Although commonly cited as one of the philosophers responsible for the resurgence of interest in pragmatism, Wilfrid Sellars was also the son of Roy Wood Sellars, one of the most dedicated critical realists of the early 20th century. Given his father’s realism and his own ‘scientific realism,’ one might assume that the history of realism – and, despite contemporary interest, not pragmatism – would best serve as the historical background for Wilfrid Sellars’ philosophy. I argue that Wilfrid Sellars, far from (...) being the adherent to classical pragmatism assumed by some, holds more in common with critical realism - specifically, a realism that was framed in opposition to pragmatism – than one finds amongst the writings of Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, or John Dewey. I support this claim by examining Wilfrid Sellars’ adoption of his father’s criticisms of C.I. Lewis, and offer various arguments and historical considerations against thematic accounts that insist on a strong connection between Wilfrid Sellars and pragmatism. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars described the moral syllogism that supports the inference “I ought to do x” from “Everyone ought to do x” as a “syntactical disguise” which embodies a “mistake.” He nevertheless regarded this form of reasoning as constitutive of the moral point of view. Durkheim was the source of much of this reasoning, and this context illuminates Sellars’ unusual philosophical reconstruction of the moral point of view in terms of the collective intentions of an ideal community of rational members for (...) which the syllogism is empirically valid. The reconstruction also sheds light on the question of the status of common sense and normativity in Sellars’ naturalistic metaphysics. (shrink)
I explore conceptual tensions that emerge between Wilfrid Sellars’ and Grace de Laguna’s adoption of behaviorism. Despite agreeing on various points, I argue that Sellars’ and de Laguna’s positions represent a split between normativist and descriptivist approaches to explanation that are generally incompatible, and I explore how both positions claim conceptual priority.
Wilfrid Sellars read and annotated Celestine Bouglé’s Evolution of Values, translated by his mother with an introduction by his father. The book expounded Émile Durkheim's account of morality and elaborated his account of origins of value in collective social life. Sellars replaced elements of this account in constructing his own conception of the relationship between the normative and community, but preserved a central one: the idea that conflicting collective and individual intentions could be found in the same person. These notoriously (...) opaque arguments, which seek to save an element of rationalism from social explanation while granting the claims of behavioural science, are illuminated by comparing them to their original Durkheimian form. (shrink)
I explore a strand of reception history that follows Rudolf Carnap’s shift from a purely syntactical analysis of constructed languages to his conception of pure semantics. My exploration focuses on Gustav Bergmann’s and Everett Hall’s interpretation of pure semantics, their understanding of what constitutes a ’formal’ investigation of language, and their arguments concerning the relationship between expressions and their extra-linguistic referents. I argue that Bergmann and Hall strongly misread Carnap’s semantic project and, subsequently, their misunderstanding is passed down through colleagues (...) and students. (shrink)
When discussing Wilfrid Sellars’s philosophy, very little work has been done to offer a developmental account of his systematic views. More often than not, Sellars’s complex views are presented in a systematic and holistic fashion that ignores any periodization of his work. I argue that there is a metaphilosophical shift in Sellars’s early philosophy that results in substantive changes to his conception of language, linguistic rules, and normativity. Specifically, I claim that Sellars’s shift from a formalist metaphilosophy to one more (...) closely aligned with psychology allows for the construction of a normative conception of language. My central claim is that without his abandonment of earlier metaphilosophical commitments, Sellars could not hold what I call an external conception of normativity. It is this move away from a formalist notion of philosophy that allows Sellars to construct a normative picture of language. I conclude that because this substantive shift in philosophical commitments results from changes in Sellars’s metaphilosophical views, there is insight to be found in a meticulous periodization of his work. (shrink)
All contributions included in the present issue were originally prepared for an “Author Meets Critics” session organized by Carl Sachs for the Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Savannah, Georgia, on 5th January, 2018.
Religious tensions in America, as well as abroad, are nothing new. Yet, in this current epoch various cultures around the world are involved in internal clashes between religious and secular groups that pull at the attention of the public more often than not. Though a myriad of issues confront anyone interested in investigating these tensions, one must first wonder what, exactly, blasphemy means to both sides of the debate. In the course of doing so, one interesting question arises: What does (...) it mean to consider speech against a secular group’s belief in a given object, text, or even another belief as blasphemous? The point of this paper is to inquire into the semantic status of blasphemy. First, I will outline various possible definitions of blasphemy and take into consideration what such definitions mean to those on the opposite side of the fence . Second, I will explore how extending such a definition to both parties would change the semantic landscape of the current cultural debates. Last, I will propose a modest solution to how one should view issues surrounding blasphemous speech and the freedom of expression. (shrink)
Erratum to: Synthese DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0678-4The last two block quotes of this article should be cited as “Sellars 1947c”, not “Sellars 1947”. “Sellars 1947c” references the bibliography entry for a piece of correspondence housed in the special collections archive at the University of Iowa. It is not, as the bibliography lists, a published work.
