The key question in this three way debate is the role of the collectivity and of agency. Collins and Shrager debate whether cognitive psychology has, like the sociology of knowledge, always taken the mind to extend beyond the individual. They agree that irrespective of the history, socialization is key to understanding the mind and that this is compatible with Clark’s position; the novelty in Clark’s “extended mind” position appears to be the role of the material rather than the role (...) of other minds. Collins and Clark debate the relationship between self, agency, and the human collectivity. Collins argues that the Clark’s extended mind fails to stress the asymmetry of the relationship between the self and its material “scaffolding.” Clark accepts that there is asymmetry but that an asymmetrical ensemble is sufficient to explain the self. Collins says that we know too little about the material world to pursue such a model to the exclusion of other approaches including that both the collectivity and language have agency. The collectivity must be kept in mind! (Though what follows is a robust exchange of views it is also a cooperative effort, authors communicating “backstage” with each other to try to make the disagreements as clear and to the point as possible.). (shrink)
cis is presented of Randall Collins's book, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. It presents a sociological theory of intellectual networks that connect thinkers in chains of masters and pupils, colleagues and rivals, and of the internalized conversations that constitute the social processes of thinking. The theory is used to analyze long-term developments of the intellectual communities of philosophers in ancient Greece, ancient and medieval China and India, medieval and modern Japan, medieval Islam and Judaism, (...) medieval Christendom, and modern Europe through the early 20th century. (shrink)
It is widely held that propositions are structured entities. In The Nature and Structure of Content (2007), Jeff King argues that the structure of propositions is none other than the syntactic structure deployed by the speaker/hearers who linguistically produce and consume the sentences that express the propositions. The present paper generalises from King’s position and claims that syntax provides the best in-principle account of propositional structure. It further seeks to show, however, that the account faces serve problems pertaining to the (...) fine individuation of propositions that the account entails. The ‘fineness of cut’ problem has been raised by Collins (The unity of linguistic meaning, 2007) and others. King (Philos Stud 163(3):763–781, 2013) responds to these complaints in ways this paper rebuts. Thus, the very idea of structured propositions is brought into doubt, for the best in-principle account of such structure appears to fail. (shrink)
This fascinating study in the sociology of science explores the way scientists conduct, and draw conclusions from, their experiments. The book is organized around three case studies: replication of the TEA-laser, detecting gravitational rotation, and some experiments in the paranormal. "In his superb book, Collins shows why the quest for certainty is disappointed. He shows that standards of replication are, of course, social, and that there is consequently (...) no outside standard, no Archimedean point beyond society from which we can lever the intellects of our fellows."--Donald M. McCloskey, Journal of Economic Psychology "Collins is one of the genuine innovators of the sociology of scientific knowledge. . . . Changing Order is a rich and entertaining book."-- Isis "The book gives a vivid sense of the contingent nature of research and is generally a good read."--Augustine Brannigan, Nature "This provocative book is a review of [Collins's] work, and an attempt to explain how scientists fit experimental results into pictures of the world. . . . A promising start for new explorations of our image of science, too often presented as infallibly authoritative."--Jon Turney, New Scientist. (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition is almost as old as philosophy itself, and was one of the central themes of early analytical philosophy, greatly exercising the minds of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Ramsey. The problem is how propositions or meanings can be simultaneously unities (single things) and complexes, made up of parts that are autonomous of the positions they happen to fill in any given proposition. The problem has been associated with numerous paradoxes and has motivated general (...) theories of thought and meaning, but has eluded any consensual resolution; indeed, the problem is sometimes thought to be wholly erroneous, a result of atomistic assumptions we should reject. In short, the problem has been thought to be of merely historical interest. Collins argues that the problem is very real and poses a challenge to any theory of linguistic meaning. He seeks to resolve the problem by laying down some minimal desiderata on a solution and presenting a uniquely satisfying account. The first part of the book surveys and rejects extant 'solutions' and dismissals of the problem from (especially) Frege and Russell, and a host of more contemporary thinkers, including Davidson and Dummett. The book's second part offers a novel solution based upon the properties of a basic syntactic principle called 'Merge', which may be said to create objects inside objects, thus showing how unities can be both single things but also made up of proper parts. The solution is defended from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives. The overarching ambition of the book, therefore, is to strengthen the ties between current linguistics and contemporary philosophy of language in a way that is genuinely sensitive to the history of both fields. (shrink)
This note briefly responds to Devitt’s (2008) riposte to Collins’s (2008a) argument that linguistic realism prima facie fails to accommodate unvoiced elements within syntax. It is argued that such elements remain problematic. For it remains unclear how conventions might target the distribution of PRO and how they might explain hierarchical structure that is presupposed by such distribution and which is not witnessed in concrete strings.
