The purpose of the book is to clarify the notion of existential dependence and cognate notions, such as supervenience and the notion of an internal relation. I defend the view that such notions are best understood in terms of the concept of metaphysical grounding, i.e. the concept of one fact obtaining in virtue of other facts, where ‘in virtue of’ has a distinctively metaphysical meaning.
While the notion of the mind as information-processor--a kind of computational system--is widely accepted, many scientists and philosophers have assumed that this account of cognition shows that the mind's operations are characterizable independent of their relationship to the external world. Existential Cognition challenges the internalist view of mind, arguing that intelligence, thought, and action cannot be understood in isolation, but only in interaction with the outside world. Arguing that the mind is essentially embedded in the external world, Ron McClamrock (...) provides a schema that allows cognitive scientists to address such long-standing problems in artificial intelligence as the "frame" problem and the issue of "bounded" rationality. Extending this schema to cover progress in other studies of behavior, including language, vision, and action, McClamrock reinterprets the importance of the organism/environment distinction. McClamrock also considers the broader philosophical question of the place of mind in the world, particularly with regard to questions of intentionality, subjectivity, and phenomenology. With implications for philosophy, cognitive and computer science, AI, and psychology, this book synthesizes state-of-the-art work in philosophy and cognitive science on how the mind interacts with the world to produce thoughts, ideas, and actions. (shrink)
A small but growing number of studies have aimed to understand, assess and reduce existential risks, or risks that threaten the continued existence of mankind. However, most attention has been focused on known and tangible risks. This paper proposes a heuristic for reducing the risk of black swan extinction events. These events are, as the name suggests, stochastic and unforeseen when they happen. Decision theory based on a fixed model of possible outcomes cannot properly deal with this kind of (...) event. Neither can probabilistic risk analysis. This paper will argue that the approach that is referred to as engineering safety could be applied to reducing the risk from black swan extinction events. It will also propose a conceptual sketch of how such a strategy may be implemented: isolated, self-sufficient, and continuously manned underground refuges. Some characteristics of such refuges are also described, in particular the psychosocial aspects. Furthermore, it is argued that this implementation of the engineering safety strategy safety barriers would be effective and plausible and could reduce the risk of an extinction event in a wide range of possible scenarios. Considering the staggering opportunity cost of an existential catastrophe, such strategies ought to be explored more vigorously. (shrink)
Because of accelerating technological progress, humankind may be rapidly approaching a critical phase in its career. In addition to well-known threats such as nuclear holocaust, the propects of radically transforming technologies like nanotech systems and machine intelligence present us with unprecedented opportunities and risks. Our future, and whether we will have a future at all, may well be determined by how we deal with these challenges. In the case of radically transforming technologies, a better understanding of the transition dynamics from (...) a human to a "posthuman" society is needed. Of particular importance is to know where the pitfalls are: the ways in which things could go terminally wrong. While we have had long exposure to various personal, local, and endurable global hazards, this paper analyzes a recently emerging category: that of existential risks. These are threats that could case our extinction or destroy the potential of Earth - originating intelligent life. Some of these threats are relatively well known while others, including some of the gravest, have gone almost unrecognized. Existential risks have a cluster of features that make ordinary risk management ineffective. A final section of this paper discusses several ethical and policy implications. A clearer understanding of the threat picture will enable us to formulate better strategies. (shrink)
If we must take mathematical statements to be true, must we also believe in the existence of abstract eternal invisible mathematical objects accessible only by the power of pure thought? Jody Azzouni says no, and he claims that the way to escape such commitments is to accept true statements which are about objects that don't exist in any sense at all. Azzouni illustrates what the metaphysical landscape looks like once we avoid a militant Realism which forces our commitment to anything (...) that our theories quantify. Escaping metaphysical straitjackets, while retaining the insight that some truths are about objects that do exist, Azzouni says that we can sort scientifically-given objects into two categories: ones which exist, and to which we forge instrumental access in order to learn their properties, and ones which do not, that is, which are made up in exactly the same sense that fictional objects are. He offers as a case study a small portion of Newtonian physics, and one result of his classification of its ontological commitments, is that it does not commit us to absolute space and time. (shrink)
Since Friedrich Nietzsche, philosophers have grappled with the question of how to respond to nihilism. Nihilism, often seen as a derogative term for a ‘life-denying’, destructive and perhaps most of all depressive philosophy is what drove existentialists to write about the right response to a meaningless universe devoid of purpose. This latter diagnosis is what I shall refer to as existential nihilism, the denial of meaning and purpose, a view that not only existentialists but also a long line of (...) philosophers in the empiricist tradition ascribe to. The absurd stems from the fact that though life is without meaning and the universe devoid of purpose, man still longs for meaning, significance and purpose. Inspired by Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty, two modern existentialist masterpieces, this paper explores the various alternatives that have been offered in how to respond to the absurd, or as Albert Camus puts it; the only “really serious philosophical problem” and concludes that the problem is compatible with a naturalistic world-view, thereby genuine and transcending existentialism. (shrink)
If we take mathematical statements to be true, then must we also believe in the existence of invisible mathematical objects, accessible only by the power of thought? Jody Azzouni says we do not have to, and claims that the way to escape such a commitment is to accept - as an essential part of scientific doctrine - true statements which are 'about' objects which don't exist in any real sense.
