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34 Dispositional essentialism and the grounding of natural modality

Dispositional essentialism is a non-Humean view about the essences of certain fundamental or natural properties that looms large in recent metaphysics (of science), not least because it promises to explain neatly the natural modalities such as laws of nature, counterfactuals, causation and chance. In the current paper, however, several considerations are presented that indicate a serious tension between its essentialist core thesis and natural “metaphysical” interpretations of its central explanatory claims.

Siegfried Jaag vol. 14 December 2014
02 J.S. Mill and the Diversity of Utilitarianism

Mill's famous proportionality statement of the Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP) is commonly taken to specify his own moral theory. And the discussion in which GHP is embedded -- Chapter 2 of Utilitarianism -- predominates the interpretation of Mill's normative philosophy. Largely because of these suppositions, Mill is traditionally read as a particular kind of utilitarian: a maximizing act-consequentialist. This paper argues that the canonical status accorded to Utilitarianism is belied by the text itself, as well as by its historical context, and that this point largely undermines the orthodox interpretation of Mill. In fact, GHP was intended as the statement of a common creed, acceptable to the diverse class of philosophers Mill counted as utilitarian. Moreover, the discussion of substantive moral theory in Utilitarianism in several respects does not reflect his own view, and the work itself is much less important than it is almost universally taken to be -- though not, it turns out, by Mill himself.

Daniel Jacobson vol. 3 June 2003
33 Causal contribution and causal exclusion

Causation is extrinsic. What an event causes depends not just on its own nature and the laws, but on the environment in which it occurs. Had an event occurred under different conditions, it may have had different effects. Yet we often want to say that causation, in at least some respect, is not extrinsic. Events exert an influence on the world themselves, independently of what other events do or do not occur in their surroundings. This paper develops an account of such influence and argues that it provides a solution to the causal exclusion problem. By locating that solution largely within the metaphysics of causation, we can solve the exclusion problem without taking on a commitment to a theory of mind.

Marc Johansen vol. 14 December 2014
14 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 vol. 13 July 2013