"There are books—few and far between—which carefully, delightfully, and genuinely turn your head inside out. This is one of them. It ranges over some central issues in Western philosophy and begins the long overdue job of giving us a radically new account of meaning, rationality, and objectivity."—Yaakov Garb, _San Francisco Chronicle_.
As philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism continue to gain traction, we are likely to see a fundamental shift in the way people think about free will and moral responsibility. Such shifts raise important practical and existential concerns: What if we came to disbelieve in free will? What would this mean for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law? What would it do to our standing as human beings? Would it cause nihilism and despair as (...) some maintain or would it rather have a humanizing effect on our practices and policies, freeing us from the negative effects of belief in free will? In this chapter we consider the practical implications of free will skepticism and argue that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. We argue that prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for example, would not be threatened. On treatment of criminals, we argue that although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, preventive detention and rehabilitation programs would still be justified. While we will touch on all these issues below, our focus will be primarily on this last issue. -/- We begin in section I by considering two different routes to free will skepticism. The first denies the causal efficacy of the types of willing required for free will and receives its contemporary impetus from pioneering work in neuroscience by Benjamin Libet, Daniel Wegner, and John-Dylan Haynes. The second, which is more common in the philosophical literature, does not deny the causal efficacy of the will but instead claims that whether this causal efficacy is deterministic or indeterministic, it does not achieve the level of control to count as free will by the standards of the historical debate. We argue that while there are compelling objections to the first route—e.g., Al Mele (2009), Eddy Nahmias (2002, 2011), and Neil Levy (2005)—the second route to free will skepticism remains intact. In section II we argue that free will skepticism allows for a workable morality, and, rather than negatively impacting our personal relationships and meaning in life, may well improve our well-being and our relationships to others since it would tend to eradicate an often destructive form of moral anger. In section III we argue that free will skepticism allows for adequate ways of responding to criminal behavior—in particular, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and alternation of relevant social conditions—and that these methods are both morally justified and sufficient for good social policy. We present and defend our own preferred model for dealing with dangerous criminals, an incapacitation account built on the right to self-protection analogous to the justification for quarantine (see Pereboom 2001, 2013, 2014a; Caruso 2016a), and we respond to recent objections to it by Michael Corrado and John Lemos. (shrink)
Suppose we are about to enter an era of increasing technological unemployment. What implications does this have for society? Two distinct ethical/social issues would seem to arise. The first is one of distributive justice: how will the efficiency gains from automated labour be distributed through society? The second is one of personal fulfillment and meaning: if people no longer have to work, what will they do with their lives? In this article, I set aside the first issue and focus (...) on the second. In doing so, I make three arguments. First, I argue that there are good reasons to embrace non-work and that these reasons become more compelling in an era of technological unemployment. Second, I argue that the technological advances that make widespread technological unemployment possible could still threaten or undermine human flourishing and meaning, especially if they do not remain confined to the economic sphere. And third, I argue that this threat could be contained if we adopt an integrative approach to our relationship with technology. In advancing these arguments, I draw on three distinct literatures: the literature on technological unemployment and workplace automation; the antiwork critique—which I argue gives reasons to embrace technological unemployment; and the philosophical debate about the conditions for meaning in life—which I argue gives reasons for concern. (shrink)
Several philosophers, both in Buddhist and Western philosophy, claim that the self does not exist. The no-self view may, at first glance, appear to be a reason to believe that life is meaningless. In the present article, I argue indirectly in favor of the no-self view by showing that it does not entail that life is meaningless. I then examine Buddhism and argue, further, that the no-self view may even be construed as partially grounding an account of the meaning (...) of life. (shrink)
In this new book, the author of the classic Truth presents an original theory of meaning, demonstrates its richness, and defends it against all contenders. He surveys the diversity of twentieth-century philosophical insights into meaning and shows that his theory can reconcile these with a common-sense view of meaning as derived from use. Meaning and its companion volume Truth (now published in a revised edition) together demystify two central issues in philosophy and offer a controversial but (...) compelling view of the relations between language, thought, and reality. (shrink)
In _The Meaning of the Body_, Mark Johnson continues his pioneering work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic _Metaphors We Live By_. Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed. From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning—including (...) images, qualities, emotions, and metaphors—that are all rooted in the body’s physical encounters with the world. Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic. He concludes that the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and that studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking meaning's bodily sources. Throughout, Johnson puts forth a bold new conception of the mind rooted in the understanding that philosophy will matter to nonphilosophers only if it is built on a visceral connection to the world. “Mark Johnson demonstrates that the aesthetic and emotional aspects of meaning are fundamental—central to conceptual meaning and reason, and that the arts show meaning-making in its fullest realization. If you were raised with the idea that art and emotion were external to ideas and reason, you must read this book. It grounds philosophy in our most visceral experience.”—George Lakoff, author of _Moral Politics_. (shrink)
