Einstein's theories of special and general relativity are unanimously praised by scientists for their extraordinary beauty to the extent that some consider the latter to be the most beautiful theory in physics. The grounds for these assertions are assessed here and it is concluded that the beauty of Einstein's theories can be attributed to two of their aspects. The first is that they incorporate all possible ingredients that constitute the beauty of theories: simplicity, symmetry, invariance, unification, etc. The second concerns (...) the perfect logical consistency of Einstein's theories, a crucial factor in the unanimous praise of their beauty. Theories other than Einstein's are also assessed here, namely, electromagnetism and the various quantum theories, and it is concluded that all these suffer from logical flaws. This has resulted in a lack of consensus among scientists with respect to their beauty. Consequently, the unanimous claim that Einstein's theories are of superior beauty as compared to other theories in physics is hereby substantiated. (shrink)
The theoretical physicist Paul Dirac rejected, explicitly on aesthetic grounds, a successful theory known as quantum electrodynamics (QED), which is the prototype for the family of theories known as quantum field theories (QFTs). Remarkably, the theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, also largely on aesthetic grounds, supports QED and other QFTs. In order to evaluate these opposing aesthetic views a short introduction to the physical properties of QFTs is presented together with a detailed analysis of the aesthetic claims of Dirac and Weinberg. (...) It turns out that Dirac rejected QED, without regard to its success, because this theory fails to yield to what he perceived as beautiful mathematics, whereas Weinberg's support of QFTs is founded primarily on the physical concepts of the theories. In particular, he relies on symmetries that are the basis for the construction of the extremely successful current fundamental theories of particles physics. This success was decisive in leading to Weinberg's conviction of the beauty of QFTs. As a result of the evaluation of these approaches, the factors causing scientists to perceive a theory as being a fundamentally beautiful theory are discussed in detail. (shrink)
This article deals with the question whether aesthetic considerations affected Einstein in formulating both his theories of relativity. The opinions of philosophers and historians alike are divided on this matter. Thus, Gerald Holton supports the view that Einstein employed aesthetic considerations in formulating his theory of special relativity whereas Jim Shelton opposes it, one of his reasons being that Einstein did not mention such considerations. The other theory, namely, that of general relativity, is discussed by John D. Norton. He asserts (...) that the successful completion of this theory was due to Einstein's adherence to mathematical simplicity resulting from experience, as Einstein himself stated, and not from an aesthetic drive, to which he did not refer. The present work attempts to overcome this deficiency indirectly by investigating Einstein's aesthetic awareness and its consequences for his work. It is found that this awareness was imbedded in his perception of nature and is linked to the criteria (such as simplicity) that guided him in formulating his theories. The conclusion thus reached is that aesthetic considerations did play a role in Einstein's endeavour, contrary to the assertions of Shelton and Norton. (shrink)
The paper examines the conditions under which we are responsible for actions performed under duress, focusing on a real case in which a soldier was compelled at gunpoint to participate in the massacre of civilian prisoners. The case stands for a class of cases in which the compelled act is neither clearly justified nor clearly excused on grounds of temporary incapacity, but in which it is nonetheless plausible that the agent is not morally blameworthy. The theoretical challenge is to identify (...) the excuse in such cases and to explain its basis. The paper argues that when mortal duress excuses in cases of this sort, it does so because the compelled act, though impermissible and freely chosen, nonetheless fails to manifest ‘an insufficiently good will’. The argument depends on a potentially controversial thesis in the ethics of concern, namely, that a thoroughly decent moral agent—someone who cares enough about morality and the values that underlie it—will not always be moved to do what he knows he ought to do. (shrink)
Gideon Yaffe presents a theory of criminal responsibility according to which child criminals deserve leniency not because of their psychological, behavioural, or neural immaturity but because they are denied the vote. He argues that full shares of criminal punishment are deserved only by those who have a full share of say over the law.
Gideon Yaffe presents a ground-breaking work which demonstrates the importance of philosophy of action for the law. Many people are serving sentences not for completing crimes, but for trying to. Yaffe's clear account of what it is to try to do something promises to resolve the difficulties courts face in the adjudication of attempted crimes.
