From an Ontological Point of View is a highly original and accessible exploration of fundamental questions about what there is. John Heil discusses such issues as whether the world includes levels of reality; the nature of objects and properties; the demands of realism; what makes things true; qualities, powers, and the relation these bear to one another. He advances an account of the fundamental constituents of the world around us, and applies this account to problems that have plagued recent work (...) in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics (color, intentionality, and the nature of consciousness). (shrink)
What does reality encompass? Is it exclusively physical, or does it include mental and 'abstract' aspects? What are the elements of being, reality's raw materials? John Heil offers stimulating answers to these questions framed in terms of a comprehensive metaphysics of substances and properties inspired by Descartes, Locke, and their successors.
This volume presents a collection of new, specially written essays by a diverse group of philosophers, including Donald Davidson, Ted Honderich, and Philip Pettit, each of whom is widely known for defending a particular conception of minds and their place in nature.
Appeals to dispositionality in explanations of phenomena in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, require that we first agree on what we are talking about. I sketch an account of what dispositionality might be. That account will place me at odds with most current conceptions of dispositionality. My aim is not to establish a weighty ontological thesis, however, but to move the discussion ahead in two respects. First, I want to call attention to the extent to which assumptions philosophers have (...) made about dispositionality are far from innocent. The assumptions incorporate substantive theses that, by constraining the space of acceptable answers to particular philosophical questions, have inhibited the search for answers to those questions. Second, and more positively, I hope to open up the space of possibilities by offering an alternative way of conceiving dispositionality developed by C. B. Martin. (shrink)
Consider the idea that some entities are more fundamental than others, some entities ‘ground’ other, less fundamental, entities. What is it for something to be more fundamental than another, or for something to ‘ground’ something else? This paper urges the rejection of conceptions of grounding and fundamentality according to which reality has a hierarchical structure in which higher-level entities are taken to be distinct from but metaphysically dependent on more fundamental lower-level entities. Truthmaking is offered as an apt replacement for (...) at least some of the many applications of grounding. (shrink)
It is becoming increasingly clear that the deepest problems currently exercising philosophers of mind arise from an ill-begotten ontology, in particular, a mistaken ontology of properties. After going through some preliminaries, we identify three doctrines at the heart of this mistaken ontology: (P) For each distinct predicate, “F”, there exists one, and only one, property, F, such that, if “F” is applicable to an object a, then “F” is applicable in virtue of a’s being F. (U) Properties are universals, not (...) particulars. (D) Every property is either categorical or dispositional, but not both. We show how these doctrines influence current philosophical thinking about the mind, suggest and defend an alternative conception of properties, and indicate how this conception provides answers to two puzzles besetting contemporary philosophy of mind: the problem of mental causation and the problem of qualia. (shrink)
This comprehensive textbook, written by a leading author in the field, provides a survey of mainstream conceptions of the nature of mind accessible to readers with little or no background in philosophy. Included are the dualist, behaviourist, and functionalist accounts of the nature of mind, along with a critical assessment of recent trends in the subject. The problem of consciousness, widely thought to be the chief roadblock to our understanding of the mind, is addressed throughout the book and there is (...) also material to interest those with a professional interest in the topic - philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists - as well as the general reader. Unique features of Philosophy of Mind : * provides a comprehensive survey of basic concepts and major theories * contains many lucid examples to support ideas * cites key literature in annotated suggested reading and a full bibliography * contains a full index including the location of key terms and concepts. (shrink)
This paper consists of two parts. In Part I, an attempt to get around certain well-known criticisms of the trace theory of memory is discussed. Part II consists of an account of the so-called "logical" notion of a memory trace. Trace theories are sometimes thought to be empirical hypotheses about the functioning of memory. That this is not the case, that trace theories are in fact philosophical theories, is shown, I believe, in the arguments which follow. If this is so, (...) one may well wonder about psychologists' insistence that any empirical theory of memory must involve the postulation of traces (or trace-like entities: engrams, schemata, etc.). (shrink)
