Simon J. Evnine explores the view that some objects have matter from which they are distinct but that this distinctness is not due to the existence of anything like a form. He draws on Aristotle's insight that such objects must be understood in terms of an account that links what they are essentially with how they come to exist and what their functions are. Artifacts are the most prominent kind of objects where these three features coincide, and Evnine develops a (...) detailed account of the existence and identity conditions of artifacts, and the origins of their functions, in terms of how they come into existence. He then extends this account to organisms, where evolution accomplishes what is effected by intentional making in the case of artifacts, and to actions, which are seen as artifactual events. (shrink)
Donald Davidson is unquestionably one of America's greatest living philosophers. His influence on Anglo-American philosophy over the last twenty years has been enormous, and his work is an unavoidable reference point in current debates in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. This book offers a systematic and accessible introduction to Davidson's work. Evnine begins by discussing Davidson's contribution to the philosophy of mind, including his views on action, events and causation. He then examines Davidson's work in the (...) philosophy of language. The link between meaning and truth, radical interpretation, and semantic holism are considered in detail. The final chapters deal with the metaphysical aspects of Davidson's work and seek to assess his philosophical project as a whole. (shrink)
I explore the interrelations between the ontological and aesthetic issues raised by ready-mades such as Duchamp’s Fountain. I outline a hylomorphic metaphysics which has two central features. First, hylomorphically complex objects have matter to which they are not identical. Secondly, when such objects are artefacts (including artworks), it is essential to them that they are the products of creative work on their matter. Against this background, I suggest that ready-mades are of aesthetic interest because they pose a dilemma. Is there (...) really an object, a sculpture, that is distinct from its matter, a urinal, which object is created merely by the artist’s choice of the urinal? Or are we dealing with a case in which an artist passes off something, a urinal, as if it were a sculpture, even though it is not one? (shrink)
I argue that it is rational for a person to believe the conjunction of her beliefs. This involves responding to the Lottery and Preface Paradoxes. In addition, I suggest that in normal circumstances, what it is to believe a conjunction just is to believe its conjuncts.
Memes, of the kind found often on the internet, are an increasingly significant medium of expressive activity. I develop a theory of their ontological nature and, in parallel, an analysis of the concept meme. On my view, memes are abstract artifacts made out of norms for production of instances. The norms say things like ‘use a certain image; add text of a certain kind; the text should be delivered in two chunks, one at the top of the image, one at (...) the bottom, etc.’ Instances of these memes are created when users follow these norms and publish the results. The concept meme is analyzed in terms of the notion of memographic practice, a historically situated form of activity within which memes are created and their instances produced and made public. (shrink)
If science fiction is a genre, then attempts to think about the nature of science fiction will be affected by one’s understanding of what genres are. I shall examine two approaches to genre, one dominant but inadequate, the other better, but only occasionally making itself seen. I shall then discuss several important, interrelated issues, focusing particularly on science fiction : what it is for a work to belong to a genre, the semantics of genre names, the validity of attempts to (...) define genres, and the connections between genre and normativity. One important but neglected clue to the nature of genres lies in the kinds of disagreements they generate over the assignment of works to genres. I conclude by explaining why these disagreements tell us something about the nature of genres, and discussing in some detail two famous cases of disagreement about whether some work or works are science fiction. (shrink)
Musical Platonists identify musical works with abstract sound structures but this implies that they are not created but only discovered. Jerrold Levinson adapts Platonism to allow for creation by identifying musical works with indicated sound structures. In this paper I explore the similarities between Levinson's view and Kit Fine's theory of qua objects. Fine offers the theory of qua objects as an account of constitution, as it obtains, for example, between a statue and the clay the statue is made out (...) of. I argue that Fine's theory does not adequately characterize the constitution relation and that the problems it faces extend to Levinson's account of musical works as indicated structures. I develop an alternative theory of constitution, based on the notion of being made out of. This approach to constitution enables me to offer an account of musical works as abstract objects that are constituted by sound structures. I argue that my account has several advantages over the Levinson/Fine approach. (shrink)
