Proponents of two axioms of biological evolutionary theory have attempted to find justification by reference to nonequilibrium thermodynamics. One states that biological systems and their evolutionary diversification are physically improbable states and transitions, resulting from a selective process; the other asserts that there is an historically constrained inherent directionality in evolutionary dynamics, independent of natural selection, which exerts a self-organizing influence. The first, the Axiom of Improbability, is shown to be nonhistorical and thus, for a theory of change through time, (...) acausal. Its perception of the improbability of living states is at least partially an artifact of closed system thinking. The second, the Axiom of Historically Determined Inherent Directionality, is supported evidentially and has an explicit historical component. Historically constrained dynamic populations are inherently nonequilibrium systems. It is argued that living, evolving systems, when considered to be historically constrained nonequilibrium systems, do not appear improbable at all. Thus, the two axioms are not compatible. Instead, the Axiom of Improbability is considered to result from an unjustified attempt to extend the contingent proximal actions of natural selection into the area of historical, causal explanations. It is thus denied axiomatic status, and the effects of natural selection are subsumed as an additional level of constraint in an evolutionary theory derived from the Axiom of Historically Determined Inherent Directionality. (shrink)
Paul O'Grady clearly distinguishes five main kinds: relativism about truth, relativism about logic, ontological relativism, epistemological relativism, and, finally, relativism about rationality. In each case he shows what makes a position relativist and how it differs from a sceptical or pluralist position. He ends by presenting a thoroughly integrated position that rejects some forms while defending others. The book includes discussion of recent work by Putnam, Devitt, Searle, Priest, and Quine and offers a succinct survey of contemporary debates. This lively (...) discussion of the issue will be welcome reading for all those involved in philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
Aquinas’s actual response to a naturalistic challenge at ST I.2.3 is one which most naturalists would find unimpressive. However, I shall argue that there is a stronger response latent in his philosophical system. I take Quine as an example of a methodological naturalist, examine the roots of his position and look at two critical responses to his views (those of BonJour and Boghossian). If one adjusts some of the problematical aspects of their responses and establishes a hybrid position on the (...) epistemology and metaphysics of an antinaturalistic stance, it turns out to be the position Aquinas himself takes on meaning and knowledge. (shrink)
There is a general presumption that epistemology does not have anything to do with wellbeing. In this paper I challenge these assumption, by examining the aftermath of the Gettier examples, the debate between internalism and externalism and the rise of virtue epistemology. In focusing on the epistemic agent as the locus of normativity, virtue epistemology allows one to ask questions about epistemic goods and their relationship to other kinds of good, including the good of the agent. Specifically it is argued (...) that emotion has a positive role to play in epistemology, an example from Aquinas is used to illustrate this and to illustrate the different kinds of good involved in cognition. (shrink)
Wittgenstein is often associated with different forms of relativism. However, there is ambiguity and controversy about whether he defended relativistic views or not. This paper seeks to clarify this issue by disambiguating the notion of relativism and examining Wittgenstein's relevant texts in that light.
This paper compares arguments from Aquinas and Nagarjuna on contingency and necessity, examining the ways in which they arrive at opposed positions. However, neither set of arguments is unproblematical and both require appeal to further positions to support them. A curious parallelism begins to emerge between the positions when seen with their background assumptions, despite their obvious differences.
IntroductionPaul Williams is professor of Indian and Tibetan philosophy at the University of Bristol in England. He is the author of four earlier books on Buddhist thought and numerous scholarly papers. In The Unexpected Way, his fifth book, Williams departs from the normal academic genre and writes a partly autobiographical, partly apologetic account of his conversion from Tibetan Buddhism to Roman Catholicism. The title anticipates the pretty standard response that traffic is typically in the opposite direction. The book is a (...) mixture of philosophical discussion, personal musings, ‘analytical meditations’, and catechetical-style instruction that seeks to convince the reader that his choice was rational, warranted and personally enriching. (shrink)