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Profile: Mark Sharlow
  1. Mark Sharlow, Debunking the Skeptics.
    is not about traditional skeptical thinkers like Descartes and Hume. Instead, it is about some of the ideas of today’s ”skeptics” — people who try to debunk things that seem too odd or too spiritual. This site is not meant to encourage weird beliefs, but it might make you wonder whether skepticism is a weird belief too.
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  2. Mark Sharlow, Liftoff to Freedom.
    takes a stand for liberty, and explores important topics such as punishment, capitalism, and the limits of government. If you are sick of the left and tired of the right, you just might like this.
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  3. Mark Sharlow, About Idealism: An Exploration of Some Philosophical Viewpoints That Put Mind Before Matter.
    Many people regard the mind as something separate from the body. This includes many religious believers, who regard personality and self as attributes of an immortal soul. Some philosophers, relying on logic instead of faith, also have taken the position that the mind is distinct from the body and is not explainable in terms of bodily processes alone. The belief that a person is composed of a mind and a body, with neither one reducible to the other, has traditionally been (...)
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  4. Mark Sharlow, As True as 'You Think': Preserving the Core of Folk Psychology.
    In this paper I argue in defense of an important fragment of folk psychology. Specifically, I argue that many propositions about the ontology of mental states and about mental causation are true largely because of certain observable features of human linguistic behavior. I conclude that these propositions are immune to common avenues of eliminativist criticism. I compare and contrast this argument with some previous arguments about the truth of folk psychology.
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  5. Mark Sharlow, Chemical Possibility and Modal Semantics.
    This paper is a study of a distinctively chemical notion of possibility. This is the notion of possibility that occurs in chemical discourses when chemists speak of the possibility or impossibility of achieving a given result through chemical means. This notion pertains to the possibility of processes, not of compounds, so it differs from the kind of chemical possibility mentioned in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations or the kinds discussed in the literature on Putnam's Twin Earth argument. I argue that this process-oriented (...)
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  6. Mark Sharlow, 'Charge Without Charge' in the Stochastic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.
    In this note I examine some implications of stochastic interpretations of quantum mechanics for the concept of "charge without charge" presented by Wheeler and Misner. I argue that if a stochastic interpretation of quantum mechanics were correct, then certain shortcomings of the "charge without charge" concept could be overcome.
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  7. Mark Sharlow, From Brain to Cosmos (Preliminary Revised Edition).
    This is a draft for a revised edition of Mark Sharlow's book "From Brain to Cosmos." It includes most of the material from the first edition, two shorter pieces pertaining to the book, and a detailed new introduction.
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  8. Mark Sharlow, Generalizing "Charge Without Charge" to Obtain Classical Analogs of Short-Range Interactions.
    Several decades ago, Wheeler and Misner presented a model of electric charge ("charge without charge") based on the topological trapping of electric field lines in wormholes. In this paper, which does not argue for or against the "charge without charge" concept, I describe some generalizations of this model which might serve as topological analogs of color charges and electroweak charges.
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  9. Mark Sharlow, Getting Realistic About Nominalism.
    In this paper I examine critically the relationship between the realist and nominalist views of abstract objects. I begin by pointing out some differences between the usage of existential statements in metaphysics and the usage of such statements in disciplines outside of philosophy. Then I propose an account of existence that captures the characteristic intuitions underlying the latter kind of usage. This account implies that abstract object existence claims are not as ontologically extravagant as they seem, and that such claims (...)
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  10. Mark Sharlow, Generalizing the Algebra of Physical Quantities.
    In this paper, I define and study an abstract algebraic structure, the dimensive algebra, which embodies the most general features of the algebra of dimensional physical quantities. I prove some elementary results about dimensive algebras and suggest some directions for future work.
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  11. Mark Sharlow, How Subjective Fact Ties Language to Reality.
    In this note, I point out some implications of the experiential principle* for the nature of the relationship between language and the world. I argue that this principle implies the existence of a certain relationship between linguistic tokens and facts, and that this relationship undermines most critiques of the referentiality of language.
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  12. Mark Sharlow, I Am an Abstraction, Therefore I Am.
    In this paper I examine a new variant of the well-known idea that the self is an abstract object. I propose a simple model of the self as a property of temporal slices of a body's history. I argue that this model, when combined with even a modest realism with regard to properties, implies that the self has many of the chief features traditionally attributed to selves. I conclude that this model allows one to reconcile the full reality of the (...)
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  13. Mark Sharlow, Phonetic Possibility and Modal Logic.
    In this paper I propose a formalization, using modal logic, of the notion of possibility that phoneticians use when they judge speech sounds to be possible or impossible. I argue that the most natural candidate for a modal logic of phonetic possibility is the modal system T.
