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How Are Thick Terms Evaluative?
Ethicists are typically willing to grant that thick terms (e.g. ‘courageous’ and ‘murder’) are somehow associated with evaluations. But they tend to disagree about what exactly this relationship is. Does a thick term’s evaluation come by way of its semantic content? Or is the evaluation pragmatically associated with the thick term (e.g. via conversational implicature)? In this paper, I argue that thick terms are semantically associated with evaluations. In particular, I argue that many thick concepts (if not all) conceptually entail evaluative contents. The Semantic View has a number of outspoken critics, but I shall limit discussion to the most recent—Pekka Väyrynen—who believes that objectionable thick concepts present a problem for the Semantic View. After advancing my positive argument in favor of the Semantic View (section II), I argue that Väyrynen’s attack is unsuccessful (section III). One reason ethicists cite for not focusing on thick concepts is that such concepts are supposedly not semantically evaluative whereas traditional thin concepts (e.g. good and wrong) are. But if my view is correct, then this reason must be rejected.
|Brent G. Kyle||PDF (532kb)|
Suárez on the Reduction of Categorical Relations
Francisco Suárez wrote one of the most thorough treatments in the Western philosophical tradition of the metaphysics of relations. Suárez, so I argue, is a reductivist about categorical relations, i.e., about the relations that make up one of the Aristotelian categories of being. One thing being similar to another requires nothing more than those two things and their non-relational qualities. Suárez is wary, however, of identifying too closely with earlier reductivists of the nominalist school, since he retains a pair of traditional commitments that he thinks they were too quick to jettison: namely, that two relata do not contribute equally to their relation and that there are non-mutual relations. The latter commitment in particular ends up leading Suárez down an unsatisfactory path.
|Sydney Penner||PDF (616kb)|
The Relation between Conception and Causation in Spinoza’s Metaphysics
Conception and causation are fundamental notions in Spinoza's metaphysics. I argue against the orthodox view that, due to the causal axiom, if one thing is conceived through another thing, then the second thing causes the first thing. My conclusion forces us to rethink Spinoza's entitlement to some of his core commitments, including the principle of sufficient reason, the parallelism doctrine and the conatus doctrine.
|John Morrison||PDF (195kb)|
From Coordination to Content
Frege's picture of attitude states and attitude reports requires a notion of content that is shareable between agents, yet more fine-grained than reference. Kripke challenged this picture by giving a case on which the expressions that resist substitution in an attitude report share a candidate notion of fine-grained content. A consensus view developed which accepted Kripke's general moral and replaced the Fregean picture with an account of attitude reporting on which states are distinguished in conversation by their (private) representational properties. I begin in support of the consensus by showing how a sort of de facto coordination on mental symbols is possible, even for unsophisticated agents. But I go on to argue that whenever conditions are ripe for de facto coordination on symbols, there is an inter-subjective relation that supports a fine-grained notion of content resistant to Kripke's challenge. The consensus view corresponds to a Kripke-resistant strain of the Fregean picture.
|Samuel Cumming||PDF (296kb)|
Revising Up: Strengthening Classical Logic in the Face of Paradox
This paper provides a defense of the full strength of classical logic, in a certain form, against those who would appeal to semantic paradox or vagueness in an argument for a weaker logic. I will not argue that these paradoxes are based on mistaken principles; the approach I recommend will extend a familiar formulation of classical logic by including a fully transparent truth predicate and fully tolerant vague predicates. It has been claimed that these principles are not compatible with classical logic; I will argue, by both drawing on previous work and presenting new work in the same vein, that this is not so. We can combine classical logic with these intuitive principles, so long as we allow the result to be nontransitive. In the end, I hope the paper will help us to handle familiar paradoxes within classical logic; along the way, I hope to shed some light on what classical logic might be for.
