Since the birth of computing as an academic discipline, the disciplinary identity of computing has been debated fiercely. The most heated question has concerned the scientific status of computing. Some consider computing to be a natural science and some consider it to be an experimental science. Others argue that computing is bad science, whereas some say that computing is not a science at all. This survey article presents viewpoints for and against computing as a science. Those viewpoints are analyzed against (...) basic positions in the philosophy of science. The article aims at giving the reader an overview, background, and a historical and theoretical frame of reference for understanding and interpreting some central questions in the debates about the disciplinary identity of computer science. The article argues that much of the discussion about the scientific nature of computing is misguided due to a deep conceptual uncertainty about science in general as well as computing in particular. (shrink)
It is now a widely shared opinion in the Western countries that a child's disability would probably place an unexpected burden on her parents, a burden that the parents have not committed themselves to dealing with. A child with a physical or mental disability is not, so to speak, a part of the package the parents ordered. This line of reasoning has recently been supported by Rosamond Rhodes in her article.
Liberal Utilitarianism and Applied Ethics explores the foundations of early utilitarianism as well as the theoretical basis of social ethics and policy in modern Western welfare states. Matti Hayry shows how philosophers have misunderstood the very nature of utilitarianism since the turn of the 19th century and identifies the resulting problems in contemporary utilitarianism. Hayry argues that when the classical utilitarian principles of happiness, hedonism and impartiality are combined, the ensuing ethical theory may demand that we act immorally or (...) unjustly. This is because the scope of the utilitarian theory has been extended too far. Hayry develops a more limited utilitarian theory based on the ethos of early British universal altruism. He argues that a limited version of liberal utilitarianism and the methods of applied ethics should be employed to define our moral duties and rights. This is an important book in current discussions on social ethics and policy. Hayry's accomplished defense of utilitarian morality is certain to provoke debate. (shrink)
Neuroethics addresses moral, legal, and social questions created or highlighted by theoretical and practical developments in neuroscience. Practices in need of scrutiny currently include at least brain imaging with new techniques, chemical attempts to shift exceptional brain function toward normality, chemical attempts to enhance ordinary brain function beyond normality, and brain manipulation by other methods.Matti H ja paha (Kuopio: UNIpress, 2009).
My focus here will be Rudolf Carnap’s views on ontology, as these are presented in the seminal “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (1950). I will first describe how I think Carnap’s distinction between external and internal questions is best understood. Then I will turn to broader issues regarding Carnap’s views on ontology. With certain reservations, I will ascribe to Carnap an ontological pluralist position roughly similar to the positions of Eli Hirsch and the later Hilary Putnam. Then I turn to some (...) interrelated arguments against the pluralist view. The arguments are not demonstrative. Some possible escape routes for the pluralist are outlined. But I think the arguments constitute a formidable challenge. There should be serious doubt as to whether the pluralist view, as it emerges after discussion of these arguments, will be worth defending. Moreover, there is an alternative ontological view which equally well subserves the motivations underlying ontological pluralism. (shrink)
Many theorists hold that there is, among value concepts, a fundamental distinction between thin ones and thick ones. Among thin ones are concepts like good and right. Among concepts that have been regarded as thick are discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, assiduity, frugality, economy, good sense, prudence, discernment, treachery, promise, brutality, courage, coward, lie, gratitude, lewd, perverted, rude, glorious, graceful, exploited, and, of course, many others. Roughly speaking, thick concepts are value concepts with significant descriptive content. I will discuss a number (...) of problems having to do with how best to understand the notion of a thick concept. Thick concepts have been widely discussed in the .. (shrink)
