Some people might be tempted by modal ontological arguments from the possibility that God exists to the conclusion that God in fact exists. They might also be tempted to support the claim that possibly God exists by appealing to the conceivability of God’s existence. In this chapter, I introduce three constraints on an adequate theory of philosophical conceivability. I then consider and develop both imagination-based accounts of conceivability and conceptual coherence-based accounts of conceivability. Finally, I return to the modal ontological (...) argument and consider whether the premise that possibly God exists can be supported by some conceiving. (shrink)
The Special Composition Question may be formulated as follows: for any xs whatsoever, what are the metaphysically necessary and jointly sufficient conditions in virtue of which there is a y such that those xs compose y? But what is the scope of the sought after explanation? Should an answer merely explain compositional facts, or should it explain certain ontological facts as well? On one natural reading, the question seeks an explanation of both the compositional facts and the ontological; the question (...) seeks to explain how composite objects exist; how there is a y such that the xs compose y. But it turns out that some answers to the Special Composition Question presuppose those ontological facts rather than explain those ontological facts. In this paper, I will indicate what I take to be the different explanatory demands met by the representative answers. I will argue that the wide scope explanatory demands can’t be satisfied. I will also show that this result has bearing on the current debate about composition. (shrink)
According to a widely held principle—the poss-ability principle—an agent, S, is able to only if it is metaphysically possible for S to. I argue against the poss-ability principle by developing a novel class of counterexamples. I then argue that the consequences of rejecting the poss-ability principle are interesting and far-reaching.
Ontological pluralism is the view that there are ways of being. Ontological pluralism is enjoying a revival in contemporary metaphysics. We want to say that there are numbers, fictional characters, impossible things, and holes. But, we don’t think these things all exist in the same sense as cars and human beings. If they exist or have being at all, then they have different ways of being. Fictional characters exist as objects of make‐believe and holes exist as absences in objects. But, (...) human beings and cars exist in a much more robust sense. What are ways of being? Why should be believe in them and what should we believe about them? This short essay provides an overview of the recent revival of ways of being and explores some of the surrounding issues. (shrink)
Are there any things that are such that any things whatsoever are among them. I argue that there are not. My thesis follows from these three premises: (1) There are two or more things; (2) for any things, there is a unique thing that corresponds to those things; (3) for any two or more things, there are fewer of them than there are pluralities of them.
The Principle of Alternative Possibilities is the intuitive idea that someone is morally responsible for an action only if she could have done otherwise. Harry Frankfurt has famously presented putative counterexamples to this intuitive principle. In this paper, I formulate a simple version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities that invokes a course-grained notion of actions. After warming up with a Frankfurt-Style Counterexample to this principle, I introduce a new kind of counterexample based on the possibility of time travel. At (...) the end of the paper, I formulate a more sophisticated version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities that invokes a certain fine grained notion of actions. I then explain how this new kind of counterexample can be augmented to show that even the more sophisticated principle is false. (shrink)
A material simple is a material object that has no proper parts. Some philosophers have argued for the possibility of extended simples. Some have even argued for the possibility of heterogeneous simples or simples that have intrinsic variations across their surfaces. There is a puzzle, though, that is meant to show that extended, heterogeneous simples are impossible. Although several plausible responses have been given to this puzzle, I wish to reopen the case against extended, heterogeneous simples. In this paper, I (...) briefly canvass responses to this puzzle which may be made in defense of extended, heterogeneous simples. I then present a new version of this puzzle which targets simples that occupy atomic yet extended regions of space. It seems that none of the traditional responses can be used to successfully save this particular kind of extended simple from the new puzzle. I also consider some non-traditional defenses of heterogeneous extended simples and argue that they too are unsuccessful. Finally, I will argue that a substantial case can be made against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples of any kind. (shrink)
The crucial premise of the standard argument for two-boxing in Newcomb's problem, a causal dominance principle, is false. We present some counterexamples. We then offer a metaethical explanation for why the counterexamples arise. Our explanation reveals a new and superior argument for two-boxing, one that eschews the causal dominance principle in favor of a principle linking rational choice to guidance and actual value maximization.
