A perfect being is a being which possesses all perfections essentially. A perfect being is essentially omniscient, essentially omnipotent, essentially perfectly good, and necessarily existing. In his excellent book “The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings” Michael J. Almeida investigates the following tough questions about perfect beings: What would a perfect being create? Which moral requirements would a perfect being (have to) fulfill when deciding what to create? Is there a minimum or a maximum amount (...) of evil a perfect being would allow to occur? Could a perfect being permit any instance of pointless and undeserved suffering of creatures? Does a perfect being have some freedom to choose what to create? Could a perfect being be just in sending some people eternally to heaven and some people eternally to hell? Almeida applies modern theories about vagueness, infinite values, possible world semantics and many universes to these questions. In this way Almeida investigates these questions in more detail and depth than they have been before and substantially advances the discussion of these issues. (shrink)
This is a rough translation of Michael Frede's "La théorie aristotélicienne de l'intellect agent" published in 1996. This insightful paper contains an important interpretation of Aristotle's notoriously difficult theory of the active intellect from De Anima III, 5. I worked up a translation during some research and thought others might benefit from having an English translation available (I couldn't find one after a cursory internet search). It's not perfect, but it should give one a sense for Frede's argument (...) that the agent intellect is the same as the divine intellect of Metaphysics Lambda. I welcome any comments or suggestions for improvement, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
This is a critique of Michael Wolff's ideas on Kant and Aristotle. I criticize in particular his overestimation of Kant as a logician and his claim that Aristotle wants to offer proofs for his perfect syllogisms.
Whatever else a theory of impeccability assumes about the moral life of heavenly agents, it seems to imply something about the type of actions possible for such agents, along with the quality of their moral characters. Regarding these characters, there are many that have argued impeccable and heavenly agents must also be perfectly virtuous agents. Michael Slote has recently argued, however, that perfect virtue is impossible. Assuming Slote’s argument is successful, a theory of impeccability that relies on the (...) possibility of perfect virtue would be greatly harmed, even to the point of incoherence. My intent here is to defend the coherence of the doctrine of impeccability, at least as it applies to the moral life of heavenly agents. (shrink)
_The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings_ addresses the problems an Anselmian perfect being faces in contexts involving unlimited options. Recent advances in the theory of vagueness, the metaphysics of multiverses and hyperspace, the theory of dynamic or sequential choice, the logic of moral and rational dilemmas, and metaethical theory provide the resources to formulate the new challenges and the Anselmian responses with an unusual degree of precision. Almeida shows that the challenges arising in the unusual contexts involving unlimited options (...) sometimes produce metaphysical surprise. (shrink)
What I have just said strikes me as not only paradoxical but true. In what follows I shall try to show that it is not all that paradoxical and that it is true. In order to show this, and in order to discuss some important and neglected features of act and duty individuation, I shall contrast the concepts of perfect duty and imperfect duty.
Aristotle argued that there are no true statements of the form. In his lectures on history of philosophy Hegel does not challenge this view and in his Science of Logic expresses admiration for Aristotle's rebuttal of Zeno of Elea's attempt to find such contradictions in his paradoxes of motion. Yet more than once in his logics Hegel insists that everything is contradictory. I approach this problem from two directions. First, Widerspruch often means, and is understood by Hegel to mean, ‘opposition’ (...) rather than ‘contradiction’ in the strict logical sense. Thus Catullus's simultaneous love and hatred of Clodia is a contradiction, but not an Aristotelian, or formal logical, contradiction. I defuse Hegel's occasional suggestions of Aristotelian contradictions in motion and time. Second, I exploit Hegel's tacit rejection of Aristotle's official bivalence account of truth and falsity, in favour of the view that truth is approached by successive improvements in our inevitably imperfect attempts to attain it. In this respect Hegel's procedure is similar to that of Aristotle himself, who characteristically constructs his own view of metaphysics, physics, ethics, etc., from the imperfect, but not flatly false, opinions of his predecessors. ‘The truth is the whole’, that is, the whole sequence of our attempts to reach it. (shrink)
Half a century after Michael Polanyi conceptualised ‘the tacit component’ in personal knowing, management studies has reinvented ‘tacit knowledge’—albeit in ways that squander the advantages of Polanyi’s insights and ignore his faith in ‘spiritual reality’. While tacit knowing challenged the absurdities of sheer objectivity, expressed in a ‘perfect language’, it fused rational knowing, based on personal experience, with mystical speculation about an un-experienced ‘external reality’. Faith alone saved Polanyi’s model from solipsism. But Ernst von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism provides (...) scope to rethink personal tacit knowing with regard to ‘other people’ and the intersubjectively viable construction of ‘experiential reality’. By separating tacit knowing from Polanyi’s metaphysical realism and drawing on Benedict Anderson’s concept of ‘imagined communities’, it is possible to conceptualise ‘imagined institutions’ as the tacit dimension of power that shapes human interaction. Whereas Douglass North claimed institutions could be reduced to rules, imagined institutions are known in ways we cannot tell. (shrink)
