The ontological argument in Anselm’s Proslogion II continues to generate a remarkable store of sophisticated commentary and criticism. However, in our opinion, much of this literature ignores or misrepresents the elegant simplicity of the original argument. The dialogue below seeks to restore that simplicity, with one important modification. Like the original, it retains the form of a reductio, which we think is essential to the argument’s great genius. However, it seeks to skirt the difficult question of whether 'exists' is a (...) genuine predicate by appealing instead to a distinction between having only mediated causal powers and having unmediated causal powers. Pegasus has no unmediated causal powers, but he has mediated causal powers through the thoughts, depictions, and literature in which he figures. This distinction allows us to argue about the existence of God without begging any questions. (shrink)
Anthony Kenny says it is impossible to want what one already has and knows one has. We present a counter-example and then suggest that Kenny may have been misled by the fact that wanting expresses itself in goal-directed behavior. From the truism that one's behavior cannot be directed toward a goal that one knows one has already attained, Kenny may have been led to suppose that behavior directed toward an as yet unattained goal cannot express one's desire for what one (...) has and knows one has. (shrink)
Scholars of classical philosophy have long disputed whether Aristotle was a dialectical thinker. Most agree that Aristotle contrasts dialectical reasoning with demonstrative reasoning, where the former reasons from generally accepted opinions and the latter reasons from the true and primary. Starting with a grasp on truth, demonstration never relinquishes it. Starting with opinion, how could dialectical reasoning ever reach truth, much less the truth about first principles? Is dialectic then an exercise that reiterates the prejudices of one's times and at (...) best allows one to persuade others by appealing to these prejudices, or is it the royal road to first principles and philosophical wisdom? In From Puzzles to Principles? May Sim gathers experts to argue both these positions and offer a variety of interpretive possibilities. The contributors' thoughtful reflections on the nature and limits of dialectic should play a crucial role in Aristotelian scholarship. (shrink)
Gareth Matthews suggests that we can better understand the nature of philosophical inquiry if we recognize the central role played by perplexity. The seminal representation of philosophical perplexity is in Plato's dialogues; Matthews examines the intriguing shifts in Plato's attitude to perplexity and suggests that these may represent a course of philosophical development that philosophers follow even today.
The essays in this book, by a variety of leading Augustine scholars, examine not only Augustine's multifaceted philosophy and its relation to his epoch-making theology, but also his practice as a philosopher, as well as his relation to other philosophers both before and after him. Thus the collection shows that Augustine's philosophy remains an influence and a provocation in a wide variety of settings today.
Anselm’s argument for the existence of God in Proslogion 2 has a little-noticed feature: It can be properly formulated only by beings who have the ability to think of things and refer to things independently of whether or not they exist in reality. The authors explore this cognitive ability and try to make clear the role it plays in the ontological argument. Then, we offer a new version of the ontological argument, which, we argue, is sound: it is valid, has (...) true premises, and does not beg any questions against the atheist. However, the new reconstruction of the argument falls short of Anselm’s goal of producing “a single argument that would require no other for its proof than itself alone; and alone would suffice to demonstrate that God exists.” The new reconstruction requires a subsidiary argument to show that God exists in the understanding. The subsidiary argument relies on premises that are both contingent and known a posteriori. However, the somewhat amplified argument, if it is sound as the authors believe it to be, does show that God exists in reality. Moreover, the new reconstruction escapes an important recent criticism by Peter Millican (2004, 2007) against ontological arguments generally. (shrink)
Each of the following might be considered both necessary and sufficient for an organism to count as a psychological organism: (a) being able to do something that requires a psychological theory to explain; (b) being capable of having experiences; (c) being motivated; (d) behaving in ways that are the joint outcome of the organism's beliefs and desires; (e) being capable of instrumental learning, or operant conditioning; (f) being susceptible to classical conditioning. This paper takes up each of these candidates in (...) turn in an effort to clarify what the idea of a psychological organism really is. An argument is sketched for saying that (f) yields the weakest version of the idea of a psycholgical organism, that (e) yields a stronger version, and that (d) yields an even stronger one. What these versions have in common makes them all versions of a single idea. (shrink)
We discuss Aristotle's "Categories" as an answer to Plato's One-over-Many argument. For Plato, F-ness is something "over against" particular F things; to predicate "F" of these things is to assert that they all stand in a certain relation to F-ness. Aristotle answers that predication is classification; and there being a classification of a certain sort is a fact correlative with there being things classifiable in the way the classification in question would classify them.
