This probably won’t work out, but I’ve been thinking about the Cantor and Russell Paradoxes and proper classes and had this curious idea: Maybe proper classes are non-existent possible sets. Thus, there is actually no collection of all the sets in our world, but there is another possible world which contains a set S whose members are all the sets of our world. …
Various people pointed me to a Washington Post piece by Vivek Wadhwa, entitled “Quantum computers may be more of an immiment threat than AI.” I know I’m late to the party, but in the spirit of Pete Wells’ famous New York Times “review” of Guy Fieri’s now-closed Times Square restaurant, I have a few questions that have been gnawing at me:
Mr. Wadhwa, when you decided to use the Traveling Salesman Problem as your go-to example of a problem that quantum computers can solve quickly, did the thought ever cross your mind that maybe you should look this stuff up first—let’s say, on Wikipedia? …
I will begin by reviewing three classic points in philosophy of mind. Point 1 is that there is a theory, which I will call here ‘the reflexive theory’ or ‘RT’ for short, according to which a (psychological) state is a conscious state of a subject only if the subject of the state is conscious of being in the state. Since ‘is conscious of’ is a rough synonym of ‘is aware of’, we may also say that, according to RT, a psychological state is a conscious state of a subject only if the subject of the state is aware of being in the state. Point 2 is that RT faces a regress objection; that is, it is apparently committed to an infinite regress of a problematic sort. The objection might be formulated this way. First Premise: if RT is true, then, if you instantiate one conscious state you instantiate an infinity of conscious states. Second Premise: you do not instantiate an infinity of conscious states. Conclusion: either RT is false or you never instantiate a conscious state—a disaster for a theory of consciousness!
Humean accounts of natural lawhood (such as Lewis’s) have often been criticized as unable to account for the laws’ characteristic explanatory power in science. Loewer (Philos Stud 160:115–137, 2012) has replied that these criticisms fail to distinguish grounding explanations from scientific explanations. Lange (Philos Stud 164:255–261, 2013) has replied by arguing that grounding explanations and scientific explanations are linked by a transitivity principle, which can be used to argue that Humean accounts of natural law violate the prohibition on self-explanation. Lange’s argument has been sharply criticized by Hicks and van Elswyk (Philos Stud 172:433– 443, 2015), Marshall (Philos Stud 172:3145–3165, 2015), and Miller (Philos Stud 172:1311–1332, 2015). This paper shows how Lange’s argument can withstand these criticisms once the transitivity principle and the prohibition on self-explanation are properly refined. The transitivity principle should be refined to accommodate contrasts in the explanans and explanandum. The prohibition on self-explanation should be refined so that it precludes a given fact p from helping to explain why some other fact q helps to explain why p. In this way, the transitivity principle avoids having counterintuitive consequences in cases involving macrostates having multiple possible microrealizations. The transitivity principle is perfectly compatible with the irreducibility of macroexplanations to microexplanations and with the diversity of the relations that can underwrite scientific explanations.
The meta-problem of consciousness is (to a first approximation) the problem of explaining why we think that there is a problem of consciousness. Just as metacognition is cognition about cognition, and a metatheory is a theory about theories, the metaproblem is a problem about a problem. The initial problem is the hard problem of consciousness: why and how do physical processes in the brain give rise to conscious experience? The relevant sort of consciousness here is phenomenal consciousness. A system is phenomenally conscious if there is something it is like to be that system, from the first-person point of view. The meta-problem is roughly the problem of explaining why we think phenomenal consciousness poses a hard problem, or in other terms, the problem of explaining why we think consciousness is hard to explain.
I argue for patternism, a new answer to the question of when some objects compose a whole. None of the standard principles of composition comfortably capture our natural judgments, such as that my cat exists and my table exists, but there is nothing wholly composed of them. Patternism holds, very roughly, that some things compose a whole whenever together they form a “real pattern”. Plausibly we are inclined to acknowledge the existence of my cat and my table but not of their fusion, because the first two have a kind of internal organizational coherence that their putative fusion lacks. Kolmogorov complexity theory supplies the needed rigorous sense of “internal organizational coherence”.
