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Until now during centuries of the history of western philosophical ideas the discourse of philosophy has lost
aspects of its traditional objects or subject-matter as other, new disciplines became differentiated from
philosophy, as new socio-cultural discourses with their own original areas of specialization and related practices
developed. Join us in this new adventure developing the ancient paths of philosophical method/the way.. of
doing philosophy and discover new fields, levels, dimensions and areas of it as you enter the reality of
theorizing the levels, features, dimensions and processes of theorizing.

But now, during the last decades, we have seen and experienced something completely different. This time the
differentiation does not concern subject-matter and the socio-cultural specialization does not merely represent
practices of new, original disciplines. No, this new, or rather not so new development as it commenced some
time ago as those involved in the archaeology of epistemology or knowledge are aware, does not concern the
subject-matter or objects of investigation of philosophy.

In all disciplines or discourses we find an area, if it is not, already, explicit, an explicit subject-matter of study,
then it is at least an assumed and underlying dimension, a tacit level, an essential implicit assumption or pre-
supposed transcendental. This area concerns the methodology of, the disciplines philosophy and assumptions
concerning its theorizing.

Many disciplines focus on teaching students and others that are initiated into the discipline theories (the
contents of theories) and more restricted models being employed in the discipline. Few disciplines, if any,
concentrate on the processes of how such theories come about, the ways, the styles, the processes how such
models are developed. In other words the processes involved in (different types of) theorizing, the steps and
stages in or of this theorizing, their nature, features, characteristics, levels and dimensions.

To be informed about some of the details concerning theorizing please see the articles I wrote about this topic

The title speaks for itself.

Other articles that should be read as background to this suggestion can be found here In some of them I deal with philosophy and cognitive

science and X-Phi or experimental and practical philosophy, as philosophy, philosophers (desperately) seek for
new subject-matter or objects of investigation for the philosophical enterprise.

To return to section 4, above. After having investigated the awareness of the processes of theorizing, theory-
building and construction (or more restricted models) in a number of disciplines, I noticed that most, if not all
students and even practitioners are unaware of the nature of the processes of theorizing. My suggestion is that
these things should be explored and taught as one of the basic of any discipline.

As explored by myself and some of those explorations as stated in the articles above, it seems to me that there
exist a strong resemblance between the doing of philosophy and different aspects, steps and stages of the

processes of theorizing. What is assumed as philosophical methodology and practised as philosophical methods
and techniques resemble certain features and aspects of theorizing, as particular steps of theorizing (for example
brainstorming, brain dump of data to be investigated), the continued analyses and development of concepts and
new terms (during most of the processes of theorizing), the drawing of conclusions (and working suggestions or
hypotheses) concerning these and other things, the development of problem statements to be investigated,
simulations and imaginary experiments with concepts and other phenomena, etc.

Philosophers select one or a few aspects of the processes of theorizing and treat them or employ them, in
isolation, as (if they are) the methods, the techniques, the tools and skills of doing philosophy.

These are some of the reasons why I suggested that the doing of philosophy, the processes of philosophizing,
resemble different aspects of theorizing, the processes of theorizing.


And, these are the reasons why I suggest that, philosophy, the doing of philosophy, philosophizing, now lost not
merely another aspect of its subject-matter or an object of philosophical investigation, but its rationale, the
reason for the existence of the discourse of philosophy, its methodology, methods, techniques and tools. These
things resemble, are features of, are employed by and as, and constitute the processes of theorizing. The new
discipline that is the transcendental of and underlies as implicit epistemological pre-supposition and ontological
and methodological assumption all disciplines.


The different steps or stages of the processes of theorizing overlap and they do not necessarily occur in a fixed
or linear order, as several of them can operate simultaneously. In the preceding sections for example I stated that
I am concerned with the collection of data, not all of which might be relevant to the present discussion. Thus the
selection of relevant data might occur at later stages, and I was already occupied with problem statements. That
is exploring which problems are relevant to this exploration and what the most appropriate ways are to express
them and therefore what the most meaningful concepts, notions, ideas or terms are to assist in the conceiving of
these problems. But, already a number of implicit assumptions were made and employed, as well as all sorts of
pre-suppositions and other types of transcendentals were operating so as to enable me to make express the
propositions and make the statements that I have been making.


Some issues or problems might be of primary importance while others occurring in the same context and
simultaneously might be of secondary or tertiary importance, while in other contexts and at other stages
theorizing the importance might be reversed. However, whatever the degree of importance the different issues
must be dealt with there and then. For example during the collecting of relevant data to identify and express the
problem statement/s, heuristically related issues might need to be considered. But that does not mean that such
issues could be dealt with once and for all, as they might recur in many other contexts and stages of theorizing.

Here are some features of heuristic techniques* that need to be kept in mind. A heuristic technique
(/hjrstk/; Ancient Greek: , "find" or "discover"), often called simply a
heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that
employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but
sufficient for the immediate goals. Where finding an optimal solution is
impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process
of finding a satisfactory solution. Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease
the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples of this method include using a
rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, stereotyping, profiling,
or common sense.

*Heuristics in judgment and decision making


In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules which people often use to form
judgments and make decisions. They are mental shortcuts that usually involve focusing
on one aspect of a complex problem and ignoring others.[1][2][3] These rules work well
under most circumstances, but they can lead to systematic deviations from logic,
probability or rational choice theory. The resulting errors are called "cognitive biases"
and many different types have been documented. These have been shown to affect
people's choices in situations like valuing a house, deciding the outcome of a legal case,
or making an investment decision. Heuristics usually govern automatic, intuitive
judgments but can also be used as deliberate mental strategies when working from
limited information.


1 Types

In their initial research, Tversky and Kahneman proposed three heuristics

availability, representativeness, and anchoring and adjustment.
Subsequent work has identified many more. Heuristics that underlie
judgment are called "judgment heuristics". Another type, called
"evaluation heuristics", are used to judge the desirability of possible

o 1.1 Availability

o 1.2 Representativeness

o 1.3 Anchoring and adjustment

o 1.4 Affect heuristic

o 1.5 Others




Control heuristic

Contagion heuristic

Effort heuristic

Familiarity heuristic

Fluency heuristic

Gaze heuristic

Hot-hand fallacy

Naive diversification

Peak-end rule

Recognition heuristic

Scarcity heuristic

Similarity heuristic

Simulation heuristic

Social proof

2 Theories

o 2.1 Cognitive laziness

o 2.2 Attribute substitution

o 2.3 Fast and frugal

3 Consequences

o 3.1 Efficient decision heuristics

o 3.2 "Beautiful-is-familiar" effect

o 3.3 Judgments of morality and fairness

o 3.4 Persuasion

4 See also

5 Footnotes

6 Citations

7 References

8 Further reading

9 External links


1 Overview

Heuristics are strategies derived from experience with similar problems, using readily
accessible, though loosely applicable, information to control problem solving in human
beings, machines, and abstract issues.[1][2]

The most fundamental heuristic is trial and error, which can be used in everything from
matching nuts and bolts to finding the values of variables in algebra problems.

Here are a few other commonly used heuristics, from George Plya's 1945 book, How to
Solve It:[3]

If you are having difficulty understanding a problem, try drawing a picture.

If you can't find a solution, try assuming that you have a solution and
seeing what you can derive from that ("working backward").

If the problem is abstract, try examining a concrete example.

Try solving a more general problem first (the "inventor's paradox": the
more ambitious plan may have more chances of success).

In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules, learned or hard-coded by evolutionary

processes, that have been proposed to explain how people make decisions, come to
judgments, and solve problems typically when facing complex problems or incomplete
information. Researchers test if people use those rules with various methods. These rules
work well under most circumstances, but in certain cases lead to systematic errors or
cognitive biases.[4]

2 History

o 2.1 Theorized psychological heuristics

2.1.1 Well known

Anchoring and adjustment Describes the common human tendency to

rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the "anchor")
when making decisions. For example, in a study done with children, the
children were told to estimate the number of jellybeans in a jar. Groups of
children were given either a high or low "base" number (anchor). Children
estimated the number of jellybeans to be closer to the anchor number that
they were given.[17]

Availability heuristic A mental shortcut that occurs when people make

judgments about the probability of events by the ease with which
examples come to mind. For example, in a 1973 Tversky & Kahneman
experiment, the majority of participants reported that there were more
words in the English language that start with the letter K than for which K

was the third letter. There are actually twice as many words in the English
Language that have K as the third letter as those that start with K, but
words that start with K are much easier to recall and bring to mind. [18]

Representativeness heuristic A mental shortcut used when making

judgments about the probability of an event under uncertainty. Or, judging
a situation based on how similar the prospects are to the prototypes the
person holds in his or her mind. For example, in a 1982 Tversky and
Kahneman experiment, participants were given a description of a woman
named Linda. Based on the description, it was likely that Linda was a
feminist. 8090% of participants, choosing from 2 options, chose that it
was also more likely for Linda to be: a feminist and a bank teller; than just
a bank teller. The likelihood of two events cannot be greater than that of
either of the two events individually. For this reason, the
representativeness heuristic is exemplary of the conjunction fallacy.[18]

Nave diversification When asked to make several choices at once,

people tend to diversify more than when making the same type of decision

Escalation of commitment Describes the phenomenon where people

justify increased investment in a decision, based on the cumulative prior
investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the cost, starting today,
of continuing the decision outweighs the expected benefit.

Familiarity heuristic A mental shortcut applied to various situations in

which individuals assume that the circumstances underlying the past
behavior still hold true for the present situation and that the past behavior
thus can be correctly applied to the new situation. Especially prevalent
when the individual experiences a high cognitive load.

2.1.2 Lesser known

Affect heuristic

Contagion heuristic

Effort heuristic

Fluency heuristic

Gaze heuristic

Peakend rule

Recognition heuristic

Scarcity heuristic

Similarity heuristic

Simulation heuristic

Social proof

Take-the-best heuristic

o 2.2 Cognitive maps

Heuristics were also found to be used in the manipulation and creation of cognitive
maps. Cognitive maps are internal representations of our physical environment,
particularly associated with spatial relationships. These internal representations of our
environment are used as memory as a guide in our external environment. It was found
that when questioned about maps imaging, distancing, etc., people commonly made
distortions to images. These distortions took shape in the regularization of images
(i.e., images are represented as more like pure abstract geometric images, though they
are irregular in shape).

There are several ways that humans form and use cognitive maps.

3 Philosophy

"Heuristic device" is used when an entity X exists to enable understanding of, or

knowledge concerning, some other entity Y. A good example is a model that, as it is
never identical with what it models, is a heuristic device to enable understanding of
what it models. Stories, metaphors, etc., can also be termed heuristic in that sense. A
classic example is the notion of utopia as described in Plato's best-known work, The
Republic. This means that the "ideal city" as depicted in The Republic is not given as
something to be pursued, or to present an orientation-point for development; rather, it
shows how things would have to be connected, and how one thing would lead to
another (often with highly problematic results), if one would opt for certain principles
and carry them through rigorously.

"Heuristic" is also often used as a noun to describe a rule-of-thumb, procedure, or

method.[20] Philosophers of science have emphasized the importance of heuristics in
creative thought and constructing scientific theories.[21] Roman Frigg and Stephan
Hartmann (2006). "Models in Science", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
ISSN 1095-5054

(See The Logic of Scientific Discovery, and philosophers such as Imre Lakatos,[22]
Lindley Darden, William C. Wimsatt, and others.)

4 Law

5 Stereotyping

6 See also

7 References

8 Further reading


I already dealt with the loss of subject-matter or objects of investigation by

philosophy in a previous articles. As I wish to make out a case that
philosophizing, the doing of philosophy resembles theorizing and therefore
philosophy no longer has a methodology of its own or unique methods,
techniques, tools and skills, but share these things with all theorizing, if referred
the reader to my previous articles on theory-construction and the processes of
theorizing. Just a few last words on these topics .

Models are of central importance in many scientific contexts. The centrality of models
such as the billiard ball model of a gas, the Bohr model of the atom, the MIT bag
model of the nucleon, the Gaussian-chain model of a polymer, the Lorenz model of
the atmosphere, the Lotka-Volterra model of predator-prey interaction, the double
helix model of DNA, agent-based and evolutionary models in the social sciences, and
general equilibrium models of markets in their respective domains are cases in point.
Scientists spend a great deal of time building, testing, comparing and revising models,
and much journal space is dedicated to introducing, applying and interpreting these
valuable tools. In short, models are one of the principal instruments of modern
Philosophers are acknowledging the importance of models with increasing attention
and are probing the assorted roles that models play in scientific practice. The result
has been an incredible proliferation of model-types in the philosophical literature.
Probing models, phenomenological models, computational models, developmental
models, explanatory models, impoverished models, testing models, idealized models,
theoretical models, scale models, heuristic models, caricature models, didactic
models, fantasy models, toy models, imaginary models, mathematical models,
substitute models, iconic models, formal models, analogue models and instrumental
models are but some of the notions that are used to categorize models. While at first
glance this abundance is overwhelming, it can quickly be brought under control by
recognizing that these notions pertain to different problems that arise in connection
with models. For example, models raise questions in semantics (what is the
representational function that models perform?), ontology (what kind of things are
models?), epistemology (how do we learn with models?), and, of course, in general
philosophy of science (how do models relate to theory?; what are the implications of a
model based approach to science for the debates over scientific realism, reductionism,
explanation and laws of nature?).

1. Semantics: Models and Representation

o 1.1 Representational models I: models of phenomena

o 1.2 Representational models II: models of data

o 1.3 Models of theory

2. Ontology: What Are Models?

o 2.1 Physical objects

o 2.2 Fictional objects

o 2.3 Set-theoretic structures

o 2.4 Descriptions

o 2.5 Equations

o 2.6 Gerrymandered ontologies

3. Epistemology: Learning with Models

o 3.1 Learning about the model: experiments, thought experiments

and simulation

o 3.2 Converting knowledge about the model into knowledge about

the target

4. Models and Theory

o 4.1 The two extremes: the syntactic and the semantic view of

o 4.2 Models as independent of theories

5. Models and Other Debates in the Philosophy of Science

o 5.1 Models and the realism versus antirealism debate

o 5.2 Model and reductionism

o 5.3 Models and laws of nature

o 5.4 Models and scientific explanation

6. Conclusion


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The Structure of Scientific Theories

First published Thu Mar 5, 2015

Scientific inquiry has led to immense explanatory and technological successes, partly as a
result of the pervasiveness of scientific theories. Relativity theory, evolutionary theory, and
plate tectonics were, and continue to be, wildly successful families of theories within physics,
biology, and geology. Other powerful theory clusters inhabit comparatively recent disciplines
such as cognitive science, climate science, molecular biology, microeconomics, and
Geographic Information Science (GIS). Effective scientific theories magnify understanding,
help supply legitimate explanations, and assist in formulating predictions. Moving from their
knowledge-producing representational functions to their interventional roles (Hacking 1983),
theories are integral to building technologies used within consumer, industrial, and scientific

This entry explores the structure of scientific theories from the perspective of the Syntactic,
Semantic, and Pragmatic Views. Each of these answers questions such as the following in
unique ways. What is the best characterization of the composition and function of scientific
theory? How is theory linked with world? Which philosophical tools can and should be
employed in describing and reconstructing scientific theory? Is an understanding of practice
and application necessary for a comprehension of the core structure of a scientific theory?
Finally, and most generally, how are these three views ultimately related?

1. Introduction

o 1.1 Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic Views: The Basics

o 1.2 Two Examples: Newtonian Mechanics and Population Genetics

2. The Syntactic View

o 2.1 Theory Structure per the Syntactic View

For the Syntactic View, the structure of a scientific theory is its reconstruction in terms of
sentences cast in a metamathematical language. Metamathematics is the axiomatic machinery
for building clear foundations of mathematics, and includes predicate logic, set theory, and
model theory (e.g., Zach 2009; Hacking 2014). A central question of the Syntactic View is: in
which logical language should we recast scientific theory? According to the Syntactic View,

which emerged mainly out of work of the Vienna Circle and Logical Empiricism (see Coffa
1991; Friedman 1999; Creath 2014; Uebel 2014), philosophy most generally practiced is, and
should be, the study of the logic of natural science, or Wissenschaftslogik (Carnap 1937,
1966; Hempel 1966). Robust and clear logical languages allow us to axiomatically
reconstruct theories, whichby the Syntacticists definitionare sets of sentences in a given
logical domain language (e.g., Campbell 1920, 122; Hempel 1958, 46; cf. Carnap 1967
[1928], 156, "Theses about the Constructional System"). Domain languages include the
language of physics, the language of anthropology (Carnap 1966, 58).

This view has been variously baptized as the Received View (Putnam 1962; Hempel 1970),
the Syntactic Approach (van Fraassen 1970, 1989), the Syntactic View (Wessels 1976), the
Standard Conception (Hempel 1970), the Orthodox View (Feigl 1970), the Statement View
(Moulines 1976, 2002; Stegmller 1976), the Axiomatic Approach (van Fraassen 1989), and
the Once Received View (Craver 2002). For historical reasons, and because of the linguistic
trichotomy discussed above, the Syntactic View shall be the name of choice in this entry.

2.1 Theory Structure per the Syntactic View

Some conceptual taxonomy is required in order to understand the logical framework of the
structure of scientific theories for the Syntactic View. We shall distinguish terms, sentences,
and languages (see Table 1).

2.1.1 Terms
Building upwards from the bottom, let us start with the three kinds of terms or vocabularies
contained in a scientific language: theoretical, logical, and observational. Examples of
theoretical terms are molecule, atom, proton, and protein, and perhaps even macro-
level objects and properties such as proletariat and aggregate demand. Theoretical terms
or concepts can be classificatory (e.g., cat or proton), comparative (e.g., warmer), or
quantitative (e.g., temperature) (Hempel 1952; Carnap 1966, Chapter 5). Moreover,
theoretical terms are theoretical constructs introduced jointly as a theoretical system
(Hempel 1952, 32). Logical terms include quantifiers (e.g., ,

) and connectives (e.g., ,

). Predicates such as hard, blue, and hot, and relations such as to the left of and
smoother than, are observational terms.

2.1.2 Sentences
Terms can be strung together into three kinds of sentences: theoretical, correspondence, and
observational. TS

is the set of theoretical sentences that are the axioms, theorems, and laws of the
theory. Theoretical sentences include the laws of Newtonian mechanics and of
the Kinetic Theory of Gases, all suitably axiomatized (e.g., Carnap 1966; Hempel
1966). Primitive theoretical sentences (e.g., axioms) can be distinguished from
derivative theoretical sentences (e.g., theorems; see Reichenbach 1969 [1924];
Hempel 1958; Feigl 1970). CS is the set of correspondence sentences tying

theoretical sentences to observable phenomena or to a piece of reality
(Reichenbach 1969 [1924], 8; cf. Einstein 1934, 1936 [1936], 351). To simplify,
they provide the theoretical syntax with an interpretation and an application, i.e.,
a semantics. Suitably axiomatized version of the following sentences provide
semantics to Boyles law, PV=nRT: V in Boyles law is equivalent to the
measurable volume xyz of a physical container such as a glass cube that is x, y,
and z centimeters in length, width, and height, and in which the gas measured is
contained and T in Boyles law is equivalent to the temperature indicated on a
reliable thermometer or other relevant measuring device properly calibrated,
attached to the physical system, and read. Carnap (1987 [1932], 466) presents
two examples of observational sentences, OS

: Here (in a laboratory on the surface of the earth) is a pendulum of such and such a kind,
and the length of the pendulum is 245.3 cm. Importantly, theoretical sentences can only
contain theoretical and logical terms; correspondence sentences involve all three kinds of
terms; and observational sentences comprise only logical and observational terms.

2.1.3 Languages
The total domain language of science consists of two languages: the theoretical language, LT

, and the observational language, LO

(e.g., Hempel 1966, Chapter 6; Carnap 1966, Chapter 23; the index entry for Language, of
Feigl, Scriven, and Maxwell 1958, 548 has three subheadings: observation, theoretical,
and ordinary). The theoretical language includes theoretical vocabulary, while the
observational language involves observational terms. Both languages contain logical terms.
Finally, the theoretical language includes, and is constrained by, the logical calculus, Calc, of
the axiomatic system adopted (e.g., Hempel 1958, 46; Suppe 1977, 50-53). This calculus
specifies sentence grammaticality as well as appropriate deductive and non-ampliative
inference rules (e.g., modus ponens) pertinent to, especially, theoretical sentences. Calc can
itself be written in theoretical sentences.

2.1.4 Theory Structure, in General

Table 1 summarizes the Syntactic Views account of theory structure:

Table 1

Theory Observation

Sentence Type TS



Term (or Theoretical & Theoretical, logical & Observational &

vocabulary) logical observational logical

Language LT


& LO


The salient divide is between theory and observation. Building on Table 1, there are three
different levels of scientific knowledge, according to the Syntactic View:


The uninterpreted syntactic system of the scientific theory.

{TS,CS}= The scientific theory structure of a particular domain (e.g., physics,

All of the science of a particular domain.

Scientific theory is thus taken to be a syntactically formulated set of theoretical sentences

(axioms, theorems, and laws) together with their interpretation via correspondence sentences.
As we have seen, theoretical sentences and correspondence sentences are cleanly distinct,
even if both are included in the structure of a scientific theory.

o 2.2 A Running Example: Newtonian Mechanics

o 2.3 Interpreting Theory Structure per the Syntactic View

o 2.4 Taking Stock: Syntactic View

o To summarize, the Syntactic View holds that there are three kinds of
terms or vocabularies: logical, theoretical, and observational; three
kinds of sentences: TS, CS, and OS; and two languages: LT and LO.
Moreover, the structure of scientific theories could be analyzed
using the logical tools of metamathematics. The goal is to
reconstruct the logic of science, viz. to articulate an axiomatic

3. The Semantic View

o 3.1 Theory Structure per the Semantic View

o Some defenders of the Semantic View keep important aspects of
this reconstructive agenda, moving the metamathematical
apparatus from predicate logic to set theory. Other advocates of the
Semantic View insist that the structure of scientific theory is solely
mathematical. They argue that we should remain at the
mathematical level, rather than move up (or down) a level, into
foundations of mathematics. A central question for the Semantic
View is: which mathematical models are actually used in science?

The link between theory structure and the world, under the Syntactic View, is
contained in the theory itself: CS

, the set of correspondence rules. The term correspondence rules (Margenau 1950; Nagel
1961, 97105; Carnap 1966, Chapter 24) has a variety of near-synonyms:

1. Dictionary (Campbell 1920)

2. Operational rules (Bridgman 1927)

3. Coordinative definitions (Reichenbach 1969 [1924], 1938)

4. Reduction sentences (Carnap 1936/1937; Hempel 1952)

5. Correspondence postulates (Carnap 1963)

6. Bridge principles (Hempel 1966; Kitcher 1984)

7. Reduction functions (Schaffner 1969, 1976)

8. Bridge laws (Sarkar 1998)

Important differences among these terms cannot be mapped out here. However, in order to
better understand correspondence rules, two of their functions will be considered: (i) theory
interpretation (Carnap, Hempel) and (ii) theory reduction (Nagel, Schaffner). The dominant
perspective on correspondence rules is that they interpret theoretical terms. Unlike
mathematical theories, the axiomatic system of physics cannot have a splendid isolation
from the world (Carnap 1966, 237). Instead, scientific theories require observational
interpretation through correspondence rules. Even so, surplus meaning always remains in the
theoretical structure (Hempel 1958, 87; Carnap 1966). Second, correspondence rules are seen
as necessary for inter-theoretic reduction (van Riel and Van Gulick 2014). For instance, they
connect observation terms such as temperature in phenomenological thermodynamics (the
reduced theory) to theoretical concepts such as mean kinetic energy in statistical mechanics
(the reducing theory). Correspondence rules unleash the reducing theorys epistemic power.
Notably, Nagel (1961, Chapter 11; 1979) and Schaffner (1969, 1976, 1993) allow for multiple
kinds of correspondence rules, between terms of either vocabulary, in the reducing and the
reduced theory (cf. Callender 1999; Winther 2009; Dizadji-Bahmani, Frigg, and Hartmann
2010). Correspondence rules are a core part of the structure of scientific theories and serve as
glue between theory and observation.

Finally, while they are not part of the theory structure, and although we saw some examples
above, observation sentences are worth briefly reviewing. Correspondence rules attach to the
content of observational sentences. Observational sentences were analyzed as (i) protocol
sentences or Protokollstze (e.g., Schlick 1934; Carnap 1987 [1932], 1937, cf. 1963; Neurath
1983 [1932]), and as (ii) experimental laws (e.g., Campbell 1920; Nagel 1961; Carnap 1966;
cf. Duhem 1954 [1906]).

o 3.2 A Running Example: Newtonian Mechanics

o 3.3 Interpreting Theory Structure per the Semantic View

o 3.4 Taking Stock: Semantic View

o In short, committing to either a state-space or a set-/model-

theoretic view on theory structure does not imply any particular
perspective on theory interpretation (e.g., hierarchy of models,
similarity, embedding). Instead, commitments to the former are
logically and actually separable from positions on the latter (e.g.,
Suppes and Suppe endorse different accounts of theory structure,
but share an understanding of theory interpretation in terms of a
hierarchy of models). The Semantic View is alive and well as a
family of analyses of theory structure, and continues to be
developed in interesting ways both in its state-space and
set-/model-theoretic approaches.

4. The Pragmatic View

o 4.1 Theory Structure per the Pragmatic View

o Finally, for the Pragmatic View, scientific theory is internally and

externally complex. Mathematical components, while often present,
are neither necessary nor sufficient for characterizing the core
structure of scientific theories. Theory also consists of a rich variety
of nonformal components (e.g., analogies and natural kinds). Thus,
the Pragmatic View argues, a proper analysis of the grammar
(syntax) and meaning (semantics) of theory must pay heed to
scientific theory complexity, as well as to the multifarious
assumptions, purposes, values, and practices informing theory. A
central question the Pragmatic View poses is: which theory
components and which modes of theorizing are present in scientific
theories found across a variety of disciplines?

The Pragmatic View recognizes that a number of assumptions about scientific theory seem to
be shared by the Syntactic and Semantic Views. Both perspectives agree, very roughly, that
theory is (1) explicit, (2) mathematical, (3) abstract, (4) systematic, (5) readily
individualizable, (6) distinct from data and experiment, and (7) highly explanatory and
predictive (see Flyvbjerg 2001, 3839; cf. Dreyfus 1986). The Pragmatic View imagines the
structure of scientific theories rather differently, arguing for a variety of theses:

1. Limitations. Idealized theory structure might be too weak to ground the
predictive and explanatory work syntacticists and semanticists expect of it
(e.g., Cartwright 1983, 1999a, b; Morgan and Morrison 1999; Surez and
Cartwright 2008).

2. Pluralism. Theory structure is plural and complex both in the sense of

internal variegation and of existing in many types. In other words, there is
an internal pluralism of theory (and model) components (e.g.,
mathematical concepts, metaphors, analogies, ontological assumptions,
values, natural kinds and classifications, distinctions, and policy views,
e.g., Kuhn 1970; Boumans 1999), as well as a broad external pluralism of
different types of theory (and models) operative in science (e.g.,
mechanistic, historical, and mathematical models, e.g., Hacking 2009,
Longino 2013; Winther 2012b). Indeed, it may be better to speak of the
structures of scientific theories, in the double-plural.

3. Nonformal aspects. The internal pluralism of theory structure (thesis #2)

includes many nonformal aspects deserving attention. That is, many
components of theory structure, such as metaphors, analogies, values,
and policy views have a non-mathematical and informal nature, and
they lie implicit or hidden (e.g., Bailer-Jones 2002; Craver 2002; Contessa
2006; Winther 2006a; Morgan 2012). Interestingly, the common
understanding of formal, which identifies formalization with
mathematization, may itself be a conceptual straightjacket; the term could
be broadened to include diagram abstraction and principle extraction
(e.g., Griesemer 2013, who explicitly endorses what he also calls a
Pragmatic View of Theories).

4. Function. Characterizations of the nature and dynamics of theory structure

should pay attention to the user as well as to purposes and values (e.g.,
Apostel 1960; Minsky 1965; Morrison 2007; Winther 2012a).

5. Practice. Theory structure is continuous with practice and the

experimental life, making it difficult to neatly dichotomize theory and
practice (e.g., Hacking 1983, 2009; Shapin and Schaffer 1985; Galison
1987, 1988, 1997; Surez and Cartwright 2008).

These are core commitments of the Pragmatic View.

It is important to note at the outset that the Pragmatic View takes its name from the linguistic
trichotomy discussed above, in the Introduction. This perspective need not imply
commitment to, or association with, American Pragmatism (e.g. the work of Charles S.
Peirce, William James, or John Dewey; cf. Hookway 2013; Richardson 2002). For instance,
Hacking (2007a) distinguishes his pragmatic attitudes from the school of Pragmatism. He
maps out alternative historical routes of influence, in general and on him, vis--vis fallibilism
(via Imre Lakatos, Karl Popper; Hacking 2007a, 1), historically conditioned truthfulness
(via Bernard Williams; Hacking 2007a, 3), and realism as intervening (via Francis Everitt,
Melissa Franklin; Hacking 2007a, 4). To borrow a term from phylogenetics, the Pragmatic
View is polyphyletic. The components of its analytical framework have multiple,
independent origins, some of which circumnavigate American Pragmatism.

o 4.2 A Running Example: Newtonian Mechanics

o 4.3 Interpreting Theory Structure per the Pragmatic View

o 4.4 Taking Stock: Pragmatic View

The analytical framework of the Pragmatic View remains under construction. The
emphasis is on internal diversity, and on the external pluralism of models and
theories, of modeling and theorizing, and of philosophical analyses of scientific
theories. The Pragmatic View acknowledges that scientists use and need different
kinds of theories for a variety of purposes. There is no one-size-fits-all structure of
scientific theories. Notably, although the Pragmatic View does not necessarily endorse
the views of the tradition of American Pragmatism, it has important resonances with
the latter schools emphasis on truth and knowledge as processual, purposive,
pluralist, and context-dependent, and on the social and cognitive structure of scientific

A further qualification in addition to the one above regarding American Pragmatism is

in order. The Pragmatic View has important precursors in the historicist or world
view perspectives of Feyerabend, Hanson, Kuhn, and Toulmin, which were an
influential set of critiques of the Syntactic View utterly distinct from the Semantic
View. This philosophical tradition focused on themes such as meaning change and
incommensurability of terms across world views (e.g., paradigms), scientific change
(e.g., revolutionary: Kuhn 1970; evolutionary: Toulmin 1972), the interweaving of
context of discovery and context of justification, and scientific rationality (Preston
2012; Bird 2013; Swoyer 2014). The historicists also opposed the idea that theories
can secure meaning and empirical support from a theory-neutral and purely
observational source, as the Syntactic View had insisted on with its strong distinction
between theoretical and observational vocabularies (cf. Galison 1988). Kuhns
paradigms or, more precisely, disciplinary matrices even had an internal anatomy
with four components: (i) laws or symbolic generalizations, (ii) ontological
assumptions, (iii) values, and (iv) exemplars (Kuhn 1970, postscript; Godfrey-Smith
2003; Hacking 2012). This work was concerned more with theory change than with
theory structure and had fewer conceptual resources from sociology of science and
history of science than contemporary Pragmatic View work. Moreover, paradigms
never quite caught on the way analyses of models and modeling have. Even so, this
work did much to convince later scholars, including many of the Pragmatic View, of
certain weaknesses in understanding theories as deductive axiomatic structures.

5. Population Genetics

6. Conclusion


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The discussion to follow describes some of the dominant claims, commitments, and forms
that naturalistic epistemology, so understood, has taken, and specific examples of such
naturalistic views. As well, both the principal motivations for and the major objections to NE
will be discussed. Finally (and, in some cases, along the way), we will briefly consider the
relation between NE and some other recent and important subjects, positions, and
developmentssome of them just as controversial as NE itself. These include externalism,
experimental philosophy, social epistemology, feminist epistemology, evolutionary
epistemology, and debates about the nature of (epistemic) rationality.

1. General Orientation

o 1.1 Some key features of TE

o 1.2 NE: Some key forms and themes

o 1.3 NE: A brief note on the pre-Quinean history

2. Epistemology Naturalized

3. Critical Reactions to Quine

o 3.1 Five objections

o 3.2 Some responses, and further clarification of the issues

4. Epistemology as Thoroughly Empirical

o 4.1 Knowledge and Epistemology

o 4.2 Epistemic Normativity

o 4.3 Intuitions and the A Priori

5. A Moderate Naturalism

o 5.1 Conceptual Analysis, Intuitions, and Epistemological


o 5.2 Intuitions, Norms, Experiments

6. Other Topics and Approaches

o 6.1 Social epistemology

o 6.2 Feminist epistemology

6.3 Rationality debates


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The naturalistic turn that has swept so many areas of philosophy over the past three
decades has also had an impact in the last decade in legal philosophy. Methodological
naturalists (M-naturalists) view philosophy as continuous with empirical inquiry in the
sciences. Some M-naturalists want to replace conceptual and justificatory theories with
empirical and descriptive theories; they take their inspiration from more-or-less Quinean
arguments against conceptual analysis and foundationalist programs. Other M-naturalists
retain the normative and regulative ambitions of traditional philosophy, but emphasize that it
is an empirical question what normative advice is actually useable and effective for creatures
like us. Some M-naturalists are also substantive naturalists (S-naturalists). Ontological S-
naturalism is the view that there exist only natural or physical things; semantic S-naturalism
is the view that a suitable philosophical analysis of any concept must show it to be amenable
to empirical inquiry. Each of these varieties of naturalism has applications in legal
philosophy. Replacement forms of M-naturalism hold that: (1) conceptual analysis of the
concept of law should be replaced by reliance on the best social scientific explanations of
legal phenomena, and (2) normative theories of adjudication should be replaced by empirical
theories. These views are associated with American Legal Realism and Brian Leiter's
reinterpretation of Realism. Normative M-naturalists, by contrast, inspired and led by Alvin
Goldman, seek to bring empirical results to bear on philosophical and foundational questions
about adjudication, the legal rules of evidence and discovery, the adversarial process, and so
forth. An older form of S-naturalism in legal philosophy, associated by H.L.A. Hart with
Scandinavian Legal Realism, seeks a reduction of legal concepts to behavioral and
psychological categories. More recent forms of S-naturalism, associated with a revival of a
kind of natural law theory defended by David Brink and Michael Moore (among others),
applies the new or causal theory of reference to questions of legal interpretation,
including the interpretation of moral concepts as they figure in legal rules.

1. Varieties of Naturalism

2. Replacement Naturalism I: Against Conceptual Analysis

3. Replacement Naturalism II: American Legal Realism

4. Normative Naturalism

5. Substantive Naturalism


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Please be aware, take note of the fact, that when you do conceptual analysis you actually are involved in the
entire process of theorizing, but that you do it selectively by concentrating on only one step (and its intra-
contexts), and just one of the activities that constitute theorizing, theory-making or constitution. So please be
aware of the existence of the entire process of theorizing, - building or construction. The same does for those
who are involved in Continental philosophy. You skip many steps or stages of theorizing and go straight to
expressing different types of claims, remarks, statements and the drawing of conclusions. You for example skip
many steps in the process of theorizing, for example surveying the field of relevant concepts, the creation of
problems statements, testing such statements, the development of alternative hypotheses or generalizations etc.

In a sense one can conceive of the different stages from the conception and statement of the problem to the
drawing of conclusions, testing hypotheses etc as lying on a continuum. But the continuum or continuums in
this case lies on many levels and criss-cross between these levels and contexts on them. Simultaneously the
continuums consists of or involve many dimensions, with their intra-contexts, that you will be involved in even
though you might be unaware of it. And, please inform yourself about the intricacies of a) heuristics and b) the
differences between models and theories, as you will have to know about these things when you are involved in
the doing of philosophizing, nay theorizing.


I already dealt with the subject-matter of the socio-cultural practice of philosophy in another article and the fact
that over time during Western intellectual history the philosophical discourse lost many of its fields of study or
areas of its subject matter. I will therefore not deal with this subject again in detail, but quote a few references.

And what holds for clouds holds for anything whose boundaries look less clear
the closer you look at it. And that includes just about every kind of object we
normally think about, including humans. Although this seems to be a merely
technical puzzle, even a triviality, a surprising range of proposed solutions has
emerged, many of them mutually inconsistent. It is not even settled whether a
solution should come from metaphysics, or from philosophy of language, or from
logic. Here we survey the options, and provide several links to the many topics
related to the Problem.

Ive been thinking a bit about the arbitrariness of the boundaries around philosophy. This is
part of my general concern with trying to think historically (or sociologically) about
contemporary philosophy.

I think its beyond dispute that there are, as a matter of fact, some boundaries. For instance,
work in sports analytics isnt part of philosophy. I wouldnt publish a straightforward study in
sports analytics in a philosophy journal, and I wouldnt hire someone to an open philosophy
position if all their work was in sports analytics. And I think just about everyone in the
profession shares these dispositions.

In saying all this, there are a number of things Im not saying.

He then states fields that he considers to be related to philosophy. Posted on 1 April, 2014
by Brian Weatherson

Arbitrary Boundaries in Academia

Ive been thinking a bit about the arbitrariness of the boundaries around philosophy. This is
part of my general concern with trying to think historically (or sociologically) about
contemporary philosophy.

I think its beyond dispute that there are, as a matter of fact, some boundaries. For instance,
work in sports analytics isnt part of philosophy. I wouldnt publish a straightforward study in
sports analytics in a philosophy journal, and I wouldnt hire someone to an open philosophy
position if all their work was in sports analytics. And I think just about everyone in the
profession shares these dispositions.

In saying all this, there are a number of things Im not saying.

1. Im not saying that philosophy is irrelevant to sports analytics. Indeed, some of the biggest
debates in sports analytics have been influenced by familiar epistemological arguments.
2. Im not saying that sports analytics is irrelevant to philosophy. If someone wanted to use a
case study from recent debates in sports analytics to make a point in social epistemology, that
could be great philosophy. (Im sort of tempted to write such a paper myself.) But something
can be relevant to philosophy without being philosophy. (As a corrollary to that, Im not
saying that there couldnt be any point to a course on sports analytics in a philosophy
department. Perhaps if it was a great case study, more philosophers would need to learn the
background to the case.)
3. Im not saying there could not be something like philosophy of sports analytics. I dont
know what such a thing would be it feels like it reduces to familiar applied epistemology
but someone could try it.
4. Im not saying work in sports analytics is no good. Indeed, I think some of it is great.
5. Im not saying sports analytics doesnt belong in the academy. As a matter of fact, there
isnt anywhere it happily lives. But if David Romer and others succeed in making it part of
economics, or Brayden King makes it part of management studies, Ill be really happy.
6. And Im not saying there is some special thing that philosophy timelessly or essentially is
that excludes sports analytics. Indeed, the rest of this post is going to be sort of an argument
against this view.

But even with all those negative points made, I think it is still pretty clear that philosophy as
it is currently constituted does actually exclude sports analytics.

Thats all background to a couple of questions I would be interested in hearing peoples

thoughts about.

He then states fields that he considers to be part of philosophy or at least inter-disciplinary -

1. What are the most closely related pairs of fields you know about such that one of the pair
is in philosophy (in the above sense), and the other is not?
2. What fields are most distant from philosophy as it is currently practiced, but you think
could easily have been in philosophy in a different history?

My answers are below the fold.

For 1, I have two answers:

Decision theory (in) Game theory (out)

Semantics (in) Syntax (out)

Of course both game theory and syntax are relevant to philosophy, and are influenced by
things that are parts of philosophy. But I dont see many people in philosophy journals,
philosophy departments, or philosophy conferences, doing straight up work in those fields.

He continues on game theory and then turns to syntax and semantics I wont go over the
point at the same length, but I think the same is true of syntax and semantics. Loads of
philosophers (including me!) do work in semantics. And much of that work is inspired, or
guided, by work in syntax. But very few philosophers (at least to my knowledge) have made
contributions to syntax, or have written papers that would happily appear in a syntax journal.

To be fair, that last paragraph does rest on a somewhat arbitrary drawing of the
syntax/semantics boundary. We could draw that boudnary so that Jason Stanleys work on
unarticulated constituents, or Delia Graff Faras work on analysing names and descriptions as
predicates as contributions to syntax. I dont think theres any sharp line, or natural joint
around here. But I do think that as you go along the continuum between clearly semantic
work, and clearly syntactic work, the representation of philosophers drops dramatically.

These are meant to be dated observations. Perhaps in five or ten years time, the world will
look very different. And perhaps Im wrong that the boundaries here are arbitrary; maybe
there is a good reason why we philosophers should be interested in decision theory but not
game theory, or the meaning of the but not the conditions of well-formedness for questions
in various languages. But they seem like pretty arbitrary distinctions to me.

To me these problems or issues are not merely the fault of philosophy but involve socio-
cultural factors. Philosophy alone does not draw limits or boundaries to what is included or
excluded in its discourse, there are many other factors involved. Some of them might well
concern the self-definition or perception of philosophy, its nature and subject-matter. He
then concludes his questions concerning the boundaries of philosophy by mentioning
Shakespeare Question two is harder, but heres my wildly uninformed guess: Shakespeare.
I think its easy to imagine a world where historians of ideas were very interested in
Shakespeares implicit theory of mind, and theory of virtue, and on how this influenced other
writers on these topics, especially English-language writers. And in that world, we might see
much more discussion of Shakespeare as part of the discussion of the bridge between
medieval and early modern philosophy. (Of course, this would require more discussion of this

bridge than some departments are prepared to engage in, but thats another matter.) But as
easy as this world is to imagine, its not our world.

So, what do you think? Where, if any, are there sharp but arbitrary boundaries drawn around
the discipline? And what accidents of history have left us as a profession far removed from
fields of study we might otherwise have been in greater contact with?

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Klaas Kraay pointed out that Im wrong about how far
removed from academic philosophy the study of Shakespeare is. In fact, there is an upcoming
conference on Shakespeare: The Philosopher. I didnt expect to be so dramatically wrong
about that answer!

The above concerns the subject-matter to be included or not to be included in the discourse of
philosophy. My concern in this article is less about philosophical subject-matter and more
about its methods, techniques and tools, but I present ideas of a few other individuals on this
subject, concerning the object of investigation of philosophy.

Different or a plurality of worlds, that the author considers to be a monstrosity, but what
about multiverse/s? Lewiss
masterpiece On the Plurality of Worlds to be an argument for the plurality of worlds. And this
clearly is the exoteric meaning of Lewiss text. But could a thinker of Lewiss quality really
have believed in this metaphysical monstrosity? It is hard to credit. The real meaning must
lay deeper.

For a long time I thought that the book was obviously an argument for the existence of God.
Lewis conspicuously fails to discuss theological ersatzism the view that ersatz possible
worlds are really constituents of the mind of God. Given the devastating attacks Lewis
launches on rival theories, and the utter implausibility of Lewiss preferred alternative, I
thought the esoteric message was clear. Philosophy needs a theory of modality. Theological
ersatzism is the only viable theory of modality, the others being disposed of in Lewiss book.
Theological ersatzism needs God. Hence God exists. A fittingly impressive argument for a
great thinkers masterpiece. The clue I missed was from the paper Putnams Paradox.
Lewis ever so clearly lays out Putnams paradoxical argument for anti-realism. And then, in
his customary fashion, provides a solution so outlandish that the trained scholar is clearly
meant to reject it. He even acknowledges that the solution bears the trademarks of medieval
scholastic corruption of Greek thought.

This paper poses a puzzle though. Why, if Lewis thought Putnams argument was sound, is he
so hostile to Putnam in the paper? Returning to Plurality makes everything clear. As the title
of Part 2, Paradox in Paradise indicates, Lewis thinks the paradox spreads throughout
paradise, and infects all talk related to modality. And as he says in Part 1, ever so slyly using
the literal voice, this covers all manner of things philosophers care to think about. Putnams
error, Lewis is saying, was to not see how far his anti-realist argument spreads. Plurality,
when read in light of Putnams Paradox argues for anti-realism about modality, and hence for
all of metaphysics.

This clearly rebounds on the theological argument above. For if God exists, then theological
ersatzism is true, and hence a (reductive) realism about modality is correct. But we should be
anti-realists about modality, so we must be anti-realists about theology.

That line of reasoning seemed compelling, but it was delicate enough that I would have expected Lewis to offer
some kind of confirmation that it was correct. And he does in Evil for Freedoms Sake. There he argues that the
various realist positions on God, classical theism and atheism, are reduced to an indecorous squabble over
burdens of proof. The clear message is that the Putnamian anti-realism he defended in Putnams Paradox and
expanded upon in Plurality should be extended to theology. David Lewis, Putnam's paradox -

Putnam's paradox - MIT's%20Paradox.pdf
Perhaps Putnam has chosen to underplay his hand. Perhaps he does think of the
model-theoretic argument as showing that our total accepted theory cannot be
false, whether or not it is ideal (unless it is inconsistent, or the world is too

[PDF]Putnam's Paradox - Princeton University
by BC van Fraassen - Cited by 40 - Related articles

David Lewis isolated one argument and called it "Putnam's Paradox".2 That
argument is clear and concise; so is the paradoxical conclusion it purports to
demonstrate; and so is Lewis' paradox- avoiding solution.

Skolem's Paradox (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Jump to Putnam's Model-Theoretic Argument - Putnam's general goal in the
model-theoretic argument ... has three connections to Skolem's Paradox.

A Quick Reply to Putnam's Paradox - Mind
by T Chambers - 2000 - Cited by 11 - Related articles
A Quick Reply to Putnam's Paradox. TIMOTHY CHAMBERS. The aim of Putnam's
model-theoretic argumentdubbed Putnam's Par- adox by David Lewisis ...

[PDF]Lecture 5: Leibniz equivalence and Putnam's paradox - Oliver Pooley
O Pooley, HT 2003. Lecture 5: Leibniz equivalence and Putnam's paradox. 5.1
Recap: Responses to the hole argument. Let M1 = M,g,T and M2 = M,d.

RietdijkPutnam argument - Wikipedia
In philosophy, the RietdijkPutnam argument, named after C. W. Rietdijk and
Hilary Putnam, ... The "paradox" consists of two observers who are in the same

place and at the same instant having different sets of events in their "present

Putnam's Paradox - Neurath's Boat
Mar 9, 2006 - In his discussion of Putnam's paradox, David Lewis wonders briefly
why Putnam supposes that only an ideal theory is guaranteed reference ...

What is Putnam's Paradox?: Philosophy Forums

Philosophy Forums Forums | Articles | Links | Gallery. Options Members

Calendar Latest Chat Help Log In Register. Username Password Login Forgot your He is probably best

known for his controversial modal realist stance: that (i) possible worlds exist, (ii)
every possible world is a concrete entity, (iii) any possible world is causally and
spatiotemporally isolated from any other possible world, and (iv) our world is
among the possible worlds.

Putnam's Paradox
So I've been thinking about this recently for some reason (I guess I'm always thinking about issues surrounding
realism and anti-realism). In his discussion of Putnam's paradox, David Lewis wonders briefly why Putnam
supposes that only an ideal theory is guaranteed reference and truth, when a version of the model theoretic
argument can show that any theory is guaranteed reference and truth. He supposes that Putnam is assuming that
our theories are forward-looking, so that their intended interpretations are as according to some future ideal

This seems obviously right to me. However, I think it shouldn't have been that hard to get to that point. The
lesson Lewis ultimately draws from Putnam's paradox is that global descriptivism can't work; the meanings of
the entirety of our language and theories can't be determined by picking what would make them as true as
possible, because a cunning interpretation can make virtually any theory true of virtually anything. This is
despite Lewis's enthusiasm for local descriptivism; for individual words and concepts, it is a good approach to
interpret them to refer to whatever makes the most, or at least the most important, of our beliefs about them true.

That strikes me as absolutely the point of Putnam's paradox. We can always interpret some part of our theory in
light of other parts of our theory. This is surely why Putnam only draws the conclusion that an ideal theory must
be true. Any less than ideal theory can always be interpreted in terms of future, more extensive theories, and
can turn out to be partly wrong on the basis of that latter interpretation; only a theory that is as inclusive as
possible is immune to being so interpreted by further theory.

Of course, from the conclusion that global descriptivism is false, Lewis moves on to maintain that we need some
constraints on interpretation beyond making our theory, whatever it is, come out as true as possible. Infamously,
he maintains that theories should be interpreted as much as possible as referring to his perfectly natural
properties and things which are built out of them. The Canberra Credo maintains that Lewis was right about
pretty much everything, except modal realism. If I were to construct a credo, it would say that Lewis was right
about pretty much everything, except perfectly natural properties.

Instead, I would say that it makes no sense to try to interpret a complete, ideal theory; all interpretation is
internal to our theorizing, and whenever we're evaluating some theory, it is always in light of some further
theoretical commitments. I take it that this was the real point of Putnam's internal realism, as well as the old
Logical Positivist rejection of metaphysics (I assume Putnam's "internal realism" terminology came from
Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions; Carnap of course rejected external questions).

I should probably look up van Fraassen's paper on Putnam's paradox as well. I'm usually in sympathy with van

March 09, 2006 in Metaphysics | Permalink

For a time, under the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein, he adopted a pluralist view of philosophy itself and
came to view most philosophical problems as nothing more than conceptual or linguistic confusions created by
philosophers by using ordinary language out of its original context. Putnam, H. (1997). "A Half Century of
Philosophy, Viewed from Within". Daedalus. 126 (1): 175208. JSTOR 20027414.

See the following article for subject-matter taught as/under philosophy at Michigan -


Empty Ideas: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy
Oxford University Press, 2014 - Analysis (Philosophy) - 258 pages

Peter Unger's provocative new book poses a serious challenge to contemporary analytic
philosophy, arguing that to its detriment it focuses the predominance of its energy on "empty

In the mid-twentieth century, philosophers generally agreed that, by contrast with science,
philosophy should offer no substantial thoughts about the general nature of concrete reality.
Leading philosophers were concerned with little more than the semantics of ordinary words.
For example: Our word "perceives" differs from our word "believes" in that the first word is
used more strictly than the second. While someone may be correct in saying "I believe there's a
table before me" whether or not there is a table before her, she will be correct in saying "I
perceive there's a table before me" only if there is a table there. Though just a parochial idea,
whether or not it is correct does make a difference to how things are with concrete reality. In
Unger's terms, it is a concretely substantial idea. Alongside each such parochial substantial
idea, there is an analytic or conceptual thought, as with the thought that someone may believe
there is a table before her whether or not there is one, but she will perceive there is a table
before her only if there is a table there. Empty of import as to how things are with concrete
reality, those thoughts are what Unger calls concretely empty ideas.

