William Kallfelz Mississippi State University

  • Faculty, Mississippi State University
  • PhD, University of Maryland, College Park, 2008.

Areas of specialization

Areas of interest

My philosophical views


My philosophical views

The answers shown here are not necessarily the same provided as part of the 2009 PhilPapers Survey. These answers can be updated at any time.

See also:

A priori knowledge: yes or no?Lean toward: yes
Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism?Accept another alternativeI ascribe (again, based on my Kantian sympathies) to a "contructivist" view here (as for instance, characterized by Chihara and earlier by Brouwer). Though Chihara endorses a self-described "nominalist" position--the key point is that the logical space of possible contructions of abstract objects is greatly curtailed by the particularly empirical contingencies of our cognitive architecture. In other words, though we are free to construct abstract objects, we may not do so arbitrarily (i.e., not in just any logically consistent fashion).
Aesthetic value: objective or subjective?Lean toward: objectiveAgain, I think Kant had it right! Aesthetic judgments have a mind-independent aspect (constituted by the understanding), but are also a matter of "taste;" (imagination).
Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?Lean toward: yesI think Kant (and Carnap) had the best "takes" on this issue, in a general sense. Let's put it this way, in the wake of the Quine-Carnap debate, I definitely side with Carnap!
Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism?Lean toward: internalismI'm basically a nativist. I do not think our cognitive architecture provides the sufficiency conditions regarding epistemic justification, but the former certainly provide the necessary conditions! Kant had a pretty good story to tell here, in this regard, and his points seem to be vindicated (in a general sense) by much of the fruitful congitive science/philosophy of mind dialgoue.
External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism?Lean toward: non-skeptical realismRegarding my previous remarks on Kant and on "contexutal realism" I argue that one can perfectly well talk about general reliability of knowledge about the external world (without committing oneself to some pie-in-the-sky "dreams of a final physics," etc.) Again, back to Kant! Again, Kant was a Critical Realist!
Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?Lean toward: compatibilism
God: theism or atheism?Lean toward: theism
Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism?Accept an intermediate viewGood grief, why can't we just accept Kant's view here? (And why on Earth is he often dismissed as an "idealist?" Nothing, in my opinion, is more misguided: He was a Critical Realist!) Reason provides the form, experience the content, in terms of the source of whatever we mean by knowledge: "Concepts without percepts are empty, and percepts without concepts are meaningles..." etc.
Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism?Lean toward: contextualism
Laws of nature: Humean or non-Humean?Lean toward: non-Humean My "contextual realism" (described in previous question) makes me think of laws of nature in a metaphysically more robust sense. By the same token, I sympathise with some contemporary philosopher of physicists' claims (Mathias Frisch, in particular, in his 2005 book Asymmetry, Nonlocality....) who consider laws of nature as "tools for model building." In other words, I think of modeling as the epitome of scientific theorizing. But in that regard, one can nevertheless remain a realist and accept this methodological claim (of laws following modeling), as, for instance, argued in Ronald Giere's (1998) The Cognitive Paradigm.
Logic: classical or non-classical?Accept: non-classicalMy background in theoretical particle physics teaches me that there's nothing priveleged about classical logic (except on a pragmatic meta-level, involving rules of discourse and communcation; i.e., ordinary communication in natural language presupposes most if not all the axioms of classical logic).
Mental content: internalism or externalism?Lean toward: internalism
Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?Lean toward: moral realism
Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?Accept another alternativeI sympathize with Colin Mcguinn's view here (as stated in his Problems in Philosophy). He describes his metaphilosophical position as "transcendental naturalism," which perhaps strikes one prima facie as an oxymoron. What he means, however, is from a methodological standpoint his "transcendentalism" generalizes much from Kant and Chomski: Our cognitive architecture has a contingent structure rendering philosophy difficult to do. It's conceivable to consider (i.e., it's nomologically possible) a race of beings in the universe to which doing philosophy is second nature, and yet certain (by human standards) obvious empirical notions may (to them) appear deeply chimerical or problematic.
Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?Lean toward: physicalism
Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?Lean toward: cognitivism
Moral motivation: internalism or externalism?Lean toward: internalismConsider Elizabeth Tropman's work: "Renewing Moral Intuition" draws much from empirical results in cognitive science, which point to some innate moral faculties (namely, the sense of fairness).
Newcomb's problem: one box or two boxes?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?Lean toward: virtue ethics
Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory?Lean toward: representationalism
Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?Lean toward: psychological view
Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?Lean toward: communitarianism
Proper names: Fregean or Millian?Lean toward: Fregean
Science: scientific realism or scientific anti-realism?Lean toward: scientific realismIn my dissertation, I described myself as a "contextual realist:" I.e., I agree (a' al Kitcher-2001-in Science, Truth, and Democracy) that theories function like "maps," and hecne one may speak of their general reliability. Nevertheless, the notion of verisimilitude is contextual, in the sense that any type of map is determined by the particular interests and values of the "map-making" community (one cannot, for instance, compare a topographical map of Washington D.C. with a subway map thereof.) Hence, in this regard, like Paul Teller (2004-his response to Nancy Cartwright, "How We Dapple the World,") I take a pragmatic view on the "fundamental/phenomenological" distinction. To put it another way, as Teller argues, one can be generally a realist and at the same time reject the notion of a final theory (it is akin to committing the AEEA fallacy: Just because for any theory, there exists a more reliable improvement [reliability determined by contexutal norms of the particular scientific community], it DOES NOT follw that there exist a most reliable rendition for ANY theory!) Hence, as Teller, one can talk about theoretical terms (in a realist sense) as "fallible [i.e., reasonably reliable] veracities" instead of (in an anti-realist sense) as "useful fictions."
Teletransporter (new matter): survival or death?Lean toward: death
Time: A-theory or B-theory?Lean toward: A-theoryI sympathise much with Alfred North Whitehead here--and I consider his process philosophy (rightly or wrongly) as a version of an A-Theory.
Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching, what ought one do?): switch or don't switch?Insufficiently familiar with the issue
Truth: correspondence, deflationary, or epistemic?Lean toward: epistemic
Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible?Lean toward: conceivable but not metaphysically possible