Ruth Millikan and others adopt a normative definition of biological functions that is heavily used in areas such as Millikan’s teleosemantics, and also for emerging efforts to naturalize other areas of philosophy. I propose an experiment called the Lapse Test to determine exactly what form of normativity, if any, truly applies to biological functions. Millikan has not gone far enough in playing down as “impersonal” or “quasi” the precise mode of normativity that she attributes to biological functions. Further, her mode (...) fails to qualify as genuine normativity at all, lacking an essential feature: some lapse of responsibility on the part of any entity or system that is charged with failing to do as it is “supposed.” Nor, as we will see, is there anything in English idioms used to describe biological functions that can provide a persuasive argument to rehabilitate Millikan’s normative definition. (shrink)
Robert Fogelin has forcefully argued that Hume intended to produce an "a priori" argument to show that miracles are logically impossible, while Anthony Flew is noted for a conflicting view that Hume intended merely to urge caution in accepting miracles solely on the basis of testimony. I furnish text ("Enquiry", Chapter X) which lends aid and comfort to both. But Fogelin’s interpretation forbids "miracles" only under a strict definition, whereas the empirical arguments favored by Flew are also needed if particular (...) marvelous reports are to be legitimately dismissed. (shrink)
Classic deductive logic entails that once a conclusion is sustained by a valid argument, the argument can never be invalidated, no matter how many new premises are added. This derived property of deductive reasoning is known as monotonicity. Monotonicity is thought to conflict with the defeasibility of reasoning in natural language, where the discovery of new information often leads us to reject conclusions that we once accepted. This perceived failure of monotonic reasoning to observe the defeasibility of natural-language arguments has (...) led some philosophers to abandon deduction itself (!), often in favor of new, non-monotonic systems of inference known as `default logics'. But these radical logics (e.g., Ray Reiter's default logic) introduce their desired defeasibility at the expense of other, equally important intuitions about natural-language reasoning. And, as a matter of fact, if we recognize that monotonicity is a property of the form of a deductive argument and not its content (i.e., the claims in the premise(s) and conclusion), we can see how the common-sense notion of defeasibility can actually be captured by a purely deductive system. (shrink)
Realism, defined as a justified belief in the existence of the external world, is jeopardized by ‘meaning rationalism,’ the classic theory of meaning that sees the extension of words as a function of the intensions of individual speakers, with no way to ensure that these intensions actually correspond to anything in the external world. To defend realism, Ruth Millikan ( 1984 , 1989a , b , 1993 , 2004 , 2005 ) offers a biological theory of meaning called ‘teleosemantics’ in (...) which words, without requiring any contribution from the speaker’s intensions, are supposedly matched directly with their extensions by external norms. But even if one granted as a theoretical possibility that word meaning might possibly be stabilized through an external process, nonetheless, realists who wish to appeal to teleosemantics for a semantic proof of the external world must be capable of identifying these external norms, something that Millikan describes as highly fallible. Furthermore, because they can be aware of these norms only as these are internally represented, it would also be necessary for realists to verify that these internal representations accurately reflect the norms as they occur in the external world. But given that this is virtually the same stumbling block to realism found in meaning rationalism, it is concluded that teleosemantics is not likely to restore faith in this worldview. (shrink)
Ever since the Proslogion was first circulated , critics have been bemused by St Anselm's brazen attempt to establish a matter of fact, namely, God's existence, from the simple analysis of a term or concept. Yet every critic who has proposed to ‘write the obituary’ of the Ontological Argument has found it to be remarkably resilient . At the risk of adding to a record of failures, I want to venture a new method for attacking this durable argument. Neither the (...) common version of Anselm's argument from Chapter II of the Proslogion nor the previously unrecognized modal version uncovered by Norman Malcolm from Pros , III can possibly get under way without Anselm's celebrated assertion that God is that than which no greater can be conceived. (shrink)
According to david lewis, When the conditional excluded middle is accepted for would-Asserting counterfactuals, It becomes difficult or impossible to define their might-Asserting counterparts. But I provide a definition of "might" counterfactuals that does agree with cem: a "might" counterfactual is true iff its consequent is true at some antecedent-World within a set whose membership is determined by appeal to various categories of possibility.
David Hume has warned us not to endeavor to derive an “ought” from an “is” (1990, 469–70), reprimanding those who attempt to draw value judgments from empirical facts. But Judith Jarvis Thomson refuses to accept that values and facts are logically disjoint in this manner, primarily because of her worry that such a partition of our moral values from the “facts” will place a grave limitation on any ethical system, namely, that its claims apparently cannot be proven. Consequently, Thomson is (...) on the lookout for some provably true facts that can be used, contra Hume, to draw conclusions about moral values. Thomson begins by rejecting all generalist conceptions of the good (specifically, the utilitarian's identification of the good with pleasure) and proceeds to fracture the good into various kinds of “goodness in a way,” hoping to produce by this disintegration some moral facts that can be used to set ethics on an objective foundation. But I will argue that Thomson's so‐called objective facts are actually nothing but disguised moral claims, and that in attempting to sidestep the classic fallacy identified by Hume, she has blundered into another pitfall—the Smuggler's Fallacy, the offense of concealing her moral conclusions inside the premises of her argument. (shrink)
Caller ID or CND (Calling Number Display) is an internationally-available telecommunication service first introduced into the United States about ten years ago. Caller ID utilizes a new form of technology which enables telephone subscribers to identify the numbers (and/or names) of callers before picking up their telephones. This service has been widely assailed as an invasion of the caller''s right to anonymity, a right which allegedly subsists as an important component of the caller''s right to privacy. However, if privacy is (...) defined from the perspective of the British philosopher John Stuart Mill, it can be argued that, even though anonymity is in fact an implication of genuine privacy, placing an unsolicited telephone call does not constitute a private act. Indeed, many callers who routinely block their numbers from Caller ID display units (such as telemarketers and telecharities) falsely assert a right to place anonymous calls in order to expedite their own intrusion into the privacy of others. This conclusion will be strengthened by contrasting anonymous telephone calls with the much more legitimate appeals to anonymity made by Usenet bulletin boards in cyberspace. (shrink)