Individual objects have potentials: paper has the potential to burn, an acorn has the potential to turn into a tree, some people have the potential to run a mile in less than four minutes. Barbara Vetter provides a systematic investigation into the metaphysics of such potentials, and an account of metaphysical modality based on them. -/- In contemporary philosophy, potentials have been recognized mostly in the form of so-called dispositions: solubility, fragility, and so on. Vetter takes dispositions as her (...) starting point, but argues for and develops a more comprehensive conception of potentiality. She shows how, with this more comprehensive conception, an account of metaphysical modality can be given that meets three crucial requirements: Extensional correctness: providing the right truth-values for statements of possibility and necessity; formal adequacy: providing the right logic for metaphysical modality; and semantic utility: providing a semantics that links ordinary modal language to the metaphysics of modality. -/- The resulting view of modality is a version of dispositionalism about modality: it takes modality to be a matter of the dispositions of individual objects. This approach has a long philosophical tradition going back to Aristotle, but has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy. In recent years, it has become a live option again due to the rise of anti-Humean, powers-based metaphysics. The aim of Potentiality is to develop the dispositionalist view in a way that takes account of contemporary developments in metaphysics, logic, and semantics. (shrink)
Although people can take spatial perspectives different from their own, it is widely assumed that egocentric perspectives are natural and have primacy. Two studies asked respondents to describe the spatial relations between two objects on a table in photographed scenes; in some versions, a person sitting behind the objects was either looking at or reaching for one of the objects. The mere presence of another person in a position to act on the objects induced a good proportion of respondents to (...) describe the spatial relations from that person’s point of view. When the query about the spatial relations was phrased in terms of action, more respondents took the other’s perspective than their own. The implication of action elicits spontaneous spatial perspective-taking, seemingly in the service of understanding the other’s actions. (shrink)
How does thinking affect doing? There is a widely held view that thinking about what you are doing, as you are doing it, hinders performance. Once you have acquired the ability to putt a golf ball, play an arpeggio on the piano, or parallel-park, reflecting on your actions leads to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis--that's what is widely believed. But is it true? After exploring some of the contemporary and historical manifestations of the idea, Barbara Gail Montero (...) develops a theory of expertise which emphasizes the role of the conscious mind in expert action. She aims to dispel various myths about experts who proceed without any understanding of what guides their action, and she analyzes research in both philosophy and psychology that is taken to show that conscious control and explicit monitoring of one's movements impedes well practiced skills. Montero explores a wide range of real-life examples of optimal performance, in sports, the performing arts, healthcare, the military, and other fields, and draws from psychology, neuroscience, and literature to offer a refreshing and persuasive view of expertise, according to which expert action generally is and ought to be thoughtful, effortful, and reflective. (shrink)
This paper proposes an approach to narrative deixis which offers a coherent analysis of the respective roles of proximal and distal deictic expressions. The paper starts by arguing that fictional narratives require an approach to deixis which modifies a number of broadly held assumptions, especially as regards the interaction between tense and other deictic forms. It then considers the widely discussed instance of the temporal adverb now in the context of Past Tense. The second part of the paper gives special (...) focus to demonstratives in narrative fiction, showing their role in temporal construals. It argues that both temporal and demonstrative expressions are primarily used to serve narrative viewpoint construction. Examples from several novels are then used to show how the proximal and distal choices of demonstratives, temporal adverbs and locative adverbs structure narrative viewpoint, including narrative representation of character experience. The paper concludes by proposing that in the context of fictional narratives the proximal/distal contrast is more relevant to meaning emergence than individual aspects of deixis, and that the construal of time can be achieved through the whole spectrum of deictic forms, not just tense and temporal adverbs such as now and then. (shrink)
This paper takes a critical look at the idea that evolutionary theory is a statistical theory. It argues that despite the strong instrumental motivation for statistical theories, they are not necessary to explain deterministic systems. Biological evolution is fundamentally a result of deterministic processes. Hence, a statistical theory is not necessary for describing the evolutionary forces of genetic drift and natural selection, nor is it needed for describing the fitness of organisms. There is a computational advantage to the statistical theory (...) of population genetics, but population genetics succeeds only by eliminating causes from its account of evolutionary change. (shrink)
Contemporary issues involving knowledge and science examined from a constructivist-pragmatist perspective often labeled "relativism." Individual chapters include a review of the difference between constructivist-pragmatist epistemology and "social constructivism;" an examination of recent writings by Bruno Latour; a critique of computational methods in literary studies; a skeptical look at current efforts to "integrate" the humanities and the natural sciences; and reflections on the social dynamics of belief in relation to denials of climate change and to hopes expressed by environmentalists.
