In May 2021, AlanBechaz, Racher Du, Will Cailes and Thomas Spiteri interviewed Sandra Leonie Field for UPJA’s Conversations from the Region. A series of discussions that invites philosophers from or based in Australasia to share their student and academic experiences. The segment looks into what inspires people to study philosophy, how they pursue their philosophical interests, and gives our audiences a better idea of philosophy as an undergraduate.
An explanation is given of why it is in the nature of inquiry into whether or not p that its aim is fully achieved only if one comes to know that p or to know that not-p and, further, comes to know how one knows, either way. In the absence of the latter one is in no position to take the inquiry to be successfully completed or to vouch for the truth of the matter in hand. An upshot is that (...) although knowledge matters because truth matters this should not be understood to mean that knowledge matters because true belief matters. (shrink)
[Alan Weir] This paper addresses the problem of how to account for objective content-for the distinction between how we actually apply terms and the conditions in which we ought to apply them-from within a naturalistic framework. Though behaviourist or dispositionalist approaches are generally held to be unsuccessful in naturalising objective content or 'normativity', I attempt to restore the credibility of such approaches by sketching a behaviouristic programme for explicating objective content. /// [Alexander Miller] Paul Boghossian (1989, 1990) has argued, (...) on grounds concerning the holistic nature of belief fixation, that there are principled reasons for thinking that 'optimal conditions' versions of reductive dispositionalism about content cannot hope to satisfy a condition of extensional accuracy. I discern three separable strands of argument in Boghossian's work-the circularity objection, the open-endedness objection, and the certification objection-and argue that each of these objections fails. My conclusion is that for all that Boghossian has shown, 'optimal conditions' versions of reductive dispositionalism have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
Economic approaches to both social evaluation and decision-making are typically Paretian or utilitarian in nature and so display commitments to both welfarism and consequentialism. The contrast between the economic approach and any rights-based social philosophy has spawned a large literature that may be divided into two branches. The first is concerned with the compatibility of rights and utilitarianism seen as independent moral forces. This branch of the literature may be characterized as an example of the broader debate between the teleological (...) and deontological approaches. The second is concerned with the possibility that substantial rights may be grounded in utilitarianism with the moral force of rights being derived from more basic commitments to welfarism and consequentialism. This branch of the literature may be characterized as an exploration of the flexibility of the teleological approach, and, in particular, its ability to give rise to views more normally associated with the deontological approach. This essay is concerned with the second branch of the literature. (shrink)
As a preliminary to the justification of equal opportunity, we require a few words on the concept. An opportunity is a chance to attain some goal or obtain some benefit. More precisely, it is the lack of some obstacle or obstacles to the attainment of some goal or benefit. Opportunities are equal in some specified or understood sense when persons face roughly the same obstacles or obstacles of roughly the same difficulty of some specified or understood sort. In different contexts (...) we might have different sorts of benefits or obstacles in mind. But in the current social context, and in the context of this discussion, we refer to educational and occupational opportunities, chances to attain the benefits of higher education and of socially and economically desirable positions, benefits assumed to be desired by many or most individuals, other things being equal. And we generally divide obstacles into two broad classes: those imposed by the social system or by other persons in the society, for example, the hardships of life in the lower economic classes or barriers from prejudices based on race, sex, or ethnic background; and those imposed by natural disabilities, for example, low intelligence or lack of talents. The initial question is whether a moral society is obligated to create equality in opportunities in the senses just defined. I shall assume here initially that there is some such obligation on the part of society or the state, although I shall specify its nature and limits more precisely below. With the exception of certain libertarians, almost everyone, liberal and conservative alike, agrees in this assumption. (shrink)
