This chapter explores some fundamental consequences of the correspondence between physical process and computations. Most physical questions may be answerable only through irreducible amounts of computation. Those that concern idealized limits of infinite time, volume, or numerical precision can require arbitrarily long computations, and so be considered formally undecidable. The behavior of a physical system may always be calculated by simulating explicitly each step in its evolution. Much of theoretical physics has, however, been concerned with devising shorter methods of calculation (...) that reproduce the outcome without tracing each step. Computational irreducibility is common among the systems investigated in mathematics and computation theory, but it may well be the exception rather than the rule, since most physical questions may be answerable only through irreducible amounts of computation. (shrink)
Leading linguists and philosophers report on all aspects of compositionality, the notion that the meaning of an expression can be derived from its parts. This book explores every dimension of this field, reporting critically on different lines of research, revealing connections between them, and highlighting current problems and opportunities.
The view that proper names are uniformly predicates has recently gained prominence. I review linguistic evidence against it. Overall, the linguistic evidence suggests that proper names function as predicates when they appear in a grammatically predicative position and as referential expressions when they are grammatically in a referential position. Conceptual grounds on which the predicativist view might nonetheless be upheld include ‘uniformity’, i.e., that a single semantic value be lexically specified for names in all of their occurrences irrespective of differences (...) in their grammar. However, ‘being a predicate’ or ‘being referential’ are not lexical properties of words but indications for how these grammatically function on an occasion of their use. Moreover, the intuitively referential and intuitively predicative uses of proper names precisely covary with grammatical differences. A proper name is therefore a predicate when it is predicatively used, not when its grammar and meaning are different. Given this grammar-meaning alignment there is no motivation to posit a novel ‘covert syntax’ for names in their referential uses, which breaks this alignment. Cross-linguistic evidence from languages such as Catalan, which features overt determiners in referential uses of proper names, moreover turns out to strongly support the view that the grammar of human language is systematically sensitive to differences in the referential and predicative uses of names. (shrink)
A traditional view maintains that thought, while expressed in language, is non-linguistic in nature and occurs in non-linguistic beings as well. I assess this view against current theories of the evolutionary design of human grammar. I argue that even if some forms of human thought are shared with non-human animals, a residue remains that characterizes a unique way in which human thought is organized as a system. I explore the hypothesis that the cause of this difference is a grammatical way (...) of structuring semantic information, and I present evidence that the organization of grammar precisely reflects the organization of a specific mode of thought apparently distinctive of humans. Since there appears to be no known non-grammatical structuring principle for the relevant mode of thought, I suggest that grammar is that principle, with no independent ?Language of Thought? needed. (shrink)
Internalism is an explanatory strategy that makes the internal structure and constitution of the organism a basis for the investigation of its external function and the ways in which it is embedded in an environment. It is opposed to an externalist explanatory strategy, which takes its departure from observations about external function and mind-environment interactions, and infers and rationalizes internal organismic structure from that. This paper addresses the origins of truth, a basic ingredient in the human conceptual scheme. I suggest (...) the necessity of pursuing an internalist line of explanation for it, as adopted in the biolinguistic program and generative grammar at large. According to this view, the concept of truth is a presupposition for the way language is used in relation to the world, rather than a function of that use or a consequence of language-world relations. (shrink)
A defining assumption in the debate on contextual influences on truth-conditional content is that such content is often incompletely determined by what is specified in linguistic form. The debate then turns on whether this is evidence for positing a more richly articulated logical form or else a pragmatic process of free enrichment that posits truly unarticulated constituents that are unspecified in linguistic form. Questioning this focus on semantics and pragmatics, this article focuses on the independent grammatical dimensions of the problem. (...) Against the background of a principled account of the different ways in which the lexicon and the grammar, respectively, determine aspects of propositional meaning, and an uncontentious notion of content, nothing turns out to be ‘missing’ in grammatical expressions in order for them to encode complete propositional thoughts. As this predicts, when putatively hidden constituents are made overt or are otherwise added, propositions result that are systematically different from the thoughts originally expressed. Context, while potentially affecting lexically specified aspects of meaning, never affects grammar-determined ones, suggesting a specific role for grammar in the normal cognitive mode. (shrink)
