Frankfurt-style examples (FSEs) cast doubt on the initially plausible claim that an ability to do otherwise is necessary for moral responsibility. Following the lead of Peter van Inwagen and others, I argue that if we are careful in distinguishing events by causal origins, then we see that FSEs fail to show that one may be morally responsible for x, yet have no alternatives to x. I provide reasons for a fine-grained causal origins approach to events apart from the context of (...) moral responsibility, and respond to the objection that moral responsibility depends on abstract entities other than events. In response to John Martin Fischer and others, I argue that the alternatives available in recent FSEs are robust enough for moral responsibility. If one thinks that the ability to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral responsibility, the FSEs give no reason to relinquish this belief. (shrink)
http://dx.doi.org/10.5007/1808-1711.2008v12n2p155 Bas van Fraassen advocates a “Copenhagen variant” of the modal interpretation of quantum mechanics. However, he believes that the Copenhagen approach to measurement is not fully satisfactory, since it seems to rule out the possibility of providing a physical account of the observation process. This was also what John Wheeler had in mind when, in the mid-1950’s, he sponsored the “relative state” formulation proposed by his student Hugh Everett. Wheeler, who considered himself an orthodox Bohrian, tried to convince (...) Bohr to accept the improvement of the Copenhagen approach represented in his eyes by Everett’s proposal. This attempt gave rise to a lively debate, which has been only recently documented, and which provides an interesting framework for the appraisal of van Fraassen’s own programme. (shrink)
I discuss van inwagen's "first formal argument" for the incompatibility of causal determinism and freedom to do otherwise. I distinguish different interpretations of the important notion, "s can render p false." I argue that on none of these interpretations is the argument clearly sound. I point to gaps in the argument, Although I do not claim that it is unsound.
The apparent tension between the moral codes of the Old and New Testaments constitutes a perennial problem for Christian ethics. Scholars who have taken this problem seriously have often done so in ways that presume sharp discontinuity between the Testaments. They then proceed to devise a system for identifying what is or is not relevant today, or what pertains to this or that particular social sphere. John Howard Yoder brings fresh perspectives to this perennial problem by refuting the presumption (...) of intratestamental discontinuity. Throughout multiple scattered works on the Old Testament, Yoder offers a coherent and provocative narration that culminates in the way of Christ and establishes the ethical continuity of the entire biblical canon. This essay presents the basic parameters of Yoder's Old Testament narration, suggests points where revision is needed, and highlights several implications for social ethics. (shrink)
In "Supervenience, Necessary Coextension, and Reducibility" (Philosophical Studies 49, 1986, 163-176), among other results, I showed that weak or ordinary supervenience is equivalent to Jaegwon Kim's strong supervenience, given certain assumptions: S4 modality, the usual modal conception of properties as class-concepts, and diagonal closure or resplicing of the set of base properties. This last means that any mapping of possible worlds into extensions of base properties counts itself as a base property. James Van Cleve attacks the modal conception of property (...) and diagonal closure. To me it seems desperate to reject diagonal closure merely in order to save supervenience-materialism. But I concede that it may be unacceptable in the context of a sparser theory of properties. (shrink)
In October 1924, The Physical Review, a relatively minor journal at the time, published a remarkable two-part paper by John H. Van Vleck, working in virtual isolation at the University of Minnesota. Van Vleck used Bohr's correspondence principle and Einstein's quantum theory of radiation to find quantum formulae for the emission, absorption, and dispersion of radiation. The paper is similar but in many ways superior to the well-known paper by Kramers and Heisenberg published the following year that is widely (...) credited to have led directly to Heisenberg's Umdeutung paper. As such, it clearly shows how strongly the discovery of matrix mechanics depended on earlier work on the application of the correspondence principle to the interaction of matter and radiation. (shrink)
I relate the story of how matrix mechanics grew out of the treatment of optical dispersion in the old quantum theory, paying special attention to the contributions of the American theoretical physicists John H. Van Vleck and John C. Slater. Van Vleck shares the credit with Max Born for being the first to publish a full derivation of the crucial Kramers dispersion formula using Bohr’s correspondence principle. Slater was one of the architects of the short-lived but influential Bohr-Kramers-Slater (...) (BKS) theory that helped popularize the so-called Ersatz- or virtual oscillators central both to the treatment of dispersion in the old quantum theory and to the transition to matrix mechanics. (shrink)
Philippe Van Parijs's Real Freedom for All is widely acclaimed for providing not only the most sophisticated defense of unconditional basic income, but also a rigorous examination of many central issues within contemporary political theory. This collection, including a response by Van Parijs, provides a comprehensive assessment of his "real libertarian" vision of radical social change. The contributors include Richard Arneson, Brian Barry, Thomas Christiano, John Cunliffe, Guido Erreygers, Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, Robert van der Veen, and Stuart White.
