Altruism and Groups Many animals display altruistic behaviour (=df behaviour that benefits conspecifics more that the agent). Until the 1950s this was explained as good for the group if not the individual. (Ardrey, Wynne-Edwards, lemmings.) BUT won’t groups of altruists always be invaded by selfish animals?
It is widely supposed that the Everettian account of quantum mechanics has difficulties with probability. In this paper I shall argue that those who argue against the Everettian interpretation on this basis are employing a double standard. It is certainly true that there are philosophical puzzles about probability within the Everettian theory. But I shall show that orthodox metaphysics has even worse problems with probability than Everettianism. From this perspective, orthodox metaphysicians who criticise Everettians about probability are a classic case (...) of a pot calling the kettle black. (shrink)
Who would have thought it? Poker has become a mass-audience spectator sport. Names like Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson, Phil ‘Unabomber’ Laak, and Dave ‘The Devilfish’ Ulliott may not be familiar to all readers of the TLS, but on any normal night you can see these top poker professionals on the nether reaches of the satellite channels, as they bluff and bully their way to pots worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Like their counterparts in tennis and golf, they tour the world, (...) playing in lucrative tournaments which are avidly followed on television by millions of amateur enthusiasts whose own poker experience is mostly limited to small-stakes games played with faceless strangers on internet poker sites. (shrink)
Materialism is the view that mental states are one and the same as physical states. (This is different from saying they are caused by physical states, or eliminated by physical states.) Dualism in the view that mental states are extra to the physical realm. Kripke’s metaphor: if materialism is true, not even God could make a world physically just like ours but with no sensations, feelings or thoughts.
Consciousness has suddenly become an extremely fashionable topic in certain scientific circles. Many thinkers are now touting consciousness as the last unconquered region of science, and theorists from many different disciplines are racing to find a "theory of consciousness" which will unlock this final secret of nature. I am suspicious about all this enthusiasm. I think that much of the brouhaha is generated by philosophical confusion. In the end, I fear, there is no special secret of consciousness, and no special (...) key needed to unlock it. (shrink)
Non-reductive physicalism accepts the primacy of the physical while aiming to avoid the constraints of traditional reduction. It respects physicalism via the doctrine that all properties metaphysically supervene on physical properties. It avoids traditional reduction via the thesis that many properties cannot be type-identiﬁed with physical properties. The viability of non-reductive physicalism has been extensively discussed over the half-century since it was ﬁrst explored by Putnam (1960, 1967) and Davidson (1970). Most of the debate has focused on whether non-reductive physicalism (...) can accommodate non-physical causes (cf Kim 1993; Robb and Heil 2003: sect 6.) However, there has been far less discussion of whether non-reductive physicalism can accommodate non-physical laws (though see Block 1997; Kim 1992; Macdonald 1992; Millikan 1999; Papineau 1985, 1992). In this chapter I wish to focus ﬁrst on the issue of non-physical laws. This will turn out to cast some useful light on the question of non-physical causation. Not all non-reductive physicalists think that there are non-physical laws. Davidson, for example, does not (1976). Even so, it is widely supposed that there can be laws in ‘special sciences’ like biology, psychology, and economics even though their categories do not reduce to physical types. The locus classicus for this position is Fodor’s ‘Special Sciences’ (1974). Fodor made his analysis graphic in what must be the most-reproduced diagram in philosophy. (shrink)
I am lucky to have two such penetrating commentators as Robert Kirk and Andrew Melnyk. It is also fortunate that they come at me from different directions, and so cover different aspects of my book. Robert Kirk has doubts about the overall structure of my enterprise, and in particular about my central commitment to a distinctive species of phenomenal concepts. Andrew Melnyk, by contrast, offers no objections to my general brand of materialism. Instead he focuses specifically on my (...) discussion of the anti-materialist 'intuition of distinctness', raising questions about my attempt to explain this intuition away, and offering alternative suggestions of his own. (shrink)
Any way of assigning numbers to propositions so as to satisfy the axioms constitutes an interpretation of the probability calculus. In general there are two kinds of interpretation, subjective and objective. The subjective interpretation understands X's probability for P as the degree to which X believes P. Objective probabilities apply specifically to propositions which claim that a certain kind of result will occur on a certain kind of repeatable trial, such as that a coin will come down heads when tossed, (...) and specify how often that result occurs in that kind of trial. (shrink)
How does thought latch onto reality? Our minds have the ability to reach out and refer to items in the external world. I can think about the tree outside my study window, say, or about Margaret Thatcher, or about solar neutrinos. But how is the trick done? How can my thoughts refer to things beyond themselves? We tend to take the mind's referential powers for granted, but they are enormously difficult to explain. Whole philosophical systems have foundered on the problem (...) of understanding mental reference. (shrink)
Materialism is the view that mental states are one and the same as physical states. (This is different from saying they are caused by physical states, or eliminated by physical states.) Dualism in the view that mental states are extra to the physical realm. Kripke’s metaphor: if materialism were true, not even God could make a world physically just like ours but with no sensations, feelings or thoughts.