I provide some brief critiques concerning Nancy Stanlick’s recent work, American Philosophy: The Basics. While it should be considered an exceptional and inclusive study of American philosophy, I argue that Stanlick’s work suffers from too strong of an emphasis on the idea that American philosophy, and thus American philosophers, are wholly characterized by an emphasis on the practical.
Commentary on PeterOlen's book "Wilfrid Sellars and the Foundations of Normativity", originally prepared for an 'Author Meets Critics' session organized by Carl Sachs for the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA in Savannah, Georgia, on 5th January, 2018.
In this very informative volume, PeterOlen addresses questions that are of interest both to philosophers generally and to students of Sellars's thought in particular. Do philosophers have a job that is distinct from the scientists'? Yes. What is the nature of normativity and how is it discerned? Roughly, normativity is connected with the extra-conceptual content that normative language adds to factual content. Do Wilfrid Sellars's career-long efforts to account for the nature of both philosophy and normativity present (...) itself as a unified, consistent one? No, so the interpreters of Sellars who find in his works a unified position are incorrect. The pure pragmatics developed by the early Sellars gives way to a... (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the theory of exemplary causality of Peter Auriol (1280-1322). Until at least the late 13th century, medieval authors claim that the world is orderly and intelligible because God created it according to the models existing eternally in his mind (i.e. divine ideas). Auriol challenges the view of his predecessors and contemporaries. He argues that assuming divine ideas amounts to assuming multiplicity in God and therefore questioning the principle of his absolute simplicity. (...) To avoid this problem, he develops a system that enables him to account for God’s knowledge of creatures (both as individuals and as species) and hence to preserve the theological principle of providence, but at the same time allows him to reject divine ideas as intermediaries for creation. In Auriol’s theory of exemplary causality, divine essence is the only object of God’s knowledge and thus the only exemplar for creation. God’s cognitive act is directed exclusively towards his own essence. However, he knows creatures through multiple connotations, i.e. the multiple ways divine essence is connotated when God knows himself. But these connotations play no role in creation, because imitability is only proper to divine essence. To explain how an object can be the only exemplar for the creation of many different creatures, Auriol has to rethink the concept of imitability and develop a new model of exemplary causality enabling him to account for the relationship between God and his creatures. The traditional model was that of analogy: a cause produces an effect which is partly similar and partly different from it. Auriol relies on the concept of equivocity. He argues that it is unnecessary to assume a particular similarity between a cause and its effect. Quite the contrary: for an object to be the exemplar of multiple different things, it is necessary that it should not be similar to any of them. The concept of aequivocatio allows Auriol to reject the traditional model of creation. Aequivocatio does not entail a resemblance between idea and ideatum. There is no contradiction, then, in claiming that a single object (divine essence) is in an equivocal way (aequivoce) the exemplary cause of multiple different objects. This is Auriol’s new theory of divine exemplarism: the theory of similitudo aequivoca. (shrink)
Peter Singer’s famous and influential article is criticised in three main ways that can be considered libertarian, although many non-libertarians could also accept them: 1) the relevant moral principle is more plausibly about upholding an implicit contract rather than globalising a moral intuition that had local evolutionary origins; 2) its principle of the immorality of not stopping bad things is paradoxical, as it overlooks the converse aspect that would be the positive morality of not starting bad things and also (...) thereby conceptually eliminates innocence; and 3) free markets—especially international free trade—have been cogently explained to be the real solution to the global “major evils” of “poverty” and “pollution”, while “overpopulation” does not exist in free-market frameworks; hence charity is a relatively minor alleviant to the problem of insufficiently free markets. There are also various subsidiary arguments throughout. (shrink)
Book review of Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013, 280pp., $14.95, ISBN 978-1939578099 (paperback). Foreword by Michael Shermer. Science, Religion & Culture 1:2 (August 2014), 93-96 .