In this paper, the author defends Peter van Inwagen’s modal skepticism. Van Inwagen accepts that we have much basic, everyday modal knowledge, but denies that we have the capacity to justify philosophically interesting modal claims that are far removed from this basic knowledge. The author also defends the argument by means of which van Inwagen supports his modal skepticism, offering a rebuttal to an objection along the lines of that proposed by Geirrson. Van Inwagen argues that Stephen Yablo’s recent and (...) influential account of the relationship between conceivability and possibility supports his skeptical claims. The author’s defence involves a creative interpretation and development of Yablo’s account, which results in a recursive account of modal epistemology, what the author calls the “safe explanation” theory of modal epistemology. (shrink)
I. Introduction “We can and do see the truth about many things: ourselves, others, trees and animals, clouds and rivers—in the immediacy of experience.”1 Absent from Bas van Fraassen’s list of those things we see are paramecia and mitochondria. We do not see such things, van Fraassen has long maintained, because they are unobservable, that is, they are undetectable by means of the unaided senses.2 But notice that these two notions—what we can see in the “immediacy” of experience and what (...) is detectable by means of the unaided senses—are not the same. There is no incoherence in maintaining that the immediacy of experience is capable of disclosing to us truths concerning entities that are not detectable by the naked eye. And so, I claim, it does; science and technology provide us with the means to see things we have never seen before. Some of those things are van Fraassen’s unobservables. That suggestion is nothing new. Grover Maxwell long ago emphasized the continuity between seeing with and without instrumentation.3 Van Fraassen originally provided two responses to Maxwell’s arguments: some things that you can see with instruments you can also see without instruments (and those are the observables); and.. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue against Peter van Inwagen’s claim (in “Free Will Remains a Mystery”), that agent-causal views of free will could do nothing to solve the problem of free will (specifically, the problem of chanciness). After explaining van Inwagen’s argument, I argue that he does not consider all possible manifestations of the agent-causal position. More importantly, I claim that, in any case, van Inwagen appears to have mischaracterized the problem in some crucial ways. Once we are clear on (...) the true nature of the problem of chanciness, agent-causal views do much to eradicate it. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare John Locke’s “memory theory” of personal identity and Memento (directed by Christopher Nolan). I argue that the plot of Memento is ambiguous, in that the main character (Leonard Shelby, played by Guy Pearce) seems to have two histories. As such, Memento is but a series of puzzle cases that intend to illustrate that, although our memories may not be chronologically related to one another, and may even be fused with the memories of other persons, (...) those memories still constitute personal identity. Just as Derek Parfit argues, perhaps there is no personal identity as such, since only survival (in some degree) matters to us. In Memento, Leonard Shelby is not identity to his former self, but survives to some extent. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen’s argument for incompatibilism uses a sentential operator, “N”, which can be read as “No one has any choice about the fact that . . . .” I show that, given van Inwagen’s understanding of the notion of having a choice, the argument is invalid. However, a different interpretation of “N” can be given, such that the argument is clearly valid, the premises remain highly plausible, and the conclusion implies that free will is incompatible with determinism.
