In chapter 1 of Reason, Truth, and History, Hilary Putnam argues from some plausible assumptions about the nature of reference to the conclusion that it is not possible that all sentient creatures are brains in a vat. If this argument is successful, it seemingly refutes an updated form of Cartesian skepticism concerning knowledge of physical objects. In this paper, I will state what I take to be the most promising interpretation of Putnam's argument. My reconstructed argument differs from an argument (...) strongly suggested by Putnam's text. I will show that the latter argument obviously does not work. The more promising argument which I reconstruct on behalf of Putnam raises some interesting questions about the relation between the contents of one's beliefs and one's environment and about how this relation affects the evaluation of anti-skeptical arguments. I conclude that my reconstructed argument ultimately fails as a response to Cartesian skepticism: the argument engenders a skepticism about knowledge of meaning, or propositional content, which undercuts its anti-skeptical force. (shrink)
It seems that, whereas a person's death needn't be a bad thing for him, it can be. In some circumstances, death isn't a "bad thing" or an "evil" for a person. For instance, if a person has a terminal and very painful disease, he might rationally regard his own death as a good thing for him, or at least, he may regard it as something whose prospective occurrence shouldn't be regretted. But the attitude of a "normal" and healthy human being (...) - adult or child - toward the prospect of his death is different; it is not unreasonable in certain cases to regard one's own death as a bad thing for oneself. If this is so, then the question arises as to why death is bad, in those cases in which it is bad. (shrink)
We have argued that it is rational to have asymmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous non-existence insofar as this asymmetry is a special case of a more general (and arguably rational) asymmetry in our attitudes toward past and future pleasures. Here we respond to an interesting critique of our view by Jens Johansson. We contend that his critique involves a crucial and illicit switch in temporal perspectives in the process of considering modal claims (sending us to other possible worlds).
In The Conscious Mind, D. Chalmers appeals to his semantic framework in order to show that conceivability, as employed in his "zombie" argument for dualism , is sufficient for genuine possibility. I criticize this attempt.
In this introduction to the special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics on the topic of personal identity and bioethics, I provide a background for the topic and then discuss the contributions in the special issue by Eric Olson, Marya Schechtman, Tim Campbell and Jeff McMahan, James Delaney and David Hershenov, and David DeGrazia.
A Kantian transcendental argument is an argument which purports to show that the existence of physical objects of a certain general character is a condition for the possibility of self-conscious experience. Both the Transcendental Deduction and the Refutation of Idealism satisfy this characterization. But we have seen that even a successful Kantian transcendental argument would be somewhat disappointing. Even though such an argument would refute the extreme Cartesian skepticism about the very existence of physical objects, it would not certify any (...) of one's claims to know facts about particular physical objects: it would not refute the weaker skeptical position I have sketched.5 How- ever, it would clearly be of great interest if one could show that the existence of physical objects is a condition for the possibility of self- conscious experience. Accordingly, I would like to investigate some problems surrounding the construction of Kantian transcendental arguments. (shrink)
In part I of the present work, I used the term 'Kantian transcendental argument' to refer to any argument which purports to establish that the existence of outer objects is a logically necessary condition for the possibility of self-conscious experience. In this second part, then, I examine Kantian transcendental arguments which proceed from the premise that one is the subject of widely construed self-conscious experience.
This is a response to an argument (by Michael McKinsey) purporting to show that anti-individualism is trivially true. I show that this argument rests upon a misconception of the basic claim of anti-individualism.
Michael McKinsey has argued that content externalism has the absurd consequence that one can know a priori that water exists. Richard W. Miller responds that when a prioricity is properly understood, McKinsey's argument should not be seen as a _reductio of externalism. This paper disputes Miller's understanding of a prioricity.
In "Nozick on Scepticism", Graeme Forbes attempts to establish a Transmission Principle for knowledge which has been challenged by a number of anti-sceptical philosophers (such as Nozick). This principle (or something like it) seems to be required by Cartesian sceptical arguments, so if it could be refuted, this would apparently rid us of such scepticism. I do not believe that Nozick or anyone else has refuted the principle, yet I will argue that Forbes has certainly failed to establish it.
Harold Langsam has recently presented a novel observational account of self-knowledge. I critically discuss this account and argue that it fails to provide a uniform understanding of how we are able to know the contents of our own thoughts.
In "Of Personal Identity,", Hume attempts to explain how one arrives at the fiction of a substantial self which retains its numerical identity through time. In "Of Scepticism with Regard to the Senses," Hume offers a similar explanation of the origin of another fiction - that of objects which enjoy a continued and distinct existence. In this paper, I will argue that his pair of parallel explanations does not jointly account for the pair of fictions to be explained.