Some of the greatest writers on moral philosophy have claimed that their theories about morality do not run counter to the moral views of ordinary men, but on the contrary are an elucidation of such views, or provide them with a sound philosophical underpinning. Aristotle, for example, made it quite clear that he could not take seriously a moral view that was at odds with the heritage of moral wisdom deeply imbedded in his society. His doctrine of the mean was (...) based on a philosophical consideration of such wisdom. And Immanuel Kant thought that his moral philosophy articulated the moral views of ordinary men. (shrink)
Assuming S5, the main controversial premise in modal ontological arguments is the possibility premise, such as that possibly a maximally great being exists. I shall offer a new way of arguing that the possibility premise is probably true.
Social and behavioral scientists — that is, students of human nature — nowadays hardly ever use the term ‘human nature’. This reticence reflects both a becoming modesty about the aims of their disciplines and a healthy skepticism about whether there is any one thing really worthy of the label ‘human nature’. For some feature of humankind to be identified as accounting for our ‘nature’, it would have to reflect some property both distinctive of our species and systematically influential enough to (...) explain some very important aspect of our behavior. Compare: molecular structure gives the essence or the nature of water just because it explains most of its salient properties. Few students of the human sciences currently hold that there is just one or a small number of such features that can explain our actions and/or our institutions. And even among those who do, there is reluctance to label their theories as claims about ‘human nature’. Among anthropologists and sociologists, the label seems too universal and indiscriminant to be useful. The idea that there is a single underlying character that might explain similarities threatens the differences among people and cultures that these social scientists seek to uncover. Even economists, who have explicitly attempted to parlay rational choice theory into an account of all human behavior, do not claim that the maximization of transitive preferences is ‘human nature’. I think part of the reason that social scientists are reluctant to use ‘human nature’ is that the term has traditionally labeled a theory with normative implications as well as descriptive ones. (shrink)
Some, notably Peter van Inwagen, in order to avoid problems with free will and omniscience, replace the condition that an omniscient being knows all true propositions with a version of the apparently weaker condition that an omniscient being knows all knowable true propositions. I shall show that the apparently weaker condition, when conjoined with uncontroversial claims and the logical closure of an omniscient being's knowledge, still yields the claim that an omniscient being knows all true propositions.
The free-will defence holds that the value of significant free will is so great that God is justified in creating significantly free creatures even if there is a risk or certainty that these creatures will sin. A difficulty for the FWD, developed carefully by Quentin Smith, is that God is unable to do evil, and yet surely lacks no genuinely valuable kind of freedom. Smith argues that the kind of freedom that God has can be had by creatures, without a (...) risk of creatures doing evil. I shall show that Smith's argument fails – the case of God is disanalogous to the case of creatures precisely because creatures are creatures. (shrink)
Is a government required or permitted to redistribute the gains and losses that differences in biological endowments generate? In particular, does the fact that individuals possess different biological endowments lead to unfair advantages within a market economy? These are questions on which some people are apt to have strong intuitions and ready arguments. Egalitarians may say yes and argue that as unearned, undeserved advantages and disadvantages, biological endowments are never fair, and that the market simply exacerbates these inequities. Libertarians may (...) say no, holding that the possession of such endowments deprives no one of an entitlement and that any system but a market would deprive agents of the rights to their endowments. Biological endowments may well lead to advantages or disadvantages on their view, but not to unfair ones. I do not have strong intuitions about answers to these questions, in part because I believe that they are questions of great difficulty. To begin, alternative answers rest on substantial assumptions in moral philosophy that seem insufficiently grounded. Moreover, the questions involve several problematical assumptions about the nature of biological endowments. Finally, I find the questions to be academic, in the pejorative sense of this term. For aside from a number of highly debilitating endowments, the overall moral significance of differences between people seems so small, so I interdependent and so hard to measure, that these differences really will 1 not enter into practical redistributive calculations, even if it is theoretically i permissible that they do so. Before turning to a detailed discussion of biological endowments and their moral significance, I sketch my doubts about the fundamental moral theories that dictate either the impermissibility or the obligation to compensate for different biological endowments. (shrink)
In the Museum of Science and Technology in San Jose, California, there is a display dedicated to advances in biotechnology. Most prominent in the display is a double helix of telephone books stacked in two staggered spirals from the floor to the ceiling twenty-five feet above. The books are said to represent the current state of our knowledge of the eukaryotic genome: the primary sequences of DNA polynucleotides for the gene products which have been discovered so far in the twenty (...) years since cloning and sequencing the genome became possible. (shrink)
This paper maps the landscape for a range of views concerning the metaphysics of natural kinds. I consider a range of increasingly ontologically committed views concerning natural kinds and the possible arguments for them. I then ask how these relate to natural kind essentialism, arguing that essentialism requires commitment to kinds as entities. I conclude by examining the homeostatic property cluster view of kinds in the light of the general understanding of kinds developed.