It is unclear how children learn labels for multiple overlapping categories such as “Labrador,” “dog,” and “animal.” Xu and Tenenbaum suggested that learners infer correct meanings with the help of Bayesian inference. They instantiated these claims in a Bayesian model, which they tested with preschoolers and adults. Here, we report data testing a developmental prediction of the Bayesian model—that more knowledge should lead to narrower category inferences when presented with multiple subordinate exemplars. Two experiments did not support this prediction. Children (...) with more category knowledge showed broader generalization when presented with multiple subordinate exemplars, compared to less knowledgeable children and adults. This implies a U-shaped developmental trend. The Bayesian model was not able to account for these data, even with inputs that reflected the similarity judgments of children. We discuss implications for the Bayesian model, including a combined Bayesian/morphological knowledge account that could explain the demonstrated U-shaped trend. (shrink)
The general composition question asks “what are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions any xs and any y must satisfy in order for it to be true that those xs compose that y?” Although this question has received little attention, there is an interesting and theoretically fruitful answer. Namely, strong composition as identity (SCAI): necessarily, for any xs and any y, those xs compose y iff those xs are identical to y. SCAI is theoretically fruitful because if it is true, (...) then there is an answer to one of the most difficult and intractable questions of mereology (The Simple Question). In this paper, I introduce the identity account of simplicity and argue that if SCAI is true then this identity account of simplicity is as well. I consider an objection to the identity account of simplicity. Ultimately, I find this objection unsuccessful. (shrink)
Strong Composition as Identity is the thesis that necessarily, for any xs and any y, those xs compose y iff those xs are non-distributively identical to y. Some have argued against this view as follows: if some many things are non-distributively identical to one thing, then what’s true of the many must be true of the one. But since the many are many in number whereas the one is not, the many cannot be identical to the one. Hence is mistaken. (...) Although I am sympathetic to this objection, in this paper, I present two responses on behalf of the theorist. I also show that once the defender of accepts one of these two responses, that defender will be able to answer The Special Composition Question. (shrink)
This Master of Arts thesis is in two parts: a novel, An Anarchy of Man, and an exegesis which places the novel in relation to philosophical concerns about the self and the way those concerns are portrayed in selected works of Western literature. The novel is set in Canberra and Sydney and tells the story of the relationship between two characters: Joe and Gin. It explores the way we in the modern Western world think about ourselves and those around us. (...) Chapter One considers the view of the self in the work of the philosopher Rene Descartes and explores how this view is portrayed in three contemporary Australia novels, and in An Anarchy of Man. Chapter Two examines post-Cartesian views of the self, especially those in the work of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and then considers the way the self is portrayed in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, and in my own An Anarchy of Man. Chapter Three examines postmodern conceptions of the self and considers how these conceptions are portrayed in the work of the contemporary American novelist Don DeLillo and in my own An Anarchy of Man. (shrink)
We discuss the view that a hole is identical to the region of spacetime at which it is located. This view is more parsimonious than the view that holes are sui generus entities located at those regions surrounded by their hosts and it is more plausible than the view that there are no holes. We defend the spacetime view from several objections.
ABSTRACTThe Necessity of Origins is the thesis that, necessarily, if a material object wholly originates from some particular material, then it could not have wholly originated from any significantly non-overlapping material. Several philosophers have argued for this thesis using as a premise a principle that we call ‘Single Origin Necessity’. However, we argue that Single Origin Necessity is false. So any arguments for The Necessity of Origins that rely on Single Origin Necessity are unsound. We also argue that the Necessity (...) of Origins itself is false. Our arguments rely on a thesis in the ontology of art that we find plausible: Multi-Work Materialism. It is the thesis that works of art that have multiple concrete manifestations are co-located with those manifestations. (shrink)
The world is said to contain crystal balls whenever the present carries news of the as-yet-undetermined parts of the future. Many philosophers believe that crystal balls are metaphysically possible. In this essay, I argue that they are not. Whether crystal balls are possible matters, for at least two reasons. The first is epistemological. According to a simple, user-friendly chance norm for credence, which I call the Present Principle, agents are rationally required to conform their credences to their expectations of the (...) present chances, deferring to the present chances as they would to an expert. I would like to defend the Present Principle since its truth would do much to simplify the relation between chance and credence. But the Present Principle is counterexample-free, and hence defensible, only if crystal balls are impossible. The second reason is decision-theoretic. The problem of crystal balls is one of the main objections to causal decision theory. But crystal ball cases can be counterexample to causal decision theory only if crystal balls are possible, and, as I argue, crystal balls are not possible. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson has argued for the radical conclusion that everything necessarily exists. In this paper, I assume that the conclusion of Williamson’s argument is more incredible than the denial of his premises. Under the assumption that Williamson is mistaken, I argue for the claim that there are some structured propositions which have constituents that might not have existed. If those constituents had not existed, then the propositions would have had an unfilled role; they would have been gappy. This gappy propositions (...) view allows for a plausible response to Williamson’s argument. Additionally, a slight variant of the gappy propositions view allows for plausible defense of Linguistic Ersatzism from the problem of contingent non-existents (also known as the problem of aliens). (shrink)
Some well-known metaphysical arguments against relativism rest on the claim that relativity somehow must be accompanied by relationality. I argue otherwise, and trace the consequences for some prominent disputes between relativists and absolutists.