The article analyzes and criticizes the assumptions of Peter Van Inwagen’s argument for the alleged contradiction of the foreknowledge of God and human freedom. The argument is based on the sine qua non condition of human freedom defined as access to possible worlds containing such a continuation of the present in which the agent implements a different action than will be realized de facto in the future. The condition also contains that in every possible continuation of the present state (...) of affairs, the same propositions about the ‘present past’ (the past before the present moment) are true as are true in the present state of affairs. The paper argues that Van Inwagen’s reasoning is inconclusive, it contains the type of mistake of confusing conditional impossibility with unconditional and presents a methodologically wrong method of solving a philosophical problem. It is because in the very construction of the problem determining the available solution. The article points to the possibility that the human freedom of some action is not excluded by the fact that specific past facts logically entail that this event will occur. (shrink)
This article discusses the theories of perception of Robert Kilwardby and Peter of John Olivi. Our aim is to show how in challenging certain assumptions of medieval Aristotelian theories of perception they drew on Augustine and argued for the active nature of the soul in sense perception. For both Kilwardby and Olivi, the soul is not passive with respect to perceived objects; rather, it causes its own cognitive acts with respect to external objects and thus allows the subject to (...) perceive them. We also show that Kilwardby and Olivi differ substantially regarding where the activity of the soul is directed to and the role of the sensible species in the process, and we demonstrate that there are similarities between their ideas of intentionality and the attention of the soul towards the corporeal world. (shrink)
The important impact of the French Franciscan Peter Auriol (ca. 1280-1322) upon contemporary philosophical theology at Oxford is well known and has been well documented and analyzed, at least for a narrow range of issues, particularly in epistemology. This article attempts a more systematic treatment of his effects upon Oxford debates across a broader range of subjects and over a more expansive duration of time than has been done previously. Topics discussed include grace and merit, future contingents and divine (...) foreknowledge, and the logic of the Trinity. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that while his criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to the global (...) and local arguments from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
This article discusses the theory of perception of Peter Auriol. Arguing for the active nature of the senses in perception, Auriol applies the Scotistic doctrine of objective being to the theory of perception. Nevertheless, he still accepts some parts of the theory of species. The paper introduces Auriol's view on the mechanism of perception and his account of illusions. I argue for a direct realist reading of Auriol's theory of perception and propose that his position becomes clearer if we (...) use the distinction between the first- and third-person perspectives which he seems to presuppose. (shrink)
This paper looks at the critical reception of two central claims of Peter Auriol’s theory of cognition: the claim that the objects of cognition have an apparent or objective being that resists reduction to the real being of objects, and the claim that there may be natural intuitive cognitions of nonexistent objects. These claims earned Auriol the criticism of his fellow Franciscans, Walter Chatton and Adam Wodeham. According to them, the theory of apparent being was what had led Auriol (...) to allow for intuitive cognitions of nonexistents, but the intuitive cognition of nonexistents, at its turn, led to scepticism. Modern commentators have offered similar readings of Auriol, but this paper argues, first, that the apparent being provides no special reason to think there could be intuitions of nonexistent objects, and second, that despite his idiosyncratic account of intuition, Auriol was no more vulnerable to scepticism than his critics. (shrink)
This paper offers an analysis of a hitherto neglected text on insoluble propositions dating from the late XiVth century and puts it into perspective within the context of the contemporary debate concerning semantic paradoxes. The author of the text is the italian logician Peter of Mantua (d. 1399/1400). The treatise is relevant both from a theoretical and from a historical standpoint. By appealing to a distinction between two senses in which propositions are said to be true, it offers an (...) unusual solution to the paradox, but in a traditional spirit that contrasts a number of trends prevailing in the XiVth century. It also counts as a remarkable piece of evidence for the reconstruction of the reception of English logic in italy, as it is inspired by the views of John Wyclif. Three approaches addressing the Liar paradox (Albert of Saxony, William Heytesbury and a version of strong restrictionism) are first criticised by Peter of Mantua, before he presents his own alternative solution. The latter seems to have a prima facie intuitive justification, but is in fact acceptable only on a very restricted understanding, since its generalisation is subject to the so-called revenge problem. (shrink)
Peter Stemmer has developed an elegant and impressive theory of normativity and morality. In this article, I try to show that he does not achieve two goals he set for himself. First, his theory does not capture the categorical bindingness of moral demands, even in Stemmer’s own interpretation of categorical bindingness: it does not show that we must follow moral demands no matter what our personal goals and desires are. Second, just because it would be rational to establish positive (...) moralities in a hypothetical pre-moral scenario, it does not follow – and Stemmer does not establish – that only positive moralities that are in the interest of all members are legitimate. For that reason, his contractarian theory collapses into relativism. (shrink)
