This book argues that the only kind of metaphysics that can contribute to objective knowledge is one based specifically on contemporary science as it really is, and not on philosophers' a priori intuitions, common sense, or simplifications of science. In addition to showing how recent metaphysics has drifted away from connection with all other serious scholarly inquiry as a result of not heeding this restriction, this book demonstrates how to build a metaphysics compatible with current fundamental physics, which, when combined (...) with metaphysics of the special sciences, can be used to unify physics with the other sciences without reducing these sciences to physics itself. Taking science metaphysically seriously, this book argues, means that metaphysicians must abandon the picture of the world as composed of self-subsistent individual objects, and the paradigm of causation as the collision of such objects. The text assesses the role of information theory and complex systems theory in attempts to explain the relationship between the special sciences and physics, treading a middle road between the grand synthesis of thermodynamics and information, and eliminativism about information. The consequences of the books' metaphysical theory for central issues in the philosophy of science are explored, including the implications for the realism versus empiricism debate, the role of causation in scientific explanations, the nature of causation and laws, the status of abstract and virtual objects, and the objective reality of natural kinds. (shrink)
Western philosophers have traditionally concentrated on theory as the means for expressing knowledge about a variety of phenomena. This absorbing book challenges this fundamental notion by showing how objects themselves, specifically scientific instruments, can express knowledge. As he considers numerous intriguing examples, Davis Baird gives us the tools to "read" the material products of science and technology and to understand their place in culture. Making a provocative and original challenge to our conception of knowledge itself, _Thing Knowledge _demands that we (...) take a new look at theories of science and technology, knowledge, progress, and change. Baird considers a wide range of instruments, including Faraday's first electric motor, eighteenth-century mechanical models of the solar system, the cyclotron, various instruments developed by analytical chemists between 1930 and 1960, spectrometers, and more. (shrink)
A familiar complaint against the principle that “ought” implies “can” is that it seems that agents can intentionally make it the case that they cannot perform acts that they nonetheless ought to perform. I propose a related principle that I call the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can.” I argue that the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can” is implied by important but underappreciated truths about practical reason, and that it is not vulnerable to (...) the familiar complaint against “ought” implies “can.” Moreover, I suggest that “the thing to do” implies “can” has interesting implications for “ought” implies “can” - implications that depend on the relation between claims about what we ought to do and claims about the thing to do. (shrink)
At a time when the analytic/continental split dominates contemporary philosophy, this ambitious work offers a careful and clear-minded way to bridge that divide. Combining conceptual rigor and clarity of prose with historical erudition, A Thing of This World shows how one of the standard issues of analytic philosophy—realism and anti-realism—has also been at the heart of continental philosophy. Using a framework derived from prominent analytic thinkers, Lee Braver traces the roots of anti-realism to Kant's idea that the mind actively (...) organizes experience. He then shows in depth and in detail how this idea evolves through the works of Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida. This narrative presents an illuminating account of the history of continental philosophy by explaining how these thinkers build on each other's attempts to develop new concepts of reality and truth in the wake of the rejection of realism. Braver demonstrates that the analytic and continental traditions have been discussing the same issues, albeit with different vocabularies, interests, and approaches. By developing a commensurate vocabulary, his book promotes a dialogue between the two branches of philosophy in which each can begin to learn from the other. (shrink)
Does time seem to pass, even though it doesn’t, really? Many philosophers think the answer is ‘Yes’—at least when ‘time’s passing’ is understood in a particular way. They take time’s passing to be a process by which each time in turn acquires a special status, such as the status of being the only time that exists, or being the only time that is present. This chapter suggests that, on the contrary, all we perceive is temporal succession, one thing after (...) another, a notion to which modern physics is not inhospitable. The contents of perception are best described in terms of ‘before’ and ‘after’, rather than ‘past’, ‘present, and ‘future’. (shrink)
