In March, I’ll be talking at Spencer Breiner‘s workshop on Applied Category Theory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I’ll be giving a joint talk with John Foley about our work using operads to design networks. …
The Gelukpa (or Geluk) tradition of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is
inspired by the works of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), who set out a
distinctly nominalist Buddhist tradition that differs sharply from
other forms of Buddhist thought not only in Tibet, but elsewhere in
the Buddhist world. The negative dialectics of the Middle Way
(madhyamaka) is the centerpiece of the Geluk intellectual
tradition and is the philosophy that is commonly held in Tibet to
represent the highest view. The Middle Way, a philosophy systematized
in the second century by Nāgārjuna, seeks to chart a
“middle way” between the extremes of essentialism and
nihilism with the notion of two truths: the ultimate truth of
emptiness and the relative truth of dependent existence.
Joseph Butler is best known for his criticisms of the hedonic and
egoistic “selfish” theories associated with Hobbes and
Bernard Mandeville and for his positive arguments that self-love and
conscience are not at odds if properly understood (and indeed promote
and sanction the same actions). In addition to his importance as a
moral philosopher Butler was also an influential Anglican theologian. Unsurprisingly his theology and philosophy were connected — his
main writings in moral philosophy were published sermons, a work of
natural theology, and a brief dissertation attached to that work. Although most of Butler’s moral arguments make rich use of passages
from scripture and familiar Christian stories and concepts, they make
little reference to — and depend little on the reader having
— any particular religious commitments.
Respect has great importance in everyday life. As children we are
taught (one hopes) to respect our parents, teachers, and elders,
school rules and traffic laws, family and cultural traditions, other
people's feelings and rights, our country's flag and leaders, the
truth and people's differing opinions. And we come to value respect
for such things; when we're older, we may shake our heads (or fists)
at people who seem not to have learned to respect them. We develop
great respect for people we consider exemplary and lose respect for
those we discover to be clay-footed, and so we may try to respect only
those who are truly worthy of our respect.
Davidson’s well-known language skepticism—the claim that there is no such a thing as a language—has recognizably Gricean underpinnings, some of which also underlie his continuity skepticism—the claim that there can be no philosophically illuminating account of the emergence of language and thought. My first aim in this paper is to highlight aspects of the complicated relationship between central Davidsonian and Gricean ideas concerning language. After a brief review of Davidson’s two skeptical claims and their Gricean underpinnings, I provide my own take on how Davidson’s continuity skepticism can be resisted consistently with his rejection of the Gricean priority claim, yet without giving up some of Grice’s own insights regarding the origins of meaning.
Traditionally philosophical discussions on moral responsibility have
focused on the human components in moral action. Accounts of how to
ascribe moral responsibility usually describe human agents performing
actions that have well-defined, direct consequences. In today’s
increasingly technological society, however, human activity cannot be
properly understood without making reference to technological
artifacts, which complicates the ascription of moral responsibility
(Jonas 1984; Waelbers
2009).[ 1 ]
As we interact with and through these artifacts, they affect the
decisions that we make and how we make them (Latour 1992).
Autonomous agents are self-governing agents. But what is a
self-governing agent? Governing oneself is no guarantee that one will
have a greater range of options in the future, or the sort of
opportunities one most wants to have. Since, moreover, a person can
govern herself without being able to appreciate the difference between
right and wrong, it seems that an autonomous agent can do something
wrong without being to blame for her action. What, then, are the
necessary and sufficient features of this self-relation? Philosophers
have offered a wide range of competing answers to this question.
The internet has made it easier than ever to speak to others. It has empowered individuals to publish our opinions without first convincing a media company of their commercial value; to find and share others' views without the fuss of photocopying and mailing newspaper clippings; and to respond to those views without the limitations of a newspaper letter page. …
In ‘Freedom and Resentment’ P. F. Strawson argues that reactive attitudes like resentment and indignation cannot be eliminated altogether, because doing so would involve exiting interpersonal relationships altogether. I describe an alternative to resentment: a form of moral sadness about wrongdoing that, I argue, preserves our participation in interpersonal relationships. Substituting this moral sadness for resentment and indignation would amount to a deep and far-reaching change in the way we relate to each other – while keeping in place the interpersonal relationships, which, Strawson rightfully believes, cannot be eliminated.
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Louis Pierre Althusser (1918–1990) was one of the most
influential Marxist philosophers of the 20th Century. As
they seemed to offer a renewal of Marxist thought as well as to render
Marxism philosophically respectable, the claims he advanced in the
1960s about Marxist philosophy were discussed and debated
worldwide. Due to apparent reversals in his theoretical positions, to
the ill-fated facts of his life, and to the historical fortunes of
Marxism in the late twentieth century, this intense interest in
Althusser’s reading of Marx did not survive the 1970s. Despite the
comparative indifference shown to his work as a whole after these
events, the theory of ideology Althusser developed within it has been
broadly deployed in the social sciences and humanities and has
provided a foundation for much “post-Marxist”
In Japan, Confucianism stands, along with Buddhism, as a major religio-philosophical teaching introduced from the larger Asian cultural arena at the dawn of civilization in Japanese history, roughly the mid-sixth century. Unlike Buddhism which ultimately hailed from India, Confucianism was first and foremost a distinctly Chinese teaching. It spread, however, from Han dynasty China, into Korea, and then later entered Japan via, for the most part, the Korean peninsula. In significant respects, then, Confucianism is the intellectual force defining much of the East Asian identity of Japan, especially in relation to philosophical thought and practice.
