Browse by Author
Kant on Misology and the Natural Dialectic
Towards the conclusion of the First Section of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant describes a process whereby a subject can undergo a kind of moral corruption. This process, which he calls a “natural dialectic”, can cause one to undermine one’s own or¬dinary grasp of the demands of morality. Kant also claims that this natural dialectic is the basis of the need for moral philosophy itself, since first-order moral reasoning is insufficient to protect against it. I show that this passage is closely related to another in the First Section, one where Kant warns against the threat of “misology”, or the hatred of reason. I argue that both these passages must be read as engaging with specific claims from Rousseau’s writings. Uncovering the historical context and rhetorical function of Kant’s account of moral self-deception can re-orient the reader to his ambitions for the Groundwork itself.
|John J. Callanan||vol. 19||2019|
Why Lewis’s analysis of modality succeeds in its reductive ambitions.
Some argue that Lewisian realism fails as a reduction of modality because in order to meet some criterion of success the account needs to invoke primitive modality. I defend Lewisian realism against this charge; in the process, I hope to shed some light on the conditions of success for a reduction. In §1 I detail the resources the Lewisian modal realist needs. In §2 I argue against Lycan and Shalkowski’s charge that Lewis needs a modal notion of ‘world’ to ensure that worlds correspond to possibilities. In §3 I respond to Divers and Melia’s objection that Lewis needs to invoke primitive modality to give a complete account of what worlds there are. In §4 I ask what it is for a notion to ‘involve’ modality. I conclude that the question is either in bad standing or at best offers little traction on the debate, and propose a different way of assessing when materials are appropriately included in a reductive base.
|Ross P. Cameron||vol. 12||March 2012|
The Eightfold Way: Why Analyticity, Apriority and Necessity are Independent
This paper concerns the three great modal dichotomies: (i) the necessary/contingent dichotomy; (ii) the a priori/empirical dichotomy; and (iii) the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. These can be combined to produce a tri-dichotomy of eight modal categories. The question as to which of the eight categories house statements and which do not is a pivotal battleground in the history of analytic philosophy, with key protagonists including Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kripke, Putnam and Kaplan. All parties to the debate have accepted that some categories are void. This paper defends the contrary view that all eight categories house statements — a position I dub “octopropositionalism”. Examples of statements belonging to all eight categories are given.
|Douglas Ian Campbell||vol. 17||December 2017|
Self-Conscious Emotions Without a Self
Recent discussions of emotions in Buddhism suggest that one of the canonical self-conscious emotions, shame (the received translation of the Pāli term ‘hiri’), is an emotion to be endorsed and indeed cultivated. The canonical texts in the Abhidharma Buddhist tradition, endorse hiri as one of the wholesome (kusala) factors “always found in all good minds” and as one of “the guardians of the world”. Shame is widely taken to be a self-conscious emotion, and so if hiri counts as shame, this seems to be in tension with the central Buddhist claim that we should rid ourselves of the idea that there is a self. Buddhist moral education seems to promote an emotion that fundamentally presupposes something that Buddhist metaphysics fundamentally rejects: a self. This puzzle provides the motivation for our paper, and we will argue for a new understanding of hiri that also has implications for how we should think about one important “self-conscious” moral emotion, guilt. This puzzle about the Buddhist tradition also raises a basic philosophical question: What kinds of moral emotions are theoretically consistent with the denial of a self? We argue that anticipatory guilt might be such an emotion, and that it provides a plausible interpretation of hiri in key Buddhist texts.
|Monima Chadha; Shaun Nichols||vol. 19||2019|
Prospects for an Expressivist Theory of Meaning
Advocates of Expressivism about basically any kind of language are best-served by abandoning a traditional content-centric approach to semantic theorizing, in favor of an update-centric or dynamic approach (or so this paper argues). The type of dynamic approach developed here — in contrast to the content-centric approach — is argued to yield canonical, if not strictly classical, "explanations" of the core semantic properties of the connectives. (The cases on which I focus most here are negation and disjunction.) I end the paper by describing a distinctive sense in which mental states might play a fundamental role in the practice of semantic theorizing (as I understand it), and I connect this to a distinctive account of the pragmatic function of, e.g., a normatively laden claim in discourse.
