– The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world—this one—and that all genuine possibilities are anchored by the dispositions exemplified in this world. This is the case regardless of whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is a genuine possibility. (...) Furthermore, by starting from actual dispositional properties and branching out, we are able to include possibilities that are quite far removed from any state of affairs that happens to obtain, while still providing a natural and actual grounding of possibility. Stressing the importance of ontological considerations in any theory of possibility, it is argued that the account of possibility in terms of dispositional properties provides a more palatable ontology than those of its competitors. Coming at it from the other direction, the dispositional account of possibility also provides motivation for taking an ontology of dispositions more seriously. As well as the relevant dispositional notions required to lay out the view, the paper discusses the dispositional realism needed as the basis for the account of possibility. (shrink)
The interpretation of Lewis‘s doctrine of natural properties is difficult and controversial, especially when it comes to the bearers of natural properties. According to the prevailing reading – the minimalist view – perfectly natural properties pertain to the micro-physical realm and are instantiated by entities without proper parts or point-like. This paper argues that there are reasons internal to a broadly Lewisian kind of metaphysics to think that the minimalist view is fundamentally flawed and that a liberal view, according to (...) which natural properties are instantiated at several or even at all levels of reality, should be preferred. Our argument proceeds by reviewing those core principles of Lewis‘s metaphysics that are most likely to constrain the size of the bearers of natural properties: the principle of Humean supervenience, the principle of recombination in modal realism, the hypothesis of gunk, and the thesis of composition as identity. (shrink)
The paper pinpoints certain unrecognized difficulties that surface for recombination and duplication in modal realism when we ask whether the following inter-world fixity claims hold true: 1) A property is perfectly natural in a world iff it is perfectly natural in every world where it is instantiated; 2) Something is mereologically atomic in a world iff all of its duplicates in every world are atomic. In connection to 1), the hypothesis of idlers prompts four variants of Lewis’s doctrine of perfectly (...) natural properties, all deemed unsatisfactory for the purposes of duplication and recombination. By means of 2), instead, we show that the principle of recombination does not countenance the atomicity or non-atomicity of duplicates; but it should, because it is genuinely possible that: a) something, which is atomic, is non-atomic; and b) something, which is non-atomic, is atomic. In discussing 1) and 2), the paper substantiates a tension in Lewis’s metaphysics between modal intuitions and the reliance on the natural sciences. (shrink)
While philosophers tend to consider a single type of causal history, biologists distinguish between two kinds of causal history: evolutionary history and developmental history. This essay studies the peculiarity of development as a criterion for the individuation of biological traits and its relation to form, function, and evolution. By focusing on examples involving serial homologies and genetic reprogramming, we argue that morphology (form) and function, even when supplemented with evolutionary history, are sometimes insufficient to individuate traits. Developmental mechanisms bring in (...) a novel aspect to the business of classification—identity of process-type—according to which entities are type-identical across individuals and natural kinds in virtue of the fact that they form and develop through similar processes. These considerations bear important metaphysical implications and have potential applications in several areas of philosophy. (shrink)
Che gli esseri umani esperiscano e rappresentino il mondo come un dominio ricco di confini è piuttosto ovvio. Tuttavia, Achille Varzi ha sottolineato a più riprese nelle sue opere che, dal punto di vista metafisico, è interessante chiedersi se i confini siano tutti dello stesso tipo. Tale domanda ci permette, infatti, di affrontare con un registro intuitivo una serie di questioni classiche circa la natura del mondo. In queste poche pagine vorrei considerare il tema dei confini da un’angolatura specifica, quella (...) della macelleria. Dapprima introduco una triplice distinzione tra tipologie di confini (§1). Questa risulta utile per inquadrare il successivo esempio tratto dalla pratica della macelleria kosher (§2), che suggerisce una quarta tipologia di confine, dalla quale traggo spunto per alcune considerazioni circa la relazione tra confini, convenzioni e realtà (§3). (shrink)