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  14. Mark Sharlow, Platonizing the Abstract Self.
    In this note I examine the two main differences between Plato's and Dennett's views of the self as an abstract object. I point out that in the presence of certain forms of ontological realism, abstract-object theories of the self are compatible with the full reality of the self. I conclude with some remarks on the relationship between ontology and ethics.
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  15. Mark Sharlow, Restoring the Foundations of Human Dignity.
    critiques the degradation of the person in current philosophical thought. This page points out some challenges to behaviorism, eliminativism, postmodernism, and other antipersonal ideas.
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  16. Mark Sharlow, Rethinking Wholes and Parts: Reflections on Reductionism, Holism, and Mereology.
    In this set of excerpts from an earlier book, I examine some philosophical issues surrounding the whole-part relationship. I present a series of thought experiments and other arguments designed to undermine the view that wholes are "nothing but" their parts.
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  17. Mark Sharlow, The End of the Teapot Argument for Atheism (and All Its Tawdry Imitators).
    Atheists sometimes use Bertrand Russell's teapot argument, and its variants with other objects in place of the teapot, to argue for the rationality of atheism. In this paper I show that this use of the teapot argument and its variants is unacceptably circular. The circularity arises because there is indirect evidence against the objects invoked in the arguments.
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  18. Mark Sharlow, Tomorrow Is Within Reach!
    The twentieth century was a century of progress. During those hundred years, humanity progressed from a world without airplanes, computers, or modern medicine to a new era in which these technological miracles were commonplace. These technical achievements were not the only accomplishments of that fateful century. There also were vast changes in social thought, with great steps forward toward human equality and freedom — the struggle for racial equality, the recognition of women's rights, and the defeat of the new, unprecedented (...)
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  19. Mark Sharlow, The Quantum Mechanical Path Integral: Toward a Realistic Interpretation.
    In this paper, I explore the feasibility of a realistic interpretation of the quantum mechanical path integral - that is, an interpretation according to which the particle actually follows the paths that contribute to the integral. I argue that an interpretation of this sort requires spacetime to have a branching structure similar to the structures of the branching spacetimes proposed by previous authors. I point out one possible way to construct branching spacetimes of the required sort, and I ask whether (...)
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  20. Mark Sharlow, What Branching Spacetime Might Do for Physics.
    In recent years, the branching spacetime (BST) interpretation of quantum mechanics has come under study by a number of philosophers, physicists and mathematicians. This paper points out some implications of the BST interpretation for two areas of quantum physics: (1) quantum gravity, and (2) stochastic interpretations of quantum mechanics.
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  21. Mark Sharlow, Where Reason Meets Poetry.
    This is a collection of articles and essays that bear on the relationship between scientific and poetical/romantic views of the world.
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  22. Mark F. Sharlow, An Introduction to Subjective Facts: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This collection serves as an introduction to the concept of subjective fact, which plays a central role in some of the author's philosophical writings. The collection contains two book chapters and a paper. The first chapter (Chapter 2 of From Brain to Cosmos) begins with an informal characterization of the concept of subjective fact. Then it fleshes out this concept with examples, gives a more precise characterization, and addresses some potential weaknesses of the concept. This chapter shows how subjective fact (...)
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  23. Mark F. Sharlow, Beyond Physicalism and Idealism: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of an excerpt (chapter 13) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. In that excerpt, the author presents a study of the notion of truth using the concept of subjective fact developed earlier in the book. The author argues that mind-body materialism is compatible with certain forms of metaphysical idealism. The chapter closes with some remarks on relativism with regard to truth. (This document depends heavily upon the concept of subjective fact developed in From Brain (...)
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  24. Mark F. Sharlow, Can Machines Have First-Person Properties?
    One of the most important ongoing debates in the philosophy of mind is the debate over the reality of the first-person character of consciousness.[1] Philosophers on one side of this debate hold that some features of experience are accessible only from a first-person standpoint. Some members of this camp, notably Frank Jackson, have maintained that epiphenomenal properties play roles in consciousness [2]; others, notably John R. Searle, have rejected dualism and regarded mental phenomena as entirely biological.[3] In the opposite camp (...)
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  25. Mark F. Sharlow, Conscious Subjects in Detail: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of excerpts (chapters 5 and 10-12) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. These excerpts address several traditional problems about the histories of conscious subjects, using the concept of subjective fact that the author developed earlier in the book. Topics include the persistence of conscious subjects through time, the unity or disunity of the self, and the possibility of splitting conscious subjects. (These excerpts depend heavily upon the author’s concept of subjective fact as developed in (...)
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  26. Mark F. Sharlow, Tomorrow Is for Freedom.
