This article builds on C. S. Peirce’s suggestive blueprint for an inclusive outlook that grants reality to his three categories. Moving away from the usual focus on (contentious) cosmological forces, I use a modal principle to partition various ontological layers: regular sign-action (like coded language) subsumes actual sign-action (like here-and-now events) which in turn subsumes possible sign-action (like qualities related to whatever would be similar to them). Once we realize that the triadic sign’s components are each answerable to this asymmetric (...) subsumption, we obtain the means to track at which level of complexity semiosis finds itself, in a given case. Since the bulk of such a “trinitarian” metaphysics would be devoted to countenancing uninterpreted phenomena, I argue that current misgivings about sign-based ontologies are largely misplaced. (shrink)
It is often thought that consciousness has a qualitative dimension that cannot be tracked by science. Recently, however, some philosophers have argued that this worry stems not from an elusive feature of the mind, but from the special nature of the concepts used to describe conscious states. Marc Champagne draws on the neglected branch of philosophy of signs or semiotics to develop a new take on this strategy. The term “semiotics” was introduced by John Locke in the modern period – (...) its etymology is ancient Greek, and its theoretical underpinnings are medieval. Charles Sanders Peirce made major advances in semiotics, so he can act as a pipeline for these forgotten ideas. Most philosophers know Peirce as the founder of American pragmatism, but few know that he also coined the term “qualia,” which is meant to capture the intrinsic feel of an experience. Since pragmatic verification and qualia are now seen as conflicting commitments, Champagne endeavors to understand how Peirce could (or thought he could) have it both ways. The key, he suggests, is to understand how humans can insert distinctions between features that are always bound. Recent attempts to take qualities seriously have resulted in versions of panpsychism, but Champagne outlines a more plausible way to achieve this. So, while semiotics has until now been the least known branch of philosophy ending in –ics, his book shows how a better understanding of that branch can move one of the liveliest debates in philosophy forward. (shrink)
Sparrow argues that military robots capable of making their own decisions would be independent enough to allow us denial for their actions, yet too unlike us to be the targets of meaningful blame or praise—thereby fostering what Matthias has dubbed “the responsibility gap.” We agree with Sparrow that someone must be held responsible for all actions taken in a military conflict. That said, we think Sparrow overlooks the possibility of what we term “blank check” responsibility: A person of sufficiently high (...) standing could accept responsibility for the actions of autonomous robotic devices—even if that person could not be causally linked to those actions besides this prior agreement. The basic intuition behind our proposal is that humans can impute relations even when no other form of contact can be established. The missed alternative we want to highlight, then, would consist in an exchange: Social prestige in the occupation of a given office would come at the price of signing away part of one's freedoms to a contingent and unpredictable future guided by another agency. (shrink)
Prompted by the thesis that an organism’s umwelt possesses not just a descriptive dimension, but a normative one as well, some have sought to annex semiotics with ethics. Yet the pronouncements made in this vein have consisted mainly in rehearsing accepted moral intuitions, and have failed to concretely further our knowledge of why or how a creature comes to order objects in its environment in accordance with axiological charges of value or disvalue. For want of a more explicit account, theorists (...) writing on the topic have relied almost exclusively on semiotic insights about perception originally designed as part of a sophisticated refutation of idealism. The end result, which has been a form of direct givenness, has thus been far from convincing. In an effort to bring substance to the right-headed suggestion that values are rooted in the biological and conform to species-specific requirements, we present a novel conception that strives to make explicit the elemental structure underlying umwelt normativity. Building and expanding on the seminal work of Ayn Rand in metaethics, we describe values as an intertwined lattice which takes a creature’s own embodied life as its ultimate standard; and endeavour to show how, from this, all subsequent valuations can in principle be determined. (shrink)
Historians occasionally use timelines, but many seem to regard such signs merely as ways of visually summarizing results that are presumably better expressed in prose. Challenging this language-centered view, I suggest that timelines might assist the generation of novel historical insights. To show this, I begin by looking at studies confirming the cognitive benefits of diagrams like timelines. I then try to survey the remarkable diversity of timelines by analyzing actual examples. Finally, having conveyed this (mostly untapped) potential, I argue (...) that neglecting timelines might mean neglecting significant aspects of reality that are revealed only by those signs. My overall message is that once we accept that relations are as important for the mind as what they relate, we have to pay closer attention to any semiotic device that enables or facilitates the discernment of new relations. (shrink)
In Natural propositions (2014), Stjernfelt contends that the interpretation of a proposition or dicisign requires the joint action of two kinds of signs. A proposition must contain a sign that conveys a general quality. This function can be served by a similarity-based icon or code-based symbol. In addition, a proposition must situate or apply this general quality, so that the predication can become liable of being true or false. This function is served by an index. Stjernfelt rightly considers the co-localization (...) of these two parts to be a primitive phenomenon. Although this primitive character would seem to bar any further analysis, I endeavor to clarify the degree of proximity sufficient to enable co-localization. Siding with Pietarinen (2014), who argues that the whole issue should not be construed in metric terms, I conclude that one cannot make sense of propositional co-localization without appealing to some form of first-person perspective. (shrink)
Building on the notational principles of C. S. Peirce’s graphical logic, Pietarinen has tried to develop a propositional logic unfolding in the medium of sound. Apart from its intrinsic interest, this project serves as a concrete test of logic’s range. However, I argue that Pietarinen’s inaugural proposal, while promising, has an important shortcoming, since it cannot portray double-negation without thereby portraying a contradiction.
