Imagine a child playing in the afternoon sun, suddenly jerking her arm one way then the other, trying to catch her shadow out. The game, the child soon learns, is one that she can never win. Her shadow moves the moment she does. Such childish games father common sense wisdom; when things move, so do their shadows. Or do they? A spinning sphere casts a shadow. But does its shadow also spin? The question takes you by surprise. Surely not? you (...) think. But then again, why not? This is the trope of Sorensen’s work. A seemingly simple phenomenon is probed in just the right way and, without warning, you are unsure what to say. (shrink)
Sorensen here offers a unified solution to a large family of philosophical puzzles and paradoxes through a study of "blindspots": consistent propositions that cannot be rationally accepted by certain individuals even though they might by true.
Sorensen presents a general theory of thought experiments: what they are, how they work, what are their virtues and vices. On Sorensen's view, philosophy differs from science in degree, but not in kind. For this reason, he claims, it is possible to understand philosophical thought experiments by concentrating on their resemblance to scientific relatives. Lessons learned about scientific experimentation carry over to thought experiment, and vice versa. Sorensen also assesses the hazards and pseudo-hazards of thought experiments. Although he grants that (...) there are interesting ways in which the method leads us astray, he attacks most scepticism about thought experiments as arbitrary. They should be used, he says, as they generally are used--as part of a diversified portfolio of techniques. All of these devices are individually susceptible to abuse, fallacy, and error. Collectively, however, they provide a network of cross-checks that make for impressive reliability. (shrink)
Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift? Can time have a beginning? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Riddles, paradoxes, conundrums--for millennia the human mind has found such knotty logical problems both perplexing and irresistible. Now Roy Sorensen offers the first narrative history of paradoxes, a fascinating and eye-opening account that extends from the ancient Greeks, through the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and into the twentieth century. When Augustine asked what God was doing before (...) He made the world, he was told: "Preparing hell for people who ask questions like that." A Brief History of the Paradox takes a close look at "questions like that" and the philosophers who have asked them, beginning with the folk riddles that inspired Anaximander to erect the first metaphysical system and ending with such thinkers as Lewis Carroll, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and W.V. Quine. Organized chronologically, the book is divided into twenty-four chapters, each of which pairs a philosopher with a major paradox, allowing for extended consideration and putting a human face on the strategies that have been taken toward these puzzles. Readers get to follow the minds of Zeno, Socrates, Aquinas, Ockham, Pascal, Kant, Hegel, and many other major philosophers deep inside the tangles of paradox, looking for, and sometimes finding, a way out. Filled with illuminating anecdotes and vividly written, A Brief History of the Paradox will appeal to anyone who finds trying to answer unanswerable questions a paradoxically pleasant endeavor. (shrink)
An ill-informed reading of Adam Ferguson's epitaph has given me an idea for securing posthumous recognition. Consider philosophers in the year 2201 who read my epitaph: ‘Here lies Roy Sorensen who will be long remembered for his paradoxes’. If these future scholars remember me, then well and good. If they do not remember me, my epitaph will appear to be rendered false by their failure to recall me. Suppose the poignancy of this self-defeat leads my epitaph to be widely (...) repeated. I thereby acquire ignominy as the forgotten philosopher. But wait! Eventually someone will notice that no one can remember that Roy Sorensen is forgotten. For if someone did remember that Roy Sorensen is forgotten, then he would be forgotten—not remembered. After all, memory implies truth. Thus the self-defeating aspect of my epitaph is itself self-defeating! The happy ending is that my epitaph becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy by a curious kind of double-negation. (shrink)
In the twentieth century, philosophers tackled many of the philosophical problems of previous generations by dissolving them--attacking them as linguistic illusions and showing that the problems, when closely inspected, were not problems at all. Roy A. Sorensen takes the most important and interesting examples from one hundred years of analytic philosophy to consolidate a different theory of dissolution. Pseudo-Problems offers a fascinating alternative history of twentieth century analytic philosophy. It seeks to outline a unified account of dissolution that can consolidate (...) the piecemeal insights of analytic philosophers. An accessible account of questionable questions, the book represents an important contribution to the debates about creativity and problem solving. (shrink)