In contemporary debates about ontology, one prominent skeptical view emphasizes the existence of different possible languages for doing ontology. Eli Hirsch, in recent years the most prominent proponent of a view like this, has defended the claim that “many familiar questions about the ontology of physical objects are merely verbal. Nothing is substantively at stake in these questions beyond the correct use of language” and the claim that “quantifier expressions can have different meaning in different languages”.1 Ted Sider, while critical (...) of the type of view Hirsch defends, has in many places prominently singled it out for critical discussion. In his (2001), he associates with Carnap the view that “different frameworks employ different semantic rules for the quantifiers”, and says that a theorist in Carnap’s tradition would say that the stuff-ontologist and the thing-ontologist have different “frameworks” and that “[W]ithin these frameworks there are answers to what there is, but any question about which framework is the right framework is metaphysical in the pejorative sense of being a pseudo-question”.2 In his (forthcoming), Sider discusses at length the view that disputants in ontological disputes use the same sentences with different meaning and hence in fact each speak the truth, and what he describes as the attendant view that “there are multiple candidate meanings for the quantifiers”.3 In his (2005), Cian Dorr critically discusses “the idea that there are many different possible languages which differ systematically in the truth-values they assign to general ontological claims”.4.. (shrink)
Let the moral question of personal identity be the following: what is the nature of the entities we should focus our prudential concerns and ascriptions of responsibility around? (If indeed we should structure these things around any entities at all.) Let the semantic question of personal identity be the question of what is the nature of the entities that ‘person’ is true of. A naive (in the sense of simple and intuitive) view would have it that the two questions are (...) so intimately connected that the entities we should focus our concerns and ascriptions around are, pretty trivially, the persons. In part, my aim here is to evaluate this naive view. However, I will not actually attempt to give a definite verdict on it. Rather, I will identify the assumptions under which the naive view is true, and discuss how to go about evaluating those assumptions. (shrink)
In (2001), (2003), and elsewhere, Ted Sider presents two arguments concerning the existential quantifier which are justly central to the recent discussion of metaontology. What we will call Sider's indeterminacy argument is an attempted reductio of the suggestion that the existential quantifier might be semantically indeterminate. What we will call Sider's naturalness argument is an argument for the claim that the semantic value of the existential quantifier is the most eligible existence-like meaning there is, à la David Lewis' eligibility theory (...) of meaning. We will argue that these arguments cannot be jointly maintained: Sider must give up at least one. Before arguing this, we will present Sider's two arguments in a bit more detail, and discuss their relationship. A few remarks on the broader significance of our conclusions are in order at the outset. One may think that since one successful argument for a given conclusion is sufficient the point that Sider's arguments cannot both work is purely academic. But we think that Sider's two arguments at bottom reflect different ways of thinking about metaphysics. Moreover, we think that it is only the naturalness argument that promises to deliver all that Sider wants when it comes to metaontology, and it is only the indeterminacy argument that promises to deliver all that Sider wants when it comes to ontology. (shrink)
In this paper, I will discuss, and to some extent criticize, Hilary Putnam’s views on ontology, recently summarized and defended in his Ethics without Ontology (2004). I will start out with a critical discussion of Putnam’s thesis of conceptual relativity. Then I will turn to what is the main issue in the book: the criticism of the focus on ontological matters in philosophical discussions of mathematics and ethics.
The second volume in the Blackwell Brown Lectures in Philosophy, this volume offers an original and provocative take on the nature and methodology of philosophy. Based on public lectures at Brown University, given by the pre-eminent philosopher, Timothy Williamson Rejects the ideology of the 'linguistic turn', the most distinctive trend of 20th century philosophy Explains the method of philosophy as a development from non-philosophical ways of thinking Suggests new ways of understanding what contemporary and past philosophers are doing.
(1) Abstract objects. The nominalist (as the label is used today) denies that there exist abstract objects. The platonist holds that there are abstract objects. One example is numbers. The nominalist denies that there are numbers; the platonist typically affirms it.
The main question of the paper is that ofwhat vagueness consists in. This question must be distinguished from other questions about vagueness discussed in the literature. It is argued that familiar accounts of vagueness for general reasons failto answer the question ofwhat vagueness consists in. A positive view is defended, according to which, roughly, the vagueness of an expression consists in it being part ofsemantic competence to accept a tolerance principle for the expression. Since tolerance principles are inconsistent, this is (...) an inconsistency view on vagueness. (shrink)
Mark Eli Kalderon has argued for a fictionalist variant of non-cognitivism. On his view, what the Frege–Geach problem shows is that standard non-cognitivism proceeds uncritically from claims about use to claims about meaning; if non-cognitivism's claims were solely about use it would be on safe ground as far as the Frege–Geach problem is concerned. I argue that Kalderon's diagnosis is mistaken: the problem concerns the non-cognitivist's account of the use of moral sentences too.
