More than a century before Anscombe counseled us to jettison concepts such as that of the moral ought, or moral law, Schopenhauer mounted a vigorous attack on such prescriptive moral concepts, particularly as found in Kant. In this chapter I consider the four objections that constitute this attack. According to the first, Kant begs the question by merely assuming that ethics has a prescriptive or legislative-imperative form, when a purely descriptive-explanatory conception such as Schopenhauer’s also presents itself as a possibility. (...) According to the second, Kant’s purportedly philosophical ethics is in fact a theological ethics in disguise, because the moral ought and its prescriptive cousins presuppose a divine lawgiver. According to the third, Kant’s conceptions of the moral law as a law of freedom, and of moral imperatives as categorical or unconditioned, involve him in contradictions. Finally, Schopenhauer objects that there can be no such thing as a moral ought because a binding ought or law must be understood to operate through appeals to self-interest, which stands in opposition to morality. I contend that these last three objections are sound and that the fourth in particular succeeds in confuting the prescriptivist conception of morality. (shrink)
I argue that Schopenhauer’s ascription of (moral) rights to animals flows naturally from his distinctive analysis of the concept of a right. In contrast to those who regard rights as fundamental and then cast wrongdoing as a matter of violating rights, he takes wrong (Unrecht) to be the more fundamental notion and defines the concept of a right (Recht) in its terms. He then offers an account of wrongdoing which makes it plausible to suppose that at least many animals can (...) be wronged and thus, by extension, have rights. The result, I argue, is a perspective on the nature of moral rights in general, and the idea of animal rights in particular, that constitutes an important and plausible alternative to the more familiar views advanced by philosophers in recent decades. (shrink)
Many philosophers have argued that the past must be finite in duration because otherwise reaching the present moment would have involved something impossible, namely, the sequential occurrence of an actual infinity of events. In reply, some philosophers have objected that there can be nothing amiss in such an occurrence, since actually infinite sequences are ‘traversed’ all the time in nature, for example, whenever an object moves from one location in space to another. This essay focuses on one of the two (...) available replies to this objection, namely, the claim that actual infinities are not traversed in nature because space, time, and other continuous wholes divide into parts only in so far as we divide them in thought, and thus divide into only a finite number of parts. I grant that this reply succeeds in blunting the anti-finitist objection, but I argue that it also subverts the very argument against an eternal past that it was intended to save. (shrink)
Some philosophers contend that the past must be finite in duration, because otherwise reaching the present would have involved the sequential occurrence of an actual infinity of events, which they regard as impossible. I recently developed a new objection to this finitist argument, to which Andrew Ter Ern Loke and Travis Dumsday have replied. Here I respond to the three main points raised in their replies.
Drawing on remarks scattered through his writings, I argue that Leibniz has a highly distinctive and interesting theory of color. The central feature of the theory is the way in which it combines a nuanced subjectivism about color with a reductive approach of a sort usually associated with objectivist theories of color. After reconstructing Leibniz's theory and calling attention to some of its most notable attractions, I turn to the apparent incompatibility of its subjective and reductive components. I argue that (...) this apparent tension vanishes in light of his rejection of a widely accepted doctrine concerning the nature of bodies and their geometrical qualities. (shrink)
Timothy Hsiao attempts to defend industrial animal farming by arguing that it is not inherently cruel. We raise three main objections to his defense. First, his argument rests on a misunderstanding of the nature of cruelty. Second, his conclusion, though technically true, is so weak as to be of virtually no moral significance or interest. Third, his contention that animals lack moral standing, and thus that mistreating them is wrong only insofar as it makes one more disposed to mistreat other (...) humans, is untenable on both philosophical and biological grounds. (shrink)
Leibniz argues that there must be a fundamental level of simple substances because composites borrow their reality from their constituents and not all reality can be borrowed. I contend that the underlying logic of this ‘borrowed reality argument’ has been misunderstood, particularly the rationale for the key premise that not all reality can be borrowed. Contrary to what has been suggested, the rationale turns neither on the alleged viciousness of an unending regress of reality borrowers nor on the Principle of (...) Sufficient Reason, but on the idea that composites are phenomena and thus can be real only insofar as they have a foundation in substances, from which they directly ‘borrow’ their reality. The claim that composites are phenomena rests in turn on Leibniz's conceptualism about relations. So understood, what initially looked like a disappointingly simple argument for simples turns out to be a rather rich and sophisticated one. (shrink)
