This article concerns the place of Plato’s eschatology in his philosophy. I argue that the theory of reincarnation appeals to Plato due to its power to explain how non-human animals came to be. Further, the outlines of this theory are entailed by other commitments, such as that embodiment disrupts psychic functioning, that virtue is always rewarded and vice punished, and that the soul is immortal. I conclude by arguing that Plato develops a view of reincarnation as the chief tool that (...) the gods have to ensure that virtue is victorious over vice throughout the whole cosmos. (shrink)
I argue that Plato believes that the soul must be both the principle of motion and the subject of cognition because it moves things specifically by means of its thoughts. I begin by arguing that the soul moves things by means of such acts as examination and deliberation, and that this view is developed in response to Anaxagoras. I then argue that every kind of soul enjoys a kind of cognition, with even plant souls having a form of Aristotelian discrimination (...) (krisis), and that there is therefore no completely unintelligent, evil soul in the cosmos that can explain disorderly motions; as a result, the soul is not the principle of all motion but only motion in the cosmos after it has been ordered by the Demiurge. (shrink)
In this article, I approach some phenomena seen predominantly on social-media sites that are grouped together as cancel culture with guidance from two major themes in Plato’s thought. In the first section, I argue that shame can play a constructive and valuable role in a person’s improvement, just as we see Socrates throughout Plato’s dialogues use shame to help his interlocutors improve. This insight can help us understand the value of shaming people online for, among other things, their morally reprehensible (...) views. In the second section, I argue that it is required for the proper functioning of democratic institutions that some views be excluded from the public sphere, which follows some Platonic ideas from the Laws. In neither case do I argue that this approach is good in an unqualified sense or even ultima facie good. However, I maintain that these important insights from Plato’s dialogues illuminate crucial aspects of how we should think about cancel culture. (shrink)
I argue that, according to Plato, the body is the sole cause of psychic disorders. This view is expressed at Timaeus 86b in an ambiguous sentence that has been widely misunderstood by translators and commentators. The goal of this article is to offer a new understanding of Plato’s text and view. In the first section, I argue that although the body is the result of the gods’ best efforts, their sub-optimal materials meant that the soul is constantly vulnerable to the (...) body’s influences. In the second section, I argue that every psychic disorder is a disruption of the motions of the inner psychic circles by the body; moreover, I defend my translation of 86b. In the final section, I argue that the goal of education is to restore the circles to their original orbits, and I disarm a possible objection that bad education is also a cause of psychic disorder. (shrink)
This paper concerns Plato’s characterization of the body as the soul’s tool. I take perception as an example of the body’s usefulness. I explore the Timaeus’ view that perception provides us with models of orderliness. Then, I argue that perception of confusing sensible objects is necessary for our cognitive development too. Lastly, I consider the instrumentality relationship more generally and its place in Plato’s teleological worldview.
I argue that Plato thinks that the soul has location, surface, depth, and extension, and that the Timaeus’ composition of the soul out of eight circles is intended literally. A novel contribution is the development of an account of corporeality that denies the entailment that the soul is corporeal. I conclude by examining Aristotle’s objection to the Timaeus’ psychology and then the intellectual history of this reading of Plato.
