One of the most important and perennially debated philosophical questions is whether we can have knowledge of the external world. Butchvarov here considers whether and how skepticism with regard to such knowledge can be refuted or at least answered. He argues that only a direct realist view of perception has any hope of providing a compelling response to the skeptic and introduces the radical innovation that the direct object of perceptual, and even dreaming and hallucinatory, experience is always a material (...) object, but not necessarily one that actually exists. This leads him to a metaphysics in which reality is ultimately constructed by human decisions out of objects that are ontologically more basic but which cannot be said in themselves to be either real or unreal. (shrink)
Are there nonexistent things? What is the nature of informative identity statements? Are the notions of essential property and of essence intelligible, and, if so, how are they to be understood? Are individual things material substances or clusters of qualities? Can the account of the unity of a complex entity avoid vicious infinite regresses? These questions have attracted widespread attention among philosophers recently, as evidenced by a proliferation of articles in the leading philosophical journals. In Being Qua Being they receive (...) systematic, unified treatment, grounded in an account of the nature of the application to the world of our conceptual apparatus. A central thesis of the book is that the topic of identity is primary, and that existence and predication, both essential and accidental, are to be understood in terms of identity. (shrink)
Fundamental disagreements in epistemology arise from legitimate differences of interest, not genuine conflict. It is because of such differences that there are three varieties of epistemology: naturalistic, subjective, and what I shall call epistemology-as-logic. All three have been with us at least since Socrates. My chief concern will be with the third, but I must begin with the first and second, which constitute standard epistemology.
The skepticism I propose to discuss concerns the reality of an external world of perceivable material objects. There are three questions our skeptic may ask. The first is nonmodal and nonepistemic: Are some of the objects we perceive real? The second is also nonmodal but epistemic: Do we know, or at least have evidence, that some of the objects we perceive are real? The third is both modal and epistemic: Can we know, or at least have evidence, that some of (...) the objects we perceive are real? By definition, the epistemic questions are the ones the skeptic asks. But I shall take the first, the nonepistemic question as primary; it is, surely, also the one in which we, including the skeptic, are really interested. The traditional approach to skepticism has been to take it as asking one or both of the epistemic questions. I suggest that.. (shrink)
AT THE end of the earliest exposition of his emotive theory of ethics, Charles Stevenson acknowledged that the obvious response of many would be: "When we ask 'Is X good?' we don't want mere influence, mere advice.... We want our interests to be guided by... truth, and by nothing else. To substitute for such a truth mere emotive meaning and suggestion is to conceal from us the very object of our search." To this Stevenson replied: "I can only answer that (...) I do not understand. What is this truth to be about?... I find no indefinable property, nor do I know what to look for." Perhaps Stevenson might be excused for not trying harder. But no excuse is available for the failure of recent moral philosophy as a whole to do so. (shrink)
The common belief that the epistemic credentials of ethics are quite questionable, and therefore in need of special justification, is an illusion made possible by the logical gap between reason and belief. This gap manifests itself sometimes even outside ethics. In ethics its manifestations are common, because of the practical nature of ethics. The attempt to cover it up takes the form of exorbitant demands for justification and often leads to espousing noncognitivism.
It is too early to judge how 20th century philosophy ended, but its beginning was remarkable. Both Moore’s Principia Ethica and Russell’s Principles of Mathematics appeared in 1903, the first volume of Husserl’s Logical Investigations in 1900-01, and four of William James’s major philosophical books in 1902-09. There was not a significant difference, except in style and temperament, between Anglo-American and European philosophers. The analytic/continental schism came much later. Both Russell and Husserl began as mathematicians. Moore wrote in the preface (...) of Principia that his ethics was closest to Brentano’s. Russell studied and discussed Frege and Meinong in detail. James was admired in Britain and in Europe, influenced Husserl and Wittgenstein, and was the subject of articles by Moore and Russell. (shrink)
General statements have been the chief subject matter of logic since Aristotle’s syllogistic. They have also been a fundamental concern of metaphysics, though only since Frege invented modern quantification theory. Indeed, logicians and even metaphysicians seldom ask what, if anything, general statements correspond to in the world. But Frege and Russell did, and the question became a major theme in Wittgenstein’s early (pre-1929) and Gustav Bergmann’s later (post- 1959) works. All four were aware that, as Bergmann put it in his (...) posthumously published New Foundations of Ontology, there could not be any laws of nature if generality were not in the world.[i] Generality must be in the world if the world is at all how science, indeed any cognition beyond that of babes, takes it to be. This is why all four were also aware of the tie of the topic to what became known as the realism/antirealism issue.[ii]. (shrink)
