John MacFarlane explores how we might make sense of the idea that truth is relative. He provides new, satisfying accounts of parts of our thought and talk that have resisted traditional methods of analysis, including what we mean when we talk about what is tasty, what we know, what will happen, what might be the case, and what we ought to do.
Kant writes: If … the only aim of Nature regarding some creature possessed of reason and a will were its preservation, its well-being, in a word its happiness, then she would have come to a very bad arrangement in choosing its reason as executor of that aim. For all actions that it had to execute in this her intention, and the whole regulation of its behaviour would have been able to be prescribed to it much more precisely by instinct, and (...) that aim thereby much more certainly maintained, than ever could happen through reason …. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to make sense of relativism about truth. There are two key ideas. (1) To be a relativist about truth is to allow that a sentence or proposition might be assessment-sensitive: that is, its truth value might vary with the context of assessment as well as the context of use. (2) Making sense of relativism is a matter of understanding what it would be to commit oneself to the truth of an assessment-sensitive sentence or proposition.
Philosophers on all sides of the contextualism debates have had an overly narrow conception of what semantic context sensitivity could be. They have conflated context sensitivity (dependence of truth or extension on features of context) with indexicality (dependence of content on features of context). As a result of this conflation, proponents of contextualism have taken arguments that establish only context sensitivity to establish indexicality, while opponents of contextualism have taken arguments against indexicality to be arguments against context sensitivity. Once these (...) concepts are carefully pulled apart, it becomes clear that there is conceptual space in semantic theory for nonindexical forms of contextualism that have many advantages over the usual indexical forms. (shrink)
Neil E. Williams develops a systematic metaphysics centred on the idea of powers, as a rival to neo-Humeanism, the dominant systematic metaphysics in philosophy today. Williams takes powers to be inherently causal properties and uses them as the foundation of his explanations of causation, persistence, laws, and modality.
The following is a transcript of the interview I (Yasuko Kitano) conducted with Neil Levy (The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, CAPPE) on the 23rd in July 2009, while he was in Tokyo to give a series of lectures on neuroethics at The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy. I edited his words for publication with his approval.
Let me start with a well-known story. Kant held that logic and conceptual analysis alone cannot account for our knowledge of arithmetic: “however we might turn and twist our concepts, we could never, by the mere analysis of them, and without the aid of intuition, discover what is the sum [7+5]” (KrV, B16). Frege took himself to have shown that Kant was wrong about this. According to Frege’s logicist thesis, every arithmetical concept can be defined in purely logical terms, and (...) every theorem of arithmetic can be proved using only the basic laws of logic. Hence, Kant was wrong to think that our grasp of arithmetical concepts and our knowledge of arithmetical truth depend on an extralogical source—the pure intuition of time (Frege 1884, §89, §109). Arithmetic, properly understood, is just a part of logic. (shrink)
I want to discuss a puzzle about the semantics of epistemic modals, like “It might be the case that” as it occurs in “It might be the case that Goldbach’s conjecture is false.”1 I’ll argue that the puzzle cannot be adequately explained on standard accounts of the semantics of epistemic modals, and that a proper solution requires relativizing utterance truth to a context of assessment, a semantic device whose utility and coherence I have defended elsewhere for future contingents (MacFarlane..
We consider a paradox involving indicative conditionals (‘ifs’) and deontic modals (‘oughts’). After considering and rejecting several standard options for resolv- ing the paradox—including rejecting various premises, positing an ambiguity or hidden contextual sensitivity, and positing a non-obvious logical form—we offer a semantics for deontic modals and indicative conditionals that resolves the paradox by making modus ponens invalid. We argue that this is a result to be welcomed on independent grounds, and we show that rejecting the general validity of modus (...) ponens is compatible with vindicating most ordinary uses of modus ponens in reasoning. (shrink)
John MacFarlane has made relativism popular again. Focusing just on his original discussion, I argue that the data he uses to motivate the position do not, in fact, motivatie it at all. Many of the points made here have since been made, independently, by Hermann Cappelen and John Hawthorne, in their book Relativism and Monadic Truth.
