Marx did not approach the state in answer to some such broad and abstract philosophical question as: What is the state? Nor did he offer a full sociological or historical or analytic account of state institutions and functions, and there are hence clear and substantial dangers in extrapolating to all or most conditions an account which is, in large part, specific to bourgeois society. Failing a comprehensive and formal treatise on politics and the state, Marx's own discussion consists of a (...) number of scattered and not altogether consistent general observations and some detailed investigation of the role and character of the state in particular historical situations. It seems sensible, then, to begin an elucidation of his account of the state with a comment on the nature of his interest in the subject. Why did he need a theory of the state? At what points does it become important to his explanatory and his revolutionary doctrines? (shrink)
The ability to explain the occurrence of errors in children's speech is an essential component of successful theories of language acquisition. The present study tested some generativist and constructivist predictions about error on the questions produced by ten English-learning children between 2 and 5 years of age. The analyses demonstrated that, as predicted by some generativist theories [e.g. Santelmann, L., Berk, S., Austin, J., Somashekar, S. & Lust. B. (2002). Continuity and development in the acquisition of inversion in yes/no questions: (...) dissociating movement and inflection, Journal of Child Language, 29, 813-842], questions with auxiliary DO attracted higher error rates than those with modal auxiliaries. However, in wh-questions, questions with modals and DO attracted equally high error rates, and these findings could not be explained in terms of problems forming questions with why or negated auxiliaries. It was concluded that the data might be better explained in terms of a constructivist account that suggests that entrenched item-based constructions may be protected from error in children's speech, and that errors occur when children resort to other operations to produce questions [e.g. Dabrowska, E. (2000). From formula to schema: the acquisition of English questions. Cognitive Liguistics, 11, 83-102; Rowland, C. F. & Pine, J. M. (2000). Subject-auxiliary inversion errors and wh-question acquisition: What children do know? Journal of Child Language, 27, 157-181; Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press]. However, further work on constructivist theory development is required to allow researchers to make predictions about the nature of these operations. (shrink)
In a previous paper (Duncan, T.L., Semura, J.S. in Entropy 6:21, 2004) we considered the question, “What underlying property of nature is responsible for the second law?” A simple answer can be stated in terms of information: The fundamental loss of information gives rise to the second law. This line of thinking highlights the existence of two independent but coupled sets of laws: Information dynamics and energy dynamics. The distinction helps shed light on certain foundational questions in statistical mechanics. (...) For example, the confusion surrounding previous “derivations” of the second law from energy dynamics can be resolved by noting that such derivations incorporate one or more assumptions that correspond to the loss of information. In this paper we further develop and explore the perspective in which the second law is fundamentally a law of information dynamics. (shrink)
Libertarianism: For and Against offers dueling perspectives on the scope of legitimate government. Tibor R. Machan, a well-known libertarian philosopher, argues for a minimal government devoted solely to protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Against this view, philosopher Craig Duncan defends democratic liberalism, which aims to ensure that all citizens have fair access to a life of dignity. In a dynamic exchange of arguments, the two philosophers cut to the heart of this important debate.
Duncan, Bruce Tracing the sources for the economic thinking embedded in the writings of Pope Francis is not straightforward, especially in his major documents, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of 2013 and the full encyclical Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home of 24 May 2015. Many hands were involved in drafting Francis's documents, and there were extensive consultations with experts in critical areas, going back decades. This article gives only passing reference to the critical matters of climate (...) change and sustainability, and instead concentrates on the economic aspects in the writings of Pope Francis. (shrink)
As a recent addition to the editorial board for the journal of Philosophy in the Contemporary World, I wanted to revisit a practice from past editions of the journal—interviewing philosophers who engage philosophical practice that reflects the mission of PCW. In this interview, a model for what I hope will continue to be a regular feature, I have a dialogue with the philosopher Burcu Gurkan. Professor Gurkan currently lives and works in Turkey while I live in work in the central (...) US, so what follows is edited from an email exchange.—Taine Duncan. (shrink)
Duncan, Bruce The continuing threat from Islamist terrorists, now not just in Africa or the Middle East, but virtually anywhere their appeal may reach, has shocked the world. The atrocities involve mass killing not just of military prisoners but of innocent men, women and children belonging to different faiths, including Muslims opposed to their militant practices and beliefs.
Duncan, Bruce Pope Francis sparked accusations that he is espousing Marxism in his November 2013 exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, because of his pointed attacks on economic liberalism or neoliberalism, the ideology behind versions of free-market economics. The conservative US radio commentator, Rush Limbaugh, with a following of 20 million listeners on a program valued at $400 million, accused the Pope of sprouting 'pure Marxism', and of not knowing what he was talking about.
