In this paper, I try to understand what Buridan means when he suggests that "every proposition, by its very form, signifies or asserts itself to be true." I show how one way of construing this claim - that every proposition is in fact a conjunction one conjunct of which asserts the truth of the whole conjunction - does lead to a resolution of the Liar paradox, as Buridan says, and moreover is not vulnerable to the criticism on the basis of (...) which Buridan came to reject this view. However, I go on to argue that the view causes Truth-Teller worries when applied to non-Liar propositions. (shrink)
A preface to the Japanese translation of my book _Donald Davidson_ in which I discuss two issues on which Davidson's thought developed substantially after the book was published. First, I explain a new argument, the triangulation argument, which has come to play a prominent part in Davidson’s recent work. Secondly, I enter in some detail into a continuing controversy over supervenience and the causal efficacy of the mental, since Davidson has advanced the issue with a new paper on the topic.
Frege's diatribes against psychologism have often been taken to imply that he thought that logic and thought have nothing to do with each other. I argue against this interpretation and attribute to Frege a view on which the two are tightly connected. The connection, however, derives not from logic's being founded on the empirical laws of thought but rather from thought's depending constitutively on the application to it of logic. I call this view 'psycho-logicism.'.
A reply to Sean Liam Kelly's analysis of Martial 7.35 in the Fall 1993 issue of Nexus. Although I am in substantial agreement with many parts of Kelly's analysis, one detail of the text which he did not pick up on leads me to offer a different route to Kelly's conclusion that, according to the narrator of the poem, Laecania insults his and his slave's virility, and that in response to this perceived unmanning, he replies with the charge of lesbianism. (...) However, the route I propose introduces into the itinerary not only issues of gender and violence, but also those of race. (shrink)
Much of traditional rabbinic hermeneutics, what I call "midrashic interpretation," appears to be of such a bizarre nature as to require some sort of explanation, or even justification. This essay attempts to provide a philosophical foundation for midrashic interpretation by placing it in the context of the idea (vaguely neo-platonic) that God is only fully realized as the result of a certain process, a process of which midrashic interpretation is an essential part. In the final section I attempt to spell (...) out some connections between the specifically Jewish question of rabbinic hermeneutics and some more general ideas in philosophy and psychoanalysis. (shrink)
I argue for the thesis (UL) that there are certain logical abilities that any rational creature must have. Opposition to UL comes from naturalized epistemologists who hold that it is a purely empirical question which logical abilities a rational creature has. I provide arguments that any creatures meeting certain conditions - plausible necessary conditions on rationality - must have certain specific logical concepts and be able to use them in certain specific ways. For example, I argue that any creature able (...) to grasp theories must have a concept of conjunction subject to the usual introduction and elimination rules. I also deal with disjunction, conditionality and negation. These cases are not intended to be exhaustive of universal logical abilities. Finally, I put UL to work in showing how it could be used to define a notion of logical obviousness that would be well suited to certain contexts - e.g. radical translation and epistemic logic - in which a concept of obviousness is often invoked. (shrink)
I explore the interrelations between the ontological and aesthetic issues raised by ready-mades such as Duchamp’s Fountain. I outline a hylomorphic metaphysics which has two central features. First, hylomorphically complex objects have matter to which they are not identical. Secondly, when such objects are artefacts (including artworks), it is essential to them that they are the products of creative work on their matter. Against this background, I suggest that ready-mades are of aesthetic interest because they pose a dilemma. Is there (...) really an object, a sculpture, that is distinct from its matter, a urinal, which object is created merely by the artist’s choice of the urinal? Or are we dealing with a case in which an artist passes off something, a urinal, as if it were a sculpture, even though it is not one? (shrink)
Constitution is the relation between something and what it is made of. Composition is the relation between something and its parts. I examine three different approaches to the relation between constitution and composition. One approach, associated with neo-Aristotelians like Mark Johnston and Kathrin Koslicki, identifies constitution with composition. A second, popular with those sympathetic to classical mereology such as Judith Thomson, defines constitution in terms of parthood. A third, advocated strongly by Lynne Baker, takes constitution to be somehow inconsistent with (...) relations of parthood. All of these approaches, I argue, face serious problems. I conclude, tentatively, that constitution and composition have nothing to do with each other. (shrink)
Musical Platonists identify musical works with abstract sound structures but this implies that they are not created but only discovered. Jerrold Levinson adapts Platonism to allow for creation by identifying musical works with indicated sound structures. In this paper I explore the similarities between Levinson's view and Kit Fine's theory of qua objects. Fine offers the theory of qua objects as an account of constitution, as it obtains, for example, between a statue and the clay the statue is made out (...) of. I argue that Fine's theory does not adequately characterize the constitution relation and that the problems it faces extend to Levinson's account of musical works as indicated structures. I develop an alternative theory of constitution, based on the notion of being made out of. This approach to constitution enables me to offer an account of musical works as abstract objects that are constituted by sound structures. I argue that my account has several advantages over the Levinson/Fine approach. (shrink)
