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22 The Absence of Reference in Hobbes’ Philosophy of Language

Against the dominant view in contemporary Hobbes scholarship, I argue that Hobbes’ philosophy of language implicitly denies that linguistic expressions (names) refer to anything. I defend this thesis both textually, in light of what Hobbes actually said, and contextually, in light of Hobbes’ desertion of the vocabulary of suppositio, which was prevalent in semantics leading up to Hobbes. Hobbes explained away the apparent fact of linguistic reference via a reductive analysis: the relation between words and things wholly reduces to a composite of the relation of signification between words and conceptions on the one hand, and the relation of representation between conceptions and things on the other. Intentionality, for Hobbes, accrues to conceptions, not words.

Arash Abizadeh vol. 15 August 2015
05 Hobbes's Laws of Nature in Leviathan as a Synthetic Demonstration: Thought Experiments and Knowing the Causes

The status of the laws of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan has been a continual point of disagreement among scholars. Many agree that since Hobbes claims that civil philosophy is a science, the answer lies in an understanding of the nature of Hobbesian science more generally. In this paper, I argue that Hobbes’s view of the construction of geometrical figures sheds light upon the status of the laws of nature. In short, I claim that the laws play the same role as the component parts – what Hobbes calls the “cause” – of geometrical figures. To make this argument, I show that in both geometry and civil philosophy, Hobbes proceeds by a method of synthetic demonstration as follows: 1) offering a thought experiment by privation; 2) providing definitions by explication of “simple conceptions” within the thought experiment; and 3) formulating generative definitions by making use of those definitions by explication. In just the same way that Hobbes says that the geometer should “put together” the parts of a square to learn its cause, I argue that the laws of nature are the cause of peace.

Marcus P. Adams vol. 19 2019
44 Perennial Idealism: A Mystical Solution to the Mind-Body Problem

Each well-known proposed solution to the mind-body problem encounters an impasse. These take the form of an explanatory gap, such as the one between mental and physical, or between micro-subjects and macro-subject. The dialectical pressure to bridge these gaps is generating positions in which consciousness is becoming increasingly foundational. The most recent of these, cosmopsychism, typically casts the entire cosmos as a perspectival subject whose mind grounds those of more limited subjects like ourselves. I review the dialectic from materialism and dualism through to pan(cosmo)psychism, suggesting that explanatory gaps in the latter stem from assuming foundational consciousness to be perspectival. Its renunciation may yield the notion of an aperspectival, universal, “non-dual” consciousness that grounds all manifestation and is unstructured by subject, object or any differentia. Not only is such consciousness suggestive of a natural successor to cosmopsychism, but it has also been reported to be the direct experience of mystics who claim to have transcended the individual perspective. Their purported insight — that our aperspectival conscious nature is identical to the ground of all being — has been termed “the Perennial Philosophy”. Believing this Perennial Philosophy to offer the most promising way forward in the mind-body problem, I construct from it the foundations of a metaphysical system that I call “Perennial Idealism”. This attempts to account for manifestation in terms of dispositional, imagery-bound subjects. I then address an age-old “Parmenidean” conundrum that I refer to as “the problem of the one and the many”: How can an undifferentiated substratum ground differentia without the ground itself differentiating? The proposed solution takes its cue from mystico-philosophical writings in the Advaita Vedānta tradition, known as the ajāta doctrine.

Miri Albahari vol. 19 2019
21 Insight Knowledge of No Self in Buddhism: An Epistemic Analysis

Imagine a character, Mary Analogue, who has a complete theoretical knowledge of her subject matter: the illusory nature of self. Suppose that when presenting her paper on no self at a conference she suffers stage-fright – a reaction that implies she is under an illusion of the very self whose existence she denies. Might there be something defective about her knowledge of no self? The Buddhist tradition would claim that Mary Analogue, despite her theoretical omniscience, lacks deep ‘insight knowledge’ into the reality of no self. The only way for her to gain insight, and thereby improve her epistemic status, would be to divest her mind of the self-illusion. In this paper, I offer an analysis of what could be epistemically involved in the process of acquiring such insight knowledge whereby one becomes, in Buddhist parlance, ‘awakened’.

Miri Albahari vol. 14 July 2014
18 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 vol. 13 September 2013
02 Merleau-Ponty and Naïve Realism

This paper has two aims. The first is to use contemporary discussions of naïve realist theories of perception to offer an interpretation of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perception. The second is to use consideration of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perception to outline a distinctive version of a naïve realist theory of perception. In a Merleau-Pontian spirit, these two aims are inter-dependent.

Keith Allen vol. 19 2019
01 Learning Through Simulation

Mental simulation — such as imagining tilting a glass to figure out the angle at which water would spill — can be a way of coming to know the answer to an internally or externally posed query. Is this form of learning a species of inference or a form of observation? We argue that it is neither: learning through simulation is a genuinely distinct form of learning. On our account, simulation can provide knowledge of the answer to a query even when the basis for that answer is opaque to the learner. Moreover, through repeated simulation, the learner can reduce this opacity, supporting self-training and the acquisition of more accurate models of the world. Simulation is thus an essential part of the story of how creatures like us become effective learners and knowers.

Sara Aronowitz; Tania Lombrozo vol. 20 2020
17 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 vol. 13 August 2013
09 Closure Reconsidered

Most solutions to the skeptical paradox about justified belief assume closure for justification, since the rejection of closure is widely regarded as a non-starter. I argue that the rejection of closure is not a non-starter, and that its problems are no greater than the problems associated with the more standard anti-skeptical strategies. I do this by sketching a simple version of the unpopular strategy and rebutting the three best objections to it. The general upshot for theories of justification is that it is not a constraint on such theories that we must somehow have justification to believe that we are not massively deceived.

Yuval Avnur vol. 12 April 2012