Each thing is fundamental. Not only is no thing any more or less real than any other, but no thing is prior to another in any robust ontological sense. Thus, no thing can explain the very existence of another, nor account for how another is what it is. I reach this surprising conclusion by undermining two important positions in contemporary metaphysics: hylomorphism and hierarchical views employing so-called building relations, such as grounding. The paper has three main (...) parts. First, I observe hylomorphism is alleged by its proponents to solve various philosophical problems. However, I demonstrate, in light of a compelling account of explanation, that these problems are actually demands to explain what cannot be but inexplicable. Second, I show how my argument against hylomorphism illuminates an account of the essence of a thing, thereby providing insight into what it is to exist. This indicates what a thing, in the most general sense, must be and a correlative account of the structure in reality. Third, I argue that this account of structure is incompatible not only with hylomorphism, but also with any hierarchical view of reality. Although hylomorphism and the latter views are quite different, representing distinct philosophical traditions, I maintain they share untenable accounts of structure and fundamentality and so should be rejected on the same grounds. (shrink)
“Thing” and “nothing” are metaphysical themes of thinking for major philosophers both in the West and in East Asia, such as Heidegger, Kant, and Laozi 老子. In light of a discussion of Heidegger’s understanding of thing-ing and no-thing and of his critical interpretation of Kant on the same issue, I shall in this essay reconstruct a Laozian theory of thing and nothing. My conclusion is that thing and nothing are not two “things,” as often assumed (...) by an epistemological approach, but ontologically one thing cut by an absolute limit set up by human rationality which is contained either in our consciousness or in our languages. (shrink)
Some puzzles about happiness -- Pt. I. Some things that happiness isn't. Sensory hedonism about happiness -- Kahneman's "objective happiness" -- Subjective local preferentism about happiness -- Whole life satisfaction concepts of happiness -- Pt. II. What happiness is. What is this thing called happiness? -- Attitudinal hedonism about happiness -- Eudaimonism -- The problem of inauthentic happiness -- Disgusting happiness -- Our authority over our own happiness -- Pt. III. Implications for the empirical study of happiness. Measuring happiness (...) -- Empirical research; philosophical conclusions -- The central points of the project as a whole. (shrink)
What is the human body? Both the most familiar and unfamiliar of things, the body is the centre of experience but also the site of a prehistory anterior to any experience. Alien and uncanny, this other side of the body has all too often been overlooked by phenomenology. In confronting this oversight, Dylan Trigg’s The Thing redefines phenomenology as a species of realism, which he terms unhuman phenomenology. Far from being the vehicle of a human voice, this unhuman phenomenology (...) gives expression to the alien materiality at the limit of experience. -/- By fusing the philosophies of Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, and Levinas with the horrors of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and H.P. Lovecraft, Trigg explores the ways in which an unhuman phenomenology positions the body out of time. At once a challenge to traditional notions of phenomenology, The Thing is also a timely rejoinder to contemporary philosophies of realism. The result is nothing less than a rebirth of phenomenology as redefined through the lens of horror. (shrink)
Phenomenal beliefs are beliefs about the phenomenal properties of one's concurrent conscious states. It is an article of common sense that such beliefs tend to be justified. Philosophers have been less convinced. It is sometimes claimed that phenomenal beliefs are not on the whole justified, on the grounds that they are typically based on introspection and introspection is often unreliable. Here we argue that such reasoning must guard against a potential conflation between two distinct introspective phenomena, which we call fact-introspection (...) and thing -introspection; arguments for the unreliability of introspection typically target only the former, leaving the reliability of the latter untouched. In addition, we propose a theoretical framework for understanding thing -introspection that may have a surprising consequence: thing -introspection is not only reliable, but outright infallible. This points at a potential line of defense of phenomenal-belief justification, which here we only sketch very roughly. (shrink)
What is Knowledge? Where does it come from? Can we know anything at all? This lucid and engaging introduction grapples with these central questions in the theory of knowledge, offering a clear, non-partisan view of the main themes of epistemology including recent developments such as virtue epistemology and contextualism. Duncan Pritchard discusses traditional issues and contemporary ideas in thirteen easily digestible sections, including: the value of knowledge the structure of knowledge virtues and faculties perception testimony and memory induction scepticism. _What (...) is this thing called Knowledge?_ contains many helpful student-friendly features including study questions, annotated further reading, a glossary and a guide to web resources. Clear and interesting examples are used throughout. This is an ideal first textbook in the theory of knowledge for undergraduates taking a first course in philosophy. (shrink)
