I consider two competing approaches to metasemantics: productivism, whereby endowment with semantic significance emerges directly from conditions surrounding the production or employment of the items semantically endowed; and interpretationism, whereby endowment with semantic significance emerges directly from conditions surrounding the interpretive consumption of such items. Focusing on the version of interpretationism developed by Lewis and his followers, I present a novel argument to the conclusion that such an approach cannot secure determinacy for singular reference. I then draw a larger moral (...) for metasemantics and its relation to truth-conditional semantics. (shrink)
Mark Schroeder has, rather famously, defended a powerful Humean Theory of Reasons. In doing so, he abandons what many take to be the default Humean view of weighting reasons—namely, proportionalism. On Schroeder’s view, the pressure that Humeans feel to adopt proportionalism is illusory, and proportionalism is unable to make sense of the fact that the weight of reasons is a normative matter. He thus offers his own ‘Recursive View’, which directly explains how it is that the weight of reasons is (...) a normative matter. In this paper, I argue against Schroeder that a Humean ought to be a proportionalist. On my view, proportionalism is clearly an intuitive theory of weighting for a Humean, so we should resist it only if Schroeder can demonstrate either that there is a serious problem with the view, or that there is a better alternative. I then further argue that Schroeder fails to deliver on either condition. As a result, I conclude that there are good intuitive reasons for a Humean to be a proportionalist, and no good reason not to be. (shrink)
The paper gives a detailed reconstruction and discussion of Peirce’s doctrine of propositions, so-called Dicisigns, developed in the years around 1900. The special features different from the logical mainstream are highlighted: the functional definition not dependent upon conscious stances nor human language, the semiotic characterization extending propositions and quasi-propositions to cover prelinguistic and prehuman occurrences of signs, the relations of Dicisigns to the conception of facts, of diagrammatical reasoning, of icons and indices, of meanings, of objects, of syntax in Peirce’s (...) logic-as-semiotics. (shrink)
An autobiographical account is offered of how the medical study of self (immunology) became a chapter in the philosophical study of human agency (from Nietzsche and Thoreau to Freud by way of Wittgenstein). Whether viewed scientifically or philosophically, several themes converge on the intractable instability of any notion of selfhood—epistemological or moral. How this problematic motivated an extended analysis of selfhood refracts the psychology of the author and his pursuit of philosophy as self‐knowledge.
When philosophers participate in the interdisciplinary ethical, environmental, economic, legal, and social analysis of nanotechnologies, what is their specific contribution? At first glance, the contribution of philosophy appears to be a clarification of the various moral and ethical arguments that are commonly presented in philosophical discussion. But if this is the only contribution of philosophy, then it can offer no more than a stalemate position, in which each moral and ethical argument nullifies all the others. To provide an alternative, we (...) must analyze the reasons behind the prevailing individual and cultural relativism in ethics. The epistemological investigation of this stalemate position will guide us to the core problem of the relation between theory and action . The stalemate can be overcome from a pragmatic philosophical standpoint, which combines epistemology, philosophy of language—that is, the philosophy of speech acts—and practical reasoning—that is, reasoning about decision-making . From this philosophical standpoint, it will be possible to show how philosophy can accompany and support the development of nanotechnologies. (shrink)
: Radical sceptical possibilities challenge the anti-realist view that truth consists in ideal rational acceptability. Putnam, as part of his defence of an anti-realist view, subjected the case of the brain in a vat to a semantic externalist treatment, which aimed to maintain the desired connection between truth and ideal rational acceptability. It is argued here that self-consciousness poses special problems for this externalist strategy. It is shown how, on a standard model of first-person reference, Putnam's brain in a vat (...) will be mistaken in its rational self-ascription of externalist predicates. The natural response, which employs an alternative model of first-person reference, is shown to have the equally realist consequence that there are enquiry-transcendent truths about the self. (shrink)
(2013). Is Ideological Coverage On Cable Television An Ethical Journalistic Practice? An Examination of Duty, Responsibility, and Consequence. Journal of Mass Media Ethics: Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 1-14. doi: 10.1080/08900523.2012.746533.
