This book pursues the question of how and whether natural language allows for reference to abstract objects in a fully systematic way. By making full use of contemporary linguistic semantics, it presents a much greater range of linguistic generalizations than has previously been taken into consideration in philosophical discussions, and it argues for an ontological picture is very different from that generally taken for granted by philosophers and semanticists alike. Reference to abstract objects such as properties, numbers, propositions, and degrees (...) is considerably more marginal than generally held. (shrink)
In this book, Zalta attempts to lay the axiomatic foundations of metaphysics by developing and applying a (formal) theory of abstract objects. The cornerstones include a principle which presents precise conditions under which there are abstract objects and a principle which says when apparently distinct such objects are in fact identical. The principles are constructed out of a basic set of primitive notions, which are identified at the end of the Introduction, just before the theorizing begins. The main reason for (...) producing a theory which defines a logical space of abstract objects is that it may have a great deal of explanatory power. It is hoped that the data explained by means of the theory will be of interest to pure and applied metaphysicians, logicians and linguists, and pure and applied epistemologists. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently suggested that some abstract, plausibly non-causal and/or mathematical, explanations explain in a way that is radically dif- ferent from the way causal explanation explain. Namely, while causal explanations explain by providing information about causal dependence, allegedly some abstract explanations explain in a way tied to the independence of the explanandum from the microdetails, or causal laws, for example. We oppose this recent trend to regard abstractions as explanatory in some sui generis way, and argue (...) that a prominent ac- count of causal explanation can be naturally extended to capture explanations that radically abstract away from microphysical and causal-nomological details. To this end, we distinguish di erent senses in which an explanation can be more or less abstract, and analyse the connection between explanations’ abstractness and their explanatory power. According to our analysis abstract explanations have much in common with counterfactual causal explanations. (shrink)
While Frege’s own attempt to provide a purely logical foundation for arithmetic failed, Hume’s principle suffices as a foundation for elementary arithmetic. It is known that the resulting system is consistent—or at least if second-order arithmetic is. Some philosophers deny that HP can be regarded as either a truth of logic or as analytic in any reasonable sense. Others—like Crispin Wright and I—take the opposed view. Rather than defend our claim that HP is a conceptual truth about numbers, I explain (...) one way it may be possible to extend our view beyond elementary arithmetic to encompass the theory of real numbers. My approach has affinities to the leading ideas of Frege’s own treatment of the reals, although differing in one fundamental way. I attempt, like the HP approach to elementary arithmetic, to obtain the reals very directly by means of abstraction principles without any essential reliance on a theory of sets. This is the most natural way of extending the neo-Fregean position to the reals. (shrink)
Think of a number, any number, or properties like fragility and humanity. These and other abstract entities are radically different from concrete entities like electrons and elbows. While concrete entities are located in space and time, have causes and effects, and are known through empirical means, abstract entities like meanings and possibilities are remarkably different. They seem to be immutable and imperceptible and to exist "outside" of space and time. This book provides a comprehensive critical assessment of the problems raised (...) by abstract entities and the debates about existence, truth, and knowledge that surround them. It sets out the key issues that inform the metaphysical disagreement between platonists who accept abstract entities and nominalists who deny abstract entities exist. Beginning with the essentials of the platonist–nominalist debate, it explores the key arguments and issues informing the contemporary debate over abstract reality: arguments for platonism and their connections to semantics, science, and metaphysical explanation the abstract–concrete distinction and views about the nature of abstract reality epistemological puzzles surrounding our knowledge of mathematical entities and other abstract entities. arguments for nominalism premised upon concerns about paradox, parsimony, infinite regresses, underdetermination, and causal isolation nominalist options that seek to dispense with abstract entities. Including chapter summaries, annotated further reading, and a glossary, _Entities_ is essential reading for anyone seeking a clear and authoritative introduction to the problems raised by abstract entities. (shrink)
