The paper argues a certain parallelism between the perception and the conception of real-world objects. Just as the former is always incomplete, perspectival, and error-prone, so is the latter. We can never claim ultimate correctness for our conception of things. This fact is crucial for communication, because if our own conceptions were claimed as definitive, then we could never be secure in our confidence that we are in communicative touch with one another regarding a common, shared object of communication.
Modeling and simulation clearly have an upside. My discussion here will deal with the inevitable downside of modeling — the sort of things that can go wrong. It will set out a taxonomy for the pathology of models — a catalogue of the various ways in which model contrivance can go awry. In the course of that discussion, I also call on some of my past experience with models and their vulnerabilities.
Both Plato and Kant devote much attention and care to deliberating about their method of philosophizing. And, interestingly, both seek to expand and explain their view of philosophical method by one selfsame strategy: explaining the contrast between rational procedure in mathematics and in philosophy. Plato and Kant agree on a fundamental point of philosophical method that is at odds with the mathematico-demonstrative methodology of philosophy found in Spinoza and present in Christian Wolff. Both reject the axiomatic approach with its insistence (...) on fundamental truths postulated from the outset. Both alike insist that philosophizing—unlike mathematics—is an exercise in theorizing where the questions of basicness and foundations come into view only after the inquiry has gone on for a long, long time—and certainly not at its start. (shrink)
The paper argues that future knowledge will in substantial measure be inscrutable for us today, with the principal exception of facts about the past. The paper considers the reasons for this circumstance and examines its wider implications for the condition of human knowledge.
The ancient problem of mind-matter relationship still has traction. Cartesian dualism created a seemingly impossible divide here. But with the decline of mechanism on the matter sides the issue of trans-categorical causality no larger secured insurmountable. However, with a more open concept of causality in view, there is no reason to think that the causality at issue here is a one way street from matter to mind. The mind-brain can be seen as a unified hermeneutical engine that permits of two-way (...) operation. Mark Twain asked “When the body is drunk, does the mind stay sober?” But one may just as well ask “When the mind says ‘Write!,’ does the hand remain immobile?”. (shrink)
This article identifies and criticizes fallacies found in arguments against the existence of free will. These arguments draw in a variety of issues, including: natural causation, deliberation, the relation of mind and body, agent-internal and agent-external determinism, motivation for action, and the evolutionary role of free-will. The paper contends that, in each case, the misconception at issue can be overcome by drawing appropriate distinctions, the heeding of which makes for a more viable construal of how freedom of the will—if such (...) there is—should be taken to work. So at each stage there is some further clarification of what free will involves. There gradually emerges from the fog an increasingly clear view that what is at issue here is the capacity of intelligent beings to resolve matters of choice and decision through a process of deliberation on the basis of their beliefs and desires, a process that allows for ongoing updates and up-to-the-bitter-end revisability. (shrink)
To Kant’s mind, all of the tasks that Western philosophical thought has traditionally assigned to the deity as institutor of a rational world-order do indeed need to be accomplished, but humanity – we mere mortals – are up to the task. What we have here is a philosophy not so much of enlightenment as of enormous hubris.