Collins, John Francis In October this year there are to be two events at the Vatican. Beginning on 7 October and going through to 28 October bishops from all over the world are to gather at a Synod on 'New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.' On 11 October, midway through the Synod, the whole Church will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The bishops who are to gather this year at (...) the Synod follow in the footsteps of the more than 2000 Bishops who gathered at the Second Vatican Council. John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, with the following words 'Looked at one way there is the deposit of faith or the truths which are contained in our doctrine which we venerate, looked at another way there is the way by which the same (the deposit of faith) is enunciated both in its meaning and its spirit.' In a recent interview for Salt and Light Television the inaugural head of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of the New Evangelisation Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella noted that what Vatican II did for the Church is still present in our community. Later in the interview the Archbishop stated that the 'New Evangelisation is not a new work, it is a new mentality; a new language, a new enthusiasm for announcing the gospel.' There is continuity between both the spirit and letter of the Archbishop's words recorded in 2012 and the words of John XXIII in opening Vatican II. That is, as a Church, what we are seeking is new ways to announce the meaning and spirit of the deposit of faith, the truths contained in doctrine. What would later be called the new evangelisation permeated Vatican II. (shrink)
Collins, John Francis; Carroll, Sandra In the April 2012 edition of The Australasian Catholic Record (ACR) John Duiker presented a useful overview and history of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) titled 'Spreading the Culture of Pentecost in the Midst of Disenchantment.' According to Duiker the CCR as an ecclesial movement 'has its origins in a retreat that was held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the USA in February 1967.' Describing this event as a Pentecost experience Duiker writes (...) that the movement that was started by this event 'spread to other college campuses and continued to spread right across the world, and now exists in over 220 countries and has touched the lives of over 120 million Catholics.' Duiker's article draws on Charles Taylor's thesis that our post-enlightenment Western culture has been emptied-out of the idea of God's providence leading to 'a diminishing of the necessity of grace and a fading of the sense of mystery.' Duiker then presents a case for CCR being recognised 'as an example for the re-enchantment of a post-Enlightenment secular world.'. (shrink)
A range of positions persist in the proper interpretation of generative linguistics. The paper responds to recent work in this area that either weakly or strongly diverges from the non-contentful, internalist model presented in Collins (2008a). Against the sympathetic criticisms of Matthews (2008) and Smith (2008), it is argued that a crucial role for content in our understanding of linguistic theories remains obscure, although the discussion here will hopefully clarify the divergence between the parties as merely perspectival. Rey (2008) (...) more strongly argues that the non-contentful model is prey to some classic complaints. The charges are rebutted. Finally, the position of Devitt (2008a, b) is considered. It is argued that his most recent presentation of his brand of realism fails to speak to the fundamental complaints levelled against it, especially as regards the putative role of conventions in the explanation of unvoiced syntax. (shrink)
I respond to Selinger and Mix (Selinger, E. and Mix, J. 2004. On interactional expertise: Pragmatic and ontological considerations. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3: 145–163), concentrating on their charges that Collins (Collins, H. M. 2004a. Interactional expertise as a third form of knowledge. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3: 125–143) underrates the importance of interactional expertise as an expertise sui generis and that the paper fails to analyse the idea of embodiment sufficiently holistically, misleading treating the ‘body’ (...) as no more than the linear sum of its parts. (shrink)
Sociology, then, should prove to be relevant to a host of issues within the traditional purview of philosophy: Epistemology and philosophy of science, of course; the issue of solipsism and other minds (as Habermas has already seen, invoking Mead); ontological issues of the mind/body relation, of person/self/identity (on which there is a wealth of untapped materials, from Goffman, Mead, and in the lineage of Durkheim and Mauss now being rediscovered); Michael Carrithers, Steven Collins, and Steven Lukes, editors, The Category (...) of the Person (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Norbert Wiley, “The Sacred Self: Durkheim's Anomaly,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York, 1986. and more deeply the questions of materialism/idealism, realism and anti-realism. All questions