It is widely accepted that divine creation of human beings is compatible with evolutionary theory, except perhaps in regard of the human soul, and that neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory provides an explanation of speciation and of complex features of organisms that undercuts Paley-style teleological arguments, whether or not the evolutionary mechanisms are truly random or deterministic. I will argue that a plausible understanding of the doctrine of creation of human beings is either logically or rationally incompatible with full evolutionary theory, even (...) if one does not take souls into account. Consequently, a theist needs to move to a weaker version either of the creation doctrine or of evolutionary theory, or both. (shrink)
Weintraub is not really interested in whether economics is “science” or not. “Economists are not so unsophisticated as to think that calling economics a ‘science’ says anything about what economists do or should do”. But can it really be a matter of indifference to him whether the subject has the character of chemistry as opposed to literary criticism?
Powers have in recent years become a central component of many philosophers’ ontology of properties. While I have argued that powers exist at the fundamental level of properties, many other theorists of powers hold that there are also non-fundamental powers. In this paper I articulate my reasons for being sceptical about the existing reasons for holding that there are non-fundamental powers. However, I also want to promote a different argument for the existence of a certain class of non-fundamental powers: properties (...) which have natural selection to thank for their existence and nature. Such properties will include functional properties of organisms, and so may also include their mental properties. (shrink)
???Everyone agrees that the moral features of things supervene on their natural features??? , 22). Everyone is wrong, or so I will argue. In the first section, I explain the version of moral supervenience that Smith and others argue everyone should accept. In the second section, I argue that the mere conceptual possibility of a divine command theory of morality is sufficient to refute the version of moral supervenience under consideration. Lastly, I consider and respond to two objections, showing, among (...) other things, that while DCT is sufficient to refute this version of moral supervenience it is not necessary. (shrink)
In the recent philosophy of explanation, a growing attention to and discussion of non-causal explanations has emerged, as there seem to be compelling examples of non-causal explanations in the sciences, in pure mathematics, and in metaphysics. I defend the claim that the counterfactual theory of explanation (CTE) captures the explanatory character of both non-causal scientific and metaphysical explanations. According to the CTE, scientific and metaphysical explanations are explanatory by virtue of revealing counterfactual dependencies between the explanandum and the explanans. I (...) support this claim by illustrating that CTE is applicable to Euler’s explanation (an example of a non-causal scientific explanation) and Loewer’s explanation (an example of a non-causal metaphysical explanation). (shrink)
Doxastic dualists acknowledge both outright beliefs and credences, and they maintain that neither state is reducible to the other. This gives rise to the ‘Bayesian Challenge’, which is to explain why we need beliefs if we have credences already. On a popular dualist response to the Bayesian Challenge, we need beliefs to simplify our reasoning. I argue that this response fails because credences perform this simplifying function at least as well as beliefs do.
