I was seven or eight years old. In Hebrew school we had just learned the Aleph-Bet and were, haltingly, beginning to sound out words. As we spoke the ancient text, our teacher translated: "... And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light. ..."[note 2] Here was magic; here was the supernatural; here was the creation of the universe. I resonated to the story. I was filled with wonder, far more than had ever been elicited by any fairy (...) tale my parents had read to me. I pictured in my imagination the majesty of it: God speaks and Nature obeys. (shrink)
Wilson has returned to a debate whose heyday was the ﬁfties and early sixties. He staunchly aligns himself with the deductivists, philosophers such as Popper, Hempel, Bergmann, and Braithwaite, who argued that scientiﬁc and historical explanations presuppose general laws and statements of initial conditions from which explanandum statements are validly deduced.
As children in elementary school we were taught to recite the alphabet in order: “Aay, Bee, See, Dee, Eii, Eff, Ghee, Aaych, …, Why and Zee”. There is nothing natural about this particular ordering: it is strictly a matter of convention. (When and where it was settled upon I haven’t the remotest notion.) Then, having mastered the ordering, we were taught to apply that knowledge to alphabetize lists of words. The procedure is surprisingly complex, and its mastery by mere eight-year (...) olds attests to the elevated intellectual capacities of human beings. One merely has to try to write down the procedure in a flow chart to see how complex it truly is. In any event, most of us probably emerged from the exercise of learning to use a dictionary believing that we knew all there is to know about alphabetizing. If only that were all there is to it. The trouble is that our third-grade teachers had not reckoned on our having to program computers to alphabetize.. (shrink)
 The venerable question "Why is there anything (rather than nothing) at all?" has become particularly topical after a long absence from the philosophical scene. In 1981, it elicited a novel, and rather startling, response from Robert Nozick (Nozick 1981: 115-64). Since then, it has received steady attention from a number of astrophysicists, in particular, those promoting one version or another of an Anthropic Principle (see e.g. Barrow et al. 1986).  In the midst of this activity, a small volume (...) by Nicholas Rescher has appeared, The Riddle of Existence . In it, Rescher echoes approvingly Heidegger's claim that this is `the most fundamental question of metaphysics' and accordingly undertakes (what he has described privately.. (shrink)
7.3.1 Ostension 7.3.2 Extensional Definition by Naming 7.3.3 Extensional Definition by Unique Description 7.4 Two Case Studies in the Application of the Intension/Extension Distinction 7.4.1 "God exists, by definition" 7.4.2 The 'Width' of an Intensional Definition..
Definition: A condition A is said to be sufficient for a condition B, if (and only if) the truth (/existence /occurrence) [as the case may be] of A guarantees (or brings about) the truth (/existence /occurrence) of B.
Thesis: Such things as beliefs, statements, assertions, remarks, hypotheses, and theories are those things that are true or false . (Example: we do say such things as "Her belief that her mother had phoned was false." Or, "His assertion that Alberta is smaller than British Columbia is true.").
Marcus J. is a mathematician extraordinaire. Because it is no longer politically correct to use ivory, the tower in which he is hermetically sealed is made of recycled plastics. In his tower, walled off from the rest of the world, he pursues mathematics. Having started out modestly with theorizing that flipping two coins will yield two heads with a probability of 25%, he has lately gone on to more ambitious projects. Most recently he has published a paper, earning wide acclaim, (...) in which he has theorized that, since there are exactly four possible pairings (female-female; male-male; female-male; and male-female) of adult human beings, there is, then, a 25% probability that a household is headed by two women; a 25% probability that a household is headed by two men; and a 50% probability that a household is headed by one man and one woman. (shrink)
A carpet vendor has to measure her customer's living room for some new broadloom. She has forgotten her tape measure, but does have a meterstick. She lays the meterstick on the floor, snug up against the wall, with the left edge of the stick in one corner of the room. She then makes a pencil mark at the right edge. Next she shifts the stick right until the left edge of the stick is at her mark, and again marks the (...) right edge. She does this three times, but then finds that less than a full length remains to be measured. She turns the stick around so that the zero is now at the right side and lays it in the right corner and notes that her last pencil mark is at 70 cm. She concludes that the wall she is measuring is 3.7 meters in length. She then measures the opposite wall and concludes that it, too, is 3.7 meters in length. She then repeats the process for the remaining two opposite walls, and finds that they each measure 4.1 meters. To see if the room is rectangular, she runs a piece of twine from one corner to its opposite, pulls the twine taut and then cuts it to fit exactly. She then uses the same piece of twine on the other two corners to see if they are the same distance apart as the first two. The twine fits exactly. On the basis of these measurements, she.. (shrink)