When a person acts from ignorance, he is culpable for his action only if he is culpable for the ignorance from which he acts. The paper defends the view that this principle holds, not just for actions done from ordinary factual ignorance, but also for actions done from moral ignorance. The question is raised whether the principle extends to action done from ignorance about what one has most reason to do. It is tentatively proposed that the principle holds in full (...) generality. (shrink)
Region R Question: How many objects — entities, things — are contained in R? Ignore the empty space. Our question might better be put, 'How many material objects does R contain?' Let's stipulate that A, B and C are metaphysical atoms: absolutely simple entities with no parts whatsoever besides themselves. So you don't have to worry about counting a particle's top half and bottom half as different objects. Perhaps they are 'point-particles', with no length, width or breadth. Perhaps they are (...) extended in space without possessing spatial parts (if that is possible). Never mind. We stipulate that A, B and C are perfectly simple. We also stipulate that they are connected as follows. A and B are stuck together in such a way that when a force is applied to one of them, they move together 'as a unit'. Moreover, the two of them together exhibit behavior that neither would exhibit on its own — Perhaps they emit a certain sound, or glow in the dark — whereas C is.. (shrink)
It is widely supposed that every entity falls into one of twocategories: Some are concrete; the rest abstract. The distinction issupposed to be of fundamental significance for metaphysics andepistemology. This article surveys a number of recent attempts to sayhow it should be drawn.
Van Fraassen defines constructive empiricism as the view that science aims to produce empirically adequate theories. But this account has been misunderstood. Constructive empiricism in not, as it seems, a description of the intentional features of scientific practice, nor is it a normative prescription for their revision. It is rather a fiction about the practice of science that van Fraassen displays in the interests of a broader empiricism. The paper concludes with a series of arguments designed to show that constructive (...) empiricism so understood is self-undermining. (shrink)
1. Professor Brandom’s paper is addressed to a methodological question: When we set out to account for the intentionality of thought and language, what resources may we exploit? Which notions may we use? Brandom is a famously ambitious theorist. Unlike his colleague, John McDowell, Brandom has long maintained that we should at least aspire to explain intentionality in non-intentional terms. This leaves it open, however, which non-intentional resources are legitimate.
Fictionalism about possible worlds is the view that talk about worlds in the analysis of modality is to be construed as ontologically innocent discourse about the content of a fiction. Versions of the view have been defended by D M Armstrong (in "A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility") and by myself (in "Modal Fictionalism', "Mind" 99, July 1990). The present note argues that fictionalist accounts of modality (both Armstrong's version and my own) fail to serve the fictionalists ontological purposes because they (...) imply that as a matter of necessity there exist many worlds. (shrink)
Metaphysicians of Meaning is the first book to challenge the accepted understanding of Russell's On Denoting and Frege's On Sense and Reference . Makin compares the work Russell did shortly before his famous essay "On Denoting" with the essay itself and argues that this comparison shows that the traditional view of the problem Russell was trying to solve is untenable. He then examines Frege's classic essay and argues that some of the less well-known views that Frege held have radical implications (...) for our understanding of this essay. (shrink)
Manipulation by another person often undermines freedom. To explain this, a distinction is drawn between two forms of manipulation: indoctrination is defined as causing another person to respond to reasons in a pattern that serves the manipulator’s ends; coercion as supplying another person with reasons that, given the pattern in which he responds to reasons, lead him to act in ways that serve the manipulator’s ends. It is argued that both forms of manipulation undermine freedom because manipulators track the compliance (...) of their victims, while neutral causal mechanisms do not. Manipulators see to it that their victims comply even in the face of forces that threaten to derail them from the manipulator’s desired course. It is suggested that this has an impact on freedom because part of what we desire in wanting to be free is the availability of forms of life very different from those we actually enjoy. (shrink)
This chapter explores bridge-law non-naturalism: the view that when a particular thing possesses a moral property or stands in a moral relation, this fact is metaphysically grounded in non-normative features of the thing in question together with a general moral law. Any view of this sort faces two challenges, analogous to familiar challenges in the philosophy of science: to specify the form of the explanatory laws, and to say when a fact of that form qualifies as a law. The chapter (...) explores three strategies for answering these questions, all of which maintain that a moral law is a true generalization of the form [It is normatively necessary that whatever ϕs is F]. (shrink)