in the philosophy of ethics, ranging from conceptual analysis to critical and constructive ethics, make sense realistically only if handled with a sociological understanding of where moral ideals and feelings emerge from. The extent of possible success of sociological explanations is a crucial point for any discussion of determinism and indeterminism, and relatedly for the notion of will, free or otherwise. (Obviously the sociology of the self is implicated in the free-will issue as well.) The micro/ macro issue is a wonderful ground on which to consider questions of universals and particulars, of the different orders of causality, of reification and reductionism. Though it may seem presumptious to say so, sociology has implications right across the board in philosophy, even in its stronghold of metaphysics: space and time, existence and non-existence, the Ideal and the immediacy of lived experience are all parts of our current sociological controversies. As yet we have not been very bold in bringing such implications of sociology to attention. But there is recent work such as that of Preston David Preston, Constructing Trans-cultural Reality: the Social Organization of Zen Practice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988). on the sociology of Zen practice, which is relevant to a philosophy of ontology at its deepest levels. Furthermore, I feel optimistic about sociology's capacity to contribute to these issues philosophically, that is to say within the problem-space of philosophy itself. Tools like Goffmanian frame analysis, with a nested and grounded relation among levels, should cast light even on tricky issues such as infinities and logical indeterminacies, ontological foundations and unfoundedness. After all, if reality is socially constructed, why shouldn't our professional understanding of society reveal something central about the universe? Sal Restivo (personal communication) suggests that this Une of argument can go even farther: “You [Collins] seem to fall into the same sort of trap that people like Rorty fall into. Everything you say spells the end of philosophy, but somehow philosophy gets saved in the end. Once Durkheim enters the picture, what's left of ‘ultimate questions’? Doesn't the sociology of religion reveal that philosophy's concern with ‘ultimate questions’ (like religion's) is a strategy and a sham - and that it is sociology and anthropology ultimately that realistically address ‘ultimate questions’? It seems to me that sociologizing philosophy FEARLESSLY destroys philosophy. So in this view sociologizing philosophy can't lead to a ‘philosophy’ of sociology, but only a sociology of sociology. ‘Philosophy without mirrors’ (Rorty) is sociology/ anthropology; ‘philosophy with a hammer’ (Nietzsche) is sociology/ anthropology. In a very real sense, sociologizing philosophy is like trying to sociologize religion - either sociology has to dilute its explanatory power, or philosophy/religion has to evaporate as an intellectual strategy. The death of philosophy is another step in the Death of God process.” For a more extensive argument, see Sal Restivo, “The End of Epistemology,” Department of Science and Technology Occasional Papers 1 (1984), Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy N.Y.As of now, these implications remain only potential. But to buttress my claim for the relevance of sociology in just one area, epistemology and the reflexive issues that arise within it, let me close with a brief reflection on what the sociology of science implies about the nature of philosophy itself. We can hardly expect that sociology will give a final and definitive answer to philosophy's problems. I say that, not because of any pessimism about our intellectual tools, but because of the very nature of intellectual communities. Intellectuals make careers by gaining fame for their original contributions; there must be problems to solve if there is to be something to contribute. This of course is true of all areas of science and scholarship. But whereas the empirical disciplines can go on to create new specialties and research areas, philosophers do not have the same way out of the professional problem posed by a field's own past success.Philosophy has handled this problem in a deeper way. For philosophers have taken as their turf precisely those problems that are themselves inherently deep and, in some sense, intractable. Philosophers have traditionally been concerned with the understanding of knowledge itself, with the most fundamental categories of existence and experience, with the bases of value. These are the boundary problems of all the other fields of intellectual inquiry, and of human life itself. They are intractable, not because significant things cannot be said about them, but because they are located at the open edges of everything; they reveal themselves full of reflexivities, which constantly reemerge at a new level whenever a conceptual solution is proposed, much as in Gödel's incompleteness theorem - and in the most highly transformed level of Goffmanian frames.It is for this reason that the history of philosophy is full of complaints that previous philosophers have come to no agreement, along with new beginnings that attempt