In a previous paper (Duncan, T.L., Semura, J.S. in Entropy 6:21, 2004) we considered the question, “What underlying property of nature is responsible for the second law?” A simple answer can be stated in terms of information: The fundamental loss of information gives rise to the second law. This line of thinking highlights the existence of two independent but coupled sets of laws: Information dynamics and energy dynamics. The distinction helps shed light on certain foundational questions in statistical mechanics. (...) For example, the confusion surrounding previous “derivations” of the second law from energy dynamics can be resolved by noting that such derivations incorporate one or more assumptions that correspond to the loss of information. In this paper we further develop and explore the perspective in which the second law is fundamentally a law of information dynamics. (shrink)
The notion of signification is an important part of Hobbes's philosophy of language. It also has broader relevance, as Hobbes argues that key terms used by his opponents are insignificant. However Hobbes's talk about names' signification is puzzling, as he appears to have advocated conflicting views. This paper argues that Hobbes endorsed two different views of names' signification in two different contexts. When stating his theoretical views about signification, Hobbes claimed that names signify ideas. Elsewhere he talked as if words (...) signified the things they named. Seeing this does not just resolve a puzzle about Hobbes's statements about signification. It also helps us to understand how Hobbes's arguments about insignificant speech work. With one important exception, they depend on the view that names signify things, not on Hobbes's stated theory that words signify ideas. The paper concludes by discussing whether arguments about insignificant speech can provide independent support for Hobbes's views about other issues, such as materialism. (shrink)
I argue that Hobbes isn't really a materialist in the early 1640s (in, e.g., the Third Objections to Descartes's Meditations). That is, he doesn't assert that bodies are the only substances. However, he does think that bodies are the only substances we can think about using imagistic ideas.
Hobbes denies in Leviathan that we have an idea of God. He does think, though, that God exists, and does not even deny that we can think about God, even though he says we have no idea of God. There is, Hobbes thinks, another cognitive mechanism by means of which we can think about God. That mechanism allows us only to think a few things about God though. This constrains what Hobbes can say about our knowledge of God, and grounds (...) his belief in a fairly strong version of the thesis that God is incomprehensible. (shrink)
I consider Leibniz's thoughts about Hobbes's materialism, focusing on his less-discussed later thoughts about the topic. Leibniz understood Hobbes to have argued for his materialism from his imagistic theory of ideas. Leibniz offered several criticisms of this argument and the resulting materialism itself. Several of these criticisms occur in texts in which Leibniz was engaging with the generation of British philosophers after Hobbes. Of particular interest is Leibniz's correspondence with Damaris Masham. Leibniz may have been trying to communicate with Locke, (...) but ended up discussing Masham's version of the argument for materialism that Leibniz attributed to Hobbes. (shrink)
This paper discusses the materialist views of Margaret Cavendish, focusing on the relationships between her views and those of two of her contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes and Henry More. It argues for two main claims. First, Cavendish's views sit, often rather neatly, between those of Hobbes and More. She agreed with Hobbes on some issues and More on others, while carving out a distinctive alternative view. Secondly, the exchange between Hobbes, More, and Cavendish illustrates a more general puzzle about just what (...) divided materialists from their opponents. Seemingly straightforward disagreements about whether incorporeal substances exist turn out to be more complex ones in which the nature of those things is disputed at the same time as their existence. (shrink)
Descartes argues that, apart from the existence of a veracious God, we can have no reason to believe that we possess reliable cognitive faculties, with the result that, if atheism is true, not even our seemingly most certain beliefs can count as knowledge for us. Since the atheist denies the existence of God, he or she will be precisely in this position. I argue that Descartes' argument is sound, and that atheism is therefore self-refuting.
In this paper, I argue that Kant's famous critique of the Ontological Argument largely begs the question against that argument, and is no better when supplemented by the modern quantificational analysis of "exists." In particular, I argue that the claim, common to Hume and Kant, that conceptual truths can never entail substantive existential claims is false,and thus no ground for rejecting the Ontological Argument.
In Meditation I, Descartes dismisses the possibility that he might be insane as a ground for doubting that the senses are a source of knowledge of the external world. In this paper, I argue that Descartes was justified in so doing, and draw some general epistemological conclusions from this result.