Aristotle is the first philosopher on record to subject the meaning of life to systematic philosophical examination: he approaches the issue from logical, psychological, biological, and anthropological perspectives in some of the central passages in the Corpus Aristotelicum and, it turns out, in some fragments from his (lost) early popular work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy). From an Aristotelian perspective, in asking about life’s “meaning”, we may be asking either a theoretical question about the definition of the term (...) life (and this either generically or with specific reference to human life), or a practical question about the final end or purpose of life (or human life). Aristotle carefully considered both questions, and in his view answering the theoretical question is the key to answering the practical question. In brief, his theoretical view is that humans are distinguished from all other living things, and thus defined by their ability to use reason; thus his practical view is that the end or purpose of human existence is intellectual activity, especially doing philosophy. (shrink)
We raise various puzzles about the relationship between God and the meaning of life. These difficulties suggest that, even if we assume that God exists, and even if God’s existence would entail that our lives have meaning, God is not and could not be the source of the meaning of life. We conclude by discussing implications of our arguments: these claims can be used in a novel argument for atheism; these claims undermine an extant argument for God’s (...) existence; and they suggest that atheism is consistent with our lives having meaning. (shrink)
According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoric content, he argues, but merely constrains it — (...) speaker’s meaning necessarily comes into play. On the alternative picture he offers, there are four basic levels, only one of which is determined by the grammar. Pragmatics is what enables the transition from each level to the next. (shrink)
D O N A L D D AV I D S O N’S “ Meaning and Truth,” re vo l u t i o n i zed our conception of how truth and meaning are related (Davidson ). In that famous art i c l e , Davidson put forw a rd the bold conjecture that meanings are satisfaction conditions, and that a Tarskian theory of truth for a language is a theory of meaning (...) for that language. In “Meaning and Truth,” Davidson proposed only that a Tarskian truth theory is a theory of meaning. But in “Theories of Me a n i n g and Learnable Languages,” he argued that the ﬁnite base of a Tarskian theory, together with the now familiar combinatorics, would explain how a language with unbounded expre s s i ve capacity could be learned with finite means ( Davidson ). This certainly seems to imply that learning a language is, in p a rt at least, learning a Tarskian truth theory for it, or, at least, learning what is speciﬁed by such a theory. Davisdon was cagey about committing to the view that meanings actually a re satisfaction conditions, but subsequent followers had no such scru p l e s . We can sum this up in a trio of claims: Davidson’s Conjecture () A theory of meaning for L is a truth-conditional semantics for L. () To know the meaning of an expression in L is to know a satisfaction condition for that expression. () Meanings are satisfaction conditions. For the most part, it will not matter in what follows which of these claims is at stake. I will simply take the three to be different ways of formulating what I will call Davidson’s Conjecture (or sometimes just The Conjecture). Davidson’s Conjecture was a very bold conjecture. I think we are now in a.. (shrink)
Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig correctly observe that Donald Davidson’s account of radical interpretation is in tension with his Swampman thought experiment. Nonetheless, I argue, they fail to see the extent of Davidson’s tension—and so do not handle it adequately—because they fail to appreciate that the thought experiment pits two incompatible response-dependent accounts of meaning against one another. I take an account of meaning to be response-dependent just in case it links the meaning of terms in an (...) a priori manner to the responses that a suitable subject under suitable conditions could or did have to those terms. That Davidson proposes two such accounts is deeply problematic for his program. After explaining the sense in which Davidson endorses two incompatible response-dependent accounts of meaning, I use that explanation to resolve the tension myself. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes two projects in Davidson's theory of meaning, an initial project of providing a compositional meaning theory for a natural language for which a Tarski-style truth theory is pressed into service and an extended project that aims to illuminate the basis of meaning in its relation to the neutrally described behavioral evidence in terms of which an interpretive truth theory for a language can ultimately be confirmed, and then argues that having distinguished the two projects (...) we can see that the goal that the radical interpreter sets himself cannot be achieved given the limits on his data. (shrink)
Paul Horwich's main aim in Reflections on Meaning is to explain how mere noises, marks, gestures, and mental symbols are able to capture the world--that is, how words and sentences (in whatever medium) come to mean what they do, to stand for certain things, to be true or false of reality. His answer is a groundbreaking development of Wittgenstein's idea that the meaning of a term is nothing more than its use. While the chapters here have appeared as (...) individual essays, Horwich has edited them to make a continuous argument, focused on articulating and developing an important new conception of language. (shrink)
What is it for marks or sounds to have meaning, and what is it for someone to mean something in producing them? Answering these and related questions, Schiffer explores communication, speech acts, convention, and the meaning of linguistic items in this reissue of a seminal work on the foundations of meaning. A new introduction takes account of recent developments and places his theory in a broader context.