My aim in this paper is to characterize the professional good served by the humanities as various academic disciplines, particularly in relation to the general academic good, namely, the pursuit of knowledge in theoretical and scholarly research, and to evaluate the public and ethical dimension of that professional good and the constraints it imposes upon practitioners. My argument will be that the humanities aim at both knowledge of objective facts and acknowledgement of the human status of their subject matter, and (...) that there are facts about human life and society that are inaccessible except through such humanistic acknowledgement. As such, the humanities require the adoption of evaluative, other-oriented points of view, and they serve the public by advancing a reflective view of the very conditions of the public’s own constitution. In short, the humanities incorporate the view that practical and evaluative wisdom is not only essential for the full pursuit of truth, but that it is also an essential public good in any well-ordered society, especially in contemporary democracies. The discussion proceeds by examining various examples of both the professional and the public good in question, and focuses particularly on cases of excessive acknowledgement in the form of uncritical apologetics and excessive objectification in various forms of reductionism. (shrink)
One type of deflationism about metaphysical modality suggests that it can be analysed strictly in terms of linguistic or conceptual content and that there is nothing particularly metaphysical about modality. Scott Soames is explicitly opposed to this trend. However, a detailed study of Soames’s own account of modality reveals that it has striking similarities with the deflationary account. In this paper I will compare Soames’s account of a posteriori necessities concerning natural kinds with the deflationary one, specifically Alan Sidelle’s account, (...) and suggest that Soames’s account is vulnerable to the deflationist’s critique. Furthermore, I conjecture that both the deflationary account and Soames’s account fail to fully explicate the metaphysical content of a posteriori necessities. Although I will focus on Soames, my argument may have more general implications towards the prospects of providing a meaning-based account of metaphysical modality. (shrink)
As a response to what I see as the challenge posed by constructivist and narrative pedagogies, this paper seeks to sympathetically reconstruct Bernard Williams’ Absolute Conception from the scattered texts in which he briefly sketched it While ultimately defending the Absolute Conception or something close enough to it, the paper criticizes and distances itself from some aspects of Williams’ version, notably his conception of philosophy as insurmountably perspectival. Williams’ understanding of perspectival knowledge as contrasted to absolute knowledge is illustrated with (...) the concrete, if fictional case of the Dr Manhattan character from Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009). Adrian Moore’s reading, and Hilary Putnam’s criticisms of Williams’ Absolute Conception are amongst the positions engaged with. (shrink)
Since Hilary Putnam and Saul Kripke's first attacks on traditional, descriptivist theories of natural kind terms, it has become customary to speak of the ‘Putnam-Kripke’ view of meaning and reference. This article argues that this is a mistake, and that Putnam's account of natural kind terms is importantly different from that of Kripke. In particular, Putnam has from the very start been sceptical of Kripke's modal claims, and in later papers he explicitly rejects the proposal that theoretical identity statements are (...) metaphysically necessary (if true). I suggest that this is wholly in line with Putnam's earlier, Quine-inspired writings on general terms, and his preoccupation with the philosophy of science. Moreover, I argue that the picture of general terms that emerges from Putnam's writings is more plausible than that suggested by Kripke. However, contrary to Putnam, I also suggest that Putnam's later views on natural kinds and natural kind terms do not support standard Twin Earth externalism. (shrink)
Abstract Pragmatism has played only a small role in the half century and more of the science-and-religion dialogue, in part because pragmatism was at a low ebb in the 1950s. Even though Jamesean pragmatism in particular is experiencing a resurgence, owing partly to the work of Rorty and Putnam, it remains inconspicuous in the dialogue. Excepting artificial intelligence and artificial life, computer science also has not played a large role in the dialogue. Recent research into the foundations of object-oriented programming, (...) however, shows this increasingly pervasive practice possesses an implicit pragmatist epistemology. Although science will have to become more computational, it will have to come to terms with both object-oriented computing and its implicit pragmatism, which in turn supports the conclusion that we have fresh warrant for recasting the science-and-religion dialogue in Jamesean pragmatist terms. Some preliminary consequences of such a recasting of the dialogue are explored. (shrink)
Putnam’s internal realism is aimed at reconciling realist and antirealist intuitions about truth and the nature of reality. A common complaint about internal realism is that it has never been stated with due precision. This paper attempts to render the position precise by drawing on the literature on conceptual spaces as well as on earlier work of the authors on the notion of identity.