It is widely assumed that, since about 1970, things had changed thanks to the advent of such
thoughts as the content externalism championed by Hilary Putnam and Donald Davidson,
various essentialist thoughts offered by Saul Kripke, and so on. Against that assumption,
Unger argues that, with hardly any exceptions aside from David Lewis's theory of a plurality
of concrete worlds, all of these recent offerings are concretely empty ideas. Except when
offering parochial ideas, Peter Unger maintains that mainstream philosophy still offers hardly
anything beyond concretely empty ideas.

I have already dealt with Philosophy and X-Phi , philosophy seeking for subject-matter in the
fields of experimental philosophy, so I merely lists a few references here. I quote the entire
firat article as it sums up for those new to the subject much of what is going on there.

Should Philosophy Be Experimental? The Brains Blog

Mar 9, 2006 - Experimental philosophy is a recent philosophical movement. In spite of the

name, its proponents do not attempt to do philosophy by ...

Should Philosophy Be Experimental?

Gualtiero Piccinini March 9, 2006 academia / Miscellaneous

Experimental philosophy is a recent philosophical movement. In spite of the name, its

proponents do not attempt to do philosophy by conducting experiments. Strictly speaking, they
dont conduct experiments at all (at least in the literature Ive read).

They conduct surveys, however, in which they ask for subjects opinions on a variety of
philosophically relevant subjects. Examples include whether certain actions are intentional or
which of two people a name refers to (e.g., assuming that the true discoverer of the
incompleteness of arithmetic was not named Gdel, does Gdel now refer to the person

who stole the theorems proof and who was named Gdel or to the proofs true author?).
The results of these surveys may be used as data for theories of peoples concepts and
cognitive processes. They may also be used as data to test philosophical accounts of various
folk notions, such as reference and intentional actions. So far, this sounds like a careful
methodology for conceptual analysis (a traditional philosophical enterprise) or cognitive
science (an enterprise to which philosophers traditionally participate).

Some experimental philosophers draw stronger conclusions. They reject conceptual analysis.
For folk intuitions appear to be more variable and less stable than is often assumed. In other
words, different people have different folk notions, or they easily change them depending on
contextual factors. Hence, some experimental philosophers maintain, philosophers have little
business in offering conceptual analyses of folk notions and drawing philosophical
conclusions from them.

(Of course, there are philosophers who reached similar conclusions about the instability of
certain intuitions without conducting rigorous surveys (e.g., Peter Unger, in his book
Philosophical Relativity). But at the very least, its good to replace softer data with harder
ones. When it comes to folk intuitions, experimental philosophers data are harder than most
other philosophers.)

Given all this, experimental philosophy is controversial, and for good reasons. I, for one, have
heard exaggerated claims about the consequences of their work. (For instance, by my friend
Edouard Machery when he gave a talk in Barcelona.)

The rejection of conceptual analysis may be taken too far. Even if folk intuitions are unstable,
there is still room for analyzing concepts, provided that one is careful about what one is
analyzing and what follows from it.

A perfect example of an overly strong conclusion drawn from conceptual analysis is David
Chalmerss dualism. Chalmers argues that phenomenal consciousness cannot be physical, and
an important premise in his arguments is that our folk notion of consciousness cannot be
analyzed in physical (or functional) terms. But at most, this argument shows a limitation of our
(current) folk notion. It doesnt show anything about consciousness itself. If folk notions turn
out to be variable and unstable, it is all the more dangerous to draw strong metaphysical
conclusions from their analysis.

Nevertheless, experimental philosophy does not undermine more modest analytical projects.
In fact, the work of experimental philosophers may be used as a more sophisticated evidential
basis for certain kinds of conceptual analyses.

Whether or not you agree with any of the above, I hope this brief discussion shows that
experimental philosophy is interesting and valuable, and cannot be summarily dismissed.

But recently, experimental philosophy made it into a Slate article. You may want to forgive the
journalist for not capturing every wrinkle in the philosophical debate. But the article ticked off
David Velleman, who posted an unpleasant comment on Left2Right. Velleman wrote, roughly
speaking, that experimental philosophy is trivial, and its not even philosophy. Since Velleman
is a professional philosopher who should know better, you may want to be less forgiving
towards him.

Of course, experimental philosophers quickly responded with a comment posted on Leiter

Reports. Here are some other comments and links. In their response, experimental
philosophers point out that Velleman is not well informed on their work.

In a comment on the experimental philosophers response, Velleman seems to suggest that

experimental philosophers should find jobs outside philosophy departments. He writes:

Should departments have slots for faculty in the sub-field of experimental philosophy?
Should we take time to train our graduate students in experimental design and statistics? As I
said in my post, I believe that philosophy needs to inform itself about empirical matters. Its
less clear to me that the relevant empirical research should itself be considered philosophy or
should take up time and resources available to the discipline.

This purism about what constitutes philosophy gives me the creeps. Does Velleman know how
to draw a principled line between philosophy and other disciplines? If so, he should let us
know. While we wait, I hope that other philosophers, of all people, will welcome those who
disrespect so-called disciplinary boundaries.

Ironically, in his original post Velleman mentions Aristotle as someone who (unlike
experimental philosophers, in his opinion) treated folk intuitions appropriately. But Aristotle
spent much of his time developing empirical theories of the natural world. By Vellemans
standards, Aristotle shouldnt seek employment in a philosophy department.

I quote the following invitation because I explicitly show how Analytic Philosophy is seeking
new applications, subject-matter and methods by being involved in X-PHI.

Experimental Philosophy The Brains Blog

Teorema invites submissions on all aspects of experimental philosophy. We will consider both
papers within the experimental philosophy movement as well as ...

Call for Papers, special issue of Discipline filosofiche

Philosophical Analysis and Experimental Philosophy

Over the last decades, a renewed interest for metaphilosophical issues has prompted many
philosophers in the analytic tradition to ask questions on the epistemic status and the
methodology of philosophical inquiry. Reflection has focussed especially on the nature and
reliability of intuitions, on the notion of a priori and on the plausibility of the idea that
philosophical knowledge can be gained, as the phrase goes, from the armchair.

This attitude stems from various sources, such as the cognitive turn that has shaped a
consistent part of recent Anglophone philosophy, the revival of metaphysics encouraged by
Kripkes rehabilitation of de re necessity, and the formulation of new accounts of analyticity
and a priori knowledge. In part, however, metaphilosophical issues have become so urgent for
todays analytical philosophers as a result of the increasing attraction of so-called
experimental philosophy.

Upholders of experimental philosophy are driven by the idea that philosophical inquiry cannot
afford to ignore the data gathered by empirical sciences. Considering the tendency to discount
empirical results to retreat into the domain of the a priori as a relatively recent development in
philosophical methodology, they advocate a return to an earlier idea of philosophy, conceived
as the study of the deepest questions raised by the human condition, a study necessarily open
to the contributions of various empirical disciplines, such as psychology, cognitive sciences,
social sciences and history.

In the last fifteen years or so, practitioners of experimental philosophy have thus collected
several sets of empirical data, from which they wish to draw significant consequences about
the plausibility of various philosophical views concerning, for instance, linguistic reference,
the nature of knowledge and issues in moral philosophy. Many of these philosophers believe
that empirical research can enhance our understanding of several important philosophical
notions and issues. But some are more radical: they argue that the results of empirical research

show that the traditional way of doing philosophy, with its reliance on counterfactual
reasoning and intuitions generated by mental experiments, is intrinsically unreliable. As one
would expect, this more radical position has sparked serious concern among practitioners of
traditional philosophical analysis. Thus, they have variously reacted to the challenge by
questioning the soundness of the methodology employed by experimental philosophers in
collecting their data, by denying that such empirical data can have any genuine bearing on
philosophical research, or by refining their own view of the nature of the intuitions employed
in conceptual and/or philosophical analysis.

The aim of this issue of Discipline filosofiche is to collect papers representing a wide range of
approaches and positions on the many issues raised by this clash of metaphilosophical

The issue will host two opening contributions by two well-known exponents of the opposite
sides of the debate: Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University) and Jonathan Weinberg (University of

Submissions are invited on both the experimental side promoting new ways of pursuing
philosophical inquiry and the traditional side defending classical philosophical analysis.
Papers may be theoretical or experimental in character, either discussing broad methodological
questions (the role of intuitions, the value of mental experiments, various conceptions of
naturalism, etc.) or elaborating on experimental studies concerning particular concepts. Papers
assessing the merits and limits of both attitudes, either in general or in specific research fields,
will be particularly welcome. Submissions will be considered in all the philosophical
disciplines or subdisciplines: epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and
cognitive sciences, philosophy of mathematics and mathematical cognition, reasoning and
philosophy of logic, ethics, aesthetics, etc.

Guest Contributors

Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University)

Jonathan Weinberg (University of Arizona)

Psychology and Experimental Philosophy The Brains Blog

Jan 18, 2008 - We also welcome critical discussions of experimental philosophy. ... What
should be the role of experimentation in philosophy, and in particular ...

CFP: Philosophical Analysis and Experimental ... - The Brains Blog

Jan 20, 2015 - Upholders of experimental philosophy are driven by the idea that ... They
should be prepared for anonymous refereeing and sent by email ..

I include the article as neuroscience, cognitive sciences is another field where philosophers
attempt to look for new subject-matter and methods. I have already dealt with this topic in a
previous article..

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will : Nature News

Aug 31, 2011 - Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. ... The experiment
helped to change John-Dylan Haynes's outlook on life. ... Philosophers aren't convinced that
brain scans can demolish free will so ..... Jamie @ blog.

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will
Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. Philosophers are urging them to
think again.

The experiment helped to change John-Dylan Haynes's outlook on life. In 2007, Haynes, a
neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, put people
into a brain scanner in which a display screen flashed a succession of random letters1. He told
them to press a button with either their right or left index fingers whenever they felt the urge,
and to remember the letter that was showing on the screen when they made the decision. The
experiment used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activity in real
time as the volunteers chose to use their right or left hands. The results were quite a surprise.

"The first thought we had was 'we have to check if this is real'," says Haynes. "We came up
with more sanity checks than I've ever seen in any other study before."

The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but
the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many
as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems,
their brains had already decided.

As humans, we like to think that our decisions are under our conscious control that we have
free will. Philosophers have debated that concept for centuries, and now Haynes and other
experimental neuroscientists are raising a new challenge. They argue that consciousness of a
decision may be a mere biochemical afterthought, with no influence whatsoever on a person's
actions. According to this logic, they say, free will is an illusion. "We feel we choose, but we
don't," says Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at University College London.

You may have thought you decided whether to have tea or coffee this morning, for example,
but the decision may have been made long before you were aware of it. For Haynes, this is
unsettling. "I'll be very honest, I find it very difficult to deal with this," he says. "How can I
call a will 'mine' if I don't even know when it occurred and what it has decided to do?"

Thought experiments

Philosophers aren't convinced that brain scans can demolish free will so easily. Some have
questioned the neuroscientists' results and interpretations, arguing that the researchers have not
quite grasped the concept that they say they are debunking. Many more don't engage with
scientists at all. "Neuroscientists and philosophers talk past each other," says Walter Glannon,
a philosopher at the University of Calgary in Canada, who has interests in neuroscience, ethics
and free will.

There are some signs that this is beginning to change. This month, a raft of projects will get
under way as part of Big Questions in Free Will, a four-year, US$4.4-million programme
funded by the John Templeton Foundation in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, which
supports research bridging theology, philosophy and natural science. Some say that, with
refined experiments, neuroscience could help researchers to identify the physical processes
underlying conscious intention and to better understand the brain activity that precedes it. And
if unconscious brain activity could be found to predict decisions perfectly, the work really
could rattle the notion of free will. "It's possible that what are now correlations could at some
point become causal connections between brain mechanisms and behaviours," says Glannon.
"If that were the case, then it would threaten free will, on any definition by any philosopher."

Haynes wasn't the first neuroscientist to explore unconscious decision-making. In the 1980s,

Benjamin Libet, a neuropsychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, rigged up
study participants to an electroencephalogram (EEG) and asked them to watch a clock face
with a dot sweeping around it2. When the participants felt the urge to move a finger, they had
to note the dot's position. Libet recorded brain activity several hundred milliseconds before
people expressed their conscious intention to move.

Libet's result was controversial. Critics said that the clock was distracting, and the report of a
conscious decision was too subjective. Neuroscience experiments usually have controllable
inputs show someone a picture at a precise moment, and then look for reactions in the
brain. When the input is the participant's conscious intention to move, however, they
subjectively decide on its timing. Moreover, critics weren't convinced that the activity seen by
Libet before a conscious decision was sufficient to cause the decision it could just have
been the brain gearing up to decide and then move.

Haynes's 2008 study1 modernized the earlier experiment: where Libet's EEG technique could
look at only a limited area of brain activity, Haynes's fMRI set-up could survey the whole
brain; and where Libet's participants decided simply on when to move, Haynes's test forced
them to decide between two alternatives. But critics still picked holes, pointing out that
Haynes and his team could predict a left or right button press with only 60% accuracy at best.
Although better than chance, this isn't enough to claim that you can see the brain making its
mind up before conscious awareness, argues Adina Roskies, a neuroscientist and philosopher
who works on free will at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Besides, "all it
suggests is that there are some physical factors that influence decision-making", which
shouldn't be surprising. Philosophers who know about the science, she adds, don't think this
sort of study is good evidence for the absence of free will, because the experiments are
caricatures of decision-making. Even the seemingly simple decision of whether to have tea or
coffee is more complex than deciding whether to push a button with one hand or the other.

Haynes stands by his interpretation, and has replicated and refined his results in two studies.
One uses more accurate scanning techniques3 to confirm the roles of the brain regions
implicated in his previous work. In the other, which is yet to be published, Haynes and his
team asked subjects to add or subtract two numbers from a series being presented on a screen.
Deciding whether to add or subtract reflects a more complex intention than that of whether to
push a button, and Haynes argues that it is a more realistic model for everyday decisions. Even
in this more abstract task, the researchers detected activity up to four seconds before the
subjects were conscious of deciding, Haynes says.

Some researchers have literally gone deeper into the brain. One of those is Itzhak Fried, a
neuroscientist and surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Tel Aviv
Medical Center in Israel. He studied individuals with electrodes implanted in their brains as
part of a surgical procedure to treat epilepsy4. Recording from single neurons in this way gives
scientists a much more precise picture of brain activity than fMRI or EEG. Fried's experiments
showed that there was activity in individual neurons of particular brain areas about a second
and a half before the subject made a conscious decision to press a button. With about 700
milliseconds to go, the researchers could predict the timing of that decision with more than
80% accuracy. "At some point, things that are predetermined are admitted into consciousness,"
says Fried. The conscious will might be added on to a decision at a later stage, he suggests.

Material gains

Philosophers question the assumptions underlying such interpretations. "Part of what's driving
some of these conclusions is the thought that free will has to be spiritual or involve souls or
something," says Al Mele, a philosopher at Florida State University in Tallahassee. If
neuroscientists find unconscious neural activity that drives decision-making, the troublesome

concept of mind as separate from body disappears, as does free will. This 'dualist' conception
of free will is an easy target for neuroscientists to knock down, says Glannon. "Neatly dividing
mind and brain makes it easier for neuroscientists to drive a wedge between them," he adds.

The trouble is, most current philosophers don't think about free will like that, says Mele. Many
are materialists believing that everything has a physical basis, and decisions and actions
come from brain activity. So scientists are weighing in on a notion that philosophers consider

Nowadays, says Mele, the majority of philosophers are comfortable with the idea that people
can make rational decisions in a deterministic universe. They debate the interplay between
freedom and determinism the theory that everything is predestined, either by fate or by
physical laws but Roskies says that results from neuroscience can't yet settle that debate.
They may speak to the predictability of actions, but not to the issue of determinism.

Neuroscientists also sometimes have misconceptions about their own field, says Michael
Gazzaniga, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In particular,
scientists tend to see preparatory brain activity as proceeding stepwise, one bit at a time, to a
final decision. He suggests that researchers should instead think of processes working in
parallel, in a complex network with interactions happening continually. The time at which one
becomes aware of a decision is thus not as important as some have thought.

Battle of wills

There are conceptual issues and then there is semantics. "What would really help is if
scientists and philosophers could come to an agreement on what free will means," says
Glannon. Even within philosophy, definitions of free will don't always match up. Some
philosophers define it as the ability to make rational decisions in the absence of coercion.
Some definitions place it in cosmic context: at the moment of decision, given everything that's
happened in the past, it is possible to reach a different decision. Others stick to the idea that a
non-physical 'soul' is directing decisions.

Neuroscience could contribute directly to tidying up definitions, or adding an empirical

dimension to them. It might lead to a deeper, better understanding of what freely willing
something involves, or refine views of what conscious intention is, says Roskies.

Mele is directing the Templeton Foundation project that is beginning to bring philosophers and
neuroscientists together. "I think if we do a new generation of studies with better design, we'll
get better evidence about what goes on in the brain when people make decisions," he says.
Some informal meetings have already begun. Roskies, who is funded through the programme,
plans to spend time this year in the lab of Michael Shadlen, a neurophysiologist at the
University of Washington in Seattle who works on decision-making in the primate brain.
"We're going to hammer on each other until we really understand the other person's point of
view, and convince one or other of us that we're wrong," she says.

Haggard has Templeton funding for a project in which he aims to provide a way to objectively
determine the timing of conscious decisions and actions, rather than rely on subjective reports.
His team plans to devise an experimental set-up in which people play a competitive game
against a computer while their brain activity is decoded.

Another project, run by Christof Koch, a bioengineer at the California Institute of Technology
in Pasadena, will use techniques similar to Fried's to examine the responses of individual
neurons when people use reason to make decisions. His team hopes to measure how much

weight people give to different bits of information when they decide.

Philosophers are willing to admit that neuroscience could one day trouble the concept of free
will. Imagine a situation (philosophers like to do this) in which researchers could always
predict what someone would decide from their brain activity, before the subject became aware
of their decision. "If that turned out to be true, that would be a threat to free will," says Mele.
Still, even those who have perhaps prematurely proclaimed the death of free will agree that
such results would have to be replicated on many different levels of decision-making. Pressing
a button or playing a game is far removed from making a cup of tea, running for president or
committing a crime.

The practical effects of demolishing free will are hard to predict. Biological determinism
doesn't hold up as a defence in law. Legal scholars aren't ready to ditch the principle of
personal responsibility. "The law has to be based on the idea that people are responsible for
their actions, except in exceptional circumstances," says Nicholas Mackintosh, director of a
project on neuroscience and the law run by the Royal Society in London.

Owen Jones, a law professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who directs a
similar project funded by the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, suggests that the
research could help to identify an individual's level of responsibility. "What we are interested
in is how neuroscience can give us a more granulated view of how people vary in their ability
to control their behaviour," says Jones. That could affect the severity of a sentence, for

The answers could also end up influencing people's behaviour. In 2008, Kathleen Vohs, a
social psychologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and her colleague Jonathan
Schooler, a psychologist now at the University of California, Santa Barbara, published a study5
on how people behave when they are prompted to think that determinism is true. They asked
their subjects to read one of two passages: one suggesting that behaviour boils down to
environmental or genetic factors not under personal control; the other neutral about what
influences behaviour. The participants then did a few maths problems on a computer. But just
before the test started, they were informed that because of a glitch in the computer it
occasionally displayed the answer by accident; if this happened, they were to click it away
without looking. Those who had read the deterministic message were more likely to cheat on
the test. "Perhaps, denying free will simply provides the ultimate excuse to behave as one
likes," Vohs and Schooler suggested.

Haynes's research and its possible implications have certainly had an effect on how he thinks.
He remembers being on a plane on his way to a conference and having an epiphany. "Suddenly
I had this big vision about the whole deterministic universe, myself, my place in it and all
these different points where we believe we're making decisions just reflecting some causal
flow." But he couldn't maintain this image of a world without free will for long. "As soon as
you start interpreting people's behaviours in your day-to-day life, it's virtually impossible to
keep hold of," he say

Fried, too, finds it impossible to keep determinism at the top of his mind. "I don't think about it
every day. I certainly don't think about it when I operate on the human brain."

Mele is hopeful that other philosophers will become better acquainted with the science of
conscious intention. And where philosophy is concerned, he says, scientists would do well to
soften their stance. "It's not as though the task of neuroscientists who work on free will has to
be to show there isn't any."

Kerri Smith is editor of the Nature Podcast, and is based in London.


1. Soon, C. S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.-J. & Haynes, J.-D. Nature Neurosci. 11,
543-545 (2008). | Article |

2. Libet, B., Gleason, C. A., Wright, E. W. & Pearl, D. K. Brain 106, 623-642
(1983). | Article | PubMed | ISI |

3. Bode, S. et al. PLoS ONE 6, e21612 (2011). | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |

4. Fried, I., Mukamel, R. & Kreiman, G. Neuron 69, 548-562

(2011). | Article | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

5. Vohs, K. D. & Schooler, J. W. Psychol. Sci. 19, 49-54

(2008). | Article | PubMed |

Experimental Philosophy - Philosophy Commons - Typepad

by T Nadelhoffer - 2016

Experimental Philosophy. ... What underlies the conviction that personal autonomy should be
protected even at substantial costs to one's health? Perhaps, we ...

Help! - Experimental Philosophy - Philosophy Commons - Typepad

2 days ago - Second, I wanted to thank all of the readers who come to this blog ... My hope is
that the current and next generation of experimental philosophers will want ... most successful
philosophy blogs on the web: (a) The Brains Blog, ...

Experimental Philosophy: Conferences - Philosophy Commons

Jul 5, 2016 - CFP: Buffalo Annual Experimental Philosophy Conference 2016 ... Submissions
should be sent via email to no later than June 1, ... The online conference
this month at the Brains blog is up and running.

Benjamin Libet's Experiments on Free Will | Philosophy 1100H Blog

Dec 6, 2014 - Philosophy 1100H Blog ... Benjamin Libet's Experiments on Free Will ...
Following data collection, Libet compared the timing of brain activity ...

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X-Phi Society (XPS)
About Experimental Philosophy

Welcome to the experimental philosophy page. Experimental philosophy, called x-phi for
short, is a new philosophical movement that supplements the traditional tools of analytic
philosophy with the scientific methods of cognitive science. So experimental philosophers
actually go out and run systematic experiments aimed at understanding how people ordinarily
think about the issues at the foundations of philosophical discussions.

If you are you looking for a brief overview of experimental philosophy, you could try reading
the New York Times article.

Browse papers by topic

X-Phi of Action

X-Phi of Language

X-Phi of Mind

X-Phi of Ethics

X-Phi of Epistemology

X-Phi of Metaphysics

Foundations of X-Phi

Misc. X-Phi

X-Phi Replications

1 How to Contribute

2 Standards, Practices, and Guidelines

3 Ph.D. Programs (Australasia)

o 3.1 Australian National University

o 3.2 Monash University

o 3.3 Victoria University of Wellington

o 3.4 University of Waikato

4 Ph.D. Programs (Canada)

o 4.1 University of Toronto

o 4.2 University of Waterloo

5 Ph.D. Programs (Europe)

o 5.1 Institut Jean Nicod

o 5.2 Ume University

o 5.3 University of Groningen

o 5.4 VU University Amsterdam

6 Ph.D. Programs (United Kingdom)

o 6.1 Cardiff University

o 6.2 King's College London

o 6.3 University College London

o 6.4 University of Cambridge

o 6.5 University of Edinburgh

o 6.6 University of Leeds

o 6.7 University of Oxford

o 6.8 University of Reading

7 Ph.D. Programs (United States)

o 7.1 Arizona State University

o 7.2 Binghamton University, State University of New York

o 7.3 Carnegie Mellon University

o 7.4 City University of New York

o 7.5 Cornell University

o 7.6 Duke University

o 7.7 Florida State University

o 7.8 Georgetown University

o 7.9 Harvard University

o 7.10 Johns Hopkins University

o 7.11 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

o 7.12 Michigan Tech

o 7.13 New York University

o 7.14 Princeton University

o 7.15 Rutgers University, New Brunswick

o 7.16 State University of New York, Buffalo

o 7.17 University of Arizona

o 7.18 University of California, Berkeley

o 7.19 University of California, Riverside

o 7.20 University of Connecticut

o 7.21 University of Illinois (U-C)

o 7.22 University of Miami

o 7.23 University of Michigan

o 7.24 University of Minnesota

o 7.25 University of Missouri

o 7.26 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

o 7.27 University of Oregon

o 7.28 University of Pennsylvania

o 7.29 University of Pittsburgh, History and Philosophy of Science

o 7.30 University of Utah

o 7.31 Yale University

o 7.32 Washington University, St. Louis

8 M.A. Programs

o 8.1 Georgia State University

o 8.2 Western Michigan University

9 Institutions without Graduate Programs

o 9.1 California State University, Fullerton

o 9.2 College of Charleston

o 9.3 Lawrence University

o 9.4 St. John's University

o 9.5 University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

o 9.6 University of Puget Sound

o 9.7 Utah Valley University

o 9.8 Vassar College

10 Notes

11 Wiki Editing Resources

The above are information about X-Phi but I decided include information about other
aspects of philosophy as well while I include these listings.

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Welcome to Philosophy Commons!

Greetings! I have designed Philosophy Commons to serve as a central hub for the following
online projects:

1. Flickers of Freedom--a blog dedicated to the philosophy of agency and responsibility

(relocated in 2013). For the past two years, the blog has had a on-going Featured
Author series (see here)--which highlights cutting edge work being done by junior
and senior philosophers, psychologists, and legal theorists.

2. Experimental Philosophy--a blog dedicated to interdisciplinary work in philosophy,

psychology, biology, economics, and other fields (relocated in 2013). Started back in
2004, the X-Phi blog is one of the oldest philosophy blogs. It currently has 60+
contributors with interests in philosophy, psychology, and related fields.

3. Discrimination and Disadvantage--a blog dedicated to philosophical reflection on

various kinds of disadvantage (e.g., discrimination based on racism, classism, sexism,
hetero-sexism, ableism, and the intersectionality of these and related phenomena) as
well as discussion of such disadvantage within the philosophical community. I am
coordinating the blog along with Kevin Timpe (who was the inspiration).

4. Philosophical Exchanges (coming soon!)--a new online, open-access, philosophy

journal (with a blog format). I am putting together an editorial board now. The goal
is to start working in earnest on setting up the platform for the blog during 2015 with
the goal of an official launch in early 2016!

5. The Online Philosophy Conferences: OPC1 (2005) and OPC 2 (2006). These two
online conferences were early test runs for the kind of online journal I am hoping to
create in Philosophical Exchanges (see above).

6. Justica: Desafios Teoricos e Institucionais (coming soon)--a blog dedicated to justice

that will be developed and run by Daniela Goya-Tochetto. The goal is for the blog to
be a dual language blog (with both Portuguese and English).

7. I also run a personal blog about one of my obsessions--namely, the grappling arts.
The blog is called The Grumpy Grappler. People who have a interest in martial arts
more generally might find the posts to be of interest from time time!

8. Plus, some additional projects I am kicking around with collaborators! So, stay tuned!

The overarching goal of Philosophy Commons is to help connect people around the world who
have common philosophical interests. Hopefully, we can collectively make philosophy more
democratic, more widely accessible, and even more relevant to our daily lives! Given the
precarious state of the world, we would all certainly benefit from a little more philosophical
reflection and dialogue! I humbly hope this site can do some small part in nudging readers in
the right direction.

Open Access

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Open Access Philosophy

Why are there still hard copy philosophical journals and books? Why is so much on-line philosophy hidden
behind subscription walls? Why are universities, students and researchers being forced to pay for access to
information authors would happily give away for free?

Who disagrees with this:

The Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing scientific knowledge
and cultural heritage. For the first time ever, the Internet now offers the chance to constitute a global and
interactive representation of human knowledge, including cultural heritage and the guarantee of worldwide

Our mission of disseminating knowledge is only half complete if the information is not made widely and readily
available to society. New possibilities of knowledge dissemination not only through the classical form but also
and increasingly through the open access paradigm via the Internet have to be supported. We define open access
as a comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific

In order to realize the vision of a global and accessible representation of knowledge, the future Web has to be
sustainable, interactive, and transparent. Content and software tools must be openly accessible and compatible.

Berlin Declaration on open access Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities

Shouldn't philosophers be especially sensitive to the moral and intellectual imperatives of the open access
movement? Why is it that scientists have been so much more ready to embrace it than philosophers?

When I put this question to professional philosophers I hear two different kinds of arguments. One foolish and
one cynical.

The foolish argument goes like this: "

"I know that the stuff published in the journals is selected by the editors because its good. How will I know
what's good without the journals? And if I can't tell who's writing good stuff how will I know who should be
promoted, hired or tenured?"

The obvious answer is that the journals are only as good as they may be because of the judgment of their
philosophical editors and reviewers and those people will not go away just because the hard-copy journals do.
Those editors can publish on-line journals, or best-of lists or run contests or simply offer personal
recommendations. There are many many different ways to do open access peer review and almost all of them
are better than what we have now.

But I think this foolish objection really conceals a more cynical worry.

"Artificial and cumbersome though it may be, the economics of hard-copy publication is ultimately the only
external discipline on the profession's standards. Without the objective constraints imposed by the textbook and
library marketplace, the profession would never manage to achieve any sort of consensus about what was better
than what; standards would collapse. "

The cynical worry may not be wrong. But if its right it is an issue the profession should and must address.
Academic publishing is doomed. If the end of hard-copy journals means the end of professional standards then
the discipline is doomed too.

It seems to me that the transition to open source could come swiftly and relatively smoothly.

What's needed is a sort of academic version of the eSign Act. eSign said that courts cannot treat a contract or
signature as invalid just because it is in electronic form. At a stroke, congress made an eContract as good as a
paper one.

What we need is for professional philosophers to declare that they are going to stop ranking philosophical
quality by counting trees killed.

If significant numbers of philosophers, starting with luminaries and full professors, publicly committed to
something like the following, the transition to open access could happen virtually over night.

The Open Philosophy Pledge Opinion Polls

& Market

1. I will make my academic writings available for viewing without charge on my
personal website. I will do so before, or at least at the same time as, I (would) submit
them to hard-copy journals.

2. I will not submit my academic writings to journals whose policies prevent me from
continuing to make them available, free of charge, on my own web site .

3. I will endeavor to make copies of all my previously published academic writings

freely available for on-line viewing. I will encourage journals in which my work has
appeared to make their archives of past issues open for general viewing without

4. When I am asked to judge the quality of scholarly work for any purpose, including
hiring, promotion and tenure, I will not assume that fee-charging publication is always
superior to open access publication.

5. I will encourage and participate in the evolution of new practices and mechanisms for
objective peer review and evaluation in an open access environment.

6. The format of academic books and journal articles is, in part, a function of the
requirements of hard copy publication. On-line publication will make possible new
forms and structures of expression. Realizing this, I will not assume that excellent
work must take traditional forms.

7. I will encourage my colleagues and my department as a whole to take this pledge. I

will endeavor to have the standards proposed by this pledge explicitly incorporated
into my departments and my institutions policies on hiring, promotion, tenure, and

Why I have decided to go completely commercial free

Briefly, the business model on which commercial publishing is based is not only grotesquely outdated, but it is
contributing directly to some serious social evils. And so it now strikes me that continuing to support
commercial publishing, is, frankly, unethical.There was a time when the dissemination of scholarly work
required the help of publishers, and so it made sense for academics to transfer various rights to these businesses,
and to pay for their services. Now, though, the ability to disseminate research is ubiquitous and free. Ironically,
most publishers now work hard to RESTRICT access to the work of philosophers, to those who can pay for it.
This may not seem like a problem to professional philosophers at wealthy universities. But it is a problem for
students, and for anyone not fortunate enough to be in the financially elite class.

But students and teachers at thousands of colleges and universities around the world either cannot afford the
prices that commercial publishers charge for our work, or they can afford them, but the cost for them is
significant -- working extra hours for college students, paying out of pocket for a little access. For example,
Ryan Heavy Head, who teaches at a small American Indian reservation college in Canada:

I am the acting director of an academic program called "Kainai Studies" - a series of courses with various
degrees of hybridity between Western and Blackfoot knowledge systems. Anyway, being situated in a small
tribal college in Southern Alberta, I am intimately familiar with the kinds of problems you've described. Here in
Canada, a great deal of federal research funding is currently being funnelled toward research controlled and
authored by First Nations thinkers (be they degreed or not). Given our national multicultural policy, the

government is hoping to locate bridges to discourse between Western and Indigenous theoretical paradigms.
Unfortunately, for those of us at ground-zero in these movements, the resources that would make such
conversations potentially possible - i.e. access to a wide variety of Western scholarship - are not there. Our
library is tiny, and although my students have access to some electronic journal databases (via subscriptions that
I pay from my pocket), we don't have nearly the resources as someone situated at a decent university. The
technology is there to change these kinds of circumstances. I just wanted to thank you for reminding our
colleagues of this issue.

In literally thousands of colleges and universities, in third world or developing countries, and less than wealthy
ones in North America, students simply do not have access to top research in the field, or they must pay for it
themselves, out of their own underpaid pockets. To put the point in deep relief with a specific example, each
article included in a college course reader for which royalty fees must be assessed translates directly into the
budget of students, including working students, single parent students, and anyone else. Some of these
individual articles, in Sythese or other venues, may EACH translate directly into an extra three or four hours of
work at a minimum wage job. Ten or fifteen such articles in a reader for a class taken by a struggling college
student can easily make the difference between finishing college and having to drop out, or between being able
to spend time with their child and having to work overtime instead. (As an aside, I should make clear that my
remarks here are intended primarily to apply to published original research. The situation with textbooks and
instructional materials is analogous in many ways, but disanalogous in others. I am not sure at this point what to
think, though clearly the current situation stands in need of improvement.)

It is easy for those of us who are at a privileged institution and no longer students ourselves to be blind to the
problems. We are given access for free -- free to us, though the institution itself must pay, money supplied in
turn by taxpayers or student fees. But so long as the wealthy academics who produce the product continue to
supply this product to the commercial interests, the academic class society will persists.

Ever wonder why so many of the top philosophy jobs go to philosophy PhD students from wealthy US
Universities? There are many reasons, to be sure, but one is that even the best aspiring philosophers from non-
wealthy countries are simply denied access to the content that the would need to have ubiquitous access to in
order to get their own philosophical skills up to the standards that are expected. As a PhD student in Eastern
Europe pointed out to me:

Although I am doing my PHD at one of the best institutions in Europe, I still find it rather difficult to get access
to articles and books I really need for writing my thesis. I could get some necessary literature with the help of
Doctoral Support Research Grant, but the problem is still present. I just dont see the point of paying 30 USD for
an article. The situation with books is even more depressive, their prices make them rather luxury goods.

For these and many other reasons, I can no longer in good conscience support this system or business model,
and so as of January 1, 2008, I have decided to stop. (Actually, the decision to stop was made about 18-24
months prior, but it took a while for my prior commitments to work their way through the pipeline.) I no longer
give any work or research I have produced to any commercial interest, nor do I support them by refereeing,
serving on editorial boards, or anything else of the sort.

Our system is one that rightfully places importance on the production of good research, and unfortunately
publishing in certain journals or with certain presses is taken to be the main indicator of research productivity.
Hence the system survives. Someone without a job or without tenure simply can't afford to avoid playing the
game. However, many of us are quite secure professionally, and don't take any professional risk by publishing in
The Philosophers Imprint (free to anyone in the world) as opposed to Phil Review or Synthese (free to those are
privileged universities, everyone else must pay).

The only exception I make is the venue of publication on pieces I co-author with collaborators whose
professional position is insecure, students or untenured faculty. Since their professional position is decided by
mechanisms that fetishize 'top' journals, all of which are commercial, I have to make this exception in order to
not put those people at risk. Though my hope is that one day the system will change.

There are now some resources that are non-commercial -- venues that do a better job of disseminating research,
and don't place anyone at a disadvantage in the process. The Philosophers Imprint, the Notre Dame
Philosophical Reviews, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are a few prominent examples (more can
be found on the Resources page). If more of those of us who are leaders in our fields, and whose professional
positions are not at risk, support these venues -- by reading them, publishing our best work in them, and so forth
-- then we have a chance to raise their perceived standing in the field, increase the number of such venues, and
perhaps one day completely remove ourselves from the exploitative commercial enterprises with which we have
become entwined.

Advantages of publishing in open access venues, other than social responsibility

There are many benefits to publishing in open access venues, aside from the social benefits of helping those
excluded by the current system. First, authors retain copyright to their work. No more asking someone else for
permission to use one of your own diagrams in a future publication, for example. Second, the work is more
widely available. The internet reaches almost everyone, and in an open access venue, the usual mechanisms of
preventing anyone but the wealthy from reading your work are removed. In addition, because the full content is
available, it is retrieved by interested parties doing an appropriate internet search. If you've written on topic X,
and someone in Romania is interested on X and does a google search, your work can come up and they can
begin reading it immediately. Even for those of us at rich universities, this is better than the current system.
Even if we have access, the content is usually not searchable, and even if we can get content, it is often only
after navigating some set of portals and special websites.

Other potential benefits derive from the fact that venues not tied to print publication have freedoms that other
venues do not. Of course, 'open access' need not mean that the content is not available in print form, and
commercial access need not mean that the content is not available electronically. But it remains true that
commercial publications' online content is a reflection of, and hence largely must conform to the constraints of,
the printed medium. Open access venues need not (though those that choose to have printed distribution might)
have these limitations. What are they? Color images and graphics. Easy to produce in electronic documents,
difficult and expensive in print. Multimedia. Impossible in print, easy in electronic.

But more importantly, the tether to print distribution creates artificial constraints on the form of academic
expression. A journal article must be of a certain size in order to allow for a certain number of them to appear in
a physical print object that is roughly journal sized. Hence the ubiquitous word-count constraints (minima as
well as maxima) that are imposed on academic work independent of what the nature of the topic and project
itself recommends in the judgment of the one who produces it. In an electronic distribution format these
artificial limitations are removed, and academic expression and research can take the form, including length,
that the author feels appropriate for the project at hand.

If I have managed to convince you that open-access publishing is worth supporting, please take a look at the
What you can do page.

What can you do?

A few of the web discussions have contained something like good-faith pledges for anyone who is interested in
supporting the open access movement. See, for example, the Open Philosophy Pledge. I am on board with the
bulk of this, but it seems to me to confuse a few issues (for example, what is important is not something being
online, but it's being open access. Open access materials can also be published in hard copy format, and closed-
access can be published online).

In any case in order to help spread awareness of the issue, I have decided to create a couple of little logos,
representing one's level of commitment to the ideal of supporting the open access movement in philosophy. If
you feel as I do, then I encourage you to adopt one of these and, for instance, display it on your own web page,
include it on the sig. file of your emails, and maybe even have it displayed on the bottom of the title page of any

powerpoint presentations you give. Whatever you deem appropriate. The two logos are "I support commercial
free philosophy", and "I am a commercial free philosopher". To support commercial free philosophy is more or
less along the lines of the Open Philosophy Pledge referenced above. In displaying this logo, you are
communicating your commitment to:

i) support open access publication by submitting some of your best work to open access venues -- only by
getting a good selection of top research will open access venues become increasingly accepted as viable
alternatives to commercial venues.

ii) support open access publication by diligently checking the current contents of open access journals -- if it is
known that most philosophers will actually see the TOC of open access journals, this will encourage more
people to submit their best work to those venues. I plan, in the near future, to create a mailing list to which
anyone can subscribe, that will distribute the new articles and contributions published in the relevant open-
access venues once a month, so that all you will need to be done is to skim through one fairly brief email once a
month to see if anything relevant to your own work has been published.

iii) support open access publication by citing and using articles published in open access venues where possible,
as opposed to, or in addition to, those published in commercial venues. For example, if an entry in the Stanford
Encyclopedia is as suitable for some classroom or seminar purpose as a similar entry in a commercial
encyclopedia, then put the open access entry on the syllabus rather than the commercial entry.

iv) support open access publication by taking material published in open access venues seriously when making
tenure and hiring decisions, and so forth. That is, don't simply assume a standard correlation between quality of
work and the current prestige of the venue, but, for work published in open access venues, read that piece
carefully and make an independent assessment (this is better in any case), or if the material is not in your field,
ask a colleague who does know that field to read it carefully and give you an honest independent assessment.

If you are a bit more hard core and radical, then you might consider following me in being commercial free. For
me, this means that, as of January 1, 2008, I no longer publish any of my own single authored work in any non-
open-access venue, nor do I support such venues by volunteering my time and resources to them (e.g.
refereeing). Doing so now strikes me as supporting a deeply unethical economic-based class structure in
philosophy, and I for one can no longer participate in that in good faith (it strikes me as analogous in many ways
to continuing to play gold at a whites-only country club). It's not easy, though, since right now there are only a
few top-shelf open access publishing venues for articles, and none for books, in philosophy (though I am putting
some thought into doing something about the latter problem). So it's not going to be easy for me. I am feeling
the pinch in several ways. But as I am one of the fortunate ones who has tenure and has achieved some degree
of professional success, while I am undertaking a lot of cost and inconvenience by vowing to be commercial
free, I am not undertaking any significant career risk. My hope is that at least a few, and hopefully eventually
many, philosophers who are in a similar position will move from supporting commercial free philosophy to
being commercial free philosophers. (And n.b., it will take anyone at least a year, perhaps longer, to do this -- if
you are like me, you have a long list of prior commitments that have to get through the pipeline before you can
shed commercial interests). If you are willing to go as hog-wild as me, then please take and display the "I am a
commercial-free philosopher" logo, and in using it you will be communicating your commtment to do (i)-(iv)
above, and in addition:

v) not publish any of your original research in any non-open access venue. (Of course, co-authored work with
people who are not professionally secure is a well-motivated exception to this commitment.)

vi) stop contributing to the commercial publication model (and its associated social evils) by giving it the
resources of your time and expertise -- via refereeing, editing volumes, serving on editorial boards, and so forth.

Also, as part of the more complete version of this website I hope to soon put up, I will include a list of those
people who have decided to either support commercial free philosophy, and who will join me in being
commercial free philosophers. Please send me an email ( and let me know if I can add

your name to the "I support commercial free philosophy" list, or the "I am a commercial free philosopher" list.
Your name and institutional affiliation is all that will appear.

Rick Grush (

PS. Here are some emblems/logos you can use if you'd like to show your support for Commercial-Free
Philosophy, three sizes, in black on white and white on black -- just right-click (windows), or control-click
(mac) to download and save, and add to your email sig, web site, or whatever. Hopefully they will get people to
take a look at this website, and soon this site should be more than just my own rants, but actually a good
resource for various open-access discussion, venues, and so forth. General awareness raising stuff:

Philosophy without Intuitions

Herman Cappelen

An incisive and controversial exploration of the role of intuition in philosophy

Offers a fresh view of how philosophy works

Will galvanize debate about philosophical method

Throws down a challenge to the growing "experimental philosophy" movement

Preface and Acknowledgements

1. Intuitions in Philosophy: overview and taxonomy
Part I: The Argument from 'Intuition'-Talk
Introduction to part I
2. 'Intuitive', 'intuitively', 'intuition', and 'seem' in English
3. Philosophers' use of 'intuitive' (I): A defective practice?
4. Philosophers' use of 'intuitive' (II): Some strategies for charitable interpretation
5. Philosophers' use of 'intuitive' (III): Against the explaining away of intuitions
Part II: The Argument from Philosophical Practice

Introduction to part II
6. Centrality and Philosophical Practice
7. Diagnostics for intuitiveness
8. Case studies: Ten philosophical thought experiments
9. Lessons Learned, replies to objections, and comparison to Williamson
10. Conceptual analysis and intuition
11. A big mistake: Experimental philosophy

Towards a Speculative Philosophy
What will happen to the tradition formerly known as continental philosophy? This exciting new anthology
sketches an answer by bringing together the most prominent established and emerging authors in the field, all of
them taking a more speculative turn than was found in the textually oriented continental philosophies of the
past. The diverse positions outlined in this book include such old and new approaches as transcendental
materialism, speculative realism, actor-network theory, object-oriented philosophy, non-philosophy,
cosmopolitics, eliminative materialism, and even new-wave deconstruction. The book also has a highly
international flavour, with its 19 authors hailing from 12 different countries on 5 continents.
It has long been commonplace within continental philosophy to focus on discourse,
text, culture, consciousness, power, or ideas as what constitutes reality..
Humanity remains at the centre of these
works, and reality appears in philosophy only as the correlate of human thought. In
this respect phenomenology, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, and
postmodernism have all been perfect exemplars of the anti-realist trend in continental
philosophy. Without deriding the significant contributions of these philosophies, some-
thing is clearly amiss in these trends. In the face of the looming ecological catastrophe,
and the increasing infiltration of technology into the everyday world (including our
own bodies), it is not clear that the anti-realist position is equipped to face up to these
developments. The danger is that the dominant anti-realist strain of continental philos-
ophy has not only reached a point of decreasing returns, but that it now actively limits
the capacities of philosophy in our time.
Yet in the works of what we describe as The Speculative Turn, one can detect the
hints of something new the new breed of thinker is turning once more toward reality itself

Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman
Alain Badiou and Ben Woodard
On the Undermining of Objects: Grant, Bruno, and Radical Philosophy
Graham Harman
Mining Conditions: A Response to Harman
Iain Hamilton Grant
Concepts and Objects
Ray Brassier
Does Nature Stay What-it-is?: Dynamics and the Antecendence Criterion

Iain Hamilton Grant
Against Speculation, or, A Critique of the Critique of Critique:
A Remark on Quentin Meillassouxs After Finitude (After Colletti)
Alberto Toscano
Humes Revenge: Dieu, Meillassoux?
Adrian Johnston
Radical Atheist Materialism: A Critique of Meillassoux
Martin Hgglund
Anything is Possible: A Reading of Quentin Meillassouxs After Finitude
Peter Hallward
The Speculative and the Specific: On Hallward and Meillassoux
Nathan Brown
Capitalism and the Non-Philosophical Subject
Nick Srnicek
Drafting the Inhuman: Conjectures on Capitalism and Organic Necrocracy
Reza Negarestani
Is it Still Possible to be a Hegelian Today?
Slavoj iek
Potentiality and Virtuality
Quentin Meillassoux, translated by Robin Mackay
The Generic as Predicate and Constant: Non-Philosophy and Materialism
Franois Laruelle, translated by Taylor Adkins
The Ontic Principle: Outline of an Object-Oriented Ontology
Levi R. Bryant
The Actual Volcano: Whitehead, Harman, and the Problem of Relations
Steven Shaviro
Response to Shaviro
Graham Harman
Reflections on Etienne Souriaus Les diffrents modes dexistence
Bruno Latour, translated by Stephen Muecke
Outland Empire: Prolegomena to Speculative Absolutism

Gabriel Catren, translated by Taylor Adkins
Wondering about Materialism
Isabelle Stengers
Emergence, Causality and Realism
Manuel DeLanda
Ontology, Biology, and History of Affect
John Protevi
Slavoj iek and Ben Woodard


In this section I intend to mention two articles concerning subjects, topics or issues that can be included of
excluded from the discourse of philosophy and the socio-cultural practice of doing philosophy or
philosophizing. I have already dealt in detail with the idea of traditional philosophical subject-matter or
philosophical objects, areas or fields of investigation. See here for details

Here are two comments on the article I will discuss

I think philosophy was about self-help, but once it becomes academic ad studied then it
seems to separate itself from self-help. Consider ethics by Aristotle, the higher man by
Nietzsche - classic text books for self-help.


Philosopher's Beard17 February 2011 at 12:38

Philosophy has always been about the Big Questions, and one of the most important is of
course, 'how should I live?'

But that is only a tiny part of the spectrum of ethics, let alone philosophy, which has been
"academic" right from the beginning when Plato founded his academy.

This is the article by thetomwells at

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is concerned with the pursuit of wisdom: (Usually it is said that
philosophy is love of wisdom, not the pursuit of it; this love is sometimes
interpreted as having meant respect.) not only with what we think we know, but
how? why? and what is it really worth? (I like these twists what we THINK we
KNOW and HOW we know it. Whatever these complex notions mean. Why we
know it or want to know it? Another interesting side track that could be
investigated, and what is it really worth? This is a completely new value-question
and of course of great importance.)
In line with this spirit of questioning (meaningful assertion) philosophy can be
defined as the discipline of critical scrutiny (interesting claim), though its
specific methods (I would like to know more about what the author means by
methods) are informed by a variety of philosophical styles, claims, histories,
(notice the factors that determine philosophical methods: styles?, claims!,
historical and I suppose socio-cultural factors!) and concerns ( are these personal
concerns? Those of a certain group, community, social class, academic
profession as is the case today with the professionalization of the discipline,
certain sub- or interdisciplinary fields eg experimental, practical and cognitive
science philosophical concerns?, particular academic institutions in specific
countries?) from Plato to Kant to Foucault (this I suppose refer to the many
notions, factions and philosophical groups from Plato To Foucault?), which
constitute often quite divergent schools (here philosophical concerns are related
to divergent schools we only need to think of the different concerns of the
Analytic and Continental schools). Philosophers from different traditions see
philosophy differently (check out the anthology of answers by contemporary
philosophers to the what is philosophy question over at the excellent Philosophy
November 14, 2010

What is Philosophy?
We asked a range of Philosophy Bites interviewees the simple question 'What is
Philosophy?'...Here are some of their answers:

Listen to What is Philosophy?

The Philosophy Bites podcast is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy. The Institute's aim is to promote and facilitate high quality

research in philosophy, making it available to the widest possible audience both inside and
outside the UK's academic community.

About the Institute

The Institute of Philosophy is an Institute of the University of London's School of Advanced

Study. Founded in 2005, the IP was made possible by a generous private donation and
matching funding from the University of London.

What is the Institute for?

The Institute's aim is to promote and facilitate high quality research in philosophy, making it
available to the widest possible audience both inside and outside the UK's academic

Where is the Institute?

The IP's offices are located in the University of London in the Stewart House part of the
University comples (access via Senate House main entrance). Most of the Institute's events
are held in Senate House.