Is linguistic meaning to be accounted for independently of the states of mind of language users, or can it only be explained in terms of them? If the latter, what account of the mental states in question avoids circularity? In this book Brian Loar offers a subtle and comprehensive theory that both preserves the natural priority of the mind in explanations of meaning, and gives an independent characterisation of its features. the nature of meaning and its relation (...) to the mind is probably the area of paramount concern among philosophers. The theory presented here, by its reach and substance and the thoroughness and sophistication of its development, makes a major contribution to the debate. (shrink)
In “Flourish,” Martin Seligman maintained that the elements of well-being consist of “PERMA: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.” Although the question of what constitutes human flourishing or psychological well-being has remained a topic of continued debate among scholars, it has recently been argued in the literature that a paradigmatic or prototypical case of human psychological well-being would largely manifest most or all of the aforementioned PERMA factors. Further, in “A Neuroscientific Perspective on Music Therapy,” Stefan Koelsch also (...) suggested that “Music therapy can have effects that improve the psychological and physiological health of individuals,” so it seems plausible that engaging in practices of music can positively contribute to one living a more optimally flourishing life with greater psychological well-being. However, recent studies on music practice and participation have not yet been reviewed and integrated under the PERMA framework from positive psychology to further explore and explicate this possibility. This article therefore contributes to extant work by reviewing recent research on psychological well-being and music to offer support for the claim that music practice and participation can positively contribute to one living a flourishing life by positively influencing their emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. (shrink)
In this important new collection, Gilbert Harman presents a selection of fifteen interconnected essays on fundamental issues at the center of analytic philosophy. The book opens with a group of four essays discussing basic principles of reasoning and rationality. The next three essays argue against the once popular idea that certain claims are true and knowable by virtue of meaning. In the third group of essays Harman presents his own view of meaning and the possibility of thinking in (...) language The final three essays investigate the nature of mind, developing further the themes already set out. Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind offers an integrated presentation of this rich and influential body of work. which Harman has developed over thirty years. (shrink)
When considering potential solutions to meaning-scepticism, Kripke (1982) did not consider a causal-theoretic approach. Kusch (2006) has argued that this is due to the qua-problem. I consider Kusch’s criticism of Maddy (1984) and McGinn (1984) before offering a different way to solve the qua-problem, one that is not susceptible to sceptical attack. If this solution is successful, at least one barrier to using a causal theory to refute Kripke’s scepticism is removed.
