Moral particularism is commonly presented as an alternative to ‘principle- or rule-based’ approaches to ethics, such as consequentialism or Kantianism. This paper argues that particularists' aversions to consequentialism stem not from a structural feature of consequentialism per se, but from substantial and structural axiological views traditionally associated with consequentialism. Given a particular approach to value, there need be no conflict between moral particularism and consequentialism. We consider and reject a number of challenges holding that there is after all such a (...) conflict. We end by suggesting that our proposed position appears quite appealing since it preserves attractive elements from particularism as well as consequentialism. (shrink)
Jonas Olson writes that "a plausible moral error theory must be an error theory about all irreducible normativity". I agree. But unlike Olson, I think we cannot believe this error theory. I first argue that Olson should say that reasons for belief are irreducibly normative. I then argue that if reasons for belief are irreducibly normative, we cannot believe an error theory about all irreducible normativity. I then explain why I think Olson's objections to this argument fail. I end (...) by showing that Olson cannot defend his view as a partly revisionary alternative to an error theory about all irreducible normativity. (shrink)
Jonas Olson presents a critical survey of moral error theory, the view that there are no moral facts and so all moral claims are false. Part I explores the historical context of the debate; Part II assesses J. L. Mackie's famous arguments; Part III defends error theory against challenges and considers its implications for our moral thinking.
The objective of this paper is to show that Russell's paradox cannot be solved just by defining a class as what is classified, as Balzer thinks. It can be solved not by defining a class, as he does, but by rejecting the assumption on which the validity of argument is based, that is, not conceding the truth of the disjunctive premise that a class is either an instance of itself or not an instance of itself.
Experiences—visual, emotional, or otherwise—play a role in providing us with justification to believe claims about the world. Some accounts of how experiences provide justification emphasize the role of the experiences’ distinctive phenomenology, i.e. ‘what it is like’ to have the experience. Other accounts emphasize the justificatory role to the experiences’ etiology. A number of authors have used cases of cognitively penetrated visual experience to raise an epistemic challenge for theories of perceptual justification that emphasize the justificatory role of phenomenology rather (...) than etiology. Proponents of the challenge argue that cognitively penetrated visual experiences can fail to provide the usual justification because they have improper etiologies. However, extant arguments for the challenge’s key claims are subject to formidable objections. In this paper, I present the challenge’s key claims, raise objections to previous attempts to establish them, and then offer a novel argument in support of the challenge. My argument relies on an analogy between cognitively penetrated visual and emotional experiences. I argue that some emotional experiences fail to provide the relevant justification because of their improper etiologies and conclude that analogous cognitively penetrated visual experiences fail to provide the relevant justification because of their etiologies, as well. (shrink)
This paper concerns how extant theorists of predictive coding conceptualize and explain possible instances of cognitive penetration. §I offers brief clarification of the predictive coding framework and relevant mechanisms, and a brief characterization of cognitive penetration and some challenges that come with defining it. §II develops more precise ways that the predictive coding framework can explain, and of course thereby allow for, genuine top-down causal effects on perceptual experience, of the kind discussed in the context of cognitive penetration. §III develops (...) these insights further with an eye towards tracking one extant criterion for cognitive penetration, namely, that the relevant cognitive effects on perception must be sufficiently direct. Throughout these discussions, we extend the analyses of the predictive coding models, as we know them. So one open question that surfaces is how much of the extended analyses are genuinely just part of the predictive coding models, or something that must be added to them in order to generate these additional explanatory benefits. In §IV, we analyze and criticize a claim made by some theorists of predictive coding, namely, that (interesting) instances of cognitive penetration tend to occur in perceptual circumstances involving substantial noise or uncertainty. It is here that our analysis is most critical. We argue that, when applied, the claim fails to explain (or perhaps even be consistent with) a large range of important and uncontroversially interesting possible cases of cognitive penetration. We conclude with a general speculation about how the recent work on the predictive mind may influence the current dialectic concerning top-down effects on perception. (shrink)