    The four talks in this collection are based on impromptu lectures by Mark Sharlow. Explores the topics of freedom, justice, punishment, capitalism, distributism, and the limits of government.
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  27. Mark F. Sharlow, God: The Next Version.
    This short e-book is (in the author's words) "an attempt to open up new and better ways of thinking about God." The author draws together insights from philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, and ontology to construct a conception of God that avoids both supernaturalism and simplistic forms of pantheism.
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  28. Mark F. Sharlow, Knowledge of How Things Seem to You: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of an excerpt (chapter 4) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. That excerpt presents a study of a specific problem about knowledge: the logical justification of one’s knowledge of the immediate past. (This document depends heavily upon the concept of subjective fact that the author developed in chapters 2 and 3 of From Brain to Cosmos. Readers unfamiliar with that concept are strongly advised to read those chapters first. See the last page of this (...)
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  29. Mark F. Sharlow, Patchworks.
    This book is a collection of some of my writings that do not fit the mold of standard philosophical articles. These writings range over several topics, including religion, free will, human dignity, the nature of persons, and a few others. The longest item in the collection is an archive of my blog, The Unfinishable Scroll, as it existed when the book was put together. That blog covers many philosophical topics, including some I haven't discussed elsewhere. Also in the collection are (...)
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  30. Mark F. Sharlow, Playing Fast and Loose with Complexity: A Critique of Dawkins' Atheistic Argument From Improbability.
    This paper is a critique of Richard Dawkins’ “argument from improbability” against the existence of God. This argument, which forms the core of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, provides an interesting example of the use of scientific ideas in arguments about religion. Here I raise three objections: (1) The argument is inapplicable to philosophical conceptions of God that reduce most of God’s complexity to that of the physical universe. (2) The argument depends on a way of estimating probabilities that fails (...)
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  31. Mark F. Sharlow, Personal Identity and Subjective Time: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of an excerpt (chapter 5) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. That excerpt presents an analysis of personal identity through time, using the concept of subjective fact that the author developed earlier in the book. (Readers unfamiliar with that concept are strongly advised to read chapters 2 and 3 of From Brain to Cosmos first. See the last page of this document for details on how to obtain those chapters.).
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  32. Mark F. Sharlow, Poetry's Secret Truth.
    Poetry, it is said, can reveal truth. Yet despite the best efforts of philosophers and poets to describe this truth, very few understand what kinds of truth poetry can convey.* One fact seems clear: only a few of the truths of poetry can be captured equally well in prose. Poetry also conveys truths of a different kind — truths that seem to exist on a level entirely different level from that of ordinary, factual truth. Some poems try to teach moral (...)
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  33. Mark F. Sharlow, Qualia and the Problem of Universals.
    In this paper I explore the logical relationship between the question of the reality of qualia and the problem of universals. I argue that nominalism is inconsistent with the existence of qualia, and that realism either implies or makes plausible the existence of qualia. Thus, one's position on the existence of qualia is strongly constrained by one's answer to the problem of universals.
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  34. Mark F. Sharlow, Subjective Facts and Other Minds: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of an excerpt (chapter 6) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. That excerpt presents an analysis of the problem of knowledge of other minds, using the concept of subjective fact that the author developed earlier in the book. (Readers unfamiliar with that concept are strongly advised to read chapters 2 and 3 of From Brain to Cosmos first. See the last page of this document for details on how to obtain those chapters.).
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  35. Mark F. Sharlow, Time and Subjective Facts: Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of excerpts (chapters 5 and 7-9) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. These excerpts address some traditional philosophical problems about temporal flux and identity through time, using the concept of subjective fact that the author developed earlier in the book. (Readers unfamiliar with that concept are strongly advised to read chapters 2 and 3 of From Brain to Cosmos first. See the last page of this document for details on how to obtain those chapters.).
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  36. Mark F. Sharlow, The Meadow, the Sky, and the Vision.
    The year is 1965. A child stands at the top of a hill, looking out over a vast golden meadow. In the field below is a dirt trail. Bicycles sail by on the trail, carrying other children to their playful destinations. Beyond the far edge of the field is the sea. On the sea are boats and ships — distant descendants of the caravels and barkentines that once explored the unknown waters of Earth.
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  37. Mark F. Sharlow, The Philosophical Work of Mark Sharlow: An Introduction and Guide.
    Provides an overview of Mark Sharlow's philosophical work with summaries of his positions. Includes references and links to his writings.
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  38. Mark F. Sharlow, The Unfinishable Book.
    This is not a normal book. It is a collection of transcripts of talks that I gave between the year 2003 and now. I gave most of these talks on the spur of the moment, without making notes ahead of time. (“Impromptu” is the usual term for that dangerous way of speaking.) One of the “talks” is not a transcript, but a set of notes for a talk I never gave. Any organization or order in the talks is purely coincidental—or (...)