A number of scholars have claimed that, on the assumption of incompati- bilism, there is a con ict between God's freedom and God's essential moral perfection. Jesse Couenhoven is one such example; Couenhoven, a com- patibilist, thinks that libertarian views of divine freedom are problematic given God's essential moral perfection. He writes, \libertarian accounts of God's freedom quickly run into a conceptual problem: their focus on con- tingent choices undermines their ability to celebrate divine freedom with regard to the essential (...) divine nature. For an Augustinian [i.e., a compat- ibilist], by contrast, God's freedom is not at odds with the necessities of perfect love but ful lled by it."1 Others who argue for similar conclusions include William Rowe and Wes Morriston. Michael Bergmann and Jan Cover have recently argued that divine responsibility and moral perfection are compatible with the absence of divine freedom. In this paper, I argue that the arguments which hold that divine freedom con icts with essen- tial divine moral perfection fail. I develop an account of divine freedom which not only doesn't con ict with God's essential moral goodness but shows that such goodness is a necessary part of perfected freedom. I then show how this understanding of free will takes away a major motivation for Bergmann and Cover's apparent willingness to reject divine freedom. (shrink)
Rationalism, Platonism and God comprises three main papers on Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, with extensive responses. It provides a significant contribution to the exploration of the common ground of the great early-modern Rationalist theories, and an examination of the ways in which the mainstream Platonic tradition permeates these theories. -/- John Cottingham identifies characteristically Platonic themes in Descartes's cosmology and metaphysics, finding them associated with two distinct, even opposed attitudes to nature and the human condition, one ancient and 'contemplative', the (...) other modern and 'controlling'. He finds the same tension in Descartes's moral theory, and believes that it remains unresolved in present-day ethics. -/- Was Spinoza a Neoplatonist theist, critical Cartesian, or naturalistic materialist? Michael Ayers argues that he was all of these. Analysis of his system reveals how Spinoza employed Neoplatonist monism against Descartes's Platonist pluralism. Yet the terminology - like the physics - is Cartesian. And within this Platonic-Cartesian shell Spinoza developed a rigorously naturalistic metaphysics and even, Ayers claims, an effectually empiricist epistemology. -/- Robert Merrihew Adams focuses on the Rationalists' arguments for the Platonist, anti-Empiricist principle of 'the priority of the perfect', i.e. the principle that finite attributes are to be understood through corresponding perfections of God, rather than the reverse. He finds the given arguments unsatisfactory but stimulating, and offers a development of one of Leibniz's for consideration. -/- These papers receive informed and constructive criticism and development at the hands of, respectively, Douglas Hedley, Sarah Hutton and Maria Rosa Antognazza. (shrink)
This paper deals with Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Though both concepts have been very influential for science studies in general, and both have been subject to numerous interpretations, their accounts have, somewhat surprisingly, hardly been comparatively analyzed. Both Fleck and Polanyi relied on the physiology and psychology of the senses in order to show that scientific knowledge follows less the path of logical principles than the path of accepting or rejecting (...) specific conventions, where these may be psychologically or sociologically grounded. It is my aim to show that similarities and differences between Fleck and Polanyi are to be seen in the specific historical and political context in which they worked. Both authors, I shall argue, emphasized the relevance of perception in close connection to their respective understanding of science, freedom, and democracy. (shrink)
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, (...) however, that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos. (shrink)
This article presents a critical analysis of two influential readings of Kant’s Second Analogy, namely, Gerd Buchdahl’s “modest reading” and Michael Friedman’s “strong reading.” After pointing out the textual and philosophical problems with each, I advance an alternative reading of the Second Analogy argument. On my reading, the Second Analogy argument proves the existence of necessary and strictly universal causal laws. This, however, does not guarantee that Kant has a solution for the problem of induction. After I explain why (...) the empirical lawfulness of nature does not guarantee the empirical uniformity of nature, I examine the modal status of empirical laws in Kant and argue contra Buchdahl and Friedman that empirical laws express two different kinds of necessity that are not reducible to each other. -/- . (shrink)
The question as to what makes a perfect Aristotelian syllogism a perfect one has long been discussed by Aristotelian scholars. G. Patzig was the first to point the way to a correct answer: it is the evidence of the logical necessity that is the special feature of perfect syllogisms. Patzig moreover claimed that the evidence of a perfect syllogism can be seen for Barbara in the transitivity of the a-relation. However, this explanation would give Barbara a (...) different status over the other three first figure syllogisms. I argue that, taking into account the role of the being-contained-as-in-a-whole formulation, transitivity can be seen to be present in all four first figure syllogisms. Using this wording will put the negation sign with the predicate, similar to the notation in modern predicate calculus. (shrink)
I display the historical roots of perfect being theology in Greco-Roman philosophy, and the distinctive reasons for Christians to take up a version of this project. I also rebut a recent argument that perfect-being reasoning should lead one to atheism.