Paolo Mancosu provides an original investigation of historical and systematic aspects of the notions of abstraction and infinity and their interaction. A familiar way of introducing concepts in mathematics rests on so-called definitions by abstraction. An example of this is Hume's Principle, which introduces the concept of number by stating that two concepts have the same number if and only if the objects falling under each one of them can be put in one-one correspondence. This principle is at (...) the core of neo-logicism. In the first two chapters of the book, Mancosu provides a historical analysis of the mathematical uses and foundational discussion of definitions by abstraction up to Frege, Peano, and Russell. Chapter one shows that abstraction principles were quite widespread in the mathematical practice that preceded Frege's discussion of them and the second chapter provides the first contextual analysis of Frege's discussion of abstraction principles in section 64 of the Grundlagen. In the second part of the book, Mancosu discusses a novel approach to measuring the size of infinite sets known as the theory of numerosities and shows how this new development leads to deep mathematical, historical, and philosophical problems. The final chapter of the book explore how this theory of numerosities can be exploited to provide surprisingly novel perspectives on neo-logicism. (shrink)
Proponents of mechanistic explanation all acknowledge the importance of organization. But they have also tended to emphasize specificity with respect to parts and operations in mechanisms. We argue that in understanding one important mode of organization—patterns of causal connectivity—a successful explanatory strategy abstracts from the specifics of the mechanism and invokes tools such as those of graph theory to explain how mechanisms with a particular mode of connectivity will behave. We discuss the connection between organization, abstraction, and mechanistic explanation (...) and illustrate our claims by looking at an example from recent research on so-called network motifs. (shrink)
An abstract framework for structured arguments is presented, which instantiates Dung's ('On the Acceptability of Arguments and its Fundamental Role in Nonmonotonic Reasoning, Logic Programming, and n- Person Games', Artificial Intelligence , 77, 321-357) abstract argumentation frameworks. Arguments are defined as inference trees formed by applying two kinds of inference rules: strict and defeasible rules. This naturally leads to three ways of attacking an argument: attacking a premise, attacking a conclusion and attacking an inference. To resolve such attacks, preferences may (...) be used, which leads to three corresponding kinds of defeat: undermining, rebutting and undercutting defeats. The nature of the inference rules, the structure of the logical language on which they operate and the origin of the preferences are, apart from some basic assumptions, left unspecified. The resulting framework integrates work of Pollock, Vreeswijk and others on the structure of arguments and the nature of defeat and extends it in several respects. Various rationality postulates are proved to be satisfied by the framework, and several existing approaches are proved to be a special case of the framework, including assumption-based argumentation and DefLog. (shrink)
The concept of the environment appears to be indispensably involved in adaptive explanation. Quite what its role is, however, is a matter of some dispute. The environment is customarily viewed as the dual of the organism; a wholly external, discrete, autonomous cause of evolution. On this view, the external environment is the principal cause of the adaptedness of form, and the determinant of what it is to be an adaptation. I argue that this conception of the environment neither adequately explains (...) nor individuates evolutionary adaptations. Instead, adaptation, properly construed, is an evolutionary response to affordances. The environment, traditionally construed, underdetermines an organism’s affordances. Instead, I argue that the environment takes its place in evolutionary models not as a discrete causal entity, but as an abstraction. (shrink)
Abstract creationism about fictional characters is the view that fictional characters are abstract objects that authors create. I defend this view against criticisms from Stuart Brock that hitherto have not been adequately countered. The discussion sheds light on how the number of fictional characters depends on authorial intention. I conclude also that we should change how we think intentions are connected to artifacts more generally, both abstract and concrete.
This article focuses on a case that expert practitioners count as an explanation: a mathematical account of Plateau’s laws for soap films. I argue that this example falls into a class of explanations that I call abstract explanations.explanations involve an appeal to a more abstract entity than the state of affairs being explained. I show that the abstract entity need not be causally relevant to the explanandum for its features to be explanatorily relevant. However, it remains unclear how to unify (...) abstract and causal explanations as instances of a single sort of thing. I conclude by examining the implications of the claim that explanations require objective dependence relations. If this claim is accepted, then there are several kinds of objective dependence relations. 1 Introduction2 A Case3 Abstract and Causal Explanations4 Recent Work on Mathematical Explanation5 Explanation and Dependence6 Conclusion. (shrink)
It is widely supposed that every entity falls into one of twocategories: Some are concrete; the rest abstract. The distinction issupposed to be of fundamental significance for metaphysics andepistemology. This article surveys a number of recent attempts to sayhow it should be drawn.