Simon Evnine examines various epistemic aspects of what it is to be a person. Persons are defined as finite beings that have beliefs, including second-order beliefs about their own and others' beliefs, and are agents, capable of making long-term plans. It is argued that for any being meeting these conditions, a number of epistemic consequences obtain. First, all such beings must have certain logical concepts and be able to use them in certain ways. Secondly, there are at least two principles (...) governing belief that it is rational for persons to satisfy and are such that nothing can be a person at all unless it satisfies them to a large extent. These principles are that one believe the conjunction of one's beliefs and that one treat one's future beliefs as, by and large, better than one's current beliefs. Thirdly, persons both occupy epistemic points of view on the world and show up within those views. This makes it impossible for them to be completely objective about their own beliefs. Ideals of rationality that require such objectivity, while not necessarily wrong, are intrinsically problematic for persons. This "aspectual dualism" is characteristic of treatments of persons in the Kantian tradition. In sum, these epistemic consequences support a traditional view of the nature of persons, one in opposition to much recent theorizing. (shrink)
I survey a number of views about how we can obtain knowledge of modal propositions, propositions about necessity and possibility. One major approach is that whether a proposition or state of affairs is conceivable tells us something about whether it is possible. I examine two quite different positions that fall under this rubric, those of Yablo and Chalmers. One problem for this approach is the existence of necessary a posteriori truths and I deal with some of the ways in which (...) these authors respond to the problem, including the use of two-dimensional modal semantics. Conventionalism about modality offers a complementary approach to modal epistemology, prompting us to identify our knowledge of modal truths with our mastery of linguistic or conceptual conventions. Finally, I discuss an approach to modal epistemology deriving from David Lewis's work that seeks to identify structural features of the modal space over which necessity and possibility are defined. (shrink)
In this article I distinguish the notion of there being something it is like to be a certain kind of creature from that of there being something it is like to have a certain kind of experience. Work on consciousness has typically dealt with the latter while employing the language of the former. I propose several ways of analyzing what it is like to be a certain kind of creature and find problems with them all. The upshot is that even (...) if there is something it is like to have certain kinds of experience, it does not follow that there is anything it is like to be a certain kind of creature. Skepticism about the existence of something that it is like to be an F is recommended. (shrink)
This paper offers two new arguments for a version of Reflection, the principle that says, roughly, that if one knew now what one would believe in the future, one ought to believe it now. The most prominent existing argument for the principle is the coherence-based Dutch Strategy argument advanced by Bas van Fraassen (and others). My two arguments are quite different. The first is a truth-based argument. On the basis of two substantive premises, that people’s beliefs generally get better over (...) time and that being a person requires having knowledge of this fact, it concludes that it is rational to treat your future selves as experts. The second argument is a transcendental one. Being a person requires being able to engage in plans and projects. But these cannot be meaningfully undertaken unless one has Reflection-like expectations about one’s future beliefs. Hence, satisfaction of Reflection is necessary for being a person. Together, the arguments show that satisfaction of Reflection is both rational and necessary for persons. (shrink)
The thesis of the paper is that persons are similar to a kind of group: multiple-expert epistemic unities (MEUs). MEUs are groups in which there are multiple experts on whom other members of the group model their opinion. An example would be a group of children playing Telephone. Any child nearer the source is an 'expert' for any child further away. I argue that, with certain important qualifications, it is both rational and necessary for persons to treat their future selves (...) as experts (i.e. to satisfy Bas Van Fraassen's Principle of Reflection). This makes a person a kind of MEU. (The paper "Epistemic Unities" gives more details about different kinds of epistemic unities.). (shrink)
The paper attempts to shed light on Frege's views on the relation of logic to truth by looking at several passages in which he compares it to the relation of ethics to the good and aesthetics to the beautiful. It turns out that Frege makes four distinct points by means of these comparisons only one of which both concerns truth and makes use of distinctive features of ethics and aesthetics. This point is that logic is about reaching truth in the (...) way that ethics is about reaching the good and aesthetics the beautiful. I then sketch how Frege can plausibly maintain this view about logic. (A more detailed version of Frege's positive view is given in my unpublished "Frege on the Relations Between Logic and Thought."). (shrink)