This paper examines the representationalist view of experiences in the light of the phenomena of perfect and relative pitch. Two main kinds of representationalism are identified - environment-based and cognitive role-based. It is argued that to explain the relationship between the two theories a distinction should be drawn between various types of implicit and explicit content. When investigated, this distinction sheds some light on the difference between the phenomenology of perfect and relative pitch experiences and may be usefully (...) applied to describe the nature of experiences in the other sense modalities. (shrink)
Michael Sandel’s latest book is not a scholarly work but is clearly intended as a work of public philosophy—a contribution to public rather than academic discourse. The book makes two moves. The first, which takes up most of it, is to demonstrate by means of a great many examples, mostly culled from newspaper stories, that markets and money corrupt—degrade—the goods they are used to allocate. The second follows from the first as Sandel’s proposed solution: we as a society should (...) deliberate together about the proper meaning and purpose of various goods, relationships, and activities (such as baseball and education) and how they should be valued. -/- Public philosophy is a different genre from academic philosophy, but that does not mean that it cannot be held to high standards. In my view, while this book does provide food for thought and food for conversation, it nevertheless has significant failings as a work of public philosophy rather than journalistic social activism on the model of Naomi Klein’s No logo (1999). (shrink)
The main thesis of Michael Della Rocca’s outstanding Spinoza book (Della Rocca 2008a) is that at the very center of Spinoza’s philosophy stands the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): the stipulation that everything must be explainable or, in other words, the rejection of any brute facts. Della Rocca rightly ascribes to Spinoza a strong version of the PSR. It is not only that the actual existence and features of all things must be explicable, but even the inexistence – as (...) well as the absence of any feature of any thing – demands an explanation. Della Rocca does not stop here, however. He feeds his PSR monster with some more powerful steroids and suggests that Spinoza advocates what he terms “the twofold use of the PSR.” It is not only that everything must be explained and made intelligible, but it must ultimately be explained in terms of explainability or intelligibility itself. This twofold use of the PSR is the key to the entire book. Della Roca’s strategy throughout the book is to argue that any key feature of Spinoza’s system – be it causality, inherence, essence, consciousness, existence, rejection of teleology, goodness or political right – must be explained, and ultimately it must be explained in terms of intelligibility. “Spinoza single-mindedly digs and digs until we find that the phenomenon in question is nothing but some form of intelligibility itself, of explicability itself” (Della Rocca 2008a: 2). Della Rocca’s book came out together with a cluster of articles in which he develops in detail his new reading of Spinoza. In one of these articles, he warns the reader: “Don’t let me start” (Dell Rocca 2010: 1). The train that is about to embark leads to very bizarre terrain, and thus one should think twice before embarking on the “PSR Express.” In this paper I argue that the train was hijacked. This was a perfect crime: without anyone noticing it, the engine driver diverted the train to a new route, and as with other perfect crimes, it is none but the criminal himself who is capable of, and indeed will, bring about his own demise. As I will later argue, Della Rocca’s “PSR-on-steroids” will eventually cripple reason itself. But let us not run too fast, and start at the very beginning. I happily – or at least, so I think - board the “PSR Express.” I believe Spinoza is strongly committed to the PSR and makes very significant use of this principle, but, unlike Della Rocca, I do not think the PSR is the key to all mysteries Spinozist, nor do I believe Spinoza was committed to the reductionist program of explaining all things through intelligibility (i.e., the second use of the PSR). (shrink)