|Nate Charlow||vol. 15||August 2015|
Descartes on Sensation: A Defense of the Semantic-Causation Model
Descartes's lack of clarity about the causal connections between brain states and mental states has led many commentators to conclude that he has no coherent account of body-mind relations in sensation, or that he was simply confused about the issue. In this paper I develop what I take to be a coherent account that was available to Descartes, and argue that there are both textual and systematic reasons to think that it was his considered view. The account has brain states serving as occasions for the mind to produce in itself the sensations that it takes these brain states to signify. The relation between body and mind on this model is thus neither a standard efficient-causal relation, nor an occasionalist one, but rather a semantic-causal relation (i.e. a non-standard efficient causal relation that goes by way of natural signification). At the end of the paper I argue that the model does not undermine Descartes' commitment to the self-transparency of the mind.
|Andrew Chignell||vol. 9||June 2009|
Expressivism, Truth, and (Self-) Knowledge
In this paper, I consider the prospects of two different kinds of expressivism - ethical expressivism and avowal expressivism - in light of two common objections. The first objection stems from the fact that it is natural to think of ethical statements and avowals as at least potential manifestations of knowledge. The second objection stems from the fact that it is natural to treat ethical statements and avowals as truth-evaluable. I argue that, although a recent avowal expressivist attempt (Bar-On 2004) to meet the second objection may succeed, the related response to the first objection threatens to undermine the principal advantages of that view. Then, I argue that although recent ethical expressivist attempts (especially Blackburn 1998 and Gibbard 2003) to meet the first objection are successful, the related response to the second objection threatens to undermine the principal advantages of that view. This suggests a cross-pollination of defensive strategies, which I go on to explore in order to articulate the theoretical commitments one must take on to make either cross-pollinated position work in the face of both objections. In light of this, I suggest that the prospects for the resulting ethical expressivist position are considerably better than the prospects for the resulting avowal expressivist position, though both positions involve significant theoretical costs.
|Matthew Chrisman||vol. 9||May 2009|
Disagreement, Question-Begging, and Epistemic Self-Criticism
Responding rationally to the information that others disagree with one’s beliefs requires assessing the epistemic credentials of the opposing beliefs. Conciliatory accounts of disagreement flow in part from holding that these assessments must be independent from one’s own initial reasoning on the disputed matter. I argue that this claim, properly understood, does not have the untoward consequences some have worried about. Moreover, some of the difficulties it does engender must be faced by many less conciliatory accounts of disagreement (and, more generally, by accounts of rationally responding to evidence of one’s epistemic malfunction).
|David Christensen||vol. 11||March 2011|
Temporal Experiences and Their Parts
The paper develops an objection to the extensional model of time consciousness—the view that temporally extended events or processes, and their temporal properties, can be directly perceived as such. Importantly, following James, advocates of the extensional model typically insist that whole experiences of temporal relations between non-simultaneous events are distinct from mere successions of their temporal parts. This means, presumably, that there ought to be some feature(s) differentiating the former from the latter. I try to show why the extensional models offers no credible ground for positing such a difference.
|Philippe Chuard||vol. 11||September 2011|
Is Zhuangzi a Fictionalist?
This paper explores the possibility that Zhuangzi (a pre-Qin Chinese philosopher) can be fruitfully interpreted as a fictionalist. It proceeds in four parts. Part one discusses two distinct and very general types of fictionalism—force and content—that might prove useful for an interpreter of the Zhuangzi. The former type of view would have it that the expressions in question—that is, the expressions that Zhuangzi is held to advocate using and interpreting non-literally—are not best seen as used in a way that aims at, e.g., truth, whereas the latter type of view would have it that the expressions in question are best seen as used in a way that aims at truth, if in a non-literal fashion. Part two surveys evidence in favor of the claim that Zhuangzi can be interpreted in terms of one or the other of these two types of fictionalism and argues that he is better characterized as endorsing a version of the former. Part three explains how interpreting Zhuangzi as a fictionalist can help to resolve notable tensions in the text and briefly explores a few additional merits of this reading of the Zhuangzi: namely, that it can give us a clearer idea of what Zhuangzi’s positive project is, unify seemingly disparate scholarly interpretations of it, and reconcile objectivist and non-objectivist strands in his work. Finally, part four concludes by gesturing toward how the interpretation proposed here might bring the Zhuangzi into productive dialogue with two longstanding philosophical questions: specifically, the question of how we should respond to skeptical (and similar) arguments, and the question of how aesthetic features of works of art—and in particular, literature—might be related to their cognitive or epistemic value (insofar as they have cognitive or epistemic value of an interesting sort).