Contents: Foreword. Wolfgang BALZER and C. ULISES MOULINES: Introduction. José A. DÍEZ CALZADA: Structuralist Analysis of Theories of Fundamental Measurement. Adolfo GARCÍA DE LA SIENRA and Pedro REYES: The Theory of Finite Games in Extensive Form. Hans Joachim BURSCHEID und Horst STRUVE: The Theory of Stochastic Fairness - its Historical Development, Formulation and Justification. Wolfgang BALZER and Richard MATTESSICH: Formalizing the Basis of Accounting. Werner DIEDERICH: A Reconstruction of Marxian Economics. Bert HAMMINGA and Wolfgang BALZER: The Basic (...) Structure of Neoclassical General Equilibrium Theory. Klaus MANHART: Balance Theories: Two Reconstructions and the Problem of Intended Applications. Rainer WESTERMANN: Festinger's Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: A Structuralist Theory-Net. Rainer REISENZEIN: Wundt's Three-Dimensional Theory of Emotion. Pablo LORENZANO: Classical Genetics and the Theory-Net of Genetics. Hinne HETTEMA and Theo A.F. KUIPERS: The Formalisation of the Periodic Table. C. ULISES MOULINES: The Basic Core of Simple Equilibrium Thermodynamics. Thomas BARTELBORTH: An Axiomatization of Classical Electrodynamics. Author's Index. Subject Index. (shrink)
This paper questions the adequacy of the explicit cancellability test for conversational implicature as it is commonly understood. The standard way of understanding this test relies on two assumptions: first, that that one can test whether a certain content is conversationally implicated, by checking whether that content is cancellable, and second, that a cancellation is successful only if it results in a felicitous utterance. While I accept the first of these assumptions, I reject the second one. I argue that a (...) cancellation can succeed even if it results in an infelicitous utterance, and that unless we take this possibility into account we run the risk of misdiagnosing philosophically significant cases. (shrink)
‘Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism’ (published in Social Research , 1952) is indeed one of Hans Jonas’ most famous essays, to which its author reserved very deep attention during his philosophical career. As a former pupil of Martin Heidegger and Rudolf Bultmann, Jonas started to deal with religious topics, and specifically with Gnosticism, from the very outset of his philosophical career in the 1920s. After gaining recognition thanks to his remarkable philosophical-existential interpretation of Gnosticism, he returned to the modern (...) age and its philosophical characters. Principally, Jonas discovered that modern philosophy up to Heidegger and Sartre suffered from a peculiar spiritual disease – namely, nihilism – that he had already traced in ancient Gnosticism and that he intended to reject. Therefore, Jonas’ acquaintance with ancient religion and thinking gave him a deep insight into the modern age and provided him with a first glimpse of what was later to become his biological philosophy. However, whoever could imagine that the idea of tracing similarities between Gnosticism and modern thinking came to Jonas at the beginning of 1950 from the famous philosopher and biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy? In this article, I shall endeavour to demonstrate this thesis by quoting from unpublished documents. However, I shall also try to prove that Jonas did not follow von Bertalanffy’s advice completely. The overall aim is, therefore, both to highlight the origins of an essential turning point in the thinking of Hans Jonas, and, on such a basis, to outline the innovation and originality of his philosophical contribution. (shrink)
The first decade of event-related potential (ERP) research had established that the most consistent correlates of the onset of visual consciousness are the early visual awareness negativity (VAN), a posterior negative component in the N2 time range, and the late positivity (LP), an anterior positive component in the P3 time range. Two earlier extensive reviews ten years ago had concluded that VAN is the earliest and most reliable correlate of visual phenomenal consciousness, whereas LP probably reflects later processes associated with (...) reflective/access consciousness. This article provides an update to those earlier reviews. ERP and MEG studies that have appeared since 2010 and directly compared ERPs between aware and unaware conditions are reviewed, and important new developments in the field are discussed. The result corroborates VAN as the earliest and most consistent signature of visual phenomenal consciousness, and casts further doubt on LP as an ERP correlate of phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
Jonas Olson defends a moral error theory in (2014). I will first argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral nonnaturalism in his own opinion. I will then argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral contextualism either (although the latter is not a matter of his own opinion).
