It is possible to tease out two questions in connection with the epistemological problem of other minds: (i) How do I know what others think and feel? and (ii) How do I know that others think and feel? Fred Dretske offers a perceptual account of our knowledge of other minds that yields an answer to (i) but not (ii). Quassim Cassam uses Dretske’s perceptual account to show how we can answer both (i) and (ii). In this paper I show how (...) we can use Dretske’s work to understand some work by Stanley Cavell. I suggest that, where Dretske claims that we cannot answer (ii), Cavell holds that (ii) is a question that reflects a misunderstanding of our relations to others. In the place of asking how I can know that others think and feel, Cavell holds that I must acknowledge the other. And at the heart of this acknowledgment is an acceptance of others as separate from me. I must acknowledge the other as an other to me. (shrink)
It is sometimes claimed that each of us has a special ‘first-person perspective’ on our own mind. It is also sometimes claimed that each of us confronts questions about what to do from a distinctively ‘agent-centred’ standpoint. This essay argues that the analogies between these claims are not just superficial, but point to the importance, in both cases, of a representational structure that sets ‘first-person’ awareness apart from external or ‘third-person’ awareness. I describe this structure and show its importance in (...) clarifying some well-known claims about the importance of the agent’s standpoint in ethics. (shrink)
In A Confection of Refutation (Khaṇḍanakhaṇḍakhādya), the twelfth-century philosopher and poet Śrīharṣa addresses a version of Meno’s paradox. This version of the paradox was well known in first millennium South Asia through the writings of two earlier Sanskrit philosophers, Śabarasvāmin (4th–5th century ce) and Śaṃkara (8th century ce). Both these thinkers proposed a solution to the paradox. I show how Śrīharṣa rejects this solution, and splits the old paradox into two new ones: the paradox of triviality and the paradox of (...) incoherence. I argue that these paradoxes are connected to Śrīharṣa’s broader pessimism about the possibility of successful rational inquiry into certain philosophical questions. (shrink)
One of Octavia Butler’s common sites of exploration concerns the impact of parenting on her main characters. She appeared to locate reproduction and child-rearing as parts of human life with great potentials for transformed futures. From a perspective of intergenerational survival, that hope appears perfectly reasonable. In this letter to Butler, I put the goal of intergenerational survival into question as an existential mandate by querying its relationship to gestative capture. Gestative capture here refers to the ready capacity to reduce (...) an existent to immanence via their abilities to gestate ‘human’ or ‘human-like’ progeny. The conversation this letter stages with Butler and her work, which is only possible because of how clearly Butler understood gestative capture and how much she built it into her stories, asks the questions: What is ‘transcendence’ for Black women who can bear children? How ought we to imagine intergenerational survival? And when, if ever, should we put down ‘survival at all costs’ commitments? (shrink)
In what follows, I attempt to reconstruct Fichte’s and Hegel’s reasons for developing at almost the same time two very different conceptions of a rational economic order. Whereas Hegel, on the basis of his objective notion of reason, would recommend that a rational state, founded on the notion of right, should include a strictly confined, socially embedded market economy, Fichte, on the basis of his subjective notion of reason, thought instead that the very same state must adopt an economic order (...) that might well be described as a ‘planned economy’. Throughout the article I discuss whether it is the stark differences in their methodological premisses or their very different ideas about the individual freedom to be institutionalized in the economic sphere that helps us understand their respective notions of a rational economy. (shrink)
In the Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason Kant raises a famous question: how is metaphysics possible as a science? Kant posed this question for his predecessors in early modern philosophy. I raise this question anew for the resurgence of metaphysics within analytic philosophy. I begin by dividing the question of the possibility of metaphysics into separate questions about its semantic and epistemic possibility, and translate them into contemporary terms as: (1) Why do terms in metaphysical theories refer? (2) (...) How do we have knowledge in metaphysics? I then argue that the inflationary conception of metaphysics cannot explain the semantic possibility of metaphysics and, consequently, cannot explain its epistemic possibility. I then argue, more briefly, that a deflationary conception cannot satisfactorily answer the Kantian questions either. The critical path alone remains open. (shrink)
Many pressing problems are of the following kind: some collection of actions of multiple people will produce some morally significant outcome (good or bad), but each individual action in the collection seems to make no difference to the outcome. These problems pose theoretical problems (especially for act-consequentialism), and practical problems for agents trying to figure out what they ought to do. Much recent literature on such problems has focused on whether it is possible for each action in such a collection (...) to make such a tiny impact on the world that it makes no expected difference to the outcomes with which we’re concerned. I argue that even if this is impossible, there are cases in which each action makes no difference, not because it has such a tiny effect on the world, but because if it were not performed, a similar action would be. This recognition allows us to connect these problems with discussions of structural injustice. (shrink)
Donald Davidson (1979) holds that quoting is a matter of referring demonstratively. In ‘The Wonder of Signs’, Adrian Haddock (2021) advances an original and challenging argument against this account of quotation. In this paper, I seek to defend Davidson’s account against Haddock’s argument, with an eye to shedding some light on a more fundamental disagreement Haddock has with Davidson.