In this paper I investigate the relationship between vernacular kind terms and specialist scientific vocabularies. Elsewhere I have developed a defence of realism about the chemical elements as natural kinds. This defence depends on identifying the epistemic interests and theoretical conception of the elements that have suffused chemistry since the mid-eighteenth century. Because of this dependence, it is a discipline-specific defence, and would seem to entail important concessions to pluralism about natural kinds. I argue that making this kind of concession (...) does not imply that vernacular kind terms have independent application conditions. Nor does it preclude us saying that chemists, with their particular epistemic interests, have discovered the underlying nature of water, the stuff that is named and thought about in accordance with the practical interests of everyday life. There are limits to pluralism. (shrink)
Two important thought-experiments are associated with the work of Hilary Putnam, one designed to establish multiple realizability for mental kinds, the other designed to establish essentialism for natural kinds. Comparing the thought-experiments with each other reveals that the scenarios in both are structurally analogous to each other, though his intuitions in both are greatly at variance, intuitions that have been simultaneously well received. The intuition in the former implies a thesis that prioritizes pre-scientific over scientific indicators for identifying mental kinds (...) in certain circumstances, while his intuition in the latter implies a converse thesis, prioritizing scientific over pre-scientific indicators for identifying natural kinds in analogous circumstances. In this paper I question whether we can consistently endorse both of these intuitions. A consideration is presented to attempt to justify the common intuition found in the multiple realization thought-experiment. Then it is argued that this same consideration has application in the structurally analogous Twin-Earth thought-experiment. This recommends a kind of multiple realization thesis for natural kinds, in opposition to a scientific essentialist approach. The various respects in which mental kinds like pain and natural kinds like water are similar to each other, such that similar philosophical treatments are warranted for both, are enumerated. (shrink)
The global expansion of free enterprise has been underway for some time, and the challenges for global companies are well‐known. Companies often operate in economically blighted communities and in corrupt environments without a rule of law. At the same time Western‐based global corporations are under increasing public pressure to take on responsibilities to these communities that are often beyond their expertise or economic purview. For example, at the 2008 Davos meetings Bill Gates proposed the idea of “creative capitalism, challenging business (...) to ‘meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits’...” In what follows I shall argue that while there have been many successful global ventures, the Gates’ challenge requires academics and managerial leaders to rethink their mind sets and expand their thinking about what we mean by globalization, poverty, and the multiple dimensions of free enterprise. (shrink)
An influential tradition in moral philosophy attempts to explain an immoral action by reference to the defect in reasoning on the part of an immoral agent. On this view, the requirements of morality are not only sanctioned by the more general requirements of rationality, but the violations of the moral requirements would be indicative of a rational failure. In this article I argue that ascription of irrationality to amoral individuals (e.g., psychopaths) is either empirically false, or else, conceptually problematic. An (...) interpretation of irrationality in its instrumental sense fails to do justice to the results of the research concerning the intelligence of some amoralists, whereas the suggestion that the alleged cognitive deficiency lies at the level of final ends and ultimate values faces serious theoretical difficulties. All attempts to construe the notion of an external reason for action without reference to the agent's actual goals and values bespeak an objectivist's bias, rest on controversial assumptions, and tend to alienate the agent from the proposed set of reasons. The argument is partly based on the analysis of reasoning of Ted Bundy, a notorious serial murderer, who presents a rather sophisticated justification for his criminal behavior. (shrink)
‘Water is H2O’ is one of the most frequently cited sentences in analytic philosophy, thanks to the seminal work of Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam in the 1970s on the semantics of natural kind terms. Both of these philosophers owe an intellectual debt to the empiricist metaphysics of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, while disagreeing profoundly with Locke about the reality of natural kinds. Locke employs an intriguing example involving water to support his view that kinds (or ‘species’), such (...) as water and gold, are the workmanship of the human mind. This is the point of his story about a winter visitor to England from Jamaica, who is astonished to find that the water in his basin has turned solid overnight, and proceeds to call it ‘hardened water’. Locke criticizes this judgement, maintaining that it is more consonant with common sense to regard water and ice as different kinds of substance. Putnam, by implication, disagrees. Deploying his imaginary example of Twin Earth—a distant planet where a watery-looking substance, XYZ, rather than H2O, fills the oceans and rivers—he maintains that common sense supports the judgement that XYZ and H2O, despite their superficial similarity, are not the same kind of substance, precisely because their molecular compositions are different. Here it will be argued that both views are mistaken, but that, in this dispute, Locke has more right on his side than his modern opponents do. (shrink)
This paper explicates and defends Morton White’s holistic pragmatism, the view that descriptive and normative statements form a “seamless web” which must be tested as a “unified whole”. This position, originally formulated as a methodological and epistemic principle, can be extended into a more general philosophy of culture, as White himself has shown in his book, A Philosophy of Culture . On the basis of holistic pragmatism, the paper also offers a pragmatist conception of metaphilosophy and defends the need for (...) interdisciplinary inquiry. (shrink)
This article examines how a class of emerging technologies—specifically, radical cognitive enhancements and artificial intelligence—has the potential to influence the future of philosophy. The article argues that progress in philosophy has been impeded, in part, by two specific constraints imposed on us by the natural architecture of our cognitive systems. Both of these constraints, though, could in principle be overcome by certain cognitive technologies currently being researched and/or developed. It surveys a number of these technologies, and then looks at a (...) particular metaphilosophical stance (called “inflationism”) that advocates amplifying the abilities of philosophers rather than reducing the ambitions of philosophy, given the apparent “teleological gap” between philosophy's ultimate goal (i.e., “the truth”) and the limited capacities of our evolved mental machinery. (shrink)
The paper reviews the grounds for relativist interpretations of Wittgenstein's later thought, especially in On Certainty . It distinguishes between factual and virtual forms of epistemic relativism and argues that, on closer inspection, Wittgenstein's notes don't support any form of relativism – let it be factual or virtual. In passing, it considers also so-called "naturalist" readings of On Certainty , which may lend support to a relativist interpretation of Wittgenstein's ideas, finds them wanting, and recommends to interpret his positive proposal (...) in On Certainty as a form of "internal rationalism.". (shrink)
Until now, antirealists have offered sketches of a theory of truth, at best. In this paper, we present a probabilist account of antirealist truth in some formal detail, and we assess its ability to deal with the problems that are standardly taken to beset antirealism.