Reality is hierarchically structured, or so proponents of the metaphysical posit of grounding argue. The less fundamental facts obtain in virtue of, or are grounded in, the more fundamental facts. But what exactly is it for one fact to be more fundamental than another? The aim of this paper is to provide a measure of relative fundamentality. I develop and defend an account of the metaphysical hierarchy that assigns to each fact a set of ordinals representing the levels on which (...) it occurs. The account allows one to compare any two facts with respect to their fundamentality and it uses immediate grounding as its sole primitive. In the first section, I will set the stage and point to some shortcomings of a rival account proposed by Karen Bennett. The second section will present my own proposal and the third section will discuss how it can be extended to non-foundationalist settings. The fourth section discusses potential objections. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to present a new reconstruction of Aristotle's assertoric logic as he develops it in Prior Analytics, A1-7. This reconstruction will be much closer to Aristotle's original text than other such reconstructions brought forward up to now. To accomplish this, we will not use classical logic, but a novel system developed by Ben-Yami [2014. ‘The quantified argument calculus’, The Review of Symbolic Logic, 7, 120–46] called ‘QUARC’. This system is apt for a more adequate reconstruction (...) since it does not need first-order variables on which the usual quantifiers act—a feature also not to be found in Aristotle. Further, in the classical reconstruction, there is also need for binary connectives that don't have a counterpart in Aristotle. QUARC, again, does not need them either to represent the Aristotelian sentence types. However, the full QUARC is also not called for so that I develop a subsystem thereof which closely resembles Aristotle's way of developi... (shrink)
Let intentionalism be the view that what proposition is expressed in context by a sentence containing indexicals depends on the speaker’s intentions. It has recently been argued that intentionalism makes communicative success mysterious and that there are counterexamples to the intentionalist view in the form of cases of mismatch between the intended interpretation and the intuitively correct interpretation. In this paper, I argue that these objections can be met, once we acknowledge that we may distinguish what determines the correct interpretation (...) from the evidence that is available to the audience, as well as from the standards by which we judge whether or not a given interpretation is reasonable. With these distinctions in place, we see that intentionalism does not render communicative success mysterious, and that cases of mismatch between the intended interpretation and the intuitively correct one can easily be accommodated. The distinction is also useful in treating the Humpty Dumpty problem for intentionalism, since it turns out that this can be treated as an extreme special case of mismatch. (shrink)
It is shown that the criteria of T-theoreticity proposed by Balzer and Gähde lead to strongly counterintuitive and in this sense paradoxical results: most of the obviously empirical or at least nontheoretical terms come out as theoretical. This is demonstrated for a lot of theories in different areas. On the way, some improved and some new structuralist theory-reconstructions are given. The conclusion is drawn that the T-theoreticity of a term cannot possibly be proved on the basis of the mathematical (...) structure of theory T alone (as Gähde and Balzer suggest). Rather, an independent notion of pre-T-theoreticity and-more importantly-of empiricity is needed; i.e., not empirical and not pre-T-theoretical are independent, necessary but not sufficient conditions for T-theoretical (this is also a necessary complement of Sneed's original criterion). Finally it is asked whether the structuralist criterion of T-theoreticity complemented by such independent conditions would be a satisfactory answer to Putnam's challenge, and the answer again is negative: the criterion is not able to distinguish between empirically contentful and completely contentless (superfluous) theoretical terms. (shrink)
According to the communication desideratum (CD), a notion of semantic content must be adequately related to communication. In the recent debate on indexical reference, (CD) has been invoked in arguments against the view that intentions determine the semantic content of indexicals and demonstratives (intentionalism). In this paper, I argue that the interpretations of (CD) that these arguments rely on are questionable, and suggest an alternative interpretation, which is compatible with (strong) intentionalism. Moreover, I suggest an approach that combines elements of (...) intentionalism with other subjectivist approaches, and discuss the role of intuitions in developing and evaluating theories of indexical reference. (shrink)
The debate on the ethical aspects of moral bioenhancement focuses on the desirability of using biomedical as opposed to traditional means to achieve moral betterment. The aim of this paper is to systematically review the ethical reasons presented in the literature for and against moral bioenhancement.
During the last couple of decades, several attempts have been made to come up with a theory that can handle the various semantic, logical and philosophical problems raised by the vagueness of natural languages. One of the most influential ideas that have come into fashion in recent years is the idea that vagueness should be analysed as a form of context sensitivity. Such contextualist theories of vagueness have gained some popularity, but many philosophers have remained sceptical of the prospects of (...) finding a tenable contextualist solution to the problems of vagueness. This paper provides an introduction to the most popular contextualist accounts, and a discussion of some of the most important arguments for and against them. (shrink)
Trevor Teitel has recently argued that combining the assumption that modality reduces to essence with the assumption that possibly some objects contingently exist leads to problems if one wishes to uphold that the logic of metaphysical modality is S5. In this paper I will argue that there is a way for the essentialist to evade the problem described by Teitel. The proposed solution crucially involves the assumption that some propositions possibly fail to exist. I will show how this assumption affords (...) a motivated contingentist response to Teitel’s argument. (shrink)
I show how Hans Jonas, one of Heidegger's most distinguished Jewish students, traces his mentor's susceptibility to Nazism to a moral nihilism at the heart of Heidegger's teaching in "Being and Time". I then demonstrate how Jonas's own "existential interpretation of the biological facts" and metaphysical grounding of "an imperative of responsibility" provide one of the most systematic and challenging rejoinders to the moral failings of Heidegger's thought.