Timothy Hsiao argues that animals lack moral status because they lack the capacity for the sort of higher-level rationality required for membership in the moral community. Stijn Bruers and László Erdős have already raised a number of objections to this argument, to which Hsiao has replied with some success. But I think a stronger critique can be made. Here I raise further objections to three aspects of Hsiao's view: his conception of the moral community, his idea of root capacities grounded (...) in one's nature, and his explanation of why cruelty is wrong. I also argue that sentience is a more plausible candidate for the morally salient capacity than rationality. (shrink)
Frege supposedly believes that vague predicates have no referent (Bedeutung). But given other things he evidently believes, such a position would seem to commit him to a suspect nihilism according to which assertoric sentences containing vague predicates are neither true nor false. I argue that we have good reason to resist ascribing to Frege the view that vague predicates have no Bedeutung and thus good reason to resist seeing him as committed to the suspect nihilism. In the process, I call (...) attention to several under-appreciated texts in which Frege suggests that a vague predicate, though lacking a Bedeutung of its own, can come to acquire a Bedeutung in certain contexts. The upshot of this suggestion is that vague predicates can serve the purposes of ordinary communication quite well, even if they are useless for logical purposes. (shrink)
The traditional view according to which we adults tacitly consent to a state’s lawful actions just by living within its borders—the residence theory—is now widely rejected by political philosophers. According to the critics, this theory fails because consent must be (i) intentional, (ii) informed, and (iii) voluntary, whereas one’s continued residence within a state is typically none of these things. Few people intend to remain within the state in which they find themselves, and few realize that by remaining they are (...) consenting to the state’s lawful actions. In addition, the various obstacles standing in the way of us leaving the state render our remaining involuntary. Thus, the critics conclude, few if any people can be considered to have consented through their residence. I argue that these objections fail and that the residence theory remains a viable option, at least for those who are not committed incompatibilists. (shrink)
Leibniz has almost universally been represented as denying that created substances, including human minds and the souls of animals, can causally interact either with one another or with bodies. Yet he frequently claims that such substances are capable of interacting in the special sense of what he calls 'ideal' interaction. In order to reconcile these claims with their favored interpretation, proponents of the traditional reading often suppose that ideal action is not in fact a genuine form of causation but instead (...) a merely apparent influence which serves to 'save the appearances.' I argue that this traditional reading distorts Leibniz's thought and that he actually considers ideal action a genuine (though non-standard) form of causation. (shrink)
Leibniz’s mechanistic reduction of colors and other sensible qualities commits him to two theses about our knowledge of those qualities: first, that we can acquire ideas of sensible qualities apart from any direct acquaintance with the qualities themselves; second, that we can acquire distinct (i.e., non-confused) ideas of such qualities through the development of physical-theoretical accounts. According to some commentators, however, Leibniz frequently denies both claims. His views on the subject are muddled and incoherent, they say, both because he is (...) ambivalent about the nature of sensible qualities, and because he gets confused about confusion, losing sight of his own distinction between the confusion proper to perceptions and that proper to ideas. In opposition to this, I argue that the critics have misunderstood Leibniz’s views, which are both consistent over time and coherent. The key to understanding his position is to appreciate what he characterizes as a kind of redundancy in our ideas of sensible qualities, a crucial feature of his view overlooked by the critics. (shrink)
Anscombe counsels us to dispense with those moral concepts that presuppose a divine law conception of ethics, among which she numbers the concepts of “moral obligation and moral duty, […] of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of ‘ought’.” Schopenhauer made a similar point more than a century earlier, though his critique implicates a narrower range of concepts. Through reflection on his accounts of right and wrong and of duty and obligation, I attempt to show (...) that we can dispense with the imperative in ethics while retaining these notions, thus preserving a distinctively modern conception of morality. (shrink)
I argue that Leibniz consistently subscribes to the view that phenomena (thus bodies) have their being in perceiving substances. I then argue that this mentalistic conception of phenomenon coheres with three of his doctrines of body: (1) that bodies presuppose the unities or simple substances on which they are founded; (2) that bodies are aggregates of those substances; and (3) that bodies derive or borrow their reality from their simple constituents.