In evolutionary biology changes in population structure are explained by citing trait fitness distribution. I distinguish three interpretations of fitness explanations—the Two‐Factor Model, the Single‐Factor Model, and the Statistical Interpretation—and argue for the last of these. These interpretations differ in their degrees of causal commitment. The first two hold that trait fitness distribution causes population change. Trait fitness explanations, according to these interpretations, are causal explanations. The last maintains that trait fitness distribution correlates with population change but does not cause (...) it. My defense of the Statistical Interpretation relies on a distinctive feature of causation. Causes conform to the Sure Thing Principle. Trait fitness distributions, I argue, do not. *Received July 2009; revised October 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy/Institute for the History, Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, Victoria College, 91 Charles Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7, Canada; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
So far as his critical employment of the concept is concerned, the thing in itself is not a second object. The thing in itself is given in its appearances; it is the object which appears. In other words, the object is taken in a twofold sense. There is no contradiction, Kant maintained, in supposing that one and the same will is, as an appearance, determined by the laws of nature and yet, as a thing in itself, is (...) free. He never meant to hold that the self of the theoretical reason and the self of the practical reason are two separate and distinct entities. It is one and the same object considered from two perspectives. In this sense the thing in itself is purely a limiting concept. So far as the critical method is concerned, objects are always considered from a particular and limited perspective, e.g. science, morality, art, et cetera. This is the central meaning of his theory of appearances. In this employment of the concept it is completely meaningless to speak of the thing in itself as a cause of appearances. The critical distinction between appearances and things in themselves is not intended to be a distinction between subjective sense data and public objects, but between public objects as given according to two or more modes. This involves no extension of the category of causality beyond appearances. Moreover, it is not open to the charge that an unknown object is given the attribute of existence. The thing in itself is known as an appearance. By definition that is the only way that it could be known. To say that we know only appearances and not things in themselves is to state an obvious tautology, namely that objects are known only as they are known. (shrink)
Regular reference is made, within the discourse around the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to the fact that ubuntu, an indigenous world view, played a role in the process. This paper tries to show that despite these references, important analysts of the TRC had insufficiently accounted for this worldview in their critical readings of the Commission's work and therefore found aspects of the process incoherent and/or morally and legally confused. I am not arguing that the TRC was not a (...) deeply flawed process, but want to establish how powerfully this indigenous world view brought a coherency that not only enabled the TRC to do its work without incidences of revenge, but imbued politically and legally trapped concepts with new possibilities. The pervasiveness of this world view within eg. the second round of TRC testimonies is noticeable and show how often the critique on the TRC fails to take this dominant role into account and how many, seemingly contradictory or confusing, positions become coherent when regarded within this worldview. This view of interconnectedness, consistently expressed throughout the life of the commission, has wide implications for the interpretation of healing, the asking of amnesty, the rehabilitation of perpetrators, the interdependence of forgiveness and reconciliation in the process of achieving full personhood within a healed society. In the footsteps of Richard Bell, this paper locates this world view within a particular framework formulated as ubuntu by Desmond Tutu, as communitarianism by Kwame Gyekye, as ethnophilosophy by Paulin Hountondji etc. The paper also tries to understand how this interconnected moral self is formed and who the community could or should be that influences this moral self. South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 27 2008: pp. 353-366. (shrink)
This book offers a concise survey of basic probability theory from a thoroughly subjective point of view whereby probability is a mode of judgment. Written by one of the greatest figures in the field of probability theory, the book is both a summation and synthesis of a lifetime of wrestling with these problems and issues. After an introduction to basic probability theory, there are chapters on scientific hypothesis-testing, on changing your mind in response to generally uncertain observations, on expectations of (...) the values of random variables, on de Finetti's dissolution of the so-called problem of induction, and on decision theory. (shrink)
This paper offers a fine analysis of different versions of the well known sure-thing principle. We show that Savage's formal formulation of the principle, i.e., his second postulate (P2), is strictly stronger than what is intended originally.
The question of whether or not there is such a thing as "Chinese philosophy" is seldom explicitly raised, but the implicit answers to this question--although different in China and the West--dominate institutional and academic decisions. This article not only constructs a typology to recognize, differentiate, and evaluate various answers to this question, but it also takes the sensitivity of this matter seriously by comparing it with one's attachment to something as sensitive, arbitrary, and meaningless as a family name.