Thomas Hobbes was, rather famously, a nominalist. The core of that nominalism is the belief that the only universal things are universal names: there are no universal objects, or universal ideas. This paper looks at what Hobbes's views about universal names were, how they evolved over time, and how Hobbes argued for them. The remainder of the paper considers two objections to Hobbes's view: a criticism made by several of Hobbes's contemporaries, that Hobbes's view could not account for people saying (...) the same thing in different languages; and a more recently popular criticism of Hobbes, that his nominalism's reliance on similarity implicitly (and inconsistently) involves reliance on a universal. (shrink)
Draft for Martinich and Hoekstra (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Hobbes. -/- Language was central to Hobbes's understanding of human beings and their mental abilities, and criticism of other philosophers' uses of language became a favorite critical tool for him. This paper connects Hobbes's theories about language to his criticisms of others' language, examining Hobbes's theories of propositions and truth, and how they relate to his claims that various sorts of proposition are absurd. It considers whether Hobbes in fact means anything (...) more by 'absurd' than 'false'. And it pays particular attention to Hobbes's categorization of causes of absurdity and of types of incoherent proposition, arguing that Hobbes's approach is only loosely related to later discussions of category mistakes. (shrink)
In the early years of the eighteenth century Leibniz had several interactions with John Toland. These included, from 1702 to 1704, discussions of materialism. Those discussions culminated with the consideration of Toland's 1704 Letters to Serena, where Toland argued that matter is necessarily active. In this paper I argue for two main theses about this exchange and its consequences for our wider understanding. The first is that, despite many claims that Toland was at the time of Letters to Serena a (...) Spinozist, we can make better sense of him as a sort of Hobbesian materialist. The second main point concerns reasons for materialism, and in particular a story Locke tells in the Essay about materialists' motives. Toland defends his materialism by arguing that matter is active, and argues that matter is active by using a conceivability argument. But this is not the crude conceivability argument that Locke suggests motivates materialists. This (together with reflecting on some of Hobbes's arguments) suggests that we might well tell a Lockean story about reasons for early modern materialism, but not Locke's story. (shrink)
This is a short (1,000 word) introduction to Hobbes's materialism, covering (briefly) such issues as what the relevant notion of materialism is, Hobbes's debate with Descartes, and what Hobbes's arguments for materialism were.
In this paper, I argue that, if a common form of materialism is true, I cannot know my own thoughts, or even that I am thinking. I conclude that, since I can and do know these things, materialism about mind as I characterize it must be false.
In this essay, I argue that neurophysiological materialism - the thesis that all of our mental contents are caused by non-mental, purely physical brain states - is epistemically self-refuting, and ought to be rejected even if it cannot be otherwise disproved.
In his Beweisgrund (1762), Kant presents a sketch of "the only possible basis" for a proof of God's existence. In this essay, I attempt to present that proof as a valid and sound argument for the existence of God.
Leibniz's correspondence with Thomas Burnett of Kemnay is probably best known for Leibniz's attempts to communicate with Locke via Burnett. But Burnett was also, more generally a source of English intellectual news for Leibniz. As such, Burnett provided an important part of the context in which Locke was presented to and understood by Leibniz. -/- This paper examines the Leibniz-Burnett correspondence, and argues against Jolley's suggestion that "the context in which Leibniz learned about Locke was primarily a theological one". That (...) said, in thinking about Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, and his subsequent defenses of it, Leibniz does offer an argument against Locke's book -- but not one that's closely related to Locke's theological views, or to any accusation of Socinianism. -/- The paper also considers, by way of contrast, the way Leibniz and Burnett talk about the more obviously controversial figure John Toland. (shrink)
The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. These features have also been found in other mammals, which suggests that consciousness (...) is a major biological adaptation in mammals. We suggest more than a dozen additional properties of human consciousness that may be used to test comparative predictions. Such homologies are necessarily more remote in non-mammals, which do not share the thalamocortical complex. However, as we learn more we may be able to make “deeper” predictions that apply to some birds, reptiles, large-brained invertebrates, and perhaps other species. (shrink)
In all likelihood, the Bush Administration’s aim is to continue abusive interrogation methods that on any reasonable definition amount to torture (methods such as waterboarding,” for example, in which a detainee is laid on his back and choked with water until he believes he is drowning). This new law, however, is both foolish and immoral: foolish, because torture won’t make Americans safer; and immoral, because torture is the grossest of affronts to human dignity.
In this essay I explore some of the basic elements of consciousness from a substance dualist point of view, incorporating some elements of Kant's Transcendental Analytic into an overall account of the constitution of consciousness.
I agree with about 95% of what Paul Moser has written in his book The Elusive God. However, I have three main points of disagreement with Moser, two of which I ventilate in this paper. The third I discuss in my paper "What's Love Got to Do with It?" also on this website.
In the course of writing a book on Free Will, I took the opportunity to read a good deal of contemporary literature on the Free Will problem. This paper is a survey and reflection on that reading, responding to the current trends and state of play concerning the existence of free will.
Based on a recently published essay by Jeremy Gwiazda, I argue that the possibility that the present state of the universe is the product of an actually infinite series of causally-ordered prior events is impossible in principle, and thus that a major criticism of the Secunda Via of St. Thomas is baseless after all.
