A syntactically correct number-specification may fail to specify any number due to underspecification. For similar reasons, although each sentence in the Yablo sequence is syntactically perfect, none yields a statement with any truth-value. As is true of all members of the Liar family, the sentences in the Yablo sequence are so constructed that the specification of their truth-conditions is vacuous; the Yablo sentences fail to yield statements. The ‘revenge’ problem is easily defused. The solution to the semantical paradoxes offered here (...) revives the mediaeval cassatio approach, one that largely disappeared due to its incomprehending rejection by influential contemporary writers such as William Shyreswood and Thomas Bradwardine. The diagnosis readily extends to the set-theoretic paradoxes. (shrink)
Consideration of a paradox originally discovered by John Buridan provides a springboard for a general solution to paradoxes within the Liar family. The solution rests on a philosophical defence of truth-value-gaps and is consistent (non-dialetheist), avoids ‘revenge’ problems, imports no ad hoc assumptions, is not applicable to only a proper subset of the semantic paradoxes and implies no restriction of the expressive capacities of language.
The Russell class does not exist because the conditions purporting to specify that class are contradictory, and hence fail to specify any class. Equally, the conditions purporting to specify the Liar statement are contradictory and hence, although the Liar sentence is grammatically in order, it fails to yield a statement. Thus the common source of these and related paradoxes is contradictory (or tautologous) specifying conditions-for such conditions fail to specify. This is the diagnosis. The cure consists of seeking and destroying (...) the deep-seated preconceptions that make almost irresistible our belief in the existence of items which provably do not exist. (shrink)
outrageous remarks about contradictions. Perhaps the most striking remark he makes is that they are not false. This claim first appears in his early notebooks (Wittgenstein 1960, p.108). In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein argued that contradictions (like tautologies) are not statements (Sätze) and hence are not false (or true). This is a consequence of his theory that genuine statements are pictures.
Lost at times in the heat of debate about stem cell research, or any controversial advanced technology, is the need for precision in debate and discussion. The details matter a great deal, ranging from the need to use words that have precise definitions, to accurately quote colleagues and adversaries, and to cite scientific and medical results in a way that reflects the quality, rigor, and reliability of the work at issue. Regrettably, considerable inaccuracy has found its way into the debates (...) about stem cells, on all sides, with consequent fogging of the issues.A key detail that is often overlooked in the debates about the uses of human embryonic stem cells in research comes from the nature of in vitro fertilization treatment for infertility. Specifically, there are many frozen human embryos that are in excess of reproductive needs of the couple who generated them, and that must be either frozen indefinitely, donated to another couple, or destroyed. (shrink)
Is there a key for ‘translating' some set-theoretical paradoxes into counterpart semantical paradoxes and vice-versa? There is, and this encourages the hope of a unified solution. The solution turns not on inventing new axioms that do not entail contradiction, but on imposing a completely intuitive restriction on the comprehension axiom of naive set theory in order to avoid illegitimate (circular) stipulation.
This paper focuses on the issue of what to do if a couple who generates embryos chooses to lawfully, and in their (and my) view, ethnically discard those embryos. Specifically, is it appropriate to use the cells that come from “excess” embryos in medical research instead of discarding them when a couple has ceased trying to have any additional children?
It is uncontroversial that, on any run through a Sorites series, a subject, at some point, switches from an ‘F’ verdict on one exhibit to a non-‘F’ verdict on the next. (Where this ‘cut-off’ point occurs tend to differ from trial to trial.) It is a fallacy to infer that there must be a cut-off point simpliciter between F items and non-F items. The transition is from firm ground to swamp. In the Sorites reasoning, some conditionals of the form ‘If (...) Item n is F, then Item n + 1 is F’ are not false but nonsensical. This solution respects boundarylessness. (shrink)
The three puzzles here considered are shown to have a common structure. And in each, an agent is thrust into a cleverly contrived deliberatively unstable situation. The paper advocates a resolutely Pyrrhonian abandonment of the futile reasoning in which the agent is trapped and advocates an alternative strategy for escape.