‘Thing’ in the titular question should be construed as having the utmost generality. In the relevant sense, a thing just is an entity, an existent, a being. The present task is to say what a thing of any category is. This task is, I believe, the primary one of any comprehensive and systematic metaphysics. Indeed, an answer provides the means for resolving perennial disputes concerning the integrity of the structure in reality—whether some of the relations among things (...) are necessary merely given those relata themselves—and the intricacy of this structure—whether some things are more or less fundamental than others. After considering some reasons for thinking the generality of the titular question makes it unanswerable, I propound the methodology, original inquiry, required to answer it. The key to this methodology is adopting a singular perspective; confronting the world as merely the impetus to inquiry, one can attain an account of what a thing must be. Radical ontology is a systematic metaphysics—broadly Aristotelian, essentialist and nonhierarchical—that develops the consequences of this account. With it, it is possible to move past stalemate in metaphysics by revealing the grounds of a principled choice between seemingly incommensurable worldviews. (shrink)
In an era when much of what passes for debate is merely moral posturing--traditional family values versus the cultural elite, free speech versus censorship--or reflexive name-calling--the terms "liberal" and "politically correct," are used with as much dismissive scorn by the right as "reactionary" and "fascist" are by the left--Stanley Fish would seem an unlikely lightning rod for controversy. A renowned scholar of Milton, head of the English Department of Duke University, Fish has emerged as a brilliantly original critic of the (...) culture at large, praised and pilloried as a vigorous debunker of the pieties of both the left and right. His mission is not to win the cultural wars that preoccupy the nation's attention, but rather to redefine the terms of battle. In There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, Fish takes aim at the ideological gridlock paralyzing academic and political exchange in the nineties. In his witty, accessible dissections of the swirling controversies over multiculturalism, affirmative action, canon revision, hate speech, and legal reform, he neatly eviscerates both the conservatives' claim to possession of timeless, transcendent values, and the intellectual left's icons of equality, tolerance, and non-discrimination. He argues that while conservative ideologues and liberal stalwarts might disagree vehemently on what is essential to a culture, or to a curriculum, both mistakenly believe that what is essential can be identified apart from the accidental circumstances to which the essential is ritually opposed. In the book's first section, which includes the five essays written for Fish's celebrated debates with Dinesh D'Souza, Fish turns his attention to the neoconservative backlash. In his introduction, Fish writes, "Terms that come to us wearing the label 'apolitical'--'common values', 'fairness', 'merit', 'color blind', 'free speech', 'reason'--are in fact the ideologically charged constructions of a decidedly political agenda. I make the point not in order to level an accusation, but to remove the sting of accusation from the world 'politics' and redefine it as a synonym for what everyone inevitably does." Fish maintains that the debate over political correctness is an artificial one, because it is simply not possible for any party or individual to occupy a position above or beyond politics. Regarding the controversy over the revision of the college curriculum, Fish argues that the point is not to try to insist that inclusion of ethnic and gender studies is not a political decision, but "to point out that any alternative curriculum--say a diet of exclusively Western or European texts--would be no less politically invested." In Part Two, Fish follows the implications of his arguments to a surprising rejection of the optimistic claims of the intellectual left that awareness of the historical roots of our beliefs and biases can allow us, as individuals or as a society, to escape or transcend them. Specifically, he turns to the movement for reform of legal studies, and insists that a dream of a legal culture in which no one's values are slighted or declared peripheral can no more be realized than the dream of a concept of fairness that answers to everyone's notions of equality and jsutice, or a yardstick of merit that is true to everyone's notions of worth and substance. Similarly, he argues that attempts to politicize the study of literature are ultimately misguided, because recharacterizations of literary works have absolutely no impact on the mainstream of political life. He concludes his critique of the academy with "The Unbearable Ugliness of Volvos," an extraordinary look at some of the more puzzing, if not out-and-out masochistic, characteristics of a life in academia. Penetrating, fearless, and brilliantly argued, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech captures the essential Fish. It is must reading for anyone who cares about the outcome of America's cultural wars. (shrink)
