Analytic philosophy is difficult to define since it is not so much a specific doctrine as a loose concatenation of approaches to problems. As well as having strong ties to scientism -the notion that only the methods of the natural sciences give rise to knowledge -it also has humanistic ties to the great thinkers and philosophical problems of the past. Moreover, no single feature characterizes the activities of analytic philosophers. Undaunted by these difficulties, Avrum Stroll investigates the "family resemblances" between (...) that impressive breed of thinkers known as analytic philosophers. In so doing, he grapples with the point and purpose of doing philosophy: What is philosophy? What are its tasks? What kind of information, illumination, and understanding is it supposed to provide if it is not one of the natural sciences? Imbued with clarity, liveliness, and philosophical sophistication, Stroll´s book presents a synoptic picture of the main developments in logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics in the past century. It does this by concentrating on the individual thinkers whose ideas have been most influential. Major themes in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy include: · the innovation of mathematical logic by Gottlob Frege at the close of the nineteenth century and its independent development by Bertrand Russell; · the impact of advancements in science on the world of philosophy and its importance for understanding such doctrines as logical positivism, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and eliminative materialism; · the refusal by such thinkers as Wittgenstein, Moore, and Austin to treat logic as an ideal language superior to natural languages; and · a conjecture about which, if any, of the philosophers discussed in the book will enter the pantheon of philosophical gods. Along the way, Stroll also covers the theories of Rudolf Carnap, W. V. O. Quine, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, Hilary Putnam, Saul Kripke, John Searle, Ruth Marcus, and Patricia and Paul Churchland. Stroll´s approach to his subject treats the critical movements in analytic philosophy in terms of the philosophers who defined them. The notoriously complex realm of analytic philosophy emerges less as an abstract enterprise than as a domain of personalities and their competing methods and arguments. The book´s inventive presentations of complex logical doctrines relate them to the traditional problems of philosophy, seeking the continuity between them rather than polemical distinctions so as to bring the true differences of their respective achievements into sharper focus. (shrink)
Ludwig Wittgenstein's On Certainty was finished just before his death in 1951 and is a running commentary on three of G.E. Moore's greatest epistemological papers. In the early 1930s, Moore had written a lengthy commentary on Wittgenstein, anticipating some of the issues Wittgenstein would discuss in On Certainty. The philosophical relationship between these two great philosophers and their overlapping, but nevertheless differing, views is the subject of this book. Both defended the existence of certainty and thus opposed any form of (...) skepticism. However, their defenses and conceptions of certainty differed widely, as did their understanding of the nature of skepticism and how best to combat it. Stroll's book contains a careful and critical analysis of their differing approaches to a set of fundamental epistemological problems. (shrink)
Fiction, Reference, and Nonexistence contains a new, contemporary theory of fiction and discusses the connection between language and reality. Martinich and Stroll, two of America's leading philosophers, explore fiction and undertake an analytic philosophical study of fiction and its reference, and its relation to truth.
In his article, “Stroll on Russell's ‘Proof’”, Robert Fahrnkopf takes issue with four comments I made about Russell's theory of descriptions in a paper, “Russell's ‘Proof,’” which appeared in the June 1975 issue of this Journal. Though I disagree with Fahrnkopf on the points in question, there would be no point in washing our private conceptual linen in a public place were it not for the ingenious and highly original suggestions he makes in his defense of Russell. I think some (...) additional discussion may be useful in carrying the current debate about the theory a step further. In what follows, I will therefore deal with each of the four points he speaks to. (shrink)
In Parts I, II, and III of the paper, the authors show that an argument essential to Alan White's defense of the Correspondence Theory of truth is unsuccessful. They argue that some of the premises of White's argument are false, and others incoherent. They show, further, that certain widely accepted assumptions in the philosophy of language, which underlie White's argument, must also be abandoned. In Part IV, they attempt to say something new about 'true', 'false', truth and falsity, and related (...) notions. They do not offer a competing theory to White's, but instead stress features of the use of these words and concepts which philosophers have either ignored or insufficiently emphasized. (shrink)
In reply to Jeremy Garrett's criticism of my paper in the July 2009 issue of Public Affairs Quarterly, I, first, clarify my view of the proper status of same-sex marriage in a liberal society. I, second, defend my claim that moral disapprobation of homosexuality may be a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying same-sex couples the benefits and protections of the marriage license. Finally, I criticize the view that, as long as marriage is viewed as a contract to be entered into (...) by competent parties, it is not legitimate for the state to provide material and legal support only to contracts in which the parties are opposite-sex couples. (shrink)
According to a widely accepted conceptual model, principles play essential roles in moral reasoning: it is asserted that they hold universally and cannot be avoided in the justification of human action and belief. This paper challenges that view. It argues that, though some principles play such substantive roles, most do not. They can be characterized instead as being fragile or defeasible, i.e., they are capable of being weakened, voided or undone. The claim is made that it is the pressures exerted (...) by particular cases of moral dilemmas that are the sources of such fragility. The paper contains detailed examples illustrating how the process of defeasibility, including a retreat into moral vacuity, arises from such pressures. (shrink)
The paper deals with Wittgenstein’s treatment of radical skepticism. He holds from his earliest work to his last that skepticism is senseless and therefore no rebuttal, such as G.E. Moore offered, is necessary.