To combat the ecological crisis, fundamental change is required in how humans perceive nature. This paper proposes that the human-nature bifurcation, a metaphysical mental model that is deeply entrenched and may be environmentally unsound, stems from embodied and tacitly-held substance-biased belief systems. Process philosophy can aid us, among other things, in providing an alternative framework for reinterpreting this bifurcation by drawing an ontological bridge between humans and nature, thus providing a coherent philosophical basis for sustainable dwelling and policy-making. Michael (...) Polanyi's epistemology can further help us understand these environmentally-oriented tacit processes of knowing, and also provide a basis for the political and educational implementation of process-philosophical insights, particularly via the nudging of mental models. (shrink)
The eminent historian and philosopher of biology, Michael Ruse, has written several books that explore the relationship of evolutionary theory to its larger scientific and cultural setting. Among the questions he has investigated are: Is evolution progressive? What is its epistemological status? Most recently, in "Darwin and Design: Does Evolution have a Purpose?," Ruse has provided a history of the concept of teleology in biological thinking, especially in evolutionary theorizing. In his book, he moves quickly from Plato and Aristotle (...) to Kant and such British thinkers as Paley and Whewell. His main focus, though, is on Darwin's theory and its subsequent fate. Ruse rests his history on some shaky historical and philosophic assumptions, particularly the unexamined notion that evolutionary theory is an abstract entity that is unproblematically realized in different historical periods. He also assumes that Darwin conceived nature as if it were a Manchester spinning loom -- a clanking, dispassionate machine. A more subtle analysis, which Ruse eschews, might discover that Darwin's conception of nature owed a strong debt to German Romanticism and that he contrived to infuse nature with moral and aesthetic values, not to suck them from nature. Ruse proves he is a thinker to contend with, and this essay is quite contentious. (shrink)
Suppose, we could take a pill that would turn us into morally better people. Would we have a duty to take such a pill? In recent years, a number of philosophers have discussed this issue. Most prominently, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu have argued that we would have a duty to take such a pill. In this article, I wish to investigate the possible limits of a duty to take moral enhancement drugs through investigating the related question of whether it (...) would be desirable to create a world populated entirely with morally perfect people. I argue, drawing on the work of Bernard Williams, Susan Wolf, and Michael Slote, that we have reason to be grateful that we do not live a world in which everyone is morally perfect, as this would prevent people from dedicating their lives to valuable nonmoral projects. I then argue that this thought should serve as a limitation on attempts to morally improve people through the use of technology. Finally, I explore the implications of this discussion for some of the less ambitious forms of moral enhancement currently being explored in the literature. I argue that these forms of enhancement give us no reason to worry about preventing valuable, morally imperfect ways of life. In fact, by acting as a shortcut to moral development, they might serve as an aid to help people fulfill valuable nonmoral goals in a way that is morally permissible. (shrink)
Michael McKenna’s Conversation and Responsibility is an ambitious and impressive statement of a new theory of moral responsibility. McKenna’s approach builds upon the strategy advanced in P.F. Strawson’s enormously influential “Freedom and Resentment” (which was published in 1962). The account advanced aims to provide Strawson’s theory with the sort of detail that is required to fill significant gaps and respond to a wide range of criticisms and objections that have been directed against it. ....Conversation and Responsibility belongs on the (...) top shelf of any set of readings devoted to the contemporary discussion of moral responsibility. All readers, whatever their philosophical orientation may be, will find it both challenging and rewarding. Whether in the end one endorses the conversational model or not, there can be no doubt that this is a contribution that significantly advances our overall understanding of these important and complex matters. (shrink)
This is a review of Michael Devitt's collection of previously published articles entitled Putting Metaphysics First: Essays on Metaphysics and Epistemology. The review also suggests a new way of formulation the realism/anti-realism contrast on the basis of Devitt's work. This contrast is understood in terms explanatory priority: should we in a given domain begin our theorizing from metaphysics (realism) or semantics (anti-realism)?