Who runs the Institute?

Here is a list of the Institute's staff and a description of how it is managed.

What does the Institute do?

The Institute's activities may be grouped into three categories:

Events - including lectures, seminars and conferences (Phil-list calendar of

both IP and other philosphy events in London)

Fellowships - visiting fellowships and postdoctoral research fellowships

Research support - including electronic resources and information for

graduate students

Who can come to the Institutes events?

The Institute's events are open to everyone. You do not have to be a member of the Institute,
or a member of any university, to attend Institute events.

Membership is also open to all. Details about membership are here.

The award of fellowships at the Institute is, of course, on the basis of a competition. Details
are here.

Philosophy Bites is now produced in association with the Institute.

Here are a few comments on the above


I thought the best answer to that question was laughter, the laughter of wisdom that
acknowledges ignorance.

Posted by: Paul So | November 18, 2010 at 12:10 AM

Alban Low produced a charming piece of art from my Tweeted definition of Philosophy

Posted by: Jonathan | October 21, 2011 at 02:47 AM

I was surprised at how cumbersome the answers were from those attempting to teach it to
children. My answer that even children would understand (and that all other meanings of
philosophy naturally spring from) is:

Q: What is [western] Philosophy?

A: Being able to answer the question, Why do you think what you think? Why do you believe
what you believe?

And while you want to be able to answer to someone else's satisfaction, you foremost want to
be able to answer to your own satisfaction because you want to know the truth. (BTW, the
western bit is "we believe humans are capable of doing this ourselves")

Posted by: Www | February 03, 2013 at 04:28 AM

Meaning of life is very impractical to give because it changes every moment in different ways
for different people, So its answer should be different for different people.
Many external forces try to bring unanimity to the meaning of life but how the fuck this could
happen when we are so efficient even at the DNA level to be different from each other.

Posted by: Ankush Arora | February 03, 2013 at 06:04 PM

You will find a list of books on philosophy and other subjects by Edmonds and
Warburton on that site I suppose the site belongs to them. Some relevant to the
present discussion are these

Philosophy: The Essential Study Guide Paperback 1 Jul

by Nigel Warburton (Author)

Philosophy: The Essential Study Guide is a compact and straightforward guide to the skills
needed to study philosophy, aimed at anyone coming to the subject for the first time or just
looking to improve their performance. Nigel Warburton clarifies what is expected of students

and offers strategies and guidance to help them make effective use of their study time and
improve their marks.

The four main skills covered by the book are:

reading philosophy - both skimming and in-depth analysis of historical and

contemporary work, understanding the examples and terminology used

listening to philosophy - formal lectures and informal classroom teaching,

preparation, picking up on arguments used, note taking

discussing philosophy - arguing and exploring, asking questions, communicating in

concise and understandable ways

writing philosophy - planning and researching essays and other written tasks, thinking
up original examples, avoiding plagiarism.

(Well to me the above appears to involve many more than four skills, each of which
needs to be discussed in detail. And, most of them are not typical philosophical?) on power

A Little History of Philosophy (Little Histories) Hardcover

19 Aug 2011
by Nigel Warburton (Author)

Philosophy begins with questions about the nature of reality and how we
should live. These were the concerns of Socrates, who spent his days in
the ancient Athenian marketplace asking awkward questions,
disconcerting the people he met by showing them how little they
genuinely understood. This engaging book introduces the great thinkers in
Western philosophy and explores their most compelling ideas about the
world and how best to live in it. In forty brief chapters, Nigel Warburton
guides us on a chronological tour of the major ideas in the history of
philosophy. He provides interesting and often quirky stories of the lives
and deaths of thought-provoking philosophers from Socrates, who chose
to die by hemlock poisoning rather than live on without the freedom to
think for himself, to Peter Singer, who asks the disquieting philosophical
and ethical questions that haunt our own times. Warburton not only makes
philosophy accessible, he offers inspiration to think, argue, reason and ask
in the tradition of Socrates. 'A Little History of Philosophy' presents the
grand sweep of humanity's search for philosophical understanding and
invites all to join in the discussion.

Philosophy: The Basics Paperback 31 Oct 2012

by Nigel Warburton (Author)

Philosophy: The Basics deservedly remains the most recommended introduction to
philosophy on the market. Warburton is patient, accurate and, above all, clear. There is no
better short introduction to philosophy. - Stephen Law, author of The Philosophy Gym

Philosophy: The Basics gently eases the reader into the world of philosophy. Each chapter
considers a key area of philosophy, explaining and exploring the basic ideas and themes

Can you prove God exists?

How do we know right from wrong?

What are the limits of free speech?

Do you know how science works?

Is your mind different from your body?

Can you define art?

How should we treat non-human animals?

For the fifth edition of this best-selling book, Nigel Warburton has added an entirely new
chapter on animals, revised others and brought the further reading sections up to date. If
youve ever asked what is philosophy?, or wondered whether the world is really the way
you think it is, this is the book for you.

Philosophy: Basic Readings Paperback Import, 25 Mar

by Nigel Warburton (Author)

Nigel Warburton brings philosophy to life with an imaginative selection of

philosophical writings on key topics. Philosophy: Basic Readings is the ideal
introduction to some of the most accessible and thought-provoking pieces in
philosophy, both contemporary and classic.

The second edition of Philosophy: Basic Readings has been expanded to include
new pieces in each major area of philosophy:
What is philosophy?
Right and wrong
The external world

The readings in Philosophy: Basic Readings complement the chapters in

Philosophy: The Basics (4th edition 2004)

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy
Paperback 15 Mar 2001
by Simon Blackburn (Author)

This is a book about the big questions in life: knowledge, consciousness,

fate, God, truth, goodness, justice. It is for anyone who believes there are
big questions out there, but does not know how to approach them. Think sets out
to explain what they are and why they are important.

Simon Blackburn begins by putting forward a convincing case for the

study of philosophy and goes on to give the reader a sense of how the great
historical figures such as Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein have
approached its central themes. Each chapter explains a major issue, and gives
the reader a self-contained guide through the problems that philosophers have
studied. The large scope of topics covered range from scepticism, the self, mind
and body, and freedom to ethics and the arguments surrounding the existence of

Lively and approachable, this book is ideal for all those who want to learn how
the basic techniques of thinking shape our existence.

Philosophy Bites Again Hardcover 30 Oct 2014

by David Edmonds (Author), Nigel Warburton (Author)

Philosophy Bites Again is a brand new selection of interviews from the popular
podcast of the same name. It offers engaging and thought-provoking
conversations with leading philosophers on a selection of major philosophical
issues that affect our lives. Their subjects include pleasure, pain, and humour;
consciousness and the self; free will, responsibility, and punishment; the
meaning of life and the afterlife. Everyone will find ideas in this book to
fascinate, provoke, and inspire them.

Philosophy Bites Paperback 4 May 2012

by David Edmonds (Author), Nigel Warburton (Contributor)

In recent years, some of the world's leading philosophers have held forth on their
favorite topics on the immensely popular website This
remarkably popular site has had to date some 12.5 million downloads, and is
listened to all over the globe. Philosophy Bites brings together the twenty-five
best interviews from this hugely successful website. Leading philosophers-
including Simon Blackburn, Alain de Botton, Will Kymlicka, Alexander Nehamas,
and more than twenty others-discuss a wide range of philosophical issues in a
surprisingly lively, informal, and personal way.

Here Peter Singer argues forcefully for vegetarianism, Anthony Appiah discusses
cosmopolitanism, and Stephen Law shows why it is unreasonable to believe in an
all-powerful, all-good deity. Time, infinity, evil, friendship, animals, wine, sport,
tragedy-all of human life is here. And as these bite-sized interviews reveal, often
the most brilliant philosophers are eager and able to convey their thoughts,
simply and clearly, on the great ideas of philosophy. Publishers Weekly called the

volume "thoughtful and highly readable," concluding that "these bite-size
dialogues add up to a surprisingly substantial whole."

Philosophy Bites Back Hardcover 22 Nov 2012

by David Edmonds (Author), Nigel Warburton (Author)

Philosophy Bites Back is the second book to come out of the hugely successful
podcast Philosophy Bites. It presents a selection of lively interviews with leading
philosophers of our time, who discuss the ideas and works of some of the most
important thinkers in history. From the ancient classics of Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle, to the ground breaking modern thought of Wittgenstein, Rawls, and
Derrida, this volume spans over two and a half millennia of western philosophy
and illuminates its most fascinating ideas.

Philosophy Bites was set up in 2007 by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton. It
has had over 12 million downloads, and is listened to all over the world.

But here's my take on it.

The strength of philosophy is in its open-mindedness and commitment to deep

critical thinking. (I would like to see each of these notions described in more
detail as they are of crucial importance to what is being claimed.)
(The following are very meaningful and true points!)
Its greatest weakness of course is the mirror image of its strengths: a poor sense
of proportion (pursuing an argument to the point of absurdity) (arguments are
mere tools but are often treated as if they are the aim, the purpose, the goal of
some narrative ), and irrelevance to the real world (?please describe) and real
people's concerns (just what strange rational world did Kant live in? ha-ha I love
this!! And Hegel? Etc). In this respect David Hill has neatly described (analytic)
philosophy as "the ungainly attempt to tackle questions that come naturally to
children, using methods that come naturally to lawyers." (YES!)

Because of this structural feature, successful philosophy requires negotiating a

reasonable (relevant? To stay on the method/way/main road and not get
distracted into irrelevant by-paths) course through a treacherous strait. On one
side lies the mundane (?) world(S) of sciences, arts, and common life, a world of
muggles content to wallow in their own ignorance, a life-world that seems
incredibly conceptually impoverished, dull and slow compared with the sparkling
philosopher's life. On the other side lies the esoteric world of pure reason, a high
pure realm where there is little oxygen to breathe and hallucinations are
frequent. (Love it!)

The history of philosophy is full of occasions when philosophers did 'descend' to

the mundane. The disciplines of physics, economics, psychology, computer
science, and so forth all started with philosophers' questions, but as soon as
people started developing small-m methodologies, with just a few fixed and
unquestioned concepts, for systematically answering them, the philosophers

left in pursuit of more open, concept-rich topics. All such disciplines are quite
respectable in their own way, of course, but too limited to count as proper
philosophy anymore. (Summary of the socio-cultural differentiation of other
discourses as they are excluded from the discourse of philosophy.)

Philosophy is far more concerned with raising questions like "How does the sun
work", using clever conceptual analysis and theory construction to set them up,(
summary of philosophical methodology, methods, techniques that concentrates
on a few features, steps, aspects, stages of the processes of theorizing) than in
the answers, which however marvellous at first glance, quickly acquire the
tedium of the mundane: "Gosh, a great ball of hydrogen under such pressure
that nuclear fusion takes place? Yawn". The best questions (what standards are
employed to sort good, better, best questions from bad or less good questions?)
(the ones at the core of western philosophy since Plato) are those that teeter
on the edge of intelligibility - such as "How can something stay the same thing
when it changes?" or "What is truth?". These are good philosophical questions
because even posing them requires elegant multi-tiered conceptual
constructions, and there isn't much chance of ever getting a definitive (i.e.
boring) answer. The intellectual dance can continue indefinitely: incessant,
addictive, inescapable, like Facebook for grown-ups. (As Wittgenstein noted, "The
real discovery is the one which enables me to stop doing philosophy when I want
to. The one that gives philosophy (Philosopher) peace, so that it is no longer
tormented by questions which bring itself into question.")

So philosophy is obviously biased towards the esoteric world of ideas. The first
problem with this attitude is that to the extent that pure philosophy concerns
itself with itself it will produce little of relevance (standards and norms to
measure this degree of relevance? And why should it be relevant? Is that the
standards to measure all things by? Eg music, visual art etc, is being meaningful
not also important? Are there no other values than being relevant?) to the
world (no relevant to small communities, interest groups and other field of
socio-cultural practices, eg the arts, music, dance, astrophysics, etc) of muggles.
It thus takes on the character of a private hobby whose value only its acolytes
perceive. Like chess.

Secondly, that study may itself be impoverished to the extent that muggle
disciplines, such as psychology, politics, and physics, are deliberately excluded
as lesser forms of knowledge rather than as different and possibly
complementary projects (although 'experimental philosophy' is making a
comeback). It is a mistake to think that philosophy is in the meta-knowledge
business: understood as independently advancing humanity's true knowledge
brick by brick. Philosophy is in the understanding business, and that should
include understanding and learning from the practises we attempt to criticise.
(This if fine, but this should form part of the stage of theorizing when data to be
study is collected. How do other disciplines proceed and execute this stage? How
can these now excluded phenomena be included in that stage of the process of
theorizing or doing philosophy?)

Thirdly, philosophy misses a tremendous opportunity to apply its sophisticated

skills (please provide details for these sophisticated skills) directly to the world of

The specialists in operative concepts (one skill) should speak up when some
conceptual artist claims (note this refers to VISUAL and other FINE ARTS, not a
philosopher doing tricks with concepts) her work is about "resisting the system".
'Really? How? What do you mean by that, exactly? Why?' . (This already occur in
Fine Art practices, students are taught such critical skills, critics, reviewers,
curators can do this if they do their work properly and intelligently and not
merely utter art speak.)
When some economist claims that governments should concern themselves with
maximising happiness it is the trained philosopher who should be there to ask
what she means by happiness. To show that she is employing three different
concepts of utility interchangeably (it does not require philosophers to ask such
questions - any well-educated individuals will do this.) in her welfare economics
models (none of which seems to justify the crude income metric actually
employed). To challenge sloppy reasoning: "Happiness is just obviously the most
important thing?". To analyse its implications and how they may conflict with our
other foundational moral commitments and values (such as respecting the
distinctness of individuals). That is not to say that conceptual analysis is always
helpful or appropriate - don't try analysing love with your partner - but the
engaged philosopher is more likely to develop the required sense of judgement
than the esoteric one.

(It seems as if the author is looking for ways, practices, fields, problems to
extend the practice and discourse of philosophy. These suggestions can and
should be fulfilled by any well trained intelligent practitioner on his own field. I do
this in Fine Art and question the rubbish art speak we are presented with by
artists, galleries, art critics and reviewers.)

In pure philosophy philosophers seek to impress each other by posing and

critiquing elegantly formed questions, in perfect isolation from the rest of the
world. (Absolutely correct! The incestuous world of academic philosophy and
professionalization of doing philosophy! These ills being identified and pointed
out by the author are merely a few of the many problems caused by the
institutionalization of academic philosophy, its market, faculties, journals, books
publishers, conferences, celebrities, status, and other socio-cultural factors,
structures, processes, etc.)

Outside philosophy people try to answer questions using the tool set they
already have. But the answer I suggest to 'What is philosophy?' takes the
question as a practical one, and points to the applied philosophy where the
critical skills of philosophers are genuinely engaged with the concerns of other
disciplines (and even ordinary life), (I disagree with this these things being
suggested, what philosophers should do in other disciplines, should be done by
those involved in those disciplines. They should be trained to do that by training
them in the features and aspects of the processes of theorizing, for example
conceptual analysis. Some aspects or features of these processes are what are
known as philosophical methods or skills.) making scientists more critical, (or
perhaps more sensitive to conceptual and other philosophical-type issues and
questions) and philosophers more humble and grounded. The resources of

philosophy are best engaged in considering the world, (meaning?) and
especially the human projects and studies that struggle to understand it. That is
where the strengths of philosophy shine brightest, and its weaknesses least.

Public Philosophy
First, I write for the general public rather than for a specialised sub-group of
philosophers. You shouldn't need to have gone to grad school to understand what
I'm talking about, or to care about the topics I discuss.

Second, I write about issues, from prison to love and robots, that I am not an
expert on but that I want to try to think through by writing. This blog is not some
kind of public service, such as translating the discoveries of academic philosophy
into something ordinary people can understand. I write for me as well for my
readers. What I am trying to do here are essays in Montaigne's sense: personal
efforts at making sense of the world.
I do not claim - as I implicitly must do in my academic work - that what I write
here qualifies as a definitive contribution to the sum of human knowledge. In fact
I am continuously revising my past essays as I reflect further, read further, and
am persuaded by the comments of readers of my errors of judgement, fact, or

Published Essays
Several of my blog essays have been republished elsewhere, such as in Think,
Quartz, Philosophy Now, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Religion and
Ethics site, and Open Democracy.

I also write a regular column for 3 Quarks Daily and I have recently started
writing for Aeon magazine and The Critique.

Philosophical Weblogs

This is a list of weblogs that are devoted to topics in and around analytic philosophy, or that
are by analytic philosophers. Suggestions for addition are welcome.

Group Weblogs (Topical)

Aesthetics (Aesthetics for Birds)

Bioethics (Philosophy and Bioethics)

Bioethics (Bioethics Forum)

Early Modern Experimental Philosophy

Epistemic Value

Epistemology (Certain Doubts)

Ethics (Ethics Etc)

Ethics (Pea Soup)

Ethics of Resource Allocation

Experimental Philosophy

Feminist Philosophers

Formal Epistemology (Choice and Inference)

Free Will/Responsibility (Flickers of Freedom)

Gender, Race, and Philosophy

Green Future Ethics



Metaphysics (Matters of Substance)

New APPS: Art, Philosophy, Politics, Science

Neuroethics (Neuroethics at the Core)

Philosophy and Psychiatry

Philosophy of Architecture

Philosophy of Art

Philosophy of Mind (Brain Pains)

Philosophy of Mind (Brains)

Philosophy of Religion (Prosblogion)

Philosophy of Science (It's Only A Theory)

Philosophy of Sport

Philosophy of Time (art,
philosophizing, methods, subject-matter, death of philosophy, ontology,

Philosophy Talk

Practical Ethics

Political Philosophy (Public Reason)

Secular Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy (In Socrates' Wake)

Theorizing (the process, features, levels, aspects resemble philosophizing)

Virtue Theory (Janusblog)

What Sorts of People Should There Be?

Group Weblogs (Local)

Barcelona (The bLOGOS)

Berlin (Phlox)

Bowling Green (Unideal Observers)


Connecticut (What Is It Like to be a Blog)

Leeds (Metaphysical Values)

London (Bloggin the Question)


Michigan (Go Grue)

Missouri (Show Me the Argument)

New Zealand (Prior Knowledge)

North Florida (Florida Student Philosophy Blog)

Northwestern College (Gadflies)

Notre Dame (Plato's Beard)

Rochester (This is Not the Name of This Blog)

San Diego Mesa (Philosophy on the Mesa)

San Francisco State

Southern California (Hesperus)

St. Andrews (The Arche Weblog)

St. Andrews (The Arche Methodology Project Weblog)

Syracuse (OrangePhilosophy)

Tufts (The Web of Belief)

Turkey (Hesperus is Bosphorus)

UC San Diego (Daily Phil)

UC Santa Barbara

Western Michigan (Undetached Rabbit Parts)

Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

Philosophers (= roughly: Philosophy Ph.D.)

Ken Aizawa (The Bounds of Cognition)

Anton Alterman (Brain Scam)

Albert Atkin (The Wages of Ignorance)

Mike Austin

Ralf Bader (Transcendental Idealism)

Andrew Bailey (Ratiocination)

Gary Banham (Inter Kant)

JC Beall (B-log)

Joseph Biehl (Biehlosophy)

Henk bij de Weg (Philosophy by the Way)

Stephan Blatti (De Dicto)

Evelyn Brister (Knowledge and Experience)

Berit Brogaard (Lemmings)

Richard Brown (Philosophy Sucks)

Thom Brooks (The Brooks Blog)

Anderson Brown

Ben Burgis (Blog & ~Blog)

John Capps (American Philosophy)

Colin Caret (Inconsistent Thoughts)

David Chalmers (Fragments of Consciousness)

Michelle Ciurria (Moral Responsibility)

Jon Cogburn

Wesley Cooper

Sharon Crasnow (A Philosopher's Walk)

Andrew Cullison (Wide Scope)

Ulrich de Balbian(Philosophizing, Meta-philosophy, Methods, Subject-

matter, Art, Theorizing)

Dennis Des Chene (Philosophical Fortnights)

Josh Dever (The Philosophy Family Tree)

Trent Dougherty (This is the Name of This Blog)

Kenny Easwaran (Antimeta)

Farhang Erfani (Continental Philosophy)

Gregory Fowler (Discourse on Metaphysics)

Luciano Floridi (Philosophy of Information)

Colin Farrelly (In Search of Enlightenment)

Stamatios Gerogiorgakis (Philosophische Ristretti)

Benoit Hardy-Valle (Natural Rationality)

Jonathan Ichikawa (There is Some Truth in That)

Manyul Im (Chinese Philosophy)

Carrie Jenkins (Long Words Bother Me)

Jean Kazez

Sean Kelly (All Things Shining)

Stephen Law

Henry Laycock (It's a Bit Too Stuffy In Here)

Tom Leddy (Aesthetics Today)

Brian Leiter (Leiter Reports)

Brian Leiter (Legal Philosophy)

Brian Leiter (Nietzsche)

Esa Diaz Leon (Been There Done That)

Clayton Littlejohn (Think Tonk)

Sharon Lloyd (Hobbes Today)

Rob Loftis (Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk)

Dan Lpez de Sa (Bleb)

Errol Lord (Reflective Equilibrium)

Diego Machuca (Aporia)

P.D. Magnus (Footnotes on Epicycles)

Pete Mandik (Brain Hammer)

Noelle McAfee (GonePublic)

Chris MacDonald (Business Ethics Blog)

Deborah Mayo (Error Statistics)

John Messerly (Reason and Meaning)

Colin McGinn

Aidan McGlynn (The Boundaries of Language)

Marc Moffett (Close Range)

Bradley Monton

Bernhard Nickel (Nothing Has Ever Looked So Wrong)

Michael Pakaluk (Dissoi Blogoi)

David Papineau (Sport and Philosophy)

Christian Perring (We Call Upon the Author to Explain)

M. G. Piety (Piety on Kierkegaard)

Alexander Pruss

Brian Rabern (Armchair Investigations)

Greg Restall (

Alan Rhoda (Alanyzer)

Sam Rickless (Limerickless)

William Robinson (Your Brain and You)

Avrom Roy-Faderman (The Amateur Philosopher)

Gillian Russell (Logic and Language)

Joe Salerno (Knowability)

Laurie Schrage (APA Governance)

Wolfgang Schwarz (Wo's Weblog)

Eric Schwitzgebel (The Splintered Mind)

Kieran Setiya (Ideas of Imperfection)

Neil Sinhababu (The Ethical Werewolf)

Robert Skipper (HPB Etc)

Peter Smith (Logic Matters)

Spiros (Philosophers Anonymous)

Janet Stemwedel (Adventures in Ethics and Science)

Adam Swenson (Pain for Philosophers)

John Symons (Objects and Arrows)

Trevor Thompson (Consciousness and Pop Stuff)

Tim Thornton (In the Space of Reasons)

William Vallicella (Maverick Philosopher)

Tim van Gelder (Rationale Thoughts)

Rob Van Gerwen (Dimlit Philosophy)

Mark Vernon (Philosophy and Life)

Robert Wallace (Philosophical Mysticism)

Nigel Warburton (Virtual Philosopher)

James Warren (Kenodoxia)

Brian Weatherson (Thoughts Arguments and Rants)

Matt Weiner (Opiniatrety)

John Wilkins (Evolving Thoughts)

Robbie Williams (Theories 'n Things)

Chase Wrenn (Conditional Material)

Nicole Wyatt (Percieve)

Richard Zach (LogBlog)


Derrick Abdul-Hakim (Muslim Philosopher)

Avery Archer (The Space of Reasons)

Adam Arico (Aspiring Lemming)

Daniel Bader (The Lyceum)

Adam Bales (Almost Philosophy)

John Basl (Normal Science)

Brian Berkey (Philosophy from the Left Coast)

Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise)

Aaron Boyden (Neurath's Boat)

Matt Brown (The Hanged Man)

J. Adam Carter (Virtue Epistemology)

Matt Carter (Emanations)

Ainsley Castelow (Purplexity)

Richard Chappell (Philosophy, Et Cetera)

Nate Charlow (De Crapalus Edormiendo)

Gavagai! (N./ Chen)

Ian Church (Reformed Philosophy)

Sean Choi (The Plurality of Blogs)

Cleis (Sappho's Breathing)

Aaron Cobb (Philosophy Blog)

John Cobb (Modulo Truth)

Martin Cooke (Enigmania)

Aaron Cotnoir (Conundrum)

Jeff Dauer (Philosophical Remainders)

John DePoe (Fides Quaerens Intellectum)

Kate Devitt (Philosophy of Memory)

Sam Douglas (Philosophy Hurts Your Head)

James Dow (Selbsttatigkeit)

James Dow (Spontaneity & Receptivity)

Ends of Thought

Excluded Middle

A.G. (Worldly Living)

David Gawthorne (Intentional Objects)

Jeffrey Giliam (Stop That Crow!)

Gregg Frost-Arnold (Obscure and Confused Ideas)

Peter Gerdes

James Gibson (Blogitations)

Jeremy Ginsburg (Blain Gritch)

Clark Goble (Mormon Metaphysics)

Gabriel Gottlieb (Self and World)

Scott Hagaman (Scottish Nous)

Eric Hagedorn (Making the Cooler Argument the Stronger)

Tristan Haze (Sprachlogik)

Samuel Henry (The Square of Opposition)

Ole Hjortland (Nothing of Consequence)

Matt Hoberg (The Consternation of Philosophy)

Michael Horton (Nothing but the Truth-in-L)

Leo Iacono (The Sceptic Tank)

Michelle Jenkins (Mumblings of a Platonist)

Jack (Musings About Philosophy)

Jack Josephy (Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science)

Yarden Katz (CrunchyLogic)

C. Malcolm Keating (Arbitrary Marks)

Joseph Kranak (The Skeptical Philosopher)

Jimmy Licon (...Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion)

Little Cicero

Lumpy Pea Coat

Mike McEuen (Philosoblog)

Matthew McGrattan (Glaikit Feartie)

Rachel McKinney (Atoms Arranged)

Alexus McLeod (Unpolished Jade)

Jeff Medina (Philosophy Bytes)


Ben Miller (Prima Facie)

Ryan Miller (Buckingham Inquirer)

Annie Mizera (Anniemiz)

Vanessa Morlock (Enwe's Metablog)

Matthew Mullins (Ektopos)

Noema (And You Shall Be in the Blog)

Cynthia Nielsen (Per Caritatem)

Ocham (Beyond Necessity)

Ian Olasov (For Those of You at Home)

Philosophy Blog

Philosophy Smoker

Jeremy Pierce (Parablemania)

PJS (Fleurir)

Ignacio Prado (The First Element)

Dan Quattrone (Doing Things With Words)

Chris Ragg (Mumblings and Grumblings)

Kris Rhodes (Hopeless Generalist)

Nick Riggle

Brendan Ritchie (Archimedes' Point)

Ali Rizvi (Foucauldian Reflections)

Ali Rizvi (Habermasian Reflections)

Bryan Roberts (Soul Physics)

Idris Robinson (Vexed Perspectives)

Andrew Roche (Kant Blog)

Simon Peter van Rysewyk (Wittgenstein Light)

Alejandro Satz (Reality Conditions)

Jonah Schupbach (Bishop Berkeley, Bacon, and Bird)

Michael Sevel (Phluaria)

Naxos Simeon (Metathought)

Clifford Sosis (Hic Habitat Felicitas)

Ian Spencer (Philosophical Orthodoxy)

Shawn Standefer (Words and Other Things)

Andreas Stokke (Plurality of Words)

Justin Sytsma (My Mind is Made Up)

Simon Thomas (Baalbek)

Peter Thurley (Dinner Table Don'ts)

Ethan Toombs (Ad Absurdum)

Joe Ulatowski (Oohlah's BlogSpace)

Mark Wales (Neo-Sophistry)

Brandon Watson (Houyhnhnm Land)

Will Wilkinson (The Fly Bottle)

Jason Zarri (Philosophical Pontifications)

Nonphilosophers with Philosophy-Related Weblogs

Chris Bateman (Only a Game)

Big Ideas

Conscious Entities

Consciousness and Culture (Ellis Seagh)

Crooked Timber

Bob Doyle (Information Philosophy)

Duck Rabbit

Steve Esser (Guide to Reality)

Matthew Flannagan (MandM)

Russell Arben Fox (Wldchen vom Philosophenweg)

Katja Grace (Meteuphoric)

Rob Grauman (The Young Socrates)

Tanasije Gjorgoski (A Brood Comb)

Dave Kelly (Stoic News)

Less Wrong

David McCullough (Chunking Along)

P.Z. Myers (Pharyngula)

N-Category Cafe

Neuroethics and Law

Paul Newall (Studi Galileiani)

Nietzsche Circle Forum

Open Conceptual

Overcoming Bias

Panexperientialism (Justin)

Philosophical Bits (Phil Thrift)

Philosophy of Nursing

Philosophy with an Absurd Twist (Arash Farzaneh)

Daniel Podgorski (The Gemsbok)

Political Satiety

John Pourtless (Calamus)

Punishment Theory


Qualia Examiner

Anand Rangarajan

Gary Sauer-Thompson (

Science of Consciousness

Singularity Institute


Lawrence Solum (Legal Theory)

Thalesian Fools (Timmo Prisk & EJ)

Peg Tittle (Bite-Sized Subversions)

Robert Vermeulen (Philosophy of Genetics)

Mark Vernon (Philosophy and Life)

Mattias Wikstrm

Matthew Yglesias

Philosophers with (Mostly) Non-Philosophy Weblogs

Harriet Baber (Enlightenment Project)

Colin Anderson and John Casey (The NonSequitur)

Samir Chopra

The Conservative Philosopher

Michael Dickson (Words of Mass Dissemination)

Mark English (Language Life and Logic)

David Estlund (Occasionalities)

Dwight Furrow (Rants and Reasons)

Michael Green

David Hildebrand

John Holbo (John and Belle Have a Blog)

Mark Eli Kalderon (Excursus)


Mohan Matthen (The Blog of Small Things)

Peter Levine

Matt McCormick (Atheism: Proving the Negative)

Right Reason

Roderick T. Long (Austro-Athenian Empire)

Paul Raymond (Philosophy, Lit, Etc)

Sahotra Sarkar

Crispin Sartwell (Eye of the Storm)

Joe Shieber (Momentary Language)

Barry Smith (HL7 Watch)

Peter Suber (Open Access News)

Laurence Thomas (Moral Health)

Jessica Wilson (For the Record)

Abe Witonsky (PokerMoments)

Cognitive Science Weblogs


Babel's Dawn


Brain Ethics

BPS Research Digest

Channel N

Chris Chatham (Developing Intelligence)

Cognitive Daily


Kai von Fintel (Semantics etc)

Language Hat

Language Log

Jonah Lehrer (The Frontal Cortex)

Machines Like Us

Madam Fathom

Michael Merzenich (On the Brain)

Mind Hacks

Mixing Memory

Mouse Trap

Ken Mogi (Qualia Journal)


Neuroethics and Law






Neurophilosophy and Sociocognition

Omni Brain


Science and Consciousness Review

Scientifically Minded

Singularity Institute

Small Gray Matters

Sound and Mind

Thinking Meat

Eric Thomson (Neurochannels)


Online Papers in Philosophy

Papers on Agency

Philosophers' Carnival

See also

people with online papers in philosophy

online papers on consciousness

web resources on philosophy, consciousness, etc

David Chalmers' home page

Identity and Difference: A Hundred Years of Analytic

Jeanne Peijnenburg
At its origins, analytic philosophy is an interest in language, science, logic,
analysis, and a systematic rather than a historical approach to philosophical
problems. Early analytic philosophers were famous for making clear conceptual
distinctions and for couching them in comprehensible and lucid sentences. It is
argued that this situation is changing, that analytic philosophy is turning into its
mirror image and is thereby becoming more like the kind of philosophy that it
used to oppose.
Analytic philosophy is sometimes said to have particularly close connections to
logic and to science, and no particularly interesting or close relation to its own
history. It is argued here that although the connections to logic and science have
been important in the development of analytic philosophy, these connections do
not come close to characterizing the nature of analytic philosophy, either as a
body of doctrines or as a philosophical method. We will do better to understand
analytic philosophyand its relationship to continental philosophyif we see it
as a historically constructed collection of texts, which define its key problems
and concerns. It is true, however, that analytic philosophy has paid little
attention to the history of the subject. This is both its strengthsince it allows for
a distinctive kind of creativityand its weaknesssince ignoring history can
encourage a philosophical variety of normal science.

Not long ago it was easy to say how analytic philosophy

could be distinguished from nonanalytic, so-called continental philosophy. The charac-
teristic landscape of analytic philosophy may be described by eight
features, and although each of them can be found in one textbook or
another, they seem never to have been surveyed together. Below I give all
eight of them and evaluate the recent sea changes with a critical, not to say
a jaundiced, eye. We shall find that none of the defining characteristics of
early analytic philosophy are nowadays entirely applicable. Indeed, an
important raison dtre of early analytic philosophy, namely, an opposition
to such thinkers as Hegel and Heidegger, seems to be quite absent today.
Characteristics of Analytic Philosophy

The first criterion that distinguishes analytic from nonanalytic philosophy
is that the former evinces special interest in questions of language and
meaning. This criterion has been extensively re-evaluated by Michael
Dummett (1993, Chap. 2), and in a recent Ph.D. thesis the emphasis on the
philosophy of language is still called the fundamental tenet of analytic
philosophy (Lievers 1997, 2). As for the second criterion, it has currently
been underlined by Peter Hacker (1996, 4; cf. 1997, 55). According to
Hacker, analytic philosophers may be distinguished from their continental
colleagues by a partiality for analysis in the most literal sense of that
Metaphilosophy LLC and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2000
The name was coined by Herbert Feigl, if we are to believe Feyerabend (1996, 116).

Was Wittgenstein an Analytic Philosopher?

Hans-Johann Glock
Published Date
9 July 2004

Prolegomena to any Future History of Analytic Philosophy

Aaron Preston
Published Date
9 July 2004

On the Structure of Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Tom Rockmore
Published Date
9 July 2004

McDowell on Kant: Redrawing the Bounds of Sense

Christopher Norris
Published Date
July 2000

Philosophy, Logic, Science, History
Tim Crane
Published Date
5 January 2012
July 4, 2009 philosophy, psychology | 3 Comments
Reconciling Continental and Analytical Philosophy

There are two types of people in this world: cat people and dog people; Beatles or Elvis;
tissues or hankie. And there are analytic and continental philosophers.

Why is this? And why do continental and analytic philosophers have such difficulty
understanding, let alone appreciating, each others work? And why the latent (and sometimes
not so latent) animosity between adherents of both traditions?

Id suggest its because the two approaches represent fundamentally opposite approaches to
philosophy. However, when taken together, they actually turn out to be complementary, much
like Niels Bohrs motto: Contraria non contradictoria sed complementa sunt, (opposites
are not contradictory but complementary).

See, the world of experience is a strange and chaotic one, and its the job of philosophy to
make sense of it. The question is: how?

For the continental philosopher, the starting point is the world of experience itself.
Continental philosophy takes as its task the mapping of the phenomenal world. It involves
itself with perception, language, culture, emotion, history etc. It seeks to make sense of the
phenomenal by determining its very contours.

Analytic philosophy, on the other hand, takes as its starting point the desire to describe the
smallest number of moving parts the very cogs that underlie the phenomenal world that,
when working together, produce the seemingly chaotic phenomena of everyday life. The
analytic philosopher is less interested in the dozens of ways a word might be used than in
what all usages of the word have in common. They wish to abstract away the individual
phenomena to get at the underlying eddies and currents that reinforce and annihilate each
other to produce the contours of experience.

Yet the continental philosopher is wary of this approach, for it is suspicious of reductionism
and the notion of objectivity, and is sceptical about our ability to know when we have
actually discovered the underlying moving parts. The analytic philosopher, on the other hand,
is irritated by the slippery nature of continental discourse; to them its like trying to herd cats.

One thing Ive noticed is that most philosophers dont strictly choose which side of the fence
theyll pitch their tent; they discover one day their tent already pitched and simply make
home, realising later the fence some way distant.

Personally, I find myself firmly in the analytic camp. Im interested in systems, although this
not not so much from choice as a consequence of my psychology; Im a high systemiser to
the point of being close to the ASD range. (In fact, I think a fascinating experiment would be
to test a sample of analytic and continental philosophers to see where they fall on this scale
I predict theyll all be higher than average on the systemising scale, but analytic philosophers
will top out the systemising scale, while the continental philosophers will be higher on the
empathising scale.)

The take home message from this whim and speculation? Continental and analytic
philosophy are just two sides of the same coin. And the very fact that they diverged at all is
perhaps a sign that both sides have taken their approach to extreme. Regular readers will
remember that Im critical of both sides. As philosophy has been shrunk and become
overshadowed by its offspring, it has retreated to the extremes and become less relevant to
the real world. As a matter of priority philosophy of all persuasions needs to make itself
relevant again. And philosophers going head to head at cross purposes doesnt do anybody
any favours.
Lee Braver

Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and

Lee Braver, Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, MIT Press,
2012, 354pp., $38.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780262016896.

Reviewed by Gary E. Aylesworth, Eastern Illinois University

Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are the two most influential philosophers of the
twentieth century. Though they were aware of one another, each made only one recorded
mention of the other, and these were made in passing. These remarks open a narrow pathway
into a large field of investigation. However, perhaps because they came to represent opposing
camps of professional philosophers, few have attempted to read them so as to bring them into
productive dialogue. Lee Braver's publication is the latest of these relatively rare efforts. His
general thesis is that, despite their differences, Wittgenstein and Heidegger both insist upon
our radical finitude as human beings, and that there is an unsurpassable limit to the reasons
we give as to why things are the way they are. In other words, reason as a ground-giving
activity cannot ground itself, but arises out of our situation in a world that is always already
"there" before the question of grounds or reasons can arise in the first place. In developing
this thesis, Braver hopes to begin a dialogue between so-called analytic and continental
philosophers and to inaugurate a re-appropriation of the philosophical tradition on the basis
of mutual understanding. That is to say, he believes his study can lead "analysts" and
"continentalists" to agree on what philosophy is, on what it has been, and on what it ought to
become. Given the institutional divisions within professional philosophy, in place for two or
more generations, this is no small ambition, and it is unlikely to meet with a friendly
reception from all quarters (see Richard Rorty).

As a matter of strategy, Braver begins each chapter with an account of the early Wittgenstein,
who then functions as a critical target for the later Wittgenstein and as a stand-in for the
metaphysical tradition that Heidegger, early and late, seeks to overcome. Chapter 1 presents
both thinkers as calling for an "end" to philosophy as it has been practiced in the past, which
for Braver means the assumption of a disengaged theoretical stance over and above our
everyday ways of speaking and dealing with things in the world. The paradigm case of
philosophical theorizing is Wittgenstein's famous positing,in the Tractatus of a logically
perfect language beneath the irregular and disorderly uses of ordinary speech. Braver gives a
detailed account of the later Wittgenstein's rejection of this position, including criticisms of
the assertions that all meaningful propositions must have a single form, that elementary
propositions constitute a set of linguistic atoms whose combinations are calculable, and that
the complete set of their possible combinations delimits language (and the world) as a limited
whole. Once the later Wittgenstein realizes that language cannot be reduced to one function,
the project of the Tractatus collapses under the untenability of its basic assumptions. While
noting their fundamental differences, Braver argues that Heidegger's analysis in Being and
Time of objects "present at hand" closely parallels Wittgenstein's criticisms of the misleading
confusions created by philosophers when they focus upon one example, such as propositional
statements, as a model for all cases. Just as Wittgenstein insists there is no actual problem
with language as long as we attend to the particularity of each "move" in a language game,
Heidegger grounds the traditional view of things as present objects within the network of our
involvements with things "ready at hand," a network that constitutes a world we already

In the second chapter, Braver extends his account of the Tractatus, in which Wittgenstein
theorizes that elementary propositions mirror the organization of objects into the states of
affairs that make up the world. Metaphysically, objects are nothing but the set of all of their
combinatory possibilities, including the combinations they are actually in. In this way,
Wittgenstein seeks to anchor the sense of language in a logical space where primitive
propositions name the "meaning-bodies" of the world and isomorphically "picture" them in
their combinations in states of affairs. However, as noted in chapter 1, the later Wittgenstein
rejects this schema as the answer to an unnecessary worry about grounding linguistic sense in
an objectively determinable world. This worry dissolves once we realize that our
involvements with the world are already in order, and that philosophy gets caught up in
nonsense of its own making by taking things out of their natural contexts, e.g., by looking for
the "meaning" of meaning. Braver suggests that Heidegger carries out a similar critique of
traditional theorizing in Being and Time when he describes the derivative nature of things as
present-at-hand objects (the mode of traditional metaphysics and epistemology) in contrast to
our close involvement with things in their usefulness, prior to any objectification.

In chapter 3, Braver provides more detail on the holism of human actions as described by
both thinkers. Here, he comments on Wittgenstein's rejection of the notion of a private
language in the Philosophical Investigations, which he suggests is not so much an argument
as a series of examples illustrating the uselessness of such an idea. First of all, we learn
language by interacting with others, and thus we can refer our private feelings to ourselves
only after we have learned how to refer and how to distinguish between "private" and
"public" in the first place. Thus the sense of what is private is derivative upon non-private
communication, and there is, then, a holistic connection between any so-called private

language and language's ordinary uses. Braver links this with Heidegger's holism in his
description of tools in Being and Time, where the use of a tool, such as a hammer,
presupposes a non-thematic understanding of an entire world of references within which the
hammer functions, and this includes involvements with other human beings (other Dasein).
In this regard, our existential being-in-the-world is our primary experience of everything, and
it must simply be described rather than theoretically reconstructed, for such reconstruction
would be a falsification. (seem to me like sociologism and an emphasis on socio-cultural
practices by both thinkers?)

Braver carries these considerations over into chapter 4, which focuses upon the nature of
thinking. He presents in considerable detail Wittgenstein's critique of the modernist model of
thinking as viewing images in a mental picture-gallery. As Wittgenstein points out, much of
what we call knowing or understanding does not involve any particular mental activity, and
can be accounted for perfectly well by attending to what we do (Ryles behaviourism?) in
various situations. This parallels Heidegger's description of everyday understanding in Being
and Time, and Braver suggests that both Heidegger and Wittgenstein embrace what he calls
the Perceptual Model of Thought. As he says: "Rather than weighing the pros and cons of an
array of options confronting us, we simply see what is to be done in a given situation" (p.
141). As Braver notes, there is a certain passivity to perceptual thinking, in contrast to the
intellectualist models of thought favored by modern thinkers, including Husserlian
phenomenologists and analytic philosophers. As he points out, the later Heidegger, in
particular, emphasizes the passivity of thinking in his notion of Gelassenheit, or releasement
toward things. In addition, he argues that there is an affinity between the Perceptual Model of
Thought and Aristotle's characterization of ethical judgment as phronesis.( Phronesis
Ancient Greek: , phronsis) is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence. It
is more specifically a type of wisdom relevant to practical things, requiring an ability to
discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage practical virtue, excellence of character,
in others)

In chapter 5, Braver argues that the later Wittgenstein and Heidegger are anti-foundationalists
in accounting for a certain deceptiveness in the search for ultimate "grounds" or "reasons."
For Wittgenstein, this takes the form of an illusion of greater depth beneath the ground that
lies on the surface, while Heidegger states it in terms of an event of being that is a groundless
"giving" of grounds.(Very Kantian things-in-themselves rejected?) This constitutes what
Braver calls the Framework Argument: "we cannot judge the rules of a game or the
framework of a discussion by criteria applicable within it" (p. 180). For Wittgenstein, this
means any attempt to ground language games in an independently existing reality is, if it
makes sense, a move in a certain language game. Furthermore, it means that the search for
such an ultimate ground is a philosophical disease that can be cured when we understand that
the obviousness of knowing how to play a language game is itself the only ground to be had.
This extends to the rules of reason, such as the law of excluded middle, which is a rule for
certain language games, but not one that all language games must necessarily follow. Braver
argues that the early Heidegger's anti-foundationalism is compromised by his call for
authenticity in Dasein's existence, which Braver reads as suggesting that there is an authentic
self that one can enact. However, he finds in Heidegger's epochal history of being the sense
that our understanding of being, and thus of the ground of beings, takes different shapes at
different times. These epochs are "sendings" or "givings" of grounds, and are thus themselves

groundless. Braver notes that Wittgenstein's thinking is not essentially historical, but suggests
Heidegger's epoch's of being can be lined up with Wittgenstein's "strange tribes" who play
alternate language games (p. 197). As an example, Braver argues that Heidegger's remark on
the principle of reason, i.e., there is no reason why everything must have a reason, can be
taken as generally equivalent to Wittgenstein's observation that language games do not
ultimately justify themselves, but are simply played or not played.

In concluding chapter 5, Braver introduces a discussion of David Hume's insistence that the
practices of ordinary life must ultimately trump any attempt to provide them with
metaphysical foundations; the best we can do is to clarify that reason is an instinct that cannot
ground or explain itself, and that this insight changes nothing in common life and experience.
Braver thus invokes Hume to reinforce the deflationary spirit of his readings of Heidegger
and Wittgenstein (and probably to show analytic philosophers that Heidegger can be read as a
"philosopher" in their sense): "All three want to return us to what we already know in or
usual comings and goings, by exposing reason's limitations -- its finitude, its dependence on
factors that escape rational analysis or legitimation" (p. 219). (approximations, like concepts,
notions, ideas, theories and models also are?) This statement may be taken as the main point
of the entire book.

Braver concludes by reiterating that human finitude is, for Wittgenstein and Heidegger,
philosophy's point of departure and final destination. The difference between them, he
argues, is that Heidegger begins with human finitude in Being and Time, whereas
Wittgenstein arrives at it via his own critique of the Tractatus. Nevertheless, Braver regards
Heidegger's early attempt to work out a fundamental ontology of Dasein as a piece of
essentialism in its own right, insofar as it suggests that we can view our finitude sub specie
aeterni in terms of Dasein's unchanging existentialia. On this reading, Heidegger only moves
past this remnant of metaphysics when he turns to Gelassenheit (openness toward beings) in
his later writings. For Braver, it is no coincidence that language moves to the forefront in the
later Heidegger Braver seeks to make it a weight-bearing bridge between Heidegger's
meditations on being and Wittgenstsein's reflections on grammar. In emphasizing this
connection, however, he downplays the sense of mystery in Heidegger compared with
Wittgenstein's critique of the need for mystery as a symptom of the desire to transcend
finitude (a need expressed in the Tractatus as the mystical). While acknowledging this
difference, Braver does not account for it in detail, nor does he address the further difference
beneath it: the sense of finitude as historical, that is, as temporal facticity, as opposed to
finitude as the limit of a non-epochal space.

Missing in Braver's account is Heidegger's deeply historical sense of language itself and of
metaphysical thinking, such that "saying" and "thinking" are gathered together in an inception
that has remained unthought and unsaid since the Greeks, but whose recovery he finds hinted
at in the poetry of Hlderlin. For Heidegger, this calls for deep engagement with the historical
tradition and with language as the bearer of an "unsaid" from the past. For Wittgenstein, by
contrast, the temporality of language is not essential -- a mark, no doubt, of Schopenhauer's
influence on his thinking. Instead, he depicts the historicality of language in terms of an old
European city, with its ancient center of narrow and irregular paths, and its modern outer
districts with linear streets and uniform houses (Philosophical Investigations, 16). There is no
epochal temporality here, but only spatial accumulation and extension. Perhaps a deeper

dialogue between the two philosophers, a dialogue drawn out of this radical difference, would
take a step beyond comparing their similarities, however compelling these might be.

As to the difference between analytic and continental philosophy, we might begin by

recognizing it as a construction of professional philosophers rather than something
essential to philosophy itself. More to the point, both Wittgenstein and Heidegger had
plenty to say about the professionalization of philosophy and its deleterious effects.
Perhaps Braver could have applied some of their criticisms to the tired and tiresome divisions
he is seeking to mend.(NOTE THIS last insight!! Mr Braver!)

Philosophy in Review

XXXIII (2013), no. 5363

Lee Braver Groundless Grounds: A Study of
Wittgenstein and Heidegger
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press 2012.
xvi + 354 pages $38.00 (cloth ISBN 9780262016896)
Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are

Key figures in the analytic and continental philosophical

traditions. Wittgenstein was designated

by Bertrand Russell to be his philosophical

heir, and his work shaped the course of the analytic tradition of philosophy by influencing first

the logical positivists and then ordinary language philosophy.

Edmund Husserl, meanwhile, predicted that

that the future of phenomenology was in Heideggers hands, And he continues to

be an inspiration to continental philosophers. While the gulf

between the analytic and continental

traditions seems as wide as everas Braver

observes, the only thing many philosophers

educated in one of the traditions knows

about the other tradition is that

its a waste of time

learning anything else about itone

of the objectives of this book is to build a load

-bearing bridge

between the continental and analytic traditions in philosophy.

The material for the bridge is provided by focusing on

Wittgenstein and Heideggers rejection of traditional

Metaphysical philosophy.

On Bravers reading, they have a similar diagnosis of

whats wrong with

philosophy, and they offer a similar cure.

The overall plan of the book is to focus

first on the sources of

Wittgenstein and Heideggers discontent with

philosophy, then to consider

their more positive recommendations

. Each of the five chapters and the conclusion begins

with a theme or doctrine from the early Wittgenstein

which serves as representative of the metaphysical tradition opposed by the later Wittgenstein

and the early Heidegger (the later Heidegger makes only brief appearances in this book).

According to Wittgenstein and Heidegger, the source of

traditional philosophical problems and theories is

disengaged philosophical reflection:

a kind of staring at

the objects and activities of everyday life

in an attempt to discover the

essence hidden beneath their external form

This in turn requires transcending the

contingent and limited perspective

imposed by culture and human

finitude in order to see the world as it is in itself.

In order to account for our capacity to think and

talk about the world,

the early Wittgenstein is lead to

postulate a logically perfect language

underneath the messiness of natural languages.

For Heidegger, the

philosophical impulse to

discover the essence of the world

leads to the present-

At -hand stance

towards things, a theoretical perspective

in which ordinary things

are viewed in isolation and treated as substances

with essences that are

independent of the role and purpose

those things have in our lives.