Foundationalism, the idea that there is a basic kind of knowledge which is ground-level and hence beyond proof or justification, is one of the oldest themes in philosophy. It has been held by such great philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Wittgenstein and Moore inter alia\ but exactly what they mean by "foundationalism" is seldom carefully or fully articulated. This paper attempts to give such an explication. It holds that a foundationalist theory must satisfy at least nine conditions, vagueness, stratification, (...) nondependence, particularism or methodism, publicity, negational absurdity, absorption, certitude, and the concept of 'standing fast', the last idea deriving from Wittgenstein's On Certainty. (shrink)
SummaryA new form of expiricism has developed recently which drives a wedge between the principles that science alone will provide a true account of reality and that any such account must be grounded in observation. These empiricists hold firm to the first principle, but have qualified adherence to the second. Using arguments like Putnam's Twin Earth scenario, they contend that a search for reality must go beneath the observable to find the microstructure of substances . Their arguments are fallacious and (...) are susceptible to definite counter‐examples, as the author shows. (shrink)
The human mind remains a mystery despite the best efforts of philosophers to understand it. Each person knows that he/she has a mind, regards it as something internal, and is aware of its operations. Yet nobody knows what it is. The reason why the mind is so puzzling turns on three of its features: its invisibility while operating, the unique access which its proprietor has to it, and the inability to give a clear meaning to the polar notions of 'internal-external' (...) when applied to it. This last feature makes it obvious that no computer or A.I. based analogies, or any forms of functionahsm, provide adequate models for understanding its nature. (shrink)
Can there be a first-order, philosophical or psychological theory that explains all the facts of surface perception? By ‘first-order’ I mean a theory about the constituents of what J.J. Gibson called ‘the ecological environment’; and by ‘surface perception,’ I mean the perception of the surfaces of any of those ecological constituents that have surfaces. The question about surfaces is important for two reasons. First, as we shall see, they are complex features and, as such, provide a difficult test case for (...) any theory of perception. And, of course, if no theory can handle the case of surface perception it will follow by existential generalization that no first order theory of perception is possible. Second, surfaces play a key, virtually unique, role in human perception. Some account of that role is thus necessary; but if no first order theory is possible, that account will have to be something other than a theory. Since I shall be arguing that no first order theory is possible, I shall propose an alternative way of approaching the topic of surface perception. That surfaces play such an important role in the human perception of the ambient environment has been recognized by many writers. (shrink)
Avrum Stroll accepts the ancient tradition that one of the tasks of philosophy is to give an accurate account of the world's features, both animate and inanimate. But, he contends, because these features are inexhaustibly complex, no single theory or conceptual model can provide a complete account. Stroll's approach is piecemeal and example-oriented. In stressing the importance of examples, his work runs counter to one of the most powerful and seductive ways of thinking about the world--the Platonic tradition, which denigrates (...) examples in the search for qualities or essences. Stroll favors pluralism, on the ground that this is how the world is.The "landscapes" of the title refers to various conceptual landscapes. Using the methodological approach he calls philosophy by example, the author discusses seven major problems of epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language: skepticism, direct reference theories and natural kinds, the relationship between the microscopic and macroscopic, the logic of examples, direct reference and fiction, holistic theories of meaning, and direct versus indirect realism in perception. It is the author's method that binds together the different topics, but the method is not the message. What matters are the substantive results. His unique analyses reveal new understandings of some difficult problems. (shrink)
