Truth-talk exhibits certain features that render it philosophically suspect and motivate a deflationary account. I offer a new formulation of deflationism that explains truth-talk in terms of semantic pretense. This amounts to a fictionalist account of truth-talk but avoids an error-theoretic interpretation and its resulting incoherence. The pretense analysis fits especially well with deflationism’s central commitment, and it handles truth-talk’s unusual features effectively. In particular, this approach suggests an interesting strategy for dealing with the Liar paradox. This version of deflationism (...) has advantages over the formulations currently available in the literature, mainly because it offers a more satisfying account of the generalizing role deflationary views take as truth-talk’s central function. Explaining the notion of truth in terms of pretense generates some special concerns, but none we cannot address through careful consideration of how pretense operates in truth-talk and of the attitudes instances of pretending involve. (shrink)
Ad hominem arguments are generally dismissed on the grounds that they are not attempts to engage in rational discourse, but are rather aimed at undermining argument by diverting attention from claims made to assessments of character of persons making claims. The manner of this dismissal however is based upon an unlikely paradigm of rationality: it is based upon the presumption that our intellectual capacities are not as limited as in fact they are, and do not vary as much as they (...) do between rational people. When we understand rationality in terms of intellectual virtues, however, which recognize these limitations and provide for the complexity of our thinking, ad hominem considerations can sometimes be relevant to assessing arguments. (shrink)
In Vagueness and Contradiction (2001), Roy Sorensen defends and extends his epistemic account of vagueness. In the process, he appeals to connections between vagueness and semantic paradox. These appeals come mainly in Chapter 11, where Sorensen offers a solution to what he calls the no-no paradox—a “neglected cousin” of the more famous liar—and attempts to use this solution as a precedent for an epistemic account of the sorites paradox. This strategy is problematic for Sorensen’s project, however, since, as we establish, (...) he fails to resolve the semantic pathology of the no-no paradox. (shrink)
Using path-breaking discoveries of cognitive science, Mark Johnson argues that humans are fundamentally imaginative moral animals, challenging the view that morality is simply a system of universal laws dictated by reason. According to the Western moral tradition, we make ethical decisions by applying universal laws to concrete situations. But Johnson shows how research in cognitive science undermines this view and reveals that imagination has an essential role in ethical deliberation. Expanding his innovative studies of human reason in Metaphors (...) We Live By and The Body in the Mind, Johnson provides the tools for more practical, realistic, and constructive moral reflection. (shrink)
In this book, Bradley Armour-Garb and James A. Woodbridge distinguish various species of fictionalism, locating and defending their own version of philosophical fictionalism. Addressing semantic and philosophical puzzles that arise from ordinary language, they consider such issues as the problem of non-being, plural identity claims, mental-attitude ascriptions, meaning attributions, and truth-talk. They consider 'deflationism about truth', explaining why deflationists should be fictionalists, and show how their philosophical fictionalist account of truth-talk underwrites a dissolution of the Liar Paradox and its (...) kin. They further explore the semantic notions of reference and predicate-satisfaction, showing how philosophical fictionalism can also resolve puzzles that these notions appear to present. Their critical examination of fictionalist approaches in philosophy, together with the development and application of their own brand of philosophical fictionalism, will be of great interest to scholars and upper-level students of philosophy of language, metaphysics, philosophical logic, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and linguistics. (shrink)
Monte Johnson examines one of the most controversial aspects of Aristiotle's natural philosophy: his teleology. Is teleology about causation or explanation? Does it exclude or obviate mechanism, determinism, or materialism? Is it focused on the good of individual organisms, or is god or man the ultimate end of all processes and entities? Is teleology restricted to living things, or does it apply to the cosmos as a whole? Does it identify objectively existent causes in the world, or is it (...) merely a heuristic for our understanding of other causal processes? Johnson argues that Aristotle's aporetic approach drives a middle course between these traditional oppositions, and avoids the dilemma, frequently urged against teleology, between backwards causation and anthropomorphism. Although these issues have been debated with extraordinary depth by Aristotle scholars, and touched upon by many in the wider philosophical and scientific community as well, there has been no comprehensive historical treatment of the issue. Aristotle is commonly considered the inventor of teleology, although the precise term originated in the eighteenth century. But if teleology means the use of ends and goals in natural science, then Aristotle was rather a critical innovator of teleological explanation. Teleological notions were widespread among his predecessors, but Aristotle rejected their conception of extrinsic causes such as mind or god as the primary causes for natural things. Aristotle's radical alternative was to assert nature itself as an internal principle of change and an end, and his teleological explanations focus on the intrinsic ends of natural substances - those ends that benefit the natural thing itself. Aristotle's use of ends was subsequently conflated with incompatible 'teleological' notions, including proofs for the existence of a providential or designer god, vitalism and animism, opposition to mechanism and non-teleological causation, and anthropocentrism. Johnson addresses these misconceptions through an elaboration of Aristotle's methodological statements, as well as an examination of the explanations actually offered in the scientific works. Reviewed in: Notre Dame Philosophical Review 2006.06.15; Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.37; Il-Sole – 24 Ore 6 Aug. 2006; Philosophy in Review 26 (2006): 360-2; Rhizai 3 (2006): 171-8; Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (2007): 323-4; Ancient Philosophy 27 (2007): 191-200; Phronesis 52 (2007): 248-9; Isis 98 (2007): 375; Aestimatio 4 (2007) 146-152; The British Journal for the History of Science 41 (2008): 129-130. The European Legacy 14 (2009); La Cultura 47 (2009): 174-175; Sean M. Row, Teleology in Political Contexts: an assessment of Monte Ransome Johnson’s “Aristotle on Teleology”. (A thesis presented to the faculty of the college of arts and sciences of Ohio University, 2009.). (shrink)
"There are books—few and far between—which carefully, delightfully, and genuinely turn your head inside out. This is one of them. It ranges over some central issues in Western philosophy and begins the long overdue job of giving us a radically new account of meaning, rationality, and objectivity."—Yaakov Garb, _San Francisco Chronicle_.
