We offer an empirical assessment of description theories of proper names. We examine empirical evidence on lexical and cognitive development, memory, and aphasia, to see whether it supports Descriptivism. We show that description theories demand much more, in terms of psychological assumptions, than what the data suggest; hence, they lack empirical support. We argue that this problem undermines their success as philosophical theories for proper names in natural languages. We conclude by presenting and defending a preliminary alternative account of reference (...) from a developmental perspective. (shrink)
A central problem in epistemology concerns the justification of beliefs about epistemic principles, i.e., principles stating which kinds of beliefs are justified and which not. It is generally regarded as circular to justify such beliefs empirically. However, some recent defenders of foundationalism have argued that, within a foundationalist framework, one can justify beliefs about epistemic principles empirically without incurring the charge of vicious circularity. The key to this position is a sharp distinction between first- and second-level justifiedness.In this paper I (...) first argue that such versions of foundationalism end up giving their approval to circular chains and are therefore unmotivated; if circular chains are acceptable, the classic regress argument for foundationalism does not go through. I then consider and reject two other ways in which the foundationalist might motivate his position. At the end of the paper I draw from this discussion a moral concerning the airns of epistemological theorizing. (shrink)
From young children, with their guileless, searching questions, to the recently bereaved, trying to make sense of tragic loss, humans wrestle with our relationship to God--and with God's essence, motivations, and power--throughout our lives: Why does God permit catastrophe and senseless tragedy, again and again? Is God's power limited in any way? Can He change the past? Does He know the future? Why does God require prayer? Why does He not provide stronger evidence of His presence? Whom does God consign (...) to hell, and why? Does God change? Suffer? What can we make of the conflicting diversity within world religions, of the many gods of different religious traditions? Such questions engage, confront, and perplex us on a daily basis. In this rich, concise volume, leading philosophers who have long pondered God's nature and ways take on these core problems and present their findings in a manner likely to engage believer and non-believer, general reader and specialist alike. (shrink)
This paper is a reply to James Keller's criticisms of my Foundationalism, Coherentism and the Levels Gambit (Synthese 55, April 1983).Foundationalists have often claimed that, within a foundationalist framework, one can justify beliefs about epistemic principles in a mediate, empirical fashion, while escaping the charge of vicious circularity that is usually thought to afflict such methods of justification. In my original paper I attacked this foundationalist strategy; I argued that once mediate, empirical justification of epistemic principles is allowed, the (...) foundationalist must also allow circular patterns of justification of the sort that he typically criticizes coherentists for espousing. Here I argue that Keller's reply only makes matters worse for the foundationalist. At several points, his reply turns out to be inconsistent either with reliabilism or with the foundationalist strategy he is trying to defend. (shrink)
Do undergraduate students perceive that it is more acceptable to ‹cheat’ using information technology (IT) than it is to cheat without the use of IT? Do business discipline-related majors cheat more than non-business discipline-related majors? Do undergraduate students perceive it to be more acceptable for them personally to cheat than for others to cheat? Questionnaires were administered to undergraduate students at five geographical academic locations in the spring, 2006 and fall 2006 and spring, 2007. A total of 708 usable questionnaires (...) were returned including 532 from students majoring in business-related disciplines and 139 from students majoring in non-business related disciplines (37 were undecided). It appears that in terms of intellectual property violations, undergraduate students in general find cheating using IT more acceptable than cheating without the use of IT. It also appears that undergraduate students perceive that it is relatively more acceptable for them to personally cheat when using IT than for others to cheat when using IT, although this is reversed when IT is not involved. No significant differences on these issues were found between undergraduate students having business discipline-related majors and those having non-business discipline-related majors. (shrink)