This volume contains the Arabic translations of a lost treatise by Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. AD 200) "On the Principles of the Universe" with English translation, introduction and commentary. It also includes an Arabic and Syriac glossary. The introduction and commentary deal in detail with the manuscripts, the translators and the exegetical tendencies of the text, as well as with its reception in Arabic philosophy. The main theme of the work is the motion of the heavenly bodies and their (...) influence on the physical world. (shrink)
Do the same epistemic standards govern scientific and religious belief? Or should science and religion operate in completely independent epistemic spheres? Commentators have recently been divided on William James’s answer to this question. One side depicts “The Will to Believe” as offering a separate-spheres defense of religious belief in the manner of Galileo. The other contends that “The Will to Believe” seeks to loosen the usual epistemic standards so that religious and scientific beliefs can both be justified by a unitary (...) set of evidentiary rules. I argue that James did build a unitary epistemology but not by loosening cognitive standards. In his psychological research, he had adopted the Comtian view that hypotheses and regulative assumptions play a crucial role in the context of discovery even though they must be provisionally adopted before they can be supported by evidence. “The Will to Believe” relies on this methodological point to achieve a therapeutic goal—to convince despairing Victorians that religious faith can be reconciled with a scientific epistemology. James argues that the prospective theist is in the same epistemic situation with respect to the “religious hypothesis” as the scientist working in the context of discovery. (shrink)
Edouard Machery argues that many traditional philosophical questions are beyond our capacity to answer. Answering them seems to require using the method of cases, a method that involves testing answers to philosophical questions against what we think about real or imagined cases. The problem, according to Machery, is that this method has proved unreliable ; what we think about these kinds of cases is both problematically heterogeneous and volatile. His bold solution: abandon the method of cases altogether and with it (...) many of the questions that we have come to associate with philosophy itself. Many of the critical responses to Machery’s book have focused on whether empirical work on judgements about philosophical cases supports his claim that the method of cases is unreliable. Our problem with these responses is that they accept that reliability is the right way to frame empirically informed concerns about the method of cases, and we think that it is not. The reason is simple: the kind of unreliability thesis that Machery needs proves to be empirically intractable, at least by anything like the current methods used by experimental philosophers, or so we shall argue here. While we have empirical grounds for thinking that unreliability arguments don’t give us reason to abandon the method of cases, we do think that there are empirical grounds for thinking that it needs to be reformed. There are other standards that we expect our methods to meet beyond mere reliability, especially standards of practical rationality, which are too often forgotten in metaphilosophical discussions that tend to focus exclusively on epistemological considerations. Methodological considerations, after all, are not just matters of epistemic normativity, but practical rationality as well. What’s more, considerations of practical rationality become particularly important when we move from the kind of extreme scepticism that Machery endorses to the kind of progressive reformation that we think should be pursued. And so we conclude by arguing that thinking about philosophical inquiry in terms of standards of practical rationality allows us both to better understand what kinds of problems recent empirical work on philosophical cognition raises for the method of cases and also how that work can point the way to reforming it. (shrink)
In this paper, we analyse how GPS-based navigation systems are transforming some of our intellectual virtues and then suggest two strategies to improve our practices regarding the use of such epistemic tools. We start by outlining the two main approaches in virtue epistemology, namely virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism. We then discuss how navigation systems can undermine five epistemic virtues, namely memory, perception, attention, intellectual autonomy, and intellectual carefulness. We end by considering two possible interlinked ways of trying to remedy (...) this situation: [i] redesigning the epistemic tool to improve the epistemic virtues of memory, perception, and attention; and [ii] the cultivation of cognitive diligence for wayfinding tasks scaffolding intellectual autonomy and carefulness. (shrink)
Do the sciences aim to uncover the structure of nature, or are they ultimately a practical means of controlling our environment? In Instrumental Biology, or the Disunity of Science, Alexander Rosenberg argues that while physics and chemistry can develop laws that reveal the structure of natural phenomena, biology is fated to be a practical, instrumental discipline. Because of the complexity produced by natural selection, and because of the limits on human cognition, scientists are prevented from uncovering the basic structure (...) of biological phenomena. Consequently, biology and all of the disciplines that rest upon it--psychology and the other human sciences--must aim at most to provide practical tools for coping with the natural world rather than a complete theoretical understanding of it. (shrink)
There is an underlying assumption in the social sciences that consciousness and social life are ultimately classical physical/material phenomena. In this ground-breaking book, Alexander Wendt challenges this assumption by proposing that consciousness is, in fact, a macroscopic quantum mechanical phenomenon. In the first half of the book, Wendt justifies the insertion of quantum theory into social scientific debates, introduces social scientists to quantum theory and the philosophical controversy about its interpretation, and then defends the quantum consciousness hypothesis against the (...) orthodox, classical approach to the mind-body problem. In the second half, he develops the implications of this metaphysical perspective for the nature of language and the agent-structure problem in social ontology. Wendt's argument is a revolutionary development which raises fundamental questions about the nature of social life and the work of those who study it. (shrink)