Optogenetic techniques are described as “revolutionary” for the unprecedented causal control they allow neuroscientists to exert over neural activity in awake behaving animals. In this paper, I demonstrate by means of a case study that optogenetic techniques will only illuminate causal links between the brain and behavior to the extent that their error characteristics are known and, further, that determining these error characteristics requires (1) comparison of optogenetic techniques with techniques having well known error characteristics (methodological pluralism) and (2) consideration of the broader neural and behavioral context in which the targets of optogenetic interventions are situated (perspectival pluralism).
Comparativism is the position that the fundamental doxastic state consists in comparative beliefs (e.g., believing p to be more likely than q), with partial beliefs (e.g., believing p to degree x) being grounded in and explained by patterns amongst comparative beliefs that exist under special conditions. In this paper, I develop a version of comparativism that originates with a suggestion made by Frank Ramsey in his ‘Probability and Partial Belief’ (1929). By means of a representation theorem, I show how this ‘Ramseyan comparativism’ can be used to weaken the (unrealistically strong) conditions required for probabilistic coherence that comparativists usually rely on, while still preserving enough structure to let us retain the usual comparativists’ account of quantitative doxastic comparisons.
Karl Leonhard Reinhold (1757–1823), Austrian philosopher and first
occupant of the chair on Critical Philosophy established at the
University of Jena in 1787, first achieved fame as a proponent of
popular Enlightenment and as an early and effective popularizer of the
Kantian philosophy. During his period at the University of Jena
(1787–94), Reinhold proclaimed the need for a more
“scientific” and systematic presentation of the Critical
philosophy, one based upon a single, self-evident first principle. In
an effort to satisfy this need, he expounded his own “Elementary
Philosophy” in a series of influential works between 1789 and
A number of naturalistic philosophers of mind endorse a realist attitude towards the results of Bayesian cognitive science. This realist attitude is currently unwarranted, however. It is not obvious that Bayesian models possess special epistemic virtues over alternative models of mental phenomena involving uncertainty. In particular, the Bayesian approach in cognitive science is not more simple, unifying and rational than alternative approaches; and it not obvious that the Bayesian approach is more empirically adequate than alternatives. It is at least premature, then, to assert that mental phenomena involving uncertainty are best explained within the Bayesian approach. To continue on with an exclusive praise for Bayes would be dangerous as it risks monopolizing the center of attention, leading to the neglect of different but promising formal approaches. Naturalistic philosophers of mind would be wise instead to endorse an agnostic, instrumentalist attitude towards Bayesian cognitive science to correct their mistake.
The ontic conception of explanation, according to which explanations are "full-bodied things in the world," is fundamentally misguided. I argue instead for what I call the eikonic conception, according to which explanations are the product of an epistemic activity involving representations of the phenomena to be explained. What is explained in the first instance is a particular conceptualization of the explanandum phenomenon, contextualized within a given research program or explanatory project. I conclude that this eikonic conception has a number of benefits, including making better sense of scientific practice and allowing for the full range of normative constraints on explanation.
People often talk about the synchronic Dutch Book argument for Probabilism and the diachronic Dutch Strategy argument for Conditionalization. But the synchronic Dutch Book argument for the Principal Principle is mentioned less. …
How should we think about the moral status of non-human (or pre-human) entities? Do animals/robots/foetuses have moral status? If so, why? It is important to get the answer right. Entities with moral status are objects of moral concern. …
[The following is a guest post by Bob Lockie. — JS]He who says that all things happen of necessity can hardly find fault with one who denies that all happens by necessity; for on his own theory this very argument is voiced by necessity (Epicurus 1964: XL).Lockie, Robert. …
For the past few weeks, people on- and offline have spoken up to question Winston Churchill’s legacy. They generally highlight his racism, his support for the use of concentration camps, his treatment of Ireland, his complicity in the Bengal famine, and more. …
This essay is an opinionated exploration of the constraints that modal discourse imposes on the theory of assertion. Primary focus is on the question whether modal discourse challenges the traditional view that all assertions have propositional content. This question is tackled largely with reference to discourse involving epistemic modals, although connections with other flavors of modality are noted along the way.