Katz denies that organisms created in a lab as part of a de-extinction attempt will be authentic members of the extinct species, on the basis that they will lack the original species’ defining biological and evolutionary history. Against Katz, I note that an evolutionary lineage is conferred on an organism through its inheriting genes from forebears already possessed of such a lineage, and that de-extinction amounts to a delayed, human-assisted reproductive process, in which genes are inherited from forebears long dead. (...) My conclusion is that de-extinct organisms can perfectly well have an ancient evolutionary history, contrary to what Katz claims. (shrink)
So-called ‘distinctively mathematical explanations’ (DMEs) are said to explain physical phenomena, not in terms of contingent causal laws, but rather in terms of mathematical necessities that constrain the physical system in question. Lange argues that the existence of four or more equilibrium positions of any double pendulum has a DME. Here we refute both Lange’s claim itself and a strengthened and extended version of the claim that would pertain to any n-tuple pendulum system on the ground that such explanations are (...) actually causal explanations in disguise and their associated modal conditionals are not general enough to explain the said features of such dynamical systems. We argue and show that if circumscribing the antecedent for a necessarily true conditional in such explanations involves making a causal analysis of the problem, then the resulting explanation is not distinctively mathematical or non-causal. Our argument generalises to other dynamical systems that may have purported DMEs analogous to the one proposed by Lange, and even to some other counterfactual accounts of non-causal explanation given by Reutlinger and Rice. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that online echo chambers are in some cases and in some respects good. I do not attempt to refute arguments that they are harmful, but I argue that they are sometimes beneficial. In the first section, I argue that it is sometimes good to be insulated from views with which one disagrees. In the second section, I argue that the software-design principles that give rise to online echo chambers have a lot to recommend them. Further, (...) the opposing principle, serendipity, could give rise to serious harm, in light of the conclusion of the first section that sometimes we are better off being insulated from some content online. In the third section, I argue that polarization can be a useful tool for inculcating the appropriate attitudes in a person. (shrink)
It is often argued that the indispensability of continuum models comes from their empirical adequacy despite their decoupling from the microscopic details of the modelled physical system. There is thus a commonly held misconception that temperature varying across a region of space or time can always be accurately represented as a continuous function. We discuss three inter-related cases of temperature modelling — in phase transitions, thermal boundary resistance and slip flows — and show that the continuum view is fallacious on (...) the ground that the microscopic details of a physical system are not necessarily decoupled from continuum models. We show how temperature discontinuities are present in both data (experiments and simulations) and phenomena (theory and models) and how discontinuum models of temperature variation may have greater empirical adequacy and explanatory power. The conclusions of our paper are: a) continuum idealisations are not indispensable to modelling physical phenomena and both continuous and discontinuous representations of phenomena work depending on the context; b) temperature is not necessarily a continuously defined function in our best scientific representations of the world; and c) that its continuity, where applicable, is a contingent matter. We also raise a question as to whether discontinuous representations should be considered truly de-idealised descriptions of physical phenomena. (shrink)
How many attitudes must be posited at the level of reductive bedrock in order to reductively explain all the rest? Motivational Humeans hold that at least two attitudes are indispensable, belief and desire. Desire-As-Belief theorists beg to differ. They hold that the belief attitude can do the all the work the desire attitude is supposed to do, because desires are in fact nothing but beliefs of a certain kind. If this is correct it has major implications both for the philosophy (...) of mind, with regards the problem of naturalizing the propositional attitudes, and for metaethics, with regards Michael Smith’s ‘moral problem’. This paper defends a version of Desire-As-Belief, and shows that it is immune to several major objections commonly levelled against such theories. (shrink)
I argue that Plato thinks that a sunaition is a mere tool used by a soul (or by the cosmic nous) to promote an intended outcome. In the first section, I develop the connection between sunaitia and Plato’s teleology. In the second section, I argue that sunaitia belong to Plato’s theory of the soul as a self-mover: specifically, they are those things that are set in motion by the soul in the service of some goal. I also argue against several (...) popular and long-standing interpretations, namely, that sunaitia correspond to Aristotle’s idea of hypothetical necessity, that sunaitia are the ‘how’ in an explanation (whereas the true cause is the ‘why’), and that Plato’s causal views should be read through Aristotle’s fourfold schema. I conclude the article by surveying the history of sunaitia after Plato’s usage. (shrink)
