Despite much discussion over the existence of moral facts, metaethicists have largely ignored the related question of their possibility. This paper addresses the issue from the moral error theorist’s perspective, and shows how the arguments that error theorists have produced against the existence of moral facts at this world, if sound, also show that moral facts are impossible, at least at worlds non-morally identical to our own and, on some versions of the error theory, at any world. So error theorists’ (...) arguments warrant a stronger conclusion than has previously been noticed. This may appear to make them vulnerable to counterarguments that take the possibility of moral facts as a premise. However, I show that any such arguments would be question-begging. (shrink)
In everyday speech we seem to refer to such things as abstract objects, moral properties, or propositional attitudes that have been the target of metaphysical and/or epistemological objections. Many philosophers, while endorsing scepticism about some of these entities, have not wished to charge ordinary speakers with fundamental error, or recommend that the discourse be revised or eliminated. To this end a number of non-revisionary antirealist strategies have been employed, including expressivism, reductionism and hermeneutic fictionalism. But each of these theories faces (...) forceful objections. In particular, we argue, proponents of these strategies face a dilemma: either concedes that their theory is revisionary, or adopt an implausible account of speaker-meaning whereby the content of certain types of utterance is opaque to their speakers. In this paper we introduce a new type of antirealist strategy, which is thoroughly non-revisionary, and leaves speaker-meaning transparent to speakers. We draw on work on pragmatics in the philosophy of language to develop a theory we call ‘pragmatic antirealism’. The pragmatic antirealist holds that while the sentences of the discourses in question have metaphysically contentious truth conditions, ordinary utterances of them are pragmatically modified in context in such a way that speakers do not incur commitment to those truth conditions. After setting out the theory, we show how it might be developed for both mathematical and ethical discourse, before responding to some likely objections. (shrink)
This paper addresses the political constraints on science through a pragmatist critique of Philip Kitcher’s account of “well-ordered science.” A central part of Kitcher’s account is his analysis of the significance of items of scientific research: contextual and purpose-relative scientific significance replaces mere truth as the aim of inquiry. I raise problems for Kitcher’s account and argue for an alternative, drawing on Peirce’s and Dewey’s theories of problem-solving inquiry. I conclude by suggesting some consequences for understanding the proper conduct (...) of science in a democracy. (shrink)
This book develops an explanation for the roles of observation and theory in scientific endeavor that occupies the middle ground between empiricism and rationalism, and captures the strengths of both approaches. Brown argues that philosophical theories have the same epistemological status as scientific theories and constructs an epistemological theory that provides an account of the role that theory and instruments play in scientific observation. His theory of perception yields a new analysis of objectivity that combines the traditional view of (...) observation as the foundation of scientific objectivity with the contemporary recognition that observation is theory-dependent. (shrink)
Originally published in 1991, The Laboratory of the Mind: Thought Experiments in the Natural Sciences, is the first monograph to identify and address some of the many interesting questions that pertain to thought experiments. While the putative aim of the book is to explore the nature of thought experimental evidence, it has another important purpose which concerns the crucial role thought experiments play in Brown’s Platonic master argument.In that argument, Brown argues against naturalism and empiricism (Brown 2012), (...) for mathematical Platonism (Brown 2008), and from the Platonist-friendly, abstract universals posited by the Dretske-Tooley-Armstrong (DTA) account of the laws of nature to a more general, physical Platonism. The Laboratory of the Mind is where he takes this final step. (shrink)
In her recent book Anti-Individualism and Knowledge, Jessica Brown has presented a novel answer to the self-knowledge achievement problem facing the proponent of anti-individualism. She argues that her answer is to be preferred to the traditional answer (based on Burge, 1988a). Here I present three objections to the claim that her proposed answer is to be preferred. The significance of these objections lies in what they tell us about the nature of the sort of knowledge that is in dispute. (...) Perhaps the most important lesson I draw from this discussion is that, given the nature of knowledge of one's own thoughts, discriminability (from relevant alternatives) is not a condition on knowledge as such. (shrink)
Externalists about mental content are supposed to face the following dilemma. Either they must give up the claim that we have privileged access to our own mental states or they must allow that we have privileged access to the world. The dilemma is posed in its most precise form through the McKinsey-Brown argument (McKinsey 1991; Brown 1995). Over the years since it was ?rst published in 1991, our understanding of the precise character of the premisses which constitute the (...) argument has been re?ned. It is based on three claims (where A partially serves to characterise the content of some belief state for which Externalism is true and E is some proposition about the external world). (shrink)
This paper aims at analyzing Philip Kitcher's naturalistic epistemology, particularly its normative features, which are viewed as a sort of response to negative assessments made by radical naturalists on the plurality of epistemic values. According to them such values are ineffective for normative ends, e.g. theory choice. Differently from that quite excessive evaluation, Kitcher argues rather for explanatory unity as the most important and universal epistemic value. Even though Kitcher's arguments are sound, there remains some serious gaps as regards (...) his attempts; there are also serious doubts about the desirability of achieving such a value. (shrink)
This brief opening for a special issue of Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical on Philip Clayton’s thought and its connection with that of Michael Polany introduces Clayton’s essay and the responses by Martinez Hewlett, Gregory R. Peterson, Andy F. Sanders and Waler B. Gulick.
