Numbers and other mathematical objects are exceptional in having no locations in space or time or relations of cause and effect. This makes it difficult to account for the possibility of the knowledge of such objects, leading many philosophers to embrace nominalism, the doctrine that there are no such objects, and to embark on ambitious projects for interpreting mathematics so as to preserve the subject while eliminating its objects. This book cuts through a host of technicalities that have obscured previous (...) discussions of these projects, and presents clear, concise accounts of a dozen strategies for nominalistic interpretation of mathematics, thus equipping the reader to evaluate each and to compare different ones. The authors also offer critical discussion, rare in the literature, of the aims and claims of nominalistic interpretation, suggesting that it is significant in a very different way from that usually assumed. (shrink)
Region R Question: How many objects — entities, things — are contained in R? Ignore the empty space. Our question might better be put, 'How many material objects does R contain?' Let's stipulate that A, B and C are metaphysical atoms: absolutely simple entities with no parts whatsoever besides themselves. So you don't have to worry about counting a particle's top half and bottom half as different objects. Perhaps they are 'point-particles', with no length, width or breadth. Perhaps they are (...) extended in space without possessing spatial parts (if that is possible). Never mind. We stipulate that A, B and C are perfectly simple. We also stipulate that they are connected as follows. A and B are stuck together in such a way that when a force is applied to one of them, they move together 'as a unit'. Moreover, the two of them together exhibit behavior that neither would exhibit on its own — Perhaps they emit a certain sound, or glow in the dark — whereas C is.. (shrink)
When a person acts from ignorance, he is culpable for his action only if he is culpable for the ignorance from which he acts. The paper defends the view that this principle holds, not just for actions done from ordinary factual ignorance, but also for actions done from moral ignorance. The question is raised whether the principle extends to action done from ignorance about what one has most reason to do. It is tentatively proposed that the principle holds in full (...) generality. (shrink)
This paper defends the idea that there might be vagueness or indeterminacy in the world itself--as opposed to merely in our representations of the world--against the charges of incoherence and unintelligibility. First we consider the idea that the world might contain vague properties and relations ; we show that this idea is already implied by certain well-understood views concerning the semantics of vague predicates (most notably the fuzzy view). Next we consider the idea that the world might contain vague objects (...) ; we argue that an object is indeterminate in a certain respect (colour, size, etc.) just in case it is a borderline case of a maximally specific colour (size, etc.) property. Finally we consider the idea that the world as a whole might be indeterminate; we argue that the world is indeterminate just in case it lacks a determinate division into determinate objects. (shrink)
Van Fraassen defines constructive empiricism as the view that science aims to produce empirically adequate theories. But this account has been misunderstood. Constructive empiricism in not, as it seems, a description of the intentional features of scientific practice, nor is it a normative prescription for their revision. It is rather a fiction about the practice of science that van Fraassen displays in the interests of a broader empiricism. The paper concludes with a series of arguments designed to show that constructive (...) empiricism so understood is self-undermining. (shrink)
According to one sort of epistemic relativist, normative epistemic claims (e.g., evidence E justifies hypothesis H) are never true or false simpliciter, but only relative to one or another epistemic system. In chapter 6 of Fear of Knowledge, Paul Boghossian objects to this view on the ground that its central notions cannot be explained, and that it cannot account for the normativity of epistemic discourse. This paper explores how the dogged relativist might respond.
Fictionalism about possible worlds is the view that talk about worlds in the analysis of modality is to be construed as ontologically innocent discourse about the content of a fiction. Versions of the view have been defended by D M Armstrong (in "A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility") and by myself (in "Modal Fictionalism', "Mind" 99, July 1990). The present note argues that fictionalist accounts of modality (both Armstrong's version and my own) fail to serve the fictionalists ontological purposes because they (...) imply that as a matter of necessity there exist many worlds. (shrink)
According to Parfit, the best version of Kantian ethics takes as its central principle Kantian Contractualism: the thesis that everyone ought to follow the principles whose universal acceptance everyone could rationally will. This paper examines that thesis, identifies a class of annoying counterexamples, and suggests that when Kantian Contractualism is modified in response to these examples, the resulting principle is too complex and ad hoc to serve as the 'supreme principle of morality'.
In Being Realistic About Reasons T. M. Scanlon argues that particular fact about reasons are explained by contingent non-normative facts together with pure normative principles. A question then arises about the modal status of these pure principles. Scanlon maintains that they are necessary in a sense, and suggests that they are ‘metaphysically’ necessary. I argue that the best view for Scanlon to take, given his other commitments, is that these pure normative principles are metaphysically contingent in some cases and necessary (...) only in a weaker sense. (shrink)
The paper examines the conditions under which we are responsible for actions performed under duress, focusing on a real case in which a soldier was compelled at gunpoint to participate in the massacre of civilian prisoners. The case stands for a class of cases in which the compelled act is neither clearly justified nor clearly excused on grounds of temporary incapacity, but in which it is nonetheless plausible that the agent is not morally blameworthy. The theoretical challenge is to identify (...) the excuse in such cases and to explain its basis. The paper argues that when mortal duress excuses in cases of this sort, it does so because the compelled act, though impermissible and freely chosen, nonetheless fails to manifest ‘an insufficiently good will’. The argument depends on a potentially controversial thesis in the ethics of concern, namely, that a thoroughly decent moral agent—someone who cares enough about morality and the values that underlie it—will not always be moved to do what he knows he ought to do. (shrink)