Many contemporary philosophers rate error theories poorly. We identify the arguments these philosophers invoke, and expose their deficiencies. We thereby show that the prospects for error theory have been systematically underestimated. By undermining general arguments against all error theories, we leave it open whether any more particular arguments against particular error theories are more successful. The merits of error theories need to be settled on a case-by-case basis: there is no good general argument against error theories.
There is a recent and growing trend in philosophy that involves deferring to the claims of certain disciplines outside of philosophy, such as mathematics, the natural sciences, and linguistics. According to this trend— deferentialism , as we will call it—certain disciplines outside of philosophy make claims that have a decisive bearing on philosophical disputes, where those claims are more epistemically justified than any philosophical considerations just because those claims are made by those disciplines. Deferentialists believe that certain longstanding philosophical problems (...) can be swiftly and decisively dispatched by appeal to disciplines other than philosophy. In this paper we will argue that such an attitude of uncritical deference to any non-philosophical discipline is badly misguided. With reference to the work of John Burgess and David Lewis, we consider deference to mathematics. We show that deference to mathematics is implausible and that main arguments for it fail. With reference to the work of Michael Blome-Tillmann, we consider deference to linguistics. We show that his arguments appealing to deference to linguistics are unsuccessful. We then show that naturalism does not entail deferentialism and that naturalistic considerations even motivate some anti-deferentialist views. Finally, we set out deferentialism’s failings and present our own anti-deferentialist approach to philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
We defend Joseph Melia's thesis that the role of mathematics in scientific theory is to 'index' quantities, and that even if mathematics is indispensable to scientific explanations of concrete phenomena, it does not explain any of those phenomena. This thesis is defended against objections by Mark Colyvan and Alan Baker.
Do numbers exist? Do properties? Do possible worlds? Do fictional characters? Many metaphysicians spend time and effort trying to answer these and other questions about the existence of various entities. These inquiries have recently encountered opposition: a group of philosophers, drawing inspiration from Aristotle, have argued that many or all of the existence questions debated by metaphysicians can be answered trivially, and so are not worth debating. Our task is to defend existence questions from the neo-Aristotelians' attacks.
Some philosophers deny the existence of composite material objects. Other philosophers hold that whenever there are some things, they compose something. The purpose of this paper is to scrutinize an objection to these revisionary views: the objection that nihilism and universalism are both unacceptably uncharitable because each of them implies that a great deal of what we ordinarily believe is false. Our main business is to show how nihilism and universalism can be defended against the objection. A secondary point is (...) that universalism is harder to defend than nihilism. (shrink)
Animalism is the theory that we are animals: in other words, that each of us is numerically identical to an animal. An alternative theory maintains that we are not animals but that each of us is constituted by an animal. Call this alternative theory neo-Lockean constitutionalism or Lockeanism for short. Stephan Blatti (2012) offers to advance the debate between animalism and Lockeanism by providing a new argument for animalism. In this note, we present our own objection to Blatti's argument, and (...) argue that Carl Gillett's earlier reply misses the fundamental problem. We also use Blatti's argument to illustrate a common methodological error, namely, uncritical deference to best theories from other disciplines. (shrink)
In the ‘ordinary business of life’, everyone makes claims about what there is. For instance, we say things like: ‘There are some beautiful chairs in my favourite furniture shop’. Within the context of philosophical debate, some philosophers also make claims about what there is. For instance, some ontologists claim that there are chairs; other ontologists claim that there are no chairs. What is the relation between ontologists’ philosophical claims about what there is and ordinary claims about what there is? According (...) to Cian Dorr, ontologists’ claims and denials of existence belong to ‘a sort of professional jargon’. Dorr claims, for example, that ‘There are prime numbers between 20 and 30’ can be used superficially or used fundamentally. Ordinary uses of are superficial: we use the sentence to assert a boring, well-known truth. But in the ontology room, is used fundamentally, to assert that numbers are ‘part of the ultimate furniture of reality’: and this is a substantial metaphysical doctrine, not a boring truth. In this paper, we will show that none of Dorr’s arguments for these claims succeeds. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes revolutionary fictionalism from other forms of fictionalism and also from other philosophical views. The paper takes fictionalism about mathematical objects and fictionalism about scientific unobservables as illustrations. The paper evaluates arguments that purport to show that this form of fictionalism is incoherent on the grounds that there is no tenable distinction between believing a sentence and taking the fictionalist's distinctive attitude to that sentence. The argument that fictionalism about mathematics is ‘comically immodest’ is also evaluated. In place (...) of those arguments, an argument against fictionalism about abstract objects of any kind is presented in the last section. This argument takes the form of a trilemma against the fictionalist. (shrink)