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  39. Mark F. Sharlow, The Unfinishable Scroll and Beyond: Mark Sharlow's Blogs, July 2008 to March 2011.
    An archive of Mark Sharlow's two blogs, "The Unfinishable Scroll" and "Religion: the Next Version." Covers Sharlow's views on metaphysics, epistemology, mind, science, religion, and politics. Includes topics and ideas not found in his papers.
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  40. Mark F. Sharlow, What's Really Wrong with the Argument From Design?
    This document is an edited transcript of an impromptu talk by Mark F. Sharlow. In this talk, Dr. Sharlow examines one of the common arguments for God’s existence. He suggests that this argument is wrong, but not for the reason that skeptics usually cite. Instead, he points out a deeper error — and shows that by understanding this mistake, we can gain new insights into evolution and design.
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  41. Mark F. Sharlow, Which Systems Are Conscious? Readings in From Brain to Cosmos.
    This document consists primarily of an excerpt (chapter 14) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. In that excerpt, the author uses the concept of subjective fact developed earlier in the book to address a question about consciousness: which physical systems (organisms or machines) are conscious? (This document depends heavily upon the concept of subjective fact developed in From Brain to Cosmos. Readers unfamiliar with that concept are strongly advised to read chapters 2 and 3 of From Brain to (...)
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  42. Mark F. Sharlow, Which Systems Are Conscious?
    This document consists primarily of an excerpt (chapter 14) from the author’s book From Brain to Cosmos. In that excerpt, the author uses the concept of subjective fact developed earlier in the book to address a question about consciousness: which physical systems (organisms or machines) are conscious? (This document depends heavily upon the concept of subjective fact developed in From Brain to Cosmos. Readers unfamiliar with that concept are strongly advised to read chapters 2 and 3 of From Brain to (...)
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  43. Mark F. Sharlow, Yes, We Have Conscious Will.
    In this paper I examine Daniel M. Wegner's line of argument against the causal efficacy of conscious will, as presented in Wegner's book "The Illusion of Conscious Will" (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002). I argue that most of the evidence adduced in the book can be interpreted in ways that do not threaten the efficacy of conscious will. Also, I argue that Wegner's view of conscious will is not an empirical thesis, and that certain views of consciousness and the (...)
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  44. Mark F. Sharlow (forthcoming). Lewis's Modal Realism: A Reply to Naylor's "a Note on David Lewis's Realism About Possible Worlds&Quot;. Analysis 48 (1):13-15.
    This note is a reply to margery bedford naylor's "a note on david lewis's realism about possible worlds" ("analysis", ja 1986, 28-29). naylor asks why, if we accept david lewis's argument for real possible worlds ("counterfactuals", blackwell, 1973, 84), we should not accept an analogous argument for impossible worlds. i argue that the latter argument is invalid on the modal realist account of possibility and thus has no force for an adherent of lewis.
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  45. Mark F. Sharlow (2005). Cortical Feedback and the Ineffability of Colors. Psyche 11 (7).
    Philosophers long have noted that some sensations (particularly those of color) seem to be ineffable, or refractory to verbal description. Some proposed neurophysiological explanations of this ineffability deny the intuitive view that sensations have inherently indescribable content. The present paper suggests a new explanation of ineffability that does not have this deflationary consequence. According to the hypothesis presented here, feedback modulation of information flow in the cortex interferes with the production of narratives about sensations, thereby causing the subject to assess (...)
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  46. Mark F. Sharlow (2001). Broadening the Iterative Conception of Set. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 42 (3):149-170.
    The iterative conception of set commonly is regarded as supporting the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory (ZF). This paper presents a modified version of the iterative conception of set and explores the consequences of that modified version for set theory. The modified conception maintains most of the features of the iterative conception of set, but allows for some non-wellfounded sets. It is suggested that this modified iterative conception of set supports the axioms of Quine's set theory NF.
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  47. Mark Sharlow (1988). Lewis's Modal Realism: A Reply to Naylor. Analysis 48 (1):13-15.
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  48. Mark F. Sharlow (1987). Proper Classes Via the Iterative Conception of Set. Journal of Symbolic Logic 52 (3):636-650.
    We describe a first-order theory of generalized sets intended to allow a similar treatment of sets and proper classes. The theory is motivated by the iterative conception of set. It has a ternary membership symbol interpreted as membership relative to a set-building step. Set and proper class are defined notions. We prove that sets and proper classes with a defined membership form an inner model of Bernays-Morse class theory. We extend ordinal and cardinal notions to generalized sets and prove ordinal (...)
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