Four-Dimensionalism is a thorough, lively and forceful defence of the claim that “necessarily, every spatiotemporal object has a temporal part at every moment at which it exists” (59). The standard four-dimensionalist view is perdurance theory, according to which everyday things like boats are temporally extended. But Sider rejects perdurance theory, nicely disparaging it as the “worm view”, and he argues for the “stage view” version of fourdimensionalism instead. According to the stage view, everyday things like boats are instantaneous, and claims (...) about the history of the Anstruther lifeboat are made true or false by the boat’s past counterparts. Sider reserves the term “four-dimensionalism” for these two views of persistence; he also defends a tenseless B-theory of time. The book develops, extends and systematises work which Sider has published over the last few years, and it makes a compelling and readable whole. I am sympathetic with many of the conclusions, but I will take issue with some of the arguments. (shrink)
Jointly, separately, and in collaboration with others, Steven French and Décio Krause have been central to recent debates about identity and individuality in modern physics; their new book draws together many threads, and is interesting in all sorts of ways. It’s not an easy read, because it ranges wide and digs deep: you’ll need some knowledge of physics to get anywhere, you’ll need an idea of Who Was Who amongst the Great Physicists to follow the historical sections, and you’ll need (...) plenty of formal know-how to get the most out of the chapters on set theory and logic. But even if you’re not fully-equipped for all this, it is well worth persisting conscientiously, skimming, or cherry-picking, according to your temperament. The book contains valuable insights into the philosophy of quantum physics; the metaphysics of spacetime; the metaphysics, epistemology and semantics of identity, indiscernibility and naming; the logic of indeterminacy; and the nature of sortals. There are thought-provoking methodological asides about the relationships between science and philosophy, between formal theory and interpretation, and between set theory and contingent facts. Moreover, the historical sections show the Great Physicists grappling with these substantive philosophical issues. (Tip: if you’re only going to read one chapter, make it chapter 4, where the philosophical juice is especially concentrated.). (shrink)
‘Fusion’ is a philosophical term of art, with a variety of uses. First, it is often a synonym for ‘sum’. In this sense, a is a fusion of b, c and d iff b, c and d are parts of a, and every part of a shares a part with b, c or d. So a cat is a fusion of the cells which compose it, and the same cat is a fusion of the molecules which compose it. Relatedly, ‘fusion’ (...) can refer to the occurrence of such composition: philosophers disagree about whether fusion is widespread, about whether it can be a vague matter, and so on. (shrink)
Temporal parts are analogous to spatial parts: just as the conference has one spatial part which occupies the seminar room, and another which occupies the lecture hall, it has one temporal part which ‘occupies’ Friday and another which ‘occupies’ Saturday. These temporal parts of the conference have half-hour coffee-breaks as temporal parts of their own; these coffee-breaks are also temporal parts of the whole conference.
Every Thing Must Go is wildly ambitious. It advances substantive views on the proper scope of metaphysics (unifying science), the nature of reality (things subservient to structures), the current state of play in quantum gravity (fragmented), and the connection between fundamental physics and the rest of science (hard to summarise). It is both fascinating and infuriating. A key theme is the dismissal of ‘neo-scholastic’ metaphysics and the promotion of ‘naturalised metaphysics’. I fear my own work qualifies as neoscholastic, and although (...) I’m reassured to have ‘some extremely intelligent and morally serious people’ as company, I’d hate to think we were ‘wasting [our] talents – and, worse, sowing systematic confusion about the world, and about how to find out about it’ (vii). So I will focus my attention on this theme. (shrink)
What is true and what is not depends upon how the world is: that there are no white ravens is true because there are no white ravens. That much, Trenton Merricks accepts. But he denies that principles about truthmaking can do any heavy lifting in metaphysics, and he provides powerful, sophisticated arguments for this denial. The hunt for individual truthmakers for specific truths is doomed once we consider negative existentials, and, on the other side of that coin, universal claims. But (...) the weaker claim that truth supervenes upon being either collapses into the platitudes about dependence that even Merricks accepts, or else collapses into the fruitless search for individual truthmakers. The reasoning is complex, yet elegant and clear, and from now on anyone wishing to use truthmaker principles to establish substantive positions in metaphysics will need to grapple with this critique. (shrink)
This volume collects together chapters that were originally delivered at a conference on the Admissible Contents of Experience that took place at the University of Glasgow in March 2006. The original papers were first published in a special edition of The Philosophy Quarterly (July 2009). -/- Introduction (Fiona Macpherson, University of Glasgow). -- 1. Perception And The Reach Of Phenomenal Content (Tim Bayne, University of Oxford). -- 2. Seeing Causings And Hearing Gestures (Steven Butterfill, University of Warwick). -- 3. Experience (...) And Content (Alex Byrne, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). -- 4. Is Perception A Propositional Attitude? (Tim Crane, University College London). -- 5. Conscious Reference (Alva Noë, University of California, Berkeley). -- 6. What Are The Contents Of Experiences? (Adam Pautz, University of Texas at Austin). -- 7. Aspect-Switching And Visual Phenomenal Character (Richard Price, University of Oxford). -- 8. The Visual Experience Of Causation (Susanna Siegel, Harvard University). -- 9. The Admissible Contents Of Visual Experience (Michael Tye, University of Texas at Austin). -- Index. (shrink)
If the property _being a methane molecule_ is a universal, then it is a structural universal: objects instantiate _being a methane molecule_ just in case they have the right sorts of proper parts arranged in the right sort of way. Lewis argued that there can be no satisfactory account of structural universals; in this paper I provide a satisfactory account.