In a recent paper, Dennis Plaisted examines an important argument that Leibniz gives for the existence of primitive concepts. After sketching a natural reading of this argument, Plaisted observes that the argument appears to imply something clearly inconsistent with Leibniz’s other views. To save Leibniz from contradiction, Plaisted offers a revision. However, his account faces a number of serious difficulties and therefore does not successfully eliminate the inconsistency. We explain these difficulties and defend a more plausible alternative. In the process, (...) we call attention to the neglected topic of Leibniz’s views on the nature of conceiving, and reveal his commitment to the somewhat surprising thesis that one can conceive something through a concept even if one has no conscious grasp of that concept. (shrink)
Despite holding that all concepts are strictly speaking innate, Leibniz attempts to accommodate the common belief that at least some concepts are adventitious by appealing to his theory of ideal action. The essential idea is that an innate concept can be considered adventitious, in a sense, just in case its ideal cause is to be found outside the mind of the one who possesses the concept. I explore this attempt at accommodation and argue that it fails. [See external link for (...) English draft.]. (shrink)
This chapter explores the relationship between the views of Leibniz and Berkeley on the fundamental nature of the created universe. It argues that Leibniz concurs with Berkeley on three key points: that in the final analysis there are only perceivers and their contents (subjective idealism), that there are strictly speaking no material or corporeal substances, and that bodies or sensible things reduce to the contents of perceivers (phenomenalism). It then reconstructs his central argument for phenomenalism, which rests on his belief (...) in the infinite division of matter, his doctrine of the ideality of relations, and the traditional principle of the convertibility of being and unity. Finally, it explores Leibniz’s belief that a body having its being in one perceiver can be “founded” on other perceivers, and considers Berkeley’s reasons for opposing such a view. (shrink)
In the texts of the middle years (roughly, the 1680s and 90s), Leibniz appears to endorse two incompatible approaches to motion, one a realist approach, the other a phenomenalist approach. I argue that once we attend to certain nuances in his account we can see that in fact he has only one, coherent approach to motion during this period. I conclude by considering whether the view of motion I want to impute to Leibniz during his middle years ranks as a (...) kind of realism or rather as some kind of phenomenalism or idealism. (shrink)
Because ports are considered to be the heart of the maritime transportation system, thereby assessing port performance is necessary for a nation’s development and economic success. This study proposes a novel metric, namely, “_port performance index (PPI)_”, to determine the overall performance and utilization of inland waterway ports based on six criteria,_ port facility, port availability, port economics, port service, port connectivity, and port environment_. Unlike existing literature, which mainly ranks ports based on quantitative factors, this study utilizes a Bayesian (...) Network (BN) model that focuses on both quantitative and qualitative factors to rank a port. The assessment of inland waterway port performance is further analyzed based on different advanced techniques such as sensitivity analysis and belief propagation. Insights drawn from the study show that all the six criteria are necessary to predict PPI. The study also showed that port service has the highest impact while port economics has the lowest impact among the six criteria on PPI for inland waterway ports. (shrink)
I propose a straightforward reconciliation of Leibniz’s conception of bodies as aggregates of simple substances (i.e., monads) with his doctrine that bodies are the phenomena of perceivers, without in the process saddling him with any equivocations. The reconciliation relies on the familiar idea that in Leibniz’s idiolect, an aggregate of Fs is that which immediately presupposes those Fs, or in other words, has those Fs as immediate requisites. But I take this idea in a new direction. Taking notice of the (...) fact that Leibniz speaks of three respects in which one thing may immediately presuppose others--i.e., with respect to its being, its existence, and its reality--I argue that a phenomenon having its being in one perceiving substance (monad) can plausibly be understood to presuppose other perceiving substances (monads) in two of these respects. Accordingly, good sense can be made of both the claim that a phenomenon in one monad is an aggregate of other monads (in Leibniz’s technical sense of 'aggregate') and the (equivalent) claim that the latter monads are constituents of the phenomenon (in his technical sense of 'constituent'). So understood, the two conceptions of body are perfectly compatible, just as Leibniz seems to think. (shrink)
Leibniz has been accused of being ambivalent about the nature of sensible qualities such as color, heat, and sound. According to the critics, he unwittingly vacillates between the view that these qualities are really just complex mechanical qualities of bodies and the competing view that they are something like the perceptions or experiences that confusedly represent these mechanical qualities. Against this, I argue that the evidence for ascribing the first approach to Leibniz is rather strong, whereas the evidence for imputing (...) the second approach to him is rather weak. The first, "mechanistic" approach should therefore be regarded as his considered view. (shrink)
I argue for three main claims about Leibniz. (1) He views representation as a kind of structural correspondence between the representing thing and its target. (2) The primary sense in which he considers a perception or representation distinct, as opposed to confused, concerns the degree to which its structure is explicit or consciously accessible. (3) This is also the sense in which he takes concepts or ideas to be distinct.
Anthony Brueckner argues that Berkeleyan idealism lacks anti-sceptical force because of the way Berkeley draws the appearance/reality distinction. But Brueckner's case rests on a misunderstanding of Berkeley's view. Properly understood, Berkeleyan idealism does indeed have anti-sceptical force.