This volume presents a colourful and entertaining overview of German intellectual history by a central figure in its development. Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), famous poet, journalist, and political exile, studied with Hegel and was personally acquainted with the leading figures of the most important generation of German writers and philosophers. In his groundbreaking History he discusses the history of religion, philosophy, and literature in Germany up to his time, seen through his own highly opinionated, politically aware, philosophically astute, and always (...) ironic perspective. This work, and other writings focussing especially on Heine's rethinking of Hegel's philosophy, are presented here in a new translation by Howard Pollack-Milgate. The volume also includes an introduction by Terry Pinkard which examines Heine both in relation to Hegel and Nietzsche and as a thinker in his own right. (shrink)
Etwa im Jahre 1833 verfasst Heinrich Heine einen kurzen, Fragment gebliebenen Essay Verschiedenartige Geschichtsauffassung (der hier in polnischer Übersetzung mit abgedruckt wird), in dem er zwei Interpretationen des historischen Geschehens einander gegenüberstellt: Die Anhänger der einen legen dieses als „trostlosen Kreislauf” aus, in dem sich alle Vorgänge und Prozesse wie Jahreszeiten wiederholen, die Anhänger der anderen Geschichtsdeutung, „die mehr mit der Idee einer Vorsehung verwandt ist”, geben sich der Täuschung hin, als würden „alle irdischen Dinge einer schönen Vervollkommenheit entgegenreifen”. (...) Obwohl Heine an beiden Auffassungen Kritik übt, bekennt er sich doch selbst zehn Jahre später zu ebenso utopischen Ideen, indem er die künftige „Emanzipation des Fleisches” und den Anbruch einer „Demokratie gleichherrlicher, gleichheiliger, gleichbeseligter Götter” verkündet, d. h. einer neuen, glücklichen, sich selbst vergottenden Menschheit, die sündenlos das Leben und alle seine Freuden genießen soll. Diese naiven Vorstellungen verwirft er allerdings schnell und warnt nun als einer der ersten vor den Gefahren der anbrechenden kommunistischen Utopie. Offen bleibt bis heute die Frage, inwieweit Heines Essay auch Friedrich Nietzsche und dessen Idee von der „Wiederkunft des Gleichen” beeinflusst haben mag. Auch wenn Nietzsche hier mit Sicherheit aus verschiedenen Quellen geschöpft hatte, lässt sich doch nicht ausschließen, dass Heines Essay die Rolle einer Art Katalysator hätte spielen können, zumal nachgewiesen ist, dass er Adolf Strodtmanns Ausgabe von Heines Letzten Gedichten und Gedanken aus dem Jahre 1869 (wo die Schrift zum ersten Mal abgedruckt wurde) in seiner Bibliothek besaß. (shrink)
The eclipse riddle -- Seeing surfaces -- The disappearing act -- Spinning shadows -- Berkeley's shadow -- Para-reflections -- Para-refractions : shadowgrams and the black drop -- Goethe's colored shadows -- Filtows -- Holes in the light -- Black and blue -- Seeing in black and white -- We see in the dark -- Hearing silence.
In ‘Epistemic Modals’ (2007), Seth Yalcin proposes Stalnaker-style semantics for epistemic possibility. He is inspired by John MacFarlane’s ingenious defence of relativism, in which claims of epistemic possibility are made rigidly from the perspective of the assessor’s actual stock of information (rather than from the speaker’s knowledge base or that of his audience or community). The innovations of MacFarlane and Yalcin independently reinforce the modal collapse espoused by Jaakko Hintikka in his 1962 epistemic logic (which relied on the implausible KK (...) principle and heavy idealizations). I respond to this new challenge with fresh objections to the underlying S4 equivalence: p p . I also propose counter-analyses of the intriguing data which Yalcin cites in support of his new semantics. A key collateral motivation for this defence of irredundant iterations is to ward off a threat to higher order vagueness. (shrink)
We review the use of introspective and phenomenological methods in experimental settings. We distinguish diﬀerent senses of introspection, and further distinguish phenomenological method from introspectionist approaches. Two ways of using phenomenology in experimental procedures are identiﬁed: ﬁrst, the neurophenomenological method, proposed by Varela, involves the training of experimental subjects. This approach has been directly and productively incorporated into the protocol of experiments on perception. A second approach may have wider application and does not involve training experimental subjects in phenomenological method. (...) It requires front-loading phenomenological insights into experimental design. A number of experiments employing this approach are reviewed. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for both the cognitive sciences and phenomenology. Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Inc. (shrink)
Consider the beginningless sequence: ... being less than 0.01 grams, being less than 0.1 grams, being less than 1 gram, being less than 10 grams ... There is no super-determinate in this chain. Just as the possibility of bottomless constitution shows that there may be no fundamental layer of reality with respect to objects , the possibility of bottomless determination shows that there may be no fundamental level of reality with respect to properties . This possibility supports Stephen Yablo's proportionality (...) principle that the cause of an event is the most specific property that makes a difference. (shrink)
The vanishing point is a representational gap that organizes the visual field. Study of this singularity revolutionized art in the fifteenth century. Further reflection on the vanishing point invites the conjecture that the self is an absence. This paper opens with perceptual peculiarities of the vanishing point and closes with the metaphysics of personal identity.
