If asked to define ‘omnipotence,’ the man on the street would probably say that it’s the ability to do anything. That’s about it, he’d think; nothing more needs be said. Philosophers are never so easily satisfied. They take it as matter of professional duty to find serious problems in important concepts, and to suggest that the concept be rejected or that solutions are at hand. This paper falls into the latter camp. Beginning with a relatively simple definition of ‘omnipotence,’ increasingly (...) complex definitions are proposed, problems are found with them, and newer, refined definitions are offered. In all, seven unsatisfactory definitions are examined before an adequate one is arrived at. Both traditional and new problems are addressed, and novel solutions are advanced. The definition argued to be adequate is itself novel, but also very much in keeping with our pre-reflective understanding of omnipotence. On the basis of the definition it’s concluded not only that an adequate definition of ‘omnipotence’ is possible, but that various problems alleged to attend attributing the notion to God can also be solved. (shrink)
On relativism, it has been argued, certain comparative moral judgments are impossible. Judgments which compare two moral codes, judgments which compare one’s own moral code with another, judgments which, on the basis of a comparison with one’s own code, condemn specific moral practices permitted or required by other codes, judgments which speak of moral progress or reform—all are nonsensical or impossible, the argument alleges. Although commonly conflated, arguments for these distinct but related theses are first distinguished, then exposed, and last (...) subjected to critical scrutiny. While seemingly powerful, all are found wanting. (shrink)
This paper is a defense of the view that existence is a property. Since the view is still a minority one, a fair amount of space is allotted to defending it against objections and counter-arguments. Positive arguments aren’t lacking, however, and emerge in the course of the discussion. Not all of the many positive or negative arguments which follow are wholly original—a fact to be expected in this context—but a fair number are, and both sorts of argument are seamlessly interwoven (...) in the warp and woof of what follows. (shrink)
Two brainless curs, Alan Brinton and Douglas Walton, have recently had the impudence to suggest that several of my views on argumentum ad baculum are mistaken. While hardship and toil await them in this life and eternal damnation in the next, punishment begins with this paper. In it, I clarify my position, defend my views, and critique their arguments. Last, I argue ad baculum against both of them, threatening both with the loss of reputation, employment, and respect unless they repudiate (...) every objection raised against me and publicly abase themselves. (shrink)
This paper is a critical analysis of Tristram Engelhardt''s attempts to avoid unrestricted nihilism and relativism. The focus of attention is his recent book, The Foundations of Bioethics (Oxford University Press, 1996). No substantive or content-full bioethics (e.g., that of Roman Catholicism or the Samurai) has an intersubjectively verifiable and universally binding foundation, Engelhardt thinks, for unaided secular reason cannot show that any particular substantive morality (or moral code) is correct. He thus seems to be committed to either nihilism or (...) relativism. The first is the view that there is not even one true or valid moral code, and the second is the view that there is a plurality of true or valid moral codes. However, Engelhardt rejects both nihilism and relativism, at least in unrestricted form. Strictly speaking, he himself is a universalist, someone who believes that there is a single true moral code. Two argumentative strategies are employed by him to fend off unconstrained nihilism and relativism. The first argues that although all attempts to establish a content-full morality on the basis of secular reason fail, secular reason can still establish a content-less, purely procedural morality. Although not content-full and incapable of providing positive direction in life, much less a meaning of life, such a morality does limit the range of relativism and nihilism. The second argues that there is a single true, content-full morality. Grace and revelation, however, are needed to make it available to us; secular reason alone is not up to the task. This second line of argument is not pursued in The Foundations at any length, but it does crop up at times, and if it is sound, nihilism and relativism can be much more thoroughly routed than the first line of argument has it.Engelhardt''s position and argumentative strategies are exposed at length and accorded a detailed critical examination. In the end, it is concluded that neither strategy will do, and that Engelhardt is probably committed to some form of relativism. (shrink)
This paper is a critical assessment of argumentum ad baculum, or appeal to force. Its principal contention is that, contrary to common opinion, there is no general fallacy of ad baculum. Most real-life ad baculums are, in fact, fairly strong. A basic logical form for reconstructed ad baculums is proposed, and a number of heterodoxical conclusions are also advanced and argued for. They include that ad baculum is not necessarily a prudential argument, that ad baculum need not involve force, violence, (...) or threats, and that one can argue ad baculum to oneself. The starting point of the paper, however, is a critical evaluation of three ad baculums from the exercise sets of Irving Copi's well-known Introduction to Logic. (shrink)
This paper criticizes the pragma-dialectical conception of a fallacy, according to which a fallacy is an argumentative speech act which violates one or more of the rules of 'rational discussion'. That conception is found to be neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for committing a fallacy. It is also found wanting in several other respects.