For familiar reasons, stereotyping is believed to be irresponsible and offensive. Yet the use of stereotypes in humor is widespread. Particularly offensive are thought to be sexual and racial stereotypes, yet it is just these that figure particularly prominently in jokes. In certain circumstances it is unquestionably wrong to make jokes that employ such stereotypes. Some writers have made the much stronger claim that in all circumstances it is wrong to find such jokes funny; in other words that people who (...) laugh at such jokes betray sexist/racist attitudes. This conclusion seems false. There is, as I shall argue, a thin dividing line between being properly sensitive to the rights and feelings of women and of racial groups different from our own, and being excessively sensitive to oversensitivity. Oversensitivity is, in this context, a kind of intolerance, and there is no reason why we should pander to that. One can be opposed to the unchecked dissemination of certain kinds of racist or sexist humor without oneself being a racist or sexist for finding such humor funny. The use of various stereotypes in humor serves the linguistic purpose of facilitating brevity and punch, the cultural purpose of preserving, in a sanitized form traditional rivalries and antipathies, and the psychological purpose of discharging fears. Blanket moral condemnation is inappropriate, though there will, of course, be circumstances under which the promulgation of certain types of humor, or even its enjoyment, ought to be condemned. (shrink)
The views on contradiction and consistency that Wittgenstein expressed in his later writings have met with misunderstanding and almost uniform hositility. In this paper, I trace the roots of these views by attempting to show that, in his early writings, Wittgenstein accorded a ?unique status? to tautologies and contradictions, marking them off logically from genuine propositions. This is integral both to his Tractatus project of furnishing a theory of inference, and to the enterprise of explaining the nature of the Satz (...) (statement, proposition). Wittgenstein mantained that contradictions are not false. In his early writings this surprising thesis is a consequence of his view that contradictions are not statements. In his late writings he continues to advocate the thesis, but for quite different reasons. In these late writings, I contend, Wittgenstein succeeds in making the surprising thesis plausible. (shrink)
The first part of the paper distinguishes between a real past which has nothing to do with historical events and an historical past made up of hypothetical events introduced for the purpose of explaining historical evidence. Attention is next paid to those so-called ancillary historical disciplines which study historical evidence, and it is noted that the historical event is brought in to explain the particular constellation of different kinds of historical evidence which are judged to belong together. The problem of (...) explaining events is then taken up, and an attempt is made to defend the view that such explanation must presuppose general laws. And this is followed by a discussion, partly speculative, of social-historical laws. The final section of the paper tries to argue that the subjective intentions of individuals are irrelevant to historical explanation. (shrink)
In a well-known story constructed by Saul Kripke , Pierre, a rational but monolingual Frenchman who has never visited England, acquires, on the evidence of many magazine pictures of London, the belief that London is beautiful. He is happy to declare ‘Londres est jolie’. Pierre eventually moves to England and settles in one of the seedier areas of London, travelling only to comparably shabby neighbourhoods. He learns English by immersion, though he does not realize that ‘London’ and ‘Londres’ are co-referential. (...) Naturally enough, given his current circumstances, he acquires a belief that he is only too willing to express by uttering ‘It is not the case that London is beautiful’. So apparently he now holds contradictory beliefs. But rational people do not hold contradictory beliefs ….One popular response to Kripke's puzzle is that people …. (shrink)
According to some commentators, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is all one big joke: we plough through the text trying to extract the sense out of each spare and heroic proposition, only to be told at the end, that anyone who understands the author will realize that all of his propositions are nonsensical and so are not even propositions. The whole work is a kind of hoax; the readers are ridiculed, but, with luck, will eventually have to laugh when they come to recognize (...) that what they had taken for deep philosophy was all so much gibberish. As a result of this revelation, they will be cured for ever of the urge to philosophize. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's Tractatus is widely regarded as a masterpiece, a brilliant, if flawed attempt to achieve an ‘unassailable and definitive … final solution’ to a wide range of philosophical problems. Yet, in a 1931 notebook, Wittgenstein confesses: ‘I think there is some truth in my idea that I am really only reproductive in my thinking. I think I have never invented a line of thinking but that it was always provided for me by someone else’. This disarming self-assessment is, I believe (...) accurate. The Tractatus, despite making significant advances on the logical doctrines of Frege and Russell, is essentially a derivative work—Wittgenstein, as he elsewhere acknowledges, provided a fertile soil in which the original seeds of other peoples' thought grew in a unique way. In a play of mine, published in Philosophy (1999), Wittgenstein fails a tough viva on the Tractatus because he fails to properly support some of the weak arguments in the work and because of his inadequate acknowledgment of sources. The present paper further explores some of the antecedents of Wittgenstein's early views and answers some criticisms of the play. (shrink)