The Taming of the True poses a broad challenge to realist views of meaning and truth that have been prominent in recent philosophy. Neil Tennant argues compellingly that every truth is knowable, and that an effective logical system can be based on this principle. He lays the foundations for global semantic anti-realism and extends its consequences from the philosophy of mathematics and logic to the theory of meaning, metaphysics, and epistemology.
Helen Macfarlane, revolutionary social critic, feminist and Hegelian philosopher was the first English translator of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engel's theCommunist Manifesto. Her original translation is included in this edition. Marx publicly admired her as a rare and original thinker and journalist. This book recreates her intellectual and political world at a key turning point in European history.
In the past two decades, epistemologists have significantly expanded the focus of their field. To the traditional question that has dominated the debate — under what conditions does belief amount to knowledge? — they have added questions about testimony, epistemic virtues and vices, epistemic trust, and more. This broadening of the range of epistemic concern has coincided with an expansion in conceptions of epistemic agency beyond the individualism characteristic of most earlier epistemology. We believe that these developments have not gone (...) far enough. While the weak anti-individualism we see in contemporary epistemology may be adequate for the kinds of cases it tends to focus on, a great deal of human knowledge production and transmission does not conform to these models. Furthermore, the dispositions and norms that are knowledge-conducive in the familiar cases may not be knowledge-conducive generally. In fact, dispositions that, at an individual level, count as epistemic vices may be epistemic virtues in common social contexts. We argue that this overlooked feature of human social life means that epistemology must become more deeply and pervasively social. (shrink)
Informed consent is a central topic in contemporary biomedical ethics. Yet attempts to set defensible and feasible standards for consenting have led to persistent difficulties. In Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics Neil Manson and Onora O'Neill set debates about informed consent in medicine and research in a fresh light. They show why informed consent cannot be fully specific or fully explicit, and why more specific consent is not always ethically better. They argue that consent needs distinctive communicative transactions, by (...) which other obligations, prohibitions, and rights can be waived or set aside in controlled and specific ways. Their book offers a coherent, wide-ranging and practical account of the role of consent in biomedicine which will be valuable to readers working in a range of areas in bioethics, medicine and law. (shrink)
I argue that one intends that ϕ if one has a desire that ϕ and an appropriately related means-end belief. Opponents, including Setiya and Bratman, charge that this view can't explain three things. First, intentional action is accompanied by knowledge of what we are doing. Second, we can choose our reasons for action. Third, forming an intention settles a deliberative question about what to do, disposing us to cease deliberating about it. I show how the desire- belief view can explain (...) why these phenomena occur when they occur, and why they don't when they don't. (shrink)
The rightness and wrongness of actions fits on a continuous scale. This fits the way we evaluate actions chosen among a diverse range of options, even though English speakers don’t use the words “righter” and “wronger”. I outline and defend a version of scalar consequentialism, according to which rightness is a matter of degree, determined by how good the consequences are. Linguistic resources are available to let us truly describe actions simply as right. Some deontological theories face problems in accounting (...) for degrees of rightness, as they don't invoke continuous parameters among the right-making features of action. (shrink)