This is a welcome addition to the growing literature in an ethics that is unself-consciously and unabashedly normative. It is concerned with what good lives are and how they can be achieved. At least in civilized contexts, good lives depend on self-direction, which itself depends on possessing the virtues of self-control, self-knowledge, moral sensitivity, and wisdom. These are discussed in detail and with insight. The other-regarding virtues of justice and benevolence are also acknowledged but not discussed, except that Kekes makes (...) clear that his view has nothing to do with egoism; the reason for the omission seems to be his understandable desire to limit the scope of the book. (shrink)
The standard arguments for antirealism are densely abstract, often enigmatic, and thus unpersuasive. The ubiquity and irreducibility of what linguists call generic statements provides a clear argument from a specific and readily understandable case. We think and talk about the world as necessarily subject to generalization. But the chief vehicles of generalization are generic statements, typically of the form “Fs are G,” not universal statements, typically of the form “All Fs are G.” Universal statements themselves are usually intended and understood (...) as though they were only generic. Even if there are universal facts, as Russell held, there are no generic facts. There is no genericity in the world as it is “in-itself.” There is genericity in it only as it is “for-us.”. (shrink)
One of the most characteristic claims of the dominant movement in contemporary British philosophy, to which we shall refer as the philosophy of ordinary language, is that traditional philosophical discourse has usually been logically improper because it has depended upon systematic misuses of certain expressions in ordinary language and that philosophy is a legitimate cognitive discipline only if it is concerned with the description of the actual use of language. To substantiate this claim, the philosopher of ordinary language has had (...) to establish at least the following two general philosophical theses, which together seem to constitute the hard core of original doctrine in the philosophy of ordinary language. First, that the meaning of an expression is its use and not its referent or what it corresponds to. Second, that the description of the uses of certain expressions in language is not merely a study of words but genuinely solves the same problems which traditional philosophy had tried to solve through other methods. (shrink)
Anti-Meinongian philosophers, such as Russell, do not explain what they mean by existence when they deny that there are nonexistent objects — they just sense robustly. I argue that any plausible explanation of what they mean tends to undermine their view and to support the Meinongian view. But why are they so strongly convinced that they are right? I argue that the reason is to be found in the special character of the concept of existence, which has been insufficiently examined (...) by anti-Meinongian as well as by Meinongian philosophers. (shrink)
This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the classics of analytic philosophy. O'Connor's discussion of Moore's philosophy is intelligent, useful, and generally accurate and informed. The title of the book is somewhat misleading. For O'Connor discusses all major parts of Moore's philosophy except his ethics. Hence much of the book is concerned with Moore's defense of common sense, his philosophy of perception, and his conception of analysis, topics that have received much attention and on which it (...) is difficult to say something new. But relatively little has been written on Moore's properly metaphysical views, especially those on universals and existence. Fortunately, O'Connor does devote more than a third of the book to these views. (shrink)
Much of Jorge Gracia’s book is devoted to the definition of metaphysics. But he follows the traditional, though today ignored, distinction between nominal and real definitions. If we think of a definition of x as an answer to the question “What is x?”, an example of the former would be the entry under “bachelor” in a dictionary. An example of the latter would be the account in a chemistry textbook of the chemical structure of water. It is seldom clear that (...) either sort of definition falls within the competence of philosophers, unless they happen to be also lexicographers or scientists. But on the nature of metaphysics, Gracia’s topic, of course philosophers alone are likely to be competent. Why? They alone are likely to know and to have reflected on what metaphysicians have done, i.e., to know the history of metaphysics. For such knowledge, we cannot do better than to go to someone like Professor Gracia. (shrink)
Quentin Smith’s new book appears at a time appropriate for judgment of what analytic ethics and philosophy of religion have accomplished during a century of their existence. His emphasis is on ethics, presumably because only recently analytic philosophers have devoted attention to the philosophy of religion. Much of the book is a judicious historical account that distinguishes four stages in the development of analytic philosophy: logical realism, logical positivism, ordinary language analysis, and what Smith calls linguistic essentialism. It begins with (...) a sympathetic discussion of Moore’s Principia Ethica, which, mainly through the discussion in its first chapter of simple and complex properties, and of definitions, inaugurated analytic ethics, indeed, together with Russell’s “On Denoting,” analytic philosophy generally. Moore’s chief interest was in substantive ethical propositions, e.g., that personal affection and aesthetic appreciation are the greatest goods, but his successors usually did not go beyond the first chapter, which alone is included in the standard anthologies. (shrink)