A proof is offered according to which if a psychological premise held by many diverse philosophers through the centuries to the effect that any represented physical property will be held to be exemplified unless some conflicting physical property is simultaneously represented is considered to be necessary, then there are physical objects in every possible world.
How do thought and language manage to be 'about' aspects of the world? J. Robert G. Williams investigates how representation arises out of a fundamentally non-representational world, showing the explanatory relations between the representational properties of language, of thought, and of perception and intention.
: This paper explores how consideration of the notions of naturalness and eligibility, which have played an increasingly significant role in contemporary metaphysics, might impact on the study of truth. In particular, it aims to demonstrate how taking such notions seriously may be of benefit to ‘representational’ theories of truth by showing how the naturalness of truth on a representational account provides a response to the ‘Scope Problem’ presented by Lynch.
The goal of this paper is to encourage a reconfiguration of the discussion about typology in biology away from the metaphysics of essentialism and toward the epistemology of classifying natural phenomena for the purposes of empirical inquiry. First, I briefly review arguments concerning ‘typological thinking’, essentialism, species, and natural kinds, highlighting their predominantly metaphysical nature. Second, I use a distinction between the aims, strategies, and tactics of science to suggest how a shift from metaphysics to epistemology might be accomplished. Typological (...) thinking can be understood as a scientific tactic that involves representing natural phenomena using idealizations and approximations, which facilitates explanation, investigation, and theorizing via abstraction and generalization. Third, a variety of typologies from different areas of biology are introduced to emphasize the diversity of this representational reasoning. One particular example is used to examine how there can be epistemological conflict between typology and evolutionary analysis. This demonstrates that alternative strategies of typological thinking arise due to the divergent explanatory goals of researchers working in different disciplines with disparate methodologies. I conclude with several research questions that emerge from an epistemological reconfiguration of typology. (shrink)
Steven French articulates and defends the bold claim that there are no objects in the world. He draws on metaphysics and philosophy of science to argue for structural realism--the position that we live in a world of structures--and defends a form of eliminativism about objects that sets laws and symmetry principles at the heart of ontology.
Substance‐dualist interactionism faces two sorts of challenge. One is empirical, involving the alleged incompatibility between interactionism and the supposed closure of the physical world. Although widely considered successful, this challenge gives no reason for preferring materialism to dualism. The other sort of challenge holds that interactionism is conceptually impossible. The historically influential version of the conceptual challenge is now discredited, but recent discussions by Chomsky and by Crane and Mellor suggest a new version. In brief, the argument is that anything (...) that interacts causally with physical things would have to be sanctioned by physics,and anything sanctioned by physics is ipso facto physical. I focus on the second premise. I show that plausible arguments for it are in fact fallacious and that counterexamples undermine it. Thus the argument fails: substance‐dualist interactionism cannot be ruled out on conceptual grounds alone. (shrink)
In order to resolve problems about the normative aspects of representation without having to (1) provide a naturalized theory of intentional/semantic properties, (2) accept non-natural intentional/semantic properties into our worldview, or (3) eliminate intentionality, this article questions a basic assumption about the metaphysics of representation: that representation involves representation-objects. An alternative, nonreifying approach to the metaphysics of representation is introduced and developed in detail. The argumentative strategy is as follows. First, an adverbial view of linguistic representation is introduced. Two potential (...) objections are identified and considered. To respond to these objections, relationships between physical form and linguistic/representational form are examined. In the process, two ways of idealizing away from the heterogeneous details of actual language use are introduced: idealization toward homogeneity and idealization toward complete heterogeneity. I argue that an adverbial view of linguistic representation both allows for and requires that we idealize toward complete heterogeneity and that doing so has important implications for (1) our understanding of the relationship between physical form and representational form and (2) property attribution in general. These implications provide further indirect support for the alternative metaphysics of representation developed here. (shrink)
In my review of Steven French's The structure of the world. Metaphysics & Representation. OUP, Oxford, 2014 I argue that the author is forced to navigate between the Scilla of Tegmark’s Pitagoreanism (2008) and the Carybdis of “blobobjectivism” (Horgan and Potrč 2008), namely the claim that the whole physical universe is a single concrete structurally complex but partless cosmos (a “blob”).