|Julianne Nicole Chung||vol. 18||2018|
Honesty, Humility, Courage, & Strength: Later Wittgenstein on the Difficulties of Philosophy and the Philosophical Virtues
What qualities do we need in order to be good philosophers? Wittgenstein insists that virtues of character – such as honesty, humility, courage, and strength – are more important for our philosophizing than the relevant intellectual talents and skills. These virtues are essential because doing good philosophy demands both knowing and overcoming the deep-seated desires and inclinations which lead us astray in our thinking, and achieving such self-knowledge and self-overcoming demands all of these virtues working in concert. In this paper I draw together many of Wittgenstein’s seemingly offhanded remarks on these issues in order to reconstruct his understanding of philosophy’s ‘difficulties of the will’ and the virtues needed to overcome them.
|Gabriel Citron||vol. 19||2019|
Virtue and the Problem of Conceptualization
According to an influential family of views, agents are virtuous when and because they possess the correct attitudes towards the actual good and bad. But there are multiple ways of conceptualizing the actual good and bad, and attitudes towards some conceptualizations of the good and bad seem to be irrelevant to moral character. It is deceptively difficult to provide a theoretical rationale for distinguishing between those conceptualizations of the good and bad that seem to be relevant and those that do not: I argue that a previous attempt to provide such a rationale fails, as do a number of seemingly promising alternatives. This problem merits further attention not only because it shows that certain theoretical accounts of character are incomplete, but because it is likely to interfere with our ability to evaluate certain real-world agents, who care about the actual good conceptualized in certain ways but not in others. Since a generalized version of the problem of conceptualization also affects other “intrinsic” accounts of virtue and vice, I argue that we must either solve this problem or abandon such accounts.
|Sean Clancy||vol. 19||2019|
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||vol. 13||June 2013|
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||vol. 13||October 2013|
Conventions of Viewpoint Coherence in Film
This paper examines the interplay of semantics and pragmatics within the domain of film. Films are made up of individual shots strung together in sequences over time. Though each shot is disconnected from the next, combinations of shots still convey coherent stories that take place in continuous space and time. How is this possible? The semantic view of film holds that film coherence is achieved in part through a kind of film language, a set of conventions which govern the relationships between shots. In this paper, we develop and defend a new version of the semantic view. We articulate it for a pair of conventions that govern spatial relations between viewpoints. One such rule is already well-known; sometimes called the "180° Rule," we term it the X-Constraint; to this we add a previously unrecorded rule, the T-Constraint. As we show, both have the effect, in different ways, of limiting the way that viewpoint (or camera position) can shift through space from shot to shot over the course of a film sequence. Such constraints, we contend, are analogous to relations of discourse coherence that are widely recognized in the linguistic domain. If film is to have a language, it is a language made up of rules like these.
|Samuel Cumming; Gabriel Greenberg; Rory Kelly||vol. 17||January 2017|
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||vol. 13||January 2013|
Method Pluralism, Method Mismatch, & Method Bias
Pluralism about scientific method is more-or-less accepted, but the consequences have yet to be drawn out. Scientists adopt different methods in response to different epistemic situations: depending on the system they are interested in, the resources at their disposal, and so forth. If it is right that different methods are appropriate in different situations, then mismatches between methods and situations are possible. This is most likely to occur due to method bias: when we prefer a particular kind of method, despite that method clashing with evidential context or our aims. To explore these ideas, we sketch a kind of method pluralism which turns on two properties of evidence, before using agent-based models to examine the relationship between methods, epistemic situations, and bias. Based on our results, we suggest that although method bias can undermine the efficiency of a scientific community, it can also be productive through preserving a diversity of evidence. We consider circumstances where method bias could be particularly egregious, and those where it is a potential virtue, and argue that consideration of method bias reveals that community standards deserve a central place in the epistemology of science.
|Adrian Currie; Shahar Avin||vol. 19||2019|
Color and Shape: A Plea for Equal Treatment
Many philosophers, especially in the wake of the 17th century, have favored an inegalitarian view of shape and color, according to which shape is mind-independent while color is mind-dependent. In this essay, I advance a novel argument against inegalitarianism. The argument begins with an intuition about the modal dependence of color on shape, namely: it is impossible for something to have a color without having a shape (i.e. without having some sort of spatial extension, or at least spatial location). I then argue that, given reasonable assumptions, inegalitarianism contradicts this modal-dependence principle. Given the plausibility of the latter, I conclude that we should reject inegalitarianism in favor of some form of egalitarianism—either a subjective egalitarianism on which both shape and color are mind-dependent or an objective egalitarianism on which both shape and color are mind-independent.
|Brian Cutter||vol. 16||May 2016|