Peter van Inwagen's book Material Beings is centered on the special composition question: the question of when some simples constitute a complex object. Van Inwagen's answer to this question is that simples only constitute a complex object when they constitute an organism. I argue that van Inwagen's reasoning in favor of this conclusion is unconvincing, and also that the significance of the special composition question itself is doubtful.
Here is the liar paradox. We have a sentence, (L), which somehow says of itself that it is false. Suppose (L) is true. Then things are as (L) says they are. (For it would appear to be a mere platitude that if a sentence is true, then things are as the sentence says they are.) (L) says that (L) is false. So, (L) is false. Since the supposition that (L) is true leads to contradiction, we can assert that (L) is (...) false. But since this is just what (L) says, (L) is then true. (For it would appear to be a mere platitude that if things are as a given sentence says they are, the sentence is true.) So (L) is true. So (L) is both true and false. Contradiction. (shrink)
Neo-Fregeanism in the philosophy of mathematics consists of two main parts: the logicist thesis, that mathematics (or at least branches thereof, like arithmetic) all but reduce to logic, and the platonist thesis, that there are abstract, mathematical objects. I will here focus on the ontological thesis, platonism. Neo-Fregeanism has been widely discussed in recent years. Mostly the discussion has focused on issues specific to mathematics. I will here single out for special attention the view on ontology which underlies the neo-Fregeans’ (...) claims about mathematical objects, and discuss this view in a broader setting. (shrink)
When philosophers make claims of the form “Fs are fictions”, what they say is often ambiguous in a crucial way. On one way of understanding it, it has clear ontological implications: there are not really any such things as Fs. But there is also a different, non-ontological way of understanding the claim: as merely asserting that F-assertions are normally made in a fictional spirit. Clearly one can hold that we normally make statements about Fs in a fictional spirit while also (...) holding that we would still express truths if we were to make literal statements about Fs. Let ontological fictionalism about F-discourse be the thesis that Fs do not really exist but only exist in fictions. Let linguistic fictionalism about F-discourse be the thesis that we normally make F- statements in a fictional spirit. (Throughout when talking about (linguistic) fictionalism I shall mean hermeneutic fictionalism: fictionalism considered as a thesis about actual discourse, to the effect that we actually do make statements belonging to the discourse in a fictional spirit. Contrast: revolutionary fictionalism, which proposes that we should make statements belonging to the discourse in a fictional spirit.1). (shrink)
I will here present a number of problems concerning the idea that there is ontological vagueness, and the related claim that appeal to this idea can help solve some vagueness-related problems. A theme underlying the discussion will be the distinction between vagueness specifically and indeterminacy more generally (and, relatedly, the distinction between ontological vagueness and ontological indeterminacy). Even if the world is somehow ontologically indeterminate it by no means follows that it is, properly speaking, ontologically vague.1..
