Two fundamental rules of reasoning are Universal Generalisation and Existential Instantiation. Applications of these rules involve stipulations such as ‘Let n be an arbitrary number’ or ‘Let John be an arbitrary Frenchman’. Yet the semantics underlying such stipulations are far from clear. What, for example, does ‘n’ refer to following the stipulation that n be an arbitrary number? In this paper, we argue that ‘n’ refers to a number—an ordinary, particular number such as 58 or 2,345,043. Which one? We do (...) not and cannot know, because the reference of ‘n’ is fixed arbitrarily. Underlying this proposal is a more general thesis: Arbitrary Reference : It is possible to fix the reference of an expression arbitrarily. When we do so, the expression receives its ordinary kind of semantic-value, though we do not and cannot know which value in particular it receives. Our aim in this paper is defend AR. In particular, we argue that AR can be used to provide an account of instantial reasoning, and we suggest that AR can also figure in offering new solutions to a range of difficult philosophical puzzles. (shrink)
The notion that the form of a word bears an arbitrary relation to its meaning accounts only partly for the attested relations between form and meaning in the languages of the world. Recent research suggests a more textured view of vocabulary structure, in which arbitrariness is complemented by iconicity (aspects of form resemble aspects of meaning) and systematicity (statistical regularities in forms predict function). Experimental evidence suggests these form-to-meaning correspondences serve different functions in language processing, development, and communication: systematicity (...) facilitates category learning by means of phonological cues, iconicity facilitates word learning and communication by means of perceptuomotor analogies, and arbitrariness facilitates meaning individuation through distinctive forms. Processes of cultural evolution help to explain how these competing motivations shape vocabulary structure. (shrink)
Radically permissive ontologies like mereological universalism and material plenitude are typically motivated by concerns about arbitrariness or anthropocentrism: it would be objectionably arbitrary, the thought goes, to countenance only those objects that we ordinarily take there to be. Despite the prevalence of this idea, it isn't at all clear what it is for a theory to be “objectionably arbitrary,” or what follows from a commitment to avoiding arbitrariness in metaphysics. This paper aims to clarify both questions, and examines (...) whether arguments from arbitrariness really are the proper foundations for one or both varieties of ontological permissivism. I argue that these considerations (even when made more precise) are far less successful at motivating radical forms of permissivism than we often take them to be. To do better, permissivists must either supply a much more developed metaphysics of material objects, or a controversial (but tempting) conception of what we're doing when we do metaphysics. (shrink)
The arbitrariness of a signal has long been seen as a theoretically important but difficult to pin down notion. In this article, we suggest there are at least two different notions of arbitrariness at play in philosophical and scientific debates concerning the use of arbitrary signals, and work towards improved analyses of both. We then consider how these different types of arbitrariness can co-occur and come apart. Finally, we examine the connections between these two types of (...) class='Hi'>arbitrariness and the cognitive complexity of signal users with an eye towards better evaluating one possible form of human-nonhuman communicative continuity. We show that each type of arbitrariness bears its own nuanced relationship to cognitive complexity, demonstrating the theoretical importance of keeping these two notions separate. (shrink)
The genetic code has been regarded as arbitrary in the sense that the codon-amino acid assignments could be different than they actually are. This general idea has been spelled out differently by previous, often rather implicit accounts of arbitrariness. They have drawn on the frozen accident theory, on evolutionary contingency, on alternative causal pathways, and on the absence of direct stereochemical interactions between codons and amino acids. It has also been suggested that the arbitrariness of the genetic code (...) justifies attributing semantic information to macromolecules, notably to DNA. I argue that these accounts of arbitrariness are unsatisfactory. I propose that the code is arbitrary in the sense of Jacques Monod's concept of chemical arbitrariness: the genetic code is arbitrary in that any codon requires certain chemical and structural properties to specify a particular amino acid, but these properties are not required in virtue of a principle of chemistry. This notion of arbitrariness is compatible with several recent hypotheses about code evolution. I maintain that the code's chemical arbitrariness is neither sufficient nor necessary for attributing semantic information to nucleic acids. (shrink)
