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Walter Ott [21]Walter R. Ott [6]
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Profile: Walter Ott (University of Virginia)
  1. Walter Ott (2014). Malebranche and the Riddle of Sensation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):689-712.
    Like their contemporary counterparts, early modern philosophers find themselves in a predicament. On one hand, there are strong reasons to deny that sensations are representations. For there seems to be nothing in the world for them to represent. On the other hand, some sensory representations seem to be required for us to experience bodies. How else could one perceive the boundaries of a body, except by means of different shadings of color? I argue that Nicolas Malebranche offers an extreme -- (...)
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  2. Walter Ott (2012). Are There Duties to the Dead? Philosophy Now 89:14-16.
    Of course not. In this short paper, I offer a series of arguments against Pitcher and Feinberg and reply to the best objection to the view I defend.
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  3. Walter Ott (2012). What is Locke's Theory of Representation? British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (6):1077-1095.
    On a currently popular reading of Locke, an idea represents its cause, or what God intended to be its cause. Against Martha Bolton and my former self (among others), I argue that Locke cannot hold such a view, since it sins against his epistemology and theory of abstraction. I argue that Locke is committed to a resemblance theory of representation, with the result that ideas of secondary qualities are not representations.
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  4. Walter Ott (2010). Locke's Exclusion Argument. History of Philosophy Quarterly 27 (2):181-196.
    In this paper, I argue that Locke is not in fact agnostic about the ultimate nature of the mind. In particular, he produces an argument, much like Jaegwon Kim's exclusion argument, to show that any materialist view that takes mental states to supervene on physical states is committed to epiphenomenalism. This result helps illuminate Locke's otherwise puzzling notion of 'superaddition.'.
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  5. Walter Ott (2009). Remarks on McCormick's Comments. Philosophia 37 (3):475-476.
    This is my reply to Miriam McCormick’s comments on my paper, ‘What Can Causal Claims Mean?’, delivered at the Meaning and Modern Empiricism conference.
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  6. Walter Ott (2009). Teaching & Learning Guide For: Locke on Language. Philosophy Compass 4 (5):877-879.
    Although a fascination with language is a familiar feature of 20th-century empiricism, its origins reach back at least to the early modern period empiricists. John Locke offers a detailed (if sometimes puzzling) treatment of language and uses it to illuminate key regions of the philosophical topography, particularly natural kinds and essences. Locke's main conceptual tool for dealing with language is 'signification'. Locke's central linguistic thesis is this: words signify nothing but ideas. This on its face seems absurd. Don't we need (...)
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  7. Walter Ott (2009). What Can Causal Claims Mean? Philosophia 37 (3):459-470.
    How can Hume account for the meaning of causal claims? The causal realist, I argue, is, on Hume's view, saying something nonsensical. I argue that both realist and agnostic interpretations of Hume are inconsistent with his view of language and intentionality. But what then accounts for this illusion of meaning? And even when we use causal terms in accordance with Hume’s definitions, we seem merely to be making disguised self-reports. I argue that Hume’s view is not as implausible as it (...)
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  8. Walter R. Ott (2009). Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    Arguing for controversial readings of many of the canonical figures, the book also focuses on lesser-known writers such as Pierre-Sylvain Regis, Nicolas ...
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  9. Walter Ott (2008). Causation, Intentionality, and the Case for Occasionalism. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 90 (2):165-187.
    Despite their influence on later philosophers such as Hume, Malebranche's central arguments for occasionalism remain deeply puzzling. Both the famous ‘no necessary connection’ argument and what I call the epistemic argument include assumptions – e.g., that a true cause is logically necessarily connected to its effect – that seem unmotivated, even in their context. I argue that a proper understanding of late scholastic views lets us see why Malebranche would make this assumption. Both arguments turn on the claim that a (...)
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  10. Walter Ott (2008). Locke on Language. Philosophy Compass 3 (2):291–300.
  11. Walter Ott (2008). Régis's Scholastic Mechanism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):2-14.
    Unlike many of Descartes’s other followers, Pierre-Sylvain Re´gis resists the temptations of occasionalism. By marrying the ontology of mechanism with the causal structure of concurrentism, Re´gis arrives at a novel view that both acknowledges God’s role in natural events and preserves the causal powers of bodies. I set out Re´gis’s position, focusing on his arguments against occasionalism and his responses to Malebranche’s ‘no necessary connection’ and divine concursus arguments.