But rather than

revealing the essence of the world, this sort of

investigation alienates us from

the things we

first wanted to understand and

generates skeptical problems and paradoxes

. Philosophers then respond

with arguments and theories designed to solve these problems; and

the corpses of those theories now

litter the history of philosophy.

According to Braver,

Wittgenstein and Heidegger have

similar responses to philosophical

problems and theories: each suggests that

the problems are not real and

that moreover,the theories

designed to solve them merely

produce more confusion.The

reasons for this harsh assessment

can be elucidated by using three

themes of their thought that

Braver highlights: holism,

original finitude, and groundless ground

According to Wittgenstein and Heidegger,

disengaged philosophical contemplation

wrenches the item under investigation

a mathematical rule or an ordinary object like a hammerout of the

context in which it is used

and considers it in isolation. But from their

holistic perspective, this sort of approach is

guaranteed to produce confusion

: concepts and things cant be understood in isolation because what they are (their

being) is defined by the network of relations they have to other concepts, things, and activities.

The essence of a hammer cannot be disclosed by the present-to-

hand perspective because its

nature is determined by its

relation to other things and activities: nails,

boards, carpenters, and building projects

What it is to follow a rule can only be understood against a background of

intentional agents using,

teaching, and following rules.

One of the more seductive ideas of

traditional philosophy is that

philosophical progress can be made only by

transcending our intellectual and cultural limitations,

so that we achieve a more

objective view. Failure to do so results in

distortions and contaminates our theories with

contingent, subjective impurities

Braver uses the idea of original finitude

to emphasize not only

that finitude is a

fundamental feature of being human (229), but

also that our finitude

should not be contrasted with infinity


The attitude

that Wittgenstein and Heidegger are urging is one of

metaphysical humility,a view that

refrains even from claiming that from a Gods

-Eye View there is no Gods-

Eye View (231).

A prominent theme

of traditional philosophy is foundationalism, (first philosophy!!)

The attempt to provide some

sort of ultimate explanation and justification for our beliefs and practices.

But trying to justify

everything threatens to generate an

infinite regress, and the only way

of halting the looming regress is

an appeal to something self-justifying

Platonic forms, God, self-evident principles, or

the immediately given in experience

. But this only gives rise to a new regress, for what

justifies the belief that the

thing that halts the regress is

indeed self-justifying?

Wittgenstein and Heidegger

acknowledge that there is a ground for our beliefs and practices, but this ground is

groundless: it is not a foundation that we can speak of as

justified (or true or rational),

because then it would no longer be ground

the ground would now need a justification.

The same anti-foundationalist point can be made using Bravers Framework Argument (180): we cannot

justify a belief system (or a form of life) by using criteria internal to that system because this would beg

the question.

But trying to justify it from an external perspective is quixotic,since this would amount to trying to justify

it ex nihilo

. Wittgenstein and Heidegger are confident that

once the foundationalist project of providing an ultimate justification for our world views

is exposed as incoherent, it will

also be seen as unnecessary. The groundless grounds of our beliefs and practices are

provided by human nature and cultural norms, and this Is enough (sociologism? Socio-cultural
reductionism? Or on the way to some universal or at least different cultural cognitive order/s?)


Bravers account of both the early and late Wittgenstein is clear and illuminating.

He also does a good job of making Heidegger more

accessible to those on the analytic side of the divide, which is no mean feat

given the difficulty of his thought and

the opacity of his prose. One key

difference between Wittgenstein and Heidegger

that emerges from Bravers study is that while

the former wants to

dissolve philosophical problems


the latter seems content to

continue the metaphysical tradition, in the early phase by providing a fundamental

ontological analysis of Dasein and in the later phase

through an epochal history of being.
On Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Derrida

Lee Braver interviewed by Richard Marshall.

Lee Braver is the funky philosopher with deep broodings on Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard,
Foucault, Heidegger, Derrida, existentialism, embodiment and disintegrating bugbears going
on all the time. If that doesnt hook you then check your pulse, you may have died. Hes
written Heideggers Later Writings: A Readers Guide, A Thing of This World: A History of
Continental Anti-Realism, and Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger.
Hes participated in the McDowell-Dreyfus debate and about the Gadamer Davidson link. He
gets riled when Derrida gets bad-mouthed and distorted. Which makes him a medley of the
coolest daddio Derridean-doo-be-doo!

3:AM: What was it that made you become a philosopher? What are the rewards of becoming
one for you?

Lee Braver: I always had a Romantic image of philosopherswizened old men studying
aged parchment, peering into the depths of their soul and the universe. Gandalf if he were

tenured, I suppose. I was eager to try it but, like most Americans, my first chance to study it
came in college, so I took Intro to Phil my first semester. Among other things we read
Kierkegaards Fear and Trembling, and it blew my mind; I had a genuinely visceral reaction
to it. It wasnt just having a new thoughtit was thinking a new kind of thought, one that
stretched my mind into a new shape just to accommodate it. It was like the lights suddenly
going on in a whole wing of my mind that I hadnt even known was there. Needless to say,
such an experience was addictive, and I had to get more and, well, following that pretty much
lead me to where I am today. It still happens, though less often; sometimes I get a contact
high off my students.

3:AM: Perhaps before we delve into some of your ideas in a little detail we should give
readers a rough guide to the geography of your thoughts. Can you say something about the
areas of philosophy that you have been mostly engaged in, and perhaps suggest why you find
these areas to be of intense interest.

LB: Im attracted to those thinkers who give me the new ways of thinking described above,
foremost being Heidegger and Wittgenstein, though there are plenty of others: Kant, Hegel,
Foucault, Derrida. I study them primarily as thinkers rather than as bundles of ideas that serve
as resources for contemporary debatesa more common approach in continental than
analytic philosophy.

This is because I think you have to grasp a thinkers general outlook on things, the ethos of
their minds, before you can appreciate the various views they held. Their positions on issues
are very subtle and often very different from standard views, and you have to do quite a bit of
work to appreciate their unique slant. Another way of putting it is that these thinkers work is
holistic, so that particular ideas and claims make sense in the context of their broader views.

Just to take an example that I treated in my book on Heidegger and Wittgenstein, lots of
people discuss Wittgensteins so-called Private Language Argument by pulling it out of the
Investigations, diagramming it, separating out the premises and conclusions, and so on. But I
found it so much more intelligible when seen in the broader context of his other concerns,
such as ostensive definitions, which then brings in notions of training and our form of life,
and so on. So in order to understand an apparently isolated idea, one must have a solid
understanding of the surrounding ideas and, ultimately, a thinkers basic outlook, their deep
philosophical character that is the source of their views on particular topics, the prism out of
which the rainbow flows, so to speak. Getting to that level of understanding takes years (I am
acting as if I have achieved it and, although it feels like I have, in a few years Im sure I will
look back and see how far I fell short, and again a few years later, and so on. Scholarship, like
life, is an endless cycle of being humbled anew).

So, I think the criticism that continentals are uninterested in doing philosophy but only want
to slavishly repeat the great old masters, and that the value of past philosophers resides in
what we can apply to todays issues, gets it wrong. For continentals (broadly speaking, of
course), even this kind of intellectual strip mining can only work after one has dug deep into
the rock and spent a lot of time learning the contours of a thinkers mind.

As far as topics go, I have been most engaged with realism. What more paradigmatically
philosophical question could there be than what is real? I think this issue ties into the question
of what kind of creatures we are, of what it means to say that we are finite. Many of the
philosophers I study connect realism, at least in some forms, with what Putnam famously
calls the Gods-eye view on the world (a phrase coined by Kierkegaard). Without an
absolutely objective perspective, the real world becomes a fable, and reality just is what
shows up for us, which is basically how I understand anti-realism.

3:AM: Your book A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism was
immediately praised when it appeared for its scholarship as well as its agility and the
skillfulness with which you handled material from continentals and non-continentals. But
before we say more, can you say something about this divide. You use continental and
analytic to label distinct positions, and you do so in your new book too, but at the same time
youre working to show that the supposed divide isnt really a principled one. Is that right?

LB: Yes, thats right. I dont think that the two are so heterogeneous that they simply cannot
speak to each other, nor do I think that the differences are merely superficial or just the
sociological factors of hiring and classification (although these do exert a powerful force in
maintaining the division). It is a real difference. Analytic and continental philosophers have
different intellectual landmarks, vocabularies, favored approaches, senses of what kinds of
moves are allowable or convincing, and much else. Primarily, since I agree with Gadamer
that philosophy is a kind of conversation that follows its own winding path, the two are like
conversations that started from a common root but split and then, knowing how way leads
on to way, the initial divergence widens. This is why just eavesdropping on the other branch
often produces mere confusion and frustrationif you havent been following the thread,
then individual comments seem to come out of nowhere.

This raises the holism of philosophy a power of magnitude, from an individuals oeuvre to
their historical context as well. As Douglas Adams the wise demonstrated, you cant
understand an answer without the question and philosophy, like most human endeavors, is a
matter of responding to the problems and ideas one is educated into. Aristotles phronesis and
akrasia make more sense when seen as disagreements with Platos view of knowledge, Kants
epistemology is to some extent an attempt to solve Humes problem of induction, and, to
continue the example above, Wittgensteins discussion of a private language is a critique of
the Tractatus and the ideas of people like Frege and Russell. This means that when
philosophers from one tradition pick up a book or article from the other, theyre usually
missing two crucial contexts: the rest of that philosophers views, and the ongoing
conversation that gave rise to the text. Many then simply dismiss it as obscurantist or dry and
trivial, but it takes much more to actually give it a chance. Filling in this background,
primarily of continental philosophy for analytic philosophers, was one of the main goals of
the book. If successful, it can bring readers up to speed on what is going on, and how these
views are reasonable and interesting ways of adapting and developing their intellectual

3:AM: Whats really cool about A Thing is we find you discussing realism and anti-realism
positions of Putnam and Heidegger and Hegel and Davidson and Dummett and the rest
cheek-to-cheek and in the same breath. This is part of your general idea that once we get to
know the different vocabularies of the two camps we can have informed dialogue and
debate. So can you say something about the two vocabularies? What would you say to those
who are suspicious of several writers Hegel and Heidegger being the parade cases I guess
who are accused of being willfully obscure?

LB: Yes, that accusation has been bandied about a lot. There are quite a few things to say
about it. The easiest is a tu quoque response that there are plenty of difficult analytic writers
too. One of the ones you mentioned Davidson is no slouch when it comes to difficulty,
although his writing is peculiar in that, sentence for sentence, I feel like its perfectly clear but
when I look up and try to summarize what he just said, it slips through my fingers (Quine can
be like this too). And Wittgenstein, arguably the single most important analytic philosopher,
was extremely cryptic and actively averse to argumentation, yet he largely got a pass (I
catalogue his and others comments about this in my book).

Tu quoque is a fallacy, I realize just because the accuser does it, that doesnt make it right
but in this case it can remove the sense that one side is dedicated to clarity, truth, justice,
and the American way while the other is a bunch of mush-heads wallowing in jargon and
obscurity. A large degree of clarity has to do with familiarity. Once youve spent time with
these texts, you master the vocabulary and it changes from an obstacle to a help. Sam
Wheeler said that Derrida found Being and Time perfectly clear whereas Naming and
Necessity was completely obscure to him. Part of the reason must surely be that he had a firm
grip on Heideggers context whereas Russells understanding of proper nouns the object of
Kripkes critique, was not well-known to him.

Another thing has to do with what I mentioned above, the real newness of these ideas.
Heidegger is quite explicit about this he does not want to use the usual words like
consciousness because, no matter what he says about them, the very word smuggles in the
older meanings he wants to dispense with. If grammar and vocabulary can contain
philosophical assumptions (Russell actually says the exact same thing about our subject-verb
grammar as Nietzsche), then we need to be innovative with our words if we are to be
innovative with our thoughts.

3:AM: Anti-realism as you construe it begins with Kant and his idea that categories of
knowledge and experience are organised by the human mind. This has been a very sexy idea
in modernity and post-modern thinking and you argue that understanding the historical
development of anti-realism allows realists to appreciate the power of anti-realist thinkers. So
we get Dummett, Davidson, Putnam, Hegel, Heidegger, Foucault all developing along a
similar trajectory. Could you perhaps say what you think binds them in this process and what
would be lost if none of the non-anglo-americans had been part of the process and vice versa?
I guess the thought is: why should we heed obscure vocabularies when when enough are
speaking clearly?

LB: One small commentalthough Davidson is certainly part of the conversation, I

wouldnt quite classify him as an anti-realist (and Putnam only was for a period). I quite

agree with your point if they are all just saying the same thing, then all this work would
hardly be worth it. But although theyre talking about overlapping topics, and some of the
same ideas do pop up in both traditions, I dont think analytic and continental philosophy
developed the same trajectory nor are they just saying the same things. Again invoking
Gadamer, it is these differences that make a conversation worthwhile, allowing each to bring
new perspectives and insights to the table.

If I were to briefly summarize the most distinctive contributions of continental figures, I

would say that they think more about the implications of the topic for the self. This is one of
the big changes from Kant to Hegel Kant believes that all subjects have the same
transcendental faculties and so structure the (phenomenal) world in the same ways, a unity
which grounds the universality of math and science. Hegel takes the crucial step of
introducing history into the self, so that the subjectivity that gives shape to the world itself
develops, thereby giving rise to multiple worlds. From this point on, the self dissolves more
and more into history, into temporary coagulations of will to power, into epochs, power-
systems, self-differentiating systems of elements, etc. Continental figures are also more
interested in the ethical ramifications of anti-realism; for example, Foucault is deeply
concerned about the way the human sciences justify their classifications of people as
abnormal by appealing to a realist notion of human nature. The claim to knowledge conceals
its power effects.

3:AM: A realist and Searle is the philosopher we might have as the stand-in for this
argument might resist the charms of abandoning assumptions of correspondence that the
anti-realists and Heidegger after The Great Turning Around in particular see as the only
way to go. Can you say something about this crucial disagreement. It has been the source of
genuine bitterness that seems to go beyond just intellectual disagreement. What do you make
of the dispute and the unpleasantness attached to it? (Im thinking as an example of the
exchange between Derrida and Searle back in the day!)

LB: Yes, Searle is quite successful in resisting its charms. Theres one essay where he says
that the loss of faith in the correspondence theory of truth signals the abandonment of
rationality and the collapse of Western civilization, which seems slightly alarmist to me. It
also makes me wonder what he thought of Kant. While nominally subscribing to the theory,
Kant is the one who makes it untenable by taking off the table the object that our thoughts or
propositions would naturally correspond to, namely, the world as it really is.

I think one reason why this change appears so disturbing is that dropping correspondence
truth seems to amount to the abandonment of truth full stop. If our beliefs cannot be
compared with the world, then they just float free, reality is whatever we believe it to be, and
a thousand caricatures are born (if I had a nickel for every time someone uses the phrase
anything goes in this context.). In fact, I think that one of the main topics throughout
continental philosophy has been to come up with alternative conceptions of truth, not giving
it up, whatever that would mean. As I try to show in my book, most of the great continental
philosophers come up with new theories of truth; each of these has its problems, no doubt,
but each also has its reasons and is intelligible against the background of the inherited ideas
and problems.

3:AM: Some of my best friends side with Derrida over Searle so I wonder whether you could
say why you think Derrida is a genuine contributor to this anti-realist tradition? I suppose
theres a little bit of skepticism in my voice that he should be considered as substantial a
philosopher as, say, Michael Dummett, but that may well be just me being boorishly snarky
and I dont want to be that.

LB: I think Derrida is a great philosopher, absolutely brilliant. In that particular dialogue, I
think Derrida wiped the floor with him, at least in the first round (its pretty obvious in
Searles first response to Derridas take on Austin, that Searle had barely read Derrida,
assuming that a skim would give him all the ammunition he needed to expose him as a fool.
Derrida easily shows how superficially Searle was arguing, raising objections against him
that Derrida himself expounded elsewhere in the text. It always makes me think of that scene
when, after Rocky knocks him down in the first round, Apollo Creeds manager tells him, in a
tone of incredulous outrage, that Rocky thinks its actually supposed to be a fight! Anyway,
Searles later responses are much more informed).

Derrida does what philosophers have always done: he starts with reasonable, plausible
premises and then follows them out to conclusions that seem bizarre, especially if you leap
right to the conclusions. But, to bring in the tu quoque* again, is his view on the
undecidability of texts any stranger than Quines indeterminateness of sense, or even all that
different (different, yes, but fundamentally so?)?

Of course, Derridas difficulty is exacerbated by a kind of performative dimension to his

writings. He believes that language is inherently unstable and that a texts meaning is always
open to more than one legitimate interpretation (not infinitely openreadings must be based
on what is actually written), and he shows this occurring in his own writing, playing with
language and emphasizing ambiguities. This is all very carefully done and, with some work,
you can see what hes doing, but it is very different from our normal ways of reading and, if
you dont have some patience, it comes across as impenetrable gobbledygook. Note,
however, that this way of writing follows from his views on the nature of language. Surely
this is a sensible an approach as Quines describing the fact that there is no fact about
meaning in as clear and unequivocal a way as possible.

He is accused of not doing philosophy, of attacking and rejecting reason, and of not reading
his subject matter carefully. But just what philosophy is and how it works and what is
allowed to be reasonable is precisely what is at issue in a lot of philosophy, and is often
challenged by the great philosophers. Frege would have dismissed Austins meticulous
taxonomies of the everyday use of words as entirely irrelevant to philosophy. Later
Wittgenstein would have thought the discussion of alternate worlds an excellent example of
philosophical nonsense, as would the logical positivists for entirely different reasons. Surely
many analytic figures are not doing philosophy in the sense understood by others, but
because these schools are familiar, and the way they developed out of their predecessors
makes them intelligible, these are seen as discussions among reasonable adults. Derrida,
however, gets consigned to the childrens table because it looks like hes just throwing food
and making rude noises. The very notion of what philosophy and reason are changes, a

process that seems to speed up in continental philosophy, so that accusations of someone not
doing philosophy really mean, not doing philosophy the way I understand it and the way
those I read and talk with do it. One may disagree with the changes someone tries to
introduce, of course thats part of the discussion but the tacit appeal to a permanent set
of values and procedures seems to me to be distinctly unphilosophical.

*Tu quoque (/tjukwokwi/;[1] Latin for, "you also") or the appeal to hypocrisy is an
informal logical fallacy that intends to discredit the validity of the opponent's logical
argument by asserting the opponent's failure to act consistently in accordance with its

Tu quoque "argument" follows the pattern:

1. Person A makes claim X.

2. Person B asserts that A's actions or past claims are inconsistent with the
truth of claim X.

3. Therefore X is false.[2]

An example would be

Peter: "Based on the arguments I have presented, it is evident that it is

morally wrong to use animals for food or clothing."
Bill: "But you are wearing a leather jacket and you have a roast beef
sandwich in your hand! How can you say that using animals for food and
clothing is wrong?"[2]

It is a fallacy because the moral character or past actions of the opponent are generally
irrelevant to the logic of the argument.[3] It is often used as a red herring tactic and is a special
case of the ad hominem fallacy, which is a category of fallacies in which a claim or argument
is rejected on the basis of facts about the person presenting or supporting the claim or


Derrida is an extremely rigorous thinker and an extremely thorough reader. He reads texts
incredibly closely, more so than anyone else Ive ever encountered, paying attention to
everything on the page. He shows us how we usually read with blinders of expectations on,
sifting out what we take to be important from what we know to be marginal. Derrida on the
other hand reads it all, and rigorously draws out the consequences, often to surprising ends.
He grounds all of his admittedly strange interpretations in the text, a necessity he insists on
repeatedly (I cover all this with quotes in the Derrida chapter of A Thing). Whats really
bizarre is that those who accuse him of not reading and not meeting the standards of
scholarship themselves have rarely read anything of his, or very little and with little effort.
This is understandable without a lot of background knowledge and a lot of patience, he is

very hardbut then, by those very standards, you shouldnt publicly denounce him. The
famous letter protesting Cambridges awarding him an honorary degree actually attributes a
quote to him that he never said or wrote!

Its hard to give a substantive account of his contributions in the course of an interview, but I
would point to his innovative views on and practice of reading and language in general,
which go far beyond formulaic descriptions of deconstruction. I would also point to his ideas
about the contradictions, instabilities, and paradoxes inherent in many of the ideas we take to
be stable and unproblematic.

3:AM: What do you say to people who just think you cant have these philosophers really
talking to each other because its not just different vocabularies were dealing with but
different problems? I guess you dont like that idea.

LB: Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I try to get them to talk to each other and
the question as far as my work is concerned is whether I succeed or not. The historical
argument is that both traditions can be traced back to Kant, who initiated anti-realism. Most
continental philosophers followed him in this, extending and developing the basic idea that
we organize experience into all sorts of interesting configurations. Analytic philosophy, on
the other hand, was born (on one telling) of Freges realism and Moore and Russells realist
rebellion against Idealism, itself a development of Kantian anti-realism. But arguing against
something still keeps it a topic of conversation. Later, as often happens, the pendulum swung
back and a number of analytic thinkers came to embrace at least some elements of anti-
realism (Putnam explicitly says that he got his internal realism from Kant).

But the argument rests primarily on drawing the main ideas of realism and anti-realism (I
come up with 6 theses in my book) from prominent analytic thinkers such as Russell,
Dummett, Wittgenstein, Putnam, Goodman, Davidson and others, and using this as a lens to
examine continental work. Success would mean that this lens brings these very difficult
thinkers work into focus and clarifies the course of continental philosophy as the
development of these ideas.

3:AM: So in your new book we get a similar sort of dialogic bridge being built but this time
instead of an overview we get it focused down on two major representatives of what you are
suggesting is a phony divide between continental and analytic philosophy. This is what you
call a deep bore exercise. So on the one hand we have Heidegger and on the other
Wittgenstein. Its clear that you find both awesome presences, philosophers of the first rank.
So could you briefly say what it is about these two that holds you spellbound?

LB: Its not that the divide is phony, but that it is surmountable, and fruitfully so. I hope its
only deep bore in one sense! I find these thinkers absolutely captivating, more so than
anyone else I have ever encountered. Im hardly alone here both have virtual cults devoted
to them (can you think of any other philosophers who have entire books devoted to their
houses?). They have taught me the most about myself and about life. If aliens landed and
wanted to know what it was like to be a human (rather than a bat), I would give them
Nicomachean Ethics and Being and Time because these capture the texture of human life
better than anything else Ive read, except perhaps One Hundred Years of Solitude. On

Certainty would be on the short list, too, but its more narrowly focused. Of course, the aliens
would almost certainly disintegrate me for making them read such difficult stuff, but its a
risk Im willing to take.

3:AM: Wittgenstein and Heidegger constantly put language under fire is something you cite
from Stanley Cavell with approval. But you dont agree do you that what we should be doing
is making the rift in the philosophical mind between so called continentals and so called
analytics palpable, as Cavell advises we do, because it already is palpably palpable! I think
you suggest rather that we should be aiming at mutual translation so the rift is healed and
dialogue can continue as it used to be in the time of Kant et al. You say at one point that one
way to know a philosopher is by the company she keeps. You point out that Wittgenstein has
been connected with philosophers such as Derrida, Lyotard, Saussure, Kierkegaard and so on,
but his relationship with so called analytics you also say has always been problematic.
Doesnt this weaken your claim that this is a mutual translation exercise of prototypes of the
two traditions if Wittgenstein is so problematic? Heidegger sure is absent from one half, but
Wittgenstein himself isnt fully there either. Wouldnt it have been more illuminating to get
someone like Fodor and Heidegger into the same place? Or would you be saying that
although problematic Wittgenstein keeps company with Russell, Frege, Peano and so on, so
hes still useful?

LB: Yes, I dont want arguing to stop so that we can see that really were all saying the same
thing deep down how boring would that be! I want arguing to begin thats how we
learn from each other.

Interesting point about Wittgenstein he is a very peculiar figure. Heres a thought

experiment: imagine that he had played no public role in 20th century philosophy but just
scribbled things down in obscurity, and his writings were suddenly discovered and published
this year. What would we make of them? How would we classify them? His early work takes
up Frege and Russells issues, certainly, but also Kant, their arch-nemesis, and Schopenhauer.
And the primary interlocutor of his later work seems to be his earlier self! He is almost
certainly the analytic figure that continentals are most interested in and feel most at home
with, partially due perhaps to the fact that he knew and admired Kant, Schopenhauer,
Kierkegaard he even defended Heidegger to the Vienna Circle. Now thats chutzpah!

However, Wittgensteins de facto intertwinement with the history of analytic philosophy

makes this classification unavoidable, if qualified. Its just really hard to tell the history of
analytic philosophy without him. And, although I have heard that his stock has dropped in
analytic circles, hes still taught a lot, making a connection with him helpful in laying the
foundations for a broader dialogue. But I didnt strategize about how best to build a bridge
and then hit upon this pairing; the topic just attracted me, as most things I write about do.
Like philosophy itself, it chose me more than I chose it. The main reason I joined these two
figures is because I found them so fascinating and I saw so many interesting connections that
had not been explored very thoroughly.

3:AM: You take both Heidegger and Wittgenstein to be philosophers who developed not one
but two distinct philosophies. So this means you dismiss revisionist readings of Wittgenstein
which argue that there is only a single philosophy? Is it partly their ability to continue to
change and challenge themselves that appeals to you as a thinker? As you have developed
your themes around continental and analytic, have you changed your mind over things?

LB: Yes, I have a fairly standard reading of the Tractatus as making metaphysical claims and
of Wittgensteins turning as rejecting much of that project. There are important continuities,
of course he always took philosophy to be a matter of clarifying confusions rather than
discovering facts, for example but I read much of his later work as an extended critique of
the kind of mindset that gave rise to the Tractatus, not a continuation of it.

It is impressive that both thinkers developed and grew like this, although their attitudes
towards this are very different: Wittgenstein berates himself mercilessly for his earlier
mistakes whereas Heidegger insists that his later ideas are what he was really thinking all
along by subjecting his early writings to Procrustean readings.

One way that my own thinking has changed is that Im more interested in realism than I used
to be. Although A Thing does not exactly endorse or promote anti-realism, I found it
extremely convincing and gave it a very sympathetic treatment. I still find much of it
persuasive, but Im now interested in the possibility of a realism that has learned the lessons
of anti-realism, a if youll forgive the monstrous neologismpost-anti-realist realism. I
talk about this in my paper, A Brief History of Continental Realism), and am presently
writing a book on it.

3:AM: Both thinkers were concerned with the whole philosophical project. So can you first
of all set out what these two thought philosophy was and what it wasnt, or shouldnt be?

LB: They thought of it as primarily an activity rather than a method whose importance lies
solely in its results, as a journey rather than an arrival. Heidegger was more interested in
discoveries than the later Wittgenstein, but both thought of it as something that changes your
life rather than a dispassionate inquiry (this emphasis on conversion over conclusions is more
apparent in Wittgensteins early work, but Im writing a paper about its presence in his later
writings). They also drew a stark contrast between philosophy and science, something more
common in continental than analytic philosophy, and were concerned about sciences
increasing authority in Western society.

3:AM: Both thinkers seem to be very concerned with diagnosing errors that occur when
thought becomes disconnected from everyday things or when everyday thoughts are
transplanted into unfamiliar contexts. So ideas like Wittgensteins language games and
Heideggers readiness to hand are thoughts that do seem to be connected in some way.
Holism is what you think binds the thoughts together. Is this right? Could you say
something about this?

LB: Yes, both of your points are right, and theyre connected. Both philosophers believed in
holism which means that individual elements can only be fully understood within their
context, while isolating elements changes and distorts them. So, for Heidegger, equipment

operates fluidly within a context of other tools and our general projects. Stopping and staring
at a tool congeals it into an inert present-at-hand object, which philosophers retroactively read
back into the tool and end up defining everything as substance. Wittgensteins later work
insists on seeing words in sentences, sentences in language-games, and language-games
within our whole form of life (it would take a long time to unpack all of this; see Chapter 3 of
Groundless Grounds).

The problem is that philosophy, as a contemplative activity, stops this ongoing process to
stare intently at an object, or word or sentence, often displacing it into unusual situations
which sheer off our usual understanding of how to use these things or words, which generates
the fantasies of philosophy. Both of them insist on putting things and words back in their
average everyday home, where we can see them functioning as they normally do
(Wittgenstein compares words to tools and our use of them to the unthinking use of tools a
number of times).

Lee Braver Groundless Grounds A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger MIT Press 2012

Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are both considered among the most influential
philosophers of the twentieth century. Both were born in 1889 in German-speaking countries;
both studied under leading philosophers of their day Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl,
respectively and were considered their philosophical heirs; and both ended up critiquing
their mentors and thereby influencing the direction of thought in both the Analytic and
Continental traditions. In Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (MIT
Press, 2012), Lee Braver, associate professor of philosophy at Hiram College attempts to
build what he calls a load-bearing bridge between these often polarized traditions. He
argues that both thinkers have similar arguments for similar conclusions on similar
fundamental issues. Both blame the disengaged contemplation of traditional philosophy for
confusion about the nature of language, thought and ontology, and that attention to normal,
ongoing human activity in context presents alternative fundamental insights into their nature.
The groundless grounds of the title is the idea that finite human nature gives us everything we
need to understand meaning, mind and being, and that to insist that this ground requires
justification itself betrays confusion.

Groundless Grounds
A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger
By Lee Braver

Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are two of the most importantand two of the
most difficult--philosophers of the twentieth century, indelibly influencing the course of
continental and analytic philosophy, respectively. In Groundless Grounds, Lee Braver argues
that the views of both thinkers emerge from a fundamental attempt to create a philosophy that
has dispensed with everything transcendent so that we may be satisfied with the human.
Examining the central topics of their thought in detail, Braver finds that Wittgenstein and
Heidegger construct a philosophy based on original finitudefinitude without the contrast of
the infinite.

In Bravers elegant analysis, these two difficult bodies of work offer mutual illumination
rather than compounded obscurity. Moreover, bringing the most influential thinkers in
continental and analytic philosophy into dialogue with each other may enable broader
conversations between these two divergent branches of philosophy.

Bravers meticulously researched and strongly argued account shows that both Wittgenstein
and Heidegger strive to construct a new conception of reason, free of the illusions of the past
and appropriate to the kind of beings that we are. Readers interested in either philosopher, or
concerned more generally with the history of twentieth-century philosophy as well as
questions of the nature of reason, will find Groundless Grounds of interest.

About the Author

Lee Braver is Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida and the author of
Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (MIT Press) and A Thing of
This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism.

A well-researched study for those interested in the intersections between
analytic and continental philosophy, and it continues Braver's quest for a new
way of doing philosophy as a kind of hybrid enterprise composed of those two
strands.Review of Metaphysics
Few have attempted to read [Heidegger and Wittgenstein] so as to bring them
into productive dialogue. Lee Braver's publication is the latest of these relatively
rare efforts.Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
With his recent work on Wittgenstein and Heidegger, Lee Braver has
accomplished something remarkable: he has given us an account of two of the
past century's most challenging thinkers that is as insightful and provocative as
it is eminently readable...a joy to read...This is an exciting a fertile work, an
invaluable reference for anyone interested in the emerging dialogue between the
continental and analytic traditions.Journal of the British Society for
The book is a pleasure to read, due both to its clarity and its humor. Braver has
mastered a vast primary and secondary literature; the book is truly a scholarly
tour de force. It is also rare to find a philosopher who is fluent in both
philosophical traditions. This is a terrific book, and it is recommended for anyone
interested in Wittgenstein or Heidegger, the analytic-continental schism, and

twentieth-century attempts to overcome the traditional philosophical project.
Philosophy in Review
Lee Braver's Groundless Grounds is an ambitious and groundbreaking volume
for making comparisons of two intellectual giants seldom juxtaposed...Braver's
project, which in my estimation succeeds well, is to bridge what each thinking
was doing, finding parallels in Wittgenstein and Heidegger where former scholars
saw distinct, possibly incommensurable, ideas and approaches.Journal of
Applied Hermeneutics
In this admirable book, Lee Braver sets out to bring out the parallels on various
levels and on a wide range of subjects in the work of Martin Heidegger and
Ludwig Wittgenstein, two elusive, and idiosyncratic thinkers. Thanks to his
amazing grasp of what may well be the total works of Martin Heidegger and of
Ludwig Wittgenstein, (as well as the views of a vast selection of relevant
commentators) he is able to bring out deep parallels in the thought of these two
thinkers. Indeed, Bravers unlikely project turns out to be a great success. Each
of these difficult thinkers becomes more intelligible and convincing when read in
the light of the other.
Hubert L. Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy in the Graduate School, University
of California, Berkeley
Continuing the project of his, A Thing of this World, Lee Braver once again
shows how the traditions of analytic and continental philosophy overlap.
Groundless Ground, however, demonstrates this philosophical intersection by
investigating, in depth and in the clearest terms, the thought of Martin Heidegger
and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Braver makes a strong argument not for moving
beyond the analytic and continental traditions. Rather, Braver moves
contemporary philosophy forward, beyond idealism and realism, by means of the
thought of 'original finitude.' There can be no question that Groundless Ground is
an important book.
Leonard Lawlor, Sparks Professor of Philosophy, Penn State University

3:AM: A bridge that you think helps link the two thinkers is Aristotle and his idea of
phronesis. If right, this really does help secure the mutual translation youre aiming for. Can
you say why you think Aristotle helps us understand these two as working on the same

LB: Phronesis is a really interesting idea that is very different from the much more common
view of knowledge as the explicit awareness of statable facts. Hubert Dreyfus is a big
influence on me on this topic. Heidegger and Wittgenstein both appeal to this kind of
understanding that obeys very different rules than express knowledge. The problem is that
once you stop acting or talking, you look for the universal formulae that must have been
guiding you and read these back into the original situation, which distorts what actually took
place. This is one of the things that good philosophy reminds us of. By the way, Im not
claiming that Wittgenstein got this idea from Aristotle; he once bragged that he had never

read any of Aristotles writings (one can only imagine what Heidegger would have thought of
this). Im just pointing to a precedent for this uncommon and important view of

3:AM: Of course what they are thinking about is the idea of foundationalism. In their
approach you find that Hume can be linked with both the Wittgensteinian and Heideggarian
story dont you? Can you say why this idea of groundless grounds is such an important
feature of their work and why this has huge consequences for any philosophical enquiry?

LB: Hume is a really radical thinker, and is the second of the three historical antecedents I
discuss. Hes reacting to, among other things, the Cartesian dream of foundationalism, the
quest to found all that we believe and do on something that is, epistemologically speaking,
absolutely rock-solid. And its an all-or-nothing proposition either we find an ultimate
foundation for our beliefs that itself can withstand all possible challenges, or our beliefs are
built on mud and sand and we dont really know anything.

Hume found such an ambition ridiculous. There are certain ways we think and look at the
world that are just hard-wired into us; were continuous with animals, not angels. We cant
think otherwise, but neither can we justify these ways of thinking the way people like Plato or
Descartes wanted to. I see Kant as continuing this line of thought in his first Critique (though
not in the second; see the conclusion to A Thing for details). We have to organize our
experience in certain ways that have nothing to do with the way the world really is, and thats
ok. We have no alternative, and intersubjective agreement can be a kind of knowledge, albeit
one quite different from what philosophy has always dreamt of. Thought stops being a way to
escape the human conditions, all that is contingent about us, and becomes a part of them.

3:AM: You say of these two philosophers that like Kierkegaard, a thinker both admired, they
strive to construct a new conception of reason itself one that is free of the illusions of the
past, one that is appropriate to the kind of beings we are. Can you say something about this
and how far you think they succeeded and how far their own projects have perhaps become
just historical, superseded by new approaches?

LB: Think about how Plato conceives of reason. Yes, its true that we happen to have been
born into bodies that pull our attention hither and thither, that we have been born in this time
and culture rather than that one, brought up to believe in these values and gods and not those,
but none of that touches our deep inner core, our true spiritual self that is merely housed
within these factors without being affected by them. We must use reason to separate ourselves
from these factors that are accidental in both senses of the word. Reason is what frees us from
the shackles of the merely human, a project we see repeated in Descartes math, Kants ethics,
and Freges logic, to name just a few.

Kierkegaards conception of reason is like Humes in that it is continuous with all kinds of
contingent facts about us like our bodies, culture, our ability to be trained in certain ways and
not in others (this one is Wittgensteins), rather than a way to overcome it. This is what I
mean by original finitude its a sense of finitude that isnt just a limitation or dark
reflection of an infinite mind.

3:AM: If only one of the two had existed, who would you have preferred and why?

LB: Dont Sophies Choice me! What a cruel interview I guess if I had to choose, Id take
Heidegger. As much as I love Wittgenstein, his project is to get me to stop doing philosophy,
to perform a philosophical intervention on someone in denial, and damn it I like doing
philosophy! Heidegger still believes in the ability to use philosophy to learn, and he is still
teaching me new things, even after reading him for nearly 20 years. I think that answers the
question about their obsolescence as well.Foretelling future histories of philosophy is not a
profitable endeavor, but I certainly cant imagine them fading from view, or even becoming
minor characters. If the view of philosophy as a conversation is right, then there are vast
swaths of 20th Century philosophy that simply cannot be understood without them:
phenomenology, existentialism, post-modernism, logical positivism, ordinary language
philosophy, to name a few.

3:AM: Given that they both took philosophical puzzles to be caused by illusions of grammar
and language, is there not some legitimacy in the thought that there are philosophical puzzles
that survive grammatical and linguistic scrutiny? If this is right arent the concerns of both
thinkers in some way less central than they might have seemed at first. After all, arent there
genuine metaphysical problems that dont reduce to our contingent susceptibilities of
socialization and language? Arent there ideas of agency and being that are better supported
by empirical evidence than the models suggested by either of these two? And cant both be
read as quite conservative, even reactionary, in their opposition to skepticism?

LB: Thats a lot of questions! First, I dont think that characterization quite fits Heidegger. He
was a firm believer in philosophical topics that are not merely linguistic confusions. Although
language can deceive us, it teaches us much more than it misleads us.

The question of whether there are metaphysical problems that dont reduce to our contingent
susceptibilities of socialization and language and human nature, I would addrests on
the question of whether anything does, which is something I have become increasingly
doubtful of, as discussed above.This doesnt mean, however, that they stop being legitimate
philosophical issues or genuine metaphysical problems. We just need to redefine what we
mean by metaphysics. We have to, in a sense, take the meta out of metaphysics.

As for agency, my book tried to show that they have an interesting and persuasive conception
of it, which is becoming increasingly well-supported by empirical evidence. I quote some of
the neuro-scientific literature in the footnotes to Chapter 4. Im not sure I understand what
you mean by conservative or reactionary; I find their responses to skepticism innovative and

3:AM: Has your work changed the philosophical company you now keep? And do you find
the ecumenical spirit of your work carried on elsewhere by other philosophers? Im thinking
perhaps Brian Leiter is a parade case of someone who is very much a philosopher as happy
reading Nietzsche and Adorno and Marx as reading Rosenberg, Stanley and Fodor. Is this
becoming more typical in your experience or do you find there is still some pretty hardcore

LB: In general, I think we will do better philosophy the more, and the more diverse, the
thinkers were familiar with. Reading figures who come at topics from extremely different
points of view rather than just with different views helps broaden our perspectives, allowing
us to think about the subject in new ways.

As to the general trend in professional philosophy, I really dont know. I dont have my finger
on any pulses. I hope so, but I do see a lot of the sociological features of the profession
reinforcing the division.

3:AM: Jerry Fodor once ruefully noted how the shelves of the philosophy section of ordinary
bookstores were full of Foucault and Derrida and Sartre and hardly ever carried any of his
books, or Rawls or Searle. How do you account for this? It strikes me that it cant be that
people are looking for simplicity and an easy read, so why havent the ordinary public taken
to the Anglo-Americans like they have these others in your opinion? Perhaps theres a certain
kind of reader out there who relishes obscurity. Youve done a mighty fine job translating the
thoughts so theres dialogue, but perhaps dialogue is not what these readers are wanting, but a
different space? In a way, the idea then is that these readers are making their reading a kind of
political act. What would you say to that sort of idea?

LB: I see a simpler answer. As I discussed earlier, philosophy should be read within its
context who is the author responding to? What questions and problems is she taking up?
In one way, this is truer of continental thinkers because they are very self-conscious of their
historical situation and more likely to name-drop or refer to other thinkers. But in another
way, its more applicable to analytic philosophy because of the nature of their main topics.

Going back to the Kripke example, in order to appreciate Naming and Necessity, you need to
be familiar with previous theories of naming and care about them. You must find the problem
interesting and significant if a new solution is to be interesting and significant, and I think
this is a lot less obvious when it comes to analytic topics. This lack of immediate or obvious
relevance is of course largely invisible to analytic philosophers because they are precisely the
people who are invested in these topics, but the question of how a name hooks onto an object
or how we can rescue propositions such as The present king of France is bald just dont
seem all that pressing to most people. It takes quite a while just to show why that proposition
is in any way problematic in the first place, much less why it matters.

But to be interested in the topics that continental thinkers deal with, you just have to be
human. We all want to know how to face death, whether life is meaningful or not, what we
should do about Gods either non-existence or moral perversity, about the sinister features of
seemingly harmless institutions like schools and psychology. These are of much more
immediate concern and interest, and dont require so much work just to show that theyre
important. I find many analytic questions important and interesting too; it just takes longer to
see why. Which would seem more obviously worthwhile to a lay-person: the linguistic
analysis of ethical propositions; or a discussion of our responsibility in the choices we make,
and our need to create an authentic self in the face of mass media?

3:AM: And finally, if you were to recommend five books to illuminate the deep set here at
3ammagazine, (other than your own of course, which everyone will now rush out and
devour!) which books would they be?

LB: I loved Charles Taylors Sources of the Self. One Hundred Years of Solitude, as
mentioned above, is just wonderful. Dreyfus What Computers Still Cant Do illuminates a lot
of what I was saying about phronesis. Kierkegaards Concluding Unscientific Postscript is
way too long and repetitive, but so brilliant and illuminating; I reread it about every other
year. And, what the hell, some Derrida, just for you! Interviews are a good place to start, as
you well know: Positions is short and I found it very helpful in orienting me when I first
started studying him.


Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

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Having Cake and Eating it With Hume and Spinoza

Hume makes both a metaphysical claim and a psychological claim. The metaphysical claim is that the mind is

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, August 24th, 2012.

Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and

Heidegger, by Lee Braver
Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: The MIT Press, 2012, pp. xvi + 354,
27.95 (hardback).
Jonathan Lewis
Pages 206-207 | Published online: 25 Nov 2013

Download citation

Interview with Lee Braver

Lee Braver and Figure/Ground

Dr. Braver was interviewed by Laureano Raln. May 4th, 2011.

Lee Braver is Department Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hiram College. He
specializes in Nineteenth and twentieth century continental philosophy, history of philosophy,
the connections between analytic and continental philosophy, Wittgenstein, Heidegger and
Foucault. He is the author of A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-
Realism (Northwestern University Press, 2007), Heideggers Later Writings: A Readers
Guide (Continuum Books, 2009), Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and
Heidegger (MIT Press, 2012).

How did you decide to become a university professor? Was it a conscious choice?

I like the second part of your question, because Im rather sympathetic with whats
sometimes called anti-humanism, which argues that we misconstrue the nature of conscious
choice. My fate was at least as much the result of not making decisions as it was of making
them. From my first taste of the subjectPhilosophy 101 was my very first college classI
couldnt get enough; Kierkegaards Fear and Trembling in particular blew me away.
Certainly, the pump was primed. I declared myself sentient at the age of 9 when I realized
that just grasping the idea of sentience conferred that status upon me. I also clearly
remember being fascinated with a cup that had a cereal mascot holding a cup with a picture
of himself hold a cup and so forth. Such are the stirrings of a young philosophical mind. I
knew I wanted more, and the place to get it was graduate school; inertia then played an
embarrassingly large role. Which is not to say that Im unhappy with my vocationthere is a
great deal to love about the academic life. Im just not in a position to evaluate it since, as
Nietzsche said of the universe, I have no fleshed out alternative life to compare it with.

As strange as it sounds to my students, one of the reasons Im so taken with the subject is that
I bore easily. The complexity of philosophy means that I can think about a topic or
philosopher for a long, long time without getting close to the bottom.

In your experience, how did the role of university professor evolve since you were an
undergraduate student?

I cant give an informative answer about this since my career has been split between two very
different kinds of schools. I attended medium-sized, moderately prestigious universities, but
have taught at a very small, low-profile liberal arts college, so that any account I could give
of the evolution of the professoriate would suffer from a severe punctuated equilibrium.
During the 11 years Ive taught at my liberal arts college, I have seen the encroaching
mentality of the market that many others have noted. Students think of themselves as
consumers who know what they want and complain when they havent gotten it, while

schools and programs feel compelled to justify their existence in market terms, and of course
the size of the administration only seems to increase, regardless of the circumstances.

What makes a good teacher today? How do you manage to command attention in an
age of interruption characterized by attention deficit and information overload?

Statistically, Ive read that the trait that best tracks student learning and positive evaluations is
teacher enthusiasm. When the teacher gets excited about the ideas, its often contagious. I
dont have to simulate this since I find it thrilling to rebuild the structure of an argument and
give students a guided tour through it.

I think that we do need to push back against the distractions and disrespect thats somewhat
endemic to this generation. I refuse to let students sleep or pass notes in my classes, though
its hard to disallow laptops since many students prefer taking notes on them. We need to
push back on grades as well, though this is much easier to do once one has tenure.

What advice would you give to young graduate students and aspiring university

As I said in another interview, graduate students might want to seriously consider other
options, as I did not. Its a very tough time in academia, and many argue that the trend points
to its getting worse, possibly much worse.

I see a problematic strategy that is unfortunately built into the early stages of an academic
career. On the one hand, grad students and untenured professors are under tremendous
pressure to publish, and for their own sake they really need to get out as much as possible.
However, this is bad for the profession, collectively. Journals have outrageous backlogs (I
recently submitted a paper to a fairly good journal, and was told that it would be nine months
before they could let me know anything), and so much gets published that really isnt worth it
extremely narrowly focused skirmishing, multiple articles and presentations with very
slight variations on the same ideas (smallest publishable slices), etc.

Ideally, one should publish only what deserves to be read, but this is very, very hard and takes
a long time. I wasnt able to write material of any genuine quality until I was seasoned with a
good five years of teaching and thinking after finishing my dissertation. Since search and
tenure committees rarely read candidates workand who can blame them from doing what
they can to tame the avalanches of paperthe criterion of quantity wins out over quality. But
I still tell myself that quality wins out in the long run.

One piece of advice is to email people when you read something you like. Most publications
create very little feedback, making most authors quite grateful to know that anyones reading
something they worked so hard on. And the contacts made this way can have very long-
lasting benefits.

In another interview, R. Kevin Hill spoke of the overqualified-professor-at-a-less-

prestigious-institution phenomenon, and you just mentioned that you had attended
moderately prestigious universities but have taught primarily at a very small, low-

profile liberal arts college. What are the pros and cons of being a big fish in a small

Well, I think that in order to experience being a big fish in a little pond, ones pond would
have to at least have some intimation of ones size. In my case, whatever my size may be, I
doubt that more than ten people at my school know that Ive published anything. Im more
like a camouflaged fish, maybe a cuttlefish. To some degree, the ethos of my college is such
that it is not particularly interested in research. Its a bit like drinkinga glass of wine now
and then is fine, but getting carried away is just gauche.

Of course, I initially had a rather low opinion of publishing myself, partially due to the fact
that I saw it primarily in terms of the narrow skirmishing mentioned above. One of the things
that changed my mind was when I realized that research is not entirely about its readers. At
least as important is the impact on the author. When I write something, I am first and
foremost explaining an idea to myself, one that I cant fully understand until Ive spelled it
out thoroughly.

One of your areas of specialization is the points of contact between analytic and
continental philosophies and by extension, I suppose, the specific connection between
Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In a nutshell, what are the most prominent
links between these two thinkers? Was the later Wittgenstein analytic philosopher?

While writing my first book, A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism, I
became fascinated with the connections between Heidegger and Wittgenstein, and Im
presently wrapping up a book on the two titled, Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein
and Heidegger, that will be coming out with MIT in January. I think their similarities are
both wide and deep, but to explain fully would require, well, a book. I wrote 5 chapters, each
taking on a central topic of their work: their views of philosophy, their main candidate for bad
philosophy, holism, the nature of thinking, and anti-foundationalism.

Wittgenstein presents an interesting test for classification. Imagine that he wrote his works in
private, and there were just published today without their implication in the history of
analytic philosophy. What impression would they make on eyes unaware of their history?
The Tractatus obviously has a great deal to say about logic and the philosophy of language
with the clear influence of Frege and Russell, but equally prominent are elements of Kant and
Schopenhauer. Indeed, like Kants treatment of science, Wittgenstein is clear that despite its
length, the logic is there to limit language, to set off what lies beyond, the mystic, which is far
more important. And the later work can be just as easily read as a deconstruction of
metaphysical conceptions of knowledge and the self as, say, a work of ordinary language

Beyond Heidegger and Wittgenstein, what other points of contact between continental
and analytic philosophies are worth exploring in your view?

If I knew that, Id be writing on them! I think of the division in a Gadamerian way: each
branch has developed its own prejudices which, shared by each members interlocutors, go
unnoticed. Dialogue with those who dont share them provides extremely fruitful

challenges. The very point of such exchanges is that we dont know what will come of them
if we did, they would be almost superfluous. One general point, I suppose, would be one
that has been noted by manyanalytic philosophers should pay more attention to the role
that history and rhetoric play in philosophy. The last couple of decades has produced a great
deal of high quality work in the history of analytic philosophy, which is great. Theres a
longer answer concerning the flexibility of reason, which my next book is going to discuss.

Actually, in a recent interview, Professor Dermot Moran declared that the distinction
between continental and analytic philosophy has had its day. He pointed out that it
especially does not make sense when you attempt to impose this distinction upon the
entire history of philosophy: you have this bizarre idea that there are some texts of
Plato where he is an analytic philosopher, and other texts where he is a continental
philosopher, he said. Do you agree with Moran here?