According to Lewis, mereology is the general and exhaustive theory of ontological composition, and every contingent feature of the world supervenes upon some fundamental properties instantiated by minimal entities. A profound analogy can be drawn between these two basic contentions of his metaphysics, namely that both can be intended as a denial of emergentism. In this essay, we study the relationships between Humean supervenience and two philosophical spin-offs of mereological monism: the possibility of gunk and the thesis of composition as (...) identity. In a gunky scenario, there are no atoms and, thus, some criteria alternative to mereological atomicity must be introduced in order to identify the bearers of fundamental properties; this introduction creates a precedent, which renders the restriction of the additional criteria to gunky scenarios arbitrary. On the other hand, composition as identity either extends the principle of indiscernibility of identicals to composition or is forced to replace indiscernibility with a surrogate; both alternatives lead to the postulation of a symmetric kind of supervenience which, in contrast to Humean supervenience, does not countenance a privileged level. Both gunk and composition as identity, thus, display a tension with Humean supervenience. (shrink)
Philosophers have been quarrelling for ages over the correct understanding of the identity relation and its applications, but seldom have they discussed the identity of foods, including beverages under this herd. Taking wine as a working example, the present study shows that foods call attention over unnoticed metaphysical difficulties, most importantly the role of authenticity in ascertaining the identity of an individual and the possibility of identity being determined by a collectivity of people. More in details, the paper examines the (...) relationship between a rank of wines and its specific instances, that is, on what grounds some wine is of a certain rank. A “rank of wines” here stands for wines that are identical under some respect, be it the area of production, the style, the color, the variety, and so forth. Extant wine labels are taken as the best candidates to carve out a class of wine ranks that is metaphysically prior to any other; the analysis focuses on geographic indications because of the extensive discussion they have generated, but the morals here drawn extend also to other classes of wine ranks, such as those utilized by wine experts. After some introductory remarks (§1), the case is made that the identity of wines is established through judgments of authenticity (§2). Issues of authenticity are then discussed through the special case of geographic indications (§3). Two different views on how to justify the attribution of a geographic indication are presented and criticized; those rest respectively on terroir (§3.1) and chemical composition (§3.2). The last section (§4) argues for a conventionalist view on wine identity. Distancing itself from conventionalist proposals advanced to favor industrial wine production, the view defended here ties the identity of a wine to collective expert judgments of authenticity that are based on the extensive pleasure of the product. (shrink)
Good chefs know the importance of maintaining sharp knives in the kitchen. What’s their secret? A well-worn Taoist allegory offers some advice. The king asks about his butcher’s impressive knifework. “Ordinary butchers,” he replied “hack their way through the animal. Thus their knife always needs sharpening. My father taught me the Taoist way. I merely lay the knife by the natural openings and let it find its own way through. Thus it never needs sharpening” (Kahn 1995, vii; see also Watson (...) 2003, 46). Plato famously employed this image as an analogy for the reality of his Forms (Phaedrus, 265e). Just like an animal, the world comes pre-divided for us. Ideally, our best theories will be those which “carve nature at its joints”. While Plato employed the “carving” metaphor to convey his views about the reality of his celebrated Forms, its most common contemporary use involves the success of science -- particularly, its success in identifying distinct kinds of things. Scientists often report discovering new kinds of things -- a new species of mammal or novel kind of fundamental particle, for example -- or uncovering more information about already familiar kinds. Moreover, we often notice considerable overlap in different approaches to classification. As Ernst Mayr put it: No naturalist would question the reality of the species he may find in his garden, whether it is a catbird, chickadee, robin, or starling. And the same is true for trees or flowering plants. Species at a given locality are almost invariably separated from each other by a distinct gap. Nothing convinced me so fully of the reality of species as the observation . . . that the Stone Age natives in the mountains of New Guinea recognize as species exactly the same entities of nature as a western scientist. (Mayr 1987, 146) Such agreement is certainly suggestive. It suggests that taxonomies are discoveries rather than mere inventions. Couple this with their utility in scientific inference and explanation and we have compelling reason for accepting the objective, independent reality of many different natural kinds of things.. (shrink)
Most event-referring expressions are vague; it is utterly difficult, if not impossible, to specify the exact spatiotemporal location of an event from the words that we use to refer to it. We argue that in spite of certain prima facie obstacles, such vagueness can be given a purely semantic (broadly supervaluational) account.