I think it often happens, for various reasons, that philosophers defend radical views which, first, are too radical to be plausible, and second, are such that a less radical and more plausible view would satisfy the underlying motivations. Here is a historical example. The logical positivists famously sought to eliminate traditional metaphysics by arguing that the statements metaphysicians make are meaningless because of being unverifiable. Much of the ensuing discussion concerned whether verifiability is really necessary for meaningfulness. But clearly, even (...) if the logical positivists were wrong about this, they could still have a strong case for the elimination of metaphysics. For already if they could establish that the statements made by metaphysicians are unverifiable. If we cannot obtain good evidence for or against the statements of metaphysics, surely metaphysics is a pointless enterprise. I will argue here that we find another instance of the same general phenomenon in the debate about truth. I think deflationists defend a radical doctrine – and a problematic one – where a less radical doctrine, which I will call (sophisticated) rejectionism, would satisfy the underlying motivations equally well. Roughly, this less radical doctrine is the doctrine that the only use we have for a truth predicate is expressive. What I will do here is to explain what this rejectionist view is, how it differs from deflationism, and how it satisfies the motivations underlying deflationism. I will not actually defend the rejectionist view. In fact, I believe it is false. All I want to argue is that much effort spent on arguing for and against deflationism is better spent arguing for and against rejectionism. (shrink)
It is argued that a certain form of the view that the semantic paradoxes show that natural languages are "inconsistent" provides the best response to the semantic paradoxes. After extended discussions of the views of Kirk Ludwig and Matti Eklund, it is argued that in its strongest formulation the view maintains that understanding a natural language is sharing cognition of an inconsistent semantic theory for that language with other speakers. A number of aspects of this approach are discussed and (...) a few objections are entertained. (shrink)
I shall here discuss some matters related to the so-called radical indeterminacy or inscrutability arguments due to, e.g., Willard v. O. Quine, Hilary Putnam, John Wallace and Donald Davidson.1 These are arguments that, on the face of it, demonstrate that there is radical indeterminacy in what the expressions in a theory refer to and in what the ontology of the theory is. I will use “inscrutability argument” as a general label for these arguments. My main topic – after I have (...) dealt with some issues that in the context are mere preliminaries – will be what the consequences of inscrutability for ontology might be. (The label ‘inscrutability’ is not ideal, as it suggests that the problem raised is primarily epistemic. But it is common to use the label in the context of Quine’s arguments. And it has the advantage over the alternative suggestion “indeterminacy” that it signals that we are here dealing with a special kind of indeterminacy, not only more widespread but also in principle irremediable.). (shrink)
For those who think the statue and the piece of copper that compose it are distinct objects that coincide, there is a burden of explanation. After all, common sense says that different ordinary objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. A common argument in favour of four-dimensionalism (or ?perdurantism? or ?temporal parts theory?) is that it provides the resources for a superior explanation of this coincidence. This, however, is mistaken. Any explanatory work done by the four-dimensionalist notion (...) of absolute parthood rests ultimately on notions equally available to the three-dimensionalist. Thus, a neutral explanation of coincidence is at least as good while avoiding commitment to temporal parts. ?Many thanks to David Christensen, Louis deRosset, Matti Eklund, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. (shrink)
A central element in neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics is the focus on abstraction principles, and the use of abstraction principles to ground various areas of mathematics. But as is well known, not all abstraction principles are in good standing. Various proposals for singling out the acceptable abstraction principles have been presented. Here I investigate what philosophical underpinnings can be provided for these proposals; specifically, underpinnings that fit the neo-Fregean's general outlook. Among the philosophical ideas I consider are: general views on (...) a priori justification; the idea of abstraction as reconceptualization, the idea that truth is prior to reference in the sense associated with Frege's context principle; and various broadly relativistic views. The conclusions are by and large negative. (shrink)
I elaborate and defend the inconsistency view on vagueness I have earlier argued for in my (2002) and (forthcoming). In rough outline, the view is that the sorites paradox arises because tolerance principles, despite their inconsistency, are meaning-constitutive for vague expressions. Toward the end of the paper I discuss other inconsistency views on vagueness that have been proposed, and compare them to the view I favor.