In _The Meaning of the Body_, Mark Johnson continues his pioneering work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic _Metaphors We Live By_. Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed. From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning—including images, qualities, emotions, (...) and metaphors—that are all rooted in the body’s physical encounters with the world. Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic. He concludes that the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and that studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking meaning's bodily sources. Throughout, Johnson puts forth a bold new conception of the mind rooted in the understanding that philosophy will matter to nonphilosophers only if it is built on a visceral connection to the world. “Mark Johnson demonstrates that the aesthetic and emotional aspects of meaning are fundamental—central to conceptual meaning and reason, and that the arts show meaning-making in its fullest realization. If you were raised with the idea that art and emotion were external to ideas and reason, you must read this book. It grounds philosophy in our most visceral experience.”—George Lakoff, author of _Moral Politics_. (shrink)
Stephen Read has presented an argument for the inconsistency of the concept of validity. We extend Read's results and show that this inconsistency is but one half of a larger problem. Like the concept of truth, validity is infected with what we call "semantic pathology," a condition that actually gives rise to two symptoms: inconsistency and indeterminacy. After sketching the basic ideas behind semantic pathology and explaining how it manifests both symptoms in the concept of truth, we present cases that (...) establish the indeterminacy of validity and that link this indeterminacy with the concept's inconsistency. Our conclusion is that an adequate treatment of the semantic pathology thus revealed must deal with both of its symptoms. Further, it must extend to the occurrences of this condition elsewhere: in the concept of truth, in the other central semantic notions, and even in certain philosophical concepts outside semantics. (shrink)
Good reasoning can lead to success; bad reasoning can lead to catastrophe. Yet, it's not obvious how we reason, and why we make mistakes. This new book by one of the pioneers of the field, Philip Johnson-Laird, looks at the mental processes that underlie our reasoning. It provides the most accessible account yet of the science of reasoning.
In this paper, we set out what we see as a novel, and very promising, approach to resolving a number of the familiar linguistic puzzles that provide philosophy of language with much of its subject matter. The approach we promote postulates semantic pretense at work where these puzzles arise. We begin by briefly cataloging the relevant dilemmas. Then, after introducing the pretense approach, we indicate how it promises to handle these putatively intractable problems. We then consider a number of objections (...) to pretense views, taking this as an opportunity to provide more detailed explanation of what a pretense account amounts to, what the pretense approach commits us to, and why it is a promising approach in philosophy of language. (shrink)
Is experiential evidence irrelevant to acceptance or rejection of belief in the existence of a Divine Being? Charles Hartshorne answers that it is indeed irrelevant, and this answer has an initial and, for me, continuing surprising ring to it. Specifically, Hartshorne makes two distinguishable claims: the traditional allegedly a posteriori arguments, the teleological and cosmological, are in fact incompatible with empiricist methodology and are disguised ontological arguments; the conception of God as necessary being demands that belief in such a being's (...) existence or non-existence in no way depend upon empirical evidence. On the contrary, I shall argue, first, that empirical evidence for God is truly empirical and second, that there is no incompatibility between empirical evidence and necessary existence. My argument will involve an attempt to understand and clarify somewhat the very difficult concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘necessity’ as they arise in the context of religious epistemology. I wish to make clear at the outset that my aim is not to eliminate ontological arguments for God in favour of empirical arguments, for I believe that Hartshorne's work on the modal ontological argument contributes substantially to providing grounds for reasonable belief in theism. Rather, my purpose is to show that ontological and empirical patterns of theistic argumentation are neither incompatible with each other nor reducible to each other. (shrink)
It is our contention that an ontological commitment to propositions faces a number of problems; so many, in fact, that an attitude of realism towards propositions—understood the usual “platonistic” way, as a kind of mind- and language-independent abstract entity—is ultimately untenable. The particular worries about propositions that marshal parallel problems that Paul Benacerraf has raised for mathematical platonists. At the same time, the utility of “proposition-talk”—indeed, the apparent linguistic commitment evident in our use of 'that'-clauses (in offering explanations and making (...) predictions)—is also in need of explanation. We account for this with a fictionalist analysis of our use of 'that'-clauses. Our account avoids certain problems that arise for the usual error-theoretic versions of fictionalism because we apply the notion of semantic pretense to develop an alternative, pretense-involving, non-error-theoretic, fictionalist account of proposition-talk. (shrink)