According to the Polluter Pays Principle, excessive emitters of greenhouse gases have special obligations to remedy the problem of climate change, because they are the ones who have caused it. But what kind of problem is climate change? In this paper I argue that as a moral problem, climate change has a more complex causal structure than many proponents of the Polluter Pays Principle seem to recognize: it is a problem resulting from the interaction of anthropogenic climate effects with the (...) underlying vulnerability and exposure of human communities and other things of value. This means that we should acknowledge more pathways by which human agency contributes to the climate problem and, accordingly, a different landscape of contribution-based remedial responsibilities. (shrink)
Quine maintained that philosophical and scientific theorizing should be conducted in an untyped language, which has just one style of variables and quantifiers. By contrast, typed languages, such as those advocated by Frege and Russell, include multiple styles of variables and matching kinds of quantification. Which form should our theories take? In this article, I argue that expressivity does not favour typed languages over untyped ones.
How can the harm caused by waves of fake news or derogatory speech on social media be minimized without unduly limiting freedom of expression? I draw on an eighteenth-century debate for thinking about this problem: Hume and Smith present two different models of the transmission of emotions and ideas. Empathetic processes are causal, almost automatic processes; sympathy, in contrast, means putting oneself into the other person’s position and critically evaluating how one should react. I use this distinction to argue that (...) the architectural logic of social media should be improved to prevent cumulative harms and to facilitate sympathetic processes. (shrink)
The neglected Platonic dialogue Euthydemus is peculiar in many ways. It is, apparently, an extensive catalogue of bad arguments by disgraceful sophists; but its complex composition suggests that this focuses attention on the shape and nature of argument—attention that some think Plato is incapable of giving. He uses the idiom of games, and of seriousness and play, to provoke reflection on logical and syntactic structure and their normative features; but to see how he does so we need to consider the (...) complex background of the fiction of a Platonic dialogue, and its use of surprise and humour. Comparison with the bbc Radio 4 game ‘Mornington Crescent’ might help. (shrink)
Are there ever good epistemic reasons to neglect base rates? Assuming an empiricist modal epistemology, I argue that we face an interesting tension between some very plausible epistemic norms: a norm requiring us to proportion our beliefs to the evidence may facilitate knowledge of the actual world, whilst inhibiting our acquisition of modal knowledge—knowledge of how things could be, but are not. The potential for this tension in our epistemic norms is a significant result in its own right. It can (...) also rationalize certain forms of demographic base-rate neglect. (shrink)
Crito thinks Socrates should agree to leave the prison and escape from Athens. Socrates is also determined that he and Crito should have a ‘common plan of action’ (koinē boulē: 49d3), but he wants Crito to share his preferred plan of remaining and submitting to the court’s sentence. Much of the drama of the Crito is generated by the interplay of these two old friends, both determined that they should come to an agreement, but differing radically in what they think (...) the two of them should agree to do. I show how agreements of various kinds—including agreements about how to agree—play important roles in the dialogue and how Socrates’ commitment to a certain method for determining what to do underpins his own integrity. What’s more, attention to that theme helps to explain one of the most pressing questions for any interpretation of the Crito: Why does Socrates choose, at the end of the dialogue, to present to Crito a speech in the voice of the personified laws of Athens? (shrink)
Graduate Papers from the 2022 Joint Session. It is often said that Aristotle takes geometrical objects to be absolutely unmovable and unchangeable. However, Greek geometrical practice does appeal to motion and change, and geometers seem to consider their objects apt to be manipulated. In this paper, I examine if and how Aristotle’s philosophy of geometry can account for the geometers’ practices and way of talking. First, I illustrate three different ways in which Greek geometry appeals to change. Second, I examine (...) Aristotle’s ontology of geometrical objects and argue that although the truth-makers of geometrical statements are in fact unmovable because they are properties of sensible objects, geometers ‘separate them in thought’ and treat them as substances apt to be modified. Finally, I examine whether allowing for the possibility of manipulating these semi-fictional geometrical individuals creates problems for the applicability of geometry. I find that it does not, insofar as one accepts that geometry is not meant to track physical change but merely to study the instantaneous geometrical configuration of sensible bodies, and is thus only applicable at the instant. (shrink)