character. (shrink)
Democracy requires a rather large tolerance for confusion and a secret relish for dissent. I am delighted to respond to Daniel Dombrowski’s book Rawls and Religion. Dombrowski and I share a number of what he would call comprehensive doctrine, such as the ethical treatment of animals, the relational worldview of process thought, and the idiosyncratic love of pacifism. So, immediately I was drawn in and claimed Dombrowski as a kindred spirit. With so many commonalities, including an interest in political (...) philosophy and religion, I approached this book with a built-in desire to engage with and respect his thinking. To be honest, I wondered if I would be able to critically engage Dombrowski’s book given our .. (shrink)
Contemporary Philosophy in Focus will offer a series of introductory volumes to many of the dominant philosophical thinkers of the current age. Each volume will consist of newly commissioned essays that will cover all the major contributions of a preeminent philosopher in a systematic and accessible manner. Author of such groundbreaking and influential books as Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel C. Dennett has reached a huge general and professional audience that extends way beyond the confines of academic (...) philosophy. He has made significant contributions to the study of consciousness, the development of the child's mind, cognitive ethnology, explanation in the social sciences, artificial intelligence, and evolutionary theory. This volume is the only truly introductory collection that traces these connections, explores the implications of Dennett's work, and furnishes the non-specialist with a fully-rounded account of why Dennett is such an important voice on the philosophical scene. (shrink)
Daniel Garber’s Leibniz: Body, Substance and Monad . When I first entered graduate school Dan’s previous book Descartes’s Metaphysical Physics had recently appeared, and it made a huge and lasting impression on me. All of a sudden I saw Descartes’s project in a much different, more intriguing light. This Garber fella had managed to open up a new area of Descartes’s thought to me, to tease out with great care his philosophical arguments, and to situate both in a broader (...) historical context in which they seemed to me at least much more at home. In short, Dan’s Descartes’s book is one of the main reasons why I work on Leibniz. And now we have his rich, learned, and provocative book on Leibniz to wrestle with. I am certain that it will similarly inspire another generation of early modern scholars as well – hopefully they won’t all be moved to work on Kant! (shrink)
In Setting Limits, Daniel Callahan advances the provocative thesis that age be a limiting factor in decisions to allocate certain kinds of health services to the elderly. However, when one looks at available data, one discovers that there are many more elderly women than there are elderly men, and these older women are poorer, more apt to live alone, and less likely to have informal social and personal supports than their male counterparts. Older women, therefore, will make the heaviest (...) demand on health care resources. If age were to become a limiting factor, as Dr. Callahan suggests it should, the limits that will be set are limits that will affect women more drastically than they affect men. This review essay examines the implications of Callahan's thesis for elderly women. (shrink)
According to Daniel Flage, Berkeley thinks that all necessary truths are founded on acts of will that assign meanings to words. After briefly commenting on the air of paradox contained in the title of Flage’s paper, and on the historical accuracy of Berkeley’s understanding of the abstractionist tradition, I make some remarks on two points made by Flage. Firstly, I discuss Flage’s distinction between the ontological ground of a necessary truth and our knowledge of a necessary truth. Secondly, I (...) discuss Flage’s attempt to show that, according to Berkeley, the resemblance relation does not constitute a necessary connection. (shrink)
A taped conversational interview with Daniel Dennett and Bill Uzgalis covers a wide range of topics arising from Dennett’s thoughts about computing and human beings. The background of Dennett’s work is explored as are his views about mind-brain identity theory, artificial intelligence, functionalism, human exceptionalism, animal culture, language, pain, freedom and determinism, and quality of life.
In this discussion note I clarify the motivation behind my original paper "Social Mechanisms, Causal Inference and the Policy Relevance of Social Science." I argue that one of the tasks of philosophers of social science is to draw attention to methodological problems that are often forgotten or overlooked. Then I show that my original paper does not make the mistake or fallacy that Daniel Steel suggests in his comment on it. Key Words: social mechanisms causal inference social (...) policy. (shrink)
As Peter Niebyl has documented, one of the issues in which the Wittenberg-based physician and philosopher Daniel Sennert (1572–1637) departed from Paracelsus and his followers was the concept of disease. Paracelsus and some of his followers regarded diseases as real beings—so-called “disease-entities” (entia morbis) that can enter into the body of a living being and thereafter possess a clearly defined location in the affected organism. 1 For Sennert, such a view is a dangerous confusion between disease and its causes. (...) According to him, causes of disease can be present in an organism without actually causing a disease (Sennert 1629, p. 253). Moreover, he shares the traditional Christian doctrine .. (shrink)