The doctrine that God hardens some agents’ hearts generates philosophical perplexities. Why would God deprive someone of free will and the opportunity to repent? Or is God’s interference compatible with the agent’s free will and his having an opportunity to repent? In this paper, I examine how two Jewish philosophers, Moses Maimonides and Joseph Albo, handled these questions. I analyze six approaches growing out of their writings and argue that a naturalistic interpretation of hardening --- as irreversible habituation --- has (...) advantages over alternative approaches. This account of hardening, however, fits best with the thesis that God does sometimes intervene to improve an agent’s will. (shrink)
This essay serves as both a response and embellishment of Marilyn Frye's now classic essay "Oppression." It is meant to pick up where this essay left off and to make connections between oppression, as Frye defines it, and the privileges that result from institutional structures. This essay tries to clarify one meaning of privilege that is lost in philosophical discussions of injustice. I develop a distinction between unearned privileges and earned advantages. Clarifying the meaning of privilege as unearned structural (...) advantage makes visible the role white privilege plays in maintaining complex systems of domination such as racism, sexism, heterosexism and classism. Using a critical reading of both Frye (1983) and Young's (1990) accounts of oppression as a springboard, I develop a definition of privilege as a particular class of unearned advantages. -/- I distinguish my account of privilege from standard legal and philosophical definitions of privilege. The general distinction I make between privileges and advantages rests on three interrelated claims: (a) that benefits granted by privilege are always unearned and conferred systemically to members of dominant social groups; (b) that privileges granted to members of dominant groups solely on the basis of their membership in these groups is never justifiable; and, (c) that privileges have an unconditional value that can be explained not only in terms of immunities, but also in terms of additional benefits. (shrink)
While taking Charles Chihara's metaphysics course as a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley, I wrote an advice columnist to ask about the puzzle at the center of the course. Marilyn Vos Savant writes a weekly column for Parade Magazine , which is included in the Sunday editions of many newspapers. She claims to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for "highest IQ".
In her paper ‘An Awkward Relationship: the Case of Feminism and Anthropology’, Marilyn Strathern argues that feminist research cannot produce a paradigm shift in social anthropology. I present an argument for thinking that, on the relevant understanding of paradigm shift, it is possible for this to happen. I then object to Strathern’s arguments against the possibility.
This paper contains an overview of the essays contained in the Mind and morals anthology plus a critical discussion of certain themes raised in many of these essays concerning the bearing of recent work in cognitive science on the traditional project of moral theory. Specifically, I argue for the following claims: (1) authors like Virginia Held, who appear to be antagonistic toward the methodological naturalism of Owen Flanagan, Andy Clark, Paul Churchland, and others, are really in fundamental agreement with the (...) naturalists (at least once the naturalist view is suitably clarified); (2) the prototype theory of moral concepts that is inspired by recent work in cognitive science does not necessarily jeopardize the aim of systematization characteristic of traditional moral theory; (3) nor does it threaten certain widely accepted views about moral rationality that is part of traditional moral theorizing. Moreover, I speculate that (4) recent work in cognitive science can be expected to play a corroborative role in the justification of theories in ethics, but we should probably not expect this work to yield new insights and directions in ethics. Finally, (5) Fodor's recent critique of cognitive science makes clear the perils of methodological ethical naturalism. (shrink)
Pessoa, Thompson & Noë present compelling evidence in support of their central claims about the diversity of filling-in, but they embed those claims within a larger framework that rejects analytical isomorphism and uses the personal/subpersonal distinction to challenge the explanatory importance of filling-in. The latter views seem more problematic.
It is an honor and also a pleasure to respond to the three philosophers who have devoted so much time and careful attention to reading and critiquing my paper "Nations of Immigrants: Do Words Matter?" As an interdisciplinary scholar who interacts more often with specialists in the social sciences, history, and Italian studies than with philosophers, I was unsure what to expect from the Coss Dialogue. Would it be possible to find words common enough to all that we could begin (...) to address the complex issues raised by national mythology about the United States as a nation of immigrants? I believe that our panel discussions revealed the common ground we rather quickly found. But they also uncovered a few gaping chasms .. (shrink)