Chronic and current epistemological controversies, with particular attention to the development of pragmatist/historicist/constructivist reconceptions of knowledge and science in the 20th century and the scandalized responses to them by defenders of more traditional rationalist/objectivist/realist conceptions. Individual chapters deal with complex and confused relations among epistemic skepticism, relativism, and constructivist epistemology ; 20th-century "postmodern" relativism and anti-relativism; Ludwik Fleck and constructivist views of truth, science, and knowledge; attacks on and disavowals of constructivism and/or relativism by established and feminist philosophers; the Science (...) Wars and fraught relations between the humanities and the sciences; the problematic claims of Evolutionary Psychology; and chronic problems and contemporary views of animal-human relations. (shrink)
An analysis of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's statements regarding relativism in his 2005 homily to the conclave meeting to elect the new pope in the context of the charge of "relativism" in 20th-century philosophy. Parts of this essay are adapted from Barbara Herrnstein Smith,"Pre-Post-Modern Relativism," in *Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth and the Human* (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005; Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 18 – 45.
An extended analysis and account of the psychological/social/cognitive dynamics of intellectual controversy. The immediate focus is the recurrent failure of intellectual engagement, in encounters having to do with with truth, knowledge, language, science, and/or objectivity, between, on the one hand, rationalist-realist-objectivist philosophers and/or those they have instructed and, on the other hand, constructivist-pragmatist ("postmodern") theorists and/or those persuaded by their critiques and/or alternative views. Individual chapters examine critiques and defenses of objectivist-rationalist views in law, politics, literary studies, ethics, communication theory, (...) and philosophy of science. Theorists whose views are discussed critically at some length include legal scholar Robin West and philosophers Jürgen Habermas, Karl-Otto Apel, and Philip Kitcher. (shrink)
Making room for character -- Pluralism and the community of moral judgment -- A cosmopolitan kingdom of ends --Responsibility and moral competence --Can virtue be taught?: the problem of new moral facts -- Training to autonomy: Kant and the question of moral education -- Bootstrapping -- Rethinking Kant's hedonism -- The scope of moral requirement -- The will and its objects -- Obligatory ends -- Moral improvisation -- Contingency in obligation.
While researchers have studied how white silence protects white innocence and white ignorance, in this essay Barbara Applebaum explores a form of white silence that she refers to as “listening silence” in which silence protects white innocence but does not necessarily promote resistance to learning. White listening silence can appear to be a constructive pedagogical tool for teaching white students about their implication in the perpetuation of racism. The truth of white students' listening may make it seem as if (...) silence promotes what George Yancy refers to as “tarrying” with a critique of whiteness. Applebaum argues, however, that white listening silence is itself a manifestation of complicity and needs to be disrupted. This examination expands discussions of white silence in the scholarship not by providing a formula for when silence is or is not pedagogically necessary, but rather by demonstrating that listening silence is not a form of “tarrying.” The first section examines the unique features of listening silence and the relationship between silence, ignorance, and innocence. The second section critically examines white listening silence in cross-cultural dialogues and draws upon the work of Linda Martin Alcoff to argue that listening silence must be understood within the discursive context in which it is practiced. Finally, three implications of this emphasis on the discursive context for the role of silence in tarrying with the critique of whiteness are discussed. (shrink)
This collection of essays by Robert Brandon spans two decades and most of the important problems in the philosophy of biology. Four of his five most important contributions to the philosophy of biology can be found here: the concept of relative adaptedness and its role in the propensity interpretation of fitness; the principle of natural selection; the use of the screening-off relation in defense of organismic selection; and the distinction between units of selection and levels of selection. The fifth major (...) contribution, an analysis of the concept of "environment," mentioned briefly in an essay on the co-evolution of organisms and environment, is given an extended treatment in his 1990 book, Adaptation and Environment. (shrink)