Jacob Ross and Mark Schroeder argue that invariantist accounts of disagreement are incompatible with the phenomenon of reversibility. In this essay I develop a non-standard theory of propositional attitudes, which I call attitudinal relativism. Using the resources of attitudinal relativism, I articulate an invariantist account of disagreement that is compatible with reversibility.
In the philosophy of Alain Badiou, ethics can only arise in relation to an evental truth procedure that breaks from the economic logic of a situation. Further, because for Badiou there cannot be economic truths per se – rather, economic matters must be understood in their relation to one or more truths in the domain of love, art, science or politics – a Badiouian business ethics would look entirely distinct from any ethics that simply places limits on certain kinds of (...) economic activity. Although Slavoj Žižek, among others, has suggested that this marks an essential weakness in Badiou's economic/political theory, it may actually be the greatest strength of his position. Within a capitalist system, a Badiouian business ethics would then be a question of mobilizing economic resources in order to serve the ongoing construction of a truth procedure. For a business to be considered ethical on Badiou's terms, it must break – and continue to break – from the dominant logic of capitalism and its merely economic pursuit of profit maximization. (shrink)
‘Ahab is a whaler’ and ‘Holmes is a whaler’ express different propositions, even though neither ‘Ahab’ nor ‘Holmes’ has a referent. This seems to constitute a theoretical puzzle for the Russellian view of propositions. In this paper, I develop a variant of the Russellian view, Plenitudinous Russellianism. I claim that ‘Ahab is a whaler’ and ‘Holmes is a whaler’ express distinct gappy propositions. I discuss key metaphysical and semantic differences between Plenitudinous Russellianism and Traditional Russellianism and respond to objections that (...) stem from those differences. (shrink)
In this paper I present two new arguments against the possibility of an omniscient being. My new arguments invoke considerations of cardinality and resemble several arguments originally presented by Patrick Grim. Like Grim, I give reasons to believe that there must be more objects in the universe than there are beliefs. However, my arguments will rely on certain mereological claims, namely that Classical Extensional Mereology is necessarily true of the part-whole relation. My first argument is an instance of a problem (...) first noted by Gideon Rosen and requires an additional assumption about the mereological structure of certain beliefs. That assumption is that an omniscient being’s beliefs are mereological simples. However, this assumption is dropped when I present my second argument. Thus, I hope to show that if Classical Extensional Mereology is true of the part-whole relation, there cannot be an omniscient being. (shrink)
Looking is a fundamental exploratory behavior by which infants acquire knowledge about the world. In theories of infant habituation, however, looking as an exploratory behavior has been deemphasized relative to the reliable nature with which looking indexes active cognitive processing. We present a new theory that connects looking to the dynamics of memory formation and formally implement this theory in a Dynamic Neural Field model that learns autonomously as it actively looks and looks away from a stimulus. We situate this (...) model in a habituation task and illustrate the mechanisms by which looking, encoding, working memory formation, and long-term memory formation give rise to habituation across multiple stimulus and task contexts. We also illustrate how the act of looking and the temporal dynamics of learning affect each other. Finally, we test a new hypothesis about the sources of developmental differences in looking. (shrink)
According to Jones & Love (J&L), Bayesian theories are too often isolated from other theories and behavioral processes. Here, we highlight examples of two types of isolation from the field of word learning. Specifically, Bayesian theories ignore emergence, critical to development theory, and have not probed the behavioral details of several key phenomena, such as the effect.