Abstract The broad concern of this article is to contribute to discussions within hermeneutical philosophy that address the question of life as a form of correlation. More specifically, its purpose is to shed light on the character of life as correlation with reference to a basic aspect of this correlation: our living relation to things. To this end, the author focuses, first, on the later Heidegger's suggestion that our proper relation to things takes shape as an enactment guided by the (...) releasement or letting-be ( Gelassenheit ) of things in their independence; and, second, on Günter Figal's recent claim that this enactment, in turn, depends on our referential relation to the exteriority or objectivity of things. The author concludes that our living relation with things may be understood best in terms of the movement or mutual interplay of these two conditions. (shrink)
In this paper I criticize the commonly accepted idea that the generalizations of the special sciences should be construed as ceteris paribus laws. This idea rests on mistaken assumptions about the role of laws in explanation and their relation to causal claims. Moreover, the major proposals in the literature for the analysis of ceteris paribus laws are, on their own terms, complete failures. I sketch a more adequate alternative account of the content of causal generalizations in the special sciences which (...) I argue should replace the ceteris paribus conception. (shrink)
Why is there something rather than nothing? Does God exist? Does time flow? What are we? Do we have free will? What is truth? Metaphysics is concerned with ourselves and reality, and the most fundamental questions regarding existence. This clear and accessible introduction covers the central topics in metaphysics in a concise but comprehensive way. Brian Garrett discusses the crucial concepts in a highly readable manner, easing the reader in with a look at some important philosophical problems. He addresses key (...) areas of metaphysics: God Existence Modality Universals and particulars Facts Paradoxes of material constitution Causation Time Free will Personal identity Truth. This second edition has been thoroughly revised. Most chapters include substantial amounts of new material, and there are additional chapters on Existence, Modality, Facts and Paradoxes of Material Constitution. _What is this thing called Metaphysics?_ contains many helpful student-friendly features. Each chapter concludes with a useful summary of the main ideas discussed, a glossary of important terms, study questions, annotated further reading, and a guide to web resources. Text boxes provide bite-sized summaries of key concepts and major philosophers, and clear and interesting examples are used throughout. (shrink)
Introduction: Doing the right thing -- Utilitarianism : Bentham and J.S. Mill -- Libertarianism -- John Locke -- Markets and morals -- Immanuel Kant -- John Rawls -- Affirmative action -- Aristotle -- Liberals and communitarians -- Conclusion: Reconnecting politics and morals.
Why might someone consider the answer to the titular question to be trivial? Perhaps because she has read some mereology and understands that mereologists distinguish between parthood on the one hand and proper parthood on the other. She understands that, at least when talking in the language of mereology, a thing is necessarily not a proper part of itself, but is necessarily a part of itself. Whether the English word “part” expresses parthood or proper parthood does not seem too (...) important, seeing as either can be taken as primitive and one defined in terms of the other. Thus, whether something is part of itself or not is indeed a trivial matter of definition. If by “part” one means parthood, everything is part of itself. If by “part” one means proper parthood, nothing is part of itself. (shrink)
Summary This essay closely examines the highly contested but widely employed historiographical category ?absolutism?. Why are scholars so divided on whether it is even legitimate to use the term and, if they agree to do so, why are they still much at odds in explaining what it is? What are the main historiographical currents in the study of absolutism? Is it the same thing to speak of absolutism in regard to the practices of early modern European monarchies and with (...) reference to the political ideas of so-called absolutist theorists? By addressing these questions through the methodology of intellectual history, this essay provides a comprehensive account of debates on absolutism and, at the same time, suggests that further work needs to be carried out on its theoretical aspects. In this respect, the author will propose a series of key ideas and principles which are meant to encapsulate the core of an early modern doctrine of absolutist monarchical sovereignty. It will also be argued that, when studying political thought, the term ?absolutism? might be abandoned in favour of the plural ?absolutisms? as a better way of understanding the past, its languages, opinions, people. In so doing, a thorough analysis of what political absolutism(s) is will be set forth, and a series of more general considerations on history-writing will also be advanced. (shrink)
The subject of personal identity has received substantial treatment in contemporary African philosophy. Importantly, the dominant approach to personal identity is communitarian. Bernard Matolino's new book Personhood in African Philosophy enters into this discussion by way of contesting some of the assumptions underlying communitarian approaches. His own critical assessment leads him to what I believe is an unprecedented objection in the literature; the conclusion that communitarian philosophers are involved in a category mistake when framing the question and articulating the notion (...) of personhood. I intend to present a brief summary of the chapters of the book and reflect on some of the main philosophical issues that the book provokes, noting what I take to be refreshing insights that Matolino brings to the discussion while also engaging critically with the ones I find most contentious. In particular, I briefly assess Matolino's implicit suggestion that an Akan inspired quasi-physicalist account of mind avoids the mind-body interaction problem; I object to the category mistake charge on behalf of communitarians; and lastly, I raise questions about, and propose ways Matolino can refine, his proposal concerning a new way of thinking about personhood, which goes under the rubric of Limited Communitarianism. (shrink)