Many have been attracted to the idea that for something to be good there just have to be reasons to favour it. This view has come to be known as the buck-passing account of value. According to this account, for pleasure to be good there need to be reasons for us to desire and pursue it. Likewise for liberty and equality to be values there have to be reasons for us to promote and preserve them. Extensive discussion has focussed on (...) some of the problems that the buck-passing account faces, such as the 'wrong kind of reason' problem. Less attention, however, has been paid as to why we should accept the buck-passing account or what the theoretical pay-offs and other implications of accepting it are. The Normative and the Evaluative provides the first comprehensive motivation and defence of the buck-passing account of value. Richard Rowland argues that the buck-passing account explains several important features of the relationship between reasons and value, as well as the relationship between the different varieties of value, in a way that its competitors do not. He shows that alternatives to the buck-passing account are inconsistent with important views in normative ethics, uninformative, and at odds with the way in which we should see practical and epistemic normativity as related. In addition, he extends the buck-passing account to provide an account of moral properties as well as all other normative and deontic properties and concepts, such as fittingness and ought, in terms of reasons. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one knows that they (...) do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)
Leibniz's mill argument in 'Monadology' 17 is a well-known but puzzling argument against materialism about the mind. I approach the mill argument by considering other places where Leibniz gave similar arguments, using the same example of the machinery of a mill and reaching the same anti-materialist conclusion. In a 1702 letter to Bayle, Leibniz gave a mill argument that moves from his definition of perception (as the expression of a multitude by a simple) to the anti-materialist conclusion. Soon afterwards, in (...) the Preface to the New Essays, Leibniz gave a different mill argument. That argument depends upon there being no arbitrary and inexplicable connections in nature, because God would not create such things. Later, in the 'Monadology', Leibniz again used the mill example in arguing against materialism. That passage too, I argue, uses an argument from inexplicability rather than from Leibniz's definition of perception. (shrink)
Language was central to Hobbes's understanding of human beings and their mental abilities, and criticism of other philosophers' uses of language became a favorite critical tool for him. This paper connects Hobbes's theories about language to his criticisms of others' language, examining Hobbes's theories of propositions and truth, and how they relate to his claims that various sorts of proposition are absurd. It considers whether Hobbes in fact means anything more by 'absurd' than 'false'. And it pays particular attention to (...) Hobbes's categorization of causes of absurdity and of types of incoherent proposition, arguing that Hobbes's approach is only loosely related to later discussions of category mistakes. (shrink)
This paper discusses the materialist views of Margaret Cavendish, focusing on the relationships between her views and those of two of her contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes and Henry More. It argues for two main claims. First, Cavendish's views sit, often rather neatly, between those of Hobbes and More. She agreed with Hobbes on some issues and More on others, while carving out a distinctive alternative view. Secondly, the exchange between Hobbes, More, and Cavendish illustrates a more general puzzle about just what (...) divided materialists from their opponents. Seemingly straightforward disagreements about whether incorporeal substances exist turn out to be more complex ones in which the nature of those things is disputed at the same time as their existence. (shrink)
Most theists believe that they will survive death. Indeed, they believe that any given person will survive death and persist into an afterlife while remaining the very same person. In light of this belief, one might ask: how—or, in virtue of what—do people survive death? Perhaps the most natural way to answer this question is by appealing to some general account of personal identity through time. That way one can say that people persist through the time of their death in (...) the same way that people persist through time in general. Then the obvious question is: how—or, in virtue of what—do people persist through time in general? Many different answers to this question have been proposed. Some philosophers think that personal identity through time consists in something, such as psychological or biological continuity. They think that there are informative necessary and sufficient conditions—i.e., criteria—for personal identity through time. These philosophers are criterialists. Other philosophers are anti-criterialists. Anti-criterialists believe that people persist through time, but they deny that there are any informative criteria for personal identity through time. In this paper I develop a challenge to anti-criterialism. I begin by spelling out the commitments of anti-criterialism. Then I argue that there are good reasons for anyone to reject anti-criterialism. And then I argue that theists have special reasons to reject anti-criterialism (This is particularly important and noteworthy because a substantial portion of those who defend anti-criterialism are theists. Examples include [but may not be limited to] Trenton Merricks, Richard Swinburne, Joseph Butler, and Thomas Reid). I conclude that there is an informative criterion for personal identity through time and death, even if we haven’t heard of it yet. (shrink)