Michael Dummett's approach to the metaphysical issue of realism through the philosophy of language, his challenge to realism, and his philosophy of language itself are central topics in contemporary analytic philosophy and have influenced the work of other major figures such as Quine, Putnam, and Davidson. This book offers an accessible and systematic presentation of the main elements of Dummett's philosophy. This book's overarching theme is Dummett's discussion of realism: his characterization of realism, his attack on realism, and his (...) invention and exploration of the anti-realist position. This book begins by examining Dummett's views on language. Only against that setting can one fully appreciate his conception of the realism issue. With this in place, Weiss returns to Dummett's views on the nature of meaning and understanding to unfold his challenge to realism. Weiss devotes the remainder of the book to examining the anti-realist position. He discusses anti-realist theories of meaning and then investigates anti-realism's revisionary consequences. Finally, he engages with Dummett's discussion of two difficult challenges for the anti-realist: the past and mathematics. (shrink)
On the 27th of October, 1949, the Department of Philosophy at the University of Manchester organized a symposium "Mind and Machine", as Michael Polanyi noted in his Personal Knowledge (1974, p. 261). This event is known, especially among scholars of Alan Turing, but it is scarcely documented. Wolfe Mays (2000) reported about the debate, which he personally had attended, and paraphrased a mimeographed document that is preserved at the Manchester University archive. He forwarded a copy to Andrew Hodges and (...) B. Jack Copeland, who in then published it on their respective websites. The basis of this interpretation here is the copy preserved in the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago, Special Collections, Polanyi Collection (abbreviated RPC, box 22, folder 19). The same collection holds the mimeographed statement that Polanyi prepared for this symposium: "Can the mind be represented by a machine?" This text has not been studied by Polanyi scholars. (shrink)
How could a state have the moral authority to promulgate and enforce laws that citizens are thereby obliged to obey? That is the problem of political authority. The Consequentialist Explanation of Political Authority contends that great social benefits depend upon there being a state with political authority. In his book, The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer considers different types of explanation of political authority and he rejects them all. I show that the objections he raises to consequentialist accounts (...) are confused and that they fail to connect with the Consequentialist Explanation of Political Authority. Huemer argues that anarchy of a particular kind would be better than the states that exist in current Western societies. I explain why that argument, if it were successful, would be an effective objection to the Consequentialist Explanation of Political Authority. (shrink)
: Michael Gazzaniga, a prominent cognitive neuroscientist, has argued against reductionist accounts of cognition. Instead, Gazzaniga defends a form of non-reductive physicalism: epistemological neuro-cognitive non-reductionism and ontological monist physicalism. His position is motivated by the theses that: cognitive phenomena can be realized by multiple neural systems; many outcomes of these systems are unpredictable; and multi-level explanations are required. Epistemological neuro-cognitive non-reductionism is presented as the most appropriate stance to account for the way in which phenomena should be explained in (...) cognitive neuroscience. In this paper, I argue, however, that a recent form of neuro-cognitive reductionism, namely neo-mechanistic reductionism accounts for the arguments presented by Gazzaniga. Thus, the theory offers a more consistent and well-articulated view of the relationship between cognitive and neural phenomena that is specifically compatible with the explanatory strategies and aims of contemporary cognitive neuroscience. Keywords: Neo-mechanistic Philosophy; Michael Gazzaniga; Non-reductionism; Reductionism; Philosophy of Cognitive Neuroscience L’antiriduzionismo neurocognitivo di Michael Gazzaniga e la sfida della riduzione neomeccanicista Riassunto: Uno dei più importanti neuroscienziati dei nostri tempi, Michael Gazzaniga, si è schierato contro una concezione riduzionista della cognizione. Al contrario Gazzaniga difende una forma di fisicalismo non-riduzionistico che risulta dalla combinazione, sul piano epistemologico, di un anti-riduzionismo cognitivo e, sul piano ontologico, di un monismo fisicalista. La sua posizione è motivata dalla tesi per cui i fenomeni cognitivi possono essere realizzati da molteplici sistemi neurali; molti esiti di tali sistemi non si possono prevedere; e sono pertanto necessarie spiegazioni a livelli plurimi. La concezione presentata come più adeguata per dare conto sul piano epistemologico di come i fenomeni dovrebbero essere spiegati all’interno delle neuroscienze cognitive è una forma di anti-riduzionismo neuro-cognitivo. In questo articolo si sostiene tuttavia che una recente forma di riduzionismo neuro-cognitivo può dare conto degli argomenti presentati da Gazzaniga. Si tratta di una teoria che offre una interpretazione maggiormente coerente ed articolata della relazione fra fenomeni cognitivi e neurali e che offre un modello di spiegazione compatibile con gli scopi esplicativi delle neuroscienze cognitive contemporanee. Parole chiave: Filosofia neomeccanicista; Michael Gazzaniga; Nonriduzionismo; Riduzionismo; Filosofia della neuroscienza cognitiva. (shrink)
I argue that perfect being theologians cannot endorse the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. On perfect being theology, God is essentially morally perfect, meaning that He always acts in a morally perfect manner. I argue that it is possible that God is faced with a situation in which there is only one morally perfect action, which He must do. If this is true, then God acts without alternative possibilities in this situation. Yet, unless one says that (...) this choice is not free, one must say that God has acted freely without alternative possibilities. (shrink)