In May 2021, AlanBechaz, Racher Du, Will Cailes and Thomas Spiteri interviewed Sandra Leonie Field for UPJA’s Conversations from the Region. A series of discussions that invites philosophers from or based in Australasia to share their student and academic experiences. The segment looks into what inspires people to study philosophy, how they pursue their philosophical interests, and gives our audiences a better idea of philosophy as an undergraduate.
An explanation is given of why it is in the nature of inquiry into whether or not p that its aim is fully achieved only if one comes to know that p or to know that not-p and, further, comes to know how one knows, either way. In the absence of the latter one is in no position to take the inquiry to be successfully completed or to vouch for the truth of the matter in hand. An upshot is that (...) although knowledge matters because truth matters this should not be understood to mean that knowledge matters because true belief matters. (shrink)
[Alan Weir] This paper addresses the problem of how to account for objective content-for the distinction between how we actually apply terms and the conditions in which we ought to apply them-from within a naturalistic framework. Though behaviourist or dispositionalist approaches are generally held to be unsuccessful in naturalising objective content or 'normativity', I attempt to restore the credibility of such approaches by sketching a behaviouristic programme for explicating objective content. /// [Alexander Miller] Paul Boghossian (1989, 1990) has argued, (...) on grounds concerning the holistic nature of belief fixation, that there are principled reasons for thinking that 'optimal conditions' versions of reductive dispositionalism about content cannot hope to satisfy a condition of extensional accuracy. I discern three separable strands of argument in Boghossian's work-the circularity objection, the open-endedness objection, and the certification objection-and argue that each of these objections fails. My conclusion is that for all that Boghossian has shown, 'optimal conditions' versions of reductive dispositionalism have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
Economic approaches to both social evaluation and decision-making are typically Paretian or utilitarian in nature and so display commitments to both welfarism and consequentialism. The contrast between the economic approach and any rights-based social philosophy has spawned a large literature that may be divided into two branches. The first is concerned with the compatibility of rights and utilitarianism seen as independent moral forces. This branch of the literature may be characterized as an example of the broader debate between the teleological (...) and deontological approaches. The second is concerned with the possibility that substantial rights may be grounded in utilitarianism with the moral force of rights being derived from more basic commitments to welfarism and consequentialism. This branch of the literature may be characterized as an exploration of the flexibility of the teleological approach, and, in particular, its ability to give rise to views more normally associated with the deontological approach. This essay is concerned with the second branch of the literature. (shrink)
A major voice in late twentieth-century philosophy, Alan Donagan is distinguished for his theories on the history of philosophy and the nature of morality. The Philosophical Papers of Alan Donagan, volumes 1 and 2, collect 28 of Donagan's most important and best-known essays on historical understanding and ethics from 1957 to 1991. Volume 2 addresses issues in the philosophy of action and moral theory. With papers on Kant, von Wright, Sellars, and Chisholm, this volume also covers a range (...) of questions in applied ethics--from the morality of Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ethical questions in medicine and law. (shrink)
In a detailed and spirited critique, Professor James M. Humber has found my defence of the ontological argument unconvincing. Humber's case rests upon his claim that my ‘error’ is due to my ‘having accepted an incorrect definition of “physically necessary being” … ’. Now I do indeed claim that God must be conceived as a factuall necessary being, i.e. as eternally independent. I take the notion of God's aseity or eternal independence to be relatively straightforward and uncontroversial; it is accepted (...) as an essential component of the concept God by many philosophers who also insist that there is no acceptable form of demonstrative theism. Thus, it is widely held that ‘God is a factually necessary being’ does not imply ‘God is a logically necessary being’; that God is eternally independent does not imply that he exists in all possible worlds. But it is precisely this view that I have argued is incorrect. While I concur that there is an intelligible concept of God as factually necessary, I deny that the existence of such a being is logically contingent, a mere matter of empirical fact. Indeed, a rigorous inspection of the concept of an eternally independent being reveals that whether that concept is instantiated, i.e. whether there exists a being exemplifying that concept, is knowable a priori . My claim is in fact stronger than this. I argue that the existence of an eternal, independent, omniscient and omnipotent being is demonstrable by conceptual analysis. It is Humber's contention that my alleged demonstration of God's existence crumbles upon the discovery of the unacceptability of my definition of ‘factually necessary being’. Let us see. (shrink)
As a preliminary to the justification of equal opportunity, we require a few words on the concept. An opportunity is a chance to attain some goal or obtain some benefit. More precisely, it is the lack of some obstacle or obstacles to the attainment of some goal or benefit. Opportunities are equal in some specified or understood sense when persons face roughly the same obstacles or obstacles of roughly the same difficulty of some specified or understood sort. In different contexts (...) we might have different sorts of benefits or obstacles in mind. But in the current social context, and in the context of this discussion, we refer to educational and occupational opportunities, chances to attain the benefits of higher education and of socially and economically desirable positions, benefits assumed to be desired by many or most individuals, other things being equal. And we generally divide obstacles into two broad classes: those imposed by the social system or by other persons in the society, for example, the hardships of life in the lower economic classes or barriers from prejudices based on race, sex, or ethnic background; and those imposed by natural disabilities, for example, low intelligence or lack of talents. The initial question is whether a moral society is obligated to create equality in opportunities in the senses just defined. I shall assume here initially that there is some such obligation on the part of society or the state, although I shall specify its nature and limits more precisely below. With the exception of certain libertarians, almost everyone, liberal and conservative alike, agrees in this assumption. (shrink)
Linked by Donagan's commitment to the central importance of history for philosophy and his interest in problems of historical understanding, these essays represent the remarkable scope of Donagan's thought.