This book has grown out of eight years of close collaboration among its authors. From the very beginning we decided that its content should come out as the result of a truly common effort. That is, we did not "distribute" parts of the text planned to each one of us. On the contrary, we made a point that each single paragraph be the product of a common reflection. Genuine team-work is not as usual in philosophy as it is in other (...) academic disciplines. We think, however, that this is more due to the idiosyncrasy of philosophers than to the nature of their subject. Close collaboration with positive results is as rewarding as anything can be, but it may also prove to be quite difficult to implement. In our case, part of the difficulties came from purely geographic separation. This caused unsuspected delays in coordinating the work. But more than this, as time passed, the accumulation of particular results and ideas outran our ability to fit them into an organic unity. Different styles of exposition, different ways of formalization, different levels of complexity were simultaneously present in a voluminous manuscript that had become completely unmanageable. In particular, a portion of the text had been conceived in the language of category theory and employed ideas of a rather abstract nature, while another part was expounded in the more conventional set-theoretic style, stressing intui tivity and concreteness. (shrink)
In the debate over what determines the reference of an indexical expression on a given occasion of use, we can distinguish between two generic positions. According to the first, the reference is determined by internal factors, such as the speaker’s intentions. According to the second, the reference is determined by external factors, like conventions or what a competent and attentive audience would take the reference to be. It has recently been argued that the first position is untenable, since there are (...) cases of mismatch where the intuitively correct reference differs from the one that would be determined by the relevant internal factors. The aim of this paper is to show that, contrary to this line of argument, it is the proponent of the second position that should be worried, since this position yields counterintuitive consequences regarding communicative success in cases of mismatch. (shrink)
I propose a pragmatic approach to the kind of reference-shifting occurring in indexicals as used in e.g. written notes and answering machine messages. I proceed in two steps. First, I prepare the ground by showing that the arguments against such a pragmatic approach raised in the recent literature fail. Second, I take a first few steps towards implementing this approach, by sketching a pragmatic theory of reference-shifting, and showing how it can handle cases of the relevant kind. While the immediate (...) scope of the paper is restricted to indexicals and reference-shifting, and the discussion is confined to a specific range of theories and cases, the approach proposed is compatible with a fairly broad range of more or less semantically conservative theories, and many of the conclusions drawn are significant for the evaluation of pragmatic explanations in philosophy more generally. The overall goal is to offer a new perspective on the issues under discussion, and to prompt philosophers to reconsider some of the established methods by which pragmatic explanations are evaluated. (shrink)
In a recent article published in this journal, Kris McDaniel proposes a variant of Peter van Inwagen’s argument against the principle of sufficient reason that makes crucial use of plural grounding. In this response paper I object to McDaniel’s argument. I argue that there is no notion of plural grounding available that is both irreflexive in the sense required for the argument to go through and general enough to formulate the principle of sufficient reason as proposed by McDaniel.
The article deals with present day challenges related to the employ of technology in order to reduce the exposition of the human being to the risks and vulnerability of his or her existential condition. According to certain transhumanist and posthumanist thinkers, as well as some supporters of human enhancement, essential features of the human being, such as vulnerability and mortality, ought to be thoroughly overcome. The aim of this article is twofold: on the one hand, we wish to carry out (...) an enquiry into the ontological and ethical thinking of Hans Jonas, who was among the first to address these very issues with great critical insight; on the other hand, we endeavour to highlight the relevance of Jonas’ reflections to current challenges related to bioscience and biotechnological progress. In this regard, we believe that the transcendent and metaphysical relevance of the «image of man» introduced by Jonas is of paramount importance to understand his criticism against those attempts to ameliorate the human being by endangering his or her essence. (shrink)
My aim in this essay is largely defensive. I aim to discuss some problems for moral error theory and to offer plausible solutions. A full positive defense of moral error theory would require substantial investigations of rival metaethical views, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. I will, however, try to motivate moral error theory and to clarify its commitments. Moral error theorists typically accept two claims – one conceptual and one ontological – about moral facts. The conceptual (...) claim is that moral facts are or entail facts about categorical reasons (and correspondingly that moral claims are or entail claims about categorical reasons); the ontological claim is that there are no categorical reasons – and consequently no moral facts – in reality. I accept this version of moral error theory and I try to unpack what it amounts to in Section 2.1 In the course of doing so I consider two preliminary objections: that moral error theory is (probably) false because its implications are intuitively unacceptable (what I call the Moorean objection) and that the general motivation