Causally committed properties are properties which require that their instances have a cause (or an effect) of a certain kind. Sunburn, for instance, must be caused by the sun. Causal relevance is a contingent dependency relation between properties of events. The connection between a causally committed property and the property to which it is committed is not contingent. Hence a pair consisting of a causally committed property and the property to which it is committed should not be in the causal (...) relevance relation. I formulate conditions on the causal relevance relation designed to rule out causally committed properties. These conditions entail that being a propositional attitude is not causally relevant to being an action. (Nevertheless reasons can cause actions.). (shrink)
Let “explanationism” be the view that ontology is fundamentally an explanatory enterprise. What it does is “on a par” with natural science, as Quine put it. Carnap appears to offer a “lighter weight” alternative in “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology”: ontology is concerned with semantics and language choice. This paper argues that Carnap’s account of the internal/external distinction is of less use than Carnap suggests for diagnosis of disputes in ontology. But he largely agrees with Quine about explanationism. I propose that (...) explanationism is an attractive metametaphysical position between “heavy weight” and “light weight” views. Its method is abductive inference, which is broader than “light weight” methods. Since it is “on a par” with natural science, ontology contributes nothing beyond the claim that what there is, is what our best theories say there is. Hence, it is not “heavy weight”. (shrink)
I make three points about Searle’s philosophical work on consciousness and intentionality. First, I comment on Searle’s presentation and paper “The Problems of Consciousness.” I show that one of Searle’s philosophical claims about the relation between consciousness and intentionality appears to conflict with a demand he makes on acceptable empirical theories of the brain. Second, I argue that closer attention to the difference between conceptual connections and empirical connections corrects and improves Searle’s response to the so-called “Logical Connections” argument, the (...) argument that claims that mental states cannot be causes, since they are conceptually connected with actions. Third, I give a formulation of his Chinese Room argument that avoids some tempting responses. (shrink)
Book review of Bechtel and Richardson, Discovering Complexity (1993). Review suggests that one theme of the book -- that scientific reason is "constituted" in part by a cognitive strategy of finding complexity -- is not fully supported.
Stephen Yablo has recently argued for a novel solution to the mental causation problem: the mental is related to the physical as determinables are related to determinates; determinables are not causal rivals with their determinates; so the mental and the physical are not causal rivals. Despite its attractions the suggestion seems hard to accept. In this paper I develop the idea that mental properties and physical properties are not causal rivals. Start with property dualism, supervenience, multiple realizability, and the claim (...) that no more than one supervenience base for a mental property can be had by a single instance of the mental property. Then a probabilistic account of causation will be unable to certify either mental properties or physical properties as causal factors for effect types. I suggest that this shows that we should not count mental properties as causal rivals with physical properties. (shrink)
Meaning involves normativity: a word has a meaning only if some of its uses are correct and some are incorrect. A full understanding of meaning demands an account of the normativity of meaning. One such account has it that the normativity of meaning stems from conventions for the use of words. Donald Davidson argues that communication does not require linguistic conventions. Ian Hacking has objected to Davidson's theory of meaning on the ground that Davidson is unable to allow for the (...) possibility of error, since his conception of communication is too impoverished to supply the requisite normativity. In this paper I describe Hacking's objection and attempt to answer it. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor argues for individualism and for narrow content by way of rejecting an argument based on the conceptual connections between reason-properties and action-properties. In this paper I show that Fodor’s argument fails. He is right that there is a New Logical Connections Argument to be made, and that it does show that water thoughts and XYZ thoughts are not different causal powers with respect to intentional properties of behaviors. However, the New Logical Connections Argument also shows that they are (...) not causal powers at all with respect to intentional properties ofbehaviors, and so Fodor’s argument to individualism and narrow content is unsound. Along the way I show that Fodor’s version of the New Logical Connections argument has serious problems of overkill. (shrink)