Introduction -- The nature of free will -- Requirements of freedom : preeminently deliberation -- Free will requires the absence of thought-external -- Determination over choices and decisions -- Choice and decision are crucial -- Doing and trying -- Free action and agent causality -- Modes of freedom -- Metaphysical and moral freedom -- Moral freedom is removed by manipulation and especially -- Compulsion -- Intention and moral standing -- Moral freedom of the will involves agent intent and motivation -- (...) Ramifications of freedom -- Free will requires up-to-the-end revisability but this does not gainsay probabilistic predictability -- Issues of revision and control -- The counterfactual dimension : "could have done otherwise" -- Problem cases : machines and lunatics -- Free will as outside causality but compatible with it -- Averting the zenonic fallacy of casual regression -- Averting predetermination (contrasting pre-determination with precedence determination) -- The crucial contrast between events and eventuations -- Choices and decisions as terminating eventuations -- Free will stands outside the stream of natural causality -- On freedom and causality -- Free will excludes pre-determinism but not motive determinism -- Motivational determinism vs. casual necessitation -- Motivations and motives -- Freedom from what? : certainly not from one's own motives -- And reasons: freedom demands motivational determination -- Free will requires motivational determinism -- Determination by one's autonomous motives is the crux of moral freedom -- Compulsion is impulsion -- Objections to motive determinism can be met -- Freedom and motivation -- Must an agent choose his motives for a decision to qualify (morally) as free? -- Freedom does not require motivational self-construction -- Does freedom require self-understanding? -- Willing to will : does freedom require the will to be self-endorsing? -- Does freedom require the approval of intellect and reason? -- Does freedom require self-approved motives? -- Buridan's ass : a random willfulness is not freedom -- Compatibilism regains : what free will excludes is not agent -- Determination but gant-bypassing nature determination -- The explanation of free acts via agent determination -- Freedom, responsibility, and "could have done otherwise" -- Reasons and motives impel but do not compel -- Compatibilism again -- Mind-matter partnership -- A two-sided coin -- The issue of initiative -- A salient duality -- Mind-brain interaction works by coordination not by causality -- Does free will exist? deliberations -- Pro and con -- On evidentiating free will -- Is free will unscientific? -- So does science counter-indicate free will -- Free-will naturalism and evolution. (shrink)
Ontology cannot be left to the natural sciences, if only because it deals also with hypothetical and fictional objects. It pivots about proto-categorical issues relating to the features of objects of any and all kinds. This brings into its range issues that test the limits of knowledge by asking questions that are inherently unanswerable (for example: “What is an instance of an occurrence that no one ever mentions?”). And it raises issues of norms and values that science (in its usual (...) configuration) does not address. (shrink)
While ideals are by nature unrealizable, there are, nevertheless, many contexts in which their pursuit can be of enormous benefit. It may seem ironic but is a fact of life that the guidance afforded by “unrealistic” ideals can prove to be of enormous practical benefit.
Underdetermination can take many forms apart from the familiar case of the underdetermination of nature’s laws by the observed phenomena. Of particular interest here is the potential of underdetermination of nature’s phenomena by nature’s laws. The paper considers various ways in which this prospect might come to be realized, and goes on to consider some of the wider implications of this circumstance.
The Principle of Epistemic Disparity has it that a mind of lesser power cannot adequately comprehend the ways of a more powerful intellect. The paperconsiders the role of this principle in the thought of St. Thomas and also offers some commentary on its wider implications.
Epistemetrics is not as yet a scholarly discipline. With regard to scientific information there is the discipline of scientometrics, represented by a journal of that very name. Science, however, does not have a monopoly on knowledge. It is one of our most important cognitive resources, it is not our only one. While scientometrics is a centerpiece of epistemetrics, it is not the whole of it. Nicholas Rescher's endeavor to quantify knowledge is not only of interest in itself, but is also (...) instructive in bringing into sharper relief the nature of and the explanatory rationale for the limits that unavoidably confront our efforts to advance the frontiers of knowledge. In particular, his book demonstrates the limitations of human knowledge and will be of great value to scholars working in this area. (shrink)
Presumption is a remarkably versatile and pervasively useful resource. Firmly grounded in the law of evidence from its origins in classical antiquity, it made its way in the days of medieval scholasticism into the theory and practice of disputation and debate. Subsequently, it extended its reach to play an increasingly significant role in the philosophical theory of knowledge. It has thus come to represent a region where lawyers, debaters, and philosophers can all find some common ground. In Presumption and the (...) Practices of Tentative Cognition, Nicholas Rescher endeavors to show that the process of presumption plays a role of virtually indispensable utility in matters of rational inquiry and communication. The origins of presumption may lie in law, but its future is assured by its service to the theory of information management and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
The article urges a negative answer to the question if values merely lie ââin the eyes of the beholderââ. It argues the objectivity of values via their status as tertiary properties that are neither on dispositionally inherent in their objects nor yet affective (dispositionally evoked in the interaction between objects and senseâobservers), but rather reflective in being dispositionally evoked in suitably competent minds considering the matters involved.
