What does it mean to listen to someone respectfully, that is, insofar as they are due recognition respect? This paper addresses that question and gives the following answer: it is to listen in such a way that you are open to being surprised. A specific interpretation of this openness to surprise is then defended.
ABSTRACTMost of Spinoza’s arguments for God’s existence do not rely on any special feature of God, but instead on merely general features of substance. This raises the following worry: those arguments prove the existence of non-divine substances just as much as they prove God’s existence, and yet there is not enough room in Spinoza’s system for all these substances. I argue that Spinoza attempts to solve this problem by using a principle of plenitude to rule out the existence of other (...) substances and that the principle cannot be derived from the PSR, as many claim.Abbreviation: PSR: Principle of Sufficient Reason. (shrink)
ABSTRACTWe seem to have a direct experience of our freedom when we act. Many philosophers take this feeling of freedom as evidence that we possess libertarian free will. Spinoza denies that we have free will of any sort, although he admits that we nonetheless feel free. Commentators often attribute to him what I call the ‘Negative Account’ of the feeling: it results from the fact that we are conscious of our actions but ignorant of their causes. I argue that the (...) Negative Account is flawed. The feeling of freedom also depends on a vacillation of the mind. When the mind forms too many incompatible associations, it vacillates between them. When we act, the mind vacillates back and forth between the kinds of actions that we associate with our present mental state. We then mistake this subjective vacillation for an objective feature of ourselves—namely, the power to do otherwise. (shrink)
In this article I introduce a simple classroom exercise intended to help students better understand Robert Nozick’s famous Wilt Chamberlain thought experiment. I outline the setup and rules of the Basic Version of the Game and explain its primary pedagogical benefits. I then offer several more sophisticated versions of the Game which can help to illustrate the difference between Nozick’s libertarianism and luck egalitarianism.
This paper examines Spinoza’s view on the consistency of mental representation. First, I argue that he departs from Scholastic tradition by arguing that all mental states—whether desires, intentions, beliefs, perceptions, entertainings, etc.—must be logically consistent. Second, I argue that his endorsement of this view is motivated by key Spinozistic doctrines, most importantly the doctrine that all acts of thought represent what could follow from God’s nature. Finally, I argue that Spinoza’s view that all mental representation is consistent pushes him to (...) a linguistic account of contradiction. (shrink)
Many students struggle to enter moral debates in a productive way because they automatically think of moral claims as ‘just opinions’ and not something one could productively argue about. Underlying this response are various versions of a muddled distinction between ‘facts’ and ‘opinions.’ This paper outlines a way to help students overcome their use of this distinction, thereby clearing an obstacle to true moral debate. It explains why the fact-opinion distinction should simply be scrapped, rather than merely sharpened. It then (...) proposes a different distinction well suited to replace it. Finally, it outlines an activity which can be used to teach the new distinction, as well as a number of benefits to attempting the whole replacement process. (shrink)
Clarke attacks Spinoza's monism on the grounds that it cannot explain how a multiplicity of things follows from one substance, God. This article argues that Clarke assumes that Spinoza's God is countable. It then sketches a way in which multiplicity can follow from God's uncountable nature.
Plato’s partition argument infers that the soul has parts from the fact that the soul experiences mental conflict. We consider an ambiguity in the concept of mental conflict. According to the first sense of conflict, a soul is in conflict when it has desires whose satisfaction is logically incompatible. According to the second sense of conflict, a soul is in conflict when it has desires which logically incompatible even when they are unsatisfied. This raises a dilemma: if the mental conflict (...) is supposed to be the latter kind of conflict, then the partition argument is valid but is likely unsound; if it’s supposed to be the former kind, then the partition argument has true premises but is invalid. We explain this dilemma in detail and defend a dispositionalist solution to it. (shrink)
Spinoza reasons about impossibilities on a regular basis. But he also says they're unthinkable and that reasoning is a mental process. How can he do this? The paper defends a linguistic account of counterpossible inferences in Spinoza's geometrical method.
People attribute resistance to bodies in Spinoza's physics. It's not always clear what they mean when they do this, or whether they are entitled to. This article clarifies what it would mean, and examines the evidence for attributing resistance. The verdict: there's some evidence, but not nearly as much as people think.
Malebranche argues that we lack a clear idea of the mind because we cannot, even in principle, derive all the possible modes of mind solely from the idea of thought. But we can, in principle, derive all the possible modes of body from the idea of extension. Therefore, there is epistemic asymmetry between our ideas of mind and body. I offer a defense of Descartes whereby he can assert that we have a clear idea of mind despite this asymmetry. I (...) argue that he can do this by distinguishing the simplicity of mind from the divisibility of body. (shrink)
The concept of determinism proves to be a persistent stumbling block to student comprehension of issues surrounding free will. Students tend to commit two main errors. First, they often confuse determinism with the related but importantly different idea of fatalism. Second, students often do not adequately understand that mental states, such as desires or beliefs, can function as deterministic causes. This paper outlines a straightforward in-class exercise modeled after John Horton Conway’s “Game of Life” computer simulation. The exercise aims to (...) address the two main obstacles to understanding determinism and, as a result, improve student understanding of free will topics. (shrink)