If people never dreamed, would it make a difference to how they picture reality? Or themselves? Philosophers would certainly lose the most natural way of introducing skepticism. The Chinese Taoist, Chuang Tzu (369 B. C. - ?), dreamt he was a butterfly. When he awoke he wondered whether he was a man who dreamt he was butterfly or a butterfly now dreaming he is a man. Any experience can be explained as either a faithful representation of the world or as (...) a mere figment of a sleeper's imagination. (shrink)
Seizing the opportunity to apply what they had learned, the students declared a cheating competition. Outspoken participants (future lawyers, politicians, and captains of industry) bragged about their ruses. But to their chagrin, an ethics student prevailed.
One of the factors that contributes to an agent’s praiseworthiness and blameworthiness — his or her moral worth — is effort. On the one hand, agents who act effortlessly seem to have high moral worth. On the other hand, agents who act effortfully seem to have high moral worth as well. I explore and explain this pair of intuitions and the contour of our views about associated cases.
The gestational surrogate – and her economic and educational vulnerability in particular – is the focus of many of the most persistent worries about paid surrogacy. Those who employ her, and those who broker and organize her services, usually have an advantage over her in resources and information. That asymmetry exposes her to the possibility of exploitation and abuse. Accordingly, some argue for banning paid surrogacy. Others defend legal permission on grounds of surrogate autonomy, but often retain concerns about the (...) surrogate. In response to the dilemma of a ban versus bald permission, we propose a 'soft law' approach: states should require several hours of education of surrogates – education aimed at informing and enhancing surrogate autonomy. (shrink)
No one can know the threshold of a vague predicate. For instance, given that ten is the last small number, no one can know that ten fits the description `the last small number’.1 Knowledge that ten is the last small number requires knowledge of the weaker proposition that ten is a small number. Knowledge of thresholds entails knowledge at thresholds. Timothy Williamson ingeniously argues that this weaker knowledge is always impossible. On that basis he claims to have explained our ignorance (...) of the thresholds of vague predicates. (shrink)
Roy Sorenson offers a unique exploration of an ancient problem: vagueness. Did Buddha become a fat man in one second? Is there a tallest short giraffe? According to Sorenson's epistemicist approach, the answers are yes! Although vagueness abounds in the way the world is divided, Sorenson argues that the divisions are sharp; yet we often do not know where they are. Written in Sorenson'e usual inventive and amusing style, this book offers original insight on language and logic, the way world (...) is, and our understanding of it. (shrink)
Prize: One hundred dollars to the ﬁrst person who identiﬁes a picture of a logical impossibility. I may be willing to pay more for the painting itself. This ﬁnder’s fee is simply for pointing out the picture. Let me explain more precisely what I seek.
This is a defense and extension of Stephen Yablo's claim that self-reference is completely inessential to the liar paradox. An infinite sequence of sentences of the form 'None of these subsequent sentences are true' generates the same instability in assigning truth values. I argue Yablo's technique of substituting infinity for self-reference applies to all so-called 'self-referential' paradoxes. A representative sample is provided which includes counterparts of the preface paradox, Pseudo-Scotus's validity paradox, the Knower, and other enigmas of the genre. I (...) rebut objections that Yablo's paradox is not a genuine liar by constructing a sequence of liars that blend into Yablo's paradox. I rebut objections that Yablo's liar has hidden self-reference with a distinction between attributive and referential self-reference and appeals to Gregory Chaitin's algorithmic information theory. The paper concludes with comments on the mystique of self-reference. (shrink)
When my son Maxwell was a toddler, he did not believe he was ever an infant. This skepticism became manifest when he started identifying himself in photographs. Maxwell was accurate with photographs that were taken after age six months. But he dismissed earlier pictures as photographs of "BABIES".