Constitution is the relation between something and what it is made of. Composition is the relation between something and its parts. I examine three different approaches to the relation between constitution and composition. One approach, associated with neo-Aristotelians like Mark Johnston and Kathrin Koslicki, identifies constitution with composition. A second, popular with those sympathetic to classical mereology such as Judith Thomson, defines constitution in terms of parthood. A third, advocated strongly by Lynne Baker, takes constitution to be somehow inconsistent with (...) relations of parthood. All of these approaches, I argue, face serious problems. I conclude, tentatively, that constitution and composition have nothing to do with each other. (shrink)
I survey a number of views about how we can obtain knowledge of modal propositions, propositions about necessity and possibility. One major approach is that whether a proposition or state of affairs is conceivable tells us something about whether it is possible. I examine two quite different positions that fall under this rubric, those of Yablo and Chalmers. One problem for this approach is the existence of necessary a posteriori truths and I deal with some of the ways in which (...) these authors respond to the problem, including the use of two-dimensional modal semantics. Conventionalism about modality offers a complementary approach to modal epistemology, prompting us to identify our knowledge of modal truths with our mastery of linguistic or conceptual conventions. Finally, I discuss an approach to modal epistemology deriving from David Lewis's work that seeks to identify structural features of the modal space over which necessity and possibility are defined. (shrink)
Simon Evnine examines various epistemic aspects of what it is to be a person. Persons are defined as finite beings that have beliefs, including second-order beliefs about their own and others' beliefs, and are agents, capable of making long-term plans. It is argued that for any being meeting these conditions, a number of epistemic consequences obtain. First, all such beings must have certain logical concepts and be able to use them in certain ways. Secondly, there are at least two principles (...) governing belief that it is rational for persons to satisfy and are such that nothing can be a person at all unless it satisfies them to a large extent. These principles are that one believe the conjunction of one's beliefs and that one treat one's future beliefs as, by and large, better than one's current beliefs. Thirdly, persons both occupy epistemic points of view on the world and show up within those views. This makes it impossible for them to be completely objective about their own beliefs. Ideals of rationality that require such objectivity, while not necessarily wrong, are intrinsically problematic for persons. This "aspectual dualism" is characteristic of treatments of persons in the Kantian tradition. In sum, these epistemic consequences support a traditional view of the nature of persons, one in opposition to much recent theorizing. (shrink)
The paper contrasts two ways of understanding the apparently strange assertions of mad persons, finds them both problematic, and proposes an alternative. The first approach, exemplified by R.D. Laing, is to suppose that the beliefs of the mad person are ordinary but expressed in terms that make them appear irrational. The other approach, advocated by Silvano Arieti, is to take the words at face value but to attribute to the mad person a kind of deviant logic. I suggest, on the (...) basis of a Davidsonian approach, that the bizarre utterances of the mad simply cannot be understood adequately; they are, precisely, points at which accomodations of intepretation give out. This is what makes them symptoms of madness. (shrink)
I argue for the thesis (UL) that there are certain logical abilities that any rational creature must have. Opposition to UL comes from naturalized epistemologists who hold that it is a purely empirical question which logical abilities a rational creature has. I provide arguments that any creatures meeting certain conditions—plausible necessary conditions on rationality—must have certain specific logical concepts and be able to use them in certain specific ways. For example, I argue that any creature able to grasp theories must (...) have a concept of conjunction subject to the usual introduction and elimination rules. I also deal with disjunction, conditionality and negation. Finally, I put UL to work in showing how it could be used to define a notion of logical obviousness that would be well suited to certain contexts—e.g. radical translation and epistemic logic—in which a concept of obviousness is often invoked. (shrink)