Robert Brandom holds that what we mean is best understood in terms of what inferences we are prepared to defend, and that such a defence is best understood in terms of rule-governed social interactions. This manages to explain quite a lot. However, for those who think that there is more to making correct/incorrect inferences than obeying/breaking accepted rules, Brandom’s account fails to adequately capture what it means to reason properly. Thus, in an effort to sketch an alternative that does not (...) rely primarily on peer pressure, I draw on the work of C. S. Peirce. Peirce argued that, when we reason, we manipulate abstract diagrams in order to observe what results. Since some manipulations are barred by the self-same nature of the diagrams, I try to show that this qualitative incompatibility, which I dub “contrapiction,” is a good reason to regard some reasoning as bad. (shrink)
In response to the claim that our sense of will is illusory, some philosophers have called for a better understanding of the phenomenology of agency. Although I am broadly sympathetic with the tenor of this response, I question whether the positive-theoretic blueprint it promotes truly heralds a tenable undertaking. Marshaling a Schopenhauerian insight, I examine the possibility that agency might not be amenable to phenomenological description. Framing this thesis in terms of Charles S. Peirce’s semiotic framework, I suggest a way (...) to integrate the idea of streaming experiences with that of bodily strivings, which, owing to their primitive structure, can never be represented. (shrink)
C. S. Peirce introduced the term “icon” for sign-vehicles that signify their objects in virtue of some shared quality. This qualitative kinship, however, threatens to collapse the relata of the sign into one and the same thing. Accordingly, the late medieval philosopher of signs John Poinsot held that, “no matter how perfect, a concept [...] always retains a distinction, therefore, between the thing signified and itself signifying.” Poinsot is touted by his present-day advocates as a realist, but I believe that, (...) judged by realist standards, his requirement of minimal dissimilarity backfires. Poinsot thinks that, in analyzing the sign, we should stop before a full merger between sign-vehicle and object is reached. Peirce, by contrast, saw good reason to push the analysis all the way down to one isolated quality. Because such a qualitative merger can lend support to realism, I favour Peirce’s stance. (shrink)
Kant posits the schema as a hybrid bridging the generality of pure concepts and the particularity of sensible intuitions. However, I argue that countenancing such schemata leads to a third-man regress. Siding with those who think that the mid-way posit of the Critique of Pure Reason's schematism section is untenable, my diagnosis is that Kant's transcendental inquiry goes awry because it attempts to analyse a form/matter union that is primitive. I therefore sketch a nonrepresentational stance aimed at respecting this primitivity.