This essay is divided into two parts. In the first part (§2), I introduce the idea of practical meaning by looking at a certain kind of procedural systems — the motor system — that play a central role in computational explanations of motor behavior. I argue that in order to give a satisfactory account of the content of the representations computed by motor systems (motor commands), we need to appeal to a distinctively practical kind of meaning. Defending the (...) explanatory relevance of semantic properties in a computationalist explanation of motor behavior, my argument concludes that practical meanings play a central role in an adequate psychological theory of motor skill. In the second part of this essay (§3), I generalize and clarify the notion of practical meaning, and I defend the intelligibility of practical meanings against an important objection. (shrink)
This article argues that the creation of artificial offspring could make our lives more meaningful. By ‘artificial offspring’ I mean beings that we construct, with a mix of human and non-human-like qualities. Robotic artificial intelligences are paradigmatic examples of the form. There are two reasons for thinking that the creation of such beings could make our lives more meaningful and valuable. The first is that the existence of a collective afterlife—i.e. a set of human-like lives that continue after we die—is (...) likely to be an important source and sustainer of meaning in our present lives. The second is that the creation of artificial offspring provides a plausible and potentially better pathway to a collective afterlife than the traditional biological pathway. Both of these arguments are defended from a variety of objections and misunderstandings. (shrink)
There is an ongoing debate about the meaning of lexical words, i.e., words that contribute with content to the meaning of sentences. This debate has coincided with a renewal in the study of polysemy, which has taken place in the psycholinguistics camp mainly. There is already a fruitful interbreeding between two lines of research: the theoretical study of lexical word meaning, on the one hand, and the models of polysemy psycholinguists present, on the other. In this paper (...) I aim at deepening on this ongoing interbreeding, examine what is said about polysemy, particularly in the psycholinguistics literature, and then show how what we seem to know about the representation and storage of polysemous senses affects the models that we have about lexical word meaning. (shrink)
We examined change over time in the relationship between moral identity and presence of meaning during early adulthood. Moral identity refers to a sense of morality and moral values that are central to one’s identity. Presence of meaning refers to the belief that one’s existence has meaning, purpose, and value. Participants responded to questions on moral identity and presence of meaning in their senior year of high school and two years after. Mixed effects model analyses were (...) used to examine how moral identity and presence of meaning interacted during this two-year period. The findings demonstrated that moral identity positively predicted presence of meaning over time. (shrink)
I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one is causally responsible (...) for the good. I argue that the best theory of the meaning of life should clearly distinguish between subjective fulfillment and objective meaningfulness. The GCA respects the distinction. And it is superior to its leading rivals in the recent literature, most notably those of Erik Wielenberg and Susan Wolf. (shrink)
What is it for a life to be meaningful? In this article, I defend what I call Consequentialism about Meaning in Life, the view that one's life is meaningful at time t just in case one's surviving at t would be good in some way, and one's life was meaningful considered as a whole just in case the world was made better in some way for one's having existed.
This chapter critically explores contemporary philosophical understandings of whether meaning in life might depend on the presence or absence of an afterlife. After distinguishing various kinds of afterlife, it focuses most on the potential relevance of an eternal one, and considers at length the extreme but common views amongst philosophers that an eternal afterlife would be either necessary for a meaningful life or, conversely, sufficient for a meaningless one. It concludes by considering the plausibility of a more moderate view, (...) that an eternal afterlife could substantially enhance the meaning of our lives, even if they would not be meaningless without it. The aim of the chapter is not to defend some overall thesis about these positions, but rather to acquaint the reader with recent English-speaking philosophical discussions of them. (shrink)
The analytic/synthetic distinction looks simple. It is a distinction between two different kinds of sentence. Synthetic sentences are true in part because of the way the world is, and in part because of what they mean. Analytic sentences - like all bachelors are unmarried and triangles have three sides - are different. They are true in virtue of meaning, so no matter what the world is like, as long as the sentence means what it does, it will be true. (...) -/- This distinction seems powerful because analytic sentences seem to be knowable in a special way. One can know that all bachelors are unmarried, for example, just by thinking about what it means. But many twentieth-century philosophers, with Quine in the lead, argued that there were no analytic sentences, that the idea of analyticity didn't even make sense, and that the analytic/synthetic distinction was therefore an illusion. Others couldn't see how there could fail to be a distinction, however ingenious the arguments of Quine and his supporters. -/- But since the heyday of the debate, things have changed in the philosophy of language. Tools have been refined, confusions cleared up, and most significantly, many philosophers now accept a view of language - semantic externalism - on which it is possible to see how the distinction could fail. One might be tempted to think that ultimately the distinction has fallen for reasons other than those proposed in the original debate. -/- In Truth in Virtue of Meaning, Gillian Russell argues that it hasn't. Using the tools of contemporary philosophy of language, she outlines a view of analytic sentences which is compatible with semantic externalism and defends that view against the old Quinean arguments. She then goes on to draw out the surprising epistemological consequences of her approach. (shrink)