Peter Forrest and D.M. Armstrong have given an argument against a theory of naturalness proposed by David Lewis based on the fact that ordered pairs can be constructed from sets in any of a number of different ways. 1. I think the argument is good, but requires a more thorough defense. Moreover, the argument has important consequences that have not been noticed. I introduce a version of Lewis’s proposal in section one, and then in section two I present and defend (...) my version of the argument. After addressing a worry about my argument in section three, in section four I argue that a similar “argument from arbitrariness” jeopardizes Lewis’s solution to the Kripke/Wittgenstein puzzle of the content of thought. (shrink)
Permissivism says that for some propositions and bodies of evidence, there is more than one rationally permissible doxastic attitude that can be taken towards that proposition given the evidence. Some critics of this view argue that it condones, as rationally acceptable, sets of attitudes that manifest an untenable kind of arbitrariness. I begin by providing a new and more detailed explication of what this alleged arbitrariness consists in. I then explain why Miriam Schoenfield’s prima facie promising attempt to (...) answer the Arbitrariness Objection, by appealing to the role of epistemic standards in rational belief formation, fails to resolve the problem. Schoenfield’s strategy is, however, a useful one, and I go on to explain how an alternative form of the standards-based approach to Permissivism – one that emphasizes the significance of the relationship between people’s cognitive abilities and the epistemic standards that they employ – can respond to the arbitrariness objection. (shrink)
The debate between Uniqueness and Permissivism concerns whether a body of evidence sometimes allows multiple doxastic attitudes towards a proposition. An important motivation for Uniqueness is the so-called ‘arbitrariness argument,’ which says that Permissivism leads to some unacceptable arbitrariness with regard to one's beliefs. An influential response to the argument says that the arbitrariness in beliefs can be avoided by invoking epistemic standards. In this paper, I argue that such a response to the arbitrariness argument is (...) unsuccessful. Then I defend a new response: contrary to common conception, the arbitrariness resulted by Permissivism is acceptable. The basic idea is that the arbitrariness resulted by Permissivism is analogous to the arbitrariness in permissive actions and the latter arbitrariness is intuitively acceptable. I answer three possible objections against this analogy, which are all motivated by the thought that beliefs aim at the truth. In addressing the last objection, I draw inspiration from the recent debate on transformative experience. (shrink)
From the late seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth, an important shift occurred in attitudes to the arbitrariness of the first human words. While authors such as Locke and Pufendorf emphasized linguistic arbitrariness and human liberty, mid-eighteenth-century thinkers highlighted the natural aspects of language and the limited scope of freedom and reason. This change is linked to the contemporary view of the cultural world as a natural artifice, strongly molded by social and environmental factors. The article (...) highlights hitherto neglected similarities between Leibniz’s ideas on language and mid-eighteenth-century theories, by contrast to the usual focus on Locke. (shrink)
Set theory deals with the most fundamental existence questions in mathematics—questions which affect other areas of mathematics, from the real numbers to structures of all kinds, but which are posed as dealing with the existence of sets. Especially noteworthy are principles establishing the existence of some infinite sets, the so-called “arbitrary sets.” This paper is devoted to an analysis of the motivating goal of studying arbitrary sets, usually referred to under the labels of quasi-combinatorialism or combinatorial maximality. After explaining what (...) is meant by definability and by “arbitrariness,” a first historical part discusses the strong motives why set theory was conceived as a theory of arbitrary sets, emphasizing connections with analysis and particularly with the continuum of real numbers. Judged from this perspective, the axiom of choice stands out as a most central and natural set-theoretic principle (in the sense of quasi-combinatorialism). A second part starts by considering the potential mismatch between the formal systems of mathematics and their motivating conceptions, and proceeds to offer an elementary discussion of how far the Zermelo—Fraenkel system goes in laying out principles that capture the idea of “arbitrary sets”. We argue that the theory is rather poor in this respect. (shrink)
I criticize some arguments against the causal interpretability of population genetics put forward by Denis Walsh (, ). In particular, I seek to undermine the contention that population genetics exhibits frame of reference relativity or subjectivity with respect to its formal representations. I also show that classical population genetics does not fall foul of some criteria for causal representation put forward by James Woodward (), although those criteria do undermine some causalist stances. 1 Introduction2 Modularity3 The Crucially Important Point4 The (...) Gillespie Case: Density-Dependent Selection5 Conclusion. (shrink)
