Strawson offers three accounts of singular predication: a grammatical, a category and a mediating account. I argue that the grammatical and mediating accounts are refuted by a host of counter-examples and that the latter is worse than useless. In later works Strawson defends only the category account. This account entails that singular terms cannot be predicates; it excludes non-denoting singular terms from being logical subjects, except by means of an ad hoc analogy; it depends upon a notion of identification that (...) is too vague; and it is unnecessarily complicated, relying on analogies where a more uniform explanation should be possible. But I show how the account can be corrected to avoid all these difficulties and to provide an accurate account of singular predication. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s work on moral responsibility is well-known. However, an important implication of the landmark “Freedom and Resentment” has gone unnoticed. Specifically, a natural development of Strawson’s position is that we should understand being morally responsible as having externalistically construed pragmatic criteria, not individualistically construed psychological ones. This runs counter to the contemporary ways of studying moral responsibility. I show the deficiencies of such contemporary work in relation to Strawson by critically examining the positions of John Martin Fischer and Mark (...) Ravizza, R. Jay Wallace, and Philip Pettit for problems due to individualistic assumptions. (shrink)
This paper compares the treatment of other minds in Strawson and Sartre. Both discussions are presented here as transcendental arguments, and some striking parallels between them are brought out. However the primary significance of the alignment lies in the difference that emerges between two forms of transcendental proof, with the phenomenological treatment in Sartre promising to yield a stronger conclusion than Strawson's argument. The paper goes some way towards bringing out this difference.
Two notable thought experiments are discussed in this article: Reid's thought experiment about whether a being supplied with tactile sensations alone could acquire the conception of extension and Strawson's thought experiment about whether a being supplied with auditory sensations alone could acquire the conception of mind-independent objects. The experiments are considered alongside Campbell's argument that only on the so-called relational view of experience is it possible for experiences to make available to their subjects the concept of mind-independent objects. I consider (...) how the three issues ought to be construed as raising questions about woulds, coulds, or shoulds. (shrink)
This paper starts from the debate between proponents of a neo-Lockean psychological continuity view of personal identity, and defenders of the idea that we are simple mental substances. Each party has valid criticisms of the other; the impasse in the debate is traced to the Lockean assumption that substance is only externally related to its attributes. This suggests the possibility that we could develop a better account of mental substance if we thought of it as having an internal relation to (...) its states. I suggest that we may be able to do this by relying on the notion of expression. In developing this idea I draw heavily on aspects of Wittgenstein's philosophical psychology, while also developing and criticizing Strawson's account of persons and recent work by Lynne Baker. I conclude by arguing that mental substance, understood in this way, can only be grasped in narrative terms; substantialist and narrative accounts of personal identity, far from being opposed, are mutually supporting and require one another to be coherent. (shrink)
Peter Strawson's work has radically altered the philosophical concept of analysis, returned metaphysics to centre stage in Anglo-American philosophy, and transformed the framework for subsequent interpretations of Kantian philosophy.