If you read this abstract, then you will understand what my essay is about. Under what conditions would the preceding assertion be a lie? Traditional definitions of lying are always applied to straight declaratives such as ‘The dog ate my homework’. This one sided diet of examples leaves us unprepared for sentences in which conditional probability governs assertibility. The truth-value of conditionals does not play a significant role in the sincere assertion of conditionals. Lying is insincere assertion. So the connection (...) between lying and falsehood is broken when lying with conditionals. Drawing on Frank Jackson's account of indicative conditionals. I argue that it is possible to lie with true conditionals by virtue of their false conventional implicatures. False conversational implicatures only guarantee misleading assertions, not lies. Lying remains a semantic rather than a pragmatic affair. (shrink)
Surprisingly, the fact that the speaker is lying is sometimes common knowledge between everyone involved (the addressee, the general audience, bystanders, etc.). Strangely, we condemn these bald-faced lies more severely than disguised lies. The wrongness of lying springs from the intent to deceive – just the feature missing in the case of bald-faced lies. These puzzling lies arise systematically when assertions are forced. Intellectual duress helps to explain another type of non-deceptive false assertion : lying to yourself. (...) In the end, I conclude that the apparent intensity of our disapproval of non-deceptive lies is a rhetorical illusion. (shrink)
Mights plug gaps. If p lacks a truth-value, then ‘It might be that p’ should also lack truth-value. Yet epistemic hedges often turn an unassertible statement into an assertible one. The phenomenon is illustrated in detail for two kinds of statements that are frequently alleged to be counterexamples to the principle of bivalence: future contingents and statements that apply predicates to borderline cases. The paper concludes by exploring the prospects for generalizing this gap-plugging strategy.
This report is also a consolidated response to three memoranda. The legal division requested an historical review as patent support. Engineering has solicited input on product development. Thirdly, I am responding to a plea from the Personnel Department. Their headhunters have asked for more specific advice on how to recruit skeptics.
Do we need light to see? I argue that the black experience of a man in a perfectly dark cave is a representation of an absence of light, not an absence of representation. There is certainly a difference between his perceptual knowledge and that of his blind companion. Only the sighted man can tell whether the cave is dark just by looking. But perhaps he is merely inferring darkness from his failure to see. To get an unambiguous answer, I switch (...) the focus from perceptual knowledge to non-epistemic seeing. My conclusion is that we see even in the limiting case of absolute darkness - regardless of whether we believe we are seeing. We see little of pratical interest. But in terms of basic information, we see about as much as we do when the lights are on. Depending on what has gone before and after, we may even see ordinary objects. (shrink)
Vagueness theorists tend to think that evolutionary theory dissolves the riddle "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?". After all, 'chicken' is vague. The idea is that Charles Darwin demonstrated that the chicken was preceded by borderline chickens and so it is simply indeterminate as to where the pre-chickens end and the chickens begin.
I can get away with it because no one is in a position to call me on it. Professor Robinson cannot consistently complain that (A) begs the question against his thesis that there is no such fallacy. He would discourage anyone from "helping" him by accusing me of committing the fallacy against him. With advocates like that, who needs adversaries? I. EMBEDDING PERSPECTIVES After all, Robinson has a viable reply to my argument. He should simply deny my premise. Later I (...) will show how (A) might rationally persuade Robinson. But my immediate goal is not to convert the skeptic about the existence of the fallacy but rather to use his extreme position to make a point about the nature of question-begging. Those who object that argument (A) begs the question against Robinson must do so on behalf of Robinson. This assistance requires that one launch the accusation from Robinson's perspective and with his dialectical interests at heart. (shrink)
Epistemicists say there is a last positive instance in a sorites sequence-we just cannot know which is the last. Timothy Williamson explains that knowledge requires a margin for error and this ensures that the last heap will not be knowable as a heap. However, there is a class of disjunctive predicates for which knowledge at the thresholds is possible. They generate sorites paradoxes that cannot be diagnosed with the margin for error principle.