This paper suggests that it is largely a want of notional distinctions which fosters the “explanatory gap” that has beset the study of consciousness since T. Nagel’s revival of the topic. Modifying Ned Block’s controversial claim that we should countenance a “phenomenal-consciousness” which exists in its own right, we argue that there is a way to recuperate the intuitions he appeals to without engaging in an onerous reification of the facet in question. By renewing with the full type/token/tone trichotomy developed (...) by C. S. Peirce, we think the distinctness Block calls attention to can be seen as stemming not from any separate module lurking within the mind, but rather from our ability to prescind qualities from occurrences. (shrink)
This essay argues that acknowledging the existence of mind-independent facts is a matter of vital importance, in that acquiescence before the layout of the world is something demanded of knowing agents from the most elementary empirical deliverance to the most abstract construct. Building on the idea that normativity requires the presence of more than one option to choose from, the essay shows how the cessation of one's life is the disjunctive alternative of any experiential episode. This much has been missed, (...) it argues, because of a generalized failure to appreciate how even the simplest atomic contents embroil their subjects in acts of assent. Its account thus casts a new light on relativism and skepticism, revealing them to be provisional luxuries supported only by the cognitive labor of others. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is a conflict between two theses held by John McDowell, namely i) the claim that we are under a standing obligation to revise our beliefs if reflection demands it; and ii) the view that veridical experience is a mode of direct access to the world. Since puts no bounds on what would constitute reasonable doubt, it invites skeptical concerns which overthrow. Conversely, since says that there are some experiences which we are entitled to trust, it (...) undermines the prescriptive scope of. Drawing on C. S. Peirce's distinction between genuine and contrived doubt, I maintain that critical revisions of beliefs should be triggered only by unwanted disruptions of habits, thereby restoring unity between McDowell's two theses. (shrink)
Most inferentialists hope to bypass givenness by tracking the conditionals claimants are implicitly committed to. I argue that this approach is underdetermined because one can always construct parallel trees of conditionals. I illustrate this using the Müller-Lyer illusion and touching a table. In the former case, the lines are either even or uneven; in the latter case, a moving hand will either sweep through or be halted. For each possibility, we can rationally foresee consequents. However, I argue that, until and (...) unless we benefit from what is given in experience, we cannot know whether to affirm the antecedents of those conditionals. (shrink)
This paper suggests that reference to phenomenal qualities is best understood as involving iconicity, that is, a passage from sign-vehicle to object that exploits a similarity between the two. This contrasts with a version of the ‘phenomenal concept strategy’ that takes indexicality to be central. However, since it is doubtful that phenomenal qualities are capable of causally interacting with anything, indexical reference seems inappropriate. While a theorist like David Papineau is independently coming to something akin to iconicity, I think some (...) of the awkwardness that plagues his account would be remedied by transitioning to a more inclusive philosophy of signs. (shrink)
Following recent work by Don Ross (Ross, 2000; Ross & Spurrett, 2004), I contrast the influential theories of Daniel Dennett and Paul Churchland in information-theoretic terms. Dennett makes much of the fact that the morphological shorthand which emerges before a witness as she looks upon cohesive aggregates of matter commands some measure of predictive power. This, for him, speaks against eliminating recourse to an intentional vocabulary. By contrast, the eliminative materialism defended by Churchland does not gloss such informational compressibility as (...) an explanatory desideratum, and thus regards the informational noise which accrues at higher levels of description as patently unacceptable. Yet, since it is unlikely, as Ross, Ladyman, and Collier (2007) have recently suggested, that anything remains once we subtract the appeal to patterns, I argue that the ubiquity of informational compression in scientific explanation seriously undermines the claim that talk of the mental could be eliminated. (shrink)
Structured around Charles S. Peirce's three-fold categorical scheme, this article proposes a comparative study of Ayn Rand and Peirce's realist views in general metaphysics. Rand's stance is seen as diverging with Peirce's argument from asymptotic representation but converging with arguments from brute relation and neutral category. It is argued that, by dismissing traditional subject-object dualisms, Rand and Peirce both propose iconoclastic construals of what it means to be real, dismissals made all the more noteworthy by the fact each chose to (...) ground them in indissoluble triads of self-evident first principles. (shrink)
This short essay seeks to identify and prevent a pitfall that attends less careful inquiries into “physiosemiosis.” It is emphasized that, in order to truly establish the presence of sign-action in the non-living world, all the components of a triadic sign - including the interpretant - would have to be abiotic (that is, not dependent on a living organism). Failure to heed this necessary condition can lead one to hastily confuse a natural sign (like smoke coming from fire) for an (...) instance of abiotic semiosis. A more rigorous and reserved approach to the topic is called for. (shrink)
"Representation" is one of those Janus-faced terms that seems blatantly obvious when used in a casual or pre-theoretic manner, but which reveals itself far more slippery when attentively studied. Any allusion to "metarepresentation", it would then seem, only compounds these difficulties. Taking the metarepresentationalist framework in its roughest outline as our point of departure, we thus articulate four key "structural" features that appear binding for any such theory.