to finish its business at last. There is a striking repetitiveness to these claims: we hear them from Descartes, and again from Kant, from the Logical Positivists, from Wittgenstein, in their different ways; there is more than an echo of this intellectual strategy in today's extremists, such as Rorty and Derrida, who again are abolishing philosophy. But philosophy has not been abolished; each previous claim to bring the uselessly warring sects of the past into a final resolution has failed to stifle philosophy's perennial inquiries. Just as strikingly, each such effort at ending philosophy has given rise to a period of renewed philosophical creativity.I think this is not an accident. It is because the structure of the intellectual field in general (across the disciplines, not only philosophy) is being restructured at a particular historical time that figures like Descartes, Kant, and others appear; the crisis of intellectual restructuring is what gives them the intellectual capital (and the creative energy) to reconceptualize the fundamental boundary problems in a new way. In this sense, philosophy is indeed “foundational”; it concerns itself with the ultimate questions, the borderlines of all inquiry and all of life. But there is another sense of “foundational,” the claim that philosophy is the discipline necessary for putting all other knowledge upon a secure foundation. This is certainly not true in a practical and historical sense; the other disciplines have gone ahead quite well without guidance from philosophy. Kant's claim to provide a secure foundation for the physical sciences against Hume's scepticism was really a rhetorical ploy, a way of building up the importance of what philosophy is doing; it really made no difference to the growth of science in Hume's day, or in Kant's, just what the philosophers said about the foundations of their knowledge. The same is true for all such claims about the significance of foundational issues.But this is not to dismiss the importance of what philosophers are doing. Theirs is the great intellectual adventure into the edges of things. The rest of the disciplines, the rest of what we consider to be knowledge, nestled in a pragmatic acceptance of whatever seems to work for us as intellectual practitioners, do not rest upon philosophy. The structural relation among intellectual fields is more the other way around, as far as the dynamics of intellectual change are concerned. But philosophy has nevertheless positioned itself in the intellectual space where the deepest explorations are launched. This will continue to be so, even as sociology adds its own impetus to the philosophical project. (shrink)
The conflict tradition does not end with Max Weber, but there is room for only the barest sketch of subsequent or even contemporary developments. We have already covered many of the follow-ups of the Marx-Weber line of conflict sociology. Among these, there is the important line of influence inwhich Michels served as the link between Weber's historical theory of organizational politics and the organizational studies of the 1940–60's. Studies of stratification, although often pursued with naive theoretical categories, have gradually accumulated (...) a great deal of evidence bolstering and refining the classical principles explained above; and some work, especially since the time of C. Wright Mills (but not necessarily influenced by him) has made a conscious effort to build on classical theory.Some other lines of conflict theory must at least be mentioned. The socialpsychological tradition of conflict theory originating with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, of course, has Freud as its most famous representative. This level of analysis, despite various theoretical attempts, has not yet been convincingly related to the organizational/stratification level outlined above, nor has it had as much empirical support. But this social-psychological conflict tradition continues to have great potential importance. It holds out the promise of a model for the shaping of the individual psyche by the emotional and symbolic interchanges involved in struggles for interpersonal advantage to replace the artificially one-sided and relatively static models of psychological learning theory. Its premises move towards replacing adult-centered “socialization” theory with a two-sided view of age conflict under conditions of unequal resources. And when cast in an explicitly historical form, its insights into sexual repression become the basis of a comparative theory of sexual stratification. Collins, R., “A Conflict Theory of Sexual Stratification,” Social Problems, 19: 2–21, 1971.Many other interesting figures have been slighted in this brief history. Some, like Simmel and Pareto, appear isolated from the main stream, as they subordinated their insights about conflict to principles which led in quite different directions: neo-Kantian idealism and liberal positivism respectively. Others, like Sorel, came closer to the main line, above all, in Sorel's emphasis that conflict is the basis of moral solidarity, a point which resonates with Weber's understanding of group ceremony as the basis of legitimacy and solidarity precisely in situations of