Sometimes we work out by ourselves how to do something. But often we rely upon the help, advice or example of others. To this extent learning how resembles learning that: sometimes you can see the truth for yourself, but sometimes you need to phone a friend. Do the similarities end there? When we are tempted to think that knowing how differs significantly from knowing that, it is often because knowing how seems to be transmitted, acquired, taught and learned in distinctive (...) ways. Practical knowledge can’t always be obtained from books or lectures, it often requires hands-on experience, those who know how can’t always teach, and sometimes those who can’t do can nevertheless teach. (shrink)
Putative counterexamples to the Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles (PII) are notoriously inconclusive. I establish ground rules for debate in this area, offer a new response to such counterexamples for friends of the PII, but then argue that no response is entirely satisfactory. Finally, I undermine some positive arguments for PII.
Roughly speaking, perdurantism is the view that ordinary objects persist through time by having temporal parts, whilst endurantism is the view that they persist by being wholly present at different times. (Speaking less roughly will be important later.) It is often thought that perdurantists have an advantage over endurantists when dealing with objects which appear to coincide temporarily: lumps, statues, cats, tail-complements, bisected brains, repaired ships, and the like. Some cases – personal fission, for example – seem to involve (...) temporary coincidence between objects of the same kind. Other cases – a cat and its flesh, a statue and its lump – seem to involve objects of different kinds. (shrink)
Sider argues that, of maximalism and quantifier variance, the latter promises to let us make better sense of neo-Fregeanism. I argue that neo-Fregeans should, and seemingly do, reject quantifier variance. If they must choose between these two options, they should choose maximalism.
I argue that, despite van Inwagen's pessimism about the task, it is worth looking for answers to his General Composition Question. Such answers or 'principles of composition' tell us about the relationship between an object and its parts. I compare principles of composition with criteria of identity, arguing that, just as different sorts of thing satisfy different criteria of identity, they may satisfy different principles of composition. Variety in criteria of identity is not taken to reflect ontological variety in the (...) identity relation; I discuss whether variety in principles of composition should be taken to reflect ontological variety in the composition relation. (shrink)
Analytic metaphysics is in resurgence; there is renewed and vigorous interest in topics such as time, causation, persistence, parthood and possible worlds. We who share this interest often pay lip-service to the idea that metaphysics should be informed by modern science; some take this duty very seriously.2 But there is also a widespread suspicion that science cannot really contribute to metaphysics, and that scientific findings grossly underdetermine metaphysical claims. For some, this prompts the thought ‘so much the worse for metaphysics’; (...) others mutter ‘so much the worse for science’. (shrink)
Simon Saunders argues that, although distinct objects must be discernible, they need only be weakly discernible (Saunders 2003, 2006a). I will argue that this combination of views is unmotivated: if there can be objects which differ only weakly, there can be objects which don’t differ at all.
Closest-continuer or best-candidate accounts of persistence seem deeply unsatisfactory, but it’s hard to say why. The standard criticism is that such accounts violate the ‘only a and b’ rule, but this criticism merely highlights a feature of the accounts without explaining why the feature is unacceptable. Another concern is that such accounts violate some principle about the supervenience of persistence facts upon local or intrinsic facts. But, again, we do not seem to have an independent justification for this supervenience claim. (...) Instead, I argue that closest continuer accounts are committed to unexplained correlations between distinct existences, and that this is their fundamental flaw. We can have independent justification for rejecting such correlations, but what the justification is depends upon much broader issues in ontology. There is no one-size-fits all objection to closest-continuer accounts of persistence. (shrink)
In his Material Beings, Peter van Inwagen distinguishes two questions about parthood. What are the conditions necessary and sufficient for some things jointly to compose a whole? What are the conditions necessary and sufficient for a thing to have proper parts? The first of these, the Special Composition Question (SCQ), has been widely discussed, and David Lewis has argued that an important constraint on any answer to the SCQ is that it should not permit borderline cases of composition. This is (...) a far-reaching claim, since many plausible-seeming accounts of composition do permit borderline cases. Ned Markosian has recently directed our attention to the second, the neglected Inverse Special Composition Question (ISCQ). I will argue that those who accept Lewis’s constraint on answers to the SCQ should accept an analogous constraint on answers to the ISCQ, and I will discuss the effects of such a constraint. (shrink)
Philosophy of Science Today offers a state-of-the-art guide to this fast-developing area. An eminent international team of authors covers a wide range of topics at the intersection of philosophy and the sciences, including causation, realism, methodology, epistemology, and the philosophical foundations of physics, biology, and psychology.