David Lewis’s genuine modal realism is a controversial thesis in modal metaphysics. Charles Chihara and Ross Cameron have each argued that Lewis’s defence of his thesis involves his committing serious methodological errors; in particular, that his replies to two well-known and important objections are question-begging. Scott Shalkowski has further argued that Lewis’s attempt to analyse modal talk in non-modal terms is viciously circular. This paper considers the methodology which Lewis uses to argue for his thesis, and the paper tries to (...) show that it is guilty of no methodological errors. (shrink)
Thomas Hofweber argues that the thesis of direct reference is incompatible with physicalism, the claim that the nonphysical supervenes on the physical. According to Hofweber, direct reference implies that some physical objects have object-dependent properties, such as being Jones’s brother, which depend on particular objects for their existence and identity. Hofweber contends that if some physical objects have object-dependent properties, then Local-Local Supervenience (the physicalist doctrine on which he concentrates) fails. In this note, we argue that Hofweber has failed to (...) show that the possession by physical objects of object-dependent properties implies the falsity of Local-Local Supervenience. (shrink)
This paper considers two strategies for undermining indispensability arguments for mathematical Platonism. We defend one strategy (the Trivial Strategy) against a criticism by Joseph Melia. In particular, we argue that the key example Melia uses against the Trivial Strategy fails. We then criticize Melia’s chosen strategy (the Weaseling Strategy.) The Weaseling Strategy attempts to show that it is not always inconsistent or irrational knowingly to assert p and deny an implication of p . We argue that Melia’s case for this (...) strategy fails. (shrink)
In his stimulating new book The Construction of Logical Space , Agustín Rayo offers a new account of mathematics, which he calls ‘Trivialist Platonism’. In this article, we take issue with Rayo’s case for Trivialist Platonism and his claim that the view overcomes Benacerraf’s dilemma. Our conclusion is that Rayo has not shown that Trivialist Platonism has any advantage over nominalism.
Moral error theory claims that no moral sentence is (nonvacuously) true. Atheism claims that the existence of evil in the world is incompatible with, or makes improbable, the existence of God. Is moral error theory compatible with atheism? This paper defends the thesis that it is compatible against criticisms by Nicholas Sturgeon.
Many philosophers employ an intellectual division of labour. Philosophy tells us what the truth conditions of various philosophically interesting sentences are. For example, atomic sentences containing numerals are sentences containing singular terms putatively referring to numbers; sentences about what could be are sentences quantifying over possible worlds and so on. Some discipline outside of philosophy tells us that certain of these sentences are true. The purported result is that such philosophically controversial entities as numbers and possible worlds have been shown (...) to exist. I criticize this ‘twin-track strategy’ and try to show that the two components conflict rather than complement each other. (shrink)
The basic idea of Maudlin's superb book is methodological: ‘metaphysics, insofar as it is concerned with the natural world, can do no better than to reflect on physics. Physical theories provide us with the best handle we have on what there is, and the philosopher's proper task is the interpretation and elucidation of those theories. In particular, when choosing the fundamental posits of one's ontology, one must look to scientific practice rather than to philosophical prejudice’ .The apparently diverse topics covered (...) by the book's six chapters are united in bearing out this basic idea. They do so with considerable care and sophistication. The chapters also champion a campaign against David Lewis's thesis of Humean Supervenience. Lewis's thesis says that everything actual supervenes on the distribution of intrinsic qualities across points in space-time.Chapter 1 claims that laws of …. (shrink)
An Introduction to Philosophical Methods is the first book to survey the various methods that philosophers use to support their views. Rigorous yet accessible, the book introduces and illustrates the methodological considerations that are involved in current philosophical debates. Where there is controversy, the book presents the case for each side, but highlights where the key difficulties with them lie. While eminently student-friendly, the book makes an important contribution to the debate regarding the acceptability of the various philosophical methods, and (...) so it will also be of interest to more experienced philosophers. (shrink)
_An Introduction to Philosophical Methods_ is the first book to survey the various methods that philosophers use to support their views. Rigorous yet accessible, the book introduces and illustrates the methodological considerations that are involved in current philosophical debates. Where there is controversy, the book presents the case for each side, but highlights where the key difficulties with them lie. While eminently student-friendly, the book makes an important contribution to the debate regarding the acceptability of the various philosophical methods, and (...) so it will also be of interest to more experienced philosophers. (shrink)