There is a widely acknowledged, albeit still imprecisely defined, connection between the ‘calculatory’ analyses of local motion developed within the fourteenth century ‘Merton School’ and Galileo Galilei's later treatment of natural motion. The present essay is intended to cast some light on the possible sources and significance of Galileo's putative familiarity with the medieval discussions through a study of the fortunes of the most typical representative of the School, Richard Swineshead. Particular attention is paid to the writings of such (...) scholastic philosophers of Galileo's day as Francisco Toledo, Francesco Piccolomini, Iacopo Zabarella, Francesco Buonamico and Scipione Chiaramonte. Somewhat unexpectedly, it emerges that such authors possessed only the most fragmentary and attenuated knowledge of Swineshead's ideas. The implications of this circumstance, especially insofar as it renders Galileo's familiarity with the Merton tradition even more problematical, are discussed briefly. (shrink)
J. L. Austin, in "Ifs and Cans," proclaimed the common hope that we soon "may see the birth, through the joint labors of philosophers, grammarians, and numerous other students of language, of a true and comprehensive science of language." The problem has always been with the "joint labors" part. Philosophers have always been willing to issue linguists dictums and linguists have been happy to teach philosophers "plain facts." Austin’s general view of language, and his particular notion of performative utterance, can (...) be found in the writing of J. R. Firth, the most commanding British linguist of Austin’s generation, but Austin never refers to Firth. In the present volume, however, we find clear and exciting evidence of genuinely joint labors on the part of philosophers and linguists. They stem from a summer conference in 1969 rounded out with contributions from notables. To two thick issues of Synthese the editors have added a dazzling piece by Saul Kripke, two substantial pieces by James McCawley and J. R. Ross, a short paper by Paul Ziff, and a reprint of P. F. Strawson’s "Grammar and Philosophy." This is an invaluable book and the best book among the many now available concerning the interaction of linguistics and philosophy: worth the cost, which the contributors attempted to reduce through foregoing royalties. The philosophers in this volume hold, or hold intriguing, the view that the semantics of a natural language can and must, in effect, be a theory of truth for a language in much the manner that Tarski suggested, and provided, for artificial language: the recursive specification of biconditionals in which the left hand gives the structural description of an object language sentence and the right hand, the truth conditions in the metalanguage. In "homophonic" translation this requirement can be trivially satisfied simply by mentioning the sentence on the left that one uses on the right: one makes the requirement non-trivial by forcing enough into the recursive specification so that one captures the native speaker’s implicit semantic competence. In this volume, the "orthodox" Davidsonian program, which takes the syntax of the metalanguage to be standard predicate logic, is ably argued by John Wallace ; Richard Montague, David Lewis, and Jaakko Hintikka would want an intensional logic covering modality and propositional attitudes. The linguists who find this philosophical climate most appealing are called "generative semanticists": McCawley, Ross, George Lakoff and others argue that any proposed semantic rule will eventually prove necessary to syntax too and that, hence, the deepest level of syntactical form will be equivalent to semantic form. Whatever the ultimate fate of this joint program, it leads here to much exciting interaction between linguists and philosophers: linguists who welcome the machinery and conceptual standards of modern logic, and philosophers who try to grasp the specifics of crucial issues in recent linguistic theory. Even if Quine’s doubts, here sketched, and Chomsky’s currently unpublished more technical objections should be well-founded, nonetheless the joint labor will have been very much worthwhile. Aside from this general debate about semantics, there are several papers covering more specific issues. The papers of J. A. Fodor, Terence Parsons, and Ross concern adverbs and the logical form of action sentences; several papers, particularly B. H. Partee’s, examine "Opacity, Coreference, and Pronouns." In all these papers one notes the fulfillment of Austin’s hope that philosophic and linguistic arguments should become intermixed, if not at times properly indistinguishable. Perhaps the most enjoyable and exciting paper stands aside from linguistics: Saul Kripke’s "Naming and Necessity." Kripke here argues quite informally for the separation of analytic, a priori, and necessary that is required for a Kripke style, S5, modal logic with de re modalities. "Gold is a yellow metal," for example, turns out to be contingent, while "Heat is the motion of particles" is necessary but a posteriori ; and that philosopher’s stone of stones, "The morning star is the evening star," is discovered to be necessary but a posteriori.—J. L. (shrink)
The Battle for the American Mind brings together religion, politics, economics, science, and literature to present a compelling history of the American people. In this brief and entertaining book, noted historian Carl J. Richard argues that there have been three worldviews that have dominated American thought—theism, humanism, and skepticism. By clearly explaining what Americans believed, exploring why they did so, and showing how that impacted the nation's development, Richard presents a unique portrait of the United States—past and present.