v. 1. Studies in 20th century philosophy -- v. 2. Studies in pragmatism -- v. 3. Studies in idealism -- v. 4. Studies in philosophical inquiry -- v. 5. Studies in cognitivr finitude -- v. 6. Studies in social philosophy -- v. 7. Studies in philosophical anthropology -- v. 8. Studies in value theory -- v. 9. Studies in metaphilosophy -- v. 10. Studies in the history of logic -- v. 11. Studies in the philosophy of science -- v. 12. (...) Studies in metaphysical optimalism -- v. 13. Studies in Leibniz's cosmology -- v. 14. Studies in epistemology -- suppl. v. Autobiography. (shrink)
Existence -- Categories and distinctions : on classification and taxonomy in metaphysical perspective -- Complexity -- Truth and reality : factual truth as grounded in reality -- Process : on substance and process in metaphysics -- Pragmatic idealism and metaphysical realism -- Scientific realism : the limits of science as revelator of the real -- Nonexistence and nonbeing : on possibilities and merely possible individuals -- Knowledge and its limits : on quantifying knowledge : and essay in epistemetrics -- Explicability (...) and sufficient reason : on the price of an ultimate theory -- Optimalism and the rationality of the real : on the prospect of axiological explanation. (shrink)
Choice without preference : the problem of "Buridan's ass" -- Nicholas of Cusa on the Koran : a fifteenth-century encounter with Islam -- On learned ignorance and the limits of knowledge -- Unanswerable questions and insolubilia -- Omniscience and our understanding of God's knowledge -- Issues of infinite regress -- Being qua being -- Nonexistents then and now -- Thomism : past, present, and future -- Respect for tradition and the Catholic philosopher today.
In one form or another the concept of the Absolute has played a prominent role in Western philosophy from Plato to Hegel and beyond. The present paper addresses in particular the idea of the Absolute as the completion or perfection of the cognitive project of inquiry into the nature of the real. The discussion first traces the historical development of this conception, and then addresses the question of what sort of constructive role such a concept of cognitive absoluteness can continue (...) to play in philosophical deliberation, arguing that it does indeed afford an instrumentality able to accomplish useful work. (shrink)
The prime and paramount factor that characterizes the Catholic philosopher is a respect for the Catholic philosophical tradition. To respect a person or a tradition is to see it as a bearer of value; respect does not automatically entail agreement. The Catholic philosophical tradition is not doctrinally unified, but is defined by a mutuality of involvement in a common project: that of developing a perspective that enables reason and religion to exist in a holistic unicity that fructifies each through its (...) interaction with the other. Catholic philosophers should respect their intellectual tradition because it is an important part of acquiring their identity as thinkers and persons. Three useful approaches to appropriating and respecting a tradition are: (1) restoration and revival; (2) preservation of issues by re-opening and re-examining its questions; and (3) revivification of its spirit. (shrink)
An antipathy to absolutes has been a pervasive feature of twentieth-century philosophy: universality, necessity, objectivity and the like have figured prominently on its index of prohibitions. Ironically, this anti-absolutism itself represents an absolutism of sorts. And it is actually injurious to the interests of philosophizing where adequacy sometimes demands absoluteness. Certain philosophicallysignificant facts root in the non-negotiable necessities of things—the wickedness of inflicting needless pain, for one.
While everyone acknowledges that the distinction between important and unimportant work is crucial in and for science, there is effectively no systematic investigation of how this distinction is to be conceived and implemented. This paper takes some tentative steps into remedying this deficiency.