In Science, Truth, and Democracy, Philip Kitcher develops the notion of well-ordered science: scientific inquiry whose research agenda and applications (but not methods) are subject to public control guided by democratic deliberation. Kitcher's primary departure from his earlier views involves rejecting the idea that there is any single standard of scientific significance. The context-dependence of scientific significance opens up many normative issues to philosophical investigation and to resolution through democratic processes. Although some readers will feel Kitcher has not (...) moved far enough from earlier epistemological positions, the book does represent an important addition to literature on science, society, and values. (shrink)
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: What is the relationship between the unity of consciousness and sensory integration?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: Is the mechanism of sensory integration spatio-temporal?
Philosophy is often conceived in the Anglophone world today as a subject that focuses on questions in particular ‘‘core areas,’’ pre-eminently epistemology and metaphysics. This article argues that the contemporary conception is a new version of the scholastic ‘‘self-indulgence for the few’’ of which Dewey complained nearly a century ago. Philosophical questions evolve, and a first task for philosophers is to address issues that arise for their own times. The article suggests that a renewal of philosophy today should turn the (...) contemporary conception inside out, attending to and developing further the valuable work being done on the supposed ‘‘periphery’’ and attending to the ‘‘core areas’’ only insofar as is necessary to address genuinely significant questions. (shrink)
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: Are some of the basic units of consciousness multimodal?
Campbell Brown has recently argued that G.E. Moore's intrinsic value holism is superior to Jonathan Dancy's. I show that the advantage which Brown claims for Moore's view over Dancy's is illusory, and that Dancy's view may be superior.
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: How should we study experience, given unity relations?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: How should we model the unity of consciousness?
During the last decade Jessica Brown has been one of the main participants in the on-going debate over the compatibility of anti-individualism and self-knowledge. It is therefore of great interest that she is now publishing a book examining the various epistemological consequences of anti-individualism. The book is divided into three sections. The first discusses the question of whether a subject can have privileged access to her own thoughts, even if the content of her thoughts is construed anti-individualistically. This section (...) contains a detailed and useful discussion not only of how we are to understand privileged access, but also of epistemological issues of more general import, such as the connection between knowledge and reliability. The second section focuses on various aspects of the problem of anti-individualism and reasoning, including an extensive discussion of the relation between anti-individualism and a Fregean account of content. The final section discusses the so-called reductio argument against compatibilism (i.e. the view that anti-individualism is compatible with a priori knowledge of one’s own thoughts), according to which compatibilism implies that we can have a priori knowledge of certain facts about the world that, intuitively, are not knowable that way. The book is very clearly written and structured. Readers unfamiliar with the debate will get a good sense of its broad contours and the various positions taken. Brown starts out by distinguishing different forms of anti-individualism. This is very helpful since it is quite clear that the term has come to be rather carelessly used, as if it referred to one particular thesis, whereas in fact a number of loosely related positions are labeled ‘antiindividualist’. At the outset she distinguishes three familiar anti-individualist theses: natural kind anti-individualism, social anti-individualism, and singular anti-individualism. These.. (shrink)
Genetic determinism is the idea that many significant human characteristics are rendered inevitable by the presence of certain genes. The psychologist Susan Oyama has famously compared arguing against genetic determinism to battling the undead. Oyama suggests that genetic determinism is inherent in the way we currently represent genes and what genes do. As long as genes are represented as containing information about how the organism will develop, they will continue to be regarded as determining causes no matter how much evidence (...) exists to the contrary. Philip Kitcher has strongly disputed Oyama’s diagnosis, arguing that the conventional ‘interactionist’ perspective on development is the correct framework for understanding the role of the genes in development. While acknowledging the legitimacy of many of Kitcher’s observations, I believe that Oyama’s view is substantially correct. In this paper I provide several lines of support for support the Oyama diagnosis. (shrink)