Recently, Richard Healey and Simon Friederich have each advocated a pragmatist interpretation of quantum mechanics as a way to dissolve its foundational problems. The idea is that if we concentrate on the way quantum claims are used, the foundational problems of quantum mechanics cannot be formulated, and so do not require solution. Their central contention is that the content of quantum claims differs from the content of non-quantum claims, in that the former is prescriptive whereas the latter is descriptive. (...) Healey also argues that claims about non-decoherent systems are largely devoid of content. I consider various objections to these claims, noting in particular the ways in which the application of pragmatism to quantum mechanics differs from previous examples of pragmatist therapy. I conclude that a pragmatist dissolution of the foundational difficulties of quantum mechanics is promising, but requires fairly radical changes to our understanding of the content of propositions and the extent of physical explanation. (shrink)
One of the first to teach the new Aristotle, Richard Rufus of Cornwall here presents exciting accounts of divisibility, growth, and Aristotelian mixture which transform our understanding of the introduction of Aristotelian natural philosophy to the West and provide insight into the early history and prehistory of chemistry.
In this paper we give a positive answer to Julia Robinson's question whether the definability of + and · from S and ∣ that she proved in the case of positive integers is extendible to arbitrary integers (cf. [JR, p. 102]).
What is the good for human persons? If I am trying to lead the best possible life I could lead, not the morally best life, but the life that is best for me, what exactly am I seeking? This phrasing of the question I will be pursuing may sound tendentious, so some explanation is needed. What is good for one person, we ordinarily suppose, can conflict with what is good for other persons and with what is required by morality. A (...) prudent person seeks her own good efficiently; she selects the best available means to her good. If we call the value that a person seeks when she is being prudent “prudential value,” then an alternative rendering of the question to be addressed in this essay is “What is prudential value?” We can also say that an individual flourishes or has a life high in well-being when her life is high in prudential value. Of course, these common-sense appearances that the good for an individual, the good for other persons, and the requirements of morality often are in conflict might be deceiving. For all that I have said here, the correct theory of individual good might yield the result that sacrificing oneself for the sake of other people or for the sake of a morally worthy cause can never occur, because helping others and being moral always maximize one's own good. But this would be the surprising result of a theory, not something we should presuppose at the start of inquiry. When a friend has a baby and I express a conventional wish that the child have a good life, I mean a life that is good for the child, not a life that merely helps others or merely respects the constraints of morality. After all, a life that is altruistic and perfectly moral, we suppose, could be a life that is pure hell for the person who lives it—a succession of horrible headaches marked by no achievements or attainments of anything worthwhile and ending in agonizing death at a young age. So the question remains, what constitutes a life that is good for the person who is living it? (shrink)
Left-libertarianism is a version of Lockean libertarianism that combines the idea that each person is the full rightful owner of herself and the idea that each person should have the right to own a roughly equal amount of the world's resources. This essay argues against left-libertarianism. The specific target is an interesting form of left-libertarianism proposed by Michael Otsuka that is especially stringent in its equal world ownership claim. One criticism advanced is that there is more tension than Otsuka acknowledges (...) between private ownership of self and equal ownership of the world. This emerges once one notices that self-ownership should not be conceived merely in a thin, formal way but also as a thicker substantive insistence on wide individual freedom. A second criticism is that in other respects the formal idea of self-ownership that Otsuka and other left-libertarians embrace is an extreme doctrine that merits rejection. (shrink)
In their celebrated essay “The Right to Privacy,” legal scholars Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis identified as the generic privacy value “the right to be let alone.” This same phrase occurs in Justice Brandeis's dissent in Olmstead v. U.S.. This characterization of privacy has been found objectionable by philosophers acting as conceptual police. For example, moral philosopher William Parent asserts that one can wrongfully fail to let another person alone in all sorts of ways—such as assault—that intuitively do not qualify (...) as violations of privacy and thus cannot be violations of the right to privacy. (shrink)
_Confines of Democracy_ is a collection of critical assessments and interpretations of Richard J. Bernstein’s extensive and illuminating work on pragmatism, epistemology, hermeneutics, and social and political theory, including Bernstein’s replies to the contributors.
One way to think about capitalism-versus-socialism is to examine the extent to which capitalist economic institutions are compatible with the fulfillment of socialist ideals. The late G. A. Cohen has urged that the two are strongly incompatible. He imagines how it would make sense for friends to organize a camping trip, distills the socialist moral principles that he sees fulfilled in the camping trip model, and observes that these principles conflict with a capitalist organization of the economy. He adds that (...) these principles are ethically attractive, so if it is feasible to organize the economy on the camping trip model, we ought to do so. This essay argues to the contrary that for all that has been said, capitalist economic arrangements might be in the set of institutional arrangements that overall would best fulfill the camping trip principles, and anyway, the principles themselves ought to be rejected, so the question whether or not a capitalist set-up might satisfy these principles should not interest us. The grounds for rejecting the camping trip principles support a form of welfarist consequentialism that denies that equality of distribution of any sort is per se ethically desirable and also denies that liberal freedoms to live as one chooses are per se morally desirable. Equality and freedom should rather be regarded as in the light of possible means to advancing good for people, fairly distributed. (shrink)