From the Editor’s Introduction: -/- THE INTERNAL LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING -/- We carry, unavoidably, the limits of our understanding with us. We are perpetually confined within the horizons of our conceptual structure. When this structure grows or expands, the breadth of our comprehensions enlarges, but we are forever barred from the wished-for glimpse beyond its boundaries, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much credence we invest in the substance of our learning and mist of speculation. -/- (...) The limitations in view here are not due to the mere finitude of our understanding of ourselves and of the world in which we live. They are limitations that come automatically and necessarily with any form of understanding. They are, as we shall see, part and parcel of any organization or ordering of data that we call information. -/- The consequences of these limitations are varied: As a result of them, hermeneutics cannot help but be hermetic; scientific theories of necessity are circumscribed by the boundaries of the ideas that define them; formal systems must choose between consistency and comprehensiveness; philosophical study, because it includes itself within its own proper subject matter, is forced to be reflexive in its self-enclosure. The fundamental dynamic shared by all forms of understanding testifies to an internal limitative keystone. (shrink)
In defining the concept of software, I try at first to distinguish software from data, noise, and abstract patterns of information with no material embodiment. But serious objections prevent any of these distinctions from remaining stable. The strong thesis that software is pattern per se, or syntactical form, is initially refined to overcome obvious difficulties; but further arguments show that the refinements are trivial and that the strong thesis is defensible.
This is an introduction to open access (OA) for those who are new to the concept. I hope it's short enough to read, long enough to be useful, and organized to let you skip around and dive into detail only where you want detail. It doesn't cover every nuance or answer every objection. But for those who read it, it should cover enough territory to prevent the misunderstandings that delayed progress in our early days.
I find (as others have found) that question-begging is formally valid but rationally unpersuasive. More precisely, it ought to be unpersuasive, although it can often persuade. Despite its formal validity, question-begging fails to establish its conclusion; in this sense it fails under a classical or foundationalist model of argument. But it does link its conclusion to its premises by means of acceptable rules of inference; in this sense it succeeds under a non-classical, non-foundationalist model of argument which is spelled out (...) in the essay. However, even for the latter model question-begging fails to link the conclusion to premises that the unconvinced would find more acceptable than the conclusion. The essay includes reflections on the conditions under which the circularity of mutually supporting claims can avoid question-begging and legitimately be persuasive. (shrink)
We human beings do have the power to modify our deep structure, through drugs and surgery. But we cannot yet use this power with enough precision to make deep changes to our neural structure without high risk of death or disability. There are two reasons why we find ourselves in this position. First, our instruments of self-modification are crude. Second, we have very limited knowledge about where and how to apply our instruments to get specific desirable effects. For the same (...) reason, we don't even have good knowledge about what effects are physically possible. (shrink)
Civil disobedience is a form of protest in which protestors deliberately violate a law. Classically, they violate the law they are protesting, such as segregation or draft laws, but sometimes they violate other laws which they find unobjectionable, such as trespass or traffic laws. Most activists who perform civil disobedience are scrupulously nonviolent, and willingly accept legal penalties. The purpose of civil disobedience can be to publicize an unjust law or a just cause; to appeal to the conscience of the (...) public; to force negotiation with recalcitrant officials; to "clog the machine" (in Thoreau's phrase) with political prisoners; to get into court where one can challenge the constitutionality of a law; to exculpate oneself, or to put an end to one's personal complicity in the injustice which flows from obedience to unjust law —or some combination of these. While civil disobedience in a broad sense is as old as the Hebrew midwives' defiance of Pharaoh, most of the moral and legal theory surrounding it, as well as most of the instances in the street, have been inspired by Thoreau, Gandhi, and King. In this article we will focus on the moral arguments for and against its use in a democracy. (shrink)
_The Case of the Speluncean Explorers, _written in 1949 by Lon Fuller, is the most famous fictitious legal case of all time. Describing a case of trapped travellers who are forcd to cannibalize one of their team, it is used on courses in philosophy of law and Jurisprudence to show how their trial upon rescue touches on key concepts in philosophy and legal theory such as utilitarianism and naturalism. _The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Nine New opinions_ includes a reprint (...) of Fuller's classic article and a much-needed revision of and addition to the five openings originally expressed in the case by the five Supreme Court Judges. Peter Suber carefully and clearly introduces students to the main themes of Fuller's article before introducing nine new opinions. These opinions include perspectives from communitarian, feminist, multicultural, postmodern and economic theories of law, updating Fuller's original case and bringing contemporary theories of law to bear on the five original opinions. Why read this book? One reason is to get beyond sloganeering about "judicial activism" and "activist judges". The book is an enjoyable and even-handed way to understand what the debate is about. It doesn't tell you what to think, but illustrates the contending positions and lets you think for yourself. It will show you how judges with different moral and political beliefs interpret written law, how they use precedents, how they conceive the proper role of judges, how they conceive the relationship between law and morality, and how they defend their judicial practices against criticism. It anchors all of this in a Supreme Court hearing of a gripping, concrete case on which real people disagree. The book uses no jargon and assumes no prior knowledge of law or legal philosophy. (shrink)
Logical paradoxes in the strict sense produce statements like those of the Liar ("This very statement is false") that are false if true, and true if false. They resist rational solution or at least divide logicians for centuries of apparently irreconcilable wrangling. What happens when similar paradoxes arise in law?
