One thousand stones, suitably arranged, might form a heap. If we remove a single stone from a heap of stones we still have a heap; at no point will the removal of just one stone make sufficient difference to transform a heap into something which is not a heap. But, if this is so, we still have a heap, even when we have removed the last stone composing our original structure. So runs the Sorites paradox. Similar paradoxes can be constructed (...) with any predicate which, like 'heap', displays borderline vagueness. Although I have frequently heard it said that there is no completely credible and satisfying dissolution of the paradoxes of the Sorites family; and although there is no possible approach to dissolution which has not been at least partially explored, philosophers continue glibly to use vague language as though it were entirely unproblematic. Since no argument has ever been produced which would justify our ignoring the para~doxes, this situation is extremely unsatisfactory. (shrink)
Extant semantic theories for languages containing vague expressions violate intuition by delivering the same verdict on two principles of classical propositional logic: the law of noncontradiction and the law of excluded middle. Supervaluational treatments render both valid; many-Valued treatments, Neither. The core of this paper presents a natural deduction system, Sound and complete with respect to a 'mixed' semantics which validates the law of noncontradiction but not the law of excluded middle.
Whenever some form of beneficent killing--for example, voluntary euthanasia--is advocated, the proposal is greeted with a flood of slippery-slope arguments warning of the dangers of a Nazi-style slide into genocide. This paper is an attempt systematically to evaluate arguments of this kind. Although there are slippery-slope arguments that are sound and convincing, typical formulations of the Nazi-invoking argument are found to be seriously deficient both in logical rigour and in the social history and psychology required as a scholarly underpinning. As (...) an antidote, an attempt is made both to identify some of the likely causes of genocide and to isolate some of the more modest but legitimate fears that lie behind slippery-slope arguments of this kind. (shrink)
The argument from potential has been hard to assess because the versions presented by friends and those presented by enemies have born very little resemblance to each other. I here try to improve this situation by attempting to bring both versions into enforced contact. To this end, I sketch a more detailed analysis of the modern concept of potential than any hitherto attempted. As one would expect, arguments from potential couched in terms of that notion are evident non-starters. I then (...) ask how the modern notion of potential needs to be supplemented in order to produce a more convincing argument. I then enquire whether the supplementations utilised in the most distinguished recent presentations of the argument have anything better than an ad hoc role to play in contemporary metaphysics. I conclude that the rehabilitation of the argument is unlikely; in any event, the onus of proof seems to be on the friend of that argument to show that it is uncontrived. Finally, I argue that the (modern) notion of potential has an important role to play in any plausible account of foetal value. (shrink)
I aim to show how and why some definitions can be benignly circular. According to Lloyd Humberstone, a definition that is analytically circular need not be inferentially circular and so might serve to illuminate the application-conditions for a concept. I begin by tidying up some problems with Humberstone's account. I then show that circular definitions of a kind commonly thought to be benign have inferentially circular truth-conditions and so are malign by Humberstone's test. But his test is too demanding. The (...) inferences we actually use to establish the applicability of, e.g., colour concepts are designed to establish warranted assertability and not truth. Understood thus, dispositional analyses are not inferentially circular. (shrink)
In this paper we attempt to sharpen and to provide an answer to the question of when human beings first become conscious. Since it is relatively uncontentious that a capacity for raw sensation precedes and underpins all more sophisticated mental capacities, our question is tantamount to asking when human beings first have experiences with sensational content. Two interconnected features of our argument are crucial. First, we argue that experiences with sensational content are supervenient on facts about electrical activity in the (...) cerebral cortex which can be ascertained through EEG readings. Second, we isolate from other notions of a‘functioning brain’that which is required to underpin the view that a cortex is functioning in a way which could give rise to rudimentary conscious experiences. We investigate the development in the human fetus of the anatomical and chemical pathways which underpin cortical activity and the growth and maturation of the electrical circuitry specifically associated with sensational content in adult experience. We conclude that a fetus becomes conscious at about 30 to 35 weeks after conception; an answer based on a careful analysis of EEG readings at various stages of cortical development. Finally, we survey the possible ethical ramifications of our answer. (shrink)
In 'Vague Identity: Evans Misunderstood' David Lewis defends Gareth Evans against a widespread misunderstanding of an argument that appeared in his article 'Can There be Vague Objects?'. Lewis takes himself to be 'defending Evans' and not just correcting a mistake; witness his remark that, 'As misunderstood, Evans is a pitiful figure: a "technical philosopher" out of control of his technicalities, taken in by a fallacious proof of an absurd conclusion'. Let me say at the outset that I take Lewis to (...) be exactly right in regarding as a misunderstanding the interpretation of Evans which he exposes as such. On Lewis's account, everything Evans says 'falls into place', and he quotes from a letter that 'settles the matter'. (shrink)
For the sentences of languages that contain operators that express the concepts of definiteness and indefiniteness, there is an unavoidable tension between a truth-theoretic semantics that delivers truth conditions for those sentences that capture their propositional contents and any model-theoretic semantics that has a story to tell about how indetifiniteness in a constituent affects the semantic value of sentences which imbed it. But semantic theories of both kinds play essential roles, so the tension needs to be resolved. I argue that (...) it is the truth theory which correctly characterises the notion of truth, per se. When we take into account the considerations required to bring model theory into harmony with truth theory, those considerations undermine the arguments standardly used to motivate supervaluational model theories designed to validate classical logic. But those considerations also show that celebration would be premature for advocates of the most frequently encountered rival approach - many-valued model theory. (shrink)