Semantic indeterminacy is the ether of philosophy of language. It fills the interstices of our intentions and pervades accounts of presupposition, tense, fiction, translation, and especially, vagueness. Yet semantic indeterminacy is as impossible as ectoplasm. Indeed, more so! The demonstration need only borrow a few assumptions used elsewhere in widely accepted impossibility results. Since an impossibility is never a necessary condition for anything actual, semantic indeterminacy must be superfluous. Language is no more explained by semantic indeterminacy than calculus is explained (...) by (pre-Robinsonian) infinitesimals. (shrink)
Drawing inspiration from the ethical pluralism of G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica, I contend that one empty world can be morally better than another. By 'empty' I mean that it is devoid of concrete entities (things that have a position in space or time). These worlds have no thickets or thimbles, no thinkers, no thoughts. Infinitely many of these worlds have laws of nature, abstract entities, and perhaps, space and time. These non-concrete differences are enough to make some of them (...) better than others. (shrink)
Todd’s quip absurdly implies he knew that 30 carats is the threshold for vulgarity. But most philosophers think stopping here misses the root of the joke. They think there is a more fundamental absurdity; that it is even possible for a single carat to make the difference between a vulgar ring and a non-vulgar ring. We epistemicists defend the possibility.
A number of recent publications have argued that a scientific approach to consciousness needs a rigorous approach to first-person data collection. As mainstream experimental psychology has long abandoned such introspective or phenomenological method, there is at present no generally agreed upon method for first-person data collection in experimental consciousness studies. There are, however, a number of recent articles that all claim to provide a unique contribution to such a methodology. This article reviews these suggestions and extracts their core features. It (...) is argued that the suggested methods are generally overlapping and compatible, and a number of concrete methods that easily are applied to experimental studies are put forward. (shrink)
A flop is a picture that mirror reverses the original scene. Some flops are reversed copies. For instance, mirror reversal is systematic with technologies that require contact between a template and an imprint surface. Other flops are just pictures that have undergone the operation of flopping. For example, a slide that is inserted backwards into a projector is a flop.
The Pyrrhonian sceptic Favorinus of Arelata personified indeterminacy, cultivating his (or her) borderline status to undermine dogmatism. Inspired by the techniques of Favorinus, I show, by example, that ‘vague’ has borderline cases. These concrete steps lead to a more abstract argument that ‘vague’ has borderline borderline cases and borderline borderline borderline cases. My specimens are intended supplement earlier non-constructive proofs of the vagueness of ‘vague’.
"Logic and ethics are fundamentally the same, they are not more than duty to oneself"(Otto Weininger). So goes the head quotation of Ray Monk's biography Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. Monk thereby introduces Wittgenstein's peculiar admiration for the crackpot author of Sex and Character along with Wittgenstein's moralistic dedication to logic. Monk elaborates with anecdotes. For instance, Wittgenstein would pace Bertrand Russell's room mixing logic with selfcriticism. Russell asked Wittgenstein whether he was thinking about logic or his sins. "Both!" (...) barked Wittgenstein. (shrink)
“It is irrational to believe others are irrational”. I ungratefully said that to a confidant who asserted that I was negotiating with a fool. I now wonder whether I was the real fool. If I believe my friend is irrational (in light of his attribution of irrationality to the recipient of my offers), then my epigram implies I am irrational. To avoid the implication that I am irrational, I must not believe anyone to be irrational. But then my epigram also (...) forbids me from believing that someone else believes someone is irrational. I must instead believe that the non-existence of irrationality is common knowledge! 1. Volcanic rationality Can I simply repudiate my epigram? I hesitate because the epigram is a consequence of the principle of charity. Roughly, this interpretive principle states that all agents are rational agents. The standard reasoning behind the principle is a priori: there is a conceptual connection between regarding someone as an agent and viewing his beliefs and desires as forming a coherent system that makes his actions intelligible. Since errors about central a priori truths indict one’s rationality, failure to believe the principle of charity would be irrational. Consequently, charity implies all agents believe all agents are rational. Charity iterates. Since meta-charity would also be a central a priori truth, meta-charity implies meta-meta-charity. And meta-meta-charity implies meta-meta-meta-charity. And so on. Therefore, if the principle of charity is true, then it is common knowledge. So is meta-charity. And meta-meta-charity. And so on. (shrink)
