It has become apparent that the debate between scientific realists and constructive empiricists has come to a stalemate. Neither view can reasonably claim to be the most rational philosophy of science, exclusively capable of making sense of all scientific activities. On one prominent analysis of the situation, whether we accept a realist or an anti-realist account of science actually seems to depend on which values we antecedently accept, rather than our commitment to “rationality” per se. Accordingly, several philosophers have attempted (...) to argue in favour of scientific realism or constructive empiricism by showing that one set of values is exclusively best, for anyone and everyone, and that the downstream choice of the philosophy of science which best serves those values is therefore best, for anyone and everyone. These efforts, however, seem to have failed. In response, I suggest that philosophers of science should suspend the effort to determine which philosophy of science is best for everyone, and instead begin investigating which philosophy of science is best for specific people, with specific values, in specific contexts. I illustrate how this might be done by briefly sketching a single case study from the history of science, which seems to show that different philosophies of science are better at motivating different forms of scientific practice. (shrink)
Readers of Bas van Fraassen’s previous work will find his newest book, Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective, packed with many familiar theses, albeit defended in interesting new ways. Those interested in the debate between scientific realists and anti-realists, in particular, will find this a more satisfying sequel to his first book, The Scientific Image, than any of his subsequent work.
The debate over scientific realism, simply put, is a debate over what we can and should believe about reality once we've critically assessed all the available arguments and empirical evidence. Thinking earnestly about the merits of scientific realism as a philosophical thesis requires navigating contentious historiographical issues, being familiar with the technical details of various scientific theories, and addressing disparate philosophical problems spanning aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology, and beyond. This issue of Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of (...) Science aims to make participating in the scientific realism debate easier for both newcomers and veterans, collecting over twenty invited and peer-reviewed papers under the title "The Future of the Scientific Realism Debate: Contemporary Issues Concerning Scientific Realism.". (shrink)
Scientific claims implicitly invite criticism. While we might expect that challenging an epistemic authority in religious circles would be seen as an illegitimate activity (e.g. heresy) and met with suppression, challenging an epistemic authority in scientific circles is supposed to be a legitimate form of engagement, and should (ideally) be met with reasoned argument based in empirical evidence. Given this implicit invitation to challenge scientific claims, and the sweeping knowledge claims often made by today’s scientists, it is hardly surprising that (...) people outside narrowly defined scientific communities (i.e. science’s “public”) often challenge the truth of scientific consensuses. The scrutiny of scientific claims by non-scientist members of the public is quite understandable and in many ways unobjectionable, given the role that science advice increasingly plays in our society’s governance structures and public policy making. As scientists increasingly play policy-maker, they become doubly subject to public criticism: first as a scientist making substantive claims about reality and second as public-interest decision-maker making important decisions about public policy. Thus, for the scientist’s social role as epistemic authority to remain justified, public criticism of science should ideally be entertained and answered by practicing scientists. (shrink)
[Graeme Forbes] In I, I summarize the semantics for the relational/notional distinction for intensional transitives developed in Forbes (2000b). In II-V I pursue issues about logical consequence which were either unsatisfactorily dealt with in that paper or, more often, not raised at all. I argue that weakening inferences, such as 'Perseus seeks a mortal gorgon, therefore Perseus seeks a gorgon', are valid, but that disjunction inferences, such as 'Perseus seeks a mortal gorgon, therefore Perseus seeks a mortal gorgon (...) or an immortal gorgon', are invalid. Since 'a gorgon' and 'a mortal gorgon or an immortal gorgon' are extensionally and intensionally the same quantifier, it is not completely trivial to arrange the semantics of intensional transitives so that this classification of the inferences is obtained. (This paper is an abridged version of Forbes (2001a); the latter will be incorporated into a forthcoming monograph, Attitude Problems.) /// [Jennifer Saul] This paper discusses the question of which verbs are intensional transitives. In particular, I ask which verbs Forbes should take to be intensional transitives. I argue that it is very difficult to arrive at a clear and plausible understanding of what an intensional transitive is-making it difficult to answer these questions. I end by briefly raising some questions about the usefulness of the category of intensional transitives. (shrink)
In this article, we consider two independently appealing theories—the Growing-Block view and Humean Supervenience—and argue that at least one is false. The Growing-Block view is a theory about the nature of time. It says that past and present things exist, while future things do not, and the passage of time consists in new things coming into existence. Humean Supervenience is a theory about the nature of entities like laws, nomological possibility, counterfactuals, dispositions, causation, and chance. It says that none of (...) these entities are fundamental, since if they were, this would entail the existence of irreducible necessary connections between matters of fact. Instead, these entities supervene on a fundamental, non-nomological ‘Humean mosaic’ of property instances at spacetime points. We will further explain and motivate the Growing-Block view and Humean Supervenience in Sects. 2 and 3, but first, we turn to our master argument. (shrink)
The term ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ annoys some Scottish historians, because to them it seems to suggest that a state of unenlightenment prevailed in Scotland before the mideighteenth century, but ‘enlightenment’ when used by the historian of ideas is simply a technical term to describe certain aspects of eighteenth-century thought. The trouble is in defining precisely what aspects of eighteenth-century thought it is meant to describe. Different people study the eighteenth century Scottish thinkers for different reasons; for Professor Pocock, for example, they (...) belong to the tradition of ‘civic humanism’ and constitute one of his Machiavellian moments. But they are more widely known nowadays for the modernity and sophistication of their social theory. (shrink)