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  12. Walter Ott (2007). Review of Hannah Dawson, Locke, Language and Early-Modern Philosophy. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2007 (11).
  13. Walter Ott (2006). Aristotle and Plato on Character. Ancient Philosophy 26 (1):65-79.
  14. Walter Ott (2006). Descartes and Berkeley on Mind: The Fourth Distinction. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (3):437 – 450.
    The popular Cartesian reading of George Berkeley's philosophy of mind mischaracterizes his views on the relations between substance and essence and between an idea and the act of thought in which it figures. I argue that Berkeley rejects Descartes's tripartite taxonomy of distinctions and makes use of a fourth kind of distinction. In addition to illuminating Berkeley's ontology of mind, this fourth distinction allows us to dissolve an important dilemma raised by Kenneth Winkler.
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  15. Walter Ott (2006). Hume on Meaning. Hume Studies 32 (2):233-252.
    Hume’s views on language have been widely misunderstood. Typical discussions cast Hume as either a linguistic idealist who holds that words refer to ideas or a proto-verificationist. I argue that both readings are wide of the mark and develop my own positive account. Humean signification emerges as a relation whereby a word can both indicate ideas in the mind of the speaker and cause us to have those ideas. If I am right, Hume offers a consistent view on meaning that (...)
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  16. Walter Ott (2005). Consciousness and its Objects. Review of Metaphysics 59 (1):186-188.
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  17. Walter Ott (2005). Locke on Essence and Identity. Review of Metaphysics 58 (3):654-656.
  18. Marc Hight & Walter Ott (2004). The New Berkeley. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (1):1 - 24.
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  19. Walter Ott (2004). Review of “Meaning, Knowledge and Reality”. [REVIEW] Essays in Philosophy 5 (1):30.
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  20. Walter R. Ott (2004). The Cartesian Context of Berkeley's Attack on Abstraction. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85 (4):407–424.
    I claim that Berkeley's main argument against abstraction comes into focus only when we see Descartes as one of its targets. Berkeley does not deploy Winkler's impossibility argument but instead argues that what is impossible is inconceivable. Since Descartes conceives of extension as a determinable, and since determinables cannot exist as such, he falls within the scope of Berkeley's argument.
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  21. Walter R. Ott (2003). Locke's Philosophy of Language. Cambridge University Press.
    This book examines John Locke's claims about the nature and workings of language. Walter Ott proposes a new interpretation of Locke's thesis that words signify ideas in the mind of the speaker, and argues that rather than employing such notions as sense or reference, Locke relies on an ancient tradition that understands signification as reliable indication. He then uses this interpretation to explain crucial areas of Locke's metaphysics and epistemology, including essence, abstraction, knowledge, and mental representation. His discussion, which is (...)
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  22. Walter Ott (2002). Propositional Attitudes in Modern Philosophy. Dialogue 41 (03):551-.
    Philosophers of the modern period are often presented as having made an elementary error: that of confounding the atttitude one adopts toward a proposition with its content. By examining the works of Locke and the Port-Royalians, I show that this accusation is ill-founded and that Locke, in particular, has the resources to construct a theory of propositional attitudes.
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  23. Walter R. Ott (2002). Locke and Signification. Journal of Philosophical Research 27:449-473.
    This paper addresses the following questions: (a) what did Locke mean when he said that ‘words signify ideas’? and (b) what is Locke’s argument for this thesis, and how successful is it? The paper argues that the two most prominent interpretations, those of Norman Kretzmann and E. J. Ashworth, attribute to Locke an argument for his semantic thesis that is fallacious, and that neither can make good sense of two key passages in book 3 of the Essay concerning Human Understanding. (...)
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  24. Walter R. Ott (2001). The Reasonableness of Christianity (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 39 (2):296-297.
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  25. Walter R. Ott (2000). A Troublesome Passage in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Iii 5. Ancient Philosophy 20 (1):99-107.
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  26. Walter Ott (1997). Locke and the Scholastics on Theological Discourse. Locke Studies 28 (1):51-66.
    On the face of it, Locke rejects the scholastics' main tool for making sense of talk of God, namely, analogy. Instead, Locke claims that we generate an idea of God by 'enlarging' our ideas of some attributes (such as knowledge) with the idea of infinity. Through an analysis of Locke's idea of infinity, I argue that he is in fact not so distant from the scholastics and in particular must rely on analogy of inequality.
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  27. Walter Ott (1986). Die Equity-Theorie aus der Sicht des Juristen. Rechtstheorie 17 (3):359-380.
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