Humans have always sought to change their environment—building houses, monuments, temples, and roads. In the process, they have remade the fabric of the world into newly functional objects that are also works of art to be admired. In this second edition of his popular Existential Pleasures of Engineering, Samuel Florman explores how engineers think and feel about their profession. A deeply insightful and refreshingly unique text, this book corrects the myth that engineering is cold and passionless. Indeed, Florman celebrates (...) engineering not only crucial and fundamental but also vital and alive he views it as a response to some of our deepest impulses, an endeavor rich in spiritual and sensual rewards. Opposing the "anti-technology" stance, Florman gives readers a practical, creative, and even amusing philosophy of engineering that boasts of pride in his craft. (shrink)
The “existential inertia” thesis holds that, once in existence, the natural world tends to remain in existence without need of a divine conserving cause. Critics of the doctrine of divine conservation often allege that its defenders have not provided arguments in favor of it and against the rival doctrine of existential inertia. But in fact, when properly understood, the traditional theistic arguments summed up in Aquinas’s Five Ways can themselves be seen to be (or at least to imply) (...) arguments against existential inertia and in favor of divine conservation. Moreover, they are challenging arguments, to which defenders of the existential inertia thesis have yet seriously to respond. (shrink)
Peirce considered the principal business of logic to be the analysis of reasoning. He argued that the diagrammatic system of Existential Graphs, which he had invented in 1896, carries the logical analysis of reasoning to the furthest point possible. The present paper investigates the analytic virtues of the Alpha part of the system, which corresponds to the sentential calculus. We examine Peirce’s proposal that the relation of illation is the primitive relation of logic and defend the view that this (...) idea constitutes the fundamental motive of philosophy of notation both in algebraic and graphical logic. We explain how in his algebras and graphs Peirce arrived at a unifying notation for logical constants that represent both truth-function and scope. Finally, we show that Shin’s argument for multiple readings of Alpha graphs is circular. (shrink)
Contrary to common misconceptions, today's logic is not devoid of existential import: the universalized conditional ∀ x [S→ P] implies its corresponding existentialized conjunction ∃ x [S & P], not in all cases, but in some. We characterize the proexamples by proving the Existential-Import Equivalence: The antecedent S of the universalized conditional alone determines whether the universalized conditional has existential import, i.e. whether it implies its corresponding existentialized conjunction.A predicate is an open formula having only x free. (...) An existential-import predicate Q is one whose existentialization, ∃ x Q, is logically true; otherwise, Q is existential-import-free or simply import-free.How abundant or widespread is existential import? How abundant or widespread are existential-import predicates in themselves or in comparison to import-free predicates? We show that existential-import predicates are quite abundant, and no less so than import-free predicates. Existential.. (shrink)
To all appearances, the basic building blocks of reality tend to keep existing unless something intervenes to destroy them. In other words, basic things seem to have existential inertia. But why might this be? This paper considers a number of arguments for and against existential inertia. It discusses arguments inspired by Aquinas, Descartes, and Spinoza, as well as considerations deriving from Occam’s Razor, entropy, and certain views about the nature of time and change.