Most scholars think of David Hilbert's program as the most demanding and ideologically motivated attempt to provide a foundation for mathematics, and because they see technical obstacles in the way of realizing the program's goals, they regard it as a failure. Against this view, Curtis Franks argues that Hilbert's deepest and most central insight was that mathematical techniques and practices do not need grounding in any philosophical principles. He weaves together an original historical account, philosophical analysis, and his own (...) development of the meta-mathematics of weak systems of arithmetic to show that the true philosophical significance of Hilbert's program is that it makes the autonomy of mathematics evident. The result is a vision of the early history of modern logic that highlights the rich interaction between its conceptual problems and technical development. (shrink)
We show that five important elements of the ‘nomological package’— laws, counterfactuals, chances, dispositions, and counterfactuals—needn’t be a problem for the Growing-Block view. We begin with the framework given in Briggs and Forbes (in The real truth about the unreal future. Oxford studies in metaphysics. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012 ), and, taking laws as primitive, we show that the Growing-Block view has the resources to provide an account of possibility, and a natural semantics for non-backtracking causal counterfactuals. We (...) show how objective chances might ground a more fine-grained concept of feasibility, and furnished a places in the structure where causation and dispositions might fit. The Growing-Block view, thus understood, provides the resources to explain the close link between modality and tense, so that it predicts modal change as time passes. This account lets us capture not only what the future might hold for us, and also what might have been. (shrink)
A number of studies have tested the relationship between a corporation's social and ethical performance and its financial performance. In contrast, this is the first study to demonstrate a link between overall financial performance and an emphasis on ethics as an aspect of corporate governance. It identifies the 26.8 percent of the 500 largest U.S. public corporations that, in their annual report to shareholders, commit to ethical behavior toward their stakeholders or emphasize compliance with their code of conduct. The financial (...) performance of these corporations ranks higher than that of those who do not at a significance level of p = < 0.005, using the 1997 Business Week ranking which averages eight publicly-reported measures of historical financial performance. These findings should motivate more corporations to utilize the principles of Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing and Reporting (SEAAR). (shrink)
Growing-Block theorists hold that past and present things are real, while future things do not yet exist. This generates a puzzle: how can Growing-Block theorists explain the fact that some sentences about the future appear to be true? Briggs and Forbes develop a modal ersatzist framework, on which the concrete actual world is associated with a branching-time structure of ersatz possible worlds. They then show how this branching structure might be used to determine the truth values of future contingents. (...) They point out three different ways of interpreting the logical connectives, which give rise to three different logics of the open future: one supervaluationist, one corresponding to Lukasiewicz's strong Kleene logic, and one intuitionist. (shrink)
For evolutionary biologists, the concept of chance has always played a significant role in the formation of evolutionary theory. As far back as Greek antiquity, chance and "luck" were key factors in understanding the natural world. Chance is not just an important concept; it is an entire way of thinking about nature. And as Curtis Johnson shows, it is also one of the key ideas that separates Charles Darwin from other systematic biologists of his time. Studying the concept of (...) chance in Darwin's writing reveals core ideas in his theory of evolution, as well as his reflections on design, purpose, and randomness in nature's progression over the course of history.In Darwin's Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin, Curtis Johnson examines Darwin's early notebooks, his collected correspondence, and most of his published writing to trace the evolution of his ideas about chance in evolution. This proved to be one of Darwin's most controversial ideas among his reading public, so much so that it drew hostile reactions even from Darwin's scientific friends, not to mention the more general reader. The firestorm of criticism forced Darwin to forge a retreat, not in terms of removing chance from his theory--his commitment to it was unshakable--but in terms of how he chose to present his theory. Briefly, by changing his wording and by introducing metaphors and images, Darwin succeeded in making his ideas seem less threatening than before without actually changing his views. Randomness remained a focal point for Darwin throughout his life. Through the lens of randomness, Johnson reveals implications of Darwin's views for religion, free will, and moral theory. Darwin's Dice presents a new way to look at Darwinist thought and the writings of Charles Darwin. (shrink)
The Harvard physiologists Alexander Forbes (1882-1965) and Walter Bradford Cannon (1871-1945) had an enormous impact on the physiology and neuroscience of the twentieth century. In addition to their voluminous scientific output, they also used literature to reflect on the nature of science itself and its social significance. Forbes wrote a novel, The Radio Gunner, a literary memoir, Quest for a Northern Air Route, and several short stories. Cannon, in addition to several books of popular science, wrote a literary (...) memoir in the last year of his life, The Way of an Investigator. The following will provide a brief overview of the life and work of Forbes and Cannon. It will then discuss the way that Forbes used literature to express his views about the changing role of communications technology in the military, and his evolving view of the nervous system itself as a kind of information-processing device. It will go on to discuss the way that Cannon used literature to articulate the horrors he witnessed on the battlefield, as well as to contribute to the philosophy of science, and in particular, to the logic of scientific discovery. Finally, it will consider the historical and philosophical value of deeper investigation of the literary productions of scientists. (shrink)
A portrait of the influential western philosopher and writer is targeted to lay readers and seeks to clarify his ideas and influences, offering insight into the impact of his chronic ill health and insanity on his beliefs while challenging stereotypes that have been attributed to his character. 10,000 first printing.