The need for quantitative measurement represents a unifying bond that links all the physical, biological, and social sciences. Measurements of such disparate phenomena as subatomic masses, uncertainty, information, and human values share common features whose explication is central to the achievement of foundational work in any particular mathematical science as well as for the development of a coherent philosophy of science. This book presents a theory of measurement, one that is "abstract" in that it is concerned with highly general axiomatizations (...) of empirical and qualitative settings and how these can be represented quantitatively. It was inspired by, and represents a generalization and extension of, the last major research work in this field, Foundations of Measurement Vol. I, by Krantz, Luce, Suppes, and Tversky published in 1971. (shrink)
Theories of explanation need to account for a puzzling feature of our explanatory practices: the fact that we prefer explanations that are relatively abstract but only moderately so. Contra Franklin-Hall (), I argue that the interventionist account of explanation provides a natural and elegant explanation of this fact. By striking the right balance between specificity and generality, moderately abstract explanations optimally subserve what interventionists regard as the goal of explanation, namely identifying possible interventions that would have changed the explanandum.
In recent years, language has been shown to play a number of important cognitive roles over and above the communication of thoughts. One hypothesis gaining support is that language facilitates thought about abstract categories, such as democracy or prediction. To test this proposal, a novel set of semantic memory task trials, designed for assessing abstract thought non-linguistically, were normed for levels of abstractness. The trials were rated as more or less abstract to the degree that answering them required the participant (...) to abstract away from both perceptual features and common setting associations corresponding to the target image. The normed materials were then used with a population of people with aphasia to assess the relationship of abstract thought to language. While the language-impaired group with aphasia showed lower overall accuracy and longer response times than controls in general, of special note is that their response times were significantly longer as a function of a trial’s degree of abstractness. Further, the aphasia group’s response times in reporting their degree of confidence (a separate, metacognitive measure) were negatively correlated with their language production abilities, with lower language scores predicting longer metacognitive response times. These results provide some support for the hypothesis that language is an important aid to abstract thought and to metacognition about abstract thought. (shrink)
While the fundamental laws of physics are time-reversal invariant, most macroscopic processes are irreversible. Given that the fundamental laws are taken to underpin all other processes, how can the fundamental time-symmetry be reconciled with the asymmetry manifest elsewhere? In statistical mechanics, progress can be made with this question. What I dub the ‘Zwanzig–Zeh–Wallace framework’ can be used to construct the irreversible equations of SM from the underlying microdynamics. Yet this framework uses coarse-graining, a procedure that has faced much criticism. I (...) focus on two objections in the literature: claims that coarse-graining makes time-asymmetry ‘illusory’ and ‘anthropocentric’. I argue that these objections arise from an unsatisfactory justification of coarse-graining prevalent in the literature, rather than from coarse-graining itself. This justification relies on the idea of measurement imprecision. By considering the role that abstraction and autonomy play, I provide an alternative justification and offer replies to the illusory and anthropocentric objections. Finally, I consider the broader consequences of this alternative justification: the connection to debates about inter-theoretic reduction and the implication that the time-asymmetry in SM is weakly emergent. 1Introduction 1.1Prospectus2The Zwanzig–Zeh–Wallace Framework3Why Does This Method Work? 3.1The special conditions account3.2When is a density forwards-compatible?4Anthropocentrism and Illusion: Two Objections 4.1The two objections in more detail4.2Against the justification by measurement imprecision5An Alternative Justification 5.1Abstraction and autonomy5.2An illustration: the Game of Life6Reply to Illusory7Reply to Anthropocentric8The Wider Landscape: Concluding Remarks 8.1Inter-theoretic relations8.2The nature of irreversibility. (shrink)
We characterize abstraction in computer science by first comparing the fundamental nature of computer science with that of its cousin mathematics. We consider their primary products, use of formalism, and abstraction objectives, and find that the two disciplines are sharply distinguished. Mathematics, being primarily concerned with developing inference structures, has information neglect as its abstraction objective. Computer science, being primarily concerned with developing interaction patterns, has information hiding as its abstraction objective. We show that abstraction (...) through information hiding is a primary factor in computer science progress and success through an examination of the ubiquitous role of information hiding in programming languages, operating systems, network architecture, and design patterns. (shrink)