In recent work on truth and truthmaking, D. M. Armstrong has defended a version of 'truthmaker necessitarianism', the doctrine that truths necessitate truthmakers. Truthmaker necessitarianism, he contends, requires the postulation of 'totality facts', which serve as ingredients of truthmakers for general truths and negative truths, and propositions, which function as the fundamental truth bearers. I argue that neither totality facts nor propositions need figure in an account of truthmaking, and suggest that both are artifacts stemming, albeit in different ways, from (...) an ontologically shady 'linguisticizing' tendency to conflate features of descriptions and features of what is described. (shrink)
When first published, John Heil's introduction quickly became a widely used guide for students with little or no background in philosophy to central issues of philosophy of mind. Heil provided an introduction free of formalisms, technical trappings, and specialized terminology. He offered clear arguments and explanations, focusing on the ontological basis of mentality and its place in the material world. The book concluded with a systematic discussion of questions the book raises--and a sketch of a unified metaphysics of mind--thus inviting (...) scholarly attention while providing a book very well suited for an introductory course. This Third Edition builds on these strengths, and incorporates new material on theories of consciousness, computationalism, the language of thought, and animal minds as well as other emerging areas of research. With an updated reading list at the end of each chapter and a revised bibliography, this new edition will again make it the indispensable primer for anyone seeking better understanding of the central metaphysical issues in philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Worries about mental causation are prominent in contemporary discussions of the mind and human agency. Originally, the problem of mental causation was that of understanding how a mental substance (thought to be immaterial) could interact with a material substance, a body. Most philosophers nowadays repudiate immaterial minds, but the problem of mental causation has not gone away. Instead, focus has shifted to mental properties. How could mental properties be causally relevant to bodily behavior? How could something mental qua mental cause (...) what it does? After looking at the traditional Problem of Interaction, we survey various versions of the property-based problem and look at proposed solutions to them. (shrink)
Philosophers and non-philosophers have been attracted to the idea that the world incorporates levels of being: higher-level items – ordinary objects, artifacts, human beings – depend on, but are not in any sense reducible to, items at lower levels. I argue that the motivation for levels stems from an implicit acceptance of a Picture Theory of language according to which we can ‘read off’ features of the world from ways we describe the world. Abandonment of the Picture Theory opens the (...) way to a ‘no levels’ conception of reality, a conception that honors anti-reductionist sentiments and preserves the status of the special sciences without the ontological baggage. (shrink)
Three matchsticks could be arranged on a table so as to form a triangle. Were you to place a lump of sugar into a cup of hot tea it would dissolve. You might never have been born. Such assertions express modal judgements and, as we suppose, truths about the universe. But if modal judgements can be true, what features of the universe make them true? Thanks largely to the efforts of David Lewis, philosophers nowadays find it natural to appeal to (...) alternative worlds to explicate modality. Something is possible if it occurs in at least one alternative world. A subjunctive conditional is true if, in the ‘nearest’ worlds in which its antecedent is true, its consequent is true. This paper includes a discussion of Lewis's ‘Humean’ ontology, the role alternative worlds play in Lewis's account of modality, and an Aristotelian alternative. (shrink)
It is an old charge against Locke that his commitment to a common substratum for the observable qualities of particular objects and his empiricist theory about the origin of ideas are inconsistent with one another. How could we have an idea of something in which observable qualities inhere if all our ideas are constructed from ideas of observable qualities? In this paper, I propose an interpretation of the crucial passages in Locke, according to which the idea of substratum is formed (...) through an elaborate mental process which he calls “supposition.” It is the same process we use when we form the idea of infinity − another problematic idea for an empiricist. In the end, Locke was more liberal than most empiricists in subscribing to the existence of ideas far removed from experience, because he accepted supposition as a legitimate way of constructing new ideas. (shrink)