Analytic philosophy has recently demonstrated a revived interest in metaphysical problems about possibility and necessity. Graeme Forbes here provides a careful description of the logical background of recent work in this area for those who may be unfamiliar with it, moving on to d discuss the distinction between modality de re and modality de dicto and the ontological commitments of possible worlds semantics. In addition, Forbes offers a unified theory of the essential properties of sets, organisms, artefacts, substances, (...) and events, based on the doctrine that identity facts must be intrinsically grounded, and analyzes and rejects apparent counterexamples to this doctrine. (shrink)
This essay, which won the Prince Consort Prize for 1950, treats of the revolutionary change in historical writing that followed the entry into England, early in the nineteenth century, of the ideas of Vico and of the German historical school. Chiefly through Coleridge's influence, eighteenth-century rationalist suppositions gave place in certain men to a fundamentally opposed, 'Romantic' philosophy, and so to a new kind of History. Mr. Forbes is particularly concerned with the part played in this revolution by the (...) liberal Anglicans: Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby and Regius Professsor of Modern History at Oxford; Richard Whitely, Professor of Political Economy at Oxford and Archbishop of Dublin; Julius Charles Hare, disciple of Coleridge and translator (with Thirlwall) of Niebuhr's History of Rome; Connop Thirlwall, Bishop of St David's and author of the History of Greece; Henry Hart Milman, Professor of Poetry and Oxford and Dean of St Paul's; Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, pupil and biographer of Thomas Arnold, and Dean of Westminster. They have elsewhere been studied in the compartments of 'classical' and 'ecclesiastical' history. But it is fundamental to their outlook on Church and State that for them no such compartments existed, and their idea of History as a whole has hitherto lacked an English historian. This essay does much more than clarify technical problems in one of the various ideas of History embraced in Professor Toynbee's system. Mr. Forbes addresses his book to all students of nineteenth-century thought. (shrink)
The meanings of words seem to change over time. But while there is a growing body of literature in linguistics and philosophy about meaning change, there has been little discussion about the metaphysical underpinnings of meaning change. The central aim of this paper is to push this discussion forward by surveying the terrain and advocating for a particular metaphysical picture. In so doing, we hope to clarify various aspects of the nature of meaning change, as well as prompt future philosophical (...) investigation into this topic. More specifically, this paper has two parts. The first, broadly exploratory, part surveys various metaphysical accounts of meaning change. The goal here is to lay out the terrain, thereby highlighting some key choice points. Then, in the second part, after critiquing Prosser’s (Philosophy Phenomenol Res 100(3):657–676, 2020) exdurantism about ‘mental files’, we sketch and defend the enduring senses view of meaning change. (shrink)
The acclaimed social critic and author of the best-selling The Middle Mind presents a scathing assessment of modern detractors of science, citing the dangers of such figures as Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer while posing a defense of the tradition of Romanticism.