A careful analysis of Salmon’s Theoretical Realism and van Fraassen’s Constructive Empiricism shows that both share a common origin: the requirement of literal construal of theories inherited by the Standard View. However, despite this common starting point, Salmon and van Fraassen strongly disagree on the existence of unobservable entities. I argue that their different ontological commitment towards the existence of unobservables traces back to their different views on the interpretation of probability via different conceptions of induction. In fact, inferences to (...) statements claiming the existence of unobservable entities are inferences to probabilistic statements, whence the crucial importance of the interpretation of probability. (shrink)
John Campbell argues that visual attention to objects is the means by which we can refer to objects, and that this is so because conscious visual attention enables us to retrieve information about a location. It is argued here that while Campbell is right to think that we visually attend to objects, he does not give us sufficient ground for thinking that consciousness is involved, and is wrong to assign an intermediary role to location. Campbell’s view on sortals is (...) also queried, as is his espousal of the so-called Referential View of Experience. (shrink)
The anti-reductionist who wants to preserve the causal efficacy of mental phenomena faces several problems in regard to mental causation, i.e. mental events which cause other events, arising from her desire to accept the ontological primacy of the physical and at the same time save the special character of the mental. Psychology tries to persuade us of the former, appealing thereby to the results of experiments carried out in neurology; the latter is, however, deeply rooted in our everyday actions and (...) beliefs and despite the constant opposition of science still very much alive. Difficulties, however, arise from a combination of two claims that are widely accepted in philosophy of mind, namely, physical monism and mental realism, the acceptance of which leads us to the greatest problem of mental causation: the problem of causal exclusion. Since physical causes alone are always sufficient for physical effects mental properties are excluded from causal explanations of our behaviour, which makes them “epiphenomenal”. The article introduces Van Gulick’s solution to the exclusion problem which tries to prove that physical properties, in contrast to mental properties, do not have as much of a privileged status with respect to event causation as usually ascribed. Therefore, it makes no sense to say that physical properties are causally relevant whereas mental properties are not. This is followed by my objection to his argument for levelling mental and physical properties with respect to causation of events. I try to show that Van Gulick’s argument rests on a premise that no serious physicalist can accept. (shrink)
Vol. 13 of John Dewey, The Later Works, brings this edition of Dewey's Collected Works to the fateful years 1938-1939. It contains three main texts Experience and Education, Freedom and Culture, and Theory of Valuation, plus essays and miscellany. The editors, Jo Ann Boydston and Barabara Levine, provide twenty-five pages of Appendices, and Steven M. Cahn has written and excellent Introduction. The hardback version includes a scholarly apparatus featured in each of the volumes of the series.
n 1909, the 50th anniversary of both the publication of Origin of the Species and his own birth, John Dewey published "The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy." This optimistic essay saw Darwin's advance not only as one of empirical or theoretical biology, but a logical and conceptual revolution that would shake every corner of philosophy. Dewey tells us less about the influence that Darwin exerted over philosophy over the past 50 years and instead prophesied the influence it would (or (...) should) take in the future. I will discuss this landmark paper and the key lessons Dewey draws from Darwinism for philosophy, and give a preliminary assessment of how well we've done so far. (Dewey would be largely disappointed.). (shrink)
In recent years, pragmatism in general and John Dewey in particular have been of increasing interest to philosophers of science. Dewey's work provides an interesting alternative package of views to those which derive from the logical empiricists and their critics, on problems of both traditional and more recent vintage. Dewey's work ought to be of special interest to recent philosophers of science committed to the program of analyzing ``science in practice.'' The core of Dewey's philosophy of science is his (...) theory of inquiry---what he called ``logic.'' There is a major lacuna in the literature on this point, however: no contemporary philosophers of science have engaged with Dewey's logical theory, and scholars of Dewey's logic have rarely made connections with philosophy of science. This paper aims to fill this gap, to correct some significant errors in the interpretation of key ideas in Dewey's logical theory, and to show how Dewey's logic provides resources for a philosophy of science. (shrink)
Some argue that humans should enhance their moral capacities by adopting institutions that facilitate morally good motives and behaviour. I have defended a parallel claim: that we could permissibly use biomedical technologies to enhance our moral capacities, for example by attenuating certain counter-moral emotions. John Harris has recently responded to my argument by raising three concerns about the direct modulation of emotions as a means to moral enhancement. He argues (1) that such means will be relatively ineffective in bringing (...) about moral improvements, (2) that direct modulation of emotions would invariably come at an unacceptable cost to our freedom, and (3) that we might end up modulating emotions in ways that actually lead to moral decline. In this article I outline some counter-intuitive potential implications of Harris' claims. I then respond individually to his three concerns, arguing that they license only the very weak conclusion that moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation is sometimes impermissible. However I acknowledge that his third concern might, with further argument, be developed into a more troubling objection to such enhancements. (shrink)
