This article offers a novel, conservative account of material constitution, one that incorporates sortal essentialism and features a theory of dominant sortals. It avoids coinciding objects, temporal parts, relativizations of identity, mereological essentialism, anti-essentialism, denials of the reality of the objects of our ordinary ontology, and other departures from the metaphysic implicit in ordinary ways of thinking. Defenses of the account against important objections are found in Burke 1997, 2003, and 2004, as well as in the often neglected six paragraphs (...) that conclude section V of this article. (shrink)
On the most popular account of material constitution, it is common for a material object to coincide precisely with one or more other material objects, ones that are composed of just the same matter but differ from it in sort. I argue that there is nothing that could ground the alleged difference in sort and that the account must be rejected.
Dion is a full-bodied man. Theon is that part of him which consists of all of him except his left foot. What becomes of Dion and Theon when Dion’s left foot is amputated? Employing the doctrine of sortal essentialism, I defend a surprising answer last defended by Chrysippus: that Dion survives while the seemingly unscathed Theon perishes. For replies to critics, see my publications of 1997 and (especially) 2004.
I aim to show that there are cases in which an ordinary material object exists intermittently. Afterwards there are a few words about the consequences of acknowledging such cases, but what is of more interest is the route by which the conclusion is reached. When deciding among competing descriptions of the cases considered, I have tried to reduce to a minimum the role of intuitive judgment, and I have based several arguments on "metaphysical principles," two of which I have defended.
It is hard to see why the head and other brain-containing parts of a person are not themselves persons, or at least thinking, conscious beings. Some theorists have sought to reconcile us to the existence of thinking person-parts. Others have sought to avoid them but have relied on radical theories at odds with the metaphysic implicit in ordinary ways of thinking. This paper offers a novel, conservative solution, one on which the heads and other brain-containing parts of persons do exist (...) but are neither persons, thinkers, nor conscious beings. A much briefer statement of the solution is found in section 5 of Burke 2004. (shrink)
Dion is a full-bodied man. Theon is that part of him which consists of all of him except his left foot. What becomes of Dion and Theon when Dion’s left foot is amputated? In Burke 1994, employing the doctrine of sortal essentialism, I defended a surprising position last defended by Chrysippus: that Dion survives while the seemingly unscathed Theon perishes. This paper defends that position against objections by Stone, Carter, Olson, and others. Most notably, it offers a novel, conservative solution (...) to the many-thinkers problem, a solution that enables us to accept the existence of brain-containing person-parts while denying that those person-parts are thinking, conscious beings. (shrink)
An argumentative passage that might appear to be an instance of denying the antecedent will generally admit of an alternative interpretation, one on which the conditional contained by the passage is a preface to the argument rather than a premise of it. On this interpretation. which generally is a more charitable one, the conditional plays a certain dialectical role and, in some cases, a rhetorical role as well. Assuming only a very weak principle of exigetical charity, I consider what it (...) would take to justify the less charitable interpretation. I then present evidence that those conditions are seldom met. Indeed, I was unable to find a single published argument that can justifiably be charged with denying the antecedent. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer a novel, conservative solution to the puzzle of Tibbles the cat. I do not criticize the existing solutions or the theories within which they are embedded. I am content to offer an alternative, one that relies on the recently resurgent doctrine of Aristotelian essentialism. My solution, unlike some of its competitors, is applicable to the full range of cases in which, as with Tib and Tibbles, there is the threat of coinciding objects. In section 1, (...) I present the solution. In sections II-IV, I defend it against four objections. (shrink)
Suppose that five minutes ago, to our astonishment, a healthy, full-grown duck suddenly popped into existence on the table in front of us. Suppose further that there was no first time at which the duck existed but rather a last time, T, at which it had yet to exist. Then for each time t at which the duck has existed, there is an explanation of why the duck existed at t: there was a time t’ earlier than t but later (...) than T such that the duck existed at t’, and it was only to be expected that a healthy duck would survive the brief period from t’ to t. But would these explanations remove the mystery? Taken collectively, would they explain why the duck has existed since T rather than never having existed at all? Presumably not. But if not, this seems to discredit the style of explanation offered by Hume and Edwards for the infinite regress they hypothesize of causes and effects. (shrink)
(The downloadable document, posted 07/23/22, incorporates post-publication corrections/refinements, mainly of section II.) The article gives a novel argument to show that there is sense of 'exists' suitable for posing a substantive issue between presentists and eternalists. It then seeks to invigorate a neglected variety of presentism. There are seven doctrines, widely accepted even among presentists, that create problems for presentism. Without distinguishing existence and being, presentists can comfortably reject all seven. Doing so would dispose of the majority of presentism’s problems. (...) Further, it would enable presentists to reduce A-judgments to B-judgments, thereby insulating presentism from doubts about the intelligibility of A-theories. For reasons indicated very briefly, it might also make presentism less difficult to reconcile with special relativity, though the point is not pursued here. (shrink)
Graham Priest has focused attention on an intriguing but neglected paradox posed by José Benardete in 1964. Benardete viewed the paradox as a threat to the intelligibility of the spatial and temporal continua and offered several different versions of it. Priest has selected one of those versions and formalized it. Although Priest has succeeded nicely in sharpening the paradox, the version he chose to formalize has distracting and potentially problematic features that are absent from some of Benardete's other versions. I (...) offer a formalization of a simpler version of the paradox, the one that presents most plainly Benardete's challenge to the spatial continuum. Proposed resolutions of Benardete's paradox should address this version of the paradox as well as the one formalized by Priest. (shrink)
Logic and Proofs, developed at Carnegie Mellon, is the only instructional program that can support a computer-taught course (not just a computer-assisted course) in modern symbolic logic. I describe and assess the program. Then, drawing on my twenty years of experience, initially with Patrick Suppes’ Valid (no longer available), recently with Logic and Proofs, I discuss the very substantial benefits, as well as the challenges, when offering symbolic logic via a computer-taught course.
Logic and Proofs, developed at Carnegie Mellon, is the only instructional program that can support a computer-taught course in modern symbolic logic. First I provide a description and an assessment of the program. Then, drawing on my twenty years of experience, initially with Patrick Suppes’ Valid, recently with Logic and Proofs, I discuss the benefits and challenges, both sizable, when offering symbolic logic via a computer-taught course.
Is it logically possible to perform a "superfeat"? That is, is it logically possible to complete, in a finite time, an infinite sequence of distinct acts? In opposition to the received view, I argue that all physical superfeats have kinematic features that make them logically impossible.