In this exciting and original introduction to epistemology, Michael Williams explains and criticizes traditional philosophical theories of the nature, limits, methods, possibility, and value of knowing. All the main contemporary perspectives are explored and questioned, and the author's own theories put forward, making this new book essential reading for anyone, beginner or specialist, concerned with the philosophy of knowledge.
Pragmatists have traditionally been enemies of representationalism but friends of naturalism, when naturalism is understood to pertain to human subjects, in the sense of Hume and Nietzsche. In this volume Huw Price presents his distinctive version of this traditional combination, as delivered in his René Descartes Lectures at Tilburg University in 2008. Price contrasts his view with other contemporary forms of philosophical naturalism, comparing it with other pragmatist and neo-pragmatist views such as those of Robert Brandom and Simon Blackburn. Linking (...) their different 'expressivist' programmes, Price argues for a radical global expressivism that combines key elements from both. With Paul Horwich and Michael Williams, Brandom and Blackburn respond to Price in new essays. Price replies in the closing essay, emphasising links between his views and those of Wilfrid Sellars. The volume will be of great interest to advanced students of philosophy of language and metaphysics. (shrink)
Inspired by the work of Wilfrid Sellars, Michael Williams launches an all-out attack on what he calls "phenomenalism," the idea that our knowledge of the world rests on a perceptual or experiential foundation.
Discussions concerning whether there is a natural right to health care may occur in various forms, resulting in policy recommendations for how to implement any such right in a given society. But health care policies may be judged by international standards including the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights enumerated in the UDHR are grounded in traditions of moral theory, a philosophical analysis of which is necessary in order to adjudicate the value of specific policies designed to enshrine (...) rights such as a right to health care. We begin with an overview of the drafting of the UDHR and highlight the primary influence of natural law theory in validating the rights contained therein. We then provide an explication of natural law theory by reference to the writings of Thomas Aquinas, as well as elucidate the complementary “capabilities approach” of Martha Nussbaum. We conclude that a right to health care ought to be guaranteed by the state. (shrink)
This article distinguishes Wittgensteinian contextualism from epistemic relativism. The latter involves the view that a belief ’s status as justified depends on the believer’s epistemic system, as well as the view that no system is superior to another. It emerges from the thought that we must rely, circularly, on our epistemic system to determine whether any belief is justified. Contextualism, by contrast, emerges from the thought that we need not answer a skeptical challenge to a belief unless there is good (...) reason to doubt the belief; so we need not rely on our epistemic system to determine whether a belief is justified. Accordingly contextualism is not committed to the view that a belief ’s status depends on the believer’s epistemic system, nor to the view that no system is superior to another. The contextualist is not committed to epistemic relativism. (shrink)
Wittgenstein, Mind and Meaning explores the connection between Wittgenstein's critique of the Cartesian theory of mind and his conception of language and mind, and lays the foundations for a social conception of mind.
‘Responsibilist' approaches to epistemology link knowledge and justification with epistemically responsible belief management, where responsible management is understood to involve an essential element of guidance by recognized epistemic norms. By contrast, reliabilist approaches stress the de facto reliability of cognitive processes, rendering epistemic self-consciousness as inessential. I argue that, although an adequate understanding of human knowledge must make room for both responsibility and reliability, philosophers have had a hard time putting them together, largely owing to a tendency, on the part (...) of responsibilists, to adopt an overly demanding, hyperintellectualized conception of what epistemic responsibility demands. I trace this tendency towards hyper-intellectualism to a wish to meet scepticism head on, a wish that enforces adherence to a particular model of the structure of epistemic justification. I argue that a more humanly reasonable conception of epistemic justification suggests an alternative model. With this model in hand, we can both deflect sceptical problems and combine responsibility with reliability in a satisfying way. Philosophical Papers Vol. 37 (1) 2008: pp. 1-26. (shrink)
I want to discuss an approach to knowledge that I shall call simple conversational contextualism or SCC for short. Proponents of SCC think that it offers an illuminating account of both why scepti- cism is wrong and why arguments for scepticism are so intuitively appealing. I have my doubts.