|David Ripley||PDF (235kb)|
Leibniz’s Conciliatory Account of Substance
This essay offers an alternative account of Leibniz’s views on substance and fundamental ontology. The proposal is driven by three main ideas. First, that Leibniz’s treatment should be understood against the backdrop of a traditional dispute over the paradigmatic nature substance as well as his own overarching conciliatory ambitions. Second, that Leibniz’s metaphysics is intended to support his conciliatory view that both traditional views of substance are tenable in at least their positive and philosophical respects. Third, that the relationship between immaterial substances, corporeal substances, and ordinary bodies in Leibniz’s metaphysics is best understood as one of “material” constitution. The interpretation as a whole thus suggests that Leibniz needn’t be read as offering either an exclusive defense of corporeal substance realism, nor of immaterial substance idealism, nor as being deeply torn (at a time or over time) between two such views. He may instead be seen as offering a carefully presented, consistent, and sophisticated conciliatory account of substance.
|Jeffrey K. McDonough||PDF (601kb)|
A compelling idea holds that reality has a layered structure. We often disagree about what inhabits the bottom layer (or even if there is one), but we agree that higher up we find chemical, biological, geological, psychological, sociological, economic, etc., entities: molecules, human beings, diamonds, mental states, cities, interest rates, and so on. How is this intuitive talk of a layered structure of entities to be understood? Traditionally, philosophers have proposed to understand layered structure in terms of either reduction or supervenience. But these traditional views face well-known problems. A plausible alternative is that layered structure is to be explicated by appeal to explanations of a certain sort, termed grounding explanations. Grounding explanations tell us what obtains in virtue of what. Unfortunately, the use of grounding explanations to articulate the layered conception faces a problem, which I call the collapse. The collapse turns on the question of how to ground the facts stated by the explanations themselves. In this paper I make a suggestion about how to ground explanations that avoids the collapse. Briefly, the suggestion is that the fact stated by a grounding explanation is grounded in its explanans.
|Louis deRosset||PDF (267kb)|
Beyond Transparency: the Spatial Argument for Experiential Externalism
I highlight a neglected but striking phenomenological fact about our experiences: they have a pervasively spatial character. Specifically, all (or almost all) phenomenal qualities – roughly, the introspectible, philosophically puzzling properties that constitute ‘what it’s like’ to have an experience – introspectively seem instantiated in some kind of space. So, assuming a very weak charity principle about introspection, some phenomenal qualities are instantiated in space. But there is only one kind of space – the ordinary space occupied by familiar objects. And the only objects appropriately located in ordinary space are outside the subject’s mind. This entails experiential externalism, the view that at least one phenomenal quality is instantiated outside the subject’s mind. Experiential externalism is incompatible with many leading theories of experience, including certain mental paint theories; some forms of representationalism; paradigmatic versions of sense-datum theory; and views on which no phenomenal qualities are instantiated. My argument is structurally similar to familiar arguments based on the ‘transparency of experience.’ However, I suggest, phenomenological intuitions about spatiality are considerably more stable than phenomenological intuitions about transparency. For many philosophers, transparency intuitions fade markedly with respect to non-standard experiences, including experiences associated with blurry or double vision. But spatiality intuitions remain robust even for these experiences. Thus, spatiality intuitions should be more dialectically effective than transparency intuitions for supporting experiential externalism.
|Neil Mehta||PDF (561kb)|
Murdoch on the Sovereignty of Good
Considering her fame, Iris Murdoch's presence in contemporary philosophy is surprisingly limited. She is rarely cited and less often discussed. The reasons for this neglect are various, but they include the difficulty of finding definite arguments in her work. This essay attempts to recover The Sovereignty of Good as an intervention in existing and perennial disputes. Murdoch defends a radical internalism about moral reasons that avoids the problem of ethical rationalism and the question "Why be moral?" She derives this conception from a general theory of concepts that has Platonic roots, a theory on which the conditions of concept-possession are tied to the norms of practical and theoretical reason. As well as saving morality from the sceptic, this theory supports an ontological proof of the reality of the Good.