In his 1927 Analysis of Matter and elsewhere, Russell argued that we can successfully infer the structure of the external world from that of our explanatory schemes. While nothing guarantees that the intrinsic qualities of experiences are shared by their objects, he held that the relations tying together those relata perforce mirror relations that actually obtain (these being expressible in the formal idiom of the Principia Mathematica). This claim was subsequently criticized by the Cambridge mathematician Max Newman as true but (...) trivial, insofar as from a closed body of observations (or “Ramsey sentence”) one can always generate other equally-satisfactory networks of relations, provided they respect the original set’s cardinality. Since any model thus generated will be empirically adequate, “[t]he defence is therefore driven back from the fairly safe fictitious-real classification to the much less tenable ‘trivial’ and ‘important’” (Newman 1928). Given the definitional rigour afforded by the initial appeal to isomorphism (via one-to-one correspondences in extension), the received assessment, shared by Russell himself, is that retreating to a pragmatic adjudication would betoken a fatal blow. However, I suggest that reliance on “importance” can be avoided if we incorporate an impersonal criterion of diachronic precedence. When collecting observations, an ordinality emerges alongside the cardinality which gives that underived structure an irrevocable epistemological privilege. Hence, I argue that, all other things being equal, any construct parasitic on an antecedent theory ought to be regarded as inferior/dispensable, since it was generated by an algorithm lacking the world-involving pedigree of its host structure. (shrink)
Prompted by the thesis that an organism’s umwelt possesses not just a descriptive dimension, but a normative one as well, some have sought to annexsemiotics with ethics. Yet the pronouncements made in this vein have consisted mainly in rehearsing accepted moral intuitions, and have failed to concretely further our knowledge of why or how a creature comes to order objects in its environment in accordance with axiological charges of value or disvalue. For want of a more explicit account, theorists writing (...) on the topic have relied almost exclusively on semiotic insights about perception originally designed as part of a sophisticated refutation of idealism. The end result, which has been a form of direct givenness, has thus been far from convincing. In an effort to bring substance to the right-headed suggestion that values are rooted in the biological and conform to species-specific requirements, we present a novel conception that strives to make explicit the elemental structure underlying umwelt normativity. Building and expanding on the seminal work of Ayn Rand in metaethics, we describe values as an intertwined lattice which takes a creature’s own embodied life as its ultimate standard; and endeavour to show how, from this, all subsequent valuations can in principle be determined. (shrink)
C. S. Peirce is often credited as a forerunner of the verificationist theory of meaning. In his early pragmatist papers, Peirce did say that if we want to make our ideas clear(er), then we should look downstream to their actual and future effects. For many who work in philosophy of mind, this is enough to endorse functionalism and dismiss the whole topic of qualia. It complexifies matters, however, to consider that the term qualia was introduced by the founder of pragmatism (...) himself. Peirce was adamant that only triadic relations can support language and cognition. Even so, he insisted on purely logical grounds that, when we analyze triadic signs all the way, we are left with a qualitative residue he called Firstness. Such an isolated relatum could never be studied experimentally. Yet, given that this primitive state can be confirmed by means of a formal or prescissive distinction, I believe the Peircean account can do justice to many of the intuitions that generate the so-called hard problem of consciousness. My goal, then, is to show that Peirce's semiotic commitment to qualia is compatible with his foundational statements about pragmatism. (shrink)
Thanks to advances in astronomical measurement and computer modeling, “now we know thousands of worlds” (Deacon 2020, 7). By contrast, “in 1990 all we could say was that one star, the Sun, out of hundreds of billions, definitely hosted planets” (ibid., 18). The word “definitely” does a lot of work here. Knowledge does not require, and indeed rarely attains, certainty, so we might rephrase the foregoing as “in 1990 all we could say with sufficient assurance was that one star, the (...) Sun, out of hundreds of billions, hosted planets”. Yet, long before recent breakthroughs, many suspected that other planets orbited other stars... (shrink)
I will be talking today about the limits of cognitive science. I won’t be talking about contingent shortcomings that could perhaps be remedied with, say, more time, resources, or ingenuity. Rather, I will be concerned with limitations that are “baked into” the very enterprise. The main blind spot, I will argue, is consciousness—but not for the reasons typically given. Current work in philosophy of mind can sometimes seem arcane, so my goal today will be to answer the question: why bother? (...) I have spent a whole book and several articles trying to make sense of the qualitative dimension of consciousness, but there is no point in trying to sell a solution unless we have first established (independently of any academic literature) that there is a real problem to solve. So, if I can’t convey my position in under an hour, I can at least convey the issue that motivates it. (shrink)
It is usually thought that only one being can be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. Challenging this monotheist conviction, I propose a universe ruled by two deities: ‘day shift God’ oversees the events that occur while the sun is up, whereas ‘night shift God’ oversees the events that occur while the sun is down. I survey objections to this proposal and conclude that the real obstacle is not an argument, but an aesthetic preference.
