This slim volume is sure to provoke. The topics include physicalism, the theory of color, and metaethics, but the primary focus is metaphilosophical: Jackson aims to defend the use of conceptual analysis as a tool for doing “serious metaphysics.”.
How should the “physical” in “physicalism” be understood? I here set out systematic criteria of adequacy, propose an account, and show how the account meets those criteria. The criteria of adequacy focus on the idea of rational management: to vindicate philosophical practice, the account must make it plausible that we can assess various questions about physicalism. The account on offer is dubbed the “Ideal Naturalist Physics” account, according to which the physical is that which appears in an ideal theory that (...) both meets the explanatory goals of physics and is naturalist in a sense to be explained. The combination of these two provides a satisfying account of the physical that meets the criteria of adequacy and can be used to predict puzzle cases as well. (shrink)
What has come to be known as “a priori physicalism” is the thesis, roughly, that the non-physical truths in the actual world can be deduced a priori from a complete physical description of the actual world. To many contemporary philosophers, a priori physicalism seems extremely implausible. In this paper I distinguish two kinds of a priori physicalism. One sort – strict a priori physicalism – I reject as both unmotivated and implausible. The other sort – liberal a priori physicalism – (...) I argue is both motivated and plausible. This variety of a priori physicalism insists that the necessitation of non-physical truths by the physical facts must be underwritten in a certain fashion by a priori knowledge, but the a priori knowledge need not amount to a simple deduction of the non-physical truths from a complete physical description of the world. Further, this sort of liberal a priori physicalism has the advantage that it offers hope for a genuinely satisfying account of how the physical facts manage to necessitate the facts about phenomenal consciousness – thereby in effect solving the “hard problem” of consciousness. The first half of the paper sets out the motivation for liberal a priori physicalism and its superiority to the strict version; the second half presents one strategy available to the liberal a priori physicalist for showing how consciousness can be accommodated in a purely physical world. (shrink)
Stalking the elusive physicalist thesis Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9528-2 Authors D. Gene Witmer, Department of Philosophy, University of Florida, P. O. Box 118545, Gainesville, FL 32611-8545, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Recent work by Jaegwon Kim and others suggest that functionalism leaves mental properties causally inefficacious in some sense. I examine three lines of argument for this conclusion. The first appeals to Occam's Razor; the second appeals to a ban on overdetermination; and the third charges that the kind of response I favor to these arguments forces me to give up "the homogeneity of mental and physical causation". I show how each argument fails. While I concede that a positive theory of (...) mental causation is desirable, there is no reason to think that functionalism renders such a theory unattainable. (shrink)
A common view is that species occupy a unique position on the Tree of Life. Evaluating this claim requires an understanding of what the Tree of Life represents. The Tree represents history, but there are at least three biological levels that are often said to have genealogies: species, organisms, and genes. Here I focus on defending the plausibility of a gene-based account of the Tree. This leads to an account of species that are determined by gene genealogies. On (...) this view, an exclusive group is a group of organisms that forms a clade for a higher proportion of the genome than any conflicting clade. Taxa occupy a unique position in what can be called the ‘primary concordance tree’. But each gene has its own historical ‘Tree of Life’. I conclude by arguing that both organismal pedigrees with their corresponding Tree as well as gene genealogies and their trees are objectively real and play important, but different, roles in biological practice. (shrink)
In his book Intuition, Elijah Chudnoff develops an account of how we might, by having intuitions, be made aware of abstract objects. While the conditions under which we enjoy such awareness are, on his account, happily free of objectionable metaphysics or dubious mechanisms, it is not clear that the conditions bear the epistemic weight they need to carry. To flesh out this worry, I develop an example that is parallel in all relevant respects to cases of intuitive awareness as described (...) by Chudnoff but in which the subject lacks awareness. This paper is a descendant of remarks delivered at the 2014 conference of the Florida Philosophical Association during a book symposium on Elijah Chudnoff’s Intuition. (shrink)
A substantial guide providing an overview of both physicalism and metaphysical naturalism, reviewing both questions of formulation and justification for both doctrines. Includes a diagnostic strategy for understanding talk of naturalism as a metaphysical thesis.