In this essay I wish to defend the intuition that God transcends time, of which he is the Creator. To do this, I will develop a new understanding of the term ‘timeless eternity’ as it applies to God. This assumes the inadequacy of the traditional notion of divine eternity, as it is found in Boethius, Anselm and Aquinas. Very briefly, the reasons for this inadequacy are as follows. God sustains the universe, which means in part that he is responsible for (...) the fundamental ontological status of things. Because the universe is an everchanging reality, things do change in their fundamental ontological status at different times – a change we must ascribe to God, and cannot ascribe to the objects themselves, since this has to do with their very existence. God himself, therefore, does different things at different times. This implies change in God. Whenever a change occurs, a duration occurs. Therefore, God is in time. But I do not think it is proper to say that God is in our time. God transcends time, and he is the Creator of our space-time. It is theologically more proper to say that we are in God's time, and I will adopt this language here. (shrink)
A substantial body of literature has been produced in the twentieth century by religious and philosophical writers on the ethics of belief. Discussion of this topic has generally focused on the processes leading up to belief within the individual, so that it would not be inaccurate to say that for most of these writers ‘the ethics of belief’ means ‘the ethics of coming–to–believe’. There has been little attention among these writers, however, to the moral questions which surround the production or (...) inducement of beliefs in others, to the ethics of persuasion . An extension of the ethics of belief to cover moral issues which arise in connection with persuasion seems reasonable; the ethics of belief, widely construed, might be said to encompass questions about both the production of beliefs within oneself and the inducement of beliefs in others. (shrink)
In a detailed and spirited critique, Professor James M. Humber has found my defence of the ontological argument unconvincing. Humber's case rests upon his claim that my ‘error’ is due to my ‘having accepted an incorrect definition of “physically necessary being” … ’. Now I do indeed claim that God must be conceived as a factuall necessary being, i.e. as eternally independent. I take the notion of God's aseity or eternal independence to be relatively straightforward and uncontroversial; it is accepted (...) as an essential component of the concept God by many philosophers who also insist that there is no acceptable form of demonstrative theism. Thus, it is widely held that ‘God is a factually necessary being’ does not imply ‘God is a logically necessary being’; that God is eternally independent does not imply that he exists in all possible worlds. But it is precisely this view that I have argued is incorrect. While I concur that there is an intelligible concept of God as factually necessary, I deny that the existence of such a being is logically contingent, a mere matter of empirical fact. Indeed, a rigorous inspection of the concept of an eternally independent being reveals that whether that concept is instantiated, i.e. whether there exists a being exemplifying that concept, is knowable a priori . My claim is in fact stronger than this. I argue that the existence of an eternal, independent, omniscient and omnipotent being is demonstrable by conceptual analysis. It is Humber's contention that my alleged demonstration of God's existence crumbles upon the discovery of the unacceptability of my definition of ‘factually necessary being’. Let us see. (shrink)
In this book, Alan Wertheimer seeks to identify when a transaction or relationship can be properly regarded as exploitative--and not oppressive, manipulative, or morally deficient in some other way--and explores the moral weight of taking ...
We are all concerned by the environmental threats facing us today. Environmental issues are a major area of concern for policy makers, industrialists and public groups of many different kinds. While science seems central to our understanding of such threats, the statements of scientists are increasingly open to challenge in this area. Meanwhile, citizens may find themselves labelled as "ignorant" in environmental matters. In Citizen Science Alan Irwin provides a much needed route through the fraught relationship between science, the (...) public and the environmental threat. (shrink)
Alan Gross applies the principles of rhetoric to the interpretation of classical and contemporary scientific texts to show how they persuade both author and audience. This invigorating consideration of the ways in which scientists--from Copernicus to Darwin to Newton to James Watson--establish authority and convince one another and us of the truth they describe may very well lead to a remodeling of our understanding of science and its place in society.