Modern epistemologists don’t often discuss knowledge-how - propositional knowledge has attracted the lion’s share of attention.2 Yet the notion of knowledge-how looks useful elsewhere in philosophy - philosophers of science discuss tacit knowledge and skills, philosophers of mind disagree about whether knowing what an experience is like is a matter of knowing how to imagine or recognise it, and philosophers of language and of value consider whether knowledge of meaning or morality is knowledge-how (to use words, to follow rules, to (...) behave well).3 Without a fuller understanding of knowledge-how, it is difficult to assess these proposals. Moreover, knowledge-how is interesting qua species of knowledge - when set alongside theories of propositional knowledge, enquiry into other forms of knowledge promises to shed light on the nature of knowledge quite generally. What is it that we value about our interactions with the world, whether these interactions are through belief or through action? (shrink)
Vague existence can seem like the worst kind of vagueness in the world, or seem to be an entirely unintelligible notion. This bad reputation is based upon the rumour that if there is vague existence then there are non-existent objects. But the rumour is false: the modest brand of vague existence entailed by certain metaphysical theories of composition does not deserve its bad reputation.
Katherine Hawley explores and compares three theories of persistence -- endurance, perdurance, and stage theories - investigating the ways in which they attempt to account for the world around us. Having provided valuable clarification of its two main rivals, she concludes by advocating stage theory.
I claim that, if persisting objects have temporal parts, then there are non-supervenient relations between those temporal parts. These are relations which are not determined by intrinsic properties of the temporal parts. I use the Kripke-Armstrong 'rotating homogeneous disc' argument in order to establish this claim, and in doing so I defend and develop that argument. This involves a discussion of instantaneous velocity, and of the causes and effects of rotation. Finally, I compare alternative responses to the rotating disc argument, (...) and consider the implications of my arguments for the doctrines of Humean Supervenience and unrestricted mereology. (shrink)
1. E.J. Lowe claims that quantum physics provides examples of ontic indeterminacy, of vagueness in the world. Any such claim must confront the Evans-Salmon argument to the effect that the notion of ontic indeterminacy is simply incoherent (Evans 1978, Salmon 1981: 243-46). Lowe argues that a standard version of the Evans-Salmon argument fails quite generally (Lowe 1994). Harold Noonan (1995) has outlined a non-standard version of the argument, but Lowe argues that this non-standard version fails for specifically quantum mechanical (...) reasons (Lowe 1997). He claims that it is perfectly coherent to suppose that his quantum case is an example of ontic indeterminacy. (shrink)
Trenton Merricks argues against the following doctrine: Microphysical Supervenience (MS) Necessarily, if atoms A1 through An compose an object that exemplifies intrinsic qualitative properties Q1 through Qn, then atoms like A1 through An (in all their respective intrinsic qualitative properties), related to one another by all the same restricted atom-to-atom relations as A1 through An, compose an object that exemplifies Q1 through Qn. (Merricks 1998, p. 59) Imagine a person, _P_. Microphysical Supervenience entails that there is an object, the finger-complement, (...) wholly composed of all of _P_'s atoms except those in _P_'s left index-finger. After all, when we slice off _P_'s finger, we leave atoms micro- indiscernible from those in the finger-complement, and _those_ atoms compose an object, maimed _P_. Moreover, if _being conscious_ is an intrinsic property, then Microphysical Supervenience entails that the finger-complement is conscious, for maimed _P_ is conscious. But this, argues Merricks, is "simply incredible". It cannot be the case that every large collection of _P_'s atoms forms a conscious object, for then there would be "a mighty host" of conscious objects sitting in _P_'s chair (Merricks 1998, p.63). Even if there is a finger-complement, it is not conscious. So _being_ _conscious_ does not supervene upon microphysical arrangements: if _being conscious_ is an intrinsic qualitative property then Microphysical Supervenience is false. Merricks argues that _being conscious_ is indeed intrinsic, and thus that Microphysical Supervenience _is_ false. He has two reasons for supposing _being conscious_ to be intrinsic, and I object to both of these. (shrink)
Take this banana. It is now yellow, and when I bought it yesterday it was green. How can a single object be both green all over and yellow all over without contradiction? It is, of course, the passage of time which dissolves the contradiction, but how is this possible? How can a banana ripen? These questions raise the problem of change. The problem is sometimes called the problem of temporary intrinsics, but, as I shall explain below, this emphasis on intrinsic (...) properties is misleading. (shrink)