There seems to be a minimal core that every theory wishing to accommodate the intuition that the future is open must contain: a denial of physical determinism (i.e. the thesis that what future states the universe will be in is implied by what states it has been in), and a denial of strong fatalism (i.e. the thesis that, at every time, what will subsequently be the case is metaphysically necessary).1 Those two requirements are often associated with the idea of an (...) objective temporal flow and the non-reality of the future. However, at least certain ways to frame the “openness” intuition do not rely on any of these. Branching Time Theory (BTT) is one such: it is compatible with the denial that time flow is objective and it is couched in a language with a (prima facie) commitment to an eternalist ontology. BTT, though, urges us to resist certain intuitions about the determinacy of future claims, which arguably do not lead either to physical determinism or to fatalism. Against BTT, supporters of the Thin Red Line Theory (TRL) argue that their position avoids determinism and fatalism, while also representing the fact that there is a future which is “special” because it is the one that will be the case. But starting with Belnap and Green 1994, some have objected to the tenability of TRL, mainly on metaphysical grounds. In particular, those argue that “positing a thin red line amounts to giving up objective indeterminism,”2 and that “has unacceptable consequences, ranging from a mistreatment of actuality to an inability to talk coherently about what would have happened had what is going to happen not taken place.”3 In this paper, we wish to reframe the.. (shrink)
A major division among ontologists has always been the one between those who believe that all entities are particular, and those who believe that at least some entities are universal. I find myself with the latter, and in this paper I offer part of the reasons why this is so. More precisely, I offer a reason why we ought to reject tropism, due to the failure of this view to account for the similarities we experience among entities. In the paper, (...) two tentative accounts are considered and rejected: one postulating the existence of a relation of primitive resemblance; the other denying the existence of any similarity. (shrink)
The paper shows – contra what has been argued by Trenton Merricks – that counterpart theory, when conjoined with composition as identity, does not entail mereological essentialism. What Merrick’s argument overlooks is that contingent identity is but one of the effects of grounding identity across possible worlds on similarity.
The ontology of recipes is by and large unexplored. In this paper, I offer a three-steps account. After introducing some key terminology, I distinguish four main options for a theory of recipes: realism, constructivism, existentialism, and the naïve approach. Hence, I first argue that recipes are social entities whose identity depends on a process of identification, typically performed by means of a performative utterance on the part of a cook ; thus, the best theoretical framework for a theory of recipes (...) is a constructivist. Secondly, I argue that the identity of recipes can be grasped only by being suitably acquainted with the dishes that instantiate them, because of the impossibility to spell out recipes in details that would match a full-fledged dish; hence, the authority to establish the identity of a recipe rests on a process of apprenticeship. Finally, I argue that the identity of recipes and—vicariously—of the dishes that instantiate them, rest on three factors: the expertise required on the part of the cook; authenticity ; and the open-ended character of recipes. (shrink)
The paper presents a novel version of universalism—the thesis according to which there are only universals, no individuals—which is cashed out in terms of an adverbial analysis of predication. According to the theory, every spatiotemporal occurrence of a universal U can be expressed by a sentence which asserts the existence of U adverbially modified by the spatiotemporal region at which it exists. After some preliminary remarks on the interpretation of natural language, a formal semantics for the theory is first provided, (...) along with an intended interpretation of its key metaphysical imports. Follow some commentaries on the spatiotemporal manifold and determinable properties. (shrink)
Dispositional Realism is the view according to which some denizens of reality – i.e., dispositions – are properties, that may exist in the natural world and have an irreducible modal character. Among Dispositional Realists, Charlie Martin, Ullin Place and George Molnar most notably argued that the modal character of dispositions should be understood in terms of their intentionality. Other Dispositional Realists, most notably Stephen Mumford, challenged this understanding of the modal character of dispositions. In this paper, I defend a fresh (...) version of the intentional understanding of dispositions. I start by distinguishing two questions about properties, respectively addressing their identity conditions and their individuation conditions. I, then, define categorical and dispositional properties in terms of their qualitative character, and examine their identity and individuation conditions. I conclude that the attribution of intentions is a conceptual tool: it was introduced in order to help specifying the conditions of individuation of a disposition; however, such attribution does not affect the identity of a disposition. (shrink)