Neologicists have sought to ground mathematical knowledge in abstraction. One especially obstinate problem for this account is the bad company problem. The leading neologicist strategy for resolving this problem is to attempt to sift the good abstraction principles from the bad. This response faces a dilemma: the system of ‘good’ abstraction principles either falls foul of the Scylla of inconsistency or the Charybdis of being unable to recover a modest portion of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory with its intended (...) generality. This article argues that the bad company problem is due to the ‘static’ character of abstraction on the neologicist's account and develops a ‘dynamic’ account of abstraction that avoids both horns of the dilemma. 1 Introduction2ion Reconstructed3 From Bad to Worse4 Abstraction Reconceived5 Bad Company Made GoodA AppendixA.1SemanticsA.2LogicA.3ConsistencyA.4Strength. (shrink)
In the recent literature on causal and non-causal scientific explanations, there is an intuitive assumption according to which an explanation is non-causal by virtue of being abstract. In this context, to be ‘abstract’ means that the explanans in question leaves out many or almost all causal microphysical details of the target system. After motivating this assumption, we argue that the abstractness assumption, in placing the abstract and the causal character of an explanation in tension, is misguided in ways that are (...) independent of which view of causation or causal explanation one takes to be most accurate. On major accounts of causation, as well as on major accounts of causal explanation, the abstractness of an explanation is not sufficient for it being non-causal. That is, explanations are not non-causal by dint of being abstract. (shrink)
Invariantists argue that the notion of concept in psychology should be reserved for knowledge that is retrieved in a context-insensitive manner. Contextualists argue that concepts are to be understood in terms of context-sensitive ad hoc constructions. I review the central empirical evidence for and against both views and show that their conclusions are based on a common mischaracterization of both theories. When the difference between contextualism and invariantism is properly understood, it becomes apparent that the way the question of stability (...) is currently investigated will not lead to a consensus. Instead of focusing directly on stability, we should turn our attention to other desiderata on a theory of concepts. In particular, I show that invariantism, but not contextualism, fails to account for compositionality and abstract concepts. (shrink)
argumentation has been shown to be a powerful tool within many fields such as artificial intelligence, logic and legal reasoning. In this paper we enhance Dung’s well-known abstract argumentation framework with explanatory capabilities. We show that an explanatory argumentation framework (EAF) obtained in this way is a useful tool for the modeling of scientific debates. On the one hand, EAFs allow for the representation of explanatory and justificatory arguments constituting rivaling scientific views. On the other hand, different procedures for selecting (...) arguments, corresponding to different methodological and epistemic requirements of theory evaluation, can be formulated in view of our framework. (shrink)
Abstract rationality has increasingly been a target of attack in contemporary educational research and practice and in its place practical reason and situated thinking have become a focus of interest. The argument here is that something is lost in this. In illustrating how we might think about the issue, this paper makes a response to the charge that as a result of his commitment to the ‘Enlightenment project’ Vygotsky holds abstract rationality as the pinnacle of thought. Against this it is (...) argued that Vygotsky had a far more sophisticated appreciation of reason and of its remit. The paper proceeds first by examining the picture of Vygotsky that is presented in the work of James Wertsch, and especially his claim that Vygotsky was an ambivalent rationalist, goes on to provide an account of Vygotsky that corrects this picture, and develops this in the light of the work of Robert Brandom, who shares Vygotsky’s inheritance of Hegel. The conclusion towards which this piece points is that the philosophical underpinnings of Vygotsky’s work provide a radically different idea of rationality and epistemology from that characterised as abstract rationality and that this has significance for education studies. (shrink)
objects are standardly taken to be causally inert, but this claim is rarely explicitly argued for. In the context of his platonism about musical works, in order for musical works to be audible, Julian Dodd argues that abstracta are causally efficacious in virtue of their concrete tokens participating in events. I attempt to provide a principled argument for the causal inertness of abstracta by first rejecting Dodd’s arguments from events, and then extending and generalizing the causal exclusion argument to the (...) abstract/concrete distinction. For reasons of parsimony, if concrete tokens or instantiations of abstract objects account for all causal work, then there is no reason to attribute causal efficacy to abstracta, and thus reason to maintain their causal inertness. I then consider how one of the main arguments against causal exclusion, namely Stephen Yablo’s notion of “proportionality”, could be modified to support the causal efficacy of abstracta. I argue that from a few simple premises Yablo’s account in fact supports their causal inertness. Having a principled reason for the causal inertness of abstracta appears to entail that the musical platonist must admit that we never literally hear the musical work, but only its performances. I sketch a solution to this problem available to Dodd, so that the musical platonist can maintain that musical works are abstract objects and are causally inert while retaining their audibility. (shrink)