|Kieran Setiya||PDF (482kb)|
A conspicuous art: putting Gettier to the test
Professional philosophers say it’s obvious that a Gettier subject does not know. But experimental philosophers and psychologists have argued that laypeople and non-Westerners view Gettier subjects very differently, based on experiments where laypeople tend to ascribe knowledge to Gettier subjects. I argue that when effectively probed, laypeople and non-Westerners unambiguously agree that Gettier subjects do not know.
|John Turri||PDF (905kb)|
Belief Is Credence One (In Context)
This paper argues for two theses: (a) that degrees of belief are context sensitive; (b) that outright belief is belief to degree 1. The latter thesis is rejected quickly in most discussions of the relationship between credence and belief, but the former thesis undermines the usual reasons for doing so. Furthermore, identifying belief with credence 1 allows nice solutions to a number of problems for the most widely-held view of the relationship between credence and belief, the threshold view. I provide a sketch of a formal framework on which both theses are true. This is a modiﬁed Bayesian framework; I argue that despite making credences context-sensitive, the framework lets Bayesians hold on to their signature explanatory successes. The sort of context-sensitivity claimed for credences here mirrors the sort of context-sensitivity I have elsewhere claimed for outright belief: one’s credences depend, in part, on the space of alternative possibilities one takes seriously in a context.
|Roger Clarke||PDF (258kb)|
The Epistemological Challenge of Revisionary Metaphysics
This paper presents a systematic challenge to the viability of revisionary metaphysics. The challenge is to provide epistemic grounds on which one might justifiably believe that a revisionary-metaphysical theory in some area is more likely to be true than its competitors. I argue that upon close examination, the main candidates for providing such grounds — empirical evidence, intuition, and the theoretical virtues — all turn out to be unsatisfactory.
|Uriah Kriegel||PDF (743kb)|
Normative realism: co-reference without convergence?
This paper examines whether realists can explain co-reference without appealing to subjects’ ideal convergence in judgment. This question is particularly pressing in the normative domain, since deep disagreement about the applicability of normative predicates suggests that different speakers may not pick out the same property when they use normative terms. Normative realists, we believe, have not been sufficiently aware of the difficulties involved in providing a theory of reference-determination. Our aim in this paper is to clarify the nature of this reference-fixing task and the challenges that arise for a non-convergentist normative realist. Our focal point will be Richard Boyd’s externalist account, which has been a model for non-convergentist theories of reference in metaethics. A close examination of Boyd’s account of reference and the ways it could be developed or supplemented, we’ll argue, suggests that explaining co-reference without convergence in the normative domain is a more challenging problem than many realists have supposed.
|Laura Schroeter; François Schroeter||PDF (535kb)|
Wisdom and Happiness in Euthydemus 278–282
Plato’s Socrates is often thought to hold that wisdom or virtue is sufficient for happiness, and Euthydemus 278-282 is often taken to be the locus classicus for this sufficiency thesis in Plato’s dialogues. But this view is misguided: Not only does Socrates here fail to argue for, assert, or even implicitly assume the sufficiency thesis, but the thesis turns out to be hard to square with the argument he does give. I argue for an interpretation of the passage that explains the central importance of wisdom for Socrates without committing him to the sufficiency thesis. The result is that the Euthydemus displays a plausible but distinctively Socratic argument for making the pursuit of wisdom the central concern of one’s life.
|Russell E. Jones||PDF (554kb)|
Can Primitive Laws Explain?