John Bickle's new book on philosophy and neuroscience is aptly subtitled 'a ruthlessly reductive account'. His 'new wave metascience' is a massive attack on the relative autonomy that psychology enjoyed until recently, and goes even beyond his previous (Bickle, J. (1998). Psychoneural reduction: The new wave. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.) new wave reductionsism. Reduction of functional psychology to (cognitive) neuroscience is no longer ruthless enough; we should now look rather to cellular or molecular neuroscience at the lowest possible level (...) for explanations of memory, consciousness and attention. Bickle presents a fascinating set of experimental cases of such molecule-to-mind explanations. This book qualifies as a showcase of naturalism in the philosophy of mind. Naturally, many of the traditional conceptual approaches in the philosophy of mind are given short shrift, but - in Bickle's metascientific scheme - the role of philosophy of science also seems reduced to explicating laboratory findings. The present reviewers think that this reductionism suffers from overstretching; in particular, the idea of 'explanation in a single bound' from molecule to mind is a bit too ruthless. Still, Bickle's arguments are worth serious attention. (shrink)
In this paper I do two things: (1) I support the claim that there is still some confusion about just what the Quine-Putnam indispensability argument is and the way it employs Quinean meta-ontology and (2) I try to dispel some of this confusion by presenting the argument in a way which reveals its important meta-ontological features, and include these features explicitly as premises. As a means to these ends, I compare Peter van Inwagen’s argument for the existence of properties with (...) Putnam’s presentation of the indispensability argument. Van Inwagen’s argument is a classic exercise in Quinean meta-ontology and yet he claims – despite his argument’s conspicuous similarities to the Quine-Putnam argument – that his own has a substantially different form. I argue, however, that there is no such difference between these two arguments even at a very high level of specificity; I show that there is a detailed generic indispensability argument that captures the single form of both. The arguments are identical in every way except for the kind of objects they argue for – an irrelevant difference for my purposes. Furthermore, Putnam’s and van Inwagen’s presentations make an assumption that is often mistakenly taken to be an important feature of the Quine-Putnam argument. Yet this assumption is only the implicit backdrop against which the argument is typically presented. This last point is brought into sharper relief by the fact that van Inwagen’s list of the four nominalistic responses to his argument is too short. His list is missing an important – and historically popular – fifth option. (shrink)
The Monstrosity of Christ provides an exchange between the Slovenian theorist Slavoj Žižek and the British theologian John Milbank. Both authors argue that Christianity is the religion of ‘absolute truth,’ but provide very different accounts of this. Milbank argues that Christianity is true insofar as only the incarnation of Christ mediates the paradoxical metaphysical participation of the finite within the infinite. Žižek argues that the crucifixion of Christ constitutes the death of God, demonstrating that there is no providential or (...) transcendent reality supervening on human history. This realization constitutes the universal truth of Christianity. (shrink)
My aim in this study is not to praise Fischer's fine theory of moral responsibility, but to (try to) bury the "semi" in "semicompatibilism". I think Fischer gives the Consequence Argument (CA) too much credit, and gives himself too little credit. In his book, The Metaphysics of Free Will, Fischer gave the CA as good a statement as it will ever get, and put his finger on what is wrong with it. Then he declared stalemate rather than victory. In my (...) view, Fischer's view amounts to sophisticated compatibilism. It would be nice to be able to call it by its right name. In The Metaphysics of Free Will, Fischer develops his own version of Consequence Argument, which turns on two principles, one of which is the fixity of the past. FP: For any action K, agent S and time i, if it is true that is S were to do Y at t, some fact about that past relative to t would not have been a fact, then S cannot at t do Fat 1. 1 argue that the equipment needed to reject FP (and thereby defend the most plausible version of compatibilism) is needed to deal with the problem of fatalism. In addition, I argue that the rejection of FP is compatible with Fischer's approach to Frankfurt cases and with his account of transfer principles. (shrink)
The political and philosophical problems John Rawls set out to solve arise out of the identity and conflicts of interests between citizens. There is identity of interests because social cooperation makes possible for everyone a life that is much better than one outside of society. There is a conflict of interests because people all prefer a larger to a smaller share of the benefits of social cooperation, and people have ideological differences. The problem a theory of justice has to (...) solve is how, in the face of these conflicts, effective social cooperation can come about on terms that are justifiable to all. (shrink)
Newly re-printed, Sydney Hook’s classic (1939) work on Dewey appears with an Introduction by Richard Rorty. Hook may help us see how Dewey fit into his own time. That story is important. The new printing may also help us see how Dewey fits into our time. Rorty lauds more recent treatments of Dewey’s work, especially Robert Westbrook’s intellectual biography John Dewey and American Democracy (1991), and Steven Rockefeller’s John Dewey: Religious Faith and Democratic Humanism (1991) gets honorable mention. (...) Specific comments focus on Alan Ryan’s John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism (1995). “It may be that Dewey and Hook witnessed, as Alan Ryan suggests, ... ‘the high tide of American liberalism,’ but if this is so, then America has lost its soul.”1 Even future-focused pragmatists need to look back to Dewey and Hook. They were “Americans” who, in the final words of the Hook volume, “still had hope for what America may yet be.”. (shrink)