The verification theory of meaning aims to characterise what it is for a sentence to be meaningful and also what kind of abstract object the meaning of a sentence is. A brief outline is given by Rudolph Carnap, one of the theory's most prominent defenders: If we knew what it would be for a given sentence to be found true then we would know what its meaning is. [...] thus the meaning of a sentence is in (...) a certain sense identical with the way we determine its truth or falsehood; and a sentence has meaning only if such a determination is possible. [4: 420] In short, the verification theory of meaning claims that the meaning of a sentence is the method of its verification. (shrink)
There has been much debate over whether to accept the claim that meaning is normative. One obstacle to making progress in that debate is that it is not always clear what the claim amounts to. In this paper, I try to resolve a dispute between those who advance the claim concerning how it should be understood. More specifically, I critically examine two competing conceptions of the normativity of meaning, rejecting one and defending the other. Though the paper aims (...) to settle a dispute among proponents of the claim that meaning is normative, it should be of interest to those who challenge it. After all, before one takes aim, one’s target needs to be in clear view. (shrink)
Both patients and clinicians frequently report problems around communicating and assessing pain. Patients express dissatisfaction with their doctors and doctors often find exchanges with chronic pain patients difficult and frustrating. This chapter thus asks how we could improve pain communication and thereby enhance outcomes for chronic pain patients. We argue that improving matters will require a better appreciation of the complex meaning of pain terms and of the variability and flexibility in how individuals think about pain. We start by (...) examining the various accounts of the meaning of pain terms that have been suggested within philosophy and suggest that, while each of the accounts captures something important about our use of pain terms, none is completely satisfactory. We propose that pain terms should be viewed as communicating complex meanings, which may change across different communicative contexts, and this in turn suggests that we should view our ordinary thought about pain as similarly complex. We then sketch what a view taking seriously this variability in meaning and thought might look like, which we call the “polyeidic” view. According to this view, individuals tacitly occupy divergent stances across a range of different dimensions of pain, with one agent, for instance, thinking of pain in a much more “bodycentric” kind of way, while another thinks of pain in a much more "mindcentric” way. The polyeidic view attempts to expand the multidimensionality recognised in, e.g., biopsychosocial models in two directions: first, it holds that the standard triumvirate— dividing sensory/cognitive/affective factors— needs to be enriched in order to capture important distinctions within the social and psychological dimensions. Second, the polyeidic view attempts to explain why modulation of experience by these social and psychological factors is possible in the first place. It does so by arguing that because the folk concept of pain is complex, different weightings of the different parts of the concept can modulate pain experience in a variety of ways. Finally, we argue that adopting a polyeidic approach to the meaning of pain would have a range of measurable clinical outcomes. (shrink)
Susan Wolf maintains that the meaningfulness of a life arises when someone acts upon the subjective desire of doing something objectively valuable. This amounts to a hybrid view, which contains both subjectivist and objectivist elements. Wolf’s tentative definition of what is objectively valuable amounts to what, in this article, we define as ‘intersubjectivism’. As it will be argued, however, intersubjectivism poses a number of problems, which are exacerbated in contemporary society and which shed a new light on the problem of (...)meaning in life. (shrink)
The paper addresses the phenomenology of inference. It proposes that the conscious character of conscious inferences is partly constituted by a sense of meaning; specifically, a sense of what Grice called ‘natural meaning’. In consciously drawing the (outright, categorical) conclusion that Q from a presumed fact that P, one senses the presumed fact that P as meaning that Q, where ‘meaning that’ expresses natural meaning. This sense of natural meaning is phenomenologically analogous, I suggest, (...) to our sense of what is said in fluently comprehending everyday utterances in our first language. The proposal that conscious inference involves a sense of natural meaning is compared with views according to which conscious inference involves taking the premises (i) to be good reasons for the conclusion (as defended by Thomson and Grice), (ii) to support it (as argued by Audi and, recently, Boghossian), or (iii) to imply it (as lately contended by Broome). I argue our proposal can explain certain phenomena handled by alternatives (i) and (ii), but that some further phenomena is handled by our account but not these alternatives. In relation to alternative (iii), I argue that, in so far as implicational and natural-meaning relations come apart, the latter are a better fit for what we sense or take to be so in conscious inference. (shrink)