Readers who are introduced to philosophical analysis by reading the early Platonic dialogues may be puzzled to find that Plato, in his middle and late periods, largely abandons the style of analysis characteristic of early Plato, namely, the 'Socratic elenchus'. This paper undertakes to solve the puzzle. In contrast to what is popularly called 'the Socratic method', the elenchus requires that Socrates, the lead investigator, not have a satisfactory answer to his 'What is F-ness?' question. Here is the bind. Part (...) of what motivates the elenctic inquiry is the natural assumption that one cannot identify F-things unless one has a satisfactory analysis of what it is to be F. But to test the adequacy of suggested analyses of F-ness one needs to be able to identify counterexamples. Together these two points present us with a 'catch-22', which is something the 'paradox of inquiry' in the Meno brings out. In the Theaetetus Plato makes clear that, although the elenchus, including Socratic ignorance, can refute philosophical theses arrived at by other means, it cannot, by itself, give birth to viable philosophical theses. Its legitimate role is therefore only propaedeutic. (shrink)
In De trinitate X Augustine seeks to discover the nature of mind (mens). As if recalling Plato’s Paradox of Inquiry, he wonders how such a search can be coherently understood. Rejecting the idea that the mind knows itself only indirectly, or partially, or by description, he insists that nothing is so present to the mind as itself. Yet it is open to the mind to perfect its knowledge of itself by coming to realize that its nature is to be only (...) what it is certain that it is. (shrink)
This chapter examines the views of death by ancient Greek philosophers including Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato. It suggests that Aristotle offered no cheerful optimism similar to Socrates in his “Apology” and did not provide any arguments about the immortality of the soul like Plato in “Phaedo.” What Aristotle attempted to do was to help us face immortality that can enhance our chances of living worthy lives.
In L. Frank Baum's story, Ozma of Oz , which is a sequel to Baum's much more famous story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , Dorothy and her companion come upon a wound-down mechanical man bearing a label on which are printed the following words: Smith and Tinker's Patent Double-Action, Extra-Responsive, Thought-Creating Perfect-Talking MECHANICAL MAN Fitted with our Special Clock-Work Attachment Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything but Live As Dorothy and her companion are made to discover when they wind (...) up this man , he is indeed capable of doing all the things of which his label boasts—acting, speaking and even thinking. But as Tik-Tok himself insists, and no one in the story casts doubt on the matter, he is not alive. (shrink)
By ‘the unity of psychology’ I mean something one might also express by saying that the psychology of human beings is part of the psychology of animals generally. Perhaps there are several different ways of trying to trace out the ramifications of the idea that psychology is one. A central consideration, I think, is likely to be some sort of principle of continuity up and down the scale of nature. The idea would be that up and down the scale of (...) animated or ensouled things there are always psychological continuities, never any strict discontinuity. If human beings can get angry, can want to get ahead in life, can see an illusion, can develop an Oedipus complex, then so can some lower animal do either the very same thing, something similar, or at least something analogous. (shrink)
This paper illustrates some of the exciting and interesting philosophical discussions we can have with children when we let them develop the thread of the conversation in their own ways. The author discusses the virtue of patience when doing philosophy with children, and the importance of letting the rhythms of the discussion unfold without undue adult interference. Adults (and especially teachers) often attempt to control the ways in which children discuss issues with one another. The author reminds us of how (...) powerful it can be for a philosophical conversation among children to develop organically. and of how allowing silences to occur can inspire further philosophical explorations among the children. (shrink)
In a recent paper Paul Vincent Spade suggests that, although the medieval doctrine of the modes of personal supposition originally had something to do with the rest of the theory of supposition, it became, by the 14th century, an unrelated theory with no question to answer. By contrast, I argue that the theory of the modes of personal supposition was meant to provide a way of making understandable the idea that a general term in a categorical proposition can be used (...) to refer to the individual things that fall under it. Once that idea had been made acceptable, truth conditons for the various forms of categorical proposition could be given without any specific appeal to the ideas of descent and ascent in terms of which the modes had been defined. (shrink)
What is often called Descartes' dream problem should perhaps be called Plato's dream problem instead. Certainly it can be found in Plato's Theaetetus at 158b–c. It can also be found in Cicero and, through Cicero's influence, in much of the work of St Augustine.