Many philosophers have claimed that “belief aims at the truth”. But is there any interpretation of this claim on which it counts as true? According to some philosophers, the best interpretation of the claim takes it as the normative thesis that belief is subject to a truth-norm. The goal of this essay is to clarify this normative interpretation of the claim. First, the claim can be developed so that it applies to partial beliefs as well as to flat-out full beliefs. (...) Secondly, an answer is given to the objection that has been raised against the claim that belief is subject to a truth-norm of this sort by Krister Bykvist and Anandi Hattiangadi; responding to this objection will involve careful reflection on the structure of normative concepts, and of how these normative concepts apply to belief. (shrink)
This is a critical notice of Ladyman and Ross et al's Every Thing Must Go. I argue that they mischaracterise much of so-called 'analytic metaphysics', and that they could have usefully drawn upon the resources of current metaphysics in order to articulate their own views more clearly. The piece appears in a symposium which also includes contributions by Kyle Stanford and Paul Humphreys, with responses from Ladyman and Ross.
There have been two recent strands of argument arguing for the pro tanto impermissibility of fully autonomous weapon systems. On Sparrow's view, AWS are impermissible because they generate a morally problematic ‘responsibility gap’. According to Purves et al., AWS are impermissible because moral reasoning is not codifiable and because AWS are incapable of acting for the ‘right’ reasons. I contend that these arguments are flawed and that AWS are not morally problematic in principle. Specifically, I contend that these arguments presuppose (...) an incoherent conception of an AWS as somehow making genuine decisions but not being morally responsible for those very same decisions. Rather than conceiving of AWS in this way, I argue that an AWS is either a socially-constructed institution that has been physically instantiated or it is a genuine agent. If it is the former, then we should treat AWS as we do any other collective action problem. If it is the latter, then we should treat AWS as responsibility-bearers, but also as bearers of rights and/or interests. To reject this disjunction is not only conceptually incoherent but also potentially morally dangerous. (shrink)
What is this thing called ‘Commonsense Psychology’? The first matter to settle is what the issue is here. By ‘commonsense psychology,’ I mean primarily the systems of describing, explaining and predicting human thought and action in terms of beliefs, desires, hopes, fears, expectations, intentions and other so-called propositional attitudes. Although commonsense psychology encompasses more than propositional attitudes--e.g., emotions, traits and abilities are also within its purview--belief-desire reasoning forms the core of commonsense psychology. Commonsense psychology is what we use to (...) explain intentional action as ordinarily described--e.g., Jack went to the store because he wanted some ice cream. Commonsense psychology also is used to explain mental states--e.g., Jill feared that she would be late because she thought that the meeting began at 4:00. Commonsense psychology is the province of everyone; we all use it all the time. (shrink)
‘There is no such thing as a language,’ Donald Davidson tells us. Though this is a startling claim in its own right, it seems especially puzzling coming from a leading theorizer about language. Over the years, Davidson’s important essays have sparked the hope that there is a route to a positive, nonskeptical theory of meaning for natural languages. This hope would seem to be dashed if there are no natural languages. Unless Davidson’s radical claim is a departure from his (...) developed views, the Davidsonian program appears to have undermined itself.In a recent book, Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language: An Introduction, Bjorn Ramberg promises to establish that Davidson's startling claim is not an aberration. Rather, it 'emerges as a natural development of his theory of meaning'. He reads the claim that there is no such thing as a language as the claim that the concept of a language has no useful theoretical role. Like the concepts of meaning and reference, it is a 'ghost of reification' which Davidson attempts to 'exorcise' from our philosophical thinking about linguistic communication. All three concepts can be seen as mere ladders to be kicked away once the edifice of a Davidsonian theory of linguistic communication is properly erected on the sole foundation of the concept of truth. The result, he assures us, ‘is not a theory which undercuts itself, but a comprehensive, coherent account of the phenomenon of linguistic communication’. (shrink)
