In this article I offer a naturalistic defence of semantic externalism. I argue against the following: (1) arguments for externalism rest mainly on conceptual analysis; (2) the community conceptual norms relevant to individuation of propositional attitudes are quasi-analytic; (3) externalism raises serious questions about knowledge of propositional attitudes; and (4) externalism might be OK for “folk psychology” but not for cognitive science. The naturalist alternatives are as follows. (1) Community norms are not anything like a priori; sometimes they are incoherent. (...) (2) Often propositional attitudes lack determinate content: we do not know the content of thoughts or sentences because there is no fully definite content to be known. (3) Often achieving determinate content is a major socially mediated cognitive achievement that depends on just the factors of social and environmental embedding posited as individuative by externalists, so (4) externalism explains how people can, sometimes, come to have, and to know, determinate attitude contents. (5) Reference and content, for both thought and language, are determined by complex and messy dialectical relations involving many such environmental and social factors; consequently, determinate reference, truth-conditions, etc., are somewhat uncommon outcomes. (6) The basic semantic relation is (typically imperfect) socially mediated accommodation between perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, classificatory and inferential dispositions and relevant causal structures in the environment. (7) This accommodation explains how concepts, language, taxonomies, etc., contribute to individuals' rational inductive, explanatory and practical achievements. (8) So externally individuated propositional attitudes are required for cognitive science explanations of individual human rationality and its inductive and explanatory achievements. “Individual rationality ain't (entirely) in the individual head.”. (shrink)
Freedom of association holds an uneasy place in the pantheon of liberal freedoms. Whereas freedom of association and the abundant plurality of groups that accompany it have been embraced by modern and contemporary liberals, this was not always the case. Unlike more canonical freedoms of speech, press, property, petition, assembly, and religious conscience, the freedom of association was rarely extolled by classical liberal thinkers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indeed Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Adam Smith, and others seem to (...) have regarded freedom of association with some trepidation because of the violent, irrational, and factional behavior of groups. This chapter illuminates these anti-associational assumptions in the writings of James Madison. Although Madison famously deplored political associations as sources of faction and civil dissension, he differed from other members of the Founding generation in his willingness to defend associational freedom. Madison's writings also shed light on the unenumerated status of the freedom of association in American constitutional law. (shrink)
Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is one of the most celebrated 19th-century explorations of the rise of democracy as a social condition. However, Tocqueville is not the only political thinker of his immediate era to raise questions about the costs and benefits of democracy. This article will consider Stendhal’s novel The Red and the Black as an immediate precursor to Tocqueville’s criticisms of tyrannical public opinion and other ambivalent features of democracy. Like Tocqueville, Stendhal ponders the breakdown of aristocratic (...) standards of politeness and the equally oppressive sway of democratic public opinion that replaces them. Despite their shared assumptions about the challenges of democracy, however, Stendhal’s vision of freedom seems decidedly bleaker than Tocqueville’s. (shrink)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is renowned for defending the pity of the state of nature over and against the vanity, cruelty, and inequalities of civil society. In the standard reading, it is this sentiment of pity, activated by our imagination, that allows for the cultivation of compassion. However, a closer look at the "pathologies of pity" in Rousseau's system challenges this idea that pity is a pleasurable sentiment that arises from a recognition of the identity of our natures and leads ultimately to (...) communion with our fellow-creatures. Instead, pity rests inexorably on a sense of difference, is fueled by an aversion to suffering, and is more likely to yield a world of "reluctant spectators" than one of simple souls eagerly rushing to the aid of others. Because compassion is unlikely to encourage the moral equality and willful agency requisite to democracy, trying to make compassion central to democratic theory may very well prove counterproductive. (shrink)
For Frank Knight, the fact that we are free to engage in economic pursuits brings out what is both best and worst in human nature. The same competitive economy that liberates individuals to choose their own desired ends also provides them with socially undesirable wants and fosters habits potentially at odds with the demands of liberal democracy. Given Knight's desire both to defend human liberty and his concession that liberty is likely to be abused, his version of liberalism must of (...) necessity be anticonsequentialist. Paradoxically, Knight's philosophical pluralism?his insistence that there are any number of incommensurable perspectives on the good or just society?underlies both his criticism of the ?ethical? possibilities of the competitive order and his defense of human liberty against the dangers of social planning. (shrink)
(i) Scientific realism is primarily a metaphysical doctrine about the existence and nature of the unobservables of science. (ii) There are good explanationist arguments for realism, most famously that from the success of science, provided abduction is allowed. Abduction seems to be on an equal footing, at least, with other ampliative methods of inference. (iii) We have no reason to believe a doctrine of empirical equivalence that would sustain the underdetermination argument against realism. (iv) The key to defending realism from (...) the pessimistic meta-induction is that we have greatly improved our capacity to understand the unobservable world over recent centuries. (shrink)
A realistic and dialectical conception of the epistemology of science is advanced according to which the acquisition of instrumental knowledge is parasitic upon the acquisition, by successive approximation, of theoretical knowledge. This conception is extended to provide an epistemological characterization of reference and of natural kinds, and it is integrated into recent naturalistic treatments of knowledge. Implications for several current issues in the philosophy of science are explored.
This paper examines commonly offered arguments to show that human behavior is not deterministic because it is not predictable. These arguments turn out to rest on the assumption that deterministic systems must be governed by deterministic laws, and that these give rise to predictability "in principle" of determined events. A positive account of determinism is advanced and it is shown that neither of these assumptions is true. The relation between determinism, laws, and prediction in practice is discussed as a question (...) in scientific epistemology. (shrink)