An identity statement flanked on both sides with proper names is necessarily true, Saul Kripke thinks, if it's true at all. Thus, contrary to the received view – or at least what was, prior to Kripke, the received view – a statement like(A) Hesperus is Phosphorus.
Discussions regarding abortion are often misguided and confused. This paper critically examines the extreme liberal view, which argues that neither the fetus, at any stage of development, nor the young infant has a right to life. It focuses on the general argumentative strategy employed by a number of philosophers in arriving at an extreme liberal view. An evaluative critique of an extreme liberal view is offered as a step toward clarifying and expanding upon the abortion debate. Keywords: abortion, personhood, speciesism, (...) right to life, human being CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Some patients have no chance of surviving if not treated, but very little chance if treated. A number of medical ethicists and physicians have argued that treatment in such cases is medically futile and a matter of physician discretion. This paper is a critical examination of that position. According to Howard Brody and others, a judgment of medical futility is a purely technical matter, and one which physicians are uniquely qualified to make. Although Brody later retracted these claims, he held (...) fast to the view that physicians need not consult the patient or his family to determine their values before deciding not to treat. This is because professional integrity dictates that treatment shouldn't be undertaken. The argument for this claim is that medicine is a profession and a social practice, and thus capable of breaches of professional integrity. Underlying professional integrity are two moral principles, one concerning harm, the other fraud. Both point to the fact that when the odds of survival are very low treatment is a violation of professional integrity. The details of this skeletal argument are exposed and explained, and the full argument is subjected to criticism. On a number of counts, it's found wanting. If anything, professional integrity points to the opposite conclusion. (shrink)
One form of argument from analogy is identified and Stephen Barker's remarks about a second kind of argument from analogy, non-inductive (and non-deductive) argument from analogy, are used as a springboard to identify a second form. That form is then refined, explained, exemplified, and related to the first form. It is argued that there is a spectrum of different forms of argument from analogy, with the two forms identified being end points on the spectrum. Except in terms of form, however, (...) there is no reason to speak of two different kinds of argument from analogy. (shrink)
This paper is an analysis of the concept of creativity. Tradition is followed in distinguishing three related but increasing complex concepts. The first concerns mere making or bringing into existence. It is not examined at length. The second builds on the first but includes the notion of novelty. The third incorporates the second but adds the notion of value. The latter two concepts of creativity are explored in great detail.