for moral error theory is self-undermining in that it rests on a hidden appeal to norms. The above characterization seems to entail the standard formulation of moral error theory, according to which first-order moral claims are uniformly false. Critics have argued that the standard formulation is incoherent since – by the law of excluded middle – the negation of a false claim is true. Hence if ‘Torture is wrong’ is false, ‘Torture is not wrong’ is true. Contrary to what moral error theorists contend, then, moral error theory seems to carry first-order moral implications that by the theory’s own lights are uniformly false. In Section 3 I suggest a formulation that is consistent with the standard formulation of moral error theory, free of first-order moral implications, and subject to no logical difficulties. In Section 4 I consider and rebut Stephen Finlay’s recent attack on moral error theory. According to Finlay the conceptual claim is false because all moral claims – and indeed all normative claims – are, or should be understood as, relativized to some moral standard or system of ends. Moral error theorists thus attribute to ordinary speakers an error that simply isn’t there. I argue that Finlay’s view has some very implausible implications and that it does not avoid commitment to various forms of error theory. This becomes especially clear when we focus on fundamental moral claims. In Section 5 I consider the worry that error theorists’ rejection of categorical reasons proves too much; in particular, the worry that error theorists’ qualms about categorical reasons apply equally to claims about hypothetical reasons, that is, claims to the effect that there is reason to take the means to one’s ends. In my view error theorists such as Mackie and Joyce have failed to pay due consideration to this problem. What the challenge establishes, I submit, is that error theorists cannot just take for granted that hypothetical reasons are metaphysically unproblematic; they must offer an account of hypothetical reasons that shows that they are. I argue that the only plausible account available to error theorists is one according to which claims about hypothetical reasons reduce to non-normative claims about relations between means and ends. (shrink)
Perception purports to help you gain knowledge of the world even if the world is not the way you expected it to be. Perception also purports to be an independent tribunal against which you can test your beliefs. It is natural to think that in order to serve these and other central functions, perceptual representations must not causally depend on your prior beliefs and expectations. In this paper, I clarify and then argue against the natural thought above. All perceptual systems (...) must solve an under-determination problem: the sensory data they receive could be caused by indefinitely many arrangements of distal objects and properties. Using a Bayesian approach to perceptual processing, I argue that in order to solve the under-determination problem, perceptual capacities must rely on prior beliefs or expectations of some kind. I then argue that perceptual states or processes can help ground knowledge of the world whether the ‘beliefs’ necessary for perceptual processing are encoded as sub-personal states within a perceptual system or cognitive states, such as person-level beliefs. My argument has two main parts. First, I give a preliminary argument that cognitive influence on perception can be appropriate, and I respond to three lines of objection. Second, I argue that cognitively influenced perceptual states can be instances of seeing that p, which makes the relevant states well suited to help ground knowledge that p. I conclude that a cognitively penetrated perceptual state or process can help ground knowledge under some circumstances. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that some truths or facts don’t have a minimal full ground [see e.g. Fine ]. Every full ground of them contains a smaller full ground. In this paper I’ll propose a minimality constraint on immediate grounding and I’ll show that it doesn’t fall prey to the arguments that tell against an unqualified minimality constraint. Furthermore, the assumption that all cases of grounding can be understood in terms of immediate grounding will be defended. This assumption guarantees that (...) the proposed minimality constraint is significant for all cases of grounding. With its help one can get a clear grip on the relevance of grounding, a feature that will be put to use in the penultimate section. (shrink)
Jonas' philosophical biology is an attempt to overcome the dualism, i.e., the alienation between man and world, which characterizes both Gnostic thinking and the Heiddegerian existentialist approach that Jonas had applied in its interpretation. This dualism leads both approaches to despise or, at least, to neglect nature.Jonas' philosophical biology is intended to provide an insight into the phenomenon of life that is more than a mere reflection of scientific epistemology. Rather, it regards itself as a cognitively significant (...) approach towards the living in its own right. At the same time, philosophical biology is not intended as an alternative to the scientific enterprise, but instead as a desirable and even necessary complement of it. In developing philosophical biology, Jonas additionally aims at securing a place for man in the order of the living that is more than just locating him somewhere in the order of primates. (shrink)
According to T.M. Scanlon's buck-passing account of value, to be valuable is not to possess intrinsic value as a simple and unanalysable property, but rather to have other properties that provide reasons to take up an attitude in favour of their owner or against it. The 'wrong kind of reasons' objection to this view is that we may have reasons to respond for or against something without this having any bearing on its value. The challenge is to explain why such (...) reasons are of the wrong kind. This is what I set out to do, after illustrating the objection more thoroughly. (shrink)