The goal of this article is twofold. First, it revises the historiographic partition proposed by John Deely in Four Ages of Understanding (2001) by arguing that the moment marking the beginning of philosophical Modernity has been vividly recorded in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy with the experiment with the wax. Second, an upshot of this historical study is that it helps make sense of Deely’s somewhat iconoclastic use of the words “subject” and “subjectivity” to designate mind-independent worldly things. The hope (...) is that successfully accomplishing these twin tasks will give semiotic inquiry a better appreciation of its own history, as well as resources genial to furthering its ongoing development. (shrink)
This paper describes how bodily positions and gestures were used to teach argument diagramming to a student who cannot see. After listening to short argumentative passages with a screen reader, the student had to state the conclusion while touching his belly button. When stating a premise, he had to touch one of his shoulders. Premises lending independent support to a conclusion were thus diagrammed by a V-shaped gesture, each shoulder proposition going straight to the conclusion. Premises lending dependent support were (...) diagrammed by a T-shaped gesture, the shoulder premises meeting at the collar bone before moving down to the belly button. Arguments involving two pairs of entailments were diagrammed by an I-shaped gesture, going from the collar bone to a mid-way conclusion above the abdomen before travelling to the final conclusion at the belly button. The student’s strong performance suggests that placing propositions at different locations on the body and uniting them with gestures can help one discern correct argumentative structures. (shrink)
Stressing that the pronoun "I" picks out one and only one person in the world (i.e., me), I argue against Hunt (and other like-minded Rand commentators) that the supposed "hard case" of destructive people who do not care for their own lives poses no special difficulty for rational egoism. I conclude that the proper response to a terse objection like "What about suicide bombers?" is the equally terse assertion "But I don't want to get blown up.".
Alethic functionalism, as propounded by Michael Lynch, is the view that there are different ways to be true, but that these differences nevertheless contain enough unity to forestall outright pluralism. This view has many virtues. Yet, since one could conceivably apply Lynch’s “one and many” strategy to other debates, I try to show how his argumentative steps can be used to solve — not just the controversy pertaining to truth — but any controversy that surrounds a “What is X?” question.
Deliberation is often seen as the site of human freedom, but the binding power of rationality seems to imply that deliberation is, in its own way, a deterministic process. If one knows the starting preferences and circumstances of an agent, then, assuming that the agent is rational and that those preferences and circumstances don’t change, one should be in a position to predict what the agent will decide. However, given that an agent could conceivably confront equally attractive alternatives, it is (...) an open question whether rational choice theory can ever eliminate indeterminacy. The clearest support for such a limitation comes from the “Buridan’s ass” scenario, where an agent is confronted with two (or more) equally attractive/unattractive options. Does rationality by itself have the resources needed to prevent such paralysis of action? Those who cannot accept the idea of decisional impotence devise various ways to avoid it: postulating a neutral valence, tipping the utilities, positing sub-personal influences, and bunching the options. I argue that each of these responses is either unwarranted or flawed. All parties to the debate agree that, factually, paralysis of action is not a pervasive phenomenon. This is either because (i) the utilities one assigns to two or more options can never be balanced or because (ii) thanks to some non-rational faculty (say, the will), we would not be stuck even if those utilities were perfectly counterpoised. By looking critically at four untenable responses, I aim to show that (i) is often just a dogma and (ii) is by no means a silly position. (shrink)
In an effort to carve a distinct place for social facts without lapsing into a holistic ontology, John Greenwood has sought to define social phenomena solely in terms of the attitudes held by the actor in question. I argue that his proposal allows for the possibility of a “lone collectivity” that is unpalatable in its own right and incompatible with the claim that sociology is autonomous from psychology. As such, I conclude that the relevant beliefs need to be held by (...) more than one person. (shrink)
One claim reiterated with increasing boldness by the “analytic” tradition in philosophy is that what sets it apart from long-time rivals is a shared adherence to proper norms of argumentation. Gradated deviancy from this canon by English-speaking practitioners has therefore raised important questions about who can repair under the banner “professional philosopher.” We will portray as deeply worrisome the idea that argumentation should secure not just conclusions, but disciplinary membership as well.