This essay articulates a kind of conservatism that it argues is the most fundamental and important kind of conservatism, viz. existential conservatism, which involves an affirmative and appreciative stance towards the given world. While this form of conservatism can be connected to political conservatism, as seen with Roger Scruton, it need not be, as seen with G. A. Cohen. It is argued that existential conservatism should be embraced whether or not one embraces political conservatism, though it is also (...) shown that existential conservatism imposes constraints on our political thinking. In particular, it is argued that Cohen's ‘luck egalitarianism’ stands at odds with his existential conservatism and that one should be a sufficientarian rather than an egalitarian with regard to economic justice. (shrink)
This article focuses on existential feelings. To begin with, it depicts how they differ from other affective phenomena and what type of intentionality they manifest. Furthermore, a detailed analysis shows that existential feelings can be subdivided, first, into elementary and nonelementary varieties, and second, into three foci of primary relatedness: oneself, the social environment, and the world as such. Eventually, five strategies of emotion regulation are examined with respect to their applicability to existential feelings. In the case (...) of harmful existential feelings, it turns out that none seems fitting except one, attentional deployment. (shrink)
This paper examines the contemporary philosophical and cognitive relevance of Charles Peirce's diagrammatic logic of existential graphs (EGs), the ?moving pictures of thought?. The first part brings to the fore some hitherto unknown details about the reception of EGs in the early 1900s that took place amidst the emergence of modern conceptions of symbolic logic. In the second part, philosophical aspects of EGs and their contributions to contemporary logical theory are pointed out, including the relationship between iconic logic and (...) images, the problem of the meaning of logical constants, the cognitive economy of iconic logic, the failure of the Frege?Russell thesis, and the failure of the Language of Thought hypothesis. (shrink)
: This article contributes to the contemporary debate regarding the young Heidegger’s method of formal indication. Theodore Kisiel argues that this method constitutes a radical break with Husserl---a rejection of phenomenological reflection that paves the way to the non-reflective approach of the Beiträge. Against this view, Steven Crowell argues that formal indication is continuous with Husserlian phenomenology---a refinement of phenomenological reflection that reveals its existential sources. I evaluate this debate and adduce further considerations in favor of Crowell’s view. To (...) do so, I analyze the young Heidegger’s account of phenomenological communication and argue that it further reflects the continuity that Crowell identifies: as he does with reflection, Heidegger refines Husserl’s account of phenomenological communication and sheds light on its existential sources. (shrink)
Many of us feel existential terror when contemplating our future nonexistence. I examine several attempts to rationally justify existential terror. The most promising of these appeals to the effects of future nonexistence on the meaningfulness of our lives. I argue that even this justification fails, and therefore existential terror is irrational.
While opinions on the semantic analysis of generics vary widely, most scholars agree that generics have a quasi-universal flavor. However, there are cases where generics receive what appears to be an existentialinterpretation. For example, B's response is true, even though only theplatypus and the echidna lay eggs: (1) A: Birds lay eggs. B: Mammals lay eggs too. In this paper I propose a uniform account of the semantics of generics,which accounts for their quasi-existential readings as well as for their (...) more familiar quasi-universal ones. Generics are focus-sensitiveoperators: their domain is restricted by a set of alternatives, which may be provided by focus. I claim that, unlike otherfocus-sensitive operators, generics may, but do not have to, associate with focus. When alternatives are introduced, either by focus or by other means, generics get their usual quasi-universal readings. But when no alternatives are introduced, quasi-existential readings result.I argue that generics, unlike adverbs of quantification, do not introduce tripartite structures directly, but are initially interpreted as cases ofdirect kind predication. Only when this interpretation fails to make sense, the phonologically null generic quantifier is derived, and tripartite structures result. This two-level interpretation has the effect that while adverbs of quantification require focus to determine which elements go to the restrictor and which to the nuclear scope, and hence must associate with focus, generics do not, and hence may fail to associate with focus, resulting in quasi-existential readings. (shrink)
A lucid introduction to the "existential phenomenology" of Martin Heidegger, particularly as developed in his major work, Being and Time, this work focuses on how Heidegger's ideas bear on the central problem in epistemology--that of how we can have objective knowledge. The author constructs fresh arguments clarifying Heidegger's contribution to the theory of knowledge, and shows why Heidegger deemed misguided the search for knowledge of the way things are in themselves.