There is an emerging skepticism about the existence of testimonial knowledge-how (Hawley (2010) , Poston (2016), Carter and Pritchard (2015a)). This is unsurprising since a number of influential approaches to knowledge-how struggle to accommodate testimonial knowledge how. Nonetheless, this scepticism is misguided. This paper establishes that there are cases of easy testimonial knowledge-how. It is structured as follows: First, a case is presented in which an agent acquires knowledge-how simply by accepting a speaker’s testimony. Second, it is argued that this knowledge-how is genuinely testimonial. Next, Poston’s (2016) arguments against easy testimonial knowledge-how are considered and rejected. The implications of the argument differ for intellectualists and anti-intellectualists about knowledge-how. The intellectualist must reject widespread assumptions about the communicative preconditions for the acquisition of testimonial knowledge. The Anti-intellectualist must find a way of accommodating the dependence of knowledge-how on speaker reliability. It is not clear how this can be done.
Now students in the Applied Category Theory 2018 school are reading about categories applied to linguistics. Read the blog article here for more:
• Jade Master and Cory Griffith, Linguistics using category theory, The n-Category Café, 6 February 2018. …
In the spirit of explanatory pluralism, this chapter argues that causal and noncausal explanations of a phenomenon are compatible, each being useful for bringing out different sorts of insights. After reviewing a model-based account of scientific explanation, which can accommodate causal and noncausal explanations alike, an important core conception of noncausal explanation is identified. This noncausal form of model-based explanation is illustrated using the example of how Earth scientists in a subfield known as aeolian geomorphology are explaining the formation of regularly-spaced sand ripples. The chapter concludes that even when it comes to everyday "medium-sized dry goods" such as sand ripples, where there is a complete causal story to be told, one can find examples of noncausal scientific explanations.
In my book Understanding Scientific Progress (Maxwell 2017), I argue that fundamental philosophical problems about scientific progress, above all the problem of induction, cannot be solved granted standard empiricism (SE), a doctrine which most scientists and philosophers of science take for granted. A key tenet of SE is that no permanent thesis about the world can be accepted as a part of scientific knowledge independent of evidence. For a number of reasons, we need to adopt a rather different conception of science which I call aim-oriented empiricism (AOE). This holds that we need to construe physics as accepting, as a part of theoretical scientific knowledge, a hierarchy of metaphysical theses about the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, these theses becoming increasingly insubstantial as we go up the hierarchy. Fundamental philosophical problems about scientific progress, including the problems of induction, theory unity, verisimilitude and scientific discovery, which cannot be solved granted SE, can be solved granted AOE.
The cake situation is one where B isn't a good (to you) given A. So I'm not worried about that, or about the case where B is useless to you given A. But the infinite case is one I should have noticed as a counterexample to my thesis, as it is precisely the sort of case I had in mind, and I meant the thesis not to be counterexampled by it. …
A proper understanding of the moral and political significance of migration requires a focus on global inequalities. More specifically, it requires a focus on those global inequalities that affect people’s ability to participate in the production of economic goods and non-economic goods (e.g., relationships of intimacy and care, opportunities for self-expression, well-functioning institutions, etc.). We call cooperative infrastructures the complex material and immaterial technologies that allow human beings to cooperate in order to generate human goods. By enabling migrants to access high-quality cooperative infrastructures, migration contributes to the diffusion of technical and socio-political innovations; in this way, it positively affects the ability of individuals from poorer countries to participate in the production of human goods. However, migration can also damage the material and immaterial components of the cooperative infrastructures accessible in both host countries and sending countries; these potential downsides of migration should not be ignored, although arguably they can often be neutralized, alleviated, or compensated.