Russell’s place in the public eye was maintained by a steady stream of writing for the general reader. He no longer held any academic position, and needed to support himself and his family by his pen. While he continued to do some technical work in philosophy, more of his energies were devoted to journalism and other popular writings. He was in great demand. His distinctive prose and dry wit enabled him to puncture the fusty assumptions of contemporary thinking, and his (...) rationalist alternatives struck many readers as a liberating antidote to conventional morality. (shrink)
In this paper I want to explore the nature of phenomenal concepts by comparing them with perceptual concepts. Phenomenal concepts have been drawn to the attention of philosophers by recent debates in the philosophy of mind. Most obviously, their existence is demonstrated by Frank Jackson’s thought-experiment about Mary, the expert on the science of colour vision who has never had any colour experiences herself. It is widely agreed that, when Mary does first see something red, she acquires a new concept (...) of red experiences, distinct from any of her previous scientific concepts of such experiences. This new mode of reference is an example of a phenomenal concept. Recent interest in phenomenal concepts is independent of views about the ontological significance of Jackson’s Mary argument. Thus phenomenal concepts are acknowledged both (a) by ontological dualists who take the Mary argument to demonstrate the non-physicality of conscious phenomena and (b) by physicalist monists who insist that Mary’s new concept refers to nothing but a material state that she could always refer to using her old scientific concepts. How then do phenomenal concepts work? Here there is far less consensus. Among those who trade in phenomenal concepts, some take them to be sui generis (Tye, 2003, Chalmers, 2003), while others have variously likened them to recognitional concepts (Loar, 1990), to demonstratives (Horgan 1984, Papineau 1993, Perry 2001), or to quotational terms (Papineau 2002, Balog forthcoming). In my Thinking about Consciousness (2002), I developed a ‘quotational-indexical’ of phenomenal concepts account on roughly the following lines. To have a phenomenal concept of some experience, you must be able introspectively to focus on it when you have it, and to.... (shrink)
Philosophers like asking questions about knowledge. What is it exactly? Why do we value it so much? And do we have any? Ideally they would like an account of the nature of knowledge that shows sceptical doubts about its existence to be unmotivated. Unfortunately two millenia of effort have not produced much in the way of agreed results.