SummaryThe author argues that there is a kind of knowledge which is fundamental or basic in the sense that it is certain, is not open to justification or doubt, and yet is – in a certain sense – based upon experience. The paper attempts to give a characterization of such knowledge, in particular showing how it differs from straightforward examples of empirical knowledge. The author's views resemble those of Wittgenstein in Über Gewissheit, but unlike Wittgenstein, he holds that such knowledge (...) is language‐game absolute, i.e., it underlies all rational practices that involve inquiries into the nature of the world, such as history and science.RésuméĽauteur montre qu'il y a un type de connaissance qui est fondamental en ce sens qu'il est certain, ne nécessite aucune justification, ne donne pas prise au doute et pourtant est – en un certain sens – basé sur ľexpérience. Cet article tente de caractériser une telle connaissance, montrant en particulier qu'elle diffère ?on;exemples banals de connaissance expérimentale. La thèse de ľauteur ressemble à celle de Wittgenstein dans Über Gewissheit, mais en diffère en ce que la connaissance définie est absolue par rapport aux jeux de langage, c'est‐à‐dire qu'elle sous‐tend toutes les pratiques rationnelles qui, telles ľhistoire et la science, supposent des recherches sur la nature du monde.ZusammenfassungDer Verfasser versucht zu zeigen, dass es eine Art von Erkenntnis gibt, die insofern für grundlegend zu gelten hat, als sie gewiss ist, d.h. weder einer Rechtfertigung bedarf noch einem Zweifel unterworfen werden kann, und trotzdem in einem gewissen Sinne auf Erfahrung beruht. Diese besondere Erkenntnis wird naher charakterisiert, indem gezeigt wird, wodurch sie sich von anderen Beispielen offensichtlich empirischer Erkenntnis unterscheidet. Die Ansicht des Verfas‐sers erinnert an diejenige von Wittgenstein in Über Gewissheit, aber – anders als dieser – hält er dafür, dass solche Erkenntnis Sprachspiel – absolut sei, d.h. dass sie alien rationalen Handlun‐gen unterliegt, die Untersuchungen über die Natur der Welt betreffen – seien diese geschichtlich oder wissenschaftlich. (shrink)
The early formal logicians (Frege, Russell, Peano et al.) were worried about differentiating logic from psychology. As a result, they interpreted logic in the most abstract way possible: as a theory about inference patterns whose terms lacked descriptive content. Such a theory was also acontextual. What they did not realize was that psychological concepts like expecting someone, doubting, pain etc. each had their own logic, a logic that had two features: it was contextually oriented and its concepts had a restricted (...) sensible application. This is still a recognizable sense of logic but broader in scope than the conceptions that Frege and Russell had in mind. (shrink)
In this paper, I wish to revisit some familiar terrain, namely an argument that occurs in many of Russell's writings on the theory of descriptions and which he repeatedly describes as a “proof.” For the past two decades this argument has been the subject of considerable philosophical controversy. The prevailing view has been that it is invalid. Leonard Linsky, for instance, maintains that it is circular, while Peter Geach, W.V.O. Quine, and Alan White have argued that it equivocates on two (...) different senses of the word “means” and is therefore fallacious. Yet the argument has also had its defenders. In an acute and persuasive paper, R.K. Perkins has recently contended that some of these critics fail to understand that Russell is employing the term “means” in a special and technical sense, where it is equivalent to “naming”, and that when so understood, the argument does in fact go through. (shrink)
Most philosophers believe that the Liar Paradox is semantical in character, and arises from difficulties in the predicate “true.” The author argues that the paradox is pragmatic, not semantic, and arises from violations of essential conditions that define statement-making speech acts. The author shows that his solution to the paradox will not only handle the classical Liar sentences that are “necessarily” or “intrinsically” paradoxical, but also sets of Kripke-sentences that are “contingently” paradoxical.
J.J. Gibson claims that one who is looking at Niagara Falls is seeing it directly, whereas one who is looking at a picture of Niagara Falls is seeing it indirectly or mediately. Gibson's cognitivist critics claim that all perception is mediated and that "external objects" are never seen directly. Each side takes the debate to be a scientific issue. But following Wittgenstein's "nose" for detecting philosophical intrusions into what do not appear to be philosophical debates, the author shows how such (...) elements play a decisive role in influencing the character of the argument. When the issue is seen from this perspective it can also be seen why both sides are mistaken in their claims. (shrink)
SummaryThere is an enormous literature on Moore's so‐called “proof”per se, but practically nothing has been written on the distinctions upon which the proof is bases, such as “being presented in space” and “being met with in space”. These are crucial to the argument, since Moore wishes to draw the line between the external and internal world via such distinctions. The author argues that these distinctions themselves crucially depend on a point that Moore does not argue for, but assumes, namely that (...) afterimages, negative after‐images, some sense‐data and pains are private to those that have them, and that two different people cannot sense numerically the same after‐images, pains etc. The author shows that this assumption is nonsense and that the entire proof, based upon it, therefore fails. (shrink)
The paper attempts to do two things: (1) to give a detailed account of what conditions must be satisfied by theories that hold some knowledge to be more fundamental than the rest, And (2) it asks, And answers affirmatively, Whether there is such a foundationalist account in wittgenstein's "on certainty".