Long ago, my undergraduate advisor counseled me against “replying to reviews.” Alexander Rosenberg cannot be blamed for tempting me to disregard this advice, since his review of my book, The Nature of Selection, is a generous one. However, the editors of this journal invited me to comment and this proved to be more temptation than I could withstand. In what follows, I take up some of the main themes that Rosenberg discusses and try to clarify those issues that divide us.
In his Truth and Ontology,1 Trenton Merricks argues against the truthmaker principle: Truthmaker: ∀p( p → ∃xxᮀ(Exx → p)). Truthmaker says that for any true proposition, there are some things whose existence guarantees the truth of that proposition: that is, some things which couldn’t all exist and the proposition fail to be true. His main arguments against Truthmaker are that there cannot be satisfactory truthmakers for (i) negative existentials, (ii) modal truths, (iii) truths about the past (given that presentism is (...) true) and (iv) certain subjunctive conditionals, in particular so-called ‘counterfactuals of freedom’ and dispositional conditionals. I’m going to concentrate on the ﬁrst three of these. But ﬁrst I’ll say a bit about why we should care about Truthmaker. Merricks says that “No one gives much of an argument for Truthmaker. Instead, Truthmaker’s main support comes from something like the brute intuition that what is true depends in a non-trivial way on what there is” ( p. 2). He is, unfortunately, correct that truthmaker theorists have in general not been very good at motivating their theory. Too often is Truthmaker taken to be obvious, or an obvious consequence of realism, when really it is neither. But I think we can do better. (shrink)
“Teleosemantics and Pushmi-Pullyu Representations” argues that core teleosemantics, particularly as defined in Millikan :281–297, 1989, White queen psychology and other essays for Alice, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1993, Philosophical perspectives, Ridgeview Publishing, Alascadero, 1996, Varieties of meaning, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2004–2008), seems to imply that all descriptive representations are at the same time directive and that directives are at the same time descriptive, hence that all representations are pushmi-pullyu representations. A pushmi-pullyu representation is at once indicative and imperative, telling both what (...) the case is and what to do about it. The usefulness at all of the notion of a pushmi-pullyu representation is then questioned. I have recently found several new papers, dissertations, discussions, in which TP-PR is treated as definitive. However, the conclusions of TP-PR rest on misunderstandings of my position, so although the date is late, clarification seems still to be in order. I will indicate a few significant corrections that need to be made to TP-PR’s description of my position and explain central features of biosemantics that are omitted in TP-PR’s description of basic teleosemantics and which are incompatible with the main argument and conclusions of TP-PR. I will try to clarify and explain the value of the notion of a pushmi-pullyu representation. (shrink)
In this comment we critically review an argument against the existence of objective physical outcomes, recently proposed by Healey . We show that his gedankenexperiment, based on a combination of “Wigner’s friend” scenarios and Bell’s inequalities, suffers from the main criticism, that the computed correlation functions entering the Bell’s inequality are in principle experimentally inaccessible, and hence the author’s claim is in principle not testable. We discuss perspectives for fixing that by adapting the proposed protocol and show that this, however, (...) makes Healey’s argument virtually equivalent to other previous, similar proposals that he explicitly criticises. (shrink)
There is much I agree with in Sosa’s paper. His discussion of Stine and Peirce is quite useful; so too his discussion of Dretske in Appendix II. A further issue he focuses on concerns how Contextualists are to give full endorsement to the knowledge-claims of ordinary subjects. Just saying, metalinguistically, that.
Stefanie Rocknak has written an ambitious and challenging book1 in which she argues for a new interpretation of Hume's account of how we come to believe in external objects, and what it is we believe in. I am hampered by the fact that she and I seem to agree on so little. Thus, my criticisms run the danger of simply not seeing what she is up to.A preliminary terminological point: where Rocknak uses the word "object," I will often use the (...) word "body," since I think Hume sometimes uses "object" in a more general sense that includes perceptions.If I understand correctly, Rocknak's Hume argues that we come to believe in bodies through a special kind of causal reasoning. We reason what must exist in order to cause... (shrink)
Using Coffa's paper as a point of departure, this brief note is designed to show that Hempel's inductive-statistical model of explanation implicitly construes explanations of that type as defective deductive-nomological explanations, with the consequence that there is no such thing as genuine inductive-statistical explanation according to Hempel's account. This result suggests a possible implicit commitment to determinism behind Hempel's theory of scientific explanation.
The hidden-variable theorems of Bell and followers depend upon an assumption, namely the hidden-variable assumption, that conflicts with the precepts of quantum philosophy. Hence from an orthodox quantum perspective those theorems entail no faster-than-light transfer of information. They merely reinforce the ban on hidden variables. The need for some sort of faster-than-light information transfer can be shown by using counterfactuals instead of hidden variables. Shimony’s criticism of that argument fails to take into account the distinction between no-faster-than-light connection in one (...) direction and that same condition in both directions. The argument can be cleanly formulated within the framework of a fixed past, open future interpretation of quantum theory, which neatly accommodates the critical assumptions that the experimenters are free to choose which experiments they will perform. The assumptions are compatible with the Tomonaga–Schwinger formulation of quantum field theory, and hence with orthodox quantum precepts, and with the relativistic requirement that no prediction pertaining to an outcome in one region can depend upon a free choice made in a region spacelike-separated from the first. (shrink)
Julian Barbour's approach to dynamics is reviewed. With a particular focus on questions of explanation and confirmation, the approach is contrasted with standard formulations of dynamics. This paper expands upon my commentary on Lawrence Sklar's paper at the Philosophy of Time Society meeting at the APA's Central Division meeting in Chicago, April 2004. Although a commentary, the current paper is comprehensible without reference to Sklar's paper.