This book presents some of the most recent trends and developments in Presocratic scholarship. A wide range of topics are covered - from the metaphysical to the moral to the methodological - as well as a broad a range of authors: from recognized figures such as Heraclitus and Parmenides to Sophistic thinkers whose place has traditionally been marginalized, such as Gorgias and the author of the Dissoi Logoi. Several of the pieces are concerned with the later reception and influence of (...) the Presocratics on ancient philosophy, an area of study important both for the light it sheds on our evidence for Presocratic thought and for understanding the philosophical power of their ideas. Drawing together contributions from distinguished authorities and internationally acclaimed scholars of ancient philosophy, this book offers new challenges to traditional interpretations in some areas of Presocratic philosophy and finds new support for traditional interpretations in other areas. (shrink)
Problems with representing friendship in painting and the novel and its more successful displays in drama reflect the fact that friends seldom act as inspiringly as traditional images of the relationship suggest: friends' activities are often trivial, commonplace and boring, sometimes even criminal. Despite all that, the philosophical tradition has generally considered friendship a moral good. I argue that it is not a moral good, but a good nonetheless. It provides opportunities to try different ways of being, and is crucial (...) to the processes through which we establish our individuality. (shrink)
Economics today cannot predict the likely outcome of specific events any better than it could in the time of Adam Smith. This is Alexander Rosenberg's controversial challenge to the scientific status of economics. Rosenberg explains that the defining characteristic of any science is predictive improvability--the capacity to create more precise forecasts by evaluating the success of earlier predictions--and he forcefully argues that because economics has not been able to increase its predictive power for over two centuries, it is not (...) a science. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship between the KK principle and the epistemological theses of externalism and internalism. In particular we examine arguments from Okasha :80–86, 2013) and Greco :169–197, 2014) which deny that we can derive the denial of the KK principle from externalism.
To figure out whether the main empirical question “Is our brain hardwired to believe in and produce God, or is our brain hardwired to perceive and experience God?” is answered, this paper presents systematic critical review of the positions, arguments and controversies of each side of the neuroscientific-theological debate and puts forward an integral view where the human is seen as a psycho-somatic entity consisting of the multiple levels and dimensions of human existence (physical, biological, psychological, and spiritual reality), allowing (...) consciousness/mind/spirit and brain/body/matter to be seen as different sides of the same phenomenon, neither reducible to each other. The emergence of a form of causation distinctive from physics where mental/conscious agency (a) is neither identical with nor reducible to brain processes and (b) does exert “downward” causal influence on brain plasticity and the various levels of brain functioning is discussed. This manuscript also discusses the role of cognitive processes in religious experience and outlines what can neuroscience offer for study of religious experience and what is the significance of this study for neuroscience, clinicians, theology and philosophy. A methodological shift from “explanation” to “description” of religious experience is suggested. This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion between theologians, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists. (shrink)
It has been standard philosophical practice in analytic philosophy to employ intuitions generated in response to thought-experiments as evidence in the evaluation of philosophical claims. In part as a response to this practice, an exciting new movement—experimental philosophy—has recently emerged. This movement is unified behind both a common methodology and a common aim: the application of methods of experimental psychology to the study of the nature of intuitions. In this paper, we will introduce two different views concerning the relationship that (...) holds between experimental philosophy and the future of standard philosophical practice (what we call, the proper foundation view and the restrictionist view), discuss some of the more interesting and important results obtained by proponents of both views, and examine the pressure these results put on analytic philosophers to reform standard philosophical practice. We will also defend experimental philosophy from some recent objections, suggest future directions for work in experimental philosophy, and suggest what future lines of epistemological response might be available to those wishing to defend analytic epistemology from the challenges posed by experimental philosophy. (shrink)
After the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, scientists working in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the theory that all complex systems can be understood in terms of their components. Reductionism, however, has been widely resisted by both nonmolecular biologists and scientists working outside the field of biology. Many of these antireductionists, nevertheless, embrace the notion of physicalism—the idea that all biological processes are physical in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can these self-proclaimed physicalists also be antireductionists? With clarity (...) and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this difficult and seemingly intractable dualism with convincing analysis and timely evidence. In the spirit of the few distinguished biologists who accept reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg provides a philosophically sophisticated defense of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the theory of natural selection, ultimately proving that the physicalist must also be a reductionist. (shrink)