This is the second of the four essays in Part II of the book on liberalism and traditionalist education; all four are by authors who would like to find ways for the liberal state to honour the self-definitions of traditional cultures and to find ways of avoiding a confrontation with differences. Melissa Williams examines citizenship as identity in relation to the project of nation-building, the shifting boundaries of citizenship in relation to globalization, citizenship as shared fate, and the role of (...) multicultural education within the view of citizenship-as-shared-fate. She argues the other side of the same coin to that presented by Shelley Burtt in the previous chapter: according to Williams, the liberal state often demands too much in the way of loyalty from traditional groups, and when it does, it runs a strong risk of becoming oppressive and illiberal. Moreover, she holds that there is no need for a single shared identity among citizens of the liberal state. Her conception of people tied together by a shared fate is to this extent compatible with Burtt’s attempt to make liberalism’s commitment to autonomy more hospitable to groups of individuals encumbered by unchosen attachments, but her notion of citizenship as shared fate also goes further than that, and possibly stands in some tension with, Burtt’s view, since it allows and even encourages people to develop primary affiliation to all kind of groups – traditional as well as global. (shrink)
Globalization generates new structures of human interdependence and vulnerability while also posing challenges for models of democracy rooted in territorially bounded states. The diverse phenomena of globalization have stimulated two relatively new branches of political theory: theoretical accounts of the possibilities of democracy beyond the state; and comparative political theory, which aims at bringing non-Western political thought into conversation with the Western traditions that remain dominant in the political theory academy. This article links these two theoretical responses to globalization by (...) showing how comparative political theory can contribute to the emergence of new global “publics” around the common fates that globalization forges across borders. Building on the pragmatist foundations of deliberative democratic theory, it makes a democratic case for comparative political theory as an architecture of translation that helps deliberative publics grow across boundaries of culture. (shrink)
Is social science really a science at all, and if so in what sense? This is the first real question that any course on the philosophy of the social sciences must tackle. In this brief introduction, Malcolm Williams gives the students the grounding that will enable them to discuss the issues involved with confidence.
Academic dishonesty is an insidious problem that besets most tertiary institutions, where considerable resources are expended to prevent and manage students' dishonest actions within academia. Using a mixed retrospective and prospective design this research investigated Gottfredson and Hirschi's self-control theory as a possible explanation for academic dishonesty in 264 university students. The relationship between academic dishonesty and general criminality was also examined. A significant but small to moderate relationship between academic dishonesty and general criminality was present, including correlations with general (...) dishonesty, violent crime and drug offending subcategories. These findings suggested that a general criminological theory may be of use in explaining academic dishonesty, but the overall ability of self-control variables to explain academic dishonesty was not strong. Controlled logistic regressions indicated that a significant positive association with academic dishonesty was only present for one of 6 self-control subscales (self-centeredness), and even this association was only present in the prospective study component. A strong relationship between past and future academic dishonesty was present. Implications of the study for institutions are discussed. (shrink)
When it first appeared in 1979, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature hit the philosophical world like a bombshell. In it, Richard Rorty argued that, beginning in the seventeenth century, philosophers developed an unhealthy obsession with the notion of representation: comparing the mind to a mirror that reflects reality. Rorty's book is a powerful critique of this imagery and the tradition of thought that it spawned. Thirty years later, the book remains a must-read and stands as a classic of twentieth-century (...) philosophy. Its influence on the academy, both within philosophy and across a wide array of disciplines, continues unabated. This edition includes new essays by philosopher Michael Williams and literary scholar David Bromwich, as well as Rorty's previously unpublished essay "The Philosopher as Expert.". (shrink)
This paper is a re-examination of the issue of objectivity in sociology. Though it begins from the premise that objectivity is a necessary precondition for a minimally scientific sociology, it sides with subjectivists who claim that values are ever present in investigation. Values are shown to exist along a continuum in investigation. The paper develops the argument that objectivity is a value itself and is nested in other values that will take on a contextual character dependent upon disciplines. Two brief (...) research examples are used to illustrate the way in which objectivity is transferred through three different levels in sociology. (shrink)
In recent years, realism?particularly critical realism?has become an important philosophical and methodological foundation for social science. A key feature is that of natural necessity, but this coexists alongside an acceptance of contingency in the social world. I argue in this paper that there cannot be any natural necessity in the social world, but rather the real nature of the social world is that it is contingent. This need not lead to an abandonment of realism, and indeed I argue that a (...) contingent form of realism allows us to bring ontological probability back into realism. (shrink)
This paper shows that species are individuals with respect to evolutionary theory in the sense that the laws of the theory deal with species as irreducible wholes rather than as sets of organisms. 'Species X' is an instantiation of a primitive term of the theory. I present a sketch of a proof that it cannot be defined within the theory as a set of organisms; the proof relies not on details of my axiomatization but rather on a generally accepted property (...) of speciation; hence the same argument should work for any axiomatization which captures this generally accepted property of speciation. (shrink)
This paper is a realist argument for the existence of “social objects”. Social objects, I argue, are the outcome states of a contingent causal process and in turn posses causal properties. This argument has consequences for what we can mean by realism and consequences for the development of a realist methodology. Realism should abandon the notion of natural necessity in favour of a view that the “real” nature of the social world is contingent and necessity is only revealed in outcome (...) states. This, I argue, has both theoretical and methodological implications and I develop my argument through two case studies, of homelessness and ethnicity. (shrink)