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)
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.
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)
In a reflective and richly entertaining piece from 1979, Doug Hofstadter playfully imagined a conversation between ‘Achilles’ and an anthill (the eponymous ‘Aunt Hillary’), in which he famously explored many ideas and themes related to cognition and consciousness. For Hofstadter, the anthill is able to carry on a conversation because the ants that compose it play roughly the same role that neurons play in human languaging; unfortunately, Hofstadter’s work is notably short on detail suggesting how this magic might be achieved1. (...) Conversely in this paper - finally reifying Hofstadter’s imagination - we demonstrate how populations of simple ant-like creatures can be organised to solve complex problems; problems that involve the use of forward planning and strategy. Specifically we will demonstrate that populations of such creatures can be configured to play a strategically strong - though tactically weak - game of HeX (a complex strategic game).We subsequently demonstrate how tactical play can be improved by introducing a form of forward planning instantiated via multiple populations of agents; a technique that can be compared to the dynamics of interacting populations of social insects via the concept of meta-population. In this way although, pace Hofstadter, we do not establish that a meta-population of ants could actually hold a conversation with Achilles, we do successfully introduce Aunt Hillary to the complex, seductive charms of HeX. (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.
‘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)
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)
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)
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)
The doctrine of the resurrection says that God will resurrect the body that lived and died on earth—that the post-mortem body will be numerically identical to the pre-mortem body. After exegetically supporting this claim, and defending it from a recent objection, we ask: supposing that the doctrine of the resurrection is true, what are the implications for the mind-body relation? Why would God resurrect the body that lived and died on earth? We compare three accounts of the mind-body relation that (...) have been applied to the doctrine of the resurrection: substance dualism, constitutionalism, and animalism. We argue that animalism offers a superior explanation for the necessity of the resurrection: since human persons just are their bodies, life after death requires resurrection of one’s body. We conclude that those endorsing the doctrine of the resurrection should be animalists. (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.
Context: Constructivist approaches to cognition have mostly been descriptive, and now face the challenge of specifying the mechanisms that may support the acquisition of knowledge. Departing from cognitivism, however, requires the development of a new functional framework that will support causal, powerful and goal-directed behavior in the context of the interaction between the organism and the environment. Problem: The properties affecting the computational power of this interaction are, however, unclear, and may include partial information from the environment, exploration, distributed processing (...) and aggregation of information, emergence of knowledge and directedness towards relevant information. Method: We posit that one path towards such a framework may be grounded in these properties, supported by dynamical systems. To assess this hypothesis, we describe computational models inspired from swarm intelligence, which we use as a metaphor to explore the practical implications of the properties highlighted. Results: Our results demonstrate that these properties may serve as the basis for complex operations, yielding the elaboration of knowledge and goal-directed behavior. Implications: This work highlights aspects of interaction that we believe ought to be taken into account when characterizing the possible mechanisms underlying cognition. The scope of the models we describe cannot go beyond that of a metaphor, however, and future work, theoretical and experimental, is required for further insight into the functional role of interaction with the environment for the elaboration of complex behavior. Constructivist content: Inspiration for this work stems from the constructivist impetus to account for knowledge acquisition based on interaction. (shrink)
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)
Upshot: Albeit mostly supportive of our work, the commentaries we received highlighted a few points that deserve additional explanation, with regard to the notion of learning in our model, the relationship between our model and the brain, as well as the notion of anticipation. This open discussion emphasizes the need for toy computer models, to fuel theoretical discussion and prevent business-as-usual from getting in the way of new ideas.
Herbert Spencer was regarded by the Victorians as the foremost philosopher of the age, the prophet of evolution at a time when the idea had gripped the popular imagination. Until recently Spencer's posthumous reputation rested almost excusively on his social and political thought, which has itself frequently been subject to serious misrepresentation. But historians of ideas now recognise that an acquaintance with Spencer's thought is essential for the proper understanding of many aspects of Victorian intellectual life, and (...) the present selection is designed to answer this need. It provides a cross-section of Spencer's works from his more popular and approachable essays to a number of the volumes of the Synthetic Philosophy itself. (shrink)