Well, since they are historical movements, it certainly would be problematic to go back and
classify much earlier philosophers under these more recent rubrics; I dont particularly see
why anyone would want to do that. But there are clearly divergent approaches to Plato:
continentally influenced philosophers will pay attention to rhetorical aspects of the dialogues
such as the setting, the characters, Socrates tangents (which are, virtually without exception,
more interesting than the main topic), whereas analytically-trained philosophers will focus in
on the arguments, sifting them out of all the external factors in an attempt to bring them into
direct conversation with contemporary debates. Obviously, these approaches can and should
be complementary; I doubt you could find a completely pure example of either, but as far as I
can tell, there is a difference of emphasis. The distinction can be real, while of the family
resemblance type.

I also want to say that the distinction between continental and analytic isnt intrinsically
wrong or insidious. Everyone has to specialize. Indeed, from the Gadamerian perspective,
its precisely the differences that make dialogue so worthwhile (I just wrote a paper about this
on Davidson and Gadamer). The problem is that people trained in one tradition close
themselves off from the other, in principle. Its very hard to read philosophy, and its almost
impossible if you are completely unfamiliar with the intellectual landmarks someone takes
for granted, or with the conversation she is participating in. But moving from difficult to
understand to wilfully obscure and without merit is a non sequitur, and an insulting one at
that. What Ive tried to do in my work is not erase the distinction, but lower the ante to join
the conversation.

Youve just wrote an essay entitled Is the Mental a Myth? I believe Hubert Dreyfus often
toys with this turn of phrase during the course of his lectures on Heidegger at UC
Berkeley, possibly as part of his quarrels with John Searle. His position seems to be
that we dont need minds (representations, intentional content, etc.) to come in and
inform our actions when we are fully absorbed in the ongoing flow of our daily
practices. Following Heidegger, he believes that there is a much more primordial, non-
thematic form of understanding that is embedded in our skills. What is your position on
this issue? Is the mental really a myth?

Thats the title of the anthology; my contribution is Never Mind: Thinking of Subjectivity in
the Dreyfus-McDowell Debate, and I actually go further than Dreyfus! Where he sees a
great deal of our daily behaviour as coasting along on autopilot, with conscious intentional
thought rarely arising, I want to collapse the distinction between mindless coping and
explicitly conscious attention. I see all action as reaction to solicitations which permeate the
mental and linguistic realms just as much as the bodily and perceptual ones, as described so
well by people like Merleau-Ponty, Rodney Brooks, and J.J. Gibson. This extension is one of
the signal accomplishments of the later work of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, and Chapter
Four of my upcoming book explains the idea at length.

In a nutshell, the claim is that all the phenomena that characterize our being-in-the-world as
absorbed reactions to solicitations apply to the arenas where we are more tempted to believe
ourselves freely, consciously, voluntarily making decisions as well. Just as hot apple pies
cooling on window sills send out tendrils of aroma to pull us towards it by the nose, as the
great phenomenologist Tex Avery has it, so 2+2=__ pulls forth 4. The same goes for
Socrates is a man; all men are mortal;. Even when I relieve my auto-pilot and take
charge of my decision-making, I rely on the way the various options appeal to or repel me. I
have to. Without these claims on us, we would stand paralyzed between the options as
Buridans ass, with free choice only being an Lucretian swerve. It will be objected that yes,
we receive solicitations, but we are free to follow or reject them; as Merleau-Ponty quotes
Malebranche, they impinge upon us respectively. But how do we decide whether to resist or
give in? Certainly, different solicitations affect us differently so that one has greater impact
than another, but we are already in the terrain of compatibilism. As far as I can tell, the train
of argument only ends in reacting, indecision, or unmotivated coin-flipping.

What other projects are you currently working on?

Im writing a book on continental realism, actually. It takes up a thread that was in my first
book, but seen in a new light. Im also using it to analyze some works of art and literature,
which Ive never done before. After that, Id like to follow up some more on anti-humanism;
its out of fashion, but I still think there are some nuggets left.

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lee
and Figure/Ground with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Suggested citation:

Ralon, L. (2011). Interview with Lee Braver, Figure/Ground. May 4th.

< >

Questions? Contact Laureano Raln at

In analytic philosophy, anti-realism encompasses any position involving either the denial of
an objective reality or the denial that verification-transcendent statements are either true or
false. This latter construal is sometimes expressed by saying "there is no fact of the matter as
to whether or not P". Thus, one may speak of anti-realism with respect to other minds, the
past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories,
the material world, or even thought. The two construals are clearly distinct but often
confused. For example, an "anti-realist" who denies that other minds exist (i.e., a solipsist) is
quite different from an "anti-realist" who claims that there is no fact of the matter as to
whether or not there are unobservable other minds (i.e., a logical behaviorist).


1 Anti-realism in philosophy

o 1.1 Michael Dummett

o 1.2 Hilary Putnam's "internal realism"

o 1.3 Precursors

2 Metaphysical realism vis--vis internal realism

o 2.1 Anti-realist arguments

3 Anti-realism in science

4 Anti-realism in mathematics

5 See also

6 References

7 Bibliography

8 External links

Anti-realism in philosophy

Michael Dummett
The term "anti-realism" was coined by Michael Dummett, who introduced it in his paper
Realism to re-examine a number of classical philosophical disputes involving such doctrines
as nominalism, conceptual realism, idealism and phenomenalism. The novelty of Dummett's
approach consisted in seeing these disputes as analogous to the dispute between intuitionism
and Platonism in the philosophy of mathematics.

According to intuitionists (anti-realists with respect to mathematical objects), the truth of a

mathematical statement consists in our ability to prove it. According to platonists (realists),
the truth of a statement consists in its correspondence to objective reality. Thus, intuitionists
are ready to accept a statement of the form "P or Q" as true only if we can prove P or if we
can prove Q: this is called the disjunction property. In particular, we cannot in general claim

that "P or not P" is true (the law of Excluded Middle), since in some cases we may not be
able to prove the statement "P" nor prove the statement "not P". Similarly, intuitionists object
to the existence property for classical logic, where one can prove , without being able to
produce any term of which holds.

Dummett argues that the intuitionistic notion of truth lies at the bottom of various classical
forms of anti-realism. He uses this notion to re-interpret phenomenalism, claiming that it
need not take the form of a reductionism (often considered untenable).

Dummett's writings on anti-realism also draw heavily on the later writings of Wittgenstein
concerning meaning and rule following. In fact, Dummett's writings on anti-realism can be
seen as an attempt to integrate central ideas from the Philosophical Investigations into the
constructive tradition of analytic philosophy deriving from Frege.

Anti-realism in the sense that Dummett uses the term is also often called semantic anti-

Hilary Putnam's "internal realism"


Why the Canon Fight is Different in Analytical Philosophy; on Heroworship

For a brief spell in the 80s and 90s, higher education was consumed by the canon wars. For
those too young to remember, the canon wars were some earnest and intense battles among
people who couldnt agree on which authors needed to be taught for students to be considered
properly educated.--Inside Higher Education (2013).

A year ago Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman successfully managed to ignite discussion
within professional philosophy about the status of the canon (recall my response).* Other
humanists might think -- paraphrasing a quip falsely attributed to Heinrich Heine (which
doesn't stop the Wall Street Journal from recycling it) -- that philosophy is the Netherlands of
higher education, everything happens there three decades later. (Genuine humanists know
that debates over the canon are as old as the canon itself.) While there are solid sociological-
demographic reasons that help explain why philosophy remained aloof from the canon wars
(the short version: professional anglophone philosophy is overwhelmingly white, male,
change-averse and unreceptive toward unmasking narratives), there is also a key
intellectual reason: within analytical philosophy the (Western) canon is largely irrelevant
to disciplinary conversations.+ No command over the details of the text is ever
presupposed. This is no surprise because analytical philosophy was founded -- self-
consciously mimicking Descartes's dismissiveness toward book-knowledge -- as a revolt
against historical approaches to philosophy.

While the days may be gone in which one could count on all literature professors to recite
Shakespeare, Milton, Homer, Virgil, Goethe, Dante, and the other mighty dead, especially

Middlemarch, from memory, to this day working knowledge of some such books provides
a shared, contested frame of reference in literary and cultural studies even if nobody
thinks that command of such books is a mark of civilization or even a signal of one's cultural
capital. And while close reading persists in college courses, the idea that literature can replace
Scripture has long been deconstructed, and De Man unmasked; I would not be surprised if it
has had its brief, ironic revival prompted by a Simpsons episode.

By contrast even when I present on David Hume's Treatise to professional historians of

philosophy, let alone generalist philosophical audiences, I make sure to prepare detailed
excerpts of key passages. Hume is the fourth most admired philosopher in history (according
to a recent poll); he is the highest ranked English language philosopher--his Treatise the
acknowledged masterpiece.** Even the anti-historical logical empiricists would say nice
things about Hume. My excerpts are not merely aids to memory; I know that the passages I
am calling attention to are simply unknown. Professional philosophy is not a discipline in
which texts from the past are internalized. (Yes, there are a few Hume scholars that have
working knowledge of some texts, but even among that lovely crowd -- dominated by
professional philosophers -- there are very few people that know Hume's major works
really by heart.)

Even when working positions come to be known as Humean or Carnapian (etc.), odds are we
are dealing with Hume* or Carnap*. It doesn't matter, really, if Hume is not a Humean. (The
relationship between, say, Carnap and contemporary Carnapians is very interesting and
illuminating.) While there are a few magisterial clubs within professional philosophy --
Kantians often really try to get Kant right (even at the price of introducing anachronism),
Wittgensteinians even have a second-order debate whether it makes sense to get
Wittgenstein right, etc. --, philosophical puzzles and controversies do not get settled by
authoritative interpretation of major texts. Of course, interest in such puzzles can be started
by way of some such interpretation.

The above is not to deny that there is an image of philosophy prevalent within professional
philosophy in which a limited number of historical, canonical figures are very prominent:
starting with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle through Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant (etc).
These folk are often, indeed, implicated in subtle and not-so-subtle forms of ideological
domination (or worse). It is worth serious reflection why Gorgias's Helen is unread; why even
specialist scholars are unaware of the male feminism of Toland, Mandeville, and John
Millar--all eighteenth century figures that were once extremely famous. (Even world class
Nietzsche scholars tend to be ignorant on the genealogy of genealogy.) It is shocking that (the
first) professional interest in early modern female philosophers only commenced less than a
generation ago.

If we abolish the canon in professional (analytic) philosophy, we just give folk another
excuse not to read books. This trend may be unstoppable anyway: the textbook is beloved by
university technocrats who hire cheap labor to teach pre-set curriculum with well-defined
(achievable) goals.

For, in addition to the image of philosophy, there are classic works, often drawn from those
canonical figures that figure in the image of philosophy, which are routinely but not

exclusively used to introduce students to philosophy (e.g., an intro to ethics course with
Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill--hopefully Sophie de Grouchy before long, too) [recall,
recall, and more if you use Google]. Arguably, Nietzsche has become canonical within
professional philosophy because teachers could not resist the allure of assigning him in their
courses. There could be quite a bit more experimentation and innovation in the pool of such
classics. In preparing a course on Islamic philosophy, I encountered Ibn Tufayl (recall) and
was certainly not the first to be struck by how easily he could fit in any text-based
introductory course in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy.

What does exist in professional philosophy is a kind of hero-worship of living authority

figures and the recently deceased.* Manifestly odd views can endure because they are
associated with some such hero and, more importantly, because they put (often informal, but
no less tight) conceptual and methodological constraints on what is acceptable within
professional discussion. Williamson describes the mechanisms involved in a recent essay: he
patiently explains the fear factor that surrounded Quine for a while [recall my post]. This is
why in the overthrow of such heroes we find more than argument--there is also rhetoric;
Williamson describes Lewis's metaphysics as "extreme" (9) and memorably, but
unflatteringly, notes that Lewis is "also known as the machine in the ghost for his eerie
computational power, mechanical diction, faint air of detachment from ordinary life, and
beard from another era." (8)

This hero-worship is associated with a lot of the worst features of the discipline; the common
cruelty, the lack of respect for viewpoints associated with outsiders, the willful ignorance, and
the awful systematic demographic patterns of exclusion. So, if we abolish the canon in
professional philosophy without ending the hero-worship not much will change about the
professional practice.

*This post was prompted by Facebook discussions on hero-worship and the canon, with
Jason Stanley and William Friday Dark. I think the latter, especially, for his focus on the evils
of hero-worship.

+In huge swaths of Continental philosophy, by contrast, there is a canon with an

accompanying narrative that unfolds in fairly predictable ways, and one's contributions are
often made as much in conversation with that canon as one's more humble professional peers.

**Peter Millican has been an advocate of the first Enquiry. Hume himself preferred the
second Enquiry.

Professional Philosophy

On the Multiplicity of Intelligence and Philosophical Method

To be honest, I think most philosophers are pretty limited in their intelligences. They may be
amazing along a certain dimension of intelligence, but in many cases the other dimensions
are atrophied. And moreover, they don't even recognize the multiplicity of intelligences and
think the kind they have is either the only one or the most important. That, to my mind, is a
serious limitation that negatively affects our discipline.--Sally Haslanger

Haslanger's remarks about merit have received quite a bit of attention (see here at Dailynous,
[recall also my post]), but I have seen no attention focused on the remarks I have quoted.
Haslanger is not making the familiar point -- well it's one that I stress and that Ruth Chang
has made with forceful clarity-- that philosophical training creates intellectual dispositions
or reflexes that undercut the proper functioning of, say, our reactive attitudes or sympathy
and, thereby, the possibility of a virtuous life or acting ethically (recall and here). Rather, she
is making the more subtle point that we do not recognize different ways of (for lack of better
words) being smart. Let's stipulate Haslanger is right about this.*

I want to reflect a bit on what follows from this fact for philosophy. (So, let's allow and
ignore that it may also generate all kinds of interpersonal and moral challenges for
philosophers and their fellow human beings.) Now, it's possible that this oversight is only
harmful when we theorize about the capacities of other agents (in philosophy of mind,
epistemology, political philosophy, normative theory, philosophy of action, applied ethics,
etc.). That is, we theorize smarty-ness in other human beings along too few or impoverished
dimensions. Our conception of agency would then be unidimensional in the way that the
economist's homo economicus is. This need not be a problem as long as we would recognize
this unidimensionality as a disciplinary tick, that allows us to have a lot of efficient
conversations and to theorize cleanly (but partially) about the world. It is, however,
foreseeable that, in practice, we would come to mistake the model for reality. Thinking like a
philosopher would be to assume unidimensional-smartyness-man (or woman).

As an aside, I do think unidimensional-smartyness-man is packaged into a lot of standard

forms of analysis and the ways intuitions work in epistemology and philosophy of
language. But that's for another time.

But there is another kind of harm, a methodological one for philosophy. A lot of
methodologies that are advocated basically say, do something difficult and rigorous and good
things will follow for the discipline. As it happens, I am very good at this difficult and
rigorous method. Example: Timothy Williamson ("Must do Better.") [I only mention it
because I have harped on the example before--lately I am a big fan of Williamson.] If
intelligence is uni-dimensional then the only question is,' is that the right method for the
discipline (or the optimal one given our present knowledge and resources, etc.)?' and, if it is,
how do we make sure that a lot of us get on with the program.

But if intelligence is not uni-dimensional, then even if one grants that the difficult and
rigorous method proposed by the important person works well to make progress (yeah, okay,
let's ignore my qualms) in philosophy, it is by no means obvious that all would-be
philosophers can contribute by way of that method. It is, after all, equally possible that there
is a second-best (let's stipulate not so rigorous not so terrific method) method that allows
some fruitful steps on the path to true philosophy by folk who are smarty in ways distinct
from the important person who advocates the difficult and rigorous method. Perhaps, the
alternative smarties can contribute quite a lot by following methods more suitable to their
intelligence(s). (I think Amia Srinivasian first pointed this out to me as an implication of
some of my own views.) That is to say, I am unfamiliar of writings in philosophical
methodology that soundly establish that theirs is the unique, only possible method to make

The claim in the previous paragraph is familiar enough from the epistemic advantages of
diversity as discussed in epistemology and philosophy of science. But it's also a moral point
(again Srinivasian taught me this) that is a way to interpret the second norm of the
methodological analytical egalitarianism that I adopt and advocate: experts/philosophers
should not promote policies where the down-side risks of implementation are (primarily)
shifted onto less fortunate others. That is, many of us often advocate methods that are good
for us -- we can flourish by using them -- and the way we conceive the discipline, but that
are not evidently good for others (even if, and often this is a big if, they also conceive the
discipline in the same way). So, if unidimensional-smartyness is false (as I stipulated), then it
follows 'we' make others miserable (qua philosophers) by insisting that they adopt the method
privileged by 'us' (and suitable for 'us').

To be sure, the previous paragraph is not an argument for anything goes. Some methods and
strategies may well be self-defeating or not conducive to any path to wisdom, or
philosophical progress, given our atrophied natures. But one may then explore what could be
done to develop human potentiality.

Continue reading "On the Multiplicity of Intelligence and Philosophical Method"


On Secular Priests & Technocrats; the Reluctance of Issueing Normative

When I read people from the early 20th century...discussing their reluctance to issue
normative pronouncements I frequently get something like the following impression....Our
forbearers were very keen to avoid any suggestion that others should defer to their
pronouncements on moral matters, they really did not think they should be deferred to as if
they were some kind of intelligentsia secular-priesthood. They wanted to avoid it being
possible to illegitimately translate the epistemic authority and bully-pulpit one gains as a
professor into an ability to command or sway others with especial [sic] authority, since they
thought that we have not earned that or for other reasons should not be granted it. Of course
one gets involved in moral and political life as a private citizen; but one does so there as an
equal, one voice among many. Where one is in some sense speaking or acting with
professional authority one must avoid treating one's lectern as a bully pulpit, since one has no
right to that bully pulpit.

Standing behind this... is some kind of egalitarian ideal of non-imposition, and a vision of the
proper role of intellectuals in public life.(As on the Continent?) I find that people
launching the Berlin-esque critique frequently just brush this aside, and treat these people like
they are shallow technocrats with no interest in public life....But it seems to me that it's at
least plausible that the early analytics were on to something important here, that is worthy of
serious reflection in metaphilosophy, and it wasn't just a refusal to engage but a bit of
principled egalitarian politics that guided their decisions. As it stands I don't think this non-
imposition ideal is quite viable in our present social circumstances -- this because I think that
if we none of us say explicitly say ``I think you should adopt these ends'' but it just so
happens that all of the professoriate only treat certain goals as worth taking seriously, we
have collectively violated the spirit of this egalitarian ideal of non-imposition, even if no-one
of us did individually. But those social circumstances are potentially subject to change, and in

any case perhaps the ideal could be refined to account for that.

Plenty of my colleagues in philosophy are responding to recent events by saying that we

should, as a profession, be more involved in public life. I quite agree, and as noted I think
Berlin was on to something in his critique of the more limited or technocratic mode of
political engagement. But I also do sometimes get the impression that some ... of those who
launch critiques of technocratic political philosophy really do have designs on operating as a
kind secular-priesthood, and have authoritarian ideas of how `layfolk' should relate to the
moral-expert professoriate. The early analytic reluctance, when under the guise of a moral
professor, to issue normative pronouncements about the proper ends of social life can start to
seem very sympathetic to me when I am struck by this. So I hope that not only do we start to
engage more with the world of practical affairs, but that as we do so we are self-conscious
and reflective about the way in which we relate to our fellow citizens.--Liam Kofi Bright
"Defending Technocrats" @The Sooty Empiric.

Liam's very interesting remarks are a response to one of my older post that I recently
recirculated again. For the record: I edited his remarks a bit, and so removed some of his
careful hedging/clarifications. For the purpose of clarification, let me offer some working
definitions of different kinds of philosophers:

the philosopher as secular-priest: somebody that deploys publicly the

epistemic authority and normative bully-pulpit one gains from being a
professor in order to pronounce in normative fashion on current affairs
from a superior-in-some-sense perspective

the philosopher as technocrat: somebody that takes (shared) normative

ends as given and works out the implications of these akin to an engineer.

The first thing to recognize is that the philosopher qua secular-priest and qua technocrat need
not be in tension with each other. One can be a secular-priest philosopher in one's public
utterances and be a technocrat in one's (more esoteric) professional publications. The
philosopher qua secular-priest and qua technocrat only may seem to oppose each other if the
technocrat wishes to pursue her craft in public. These comments do not exhaust the
possibilities, of course. But here I shall remain focused on public philosophy (which recall I
distinguish conceptually from punditry and advocacy). I distinguish among three kinds of
public philosophy (recall). I associate the 'public' in public philosophy with a shared life or
common good. That is, public philosophy so understood is committed to a form of minimal
political unity--a unity that is constituted by (educational) practices, narratives, and public
understandings that facilitate some dispositions conducive to minimal, political union. (In a
community of angels or philosophers there would be no need of public philosophy.)

First I list two species of direct public philosophy, which can draw on the results/insights or
distinctions of professional philosophy, but need not do so. Then I mention a third indirect

1. Normative interventions or participation in public debates by professional

philosophers and those trained in professional philosophy.

2. A genre of writing and speaking by intellectuals, who are not professional
philosophers -- and do not engage in the debates/discussions among
professionals --, yet engage public(s) on philosophical topics. (Sometimes
these are topics that are not much discussed by recent professional

3. Facilitating or enhancing social norms, public practices, and political

institutions conducive to a common good is an indirect form of public
philosophy. For such practices can instantiate rational arrangements that
make possible, perhaps, constitute a common good which I will
provisionally define (recall) as mutual accommodation and modest forms
of mutual receptivity such that public conversation -- not war or
domination -- can be continued.

Now, let's return to Liam Kofi Bright's analysis of the philosopher qua secular-priest and qua
technocrat; it should be immediately clear that these two modes of being do not exhaust the
way one can be a public philosopher. His account of the practice(s) of early analytical
philosophers on these matters is evocative of a species of Weberianism, whose influence of
analytical philosophy is not sufficiently appreciated (recall Weber's (1917) Science as
Vocation, "the true teacher will beware of imposing from the platform any political position
upon the student, whether it is expressed or suggested." By contrast: "When speaking in a
political meeting about democracy, one does not hide one's personal standpoint; indeed, to
come out clearly and take a stand is one's damned duty. The words one uses in such a meeting
are not means of scientific analysis but means of canvassing votes and winning over others."
(10)) As an aside, Weber is clear that public philosophy is the realm of opinion not truth.

Bright's early analytical philosopher primarily practices indirect public philosophy. Even her
most public interventions tend to be aimed at facilitating more rational public practices and
discussions rather than articulating a normative position as such. Often these interventions
have firm ground in normative commitments (in early analytical philosophy these are often
treated as optative choices beyond rational scrutinity/grounding--a point Bright ignores), but
these are, as it were, withheld with great self-command in order to facilitate a better operation
of public reason (recall this post on Stebbing; and this one). Surprisingly enough, here early
analytical philosophers anticipate the practices of contemporary students of Foucault
(and Deleuze)--who often unmask away this or that public practice and offer us maps of
local terrains/practices while intimating their own normative stances, but without defending

So, there are at least three kinds of philosophers:

the philosopher as secular-priest: somebody that deploys publicly the

epistemic authority and normative bully-pulpit one gains from being a
professor in order to pronounce in normative fashion on current affairs
from a superior-in-some-sense perspective

the philosopher as technocrat: somebody that takes (shared) normative

ends as given and works out the implications of these akin to an engineer.

the philosopher as social facilitator: somebody that engages in public
philosophy in order to help stabilize or promote social norms, public
practices, and political institutions conducive to a common good

Of course, there are more species of philosophy, some of them highly relevant to our
practices of public philosophy. (I have written on the philosopher-prophet (recall); the
philosopher-quietist, the Socratic political philosopher, the puzzle-solver, etc.) My modest
point here today is that one can reject being a philosopher qua secular-priest as much as being
a philosopher qua technocrat. While there were secular priests among the early analytical
philosophers (Russell comes to mind), they tended to understand these priestly practices as
distinct from philosophy as such. In fact, I would suggest that the truly striking fact about the
recent public turn in analytical philosophy, is that many of its best practitioners combine
elements of the secular-priest and the technocrat, that is, they become priestly technocrats.
Our friends combine an unquestionable commitment to a robust species of moral
realism, and they assume they have access to the normative implications that follow
from it. (I take this to be saying pretty much the same as Bright's they "do have designs on
operating as a kind secular-priesthood, and have authoritarian ideas of how `layfolk' should
relate to the moral-expert professoriate.")

Bright expressed his reservations about priestly technocrats by appealing to a kind of

sympathetic norm of respect toward our "fellow citizens." Unfortunately, Bright here
assumes a shared egalitarian ideal. But it is by no means obvious that the (let's stipulate
meritocratic) priestly type embraces this ideal in their hearts. More often than not the priestly
type pontificates on the cognitive biases of the lay-folk, which undermine their capacities.
Even if they do recognize the ideal as binding on themselves, it is by no means obvious that
the incentives under which our priestly-technocrats flourish promote such an ideal of
egalitarianism. Rather, our institutional incentives tend to promote imprudent, expert over-
confidence and lack of attention to the cognitive biases on the experts' themselves. I am not
suggesting here that these facts explain the reticence of some of our forefathers and
foremothers (which may have multiple, overlapping sources), although I would not be
surprised if they did.


On Putting a Child on this world; Does Philosophy's Show Must Go On?

Imagine a heap of sand. You carefully remove one grain. Is there still a heap? The obvious
answer is: yes. Removing one grain doesnt turn a heap into no heap.--Timothy Williamson
"On vagueness, or, when is a heap of sand not a heap of sand?" @Aeon 15 November, 2016
[HT Dailynous]
When I went to bed, in Amsterdam, around 2:30am the night of the US Election, I concluded
after seeing the Indiana returns (where the Democrat was not being as competitive as
expected in the Senate election), and carefully watching Florida and North Carolina returns,
that it was not going to be a Clinton landslide, but a close election. (At that time I had no idea
about how Pennsylvania and the rest of the Midwest were unfolding.) When I awoke three or
so hours later, I could not resist to check the election results and by then it was clear that
Trump was going to be the next President. Much to my own surprise, my first thought was
How could I have put a child on this Earth?*

While the day before election, I had written that "I have no idea what happens if Trump
wins," my reaction betrayed my sense of unease. Throughout the year, as I have shared in
these musings, I have been concerned about Trumps's embrace of an illiberal,
Jacksonian/authoritarian (misogynist, etc.) political stance. While I did not overlook the fact
that the Clinton campaign deliberately and mistakenly had turned the election into a
referendum on Trump's character, I had watched enough of the debates and his speeches to
have come to independent, preliminary unsettling conclusions.

But I recognized a deeper source of unease; my whole childhood I had been told, by my
refugee-traumatized parents, to treasure my US Citizenship and passport as a kind of
backstop or security blanket to whatever craziness or worse would occur in Europe. While
most antisemitism I encountered locally was nonthreatening during childhood, there was
always a quiet daemonic voice reminding me that the parents or grandparents of nearly all the
people I encounter were complicit, or worse, in Nazi-crimes, or too servile to do anything.
(And genuine xenophobia has become socially permitted again.) I always found it reassuring
that the Dutch, and our neighbors, were protectorates within an American empire. Of course,
I recognized that American exceptionalism was a myth, but we all need to embrace some
fictions to live by.

My second thought was, there is no place to run.* America's reach is global. I felt a panic
swell up, and I reflected on familiar names of exiled and refugee philosophers; I paused to
reflect on their friends, forgotten names, who never got out on time. As regular readers know,
these daily musings are a form of therapy. When I logged in to start a post, while the election
results and commentary were being announced on the background, I found myself staring
blankly at a screen--a fatigued paralysis. I am not much prone to writer's block, but I had no
desire to remain frozen in my feelings. Philosophy can be a form of escapism, a means not to
feel (recall). I call this false philosophy. By contrast, in true philosophy the thoughts are felt
and, thereby, owned. I was too fragile, so opted for false philosophy (this piece on
Bayesianism), despite the risk that such intellectual running would just hasten the onset of

Not everybody responds to fear in the same way. Some are thrown into panic; I have that with
heights, airplanes, snakes, and some forms of social embarrassment. But to my own surprise
after I completed the post, I could sense a decision: I really don't know what will happen; I
am a witness to the unfolding events and devote my efforts to understanding them. I joked, to
no body in particular, that I should rename these daily digressions, notes toward a post-
apocalyptic liberalism.

A few days ago, when Dailynous linked to Williamson's piece, my first thought was, he's still
minutely working his way through yet another sorites paradox. Just as I was about to start a
satirical mental rant, I noticed how he was making the argument for relevance: "More
important legal and moral issues also involve vagueness." Yeah, vagueness really does matter,
and not for the last time I agreed with him that vagueness is not a problem about logic. (I tend
to think sometimes it's an ontic problem, but I am happy to concede it is often merely

Much to my surprise I was vehemently annoyed at Williamson for making the case for the
social significance of his work on vagueness. I wanted him to double down on contingently
non-concrete objects, and forego selling philosophy to an indifferent public; it's degrading. In
reflecting on my irritation, I recognized that precisely because political events demand our
attention, we should not sacrifice all the noble ends that justify life. If the only proper end
becomes the political fight, then the bad dudes have won and even conquered our inner
sanctum. I made a mental note to check if one of my bourgeois heroes, a Havel or an Arendt,
had made the point somewhere about the significance of defending (philosophical) art for
art's sake.

And, then suddenly, I am not even sure I was still even reading the words, I had made it to the
final paragraph of Williamson's piece, and stumbled across these lines:

Although language is a human construct, that does not make it transparent to us. Like the
children we make, the meanings we make can have secrets from us.

If analytical philosophy could reach maturity, perhaps I could live without my security


When will the progress of analytical philosophy be defended without

Freges article had a galvanizing effect on such philosophers as Bertrand Russell. When the
young Russell arrived as a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1890, philosophy was
dominated by the ponderous metaphysics of German idealism, which pounded out
propositions purporting to delve into the murky and nebulous features of the Absolute. An
older Russell once reminisced that he had thought of language as transparent, the medium of
thought that could simply be taken for granted. Frege demonstrated otherwise. Instead of
trusting language to transport one into intimacy with the Absolute, it might be good to first
discover how language manages to do more basic things, in the manner of Frege. Modern
philosophy of language and analytic philosophy were both born in this same technical
turn taken by philosophy. "What Philosophers Really Know" by Rebecca Newberger
Goldstein (October 8, 2015, New York Times), reviewing Philosophy of Language: The
Classics Explained by Colin McGinn. {HT Liam Kofi Bright & Jason Stanley}

After the string of (self-inflicted) bad press received by Colin McGinn's teaching style and
recent academic publications, it's nice to be reminded of some of his academic virtues in
Goldsteins review ("McGinn has succeeded brilliantly in demonstrating the substantive
progress made in philosophy of language.") The review itself is a pleasure to read and makes
useful distinctions among, "philosophy of language," "the linguistic turn," and "ordinary
language philosophy," that should help the public better understand analytical philosophy's
practices and history. Yet the review is framed as a robust defense of the "cumulative
progress of" analytical philosophy. And here the review manages, despite astute

observations (as regular readers know, I like her resistance to the idea that consensus is
constitutive of expertise), to turn into clownish propaganda.

There are four sure ways of recognizing one is in the realm of analytical propaganda: (i)
the origin myths of the rebellion against British Idealism contain obvious blunders: (ii)
analytical philosophy's progress contains neither Kuhn loss nor other problems; (iii)
obligatory mention of Heidegger as bad guy; (iv) the role of ethics in analytical philosophy's
birth is systematically effaced.

On (i): above, I quoted the treatment of British Idealism and Russell. Russell did not attribute
to the British Idealists the idea that language could be transparent; it was the view that the
youthful Russell entertained himself while writing one of the masterpieces of early analytical
philosophy, The Principles of Mathematics. ( Peter Hylton has made the point in print.) His
later self, perhaps influenced by the encounter with Wittgenstein's writing, saw the error of
his earlier analytical ways! I am no specialist of British Idealism, but I would be amazed if
they held something like the transparency of language thesis. They held, rather, (in Bradley's
hands) that language was something to be left behind in (the ascent toward) the Absolute (a
view shared with folk like Plato and Spinoza and several other early modernists).

Goldstein's treatment of the origin of analytical philosophy, which was undoubtedly common
when she was a PhD student, is especially cringe-worthy because it provides a dated view of
what's going on in (ahh) the best analytical departments. Here I don't just mean the work by
historians of analytical philosophy, but rather the work by metaphysicians like Jonathan
Schaffer (in a famous paper) and Michael Della Rocca (in one of my favorite papers), who
have returned with a confident and self-critical eye toward the origin myths of analytical
philosophy. They show that today we can reflect on the history of analytical philosophy
without anxiety.

On (iv): at one point Goldstein writes, "Analytic philosophy originated with philosophers
who also did seminal work in mathematical logic, most notably Gottlob Frege and Bertrand
Russell, and the alliances with both formal logic and science are among its defining features."
She then goes on to offer the gratuitous and obligatory dismissal of Heidegger ((indeed he is
coupled, en passant, with "Slavoj iek") thus covering (ii)). Goldstein's position makes
sense of the self-conception of analytical philosophy as advanced during the early Cold War
by influential disciples of the first generation of logical positivism and culminated in
Dummett's efforts to turn Frege into the true founder of analytical philosophy. This story
effaces the role of one of the founders, G.E. Moore, whose reputation rested and rests, in part,
on his work in ethics not logic.

There are two further problems in this narrative: first, by joining analytical philosophy into
an "alliance" with science, Goldstein quietly glides over Wittgenstein's philosophical hostility
to natural science. It also misses, say, the role of analytical philosophy's practice as friendly
critic to science's public roles as manifested in the wonderful work by the second generation
analytical philosopher, Stebbing, who is generating more interest both among those who care
about analytical philosophy as public philosophy and the nature of responsible
speech/propaganda as well as those who wish to recover the roots of metaphysical analysis.

But, more subtly, second, Goldstein's picture completely leaves Sidgwick's role in the origins
of analytical philosophy out of the story.* By this I do not merely mean that Rawls, Parfit,
Singer (et al) are in (ongoing) conversation with Sidgwick; rather, I also mean that the
Cambridge side of analytical philosophy originates in the circle around Sidgwick and
students who were preoccupied with a whole range of problems (besides ethics, logic, and
linguistic philosophy), including, political economy, philosophy of science, probability, etc.
In my view this story has not been fully told yet, but would include, in addition to the names
already mentioned, also Ramsey, W.E. Johnson, Broad, and Keynes father and son.

Finally, all change, even the progressive, "technical" ones, can entail losses ("progress" and
"technical" are repeated like a mantra in the review). Goldstein wisely (and correctly) places
analytical philosophy's progress "more in the discovery of questions, which often includes the
discovery of the largeness lurking within seemingly small questions." But she does not reflect
on the fact that during this progress some questions may have become harder to ask+ and
other worthy questions were regularly overlooked (if not mocked); in closing her review,
Goldstein recognizes that there remain questions of enduring interest "not limited to
philosophers," but fails to reflect on our tradition's repeated willingness to pretend that the
most profound are not really philosophy.

Continue reading "When will the progress of analytical philosophy be defended without


On Graeber's Genealogies of Philosophy

In Athens, the result was extreme moral confusion. The language of money, debt, and finance
provided powerful and ultimately irresistible ways to think about moral problems.
Much as in Vedic India, people started talking about life as a debt to the gods, of obligations
as debts, about literal debts of honor, of debt as sin and of vengeance as debt collection. Yet if
debt was morality and certainly at the very least it was in the interest of creditors, who
often had little legal recourse to compel debtors to pay up, to insist that it was what was
one to make of the fact that money, that very thing that seemed capable of turning morality
into an exact and quantifiable science, also seemed to encourage the very worst sorts of

It is from such dilemmas that modern ethics and moral philosophy begin. I think this is true
quite literally. Consider Plato's Republic, another product of fourth-century Athens. The book
begins when Socrates visits an old friend, a wealthy arms manufacturer, at the port of Piraeus.
They get into a discussion of justice, which begins when the old man proposes that money
cannot be a bad thing, since it allows those who have it to be just, and that justice consists in
two things: telling the truth, and always paying one's debts. The proposal is easily
demolished. What, Socrates asks, if someone lent you his sword, went violently insane, and

then asked for it back (presumably, so he could kill someone)? Clearly it can never be right to
arm a lunatic...

As we all know, Socrates eventually gets around to offering some political proposals of his
own, involving philosopher kings; the abolition of marriage, the family, and private property;
selective human breeding boards. (Clearly, the book was meant to annoy its readers, and for
more than two thousand years, it has succeeded brilliantly.) What I want to emphasize,
though, is the degree to which what we consider our core tradition of moral and political
theory today springs from this question: What does it mean to pay our debts? Plato presents
us first with the simple, literal businessman's view. When this proves inadequate, he allows it
to be reframed in heroic terms. Perhaps all debts are really debts of honor after all. But heroic
honor no longer works in a world wherecommerce, class, and profit have so confused
everything that peoples' true motives are never clear. How do we even know who our
enemies are? Finally, Plato presents us with cynical realpolitik. Maybe nobody really owes
anything to anybody. Maybe those who pursue profit for its own sake have it right after all.
But even that does not hold up. We are left with a certainty that existing standards are
incoherent and self-contradictory, and that some sort of radical break would be required in
order to create a world that makes any logical sense. But most of those who seriously
consider a radical break along the lines that Plato suggested have come to the conclusion that
there might be far worse things than moral incoherence. And there we have stood, ever since,
in the midst of an insoluble dilemma.--David Graeber Debt: The First 5000 years, pp. 195-7.

It is much noticed that Graeber's book is a polemic both against what he takes to be the
purportedly scientific "discipline of economics" (which he treats as founded by Adam Smith
(p. 24)) as well as a polemic within political economy (with Graeber taking sides with various
heterodox positions). I have not seen it remarked yet that the polemic extends toward
philosophy. Graeber executes the polemic with great panache in the space of a few pages.
Before I get to that, I should note that he relies on the striking methodological claim that
"anthropologists have the unique advantage of being able to observe human beings who have
not previously been part of" philosophical conversation "react to" philosophical "concepts."
Thereby, anthropologists are thus given moments of "exceptional clarity" that "reveal the
essence of our thought." (p. 243)*

The long passage quoted above (I deleted the remainder of the summary of Book I of the
Republic) occurs in the middle of Debt. Graeber treats Plato's Republic as (an instance of) the
origin of "modern ethics and moral philosophy." I return to the question of what may count as
pre-modern or ancient ethics and moral philosophy before long. (Henceforth, I'll use 'moral
philosophy' or 'modern moral philosophy' to refer to what he calls "modern ethics and moral
philosophy.") He treats modern moral philosophy as (the) response to conflicts created by the
clash between aristocratic norms or honor systems with commercial and utilitarian values. On
Graeber's account the response fails to provide a coherent theory that can accommodate let's
say the best of the conflicting pulls. Theory suggests that the only coherent alternative is a
"radical break"--one such version is sketched by Socrates in the Republic.

Now, throughout Debt, radical is a word with a very positive valence. It does not follow
Graeber endorses all radical solutions (he dislikes Platonic hierarchy, for example). But
rather, he understands himself as belonging to the minority (as opposed to 'most') among

those who seriously reflect on such matters who recognize that Plato got it right in some
sense. That is to say, systematic modern moral philosophy (which is, thus, always political
philosophy!) is always at odds with the world and can only be made to cohere with the world
by nothing short of a thorough revolution. The insight is not disputed by the majority of
serious thinkers -- presumably aware that many revolutions have a tendency to worsen the
world they are supposed to improve -- decide to muddle on. (There is a sense that Socrates of
the Republic belongs to the majority [see also this post on Le Guin.])

That is to say, Graeber essentially understands the whole history of modern moral philosophy
as a tension between those with a responsible risk aversion on behalf of themselves and
humanity and those few daring souls who are willing to risk all to improve man's estate.
Graeber is notable for insisting that this tension plays out in all major philosophical traditions
including ones (China, India) not initially influenced by Plato. Graeber's interpretation of the
risk averse side is compatible both with a kind of conservative status quo bias and with the
thought that the responsible types opt for small, incremental steps toward the more radical
ideal knowing full well that the ideal itself is out of reach (because it will bump up against
internal contradictions eventually). This is not, in fact, a silly reading of the history of
philosophy, although many will dispute the claim that there can't be a reconciliation between
the world and our best moral or political theory short of radical rupture. The radical response
is, of course, itself to be found within modern moral philosophy.

I infer from Graeber's treatment that pre-modern moral philosophy is not theoretical or
systematic. For, as we have seen, he does not deny that reality of moral evaluation. Recall
that he is committed to three claims that,

When humans transfer objects back and forth between/among each other
or argue about what other people owe them the same fundamental moral
principles will be invoked everywhere and always;

Humans have a sense of justice that grounds sociality;

Most humans are, when given the opportunity, oriented toward a pleasing

What Graeber, thus, claims is that it is impossible to systematize these three commitments in
a way that does not end promoting revolution. (As an aside, one may understand Plato's true
city more derisively known as the city of Pigs as a way at approximating these three
commitments.) But that's compatible with finding instantiations of these commitments
throughout human history. So, the alternative to modern moral philosophy is by Graeber's
lights a kind of anti-theoretical situationism eternally immanent in local mores and practices
(he sometimes dubs this 'baseline communism') if they are not corrupted by significant
violence. I call this rustic wisdom (recall). It does not always remain immanent, and it is
partially expressed in many religions.

Now, Graeber tells another genealogy of (Greek) philosophy. For, he recognizes that modern
moral philosophy was preceded by "speculations on nature." In his broader story, Thales of
Miletus is the founder of philosophy. As I noted a few days ago in a post on James Ladyman,
this is a recurring trope in the history of philosophy (see Hume), and the way to understand

Thales' philosophy was even a matter of dispute between Hume and Smith (recall). He
suggests that it is no coincidence that the founding of Greek philosophy coincides in time
with the introduction of coinage (p. 245, and the rise of Greek mercenaries). In different
contexts I have suggested that the debate over the meaning of Thales also recurs throughout
the history of economics and political economy (see also this paper; and this one). As an
aside, one thing missing from Graeber's interpretation (as distinct from the tradition) is
Thales's (mythical) significance as an astronomer.

The key to this broader genealogy is that the "peculiar way" in which "pre-Socratic
philosophers began to frame their questions" is (indirectly) a meditation on the nature and
paradoxes of coinage (p. 247); this results in (i) making forms of materialism the "starting
point" of speculative philosophy and (ii) the creation of (historically more popular) systems
in opposition to materialism, but all these oppositional systems introduce (iii) conceptual
dualities around some enduring form vs content or mind vs body distinction (or both; there
are shades of Nietzsche here--Graeber never confronts more monist systems). (Again, this is
also said to be true of non-Greek traditions.)

The underlying thought of -- and the bite of -- Graeber's genealogy is that our inherited
traditions of philosophy fail to recognize that the manner of theorizing is itself conditioned
by particular and peculiar circumstances. In particular, these circumstances presuppose the
violent eradication of forms of life that may be amenable to baseline communism and rustic
wisdom (see also this post on Justin Smith). This is, I think, what Graeber means elsewhere
in Debt, "the logic of identity is, always and everywhere, entangled in the logic of hierarchy."
That is to say, the Graeber critique of philosophy amounts to our unwillingness to recognize
the reliance of our way of (philosophical) life on this violence

The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates intelligence into specific (primarily

sensory) 'modalities', rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability.
Howard Gardner proposed this model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of
Multiple Intelligences. According to Gardner, an intelligence must fulfill eight criteria:[1]
potential for brain isolation by brain damage, place in evolutionary history, presence of core
operations, susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression), a distinct developmental
progression, the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people, and support
from experimental psychology and psychometric findings.

Gardner chose eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria:[2] musical-rhythmic, visual-
spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal,
intrapersonal, and naturalistic. He later suggested that existential and moral intelligence may
also be worthy of inclusion.[3] Although the distinction between intelligences has been set out
in great detail, Gardner opposes the idea of labeling learners to a specific intelligence.
Gardner maintains that his theory of multiple intelligences should "empower learners", not
restrict them to one modality of learning.[4] According to Gardner, an intelligence is "a
biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to
solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture."[5]

Many of Gardner's "intelligences" correlate with the g factor, supporting the idea of a single,
dominant type of intelligence. According to a 2006 study, each of the domains proposed by
Gardner involved a blend of g, cognitive abilities other than g, and, in some cases, non-
cognitive abilities or personality characteristics.[6]


1 Intelligence modalities

o 1.1 Musical-rhythmic and harmonic

o 1.2 Visual-spatial

o 1.3 Verbal-linguistic

o 1.4 Logical-mathematical

o 1.5 Bodily-kinesthetic

o 1.6 Interpersonal

o 1.7 Intrapersonal

o 1.8 Naturalistic

o 1.9 Existential

o 1.10 Additional intelligences

2 Critical reception

o 2.1 Definition of intelligence

o 2.2 Neo-Piagetian criticism

o 2.3 IQ tests

o 2.4 Lack of empirical evidence

3 Use in education

4 See also

5 References

6 Further reading

7 External links

Intelligence modalities

Musical-rhythmic and harmonic
Main article: Musicality

This area has to do with sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. People with a high
musical intelligence normally have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are
able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. They have sensitivity to rhythm,
pitch, meter, tone, melody or timbre.[7][8]

Main article: Spatial intelligence (psychology)

This area deals with spatial judgment and the ability to visualize with the mind's eye. Spatial
ability is one of the three factors beneath g in the hierarchical model of intelligence.[8]

Main article: Linguistic intelligence

People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages.
They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with
dates.[8] Verbal ability is one of the most g-loaded abilities.[9] This type of intelligence is
measured with the Verbal IQ in WAIS-IV.

Further information: Reason

This area has to do with logic, abstractions, reasoning, numbers and critical thinking.[8] This
also has to do with having the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind
of causal system.[7] Logical reasoning is closely linked to fluid intelligence and to general
intelligence (g factor).[10]

Further information: Gross motor skill and Fine motor skill

The core elements of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are control of one's bodily motions
and the capacity to handle objects skillfully.[8] Gardner elaborates to say that this also includes
a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train

People who have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence should be generally good at physical
activities such as sports, dance, acting, and making things.

Gardner believes that careers that suit those with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence include:
athletes, dancers, musicians, actors, builders, police officers, and soldiers. Although these
careers can be duplicated through virtual simulation, they will not produce the actual physical
learning that is needed in this intelligence.[11]

Main article: Social skills

In theory, individuals who have high interpersonal intelligence are characterized by their
sensitivity to others' moods, feelings, temperaments, motivations, and their ability to
cooperate in order to work as part of a group. According to Gardner in How Are Kids Smart:
Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, "Inter- and Intra- personal intelligence is often
misunderstood with being extroverted or liking other people..."[12] Those with high
interpersonal intelligence communicate effectively and empathize easily with others, and may
be either leaders or followers. They often enjoy discussion and debate. Gardner has equated
this with emotional intelligence of Goleman."[13]

Gardner believes that careers that suit those with high interpersonal intelligence include sales
persons, politicians, managers, teachers, lecturers, counselors and social workers.[14]

Further information: Introspection

This area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. This refers to having a
deep understanding of the self; what one's strengths or weaknesses are, what makes one
unique, being able to predict one's own reactions or emotions.

Not part of Gardner's original seven, naturalistic intelligence was proposed by him in 1995.
"If I were to rewrite Frames of Mind today, I would probably add an eighth intelligence - the
intelligence of the naturalist. It seems to me that the individual who is readily able to
recognize flora and fauna, to make other consequential distinctions in the natural world, and
to use this ability productively (in hunting, in farming, in biological science) is exercising an
important intelligence and one that is not adequately encompassed in the current list."[15] This
area has to do with nurturing and relating information to one's natural surroundings.[8]
Examples include classifying natural forms such as animal and plant species and rocks and
mountain types. This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters,
gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef.[7]

This sort of ecological receptiveness is deeply rooted in a "sensitive, ethical, and holistic
understanding" of the world and its complexities including the role of humanity within the
greater ecosphere.[16]

Main article: Spiritual intelligence

Gardner did not want to commit to a spiritual intelligence, but suggested that an "existential"
intelligence may be a useful construct, also proposed after the original 7 in his 1999 book.[17]
The hypothesis of an existential intelligence has been further explored by educational

Additional intelligences
On January 13, 2016, Gardner mentioned in an interview with BigThink that he is
considering adding the teaching-pedagogical intelligence "which allows us to be able to teach
successfully to other people".[19] In the same interview, he explicitly refused some other
suggested intelligences like humour, cooking and sexual intelligence.[19]

Critical reception

Gardner argues that there is a wide range of cognitive abilities, but that there are only very
weak correlations among them. For example, the theory postulates that a child who learns to
multiply easily is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has more difficulty on this
task. The child who takes more time to master multiplication may best learn to multiply
through a different approach, may excel in a field outside mathematics, or may be looking at
and understanding the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level.

Intelligence tests and psychometrics have generally found high correlations between different
aspects of intelligence, rather than the low correlations which Gardner's theory predicts,
supporting the prevailing theory of general intelligence rather than multiple intelligences
(MI).[20] The theory has been widely criticized by mainstream psychology for its lack of
empirical evidence, and its dependence on subjective judgement.[21]

Definition of intelligence
One major criticism of the theory is that it is ad hoc: that Gardner is not expanding the
definition of the word "intelligence", but rather denies the existence of intelligence as
traditionally understood, and instead uses the word "intelligence" where other people have
traditionally used words like "ability" and "aptitude". This practice has been criticized by
Robert J. Sternberg,[22][23] Eysenck,[24] and Scarr.[25] White (2006) points out that Gardner's
selection and application of criteria for his "intelligences" is subjective and arbitrary, and that
a different researcher would likely have come up with different criteria.[26]

Defenders of MI theory argue that the traditional definition of intelligence is too narrow, and
thus a broader definition more accurately reflects the differing ways in which humans think
and learn.[27]

Some criticisms arise from the fact that Gardner has not provided a test of his multiple
intelligences. He originally defined it as the ability to solve problems that have value in at
least one culture, or as something that a student is interested in. He then added a disclaimer
that he has no fixed definition, and his classification is more of an artistic judgment than fact:

Ultimately, it would certainly be desirable to have an algorithm for the selection of an

intelligence, such that any trained researcher could determine whether a candidate's
intelligence met the appropriate criteria. At present, however, it must be admitted that the
selection (or rejection) of a candidate's intelligence is reminiscent more of an artistic
judgment than of a scientific assessment.[28]

Generally, linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities are called intelligences, but artistic,
musical, athletic, etc. abilities are not. Gardner argues this causes the former to be needlessly
aggrandized. Certain critics are wary of this widening of the definition, saying that it ignores
"the connotation of intelligence ... [which] has always connoted the kind of thinking skills
that makes one successful in school."[29]

Gardner writes "I balk at the unwarranted assumption that certain human abilities can be
arbitrarily singled out as intelligence while others cannot."[30] Critics hold that given this
statement, any interest or ability can be redefined as "intelligence". Thus, studying

intelligence becomes difficult, because it diffuses into the broader concept of ability or talent.
Gardner's addition of the naturalistic intelligence and conceptions of the existential and moral
intelligences are seen as the fruits of this diffusion. Defenders of the MI theory would argue
that this is simply a recognition of the broad scope of inherent mental abilities, and that such
an exhaustive scope by nature defies a one-dimensional classification such as an IQ value.