This study aims to propose a rational reconstruction of the theory-core ofWittgenstein's Tractatus, in order to bring into prominence its theoreticaland philosophical sources, its epistemological nature and metaphysical significance.The main idea of my approach is that when we take due account of the scientific andphilosophical context of the Tractatus, we see that its central philosophicalinnovation is a new form of metaphysics, namely a structural theory of representation.``I am not interested in constructing a building,so much as in having a perspicuous view (...) of the foundation of possible buildings.''. (shrink)
Van Fraassen has presented in Scientific Representation an attractive notion of measurement as an important part of the empiricist structuralism that he endorses. However, he has been criticized on the grounds that both his notion of measurement and his empiricist structuralism force him to do the very thing he objects to in other philosophical projects—to endorse a controversial metaphysics. This paper proposes a defense of van Fraassen by arguing that his project is indeed a ‘metaphysical’ project, but one which is (...) very similar to Strawson’s ‘descriptive metaphysics’; if this is the case, van Fraassen’s project may be taken, following recent suggestions made by Ney and Paul, as a form of metaphysics that can potentially make a crucial contribution to scientific inquiry. (shrink)
This article provides a state of the art review of the philosophical literature on scientific representation. It first argues that the topic emerges historically mainly out of what may be called the modelling tradition. It then introduces a number of helpful analytical distinctions, and goes on to divide contemporary approaches to scientific representation into two distinct kinds, substantive and deflationary. Analogies with related discussions of artistic representation in aesthetics, and of the nature of truth in metaphysics are pursued. It is (...) finally urged that the most promising approaches - and the ones most likely to feature prominently in future developments - are deflationary. In particular, a defence is provided of a genuinely inferential conception of representation. (shrink)
This study aims to propose a rational reconstruction of the theory-core of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus", in order to bring into prominence its theoretical and philosophical sources, its epistemological nature and metaphysical significance. The main idea of my approach is that when we take due account of the scientific and philosophical context of the "Tractatus", we see that its central philosophical innovation is a new form of metaphysics, namely a structural theory of representation.
In the last few decades of the twentieth century there was a revolution in metaphysics: the intensional revolution. Many metaphysicians rejected the doctrine, associated with Quine and Davidson, that extensional analyses and theoretical resources were the only acceptable ones. Metaphysicians embraced tools like modal and counterfactual analyses, claims of modal and counterfactual dependence, and entities such as possible worlds and intensionally individuated properties and relations. The twenty-first century is seeing a hypterintensional revolution. Theoretical tools in common use carve more finely (...) than by necessary equivalence: two pieces of language can apply to the same entities across all possible worlds but not be equivalent; thoughts can be necessarily equivalent in truth value but not synonymous. This paper argues that hyperintensional resources are valuable in metaphysics outside theories of representation, and discusses some promising areas of hyperintensional metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper applies a teleosemantic perspective to the question of whether there is genuine representation outside the familiar realm of belief‐desire psychology. I first explain how teleosemantics accounts for the representational powers of beliefs and desires themselves. I then ask whether biological states which are simpler than beliefs and desires can also have representational powers. My conclusion is that such biologically simple states can be ascribed representational contents, but only in a system‐relative way: such states must be ascribed varying contents (...) when viewed as components in different biological systems. I conclude by arguing that ‘the genetic code’ does not even embody this kind of system‐relative representation. (shrink)
This book is an important collection of new essays on various topics relating to realism and its rivals in metaphysics, logic, metaethics, and epistemology. The contributors include some of the leading authors in these fields and in several cases their essays constitute definitive statements of their views. In some cases authors write in response to the essays of other contributors, in other cases they proceed independently. Although not primarily historical this collection includes discussions of philosophers from the middle ages to (...) the present day, from Aquinas to Wittgenstein. No one seriously interested in questions about realism, whether as a general philosophical outlook or as a particular position within specific debates, can afford to be without this collection. (shrink)
Despite the importance of the variational principles of physics, there have been relatively few attempts to consider them for a realistic framework. In addition to the old teleological question, this paper continues the recent discussion regarding the modal involvement of the principle of least action and its relations with the Humean view of the laws of nature. The reality of possible paths in the principle of least action is examined from the perspectives of the contemporary metaphysics of modality and Leibniz's (...) concept of essences or possibles striving for existence. I elaborate a modal interpretation of the principle of least action that replaces a classical representation of a system's motion along a single history in the actual modality by simultaneous motions along an infinite set of all possible histories in the possible modality. This model is based on an intuition that deep ontological connections exist between the possible paths in the principle of least action and possible quantum histories in the Feynman path integral. I interpret the action as a physical measure of the essence of every possible history. Therefore only one actual history has the highest degree of the essence and minimal action. To address the issue of necessity, I assume that the principle of least action has a general physical necessity and lies between the laws of motion with a limited physical necessity and certain laws with a metaphysical necessity. (shrink)
Commonsense psychology and cognitive science both regularly assume the existence of representational states. I propose a naturalistic theory of representation sufficient to meet the pretheoretical constraints of a "folk theory of representation", constraints including the capacities for accuracy and inaccuracy, selectivity of proper objects of representation, perspective, articulation, and "efficacy" or content-determined functionality. The proposed model states that a representing device is a device which changes state when information is received over multiple information channels originating at a single source. The (...) changed state of a representing device is a representation. The unitary information source which would give rise to the information impinging on the representing device, and hence, give rise to the representation, is the content of the representation. The model meets the pretheoretic constraints, and also conforms to available neurobiological data for two invertebrate species. (shrink)