This paper aims at extending the notion of thing knowledge put forth by Davis Baird. His Thing Knowledge (Baird 2004) proposes that scientific instruments constitute scientific knowledge and that to conceive scientific instruments as such brings about a new and better understanding of scientific development. By insisting on what “truth does for us,” Baird shows that the functional properties of truth are shared by the common scientific instrument. The traditional definition of knowledge as justified true belief would only (...) apply to scientific instrumentation if we were to reject the subjective (and intentional) aspect of it, viz. belief. In consequence, Baird insists that scientific instruments can be seen only as a kind of objective knowledge, that is knowledge maintained by the scientific community but not individually by a given scientist. In this paper, I will argue for a conception of subjective thing knowledge according to which some scientific instruments (especially material models) can be understood as justified true beliefs. By combining Davis Baird’s thing knowledge and Clark and Chalmers’ hypothesis of extended cognition, I will show that it is possible to derive an analysis of material models as cognitive augmentation of the scientist's mind, and that such scientific instruments are to be understood as a material form of subjective knowledge, i.e. as external-to-the-brain justified true beliefs. (shrink)
The ontological theory of the later Franz Brentano is often referred to as ‘reism.’ But what exactly is reism, and how is it related to modern-day nominalism? In this paper, I offer an interpretation of Brentano’s reism as a specific variety of nominalism. This variety, although motivated by distinctly modern concerns about truthmakers, adopts a strategy for providing such truthmakers that is completely foreign to modern nominalism. The strategy rests on proliferation of coincident concrete particulars. For example, ‘Socrates is wise’ (...) and ‘Socrates is Greek’ are made true, respectively, by wise-Socrates and Greek-Socrates, where wise-Socrates and Greek-Socrates are two coinciding but numerically distinct concrete particulars (which also coincide with Socrates). (shrink)
The four kinds of explanation identified by Aquinas at the beginning of his commentary on Aristotle's Ethics are deployed to show that the identity of the human person is sui generis and mysterious, even though each of its elements is more or less readily accessible to our understanding. The essay attends particularly to the explorations by Aquinas and, with different techniques, by Shakespeare of the experience and understanding of one's lasting presence to oneself as one and the same bodily and (...) mental self, and one's self-shaping by one's free choices, especially of commitments. Shakespeare further explores these, quite deliberately, through displays of mistaken identity and humiliating deflations of the personas one constructs for life in society. (shrink)
I address the problem of reconciling environmental holism with the intrinsic value of individual beings. Drawing upon Madhyamaka Buddhism, the later philosophy of Martin Heidegger, and deep ecology, I present a distinctly holistic conception of nature that, nevertheless, retains a commitment to the intrinsic worth of individual beings. I conclude with an examination of the practical implications of this “thing-centered holism” for environmental ethics.
Philosophy of language explores some of the fundamental yet most technical problems in philosophy, such as meaning and reference, semantics, and propositional attitudes. Some of its greatest exponents, including Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell are amongst the major figures in the history of philosophy. In this clear and carefully structured introduction to the subject Gary Kemp explains the following key topics: the basic nature of philosophy of language and its historical development early arguments concerning the role of meaning, (...) including cognitive meaning vs expressivism, context and compositionality Frege’s arguments concerning sense and reference; non-existent objects Russell and the theory of definite descriptions modern theories including Kripke and Putnam; arguments concerning necessity, analyticity and natural kind terms indexicality, context and modality. What are indexicals? Davidson’s theory of language and the ‘principle of charity’ propositional attitudes Quine’s naturalism and its consequences for philosophy of language. Chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary make this an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of language and will be particularly useful for students coming to the subject for the first time. (shrink)
Topography or topology is a mode of philosophical thinking that combines elements of transcendental and hermeneutic approaches. It is anti-reductionist and relationalist in its ontology, and draws heavily, if sometimes indirectly, on ideas of situation, locality, and place. Such a topography or topology is present in Heidegger and, though less explicitly, in Hegel. It is also evident in many other recent and contemporary post-Kantian thinkers in addition to Kant himself. A key idea within such a topography or topology is that (...) of triangulation—an idea that appears explicitly in the work of Donald Davidson. Triangulation captures the idea of the topographical domain as constituted through the mutual relatedness of the elements within it, and as only to be understood through the mapping out of such relatedness—in the case of the topographical domain that is the world, through the relatedness of self, other, and thing. (shrink)