A type theory constructed with reference to a particular language will associate with each monadic predicate P of that language a class of individuals C(P) of which it is categorically significant to predicate P (or which P spans, for short). The extension of P is a subset of C(P), which is a subset of the language’s universe of discourse. The set C(P) is a category discriminated by the language. The relation 'is spanned by the same predicates as' divides the language’s (...) universe of discourse into equivalence classes. These are the types discriminated by the language. This paper criticizes an attempt by Peter Strawson to explain terms peculiar to type theory in terms of other notions not peculiar to type theory. (shrink)
P. F. Strawson's influential article "Freedom and Resentment" has been much commented on, and one of the most trenchant commentaries is Rajendra Prasad's, "Reactive Attitudes, Rationality, and Determinism." In his article, Prasad contests the significance of the reactive attitude over a precise theory of determinism, concluding that Strawson's argument is ultimately unconvincing. In this article, I evaluate Prasad's challenges to Strawson by summarizing and categorizing all of the relevant arguments in both Strawson's and Prasad's pieces. -/- Strawson offers four types (...) of arguments to demonstrate that determinism and free agency cannot be incompatible, showing that the reactive attitude is natural and desirable and the objective attitude is not natural, not desirable, not sustainable, and not compatible with the reactive attitude. Prasad targets Strawson's incompatibilist arguments, showing that determinism and free agency are incompatible. Of Prasad's seven types of arguments, four target Strawson's four above. Three of these succeed and one fails. The remaining three target Strawson's support of the reactive attitude, and of these, one succeeds, and the others fail. Although Prasad's arguments miss the mark at times, he does succeed in putting forth a legitimate challenge to Strawson's notion that determinism is no inhibitor of the reactive attitude. (shrink)
Almost everyone allows that conditions can obtain that exempt agents from moral responsibility—that someone is not a morally responsible agent if certain conditions obtain. In his seminal Freedom and Resentment, Peter Strawson denies that the truth of determinism globally exempts agents from moral responsibility. As has been noted elsewhere, Strawson appears committed to the surprising thesis that being an evil person is an exempting condition. Less often noted is the fact that various Strawsonians—philosophers sympathetic with Strawson’s account of moral (...) responsibility—at least appear to have difficulty incorporating evil persons into their accounts of moral responsibility. In what follows, I argue that Strawson is not committed to supposing that being evil is an exempting condition—at least, that he can allow that evil persons are morally responsible agents. (shrink)
Quine claims that holism (i.e., the Quine-Duhem thesis) prevents us from defining synonymy and analyticity (section 2). In Word and Object, he dismisses a notion of synonymy which works well even if holism is true. The notion goes back to a proposal from Grice and Strawson and runs thus: R and S are synonymous iff for all sentences T we have that the logical conjunction of R and T is stimulus-synonymous to that of S and T. Whereas Grice and Strawson (...) did not attempt to defend this definition, I try to show that it indeed gives us a satisfactory account of synonymy. Contrary to Quine, the notion is tighter than stimulus-synonymy – particularly when applied to sentences with less than critical semantic mass (section 3). Now according to Quine, analyticity could be defined in terms of synonymy, if synonymy were to make sense: A sentence is analytic iff synonymous to self-conditionals. This leads us to the following notion of analyticity: S is analytic iff, for all sentences T, the logical conjunction of S and T is stimulus-synonymous to T; an analytic sentence does not change the semantic mass of any theory to which it may be conjoined (section 4). This notion is tighter than Quine's stimulus-analyticity; unlike stimulus-analyticity, it does not apply to those sentences from the very center of our theories which can be assented to come what may, even though they are not synthetic in the intuitive sense (section 5). Conclusion: We can have well-defined notions of synonymy and analyticity even if we embrace Quine's holism, naturalism, behaviorism, and radical translation. Quine's meaning skepticism is to be repudiated on Quinean grounds. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with Sir Peter Strawson’s critical discussion of Paul Grice’s defence of the material implication analysis of conditionals. It argues that although Strawson’s own ‘consequentialist’ suggestion concerning the meaning of conditionals cannot be correct, a related and radically contextualist account is able to both account for the phenomena that motivated Strawson’s consequentialism, and to undermine the material implication analysis by providing a simpler account of the processes that we go through when interpreting conditionals.