Although Burke, Bentham, Hegel and Marx do not often agree, all criticized certain ethical theories, in particular theories of rights, for being too abstract . The complaint is still popular. It was common in Existentialist and in Wittgensteinian writing that stressed the importance of cases and examples rather than principles for the moral life; it has been prominent in recent Hegelian and Aristotelian flavoured writing, which stresses the importance of the virtues; it is reiterated in discussions that stress the distinctiveness (...) and particularity of moral vicissitudes and query the importance of ethical theory. Recent critics of abstraction are opposed not only to theories of rights, and the Kantian notions with which these are linked, but also to consequentialist ethical theories. The two ethical theories that are most influential in the English-speaking world now both stand accused of being too abstract. (shrink)
We provide an explicit taxonomy of legitimate kinds of abstraction within constitutive explanation. We argue that abstraction is an inherent aspect of adequate mechanistic explanation. Mechanistic explanations—even ideally complete ones—typically involve many kinds of abstraction and therefore do not require maximal detail. Some kinds of abstraction play the ontic role of identifying the specific complex components, subsets of causal powers, and organizational relations that produce a suitably general phenomenon. Therefore, abstract constitutive explanations are both legitimate and (...) mechanistic. (shrink)
The neo-Fregean program in the philosophy of mathematics seeks a foundation for a substantial part of mathematics in abstraction principles—for example, Hume’s Principle: The number of Fs D the number of Gs iff the Fs and Gs correspond one-one—which can be regarded as implicitly definitional of fundamental mathematical concepts—for example, cardinal number. This paper considers what kind of abstraction principle might serve as the basis for a neo- Fregean set theory. Following a brief review of the main difficulties (...) confronting the most widely discussed proposal to date—replacing Frege’s inconsistent Basic Law V by Boolos’s New V which restricts concepts whose extensions obey the principle of extensionality to those which are small in the sense of being smaller than the universe—the paper canvasses an alternative way of implementing the limitation of size idea and explores the kind of restrictions which would be required for it to avoid collapse. (shrink)
Philosophers have often claimed that general ideas or representations have their origin in abstraction, but it remains unclear exactly what abstraction as a psychological process consists in. We argue that the Lockean aspiration of using abstraction to explain the origins of all general representations cannot work and that at least some general representations have to be innate. We then offer an explicit framework for understanding abstraction, one that treats abstraction as a computational process that operates (...) over an innate quality space of fine-grained general representations. We argue that this framework has important philosophical implications for the nativism-empiricism dispute, for questions about the acquisition of unstructured representations, and for questions about the relation between human and animal minds. (shrink)
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explain how abstract space of the State – universally and specifically within the context of Middle Eastern cities – aims to homogenise the city and eliminate any anomaly that threatens its power structure. Design/methodology/approach – Through a historical and discourse analysis of these policies and processes in the two case studies, this paper presents a contextualised reading of Lefebvre’s concept of abstract space and process of abstraction in relation to the (...) alienation of political public spaces. Findings – The paper proposes that regardless of these homogenising strategies being applied universally, they fail to respond to contextual particularities and therefore they – in a contradictory manner – may themselves produce a space of resistance and difference. Originality/value – This paper focusses on Iran, the case of Tehran and Turkey, the case of Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul. Recent policies and strategies have been proposed and implemented to reduce, alienate and possibly neutralise the impacts of urban and political protests in these cities and socio-political contexts. (shrink)
This paper presents a formalization of first-order arithmetic characterizing the natural numbers as abstracta of the equinumerosity relation. The formalization turns on the interaction of a nonstandard cardinality quantifier with an abstraction operator assigning objects to predicates. The project draws its philosophical motivation from a nonreductionist conception of logicism, a deflationary view of abstraction, and an approach to formal arithmetic that emphasizes the cardinal properties of the natural numbers over the structural ones.