With papers on Kant, von Wright, Sellars, and Chisholm, this volume also covers a range of questions in applied ethics—from the morality of Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ethical questions in medicine ...
In this essay I wish to defend the intuition that God transcends time, of which he is the Creator. To do this, I will develop a new understanding of the term ‘timeless eternity’ as it applies to God. This assumes the inadequacy of the traditional notion of divine eternity, as it is found in Boethius, Anselm and Aquinas. Very briefly, the reasons for this inadequacy are as follows. God sustains the universe, which means in part that he is responsible for (...) the fundamental ontological status of things. Because the universe is an everchanging reality, things do change in their fundamental ontological status at different times – a change we must ascribe to God, and cannot ascribe to the objects themselves, since this has to do with their very existence. God himself, therefore, does different things at different times. This implies change in God. Whenever a change occurs, a duration occurs. Therefore, God is in time. But I do not think it is proper to say that God is in our time. God transcends time, and he is the Creator of our space-time. It is theologically more proper to say that we are in God's time, and I will adopt this language here. (shrink)
I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?" This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms "machine" and "think." The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous, If the meaning of the words "machine" and "think" are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to (...) the question, "Can machines think?" is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words. The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the 'imitation game." It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart front the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either "X is A and Y is B" or "X is B and Y is A." The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A and B. We now ask the question, "What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?" Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, "Can machines think?". (shrink)
A substantial body of literature has been produced in the twentieth century by religious and philosophical writers on the ethics of belief. Discussion of this topic has generally focused on the processes leading up to belief within the individual, so that it would not be inaccurate to say that for most of these writers ‘the ethics of belief’ means ‘the ethics of coming–to–believe’. There has been little attention among these writers, however, to the moral questions which surround the production or (...) inducement of beliefs in others, to the ethics of persuasion . An extension of the ethics of belief to cover moral issues which arise in connection with persuasion seems reasonable; the ethics of belief, widely construed, might be said to encompass questions about both the production of beliefs within oneself and the inducement of beliefs in others. (shrink)
I am grateful to Dr William L. Craig for his reply to an earlier article of mine in this journal, on the relationship between God and time. Craig and I agree on most points with respect to the relationship between God and time. What then is there for us to disagree about? The point Craig argues for is, eternity is ‘coincident’ with our history, i.e. the duration of our space–time is simultaneous with some duration of eternity. But I already agree (...) to this point. In fact, I argued that if God sustains the universe, and if the universe and God are temporal, then God's time must be related to our time. We are in God's time, and God's time is our time, when by time we mean ‘ontological time’ or what I call duration, rather than Measured Time. If this is so, where is our disagreement? Our disagreement turns on this question: does history measure eternity? Does the ‘cosmic time’ of our universe give a proper measure to the same duration of God's time in eternity? I say it does not, while Craig says that it does. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill is—surprisingly—a difficult writer. He writes clearly, non-technically, and in a very plain prose which Bertrand Russell once described as a model for philosophers. It is never hard to see what the general drift of the argument is, and never hard to see which side he is on. He is, none the less, a difficult writer because his clarity hides complicated arguments and assumptions which often take a good deal of unpicking. And when we have done that unpicking, (...) the task of analysing the merits and deficiencies of the arguments is still only half completed. This is true of all his work and particularly true of Liberty. It is an essay whose clarity and energy have made it the most popular of all Mill's work. Yet it conceals philosophical, sociological and historical assumptions of a very debatable kind. In his introduction, Mill says the object of this essay is to defend one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. (shrink)
There are at least three tolerably distinct views about the connections between liberty and property; two of these I shall discuss fairly briefly in order to get on to Mill's central claims about the relationship between property rights and freedom, but in conclusion I shall return to them to show how they bear on what Mill has to say.
This paper is a small contribution to two large subjects. The first large subject is that of exploitation—what it is for somebody to be exploited, in what ways people can be and are exploited, whether exploitation necessarily involves coercion, what Marx's understanding of exploitation was and whether it was adequate: all these are issues on which I merely touch, at best. My particular concern here is to answer the two questions, whether Marx thought capitalist exploitation unjust and how the answer (...) to that question illuminates Marx's conception of morality in general. The second large subject is that of the nature of morality—whether there are specifically moral values and specifically moral forms of evaluation and criticism, how these relate to our explanatory interests in the same phenomena, what it would be like to abandon the ‘moral point of view’, whether the growth of a scientific understanding of society and ourselves inevitably undermines our confidence in the existence of moral ‘truths’. These again are issues on which I only touch if I mention them at all, but the questions I try to answer are, what does Marx propose to put in the place of moral judgment, and what kind of assessment of the horrors of capitalism does he provide if not a moral assessment? (shrink)
We are all concerned by the environmental threats facing us today. Environmental issues are a major area of concern for policy makers, industrialists and public groups of many different kinds. While science seems central to our understanding of such threats, the statements of scientists are increasingly open to challenge in this area. Meanwhile, citizens may find themselves labelled as "ignorant" in environmental matters. In Citizen Science Alan Irwin provides a much needed route through the fraught relationship between science, the (...) public and the environmental threat. (shrink)
Alan Gross applies the principles of rhetoric to the interpretation of classical and contemporary scientific texts to show how they persuade both author and audience. This invigorating consideration of the ways in which scientists--from Copernicus to Darwin to Newton to James Watson--establish authority and convince one another and us of the truth they describe may very well lead to a remodeling of our understanding of science and its place in society.
In Value and Context Alan Thomas articulates and defends the view that human beings do possess moral and political knowledge but it is historically and culturally contextual knowledge in ways that, say, mathematical or chemical knowledge is not. In his exposition of "cognitive contextualism" in ethics and politics he makes wide-ranging use of contemporary work in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political theory.