Over a period of more than twenty years, Sybil Wolfram gave lectures at Oxford University on Philosophical Logic, a major component of most of the undergraduate degree programmes. She herself had been introduced to the subject by Peter Strawson, and saw herself as working very much within the Strawsonian tradition. Central to this tradition, which began with Strawson's seminal attack on Russell's theory of descriptions in ‘On Referring' (1950), is the distinction between a sentence and what is said by (...) a sentence − Strawson initially called the latter a use of a sentence, and sometimes a proposition , but his most frequent term for what is said , which Wolfram consistently adopts, is the statement expressed.1 The force of the distinction is clearly illustrated in ‘On Referring', which uses it to undermine the common assumption that any sentence must be either true, or false, or meaningless. Russell had argued on this basis that a sentence such as ‘The King of France is bald' (which is clearly neither true nor meaningless) must be false, but Strawson points out that if we distinguish between the sentence itself and the statement that it expresses (on some occasion of use), we can quite easily combine the admission that the sentence is meaningful − for it can in appropriate circumstances be used to express true and false statements − with the claim that nevertheless if the circumstances are ‘inappropriate' (in particular, when there is no current King of France), the sentence can fail to express a statement that is either true or false. On this picture, therefore, it is sentences that are meaningful, but statements that are the primary bearers of truth. (shrink)
This paper highlights and discusses some key positions on free will and moral responsibility that I have defended. I begin with reflections on a Strawsonian analysis of moral responsibility. Then I take up objections to the view that there is an asymmetry in freedom requirements for moral responsibility and moral obligation: obligation but not responsibility requires that we could have done otherwise. I follow with some thoughts on the viability of different sorts of semi-compatibilism. Next, I turn to defending the (...) “luck objection“ to a popular libertarian account of the control that responsibility requires. This is, roughly, the objection that when our decisions are indeterministically caused, their occurrence is a matter of responsibility-undermining luck. Finally, I comment on Frankfurt examples. (shrink)
This critical editorial introduction summarizes and explicates Frederick Will’s pragmatic realism and his account of the nature, assessment, and revision of cognitive and practical norms in connection with: the development of Will’s pragmatic realism, Hume’s problem of induction, the oscillations between foundationalism and coherentism, the nature of philosophical reflection, Kant’s ‘Refutation of Idealism’, the open texture of empirical concepts, the correspondence conception of truth, Putnam’s ‘internal realism’, the redundancy theory of truth, sociology of knowledge, the governance of practice by (...) norms and the assessment and revision of norms in practice, scientific realism, the alleged independence of reason and tradition, rule-following, legal realism, ethical intuitionism and moral relativism, the regress problem (both in epistemology and in moral theory), the paradox of analysis, and culminating in Will’s account of the philosophical governance of norms. These issues are discussed in close consideration of the views of: William Alston, John Dewey, Descartes, Leibniz, Waismann, Austin, Russell, Schlick, Ayer, Richard Rorty, Michael Williams, Hempel, Carnap, Simon Blackburn, Ramsey, Strawson, Kuhn, Wilfrid Sellars, Wittgenstein, Nozick, Dretske, Quine, Barbara Herman, Hardy Jones, Marcus Singer, and Gerd Buchdahl. (shrink)
I expressed agreement with Unger's view of the essential\nnature of personal identity, but dissented from what I took\nto be his view of the value we attach to its preservation;\nsaying, for example, that, in common, I think with many\nothers, I would prefer being replaced or succeeded' by a\nnumerically distinct continuator' with "qualitatively"\nidentical memories and mental and physical characteristics\nto surviving as the "numerically" identical person with\nsevere impairment of memory and abilities.