This essay defends a strong version of the Humean theory of motivation on which desire is necessary both for motivation and for reasoning that changes our desires. Those who hold that moral judgments are beliefs with intrinsic motivational force need to oppose this view, and many of them have proposed counterexamples to it. Using a novel account of desire, this essay handles the proposed counterexamples in a way that shows the superiority of the Humean theory. The essay addresses the classic (...) objection that the Humean theory cannot explain the feeling of obligation, Stephen Darwall's example of motivationally potent reasoning that is not based on preexisting desires, Thomas Scanlon's criticism that the Humean theory fails to account for the structure and phenomenology of deliberation, and the phenomenon of akrasia as discussed by John Searle. In each case a Humean account explains the data at least as thoroughly as opposing views can, while fitting within a simpler total account of how we deliberate and act. (shrink)
What is the opposite of freedom? In _Freedom as Marronage_, Neil Roberts answers this question with definitive force: slavery, and from there he unveils powerful new insights on the human condition as it has been understood between these poles. Crucial to his investigation is the concept of marronage—a form of slave escape that was an important aspect of Caribbean and Latin American slave systems. Examining this overlooked phenomenon—one of action from slavery and toward freedom—he deepens our understanding of freedom (...) itself and the origin of our political ideals. Roberts examines the liminal and transitional space of slave escape in order to develop a theory of freedom as marronage, which contends that freedom is fundamentally located within this space—that it is a form of perpetual flight. He engages a stunning variety of writers, including Hannah Arendt, W. E. B. Du Bois, Angela Davis, Frederick Douglass, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the Rastafari, among others, to develop a compelling lens through which to interpret the quandaries of slavery, freedom, and politics that still confront us today. The result is a sophisticated, interdisciplinary work that unsettles the ways we think about freedom by always casting it in the light of its critical opposite. (shrink)
Suppose that one thinks that certain symmetries of a theory reveal “surplus structure”. What would a formalism without that surplus structure look like? The conventional answer is that it would be a reduced theory: a theory which traffics only in structures invariant under the relevant symmetry. In this paper, I argue that there is a neglected alternative: one can work with a sophisticated version of the theory, in which the symmetries act as isomorphisms.
On his death in 2007, Richard Rorty was heralded by the New York Times as “one of the world’s most influential contemporary thinkers.” Controversial on the left and the right for his critiques of objectivity and political radicalism, Rorty experienced a renown denied to all but a handful of living philosophers. In this masterly biography, Neil Gross explores the path of Rorty’s thought over the decades in order to trace the intellectual and professional journey that led him to that (...) prominence. The child of a pair of leftist writers who worried that their precocious son “wasn’t rebellious enough,” Rorty enrolled at the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. There he came under the tutelage of polymath Richard McKeon, whose catholic approach to philosophical systems would profoundly influence Rorty’s own thought. Doctoral work at Yale led to Rorty’s landing a job at Princeton, where his colleagues were primarily analytic philosophers. With a series of publications in the 1960s, Rorty quickly established himself as a strong thinker in that tradition—but by the late 1970s Rorty had eschewed the idea of objective truth altogether, urging philosophers to take a “relaxed attitude” toward the question of logical rigor. Drawing on the pragmatism of John Dewey, he argued that philosophers should instead open themselves up to multiple methods of thought and sources of knowledge—an approach that would culminate in the publication of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature , one of the most seminal and controversial philosophical works of our time. In clear and compelling fashion, Gross sets that surprising shift in Rorty’s thought in the context of his life and social experiences, revealing the many disparate influences that contribute to the making of knowledge. As much a book about the growth of ideas as it is a biography of a philosopher, Richard Rorty will provide readers with a fresh understanding of both the man and the course of twentieth-century thought. (shrink)
Neil Levy presents a new theory of freedom and responsibility. He defends a particular account of consciousness--the global workspace view--and argues that consciousness plays an especially important role in action. There are good reasons to think that the naïve assumption, that consciousness is needed for moral responsibility, is in fact true.