conflict and domination. From here, the possibility exists for appropriating the main achievements of the Durkheimian tradition - the understanding of the ceremonial bases of social realityconstructing - into a comprehensive conflict theory.For the arena encompassed by conflict theory is not only the moments of obvious strife in society, but the systematic explanation of the entire social structure. The central focus is on the organization of material arrangements into a system of power which divides society into interest groups struggling for control. Such material conditions operate not only through the sphere of economic production, but also directly condition the mobilization of interest groups for political action, as well as the production of ideas and of emotional ties. We need no longer rest with an abstract assertion of the determination of structure by contending interests with varying material resources; refined principles of conflict theory may explain specific outcomes in all areas of society. (shrink)
The Allegiance of Thomas Hobbes offers a revisionist interpretation of Thomas Hobbes's evolving response to the English Revolution. It rejects the prevailing understanding of Hobbes as a consistent, if idiosyncratic, royalist, and vindicates the contemporaneous view that the publication of Leviathan marked Hobbes's accommodation with England's revolutionary regime. In sustaining these conclusions, Professor Collins foregrounds the religious features of Hobbes's writings, and maintains a contextual focus on the broader religious dynamics of the English Revolution itself. Hobbes and the Revolution (...) are both placed within the tumultuous historical process that saw the emerging English state coercively secure jurisdictional control over national religion and the corporate church. Seen in the light of this history, Thomas Hobbes emerges as a theorist who moved with, rather than against, the revolutionary currents of his age. The strongest claim of the book is that Hobbes was motivated by his deep detestation of clerical power to break with the Stuart cause and to justify the religious policies of England's post-regicidal masters, including Oliver Cromwell. -/- Methodologically, Professor Collins supplements intellectual or linguistic contextual analysis with original research into Hobbes's biography, the prosopography of his associates, the reception of Hobbes's published works, and the nature of the English Revolution as a religious conflict. This multi-dimensional contextual approach produces, among other fruits: a new understanding of the political implications of Leviathan; an original interpretation of Hobbes's civil war history, Behemoth; a clearer picture of Hobbes's career during the neglected period of the 1650s; and a revisionist interpretation of Hobbes's reaction to the emergence of English republicanism. By presenting Thomas Hobbes as a political actor within a precisely defined political context, Professor Collins has recovered the significance of Hobbes's writings as artefacts of the English Revolution. (shrink)
Paul Collins travels the globe piecing together the missing body and soul of one of our most enigmatic founding fathers: Thomas Paine. A typical book about an American founding father doesn’t start at a gay piano bar and end in a sewage ditch. But then, Tom Paine isn’t your typical founding father. A firebrand rebel and a radical on the run, Paine alone claims a key role in the development of three modern democracies. In death, his story turns truly (...) bizarre. Shunned as an infidel by every church, he had to be interred in an open field on a New York farm. Ten years later, a former enemy converting to Paine’s cause dug up the bones and carried them back to Britain, where he planned to build a mausoleum in Paine’s honor. But he never got around to it. So what happened to the body of this founding father? Well, it got lost. Paine’s missing bones, like saint’s relics, have been scattered for two centuries, and their travels are the trail of radical democracy itself. Paul Collins combines wry, present-day travelogue with an odyssey down the forgotten paths of history as he searches for the remains of Tom Paine and finds them hidden in, among other places, a Paris hotel, underneath a London tailor's stool, and inside a roadside statue in New York. Along the way he crosses paths with everyone from Walt Whitman and Charles Darwin to sex reformers and hellfire ministers—not to mention a suicidal gunman, a Ferrari dealer, and berserk feral monkeys. In the end, Collins’s search for Paine’s body instead finds the soul of democracy—for it is the story of how Paine’s struggles have lived on through his eccentric and idealistic followers. (shrink)