I argue that mass produced artifacts are ontologically distinctive. If we think of the making of an artifact as the imposition of a creative intention on to some matter, usually through intentional manipulation of the matter, then in the case of mass production, one could say that there is not enough mind to go around! Batches of mass produced objects will have a distinctive essence, lying in the creative act by which they are made, but within a batch, the objects (...) will be distinct from each other, but not essentially distinct. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that, in at least two cases - his discussions of the temporal precedence o f polytheism over monotheism and of the origins of civil society - we see Hume consigning to historical development certain aspects of reason which, as a comparison with Locke will show, have sometimes been held to be uniform. In the first of these cases Hume has recourse to claims about the general historical development of human thought. In the second case, the (...) origin of the civil institution of justice and government is not linked directly to external circumstances and the principles of human nature, as it is in contractarian theories, but makes a detour through the historical acquisition of certain concepts. Because Hume's position does not conform in any simple sense to Dugald Stewart's 'incontrovertible logical maxim' that the capacities of the human mind have been the same in all ages, Stewart's account of the method of conjectural history is, in any simple sense, inadequate as a description of Hume's practice. (shrink)
Hylomorphically complex objects are things that change their parts or matter or that might have, or have had, different parts or matter. Often ontologists analyze such objects in terms of sets (or functions, understood set-theoretically) or other extensional entities such as mereological fusions or quantities of matter. I urge two reasons for being wary of any such analyses. First, being extensional, such things as sets are ill-suited to capture the characteristic modal and temporal flexibility of hylomorphically complex objects. Secondly, sets (...) are often appealed to because they seem to contain their members. But the idea that sets do contain their members, in the ordinary sense of containment, is a substantive metaphysical position that makes analyses that rely on that idea for their plausibility much more metaphysically committing than is generally thought. (shrink)
I argue that it is not ideally rational to believe that some of one's current beliefs are false, despite the impressive inductive evidence concerning others and our former selves. One's own current beliefs represent a commitment which would be undermined by taking some of them to be false. The nature of this commitment is examined in the light of Nagel's distinction between subjective and objective points of view. Finally, I suggest how we might acknowledge our fallibility consistently with this special (...) attitude to our own beliefs. (shrink)
I bring together social ontology and social epistemology by consideringsocial entities (``epistemic unities'') that are constituted by the holdingof epistemic relations between their members. In particular, I focus onthe relation of taking someone as an expert. Among the types of structuresexamined are ones with a single expert and one or more non-experts whomay or may not know of each other's situation; and ones with more thanone expert, including cases in which the relation between the experts ishierarchical and cases in which (...) it is symmetrical. These structures modela variety of social situations which can thus be given a unified treatment.Among the cases I discuss are persons, which I argue are multiple-expertunities of persons at times. Taking a person as a social unity like this offersa clear sense in which some groups can also be person-like. (shrink)
This paper offers two new arguments for a version of Reflection, the principle that says, roughly, that if one knew now what one would believe in the future, one ought to believe it now. The most prominent existing argument for the principle is the coherence-based Dutch Strategy argument advanced by Bas van Fraassen (and others). My two arguments are quite different. The first is a truth-based argument. On the basis of two substantive premises, that people’s beliefs generally get better over (...) time and that being a person requires having knowledge of this fact, it concludes that it is rational to treat your future selves as experts. The second argument is a transcendental one. Being a person requires being able to engage in plans and projects. But these cannot be meaningfully undertaken unless one has Reflection-like expectations about one’s future beliefs. Hence, satisfaction of Reflection is necessary for being a person. Together, the arguments show that satisfaction of Reflection is both rational and necessary for persons. (shrink)
The thesis of the paper is that persons are similar to a kind of group: multiple-expert epistemic unities (MEUs). MEUs are groups in which there are multiple experts on whom other members of the group model their opinion. An example would be a group of children playing Telephone. Any child nearer the source is an 'expert' for any child further away. I argue that, with certain important qualifications, it is both rational and necessary for persons to treat their future selves (...) as experts (i.e. to satisfy Bas Van Fraassen's Principle of Reflection). This makes a person a kind of MEU. (The paper "Epistemic Unities" gives more details about different kinds of epistemic unities.). (shrink)
In this article I distinguish the notion of there being something it is like to be a certain kind of creature from that of there being something it is like to have a certain kind of experience. Work on consciousness has typically dealt with the latter while employing the language of the former. I propose several ways of analyzing what it is like to be a certain kind of creature and find problems with them all. The upshot is that even (...) if there is something it is like to have certain kinds of experience, it does not follow that there is anything it is like to be a certain kind of creature. Skepticism about the existence of something that it is like to be an F is recommended. (shrink)