Kant is generally regarded as the greatest modern philosopher. But that analytic philosophers treat him as a central voice in contemporary debates is largely due to Sir Peter Strawson, the most eminent philosopher living in Britain today. In this collection, leading Kant scholars and analytic philosophers, including Strawson himself, for the first time assess his relation to Kant. The essays raise questions about how philosophy should deal with its past, what kind of insights it can achieve, and whether we (...) can have knowledge of an objective reality. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with Sir Peter Strawson's critical discussion of Paul Grice's defence of the material implication analysis of conditionals. It argues that although Strawson's own ‘consequentialist' suggestion concerning the meaning of conditionals cannot be correct, a related and radically contextualist account is able to both account for the phenomena that motivated Strawson's consequentialism, and to undermine the material implication analysis by providing a simpler account of the processes that we go through when interpreting conditionals. South African Journal (...) of Philosophy Vol. 27 (3) 2008: pp. 202-213. (shrink)
Sir Peter Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’ was a landmark in the philosophical understanding of the free will problem. Building upon it, I attempt to defend a novel position, which purports to provide, in outline, the next step forward. The position presented is based on the descriptively central and normatively crucial role of illusion in the issue of free will. Illusion, I claim, is the vital but neglected key to the free will problem. The proposed position, which may be called (...) ‘Illusionism’, is shown to follow both from the strengths and from the weaknesses of Strawson’s position. (shrink)
We are planning agents and we are, or so we suppose, responsible agents. How are these two distinctive aspects of our agency related? In his "Freedom and Resentment" Peter Strawson understands responsible agency in terms of "reactive attitudes" like resentment and gratitude, attitudes which are normally embedded in "ordinary inter-personal relationships." I draw on Strawson''s account to sketch an answer to my question about responsibility and planning. First, the fact that an action is plan-embedded can influence the agent''s degree (...) of culpability for that action; for such embeddings can constitute or indicate important facts about the quality of the agent''s will. Second, general planning incapacities can to some extent exempt an agent from normal judgments of responsibility. My argument for this second claim appeals to the normal roles of planning in "ordinary inter-personal relationships.". (shrink)
Conceptual analysis, like any exclusively theoretical activity, is far from overrated in current psychology. Such a situation can be related both to the contingent influences of contextual and historical character and to the more essential metatheoretical reasons. After a short discussion of the latter it is argued that even within a strictly empirical psychology there are non-trivial tasks that can be attached to well-defined and methodologically reliable, conceptual work. This kind of method, inspired by the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein, (...) class='Hi'>Peter Strawson (conceptual grammar), and Gilbert Ryle (conceptual geography), is proposed and formally depicted as being holistic, descriptive, and connective. Finally, the newly presented framework of connective conceptual analysis is defended against the “Charge from Psychology,” in a version developed by William Ramsey, claiming that conceptual analysis is based on psychological assumptions that have already been refuted by empirical psychology. (shrink)
The semantic rules governing natural language quantifiers (e.g. "all," "some," "most") neither coincide with nor resemble the semantic rules governing the analogues of those expressions that occur in the artificial languages used by semanticists. Some semanticists, e.g. Peter Strawson, have put forth data-consistent hypotheses as to the identities of the semantic rules governing some natural-language quantifiers. But, despite their obvious merits, those hypotheses have been universally rejected. In this paper, it is shown that those hypotheses are indeed correct. Moreover, (...) data-consistent hypotheses are put forth as to the identities of the semantic rules governing the words "most" and "many," the semantic rules governing which semanticists have thus far been unable to identify. The points made in this paper are anticipated in a paper, published in the same issue of the Journal of Pragmatics, by Andrzej Boguslawski. (shrink)
In recent defenses of moral responsibility skepticism, which is the view that no human agents are morally responsible for their actions or character, a number of theorists have argued against Peter Strawson’s (and others’) claim that “the sort of love which two adults can sometimes be said to feel reciprocally, for each other” would be undermined if we were not morally responsible agents. Among them, Derk Pereboom (Living without free will. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, Ideas y Valores 141:5–25, (...) 2009) and Tamler Sommers (Philos Q 57(28):321–342, 2007, Relative justice: cultural diversity, free will, and moral responsibility. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2012) most forcefully argue against this conception of love. However, in this paper, I plan to defend the claim that there is an essential connection between love and moral responsibility, a thesis I will call love internalism. To begin, I will specify the content and scope of love internalism, and consider ways in which other theorists have attempted to motivate it. I will then consider the various arguments that Pereboom and Sommers advance against love internalism. These arguments, it seems to me, offer us powerful reasons to reject several of the ways in which philosophers have tried to connect moral responsibility to love. Consequently, in light of these criticisms, I will further precisify the content of love internalism. And as we will see, love internalism (as I argue for it) is immune to Pereboom’s and Sommers’ criticisms. Moreover, when its content is sufficiently clarified, love internalism can serve as a plausible premise in an anti-skeptical argument. I thus conclude by arguing that this suitably reformulated statement of love internalism offers a significant challenge to moral responsibility skepticism of the sort Pereboom and Sommers endorse. (shrink)