In this book, Della Rocca traces out the conceptual links between key concepts and principles of Spinoza's system bearing on representation and the mind-body problem. In the course of doing so, he presents and defends a number of new, interesting theses about Spinoza's thought on these matters. The arguments are presented with impressive clarity and in great detail. All in all, the book is a significant contribution to the literature on Spinoza's metaphysics and epistemology, and should be read by anyone (...) with a serious interest in its historical subject or in the two perennial philosophical problems on which it focuses. (shrink)
This article provides a state-of-the-art review of the philosophical literature on scientific representation. It first argues that the topic emerges historically mainly out of what may be called the modelling tradition. It then introduces a number of helpful analytical distinctions and goes on to divide contemporary approaches to scientific representation into two distinct kinds, substantive and deflationary. Analogies with related discussions of artistic representation in aesthetics and the nature of truth in metaphysics are pursued. It is finally urged that the (...) most promising approaches—and the ones most likely to feature prominently in future developments—are deflationary. In particular, a defense is provided of a genuinely inferential conception of representation. (shrink)
Van Fraassen has presented in Scientific Representation an attractive notion of measurement as an important part of the empiricist structuralism that he endorses. However, he has been criticized on the grounds that both his notion of measurement and his empiricist structuralism force him to do the very thing he objects to in other philosophical projects — to endorse a controversial metaphysics. This paper proposes a defense of van Fraassen by arguing that his project is indeed a ‘ metaphysical ’ project, (...) but one which is very similar to Strawson’s ‘ descriptive metaphysics ’; if this is the case, van Fraassen’s project may be taken, following recent suggestions made by Ney and Paul, as a form of metaphysics that can potentially make a crucial contribution to scientific inquiry. (shrink)
In this paper we consider persuasion in the context of practical reasoning, and discuss the problems associated with construing reasoning about actions in a manner similar to reasoning about beliefs. We propose a perspective on practical reasoning as presumptive justification of a course of action, along with critical questions of this justification, building on the account of Walton. From this perspective, we articulate an interaction protocol, which we call PARMA, for dialogues over proposed actions based on this theory. We outline (...) an axiomatic semantics for the PARMA Protocol, and discuss two implementations which use this protocol to mediate a discussion between humans. We then show how our proposal can be made computational within the framework of agents based on the Belief-Desire-Intention model, and illustrate this proposal with an example debate within a multi agent system. (shrink)
The Metaphysics of Knowledge presents the thesis that knowledge is an absolutely fundamental relation, with an indispensable role to play in metaphysics, philosophical logic, and philosophy of mind and language. Knowledge has been generally assumed to be a propositional attitude like belief. But Keith Hossack argues that knowledge is not a relation to a content; rather, it a relation to a fact. This point of view allows us to explain many of the concepts of philosophical logic in terms of knowledge. (...) Hossack provides a theory of facts as structured combinations of particulars and universals, and presents a theory of content as the property of a mental act that determines its value for getting knowledge. He also defends a theory of representation in which the conceptual structure of a content is taken to picture the fact it represents. This permits definitions to be given of reference, truth, and necessity in terms of knowledge. Turning to the metaphysics of mind and language, Hossack argues that a conscious state is one that is identical with knowledge of its own occurrence. This allows us to characterize subjectivity, and, by illuminating the "I"-concept, allows us to gain a better understanding of the concept of a person. Language is then explained in terms of knowledge, as a device used by a community of persons for exchanging knowledge by testimony. The Metaphysics of Knowledge concludes that knowledge is too fundamental to be constituted by something else, such as one's functional or physical state; other things may cause knowledge, but do not constitute it. (shrink)
This book investigates central issues in the philosophy of memory. Does remembering require a causal process connecting the past representation to its subsequent recall and, if so, what is the nature of the causal process? Of what kind are the primary intentional objects of memory states? How do we know that our memory experiences portray things the way they happened in the past? Given that our memory is not only a passive device for reproducing thoughts but also an active device (...) for processing stored thoughts, when are thoughts sufficiently similar to be memory-related? The Metaphysics of Memory defends a version of the causal theory of memory, argues for direct realism about memory, proposes an externalist response to skepticism about memory knowledge, and develops a contextualist account of the factivity constraint on memory. (shrink)
This paper investigates the role of conditionals in hypothetical reasoning and rational decision making. Its main result is a proof of a representation theorem for preferences defined on sets of sentences (and, in particular, conditional sentences), where an agent’s preference for one sentence over another is understood to be a preference for receiving the news conveyed by the former. The theorem shows that a rational preference ordering of conditional sentences determines probability and desirability representations of the agent’s degrees of belief (...) and desire that satisfy, in the case of non-conditional sentences, the axioms of Jeffrey’s decision theory and, in the case of conditional sentences, Adams’ expression for the probabilities of conditionals. Furthermore, the probability representation is shown to be unique and the desirability representation unique up to positive linear transformation. (shrink)
I consider two threats to the idea that on-line intelligent behaviour (the production of fluid and adaptable responses to ongoing sensory input) must or should be explained by appeal to neurally located representations. The first of these threats occurs when extra-neural factors account for the kind of behavioural richness and flexibility normally associated with representation-based control. I show how this anti-representational challenge can be met, if we apply the thought that, to be a representational system, an action-oriented neural system must (...) not only be the source of at least some of the observed behavioural richness and flexibility, it must also feature two architectural traits, namely arbitrariness and homuncularity. Unfortunately, however, this solution opens the door to our second threat to representation. The homuncularity condition will not be met by any system in which the causal contribution of each component is massively context-sensitive and variable over time. I end by discussing the empirical bet that biological nervous systems will not exhibit this style of causation. (shrink)
The orthodox view in the study of representation is that a strictly third-person objective methodology must be employed. The acceptance of this methodology is shown to be a fundamental and debilitating error. Toward this end I defend what I call.