This paper argues that contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only (...) if the individual acts intentionally in ways that contribute to finally valuable states of affairs; and that this first thesis does not entail that only human lives are meaningful. Because non-human animals can be intentional agents of a certain sort, our account yields the verdict that many animals’ lives can be meaningful. We conclude by considering the moral implications of these theses for common practices involving animals. (shrink)
Traditional views concerning musical meaning, in the field of philosophy, quite often oscillate around the discussion of whether music can transfer meaning (and if so if it happens by a means similar to language). Philosophers have provided a wide range of views – according to some, music has no meaning whatsoever, or if there is any meaning involved, it is only of a formal/structural significance. According to the opposing views, music can contain meaning similarly to (...) language and what is more, sometimes it can be even richer than language, as in music we are – arguably – able to encode “emotional meanings”. In recent years, several approaches – also speculative – to the old philosophical question have been proposed by evolutionary psychologists, one of the most controversial views being that of Stephen Pinker’s famous metaphor for music as “auditory cheesecake”. This anti-adaptationist view has been challenged f. ex. by Geoffrey Miller or Ian Cross. In this chapter, I enlist some main philosophical views on the titular problem and investigate some evolutionary-paradigm-based propositions for its solution, to examine whether – both from explanatory and methodological standpoints – the philosophy of music could gain something from recent developments in evolutionary psychology. (shrink)
Alice Crary has recently developed a radical reading of J. L. Austin's philosophy of language. The central contention of Crary's reading is that Austin gives convincing reasons to reject the idea that sentences have context-invariant literal meaning. While I am in sympathy with Crary about the continuing importance of Austin's work, and I think Crary's reading is deep and interesting, I do not think literal sentence meaning is one of Austin's targets, and the arguments that Crary attributes to (...) Austin or finds Austinian in spirit do not provide convincing reasons to reject literal sentence meaning. In this paper, I challenge Crary's reading of Austin and defend the idea of literal sentence meaning. (shrink)
This paper discusses Simone de Beauvoir’s views on the meaning of life as presented in The Ethics of Ambiguity. I argue that Beauvoir’s view matches contemporary hybrid views on the meaning of life, incorporating both subjective and objective elements, while connecting them in a distinct way—through the tension between self and other. I then analyze the meaning of excessively competitive projects through Beauvoir’s ethics and conclude that success that amounts to denying other people’s access to the things (...) one values is absurd. I use the case of contemporary academia as an illustration of extreme competition, then employ Beauvoir’s views to suggest a shift towards more meaningful practices. (shrink)
Can animals be agents? Do they want to be free? Can they have meaningful lives? If so, should we change the way we treat them? This paper offers an account of animal agency and of two continuums: between human and nonhuman agency, and between wildness and captivity. It describes how a wide range of human activities impede on animals’ freedom and argues that, in doing so, we deprive a wide range of animals of opportunities to exercise their agency in ways (...) that can give meaning to their lives. (shrink)
When people suffer they always suffer as a whole human being. The emotional, cognitive and spiritual suffering of human beings cannot be completely separated from all other kinds of suffering, such as from harmful natural, ecological, political, economic and social conditions. In reality they interact with each other and influence each other. Human beings do not only suffer from somatic illnesses, physical pain, and the lack of decent opportunities to satisfy their basic vital, social and emotional needs. They also suffer (...) when they are not able to experience and grasp any meaning of life even if such suffering is not quite as obvious as most forms of physical, social and emotional suffering. Suffering from the lack for the sense of the meaning of life is a special form of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual suffering. Although all human beings share the same basic human need for some meaning of life, the fulfilment of this need is highly individual and personal. Although all forms of human suffering can be a challenge to the meaning of life, the personal conditions of suffering usually are a stronger challenge for the meaning of life. Among the personal conditions of human suffering, the Grenzsituationen cannot be cancelled or raised at all, but only accepted and coped with as existential aspects of the conditio humana. According to Karl Jaspers these are: death, suffering, struggling, guilt, and failing. The challenge for human beings to cope with these Grenzsituationen is a way to move from the mere Being-there to true human Existence. (shrink)
The object of this paper is to sketch an approach to propositions, meaning and names. The key ingredients are a Twin-Earth-inspired distinction between internal and external meaning, and a middle-Wittgenstein-inspired conception of internal meaning as role in language system. I show how the approach offers a promising solution to the problem of the meaning of proper names. This is a plea for a neglected way of thinking about these topics.