The title of Beth Shapiro’s ‘How to Clone a Mammoth’ contains an implicature: it suggests that it is indeed possible to clone a mammoth, to bring extinct species back from the dead. But in fact Shapiro both denies this is possible, and denies there would be good reason to do it even if it were possible. The de-extinct ‘mammoths’ she speaks of are merely ecological proxies for mammoths—elephants re-engineered for cold-tolerance by the addition to their genomes of a few mammoth (...) genes. Shapiro’s denial that genuine species de-extinction is possible is based on her assumption that resurrected organisms would need to be perfectly indistinguishable from the creatures that died out. In this article I use the example of an extinct New Zealand wattlebird, the huia, to argue—contra Shapiro—that there are compelling reasons to resurrect certain species if it can be done. I then argue—again, contra Shapiro—that synthetically created organisms needn’t be perfectly indistinguishable from their genetic forebears in order for species de-extinction to be successful. (shrink)
(Longer version - work in progress) Various accounts of distinctively mathematical explanations (DMEs) of complex systems have been proposed recently which bypass the contingent causal laws and appeal primarily to mathematical necessities constraining the system. These necessities are considered to be modally exalted in that they obtain with a greater necessity than the ordinary laws of nature (Lange 2016). This paper focuses on DMEs of the number of equilibrium positions of n-tuple pendulum systems and considers several different DMEs of these (...) systems which bypass causal features. It then argues that there is a tension between the modal strength of these DMEs and their epistemic hooking, and we are forced to choose between (a) a purported DME with greater modal strength and wider applicability but poor epistemic hooking, or (b) a narrowly applicable DME with lesser modal strength but with the right kind of epistemic hooking. It also aims to show why some kind of DMEs may be unappealing for working scientists despite their strong modality, and why some DMEs fail to be modally robust because of making ill-informed assumptions about their target systems. The broader goal is to show why such tensions weaken the case for DMEs for pendulum systems in general. (shrink)
Are the methods of synthetic biology capable of recreating authentic living members of an extinct species? An analogy with the restoration of destroyed natural landscapes suggests not. The restored version of a natural landscape will typically lack much of the aesthetic value of the original landscape because of the different historical processes that created it—processes that involved human intentions and actions, rather than natural forces acting over millennia. By the same token, it would appear that synthetically recreated versions of extinct (...) natural organisms will also be less aesthetically valuable than the originals; that they will be, in some strong sense, ‘inauthentic’, because of their peculiar history and mode of origin. I call this the ‘genesis argument’ against de-extinction. In this article I critically evaluate the genesis argument. I highlight an important disanalogy between living organisms and natural landscapes: viz., it is of the essence of the former, but not of the latter, to regularly reproduce and die. The process of iterated natural reproduction that sustains the continued existence of a species through time obviously does not undermine the authenticity of the species. I argue that the authenticity of a species will likewise be left intact by the kind of artificial copying of genes and traits that a de-extinction project entails. I conclude on this basis that the genesis argument is unsound. (shrink)
The counterfactual account of physical computation is simple and, for the most part, very attractive. However, it is usually thought to trivialize the notion of physical computation insofar as it implies ‘limited pancomputationalism’, this being the doctrine that every deterministic physical system computes some function. Should we bite the bullet and accept limited pancomputationalism, or reject the counterfactual account as untenable? Jack Copeland would have us do neither of the above. He attempts to thread a path between the two horns (...) of the dilemma by buttressing the counterfactual account with extra conditions intended to block certain classes of deterministic physical systems from qualifying as physical computers. His theory is called the ‘algorithm execution account’. Here we show that the algorithm execution account entails limited pancomputationalism, despite Copeland’s argument to the contrary. We suggest, partly on this basis, that the counterfactual account should be accepted as it stands, pancomputationalist warts and all. (shrink)
In Radicalizing Enactivism, D. D. Hutto and E. Myin develop a theory of mind they call ‘Radical Enactive (or Embodied) Cognition’ (REC). They argue that extant enactivist and embodied theories of mind are, although pretty radical, not radical enough, because such theories buy into the representationalist doctrine that perceptual experience (along with other forms of ‘basic’ mentality) possesses representational content. REC denies this doctrine. It implies that perceptual experience lacks reference, truth conditions, accuracy conditions, or conditions of satisfaction. In this (...) review I summarise their anti-representationalist argument and show that it has at least three major weaknesses. (shrink)