This book introduces the most important problems of reference and considers the solutions that have been proposed to explain them. Reference is at the centre of debate among linguists and philosophers and, as Barbara Abbott shows, this has been the case for centuries. She begins by examining the basic issue of how far reference is a two place (words-world) or a three place (speakers-words-world) relation. She then discusses the main aspects of the field and the issues associated with them, (...) including those concerning proper names; direct reference and individual concepts; the difference between referential and quantificational descriptions; pronouns and indexicality; concepts like definiteness and strength; and noun phrases in discourse. Professor Abbott writes with exceptional verve and wit. She presupposes no technical knowledge or background and presents issues and analyses from first principles, illustrating them at every stage with well-chosen examples. Her book is addressed in the first place to advanced undergraduate and graduate students in linguistics and philosophy of language, but it will also appeal to students and practitioners in computational linguistics, cognitive psychology, and anthropology. All will welcome the clarity this guide brings to a subject that continues to challenge the leading thinkers of the age. (shrink)
It is a familiar point that many ordinary dispositions are multi-track, that is, not fully and adequately characterisable by a single conditional. In this paper, I argue that both the extent and the implications of this point have been severely underestimated. First, I provide new arguments to show that every disposition whose stimulus condition is a determinable quantity must be infinitely multi-track. Secondly, I argue that this result should incline us to move away from the standard assumption that dispositions are (...) in some way importantly linked to conditionals, as presupposed by the debate about various versions of the ‘conditional analysis’ of dispositions. I introduce an alternative conception of dispositionality, which is motivated by linguistic observations about dispositional adjectives and links dispositions to possibility instead of conditionals. I argue that, because of the multi-track nature of dispositions, the possibility-based conception of dispositions is to be preferred. (shrink)
Richard Henson attempts to take the sting out of this view of Kant on moral worth by arguing (i) that attending to the phenomenon of the overdetermination of actions leads one to see that Kant might have had two distinct views of moral worth, only one of which requires the absence of cooperating inclinations, and (ii) that when Kant insists that there is moral worth only when an action is done from the motive of duty alone, he need not also (...) hold that such a state of affairs is morally better, all things considered, than one where supporting inclination is present. Henson's proposals seem to me both serious and plausible. I do not think that either of his models, in the end, can take on the role Kant assigns to moral worth in the argument of the Groundwork. But seeing the ways Henson's account diverges from Kant's makes clearer what Kant intended in his discussion of those actions he credits with moral worth. [...] An action has moral worth if it is required by duty and has as its primary motive the motive of duty. The motive of duty need not reflect the only interest the agent has in the action (or its effect); it must, however, be the interest that determines the agent's acting as he did. (shrink)
I compare Locke's views on the nature and powers of the self with E. J. Lowe's view, ‘non-Cartesian substance dualism’. Lowe agrees with Locke that persons have a power to choose or not to choose. Lowe takes this power to be non-causal. I argue that this move does not obviously succeed in evading the notorious interaction problem that arises for all forms of substance dualism, including those of Locke and Descartes. However, I am sympathetic to Lowe's attempt to give a (...) metaphysical account of a robust sort of agency that would explain how human beings might be genuinely autonomous. (shrink)
It is widely thought that focusing on highly skilled movements while performing them hinders their execution. Once you have developed the ability to tee off in golf, play an arpeggio on the piano, or perform a pirouette in ballet, attention to what your body is doing is thought to lead to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis. Here I re-examine this view and argue that it lacks support when taken as a general thesis. Although bodily awareness may often interfere (...) with well-developed rote skills, like climbing stairs, I suggest that it is typically not detrimental to the skills of expert athletes, performing artists, and other individuals who endeavor to achieve excellence. Along the way, I present a critical analysis of some philosophical theories and behavioral studies on the relationship between attention and bodily movement, an explanation of why attention may be beneficial at the highest level of performance and an error theory that explains why many have thought the contrary. Though tentative, I present my view as a challenge to the widespread starting assumption in research on highly skilled movement that at the pinnacle of skill attention to one's movement is detrimental. (shrink)