Our linguistic and inferential practices are said to implicate a kind of abstract object playing various roles traditionally attributed to propositions, and our predictive and explanatory success with this ‘‘proposition-talk’’ is held to underwrite a realistic interpretation of it. However, these very same practices pull us in different directions regarding the nature of propositions, frustrating the development of an adequate unified theory of them. I explain how one could retain proposition-talk, and the advantages of interpreting it as being purportedly about (...) propositions, even if problems about the identity conditions for propositions motivated a Quinean rejection of them. The non-error-theoretic solution is to understand proposition-talk in terms of semantic pretense. On this approach, talking as if there were propositions lets us put readily available logical and linguistic devices to new expressive purposes, providing a way to make indirectly certain complicated, genuinely true assertions we cannot make directly. Proposition-talk thus extends the expressive capacity of a language in a logico-syntactically conservative way. (shrink)
As inductive decision-making procedures, the inferences made by machine learning programs are subject to underdetermination by evidence and bear inductive risk. One strategy for overcoming these challenges is guided by a presumption in philosophy of science that inductive inferences can and should be value-free. Applied to machine learning programs, the strategy assumes that the influence of values is restricted to data and decision outcomes, thereby omitting internal value-laden design choice points. In this paper, I apply arguments from feminist philosophy of (...) science to machine learning programs to make the case that the resources required to respond to these inductive challenges render critical aspects of their design constitutively value-laden. I demonstrate these points specifically in the case of recidivism algorithms, arguing that contemporary debates concerning fairness in criminal justice risk-assessment programs are best understood as iterations of traditional arguments from inductive risk and demarcation, and thereby establish the value-laden nature of automated decision-making programs. Finally, in light of these points, I address opportunities for relocating the value-free ideal in machine learning and the limitations that accompany them. (shrink)
What is the difference between right and wrong? This is no easy question to answer, yet we constantly try to make it so, frequently appealing to some hidden cache of cut-and-dried absolutes, whether drawn from God, universal reason, or societal authority. Combining cognitive science with a pragmatist philosophical framework in Morality for Humans: Ethical Understanding from the Perspective of Cognitive Science, Mark Johnson argues that appealing solely to absolute principles and values is not only scientifically unsound but even morally (...) suspect. He shows that the standards for the kinds of people we should be and how we should treat one another—which we often think of as universal—are in fact frequently subject to change. And we should be okay with that. Taking context into consideration, he offers a remarkably nuanced, naturalistic view of ethics that sees us creatively adapt our standards according to given needs, emerging problems, and social interactions. Ethical naturalism is not just a revamped form of relativism. Indeed, Johnson attempts to overcome the absolutist-versus-relativist impasse that has been one of the most intractable problems in the history of philosophy. He does so through a careful and inclusive look at the many ways we reason about right and wrong. Much of our moral thought, he shows, is automatic and intuitive, gut feelings that we follow up and attempt to justify with rational analysis and argument. However, good moral deliberation is not limited merely to intuitive judgments supported after the fact by reasoning. Johnson points out a crucial third element: we imagine how our decisions will play out, how we or the world would change with each action we might take. Plumbing this imaginative dimension of moral reasoning, he provides a psychologically sophisticated view of moral problem solving, one perfectly suited for the embodied, culturally embedded, and ever-developing human creatures that we are. (shrink)
Over the past 25 years, Graham Priest has ably presented and defended dialetheism, the view that certain sentences are properly characterized as true with true negations. Our goal here is neither to quibble with the tenability of true, assertable contradictions nor, really, with the arguments for dialetheism. Rather, we wish to address the dialetheist's treatment of cases of semantic pathology and to pose a worry for dialetheism that has not been adequately considered. The problem that we present seems to have (...) broader bite, afflicting both consistent and inconsistent proposals for resolving semantic pathology. Thus, while our primary goal is to uncover some important connections between dialetheism, semantic pathology, and other, more general issues, the problem that we pose might be a worry for anyone who aims to resolve semantic pathology - consistently or not. (shrink)
Inspired by Stephen J. Gould’s NOMA thesis, it is commonly maintained among academic theists that religion and science are not in conflict. This essay will argue, by analogy, that science and religion undeniably are in conflict. It will begin by quickly defining religion and science and then present multiple examples that are unquestionable instances of unscientific reasoning and beliefs and show how they precisely parallel common mainstream orthodox religious reasoning and doctrines. It will then consider objections. In essence, this article (...) will show that religion and science conflict when religion encroaches into the scientific domain. But in closing, it will show that they might also conflict when science encroaches into domains traditionally reserved for religion. (shrink)
We argue that if Stephen Yablo (2005) is right that philosophers of mathematics ought to endorse a fictionalist view of number-talk, then there is a compelling reason for deflationists about truth to endorse a fictionalist view of truth-talk. More specifically, our claim will be that, for deflationists about truth, Yablo’s argument for mathematical fictionalism can be employed and mounted as an argument for truth-theoretic fictionalism.
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