One reason to posit governing laws is to explain the uniformity of nature. Explanatory power can be purchased by accepting new primitives, and scientists invoke laws in their explanations without providing any supporting metaphysics. For these reasons, one might suspect that we can treat laws as wholly unanalyzable primitives. (John Carroll’s Laws of Nature (1994) and Tim Maudlin’s The Metaphysics Within Physics (2007) offer recent defenses of primitivism about laws.) Whatever defects primitive laws might have, explanatory weakness should not be one of them. However, in this essay I’ll argue that wholly primitive laws cannot explain the uniformity of nature. The basic argument is based on the following idea: though a primitive law that P makes P likely, the primitive status of the law provides no reason to think that P must describe (or otherwise give rise to) a natural regularity. After identifying the problem for primitive laws, I consider an extension of the objection to all theories of governing laws and suggest that it may be avoided by a version of the Dretske/Tooley/Armstrong theory according to which laws are relations between universals.
|Tyler Hildebrand||PDF (483kb)|
‘Can’ without Possible Worlds: Semantics for Anti-Humeans
Metaphysicians of modality are increasingly critical of possible-worlds talk, and increasingly happy to accept irreducibly modal properties – and in particular, irreducible dispositions – in nature. The aim of this paper is to provide the beginnings of a modal semantics which uses, instead of possible-worlds talk, the resources of such an 'anti-Humean' metaphysics. One central challenge to an anti-Humean view is the context-sensitivity of modal language. I show how that challenge can be met and a systematic modal semantics provided, given an independently plausible metaphysics of dispositional properties or potentialities.
|Barbara Vetter||PDF (220kb)|
Tarski and Primitivism About Truth
Tarski’s pioneering work on truth has been thought by some to motivate a robust, correspondence-style theory of truth, and by others to motivate a deflationary attitude toward truth. I argue that Tarski’s work suggests neither; if it motivates any contemporary theory of truth, it motivates conceptual primitivism, the view that truth is a fundamental, indefinable concept. After outlining conceptual primitivism and Tarski’s theory of truth, I show how the two approaches to truth share much in common. While Tarski does not explicitly accept primitivism, the view is open to him, and fits better with his formal work on truth than do correspondence or deflationary theories. Primitivists, in turn, may rely on Tarski’s insights in motivating their own perspective on truth. I conclude by showing how viewing Tarski through the primitivist lens provides a fresh response to some familiar charges from Putnam and Etchemendy.
|Jamin Asay||PDF (486kb)|
The Problem of Respecting Higher-Order Doubt
This paper argues that higher-order doubt generates an epistemic dilemma. One has a higher-order doubt with regards to P insofar as one justifiably withholds belief as to what attitude towards P is justified. That is, one justifiably withholds belief as to whether one is justified in believing, disbelieving, or withholding belief in P. Using the resources provided by Richard Feldman’s recent discussion of how to respect one’s evidence, I argue that if one has a higher-order doubt with regards to P, then one is not justified in having any attitude towards P. Otherwise put: No attitude towards the doubted proposition respects one’s higher-order doubt. I argue that the most promising response to this problem is to hold that when one has a higher-order doubt about P, the best one can do to respect such a doubt is to simply have no attitude towards P. Higher-order doubt is thus much more rationally corrosive than non-higher-order doubt, as it undermines the possibility of justifiably having any attitude towards the doubted proposition.
|David Alexander||PDF (410kb)|
Degrees of Being
Let us agree that everything that there is exists, and that to be, to be real, and to exist are one and the same. Does everything that there is exist to the same degree? Or do some things exist more than others? Are there gradations of being? I argue that some entities exist more than others. Moreover, many of the notions in play in contemporary metaphysical discourse, such as fundamentality, perfect naturalness, and grounding ought to be cashed out in terms of degree of existence.
|Kris McDaniel||PDF (565kb)|
Aquinas on judgment and the active power of reason
This paper examines Aquinas’ account of a certain kind of rational control: the control one exercises in using one’s reason to make a judgment. Though this control is not itself a kind of voluntary control, it is a precondition for voluntariness. Aquinas claims that one’s voluntary actions must spring from judgments that are subject to one’s rational control and that, because of this, only rational animals can act voluntarily. This rational kind of control depends on a certain distinctive feature of the rational faculty. For Aquinas, reason differs from other faculties in that it can be exercised in a peculiarly self-reflective way: in exercising reason one can be grasping the point of what one is doing in that very exercise of reason. The sense in which one controls one’s rational judgment is that one is, in judging, guided by the norm of judging truly. Aquinas holds that it is only possible to be so guided because the power by which one judges (namely, reason) is self-reflective in this special sense: part of what it is to judge is to grasp the point of what one is doing in that very act of judging. The paper argues that the roots of this view can be found in neoplatonic discussions of self-constitution and self-knowledge.