Leibniz claims that Berkeley “wrongly or at least pointlessly rejects abstract ideas”. What he fails to realize, however, is that some of his own core views commit him to essentially the same stance. His belief that this is the best (and thus most harmonious) possible world, which itself stems from his Principle of Sufficient Reason, leads him to infer that mind and body must perfectly represent or ‘express’ one another. In the case of abstract thoughts he admits that this can (...) happen only in virtue of thinking of some image that, being essentially a mental copy of a brain state, expresses (and is expressed by) that state. But here he faces a problem. In order for a thought to be genuinely abstract, its representational content must differ from that of any mental image, since the latter can represent only particular things. In that case, however, an exact correspondence between the accompanying mental image and the brain state would not suffice to establish a perfect harmony between mind and body. Even on Leibniz’s own principles, then, it appears that Berkeley was right to dismiss abstract ideas. (shrink)
Paul Lodge’s excellent new contribution to the Yale Leibniz series collects together the entirety of the Leibniz-De Volder correspondence, totaling some thirty-three letters, together with a generous selection of relevant excerpts from Leibniz’s concurrent correspondence with Bernoulli, which Lodge has helpfully interspersed throughout. As with previous volumes in the series, the texts appear in the original language, in this case Latin, together with an English translation on opposing pages. Lodge’s transcriptions reflect his careful study of all the available manuscripts and (...) represent a significant improvement over the existing versions in GP II (Leibniz-De Volder) and GM III (Leibniz-Bernoulli). Rounding out the volume are a long introduction (79 pp.), itself a valuable contribution to Leibniz scholarship, together with extensive notes on the texts, a bibliography, and indexes for names and subjects. (shrink)
I argue that Leibniz's treatment of void or empty space in the appendix to his fourth letter to Clarke conflicts with the way he elsewhere treats (metaphysical) evil, insofar as he allows that God has created a world with the one kind of privation (evil), while insisting that God would not have created a world with the other kind of privation (void). I consider three respects in which the moral case might be thought to differ relevantly from the physical one, (...) and argue that none of them succeed in removing the inconsistency. Rather than denying the existence of void, Leibniz should have been led by his treatment of evil to realize that the arguments he deploys in this appendix are dubious, and that the principles to which he appeals do not rule out empty space any more than they rule out evil, darkness, cold, or any other privations. (shrink)
I argue that Leibniz's rejection of the hypothesis of thinking matter on grounds of unintelligibility conflicts with his position on sensible qualities such as color. In the former case, he argues that thought must be a modification of something immaterial because we cannot explain thought in mechanical terms. In the latter case, however, he (rightly) grants that we cannot explain sensible qualities in mechanical terms, that is, cannot explain why a certain complex mechanical quality gives rise to the appearance of (...) a certain sensible quality, even while insisting that sensible qualities are modifications of bodies. I argue that the two cases are analogous in the relevant respects, and that Leibniz's (plausible) position on sensible qualities should have thrown his Principle of Intelligibility into doubt. (shrink)
To escape from the labyrinth of the continuum, Leibniz maintains, we must think very differently about the nature of space, time, bodies, and substances; and in particular we must posit an infinity of simple substances or monads. The main aim of this historically rich and interpretively provocative book is to explain why Leibniz says such things by examining his purported solution and how he arrived at it. Each of the book’s seven chapters focuses on a different “Ariadnean thread” that supposedly (...) helped Leibniz find his way out of the labyrinth. They concern the themes of “composition, aggregation, atoms, forms, motion, substance, and continuation in existence” (6). (shrink)
In Part 1 of this short book, Rescher provides an overview of the nature and source of Leibniz’s interest in the theory and practice of cryptanalysis, including his unsuccessful bid to secure an apprentice for John Wallis (1616-1703) with a view to perpetuating the Englishman’s remarkable deciphering abilities. In Part 2, perhaps the most interesting part of the book, Rescher offers his account of the inner workings of Leibniz’s cipher machine. Part 3 provides a brief pictorial history of such machines (...) and related technologies. Finally, in Part 4 Rescher analyzes some of Leibniz’s own relatively scant attempts at decryption. Though there is little of direct philosophical interest in this work, its account of Leibniz’s forays into the field of encryption and in particular its reconstruction of his remarkable machine are fascinating and should hold considerable appeal for those interested in Leibniz’s pursuits more broadly and in the histories of cryptography and machine design. (shrink)
Questions about Leibniz's views on the ontological status of the corporeal world have been at the center of debate in Leibniz scholarship for more than two decades. One of the major players in these debates has been Daniel Garber. Having sketched his influential position in a number of articles over the years, he now gives full expression to his view in this highly anticipated and long-awaited book.
In this work Thomas surveys the contributions of (pre-Kantian) early modern philosophy to our understanding of the mind. She focuses on the six canonical figures of the period -- Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume -- and asks what each has to say about five topics within the philosophy of mind. The topics are (1) the ontological status of mind, (2) the scope and nature of self-knowledge, (3) the nature of consciousness, (4) the problem of mental causation, and (5) (...) the nature of representation or intentionality. The overarching aim of the book is to show that the theories articulated by these thinkers are not just historical curiosities, but have much to contribute to our understanding of these topics today. (shrink)
Chihara seeks to avoid commitment to mathematical objects by replacing traditional assertions of the existence of mathematical objects with assertions about possibilities of constructing certain open-sentence tokens. I argue that Chihara's project can be defended against several important objections, but that it is no less epistemologically problematic than its platonistic competitors.