Mind–body dualism has rarely been an issue in the generative study of mind; Chomsky himself has long claimed it to be incoherent and unformulable. We first present and defend this negative argument but then suggest that the generative enterprise may license a rather novel and internalist view of the mind and its place in nature, different from all of, (i) the commonly assumed functionalist metaphysics of generative linguistics, (ii) physicalism, and (iii) Chomsky’s negative stance. Our argument departs from the empirical (...) observation that the linguistic mind gives rise to hierarchies of semantic complexity that we argue (only) follow from constraints of an essentially mathematical kind. We assume that the faculty of language tightly correlates with the mathematical capacity both formally and in evolution, the latter plausibly arising as an abstraction from the former, as a kind of specialized output. On this basis, and since the semantic hierarchies in question are mirrored in the syntactic complexity of the expression involved, we posit the existence of a higher-dimensional syntax structured on the model of the hierarchy of numbers, in order to explain the semantic facts in question. If so, syntax does not have a physicalist interpretation any more than the hierarchy of number-theoretic spaces does. (shrink)
I argue that the implementation of theDummettian program of an ``anti-realist'' semanticsrequires quite different conceptions of the technicalmeaning-theoretic terms used than those presupposed byDummett. Starting from obvious incoherences in anattempt to conceive truth conditions as assertibilityconditions, I argue that for anti-realist purposesnon-epistemic semantic notions are more usefully kept apart from epistemic ones rather than beingreduced to them. Embedding an anti-realist theory ofmeaning in Martin-Löf's Intuitionistic Type Theory(ITT) takes care, however, of many notorious problemsthat have arisen in trying to specify suitableintuitionistic (...) notions of semantic value,truth-conditions, and validity, taking into accountthe so-called ``defeasibility of evidence'' forassertions in empirical discourses. (shrink)
“Ethical life” is Hegel’s term for the actuality of what Kant calls an “ethical community.” As members of the same ethical community, human beings are related to one another as persons in and only in acting from nothing but respect for the same practical law. Kant and Hegel both take ethical life to be a necessary, nay, the highest, end of pure reason. I argue that this is correct. And I identify the idea of ethical life with the idea of (...) a peculiar form of love. Kant and Hegel disagree—in a curiously reciprocal fashion—about the reach of ethical life and about our capacity to know it to reside within our power: while Kant identifies ethical life with the actuality of the ethical community of all possible human beings, Hegel holds that it is necessarily limited to some particular body politic; and while Hegel thinks that to be a human being is to self-knowingly co-constitute an ethical community, Kant believes that it is to be unable to know oneself to even be apt for this. With Hegel and against Kant, I argue that the only way to have the idea of ethical life is to live it. But with Kant and against a naïve form of Hegelianism, I argue that to be conscious of oneself as a human being, a practically rational animal, is to be conscious of oneself as morally evil, i.e. as actively prone to deeming one’s own particularity the supreme law. I show that this entails Hegelian particularism. And I end by noting that this saddles the Hegelian with the task of demonstrating that ethical particularization belongs to the very idea of pure reason itself, objectively conceived. (shrink)
Recent literature describing the process and pathways of the agrarian transition in Southeast Asia suggests that the rise of agricultural intensification and the growth of commodity markets will lead to the demise of swidden agriculture. This paper offers a longitudinal overview of the conditions that drive the agrarian transition amongst indigenous swidden cultivators and migrant paddy farmers in central Palawan Island, the Philippines. In line with regional agrarian change, we describe how a history of conservation policies has criminalized and pressured (...) swidden farmers to adopt more intensive “modern” agricultural practices. We examine how indigenous swidden cultivators adjust their practice in response to recent changes in policies, security of harvests, and socio-cultural values vis-à-vis intensification. Rather than suggest that this transition will lead to the demise of swidden, results reveal that farmers instead negotiate a shifting ground in which they lean on and value swidden as a means of negotiating agrarian change. (shrink)