If natural kinds were defined on the basis of fixed and immutable essences, then––with the end of essentialism in life sciences––their end, at least for those kinds confined to the living realm, would ensue as well (1-2). If appropriately revised and adapted, however, natural kinds may still play an important theoretical role, not only for the sake of philosophical speculation, but also in accomodating scientific practices and in providing an adequate rendering of human reasoning. The proposal outlined in this paper (...) moves from the historical and disjunctive solutions of Millikan and Boyd, but it departs from them in that it offers a conventionalist interpretation of natural kinds. The bulk of the theory is presented through the case study of the distinction between sexes and genders (3). A few remarks on how to further the proposal are offered in the final section (4). (shrink)
For most early Medieval and Scholastic philosophers working in the Aristotelian tradition, knowledge of any specific subject is knowledge of its causes and principles. Knowledge of individuals was no exception. As Jorge Gracia has written "To know individuality [for early Medieval and Scholastic philosophers] is to be able to determine the causes and principles that are responsible for it."1 The achievement of such ability is also known as the problem of individuation. This paper will be concerned with the solution to (...) the problem suggested by Leibniz’s writings and how it relates to the contemporary metaphysical debate. In the first section I introduce the problem of individuation along with the solution Leibniz proposed during the latter part of his life. The second section analyzes Leibniz’s solution in a contemporary perspective. I argue that, unlike during the Medieval and early Modern periods, today the epistemic side of the problem of individuation plays a major role in the debate. In this light, Leibniz’s proposal that humans cannot grasp what the individuality of an individual consists in seems problematic. I show, however, that Leibniz’s proposal can stand on its feet also nowadays, provided we are willing to give up the pretenses that there is a definitive count of individuals and that re-identifying individuals across time and space is part of the problem of individuation. (shrink)
Quasi al termine della seconda guerra mondiale, alcuni ufficiali tedeschi diedero l’ordine di abbattere le storiche torri di San Gimignano; tutto pareva ormai deciso, quando un gruppo di civili riuscì con successo a ritardare l’esecuzione fino all’arrivo delle truppe alleate. Grazie a quei civili, le torri di San Gimignano sono ancora ben visibili a tutti, meta ogni anno di numerosi turisti; ma che cosa dire della possibilità che oggi esistessero soltanto le loro macerie? Esse rientrano in quella classe di cose (...) che chiamerò oggetti possibili, ovvero sono oggetti che avrebbero potuto esistere, ma per un qualche motivo non sono esistiti. Proprio di essi parlerò nelle prossime pagine, cercando di capire quale sia il loro statuto ontologico e in quale modo possiamo parlarne usando le espressioni del nostro linguaggio.1 Come vedremo, ci sono varie teorie che spiegano cos’è un oggetto possibile, tra loro anche molto diverse. Compito di ciascuna è quello di motivare e, se necessario, rendere plausibile una scelta filosofica. Quindi, ogni teoria degli oggetti possibili, attribuirà loro un preciso statuto ontologico e provvederà una semantica delle espressioni del linguaggio naturale sulla possibilità. Nelle poche pagine che seguono però, non scenderò nei dettagli di tutte le teorie della possibilità; piuttosto, ne considererò una particolarmente controversa e singolare: quella sostenuta da David K. Lewis. (shrink)
Il problema di fondo da cui la discussione sui mondi possibili scaturisce è quello di fornire una teoria circa l’interpretazione delle espressioni modali. È quindi da un’analisi di queste espressioni che partiremo per la nostra discussione sui mondi possibili. Nel linguaggio naturale il discorso modale è segnalato da una molteplicità di espressioni come avverbi, modi verbali ed operatori enunciativi: 'potere', 'dovere', 'avere la capacità', 'avere l’opportunità', 'possibilmente', 'doverosamente', et coetera. In seguito ad una semplificazione non priva di conseguenze, si è (...) generalmente ritenuto che le espressioni paradigmatiche del discorso modale (a cui tutte le altre potessero essere in qualche modo ridotte) fossero. (shrink)
In this paper I raise a number of objections to the claim that there are intrinsic properties. I first show that, by functioning as realizers of all other properties, intrinsic properties ground one of the most popular methods for counting individuals. I, then, introduce the five main definitions of intrinsicness (all appealing to a certain form of independency). Hence, I question the claim that there are intrinsic properties on two grounds: first by raising three objections to the thesis that we (...) know of their existence a posteriori; then, by showing that our arguments for concluding of their existence a priori are inconclusive. I conclude that we ought to be skeptical about the existence of intrinsic properties. If we still have aims of counting individuals, we ought to endorse an alternative view. (shrink)
This quote from Silvio Berlusconi is part of the speech he held on April 18, 1994 during the celebrations for AC Milan’s third consecutive scudetto under his management. Suppose we take this claim seriously: what is the logic at play when soccer is linked to other spheres of life? In particular, in what ways is a team a metaphor for its patrons?