Existential grounding is the thesis that all existential generalizations are grounded in their particular instances. This paper argues that existential grounding is false. This is because it is inconsistent with two plausible claims about existence: the claim that singular existence facts are generalizations and the claim that no object can be involved in a fact that grounds that same object's existence. Not only are these claims intuitively plausible, but there are also strong arguments in favour of each (...) of them. (shrink)
On the one hand, it is commonly agreed that we make choices in which we are guided by a core of personal commitments, wishes, feelings, etc. that we take to express who we are. On the other, it is commonly agreed that some of these ‘existential’ choices constitute who we are. When confronting these two matters, the question of agency inevitably arises: Whether and in what sense can we choose ourselves? The paper will argue for a new perspective on (...)existential choice. (shrink)
We analyze the behaviour of declarations of independence between existential quantifiers in quantifier prefixes of Independence-Friendly (IF) sentences; we give a syntactical criterion to decide whether a sentence beginning with such prefix exists, such that its truth values may be affected by removal of the declaration of independence. We extend the result also to equilibrium semantics values for undetermined IF sentences.
In this article, I assess the position that voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide ought not to be accepted in the cases of persons who suffer existentially but who have no medical condition, because existential questions do not fall within the domain of physicians’ professional expertise. I maintain that VE and PAS based on suffering arising from medical conditions involves existential issues relevantly similar to those confronted in connection with existential suffering. On that basis I conclude that if (...) VE and PAS based on suffering arising from medical conditions is taken to fall within the domain of medical expertise, it is not consistent to use the view that physicians’ professional expertise does not extend to existential questions as a reason for denying requests for VE and PAS from persons who suffer existentially but have no medical condition. (shrink)
The paper uses the theory of generalized quantifiers to discuss existential import and its implications for Aristotelian logic, namely the square of opposition, conversions and the assertoric syllogistic, as well as for more recent generalizations to intermediate quantifiers like “most”. While this is a systematic discussion of the semantic background one should assume in order to obtain the inferences and oppositions Aristotle proposed, it also sheds some light on the interpretation of his writings. Moreover by applying tools from modern (...) formal semantics to the investigation of classical Aristotelian logic and its extensions, we combine different approaches to the logic of quantification. We will present variants of quantifiers that are associated to the four corners of the square of opposition with and without existential import and discuss their role for the logical square, conversions and the syllogistic. It will turn out that there is no way to ascribe existential import that validates all inferences and relations which one is willing to hold in Aristotelian logic. Two options, however, provide reasonable results. Existential import should either be ascribed only to affirmative statements or only be ascribed to universal quantification. The former option is preferable for a mere reconstruction of the classical Aristotelian logic while the latter option is more attractive if Aristotelian logic is generalized to intermediate quantifiers. (shrink)
The existential approach described by Mark Nesti offers a radical alternative to the cognitive-behavioral model which informs most contemporary applied sports psychology. Whereas standard psychological models of athlete behavior would advocate appropriate "mental skills" training such as visualizing the perfect race to help an athlete overcome performance problems, the existential approach will refer to an athletes unique emotional world to find deeper causes of their limitation. These causes may be only very indirectly linked to the athletes sporting life. (...)Existential sports psychology has gone out of phenomenological theory and existential philosophy. Mark Nesti's text is the first book to present an overview of this exciting approach. It contains case studies and a framework for psychologists to apply this approach to their work. (shrink)
Patients with a life-threatening illness can be confronted with various types of loneliness, one of which is existential loneliness (EL). Since the experience of EL is extremely disruptive, the issue of EL is relevant for the practice of end-of-life care. Still, the literature on EL has generated little discussion and empirical substantiation and has never been systematically reviewed. In order to systematically review the literature, we (1) identified the existential loneliness literature; (2) established an organising framework for the (...) review; (3) conducted a conceptual analysis of existential loneliness; and (4) discussed its relevance for end-of-life care. We found that the EL concept is profoundly unclear. Distinguishing between three dimensions of EL—as a condition, as an experience, and as a process of inner growth—leads to some conceptual clarification. Analysis of these dimensions on the basis of their respective key notions—everpresent, feeling, defence; death, awareness, difficult communication; and inner growth, giving meaning, authenticity—further clarifies the concept. Although none of the key notions are unambiguous, they may function as a starting point for the development of care strategies on EL at the end of life. (shrink)