So-called “traditional epistemology” and “Bayesian epistemology” share a word, but it may often seem that the enterprises hardly share a subject matter. They differ in their central concepts. They differ in their main concerns. They differ in their main theoretical moves. And they often differ in their methodology. However, in the last decade or so, there have been a number of attempts to build bridges between the two epistemologies. Indeed, many would say that there is just one branch of philosophy (...) here—epistemology. There is a common subject matter after all. In this paper, we begin by playing the role of a “bad cop,” emphasizing many apparent points of disconnection, and even conflict, between the approaches to epistemology. We then switch role, playing a “good cop” who insists that the approaches are engaged in common projects after all. We look at various ways in which the gaps between them have been bridged, and we consider the prospects for bridging them further. We conclude that this is an exciting time for epistemology, as the two traditions can learn, and have started learning, from each other. (shrink)
A major voice in late twentieth-century philosophy, Alan Donagan is distinguished for his theories on the history of philosophy and the nature of morality. The Philosophical Papers of Alan Donagan, volumes 1 and 2, collect 28 of Donagan's most important and best-known essays on historical understanding and ethics from 1957 to 1991. Volume 2 addresses issues in the philosophy of action and moral theory. With papers on Kant, von Wright, Sellars, and Chisholm, this volume also covers a range (...) of questions in applied ethics--from the morality of Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ethical questions in medicine and law. (shrink)
Does mathematics ever play an explanatory role in science? If so then this opens the way for scientific realists to argue for the existence of mathematical entities using inference to the best explanation. Elsewhere I have argued, using a case study involving the prime-numbered life cycles of periodical cicadas, that there are examples of indispensable mathematical explanations of purely physical phenomena. In this paper I respond to objections to this claim that have been made by various philosophers, and I discuss (...) potential future directions of research for each side in the debate over the existence of abstract mathematical objects. (shrink)
Alan Millar examines our understanding of why people think and act as they do. His key theme is that normative considerations form an indispensable part of the explanatory framework which we use to understand each other. Millar offers illuminating discussions of reasons for belief and reasons for action, the explanation of beliefs and actions in terms of the subject's reasons, the idea that simulation has a key role in understanding people, and the limits of explanation in terms of propositional (...) attitudes. (shrink)
Psychologists and philosophers have recently been exploring whether the mechanisms which underlie the acquisition of ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) are best charac- terized as cognitive modules or as developing theories. In this paper, we attempt to clarify what a modular account of ToM entails, and why it is an attractive type of explanation. Intuitions and arguments in this debate often turn on the role of develop- ment: traditional research on ToM focuses on various developmental sequences, whereas cognitive modules are thought (...) to be static and ‘anti-developmental’. We suggest that this mistaken view relies on an overly limited notion of modularity, and we explore how ToM might be grounded in a cognitive module and yet still afford development. Modules must ‘come on-line’, and even fully developed modules may still develop internally, based on their constrained input. We make these points con- crete by focusing on a recent proposal to capture the development of ToM in a module via parameterization. (shrink)
Our ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of other people does not initially develop as a theory but as a mechanism. The ‘ theory of mind ’ mechanism is part of the core architecture of the human brain, and is specialized for learning about mental states. Impaired development of this mechanism can have drastic effects on social learning, seen most strikingly in the autistic spectrum disorders. ToMM kick-starts belief–desire attribution but effective reasoning about belief contents depends on a process (...) of selection by inhibition. This selection process develops slowly through the preschool period and well beyond. By modeling the ToMM-SP as mechanisms of selective attention, we have uncovered new empirical phenomena. We propose that early ‘ theory of mind ’ is a modular–heuristic process of domain-specific learning. (shrink)
Linked by Donagan's commitment to the central importance of history for philosophy and his interest in problems of historical understanding, these essays represent the remarkable scope of Donagan's thought.
With papers on Kant, von Wright, Sellars, and Chisholm, this volume also covers a range of questions in applied ethics—from the morality of Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ethical questions in medicine ...
Alan Miller offers a focused account of perceptual knowledge, the knowledge that we gain by means of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. He explains perceptual knowledge in terms of general recognitional abilities, then situates that account within a broader perspective on epistemology and philosophical method more generally.
When communal sharing relationships suddenly intensify, people experience an emotion that English speakers may label, depending on context, “moved,” “touched,” “heart-warming,” “nostalgia,” “patriotism,” or “rapture”. We call the emotion kama muta. Kama muta evokes adaptive motives to devote and commit to the CSRs that are fundamental to social life. It occurs in diverse contexts and appears to be pervasive across cultures and throughout history, while people experience it with reference to its cultural and contextual meanings. Cultures have evolved diverse practices, (...) institutions, roles, narratives, arts, and artifacts whose core function is to evoke kama muta. Kama muta mediates much of human sociality. (shrink)
Misunderstanding Science? offers a challenging new perspective on the public understanding of science. In so doing, it also challenges existing ideas of the nature of science and its relationships with society. Its analysis and case presentation are highly relevant to current concerns over the uptake, authority, and effectiveness of science as expressed, for example, in areas such as education, medical/health practice, risk and the environment, technological innovation. Based on several in-depth case-studies, and informed theoretically by the sociology of scientific knowledge, (...) the book shows how the public understanding of science questions raises issues of the epistemic commitments and institutional structures which constitute modern science. It suggests that many of the inadequacies in the social integration and uptake of science might be overcome if modern scientific institutions were more reflexive and open about the implicit normative commitments embedded in scientific cultures. (shrink)