I defend a theory of mental representation that satisfies naturalistic constraints. Briefly, we begin by distinguishing (i) what makes something a representation from (ii) given that a thing is a representation, what determines what it represents. Representations are states of biological organisms, so we should expect a unified theoretical framework for explaining both what it is to be a representation as well as what it is to be a heart or a kidney. I follow Millikan in explaining (i) in terms (...) of teleofunction, explicated in terms of natural selection. -/- To explain (ii), we begin by recognizing that representational states do not have content, that is, they are neither true nor false except insofar as they both “point to” or “refer” to something, as well as “say” something regarding whatever it is they are about. To distinguish veridical from false representations, there must be a way for these separate aspects to come apart; hence, we explain (ii) by providing independent theories of what I call f-reference and f-predication (the ‘f’ simply connotes ‘fundamental’, to distinguish these things from their natural language counterparts). -/- Causal theories of representation typically founder on error, or on what Fodor has called the disjunction problem. Resemblance or isomorphism theories typically founder on what I’ve called the non-uniqueness problem, which is that isomorphisms and resemblance are practically unconstrained and so representational content cannot be uniquely determined. These traditional problems provide the motivation for my theory, the structural preservation theory, as follows. F-reference, like reference, is a specific, asymmetric relation, as is causation. F-predication, like predication, is a non-specific relation, as predicates typically apply to many things, just as many relational systems can be isomorphic to any given relational system. Putting these observations together, a promising strategy is to explain f-reference via causal history and f-predication via something like isomorphism between relational systems. -/- This dissertation should be conceptualized as having three parts. After motivating and characterizing the problem in chapter 1, the first part is the negative project, where I review and critique Dretske’s, Fodor’s, and Millikan’s theories in chapters 2-4. Second, I construct my theory about the nature of representation in chapter 5 and defend it from objections in chapter 6. In chapters 7-8, which constitute the third and final part, I address the question of how representation is implemented in biological systems. In chapter 7 I argue that single-cell intracortical recordings taken from awake Macaque monkeys performing a cognitive task provide empirical evidence for structural preservation theory, and in chapter 8 I use the empirical results to illustrate, clarify, and refine the theory. (shrink)
In this article, I examine and criticize John Searle's account of the relation between mind and body. Searle rejects dualism and argues that the traditional mind-body problem has a 'simple solution': mental phenomena are both caused by biological processes in the brain and are themselves features of the brain. More precisely, mental states and events are macro-properties of neurons in much the same way that solidity and liquidity are macro-properties of molecules. However, Searle also maintains that the mental is (...) 'ontologically irreducible' to the physical, a view which follows from his understanding of the status and nature of consciousness. Consciousness is essential to the mind; subjectivity is essential to consciousness; and no purely objective, physical description of consciousness could ever capture or explain its essentially subjective character. None the less, Searle maintains that irreducibility is a 'trivial' result of our 'definitional practices' and is entirely compatible with his theory. I contend that this latter claim is based on an equivocation: Searle's conclusion only seems to follow because he alters and trivializes what philosophers ordinarily mean by 'reduction'. I also maintain that Searle's position is reductionist in the ordinary, nontrivial sense. For this reason, his theory fails to accommodate the subjective character of consciousness and fails to solve the traditional mind-body problem. Finally, I briefly discuss Searle's claim that he is not an epiphenomenalist, and argue that given the assumptions of his view there is no interesting causal role for consciousness in the physical world. (shrink)
Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e—the cause and its effect—both occur, but: had (...) c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. It was not always so. Thirty-odd years ago, so-called “regularity” analyses (so-called, presumably, because they traced back to Hume’s well-known analysis of causation as constant conjunction) ruled the day, with Mackie’s Cement of the Universe embodying a classic statement. But they fell on hard times, both because of internal problems—which we will review in due course—and because dramatic improvements in philosophical understanding of counterfactuals made possible the emergence of a serious and potent rival: a counterfactual analysis of causation resting on foundations firm enough to be repel the kind of philosophical suspicion that had formerly warranted dismissal.. (shrink)