The study of word meanings promises important insights into the nature of the human mind by revealing what people find to be most cognitively significant in their experience. However, as we learn more about the semantics of various languages, we are faced with an interesting problem. Different languages seem to be telling us different stories about the mind. For example, important distinctions made in one language are not necessarily made in others. What are we to make of these cross-linguistic differences? (...) How do they arise? Are they created by purely linguistic processes operating over the course of language evolution? Or do they reflect fundamental differences in thought? In this sea of differences, are there any semantic universals? Which categories might be given by the genes, which by culture, and which by language? And what might the cross-linguistic similarities and differences contribute to our understanding of conceptual and linguistic development? The kinds of mapping principles, structures, and processes that link language and non-linguistic knowledge must accommodate not just one language but the rich diversity that has been uncovered. The integration of knowledge and methodologies necessary for real progress in answering these questions has happened only recently, as experimental approaches have been applied to the cross-linguistic study of word meaning. In Words and the Mind, Barbara Malt and Phillip Wolff present evidence from the leading researchers who are carrying out this empirical work on topics as diverse as spatial relations, events, emotion terms, motion events, objects, body-part terms, causation, color categories, and relational categories. By bringing them together, Malt and Wolff highlight some of the most exciting cross-linguistic and cross-cultural work on the language-thought interface, from a broad array of fields including linguistics, anthropology, cognitive and developmental psychology, and cognitive neuropsychology. Their results provide some answers to these questions and new perspectives on the issues surrounding them. (shrink)
Mary knows all there is to know about physics, chemistry and neurophysiology, yet has never experienced colour. Most philosophers think that if Mary learns something genuinely new upon seeing colour for the first time, then physicalism is false. I argue, however, that physicalism is consistent with Mary's acquisition of new information. Indeed, even if she has perfect powers of deduction, and higher-level physical facts are a priori deducible from lower-level ones, Mary may still lack concepts which are required in order (...) to deduce from the lower-level physical facts what it is like to see red. (shrink)
A critical examination of the charge of self-refutation, particularly as leveled by orthodoxy-defending philosophers against those maintaining epistemologically unorthodox, especially relativistic or skeptical, views. Beginning with an analysis of its classic illustration in Plato’s *Theaetetus* as leveled against Protagoras’s “Man is the measure ...,” I consider various aspects of the charge, including logical, rhetorical, pedagogic, affective, and cognitive.
Barbara Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In Echo Objects she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought. This, then, is a book for (...) both sides of the aisle, a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images—or patterns that compress space and time—make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. On the other hand, she compellingly shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums as old and deep-seated as the human urge to imitate, the mapping of inner space, and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation. As precise in her discussions of firing neurons as she is about the coordinating dynamics of image making, Stafford locates these major transdisciplinary issues at the intersection of art, science, philosophy, and technology. Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation. (shrink)
This chapter explores the different dimensions of domination, including whether it has a structural approach, its relation to race and imperialism, and how non-domination can be institutionalized and achieved at a global level.
According to David Chalmers , 'we have good reason to suppose that consciousness has a fundamental place in nature' . This, he thinks is because the world as revealed to us by fundamental physics is entirely structural -- it is a world not of things, but of relations -- yet relations can only account for more relations, and consciousness is not merely a relation . Call this the 'structural argument against physicalism.' I shall argue that there is a view about (...) the relationship between mind and body, what I call, 'Russellian physicalism' that is consistent with the premises of the structural argument yet does not imply that consciousness is fundamental. (shrink)
This paper surveys recent "new actualist" approaches to modality that do without possible worlds and locate modality squarely in the actual world. New actualist theories include essentialism and dispositionalism about modality, each of which can come in different varieties. The commonalities and differences between these views, as well as their shared motivations, are layed out.
This paper, which is based on an extensive analysis of the literature, gives a brief overview of the main ways in which solidarity has been employed in bioethical writings in the last two decades. As the vagueness of the term has been one of the main targets of critique, we propose a new approach to defining solidarity, identifying it primarily as a practice enacted at the interpersonal, communal, and contractual/legal levels. Our three-tier model of solidarity can also help to explain (...) the way in which crises of solidarity can occur, notably when formal solidaristic arrangements continue to exist despite ‘lower tiers’ of solidarity practices at inter-personal and communal levels having ‘broken away’. We hope that this contribution to the growing debate on the potential for the value of solidarity to help tackle issues in bioethics and beyond, will stimulate further discussion involving both conceptual and empirically informed perspectives. (shrink)