Some have suggested that images can be arguments. Images can certainly bolster the acceptability of individual premises. We worry, though, that the static nature of images prevents them from ever playing a genuinely argumentative role. To show this, we call attention to a dilemma. The conclusion of a visual argument will either be explicit or implicit. If a visual argument includes its conclusion, then that conclusion must be demarcated from the premise or otherwise the argument will beg the question. If (...) a visual argument does not include its conclusion, then the premises on display must license that specific conclusion and not its opposite, in accordance with some demonstrable rationale. We show how major examples from the literature fail to escape this dilemma. Drawing inspiration from the graphical logic of C. S. Peirce, we suggest instead that images can be manipulated in a way that overcomes the dilemma. Diagrammatic reasoning can take one stepwise from an initial visual layout to a conclusion—thereby providing a principled rationale that bars opposite conclusions—and the visual inscription of this correct conclusion can come afterward in time—thereby distinguishing the conclusion from the premises. Even though this practical application of Peirce’s logical ideas to informal contexts requires that one make adjustments, we believe it points to a dynamic conception of visual argumentation that will prove more fertile in the long run. (shrink)
The recent wave of data on exoplanets lends support to METI ventures (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), insofar as the more exoplanets we find, the more likely it is that “exominds” await our messages. Yet, despite these astronomical advances, there are presently no well-confirmed tests against which to check the design of interstellar messages. In the meantime, the best we can do is distance ourselves from terracentric assumptions. There is no reason, for example, to assume that all inferential abilities are language-like. (...) With that in mind, I argue that logical reasoning does not have to be couched in symbolic notation. In diagrammatic reasoning, inferences are underwritten, not by rules, but by transformations of self-same qualitative signs. I use the Existential Graphs of C. S. Peirce to show this. Since diagrams are less dependent on convention and might even be generalized to cover non-visual senses, I argue that METI researchers should add some form of diagrammatic representations to their repertoire. Doing so can shed light, not just on alien minds, but on the deepest structures of reasoning itself. (shrink)
Shaun Gallagher has actively looked into the possibility that psychopathologies involving “thought insertion” might supply a counterexample to the Cartesian principle according to which one can always recognize one’s own thoughts as one’s own. Animated by a general distrust of a priori demonstrations, Gallagher is convinced that pitting clinical cases against philosophical arguments is a worthwhile endeavor. There is no doubt that, if true, a falsification of the immunity to error through misidentification would entail drastic revisions in how we conceive (...) the boundary between self and other. However, I argue that (1) the idea of unearthing an exception to the Cartesian thesis is, on further reflection, not a realistic prospect and that (2) this casts doubt on the attempt to conjoin first-person phenomenology and third-person cognitive science in the service of philosophical debates. (shrink)
Introductory courses dealing with sex, gender and sexuality often assign excerpts from Thomas Aquinas as an exemplar of the naturalist view. Given that most novice students tend to side against such naturalism uncritically, they need to be exposed to a more charitable account of the biological considerations motivating a stance like Aquinas.’ With that in mind, this article presents accessible arguments aimed at restoring deliberative balance in the classroom.