Newcomb’s problem is a decision puzzle whose difficulty and interest stem from the fact that the possible outcomes are probabilistically dependent on, yet causally independent of, the agent’s options. The problem is named for its inventor, the physicist William Newcomb, but first appeared in print in a 1969 paper by Robert Nozick . Closely related to, though less well-known than, the Prisoners’ Dilemma, it has been the subject of intense debate in the philosophical literature. After three decades, the issues remain (...) unresolved. Newcomb’s problem is of genuine importance because it poses a challenge to the theoretical adequacy of orthodox Bayesian decision theory. It has led both to the development of causal decision theory and to efforts aimed at defending the adequacy of the orthodox theory. (shrink)
A counterfactual is a conditional statement in the subjunctive mood. For example: If Suzy hadn’t thrown the rock, then the bottle wouldn’t have shattered. The philosophical importance of counterfactuals stems from the fact that they seem to be closely connected to the concept of causation. Thus it seems that the truth of the above conditional is just what is required for Suzy’s throw to count as a cause of the bottle’s shattering. If philosophers were reluctant to exploit this idea prior (...) to 1970, it was because of a widespread feeling that the truth-conditions of the counterfactual conditional were not sufficiently well understood. The development of a formal semantics for counterfactuals by Robert Stalnaker  and David Lewis [1973b] stands as a major recent achievement in philosophical logic. (shrink)
Intersectionality has attracted substantial scholarly attention in the 1990s. Rather than examining gender, race, class, and nation as distinctive social hierarchies, intersectionality examines how they mutually construct one another. I explore how the traditional family ideal functions as a privileged exemplar of intersectionality in the United States. Each of its six dimensions demonstrates specific connections between family as a gendered system of social organization, racial ideas and practices, and constructions of U.S. national identity.
Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul Boghossian, have argued (...) that this would present a big problem for externalism, forcing the externalist to overhaul our norms of rationality. I consider several externalist strategies to block this possibly unhappy epistemological consequence, but I argue that they all fail. (shrink)
The dead donor rule justifies current practice in organ procurement for transplantation and states that organ donors must be dead prior to donation. The majority of organ donors are diagnosed as having suffered brain death and hence are declared dead by neurological criteria. However, a significant amount of unrest in both the philosophical and the medical literature has surfaced since this practice began forty years ago. I argue that, first, declaring death by neurological criteria is both unreliable and unjustified but (...) further, the ethical principles which themselves justify the dead donor rule are better served by abandoning that rule and instead allowing individuals who have suffered severe and irreversible brain damage to become organ donors, even though they are not yet dead and even though the removal of their organs would be the proximal cause of death. (shrink)
In his opening case , Quentin Smith has presented an ingenious argument for the claim that the universe is self caused, and hence its existence is self explanatory. He then goes on to claim that the fact that the universe is self caused, and hence self explanatory, is inconsistent with theism. His main argument is based on the assumption that each temporal part of the universe has an explanation in terms of the temporal parts existing prior to it. The fundamental (...) temporal parts that Smith uses are instantaneous universe states. Before going into Smith's argument, we need to mention two technicalities that the impatient reader may skip. (shrink)
Managers of organizations should be aware of the attitudes of employees concerning whistleblowing. Employee views should affect how employers choose to respond to whistleblowers through the evolving law of wrongful discharge.This article reports on a survey of employee attitudes toward the legal protection of whistleblowers and presents an analysis of the results of that survey.
The most common objection to fine tuning arguments for theism is that there are, or might be, multiple universes among which the fundamental physicalconstants and parameters vary. This essays describes the two main variants of this objection and argues that they both fail.
Humean supervenience is the doctrine that there are no necessary connections in the world. David Lewis identifies one big bad bug to the programme of providing Humean analyses for apparently non-Humean features of the world. The bug is chance. We put the bug under the microscope, and conclude that chance is no special problem for the Humean.
Borg (2009) surveys and rejects a number of arguments in favour of semantic internalism. This paper, in turn, surveys and rejects all of Borg's anti-internalist arguments. My chief moral is that, properly conceived, semantic internalism is a methodological doctrine that takes its lead from current practice in linguistics. The unifying theme of internalist arguments, therefore, is that linguistics neither targets nor presupposes externalia. To the extent that this claim is correct, we should be internalists about linguistic phenomena, including semantics.