Analytic philosophy is once again in a methodological frame of mind. Nowhere is this more evident than in metaphysics, whose practitioners and historians are actively reflecting on the nature of ontological questions, the status of their answers, and the relevance of contributions both from other areas within philosophy (e.g., philosophical logic, semantics) and beyond (notably, the natural sciences). Such reflections are hardly new: the debate between Willard van Orman Quine and Rudolf Carnap about how to understand and resolve ontological questions (...) is widely seen as a turning point in 20th-century analytic philosophy. And indeed, this volume is occasioned by the fact that the deflationary approach advocated by Carnap that debate is once again attracting considerable interest and support. Containing ten original and previously unpublished essays by many of today's leading voices in metametaphysics, Ontology After Carnap aims both to deepen our understanding of Carnap's contributions to metaontology and to explore how this legacy might be mined for insights into the contemporary debate. Contributors: Richard Creath, Matti Eklund, Simon Evnine, Eli Hirsch, Thomas Hofweber, Kathrin Koslicki, Robert Kraut, Greg Lavers, Alan Sidelle, Amie Thomasson, Jessica Wilson & Stephen Biggs. (shrink)
In my ‘Deep Inconsistency’ (2002a) (henceforth DI), I criticized Graham Priest’s dialetheism by unfavorably comparing it to my preferred view on the liar paradox, a view I will here call the meaning–inconsistency view. Perhaps the main claim in Jc Beall and Priest’s reply (henceforth B&P)1 is that I am guilty of an ignoratio: in DI, I argue that Priest (1987) fails to establish the analyticity of certain principles, but, B&P say, Priest (1987) isn’t concerned to argue for the analyticity (...) of these principles. Among other criticisms B&P level against DI can be mentioned especially the following: (i) Since I do not in fact defend a particular theory of truth I am ‘out of the game’, not really participating in the debate which others participate in; (ii) I lack—for principled reasons—an account of in virtue of what principles are meaning–constitutive. Here is what I will do in this reply. First I will briefly rehearse the main elements of both my own view and the criticisms of dialetheism raised in DI. Then I will respond to the charges listed from B&P. Lastly I will make some remarks on the strengthened liar. (shrink)
§1. Here is a familiar regress argument: Take the fact that Ed runs. What is the nature of this fact? If we think ‘runs’ stands for a property, the property of running (call it Running), then, arguably, Ed and this property are constituents of this fact. But the fact cannot simply consist of Ed and Running. For Ed can exist and Running can exist even if Ed doesn’t run. For it to be a fact that Ed runs, Ed must instantiate (...) Running. But adding the talk of instantiation just gets us another constituent of the fact: the relation of instantiation, call it Inst. But Ed can exist, Running can exist, and the relation Inst can exist even if Ed doesn’t run. Trying the same strategy as before we can say that Ed, Running and Inst must stand in the right relation for it to be a fact that Ed runs. But it should be clear that we are off on a vicious regress. As stated, the regress concerns facts, and I will keep referring to as the fact regress. But it is not obvious, at least, that we need to reify facts to get the regress going. All we need is a notion of something’s being the case, and the legitimacy of asking how, or in virtue of what, something is the case: Suppose it is the case that Ed runs. In virtue of what is it so? The existence of Ed and Running are not sufficient for it to be the case that Ed runs. For it to be the case that Ed runs, Ed must instantiate Running. But the existence of Ed, Running, and Inst is not sufficient for it to be the case that Ed runs. Etc. The regress argument given is sometimes called Bradley’s regress. But both because Bradley interpretation is controversial and because there are many different regress arguments bearing family resemblances to each other, I will by and large avoid that label. I think that the regress displayed by this argument brought up clearly is vicious, so some way of blocking the argument must be found. At no stage of the reasoning do we actually find ourselves in a position to say that a fact exists – or that something is the case – but we just add more and more entities, to no avail. Sometimes it is insisted that the regresses established by arguments like the one I have presented are not vicious.. (shrink)
The causal theory of reference is often taken to provide a solution to the problems, such as incomparability and referential discontinuity, that the meaning-change thesis raised. I show that Kuhn successfully questioned the causal theory and Putnam's idea that reference is determined via the sameness relation of essences that holds between a sample and other members of a kind in all possible worlds. Putnam's single ‘essential' properties may be necessary but not sufficient to determine membership in a kind category. Kuhn (...) argued that extension is fixed by similarity-dissimilarity relations that are liable to change in taxonomic reorganizations of science. *Received October 2009; revised January 2010. †To contact the author, please write to: Institute of Philosophy, University of Leiden, Martin de Vrieshof 4, 2300 RS Leiden, The Netherlands; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
My theme here will be vagueness. But first recall Quine’s arguments for the indeterminacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference. (I will presume these arguments to be familiar.) If Quine is right, then there are radically different acceptable assignments of semantic values to the expressions of any language: different assignments of semantic values that for all that is determined by whatever it is that determines semantic value are all acceptable, and all equally good. Quine even argued that the indeterminacy (...) is so radical that some sentences are true under some acceptable assignments but false under others.1 Still, Quine does not allow intermediate truth-values or truthvalue gaps. (As I will put it, avoiding the disjunctive formulation: does not allow that there are sentences which are neuter.) Quine holds on to classical logic and bivalence and requires each acceptable assignment to be classical and bivalent.2.. (shrink)