Suppose it were known, by someone else, what you are going to choose to do tomorrow. Wouldn't that entail that tomorrow you must do what it was known in advance that you would do? In spite of your deliberating and planning, in the end, all is futile: you must choose exactly as it was earlier known that you would. The supposed exercise of your free will is ultimately an illusion. Historically, the tension between foreknowledge and the exercise of free will (...) was addressed in a religious context. According to orthodox views in the West, God was claimed to be omniscient (and hence in possession of perfect foreknowledge) and yet God was supposed to have given humankind free will. Attempts to solve the apparent contradiction often involved attributing to God special properties, e.g. being 'outside' of time. However, the trouble with such solutions is that they are generally unsatisfactory on their own terms. Even more serious is the fact that they leave untouched the problem posed not by God's foreknowledge but that of any human being. Do human beings have foreknowledge? Certainly, of at least some events and behaviors. Thus we have a secular counterpart of the original problem. A human being's foreknowledge, exactly as would God's, of another's choices would seem to preclude the exercise of human free will. Various ways of trying to solve the problem – e.g. by putting constraints on the truth-conditions for statements, or by 'tightening' the conditions necessary for knowledge – are examined and shown not to work. Ultimately the alleged incompatibility of foreknowledge and free will is shown to rest on a subtle logical error. When the error, a modal fallacy, is recognized, and remedied, the problem evaporates. (shrink)
Within metaphysics, there are two competing theories of Laws of Nature. On one account, the Regularity Theory, Laws of Nature are statements of the uniformities or regularities in the world; they are mere descriptions of the way the world is. On the other account, the Necessitarian Theory, Laws of Nature are the “principles” which govern the natural phenomena of the world. That is, the natural world “obeys” the Laws of Nature. This seemingly innocuous difference marks one of the most profound (...) gulfs within contemporary philosophy, and has quite unexpected, and wide-ranging, implications. (shrink)
The Concept of Physical Law is an original and creative defense of the Regularity theory of physical law, the concept that physical laws are nothing more than descriptions of whatever universal truths happen to be instanced in nature. Professor Swartz clearly identifies and analyzes the arguments and intuitions of the opposing Necessitarian theory, and argues that the standard objection to the Regularity theory turns on a mistaken view of what Regularists mean by 'physical impossibility'; that it is impossible to construct (...) an empirical test that can distinguish between events Necessitarians call 'mere accidents' and those they call 'nornologically necessary', and that the Necessitarian theory cannot account fot human beings' free wills. Other topics in this important work include: the distinction between instrumental scientific laws and true physical laws; the distinction between failure and doom; potentialities; miracles and marvels; predictability and uniformity; statistical and numerical laws; and necessity-in-praxis. (shrink)
CONTEMPORARY MATERIALIST theories of mind, viz. Causal Correspondence and Identity, are usually contrasted with several alleged historical competitors: Parallelism; Epiphenomenalism; Dual-aspect; and Emergence. What I shall here attempt to argue is that this last-mentioned theory, Emergence, is no competitor at all, but rather is a natural supplement to a materialist theory. I shall try to argue that there is a good case for saying that if, in particular, sensation-states are caused by or are identical to brain-states, then they are caused (...) by or are identical to emergent brain-states. (shrink)
In his paper, "The Two Main Problems of Philosophy"[Note 1], Professor N.L. Wilson offers an inductive argument for the thesis "that there is only one possible world … possibility, actuality and necessity collapse into each other."[p. 200].
For a finite universe of discourse, if Φ → and ~(Ψ → Φ) , then P(Ψ) > P(Φ), i.e., there is always a loss of information, there is an increase in probability, in a non reversible implication. But consider the two propositions, "All ravens are black", (i.e., "(x)(Rx ⊃ Bx)"), and "Some ravens are black" (i.e., "(∃x)(Rx & Bx)"). In a world of one individual, called "a", these two propositions are equivalent to "~Ra ∨ Ba" and "Ra & Ba" respectively. (...) However, (Ra & Ba) → (~Ra ∨ Ba) and ~[(~Ra ∨ Ba) → (Ra & Ba)]. Consequently, in a world of one individual it is more probable that all ravens are black than that some ravens are black! (shrink)