Some philosophers identify the meaning of a work of art with what the artist intended the work to mean. Other philosophers think that although an artist’s intentions don’t fully determine a work’s meaning, they are a partial determinate of it. Last, there are philosophers who think that an artist’s intentions have no bearing on a work’s meaning. This paper is an examination of several arguments for the last of these three positions. In particular, it is a critical examination of three (...) arguments advanced by Monroe Beardsley in his earlier writings in aesthetics. (shrink)
This paper is a critical examination of the so-called slippery slope argument for the conservative position on abortion. The argument was discussed in the philosophic literature some time back, but has since fallen into disfavor. The argument is first exposed and a general objection to it is advanced, then rebutted. Rosalind Hursthouse's more detailed and stronger objection is next aired, but also found less than convincing. In the course of discussing her objection, the correct form of the argument is identified, (...) and it's noted that rejection of the argument requires finding fault with its inductive premise. That, in turn, requires either (a) identifying and defending a cutoff point other than conception, or (b) not identifying a cutoff point but directly attacking the argument's conclusion. As far as (a) is concerned, all except one alternative cutoff point have severe problems that have been well discussed in the literature. The one that doesn't, the appearance of the ‘primitive streak’, is examined in detailed, but ultimately rejected. As for (b), five different grounds for rejecting the conclusion are identified and discussed, but none is found plausible. Variations on the slippery slope argument, concerning different conclusions that it may have, are then distinguished, related to each other, and critically discussed, and the paper ends with some cautionary remarks about the defense of the argument tendered. (shrink)
"The essays, both philosophical and historical, demonstrate the continuing significance of a neglected aspect of Kant’s thought."—Religious Studies Review Challenging the traditional view that Kant's account of religion was peripheral to his thinking, these essays demonstrate the centrality of religion to Kant's critical philosophy. Contributors are Sharon Anderson-Gold, Leslie A. Mulholland, Anthony N. Perovich, Jr., Philip J. Rossi, Joseph Runzo, Denis Savage, Walter Sparn, Burkhard Tuschling, Nicholas P. Wolterstorff, and Allen W. Wood.
This article is a critical analysis of Judge J. Skelly Wright's “Application of President and Directors of Georgetown College.” Wright's paper concerns the refusal of a Mrs. Jones to allow a blood transfusion needed to save her life and Wright's decision, based on a number of social, medical, legal, religious, and psychological facts, to permit the transfusion. The presentation is a close paraphrase of Wright's own case write-up. Critical expositions of five arguments explicitly advanced by Wright for his decision to (...) allow a transfusion are given, as are attempts to track down other justifying reasons he may have had for his decision. (shrink)
While lies have attracted philosophical attention since antiquity, phenomena in the near area have generated considerably less interest. Lately, however, Max Black and Harry Frankfurt have visited a close relative: humbug or bullshit, as it's either more politely or more rudely called. In this article their views on humbug and bullshit are exposed, explained, critiqued, and, ultimately, rejected. An alternative view is then proposed and defended.
In 1972, one of Michelangelo's earliest and best-known Pietàs was attacked by an evident lunatic. Fifteen times it was struck with a ninepound hammer; the Madonna's arm was broken in several places, her nose was knocked off, and her eye and veil were badly chipped. Immediately after the assault, and before knowing precisely what was needed to be replaced, the Director of the Vatican Museum, Redig de Campos, decided that integral restoration was called for.
Context is mainly a critical history of one of the central strands – arguably, the central strand – of the analytic tradition in philosophy, namely, the philosophy of language. Key ﬁgures that put in an appearance include Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Ayer, Hempel, Tarski, Quine, Davidson, Putnam, and Dewey, the last being a somewhat odd ﬁgure, given the general tenor of Callaway’s cavalcade of stars. Meaning and analysis are the focus of attention, and true to his title, Callaway doesn’t hesitate (...) to criticize various positions as he makes his way – the book is organized more or less chronologically – from Frege to Davidson and Putnam. More than that, though, he doesn’t content himself with merely negative criticism. Original positions on various issues are argued for and integrated into an approach that’s largely inspired by Quine, but also pays a large tribute to Davidson and Dewey. (shrink)
Over the past fifteen years or so the distinction between de diclo and de re modality has been revived and pressed into service in a number of areas of philosophy. In "Plantinga on the De Dicto/De Re Distinction" it is argued that one prominent argument/persuasion advanced for making the distinction in the first place is unsound. The argument for making the distinction attempts to elicit rational acceptance of it by clearly illustrating it with a proposition that is false when modal-fied (...) de dicto, true when modalfied de re. However, i f the example (and ones like it) is critically scrutinized, and the distinction between referential and attributive uses of definite descriptions carefully adhered to, doubt can be cast on whether our intuitions regarding the case are really, at base, intuitions about a different and distinct form of modality, de re modality. (shrink)