Peter Harrison's The Territories of Science and Religion throws down a serious challenge to advocates of dialogue as the primary means of engagement between science and religion. This article accepts the validity of this challenge and looks at four possible responses to it. The first—a return to the past—is rejected. The remaining three—exploring new epistemic frameworks for the encounter of science and religion, broadening out the engagement beyond the context of the physical sciences and Western culture, and looking at (...) ways in which scientific and theological practitioners may collaborate on practical problems—are all offered as potential ways in which science and religion may engage with one another, in ways which move beyond Harrison's critique. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 22 - 45 This essay discusses the views of Peter Olivi on the foundations of political power and agency. The central argument is that there is a strong connection between Olivi’s voluntarist psychology and his views concerning political power. According to Olivi, political power is ultimately based on the will of God, but in such a way that both the rulers and their subjects have, through their individual freedom, the liberty to use (...) their share of power as they will. In fact, Olivi conceptualises political power as an extension of the dominion that human beings have over their wills, which is essential for being a political agent in the full sense. By providing a philosophical analysis of the role of the freedom of the will within Olivi’s political philosophy, this essay sheds light on his conception of the relation between the human and the divine will, as well as on his understanding of political power. (shrink)
Peter de Rivo (b. ca. 1420), argues for the existence of human freedom despite its alleged incompatibility with the truth of future contingent propositions. Rivo’s solution doesn’t follow the common medieval attempt to dissolve the alleged incompatibility, but claims that future contingent propositions aren’t determinately true. This approach troubled Rivo’s contemporaries, who thought it was incompatible with biblical infallibility, particularly the veracity of prophetic statements. Rivo tries to reconcile his solution with orthodox Christianity by grounding authentic prophetic statements in (...) God’s cognition of future events. In the end, Rivo’s attempted reconciliation fails because grounding the truth of prophetic statements in God cognition is incompatible either with his theological assumptions or his conception of free action. (shrink)
According to Peter Klein, foundationalism fails because it allows a vicious form of arbitrariness. The present article critically discusses his concept of arbitrariness. It argues that the condition Klein takes to be necessary and sufficient for an epistemic item to be arbitrary is neither necessary nor sufficient. It also argues that Klein's concept of arbitrariness is not a concept of something that is obviously vicious. Even if Klein succeeds in establishing that foundationalism allows what he regards as arbitrariness, this (...) does not yet mean that he confronts it with a sound objection. (shrink)
Some medieval authors defend free choice by arguing that, even though human choices are indeed caused by the practical judgment about what is best to do here and now, one is nevertheless able to freely influence that practical judgment’s formation. This paper examines Peter Auriol’s account of free choice, which is a quite elaborate version of this approach and which brings its theoretical problems into focus. I will argue in favor of Auriol’s basic theory, but I will also propose (...) an emendation to his theory in order to respond to some problems he leaves unresolved. (shrink)
This paper explores the accounts of conceptual thought of Peter John Olivi (1248–1298) and Peter Auriol (1280–1322). While both thinkers are known for their criticism of representationalist theories of perception, it is argued that they part ways when it comes to analyzing conceptual cognition. To account for the human capacity for conceptual thought, Olivi is happy to make a number of concessions to indirect realist theories of representation. Insofar as he criticizes a specific branch of indirect realism about (...) conceptual thought, he does so for theological rather than strictly epistemological reasons. This goes to qualify recent philosophical interpretations of Olivi’s ‘Tractatus de verbo.’ By contrast, Auriol’s account of conceptual thought is thoroughly direct realist. According to Auriol, the natures of external things themselves appear to us directly in conceptual cognition, without the mediation of inner images or other representational devices. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 239 - 272 According to Peter Auriol, OFM, efficient causation is a composite being consisting of items belonging to three distinct categories: a change, an action, and a passion. The change functions as the subject bearing action and passion. After presenting Aristotle’s account of action and passion, which constitutes the background to Auriol’s theory of causation, this paper considers Auriol’s interpretation of Aristotle’s account in contrast to an alternative interpretation defended by Hervaeus (...) Natalis and William of Ockham. Finally, it shows how Auriol, on the basis of his interpretation of Aristotle, develops his own account of efficient causation as a composite being. (shrink)
In the paper I argue that medieval philosophers proposed several notions of the senses’ activity in perception. I illustrate the point using the example of two Franciscan thinkers – Peter Olivi (ca. 1248–1298) and Peter Auriol (ca. 1280–1322). Olivi’s notion of active perception assumes that every perceptual act demands a prior focusing of the mind’s attention. Furthermore, Olivi is partially inspired by the extramissionist theories of vision and reinterprets the notion of a visual ray postulated by them as (...) a useful model for explaining attention and attentional shifts. In Auriol’s view, perception is active because it participates in producing a perceptual content. e senses not only receive information from the environment, they also actively process it and, in Auriol’s words, put the external object into apparent being. e peculiar feature of Auriol’s account is his obvious tendency to conceive perceptual content as both dependent on our perceptual activity and external to the senses. Finally, I consider the two theories in the context of mirror perception – while Olivi focused on the ability of mirrors to switch attention’s direction, Auriol investigated the metaphysical nature of mirror images. (shrink)