What has become known asthe blockers problemis an alleged difficulty facing attempts to formulate physicalism as a supervenience thesis. A blocker is an entity, itself contrary to physicalism, with the power to disrupt an otherwise necessary connection between physical and nonphysical conditions. I argue that there is no distinct blockers problem. Insofar as a problem can be identified, it turns out to be just a rather baroque version of a distinct and familiar objection to supervenience formulations and to be of (...) no independent interest. Work on the formulation of physicalism can thus proceed without worrying about blockers. (shrink)
In his Consciousness and Fundamental Reality (2017) Philip Goff defends his anti-physicalist argument against what he calls the "Dual Carving" objection—the idea that two representations of the very same fact could both be conceptually independent and "transparent," that is, revealing of the essences of the entities in question. His defense invokes a thesis he calls "Minimal Rationalism." I explore exactly how Minimal Rationalism is supposed to turn aside the objection and argue that the formulation of Minimal Rationalism on offer is (...) ambiguous between stronger and weaker readings. Goff needs the stronger reading to use it in defense of his argument, but only the weaker reading is warranted by the considerations he brings to bear in favor of his rationalism. His minimal rationalism is, in sum, insufficiently minimal. The upshot is not only that Goff is deprived of a way of turning back an important objection to his case against physicalism; we also gain a better sense of what kind of rationalist thesis is properly invoked in metaphysics. (shrink)
Presidential Address for the 2011 meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association. A somewhat playful but also serious meditation on ways in which the philosophical impulse can be understood as an urge to demystify or render "boring." Topics include psychological peculiarities of philosophers, reflections on methods for teaching students at an introductory level, the contrast between science and philosophy, the sense in which philosophy may or may not begin in "wonder," and why we should value the process of taking the magic (...) out of everything, ending with the declaration that it’s good to make everything boring—at least, in the specific sense here delineated. (shrink)
Charles Siewert has given us an ingenious thought experiment involving a limited lack of conscious experience. The possibility of the described case is incompatible with a number of popular theories of consciousness. Siewert acknowledges, however, that this possibility is not a direct threat to "hidden feature" theories. I aim to do two things: first, strengthen his defense of the claim that the case is genuinely possible by considering and rejecting some further attempts to explain away our temptation to believe it (...) possible; and second, to explore how a hidden feature approach could be developed and made plausible. (shrink)
In his 'The Disorder of Things' John Dupré presents an objection to reductionism which I call the 'anti-essentialist objection': it is that reductionism requires essentialism, and essentialism is false. I unpack the objection and assess its cogency. Once the objection is clearly in view, it is likely to appeal to those who think conceptual analysis a bankrupt project. I offer on behalf of the reductionist two strategies for responding, one which seeks to rehabilitate conceptual analysis and one (more concessive) which (...) avoids commitment to any such analysis. (shrink)
The manifestability argument presented by Papineau and Loewer turns on the premise that nonphysical properties are capable of making a difference to physical conditions. From this and the completeness of physics a strenuous supervenience conclusion is supposed to follow. I argue that the plausible version of this premise implies a weaker supervenience thesis only, one that is too weak to be of any use for a physicalist. There is a more contentious premise one might use to deduce the needed conclusion, (...) but that more contentious premise has no empirical support. (shrink)
A close examination of Kim's argument in "Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction" for the claim that if a kind is multiply realizable in a way that blocks identification with more fundamental properties it is also a kind unlikely to appear as an appropriate kind in a theory in the first place. Ultimately, I argue that there is one reasonably promising argument of this sort, but its success turns on explanatory questions the answers to which are far from obvious.
Polyphenic differences between individuals arise not through differences at the genome level but as a result of specific cues received during development. Polyphenisms often involve entire suites of characters, as shown dramatically by the polyphenic castes found in many social insect colonies. An understanding of the genetic architecture behind polyphenisms provides a novel means of studying the interplay between genomes, gene expression and phenotypes. Here we discuss polyphenisms and molecular genetic tools now available to unravel their developmental bases in (...) insects. We focus on several recent studies that have tracked gene‐expression patterns during social insect caste determination. BioEssays 23:62–68, 2001. Published 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (shrink)