Galileo's Paradox Contradictory or Counter-Intuitive? Imagination v. Conception Infinity as a Positive Idea Do We Experience Anything Infinite? The Sublimity of the Infinite Conclusion Bibliography Notes Appendix: A Crash Course in the Mathematics of Infinite Sets..
Legal reasoning is not the same as the reasoning in mathematics or the physical sciences. It is like them. Specifying the likeness in more detail, and deciding whether there is more likeness than unlikeness, are the kinds of tasks that legal reasoning is better adapted to do than mathematical or scientific reasoning.
Some say that physics is nearing its end because it will soon answer all its questions; I am not that optimistic. Others claim that philosophy is already at an end because its questions will never be answered and, perhaps, should never have been asked; I am not that pessimistic. I bring the non-news that, as usual, neither our successes nor our failures are at an end.
"Paternalism" comes from the Latin pater, meaning to act like a father, or to treat another person like a child. In modern philosophy and jurisprudence, it is to act for the good of another person without that person's consent, as parents do for children. It is controversial because its end is benevolent, and its means coercive. Paternalists advance people's interests at the expense of their liberty. In this, paternalists suppose that they can make wiser decisions than the people for whom (...) they act. Sometimes this is based on presumptions about their own wisdom or the foolishness of other people, and can be dismissed as presumptuous. But sometimes it is not. It can be based on relatively good knowledge, as in the case of paternalism over young children or incompetent adults. Sometimes the role of paternalist is thrust upon the unwilling, as when we find ourselves the custodian and proxy for an unconscious or severely retarded relative. Paternalism is a temptation in every arena of life where people hold power over others: in childrearing, education, therapy, and medicine. But it is perhaps nowhere as divisive as in criminal law. Whenever the state acts to protect people from themselves, it seeks their good; but by doing so through criminal law, it does so coercively, often against their will. (shrink)
A set of routine academic controversies has recently been fanned into a cause célèbre. I call the controversies 'routine' because they concern the design of curricula and syllabi, the regulation of campus life, and the recruitment of faculty and students. These are important but ordinary affairs for a college or university. They call for choices that arise from fundamental convictions on the purpose of education, the nature of knowledge, the firmness of standards, the value of community, and the mission of (...) the institution. So dealing with these routine affairs is routinely attended with controversy. What is new is that the public is watching closely as academics thrash through these controversies nowadays. At least some journalists and politicians are watching closely and talking loudly about what they see. These conflicts would be what they ought to be, occasions for self-examination and growth, if they were not absolutized by observers who have raised the stakes by raising their voices and simplifying the issues. (shrink)
I call these six hitches "exploding" knots because they untie easily and completely with one tug of the ripcord. Unlike slipped knots that untie with a ripcord, these knots leave absolutely no tangle. Yet they give up nothing in strength or ease of tying. To learn to tie them, jump to the illustrations and skip the commentary. In each illustration, the line labelled "R" is the ripcord ("running part"). The line labelled "S" is to be attached to the load ("standing (...) part"). Tighten the knot with the "S" line. To decide which of these knots is best for which application, see the table at the end, which presupposes some of the text you might have skipped. After learning to tie the knots from the illustrations, read the text if only for safety issues. These knots are "probably original" in Clifford Ashley's sense of this phrase. (shrink)
We know from more than two millenia of experience that self-referential statements, such as the liar's ("This very statement is false"), can be debated by philosophers and logicians for millenia without producing consensus on their solutions. We should not be surprised, then, if self-referential laws produce paradoxes which puzzle lawyers. What is surprising, though, is that some of these paradoxes bother only the logicians and philosophers who study law from outside, and do not bother lawyers at all. This fact should (...) interest philosophers of law even more than the paradoxes themselves. (shrink)
These critiques and the ways of thinking made possible in their wake tend to be called post-modern, a term which is vague and even a little irritating. It would be more precise and descriptive to speak instead of post- Enlightenment critiques of reason. Hume is arguably the first post-Enlightenment thinker, and after Hume these critiques of reason developed further in Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, and were then taken up by many lesser, 20th century thinkers. If the Enlightenment was the (...) age in which human reason in the form of argument and evidence superseded authority in the form of church and state, in the grounding of scientific, philosophical, moral, and political claims, then the critiques of reason I want to talk about are all post-Enlightenment. (shrink)
Can we interpret human reason simultaneously as a product of neurochemistry and natural selection and as a transcendental standard? Jeff Mason asks the analogous question of philosophical writing. Can we interpret philosophical discourse as "rhetorical," embodied in language, and designed to persuade historical audiences, and at the same time preserve its traditional intention to disclose truths that transcend language, history, and audiences? Mason argues that these polar attitudes toward philosophical writing are untenable precisely when they exclude each other. This is (...) a significant project with important literary and metaphilosophical consequences. (shrink)
If your college discovered that its sweatshirts were made in sweatshops by workers paid below the minimum wage, it would probably yank the contract immediately and find a new vendor. But what if your heating-oil supplier pollutes? What if your temp agency discriminates against Mexican-American employees?