(1) Diametrically opposed standpoints can be maintained regarding God’s place in philosophy, namely that God has a central place here and, contrariwise, that philosophers should do their explanatory work without recourse to God. (2) The distinction between theistic and naturalistic issues is crucial here, because (3) the naturalistic sphere is substantially secular in orientation and is, in general, explanatorily closed. (4) A recourse to theistic considerations is not in order in the naturalistic domain insofar as the issues are local in (...) character. (5) And since this in generally the case, the vast majority of philosophical issues admit of purely secular treatment. After all, philosophical theology is but a small part of philosophy. (6) Such localism is assured by considerations of explanatory economy. (7) What is at issue is not a matter of odium theologicum but simply of the rational procedure of beings whom God himself would surely want to make the fullest possible use of their God-given reason. (shrink)
The essays collected in this volume have a strong thematic and interpretative unity. Their underlying concern is with the overall nature of Kant's philosophical system, and thus with his deepest intentions and basic commitments. The book falls into three parts. The first three essays deal with Kant's approach to things in themselves and with the realm of noumenal causality. The second part considers Kant's approach to the methodology of rational inquiry, and, in particular, his views on cognitive systematization and the (...) limits of philosophizing itself. The third section focuses on the role played by the categorical imperative in both the theoretical and practical philosophy. The aim throughout, one that many Kant scholars and students will find provocative, is to show that in an important sense Kant is prepared to assert the primacy of practical over theoretical philosophy. (shrink)
Exploring the central ideas of traditional metaphysics--such as the simplicity of nature, its comprehensibility, or its systematic integrity--this book analyzes looking at such notions from a scientific point of view. It seeks to describe in a clear, accessible manner the metaphysical situation that characterizes the process of inquiry in natural science, aiming to shed light on reality by examining the modus operandi of natural science itself and focusing as much on its findings as on its conceptual and methodological presuppositions. Written (...) by an eminent scholar of philosophy, this book is the culmination of many years of penetrating work. It is the definitive presentation of some of Nicholas Rescher's most fascinating ideas and is an engaging source for philosophers and non-philosophers alike. (shrink)
In recent years possible worlds and individuals have been in philosophical vogue, playing an important role in logical semantics, analytic metaphysics, linguistic theory, and elsewhere. In the enthusiasm over this much-promising device people have lost sight of the fact that the actual identification and introduction of such possibilia is effectively impossible. For the prospect of ostensive confrontation is here lost, and the purely descriptive individuation of nonexistent individuals is an altogether impracticable project. The very most we can accomplish here is (...) to deal with schemata and scenarios-items whose element of generality is always present. We can indeed meaningfully operate a possibilism that is proportionately oriented (de dicto), but cannot succeed with one that is substantively oriented (de re). (shrink)
The structure of this discussion will be tripartite. First it will set out a way of distinguishing between rhetoric and strictly rational argumentation. Next it will consider some of the ramifications of this proposed way of looking at the matter â in particular what its implications are for rationality and for rhetoric, respectively. Finally it examines how this perspective bears on the project of philosophizing. The paper's ultimate aim, accordingly, is to consider what light such an analysis can shed upon (...) philosophy and philosophizing. (shrink)
Nicholas Rescher presents a critical reaction against two currently influential tendencies of thought. On the one hand, he rejects the facile relativism that pervades contemporary social and academic life. On the other hand, he opposes the rationalism inherent in neo-contractarian theory--both in the idealized communicative-contract version promoted in continental European political philosophy by J;urgen Habermas, and in the idealized social contract version of the theory of political justice promoted in the Anglo-American context by John Rawls. Against such tendencies, Rescher's pluralist (...) approach takes a more realistic and pragmatic line, eschewing the convenient recourse of idealization in cognitive and practical matters. Instead of a utopianism that looks to a uniquely perfect order that would prevail under ideal conditions, he advocates incremental improvements within the framework of arrangements that none of us will deem perfect but that all of us "can live with." Such an approach replaces the yearning for an unattainable consensus with the institution of pragmatic arrangements in which the community will acquiesce--not through agreeing on their optimality, but through a shared recognition among the dissonant parties that the available options are even worse. (shrink)
Philosophical anthropology is the philosophical study of the conditions of human existence and the issues that confront people in the conduct of their everyday lives. This book surveys, from a contemplative, philosophical point of view, a wide variety of human-interest issues, including happiness, luck, aging, the meaning of life, optimism and pessimism, morality, and faith and belief. The author's deliberations blend historical, theoretical, and personal perspectives into philosophical appreciation of the human condition. The philosophers of Greek antiquity took philosophy to (...) center around just this issue of intelligent living - of determining the nature of life under the guidance of reason. Such a perspective puts philosophical agenda - a position it contested with the philosophy of nature throughout classical antiquity. In more recent times, however, its prominence has declined - no doubt, the author suggests, because modern man's achievements have been more notable in the natural than in the human science. (shrink)
Contending that only a normative theory of rationality can be adequate to the complexities of the subject, this book explains and defends the view that rationality consists of the intelligent pursuit of appropriate objectives. Rescher considers the mechanics, rationale, and rewards of reason, and argues that social scientists who want to present a theory of rationality while avoiding the vexing complexities of normative deliberations must amend their perspective of the rational enterprise.