The main message of Philosophy of Science after Feminism is twofold: that philosophy of science needs to locate science within its wider societal context, ceasing to analyze science as if it existed in a social/political/economic vacuum; and correlatively, that philosophy of science needs to aim for an understanding of scientific rationality that is appropriate to that context, a scientific rationality that integrates the ethical with the epistemic. The ideal of socially responsible science that the book puts forward, in fact, maintains (...) that sound social values as well as sound epistemic values must control every aspect of the scientific research process, from the choice of research questions to the communication and application of results. And it is this that raises troubling questions for Matt Brown, Hugh Lacey, and Libby Potter. In this paper I attempt to answer their questions and make explicit exactly what is in the offing if I succeed. (shrink)
En este artículo me propongo analizar el punto de partida epistemológico de un reciente libro de Philip Kitcher (The Advancement of Science) a través de su discusión con las concepciónes ‘escépticas’. Podemos distinguir entre dos tipos de escepticismo en Ia trama deI libro de Kitcher: uno débil y otro radical. Intentamos difinir el tipo de realismo que Kitcher defiende, para finalmente mostrar que tal tipo de realismo es posible para Kitcher en Ia medida que no toma en cuenta el (...) escepticismo en su versión radical. En efecto, Kitcher sólo se enfrenta al escepticismo débil. Y es precisamente debido a esta restricción que es capaz de mantenerse al margen de una alternativa que sigue siendo crucial: realismo fuerte o realismo “de espíritu kantiano”.The purpose of this article is to carry out an analysis of the epistemologic standpoint on a recent book by Philip Kitcher (The Advancement of Science) by discussing the sceptic ideas which are dealt with there. We can discriminate between two kinds of scepticism appearing on Kitcher’s book: a weak and a radical one. Then we work towards a definition of the kind of realism held by this author and, finally, we try to show that such a viewpoint as Kitcher’s is possible to hold provided that we do not take the radical scepticism into account for that question. Kitcher only objects by means of the weak scepticism. And it is precisely because of that restriction that he is capable of not giving a definition of a crucial alternative: strong realism or realism in “Kantian spirit”. (shrink)
All three authors range themselves against John Norton's deductive analysis of thought experiments. Brown's insight, Nersessian's mental modelling, and Gooding's embodiment, arise, in each case, from a major all-purpose philosophical theory. None reaches down to the specific level of thought experiments, which are small, rare, and precious. I urge attention to Wittgenstein's remark that "the experimental character disappears when one looks at the process as a memorable picture." Thought experiments are not experiments. They are static. They become fixed, more (...) like jokes or optical illusions. Unlike real experiments, they have no life of their own. (shrink)
In Nietzsche and the Horror of Existence, Philip J. Kain makes a compelling case for taking Nietzsche’s concern with the subject of horror seriously and then challenges his conclusions about it. A corollary of existence, horror is an ineliminable part of being human. Our experience of horror prompts reflection on life and the act of philosophizing. Arguing it is a formative yet often overlooked theme in Nietzsche’s oeuvre, Kain recognizes that the experience of horror is central to “Nietzsche’s vision” (...) of life, truth, beauty, and knowledge (1). Kain examines Nietzsche’s interrogation of philosophical responses to horror, tracing his approach from his innovative reinterpretation of the function of tragic .. (shrink)
First of all, I just want to say that in my opinion this is an interesting and thought-provoking book, and a badly needed corrective to certain mistaken assumptions about James. I find myself very much in sympathy with many of its main points. Some of the things I have to say in the following may— or perhaps may not—be thought to disagree with some of what Professor Brown has argued in his book. If that is so, it should be (...) taken only as an indication of the degree to which William James on Radical Empiricism and Religion stimulates philosophical thought. Similarly, the essay I found myself preparing for this occasion seems in the end to have a lot more to do with what I think about James than, on the surface, it does with Professor Brown’s book: again, I would wish this to be seen as a compliment to the high quality of his work (which is certainly the way I see it), since everything I might have come up with here is in response to my reading of his book. (shrink)