Philosophers and linguists alike tend to call a semantic theory 'Russellian' just in case it assigns to sentences in which definite descriptions occur the truth-conditions Russell did in 'On Denoting'. This is unfortunate; not all aspects of those particular truth-conditions do explanatory work in Russell's writings. As far as the semantics of descriptions is concerned, the key insights of 'On Denoting' are that definite descriptions are not uniformly referring expressions, and that they are scope-bearing elements. Anyone who accepts these two (...) claims can account for Russell's puzzle cases the way he did. Russell had no substantive argument for the claim that 'The F is G' entails 'There is at most one F'; in fact, he had important misgivings about it. I outline an argument against this claim, and I argue that by holding on to uniqueness contemporary semanticists make a momentous mistake: they keep the illusion alive that there is a way to account for linguistic meaning without addressing what linguistic expressions are for. (shrink)
A theory of magnitudes involves criteria for their equivalence, comparison and addition. In this article we examine these aspects from an abstract viewpoint, by focusing on the so-called De Zolt’s postulate in the theory of equivalence of plane polygons. We formulate an abstract version of this postulate and derive it from some selected principles for magnitudes. We also formulate and derive an abstract version of Euclid’s Common Notion 5, and analyze its logical relation to the former proposition. These results prove (...) to be relevant for the clarification of some key conceptual aspects of Hilbert’s proof of De Zolt’s postulate, in his classical Foundations of Geometry. Furthermore, our abstract treatment of this central proposition provides interesting insights for the development of a well-behaved theory of compatible magnitudes. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the theory of area developed by Euclid in the Elements and its modern reinterpretation in Hilbert’s influential monograph Foundations of Geometry. Particular attention is bestowed upon the role that two specific principles play in these theories, namely the famous common notion 5 and the geometrical proposition known as De Zolt’s postulate. On the one hand, we argue that an adequate elucidation of how these two principles are conceptually related in the theories of Euclid and Hilbert is highly (...) relevant for a better understanding of the respective geometrical practices. On the other hand, we claim that these conceptual relations unveil interesting issues between the two main contemporary approaches to the study of area of plane rectilinear figures, i.e., the geometrical approach consisting in the geometrical theory of equivalence and the metrical approach based on the notion of measure of area. Finally, in an appendix logical relations among equivalence, comparison and addition of magnitudes are examined schematically in an abstract setting. (shrink)
A theory of magnitudes involves criteria for their comparison, equivalence and addition. We examine these aspects from an abstract viewpoint, stressing independence and definability. These considerations are triggered by the so-called De Zolt’s principle in the theory of equivalence of plane polygons.
Problems of Compositionality is a revised version of Zolt´an Szab´o’s 1995 doctoral dissertation. Of its five chapters, three have appeared (in heavily modified form) in print independently1, so I will concentrate most of my remarks on the second and third chapters, which remain unpublished outside the book. As it happens, I find these two chapters to be the most philosophically rewarding of the book. The principle of compositionality is a general constraint on the shape of a theory of meaning. Szab´o (...) gives the following initial formulation of the principle: The meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meanings of its constituents and by its structure. (3) Recent discussion of compositionality branches in a number of different directions, including (at least) disputes over the precise formulation of the principle, investigations of the mathematical features of various such formulations, exploration of a plethora of apparent counterexamples to the compositionality of natural languages, scholarly work on the history of the principle (especially its role in Frege), and employment of the principle as a tool in other philosophical disputes. Szab´o’s path through this thicket begins, in the first chapter, with a defense of an idiosyncratic version of the compositionality principle against some more traditional alternatives, proceeds in the second and third chapters to the oft-neglected and philosophically crucial task of asking why the principle of compositionality ought to be one we seek to impose, and concludes in the fourth and fifth chapters by considering and rejecting two putative counterexamples (manifesting in the semantics of adjectives and of definite descriptions) to the principle. The principle of compositionality is most commonly given a functional implementation – a language L is compositional iff the meaning of a complex expression α of L is a function of the meanings of the parts of α and the syntactic structure of α. Equivalently, L is compositional iff synonyms can be intersubstituted salva significa- tio in complex expressions of L.2 Szab´o, however, rejects the functional/substitutional.... (shrink)
At the last meeting, Tim Crane gave a talk in which he made play with a distinction between ‘believing in’ and ‘believing that’. And he claimed that this distinction could be put to serious philosophical work of interest to serious metaphysicians. My hunch at the time was that this distinction in fact can’t bear any real weight. But I can’t now reconstruct Tim’s own arguments sufficiently to give a fair evaluation of them. However, Tim did say that the distinction he (...) wanted to draw, and at least some of the work to which he wanted to put the distinction, was grounded in a paper on ‘Believing in Things’ by Zolt´ an Szab´ o. So in this talk, I’ll see what we can get out of that paper. And, as far as I can recall Tim’s paper, I think it is fair to say the following. If Szab´. (shrink)
The problem of imaginative resistance holds interest for aestheticians, literary theorists, ethicists, philosophers of mind, and epistemologists. We present a somewhat opinionated overview of the philosophical discussion to date. We begin by introducing the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. We then review existing responses to the problem, giving special attention to recent research directions. Finally, we consider the philosophical significance that imaginative resistance has—or, at least, is alleged to have—for issues in moral psychology, theories of cognitive architecture, and modal epistemology.