This article will appear in a special issue dedicated to theme, "the human being in the digital era: awareness, critical thinking and political space in the age of the internet and artificial intelligence." In this article, I consider the way that social-media companies nudge us to spend more time on their platforms, and I argue that, in principle, these nudges are morally permissible: they are not manipulative and do not violate any obvious moral rules. The moral problem, I argue, is (...) not with nudging in principle but is instead with the fact that users are being nudged towards something bad for them. In practice, this often involves being nudged to spend an unhealthy amount of time using a social-media app or being nudged towards content that is bad for us, such as by promoting eating-disorder content to young girls. Since nudging is morally permissible, it is open to these companies to use the same technologies to nudge us towards the good. (shrink)
Famous examples of conceivability arguments include (i) Descartes’ argument for mind-body dualism, (ii) Kripke's ‘modal argument’ against psychophysical identity theory, (iii) Chalmers’ ‘zombie argument’ against materialism, and (iv) modal versions of the ontological argument for theism. In this paper, we show that for any such conceivability argument, C, there is a corresponding ‘mirror argument’, M. M is deductively valid and has a conclusion that contradicts C's conclusion. Hence, a proponent of C—henceforth, a ‘conceivabilist’—can be warranted in holding that C's premises (...) are conjointly true only if she can find fault with one of M's premises. But M's premises are modelled on a pair of C's premises. The same reasoning that supports the latter supports the former. For this reason, a conceivabilist can repudiate M's premises only on pain of severely undermining C's premises. We conclude on this basis that all conceivability arguments, including each of (i)–(iv), are fallacious. (shrink)
This book is about the philosophy of de-extinction. -/- CHAPTER 1 introduces the two main philosophical questions that are raised by the prospect of extinct species being brought back from the dead—namely, the ‘Authenticity Question’ and the ‘Ethical Question’. It distinguishes the many different types and methods of de-extinction. Finally, it examines the aims of wildlife conservation with a view to whether they are compatible with de-extinction, or not. -/- CHAPTER 2 examines three prime candidates for de-extinction—namely, the aurochs, the (...) woolly mammoth, and the passenger pigeon. It is about what these animals were like, why people want to resurrect them, and the methods by which their resurrections could be accomplished. -/- CHAPTER 3 is about the authenticity of de-extinct animals. Critics of de-extinction have offered many reasons for thinking that the products of de-extinction will be inauthentic. The bulk of the chapter is taken up with surveying their arguments. We attempt to show that none are convincing, and end the chapter by offering and defending two arguments in favour of the view that authentic de-extinctions are possible. -/- CHAPTER 4 surveys and critically evaluates all the main arguments both for and against de-extinction. It presents a qualified defence of the claim that conservationists should embrace de-extinction. It ends with a list of do’s and don’ts for conservationist de-extinction projects. (shrink)
This paper concerns the three great modal dichotomies: (i) the necessary/contingent dichotomy; (ii) the a priori/empirical dichotomy; and (iii) the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. These can be combined to produce a tri-dichotomy of eight modal categories. The question as to which of the eight categories house statements and which do not is a pivotal battleground in the history of analytic philosophy, with key protagonists including Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kripke, Putnam and Kaplan. All parties to the debate have accepted that some categories are (...) void. This paper defends the contrary view that all eight categories house statements—a position I dub ‘octopropositionalism’. Examples of statements belonging to all eight categories are given. (shrink)
David Lewis describes, then attempts to refute, a simple anti-Humean theory of desire he calls ‘Desire as Belief’. Lewis’ critics generally accept that his argument is sound and focus instead on trying to show that its implications are less severe than appearances suggest. In this paper I argue that Lewis’ argument is unsound. I show that it rests on an essential assumption that can be straightforwardly proven false using ideas and principles to which Lewis is himself committed.
This is a review of Kris McDaniel's book, 'The Fragmentation of Being'. In the book McDaniel defends ontological pluralism -- the doctrine that there are multiple 'ways of being' (i.e., multiple modes, or degrees, or orders, or levels, or gradations of existence). In defending ontological pluralism, McDaniel must reject the rival, Quinean position that there is at root just one generic way for a thing to exist: viz., by its falling in the domain of unrestricted quantification. McDaniel argues against Quine (...) by contending that the unrestricted quantifier is really just shorthand for a ‘gruesome’ disjunction of restricted quantifiers. On McDaniel's view, the unrestricted quantifier plays ontological 'second fiddle' to these restricted quantifiers, which are ontologically fundamental, and which each represent one particular mode of being. Against this, I contend that if the disjunction in question was as gruesome as McDaniel makes out then logic would be apt to explode in our faces. If I am right then McDaniel's response to Quine falls flat. (shrink)
This chapter surveys and critically evaluates all the main arguments both for and against de-extinction. It presents a qualified defence of the claim that conservationists should embrace de-extinction. It ends with a list of do’s and don’ts for conservationist de-extinction projects.