This is the second of a series of papers inspired by a paper I wrote around 1989. In this paper, I consider the notion of material contingency and relate it to the traditional, metaphysically loaded Principle of Sufficient Reason.
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the ‘dynamic core’). These interactions, which permit high-order discriminations among possible core states, confer selective advantages on organisms possessing them by linking current perceptual events to a past history of value-dependent learning. Here, we assess the consistency of ND with 16 widely recognized (...) properties of consciousness, both physiological (for example, consciousness is associated with widespread, relatively fast, low amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical system), and phenomenal (for example, consciousness involves the existence of a private flow of events available only to the experiencing subject). While no theory accounts fully for all of these properties at present, we find that ND and its recent extensions fare well. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the concept of happiness by relating it to those of desire, pleasure, and love, arriving at the classical view that objective happiness consists in the possession and enjoyment of the good.
In this paper I argue that there is no problem of Divine Hiddenness for Christians and offer an alternate explanation for the widespread claim that God's existence is hidden based on the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.
Recently, I was reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: Background Source Materials, and read selections from Wolff, Baumgarten, Crusius, and Kant's own teacher, Martin Knutzen. It was dope - real philosophical comfort food - and inspired this piece, written in the style of one of their textbooks.
In this essay, I use a thought experiment to illustrate the human predicament if determinism is true, then draw the implications of this result for human rationality. This paper was read at the Eastern Division of the Society for Christian Philosophers at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts in 2009.
I discuss Hume's views about whether simplicity and generality are positive features of explanations. In criticizing Hobbes and others who base their systems of morality on self interest, Hume diagnoses their errors as resulting from a "love of simplicity". These worries about whether simplicity is a positive feature of explanations emerge in Hume's thinking over time. But Hume does not completely reject the idea that it's good to seek simple explanations. What Hume thinks we need is good judgment about when (...) we are going too far in our search for simple explanations. These worries about simplicity are not unique to Hume. We can see versions of them in the work of Hutcheson, Smith, and Reid. (shrink)
Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses provides an in-depth, engaging introduction to important issues in modern philosophy. It presents 13 key interpretive debates to students, and ranges in coverage from Descartes' Meditations to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. -/- Debates include: -/- Did Descartes have a developed and consistent view about how the mind interacts with the body? Was Leibniz an idealist, or did he believe in corporeal substances? What is Locke's theory of personal identity? Could there (...) be a Berkeleian metaphysics without God? Did Hume believe in causal powers? What is Kant's transcendental idealism? -/- Each of the thirteen debates consists of a well known article or book chapter from a living philosopher, followed by a new response from a different scholar, specially commissioned for this volume. Every debate is prefaced by an introduction written for those coming upon the debates for the first time and followed by an annotated list for further reading. The volume starts with an introduction that explains the importance and relevance of the modern period and its key debates to philosophy and ends with a glossary that covers terms from both the modern period and the study of the history of philosophy in general. -/- Debates in Modern Philosophy will help students evaluate different interpretations of key texts from modern philosophy, and provide a model for constructing their own positions in these debates. (shrink)
Inspired by Paul Moser's recent work, this paper presents a new parable on the topic of belief and unbelief in the tradition of Wisdom and Flew. -/- This paper was read at the annual POH Symposium at Lake Wenatchee, WA in May, 2010. An edited version of this paper has appeared in the second issue of the Seattle Critical Review (online).
I argue that, despite claims that might be made to the contrary, no scientific evidence could ever prove that introspection is unreliable, even in principle. This paper was read at the annual POH symposium in Lake Wenatchee in May, 2011.
In this paper, I argue that neuroscience not only is not complemented, but rather is positively undermined, by the substantive commitments of materialist philosophers of mind. Thus, we can have neuroscience or "neurophilosophy" but not both. Since neuroscience is a real science, to the extent that it is in tension with materialistic neurophilosophy, the latter should be abandoned and the former retained.
In this paper, I present some ruminations on Hume's argument from miracles and the distorted view of rationality that it reflects (along with religious skepticism generally) contrasting it with what I take to be a better account of rationality, one more sympathetic - at least less hostile - to religious claims.
After discussing the manifest inconveniences of Galilean physicalism for both science and common sense, I propose an alternate, Aristotelian ontology of material things and show how it solves the epistemological problems engendered by the New Science. Read at the annual POH Symposium in Lake Wenatchee, WA, May 2011.
I examine the notion of the authoritative command of divine love developed by Paul Moser in his book The Elusive God. Using a Calvinist objection to Moser's contention that God must love every one, including His enemies, I conclude that the notion of an authoritative command of divine love is paradoxical. I then offer a resolution of this paradox on terms that I judge to be in line with Moser's intentions.