Wayne Davis presents a highly original approach to the foundations of semantics, showing how the so-called "expression" theory of meaning can handle names and other problematic cases of nondescriptive meaning. The fact that thoughts have parts ("ideas" or "concepts") is fundamental: Davis argues that like other unstructured words, names mean what they do because they are conventionally used to express atomic or basic ideas. In the process he shows that many pillars of contemporary philosophical semantics, from twin earth (...) arguments to the necessity of identity, are unfounded. (shrink)
The rule-following debate, in its concern with the metaphysics and epistemology of linguistic meaning and mental content, goes to the heart of the most fundamental questions of contemporary philosophy of mind and language. This volume gathers together the most important contributions to the topic, including papers by Simon Blackburn, Paul Boghossian, Graeme Forbes, Warren Goldfarb, Paul Horwich, John McDowell, Colin McGinn, Ruth Millikan, Philip Pettit, George Wilson, and José Zalabardo. This debate has centred on Saul Kripke's reading of the (...) rule-following sections in Wittgenstein and his consequent posing of a "sceptical paradox" that threatens our every day notions of linguistic meaning and mental content. These essays are attempts to respond to this challenge and represent some of the most important work in contemporary theory of meaning. They examine the notion of meaning; whether it is possible to find a suitable meaning-constituting fact from our previous behaviour or mental histories; objections to, and defenses of, dispositional accounts of meaning; the plausibility of non-factualism about meaning; our attempts to develop non-reductionist accounts of meaning; and the sources of the normativity which attaches to meaning, such as the linguistic practice of the community or the dispositions of the individual. With an introductory essay and a comprehensive guide to further reading the book is an excellent resource for courses in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, Wittgenstein, and metaphysics, as well as for all philosophers, linguists, and cognitive scientists with interests in these areas. Contributors include Simon Blackburn, Paul Boghossian, Graeme Forbes, Warren Goldfarb, Paul Horwich, John McDowell, Colin McGinn, Alexander Miller, Ruth Garrett Millikan, Philip Pettit, George. M. Wilson, Crispin Wright, and José L. Zalabardo. (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)
The contemporary cultural mindset posits that the world has no intrinsic semantic value. The meaning we see in it is supposedly projected onto the world by ourselves. Underpinning this view is the mainstream physicalist ontology, according to which mind is an emergent property or epiphenomenon of brains. As such, since the world beyond brains isn’t mental, it cannot a priori evoke anything beyond itself. But a consistent series of recent experimental results suggests strongly that the world may in fact (...) be mental in nature, a hypothesis openly discussed in the field of foundations of physics. In this essay, these experimental results are reviewed and their hermeneutic implications discussed. If the world is mental, it points to something beyond its face-value appearances and is amenable to interpretation, just as ordinary dreams. In this case, the project of a Hermeneutic of Everything is metaphysically justifiable. (shrink)
In this important study, Michael Luntley offers a compelling reading of Wittgenstein’s account of meaning and intentionality, based upon a unifying theme in the early and later philosophies. A compelling reading of Wittgenstein’s account of meaning and intentionality. Offers an important and original reading of Wittgenstein’s key texts. Based upon a unifying theme in Wittgenstein’s early and later philosophies.
The emergent new science of synthetic biology is challenging entrenched distinctions between, amongst others, life and non-life, the natural and the artificial, the evolved and the designed, and even the material and the informational. Whenever such culturally sanctioned boundaries are breached, researchers are inevitably accused of playing God or treading in Frankenstein’s footsteps. Bioethicists, theologians and editors of scientific journals feel obliged to provide an authoritative answer to the ambiguous question of the ‘meaning’ of life, both as a scientific (...) definition and as an explication with wider existential connotations. This article analyses the arguments mooted in the emerging societal debates on synthetic biology and the way its practitioners respond to criticism, mostly by assuming a defiant posture or professing humility. It explores the relationship between the ‘playing God’ theme and the Frankenstein motif and examines the doctrinal status of the ‘playing God’ argument. One particularly interesting finding is that liberal theologians generally deny the religious character of the ‘playing God’ argument—a response which fits in with the curious fact that this argument is used mainly by secular organizations. Synthetic biology, it is therefore maintained, does not offend so much the God of the Bible as a deified Nature. While syntheses of artificial life forms cause some vague uneasiness that life may lose its special meaning, most concerns turn out to be narrowly anthropocentric. As long as synthetic biology creates only new microbial life and does not directly affect human life, it will in all likelihood be considered acceptable. (shrink)