Mark Colyvan (2010) raises two problems for ‘easy road’ nominalism about mathematical objects. The first is that a theory’s mathematical commitments may run too deep to permit the extraction of nominalistic content. Taking the math out is, or could be, like taking the hobbits out of Lord of the Rings. I agree with the ‘could be’, but not (or not yet) the ‘is’. A notion of logical subtraction is developed that supports the possibility, questioned by Colyvan, of bracketing a theory’s (...) mathematical aspects to obtain, as remainder, what it says ‘mathematics aside’. The other problem concerns explanation. Several grades of mathematical involvement in physical explanation are distinguished, by analogy with Quine’s three grades of modal involvement. The first two grades plausibly obtain, but they do not require mathematical objects. The third grade is likelier to require mathematical objects. But it is not clear from Colyvan’s example that the third grade really obtains. (shrink)
Kripke, argued like this: it seems possible that E; the appearance can't be explained away as really pertaining to a "presentation" of E; so, pending a different explanation, it is possible that E. Textbook Kripkeans see in the contrast between E and its presentation intimations of a quite general distinction between two sorts of meaning. E's secondary or a posteriori meaning is the set of all worlds w which E, as employed here, truly describes. Its primary or a priori meaning (...) is the set of all w such that if w is actual, then E is true. "Conceivability error" occurs when a primary possibility is mistaken for a secondary one. Textbook Kripkeanism is rejected on the grounds that it makes meaning too modal and modality too much a matter of meaning. (shrink)
[Stephen Yablo] The usual charge against Carnap's internal/external distinction is one of 'guilt by association with analytic/synthetic'. But it can be freed of this association, to become the distinction between statements made within make-believe games and those made outside them-or, rather, a special case of it with some claim to be called the metaphorical/literal distinction. Not even Quine considers figurative speech committal, so this turns the tables somewhat. To determine our ontological commitments, we have to ferret out all traces of (...) nonliterality in our assertions; if there is no sensible project of doing that, there is no sensible project of Quinean ontology. /// [Andre Gallois] I discuss Steve Yablo's defence of Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions. In the first section I set out what I take that distinction, as Carnap draws it, to be, and spell out a central motivation Carnap has for invoking it. In the second section I endorse, and augment, Yablo's response to Quine's arguments against Carnap. In the third section I say why Carnap's application of the distinction between internal and external questions runs into trouble. In the fourth section I spell out what I take to be Yablo's version of Carnap. In the last I say why that version is especially vulnerable to the objection raised in the second. (shrink)
Descartes's "conceivability argument" for substance-dualism is defended against Arnauld's criticism that, for all he knows, Descartes can conceive himself without a body only because he underestimates his true essence; one could suggest with equal plausibility that it is only for ignorance of his essential hairiness that Descartes can conceive himself as bald. Conceivability intuitions are defeasible but special reasons are required; a model for such defeat is offered, and various potential defeaters of Descartes's intuition are considered and rejected. At best (...) though Descartes shows the separability of mind from body, not (as he claims) their actual separateness. (shrink)
Knowledge is closed under implication, according to standard theories. Orthodoxy can allow, though, that apparent counterexamples to closure exist, much as Kripkeans recognize the existence of illusions of possibility which they seek to explain away. Should not everyone, orthodox or not, want to make sense of “intimations of openness”? This paper compares two styles of explanation: evidence that boosts P’s probability need not boost that of its consequence Q; evidence bearing on P’s subject matter may not bear on the subject (...) matter of Q. (shrink)
Part/whole is said in many ways: the leg is part of the table, the subset is part of the set, rectangularity is part of squareness, and so on. Do the various flavors of part/whole have anything in common? They may be partial orders, but so are lots of non-mereological relations. I propose an “upward difference transmission” principle: x is part of y if and only if x cannot change in specified respects while y stays the same in those respects.
Essence and causation are fundamental in metaphysics, but little is said about their relations. Some essential properties are of course causal, as it is essential to footprints to have been caused by feet. But I am interested less in causation's role in essence than the reverse: the bearing a thing's essence has on its causal powers. That essencemight make a causal contribution is hinted already by the counterfactual element in causation; and the hint is confirmed by the explanation essence offers (...) of something otherwise mysterious, namely, how events exactly alike in every ordinary respect, like the bolt'ssuddenly snapping and its snapping per se, manage to disagree in what they cause. Some prior difference must exist between these events to make their causal powers unlike. Paradoxically, though, it can only be in point of a property, suddenness, which both events possess in common. Only by postulating a difference in themanner — essential or accidental — of the property's possession is the paradox resolved. Next we need an account of causation in which essence plays an explicit determinative role. That account, based on the idea that causes should becommensurate with their effects, is thatx causesy only if nothing essentially poorer would have done, and nothing essentially richer was needed. (shrink)
A reply to Fine’s critique of Aboutness. Fine contrasts two notions of truthmaker, and more generally two notions of “state.” One is algebraic; states are sui generis entities grasped primarily through the conditions they satisfy. The other uses set theory; states are sets of worlds, or, perhaps, collections of such sets. I try to defend the second notion and question some seeming advantages of the first.