|Ursula Coope||PDF (573kb)|
Reason in its Practical Application
Is practical reason a cognitive faculty? Do practical judgments make claims about a subject matter that are appropriately assessed in terms of their agreement with that subject matter? According to Kantians like Christine Korsgaard, the answer is no. To think otherwise is to conflate the theoretical and the practical, the epistemic and the ethical. I am not convinced. In this paper, I motivate my skepticism through examination of the very figure who inspires Korsgaard's rejection of cognitivism: Kant. For as I read him, Kant does not construe the distinction between theoretical and practical reason in terms of a distinction between cognitive and non-cognitive faculties but in terms of two distinct applications of a single faculty of reason, which is through-and-through cognitive. Thus, practical, no less than theoretical, reason cognizes a subject matter, and so practical, no less than theoretical, reason is straightforwardly subject to familiar epistemic standards of truth, warrant, and knowledge. Of course, even if I am right about Kant, this does not show that Korsgaard is wrong about reason; and I will offer no direct argument against her position here. Nonetheless, I believe that reflection on Kant's true view, with its careful treatment of and respect for both the practicality and rationality of reason, should perhaps lead us to rethink what it means to be a rationalist in ethics.
|E. Sonny Elizondo||PDF (482kb)|
Knowledge in Action
Recent proposals that frame norms of action in terms of knowledge have been challenged by Bayesian decision theorists. Bayesians object that knowledge-based norms conflict with the highly successful and established view that rational action is rooted in degrees of belief. I argue that the knowledge-based and Bayesian pictures are not as incompatible as these objectors have made out. Attending to the mechanisms of practical reasoning exposes space for both knowledge and degrees of belief to play their respective roles.
|Jonathan Weisberg||PDF (220kb)|
Disagreement and the Semantics of Normative and Evaluative Terms
In constructing semantic theories of normative and evaluative terms, philosophers have commonly deployed a certain type of disagreement-based argument. The premise of the argument observes the possibility of genuine disagreement between users of a certain normative or evaluative term, while the conclusion of the argument is that, however differently those speakers employ the term, they must mean the same thing by it. After all, if they did not, then they would not really disagree. We argue that in many of the cases in which this argument is deployed, the conclusion not only fails to follow from the premises, but is very likely false. Disagreements between speakers who do not mean the same things by their words are common, genuine, and not easily distinguished from ordinary disagreements over the truth of literally expressed content. We make this case by developing the notion of a metalinguistic negotiation, an exchange in which speakers tacitly negotiate the proper deployment of some linguistic expression in a context. Metalinguistic negotiations express disagreements over information that is (a) conveyed pragmatically (rather than via literal semantic content) and (b) about what (and how) concepts should be deployed in the context at hand. We argue that neither of these features poses any obstacle to metalinguistic negotiations serving to express genuine, substantive disagreements that can be well worth engaging in. Contrary to what has been widely assumed in the literature, many normative and evaluative disputes—among ordinary speakers and even among philosophers themselves—may be of exactly this type, a conclusion with important consequences for both the subject matter and the methodology of metanormative theory.
|David Plunkett; Tim Sundell||PDF (770kb)|
Quantificational Logic and Empty Names
The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as $\exists xt = x$; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that in order to specify the truth conditions of certain sentences involving constants or variables that don’t denote, one has to apparently quantify over things that are not identical to anything. In this paper I defend a contingentist, non-Meinongian metaphysics within a positive free logic. I argue that although certain names and free variables do not actually refer to anything, in each case there might have been something they actually refer to, allowing one to interpret the contingentist claims without quantifying over mere possibilia.
|Andrew Bacon||PDF (295kb)|