Robert Cummins [(1996) Representations, targets and attitudes, Cambridge, MA: Bradford/MIT, p. 1] has characterized the vexed problem of mental representation as "the topic in the philosophy of mind for some time now." This remark is something of an understatement. The same topic was central to the famous controversy between Nicolas Malebranche and Antoine Arnauld in the 17th century and remained central to the entire philosophical tradition of "ideas" in the writings of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Reid and Kant. However, the scholarly, (...) exegetical literature has almost no overlap with that of contemporary cognitive science. I show that the recurrence of certain deep perplexities about the mind is a systematic and pervasive pattern arising not only throughout history, but also in a number of independent domains today such as debates over visual imagery, symbolic systems and others. Such historical and contemporary convergences suggest that the fundamental issues cannot arise essentially from the theoretical guise they take in any particular case. (shrink)
In this superb book, Williams sets a very ambitious goal for himself: to sketch biconditionals that define representational conditions in nonrepresentational terms. Representation is not a spooky, primitive capacity of the mind; it is built from more basic ingredients. At the center is his radical interpretation theory of belief and desire, inspired by the work of David Lewis.
Philosophers often hold that the aim of conceptual analysis is to discover the representational content of a given concept such as freewill, belief, or law. In From Metaphysics to Ethics and other recent work, Frank Jackson has developed a theory of conceptual analysis that is one of the most advanced systematizations of this widespread idea. I argue that this influential way of characterizing conceptual analysis is too narrow. I argue that it is possible that an expressivist account could turn out (...) to be correct as a genuine conceptual analysis of a genuine concept. I claim that since an expressivist analysis does not aim to discover the representational content of a given concept—and, indeed, might itself be based on the idea that the concept in question is not even representational in nature—the possibility of expressivist conceptual analysis shows that Jackson’s theory of conceptual analysis is incomplete as it currently stands. I conclude that Jackson needs to either shift his basic understanding of the nature of conceptual analysis or commit to a particular normative reinterpretation of his project. (shrink)
In a previous Philo article, it was shown how properties could be ontologically dispensed with via a representational analysis: to be an X is to comprehensively represent all the properties of an X. The current paper extends that representationalist (RT) theory by explaining representation itself in parallel epistemic rather than ontological terms. On this extended RT (ERT) theory, representations of X, as well as the real X, both may be identified as providing information about X, whether partial or comprehensive. But (...) that information does not match ontological, property-based analyses of X, so it is epistemically fundamental–hence supporting a broadly conceptualist rather than nominalist metaphysics. (shrink)
Five leading figures in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science debate the central topic of mental representation. Each author's contribution is specially written for this volume, and then collectively discussed by the others. The editor frames the discussions and provides a way into the debates for new readers. An exciting feature of this collection is the transcribed discussion among all the contributors following each exchange. This is the latest thinking on mental representation carefully and critically analysed by the leading (...) thinkers in the field. (shrink)
Intentional states represent. Belief represents how we take things to be; desire represents how we would like things to be; and so on. To represent is to make a division among possibilities; it is to divide the possibilities into those that are consistent with how things are being represented to be and those that are not. I will call the possibilities consistent with how some intentional state represents things to be, its content. There is no suggestion that this is the (...) only legitimate notion of content, but for anyone who takes seriously the representational nature of intentional states, it must be one legitimate and central notion of content. To discover that DNA has a double helix structure is to make a selection from the various possible structures. (shrink)