In recent decades political philosophers have increasingly been engaged with the issue of educational equality. However, egalitarians typically focus on achieving equality in the distribution of education, and ignore the relevance of an alternative, relational conception of equality. An exception to this is Elizabeth Anderson, who applies relational egalitarian principles to education in her 2007 article ‘Fair Opportunity in Education: A Democratic Equality Perspective’. Although Anderson remains one of the few relational egalitarians to consider what this ideal requires in education, (...) her arguments have received less attention than they deserve. In this article I examine Anderson's theory of fair educational opportunities for a democratic society of equals and develop an internal critique of her approach. I suggest that the sufficientarian standard Anderson proposes for education has the propensity to undermine the process of integration and the relations of equality she aspires to. Even if all children receive a sufficient education, inequality above the threshold could result in social divisions and status differentials that encourage informal segregation because people typically prefer to associate with other people who are similar to themselves. The article will finish by considering what implications this has for Anderson's relational egalitarian approach to education. (shrink)
The claim that addiction is a brain disease is almost universally accepted among scientists who work on addiction. The claim’s attraction rests on two grounds: the fact that addiction seems to be characterized by dysfunction in specific neural pathways and the fact that the claim seems to the compassionate response to people who are suffering. I argue that neural dysfunction is not sufficient for disease: something is a brain disease only when neural dysfunction is sufficient for impairment. I claim that (...) the neural dysfunction that is characteristic of addiction is not sufficient for impairment, because people who suffer from that dysfunction are impaired, sufficiently to count as diseased, only given certain features of their context. Hence addiction is not a brain disease (though it is often a disease, and it may always involve brain dysfunction). I argue that accepting that addiction is not a brain disease does not entail a moralizing attitude toward people who suffer as a result of addiction; if anything, it allows for a more compassionate, and more effective, response to addiction. (shrink)
In recent years there has been an outpouring of work at the intersection of social movement studies and organizational theory. While we are generally in sympathy with this work, we think it implies a far more radical rethinking of structure and agency in modern society than has been realized to date. In this article, we offer a brief sketch of a general theory of strategic action fields (SAFs). We begin with a discussion of the main elements of the theory, describe (...) the broader environment in which any SAF is embedded, consider the dynamics of stability and change in SAFs, and end with a respectful critique of other contemporary perspectives on social structure and agency. (shrink)
Neil Tennant presents an original logical system with unusual philosophical, proof-theoretic, metalogical, computational, and revision-theoretic virtues. Core Logic is the first system that ensures both relevance and adequacy for the formalization of all mathematical and scientific reasoning.
This Element explores what it means for two theories in physics to be equivalent, and what lessons can be drawn about their structure as a result. It does so through a twofold approach. On the one hand, it provides a synoptic overview of the logical tools that have been employed in recent philosophy of physics to explore these topics: definition, translation, Ramsey sentences, and category theory. On the other, it provides a detailed case study of how these ideas may be (...) applied to understand the dynamical and spatiotemporal structure of Newtonian mechanics - in particular, in light of the symmetries of Newtonian theory. In so doing, it brings together a great deal of exciting recent work in the literature, and is sure to be a valuable companion for all those interested in these topics. (shrink)
In this in ter view, the pres ti gious an thro - pol o gist, his to rian and T.V. anaouncer, Alan Macfarlane com ments on some of the is sues that have been ad dressed in his writ ings. His main the o ret i cal con cern has been to study the pe cu - liar con di tions that gave rise to the mod e..
In recent work, John McDowell has urged that we resurrect the Kantian thesis that concepts without intuitions are empty. I distinguish two forms of the thesis: a strong form that applies to all concepts and a weak form that is limited to empirical concepts. Because McDowell rejects Kant’s philosophy of mathematics, he can accept only the weaker form of the thesis. But this position is unstable. The reasoning behind McDowell’s insistence that empirical concepts can have content only if they are (...) actualizable in passive experience makes it mysterious how the concepts of pure mathematics can have content. In fact, historically, it was anxiety about the possibility of mathematical content, and not worries about the “Myth of the Given,” that spurred the retreat from Kantian views of empirical content. McDowell owes us some more therapy on this score. (shrink)
Propositionalism is the view that the contents of intentional attitudes have a propositional structure. Objectualism opposes propositionalism in allowing the contents of these attitudes to be ordinary objects or properties. Philosophers including Talbot Brewer, Paul Thagard, Michelle Montague, and Alex Grzankowski attack propositionalism about such attitudes as desire, liking, and fearing. This article defends propositionalism, mainly on grounds that it better supports psychological explanations.