Knowledge ascriptions seem context sensitive. Yet it is widely thought that epistemic contextualism does not have a plausible semantic implementation. We aim to overcome this concern by articulating and defending an explicit contextualist semantics for ‘know,’ which integrates a fairly orthodox contextualist conception of knowledge as the elimination of the relevant alternatives, with a fairly orthodox “Amherst” semantics for A-quantification over a contextually variable domain of situations. Whatever problems epistemic contextualism might face, lack of an orthodox semantic implementation is not (...) among them. (shrink)
Gendler reformulated the so-called imaginability puzzle in terms of authorial breakdown. The main idea behind this move was to isolate the essential features displayed by the alleged problematic cases and to specify a puzzle general enough to be applied to a variety of different types of imaginative resistance. I offer various criticisms of Gendler’s approach to imaginative resistance that also raise some more general points on the recent literature on the topic.
The “paradox of fictional emotions” involves a trio of claims that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible. Resolution of the paradox thus requires that we deny at least one of these plausible claims. The paradox has been formulated in various ways, but for the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the following three claims, which we will refer to respectively as the Response Condition, the Belief Condition and the Coordination Condition.
The Human Animal is an extended defense of what its author calls the Biological Approach to personal identity: that you and I are human animals, and that the identity conditions under which we endure are those which apply to us as biological organisms. The somewhat surprising corollary of this view is that no sort of psychological continuity is either necessary or sufficient for a human animal—and thus for us—to persist through time. In challenging the hegemony of Psychological Approaches to personal (...) identity, Olson offers a number of inventive and original arguments which are certain to evoke discussion and debate. (shrink)
The capacity to represent things to ourselves as possible plays a crucial role both in everyday thinking and in philosophical reasoning; this volume offers much-needed philosophical illumination of conceivability, possibility, and the relations between them.
To imagine is to form a mental representation that does not aim at things as they actually, presently, and subjectively are. One can use imagination to represent possibilities other than the actual, to represent times other than the present, and to represent perspectives other than one’s own. Unlike perceiving and believing, imagining something does not require one to consider that something to be the case. Unlike desiring or anticipating, imagining something does not require one to wish or expect that something (...) to be the case. // -/- Imagination is involved in a wide variety of human activities, and has been explored from a wide range of philosophical perspectives. Philosophers of mind have examined imagination’s role in mindreading and in pretense. Philosophical aestheticians have examined imagination’s role in creating and in engaging with different types of artworks. Epistemologists have examined imagination’s role in theoretical thought experiments and in practical decision-making. Philosophers of language have examined imagination’s role in irony and metaphor. // -/- Because of the breadth of the topic, this entry focuses exclusively on contemporary discussions of imagination in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition. (shrink)
I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. An alief is, to a reasonable approximation, an innate or habitual propensity to respond to an apparent stimulus in a particular way. Recognizing the role that alief plays in our cognitive repertoire provides a framework for understanding reactions that are governed by nonconscious or automatic mechanisms, which in turn brings into proper relief the role played by reactions that are subject to conscious regulation and deliberate (...) control. (shrink)
Philosophers and linguists alike tend to call a semantic theory ‘Russellian’ just in case it assigns to sentences in which definite descriptions occur the truth-conditions Russell did in ‘On Denoting’. This is unfortunate; not all aspects of those particular truth-conditions do explanatory work in Russell's writings. As far as the semantics of descriptions is concerned, the key insights of ‘On Denoting’ are that definite descriptions are not uniformly referring expressions, and that they are scope-bearing elements. Anyone who accepts these two (...) claims can account for Russell's puzzle cases the way he did. Russell had no substantive argument for the claim that ‘The F is G’ entails ‘There is at most one F’; in fact, he had important misgivings about it. I outline an argument against this claim, and I argue that by holding on to uniqueness contemporary semanticists make a momentous mistake: they keep the illusion alive that there is a way to account for linguistic meaning without addressing what linguistic expressions are for. (shrink)
I propose that paradigmatic cases of self-deception satisfy the following conditions: (a) the person who is self-deceived about not-P pretends (in the sense of makes-believe or imagines or fantasizes) that not-P is the case, often while believing that P is the case and not believing that not-P is the case; (b) the pretense that not-P largely plays the role normally played by belief in terms of (i) introspective vivacity and (ii) motivation of action in a wide range of circumstances. Understanding (...) self-deception in this way is highly natural. And it provides a non-paradoxical characterization of the phenomenon that explains both its distinctive patterns of instability and its ordinary association with irrationality. Why, then, has this diagnosis been overlooked? I suggest that the oversight is due to a failure to recognize the philosophical significance of a crucial fact about the human mind, namely, the degree to which attitudes other than belief often play a central role in our mental and practical lives, both by "influenc[ing our]... passions and imagination," and by "governing.. .our actions.". (shrink)
This book offers a novel analysis of the widely-used but ill-understood technique of thought experiment. The author argues that the powers and limits of this methodology can be traced to the fact that when the contemplation of an imaginary scenario brings us to new knowledge, it does so by forcing us to make sense of exceptional cases.