Giacomo (Jacopo) Zabarella (b. 1533 in Padua, d. 1589 in Padua) is
considered the prime representative of Renaissance Italian
Aristotelianism. Known most of all for his writings on logic and
methodology, Zabarella was an alumnus of the University of Padua,
where he received his Ph.D. in philosophy. Throughout his teaching
career at his native university, he also taught philosophy of nature
and science of the soul (De anima). Among his main works are
the collected logical works Opera logica (1578) and writings
on natural philosophy, De rebus naturalibus (1590). Zabarella
was an orthodox Aristotelian seeking to defend the scientific status
of theoretical natural philosophy against the pressures emanating from
the practical disciplines, i.e., the art of medicine and anatomy.
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.
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).
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
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. …
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.
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.
Dom Robert Desgabets (1610–1678) was an early defender and
teacher of the Cartesian philosophy at St. Maur in the region of
Lorraine, France. He was born in Ancemont and in 1636 became a monk
in the Benedictine order. He taught theology at Saint-Evre at Toul
between 1635–1655, and served as Procurer General of Mihiel to Paris
during 1648–49. Although he is little-known today, he played an
important role in the development and transmission of the Cartesian
philosophy, especially in Paris and Toulouse. He is best known for his
role in the theological controversy over the Cartesian explication of
the Eucharist (Desgabets, 1671), and for his defense of Nicolas
Malebranche against the skeptic Simon Foucher (Desgabets, 1675).
When philosophers, social scientists, and politicians seek to
determine the justice of institutional arrangements, their discussions
have often taken the form of questioning whether and under what
circumstances the redistribution of wealth or other valuable goods is
justified. This essay examines the different ways in which
redistribution can be understood, the diverse political contexts in
which it has been employed, and whether or not it is a useful concept
for exploring questions of distributive justice.
Antoine Le Grand (1629–1699) was a philosopher and catholic theologian
who played an important role in propagating the Cartesian philosophy in
England during the latter half of the seventeenth century. He was born
in Douai, (at the time under rule by the Spanish Hapsburgs), and early
in life was associated with an English community of Franciscans who had
a college there. Le Grand became a Franciscan Recollect friar prior to
leaving for England as a missionary in 1656. In England, he taught
philosophy and theology, advocating Catholicism and eventually
Cartesianism, the latter being as unpopular as the former was perilous.
Kant’s doctrine of transcendental idealism, as put forth in the first Critique, is best understood as a conceptual or epistemic doctrine. However critics of the conceptual understanding of transcendental idealism argue that it amounts to an arbitrary stipulation and that it does not do justice to the real ontological distinctions that mattered for Kant. Some stipulations are better than others, however. In this paper I argue that Kant’s doctrine, though it should be understood ‘merely epistemically’, is nevertheless full of significance and is motivated through his long-running pre-critical struggle to discover first principles for metaphysical cognition. I further argue that an epistemic understanding of the doctrine of transcendental idealism provides a Kantian with a natural way of understanding the novel epistemic situation presented to us by modern physics and in particular by quantum mechanics. And I argue that considering Kant’s philosophy in the light of the challenges posed by quantum mechanics illuminates, in return, several elements of his philosophical framework, notably the principle of causality, the doctrine of synthetic a priori principles in general, and most generally: the conceptual understanding of transcendental idealism itself. I illustrate this via an analysis of the views of the physicist Niels Bohr as well the views of the (neo-)Kantian philosopher Grete Hermann.
Constantin Brancusi. Socrates
Image © The Museum of Modern Art;
Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY
©2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York/ADAGP, Paris
reproduced with permission
of the Brancusi Estate
The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his
B.C.E. ),[ 1 ]
an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written
nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever
changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information
about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his
trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless
the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his
influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every
Inspired by his reading of Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte
(1762–1814) developed during the final decade of the eighteenth
century a radically revised and rigorously systematic version of
transcendental idealism, which he called Wissenschaftslehre
of “Doctrine of Scientific Knowledge.” Perhaps the most
characteristic, as well as most controversial, feature of the
Wissenschaftslehre (at least in its earlier and most
influential version) is Fichte’s effort to ground his entire system
upon the bare concept of subjectivity, or, as Fichte expressed it, the
“pure I.” During his career at the University of Jena (1794–1799)
Fichte erected upon this foundation an elaborate transcendental system
that embraced the philosophy of science, ethics, philosophy of law or
“right.” and philosophy of religion.
A heated debate surrounds the significance of reproducibility as an indicator for research quality and reliability, with many commentators linking a “crisis of reproducibility” to the rise of fraudulent, careless and unreliable practices of knowledge production. Through the analysis of discourse and practices across research fields, I point out that reproducibility is not only interpreted in different ways, but also serves a variety of epistemic functions depending on the research at hand. Given such variation, I argue that the uncritical pursuit of reproducibility as an overarching epistemic value is misleading and potentially damaging to scientific advancement. Requirements for reproducibility, however they are interpreted, are one of many available means to secure reliable research outcomes. Furthermore, there are cases where the focus on enhancing reproducibility turns out not to foster high-quality research. Scientific communities and Open Science advocates should learn from inferential reasoning from irreproducible data, and promote incentives for all researchers to explicitly and publicly discuss (1) their methodological commitments, (2) the ways in which they learn from mistakes and problems in everyday practice, and (3) the strategies they use to choose which research component of any project needs to be preserved in the long term, and how.
The following small reflection was written around a year ago, but it has taken on new urgency for me with Nancy Moules’ (2017) and Kate Beamer’s (2017) writing late last year, and my own more recent (Jardine, 2018), slightly unexpected response.