The theory and definitions have been critiqued by Perry D. Klein as being so unclear as to be
tautologous and thus unfalsifiable. Having a high musical ability means being good at music
while at the same time being good at music is explained by having a high musical ability.[31]

Neo-Piagetian criticism
Andreas Demetriou suggests that theories which overemphasize the autonomy of the domains
are as simplistic as the theories that overemphasize the role of general intelligence and ignore
the domains. He agrees with Gardner that there are indeed domains of intelligence that are
relevantly autonomous of each other.[32] Some of the domains, such as verbal, spatial,
mathematical, and social intelligence are identified by most lines of research in psychology.
In Demetriou's theory, one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, Gardner is
criticized for underestimating the effects exerted on the various domains of intelligences by
the various subprocesses that define overall processing efficiency, such as speed of
processing, executive functions, working memory, and meta-cognitive processes underlying
self-awareness and self-regulation. All of these processes are integral components of general
intelligence that regulate the functioning and development of different domains of

The domains are to a large extent expressions of the condition of the general processes, and
may vary because of their constitutional differences but also differences in individual
preferences and inclinations. Their functioning both channels and influences the operation of
the general processes.[34][35] Thus, one cannot satisfactorily specify the intelligence of an
individual or design effective intervention programs unless both the general processes and the
domains of interest are evaluated.[36][37]

IQ tests
Gardner argues that IQ tests only measure linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities. He
argues the importance of assessing in an "intelligence-fair" manner. While traditional paper-
and-pen examinations favour linguistic and logical skills, there is a need for intelligence-fair
measures that value the distinct modalities of thinking and learning that uniquely define each

Psychologist Alan S. Kaufman points out that IQ tests have measured spatial abilities for 70
years.[38] Modern IQ tests are greatly influenced by the Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory which
incorporates a general intelligence but also many more narrow abilities. While IQ tests do
give an overall IQ score, they now also give scores for many more narrow abilities.[38]

Lack of empirical evidence

According to a 2006 study many of Gardner's "intelligences" correlate with the g factor,
supporting the idea of a single dominant type of intelligence. According to the study, each of

the domains proposed by Gardner involved a blend of g, of cognitive abilities other than g,
and, in some cases, of non-cognitive abilities or of personality characteristics.[6]

Linda Gottfredson (2006) has argued that thousands of studies support the importance of
intelligence quotient (IQ) in predicting school and job performance, and numerous other life
outcomes. In contrast, empirical support for non-g intelligences is either lacking or very poor.
She argued that despite this the ideas of multiple non-g intelligences are very attractive to
many due to the suggestion that everyone can be smart in some way.[39]

A critical review of MI theory argues that there is little empirical evidence to support it:

To date, there have been no published studies that offer evidence of the validity of the
multiple intelligences. In 1994 Sternberg reported finding no empirical studies. In 2000 Allix
reported finding no empirical validating studies, and at that time Gardner and Connell
conceded that there was "little hard evidence for MI theory" (2000, p. 292). In 2004
Sternberg and Grigerenko stated that there were no validating studies for multiple
intelligences, and in 2004 Gardner asserted that he would be "delighted were such evidence
to accrue",[40] and admitted that "MI theory has few enthusiasts among psychometricians or
others of a traditional psychological background" because they require "psychometric or
experimental evidence that allows one to prove the existence of the several intelligences."[40]

The same review presents evidence to demonstrate that cognitive neuroscience research does
not support the theory of multiple intelligences:

... the human brain is unlikely to function via Gardner's multiple intelligences. Taken together
the evidence for the intercorrelations of subskills of IQ measures, the evidence for a shared
set of genes associated with mathematics, reading, and g, and the evidence for shared and
overlapping "what is it?" and "where is it?" neural processing pathways, and shared neural
pathways for language, music, motor skills, and emotions suggest that it is unlikely that each
of Gardner's intelligences could operate "via a different set of neural mechanisms" (1999, p.
99). Equally important, the evidence for the "what is it?" and "where is it?" processing
pathways, for Kahneman's two decision-making systems, and for adapted cognition modules
suggests that these cognitive brain specializations have evolved to address very specific
problems in our environment. Because Gardner claimed that the intelligences are innate
potentialities related to a general content area, MI theory lacks a rationale for the
phylogenetic emergence of the intelligences.[41]

The theory of multiple intelligences is sometimes cited as an example of pseudoscience

because it lacks empirical evidence or falsifiability,[42] though Gardner has argued otherwise.

Use in education

Gardner defines an intelligence as "biopsychological potential to process information that can

be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a
culture."[44] According to Gardner, there are more ways to do this than just through logical and
linguistic intelligence. Gardner believes that the purpose of schooling "should be to develop

intelligences and to help people reach vocational and avocational goals that are appropriate to
their particular spectrum of intelligences. People who are helped to do so, [he] believe[s], feel
more engaged and competent and therefore more inclined to serve society in a constructive

Gardner contends that IQ tests focus mostly on logical and linguistic intelligence. Upon doing
well on these tests, the chances of attending a prestigious college or university increase,
which in turn creates contributing members of society.[45] While many students function well
in this environment, there are those who do not. Gardner's theory argues that students will be
better served by a broader vision of education, wherein teachers use different methodologies,
exercises and activities to reach all students, not just those who excel at linguistic and logical
intelligence. It challenges educators to find "ways that will work for this student learning this

James Traub's article in The New Republic notes that Gardner's system has not been accepted
by most academics in intelligence or teaching.[47] Gardner states that "while Multiple
Intelligences theory is consistent with much empirical evidence, it has not been subjected to
strong experimental tests ... Within the area of education, the applications of the theory are
currently being examined in many projects. Our hunches will have to be revised many times
in light of actual classroom experience."[48]

Jerome Bruner agreed with Gardner that the intelligences were "useful fictions," and went on
to state that "his approach is so far beyond the data-crunching of mental testers that it
deserves to be cheered."[49]

George Miller, a prominent cognitive psychologist, wrote in The New York Times Book
Review that Gardner's argument consisted of "hunch and opinion" and Charles Murray and
Richard J. Herrnstein in The Bell Curve (1994) called Gardner's theory "uniquely devoid of
psychometric or other quantitative evidence."[50]

In spite of its lack of general acceptance in the psychological community, Gardner's theory
has been adopted by many schools, where it is often conflated with learning styles,[51] and
hundreds of books have been written about its applications in education.[52] Some of the
applications of Gardner's theory have been described as "simplistic" and Gardner himself has
said he is "uneasy" with the way his theory has been used in schools.[53] Gardner has denied
that multiple intelligences are learning styles and agrees that the idea of learning styles is
incoherent and lacking in empirical evidence.[54] Gardner summarizes his approach with three
recommendations for educators: individualize the teaching style (to suit the most effective
method for each student), pluralize the teaching (teach important materials in multiple ways),
and avoid the term "styles" as being confusing.[55]

Educational pedagogies, including Purpose Driven Education, have begun to tap into multiple
intelligence as a way to better understand the uniqueness and specific abilities of each
individual. These draw from the idea that each student is capable, and has a purpose.


On the Culture of Sexual Harassment, Wisdom and Progress in Philosophy

Our agency may have a role in determining what reasons we have in the first place.--Ruth

[Stoic] Wisdom consists in the special disposition of character. As this disposition is the
(only) condition for wisdom, the virtuous (or expert) disposition of the sage need not be
accompanied by the awareness of the fact that it is a virtuous disposition...This sequence,
where the disposition comes first, only to be followed by the awareness of being in that
condition, the Stoics compared with the initial unawareness of someone who becomes an
expert in an ordinary craft.--Brouwer The Stoic Sage, 84

The two most prevalent unsympathetic reactions to all the press about sexual harassment or
sexually inappropriate behavior Ive had all from senior male philosophers, some of some
fame are both of apiece with what we do as philosophers and therefore not altogether
surprising. But I find them pretty dispiriting.

The first is that we all have to remain neutral, that we cant express even conditional moral
disapprobation or sympathy for a party until we ourselves have the proof in hand and we can
make our own judgment about the matter. Allied with this reaction is the intellectual reflex to
think of all the counterarguments to any allegation or counter-interpretations to data with
which we are presented. We are trained to be this way to see the world in terms of
arguments for and against a proposition, and to withhold judgment until all the arguments and
data are in.--Ruth Chang.

This wonderful interview with Ruth Chang has been shared widely on philosophy blogs and
Facebook. The whole interview is worth reading not just for those of us interested in
philosophy of economics and decision theory, but also because Chang's approach is a nice
exemplar of, what I recently called, the turn to analytical existentialism (while noting that
her work is not reducible to that!) Of course, the interest in her remarks is driven by what she
says about the culture of the profession.

Chang's account remind us of what's wrong with the systematic dispositions (our intellectual
reflexes) that are a consequence of contemporary professional philosophical training in what
we professionals take to be the very best exemplars ("senior male philosophers, some of some
fame.") She need not name names because (to paraphrase Hobbes), we can read the truth of
what she says in ourselves: when we obtain PhDs in professional philosophy, we have
become experts with dispositions that can generate systematic reactions that are out of tune
with what is required from us by ordinary decency, let alone justice.

To be clear: I am not claiming that our professional dispositions are necessarily

incompatible with more appropriate reactive attitudes.* Rather, I am claiming
that the way we commonly understand our expertise, and the way we train
ourselves in it and evaluate each other, falls short of wisdom such that we
become not just inhospitable to victims of injustice(s), but are also likely to make
us complicit in systematic patterns of exclusion.

I coupled Chang's interview with Brouwer's description of the early Stoic understanding of
the sage because the Stoics may have something to teach us here. For them wisdom, which is
a normative ideal that we never reach, consists of a 'mastered disposition' (Brouwer: 85).
What makes the Stoic ideal worth reflecting on for us professional philosophers, is that their
self-mastery includes logic and knowledge. The tenor of life they promote is neither anti-
intellectual nor focused on outer-worldly mystery. What they get right is that the tenor of our
intellectual reflexes are central. This entails that we often discover unpleasant facts about
ourselves after the fact (i.e., tacit biases).

As regular readers know, I am very wary of triumphant narratives of philosophical progress.

But it also does not follow that we should start imitating the Stoics (recall my reservations).
Rather, all I am claiming is that it's not obvious how to keep what's most noble about our
intellectual reflexes and integrate these in properly cultivated moral sentiments such that we
respond more appropriately to injustices within our midst and -- given that plenty of us see
philosophy as central to our moral projects -- in the larger world. I'd like to follow Chang in
thinking that "our agency may have a role in determining what reasons we have in the first
place."** So, perhaps, by aiming to get our individual and systematic responses right toward
the injustices in our midst, we will, in fact, discover that we have developed an improved
conception of philosophy.

*After all, Chang is able to distance herself from these systematic dispositions.

**An interesting consequence of this is, that if we wish to use the language of truth in
discussing such reasons, we may need what I have been calling a 'metaphysical identity
theory of truth' rather than the more familiar Tarski-inspired approaches.


On Philosophy's hostility toward the Other--On Giving the Sophists a

Second Chance
If someone who is unconvinced by these [mythological accounts], and tries to reduce each to
what is likely, with some rustic wisdom, he will need a great deal of leisure. But I have no
leisure for these [mythological accounts] at all; and the reason for it, my friend, is this: I am
not yet capable of, in accordance with the Delphic inscription, knowing myself; it therefore
seems ridiculous to me, while I am still ignorant of this subject, that I inquire into things that
are alien. So then saying goodbye to these things, and believing what is commonly thought
about them, I inquire, as I was saying just now, not into these things, but into myself.--
Socrates in Plato's Phaedrus, 229E-30A

The passage is quoted from the translation and discussion in section 4.4 of Ren Brouwer's
(2014) The Stoic Sage, a little book that is worth the attention of any seeker of wisdom.

Brouwer argues that the early Stoics "fashioned themselves" (176), and modeled their image
of the sage, on Socrates (as presented in Plato, Xenophon, and perhaps other Socrates

I ignore, temporarily, Brouwer's purposes. In context of the Phaedrus passage, three attitudes
toward myths (muthologema) are articulated: (i) one can believe what is commonly said
about them (230A); (ii) one can "play the sophist" (sophizomenos) (229C) and naturalize the
hidden, kernel in myths, that is, reduce them to what is likely; (iii) one can follow Socrates
and ignore most of the myths because they detract from more important tasks (say,
knowledge of self). It turns out that for Socrates (i) and (iii) are not mutually exclusive; one
can accept what is commonly said about most myths and then go on to ignore them.
Socrates's criticism of the Sophistical approach is not that it is a waste of time because there
is almost never any kernel of truth in myths. That is, Socrates tacitly rejects (iv) denialist
approaches, which insist, say, that what is commonly said about myths should be
systematically criticized because most myths cannot partake in the true.*

Rather, Socrates' reported criticism of the Sophistical approach is that it involves intolerable
opportunity costs that prevent focus on more important topics. That is, Socrates comes very
close to saying explicitly that knowledge of self is far more important than knowledge of
what is said about the divine (at least what is reported in myth). Oddly enough, in this way,
Plato's presentation effectively distances of Socrates from some of the charges against him
(i.e., -- pace Aristophanes -- Socrates is really different from the Sophists). More subtly, Plato
also implies that Socrates could not be guilty of religious innovation because he prefers to
leave well enough alone.**

Here I am primarily interested in Socrates's argument that the Sophistical

approach toward many myths involves intolerable opportunity costs. The scarce
good is time, or "leisure." Socrates also explains why the Sophistical approach is
so time consuming. For, there are lots of myths and these involve "multitudes of
strange, inconceivable, portentous natures" (229D; i.e, Centaurs, Chimaera,
Gorgons, etc.) So, one danger of the Sophistical approach is that it opens the
door to a never ending process of rationalizing all what is said about the gods,
including engagement with the inconceivable.

Now, Brouwer points out that what is crucial in the Phaedrus passage is not so much the
rejection of the naturalizing enterprise, but rather that Socrates rejects the reduction to rustic
wisdom here. That is, the Sophistical enterprise tames myth not merely by articulating the
hidden kernel, but by assimilating myth to rustic wisdom, that is, knowledge of "local
geography" (Brouwer: 150) and other non-urbane concerns. And such alien ()
concerns are a hindrance to knowledge of self. As Socrates puts it a few lines below "country
places and the trees won't teach me anything, and the people in the city do." (230D)

Now, one need not be a friend of intellectuals that try to reconcile what is said about the
divine and what is likely according to country-folk, to see that Socrates is activating some
potentially pernicious oppositions in which philosophy and self-knowledge are associated
with city-life. To see where this leads, it is worth quoting some evidence that Brouwer uses in

his argument that the passage from Phaedrus played a crucial role in the Stoic understanding
of sagehood:

They also say that every inferior person is rustic. For rusticity is inexperience of the practices
and laws in a city; of which every inferior person is guilty. He is also wild, being hostile to
that lifestyle which is in accord with the law, bestial and a harmful human being. And he is
uncultivated and tyrannical, inclined to do despotic acts, and even to cruel, violent, and
lawless acts when he is given the opportunities.--quoted in Stobaeus

Here we see that rusticity stands outside the law; it stands for bestial lack of cultivation. To be
outside the city (and its laws) is to stand outside of civilization, that is, to be barbarous. By
contrast to be philosophical is to be oriented toward and governed by the law, which, in turn,
is perfected by philosophical inquiry, that is, knowledge of city-dwellers; that is, philosophy
and (political) civilization are co-constituted projects (recall this post on where this can lead
if civilization and philosophy are racialized).

Now, according to the Stoics all of us are inferior persons. So, in keeping with their
egalitarian tendencies, they resist the imperial temptation to favor a privileged group. Even
so, following Socrates' example, the Stoics orient philosophy toward political civilization; to
be rational, that is to be perfectly virtuous, is to be law-governed properly (in the way that is
in accord with immanent divinity, Brouwer: 90).

necessary prerequisite for (and co-development with) philosophy, - See more at:

Socrates and the Stoics legislate an understanding of philosophy by way of an act of

exclusion: some forms of life and some forms of knowing are not philosophical. I am not
suggesting that the Sophists were more broadminded. Even so, by not excluding the rustic as
alien, and by actively engaging with it, the Sophists show the way toward a more inclusive
philosophy one, perhaps, more receptive and more capable of wisdom than the traditions we
have inherited.

*Socrates could reject (iv) on grounds of prudence (it is dangerous to unmask what is
commonly believed) or elitism (folk are not capable of Enlightenment).

**The situation is more complicated, of course. For as Brouwer notes (151) the quoted
passage goes on with Socrates willingly exploring and using a myth about Typhon. It seems
Socrates distinguishes between myths that present the gods actively interfering in human
affairs (to be left alone) and the allegorical use of myth that provide insight into human nature
(worth mining for insight).

Acknowledgments are due to Saar Frieling, with whom I am leisurely reading and discussing
Plato's Phaedrus in Amsterdam's most lovely spots for over a decade now, as well as Michael
Fixler, who got me first interested in this dialogue.


Philosophy's Usable Past (On Graham Priest, Kuhn & Stigler)

Not only can the study of the history of economics teach one how to read, it can also teach us
how to react to what we read.--G.J. Stigler (1969) "Does economics have a useful past?" [HT
Chuck McCann]

There is a lot of truth in this analogy, but it sells the history of philosophy short as well.
Chess is pursued within a fixed and determinate set of rules. These cannot be changed. But
part of good philosophy (like good art) involves breaking the rules. Past philosophers may
have played by various sets of rule; but sometimes we can see their projects and ideas can
fruitfully (perhaps more fruitfully) be articulated in different frameworksperhaps
frameworks of which they could have had no ideaand so which can plumb their ideas to
depths of which they were not aware.

[T]he history of philosophy provides a mine of ideas. The ideas are by no means dead. They
have potentials which only more recent developments...can actualize. Those who know only
the present of philosophy, and not the past, will never, of course, see this. That is why
philosophers study the history of philosophy. --Graham Priest. [HT Cogburn at NewAPPS.]

It's always gratifying to see a fantastic philosopher extoll the virtues of the history of
philosophy. As his discussion reveals, Priest's comments are not (the more common) mere
polite, lip-service. Moreover, while Priest's heart is clearly (a) in the engagement with the
'potentials' of the past and (b) in show-casing how his tools can aid in articulating "fruitfully
(perhaps more fruitfully)" the past, he first asserts that (c) that "the history of philosophy is
interesting in its own right." As regular readers of my blogs know, I am very partial to (a) the
idea that historians of philosophy can 'actualize' the past.

As Priest notes in his piece, unlike a lot of disciplines (he mentions mathematics, physics, and
economics), philosophy has kept its own history in its curriculum and in many places
specialization in the history of philosophy is a respectable career option within the
profession.* Given the enduring impact of Kuhn's image of science, it's easy assume that the
way these other disciplines organize their relationship to their disciplinary and intellectual
past is normal or fully justified by experience. Given that the mores of professional
philosophy have much in common with professional mathematics, physics, and, in my
experience, economics, we may well come to see our engagement with our past as an
aberration if we take their mores to be 'normal.' This is a non-trivial risk given the enduring
temptation to turn our profession into 'scientific philosophy.'

But discarding a disciplinary past is a relatively recent phenomena in at least two of these
disciplines: so, for example, leading nineteenth century physicists (Maxwell, Duhem,
Boltzmann, Helmholtz, Mach, etc.) were very competent in the history of physics (and
philosophy).* Through the 1960s professional economists were trained in their own history
(and philosophy). This is recent enough, that many of the best, most senior economists still
have a very sophisticated command of their own history and philosophy in often shocking
and striking contrast to younger generations. While disciplinary decisions that lead to
displacement of history within a field often take place one department at a time, they are
influenced by the attitudes of trend-setting departments and figures (and external agents),
which are guided, in turn, by influential, normative images of science, which are influenced
by philosophy as developed within professional philosophy or within a discipline.

For example, as I have recounted elsewhere, Kuhnian ideas about the nature of
science were both developed within economics and 'imported into' economics
from philosophy; this Kuhnian image of science prepared the way for the removal
of history of economics (and for a while, economic history) from economics. What
makes the case of economics interesting is that key thought-leaders within
twentieth century economics -- Samuelson and Stigler (recall)-- were also world
class historians of economics, and friendly to the Kuhnian image of
science: Samuelson never tired of describing the impact of his formal approach
in terms of a "revolution." One might wonder why he would engage in history of
economics at all. In fact, in Samuelson we can find hints of a contrast familiar
from Kuhn between the disciplinary immortals (like himself) and problem-solving,
mere mortals. The historical mastery of economics is indulged, even praised, in
the immortals (see this obituary of Viner). Here -- with echoes of Veblen's
account of conspicuous consumption or Darwin's peacock's tail -- engagement
with one's own history is both status-enhancing among elite observers and a sign
of high disciplinary status due to its utter lack of practical utility.

It's possible, of course, that Samuelson and Stigler thought that by writing the past of their
own discipline and eliminating controversy over this past, they could set the agenda for its
future. History then has a role in the creation of shared paradigm formation and suppression
of variance in belief. (There are plenty of statements of this in Stigler's writings.) Stigler
knew his Kuhn well.***

Even in Priest there are hints of Kuhn's influence in (i) the way Priest sets up the problem
(privileged sciences don't have a past in their classroom) and (ii) when Priest writes that "part
of good philosophy (like good art) involves breaking the rules;" (iii) the language of
incompatible 'frameworks' is reminiscent of the way Carnap and Kuhn are brought together
by Michael Friedman. In (ii) Priest might as well be describing the virtues of the scientific
legislator who establishes a new paradigm.

A recent re-reading of Stigler's (1969) reminded me that Stigler stresses the pedagogical and
cultural values of the history of economics to economics. He recognizes that in areas where
progress has been slow, it may well pay to return to a thinker. But he does not appreciate the
possibility of re-actualization of the past. So, when it comes to judging opportunity costs of
studying the history of economics to a future professional economists, his verdict is

decisively negative. And it is that verdict that has endured: "it remains the unfulfilled task of
the historians of economics to show that their subject is worth its cost." (230)

It's hard to argue with success. Judged by some parameters (e.g., influence on policy,
influence on public opinion, number of employed PhDs, resources available to leading
practitioners, theoretical richness) professional economics has been an unqualified success
since it purged its own history. But its half-century bet on technical solutions to extremely
complex evidential problems have paid off less securely. Moreover, after a period of
'economic imperialism,' its main conceptual workhorses have been in visible retreat vis a vis
psychological and experimental approaches and, especially, data-mining technologies. As I
have argued before (recall here and here [both with lots more links], data-mining
technologies have a hidden status-quo bias and so do not really advance knowledge in
economic theory (understood, say, in the way that Stigler did, as comparative institutional
analysis.) In fact, if data-mining becomes the main game in town, it's not obvious that there
will be much of an 'economics' discipline left; economists have no comparative advantage in
computer science. Of course, professional philosophy survived the cratering of demand for
its graduates within religious institutions, and we now happily train ethicists and lawyers
(among others), so, perhaps, economics will survive its data-mining turn as a distinct
intellectual enterprise.

And, here I have found myself sliding into arm-chair sociology of science. Ironically, in that
1969 article, after quoting and commenting on Kuhn, Stigler does argue that knowledge of
the history of a scientific disciplines could play a vital role in two 'sociological' projects: (1)
the study of the "development of the intellectual content of the science;" (2) study of the
"effects of the organization and environment of the science upon its evolution."**** It is easy
to study the development in (1) and the incentives that govern (2) in isolation from each
other. But one common factor/variable (or cause) in both is the dominant image of science at
a given time (among practitioners and commentators). It's by studying the history of
economics as both a professional philosopher as well as a kind of arm-chair sociologist, that I
have become aware of the significance of the role of philosophical images of science. So, I
close with a warning: if one is not cautious about the way(s) one activates and re-animates
such images of science in passing them on, one may well contribute to the demise of one's
most cherished disciplinary values.

*There are very wide geographical and cultural differences: west-european analytical
philosophers are rarely trained in history of philosophy at all. (There are separate history of
philosophy of chairs.) The status and orientation toward history of philosophy is different in
Anglophone analytic and Anglophone continental, etc.

**Duhem's work in history and philosophy has eclipsed his contributions to physics.

***The 1969 paper which provides me with the epigraph to this post, is filled with extended
quotations from Kuhn and the sociologist Merton. (Merton was a colleague of Stigler at
Columbia, and Merton's son joined Stigler as a member of the Chicago school of

****"sociology puts its imperialistic title on this area of study only on the ground that
sciences are practiced by human beings and therefore involve social behavior. In the
same sense it would be possible and equally meritorious to describe as the economics of
science the economic organization and evolution of a science." (223)

Philosophy: Not A Meritocracy


Justin W.

The latest edition of What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? is out, with Clifford Sosis (Coastal
Carolina) interviewing Sally Haslanger (MIT).

As usual, there is a lot of interesting material in the interview.

Heres one bit that stuck out. Haslanger says:

There have been many highs and lows in my career. And a lot of the time has been very
mixed. I have considered leaving the field over and over. But somehow I was offered a path
that made it worth staying. I know there are many people who deserve more than they get in
philosophy, and Ive been lucky in so many ways. I believe that recognizing the luck in it all
is extremely important, and doing what I can to open paths for others is the least I can do.
Philosophy is not a meritocracy. Life is not a meritocracy. Yet some are treated much worse
than others by life, by chance, by individuals, by structures. I hate that unfairness; I just hate

Anyone who has been in the profession for a while recognizes that philosophy is not a
meritocracy, but I sometimes find that younger graduate students dont quite recognize
this or take it seriously, believing instead that the quality of their work alone will bring
them professional success.

Of course the quality of their work matters, and yes there are certain meritocratic aspects of
the profession. But other things make a difference, too. Luck, yes, but not just that. Being
able to get a job and do well as a professional philosopher involves professional and social
skills. Graduate programs need to be sure their students know this from early on and, to some
reasonable extent, take steps to help them cultivate these skills. That wont make philosophy
more of a meritocracy (leaving aside the ethics and epistemology of that), but it may help
students better understand what theyre getting into, and how to better get through it.

Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a style of philosophy that
became dominant in English-speaking countries at the beginning of the 20th century. In the
United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia, the
majority of university philosophy departments today identify themselves as "analytic"

The term "analytic philosophy" can refer to one of several things:

As a philosophical practice,[2][3] it is characterized by an emphasis on

argumentative clarity and precision, often making use of formal logic,
conceptual analysis, and to a lesser degree, mathematics and the natural

As a historical development, analytical philosophy refers to certain

developments in early 20th-century philosophy that were the historical
antecedents of the current practice. Central figures in this historical
development are Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. E. Moore,
Gottlob Frege, and the logical positivists. In this more specific sense,
analytic philosophy is identified with specific philosophical traits (many
of which are rejected by many contemporary analytic philosophers), such

o The logical-positivist principle that there are not any specifically

philosophical facts and that the object of philosophy is the logical
clarification of thoughts. This may be contrasted with the traditional
foundationalism, which considers philosophy to be a special science
(i.e. the discipline of knowledge) that investigates the fundamental
reasons and principles of everything.[7] Consequently, many analytic
philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or
subordinate to, those of the natural sciences. This is an attitude that
begins with John Locke, who described his work as that of an
"underlabourer" to the achievements of natural scientists such as
Newton. During the twentieth century, the most influential advocate
of the continuity of philosophy with science was Willard Van Orman

o The principle that the logical clarification of thoughts can be

achieved only by analysis of the logical form of philosophical
propositions.[9] The logical form of a proposition is a way of
representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a
logical system), to reduce it to simpler components if
necessary, and to display its similarity with all other
propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers
disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.

o The neglect of generalized philosophical systems in favour of more

restricted inquiries stated rigorously,[11] or ordinary

According to a characteristic paragraph by Russell:

Modern analytical empiricism [...] differs from that of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume by its
incorporation of mathematics and its development of a powerful logical technique. It is thus
able, in regard to certain problems, to achieve definite answers, which have the quality of
science rather than of philosophy. It has the advantage, in comparison with the philosophies
of the system-builders, of being able to tackle its problems one at a time, instead of having to
invent at one stroke a block theory of the whole universe. Its methods, in this respect,
resemble those of science.[13]

Analytic philosophy is often understood in contrast to other philosophical traditions, most

notably continental philosophies such as existentialism and phenomenology, and also
Thomism, Indian philosophy, and Marxism.[14]


1 History

o 1.1 Ideal language analysis

o 1.2 Logical positivism

o 1.3 Ordinary-language analysis

2 Contemporary analytic philosophy

o 2.1 Philosophy of mind and cognitive science

o 2.2 Ethics in analytic philosophy

2.2.1 Normative ethics

2.2.2 Meta-ethics

2.2.3 Applied ethics

o 2.3 Analytic philosophy of religion

o 2.4 Political philosophy

2.4.1 Liberalism

2.4.2 Analytical Marxism

2.4.3 Communitarianism

o 2.5 Analytic metaphysics

o 2.6 Philosophy of language

o 2.7 Philosophy of science

o 2.8 Epistemology

o 2.9 Aesthetics

3 See also

4 Notes

5 References

6 Further reading

7 External links

Monday, 20 September 2010

Analytic Vs. Continental Philosophy

Analytic philosophy is rationalistic: rigorous, systematic, literal-minded, formal
(logical), dry, and detached. It is modelled on physics and maths and is
particularly popular in the Anglo-Saxon world. Continental philosophy is
humanistic: reflexive, literary, essayistic, charismatic. It is modelled on literature
and art and is particularly popular in France, Germany, and Latin America. These
two traditions dominate contemporary philosophy, and they are largely mutually
incomprehensible. This is unfortunate since their strengths and weaknesses are
somewhat complementary.

The strengths of analytic philosophy are its universal scope, clarity and
public accountability. It is concerned with universal principles and their
interactions and implications. It tries to explain as much as possible with as
little as possible in the way of assumptions. This is basically the scientific model,
and incidentally also explains why analytic philosophy has much in common with
neoclassical economics in its formal modelling approach - both are modelled on
physics. It tries to systematise knowledge: setting each contribution within a
framework that acts as scaffolding and allows others to easily comprehend it and
build on it (or identify the design flaws and tear it down). It aspires to a model of
public reasoning (as I do in this blog) in making clear claims of universal validity
based on an explicit and systematic rational justification that are in principle
comprehensible and acceptable to all, and to which anyone may raise an
objection in the same way and be assured a fair hearing.

But its weaknesses are in its lack of self-reflection. There is an assumption of

progress and of an efficient 'market for ideas' (the current conversation
incorporates everything of any importance, so why bother reading anything from
more than 5 years ago). There is an assumption that philosophical analysis
consists only in the efficient transmission of arguments, in language
that should be as transparent as a 'window pane' (as Orwell put it). There is
an assumption that ideas can be analysed independently of their
context, of who made them and what they intended - the impulse to
abstract, which can easily become an impulse to superficiality. There is an

assumption that logical validity is sufficient for actual significance, that
producing yet another finely turned distinction is a real contribution to human

The strengths of continental philosophy are its direct concern with the
human condition, its ambition, its reflexivity, its concern with the media as well
as the message. Unlike analytical philosophy it does not assume that people are
rational and then move on from there. It directs itself inward, to trying to
understand how people work and why, and it does so with reference to traditions
in the social sciences (particularly sociology, and anthropology) and the
humanities (psychoanalysis, literature, art). It asks big and impossible but
thrilling questions, like why is there something rather than nothing (hence its
alternative name 'metaphysical philosophy'), but the answers usually relate
insightfully to us, not physics. It is alert to the place of the author and her
interests in the questions she asks and the way she answers. The text is never
detached from the author as a contribution to knowledge in the abstract. It pays
attention to the construction of the texts themselves, to how rhetorical elements
are employed in the business of persuading particular people rather than
providing neutral arguments that anyone, even Martians, would see the same

Its weaknesses are its insularity, arrogance, and lack of perspective. Because it
lacks a common framework continental philosophy is fragmented between
different traditions requiring long apprenticeships to master (similarly to the
social sciences and humanities). Texts in continental philosophy have the same
problem as in the disciplines they model themselves on: by deliberately
incorporating the difficulties of their subject into the manner of their presentation
they require particular effort from the reader to understand. They can be
dazzling tours de force in which every element seamlessly links with every other
and the whole conveys multiple levels of meaning. Or, much more frequently,
every sentence is a turgid jargon filled ordeal written at German length and
apparently in German grammar, that seems to deliberately insult the reader with
its elaborate opacity that one always suspects may be hiding nothing but

There is a prima donnaish quality to many continental philosophers (in contrast

to the pettifogging bureaucrat tendency of the analytic), as if they understand
themselves as 'artists' who should behave, as the Romantics taught us by
example, as natural geniuses unconstrained by normal conventions of etiquette
and morality. At all costs one must avoid the 'iron cage of rationality'. Despite
claiming that interpretation is everything, continental philosophers are
notoriously bad at appreciating criticism - at submitting to interpretation by
others - because they see the exercise of power everywhere. They are often
overcommitted to the truth of their own approach and exhibit impatience with
other perspectives and traditions and decline to take them seriously. They often
seem to talk past each other, and not merely the analytic philosopher.

The focus on the particular comes at the expense of the universal, but this also
leads to a lack of perspective: they can miss the forest for the trees. They can
overattend to the construction of a text for example, and miss the argument
(Why does the author say 'man' and not 'person'?). Insight is not a substitute for

balanced argument, but this is often forgotten when for example education is
considered only through the lens of power (conclusion: education is
oppressive).The microscope of interpretation can reveal much detail but seems
arbitrarily employed and no-one seems interested in putting the resulting jigsaw

Philosophy needs insight as well as clear argument, the universal as well as

the particular. No-one should wish for philosophy to be 'healed' into one unified
approach, but we would certainly benefit from trying a bit harder to understand
each other, at least sometimes.

Update: Check out the excellent discussion of the analytical-continental split on

BBC radio's In Our Time.



Anonymous28 September 2010 at 00:59

Interesting article. The best analytic philosophers and the best continental
philosophers can learn much from each other. I enjoy Russell and Searle as much as
Kierkegaard and Foucault.



howard Berman11 March 2013 at 00:02

You've explained why people in the continental tradition are less likely to respond to
an interested amateurs contributions than those in the analytic tradition. In the
humanities and the continental tradition the attitude of the authority is "who are you?
I've spent a lifetime getting to the bottom of this. I'm the genius.". While in science
and the analytic tradition though there are authorities the attitude is that philosophy is
a collective effort and anybody who can contribute should.
Would you agree?




Philosopher's Beard11 March 2013 at 12:53

Not exactly. I think the difference is more about the demands of the form. It is
easier to succeed as a mediocre analytical philosopher (or scientist) than as a
mediocre continental philosopher (or novellist). This is because the literary
style demands more in the way of judgement: not only, which questions
should I ask, but how should I ask them. That is also why understanding the
'answers' reached by continental philosophers requires more effort and
application (as reading a literary novel requires more from the reader than
reading a genre science fiction or romance novel).


Philosopher's Beard11 March 2013 at 12:54

PS I should update this post. It's a bit biased against the continentals at the


howard Berman12 March 2013 at 17:41

It may be the social sciences which best try to combine the analytic and
continental traditions. Freud's was an attempt at bringing logic to bear on
human problems. He may have failed; but he tried.
Also, theoretical sociologists, like say Jeffrey Alexander might have their
work characterized as such an attempt of synthesizing the two traditions



Kamsen Lau12 November 2013 at 02:36

can you recommend any philosophers/works that best bridge this gap? consciously or
unconsciously, who would fall under an in-between category?




Anonymous3 January 2014 at 23:30

I'd also like some recommendations in this category!


Thomas Rodham Wells9 January 2014 at 11:51

Sorry I missed the original question. Wittgenstein perhaps?



ornithosaurus_rex15 October 2014 at 17:55

Hello, I'm a continental-type thinker.

Great post, yours is one of the best posts online describing this subtle but critical

You do well to strive for a balance and remove the anti-continental bias of your post,
don't worry it's just slight plus articulating a true neutral stance is the most difficult, I
for example suffer a major apparently anti-analytic bias in my writings and thoughts,
and I can't even get close to the level of balance you've attained, a bit bad at editing
and good only at thinking, that is the handicap of most continentals.

So of course it's explicable why the Analytic and Continental schools of philosophy
fight... but it's also the saddest thing, the greatest internal tragedy of mankind, sole
blocker of the golden age. I've always wished, why can't an analytic philosopher come
forward and bravely invest the time to read my thesis? As you describe yourself as an
analytic, maybe you will read my works?

The root reason for the difference between analytic and continental styles of thinking
(paper 2 below):


Professor David Chalmers is a renowned philosopher and cognitive scientist, but his
anticipation for the future of philosophy lacks some originality.

Sure, the future is difficult to predict, but one worthy exercise is to create stories about what
the future might look like. This task is not supposed to evaluate if our imagination was on
point in the distant future. But rather to participate in a creative approach that reframes how
we think about the future. Instead of considering the future as something out there in which
we generally play the protagonist - I.e. am I married with children, will I have a better job or

can I teleport to Mars - we shall create narratives as something that someone could somehow

Can we use our future narratives to shape our present in the same way that a weather forecast
influences our choice of clothes? Perhaps creating the narrative is the first step to activating
our anticipatory systems.

I fear that great philosophers would not be published these days, if they were edited by their
contemporaries, because great philosophers break boundaries and develop very different
ways of looking at things.

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Brian Ellis from La Trobe University is concerned the
future of philosophy is becoming more and more scholastic, and consequently less and
less exciting. A conversation with Professor Ellis began to deepen as he sketched a future in
which the Kantian theory of morality - that has dominated social and political philosophy
since the enlightenment - w ill give way to social humanism in the next 25 years.

Perhaps Professor Ellis narrative is quite a theoretical one, so much so, he wrote a book
about it. However, the essence of exploring something without boundaries, something a little
less scholastic and a little more exciting is the essence of philosophy fiction, or speculative

In one sense, the future doesnt exist: It is only a word that we use in the present to describe a
later-than-now point in time. But for the purpose of this exercise, it is the prospective of
philosophys students, teachers, professionals and the discipline itself that will receive

Philosophy is facing a crisis of relevance. To curve the stereotype and prevent futures we do
not want, we will need to carve more desirable futures today.

Philosophy today

Philosophy today is often characterised as an ambiguous qualification whereby students

inherit a deep-rooted insecurity about employment prospects. The future looks bleak as
departments around the globe continue to justify their place in the academy as a worthy

Fortunately, philosophers can argue, but they are not the greatest public communicators. And
unfortunately, the bad news continues as anecdotal evidence suggests that philosophy
undergraduates are dwindling in Australia.

Its been a steady decline in numbers.

Click to hear Dr Joanne Faulkner discuss the challenges of philosophy

Dr Joanne Faulkner from the University of New South Whales says that the number of
philosophy students are declining. Perhaps part of this is based on an observable classroom
presence, or lack of. But philosophy is committed to the epistemic traditions of considering
both the subjective experience and objective data. An investigation into the decline of
students is not easy to measure considering its place in academia. Philosophy students often
major in the discipline as part of a broader field of interdisciplinary study, such as a
Bachelor of Arts. A dedicated Bachelor of Philosophy is often rare, but one institute that
offers graduates the job-ready qualification is the University of Notre Dame in Sydney,
Fremantle and Broome. Regardless of any evidence of a decline, Associate Professor in
Philosophy, Angus Brook believes the numbers are growing slowly but steadily year after
year. The program at Notre Dame is relatively small in comparison with other higher
education providers. Yet, an approximation of 15 Bachelor of Philosophy students, and more
philosophy majors within the Bachelor of Arts each year qualifies enrolments in no way of
decline he says.

Associate Professor Brook believes that there is an increase in philosophy majors and minors
at the Fremantle campus due to the introduction of philosophy to secondary education in
Western Australia. Although, this picture does not resonate throughout Australias
largest state.

A member of Australias Group of Eight, The University of Western Australia revealed a

decrease in recent years via email. The office of Strategy, Planning and Performance
confirmed an average of nine philosophy undergraduate students completed a Bachelor every
year from 2008 to 2014. Most recently, eight philosophers graduated in 2014.

The Strategic Intelligence and Planning Unit at Deakin University was unable to release
detailed data, but it did confirm in an email that the representation has not changed. It also
advised that an average of 50 students completed a philosophy major each year between 2011
to 2015.

Mr Tony Hartley from the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of
Queensland said that enrolments dropped a couple of years ago when there was talk
from Government of $100,000 Arts degrees. Mr Hartley was unable to provide Bachelor
completions, but did confirm via email that over 100 students are enrolled in a
philosophy major.

Student enrolments can obscure a picture of bachelor completions. And the Head of
Department of Politics and Philosophy at La Trobe University, Gwenda Tavan says that
philosophy majors also obscure other entry points for students. This includes minors and
those enrolled in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). Dr Tavan says that current
philosophy enrolments are slightly less than 2011, although they have actually been quite
steady overall. She says that we cannot rely on this data as many students dont actually
enrol in a major until second year and this distorts the overall figure.

Capturing a holistic snapshot throughout Australia is difficult. Although, the

Department of Education and Training have confirmed by email an average of 322

Bachelor completions identifying with a philosophy major from 2010 to 2014 across the

The number of undergraduates was derived from an exhaustive list of over 100 courses from
different higher education providers.

This data does not provide a definitive result. There is no evidence to suggest that philosophy
students are on a long downward spiral. And it is evident that we have not captured all
undergraduate philosophers completing similar qualifications, or those choosing to minor in
the discipline. But perhaps it does provide one more insight that contributes to an indicative
result of fewer students in 2014.

Several higher education providers were unable to provide information, or denied supplying
any data. Western Sydney University confirmed via email that it introduced their philosophy
major in 2013 and graduations are just beginning. It currently has more than 100
undergraduate philosophers in training, so perhaps we are likely to see the overall number
increase in the near future.

But what about jobs?

Mr Bhanuraj Kashyap, University of Melbourne

The Department of Education and Training revealed that 58 per cent of undergraduate
philosophers are employed in full-time jobs within three to four months after completing their
course. In comparison, 70 per cent of all other undergraduates from all educational fields are
employed in the same period of time. The minor difference can be understood and analysed
in all sorts of ways. This is not an accurate representation of fewer employment opportunities,
but it can illustrate a nebulous definition to understanding career ambitions.

Ms Tylaa Ryan, La Trobe University

Interpreting this data is pointless. To measure employment opportunities is a contentious

issue in many industries. But to speculate, it is the philosopher that is equipped with the most
diverse set of skills to work in several different industries.

Dr Gwenda Tavan from La Trobe University says that training in logic and critical thinking
can benefit all aspects of our lives and are sought after skills in graduates by employers. She
says that many of the fundamental questions and political challenges of our time - including
global warming, economic inequality, massive technological change and questions of human
rights and justice - require the sort of knowledge, ethical training and cognitive skill set that
philosophy provides.

The Department of Education and Training confirmed that the 58 per cent of philosophers in
full-time employment equated to 167 graduates. From this sample, 23 per cent were
employed in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services. A further 15 per cent were
employed in Education and Training, and an additional 15 per cent in Public Administration
and Safety. The remaining philosophers were employed in a variety of industries.

From lawyers, academics and psychotherapists to consultants, software engineers and
television writers; the opportunities may be limitless for philosophers of the future.

Fewer student enrolments may contribute to a reputation with little jobs, but it cannot validate
less opportunity. And most likely, it is the lack of interest that is responsible for fewer

Why communication matters

The communication - and accessibility - of philosophy has received some attention in recent
times with The Conversations Cogito, The New York Times The Stone, Daily Nous, New
Philosopher magazine and plenty of podcasts.

Dr Tim Dean, The Conversation

Dr Tim Dean is the Science and Technology editor at The Conversation. He too has declared
a strong interest in the communication of philosophy. The discipline appears to have shrunk
over centuries and Dr Dean says that the natural sciences have taken parts of philosophy
and left the hard questions relating to metaphysics, meta-ethics, consciousness and qualia
among others that are difficult to answer. And this has prompted the question of philosophy
as a worthy investment. In other words, the subject matter within the discipline itself has been
called into question.

We see those questions being asked at the moment and we see philosophy departments have their budgets cut
and we see them closing down around the world. This is a relevance problem for philosophy and it will become
an increasing issue for philosophy in the next 25 years.

Now, the philosopher has to respond. Dr Dean says that the role of the philosopher is to be
expanded educators. But not only limited within the academy, but also in schools and the
community. So how does the philosopher communicate complexity to attract a wider

Dr Matthew Beard, The Ethics Centre

Dr Matthew Beard from The Ethics Centre in Sydney believes that philosophy
communicators are able to bridge the gap between complex philosophical research and the
general public. He says that contemporary issues like online dating can be unpacked by
utilising valuable concepts that were introduced by philosophers a long time ago. Although,
the very idea of promoting the value of philosophy may not be as simple as it seems.

Coming together to push the value of philosophy is a bit like herding cats because philosophers
are often independent and do not see what they are doing is related to what the person in the
next office is doing. Scientists work in labs together, they have a community.

-Dr Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Whales

Perhaps climate change has been the catalyst for scientists to communicate with the general
public, but what reason do philosophers have to reach out? Dr Faulkners point is not to say
that philosophers must come together to promote the discipline, but rather the concept of the
philosopher as a public intellectual needs some work. Philosophers do not have to reach out
to communicate their research, but conveying its relevance might create an interest. Dr
Faulkner says that it is not natural for philosophers to enter the public sphere, the most
natural thing to do is to sit alone, read a book, think and have some solitude.

Click to hear Mr Daniel Teitelbaum from The School of Life discuss philosophy

The School of Life is a global initiative devoted to the obscure lessons in life that are not
taught in regular school. Their ambitious mandate addresses matters of meaningful work,
mastering relationships, managing stress and anxiety all through an understanding of great
thinkers from different philosophical traditions.

Mr Daniel Teitelbaum is the Head of Curriculum at The School of Life in Melbourne. He

believes that the role of philosophy communicators is to relate difficult concepts to everyday
living. For Mr Teitelbaum, the value of philosophy can be a snapshot as opposed to entire

The School of Life dedicates the conceptual understanding of philosophical ideas, equally as
much to making them useful in the 21st century. Although, there have been several responses
to lay interpretations of philosophical concepts or packaging and selling philosophy as a self-
help guide.

Mr Christian Gelder from the Sydney School of Continental Philosophy says that defining a
texts difficulty contributes to the postmodern notion of knowledge as a commodity.

Click to hear Mr Christian Gelders response to lay interpretations of philosophy

In other words, a text is read in order to immediately receive something, as opposed to

putting you to work. Ultimately, Mr Gelders question becomes philosophical; should
philosophy submit to the demands of clarity or are those very demands part of a larger
structure that philosophy is already resistant to?

Whether or not this controversy contributes to philosophys challenge of relevance, they are
both committed to - albeit different interpretations of - contemporary philosophy.

The communication of philosophy has suffered for many years. Sadly, the inability to convey
the benefits of a multifaceted discipline has resulted in its poor significance. This is not to say
that it should submit to demands of clarity, or over-promise responses to the meaning of life.
But it sure could do a better job at spruiking its significance in the 21st century.

The figure of the philosopher

The role of the philosopher has taken many shapes over the centuries, from the annoying
gadfly to contemporary academic thought leaders. The trial of Socrates was testament to the
punishment of a thinker and history has seen it time and time again. The Romans criticised
Jesus Christ, and the astronomer, Galileo Galilei had a close call with the stake. The Danish
theologian, Sren Kierkegaard attacked the Danish State Church, and the Marxist, Slavoj
iek is still antagonising much of Europe. Today, in Australia, perhaps Peter Singer is the
Utilitarian gadfly taunting the general public with his controversial views of abortion and

-Gilles Deleuze. Read by Mr Christian Gelder

Mr Christian Gelder, Sydney School of Continental Philosophy

Deleuze is right. Philosophy saddens. But a little bit of melancholy goes a long way. The
agitator critiques but not because he is a pessimist, but because he is concerned with truth.
And truth concerns everyone. We cannot define philosophys use in such narrow terms, but
the point here is to emphasise its egalitarian universalism. While philosophy is concerned
with all people, the stereotype philosopher retains a reputation.

Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, Patrick Stokes says that philosophy tends to put more
weight on innate talent and that when combined with stereotypes of the philosopher as
white and male this perpetuates our dreadful lack of diversity. But Dr Stokes says that the
philosopher as a social category is going to change considerably in the future.

Ms Chloe Mackenzie, Women & Minorities in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne

Ms Chloe Mackenzie from Women & Minorities in Philosophy at the University of

Melbourne also shares Dr Stokes view. Ms Mackenzie says that we still see the under-
representation of women, people of colour, disabled people, trans[gender] people and gender
non-conforming people in philosophy. She would like to see the barriers continue to break
down to give way to other voices. As Ms Mackenzie sketches an ideal future of philosophy,
she hopes that there will be less idolisation of the figure of the philosopher as a white
old man.

Philosophy beyond today

There is another long-standing tradition of idolising the continental and analytic traditions of
philosophy. Dr Patrick Stokes further illustrates his preferred account of the future by
imagining that academic philosophy of 2040 would have lost much of the
analytic/continental tribalism that still dogs the discipline today.