Particularists in material-object metaphysics hold that our intuitive judgments about which kinds of things there are and are not are largely correct. One common argument against particularism is the argument from arbitrariness, which turns on the claim that there is no ontologically significant difference between certain of the familiar kinds that we intuitively judge to exist (snowballs, islands, statues, solar systems) and certain of the strange kinds that we intuitively judge not to exist (snowdiscalls, incars, gollyswoggles, the fusion of (...) the my nose and the Eiffel Tower). Particularists frequently respond by conceding that there is no ontologically significant difference and embracing some sort of deflationary metaontology (relativism, constructivism, quantifier variance). I show -- by identifying ontologically significant differences -- that the argument can be resisted without retreating to any sort of deflationary metaontology. (shrink)
Logical geometry systematically studies Aristotelian diagrams, such as the classical square of oppositions and its extensions. These investigations rely heavily on the use of bitstrings, which are compact combinatorial representations of formulas that allow us to quickly determine their Aristotelian relations. However, because of their general nature, bitstrings can be applied to a wide variety of topics in philosophical logic beyond those of logical geometry. Hence, the main aim of this paper is to present a systematic technique for assigning bitstrings (...) to arbitrary finite fragments of formulas in arbitrary logical systems, and to study the logical and combinatorial properties of this technique. It is based on the partition of logical space that is induced by a given fragment, and sheds new light on a number of interesting issues, such as the logic-dependence of the Aristotelian relations and the subtle interplay between the Aristotelian and Boolean structure of logical fragments. Finally, the bitstring technique also allows us to systematically analyze fragments from contemporary logical systems, such as public announcement logic, which could not be done before. (shrink)
Foundationalism has often been charged with the defect of endorsing “arbitrary” foundations. On the most obvious interpretations of the term “arbitrary,” this objection transparently begs the question. A more sophisticated interpretation reveals the objection as resting on a conceptual confusion between reasons why a belief is justified and reasons that the believer has for the belief.
The philosophical consequences of synergetics, the interdisciplinary theory of evolution and self-organization of complex systems, are being drawn in the paper. The idea of discreteness of evolutionary paths is in the focus of attention. Although the future is open, and there are many alternative evolutionary paths for complex systems, not any arbitrary evolutionary path is feasible in a given system. There are discrete spectra of possible evolutionary paths which are determined exclusively by inner properties of the corresponding systems. Synergetics allows (...) us to reveal general laws of self-organization and, therefore, certain limits of arbitrariness of nature in choosing possible paths of evolution as well as in constructing of a complex evolutionary whole. A comparative analysis between the modern synergetic notions and a few ideas of the Western philosophy and of the Eastern teachings is made. (shrink)
Considerations of the primal sin show that both voluntarist and intellectual accounts involve an unresolved arbitrariness at the heart of their accounts of free agency. This suggests that, at least for theists, intellectualism is no better than voluntarism in this respect and that, on the assumption that such a sin happened, voluntarist accounts are not as problematic as many believe them to be. The paper proceeds as follows. In the first section, I explain what is meant by 'primal sin' (...) and why there is reason to look at this sin in particular. I then compare this paradigm sin from voluntarism and intellectualist approaches. More specifically, I approach the issue of primal sin by looking at the two most developed extant accounts of it in the contemporary literature. Both accounts are libertarian accounts insofar as they suppose that the truth of theological determinism would render the devil unfree, and thus not responsible, in his fall. Furthermore, both accounts are inspired by medieval theologians, though they aim to provide satisfactory philosophical accounts of the primal sin and not be mere historical exegesis. Given that historical interpretation is not my goal here, I will let the two contemporary proponents of the views under consideration to speak for themselves, taken their exegesis as accurate for present purposes. (shrink)
Contents: Preface VII; Introduction 1; 1. The General Framework 5; 2. Some Standard Systems 61; 3. Systems in General 147; 4. Non-Standard Systems 177; Bibliography 210; General Index 215; Index of Symbols 219-220.