The poster boy for my paper is the King's Messenger in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. Recall that since the White Queen lives backwards, her memory works forwards. She pities Alice who can only remember things after they happen. Alice asks which things the Queen remembers best: `Oh, things that happened the week after next,' the Queen replied in a careless tone. `For instance, . . . there's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished: and the trial (...) doesn't even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.' (Chapter V) Is the King's Messenger being treated unjustly? Why not prepunish people for their future crimes? True, it is generally easier to have knowledge about past crimes than future crimes. But is unpredictability the only problem with prepunishment? (shrink)
Positive thinkers love Watty Piper's The little engine that could. The story features a train laden with toys for deserving children on the other side of the mountain. After the locomotive breaks down, a sequence of snooty locomotives come up the track. Each engine refuses to pull the train up the mountain. They are followed by a weary old locomotive that declines, saying "I cannot. I cannot. I cannot." But then a bright blue engine comes up the track. He manages (...) to chug over the mountain by averring "I think I can. I think I can. I think can.". (shrink)
Stepping into the other guy's shoes works best when you resemble him. After all, the procedure is to use yourself as a model: in goes hypothetical beliefs and desires, out comes hypothetical actions and revised beliefs and desires. If you are structurally analogous to the empathee, then accurate inputs generate accurate outputs-just as with any other simulation. The greater the degree of isomorphism, the more dependable and precise the results. This sensitivity to degrees of resemblance suggests that the method of (...) empathy works best for average people. The advantage of being a small but representative sample of the population will create a bootstrap effect. For as average people prosper, there will be more average descendants and so the degree of resemblance in subsequent generations will snowball. Each increment in like-mindedness further enhances the reliability and validity of mental simulation. With each circuit along the spiral, there is tighter and tighter bunching and hence further empowerment of empathy. The method is self-strengthening and eventually molds a population of hyper-similar individuals-which partly solves the problem of other minds. (shrink)
Poindexter points and asserts `That is Clinton''. But it is vague as to whether he pointed at Clinton or pointed at the more salient man, Gore. Since the vagueness only occurs at the level of reference fixing, the content of the identity proposition is precise. Indeed, it is either a necessary truth or a necessary falsehood. Since Poindexter''s utterance has a hidden truth value by virtue of vagueness, it increases the plausibility of epistemicism. Epistemicism says that vague statements have hidden (...) truth values. If a precise statement can have a hidden truth value conferred indirectly by vaguesness, then a vague statement can have a hidden truth value directly by its own vagueness. (shrink)
THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE IS TO SHOW HOW HUME’S SCEPTICISM ABOUT MIRACLES GENERATES "EPISTEMOLOGICAL" SCEPTICISM ABOUT TIME TRAVEL. SO THE PRIMARY QUESTION RAISED HERE IS "CAN ONE KNOW THAT TIME TRAVEL HAS OCCURED?" RATHER THAN "CAN TIME TRAVEL OCCUR?" I ARGUE THAT ATTEMPTS TO SHOW THE EXISTENCE OF TIME TRAVEL WOULD FACE THE SAME METHODOLOGICAL PROBLEMS AS THE ONES CONFRONTING ATTEMPTS TO DEMONSTRATE THE EXISTENCE OF PARANORMAL EVENTS. SINCE HUMEAN SCEPTICISM EXTENDS TO THE STUDY OF PARANORMAL EVENTS (PARAPSYCHOLOGY), HUMEANS (...) ARE COMMITTED TO SCEPTICISM ABOUT THE STUDY OF TIME TRAVEL ("PARAHISTORY"). (shrink)
This article analyses the general economy of Georges Bataille (1897–1962) in relation to political economy. In the first section I present a critical perspective on economy that is necessary in order to appreciate Bataille’s conception of general economy, which is presented in the second section. The general economy is first considered in a macro-perspective, which comprises the whole of the universe, second in a micro-perspective, where the subjective aspect of economy is maintained as non-objectified desire and inner experience. In the (...) third section I turn to the general economy as it was explicitly intended, namely as a political economy. First I argue that the suggestions that Bataille himself presents are apolitical in an ordinary sense of politics, and that this can be shown to be due to some conceptual slides between nature and society and between history and ontology. I then sketch some postmodern attempts to legitimize respectively capitalism and communism, which refer to the general economy, but argue finally that Bataille can escape both, since he maintains the important distinction between need and desire. Although Bataille’s conception of economy thus reminds us of aspects often overlooked by economy in an ordinary sense, it also contains some serious aporias, which means that it cannot constitute the theoretical basis of a new general political economy, as Bataille had hoped. (shrink)