The empirical evidence often justifies belief in scientific theories. For instance, the great wealth of chemical and other relevant data leaves us with no real alternative to believing that matter is made of atoms. Similarly, the natural history of past and present organisms makes it irrational to deny that life on earth has evolved from a common ancestry. Again, the character and epidemiology of infectious diseases effectively establishes that they are caused by microbes. Peter Lipton did much to illuminate (...) the logic of these and many similar inferences. Often the observed facts admit of only one good theoretical explanation. Rationality therefore dictates that we infer the truth of this explanation. (Lipton 1991/2004.). (shrink)
My first university was in my home town, Durban, in the mid-1960s. I was doing a mathematics degree but most of my friends were doing arts subjects. Sartre and Marx were the thinkers of the moment and my friends would press their (mostly illegal) writings on me. Ideologically I was entirely sympathetic, but intellectually they didn’t do much for me—too obscure, too difficult, too dogmatic. In my final year I chanced on Ayer’s The Problem of Knowledge. It wasn’t exactly relevant (...) to apartheid South Africa, but I consumed it eagerly. Through Ayer I was led to Russell’s logical atomism. What appealed to me in both these authors was the sense of solving fundamental problems through careful logical analysis. Of course, in retrospect we can see that their limpid style concealed many doubtful assumptions. Yet you could always see exactly what they were claiming and how the argument was supposed to go. I still think that this is the best way to do philosophy. (shrink)
Does your dog know when it is time for walkies, even if you are in a different room when you decide to take it out? Can you sometimes tell that you are being stared at, even when your kibitzer is some distance away and completely hidden? If so, Rupert Sheldrake (www.sheldrake.org) would like to hear from you. He has compiled a database of over 5,000 such cases, and would be glad to learn of any more.
Human beings are one of the great success stories of evolution. They have spread over the globe and refashioned much of it to their own convenience. What has made this possible? Perhaps there is no one key which alone explains why humans have come to dominate nature. But a crucial part has surely been played by our high potential for theoretical rationality. Human beings far surpass other animals in their ability to form accurate beliefs across a wide range of topics, (...) and many aspects of human civilization rest on this accomplishment. My aim in this paper will be to explain this ability from an evolutionary perspective. I want to understand how beings with our biological history came to be so good at theoretical rationality. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that causation is an essentially macroscopic phenomenon, and that mental causes are therefore capable of outcompeting their more specific physical realizers as causes of physical effects. But I also argue that any causes must be type-identical with physical properties, on pain of positing inexplicable physical conspiracies. I therefore allow macroscopic mental causation, but only when it is physically reducible.
Part I: Sets and Numbers. Naive Sets and Russell's Paradox ; Infinite Sets ; Orders of Infinity. -- Part II: Analyticity, a prioricity, and necessity. Kinds of Truths ; Possible Worlds ; Naming and Necessity. -- Part III: The Nature and Uses of Probability. Kinds of Probability ; Constraints on Credence ; Correlations and Causes. -- Part IV: Logics and Theories. Syntax and Semantics ; Soundness and Completeness ; Theories and Godel's Theorem.
In this paper I want to consider whether the 'phenomenal concepts' posited by many recent philosophers of mind are consistent with Wittgenstein’s private language argument. The paper will have three sections. In the first I shall explain the rationale for positing phenomenal concepts. In the second I shall argue that phenomenal concepts are indeed inconsistent with the private language argument. In the last I shall ask whether this is bad for phenomenal concepts or bad for Wittgenstein.
It is widely agreed among contemporary philosophers of mind that science leaves us with an ‘explanatory gap’—that even after we know everything that science can tell us about the conscious mind and the brain, their relationship still remains mysterious. I argue that this agreed view is quite mistaken. The feeling of a ‘explanatory gap’ arises only because we cannot stop ourselves thinking about the mind–brain relation in a dualist way.
When philosophers study knowledge, consciousness, free will, moral value, and so on, their first concern is with these things themselves, rather than with what people think about them. So why exactly is it so important to philosophy to discover experimentally that people differ in their views on these matters? We wouldn’t expect physicists to throw up their hands in excitement just because somebody shows that different cultures have different views about the origin of the universe.
The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the (...) ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003). (shrink)
I argue that philosophy is like science in three interesting and non-obvious ways. First, the claims made by philosophy are synthetic, not analytic: philosophical claims, just like scientific claims, are not guaranteed by the structure of the concepts they involve. Second, philosophical knowledge is a posteriori, not a priori: the claims established by philosophers depend on the same kind of empirical support as scientific theories. And finally, the central questions of philosophy concern actuality rather than necessity: philosophy is primarily aimed (...) at understanding the actual world studied by science, not some further realm of metaphysical modality. (shrink)
Peter J. Lewis's in 'Quantum Sleeping Beauty' argues that accepting the Everettian interpretation of quantum mechanics requires you to be a 'halfer' about Sleeping Beauty. This paper will argue that Everettians do not have to be halfers. It is perfectly cogent to be both an Everettian and a thirder.