Treating groups as agents is not at all difficult; teenagers and social scientists do it all the time with great success. Reading Group Agency, though, makes it look like rocket science. According to List and Pettit, groups can be real, and such real groups can cause, as well as bear ethical responsibility for, events. Apparently, not just any collective qualifies as an agent, so a lot turns on how the attitudes and actions of individual members are aggregated. Although I am (...) unsure who will read this book, I can envisage four relatively distinct population segments: philosophers, decision theorists, activists, and social scientists. Philosophers who take questions of ontology seriously will likely find this book evasive. Decision theorists who enjoy axiomatic model building for its own sake will find much to keep them occupied. Activists who have taken it upon themselves to “raise group consciousness” (193) will probably skip ahead to the third part and feel emboldened by the thought that the model builders are busy with the first two. However, since the normative questions (about responsibility and so on) are answerable to prior metaphysical questions for which Group Agency supplies vacillating answers at best, a transition to advocacy would seem hasty. As for social scientists, either they will glance at the book’s dust jacket and (wrongly) assume that philosophers have now “proven” the existence of the groups they study, or they will engage with List and Pettit’s model only to discover that, unless they happen to specialize in commercial corporations, the model’s many stipulations impede rather than facilitate/elucidate their usual group intentional ascriptions. (shrink)
In an attempt to start rectifying a lamentable disparity in scholarship, we evince fruitful points of similarity and difference in the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir and Ayn Rand, paying particular attention to their views on long-term projects. Endorsing what might be called an “Ethic of Resolve,” Rand praises those who undertake sustained goal-directed actions such as careers. Beauvoir, however, endorses an “Ethic of Ambiguity” that makes her more skeptical about the prospects of carrying out lifelong projects without deluding oneself. (...) Our study teases apart the strengths and drawbacks of these views. (shrink)
Descartes holds that the tell-tale sign of a solid proof is that its entailments appear clearly and distinctly. Yet, since there is a limit to what a subject can consciously fathom at any given moment, a mnemonic shortcoming threatens to render complex geometrical reasoning impossible. Thus, what enables us to recall earlier proofs, according to Descartes, is God’s benevolence: He is too good to pull a deceptive switch on us. Accordingly, Descartes concludes that geometry and belief in God must go (...) hand in hand. However, I argue that, while theism adds a layer of psychological reassurance, the mind-independent reality of God would ensure the preservation of past demonstrations for atheists as well. (shrink)
Jordan Peterson has attracted a high level of attention. Controversies may bring people into contact with Peterson's work, but ideas are arguably what keep them there. Focusing on those ideas, this book explores Peterson’s answers to perennial questions. What is common to all humans, regardless of their background? Is complete knowledge ever possible? What would constitute a meaningful life? Why have humans evolved the capacity for intelligence? Should one treat others as individuals or as members of a group? Is a (...) single person powerless in the face of evil? What is the relation between speech, thought, and action? Why have religious myths and narratives figured so prominently in human history? Are the hierarchies we find in society good or bad? After devoting a chapter to each of these questions, Champagne unites the different strands of Peterson’s thinking in a handy summary. Champagne then spends the remaining third of the book articulating his main critical concerns. He argues that while building on tradition is inevitable and indeed desirable, Peterson’s individualist project is hindered by the non-revisable character and self-sacrificial content of religious belief. This engaging multidisciplinary study is ideal for those who know little about Peterson’s views, or for those who are familiar but want to see more clearly how Peterson’s views hang together. The debates spearheaded by Peterson are in full swing, so Myth, Meaning, and Antifragile Individualism should become a reference point for any serious engagement with Peterson’s ideas. (shrink)
One of the leading concerns animating current philosophy of mind is that, no matter how good a scientific account is, it will leave out what its like to be conscious. The challenge has thus been to study or at least explain away that qualitative dimension. Pursuant with that aim, I investigate how philosophy of signs in the Peircean tradition can positively reshape ongoing debates. Specifically, I think the account of iconic or similarity-based reference we find in semiotic theory offers a (...) more promising variant of the phenomenal concept strategy. Philosophers who endorse this strategy think that the difficulties we have fitting conscious qualia into a scientific picture may owe to the peculiar nature of indexical concepts. They point to the fact that, when we try to convey the feel of our experiences, we employ context-dependent gestures and/or utterances that are indexed to perspectives unique to each person. However, according to the theory I defend, there are three ways signs can refer, namely by convention, causal contact, and similarity. Since similarity is not reducible to proximity, I argue that a theory of reference that turns on shared quality can bypass some of the implausible consequences that plague indexical accounts. In the first chapter, I describe the apparatus needed to make sense of this claim. In the second chapter, I present my account of iconic reference. In the third chapter, I justify my reliance on a distinction that is less than real yet more than nominal. In the fourth chapter, I sketch a trinitarian metaphysics well-suited to house the foregoing account of qualia. (shrink)