Thomas Hobbes was, rather famously, a nominalist. The core of that nominalism is the belief that the only universal things are universal names: there are no universal objects, or universal ideas. This paper looks at what Hobbes's views about universal names were, how they evolved over time, and how Hobbes argued for them. The remainder of the paper considers two objections to Hobbes's view: a criticism made by several of Hobbes's contemporaries, that Hobbes's view could not account for people saying (...) the same thing in different languages; and a more recently popular criticism of Hobbes, that his nominalism's reliance on similarity implicitly (and inconsistently) involves reliance on a universal. (shrink)
Predictive genetic testing is now routinely offered to asymptomatic adults at risk for genetic disease. However, testing of minors at risk for adult-onset conditions, where no treatment or preventive intervention exists, has evoked greater controversy and inspired a debate spanning two decades. This review aims to provide a detailed longitudinal analysis and concludes by examining the debate's current status and prospects for the future. Fifty-three relevant theoretical papers published between 1990 and December 2010 were identified, and interpretative content analysis was (...) employed to catalogue discrete arguments within these papers. Novel conclusions were drawn from this review. While the debate's first voices were raised in opposition of testing and their arguments have retained currency over many years, arguments in favour of testing, which appeared sporadically at first, have gained momentum more recently. Most arguments on both sides are testable empirical claims, so far untested, rather than abstract ethical or philosophical positions. The dispute, therein, lies not so much in whether minors should be permitted to access predictive genetic testing but whether these empirical claims on the relative benefits or harms of testing should be assessed. (shrink)
I consider Leibniz's thoughts about Hobbes's materialism, focusing on his less-discussed later thoughts about the topic. Leibniz understood Hobbes to have argued for his materialism from his imagistic theory of ideas. Leibniz offered several criticisms of this argument and the resulting materialism itself. Several of these criticisms occur in texts in which Leibniz was engaging with the generation of British philosophers after Hobbes. Of particular interest is Leibniz's correspondence with Damaris Masham. Leibniz may have been trying to communicate with Locke, (...) but ended up discussing Masham's version of the argument for materialism that Leibniz attributed to Hobbes. (shrink)
The notion of signification is an important part of Hobbes's philosophy of language. It also has broader relevance, as Hobbes argues that key terms used by his opponents are insignificant. However Hobbes's talk about names' signification is puzzling, as he appears to have advocated conflicting views. This paper argues that Hobbes endorsed two different views of names' signification in two different contexts. When stating his theoretical views about signification, Hobbes claimed that names signify ideas. Elsewhere he talked as if words (...) signified the things they named. Seeing this does not just resolve a puzzle about Hobbes's statements about signification. It also helps us to understand how Hobbes's arguments about insignificant speech work. With one important exception, they depend on the view that names signify things, not on Hobbes's stated theory that words signify ideas. The paper concludes by discussing whether arguments about insignificant speech can provide independent support for Hobbes's views about other issues, such as materialism. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Kant's famous critique of the Ontological Argument largely begs the question against that argument, and is no better when supplemented by the modern quantificational analysis of "exists." In particular, I argue that the claim, common to Hume and Kant, that conceptual truths can never entail substantive existential claims is false,and thus no ground for rejecting the Ontological Argument.
I argue that Hobbes isn't really a materialist in the early 1640s (in, e.g., the Third Objections to Descartes's Meditations). That is, he doesn't assert that bodies are the only substances. However, he does think that bodies are the only substances we can think about using imagistic ideas.
In October 1924, The Physical Review, a relatively minor journal at the time, published a remarkable two-part paper by John H. Van Vleck, working in virtual isolation at the University of Minnesota. Van Vleck used Bohr's correspondence principle and Einstein's quantum theory of radiation to find quantum formulae for the emission, absorption, and dispersion of radiation. The paper is similar but in many ways superior to the well-known paper by Kramers and Heisenberg published the following year that is widely credited (...) to have led directly to Heisenberg's Umdeutung paper. As such, it clearly shows how strongly the discovery of matrix mechanics depended on earlier work on the application of the correspondence principle to the interaction of matter and radiation. (shrink)
Hobbes denies in Leviathan that we have an idea of God. He does think, though, that God exists, and does not even deny that we can think about God, even though he says we have no idea of God. There is, Hobbes thinks, another cognitive mechanism by means of which we can think about God. That mechanism allows us only to think a few things about God though. This constrains what Hobbes can say about our knowledge of God, and grounds (...) his belief in a fairly strong version of the thesis that God is incomprehensible. (shrink)
Descartes argues that, apart from the existence of a veracious God, we can have no reason to believe that we possess reliable cognitive faculties, with the result that, if atheism is true, not even our seemingly most certain beliefs can count as knowledge for us. Since the atheist denies the existence of God, he or she will be precisely in this position. I argue that Descartes' argument is sound, and that atheism is therefore self-refuting.