As world food and fuel prices threaten expanding urban populations, there is greater need for the urban poor to have access and claims over how and where food is produced and distributed. This is especially the case in marginalized urban settings where high proportions of the population are food insecure. The global movement for food sovereignty has been one attempt to reclaim rights and participation in the food system and challenge corporate food regimes. However, given its origins from the peasant (...) farmers' movement, La Via Campesina, food sovereignty is often considered a rural issue when increasingly its demands for fair food systems are urban in nature. Through interviews with scholars, urban food activists, non-governmental and grassroots organizations in Oakland and New Orleans in the United States of America, we examine the extent to which food sovereignty has become embedded as a concept, strategy and practice. We consider food sovereignty alongside other dominant US social movements such as food justice, and find that while many organizations do not use the language of food sovereignty explicitly, the motives behind urban food activism are similar across movements as local actors draw on elements of each in practice. Overall, however, because of the different histories, geographic contexts, and relations to state and capital, food justice and food sovereignty differ as strategies and approaches. We conclude that the US urban food sovereignty movement is limited by neoliberal structural contexts that dampen its approach and radical framework. Similarly, we see restrictions on urban food justice movements that are also operating within a broader framework of market neoliberalism. However, we find that food justice was reported as an approach more aligned with the socio-historical context in both cities, due to its origins in broader class and race struggles. (shrink)
Carnap took the content of a particular sentence or set of sentences to consist in the set of the consequences of the sentence or set. This claim equates meaning with inferential role, but it restricts the inferences to deductive or explicative ones. Here I reject a recent proposal by Robert Brandom, where inductive or ampliative inferences are also meant to confer contents on expressions. I argue that if Brandom's inferentialist picture is upheld, and both explicative and ampliative inferences confer meaning, (...) one consequence of this is that the content of a sentence is to be read off from our ways of rationally altering our beliefs. Meaning and content then are largely concepts of pragmatics, with no clear theoretical interest. My critique affects certain aspects of Dummett's meaning-theoretic picture too, and the discussion also links up with the development of 'dynamic semantics'. (shrink)
Contemporary arguments for forms of psycho-physical dualism standardly depart from phenomenal aspects of consciousness. Conceptual aspects of conscious experience, as opposed to phenomenal or visual/perceptual ones, are often taken to be within the scope of functionalist, reductionist, or physicalist theories. I argue that the particular conceptual structure of human consciousness makes this asymmetry unmotivated. The argument for a form of dualism defended here proceeds from the empirical premise that conceptual structure in a linguistic creature like us is a combinatorial and (...) compositional system that implicates a distinction between simple and complex, or 'atomic' and 'molecular' concepts. The argument is that conceptual atoms, qua atoms, are irreducible to anything else. If so, and if the atoms are essentially semantic, a form of dualism follows: though positively inviting naturalistic inquiry into the semantic and mental aspects of nature, it requires that we look at the mental as a primitive domain of nature. Schematically, then, the argument is as follows: Human consciousness/thought is conceptually structured. The human conceptual system is a 'particulate' system at a syntactic and semantic level of representation. This implies the existence of conceptual 'particles', concepts that have no further semantic decomposition. A conceptual atom cannot be explained in terms of anything that does not involve its own intrinsic properties. Physicalism as normally conceived is inconsistent with and. (shrink)
Peer review is a widely accepted instrument for raising the quality of science. Peer review limits the enormous unstructured influx of information and the sheer amount of dubious data, which in its absence would plunge science into chaos. In particular, peer review offers the benefit of eliminating papers that suffer from poor craftsmanship or methodological shortcomings, especially in the experimental sciences. However, we believe that peer review is not always appropriate for the evaluation of controversial hypothetical science. We argue that (...) the process of peer review can be prone to bias towards ideas that affirm the prior convictions of reviewers and against innovation and radical new ideas. Innovative hypotheses are thus highly vulnerable to being “filtered out” or made to accord with conventional wisdom by the peer review process. Consequently, having introduced peer review, the Elsevier journal Medical Hypotheses may be unable to continue its tradition as a radical journal allowing discussion of improbable or unconventional ideas. Hence we conclude by asking the publisher to consider re-introducing the system of editorial review to Medical Hypotheses. (shrink)
Oskar Becker , Schüler von Edmund Husserl und Martin Heidegger, ist einer der bedeutendsten philosophischen Köpfe, die die phänomenologische Schule im 20. Jahrhundert hervorgebracht hat. Dennoch handelt es sich um eine ambivalente Persönlichkeit, wie es seine nationalsozialistischen Schriften von 1935 bis 1943 bezeugen. Die Studie geht detailliert den Zusammenhängen nach, die zwischen dem seriösen Werk Beckers und seinen Verirrungen in den dreißiger und vierziger Jahren bestehen.