In this paper I argue that human beings should reason, not in accordance with classical logic, but in accordance with a weaker ‘reticent logic’. I characterize reticent logic, and then show that arguments for the existence of fundamental Gödelian limitations on artificial intelligence are undermined by the idea that we should reason reticently, not classically.
An unknown process is generating a sequence of symbols, drawn from an alphabet, A. Given an initial segment of the sequence, how can one predict the next symbol? Ray Solomonoff’s theory of inductive reasoning rests on the idea that a useful estimate of a sequence’s true probability of being outputted by the unknown process is provided by its algorithmic probability (its probability of being outputted by a species of probabilistic Turing machine). However algorithmic probability is a “semimeasure”: i.e., the sum, (...) over all x∈A, of the conditional algorithmic probabilities of the next symbol being x, may be less than 1. Prevailing wisdom has it that algorithmic probability must be normalized, to eradicate this semimeasure property, before it can yield acceptable probability estimates. This paper argues, to the contrary, that the semimeasure property contributes substantially to the power and scope of an algorithmic-probability-based theory of induction, and that normalization is unnecessary. (shrink)
This chapter introduces the two main philosophical questions that are raised by the prospect of extinct species being brought back from the dead—namely, the ‘Authenticity Question’ and the ‘Ethical Question’. It distinguishes different types of de-extinction, and different methods by which de-extinction can be accomplished. Finally, it examines the aims of wildlife conservation with a view to whether they are compatible with de-extinction, or not.
Is the resurrection of an extinct species genuinely possible, or not? Will organisms produced by de-extinction technology be authentic new members of the species that died out, or just convincing fakes? We seek to answer these questions in this chapter. Critics of de-extinction have offered many reasons for thinking that the products of de-extinction will be inauthentic. The bulk of the chapter is taken up with surveying their arguments. We attempt to show that none are convincing. We end the chapter (...) by offering and defending two arguments in favour of the view that authentic de-extinctions are possible. (shrink)
This chapter examines three prime candidates for de-extinction—namely, the aurochs, the woolly mammoth, and the passenger pigeon. It will be about what these animals were like, why people want to resurrect them, and the methods by which their resurrections could be accomplished.
This article concerns the so-called irrigation system in the Timaeus’ biology (77a-81e), which replenishes our body’s tissues with resources from food delivered as blood. I argue that this system functions mainly by the natural like-to-like motion of the elements and that the circulation of blood is an important case study of Plato’s physics. We are forced to revise the view that the elements attract their like. Instead, similar elements merely tend to coalesce with each other in virtue of their tactile (...) features as the atomists describe. The notion of attraction is replaced with this notion of mere coalescence. I begin by outlining how blood is made from food. I then argue that an understanding of health and disease compels us to read Plato as if he were an atomist and to abandon the popular scholarly interpretations according to which the elements attract each other. (shrink)
In this article, I make the case for the continued relevance of Plato’s Timaeus. I begin by sketching Allan Bloom’s picture of the natural sciences today in The Closing of the American Mind, according to which the natural sciences are, objectionably, increasingly specialized and have ejected humans qua humans from their purview. I argue that Plato’s Timaeus, despite the falsity of virtually all of its scientific claims, provides a model for how we can pursue scientific questions in a comprehensive way (...) that stresses their connections to other disciplines, including the humanities, and that puts humanity qua humanity back in the picture. I then argue that being led by Plato’s philosophy to return humanity conceptually to the natural world can improve our thinking regarding climate change and other important environmental crises. (shrink)
Penrose  has discussed a new point of view concerning the nature of physics that might underline conscious thought processes. He has argued that it might be the case that some physical laws are not computable, i.e. they cannot be properly simulated by computer; such laws can most probably arise on the “no-man’s-land” between classical and quantum physics. Furthermore, conscious thinking is a non-algorithmic activity. He is opposing both strong AI , and Searle’s  contrary viewpoint mathematical “laws”).