This is a commentary on Adrian Heathcote’s interesting paper ‘Hume’s Master Argument’. Heathcote contends that No-Ought-From-Is is primarily a logical thesis, a ban on Is/Ought inferences which Hume derives from the logic of Ockham. NOFI is thus a variation on what Heathcote calls ‘Hume’s Master Argument’, which he also deploys to prove that conclusions about the future (and therefore a-temporal generalizations) cannot be derived by reason from premises about the past, and that conclusions about external objects or other minds cannot (...) be derived by reason from premises about impressions. Heathcote raises an important question. Having (apparently) argued that our inductive inferences are not justified by reason, Hume puts them down to Custom, and seems to suggest that we OUGHT to indulge this propensity but NOt the superstitious propensities that lead to religious belief. (Query: Why is it right to indulge one non-rational propensity but not the others?) Finally Heathcote argues that just as there are valid, but not formally valid, arguments taking us from claims about inferential relations to claims about what we ought to believe, so there may be valid, but not formally valid, arguments taking us from factual claims about some situation to claims about what we ought to do. -/- I reply that Hume does indeed have a Master Argument and that it does rely on logical principles but not on the logic of Ockham which had been largely forgotten by Hume’s day. Instead Hume relies on the idea widely believed in the 18th Century and taught to Hume at Edinburgh by his logic Professor Colin Drummond, that in a logically valid argument the conclusion is contained in the premises. I reconstruct Hume’s Master Argument using this principle. I draw a careful distinction between two theses: 1) that we cannot get from non-moral premises to moral conclusions with the aid of logic alone and 2) that we cannot get from non-moral premises to moral conclusions with aid of analytic bridge principles. Hume believed the first but not the second. What then is the role of NOFI in the larger argument of the Treatise? To show that the truths of ethics cannot be derived via logic from self-evident truths of some other kind and thus that they are not demonstrable. How can we make sense of Hume’s apparent belief that it is sometimes right to transcend reason and sometimes not? In the case of Custom, we live in a world governed by causal regularities, and, in such a world, induction is in fact a fairly reliable belief-forming mechanism. Thus a suitably qualified spectator (one aware of the kind of world we live in) would tend to approve of indulging it, even if it cannot be justified by reason. However, our superstitious propensities are (and can be known to be) unreliable, since they produce different and inconsistent results in different people. Thus it is it is wrong (something a suitably qualified spectator would disapprove of) to indulge the faculty of Superstition. I also take issue with Heathcote’s penchant for valid, but not formally valid, inferences. I supply the missing premises for Heathcote’s Is/Ought inferences and argue that they are either not true or not necessary. (shrink)
I. Pryor on McKinsey: " A. Pryor’s Version of McKinsey-style Reasoning 1. Given authoritative self-knowledge, I can usually tell the contents of my own thoughts just by introspection. So I can know the following claim on the basis of reflection alone: " McK-1: I am thinking a thought with the content _water puts out fires_.
Aristotle’s notion of force seems to be the same as what we mean by “brute force,” or as an example of the Eudemian Ethics puts it, one is “forced” when one’s hand is literally seized by another and used to strike another person. But closer scrutiny suggests something else must be going on if for no other reason than that Aristotle, in his description of force, makes reference to a do-er (o( pra/ttwn [EN III.1.1110a2]). Based on such an insight, Flannery’s (...) “Force and Compulsion in Aristotle’s Ethics” subjects the account of forced actions, actions done under compulsion, and so called “mixed actions” in Aristotle’s ethical treatises to careful scrutiny. In my comments I focus upon two of his claims: First, that although Aristotle includes a notion of “brute force” in his account of force, he doesn’t limit his account just to that notion; and second, that Aristotle’s account of force presupposes or includes what he calls “a particular anthropology.”. (shrink)
In this comment we take up two points made by Douglas Hollan in his article “Emerging Issues in the Cross-Cultural Study of Empathy,” and discuss their possible philosophical implications. Hollan‘s concept of complex empathy may give rise to the idea that we can learn about other people’s beliefs via empathy, which is something we do not believe is possible. Furthermore, Hollan’s description of possible negative effects of empathy, such as manipulations of a person on the basis of knowledge about their (...) emotions, might pose a problem for proponents of care ethics, who generally start from the assumption that empathy fosters altruistic behavior. (shrink)
Justin Remhof defends a constructivist interpretation of Nietzsche’s view regarding the metaphysics of material objects. First, I describe an attractive feature of Remhof’s interpretation. Since Nietzsche seems to be a constructivist about whatever sort of value he accepts, a constructivist account of objects would fit into a nicely unified overall metaphysical theory. Second, I explore various options for developing the constructivist view of objects. Depending on how Nietzsche understood concepts, and whose concepts he saw as giving rise to objects, he (...) could’ve had a variety of different constructivist accounts. (shrink)
Kuhn 's incommensurability thesis of 1962 still implies a very radical critique of standard theories of meaning. It is argued that incommensurability is sufficiently pervasive throughout the development of theories as to call in question standard linguistic palliatives, and that Kuhn 's critique of extensionalist translation must be carried further into a theory of interpretation which not only depends on holistic meanings, but also explicitly addresses the ostensive and analogical processes of language learning. Such a theory is required for the (...) pervasively metaphoric character of natural language, as well as for the understanding of theoretical terms in science. (shrink)