Several modern accounts of explanation acknowledge the importance of abstraction and idealization for our explanatory practice. However, once we allow a role for abstraction, questions remain. I ask whether the relation between explanations at different theoretical levels should be thought of wholly in terms of abstraction, and argue that changes of the quantities in terms of which we describe a system can lead to novel explanations that are not merely abstractions of some more detailed picture. I use (...) the example of phase transitions as described by statistical mechanics and thermodynamics to illustrate this, and to demonstrate some details of the relationship between abstraction, idealization, and novel explanation. (shrink)
In Metaphysics A, Aristotle offers some objections to Plato’s theory of Forms to the effect that Plato’s Forms would not be explanatory in the right way, and seems to suggest that they might even make the explanatory project worse. One interesting historical puzzle is whether Aristotle can avoid these same objections to his own theory of universals. The concerns Aristotle raises are, I think, cousins of contemporary concerns about the usefulness and explanatoriness of abstract objects, some of which have recently (...) been receiving attention in the philosophy of mathematics. After discussing Aristotle’s objections and their contemporary cousins, the paper discusses some of the main available lines of response to these sorts of challenges, before concluding with an examination of whether these responses could assist Plato or Aristotle in responding to these challenges. (shrink)
This paper elaborates distinctions between a core and a periphery in the ontological and the conceptual domain associated with natural language. The ontological core-periphery distinction is essential for natural language ontology and is the basis for the central thesis of my 2013 book Abstract Objects and the Semantics of Natural Language, namely that natural language permits reference to abstract objects in its periphery, but not its core.
This volume is about abstract objects and the ways we refer to them in natural language. Asher develops a semantical and metaphysical analysis of these entities in two stages. The first reflects the rich ontology of abstract objects necessitated by the forms of language in which we think and speak. A second level of analysis maps the ontology of natural language metaphysics onto a sparser domain--a more systematic realm of abstract objects that are fully analyzed. This second level reflects the (...) commitments of real metaphysics. The models for these commitments assign truth conditions to natural language discourse. Annotation copyright by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR. (shrink)
We present an abstract model of rationality theories that focuses on structural properties of attitudes. We construe rationality as coherence between one's attitudes, e.g., one's beliefs, values, and intentions. We introduce three 'logical' conditions on attitudes: consistency, completeness, and closedness. They generalise the classic logical conditions on beliefs towards multiple attitudes, but contrast with standard rationality conditions such as transitivity for preferences, modus ponens for binary beliefs, additivity for probabilistic beliefs, and non-akrasia for intentions. We establish a formal correspondence between (...) our three logical conditions and standard rationality conditions. Addressing John Broome's enquiry into the achievability of rationality through reasoning, we characterize the extent to which explicit reasoning can help one become more 'logical', i.e., acquire consistent, complete, or closed attitudes, respectively. Our analysis forms a bridge between rationality and logic, and enables logical talk about multi-attitude psychology. (shrink)
Abstraction and idealization are the two notions that are most often discussed in the context of assumptions employed in the process of model building. These notions are also routinely used in philosophical debates such as that on the mechanistic account of explanation. Indeed, an objection to the mechanistic account has recently been formulated precisely on these grounds: mechanists cannot account for the common practice of idealizing difference-making factors in models in molecular biology. In this paper I revisit the debate (...) and I argue that the objection does not stand up to scrutiny. This is because it is riddled with a number of conceptual inconsistencies. By attempting to resolve the tensions, I also draw several general lessons regarding the difficulties of applying abstraction and idealization in scientific practice. Finally, I argue that more care is needed only when speaking of abstraction and idealization in a context in which these concepts play an important role in an argument, such as that on mechanistic explanation. (shrink)