I examine John Rawls' objection to libertarianism that it permits economic shares to be distributed in a morally arbitrary way. This argument was dropped largely for two reasons. First, talk of "arbitrariness" has been vague and associated with implausible views about moral desert, collective assets, and noumenal selves. Second, several criticisms which Robert Nozick made 25 years ago have gone unanswered. In this essay, I reconstruct the arbitrariness argument, giving it a new, Kantian interpretation, and I show that (...) the new version is intuitively plausible and avoids Nozick's major objections. (shrink)
What is the nature of a conceptual scheme? Are there alternative conceptual schemes? If so, are some more justifiable or correct than others? The later Wittgenstein already addresses these fundamental philosophical questions under the general rubric of "grammar" and the question of its "arbitrariness"--and does so with great subtlety. This book explores Wittgenstein's views on these questions. Part I interprets his conception of grammar as a generalized version of Kant's transcendental idealist solution to a puzzle about necessity. It also (...) seeks to reconcile Wittgenstein's seemingly inconsistent answers to the question of whether or not grammar is arbitrary by showing that he believed grammar to be arbitrary in one sense and non-arbitrary in another. Part II focuses on an especially central and contested feature of Wittgenstein's account: a thesis of the diversity of grammars. The author discusses this thesis in connection with the nature of formal logic, the limits of language, and the conditions of semantic understanding or access. Strongly argued and cleary written, this book will appeal not only to philosophers but also to students of the human sciences, for whom Wittgenstein's work holds great relevance. (shrink)
The current debate on why colonialism is wrong overlooks what is arguably the most discernible aspect of this particular historical injustice: its exreme violence. Through a critical analysis of the recent contributions by Lea Ypi, Margaret Moore and Laura Valentini, this article argues that the violence inflicted on the victims and survivors of colonialism reveals far more about the nature of this historical injustice than generally assumed. It is the arbitrary nature of the power relations between colonizers and the colonized (...) which is at the heart of the injustice of colonization, and violence was the way arbitrariness and domination was cemented. The example of colonialism in the Caribbean during the 16th and 17th centuries is used to expose the full extent of this historical injustice. (shrink)
The generic pronoun 'one' (or its empty counterpart, arbitrary PRO) exhibits a range of properties that show a special connection to the first person, or rather the relevant intentional agent (speaker, addressee, or described agent). The paper argues that generic 'one' involves generic quantification in which the predicate is applied to a given entity ‘as if’ to the relevant agent himself. This is best understood in terms of simulation, a central notion in some recent developments in the philosophy of mind (...) and cognitive science (Simulation Theory). (shrink)
Arbitrariness and systematicity are two of language’s most fascinating properties. Although both are characterizations of the mappings between signals and meanings, their emergence and evolution in communication systems has generally been explored independently. We present an experiment in which both arbitrariness and systematicity are probed. Participants invent signs from scratch to refer to a set of items that share salient semantic features. Through interaction, the systematic re-use of arbitrary signal elements emerges.
In this paper I argue (i) that choosing to abide by realist moral norms would be as arbitrary as choosing to abide by the mere preferences of a God (a difficulty akin to the Euthyphro dilemma raised for divine command theorists); in both cases we would lack reason to prefer these standards to alternative codes of conduct. I further develop this general line of thought by arguing in particular (ii) that we would lack any noncircular justification to concern ourselves with (...) any such realist normative standards. (shrink)
There may be good general grounds for the adoption of supermajoritarian thresholds, but no such general arguments can justify the selection of a specific threshold. Although the benefits of supermajority rules, especially in the context of constitutional-amendment procedures, may outweigh the costs of their ex ante indeterminacy, the technically unjustifiable nature of specific thresholds means that those who are disadvantaged under such rules can be given no rational or reasonable explanation for their defeat other than the de facto power of (...) coordination on a threshold. Political theory has a potential remedy in cases in which good reasons are not available, and in which bad reasons might be brought to bear: randomization. If the benefits of supermajority rules are worth the costs of arbitrariness, we may wish to randomize the choice of threshold, though the move to do so may have its own negative consequences. Il y a de bonnes raisons en faveur de l’adoption des règles de majorité qualifiée, mais aucun argument général ne peut justifier le choix d’un seuil de majorité précis. Les bénéfices attendus des règles de majorité qualifiée sont sans doute supérieurs, notamment pour les procédures de révision constitutionnelles, aux inconvénients de leur indétermination ex ante. Toutefois le caractère injustifiable, sur le plan technique, d’un seuil spécifique de majorité qualifiée signifie, pour ceux qui ensuite s’en trouvent désavantagés, qu’il n’y a aucune explication rationnelle ou raisonnable de leur défaite, si ce n’est le fait que le seuil incriminé a, de facto, bénéficié de la convergence des attentes des constituants. La théorie politique a une solution pour les situations où aucune bonne raison n’est disponible et où les mauvaises raisons sont supportables: le tirage au sort. Si les bienfaits des règles de majorité qualifiée sont supérieurs aux coûts du caractère arbitraire de leur fixation, nous pouvons souhaiter la randomisation du choix de leur seuil, même si cette méthode a aussi des conséquences négatives. (shrink)