Leibniz's correspondence with Thomas Burnett of Kemnay is probably best known for Leibniz's attempts to communicate with Locke via Burnett. But Burnett was also, more generally a source of English intellectual news for Leibniz. As such, Burnett provided an important part of the context in which Locke was presented to and understood by Leibniz. -/- This paper examines the Leibniz-Burnett correspondence, and argues against Jolley's suggestion that "the context in which Leibniz learned about Locke was primarily a theological one". That (...) said, in thinking about Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, and his subsequent defenses of it, Leibniz does offer an argument against Locke's book -- but not one that's closely related to Locke's theological views, or to any accusation of Socinianism. -/- The paper also considers, by way of contrast, the way Leibniz and Burnett talk about the more obviously controversial figure John Toland. (shrink)
Aldo Leopold was a pragmatist in the vernacular sense of the word. Bryan G. Norton claims that Leopold was also heavily influenced by American Pragmatism, a formal school of philosophy. As evidence, Norton offers Leopold's misquotation of a definition of right (as truth) by political economist, A.T. Hadley, who was an admirer of the philosophy of William James. A search of Leopold's digitised literary remains reveals no other evidence that Leopold was directly influenced by any actual American Pragmatist or by (...) Pragmatism (although he may have been indirectly influenced by Pragmatism early in his career). A 1923 reference, by Leopold, to Hadley and Hadley's putative definition of truth, cited by Norton, is dripping with irony. Leopold, as he matured philosophically, regarded a profound cultural shift from anthropocentric dominionism and consumerism to an evolutionary-ecological worldview and an associated non-anthropocentric 'land ethic' to be necessary for successful and sustainable conservation. Hadley espoused a brutal form of Social Darwinism and his philosophy, as expressed in the book of Hadley's that Norton cites, is politically reactionary, militaristic and unconcerned with conservation. Leopold's mature philosophy and Hadley's – far from consonant, as Norton claims – are diametrically opposed. (shrink)
In the early years of the eighteenth century Leibniz had several interactions with John Toland. These included, from 1702 to 1704, discussions of materialism. Those discussions culminated with the consideration of Toland's 1704 Letters to Serena, where Toland argued that matter is necessarily active. In this paper I argue for two main theses about this exchange and its consequences for our wider understanding. The first is that, despite many claims that Toland was at the time of Letters to Serena a (...) Spinozist, we can make better sense of him as a sort of Hobbesian materialist. The second main point concerns reasons for materialism, and in particular a story Locke tells in the Essay about materialists' motives. Toland defends his materialism by arguing that matter is active, and argues that matter is active by using a conceivability argument. But this is not the crude conceivability argument that Locke suggests motivates materialists. This (together with reflecting on some of Hobbes's arguments) suggests that we might well tell a Lockean story about reasons for early modern materialism, but not Locke's story. (shrink)
Kant proclaimed that all theodicies must fail in ?On the Miscarriage of All Philosophical Trials in Theodicy?, but it is mysterious why he did so since he had developed a theodicy of his own during the critical period. In this paper, I offer an explanation of why Kant thought theodicies necessarily fail. In his theodicy, as well as in some of his works in ethics, Kant explained moral evil as resulting from unavoidable limitations in human beings. God could not create (...) finite beings without such limitations and so could not have created humans that were not prone to committing immoral acts. However, the work of Carl Christian Eberhard Schmid showed Kant that given his own beliefs about freedom and the nature of responsibility one could not account for moral evil in this way without tacitly denying that human beings were responsible for their actions. This result is significant not only because it explains an otherwise puzzling shift in Kant's philosophy of religion, but also because it shows that the theodicy essay provides powerful evidence that Kant's thinking about moral evil and freedom underwent fundamental shifts between early works such as the Groundwork and later works like the Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason. (shrink)
In a recent issue of Utilitas Gerald Lang provided an appealing new solution to the Wrong Kind of Reason problem for the buck-passing account of value. In subsequent issues Jonas Olson and John Brunero have provided objections to Lang's solution. I argue that Brunero's objection is not a problem for Lang's solution, and that a revised version of Lang's solution avoids Olson's objections. I conclude that we can solve the Wrong Kind of Reason problem, and that the wrong kind of (...) reasons for pro-attitudes are reasons that would not still be reasons for pro-attitudes if it were not for the additional consequences of having those pro-attitudes. (shrink)
This is a short (1,000 word) introduction to Hobbes's materialism, covering (briefly) such issues as what the relevant notion of materialism is, Hobbes's debate with Descartes, and what Hobbes's arguments for materialism were.
Many bilingual speakers believe they engage in different forms of thinking when they shift languages. This experience of entering different thought worlds can be explained with the hypothesis that languages induce different forms of `thinking-for-speaking'-- thinking generated, as Slobin (1987) says, because of the requirements of a linguistic code. "`Thinking for speaking' involves picking those characteristics that (a) fit some conceptualization of the event, and (b) are readily encodable in the language" (p. 435). That languages differ in their thinking-for-speaking demands (...) is a version of the linguistic relativity hypothesis, the proposition that language influences thought and that different languages influence thought in different ways. (shrink)
In Meditation I, Descartes dismisses the possibility that he might be insane as a ground for doubting that the senses are a source of knowledge of the external world. In this paper, I argue that Descartes was justified in so doing, and draw some general epistemological conclusions from this result.