While preparing my suitcase for Padua, I took care to put my favorite cds in a secured spot since they could have broken along the way. Which (non-mental) fact, if any, could possibly justify my action – i.e. what, if anything, makes it the case that my cds could have broken? The paper explores the nature of possibility. The three theories most widely endorsed thus far – fictionism, actualism, and modal realism – are introduced, with a particular attention to their (...) unpalatable ontological consequences. In order to avoid such consequences, a fourth theory is put forward. The goal of the theory is to explain the nature of possibility on the basis of actual (vs possible) entities while, at the same time, providing a non-circular interpretation of the meaning of our modal talk on the basis of such actual entities. Dispositions are meant to be the ontological ground of the theory. They play the role of possibilia – i.e. the entities on the basis of which we interpret modal assertions. A characterization of the sort of dispositions needed for grounding the theory is given. Finally follow some remarks on the effects of the theory upon the extension of the domain of possibilia. (shrink)
Natural kind realists believe that the world is carved out into kinds of things. Critiques addressed towards natural kind realism aimed at showing the difficulties in discerning a universal spatial structure and behavior common to all the members of an alleged kind. Little or no attention, however, has been given to the temporal structure of a natural kind. After showing (in the first section) that some kinds are indeed temporally extended, the second section of the paper argues that there is (...) no non-arbitrary way of tracing the natural temporal structure of a kind. The accrued result poses a novel problem for natural kind theorists, as it clashes with the basic expectancy that if a kind is indeed natural, both its spatial and temporal boundaries should be (at least in principle) discernible. (shrink)
Concretism is the ontological thesis according to which possibilia are concrete entities. The paper first outlines concretism, arguing that its sole founding thesis is that individuals across possible worlds are individuated by similitude. Among other things, this means that there is no need to postulate that there is no overlap among worlds. The main virtues and vices of concretism are then reviewed, and a novel vice is put forward: a failure in the reduction of modality due to the modal character (...) of intrinsicness. (shrink)
È una credenza diffusa che i marchi di origine (DOCG, DOC, DOP, IGT, IGP e PAT, rispettivamente: di origine controllata e garantita; di origine controllata; di origine protetta; indicazione geografica tipica; indicazione geografica protetta; prodotti agroalimentari tradizionali) siano di grande utilità sia per i consumatori che per i produttori: certificando l’origine e il metodo di produzione di un prodotto, essi ne garantiscono una certa qualità di fronte al consumatore. Ma è proprio così? Che cosa giustifica l’introduzione di un marchio di (...) origine? Quanto sostengo qui di seguito è che, sebbene non credo si possa negare che i marchi di origine segnalino anche una certa qualità di un prodotto, forse non sono il modo migliore per farlo. Di fatto, per il consumatore, i marchi non garantiscono niente che vada oltre alla qualità richiesta affinché la certificazione venga rilasciata; ma, al contempo, in quanto forme di protezionismo, favoriscono certi produttori, prevenendo l’utilizzo della denominazione a chi offre un prodotto di qualità analoga o superiore, ma provienente da una zona priva di tradizioni. In altre parole: se vi sono prodotti equiparabili per qualità e gusto ad un dato prodotto di origine, e possibilmente più economicamente vantaggiosi, il consumatore non avrà modo di accorgersene dalla sola nomenclatura. Quindi: i marchi di origine sono (talvolta) un ostacolo all’acquisto e al godimento dei prodotti migliori al miglior prezzo. Talvolta: questo deve essere ben sottolineato, poiché in certi casi (per esempio quello dei PAT) il prodotto certificato dal marchio ha un mercato talmente di nicchia da costituire un tuttuno tra qualità e origine. (Si potrebbe aggiungere che le certificazioni dei marchi non sono sempre ottenute attraverso procedure affidabili. Non insisterò oltre su questo punto, per il quale si rimanda a: Paolo Conti, La leggenda del buon cibo italiano e altri miti alimentari contemporanei, Fazi Editore, 2006; Peter Singer e Jim Mason: The Way We Eat.. (shrink)
Is it true that some entities are general, while others are particular? Ramsey famously challenged this distinction, and more recently Fraser McBride has revived the challenge. In this paper I argue that there are at least five substantial distinctions among entities, and that the distinction between general and particular entities should be made to correspond to one or more of those substantial distinctions.
Il saggio tratta della critica di Popper al concetto di utopia e dei limiti di tale critica. Le opere politiche del filosofo viennese rivelano come l’utopia costituisca una pericolosa modalità di ritorno a forme di società chiusa e di totalitarismo. Sennonché non è chiaro quale utopia venga criticata da Popper, l’utopia dei grandi movimenti totalitari del Novecento, oppure ogni forma di costruzione ideale di una società diversa e migliore. Il non aver chiarito a sufficienza tali aspetti indebolisce la portata delle (...) critiche di Popper e comporta, paradossalmente, che molti dei concetti filosofici da lui utilizzati ricadano in quelle forme di utopia che egli condanna.The paper deals with Popper’s criticism of the concept of utopia and the limits of such a criticism. The political works of Viennese philosopher reveal as utopia is a dangerous way of returning to forms of closed societies and totalitarianism. But it’s not clear which utopia is criticized by Popper whether the utopia of the big totalitarian movements of 20th century, or any form of any ideal construction of a different and better society. The lack of further explanations for such aspects weakens the range of Popper’s criticisms and involves, paradoxically, that many of his philosophical concepts fall upon those forms of utopia which he sentences. (shrink)
Achille Varzi è uno dei maggiori metafisici viventi. Nel corso degli anni ha scritto testi fondamentali di logica, metafisica, mereologia, filosofia del linguaggio. Ha sconfinato nella topologia, nella geografia, nella matematica, ha ragionato di mostri e confini, percezione e buchi, viaggi nel tempo, nicchie, eventi e ciambelle; e non ha disdegnato di dialogare con gli abitanti di Flatlandia, con Neo e con Terminator. Tra le sue opere principali: Holes and Other Superficialities e Parts and Places. The Structures of Spatial Representation, (...) entrambi scritti insieme a R. Casati per MIT Press; Il mondo messo a fuoco, Laterza; e il suo libro più recente: Le tribolazioni del filosofare, con C. Calosi, per Laterza. -/- Da una giornata all’Università di Urbino nasce questa conversazione a molte voci sulla e con la filosofia di Achille C. Varzi. In un dialogo critico al quale l’Autore si presta con generosità e onestà intellettuale, Andrea Borghini, Francesco Calemi, Claudio Calosi, Elena Casetta, Valeria Giardino, Pierluigi Graziani, Patrizia Pedrini, Daniele Santoro e Giuliano Torrengo lo interrogano e mettono alla prova sui temi affrontati, nel corso degli anni, in campi diversi. Il risultato è un percorso che si snoda attraverso molti mondi, dalla logica alla metafisica, dalla filosofia del linguaggio alla filosofia della matematica, dalla mereologia alla filosofia del tempo, spingendosi in qualche caso oltre i confini del saggio filosofico. (shrink)