This paper challenges T. S. Gendler's notion of aliefs, a novel kind of mental state which she introduces to explain a wide variety of belief-discordant behaviors. In particular, I argue that many of the cases which she uses to motivate such a mental state can be fully explained by accounts that make use only of commonplace attitudes such as beliefs and desires.
It is a commonplace that contemplation of an imaginary particular may have cognitive and motivational effects that differ from those evoked by an abstract description of an otherwise similar state of affairs. In his Treatise on Human Nature, Hume ( 1978) writes forcefully of this.
By carefully examining one of the most famous thought experiments in the history of science—that by which Galileo is said to have refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones—I attempt to show that thought experiments play a distinctive role in scientific inquiry. Reasoning about particular entities within the context of an imaginary scenario can lead to rationally justified concluusions that—given the same initial information—would not be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument.
Contemplating imaginary scenarios that evoke certain sorts of quasi‐sensory intuitions may bring us to new beliefs about contingent features of the natural world. These beliefs may be produced quasi‐observationally; the presence of a mental image may play a crucial cognitive role in the formation of the belief in question. And this albeit fallible quasi‐observational belief‐forming mechanism may, in certain contexts, be sufficiently reliable to count as a source of justification. This sheds light on the central puzzle surrounding scientific thought experiment, (...) which is how contemplation of an imaginary scenario can lead to new knowledge about contingent features of the natural world. (shrink)
This is the first systematic survey of modern nominalistic reconstructions of mathematics, and for this reason alone it should be read by everyone interested in the philosophy of mathematics and, more generally, in questions concerning abstract entities. In the bulk of the book, the authors sketch a common formal framework for nominalistic reconstructions, outline three major strategies such reconstructions can follow, and locate proposals in the literature with respect to these strategies. The discussion is presented with admirable precision and clarity, (...) and should be accessible even to readers with only minimal background in logic and mathematics. There will be many who will turn directly to these pages and use them as a brief manual on the state of the art of nominalism in mathematics. But the most intriguing parts of this elegant book—at least in my view—are the introduction and the conclusion, where the authors examine the significance of reconstructive nominalism. (shrink)
Issues of pretense and imagination are of central interest to philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in allied fields. In this entry, we provide a roadmap of some of the central themes around which discussion has been focused. We begin with an overview of pretense, imagination, and the relationship between them. We then shift our attention to the four specific topics where the disciplines' research programs have intersected or where additional interactions could prove mutually beneficial: the psychological underpinnings of performing pretense and (...) of recognizing pretense, the cognitive capacities involved in imaginative engagement with fictions, and the real-world impact of make-believe. In the final section, we discuss more briefly a number of other mental activities that arguably involve imagining, including counterfactual reasoning, delusions, and dreaming. (shrink)
According to familiar accounts, Rousseau held that humans are actuated by two distinct kinds of self love: amour de soi, a benign concern for one's self-preservation and well-being; and amour-propre, a malign concern to stand above other people, delighting in their despite. I argue that although amour-propre can (and often does) assume this malign form, this is not intrinsic to its character. The first and best rank among men that amour-propre directs us to claim for ourselves is that of occupying (...) 'man's estate'. This does not require, indeed it precludes, subjection of others. Amour-propre does not need suppression or circumscription if we are to live good lives; it rather requires direction to its proper end, not a delusive one. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to expand the diet of examples considered in philosophical discussions of imagination and pretense, and to offer some preliminary observations about what we might learn about the nature of imagination as a result. The article presents a number of cases involving imaginative contagion: cases where merely imagining or pretending that P has effects that we would expect only perceiving or believing that P to have. Examples are offered that involve visual imagery, motor imagery, fictional (...) emotions, and social priming. It is suggested that imaginative contagion is a more prevalent phenomenon than has typically been recognized. (shrink)