As emphasized by Milne, an observer ultimately depends on the transmission and reception of light signals for the measurement of natural lengths and periods remote from his world point. The laws of geometry which are obeyed when these lengths and periods are plotted on a space-time depend, inevitably, on assumptions concerning the dependence of light velocity on the spatial and temporal coordinates. A convention regarding light velocity fixes the geometry, and conversely. However, the convention of flat space-time implies nonintegrable “radar (...) distances” unless the concept of coordinate-dependent units of measure is employed. Einstein's space-time has the advantage of admitting a special reference system $\hat R$ with respect to which the aether fluid is at rest and the total gravitational field vanishes. A holonomic transformation from $\hat R$ to another reference systemR belonging to the same space-time introduces a nonpermanent gravitational field and holonomic aether motion. A nonholonomic transformation from $\hat R$ to a reference systemR* which belongs to a different space-time introduces a permanent gravitational field and nonholonomic aether motion. The arbitrariness of geometry is expressed by extending covariance to include the latter transformation. By means of a nonholonomic (or units) transformation it is possible, with the aid of the principle of equivalence, to obtain the Schwarzschild and de Sitter metrics from the Newtonian fields that would arise in a flat space-time description. Some light is thrown on the interpretation of cosmological models. (shrink)
Inspired by Kit Fine’s theory of arbitrary objects, we explore some ways in which the generic structure of the natural numbers can be presented. Following a suggestion of Saul Kripke’s, we discuss how basic facts and questions about this generic structure can be expressed in the framework of Carnapian quantified modal logic.
The pattern of credences we are inclined to assign to counterfactuals challenges standard accounts of counterfactuals. In response to this problem, the paper develops a semantics of counterfactuals in terms of the epsilon-operator. The proposed semantics stays close to the standard account: the epsilon-operator substitutes the universal quantifier present in standard semantics by arbitrarily binding the open world-variable. Various applications of the suggested semantics are explored including, in particular, an explanation of how the puzzling credences in counterfactuals come about.
In this paper, I critically examine an important premise in theories of global distributive justice that, despite its widespread influence, has remained largely unexamined. This is the claim that state borders are morally arbitrary with respect to a just distribution of goods. I examine two common arguments for this claim, the argument that state borders are historically unjust and therefore morally arbitrary; and the argument first made by Charles Beitz that the conditions of a fair, hypothetical social contract would not (...) include knowledge of one's location with respect to the distribution of natural resources between state borders. I argue that there are good reasons to reject both arguments. Beitz's immense contribution to international justice can be gauged by the fact that it is difficult to find a contemporary work on global justice that does not reference his arguments in Political Theory and International Relations . Although some authors find Beitz's cosmopolitan theory objectionable, no author has, to my knowledge, criticized Beitz's pivotal arguments that our placement in the distribution of natural resources is morally arbitrary. The aim of this paper is to do just that. (shrink)
Foundationalism is false; after all, foundational beliefs are arbitrary, they do not solve the epistemic regress problem, and they cannot exist withoutother (justified) beliefs. Or so some people say. In this essay, we assess some arguments based on such claims, arguments suggested in recent work by Peter Klein and Ernest Sosa.
In his 1763 Prize Essay, Kant is thought to endorse a version of formalism on which mathematical concepts need not apply to extramental objects. Against this reading, I argue that the Prize Essay has sufficient resources to explain how the objective reference of mathematical concepts is secured. This account of mathematical concepts’ objective reference employs material from Wolffian philosophy. On my reading, Kant's 1763 view still falls short of his Critical view in that it does not explain the universal, unconditional (...) applicability of mathematical concepts. (shrink)
The present study explores the idea that human linguistic communication co-opted a pre-existing population-wide behavioural system that was shared among social group members and whose structure reflected the structure of the environment. This system is hypothesized to have emerged from interactions among individuals who had evolved the capacity to imitate arbitrary, functionless behaviour. A series of agent-based computer simulations test the separate and joint effects of imitation, pattern completion behaviour, environment structure and level of social interaction on such a population-wide (...) behavioural system. The results support the view that a system that could be co-opted for linguistic communication might arise in a population of agents equipped with arbitrary imitation for the purposes of pattern completion interacting in certain kinds of structured environments. Such pre-linguistic behavioural system could have bootstrapped communication and paved the way for biological capacities widely believed to be necessary for communication, such as shared intentionality and symbolicity, to evolve. (shrink)
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