In 1956, W.B. Gallie introduced his idea of essentially contested concepts. In my paper, I offer a novel interpretation of his theory and argue that his theory, thus interpreted, is correct. The key to my interpretation lies in a condition Gallie places on essentially contested concepts that other interpreters downplay or dismiss: that the use of an essentially contested concept must be derived “from an original exemplar whose authority is acknowledged by all the contestant users of the concept.” This reveals (...) a similarity between Gallie’s views and the semantic externalist views of Hilary Putnam, and others, about natural kind terms like “water” and “tiger.” I argue that natural kind terms and terms for essentially contested concepts are two species of a single semantic genus. In the case of natural kind terms, a term refers to a natural kind, the exemplars are instances of that kind, and the relation between the exemplars and anything to which the term applies is co-membership of the kind. In the case of terms for essentially contested concepts, a term refers to an historical tradition, the exemplar is a stage or temporal part of that tradition, and the relation between the exemplar and anything to which the term refers is being the heir of. This allows me to understand the contests that alerted Gallie to the phenomenon of essentially contested concepts as contests over the ownership of historical traditions. (shrink)
Frege's diatribes against psychologism have often been taken to imply that he thought that logic and thought have nothing to do with each other. I argue against this interpretation and attribute to Frege a view on which the two are tightly connected. The connection, however, derives not from logic's being founded on the empirical laws of thought but rather from thought's depending constitutively on the application to it of logic. I call this view 'psycho-logicism.'.
The paper is an examination of how Davidson's holism constrains his account of language learning. The problem is that holism implies that in learning a language we cannot pass through stages of knowing part of the language. Rather, some sense must be found for the notion of partly knowing the whole language.
Inspired by Sara Ahmed’s notion of ‘queer use,’ I present and extend a neo-Aristotelian theory of artifacts to capture what I call ‘counter-use.’ The theory of artifacts is based on the idea that what they are, how they come to be, and what their functions are cannot be understood independently from each other. They come to exist when a maker imposes the concept of their substantial kind onto some matter by working on the matter to make an artifact of that (...) kind out of it. The extensions to this core theory that I describe are two. First, I show how using can be a kind of making and how disparate users may form what Benedict Anderson calls an imagined community. Second, I describe what I call an artifact’s historicity and suggest that, like its substantial kind, an artifact’s historicity is essential to it. On this basis, I characterize counter-use as use of an artifact by an imagined community that re-arranges an object’s historicity and hence brings into existence a numerically distinct object. Thus, politically motivated counter-use has genuine ontological implications. (shrink)
The paper attempts to shed light on Frege's views on the relation of logic to truth by looking at several passages in which he compares it to the relation of ethics to the good and aesthetics to the beautiful. It turns out that Frege makes four distinct points by means of these comparisons only one of which both concerns truth and makes use of distinctive features of ethics and aesthetics. This point is that logic is about reaching truth in the (...) way that ethics is about reaching the good and aesthetics the beautiful. I then sketch how Frege can plausibly maintain this view about logic. (A more detailed version of Frege's positive view is given in my unpublished "Frege on the Relations Between Logic and Thought."). (shrink)
In this paper, I try to understand what Buridan means when he suggests that "every proposition, by its very form, signifies or asserts itself to be true." I show how one way of construing this claim - that every proposition is in fact a conjunction one conjunct of which asserts the truth of the whole conjunction - does lead to a resolution of the Liar paradox, as Buridan says, and moreover is not vulnerable to the criticism on the basis of (...) which Buridan came to reject this view. However, I go on to argue that the view causes Truth-Teller worries when applied to non-Liar propositions. (shrink)
A Certain Gesture: Evnine's Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! is an entirely original kind of work. It takes the form of commentaries on memes made with the image of Batman slapping Robin. The commentaries are written as if they were not authored by the same person who made the memes, allowing the author to consider himself and his work from the outside. The book defies genre by mixing discussions of philosophy, psychoanalysis, Judaism, language, and representation with self-writing and autotheory. (...) These are juxtaposed like the items in a cabinet of curiosities or topics in an analytic patient’s free association. Both pre-modern and post-modern in its inspiration, it is cerebral, playful, social, and intensely personal. It contains philosophy, including original philosophical research, but also explores new ways of doing and thinking about philosophy. (shrink)