After arguing that truth-making is properly construed as a partnership between truth bearers and truth-makers, I focus on two prominent arguments against the category of fact as one of the key relata in the truth-making relation. After rejecting those arguments, I go on to examine a more difficult issue, one that might force us to appreciate more fully the robust role that thought has in “creating” truth.
There is an overt tension between Rorty?s pragmatist critique of philosophy and his apparent epistemological and metaphysical commitments, which it is instructive to examine in order to assess not only Rorty?s overall position, but also renewed contemporary interest in pragmatism and its metaphilosophical implications. After showing why Rorty?s attempts to limit the scope of his critique failed to resolve this tension, I try reading him as a constructive metaphysician who was attempting to balance a causal account of the language / (...) world relation with panrelationism. However, Rorty intended these commitments to be interpreted in light of his pragmatism about vocabularies, and relied upon a ?social standpoint strategy? to render his overall position consistent. I conclude that to the extent that this strategy succeeds, it removes almost all of the argumentative force from Rorty?s pragmatism. (shrink)
Realism about the external world enjoys little philosophical support these days. I rectify this predicament by taking a relatively pragmatist line of thought to defend commonsense realism; I support commonsense realism through an interpretation and application of Donald Davidson’s notion of triangulation, the triangle composed of two communicators coordinating and correcting their responses with a shared causal stimulus. This argument is important because it has a crucial advantage over the often used abductive argument for realism. My argument avoids unwarranted conclusions, (...) whereas the abductive argument is “inflationary” because it reaches beyond the limits of evidence for its realist conclusion. To illustrate the problems of the abductive argument and motivate my Davidsonian approach, I take a brief look at the abductive argument for realism in Frederick Will’s work. (shrink)
I begin by contrasting three approaches one can take to the distinction between the essential and accidental properties: an ontological, a deflationary, and a mind-dependent approach. I then go on to apply that distinction to the necessary a posteriori, and defend the deflationist view. Finally I apply the distinction to modal truth in general and argue that the deflationist position lets us avoid an otherwise pressing problem for the actualist: the problem of accounting for the source of modal truth.