Associate Professor, Ross Brady from La Trobe University believes analytical philosophy
may be considered conceptual sciences to be studied in conjunction with neighbouring
disciplines. This includes the social sciences, empirical sciences, computer science,

mathematics and psychology. He also sees the continental tradition more akin to literature
in 2040. Dr Joanne Faulkner considers Associate Professor Bradys latter idea to be occurring
throughout the academy today as philosophy jobs are really scarce. Philosophers tend to
find work where they can and this is occurring in literature departments and cultural
studies. Dr Faulkner says that she has colleagues over in the School of Arts and Media who
are philosophers. But sometimes, these humble philosophers shy away from the title saying
they dont teach or publish as philosophers. Yet, their ideas about the future may provide
great alternatives. Trained in economics, Professor of Public Ethics, Clive Hamilton provides
a correlation with behavioural economics. He imagines the emergence of behavioural
philosophy in the future. Professor Hamilton says that young philosophers will go out and
test established principles in the real world in 2040.

The results will come as a shock.

Indeed, some ideas about the future may come as a shock. Associate Professor Ross Brady
believes that philosophy of 2040 will emphasise areas that have a monetary focus such as
medical ethics, logical applications in computer science and parts that intersect upon some
aspects of business. Mr Christian Gelder says that there is nothing more depressing than
medical ethics. And Ms Chloe Mackenzie reluctantly agrees with Associate Professor
Brady. I dont like the idea but it is inevitable for philosophy to emphasise these areas she
says. Of course these contributions are important but if you have to start making yourself
relevant in ways you can sell philosophy, other areas will suffer she says.

Click to hear Mr Daniel Teitelbaum reflect on his philosophical utopia

Mr Daniel Teitelbaum says that the response to a crisis of relevance is to provide more
opportunity for people to interact with philosophy in a comfortable, light, playful, fun,
engaging and meaningful way. He further explores his philosophical utopia akin to physical
health. He would like philosophy embedded as part of everyday life, like we consider
physical exercise. Mr Teitelbaum draws on mindfulness, meditation and exercise. He says
that people had to be convinced that these activities were valuable and it is time that we
weave philosophical reflection into everyday life. Mr Teitelbaum says that you dont have
to be a bodybuilder to go for a run, you dont have to be a philosopher to read a passage
of Plato. So the role of the philosopher can take the shape of everyday characters like
personal trainers, psychologists, mindfulness coaches or yoga instructors. As he shifts away
from his ideal state, he finally lands at artificial intelligence. Mr Teitelbaum says that this
technological era is important in a very practical sense for the future of philosophy. He
begins to highlight several ethical dilemmas that Dr Matthew Beard elaborates on.

Dr Beard says that if we want philosophy to be more useful, we may have to work in an
interdisciplinary space. This includes things like artificial intelligence and genetic editing in

Dr Matthew Beard, The Ethics Centre

He says that these are the areas philosophers will increasingly be forced to address because
that is where the demand will take place. He also constructs an image of philosophy for the
everyman in 2040. Dr Beard says that if we can successfully manage the automation of
work, people will have time to ask the questions that they dont have time to answer.

"We need the space to just sit under a tree and think if were going to do philosophy. So
if we can automate responsibly and take away menial tasks and create leisure time for
people ... then there is the potential that philosophy isnt just going to hide in the
academy anymore, but it is going to be something that comes out into whatever 2040s
version of the agora is."

Perhaps Dr Beards vision of the future of philosophy has an uncanny resemblance to a post-
capitalist society where a universal basic income provides the capability to just sit under a
tree. Well have to wait and see if that comes to fruition.

Can these narratives influence the present?

The future is the result of our anticipatory actions in the present. So, can our narratives about
the future influence the trajectory of philosophy? Well, that depends on what philosophers
decide to do now.

For some, selling philosophical skills and the idea of visiting your local stoic councillor is
alarming. Yet, for others, it may be a valid response to making philosophy great again.

Other suggestions require large economic forces to shift to provide the space for philosophy
to flourish. But further ideas can be addressed with a new syllabus that challenges the very
traditions of philosophy.

We must also squash the white male stereotype to embrace a diverse discipline. You may
not have noticed, but of the 16 individuals in discussion here, only four are women. As the
stereotype implies, this is no surprise. And this is not good enough. Attempts were made to
rectify this throughout the storys research but a number of female philosophers declined to
participate. There appears to be a dreadful irony in demanding diversity but showcasing
something else. This was a personal and valuable lesson.

If we anticipate a diverse philosophy community in the future, we really need to act now.

About the author

Matt Marasco is studying a Bachelor of Arts with majors in philosophy and

journalism at La Trobe University. He is currently volunteering at UNESCO in the
Social & Human Sciences department and completing undergraduate research
on the career ambitions and challenges of women in academia.

The Stone

Bridging the Analytic-Continental Divide

Gary Gutting

February 19, 2012 5:00 pm

Many philosophers at leading American departments are specialists in metaphysics: the study
of the most general aspects of reality such as being and time. The major work of one of the
most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, is Being and Time, a
profound study of these two topics. Nonetheless, hardly any of these American
metaphysicians have paid serious attention to Heideggers book.

The standard explanation for this oddity is that the metaphysicians are analytic philosophers,
whereas Heidegger is a continental philosopher. Although the two sorts of philosophers
seldom read one anothers work, when they do, the results can be ugly. A famous debate
between Jacques Derrida (continental) and John Searle (analytic) ended with Searle
denouncing Derridas obscurantism and Derrida mocking Searles superficiality.

The distinction between analytic and continental philosophers seems odd, first of all, because
it contrasts a geographical characterization (philosophy done on the European continent,
particularly Germany and France) with a (philosophy done by methodological one analyzing
concepts). Its like, as Bernard Williams pointed out, dividing cars into four-wheel-drive and
made-in-Japan. It becomes even odder when we realize that some of the founders of analytic
philosophy (like Frege and Carnap) were Europeans, that many of the leading centers of
continental philosophy are at American universities, and that many analytic philosophers
have no interest in analyzing concepts.

Some attention to history helps make sense of the distinction. In the early 20th century,
philosophers in England (Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein) and in Germany and Austria
(Carnap, Reichenbach, Hempel all of whom, with the rise of the Nazis, emigrated to the
United States) developed what they saw as a radically new approach to philosophy, based on
the new techniques of symbolic logic developed by Frege and Russell.

The basic idea was that philosophical problems could be solved (or dissolved) by logically
analyzing key terms, concepts or propositions. (Russells analysis of definite descriptions of
what does not exist e.g., The present King of France remains a model of such an
approach.) Over the years, there were various forms of logical, linguistic and conceptual
analysis, all directed toward resolving confusions in previous philosophical thought and
presented as examples of analytic philosophy. Eventually, some philosophers, especially
Quine, questioned the very idea of analysis as a distinctive philosophical method. But the
goals of clarity, precision, and logical rigor remained, and continue to define the standards

for a type of philosophy that calls itself analytic and is dominant in English-speaking

At roughly the same time that analytic philosophy was emerging, Edmund Husserl was
developing his phenomenological approach to philosophy. He too emphasized high
standards of clarity and precision, and had some fruitful engagements with analytic
philosophers such as Frege. Husserl, however, sought clarity and precision more in the
rigorous description of our immediate experience (the phenomena) than in the logical
analysis of concepts or language. He saw his phenomenology as operating at the
fundamental level of knowledge on which any truths of conceptual or linguistic analysis
would have to be based. In Being and Time Husserls student, Heidegger, turned
phenomenology toward existential questions about freedom, anguish and death.
Later, French thinkers influenced by Husserl and Heidegger, especially Sartre and Merleau-
Ponty, developed their own versions of phenomenologically based existentialism.

The term continental philosophy was, as Simon Critchley and Simon Glendinning have
emphasized, to an important extent the invention of analytic philosophers of the mid-20th
century who wanted to distinguish themselves from the phenomenologists and existentialists
of continental Europe. These analytic philosophers (Gilbert Ryle was a leading figure)
regarded the continental appeal to immediate experience as a source of subjectivity and
obscurity that was counter to their own ideals of logical objectivity and clarity. The
analytic-continental division was institutionalized in 1962, when American proponents of
continental philosophy set up their own professional organization, The Society for
Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), as an alternative to the predominantly
(but by no means exclusively) analytic American Philosophical Association (APA).

The claim that working in the analytic mode restricts the range of our philosophical
inquiry no longer has any basis.

Over the last 50 years, the term continental philosophy has been extended to many other
European movements, such as Hegelian idealism, Marxism, hermeneutics and, especially,
poststructuralism and deconstruction. These are often in opposition to phenomenology and
existentialism, but analytic philosophers still see them as falling far short of standards or
clarity and rigor. As a result, as Brian Leiter has emphasized, continental philosophy today
designates a series of partly overlapping traditions in philosophy, some of whose figures
have almost nothing in common with [each] other.

The scope of analytic philosophy has likewise broadened over the years. In the 1950s, it
typically took the form of either logical positivism or ordinary-language philosophy, each of
which involved commitment to a specific mode of analysis (roughly, following either Carnap
or Wittgenstein) as well as substantive philosophical views. These views involved a
rejection of much traditional philosophy (especially metaphysics and ethics) as
essentially meaningless. There was, in particular, no room for religious belief or objective
ethical norms. Today, analytic philosophers use a much wider range of methods (including
quasi-scientific inference to the best explanation and their own versions of phenomenological
description). Also, there are analytic cases being made for the full range of traditional

philosophical positions, including the existence of God, mind-body dualism, and objective
ethical norms.

Various forms of empiricism and naturalism are still majority views, but any philosophical
position can be profitably developed using the tools of analytic philosophy. There are
Thomists and Hegelians who are analytic philosophers, and there is even a significant
literature devoted to expositions of major continental philosophers in analytic terms. The
claim that working in the analytic mode restricts the range of our philosophical inquiry no
longer has any basis.

This development refutes the claim that analytic philosophers, as Santiago Zabala recently
put it, do not discuss the fundamental questions that have troubled philosophers for
millennia. This was true in the days of positivism, but no more. Zabalas claim that analytic
philosophers have not produced deep historical research is similarly outdated. It was true
back when the popularity of Russells A History of Western Philosophy signaled the
analytic disdain for serious history. Now, however, even though many analytic philosophers
still have little interest in history, many of the best current historians of philosophy employ
the conceptual and argumentative methods of analytic philosophy.

Because of such developments, Leiter has argued that there are no longer substantive
philosophical differences between analytic and continental philosophy, although there are
sometimes important differences of style. He has also suggested that the only gap in
principle between the two camps is sociological, that (these are my examples) philosophers
in one camp discount the work of those in the other simply because of their personal distaste
for symbolic logic or for elaborate literary and historical discussions.

Some continental approaches claim to access a privileged domain of experience.

I agree with much of what Leiter says, but think there are still important general
philosophical differences between analytic philosophy and continental philosophy, in all
their current varieties. These differences concern their conceptions of experience and of
reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy appeals to experience
understood as common-sense intuitions (as well as their developments and
transformations by science) and to reason understood as the standard rules of logical
inference. A number of continental approaches claim to access a privileged domain of
experience that penetrates beneath the veneer of common sense and science experience. For
example, phenomenologists, such as Husserl, the early Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty
try to describe the concretely lived experience from which common-sense/scientific
experience is a pale and distorted abstraction, like the mathematical frequencies that optics
substitutes for the colors we perceive in the world. Similarly, various versions of neo-
Kantianism and idealism point to a transcendental or absolute consciousness that
provides the fuller significance of our ordinary experiences.

Other versions of continental thought regard the essential activity of reason not as the logical
regimentation of thought but as the creative exercise of intellectual imagination. This view
is characteristic of most important French philosophers since the 1960s, beginning with
Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze. They maintain that the standard logic analytic philosophers

use can merely explicate what is implicit in the concepts with which we happen to begin;
such logic is useless for the essential philosophical task, which they maintain is learning to
think beyond these concepts.

Continental philosophies of experience try to probe beneath the concepts of everyday

experience to discover the meanings that underlie them, to think the conditions for the
possibility of our concepts. By contrast, continental philosophies of imagination try to
think beyond those concepts, to, in some sense, think what is impossible.

Philosophies of experience and philosophies of imagination are in tension, since the intuitive
certainties of experience work as limits to creative intellectual imagination, which in turn
challenges those alleged limits. Michel Foucault nicely expressed the tension when he spoke
of the competing philosophical projects of critique in the sense of knowing what limits
knowledge has to renounce transgressing and of a practical critique that takes the
form of a possible transgression. However, a number of recent French philosophers (e.g.,
Levinas, Ricoeur, Badiou and Marion) can be understood as developing philosophies that try
to reconcile phenomenological experience and deconstructive creativity.

In view of their substantive philosophical differences, its obvious that analytic and
continental philosophers would profit by greater familiarity with one anothers work, and
discussions across the divide would make for a better philosophical world. Here, however,
there is a serious lack of symmetry between analytic and continental thought. This is due to
the relative clarity of most analytic writing in contrast to the obscurity of much continental

Because of its commitment to clarity, analytic philosophy functions as an effective lingua

franca for any philosophical ideas. (Even the most difficult writers, such as Sellars and
Davidson, find disciples who write clarifying commentaries.) There is, moreover, a
continuing demand for analytic expositions of major continental figures. Its obvious why
there is no corresponding market for, say, expositions of Quine, Rawls or Kripke in the
idioms of Heidegger, Derrida or Deleuze. With all due appreciation for the limits of what
cannot be said with full clarity, training in analytic philosophy would greatly improve the
writing of most continental philosophers.

Of course, analytic philosophers could often profit from exposure to continental ideas.
Epistemologists, for example, could learn a great deal from the phenomenological analyses of
Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, and metaphysicians could profit from the historical reflections of
Heidegger and Derrida. But in view of the unnecessary difficulty of much continental
writing, most analytic philosophers will do better to rely on a second-hand acquaintance
through reliable and much more accessible secondary sources.

It may be that the most strikingly obscure continental writing (e.g., of the later Heidegger
and of most major French philosophers since the 1960s) is a form of literary expression,
producing a kind of abstract poetry from its creative transformations of philosophical
concepts. This would explain the move of academic interest in such work toward English
and other language departments. But it is hard to see that there is much of serious
philosophical value lost in the clarity of analytic commentaries on Heidegger, Derrida, et al.

There are some encouraging recent signs of philosophers following philosophical
problems wherever they are interestingly discussed, regardless of the authors
methodology, orientation or style. But the primary texts of leading continental philosophers
are still unnecessary challenges to anyone trying to come to terms with them. The
continental-analytic gap will begin to be bridged only when seminal thinkers of the Continent
begin to write more clearly.

Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author of, most recently, Thinking the
Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960, and writes regularly for The Stone.


The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates intelligence into specific (primarily

sensory) 'modalities', rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability.
Howard Gardner proposed this model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of
Multiple Intelligences. According to Gardner, an intelligence must fulfill eight criteria:[1]
potential for brain isolation by brain damage, place in evolutionary history, presence of core
operations, susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression), a distinct developmental
progression, the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people, and support
from experimental psychology and psychometric findings.

Gardner chose eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria:[2] musical-rhythmic, visual-
spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal,
intrapersonal, and naturalistic. He later suggested that existential and moral intelligence may
also be worthy of inclusion.[3] Although the distinction between intelligences has been set out
in great detail, Gardner opposes the idea of labeling learners to a specific intelligence.
Gardner maintains that his theory of multiple intelligences should "empower learners", not
restrict them to one modality of learning.[4] According to Gardner, an intelligence is "a
biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to
solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture."[5]

Many of Gardner's "intelligences" correlate with the g factor, supporting the idea of a single,
dominant type of intelligence. According to a 2006 study, each of the domains proposed by
Gardner involved a blend of g, cognitive abilities other than g, and, in some cases, non-
cognitive abilities or personality characteristics.[6]

1 Intelligence modalities

o 1.1 Musical-rhythmic and harmonic

o 1.2 Visual-spatial

o 1.3 Verbal-linguistic

o 1.4 Logical-mathematical

o 1.5 Bodily-kinesthetic

o 1.6 Interpersonal

o 1.7 Intrapersonal

o 1.8 Naturalistic

o 1.9 Existential

o 1.10 Additional intelligences

2 Critical reception

o 2.1 Definition of intelligence

o 2.2 Neo-Piagetian criticism

o 2.3 IQ tests

o 2.4 Lack of empirical evidence

3 Use in education

4 See also

5 References

6 Further reading

7 External links

The g factor (also known as general intelligence, general mental ability or general
intelligence factor) is a construct developed in psychometric investigations of
cognitive abilities and human intelligence. It is a variable that summarizes positive
correlations among different cognitive tasks, reflecting the fact that an individual's
performance on one type of cognitive task tends to be comparable to that person's
performance on other kinds of cognitive tasks. The g factor typically accounts for 40
to 50 percent of the between-individual performance differences on a given cognitive
test, and composite scores ("IQ scores") based on many tests are frequently regarded
as estimates of individuals' standing on the g factor.[1] The terms IQ, general
intelligence, general cognitive ability, general mental ability, or simply intelligence
are often used interchangeably to refer to this common core shared by cognitive tests.

The existence of the g factor was originally proposed by the English psychologist
Charles Spearman in the early years of the 20th century. He observed that children's
performance ratings, across seemingly unrelated school subjects, were positively
correlated, and reasoned that these correlations reflected the influence of an
underlying general mental ability that entered into performance on all kinds of mental
tests. Spearman suggested that all mental performance could be conceptualized in
terms of a single general ability factor, which he labeled g, and a large number of
narrow task-specific ability factors. Today's factor models of intelligence typically
represent cognitive abilities as a three-level hierarchy, where there are a large number
of narrow factors at the bottom of the hierarchy, a handful of broad, more general
factors at the intermediate level, and at the apex a single factor, referred to as the g
factor, which represents the variance common to all cognitive tasks.

Traditionally, research on g has concentrated on psychometric investigations of test

data, with a special emphasis on factor analytic approaches. However, empirical
research on the nature of g has also drawn upon experimental cognitive psychology
and mental chronometry, brain anatomy and physiology, quantitative and molecular
genetics, and primate evolution.[3] While the existence of g as a statistical regularity is
well-established and uncontroversial, there is no consensus as to what causes the
positive correlations between tests.

Research in the field of behavioral genetics has established that the construct of g is
highly heritable. It has a number of other biological correlates, including brain size. It
is also a significant predictor of individual differences in many social outcomes,
particularly in education and employment. The most widely accepted contemporary
theories of intelligence incorporate the g factor.[4] However, critics of g have
contended that an emphasis on g is misplaced and entails a devaluation of other
important abilities, as well as supporting an unrealistic reified view of human


1 Cognitive ability testing

2 Theories

o 2.1 Mental energy or efficiency

o 2.2 Sampling theory

o 2.3 Mutualism

3 Factor structure of cognitive abilities

4 "Indifference of the indicator"

5 Population distribution

6 Spearman's law of diminishing returns

7 Practical validity

o 7.1 Academic achievement

o 7.2 Job attainment

o 7.3 Job performance

o 7.4 Income

o 7.5 Other correlates

8 Genetic and environmental determinants

9 Neuroscientific findings

10 g in non-humans

11 g (or c) in human groups

12 Other biological associations

13 Group similarities and differences

14 Relation to other psychological constructs

o 14.1 Elementary cognitive tasks

o 14.2 Working memory

o 14.3 Piagetian tasks

o 14.4 Personality

o 14.5 Creativity

15 Challenges

o 15.1 Gf-Gc theory

o 15.2 Theories of uncorrelated abilities

o 15.3 Flynn's model

o 15.4 Other criticisms

16 See also

17 References

18 Bibliography

19 External links


Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from

mainland Europe.[1][2] This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers
in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions
outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes the following movements:
German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French
feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related
branches of Western Marxism.[3]

It is difficult to identify non-trivial claims that would be common to all the preceding
philosophical movements. The term "continental philosophy", like "analytic philosophy",
lacks clear definition and may mark merely a family resemblance across disparate
philosophical views. Simon Glendinning has suggested that the term was originally more
pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or
disliked by analytic philosophers.[4] Nonetheless, Michael E. Rosen has ventured to identify
common themes that typically characterize continental philosophy.[5]

First, continental philosophers generally reject the view that the natural
sciences are the only or most accurate way of understanding natural
phenomena. This contrasts with many analytic philosophers who consider
their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural
sciences. Continental philosophers often argue that science depends upon
a "pre-theoretical substrate of experience" (a version of Kantian conditions
of possible experience or the phenomenological "lifeworld") and that
scientific methods are inadequate to fully understand such conditions of

Second, continental philosophy usually considers these conditions of

possible experience as variable: determined at least partly by factors such
as context, space and time, language, culture, or history. Thus continental
philosophy tends toward historicism (or historicity). Where analytic
philosophy tends to treat philosophy in terms of discrete problems,
capable of being analyzed apart from their historical origins (much as
scientists consider the history of science inessential to scientific inquiry),
continental philosophy typically suggests that "philosophical argument
cannot be divorced from the textual and contextual conditions of its
historical emergence".[7]

Third, continental philosophy typically holds that human agency can

change these conditions of possible experience: "if human experience is a
contingent creation, then it can be recreated in other ways". [8] Thus
continental philosophers tend to take a strong interest in the unity of
theory and practice, and often see their philosophical inquiries as closely

related to personal, moral, or political transformation. This tendency is
very clear in the Marxist tradition ("philosophers have only interpreted the
world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it"), but is also
central in existentialism and post-structuralism.

A final characteristic trait of continental philosophy is an emphasis on

metaphilosophy. In the wake of the development and success of the
natural sciences, continental philosophers have often sought to
redefine the method and nature of philosophy.[9] In some cases (such as
German idealism or phenomenology), this manifests as a
renovation of the traditional view that philosophy is the first,
foundational, a priori science. In other cases (such as hermeneutics,
critical theory, or structuralism), it is held that philosophy
investigates a domain that is irreducibly cultural or practical. And
some continental philosophers (such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, the later
Heidegger, or Derrida) doubt whether any conception of philosophy can
coherently achieve its stated goals.

Ultimately, the foregoing themes derive from a broadly Kantian thesis that knowledge,
experience, and reality are bound and shaped by conditions best understood through
philosophical reflection rather than exclusively empirical inquiry.[10]


1 The term

2 History

3 Recent Anglo-American developments

From the early 20th century until the 1960s, continental philosophers were only
intermittently discussed in British and American universities, despite an influx of
continental philosophers, particularly German Jewish students of Nietzsche and
Heidegger, to the United States on account of the persecution of the Jews and later
World War II; Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, Theodor W. Adorno, and Walter
Kaufmann are probably the most notable of this wave, arriving in the late 1930s and
early 1940s. However, philosophy departments began offering courses in continental
philosophy in the late 1960s and 1970s. With the rise of postmodernism in the
1970s and 1980s, some British and American philosophers became more vocally
opposed to the methods and conclusions of continental philosophers. For
example, John Searle[22] criticized Derrida's deconstruction for "obvious and manifest
intellectual weaknesses." Later, Barry Smith and assorted signatories protested against
the award of an honorary degree to Derrida by Cambridge University.[23]

American university departments in literature, the fine arts, film, sociology, and
political theory have increasingly incorporated ideas and arguments from continental
philosophers into their curricula and research. Continental Philosophy features
prominently in a number of British and Irish Philosophy departments, for instance at

the University of Essex, Warwick, Sussex and Dundee, Manchester Metropolitan,
Kingston University, Staffordshire University and University College Dublin, and in
North American Philosophy departments, including the University of Hawai'i at
Mnoa, Boston College, Stony Brook University (SUNY), Vanderbilt University,
DePaul University, Villanova University, the University of Guelph, The New School,
Pennsylvania State University, University of Oregon, Emory University, Duquesne
University, the University of Memphis, University of King's College, and Loyola
University Chicago. The most prominent organization for continental philosophy in
the United States is the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy
(known as SPEP).[24]

The rise of Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy can be interpreted both as a
prophylactic and a therapeutic movement: on the one hand, Whitehead's life and
thought show that analytic rigor and speculative imagination can work together; on
the other hand, Whiteheadian scholarship has sometimes provided bridges between
these fields.[25]

4 Significant works

5 See also

6 Notes

7 References

8 External links


1 Non-philosophy according to Laruelle

Laruelle argues that all forms of philosophy (from ancient philosophy to analytic philosophy to
deconstruction and so on) are structured around a prior decision, and remain constitutively blind to this
decision. The 'decision' that Laruelle is concerned with here is the dialectical splitting of the world in
order to grasp the world philosophically. Examples from the history of philosophy include Immanuel
Kant's distinction between the synthesis of manifold impressions and the faculties of the understanding;
Martin Heidegger's split between the ontic and the ontological; and Jacques Derrida's notion of
diffrance/presence. The reason Laruelle finds this decision interesting and problematic is because the
decision itself cannot be grasped (philosophically grasped, that is) without introducing some further

Laruelle further argues that the decisional structure of philosophy can only be grasped non-
philosophically. In this sense, non-philosophy is a science of philosophy. Non-philosophy is not
metaphilosophy because, as Laruelle scholar Ray Brassier notes, "philosophy is already
metaphilosophical through its constitutive reflexivity". [1] Brassier also defines non-philosophy as the

"theoretical practice of philosophy proceeding by way of transcendental axioms and producing
theorems which are philosophically uninterpretable".[1] The reason why the axioms and theorems of
non-philosophy are philosophically uninterpretable is because, as explained, philosophy cannot grasp
its decisional structure in the way that non-philosophy can.

Laruelle's non-philosophy, he claims, should be considered to philosophy what non-Euclidean

geometry is to the work of Euclid. It stands in particular opposition to philosophical heirs of Jacques
Lacan such as Alain Badiou.

2 Role of the subject

The radically performative character of the subject of non-philosophy would be meaningless without
the concept of radical immanence. The philosophical doctrine of immanence is generally defined as
any philosophical belief or argument which resists transcendent separation between the world and some
other principle or force (such as a creator deity). According to Laruelle, the decisional character of
philosophy makes immanence impossible for it, as some ungraspable splitting is always taking place
within. By contrast, non-philosophy axiomatically deploys immanence as being endlessly
conceptualizable by the subject of non-philosophy. This is what Laruelle means by "radical
immanence". The actual work of the subject of non-philosophy is to apply its methods to the decisional
resistance to radical immanence which is found in philosophy.

3 Radical immanence

4 Sans-philosophie

In "A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy" (2004), Franois Laruelle states:

"I see non-philosophers in several different ways. I see them, inevitably, as subjects of the university, as
is required by worldly life, but above all as related to three fundamental human types. They are related
to the analyst and the political militant, obviously, since non-philosophy is close to psychoanalysis and
Marxism it transforms the subject by transforming instances of philosophy. But they are also related
to what I would call the spiritual type which it is imperative not to confuse with spiritualist. The
spiritual are not spiritualists. They are the great destroyers of the forces of philosophy and the state,
which band together in the name of order and conformity. The spiritual haunt the margins of
philosophy, Gnosticism, mysticism, and even of institutional religion and politics. The spiritual are not
just abstract, quietist mystics; they are for the world. This is why a quiet discipline is not sufficient,
because man is implicated in the world as the presupposed that determines it. Thus, non-philosophy is
also related to Gnosticism and science-fiction; it answers their fundamental question which is not at
all philosophy's primary concern Should humanity be saved? And how? And it is also close to
spiritual revolutionaries such as Mntzer and certain mystics who skirted heresy. When all is said and
done, is non-philosophy anything other than the chance for an effective utopia?"[2]

Numbered amongst the members or sympathizers of sans-philosophie ("without philosophy") are those
included in a collection published in 2005 by LHarmattan:[3] Franois Laruelle, Jason Barker, Ray
Brassier, Laurent Carraz, Hugues Choplin, Jacques Colette, Nathalie Depraz, Oliver Feltham, Gilles
Grelet, Jean-Pierre Faye, Gilbert Hottois, Jean-Luc Rannou,[4] Pierre A. Riffard, Sandrine Roux and
Jordanco Sekulovski.

5 Precursors

Adam Karl August von Eschenmayer also developed an approach to philosophy called non-philosophy.

He defined it as a kind of mystical illumination by which was obtained a belief in God that could not be
reached by mere intellectual effort.[5] He carried this tendency to mysticism into his physical
researches, and was led by it to take a deep interest in the phenomena of animal magnetism. He
ultimately became a devout believer in demoniacal and spiritual possession; and his later writings are
all strongly impregnated with supernaturalism.

Laruelle sees Eschenmayer's doctrine as a "break with philosophy and its systematic aspect in the name
of passion, faith, and feeling".[6]

6 See also

7 References

8 Further reading

9 External links

Controversy over the Possibility of a Science of Philosophy (pdf) a debate between Laruelle and
Derrida (from La Dcision Philosophique, No. 5, April 1988, pp. 6276) translated by Robin Mackay

Frequently Asked Questions at Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale (ONPhI)

Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale

A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy by Franois Laruelle at Organisation Non-Philosophique

Internationale (ONPhI)

Speculative realism is a movement in contemporary philosophy that defines itself loosely in its stance of
metaphysical realism against the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy (or what it terms correlationism[1]).
Speculative realism takes its name from a conference held at Goldsmiths College, University of London in April
2007.[2] The conference was moderated by Alberto Toscano of Goldsmiths College, and featured presentations
by Ray Brassier of American University of Beirut (then at Middlesex University), Iain Hamilton Grant of the
University of the West of England, Graham Harman of the American University in Cairo, and Quentin
Meillassoux of the cole Normale Suprieure in Paris. Credit for the name "speculative realism" is generally
ascribed to Brassier,[3] though Meillassoux had already used the term "speculative materialism" to describe his
own position.[4]

A second conference, entitled "Speculative Realism/Speculative Materialism", took place at the UWE Bristol on
Friday 24 April 2009, two years after the original event at Goldsmiths.[5] The line-up consisted of Ray Brassier,
Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, and (in place of Meillassoux who was unable to attend) Alberto Toscano.

In the framework of hermeneutics, as a reaction against its constructivist or nihilistic outcomes, Maurizio
Ferraris has proposed the so-called "New Realism" (Manifesto del nuovo realismo, 2012), a philosophical
orientation shared by both analytic philosophers (such as Mario De Caro, see Bentornata Realt, ed. by De Caro
and Ferraris, 2012), and Continental philosophers, such as Mauricio Beuchot (Manifesto del realismo analogico,
2013), and Markus Gabriel (Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology, 2014). New realism intersects with other

realistic movements that arose independently but responding to similar needs, such as the "speculative realism"
defended by the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux and the American philosopher Graham Harman.

For new realism, the assumption that science is not systematically the ultimate measure of truth and reality does
not mean that we should abandon the notions of reality, truth or objectivity, as was posited by much twentieth
century philosophy. Rather, it means that philosophy, as well as jurisprudence, linguistics or history, has
something important and true to say about the world. In this context, new realism presents itself primarily as a
negative realism: the resistance that the outside world opposes to our conceptual schemes should not be seen as
a failure, but as a resource a proof of the existence of an independent world. If this is the case, however, this
negative realism turns into a positive realism: in resisting us reality does not merely set a limit we cannot
trespass, but it also offers opportunities and resources. This explains how, in the natural world, different life-
forms can interact in the same environment without sharing any conceptual scheme and how, in the social world,
human intentions and behaviors are made possible by a reality that is first given, and that only at a later time
may be interpreted and, if necessary, transformed.

1 Critique of correlationism

2 Variations

o 2.1 Speculative materialism

o 2.2 Object-oriented philosophy

o 2.3 Transcendental materialism / neo-vitalism

o 2.4 Transcendental nihilism / methodological naturalism

3 Controversy regarding the existence of a speculative realist "movement"

4 Publications

5 Internet presence

6 See also

7 References

8 External links


Eugene Sun Park


Philosophy is predominantly white and predominantly male. This homogeneity exists in almost all aspects and
at all levels of the discipline. The philosophical canon, especially in so-called analytic departments, consists
almost exclusively of dead, white men. The majority of living philosophersi.e., professors, graduate students,
and undergraduate majorsare also white men. And the topics deemed important by the discipline almost
always ignore race, ethnicity, and gender. Philosophy, it is often claimed, deals with universal truths and
timeless questions. It follows, allegedly, that these matters by their very nature do not include the unique and
idiosyncratic perspectives of women, minorities, or people of culture.

Astoundingly, many professional philosophers are perplexed as to why there arent more women and minorities
in philosophy. While there may be no single reason why philosophy is so lacking in diversity, the fact that it is
lacking is blatantly clear when we compare philosophy to other humanistic disciplines (and even to many STEM
fields). One important step towards solving philosophys diversity problem is to figure out why so few women
and minorities stick with philosophy for the long haul. My own experiences as a graduate student, while not
necessarily representative, may shed some light on the matter. (Further discussion on this topic by professional
philosophers can be found here and here.)

I used to be a philosophy PhD student at a well-respected department in the Midwest. After six and a half years
of graduate study, I withdrew from my program and left academia altogether. Why? The dismal academic job
market certainly had something to do with my decision. But, more importantly, as a person of color, I found
myself increasingly uncomfortable in my department and within the discipline at large. Granted, a PhD program
in any discipline will involve a certain amount of indoctrination, but the particular demands of philosophy were,
in my view, beyond unreasonable.

As I discovered over the course of my graduate career, in order to be taken seriously in the discipline, and to
have any hope of landing a tenure-track job, one must write a dissertation in one of the core areas of
philosophy. What are these core areas? Philosophers quibble about how exactly to slice up the philosophical pie,
but generally the divisions look something like this:

Metaphysics & Epistemology

Logic & Philosophy of Language

Philosophy of Mind

Value Theory


Such is the menu of choices available to the philosopher-in-training today. (See, for example, the PhD
requirements at these prominent philosophy departments: Penn, Berkeley, and Duke.) On the surface, this might
look like a wide range of options. But appearances are deceiving. For instance, the subfield of philosophy of
mind does not typically engage at all with Indian, East Asian, African, or Native American ideas about the
nature of mind. Its as if non-Western thinkers had nothing to say about the matter. Similarly, those who work
in the history of philosophy work almost exclusively on the history of Western philosophye.g., Plato,
Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Russell, Wittgenstein, etc.

Why dont Anglo-American philosophers engage with non-Western philosophical traditions? In my experience,
professional philosophers today often perceive non-Western thinkers as inferior. Of course, few would say this
explicitly. Rather, philosophers often point to non-Western philosophys unusual and unfamiliar methodology as
the primary reason for the disconnect. Or, as a prominent member of my department once explained to me,
philosophers literally cant understand non-Western philosophy because they cant read it: Philosophers trained
in English-speaking countries cant read ancient Chinese or Hindi or some obscure African language, and given
the existing demands on our time, its unreasonable for us to have to learn those languages. (Somehow, though,
it is perfectly reasonable for philosophers to spend years studying ancient Greek, or German, or French.)

The excuses for excluding non-Western thinkers from the philosophical canon are sometimes more obviously
derogatory. For instance, philosophers often claim that non-Western thought lacks rigor and precision,
essential characteristics of serious philosophy. As a result, many philosophers simply dismiss non-Western
intellectual culture as (mere) religion, speculative thought, or literature.

As an Asian American, and as someone who grew up under the partial influence of Buddhist and Confucian
culture/thought, I find this dismissive attitude towards the East to be personally and deeply offensive. At best,
Anglo-American philosophers seem to regard most non-Western philosophy as a cute side hobby, but certainly
not something deserving of serious attention. As one of my dissertation advisors told me, Asian philosophy can
be one of your several Areas of Competence (AOC), but not your Area of Specialization (AOS). To be fair, this
advice was given in response to the existing realities of the discipline and the prospects for an academic job.
Considered in that light, this was not bad advice, but is problematic nonetheless because it simply accepts and
even perpetuates the status quo. And what is the status quo? A quick glance at the course offerings of any top
philosophy department (examples here, here, and here) reveals unambiguously where their priorities liemost
departments provide nothing by way of non-Western philosophy, and the ones that do will usually offer one or
two introductory classes taught by visiting lecturers or affiliated faculty in other departments. The record of
recent tenure-track hires by philosophy departments also confirms this overwhelming bias towards
philosophers who specialize in the core areas of the Western philosophical tradition.

So, fairly early in my career as a PhD student I learned that certain ways of doing philosophy are acceptable,
while others are not. Likewise, certain topics count as legitimate philosophy, and others do not. These
disciplinary boundaries, by and large, are not up for debate. Any graduate student who ignores these basic
facts about the discipline runs the risk of professional ostracism and, ultimately, failure. (Kristie Dotsons paper
on philosophys culture of justification, published in Comparative Philosophy, provides an excellent analysis
of how the profession privileges certain approaches to philosophy over others. A similar analysis is offered
by Yoko Arisaka, an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, who writes about the lack of Asians
and Asian women in academic philosophy.)

The current state of affairs in academic philosophy is, from an historical perspective, extremely curious. Most
humanistic disciplines have gone through (a sometimes painful) process of self-evaluation and reconstruction.
History and literature departments, for instance, were once primarily focused on the work, thought, and writings
of white, Western European men. But throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, women, minorities, and
other traditionally marginalized people have been increasingly incorporated into these fields, both as subjects
and as practitioners, as explored in David Hollingers book The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion since
World War II.

Somehow philosophy got left behind. Walk around most philosophy departments today, and youll likely see
just a sprinkling of women and minorities, with the vast majority of students and faculty being white men. This
imbalance is also painfully evident in philosophical publications, citations, and overall disciplinary
influence. Among the 266 most cited contemporary philosophers in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
10% are women and 3% are minorities. In order for things to change, philosophers need to see that there is a
need for change. I worry that this is not happening.

In my own department, I tried to stimulate discussion about what could be done to increase diversity. The
faculty and my fellow graduate students were, to their credit, perfectly happy to have more women and
minorities in the department. In fact, many spoke openly about their desire to see a more diverse department.
This desire, however, seemed to be a desire mostly for a cosmetic change in the look of the department. When it
came to making changes that might bring about a much deeper sense of diversityi.e., changes in the culture
and intellectual environmentthere was less accommodation. In attempts to open up a discussion about
diversity, I found myself repeatedly confounded by ignorance and, at times, thinly veiled racism. To various
faculty, I suggested the possibility of hiring someone who, say, specializes in Chinese philosophy or feminist
philosophy or the philosophy of race. I complained about the Eurocentric nature of undergraduate and graduate
curricula. Without exception, my comments and suggestions were met with the same rationalizations for why
philosophy is the way it is and why it should remain that way. To paraphrase one member of my department,
This is the intellectual tradition we work in. Take it or leave it.

The pressure to accept and conform to a narrow conception of philosophy was pervasive. When I tried to
introduce non-Western and other non-canonical philosophy into my dissertation, a professor in my department
suggested that I transfer to the Religious Studies Department or some other department where ethnic studies
would be more welcome. When I considered exploring issues of race in my dissertation, my advisor remarked
that she had always thought of Asian Americans as basically white, so she was genuinely surprised that I
would have any desire to pursue such topics.

Underlying these remarks are highly problematic assumptions about who we are and what historical figures
and texts comprise our intellectual heritage. This is certainly a complicated and contested set of issues. For the
purposes of this discussion, Ive vastly oversimplified matters with my nave talk of West vs. East, and my use
of broad categories like Asian philosophy and analytic philosophy. But one thing is absolutely clear and
indisputable: We are no longer mostly white men of European descent. (In fact, its doubtful we were ever
this.) At colleges and universities across the country, women and minorities are now frequently in the majority.
While much of the rest of the academy has evolved to reflect these demographic changes, philosophy remains
mired in a narrow conception of the discipline that threatens to marginalize philosophy even further.

So why did I choose to leave philosophy, instead of staying and advocating for change from within? It was
certainly not an easy decision, but, by the end, my departure felt like an inevitability. I loved studying
philosophy, and truly have no regrets about devoting nearly a decade of my life to it. But I also grew tired and
frustrated with the professions unwillingness to interrogate itself. Eventually, I gave up hope that the discipline
would ever change, or that it would change substantially within a timeframe that was useful to me professionally
and personally. (Since I left graduate school, at least two philosophy departmentsRutgers and Georgia State
have implemented policies to improve the academic climate for women and minorities. Whether these policies
will be effective, and whether similar policies will be adopted more broadly, remains to be seen.)

The lack of women and minorities in philosophy may be an anomaly in the academy, especially among the
humanities, but it is not an accident. Philosophers have made, and continue to make, decisions that impact the
demographics of the discipline. Until they acknowledge their own complicity in the problem, philosophers will
continue to scratch their heads about the lack of diversity in their field. Its not that women and minorities are
(inexplicably) less interested in the problems of philosophyits that women and minorities have not had
their fair say in defining what the problems of philosophy are, or what counts as philosophy in the first place.
( These are serious questions and many complex socio-cultural and perhaps discourse-related factors are
involved? I do not only refer to race and gender but why does philosophy or any other discipline concentrate on
certain objects of investigation and not other subject-matter? Or certain analytic methods rather than so-called
Continental methodologies? Or ideas or approaches?))

Further Reading:

How is This Paper Philosophy? in Comparative Philosophy by Kristie Dotson

David Hollingers The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion since World War II

What Could Leave Philosophy? in Thoughts Arguments and Rants

Different Voices or Perfect Storm: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy? by Louise Antony
in the Journal of Social Philosophy

Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone) by Sally Haslanger in
Hypatia (Spring 2008)

Asian Women: Invisibility, Locations, and Claims to Philosophy, in Women of Color in Philosophy,
by Yoko Arisaka

Quantifying the Gender Gap: An Empirical Study of the Underrepresentation of Women in
Philosophy, by Molly Paxton, Carrie Figdor, and Valerie Tiberius (as part of the Society for
Philosophy and Psychologys Diversity initiatives)

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy

Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at University of California at Riverside, Citation of

Women and Ethnic Minorities in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in his blog, The Splintered

Missing Men: Addressing the College Gender Gap in HigherEd Live

California Latinos Surpass Whites in Freshman UC Admission Offers, in Los Angeles Times

The NY Times Opinionator: Women in Philosophy section


Posted on 18 July, 2012 by Brian Weatherson

What Could Leave Philosophy?

Ive been writing up some stuff on Herman Cappelens great new book Philosophy Without Intuitions. And it
got me thinking about just what is distinctive about philosophy. You might have thought it was something to do
with the use of intuitions, but Cappelen shows that isnt right. Whatever intuitions are, there isnt much ground
for saying they are more prevalent in philosophy than in other disciplines.

So what is it? Its not a trivial question, because there isnt much obviously in common between what different
philosophers work on. Just looking at my own colleagues, its hard to say what the common thread linking the
work of Sarah Moss, Elizabeth Anderson, Chandra Sripada, Allan Gibbard, Victor Caston and Laura Ruetsche
could be.

I sort of suspect there isnt really a principled answer to the question of what is philosophy. Rather, the answer
as to why some things are done in philosophy departments and others are not will largely be historical,
turning on some fairly contingent choices that were made in the formation of the contemporary academy.

To get a sense of how plausible this hypothesis is, I wanted to run a couple of little thought experiments. The
experiments concern which departments house which questions. Heres what I mean by house. For some
questions, there is an obvious department (or small group of departments) to be in if you want to work on that
question. If you want to work on what needs to be added to justified true belief to get knowledge, you should be
in a philosophy department. If you want to work on the power relationships between the French monarch and
aristocracy in the 18th Century, you should be in a history department (or perhaps a very historically oriented
political science department).

Which departments house which questions changes over time. In the distant past, physics was part of philosophy
departments. In a good sense, economics only split from philosophy in the early 20th Century. At Cambridge,
which was at the time the most important place in the world for both disciplines, the economics tripos split from
the philosophy tripos in 1903. To the extent that cognitive science was a recognisable field in the 1950s and
1960s, it was just as much part of philosophy as anything else.

Similarly, which departments house which questions can change over modal space. In some very nearby worlds,
there are very few departments we would recognise as philosophy departments, even though there is much work
on philosophical questions. Thats because in those worlds there are separate departments for moral philosophy
and for logic & metaphysics, as there was at St Andrews traditionally.

But lets focus on worlds in which there are recognisable philosophy departments. Heres the question.

For each sub-discipline in philosophy, how far into modal space do you need to go to find a world
where it isnt housed in a philosophy department?

Ill put my views on this over the fold, so if you like you can think about this before seeing what I have to say.

For a few areas, it is easy to imagine them being in other departments, because they already overlap so
substantially with work done in other departments. These areas (and the overlapping departments) include:

Logic (Mathematics and Computer Science)

Language (Linguistics)

Decision Theory and Game Theory (Economics)

Legal Philosophy (Law)

Political Philosophy (Political Science)

Feminist Philosophy (Womens Studies)

Philosophy of Physics/Biology (Physics/Biology)

(My comment: What about the many different types, issues, problems of Experimental Philosophy?
And the departments or disciplines they overlap with? And Philosophical studies related to Cognitive
Sciences? And In the arts, literature, social sciences, eg sociology? Just think of the 4 generations of
Critical Theory and in different universities, and other schools or movements of philosophy in France.)

Those are roughly ordered in terms of how substantial the overlap is between what goes on inside philosophy
departments and what does on in other departments. It is perhaps a bit of a stretch to include Philosophy of
Physics and Biology here, because physics and biology departments have on the whole moved away a bit from
the kind of theoretical work philosophers do. But I think its easy to imagine them including more work we
currently call philosophical.

Its true that some work thats currently done in philosophy of language doesnt really overlap with much of
linguistics. But a lot does. I think the paradigm of recent work in philosophy of language is the joint work on
epistemic modals between Thony Gillies and Kai von Fintel, the existence of which is a pretty strong proof of
the overlap between the departments. (Why overlap of departments? Why not of ideas, assumptions, methods,
techniques, tools, problems, questions, etc? My Comment

What is Visual Communication Design?

Visual Communication Design is a broad term encompassing graphic design, information
design, instructional design, visual storytelling and various products of cultural and visual
information. In today's competitive and information-rich world, visual communication design
is indispensable. From the moment we wake up, most of our experiences, actions, perceptions
and decisions are informed and controlled by design. On a daily basis, the faces of clocks, our
street signs, magazines, books, posters, advertisements, package labels, logos and branding,

ATM interfaces, film, television and websites help us to access vital information about the
world around us. Featuring a broad range of media and formats, each of these visual
messages is designed with a specific function, purpose and audience in mind. This is the
creative domain of designers of visual communication.

The Master's degree in Art Education is motivated by a need to harness the critical social
power of art in an era of globalisation and social reparation, by engaging both potential and
established art educators. The course is premised on the belief that the creative and critical
practice of teaching and generating art is instrumental in the creation of an imaginative and
socially conscious citizenry.


To create socially conscious graduates who would be able to practice as

qualified art educators, and to further engage established educators in the
transformative potential of art.

To promote a responsiveness to a South African and African context, both

within academia and school curricula, and to develop partnerships
between the University and its surrounding environment (schools and
educational initiatives), both through the curriculum itself and the
professionals qualified through the degree.

To develop and maintain a high research output in the fields of art and
education, and within these fields lead research in social transformation,
institutional accountability, collaborative knowledge production, aesthetics
and popular culture, and encourage cross-disciplinary academic
collaborations and a scholarship of engagement.


10101 Teaching and learning theories 811 (15 credits)

10102 Art education and citizenship 812 (15 credits), 841 (15 credits)

10104 Art education and globalisation 842 (15 credits)

10105 Service Learning (Art Education) 876 (30 credits)

10106 Thesis 871 (90 credits)

Why Visual Studies?

In a world increasingly mediated by the visual, to understand the production, circulation and
reading thereof is essential. As a relatively new discipline, Visual Studies brings critical
theories from a wide array of fields including Sociology, Cultural Studies, Philosophy etc. to
bear on a host of visual objects. The interdisciplinary nature of the programme allows one to
analyse objects originating from a variety of contexts such as fine arts, mass media, corporate
communication, visual communication design, film and architecture. Courses tend to adopt

an overarching critical focus such as post-colonialist or gender theory under which umbrella
popular cultural or so-called high art images may be explored.

The highly popular undergraduate offering poses questions that resonate with student's
experience of their complex life-world:

How does rapidly changing technology impact on human identity?

How is our embodiment as raced, sexed, gendered and aged persons

negotiated by the visual?

How do inherited cultural and linguistic structures encode meaning in

visual images?

How can images be read against the grain of dominant western


Visual Studies offers a comprehensive post-graduate programme all the way through to
doctoral level.

Our intensive year-long Honours course attracts students who are interested in pursuing
careers in the arts sector as curators, art critics and media specialists. As part of the 2015
programme we offer special curricula themed around: photography and self-representation,
art criticism and curatorship. )

I could perhaps also have included (see my additions above. That is only from one visual art department.).

Aesthetics (Literature, Art History and Music)

but that would require knowing more about what goes on in literature, art history and music departments than I
actually do. (Many art schools teach critical thinking, analysis, art appreciation, and some offer degrees in art
journalism, curatorship, criticism, etc. So much so that there students do course in philosophy departments)>

And it isnt much more of a stretch to include

History of Ancient Philosophy (Classics)

There is obviously a fairly substantial overlap between classics and ancient philosophy, as evidenced by the
number of very important academics that have joint appointments in philosophy and classics programs. It would
require a bit of a culture change to classics to have all the work thats currently done in ancient philosophy
moved into classics, but it doesnt feel like wed be moving too far from actuality to imagine that culture change

The next two are a bit trickier, but still could move without too radical a change to the academy.

History of Modern Philosophy

Philosophy of Mind

There are a few ways that history of modern could leave philosophy.

One is that existing history of science programs could incorporate more history of philosophy. It isnt too hard to
imagine there being much more work on Descartes and Leibniz in existing history of science programs, and if
history of science included more history of economics, then Hume and Smith and possibly Locke would be
included too. Once that happens, it is easy to see how a full blown history of modern program could be inside
history of science.

A second involves the same thing happening inside history departments, but that is a bit more unlikely. Not
completely unlikely, there is actually already excellent work in history of modern philosophy inside history
departments, but perhaps unlikely.

A third involves there being more history of ideas departments, like there used to be at ANU. Again, perhaps
thats a little way from actuality.

Philosophy of mind (Cognitive sciences!! And X-PHI!! As examples) is a little trickier, because it is such a
diverse field. My sense of the most active work in the last decade could easily be duplicated by theorists who fit
into psychology or cognitive science departments. Again, Im not completely sure about the culture of
psychology and cognitive science departments to say how much change would be needed to fit more philosophy
into those departments, but my guess it would be a relatively small culture change.