According to François Laruelle, French thought has been unduly influenced by corpuscular or atomist thinking, yet Laruelle has himself employed key atomist terms—in particular, that of the clinamen or swerve—in framing his own style of thought. This essay looks at this tension between atomism and anti-atomism in Laruelle’s thought, taking the measure of his contribution to a larger stream of postwar French thinking about the relevance and stakes of ancient atomism. Its contention is that Laruelle subtly but really outlines a (...) quantum theoretical resumption of ancient atomist philosophy—one that deserves closer attention and comparative study in the larger context of French philosophical interest in the atomists. A first section of the paper briefly describes Laruelle’s general project, along with his claim that he differs from his contemporaries because he uniquely escapes the dangers of what he calls corpuscular thought. A second section addresses the apparent tension between Laruelle’s claim to produce a non-corpuscular thinking and his consistent recent use of the atomist image of the clinamen, ultimately arguing that Laruelle sides with the clinamen against two forms of corpuscularity supposedly avoided by the clinamen itself but nonetheless usefully embodied in atomist thought. The final section of the paper draws up in preliminary terms a comparison between Laruelle’s understanding of his relationship to atomism and that of his contemporaries, focusing in particular on Alain Badiou. (shrink)
We say that a first order sentence A defines a graph G if A is true on G but false on any graph non-isomorphic to G. Let L ) denote the minimum length of such a sentence. We define the succinctness function s ) to be the minimum L ) over all graphs on n vertices.We prove that s and q may be so small that for no general recursive function f we can have f)≥n for all n. However, for (...) the function q*=maxi≤nq, which is the least nondecreasing function bounding q from above, we have q*=)log*n, where log*n equals the minimum number of iterations of the binary logarithm sufficient to lower n to 1 or below.We show an upper bound qshrink)
Marr's seminal work laid out a program of research by specifying key questions for cognitive science at different levels of analysis. Because dynamic systems theory focuses on time and interdependence of components, DST research programs come to very different conclusions regarding the nature of cognitive change. We review a specific DST approach to cognitive-level processes: dynamic field theory. We review research applying DFT to several cognitive-level processes: object permanence, naming hierarchical categories, and inferring intent, that demonstrate the difference in understanding (...) of behavior and cognition that results from a DST perspective. These point to a central challenge for cognitive science research as defined by Marr—emergence. We argue that appreciating emergence raises questions about the utility of computational-level analyses and opens the door to insights concerning the origin of novel forms of behavior and thought. We contend this is one of the most fundamental questions about cognition and behavior. (shrink)
In the late 1970s and the 1980s, a number of radical left political theorists focused their philosophical attention on the relevance of ancient atomism, revitalizing a tradition that went back to Karl Marx's work on his dissertation. This essay looks at the uses of atomism by two thinkers in particular, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou, in order to see how their discussions of and references to ancient materialism help to shed light on their fundamental disagreements about the nature of community (...) and equality. First, this paper argues that what Badiou and Rancière most obviously share in their assessments of atomism is a negative judgment regarding the post-swerve constitution of the world, while what most obviously distinguishes their positions is their differing judgments regarding the preswerve rain of the atoms in the void. Becoming clear both about how Badiou and Rancière respond to what comes before and after the atomistic swerve helps to clarify an implicit response on Rancière’s part to what has become Badiou’s chief objection to Rancière’s political theory. Second, this paper argues that the fact that Badiou assesses both what comes before and what comes after the swerve as negative, while Rancière assesses only what comes after the swerve as negative, makes clear that their most essential point of difference concerns the status of the swerve that mediates between before and after. Working through the complexities of Badiou’s analysis of the swerve and uncovering Rancière’s extremely subtle analysis of the swerve helps to clarify a major aspect of what has become Rancière’s chief criticism of Badiou’s conception of philosophy. (shrink)
Roy Sorensen has discussed a scenario he calls 'the Disappearing Act', introduced a puzzle based on this scenario, and offered a solution to this puzzle. We argue against Sorensen's solution and offer our own.
In “A Tale of Two Simples,” I presented an argument against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples that relied on the possibility of extended atomic regions of space. Andrew Jaeger has presented a parody of one part of my argument for a clearly absurd conclusion. In this short paper, I defend my argument by showing that there is a significant disanalogy between my support for a key premise in my argument and Jaeger’s support for the corresponding premise in his parody (...) argument. Also, in opposition to my previous position, I present a case against the possibility of extended atomic regions of space. (shrink)
Various critiques of important analytic thinkers made by Alain Badiou in the late 1960s have been largely overlooked by continental philosophers and entirely overlooked by analytic philosophers. This paper looks in detail at Badiou’s 1969 essay ‟Mark and Lack,” providing an exposition and clarification of his direct and sustained critique of Gottlob Frege’s supposed ideological philosophical commitments. Badiou’s intellectual context is analyzed in some detail, not only explaining his theoretical debt to his then-master Louis Althusser, but also clarifying his understandings (...) of the notions of ‟the scientific” and ‟the ideological” in light of the projects of Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem. A philosophical exposition of Badiou’s point-by-point critique of Frege’s conception of logic follows. Finally, the paper concludes with an analysis of the more general relevance of Badiou’s half-century-old critiques in light of developments in contemporary analytic metaphysics, especially those indebted to W. V. O. Quine and Donald Davidson. In essence, Davidson’s Fregean reconfiguration of Tarski’s work on truth places contemporary analytic metaphysics within the scope of what Badiou directly criticizes. It is suggested that Badiou’s critique find a place in discussions of analytic metaphysics. (shrink)