Abstract: This article defends a controversial metaphilosophical thesis: it is not immediately obvious that "the best argument wins" in philosophy. Certain philosophical views, for example, extremely controversial ethical positions, may be intolerable and impossible to take seriously as contributions to ethical discussion, irrespective of their argumentative merits. As a case study of this metaphilosophical issue, the article discusses David Benatar's recent thesis that it is, for everyone, harmful to exist. It is argued that ethical and cultural "unthinkabilities" set limits to (...) philosophical reasoning that even the most insightful arguments cannot transcend. (shrink)
In this paper I put forward some arguments in defence of inclusive legal positivism . The general thesis that I defend is that inclusive positivism represents a more fruitful and interesting research program than that proposed by exclusive positivism . I introduce two arguments connected with legal interpretation in favour of my thesis. However, my opinion is that inclusive positivism does not sufficiently succeed in estranging itself from the more traditional legal positivist conceptions. This is the case, for instance, with (...) regard to the value-freedom principle, which is commonly accepted by inclusive positivist scholars. In contrast with this approach, I try to show, in the concluding section, how a constructivistic version of inclusive positivism could legitimately acknowledge the presence of value-judgments in the cognitive activities of jurists and legal theorists. (shrink)
Pragmatism is often thought to be incompatible with realism, the view that there are knowable mind-independent facts, objects, or properties. In this article, I show that there are, in fact, realist versions of pragmatism and argue that a realist pragmatism of the right sort can make important contributions to such fields as religious ethics and philosophy of religion. Using William James's pragmatism as my primary example, I show (1) that James defended realist and pluralist views in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and (...) philosophy of religion, and (2) that these views not only cohere with his pragmatism but indeed are basic to it. After arguing that James's pragmatism provides a credible and useful approach to a number of basic philosophical and religious issues, I conclude by reflecting on some ways in which we can apply and potentially improve James's views in the study of religion. (shrink)
Externalism is widely endorsed within contemporary philosophy of mind and language. Despite this, it is far from clear how the externalist thesis should be construed and, indeed, why we should accept it. In this entry I distinguish and examine three central types of externalism: what I call foundational externalism, externalist semantics, and psychological externalism. I suggest that the most plausible version of externalism is not in fact a very radical thesis and does not have any terribly interesting implications for philosophy (...) of mind, whereas the more radical and interesting versions of externalism are quite difficult to support. (shrink)
The analyses of the mind–world relation offered by transcendental idealists such as Husserl have often been dismissed with the argument that they remain committed to an outdated form of internalism. The first move in this paper will be to argue that there is a tight link between Husserl’s transcendental idealism and what has been called phenomenological externalism, and that Husserl’s endorsement of the former commits him to a version of the latter. Secondly, it will be shown that key elements in (...) Husserl’s transcendental idealism, including his rejection of representationalism and metaphysical realism, is shared with a number of prominent contemporary defenders of an externalist view on the mind. Ultimately, however, it will be suggested that the very alternative between internalism and externalism—an alternative based on the division between inner and outer—might be inapplicable when it comes to phenomenological conceptions of the mind–world relation. (shrink)
In this essay, I address the question of whether the indisputable progress being made by the neurosciences poses a genuine threat to the language game of responsible agency. I begin by situating free will as an ineliminable component of our practices of attributing responsibility and holding one another accountable, illustrating this via a discussion of legal discourse regarding the attribution of responsibility for criminal acts. I then turn to the practical limits on agents' scientific self-objectivation, limits that turn out to (...) be mirrored philosophically in the conceptual problems that plague reductionist strategies. Having shown that free will is rooted in unavoidable performative presuppositions belonging to agents' participant perspective, I then take up the difficult issue of how to reconcile an epistemic dualism of participant and observer perspectives with the assumption of ontological monism. I critically review a range of proposed physicalist solutions, including non-reductionist and (standard) compatibilist approaches. An underlying problem with scientistic, physicalist approaches is the methodological fiction of an exclusive ?view from nowhere? which relies on the problematic move of disengaging the objectivating perspective of the scientific observer from the investigators' participant perspective of those engaged in scientific practice. Since there is no way of getting around the requisite complementarity of both the observer's encounter with the objective world and the participant's involvement in shared lifeworld practices, the remaining option is to take an epistemological turn. But even the recognition that science is ultimately constituted from within the lifeworld still leaves us with the question as to how the human mind can understand itself as the product of natural evolution. I conclude with some tentative suggestions as to how this difficult question might be addressed. (shrink)
Complexity is introduced as a fitting paradigmatic orientation to social inquiry. A complexity approach is compared and contrasted with other holistic social inquiry orientations and constructivist styles of thinking that have informed and guided the evolution of qualitative social inquiry.
In this paper it is argued that functional role semantics can be saved from criticisms, such as those raised by Putnam and Fodor and Lepore, by indicating which beliefs and inferences are more constitutive in determining mental content. The Scylla is not to use vague expressions; the Charybdis is not to endorse the analytic/synthetic distinction. The core idea is to use reflective equilibrium as a strategy to pinpoint which are the beliefs and the inferences that constitute the content of a (...) mental state. The beliefs and the inferences that are constitutive are those that are in reflective equilibrium in the process of attributing mental states to others. (shrink)
To save antirealism from Fitch's Paradox, Tennant has proposed to restrict the scope of the antirealist principle that all truths are knowable to truths that can be consistently assumed to be known. Although the proposal solves the paradox, it has been accused of doing so in an ad hoc manner. This paper argues that, first, for all Tennant has shown, the accusation is just; second, a restriction of the antirealist principle apparently weaker than Tennat's yields a non-ad hoc solution to (...) Fitch's Paradox; and third, the alternative is only apparently weaker than, and even provably equivalent to, Tennant's. It is thereby shown that the latter is not ad hoc after all. (shrink)