Consider: You can save either a human or a normal adult dog from a burning building (with no risk to yourself and at little cost), but not both. However, the human is a human with a severe intellectually disability (or, as we shall say, a “SID”). -/- Which one should you save? There is disagreement in the literature about which this issue. Two opposing camps exist, which we call “the intrinsic property camp ” and “the special relations camp.” Those in (...) the intrinsic property camp think that in most cases it is equally permissible to save either the dog or the human, and that in fact in some cases you should save the dog and not the human. Those in the special relations camp, by contrast, maintain that you should always save the human and not the dog. There is disagreement between these two camps about the answer to this question because there is disagreement between them about the moral significance of SIDs. Those in the intrinsic property camp believe that the moral value of a human with a SID is equal to (and in some cases less than) the moral value of a nonhuman animal such as a dog. (They thus believe that the value of a human with a SID is strictly less than the value of a normal adult human.) Those in the special relations camp believe that the value of a human with a SID is strictly higher than the value of a nonhuman animal. (But they are not thereby committed to, but may nonetheless believe, that a human with a SID has equal moral value to a normal adult human.) The questions we address in this chapter include: 1. Why do those in each camp hold the view that they do? 2. Which camp is right? (shrink)
Much of the debate about identity in recent decades has been about personal identity, and specifically about personal identity over time, but identity generally, and the identity of things of other kinds, have also attracted attention. Various interrelated problems have been at the centre of discussion, but it is fair to say that recent work has focussed particularly on the following areas: the notion of a criterion of identity; the correct analysis of identity over time, and, in particular, the disagreement (...) between advocates of perdurance and advocates of endurance as analyses of identity over time; the notion of identity across possible worlds and the question of its relevance to the correct analysis of de re modal discourse; the notion of contingent identity; the question of whether the identity relation is, or is similar to, the composition relation; and the notion of vague identity. A radical position, advocated by Peter Geach, is that these debates, as usually conducted, are void for lack of a subject matter: the notion of absolute identity they presuppose has no application; there is only relative identity. Another increasingly popular view is the one advocated by Lewis: although the debates make sense they cannot genuinely be debates about identity, since there are no philosophical problems about identity. Identity is an utterly unproblematic notion. What there are, are genuine problems which can be stated using the language of identity. But since these can be restated without the language of identity they are not problems about identity. (For example, it is a puzzle, an aspect of the so-called “problem of personal identity”, whether the same person can have different bodies at different times. But this is just the puzzle whether a person can have different bodies at different times. So since it can be stated without the language of personal “identity”, it is not a problem about identity, but about personhood.) This article provides an overview of the topics indicated above, some assessment of the debates and suggestions for further reading. (shrink)
Heidegger and East-Asian thought have traditionally been strongly correlated. However, although still largely unrecognized, significant differences between the political and metaphysical stance of Heidegger and his perceived counterparts in East-Asia most certainly exist. One of the most dramatic discontinuities between East-Asian thought and Heidegger is revealed through an investigation of Kitarō Nishida’s own vigorous criticism of Heidegger. Ironically, more than one study of Heidegger and East-Asian thought has submitted that Nishida is that representative of East-Asian thought whose philosophy most closely (...) resembles Heideggerian thought. In words that then and now resound discordantly within the enshrined, established view of Heidegger’s relationship to East-Asian thought, Nishida stated uninhibitedly his own view of Heidegger in the noteworthy statement: “Heidegger is not worth your time… He…does not recognize that which is indispensible and decisive, namely, God.” This present study lays out for the first time in English, the significant differences between the metaphysical and political stances of Nishida and Heidegger, Nishida’s own critique of Heidegger, and Heidegger’s own rather dismal assessment of non-Western philosophy, all of which demonstrate a remarkable, hitherto unrecognized discontinuity between Heidegger and East-Asian thought. (shrink)
In this paper, I shed light on Kant’s notion of Erkenntnis or cognition by focusing on texts pertaining to Kant’s thoughts on logic. Although a passage from Kant’s Logik is widely referred to for understanding Kant’s conception of Erkenntnis, this work was not penned by Kant himself but rather compiled by Benjamin Jäsche. So, it is imperative to determine its fidelity to Kant’s thought. I compare the passage with other sources, including Reflexionen and students’ lecture notes. I argue that several (...) of the text’s peculiarities stem from Jäsche rather than Kant, but that nevertheless Jäsche largely got Kant's view right, with two major exceptions. First, Jäsche’s text fails to reproduce Kant’s key thesis that kennen and verstehen are jointly sufficient for Erkenntnis. Second, Jäsche’s text gives the false impression that Kant holds that animals have consciousness. (shrink)
Narrow mental content is a kind of mental content that does not depend on an individual's environment. Narrow content contrasts with “broad” or “wide” content, which depends on features of the individual's environment as well as on features of the individual. It is controversial whether there is any such thing as narrow content. Assuming that there is, it is also controversial what sort of content it is, what its relation to ordinary or “broad” content is, and how it is determined (...) by the individual's intrinsic properties. (shrink)
Ascriptions of mental states to oneself and others give rise to many interesting logical and semantic problems. Attitude Problems presents an original account of mental state ascriptions that are made using intensional transitive verbs such as 'want', 'seek', 'imagine', and 'worship'. Forbes offers a theory of how such verbs work that draws on ideas from natural language semantics, philosophy of language, and aesthetics.