I bring together social ontology and social epistemology by consideringsocial entities (``epistemic unities'') that are constituted by the holdingof epistemic relations between their members. In particular, I focus onthe relation of taking someone as an expert. Among the types of structuresexamined are ones with a single expert and one or more non-experts whomay or may not know of each other's situation; and ones with more thanone expert, including cases in which the relation between the experts ishierarchical and cases in which (...) it is symmetrical. These structures modela variety of social situations which can thus be given a unified treatment.Among the cases I discuss are persons, which I argue are multiple-expertunities of persons at times. Taking a person as a social unity like this offersa clear sense in which some groups can also be person-like. (shrink)
I argue that it is not ideally rational to believe that some of one's current beliefs are false, despite the impressive inductive evidence concerning others and our former selves. One's own current beliefs represent a commitment which would be undermined by taking some of them to be false. The nature of this commitment is examined in the light of Nagel's distinction between subjective and objective points of view. Finally, I suggest how we might acknowledge our fallibility consistently with this special (...) attitude to our own beliefs. (shrink)
I argue for the thesis (UL) that there are certain logical abilities that any rational creature must have. Opposition to UL comes from naturalized epistemologists who hold that it is a purely empirical question which logical abilities a rational creature has. I provide arguments that any creatures meeting certain conditions—plausible necessary conditions on rationality—must have certain specific logical concepts and be able to use them in certain specific ways. For example, I argue that any creature able to grasp theories must (...) have a concept of conjunction subject to the usual introduction and elimination rules. I also deal with disjunction, conditionality and negation. Finally, I put UL to work in showing how it could be used to define a notion of logical obviousness that would be well suited to certain contexts—e.g. radical translation and epistemic logic—in which a concept of obviousness is often invoked. (shrink)
The paper is an examination of how Davidson's holism constrains his account of language learning. The problem is that holism implies that in learning a language we cannot pass through stages of knowing part of the language. Rather, some sense must be found for the notion of partly knowing the whole language.
I argue that it is rational for a person to believe the conjunction of her beliefs. This involves responding to the Lottery and Preface Paradoxes. In addition, I suggest that in normal circumstances, what it is to believe a conjunction just is to believe its conjuncts.
In this paper I argue that, in at least two cases - his discussions of the temporal precedence o f polytheism over monotheism and of the origins of civil society - we see Hume consigning to historical development certain aspects of reason which, as a comparison with Locke will show, have sometimes been held to be uniform. In the first of these cases Hume has recourse to claims about the general historical development of human thought. In the second case, the (...) origin of the civil institution of justice and government is not linked directly to external circumstances and the principles of human nature, as it is in contractarian theories, but makes a detour through the historical acquisition of certain concepts. Because Hume's position does not conform in any simple sense to Dugald Stewart's 'incontrovertible logical maxim' that the capacities of the human mind have been the same in all ages, Stewart's account of the method of conjectural history is, in any simple sense, inadequate as a description of Hume's practice. (shrink)
Donald Davidson is unquestionably one of America's greatest living philosophers. His influence on Anglo-American philosophy over the last twenty years has been enormous, and his work is an unavoidable reference point in current debates in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. This book offers a systematic and accessible introduction to Davidson's work. Evnine begins by discussing Davidson's contribution to the philosophy of mind, including his views on action, events and causation. He then examines Davidson's work in the (...) philosophy of language. The link between meaning and truth, radical interpretation, and semantic holism are considered in detail. The final chapters deal with the metaphysical aspects of Davidson's work and seek to assess his philosophical project as a whole. (shrink)
In this paper I propose to say something about why certain key psychoanalytic concepts, particularly that of the unconscious, are special because of a studied, and therapeutically important, ambiguity or paradoxicality which affects them. Before I examine these concepts, however, the first section of this paper discusses some of Sartre's views on psychological explanation. On the one hand, this gives me a way of introducing the dichotomy of self-evident irreducibility and existential lucidity which underlies my account of the unconscious. On (...) the other hand, it is important because I take Sartre to be addressing, less successfully, the very same question that Freud dealt with by introducing his ambiguous concepts. (shrink)
The paper contrasts two ways of understanding the apparently strange assertions of mad persons, finds them both problematic, and proposes an alternative. The first approach, exemplified by R.D. Laing, is to suppose that the beliefs of the mad person are ordinary but expressed in terms that make them appear irrational. The other approach, advocated by Silvano Arieti, is to take the words at face value but to attribute to the mad person a kind of deviant logic. I suggest, on the (...) basis of a Davidsonian approach, that the bizarre utterances of the mad simply cannot be understood adequately; they are, precisely, points at which accomodations of intepretation give out. This is what makes them symptoms of madness. (shrink)