Almost thirty years ago, in an attempt to undermine what he termed "the principle of alternate possibilities" (the thesis that people are morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise), Harry Frankfurt offered an ingenious thought-experiment that has played a major role in subsequent work on moral responsibility and free will. Several philosophers, including David Widerker and Robert Kane, argued recently that this thought-experiment and others like it are fundamentally flawed. This paper develops a (...) new Frankfurt-style example that is immune to their objections. [Reprinted in Laura Waddell Ekstrom, ed., Agency and Responsibility: Essays on the Metaphysics of Freedom (Westview Press, 2001), pp. 241-54; and in John Martin Fischer, ed., Free Will, Vol. III (Routledge, 2005), pp. 330-42.]. (shrink)
Worries about mental causation are prominent in contemporary discussions of the mind and human agency. Originally, the problem of mental causation was that of understanding how a mental substance (thought to be immaterial) could interact with a material substance, a body. Most philosophers nowadays repudiate immaterial minds, but the problem of mental causation has not gone away. Instead, focus has shifted to mental properties. How could mental properties be causally relevant to bodily behavior? How could something mental qua mental cause (...) what it does? After looking at the traditional Problem of Interaction, we survey various versions of the property-based problem and look at proposed solutions to them. (shrink)
Recent discussions of mental causation have focused on three principles: (1) Mental properties are (sometimes) causally relevant to physical effects; (2) mental properties are not physical properties; (3) every physical event has in its causal history only physical events and physical properties. Since these principles seem to be inconsistent, solutions have focused on rejecting one or more of them. But I argue that, in spite of appearances, (1)–(3) are not inconsistent. The reason is that 'properties' is used in different senses (...) in the principles. In (1) and (3), 'properties' should be read as 'tropes' (properties here are particulars), while in (2) 'properties' should read as 'types' (properties here are universals or classes). Although mental types are distinct from physical types, every mental trope is a physical trope. This allows mental properties to be causally relevant to physical effects without violating the closed character of the physical world. (shrink)
It is becoming increasingly clear that the deepest problems currently exercising philosophers of mind arise from an ill-begotten ontology, in particular, a mistaken ontology of properties. After going through some preliminaries, we identify three doctrines at the heart of this mistaken ontology: (P) For each distinct predicate, “F”, there exists one, and only one, property, F, such that, if “F” is applicable to an object a, then “F” is applicable in virtue of a’s being F. (U) Properties are universals, not (...) particulars. (D) Every property is either categorical or dispositional, but not both. We show how these doctrines influence current philosophical thinking about the mind, suggest and defend an alternative conception of properties, and indicate how this conception provides answers to two puzzles besetting contemporary philosophy of mind: the problem of mental causation and the problem of qualia. (shrink)
This paper is an articulation and defense of a trope-bundle theory of material objects. After some background remarks about objects and tropes, I start the main defense in Section III by answering a charge frequently made against the bundle theory, namely that it commits a conceptual error by saying that properties are parts of objects. I argue that there’s a general and intuitive sense of “part” in which properties are in fact parts of objects. This leads to the question of (...) qualitative unity: in virtue of what are certain properties unified as parts of an object? In Section IV I defend an account of unity for complex material objects. It turns on the thesis that the properties of such objects are structural properties. After addressing some objections, I turn in Section V to the question of unity for simple material objects. Here a different and more radical account is needed, for simples, since they do not have structural properties, are not subsumed by the account of Section IV. I defend the view that a simple object just is a simple property, so that identity delivers the desired unity. (shrink)
This is about a proposed solution to the exclusion problem, one I've defended elsewhere. Details aside, it's just the identity theory : mental properties face no threat of exclusion from, or preemption by, physical properties, because every mental property is a physical property. Here I elaborate on this solution and defend it from some objections. One of my goals is to place it in the context of a more general ontology of properties, in particular, a trope ontology.
This is an introduction to mental causation. It is written primarily for students new to the topic. The chapter is organized around the following argument: P1. Everything we do is caused by biochemical processes within our bodies and brains. P2. If everything we do is caused by biochemical processes within our bodies and brains, then nothing we do has a mental cause. C. Therefore, nothing we do has a mental cause.