Before Jonathan Wren's study came out BMJ, April 12, 2005 ) we knew that open-access (OA) copies of scientific journal articles published in non-OA journals were a fairly small subset of the overall journal literature. Wren studied just which subset it was, and found that papers from high-impact journals were more likely to have free online copies at other locations around the web than papers from low-impact journals.
If law-making is a game, then it is a game in which changing the rules is a move. Lawmaking is more than changing the rules of law-making, of course, and more than a game. But a real game may model the self-amending character of the legal system and leave the rest out. While self-amendment appears to be an esoteric feature of law, capturing it in a game creates a remarkably complete microcosm of a functional legal system.
The Problem Background Some Political History, Pre-1790 Federalist and Republican Principles Some Demographic History, 1790-1980 To What Extent Have the Possible Dangers Become Actual? The Discriminatory Impact and Prospects for Future Amendments Remedies Conclusion Appendix Table 1. The Possibility of Federalist Minority Amendment: Decade by Decade Table 2. The Possibility of Federalist Minority Amendment: Amendment by Amendment Table 3. Discriminatory Impact of Population Changes Table 4. Relative Strength of Voice of Citizens of the Various States Notes Second Thoughts..
Dyson's book is an argument disguised as an intellectual history. The argument is that all intelligence is collective, in the way that human intelligence emerges from the collection of unintelligent neurons, and that a global collective intelligence is now emerging from the growing interconnections among human beings and their machines. The history traces the rise of computation and thinking about machine intelligence from Hobbes to the present. The history is fascinating and detailed. The thesis about collective intelligence is fascinating but (...) lacking the detail which would make it more than merely suggestive. (shrink)
For a conference at my college I was asked to think about how my teaching —not my research— would be affected by rapid, cheap, and simple access by computer to all the published literature of the human race. Forget what impediments stand in the way of this hypothetical future and imagine that your campus has the means for you and your students to locate, search, sort, copy, and store anything in digital form that has ever been in print. How would (...) you answer? (shrink)
Consider the following exchanges: 1. Gerda: So you believe that all belief is the product of custom and circumstance (or: childhood buffets, class struggle...). Isn't that position self-limiting? Mustn't you see yourself as reflecting only a single complex of circumstances? Grobian: Your objection is inapplicable, for it is merely the product of blind forces. Moreover, your childhood buffets were pernicious and regrettable, for they have set you against this truth.
Fichte's narrative persona in the Science of Knowledge is obnoxious. I try to disentangle regrettable signs of immaturity and paranoia from justifiable ad hominem arguments. Many of Fichte's ad hominem attacks on metaphysical realists are justified by his metaphysics and epistemology. We cannot criticize an important class of these arguments unless we criticize his epistemology and metaphysics. They are not matters of "style" separable from "substance". I show this inseparability, and point out a few inconsistencies, but otherwise do not comment (...) on Fichte's "substance". (shrink)
Most philosophers use Philosopher's Index; many use it online. Few know that the online version is only one of roughly 400 databases available from Dialog Information Services. There are other databases useful for philosophers (notably Francis from Questel Inc.), but I've had a good reason recently to focus on those available from Dialog: I've had free connect-time for over a year.
Kurt Gödel has been called the greatest logician since Aristotle. He was unquestionably the greatest logician of the 20th century, which has been the greatest century for logic since Aristotle's. Despite this stature, his name is little known outside professional circles of logic and mathematics, and astonishingly little is known about his life. His low profile cannot be due to the fact that his major achievements are complex and demanding, unintelligible to the uninitiated, for that is also true of his (...) best friend, Albert Einstein. Nor can it be that Gödel was more conventional than Einstein. He did comb his hair and wear socks, but Gödel's reclusive and reserved personality, thin owlish appearance, forbidding glances, hypochondria, and paranoia are at least as easy to romanticize as Einstein's eccentricities. Part of the cause of his narrower fame must lie in the fact that Einstein's theories were acclaimed as triumphs, while the initial judgment on Gödel's theorems was that they constituted a first-rate calamity for logic and mathematics. (shrink)
If the fundamental law, or constitution, of a nation cannot be changed by legal means, then it cannot adapt to changing circumstances; as the disparity with circumstances widens, the risk of revolution increases. But if it can be changed too easily, then the fundamental principles and institutions it establishes are at risk of being swept away by a majority momentarily enraptured with a new idea. An amendment clause permits fundamental change, courting the latter risk, but it makes that change difficult, (...) courting the former. It aspires to capture the inconsistent virtues of stability and flexibility, protecting what the enacting generation thinks wise, but permitting future generations to think otherwise. (shrink)
Introduction Language Norms "Norms" From "Facts" The Constitutive A Posteriori "Facts" From "Norms" Mutability of Norms Self-Stabilization Amendment Through Violation Preposterous Norms Reflexive and Irreflexive Hierarchies Noticed and Unnoticed Changes Grounds of Phonetic Change The Logic of Normative Change Bibliography Notes Second Thoughts..