If the worries in this post work, then the argument in this one needs improvement. Suppose there are two groups of people, the As and the Bs, all of whom have headaches. You can relieve the headaches of the As or of the Bs, but not both. …
Many of our mental states such as beliefs and desires are
intentional mental states, or mental states with content. Externalism with regard to mental content says that in order
to have certain types of intentional mental states (e.g. beliefs), it
is necessary to be related to the environment in the right way. Internalism (or individualism) denies this, and it
affirms that having those intentional mental states depends solely on
our intrinsic properties. This debate has important consequences with
regard to philosophical and empirical theories of the mind, and the
role of social institutions and the physical environment in
constituting the mind.
The Trolley Problem is the problem of explaining the moral contrast between two hypothetical cases. In Bystander, a runaway trolley is heading down a track towards five strangers, who will be killed if you do nothing. The trolley is a approaching a fork. If it is redirected by the push of a button, it will swerve on to a side track, where it will kill one stranger, instead of five. The circumstance is otherwise unexceptional. You have no special obligation to the strangers. They are not responsible for the runaway trolley and their life or death would have no unusual consequences, good or ill. You are a bystander at the button. What should you do? Footbridge is similar, except that the trolley can be stopped only by pushing a button that drops someone through a trapdoor on a footbridge over the track, where they will be killed by the trolley but halt its progress towards the five. Again, you are bystander at the button. What should you do?
John Austin is considered by many to be the creator of the school of
analytical jurisprudence, as well as, more specifically, the approach
to law known as “legal positivism.” Austin’s particular
command theory of law has been subject to pervasive criticism, but its
simplicity gives it an evocative power that continues to attract
Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe was one of the most gifted
philosophers of the twentieth century. Her work continues to strongly
influence philosophers working in action theory and moral
philosophy. Like the work of her friend Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Anscombe’s work is marked by a keen analytic sensibility.
[Editor's Note: The following new entry by Ana María
Mora-Márquez replaces the
on this topic by the previous author.] Simon of Faversham († 1306) was a thirteenth-century scholar,
mainly known as a commentator on Aristotle’s logic and natural
philosophy. He is considered a modist, among other things because of
his use of the notions of modi praedicandi and modi
essendi in his commentary on Aristotle’s
Categories (cf. Marmo 1999). Simon’s work as an
Aristotelian commentator heavily relies on Albert the Great’s
paraphrases on the Aristotelian corpus. Simon’s
question-commentaries often portray key medieval discussions in a
somewhat undeveloped state.
This contribution is devoted to addressing the question as to whether the methodology followed in building/assessing string theory can be considered scientific – in the same sense, say, that the methodology followed in building/assessing the Standard Model of particle physics is scientific – by fo-cussing on the ”founding” period of the theory. More precisely, its aim is to argue for a positive answer to the above question in the light of a historical analysis of the early developments of the string theoretical framework. The paper’s main claim is a simple one: there is no real change of scientific status in the way of proceeding and reasoning in fundamental physical research. Looking at the developments of quantum field theory and string theory since their very beginning, one sees the very same strategies at work both in theory building and theory assessment. Indeed, as the history of string theory clearly shows (see Cappelli et al., 2012), the methodology characterising the theoretical process leading to the string idea and its successive developments is not significantly different from the one characterising many fundamental developments in theoretical physics which have been crowned with successful empirical confirmation afterwards (sometimes after a considerable number of years, as exemplified by the story of the Higgs particle).
This paper demonstrates that nonmechanistic, dynamical explanations are a viable approach to explanation in the special sciences. The claim that dynamical models can be explanatory without reference to mechanisms has previously been met with three lines of criticism from mechanists: the causal relevance concern, the genuine laws concern, and the charge of predictivism. I argue, however, that these mechanist criticisms fail to defeat nonmechanistic, dynamical explanation. Using the examples of Haken et al.’s () HKB model of bimanual coordination, and Thelen et al.’s () dynamical field model of infant perseverative reaching, I show how each mechanist criticism fails once the standards of Woodward’s () interventionist framework are applied to dynamical models. An even-handed application of Woodwardian interventionism reveals that dynamical models are capable of producing genuine explanations without appealing to underlying mechanistic details.