Peter J. Lewis argued that the Everettian interpretation of quantum mechanics implies the unpopular halfer position in the Sleeping Beauty debate. We retorted that it is perfectly coherent to be an Everettian and an ordinary thirder. In a recent reply to our paper Lewis further clarifies the basis for his thinking. We think this brings out nicely where he goes wrong: he underestimates the importance of metaphysical considerations in determining rational credences.
I agree with nearly everything Martin Davies says. He has written an elegant and highly informative analysis of recent philosophical debates about the mind–brain relation. I particularly enjoyed Davies’ discussion of B.A. Farrell, his precursor in the Oxford Wilde Readership (now Professorship) in Mental Philosophy. It is intriguing to see how closely Farrell anticipated many of the moves made by more recent ‘type-A’ physicalists who seek to show that, upon analysis, claims about conscious states turn out to be nothing more (...) than complex third-personal claims about internal and external behaviour. Davies is also exemplary in his even-handed treatment of those contemporary ‘type-B’ physicalists who have turned away from the neo-logical-behaviourism of Farrell and his ilk. Davies explains how type-B physicalists recognize distinctive subjective ‘phenomenal concepts’ for thinking about conscious states and so deny that phenomenal claims can be deduced a priori from behavioural or other third-personal claims. However, type-B physicalists do not accept that these subjective phenomenal concepts refer to any distinct non-material reality. In their view, phenomenal concepts and third-personal scientific concepts are simply another example of the familiar circumstance where we have two different ways of referring to a single reality. Since I am persuaded by pretty much all Davies says about these matters, I shall not comment substantially on the dialectical points he covers. Instead I want to raise two rather wider issues. The first is the set of ideas associated with the phrase ‘the explanatory gap’. Davies specifies that he is using this phrase in a specific technical sense. But the phrase has further connotations, and this can lead to a distorted appreciation of the philosophical issues. The second issue is the methodological implications of the philosophical debate. I shall argue that the philosophical issues addressed by Davies suggest that there are unexpected limitations on what empirical brain research can achieve.. (shrink)
We are all physicalists now. It was not always so. A hundred years ago most educated thinkers had no doubt that non-physical processes occurred within living bodies and intelligent minds. Nor was this an anti-scientific stance: the point would have been happily agreed by most practicing scientists of the time. Yet nowadays anybody who says that minds and bodies involve non-physical processes is regarded as a crank. This is a profound intellectual shift. In this essay I want to explore its (...) methodological implications for the human sciences. I do not think that these have been adequately appreciated. (shrink)
I take myself to be a physicalist. I hold that all facts, including such prima facie non-physical facts as mental and biological facts, metaphysically supervene on the physical facts. However, I do not have any views about the relationship between macroscopic and microscopic facts. I am neutral on such questions as whether big things are always made of small things. Recently I have become worried about this combination of views. This is because many other philosophers seem to think of physicalism (...) as some kind of commitment to the primacy of the microscopic. In their view, physicalism doesn’t just say that everything is physical. It also says that everything is microscopically determined. Here are some representative quotations. (shrink)
A reduction of causation to probabilities would be a great achievement, if it were possible. Â In this paper I want to defend this reductionist ambition against some recent criticisms from Gurol Irzik (1996) and Dan Hausman (1998).Â In particular, I want to show that the reductionist programme can be absolved of a vice which is widely thought to disable it--the vice of infidelity.
Identity theorists make claims like ‘pain = C-fibre stimulation’. These claims must be necessary if true, given that terms like ‘pain’ and ‘C-fibre stimulation’ are rigid. Yet there is no doubt that such claims appear contingent. It certainly seems that there could have been C-fibre stimulation without pains or vice versa. So identity theorists owe us an explanation of why such claims should appear contingent if they are in fact necessary.