concepts typically are defined in terms of lacking physical or perceptual referents. We argue instead that they are not devoid of perceptual information because knowledge of real-world situations is an important component of learning and using many abstract concepts. Although the relationship between perceptual information and abstract concepts is less straightforward than for concrete concepts, situation-based perceptual knowledge is part of many abstract concepts. In Experiment 1, participants made lexical decisions to abstract words that were preceded by related and unrelated (...) pictures of situations. For example, share was preceded by a picture of two girls sharing a cob of corn. When pictures were presented for 500 ms, latencies did not differ. However, when pictures were presented for 1,000 ms, decision latencies were significantly shorter for abstract words preceded by related versus unrelated pictures. Because the abstract concepts corresponded to the pictured situation as a whole, rather than a single concrete object or entity, the necessary relational processing takes time. In Experiment 2, on each trial, an abstract word was presented for 250 ms, immediately followed by a picture. Participants indicated whether or not the picture showed a normal situation. Decision latencies were significantly shorter for pictures preceded by related versus unrelated abstract words. Our experiments provide evidence that knowledge of events and situations is important for learning and using at least some types of abstract concepts. That is, abstract concepts are grounded in situations, but in a more complex manner than for concrete concepts. Although people's understanding of abstract concepts certainly includes knowledge gained from language describing situations and events for which those concepts are relevant, sensory and motor information experienced during real-life events is important as well. (shrink)
This article improves two existing theorems of interest to neologicist philosophers of mathematics. The first is a classification theorem due to Fine for equivalence relations between concepts definable in a well-behaved second-order logic. The improved theorem states that if an equivalence relation E is defined without nonlogical vocabulary, then the bicardinal slice of any equivalence class—those equinumerous elements of the equivalence class with equinumerous complements—can have one of only three profiles. The improvements to Fine’s theorem allow for an analysis of (...) the well-behaved models had by an abstraction principle, and this in turn leads to an improvement of Walsh and Ebels-Duggan’s relative categoricity theorem. (shrink)
Some philosophers have recently suggested that the reason mathematics is useful in science is that it expands our expressive capacities. Of these philosophers, only Stephen Yablo has put forward a detailed account of how mathematics brings this advantage. In this article, I set out Yablo’s view and argue that it is implausible. Then, I introduce a simpler account and show it is a serious rival to Yablo’s. 1 Introduction2 Yablo’s Expressionism3 Psychological Objections to Yablo’s Expressionism4 Introducing Belief Expressionism5 Objections and (...) Replies5.1 Yablo’s likely response5.2 Charity6 Conclusion. (shrink)
The nature of light is a focus of Thomas Hobbes’s natural philosophical project. Hobbes’s explanation of the light of lucid bodies differs across his works, from dilation and contraction in Elements of Law to simple circular motions in De corpore. However, Hobbes consistently explains perceived light by positing that bodily resistance generates the phantasm of light. In Letters I.XIX–XX of Philosophical Letters, fellow materialist Margaret Cavendish attacks the Hobbesian understanding of both lux and lumen by claiming that Hobbes has illicitly (...) made abstractions from matter. In this paper, I argue that Cavendish’s criticisms rely on an incorrect understanding of the nature of Hobbesian geometry and the role it plays in Hobbes’s natural philosophy. Rather than understanding geometry as wholly abstract, Hobbes attempts to ground geometry in different ways of considering bodies and their motions. Furthermore, Hobbes’s own criticisms of abstraction suggest that he would share many of the worries she raises but deny that he falls prey to them. (shrink)