I look at some central positions in the mental causation debate – reductionism, emergentism, and nonreductive physicalism – on the hypothesis that mental causation is intelligible. On this hypothesis, mental causes and their effects are internally related so that they intelligibly “fit”, analogous to the way puzzle pieces interlock, or shades of red fall into order within a color sphere. The assumption of intelligibility has what I take to be a welcome consequence: deciding among rivals in the mental causation debate (...) could end up to be largely an empirical matter. (shrink)
An adequate solution to the problem of mental causation should deliver, not just the efficacy of mental properties, but the efficacy of mental properties as such, of mentality in its own right. But this appears to block an identity solution from the outset. Any property that’s both mental and physical, the argument goes, has a dual nature, and this just reintroduces the problem of mental causation, now framed in terms of these two natures. But a powers ontology promises to save (...) the identity theory, at least from this problem. Such an ontology identifies a mental property’s mental and physical “natures” with just the property itself. A mental property is, at once, both wholly mental and wholly physical, so that to causally engage the physical nature of a mental property is to engage its mental nature as well. (shrink)
Former students of Francis MacDonald Cornford report that the distinguished Cambridge historian was fond of what he called his “parable of the coins.” The point of the parable’s instruction was that words, especially philosophers’ words, are like coins in that they retain their “shape” or visual appearance over decades and even centuries while their “purchasing power” or meaning may be shifting drastically. The image of a coin with an enduring shape but a varying purchasing power is especially appropriate for the (...) semantic career of one of the most important of Greek philosophical words, psyche, traditionally rendered “soul.” Visually, psyche retained its shape from the earliest Greek literature known to us, which is of course Homer, down to the age of the koine spoken in the time of Christ and later used to record the gospels. That was a period of a thousand years of varied and often intense philosophical and religious exploration and development; in those centuries, the meaning of psyche, unlike its shape, was far from static. (shrink)
E.J. Lowe has recently proposed a model of mental causation on which mental events are emergent, thus exerting a novel, downward causal influence on physical events. Yet on Lowe's model, mental causation is at the same time empirically undetectable, and in this sense is "invisible". Lowe's model is ingenious, but I don't think emergentists should welcome it, for it seems to me that a primary virtue of emergentism is its bold empirical prediction about the long-term results of human physiology. Here (...) I'll try to restore emergentism's empirical status, but my broader aim is to use Lowe's model to explore some central topics in the mental causation debate, including the "causal closure" of the physical world and the nature of causal powers. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Imagine, as most economists do, that financial-market participants understand the basic structure of the world: While they cannot predict the future with certainty, they are endowed with knowledge of the possible outcomes of their actions and the probability that each of those outcomes will occur. Given these assumptions, if bankers, regulators, investors, and rating agencies were rational, we may conclude that the financial crisis was caused by poor incentives: These actors must have knowingly jeopardized their institutions and the global (...) economy to pursue private gain. Alternatively, market participants, caught up in the mania of crowds, may have irrationally ignored risks of which they were aware and of which they knew the correct probability. Neither of these explanations for the financial crisis stands up to the evidence, since both explanations assume that the participants knew the U.S. housing market was about to crash. A fresh look at the data five years later suggests that they were ignorant of this fact, and that they acted rationally (or at least reasonably) in light of what they (thought that they) knew. This allows a more nuanced understanding of how financial institutions ended up in bedlam, why credit markets collapsed, and why they took so long to recover. (shrink)
Press a square paperweight into a lump of soft clay. What results is a square impression. Could a circular impression have resulted instead? The answer seems to be No. In this paper, I take this and similar examples as evidence for power essentialism, the thesis that the powers bestowed by a property are essential to it. I spend most of the paper trying to answer a few arguments against the evidential value of such examples: (1) there is the appearance of (...) necessity here, but it is of the wrong sort of necessity, say, mere nomological necessity; (2) one gets the appearance of necessity only if powers (such as rigidity) are held fixed, rendering the examples useless as evidence for power essentialism; (3) the examples are too simple, too crudely mechanistic. (shrink)
This is a critical review of six books: Peter Carruthers, _Language, Thought, and Consciousness; David Chalmers, _The Conscious Mind; Fred Dretske, _Naturalizing the Mind; Steven Horst, _Symbols, Computation and Intentionality; Jaegwon Kim, _Philosophy of Mind; and Michael Tye, _Ten Problems of Consciousness. The review focuses on what these authors have to say about consciousness.
_Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings_ is a comprehensive anthology that draws together leading philosophers writing on the major topics within philosophy of mind. Robb and O'Connor have carefully chosen articles under the following headings: *Substance Dualism and Idealism *Materialism *Mind and Representation *Consciousness Each section is prefaced by an introductory essay by the editors which guides the student gently into the topic in which leading philosophers are included. The book is highly accessible and user-friendly and provides a broad-ranging exploration of (...) the subject. Ideal for any philosophy student, this book will prove essential reading for any philosophy of mind course. The readings are designed to complement John Heil's _Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction, Second edition _, although the anthology can also be used as a stand-alone volume. (shrink)
A zombie is a creature just like a conscious being in certain respects, but wholly lacking in consciousness. In this paper, I look at zombies from the perspective of basic ontology (“from below”), taking as my starting point a trope ontology I have defended elsewhere. The consequences of this ontology for zombies are mixed. Viewed from below, one sort of zombie—the exact dispositional zombie—is impossible. A similar argument can be wielded against another sort—the exact physical zombie—but here supplementary principles are (...) needed to get to the impossibility result. Finally, at least two sorts of zombie—the behavioural and functional zombies—escape these arguments from below. (shrink)
Alfred A. Robb. THEOREM 54 If P1 and P2 be a pair of parallel inertia planes while an inertia plane Q1 has parallel general lines a and b in common with P1 and P2 respectively and if Q2 be an inertia plane parallel to Q1 through some ...
Much recent scholarship on Heraclitus has emphasized that the philosopher exploits recurring words in his terse sayings. The dok- words were among his favorites, for example, as was psychê, soul, in some innovative usages. The great Ephesian philosopher also enjoyed drawing sharp, verbal images borrowed from contemporary life, some of them memorable even to the modern reader. Words and images can, in turn, “resonate” between contexts when they appear in several fragments. One example, a recurring word and image concerns marturia, (...) witnessing as a formal legal action. The chosen terminology of Heraclitus and the scene it evokes are borrowed from the local courts. In this feature the witness sayings bear comparison to earlier well-known examples from Milesian Anaximander and Athenian Solon, who imagines himself summoning Mother Earth as his eyewitness at a future trial where he will defend his accomplishments. (shrink)
In trying to understand St. Thomas’ doctrine on the unity of adequate knowing, one has to locate what he has said on this topic within a larger framework, what he means by being a human being. His personal doctrine, as it is classically interpreted, centers around what I refer to as the unity of a human being or a human person. In general St. Thomas has been interpreted as saying that the human soul has subsistence in its own right, but (...) it is incomplete in nature, and it is related to its body in the unity of a human being as part to part. (shrink)
This book ranks with the best of contemporary work on the metaphysics of causation, both because of its thorough and unified treatment of the literature and because its author faces head-on the most difficult foundational questions about causality: How, at the most basic level, do causes bring about their effects? What are the mechanisms operating in the world to bind its parts together? Ehring’s answers to these questions are clear, original, and supported by sophisticated arguments. The book is a fine (...) example of what C. B. Martin calls “ontological seriousness,” a concern for the truthmakers of our causal claims, for figuring out how causality works at the most fundamental level. (shrink)
This book examines the progress of literacy in ancient Greece from its origins with the introduction of the alphabet in the eighth century to the fourth century, when the major cultural institutions of Athens became totally dependent on alphabetic literacy. Professor Robb introduces much new evidence and re-evaluates older evidence to demonstrate that early Greek literacy can only be understood in terms of the rich oral culture that immediately preceded it, one that was dominated by the oral performance of epical (...) verse, or "Homer". The eventual dependence of Athenian democratic institutions, notably law and higher education, on the technology of writing contributed to the "miracle" of Greece. (shrink)