Journalists enjoy unprecedented freedom from government interference to gather facts from sources, but journalistic tradition and custom restrict the freedom of journalists to report fact as they see it. This study critically examines the concept of objectivity and proposes an alternative philosophy for encouraging ethical behavior. The first section of the article focuses on the ideological and occupational origins of objectivity and identifies the conflict between these two perspectives Next, the study reviews contemporary literature in regard to objectivity, showing how (...) the concept has evolved, and why objectivity as a journalistic norm needs reevaluation. Third, the study proposes linking the occupational norms and standards of objective journalism with a subjective existentialism, which is more consistent with the ideological definition of objectivity. Finally, the study proposes that journalists improve ethical behavior by developing an existential ethic emphasizing individual responsibility. (shrink)
Presents a set-theoretic version of the analysis of "there be" as predicating instantiation of a property, a property-theoretic version of which was developed in McNally 1992. This paper provides a solution to the criticism that McNally 1992's analysis could not account for sentences in which postverbal nominal contains a monotone decreasing or nonmonotonic determiner.
Europe's leading existential thinkers -- Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus -- all felt that Americans were too self-confident and shallow to accept their philosophy of responsibility, choice, and the absurd. "There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization," Sartre remarked in 1950, while Beauvoir wrote that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse" and Camus derided American materialism and optimism. Existentialism, however, enjoyed rapid, widespread, and enduring popularity among Americans. No (...) less than their European counterparts, American intellectuals participated in the conversation of existentialism. In Existential America , historian George Cotkin argues that the existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define the United States in the twentieth-century in ways that have never been fully realized or appreciated. As Cotkin shows, not only did Americans readily take to existentialism, but they were already heirs to a rich tradition of thinkers -- from Jonathan Edwards and Herman Melville to Emily Dickinson and William James -- who had wrestled with the problems of existence and the contingency of the world long before Sartre and his colleagues. After introducing this concept of an American existential tradition, Cotkin examines how formal existentialism first arrived in America in the 1930s through discussion of Kierkegaard and the early vogue among New York intellectuals for the works of Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus. Cotkin then traces the evolution of existentialism in America: its adoption by Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison to help articulate the African-American experience its expression in the works of Norman Mailer and photographer Robert Frank its incorporation into the tenets of the feminist and radical student movements of the 1960s and its lingering presence in contemporary American thought and popular culture, particularly in such films as Crimes and Misdemeanors , Fight Club and American Beauty . The only full-length study of existentialism in America, this highly engaging and original work provides an invaluable guide to the history of American culture since the end of the Second World War. (shrink)
The paper explores the existential import of universal affirmative in Descartes, Arnauld and Malebranche. Descartes holds, inconsistently, that eternal truths are true even if the subject term is empty but that a proposition with a false idea as subject is false. Malebranche extends Descartes? truth-conditions for eternal truths, which lack existential import, to all knowledge, allowing only for non-propositional knowledge of contingent existence. Malebranche's rather implausible Neoplatonic semantics is detailed as consisting of three key semantic relations: illumination by (...) which God's ideas cause mental terms, creation by which God's ideas cause material substances by a kind of ?ontic privation?, and sensation in which brain events occasion states of mental awareness. In contrast, Arnauld distinguishes two types of propositions ? necessary and contingent ? with distinct truth-conditions, one with and one without existential import. Arnauld's more modern semantics is laid out as a theory of reference that substitutes earlier causal accounts with one that adapts the medieval notion of objective being. His version anticipates modern notions of intentional content and appeals in its ontology only to substances and their modes. (shrink)