A paradigm of a meme, in its contemporary sense, is an image macro – an image copied by users, who customize it by adding their own text according to implicitly prescribed norms. The native medium of philosophy is language, generally in the form of either discursive text or Socratic discussion. This chapter suggests there are two features of human existence that stand to meme‐making in something of the same relation as spontaneous dance does to choreography. These features are bricolage and (...) ownership. In such memes, figures, despite some superficial appearance of belonging to another mythological type, actually exemplify the trickster. Ownership is a fundamental feature of human life. It extends well beyond material possessions to encompass our words, ideas, and actions. Many meme templates originate in the unrestricted web and are subsequently “normified” as they move to the restricted web where most of us encounter them. (shrink)
A reply to Sean Liam Kelly's analysis of Martial 7.35 in the Fall 1993 issue of Nexus. Although I am in substantial agreement with many parts of Kelly's analysis, one detail of the text which he did not pick up on leads me to offer a different route to Kelly's conclusion that, according to the narrator of the poem, Laecania insults his and his slave's virility, and that in response to this perceived unmanning, he replies with the charge of lesbianism. (...) However, the route I propose introduces into the itinerary not only issues of gender and violence, but also those of race. (shrink)
Peter Abelard (1079–1142 ce) was the most wide‐ranging philosopher of the twelfth century. He quickly established himself as a leading teacher of logic in and near Paris shortly after 1100. After his affair with Heloise, and his subsequent castration, Abelard became a monk, but he returned to teaching in the Paris schools until 1140, when his work was condemned by a Church Council at Sens. His logical writings were based around discussion of the “Old Logic”: Porphyry's Isagoge, aristotle'S Categories and (...) On Interpretation and boethius'S textbook on topical inference. They comprise a freestanding Dialectica (“Logic”; probably c.1116), a set of commentaries (known as the Logica [Ingredientibus], c. 1119) and a later (c. 1125) commentary on the Isagoge (Logica Nostrorum Petititoni Sociorum or Glossulae). In a work Abelard called his Theologia, issued in three main versions (between 1120 and c.1134), he attempted a logical analysis of trinitarian relations and explored the philosophical problems surrounding God's claims to omnipotence and omniscience. The Collationes (“Debates,” also known as “Dialogue between a Christian, a Philosopher and a Jew”; probably c.1130) present a rational investigation into the nature of the highest good, in which the Christian and the Philosopher (who seems to be modeled on a philosopher of pagan antiquity) are remarkably in agreement. The unfinished Scito teipsum (“Know thyself,” also known as the “Ethics”; c.1138) analyses moral action. (shrink)
In this paper I propose to say something about why certain key psychoanalytic concepts, particularly that of the unconscious, are special because of a studied, and therapeutically important, ambiguity or paradoxicality which affects them. Before I examine these concepts, however, the first section of this paper discusses some of Sartre's views on psychological explanation. On the one hand, this gives me a way of introducing the dichotomy of self-evident irreducibility and existential lucidity which underlies my account of the unconscious. On (...) the other hand, it is important because I take Sartre to be addressing, less successfully, the very same question that Freud dealt with by introducing his ambiguous concepts. (shrink)
Much of traditional rabbinic hermeneutics, what I call "midrashic interpretation," appears to be of such a bizarre nature as to require some sort of explanation, or even justification. This essay attempts to provide a philosophical foundation for midrashic interpretation by placing it in the context of the idea (vaguely neo-platonic) that God is only fully realized as the result of a certain process, a process of which midrashic interpretation is an essential part. In the final section I attempt to spell (...) out some connections between the specifically Jewish question of rabbinic hermeneutics and some more general ideas in philosophy and psychoanalysis. (shrink)
A preface to the Japanese translation of my book _Donald Davidson_ in which I discuss two issues on which Davidson's thought developed substantially after the book was published. First, I explain a new argument, the triangulation argument, which has come to play a prominent part in Davidson’s recent work. Secondly, I enter in some detail into a continuing controversy over supervenience and the causal efficacy of the mental, since Davidson has advanced the issue with a new paper on the topic.
This paper suggests that Locke's arguments against innate principles rest on a particular conception of what it is for things to be "in the mind." Understanding that notion in terms of presuppositions for radical interpretation allows us to see how some principle might be considered innate after all.