Peter Strawson defends the thesis that determinism is irrelevant to the justifiability of responsibility-attributions. In this paper, I want to examine various arguments advanced by Strawson in support of this thesis. These arguments all draw on the thought that the practice of responsibility is inescapable. My main focus is not so much the metaphysical details of Strawsonian compatibilism, but rather the more fundamental idea that x being inescapable may be reason for us to regard x as justified. I divide (...) Strawsonian inescapability arguments into two basic types. According to arguments of the first type we cannot give up the practice. According to arguments of the second type we should not give up the practice. My reasons for revisiting these Strawsonian inescapability arguments are, first, to establish that these are different and to some extent conflicting arguments. Second, I hope to show that none of Strawson’s inescapability arguments are convincing. Third, I discuss the possibility that the practice of responsibility is inescapable in a different, more pessimistic sense than envisaged by Strawson. What may be inescapable under conceivable scenarios is the conflict of theoretical and practical considerations in the justification of the practice. (shrink)
This volume presents twenty-two uncollected philosophical essays by Sir Peter Strawson, one of the leading philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. The essays (two of them previously unpublished) are drawn from seven decades of work, from 1949 to 2003. They span the broad range of Strawson's work: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, ethical theory, and history of philosophy, along with metaphilosophical reflections and intellectual autobiography.
The doyen of living English philosophers, by these reflections, took hold of and changed the outlook of a good many other philosophers, if not quite enough. He did so, essentially, by assuming that talk of freedom and responsibility is talk not of facts or truths, in a certain sense, but of our attitudes. His more explicit concern was to look again at the question of whether determinism and freedom are consistent with one another -- by shifting attention to certain personal (...) rather than moral attitudes, first of all gratitude and resentment. In the end, he arrived at a kind of Compatibilist or, as he says, Optimist conclusion. That is no doubt a recommendation but not the largest recommendation of this splendidly rich piece of philosophy. (shrink)
I criticize an increasingly popular set of arguments for the justifiability of punishment. Some philosophers try to justify punishment by appealing to what Peter Strawson calls the reactive attitudes – emotions like resentment, indignation, remorse and guilt. These arguments fail. The view that these emotions commit us to punishment rests on unsophisticated views of punishment and of these emotions and their associated behaviors. I offer more sophisticated accounts of punishment, of these emotions and of their associated behaviors that are (...) consistent with Abolitionism, the view that punishment is unjustified. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to derive a perfectly general criterion of identity through time from Locke’s Principle, which says that two things of the same kind cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In this way, the paper pursues a suggestion made by Peter F. Strawson almost thirty years ago in an article called ‘Entity and Identity’. The reason why the potential of this suggestion has so far remained unrealized is twofold: firstly, the suggestion was (...) never properly developed by Strawson, and secondly, it seemed vulnerable to an objection that he himself raised against it. Consequently, the paper’s aim is to further develop Strawson’s suggestion, and to show that the result is not vulnerable to the objection that seemed fatal to its underdeveloped predecessor. In addition, the paper aims to defend Locke’s Principle against alleged counterexamples such as those produced by Leibniz, Fine and Hughes. (shrink)
b>: The problem of how physical systems, such as brains, come to represent themselves as subjects in an objective world is addressed. I develop an account of the requirements for this ability that draws on and refines work in a philosophical tradition that runs from Kant through Peter Strawson to Gareth Evans. The basic idea is that the ability to represent oneself as a subject in a world whose existence is independent of oneself involves the ability to represent space, (...) and in particular, to represent oneself as one object among others in an objective spatial realm. In parallel, I provide an account of how this ability, and the mechanisms that support it, are realized neurobiologically. This aspect of the article draws on, and refines, work done in the neurobiology and psychology of egocentric and allocentric spatial representation. (shrink)