Manifest Activity presents and critically examines the model of human power, the will, our capacities for purposeful conduct, and the place of our agency in the natural world of one of the most important and traditionally under-appreciated philosophers of the 18th century: Thomas Reid. For Reid, contrary to the view of many of his predecessors, it is simply manifest that we are active with respect to our behaviours; it is manifest, he thinks, that our actions are not merely remote products (...) of forces that lie outside of our control. Reid holds, instead, that actions are all and only those events that spring from active power and he produces insightful and imaginative arguments for the claim that only a creature with a mind is capable of having active power. He believes that only human beings, and creatures 'above us', are capable of directing events towards ends, of endowing them with purpose or direction, the distinctive feature of action. However, he also holds that all events, and not merely human actions, are products of active power, power possessed either by human beings or by God. This collection of theses leads Reid to the view that human behaviour and the progress of nature are both essentially teleological. Patterns in nature are the products of laws of which God is the author; patterns in human conduct are the products of character and the laws that individuals set for themselves. Manifest Activity examines Reid's arguments for this view and the view's implications for the nature of character, motivation and the special kind of causation involved in the production of human behavior. (shrink)
According to one sort of epistemic relativist, normative epistemic claims (e.g., evidence E justifies hypothesis H) are never true or false simpliciter, but only relative to one or another epistemic system. In chapter 6 of Fear of Knowledge, Paul Boghossian objects to this view on the ground that its central notions cannot be explained, and that it cannot account for the normativity of epistemic discourse. This paper explores how the dogged relativist might respond.
Wallace does not provide an explicit account of moral fairness. Rather he gives substance the notion by articulating two concrete principles governing blame which are meant to be—and in some sense clearly are—demands of fairness.
Numbers and other mathematical objects are exceptional in having no locations in space or time or relations of cause and effect. This makes it difficult to account for the possibility of the knowledge of such objects, leading many philosophers to embrace nominalism, the doctrine that there are no such objects, and to embark on ambitious projects for interpreting mathematics so as to preserve the subject while eliminating its objects. This book cuts through a host of technicalities that have obscured previous (...) discussions of these projects, and presents clear, concise accounts of a dozen strategies for nominalistic interpretation of mathematics, thus equipping the reader to evaluate each and to compare different ones. The authors also offer critical discussion, rare in the literature, of the aims and claims of nominalistic interpretation, suggesting that it is significant in a very different way from that usually assumed. (shrink)
This paper considers the question of why the non-citizenship of offenders poses an obstacle to their criminal punishment. Several proposals are rejected, including Antony Duff’s proposal. It is proposed, instead, that governments are not authorized to punish any offender who cannot be attributed with the norm he violates. The government cannot attribute the norm that a non-citizen violates to him, if the non-citizen can raise in his favor the fact that he has no say over the law. Under certain circumstances, (...) such as when they are visiting, non-citizens cannot raise this point, and so can be attributed with the norms they violate. (shrink)
Under the “Willful Ignorance Principle,” a defendant is guilty of a crime requiring knowledge he lacks provided he is ignorant thanks to having earlier omitted inquiry. In this paper, I offer a novel justification of this principle through application of the theory that knowledge matters to culpability because of how the knowing action manifests the agent’s failure to grant sufficient weight to other people’s interests. I show that, under a simple formal model that supports this theory, omitting inquiry manifests precisely (...) the same degree of disregard of others’ interests as manifested in knowingly acting criminally. Several surprising implications of this view are described, including that when the agent’s method of inquiry has a non-zero false positive rate, his omission of inquiry does not make the same contribution to his culpability as knowledge, while it does, by contrast, when the false negative rate is non-zero. (shrink)
In Being Realistic About Reasons T. M. Scanlon argues that particular fact about reasons are explained by contingent non-normative facts together with pure normative principles. A question then arises about the modal status of these pure principles. Scanlon maintains that they are necessary in a sense, and suggests that they are ‘metaphysically’ necessary. I argue that the best view for Scanlon to take, given his other commitments, is that these pure normative principles are metaphysically contingent in some cases and necessary (...) only in a weaker sense. (shrink)