Knowledge entails the truth of the proposition known; that which is merely believed may be false. If I have beliefs about your beliefs, then I may believe that some of your beliefs are false. I may believe, for example, that you mistakenly believe that it is now raining outside. This is a coherent belief for me, though not for you. You cannot coherently believe that you believe falsely that it is raining, and this despite the fact that your having that (...) false belief is clearly a logical possibility. The proposition is, for you, a kind of doxastic blindspot. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor argues that the massive modularity thesis – the claim that (human) cognition is wholly served by domain specific, autonomous computational devices, i.e., modules – is a priori incoherent, self-defeating. The thesis suffers from what Fodor dubs the input problem: the function of a given module (proprietarily understood) in a wholly modular system presupposes non-modular processes. It will be argued that massive modularity suffers from no such a priori problem. Fodor, however, also offers what he describes as a really (...) real input problem (i.e., an empirical one). It will be suggested that this problem is real enough, but it does not selectively strike down massive modularity – it is a problem for everyone. (shrink)
This paper has as its topic two recent philosophical disputes. One of these disputes is internal to the project known as decision theory, and while by now familiar to many, may well seem to be of pressing concern only to specialists. It has been carried on over the last twenty years or so, but by now the two opposing camps are pretty well entrenched in their respective positions, and the situation appears to many observers (as well as to some of (...) the parties involved) to have reached a sort of stalemate. The second of these two disputes is, on the other hand, very much alive. While it has been framed in decision theoretic terms, it is definitely not a dispute internal to that enterprise. It is, rather, a debate about the very coherence of the notion of objective value, and as such touches on issues of central importance to, for example, meta–ethics and moral psychology. (shrink)
We explicate representational content by addressing how representations that ex- plain intelligent behavior might be acquired through processes of Darwinian evo- lution. We present the results of computer simulations of evolved neural network controllers and discuss the similarity of the simulations to real-world examples of neural network control of animal behavior. We argue that focusing on the simplest cases of evolved intelligent behavior, in both simulated and real organisms, reveals that evolved representations must carry information about the creature’s environ- ments (...) and further can do so only if their neural states are appropriately isomor- phic to environmental states. Further, these informational and isomorphism rela- tions are what are tracked by content attributions in folk-psychological and cognitive scientific explanations of these intelligent behaviors. (shrink)
Psychologists and philosophers tend to treat expertise as a property of special individuals. These are individuals who have devoted much more time than the general population to the acquisition of their specific expertises. They are often said to pass through stages as they move toward becoming experts, for example, passing from an early stage, in which they follow self-conscious rules, to an expert stage in which skills are executed unconsciously. This approach is ‘one-dimensional’. Here, two extra dimensions are added. They (...) are drawn from the programme known as Studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE) and its ‘Periodic Table of Expertises’. SEE, which is sociological, and/or Wittgensteinian, in inspiration, takes expertise to be the property of groups; there are ‘domains’ of expertise. Under SEE, level of expertise grows with embedding in the society of domain experts; the key is the transmission of domain-specific tacit knowledge. Thus, one extra dimension is degree of exposure to tacit knowledge. Under SEE, domains can be big or small so there can be ‘ubiquitous tacit knowledge’, such as natural-language-speaking or other elements of general social behaviour, which belong to every member of a society. The second extra dimension is, therefore, ‘esotericity’. The resulting three-dimensional ‘expertise-space’ can be explored in a number of ways which reveal the narrowness of the analysis and the mistakes that have been made under the one-dimensional model. (shrink)
Temporal externalism (TE) is the thesis (defended by Jackman (1999)) that the contents of some of an individual’s thoughts and utterances at time t may be determined by linguistic developments subsequent to t. TE has received little discussion so far, Brown 2000 and Stoneham 2002 being exceptions. I defend TE by arguing that it solves several related problems concerning the extension of natural kind terms in scientifically ignorant communities. Gary Ebbs (2000) argues that no theory can reconcile our ordinary, practical (...) judgments of sameness of extension over time with the claim that linguistic usage determines word extensions. I argue that Ebbs shows at most that no theory other than TE can effect this reconciliation. Furthermore, while Ebbs’ argument undermines Jessica Brown’s solutions to two closely related problems about natural kind term extensions (Brown 1998), TE can solve both problems without difficulty. Some criticisms of TE are briefly addressed as well. (shrink)