Verisimilitude has the potential to deepen the understanding of mathematical progress, the principle of charity, and the psychology of regret. One obstacle is the widely held belief that two statements can vary in truthlikeness only if they vary in what they entail. This obstacle is removed with four types of counterexamples. The first concerns necessarily coextensive measurements that differ only with respect to their units (specifically length, area, and volume). The second class ofcounterexamples is composed of mathematical falsehoods. The third (...) class features inconsistent scientific theories. The fourth class of cases features statements that are instructive but meaningless. (shrink)
Seizing the opportunity to apply what they had learned, the students declared a cheating competition. Outspoken participants (future lawyers, politicians, and captains of industry) bragged about their ruses. But to their chagrin, an ethics student prevailed.
: A hallmark of Dogen's legacy is his introduction of Chinese Ch'an koan literature to Japan in the first half of the thirteenth century and his unique and innovative style of interpreting dozens of koan cases, many of which are relatively obscure or otherwise untreated in the annals. What constitutes the distinctiveness of Dogen's approach? According to Hee-Jin Kim's seminal study, Dogen shifts from an instrumental to a realizational model of koan interpretation. While this essay agrees with some features of (...) Kim's approach, especially his emphasis on the importance of language, it is argued that Kim overlooks the diversity of aims and intentions in Dogen's use of rhetorical and narrative strategies to highlight diverse doctrinal and ritual themes. There is no single underlying view of koans for Dogen, who continually modifies his interpretive approach to particular cases in order to articulate specific themes. (shrink)
If a spinning sphere casts a shadow, does the shadow also spin? This riddle is the point of departure for an investigation into the nature of shadow movement. A general theory of motion will encompass all moving things, not just physical objects. Ultimately, I argue that round shadows do indeed spin. Shadows are followers of the objects that cast them. Parts of the shadow correspond to parts of the leader, so motion of the caster's parts accounts for motions of the (...) shadow's parts. I conclude with a discussion of how the dynamic aspects of shadows impose subtle constraints on other puzzles about shadows. (shrink)
In “The Reappearing Act” István Aranyosi postulates a new way of seeing to solve a puzzle posed in “The Disappearing Act;” an object that is exactly shaded can be seen simply by virtue of its contrast with its environment – just like a shadow. This object need not reflect, refract, absorb or block light. To undermine the motive for this heretical innovation, I generalize the puzzle to situations involving inexact shading. Aranyosi cannot extend his solution to these variations because he (...) needs to conserve principles of camouflage. On the bright side, the solution to the puzzle that I propose in my book Seeing Dark Things does extend to these variations. (shrink)
Stereotypically, computation involves intrinsic changes to the medium of representation: writing new symbols, erasing old symbols, turning gears, flipping switches, sliding abacus beads. Perspectival computation leaves the original inscriptions untouched. The problem solver obtains the output by merely alters his orientation toward the input. There is no rewriting or copying of the input inscriptions; the output inscriptions are numerically identical to the input inscriptions. This suggests a loophole through some of the computational limits apparently imposed by physics. There can be (...) symbol manipulation without inscription manipulation because symbols are complex objects that have manipulatable elements besides their inscriptions. Since a written symbol is an ordered pair of consisting of a shape and the reader''s orientation to that inscription, the symbol can be changed by changing the orientation rather than inscription. Although there are the usual physical limits associated with reading the answer, the computation is itself instantaneous. This is true even when the sub-calculations are algorithmically complex, exponentially increasing or even infinite. (shrink)