In recent years, a number of philosophers have argued against a biological understanding of the innate in favor of a narrowly psychological notion. On the other hand, Ariew ((1996). Innateness and canalization. Philosophy of Science, 63, S19-S27. (1999). Innateness is canalization: in defense of a developmental account of innateness. In V. Hardcastle (Ed.), Where biology meets psychology: Philosophical essays (pp. 117-138). Cambridge, MA: MIT.) has developed a novel substantial account of innateness based on developmental biology: canalization. The governing thought of (...) this paper is that the notion of the innate, as it re-emerged with the work of Chomsky, is a general notion that applies equally to all biological traits. On this basis, the paper recommends canalization as a promising candidate account of the notion of the innate. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor argues that the massive modularity thesis – the claim that (human) cognition is wholly served by domain specific, autonomous computational devices, i.e., modules – is a priori incoherent, self-defeating. The thesis suffers from what Fodor dubs the input problem: the function of a given module (proprietarily understood) in a wholly modular system presupposes non-modular processes. It will be argued that massive modularity suffers from no such a priori problem. Fodor, however, also offers what he describes as a really (...) real input problem (i.e., an empirical one). It will be suggested that this problem is real enough, but it does not selectively strike down massive modularity – it is a problem for everyone. (shrink)
This is an encyclopedia article about epistemic closure principles. The article explains what they are, their various philosophical uses, how they are argued for or against, and provides an overview of the related literature.
Stephen Law developed a challenge to theism, known as the evil-god challenge (Law (2010) ). The evil-god challenge to theism is to explain why the theist’s responses to the problem of evil are any better than the diabolist’s – who believes in a supremely evil god – rejoinders to the problem of good, when all the theist’s ploys (theodicy, sceptical theism, etc.) can be parodied by the diabolist. In the first part of this article, I extend the evil-god challenge by (...) showing that additional theist replies to the problem of evil (more theodicies, the privation view of evil, and others) also may be appropriated, with just as much plausibility, in support of the diabolist position. In the second part of the article, I defend the evil-god challenge against several objections. (shrink)
Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul Boghossian, have argued (...) that this would present a big problem for externalism, forcing the externalist to overhaul our norms of rationality. I consider several externalist strategies to block this possibly unhappy epistemological consequence, but I argue that they all fail. (shrink)
I argue that the dispute between two leading theories of interpretation of legal texts, textual originalism and textual evolutionism, depends on the false presupposition that changes in the way a word is used necessarily require a change in the word’s meaning. Semantic externalism goes a long way towards reconciling these views by showing how a word’s semantic properties can be stable over time, even through vicissitudes of usage. I argue that temporal externalism can account for even more semantic stability, however. (...) Temporal externalism is the theory that the content of an utterance at time t may be determined by developments in linguistic usage subsequent to t. If this semantic theory is correct, then the originalist and evolutionist positions effectively collapse. Originalism is correct in that the original meaning of the text is the meaning that is binding on jurists, but evolutionism is vindicated, as it is the current practices and standards that determine the meaning the text now has, and has always had. Objections to temporal externalism, and to its application to the interpretation of legal texts, are considered and addressed. (shrink)
Temporal externalism (TE) is the thesis (defended by Jackman (1999)) that the contents of some of an individual’s thoughts and utterances at time t may be determined by linguistic developments subsequent to t. TE has received little discussion so far, Brown 2000 and Stoneham 2002 being exceptions. I defend TE by arguing that it solves several related problems concerning the extension of natural kind terms in scientifically ignorant communities. Gary Ebbs (2000) argues that no theory can reconcile our ordinary, practical (...) judgments of sameness of extension over time with the claim that linguistic usage determines word extensions. I argue that Ebbs shows at most that no theory other than TE can effect this reconciliation. Furthermore, while Ebbs’ argument undermines Jessica Brown’s solutions to two closely related problems about natural kind term extensions (Brown 1998), TE can solve both problems without difficulty. Some criticisms of TE are briefly addressed as well. (shrink)
Deprivation accounts of death's badness, such as Feldman’s (1992), that purport to avoid questionable life-death comparatives Silverstein warns against (1980) by comparing only the values of various alternative life-wholes, implicitly depend upon assigning greater comparative value to periods of these life-wholes (for the person who lives) than is assigned to periods when the person is not alive, and thus are simply special cases of the problematic life-death comparative. Life-death comparatives undermine any deprivation account if (1) there is no way things (...) are (good or bad) for one who does not exist, and (2) values are comparative in the way specified by VC. Rejecting VC is not an option for the standard deprivation account, since this account uses VC to show that since continued life is good for the person who continues to live, death must be worse for that person. The non-standard deprivation account, dubbed by McMahan the reconciliation strategy, does not employ VC, but it also fails to vindicate common sense attitudes towards matters of life and death, and is in the main a capitulation to the Epicurean position. The remaining option for one who wishes to defend the view that death is typically bad for the person who dies is to directly target the Epicurean starting point, that things cannot be good or bad for a person when he does not exist. (shrink)
Prinz (Perceptual the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis, MIT Press, 2002) presents a new species of concept empiricism, under which concepts are off-line long-term memory networks of representations that are ‘copies’ of perceptual representations – proxytypes. An apparent obstacle to any such empiricism is the prevailing nativism of generative linguistics. The paper critically assesses Prinz’s attempt to overcome this obstacle. The paper argues that, prima facie, proxytypes are as incapable of accounting for the structure of the linguistic mind as (...) are the more traditional species of empiricism. This position is then confirmed by looking in detail at two suggestions (one derived from recent connectionist research) from Prinz of how certain aspects of syntactic structure might be accommodated by the proxytype theory. It is shown that the suggestions fail to come to terms with both the data and theory of contemporary linguistics. (shrink)
Sharon Ryan (2000) argues against one epistemic closure principle but defends another one. I argue that the phenomenon of blameless propositional recognition failure provides a counter-example to this closure principle. I suggest a revision to the closure principle to make it immune to this sort of counter-example.