That brings us to three fields that it would be hard to see moving en masse: Ethics, Epistemology and

There are not massively distant worlds where there are departments of value theory covering basically current
ethics and economics. In some of them I suspect to some extent thats what Alfred Marshall had in mind when
he moved economics out of philosophy at Cambridge. If you thought that Bentham and Mill had solved the very
big questions in ethics, and that what was left to do was to work on applied questions, then you might think
economics was a general department of value theory. But its trickier to imagine a combined economics and
ethics department where Kantian views are given much more attention. And its even harder to imagine much
meta-ethics work going on in my imagined value theory department.

Some epistemology work, especially in formal epistemology, does obviously overlap with other disciplines.
But it is hard to see work on, say, the proper formulation of the safety condition on knowledge fitting into
anything like current departments outside philosophy. (Logic and mathematics, Bayesian Epistemology,
Abduction Theory and its role in theorizing, Bayesian Confirmation Theory, argumentation, work on theorizing
and all the philosophy involved in that in Management research and studies

Theory Construction as Disciplined Imagination
by KE WEICK - 1989 - Cited by 1710 - Related articles

Theory Construction as Disciplined Imagination. Author(s): Karl E. Weick. Reviewed

work(s): ... 4 (Oct., 1989), pp. 516-531 ... Academy of Management Review, 1989, Vol. 14,
No. ...... Weick, K. E. (1974) Middle range theories of social systems.

Research in Organizations: Foundations and Methods in Inquiry
Richard A. Swanson, Elwood F. Holton - 2005 - Business & Economics
Building process theory with narrative: From description to explanation. Academy
of Management Review, 24(4),711724. Poole, M. S. ... A primer in theory
construction. ... Weick,K.E.(1989).Theory construction as disciplined imagination.

Just look at the philosophizing involved in this and the entire process of theorizing resembles philosophizing or
vice versa.).

Metaphysics might seem easy at first, though there are some overlaps with other fields. In those decades where
metaphysicians care about things like causation and laws, there is overlap with other fields. (Remember that
one of the most important books on causation in recent times was written by Judea Pearl.) But in those decades,
like the last one, where the focus is on meta-metaphysics, it is hard to see it fitting into non-philosophy


Metaphysics is concerned with the foundations of reality. It asks questions

about the nature of the world, such as: Aside from concrete objects, are there
also abstract objects like numbers and properties? Does every event have a
cause? What is the nature of possibility and necessity? When do several things
make up a single bigger thing? Do the past and future exist? And so on.
Metametaphysics is concerned with the foundations of metaphysics.

It asks:
Do the questions of metaphysics really have answers? If so, are these answers
substantive or just a matter of how we use words? And what is the best
procedure for arriving at them common sense? Conceptual analysis? Or
assessing competing hypotheses with quasi-scientific criteria?
This volume gathers together sixteen new essays that are concerned with
the semantics, epistemology, and methodology of metaphysics. My aim is to
introduce these essays within a more general (and mildly opinionated) survey
of contemporary challenges to metaphysics.

And the preferred methodology for answering these questions is

quasi-scientific, of the type recommended by W. V. O. Quine, developed by
David Lewis, and summarized by Theodore Sider in this volume:
Competing positions are treated as tentative hypotheses about the world, and are
assessed by a loose battery of criteria for theory choice. Match with ordinary usage
and belief sometimes plays a role in this assessment, but typically not a dominant
one. Theoretical insight, considerations of simplicity, integration with other domains
(for instance science, logic, and philosophy of language), and so on, play important
roles. (p.385)

David Chalmers, David Manley, Ryan Wasserman (eds.)

Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of

David Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New
Essays on the Foundations of Ontology, Oxford UP, 2009, 529pp., $45.95 (pbk), ISBN

Reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, University of Leeds

The main goal of a favorable book review should be to make people who read the review
want to read the book. With that in mind, this review of Metametaphysics won't be addressed
to those deeply immersed in contemporary metaphysics (you know who you are). Rather, I'll
try to show that even if you're not a metaphysician -- indeed, even if you're deeply suspicious
of metaphysics -- Metametaphysics is interesting.

Selling Metametaphysics to people who don't really like first-order metaphysics isn't easy. A
non-metaphysician colleague of mine recently remarked, in a discussion about the volume,
that 'it really tells you something about the status of metaphysics, doesn't it?' Given that
metaphysics only returned to the philosophical mainstream in the latter decades of the 20th
century (after long years on the post-positivist sidelines), metaphysics seems to have 'gone
meta' far more quickly than other disciplines. Moreover, it seems to have 'gone meta' largely
in order to defend itself as a worthwhile discipline. That it has had to launch such carefully
mounted defenses of itself and resort to meta-commentary analyzing its own nature as a
discipline were to this colleague yet further evidence that there's something suspicious about
metaphysics. He maintained that practicing metaphysicians who want the discipline to be
taken seriously should find a volume like Metametaphysics cause for concern rather than for
celebration. Non-metaphysicians can simply dismiss it as another reason to look askance at

Suspicion about metaphysics isn't uncommon, and it isn't new. Metaphysicians obsess about
abstract and technical debates, carried out in esoteric terms only used by (and perhaps only
comprehensible to) other metaphysicians. If you ask non-metaphysicians about metaphysics,
they will more than likely be inclined to shrug and say 'what's the point?' (and that's if they
are being polite). If metaphysics is a robust enterprise, trying to describe the nature of
objective reality, then surely its questions are better answered by physicists. If it's a more
modest enterprise, trying to describe our concepts, then surely its questions are better
answered by philosophers of language and philosophers of mind. If it's a domain where
multiple answers are on equally good footing and the disputes are merely verbal, then surely
its questions are better left unasked.

That the questions asked by metaphysicians should simply be left to physicists is not a
criticism that those not generally skeptical of philosophical inquiry should take seriously. As
philosophers, we tend to value the methodology of our own discipline and (whether justified
or not) think that this methodology can make uniquely valuable contributions. Philosophy of
language should not be abandoned for linguistics, aesthetics should not be abandoned for art
criticism and art history, philosophy of mind should not be abandoned for psychology and
cognitive science, and so on. There are often more empirical disciplines concerned with the
same subject matter, but that doesn't mean the philosophy is in bad standing. Or so say the
philosophers, anyway.

But that metaphysics is at best a conceptual project (even if it thinks of itself as an inquiry
into objective, 'fundamental' reality) and at worst a badly-formed language game is a
criticism that philosophers can bring against metaphysics without undermining their own sub-

disciplines. Further, it's a criticism which should, and often does, worry those working in

The project of 'metametaphysics' is often thought to be aimed at these very criticisms.

'Metametaphysics' is metaphysicians trying to defend the legitimacy of their own discipline.
This is where my colleague's worry arises. What other subfield of philosophy has to try so
hard to defend itself? The very existence of 'metametaphysics', and a volume like
Metametaphysics, shows just how precarious a position metaphysics stands in.

So is the publication of a book like Metametaphysics yet further evidence that there's
something philosophically queasy about metaphysics? Not obviously. To fully understand
why, however, you really need to read Metametaphysics.

Compare metametaphysics to that other famous 'meta' discipline -- metaethics. Arguably,

ethics as a whole couldn't be the same after Mackie. Once someone clearly articulated the
idea that our moralizing (while useful) rests on a mistake, and that our moral claims were all
false, a question loomed over most any first-order normative debate: is this all just nonsense?
But metaethics didn't then simply divide itself into moral skeptics on one side (yes, it's
nonsense!) and moral realists on the other (no, real objective moral truth is out there!). There
are multiple gradations of metaethical positions between Mackie and Moore (emotivists,
projectivists, relativists, contextualists, etc). Moreover, metaethics extends far beyond such
debates. It includes discussion of what normativity is like, how normative inquiry should be
undertaken, and so on.

Metametaphysics is, in many respects, a similar field. Metaphysics can't be the same after
Ayer and Carnap. Once the suspicion is raised that your discipline is really nonsense, you can
think that suspicion is wrong, and you can argue against it, but you can't ignore it. But as the
pages of Metametaphysics show, the ensuing debate is not simply a matter of 'skeptics vs.
true believers'. Being skeptical about metaphysics is much more complicated than simply
saying 'oh, that sounds like nonsense'. Moreover, there's much more to metametaphysics than
a dialogue between those who like metaphysics and those who don't. There are questions of
how metaphysics should be done, what kinds of questions it should include, and so on.

On a brief guided tour of Metametaphysics, though, skepticism about metaphysics is a good

place to start.[1] Though skepticism about metaphysics is common, when pressed it's often
unclear what this skepticism amounts to. Verificationist-based skepticism about metaphysics
was easy to espouse when positivism dominated. Now that positivism is mostly a footnote in
philosophical history, the skeptics have to try a little harder. As sections of Metametaphysics
point out, however, appropriately articulating what skepticism about metaphysics involves
proves difficult. John Hawthorne outlines the problems in developing a skepticism about
metaphysics that is both stable and plausible. In a similar vein, Theodore Sider carefully
specifies what the metaphysical skeptic must commit to, and then argues that the
metaphysician can and should resist these commitments. It's not as easy to be skeptical about
metaphysics (while not being skeptical about all philosophy) as many philosophers assume.

Even if you're convinced that no defense of metaphysics could ever be adequate, you'll likely
still find something of interest in Metametaphysics, since it contains perhaps the most

compelling articulation, to date, of the idea that abstract metaphysical debates are
insubstantial or 'merely verbal': Eli Hirsch's Neo-Carnapian theory of quantifier variance.
Consider the debate between the compositional universalist (who says that every collection of
objects composes a further complex object) and the compositional nihilist (who says that
there are no complex objects). Then consider an entire linguistic community which speaks
like the nihilist, and one which speaks like the universalist. Each community's ontological
claims are, according to Hirsch, true in their own language. This shows that the debate
between the nihilist and the universalist is merely verbal -- and a merely verbal debate gets us
nowhere and so might as well be given up. (Though it's important to note that Hirsch thinks
this form of skepticism applies only to cases where the statements on one side of a debate
have equivalent counterparts on the other side of the debate.)

But skepticism about metaphysics is not limited to neo-Carnapianism. Metametaphysics

usefully distinguishes numerous gradations of skepticism and deflationism about
metaphysics. David Chalmers and Stephen Yablo, for example, each think that some
metaphysics is in good standing and unproblematic. They both take issue, however, with
some of the more abstract debates in first-order ontology, arguing that the existence-questions
these debates pose may have no determinate answer. Yablo locates the problem in the
semantics of the debates' referring terms, whereas Chalmers points the finger at its
quantifiers, but both agree there is something defective about the discourse that makes many
of its core postulates indeterminate, and thus its central questions unanswerable.

Whether talk of determinacy -- and lack thereof -- is the best way to characterize skepticism
about such ontological disputes is questionable. Some philosophers (this reviewer included)
think that metaphysical indeterminacy is at least coherent, and thus could make sense of the
thought that some existence questions don't have determinate answers without thinking this
shows anything problematic about those questions themselves. That point aside, however,
Chalmers and Yablo both present an interesting 'middle ground' form of skepticism: not
dismissive of metaphysics as a whole, but dubious of some of its more rarefied ontological
debates. Whether this form of skepticism is stable -- that is, whether one can continue to do
some metaphysics non-skeptically while being highly skeptical about the question of what
'fundamentally exists' -- is an important question for metaphysics.

Yet another form of skepticism in Metametaphysics is that presented by Karen Bennett.

Bennett agrees that we should be skeptical about some debates in metaphysics, but argues for
a different form of skepticism than the familiar 'metaphysicians are talking past each other' or
'these questions don't really have answers'. Bennett construes abstract ontological debates as
well-formed, in good philosophical standing, and as having answers (answers which are
determined by how the world is, not by what our conceptual scheme is like). But, in certain
paradigm cases, she doesn't think we'll ever be able to figure out what those answers are. The
problem with these ontological disputes, according to Bennett, is that we're simply unable to
decide between what seem -- to us, anyway -- to be equally good rival theories, and no
amount of further theorizing will help us decide. The questions we're asking in metaphysics
-- or at least parts of metaphysics -- aren't the sort of questions to which the methodology of
metaphysics will ever provide answers. This is skepticism not about the good philosophical
standing of metaphysics, but rather about our ability to make progress in it.

One way of avoiding skepticism -- in whatever form it comes -- about metaphysics is to be
revisionist about metaphysics. This is the approach taken by Amie Thomasson. Thomasson
argues that the skeptical problem arises when metaphysicians attempt to use ontological
terms like 'thing' in a theory-neutral way, stripped of all 'application conditions'. They do this
in an attempt to avoid talking past each other, but they end up asking meaningless ontological
questions. Yet there are many ontological questions which are not like this: whether that is a
table, whether this is a tree, etc. To answer these questions, we simply need to engage in a
two-step process -- first, conceptual analysis to determine the application condition of our
sortal terms ('table', 'tree', etc), and second, empirical inquiry as to whether those conditions
are met. This type of conceptual investigation -- rather than rarefied technical discussions
about ontology -- should be the task of metaphysics. Metaphysics is perhaps still, on this
construal, open to other forms of criticism that might be classed as skepticism about
metaphysics -- that metaphysical questions are at best better left to the philosopher of
language, and at worst simply uninteresting, can still trouble this more conceptual picture of
metaphysics. Nevertheless Thomasson articulates an interesting alternative picture of the
methodology and aims of metaphysics.

Those in favor of more traditional metaphysics can look to Sider, who defends abstract
ontological debates from the kind of skepticism espoused by Hirsch. By appealing to a notion
of ontological structure, Sider argues that metaphysicians can show how their debates are in
good standing. Realism about structure -- 'joints in nature', to quote the familiar metaphor --
enables metaphysicians to appropriately ground their theories, ensuring that they do not
merely talk past their opponents in debates about metaphysics.

As should be clear, Metametaphysics hosts a debate that is much more nuanced than a simple
'skeptics vs. enthusiasts' dichotomy. Skepticism about metaphysics can take different forms
and come in different degrees. It is also, unsurprisingly, resistable in a variety of ways.
Metametaphysics develops many of the central issues in this dialectic, making it essential
reading, not just for the metaphysician, but for the skeptic about metaphysics as well.

It's also important to note that Metametaphysics covers far more than skepticism about
metaphysics and responses to such skepticism. Many of its papers are devoted to, inter alia,
how we should understand the basic project of metaphysics, how metaphysical questions can
be answered, and what kinds of questions should be included in legitimate metaphysical

Jonathan Schaffer, Kit Fine, and Sider each give explanations of how basic ontological
inquiry should be understood. Schaffer appeals to a notion of ontological priority, Fine to a
distinction between what exists and what exists 'in reality', and Sider to ontological structure.
Each of these represent alternative ways of characterizing the basic -- but often opaque --
ontological question of what is 'fundamental'.

Bob Hale and Crispin Wright undertake the metametaphysics of their NeoFregean philosophy
of mathematics. They argue that, suitably construed, questions such as 'are there any
numbers?' have easy and straightforward answers. On their construal, once you understand
that certain basic principles (such as 'Hume's Principle': the number of Fs = the number of Gs
iff there is a one to one correspondence between the Fs and the Gs), gain some empirical

information (there is a one to one correspondence between the Fs and the Gs), and reflect a
little on how reference works, the existence of numbers falls out straightforwardly -- no need
for ontological hand-wringing or deep background metaphysics.

Kris McDaniel focuses on rehabilitating a kind of metaphysical question that has been in
general disrepute since the early 20th century. Metaphysics should include, according to
McDaniel, not just the question of whether a thing exists, but also the question of what way a
thing exists. He argues for the coherence of 'ways of being' -- a resurrection of the historically
popular idea that 'being' is not univocal. For example, if there are both abstracta and concreta,
it could be a different thing entirely for something to exist abstractly than it is for something
to exist concretely.

This is a very brief -- and very incomplete -- sampling of Metametaphysics. The central point
is simply that there's much more to the volume than metaphysicians saying 'trust us, it really
is okay to do metaphysics'. There's much value in it, not just for the metaphysician, but also
for the person skeptical about metaphysics (but trying to solidify that skepticism, or figure
out what exactly those metaphysicians are up to). And it shouldn't make you worry about
metaphysics -- at least not more than you already do.

NB: I am using the term 'skepticism' more loosely than it's used in parts of
Metametaphysics. In the volume, a distinction is drawn between skeptics (who think
metaphysics asks questions we can't answer) and deflationists (who think the questions are
somehow defective). My use of 'skepticism' is meant to include those who are generally
skeptical about metaphysics, and deflationists fall into this category. If you don't like my use
of 'skepticism' you can replace it with 'suspicion'.
To appear in
Sofia Maurin
University of Gothenburg
General Overviews
Carnap and the Impossibility of Metaphysics
Quine and the Possibility of Metaphysics
Carnapian Deflationism
Semantic Worries I: Indeterminism and Unrestricted Quantification

Semantic Worries II: Quantifier Variance
Semantic Worries III: Triviality
Quinean Responses
Quantifier Invariantism
Ontological Pluralism
The Ontological Turn
The Goal of Metaphysical Inquiry
Metaphysical Explanation
Metaphysics and Science

is an excellent collection of papers about the nature and methodology of
metaphysics written by the subjects movers and shakers. It will be of great interest to
anyone enamored, repulsed, or mystified by metaphysics.
Metaphysics, especially ontology, enjoyed something of a renaissance a few
decades ago, at least when compared to the preceding anti
metaphysical currents of the
early 20thcentury. According to lore, this renaissance had two main causes. The first was
Quines alleged purification of ontology: Quine revived ontology by showing us how to
do it without indulging in the obscurities which so bothered his positivist predecessors,
such as Ayer and Carnap. But there remain questions about the accuracy of this lore and
what its legacy ought to be. Peter Van Inwagens essay articulates and defends Quines
alleged purification. Scott Soames critically examines the nature of the infamous debate
between Carnap and Quine, arguing that they were more closely allied than the lore
allows. Huw Price argues that Quines alleged revival of ontology has been vastly
The second cause of metaphysics renaissance was the bold metaphysics of Saul
Kripke, David Lewis, David Armstrong, Kit Fine, and others in the last part of the 20th
century. These philosophers shamelessly invoked supposedly mysterious metaphysical
notions (such as possibility, necessity, essence, natural properties, truthmakers, and
grounding) and used them toward fruitful and ambitious philosophical ends. Along this
trajectory, Bob Hale and Crispin Wrights essay focuses on how the neo
-Fregean project
uses abstraction principles (such as: the number of
F s = the number of Gs iff the Fs and the Gs correspond one-to
-one) to develop a Platonist view about numbers which avoids
its traditional epistemic pitfalls.
However, reading the essays in
gives one the impression that the
renaissances days are numbered. This is because most of the essays are each, in one way
or the other, concerned with addressing skepticism about metaphysics.
The essays by David Chalmers and Eli Hirsch each defend a broadly neo
Carnapian view according to which answers to many (if not all) metaphysical questions
reflect little more than our choices about how to describe reality. The essays by Matti Eklund,
John Hawthorne, and Theodore Sider are direct responses to this view. Both
Eklund and Hawthorne, although in different ways and toward different ends, object that
Philosophy in Review
XXX(2010), no. 3174
neoCarnapians must reject plausible semantic principles. Sider objects that reality has an
objective structure and that metaphysics strives to discover it.

The skeptical threats are manifested in other ways too. Karen Bennett, while
unsympathetic to neoCarnapianism, nevertheless argues that creatures like us are poorly
suited to making metaphysical progress. Amie Thomasson rejects much of traditional
metaphysics as concerned with unanswerable questions, while favoring a revisionist
metaphysics combining conceptual analysis with empirical investigation. Stephen Yablo
argues that discourse which
apparently carries ontological commitment is, in a peculiar
way, ontologically neutral and so ontological questions about the objects of that discourse
are factually defective.
The preoccupation with skeptical threats is partly just the playing out of the
old epic struggle between metaphysics and epistemology. But there also seems to be a more
specific culprit: the nearly universal endorsement of Quines conception of ontological
questions as quantificational questions (which, ironically, was supposed to have purified
ontology). For once Are Fs real? is purified as Is there at least one
F?, then it can seem
that only two sensible methodologies emerge for answering such questions: (i) consult our
Moorean beliefs (Theres obviously a table there!); or (ii) consult our best science
(Physics only needs the particles, and not any table over and above them!). If (i), then it
seems that the answers to ontological questions are trivial and uninteresting; but if (ii),
then it seems that science, not metaphysics, provides the answers. So either metaphysics
trades in trivialities or is made obsolete by science. Thomas Hofwebers essay explicitly
concerns finding a place for metaphysics between this rock and hard place, and many of
the other essays are at least implicitly wary of this dilemma.
The long shadow skeptical doubts cast upon the essays in
easily give one the impression that metametaphysics is primarily concerned with
responding to skeptical challenges to metaphysics. But (f
ortunately) metametaphysics
isnt merely the epistemology of metaphysics. A few maverick contributors are more
focused on the metaphysics
of metaphysics. This is especially evident in the way these
mavericks depart from various aspects of the Quinean orthodoxy mentioned earlier.
Many of the authors recognize the need to distinguish an ordinary metaphysically
-unloaded sense of the quantifiers from their serious metaphysically
-loaded sense. But
Sider pushes this idea further by building upon Lewis notion
of natural properties and
taking reality itself to have natural joints: objective structure which only the
loaded sense of the quantifier captures. Ontological questions are
quantificational questions; but only a special kind of quantificational question is an
ontological question. Kris McDaniel defends a revival of the outmoded distinction
between ways of being by arguing that Siders general notion of structure is really an
abstraction upon many particular notions of structure, each corresponding to a distinct
way of being.Philosophy in Review XXX(2010), no. 3175
One last maverick theme opposes contemporary metaphysics focus on ontology.
There are at least two reasons why it is thus focused: (i) Quines alleged purification of
ontology, and (ii) David Lewis
tour de forceof how an incredible ontology of possible
worlds provides broad philosophical payoffs. No wonder, then, that the only anthology
on metametaphysics is subtitled
New Essays on the Foundations ofOntology
Refreshingly, Jonathan Schaffer and Kit Fine buck this trend. While Schaffer
agrees with Quine that ontological questions are quantificational questions, he argues that
ontological questions just arent what metaphysics is really about. It is rather about what
is fundamentalor prior
(in the sense of being ontologically independent), as opposed to
what is derivative

(in the sense of being ontologically dependent). More radically, Fine
rejects what all the other essays (implicitly or explicitly) endorse: the Quinean
assimilation of ontological questions to quantificational questions. Instead, Fine defends a
primitive metaphysical conception of reality which does not support construing
ontological questions quantificationally. Metaphysics is about what facts hold in reality
and how they groundthose facts which do not. Ontology is just a (small) branch of this
larger project; it is the branch concerned with which objects the real facts are about.
The contributions of these mavericks seem to be the most refreshing and
interesting parts of Metametaphysics
It is unfortunate that they did not receive
more attention from the other contributors. For one example, Hofweber chastises Schaffer,
Fine, and others for making metaphysics an esoteric game playable only by members of
an elite club who claim to possess metaphysical
concepts, such as fundamentality,
ground, and reality. Suspicions about these metaphysical concepts are thus taken to be a
reason to conceive of metaphysics without them. But perhaps that is to change the
subject. Perhaps the way to rein in metaphysics excesses of
esotericism is not by
ignoring its distinctive but elusive concepts, but by confronting them head on.
In any case, its understandable that metaphysicians want to defend their
discipline, especially after feeling so much pressure from skeptics f
or so long. But it
seems as if the skeptics have been allowed to set the terms of the debate. Perhaps some
more mavericks are needed.
Nevertheless, this is a first
rate anthology of firstrate essays. These papers,
together with David Manley
s useful introduction, offer an accurate snapshot of the
current state of metametaphysics. Not only that, they also
give us an ideawhere
metametaphysics is headed.
Michael J. Raven
University of Victoria

How do we come to know metaphysical truths? How does metaphysical inquiry work? Are
metaphysical debates substantial? These are the questions which characterize
metametaphysics. This book, the fi rst systematic student introduction dedicated to
metametaphysics, discusses the nature of metaphysics its methodology, epistemology,
ontology, and our access to metaphysical knowledge. It provides students with a fi rm
grounding in the basics of metametaphysics, covering a broad range of topics in
metaontology such as existence, quantifi cation, ontological commitment, and ontological
realism. Contemporary views are discussed along with those of Quine, Carnap, and Meinong.
Going beyond the metaontological debate, thorough treatment is given to novel topics in
metametaphysics, including grounding, ontological dependence, fundamentality, modal
epistemology, intuitions, thought experiments, and the relationship between metaphysics and
science. The book will be an essential resource for those studying advanced metaphysics,
philosophical methodology, metametaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science.

Tuomas Tahko and Thomas Hofweber

Tuomas Tahko (left) and Thomas Hofweber (right) on the foundations of metaphysics.

If metaphysics is a form of genuine inquiry, then presumably metaphysicians investigate
questions of fact. But it seems that for any given type of fact, there is already a discipline that
investigates facts of that type. For instance, physicists investigate physical facts; []

May 12th, 2012 | Category: meta-metaphysics, Metaphysics |

Craig Callender and Jonathan Schaffer

Craig Callender (left) and Jonathan Schaffer (right) on meta-metaphysics.

Do mereological sums constitute objects? Questions like this are hotly debated in
contemporary metaphysics yet such questions seem utterly disconnected from science.
Has metaphysics gone in the wrong direction? Callender and Schaffer explore the issue.


September 8th, 2010 | Category: meta-metaphysics, Metaphysics, Methodology |


So thats my ranking. It doesnt match very readily with any popular sense of whats core to philosophy.
Epistemology and metaphysics are hardest to dislodges, but logic and language are easiest. But it does perhaps
help us think about why philosophy has ended up with the fields that it has.

Posted on 19 July, 2012 by Brian Weatherson


What Could Have Entered Philosophy? (MY Comment more searching for philosophical subject-matter!!)
In the previous thread, Robbie Williams asked about the converse of the question set there. That is, he was

What fields that are currently not (primarily) studied inside philosophy departments could (in nearby
worlds) be inside philosophy?

This is a much harder question I think. But there are a few candidates that come to mind.

Note that in every case Ill describe, there is some work on this topic done inside philosophy. Its just that the
primary location for them in the contemporary academy is (I think) outside philosophy.

The simplest perhaps is professional ethics. There is tons of ethics teaching in medical and business schools,
much more I think than there is in philosophy departments. It isnt as clear that the primary location for research
into professional ethics is outside philosophy, but I suspect that it is. And it is easy enough to imagine a world
where that isnt true.

Not too far behind is work on feminism and race theory. There is a pretty nearby world where researchers like
Tommie Shelby have their primary home in philosophy departments. Though thats probably a world where
people actually in philosophy departments rate work on Philosophy of Race as higher than 27th out of 27 fields.

The other idea I have is perhaps a little harder to imagine given the current arrangement of the academy, but I
think with a small tweak at the right point in time it could have happened. Theres currently a lot of work,
primarily in psychology and economics departments, on happiness research. I think a lot of this concerns
questions of long lasting philosophical interest; in particular it connects to important debates about welfare.
Now wed have to rearrange a lot of things to make philosophy departments suitable homes for people like
Daniel Gilbert or Justin Wolfers. But I imagine that had various things happened a little differently at the start of
the 20th century, the idea that contemporary philosophers did this kind of experimental and statistical work
would seem no more surprising than than Descartes and Locke worked on optics and economics.

Still, I feel this is too small, and too idiosyncratic, a list. What else could philosophy have easily incorporated?

Whats Wrong with Contemporary Philosophy?

Kevin Mulligan, Peter Simons and Barry Smith

Preprint version of paper to appear in Topoi, 25 (1-2), 2006, 63-67.


Philosophy in the West divides into three parts:

Analytic Philosophy (AP), Continental Philosophy (CP), and

History of Philosophy (HP). But all three parts are in a bad

way. AP is sceptical about the claim that philosophy can be a

science, and hence is uninterested in the real world. CP is

never pursued in a properly theoretical way, and its practice

is tailor-made for particular political and ethical conclusions.

HP is mostly developed on a regionalist basis: what is studied

is determined by the nation or culture to which a philosopher

belongs, rather than by the objective value of that

philosophers work. Progress in philosophy (Can there be, should there be progress in philosophy?

And what would that mean? What standards will be employed to measure it?) can only be

attained by avoiding these pitfalls.

Philosophy in the West now divides into three parts Analytic Philosophy,

Continental Philosophy and History of Philosophy.

Analytic Philosophy (AP), although it comes in many varieties, has four

striking properties. First, it is cultivated with every appearance of theoretical

rigour. Second, its practitioners do not, by and large, believe that philosophy

is or can be a science, i.e., they do not believe that it can add to the stock of

positive human knowledge. Third, the philosophers who until very recently

were the most influential models in the pursuit of philosophy as a theoretical

enterprise Chisholm, Davidson, Armstrong, Putnam, Kripke, Searle

have no obvious successors. Finally, AP has succeeded in the institutional

task of turning out increasing numbers of highly trained, articulate and

intelligent young philosophers. Each of these properties reflects a relatively

uncontroversial empirical claim.

Continental Philosophy (CP) comes in almost as many varieties as does AP

but is always decidedly anti-theoretical. This is particularly true of those

varieties which sport the name Theory, but it holds in general of all those

CP philosophical traditions in which political goals are more or less pre-

eminent. The heroes of CP Heidegger, Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida also

belong to the past and they, too, have no obvious successors.

The History of Philosophy (HP) is pursued by both analytic philosophers and

their Continental consoeurs. In Continental Europe with the exception of

Scandinavia and Poland philosophy is, in large measure, just the history of

philosophy. In the Anglosaxophone world most philosophers are not

historians of philosophy. The almost total identification of philosophy with its

history in Continental Europe reflects massive scepticism about any

theoretical ambitions on the part of philosophy. These claims are also

uncontroversial, as an examination of the publications of philosophers in

Continental Europe easily shows.

How is it possible for so many analytic philosophers to pursue philosophy in

a more or less rigorous and always theoretical way and yet believe neither

that philosophy can be a science nor that it can add to the stock of positive

human knowledge? Sometimes this combination is due to a conviction that

philosophy can never be other than aporetic (tending

to doubt. The aporetic voice is that which
expresses wonder and perplexity. Word Origin. from a Greek word meaning 'to be at a loss''s 21st Century Lexicon.. Sometimes it is due to the belief

that philosophy can aspire at most to negative results. Sometimes it is due to

the belief that philosophys final goal is not theoretical however much

theory may enter in along the way but practical, for example, therapeutic.

Sometimes it is due to caution; sometimes to self-deception; and sometimes

to the insidious influence of Kant.


Perhaps the most striking illustration of these claims is provided by the fields

of metaphysics and ontology (which, with logic, constitute the heart of

theoretical philosophy.) Although metaphysics and ontology have always been

part of philosophy, and are perhaps more popular within AP today than ever

before, they are still, there, the object of a scepticism which does not apply to

epistemology or even to practical philosophy. The source of this scepticism is

not difficult to locate. If you think that philosophy is or can be a science, then

metaphysics and ontology clearly deserve their traditional central place within

philosophy. If you are sceptical about philosophys scientific ambitions, your

scepticism will be at its strongest in connection with metaphysics and


Suppose we say that ontology is the study of what there might be and

metaphysics of what there is. Then metaphysics is clearly inseparable from

empirical science. But it is thereby also inseparable from an interest in the

real world. Such an interest, it might naturally be assumed, will extend for

example to an interest in the metaphysics of boundaries, such as the

boundaries between death and life or between health and sickness, or to the

metaphysics of quantities and qualities, of powers and of functions, or indeed

to the metaphysics of any one of a number of domains which are today of

theoretical interest in the world outside philosophy.

But this interest in the real world is not, as it happens, a characteristic of

analytic ontology and metaphysics. Consider, for example, the metaphysics of

social objects and of social facts (of money and contracts, wills and

corporations). The questions proper to this part of metaphysics might

reasonably be thought to be of great interest for any philosophy, practical or

theoretical, of political, social and cultural phenomena. But analytic

metaphysics of the social world only begins with the publication by John

Searle in 1995 of The Construction of Social Reality and it has still gone little

further than Searle.

Another example of the lack of interest in the real world in analytic ontology

and metaphysics is provided by the sad story of current work in such fields as

bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and the so-called Semantic Web.

(But there is a craze a fad a fashion about involvement by philosophers in

X-PH, AI and Cognitive Sciences?)

Ontology and metaphysics ought surely to be acknowledged as of great

importance in fields such as these.1 In fact, however, philosophical confusion

is the order of the day, because AP-philosophers with some knowledge of

ontology, manifesting their horror mundi, have shown little interest in

grappling with the problems thrown up by these fields, leaving it instead to

philosophically nave exponents of other disciplines to wreak ontological

havoc. Philosophers, for their part, occupy themselves with in-house puzzles,

ignorant of the damage their neglect is wreaking in the wider world.

And what is true of ontology and metaphysics is true of other parts of AP,

too. In the recent history of analytic philosophy a series of puzzles have been

mooted, flared up as trends, attracted a significant portion of graduate

students, then died down again with no obvious solution having established

itself and the world not much the wiser. These problems include: paradigms,

rules, family resemblance, criteria, gavagai, Gettier, rigid designation,

natural kinds, functionalism, eliminativism, truth-minimalism, narrow vs

wide content, possible worlds, externalism vs internalism, vagueness, four-

dimensionalism, and, just now, presentism.

Although all the issues mentioned are genuinely philosophical ones, they are

pursued, still on the basis of the attitude of horror mundi, among practitioners

of philosophy whose horizon extends little further than the latest issue of

Mind or The Journal of Philosophy. The AP system of professional

1 Gene Ontology already receives two million google hits. [Now six million

(as of September 1, 2000 )

philosophy encourages introspection and relative isolation because

philosophy is not seen as directly relevant to the scientific concerns which

prevail in the wider world. As a result, once the main options have been

explored, which takes between two and ten years, it becomes hard to base a

new career on contributing to the debate, and so interest shifts elsewhere, on

to the next trend. The result is a trail of unresolved problems. The problems

are not unsolvable, nor are they unimportant, but the attempts to solve them

are insufficiently constrained by matters outside philosophy conceived in a

narrow and incestuous way. They are insufficiently constrained, too, by any

attempt to build a synoptic system through sustained, collaborative efforts, in

which philosophical theses about substance, matter, qualities, science,

meaning, value, etc. would hang together in a coherent way.

In positive science results are expected. In analytic philosophy everyone waits

for the next new puzzle. Like the braintwisters holidaymakers take onto the

beach, philosophical puzzles divert from lifes hardships. They doubtless

have their place in a flourishing theoretical culture. But AP is at its core a

culture driven by puzzles, rather than by large-scale, systematic theoretical

goals. Russell recommended stocking up on puzzles from as early as 1905;2

Analysis was founded as a puzzle-solving journal. The quickest way to a

career in the competitive world of modern AP is to pick a puzzle in a trendy

area be it vagueness, modal counterparts, rigid designation, the hard

problem or the elimination of truth and come up with a hitherto

unsuspected twist in the dialectic, earning a few more citations in one or

another of the on-going games of fashionable philosophical ping-pong.

F(a)ntological philosophy triumphs, because elegantly structured possible

worlds are so much more pleasant places to explore than the flesh and blood

reality which surrounds us here on Earth.

There is little doubt that individual philosophers who have no interest in the

real world can occasionally make important contributions to philosophy. But

a philosophical tradition which suffers from the vice of horror mundi in an

endemic way is condemned to futility. It may be, too, that in empirical

science entire research communities can briefly flourish without an interest in

the real world. But that is because, whatever the interests and claims of

scientists, the real world will soon put them to rights if they diverge too far

from reality. Philosophers, on the other hand, cannot confront their ideas with

reality in this same direct way. That is why philosophical traditions can thrive

which are indifferent to the way the real world is.

2 Though he never intended that puzzle-solving should become the whole of



And so in CP, too, metaphysics thrives. Claims about the nature of reality and

being, about possibility and necessity, and about particularity and universality

are flourished ad nauseam by its practitioners. Moreover,

CP metaphysics is inseparable from a genuine interest in the real world.

But this interest is not theoretical. First, CP

metaphysics are invariably tailor-made for particular political and

ethical conclusions. Heideggers 1927 ontology is made for his lugubrious,

supernatural Protestant naturalism. The multiplicities of Deleuze and

Guattari, (and Habermas) in which difference is neither numerical nor qualitative, are made

for their corresponding peculiar brand of soixanthuitard infantile leftism.

Habermas accounts of truth and of value are made for a vision of politics in

which all citizens would be obliged to sit in on the equivalent of a never-

ending Oberseminar on Kant, talking their way to emancipation.

Second, as with all other parts of CP, its metaphysics is never pursued in any

properly theoretical way. Just as, in a good poem, content and form are

inextricably entwined, so too in CP the metaphysics is inseparable from its

idiosyncratic expression (diffrance, Seyn). Finally, CPs interest in the real

world is an interest in the social and political world, never in the physical or

biological world. Only occasionally, when a scientific theory or, more often, a

piece of scientific jargon, resonates with the CP metaphysicians view of (fashionable things and the
lastets crazes)

things does he turn his attention to science (to catastrophe theory, complexity

theory, quantum gravity, Gdels limitation theorems, Risk, environment) in order to play with a

handful of ill-understood expressions.


Consider two very different ways in which the history of philosophy might be

carried out, and in which canons may become established and studied. At one

extreme there is history of philosophy as the history of philosophy in

particular regions, cultures, etc., where the philosophy whose history is being

studied is determined by the nation, language-group, or culture to which the

philosopher in question belongs. At the other extreme there is history of

philosophy as the history of the best of what has been thought, said and

argued, where the philosophy whose history is being studied, and the way in

which it is studied, is determined by the conviction that philosophy can

progress because it has progressed.

How does the way history of philosophy is now done relate to these two

possibilities? Unsurprisingly, the nationalist (regionalist, ...) option is the rule:

the British above all study Locke and Hume, US philosophers study Peirce

and Dewey, the French have their Malebranche and Bergson, the Germans

Fichte and Schelling (Kant and Marx). Of course, all analytic philosophers study Frege, Russell

and Moore and it sometimes seems as though Wittgenstein has everywhere

in the West been elevated into the pantheon of great philosophers. A small

canon of modern philosophers, too, enjoys attention almost everywhere

Hobbes, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant. More importantly, interest in ancient and

medieval philosophy knows no geographical limitations.

Consider the second option. It is now a curiosity, not a live option. Perhaps

the last card-carrying believers in this option were Brentano and some of his

pupils. It is now often felt that to take seriously the second option is to be

unfaithful to the proper task of the historian. Some historians of philosophy in

the analytic tradition have been suspected of following this option, but they

now earn strong disapproval from those historians who insist on raw textual

exegesis and disinterested tracking of influences.

We can summarize this opposition between two kinds of history of

philosophy as an opposition between the study of the philosophy of the past

independently of whether it is good, bad or embarrassing, and the study of

past philosophical discoveries. The latter, especially, requires an awareness of

the distinction between philosophical achievements and blind-alleys. And this

in turn requires a view of philosophy as a theoretical enterprise that can lead

to positive knowledge.

Why does the former (in its various regional guises) prevail ? This is a large

and difficult question. But one prime reason why it prevails in Continental

Europe is that philosophy is not there taken seriously as a theoretical

enterprise. Indeed the near total identification of philosophy with its history

leaves no breathing space for theoretical philosophy and thus no fulcrum on

which to base a non-purely regionalist conception of the history of the

discipline. Instead we have a situation in which widespread familiarity with

Fichtes egology, or with the details of Reinholds Auseinandersetzungen

with Kant, or with ontological difference la Heidegger, co-exist with almost

complete ignorance of, say, Bolzanos account of the difference between

logical consequence and explanation.

In the AP world, in contrast, the history of philosophy is an uneasy mlange

of the two main options. APs history of philosophy is, to be sure, focused

always on topics of the familiar and reassuring logic, mind and language sort.

But it is at the same time strikingly indifferent to the history of just those

ideas which have there proved most fertile. Thus the enormous commentary

literature on Wittgenstein pays almost no attention to the Austro-German

context of his main ideas. Anton Martys anticipations of Grices account of

meaning are unknown. So too are the anticipations by Adolf Reinach of the

theories of speech acts developed by Austin and Searle.

CPs lack of interest in philosophy as a theoretical enterprise emerges most

clearly in its relations to the phenomenological movement. Heidegger, Sartre,

Derrida, and many other prominent CP thinkers grew out of

phenomenology. At the same time, CP rejects the vision of philosophy as a

theoretical enterprise that was embraced by Husserl and the other great

founders of phenomenology yet without making any attempt to justify this

rejection. Phenomenology has, in fact, served CP well as a hydra-headed

pretext Marxist phenomenology, feminist phenomenology, hermeneutics,

Derridas foaming defilements of what he calls phallologocentrism but in

all these cases the aspirations of the founders of phenomenology to uncover

truth have been made subservient to a non-theoretical agenda, whether

political or socio-cultural, and in Derridas case to an agenda that is

shamelessly anti-theoretical.

Moreover, in spite of the dominance of phenomenology in CP philosophizing,

CPs own history of philosophy is strikingly ignorant of the history of

phenomenology itself. The loving attention lavished on manuscripts by

Heidegger or Fink coexists with complete ignorance of the writings of truly

important phenomenologists such as Reinach, Ingarden or Scheler.

In Europe, CP has triumphed institutionally and culturally even though, and

indeed in part because, it has never won any theoretical battles, flourishing

best in the feuilleton. In certain philosophy departments in North America,

too, CP is slowly moving towards hegemony, aping the successes of CP-

related anti-theoretical movements in US departments of sociology, literature,

cultural studies, geography, anthropology, archaeology, and so forth. In the

leading philosophy departments in the Anglosaxon world however, AP still

holds its place, though it has something of the flavour of a self-perpetuating

academic business, frequently proud of its lack of relevance to real-world

concerns. HP on the other hand has almost everywhere collapsed into

nationalist or regionalist hagiography.

The major parts of twentieth century philosophy thus end in defeat. The tried

and tested traditional reaction to defeat is to rally round the flag. What

Russell said almost a hundred years ago is, as ever, timely:

There have been far too many heroic solutions in philosophy; detailed

work has too often been neglected; there has been too little patience. As

was once the case in physics, a hypothesis is invented, and on top of

this hypothesis a bizarre world is constructed, there is no effort to

compare this world with the real world. The true method, in philosophy

as in science, will be inductive, meticulous, and will not believe that it

is the duty of every philosopher to solve every problem by himself.

This is the method that inspires analytic realism and it is the only

method, if I am not mistaken, by which philosophy will succeed in

obtaining results which are as solid as those of science (Russell 1911

61, our emphases)

The honest pioneering spirit of the early and constructive phase of AP had its

close parallels also in the early phenomenologists, so much so that a century

ago there existed no gulf between them. And it is precisely this spirit that

must be rekindled. Philosophers should learn and practise their analytical

skills. They should prize the theoretical virtues of consistency, analytic

clarity, explanatory adequacy, and constrained simplicity, be aware of the

historical depth and pitfalls of the ideas they are manipulating; and be wary of

the assumption that everything new is better. They should trust to common

sense, avoid bullshit, and beware celebrity. But above all they should lift their

heads above philosophy: study and respect good science and good practice,

and try to understand its implications. Like scientists, they should cooperate

with one another other and with other disciplines, and seek funding for

cooperative research, aiming at theoretical comprehensiveness, using topic-

neutral skills and knowledge to bridge compartments in knowledge. They

should learn how to present ideas clearly to all kinds of audiences, and not

just to fellow afficionados of the fake barn. Above all, philosophers should be

humble, in the face of the manifest complexity of the world, the acumen of

their philosophical predecessors and non-philosophical contemporaries, and

their own fallibility. But with this humility they should be unwaveringly

resolved to discover, however complex, frustrating and unlovely it may be,

the truth. Reference

Russell, B. 1911. Le ralisme analytique, Bulletin de la socit franaise de

philosophie, 11, 53-61.



Theorizing and abductive/guessing reasoning

Please read this article on Peirce as an introduction to philosophizing , nay

theorizing. I wish to emphasize again the importance of the entire process of
theorizing its many steps and stages, features and characteristics. I have dealt
with these things in previous articles here
Abductive reasoning plays a crucial part at meant stages of the process/es of
theorizing. So, in case you are not informed about it, please read the following on
Theory of inquiry
See also: Inquiry
Critical common-sensism
Critical common-sensism,[147] treated by Peirce as a consequence of his pragmatism, is his
combination of Thomas Reid's common-sense philosophy with a fallibilism that recognizes
that propositions of our more or less vague common sense now indubitable may later come
into question, for example because of transformations of our world through science. It
includes efforts to work up in tests genuine doubts for a core group of common indubitables
that vary slowly if at all.

Rival methods of inquiry
In The Fixation of Belief (1877), Peirce described inquiry in general not as the pursuit of
truth per se but as the struggle to move from irritating, inhibitory doubt born of surprise,
disagreement, and the like, and to reach a secure belief, belief being that on which one is
prepared to act. That let Peirce frame scientific inquiry as part of a broader spectrum and as
spurred, like inquiry generally, by actual doubt, not mere verbal, quarrelsome, or hyperbolic
doubt, which he held to be fruitless. Peirce sketched four methods of settling opinion,
ordered from least to most successful:

1. The method of tenacity (policy of sticking to initial belief) which brings

comforts and decisiveness but leads to trying to ignore contrary
information and others' views as if truth were intrinsically private, not
public. The method goes against the social impulse and easily falters since
one may well notice when another's opinion seems as good as one's own
initial opinion. Its successes can be brilliant but tend to be transitory.

2. The method of authority which overcomes disagreements but

sometimes brutally. Its successes can be majestic and long-lasting, but it
cannot regulate people thoroughly enough to withstand doubts
indefinitely, especially when people learn about other societies present
and past.

3. The method of the a priori which promotes conformity less brutally but
fosters opinions as something like tastes, arising in conversation and
comparisons of perspectives in terms of "what is agreeable to reason."
Thereby it depends on fashion in paradigms and goes in circles over time.
It is more intellectual and respectable but, like the first two methods,
sustains accidental and capricious beliefs, destining some minds to doubt

4. The method of science wherein inquiry supposes that the real is

discoverable but independent of particular opinion, such that, unlike in the
other methods, inquiry can, by its own account, go wrong (fallibilism), not
only right, and thus purposely tests itself and criticizes, corrects, and
improves itself.

Peirce held that, in practical affairs, slow and stumbling ratiocination is often dangerously
inferior to instinct and traditional sentiment, and that the scientific method is best suited to
theoretical research,[148] which in turn should not be trammeled by the other methods and
practical ends; reason's "first rule"[114] is that, in order to learn, one must desire to learn and, as
a corollary, must not block the way of inquiry. Scientific method excels over the others
finally by being deliberately designed to arrive eventually at the most secure beliefs,
upon which the most successful practices can be based. Starting from the idea that people
seek not truth per se but instead to subdue irritating, inhibitory doubt, Peirce showed how,
through the struggle, some can come to submit to truth for the sake of belief's integrity, seek
as truth the guidance of potential conduct correctly to its given goal, and wed themselves to
the scientific method.

Scientific method
Insofar as clarification by pragmatic reflection suits explanatory hypotheses and fosters
predictions and testing, pragmatism points beyond the usual duo of foundational alternatives:
deduction from self-evident truths, or rationalism; and induction from experiential
phenomena, or empiricism.

Based on his critique of three modes of argument and different from either foundationalism
or coherentism, Peirce's approach seeks to justify claims by a three-phase dynamic of inquiry:

1. Active, abductive genesis of theory, with no prior assurance of truth;

2. Deductive application of the contingent theory so as to clarify its practical


3. Inductive testing and evaluation of the utility of the provisional theory in

anticipation of future experience, in both senses: prediction and control.

Thereby, Peirce devised an approach to inquiry far more solid than the flatter image of
inductive generalization simpliciter, which is a mere re-labeling of phenomenological
patterns. Peirce's pragmatism was the first time the scientific method was proposed as an
epistemology for philosophical questions.

A theory that succeeds better than its rivals in predicting and controlling our world is said to
be nearer the truth. This is an operational notion of truth used by scientists.

Peirce extracted the pragmatic model or theory of inquiry from its raw materials in classical
logic and refined it in parallel with the early development of symbolic logic to address
problems about the nature of scientific reasoning.

Abduction, deduction, and induction make incomplete sense in isolation from one another but
comprise a cycle understandable as a whole insofar as they collaborate toward the common
end of inquiry. In the pragmatic way of thinking about conceivable practical implications,
everything has a purpose, and, as possible, its purpose should first be denoted. Abduction
hypothesizes an explanation for deduction to clarify into implications to be tested so that
induction can evaluate the hypothesis, in the struggle to move from troublesome uncertainty
to more secure belief. No matter how traditional and needful it is to study the modes of
inference in abstraction from one another, the integrity of inquiry strongly limits the effective
modularity of its principal components.

Peirce's outline of the scientific method in IIIIV of "A Neglected Argument"[149] is

summarized below (except as otherwise noted). There he also reviewed plausibility and
inductive precision (issues of critique of arguments).

1. Abductive (or retroductive) phase. Guessing, inference to explanatory hypotheses for

selection of those best worth trying. From abduction, Peirce distinguishes induction as
inferring, on the basis of tests, the proportion of truth in the hypothesis. Every inquiry,
whether into ideas, brute facts, or norms and laws, arises from surprising observations in one
or more of those realms (and for example at any stage of an inquiry already underway). All

explanatory content of theories comes from abduction, which guesses a new or outside idea
so as to account in a simple, economical way for a surprising or complicated phenomenon.
The modicum of success in our guesses far exceeds that of random luck, and seems born of
attunement to nature by developed or inherent instincts, especially insofar as best guesses are
optimally plausible and simple in the sense of the "facile and natural", as by Galileo's natural
light of reason and as distinct from "logical simplicity".[150] Abduction is the most fertile but
least secure mode of inference. Its general rationale is inductive: it succeeds often enough and
it has no substitute in expediting us toward new truths.[151] In 1903, Peirce called pragmatism
"the logic of abduction".[152] Coordinative method leads from abducting a plausible hypothesis
to judging it for its testability[153] and for how its trial would economize inquiry itself.[154] The
hypothesis, being insecure, needs to have practical implications leading at least to mental
tests and, in science, lending themselves to scientific tests. A simple but unlikely guess, if not
costly to test for falsity, may belong first in line for testing. A guess is intrinsically worth
testing if it has plausibility or reasonably objective probability, while subjective likelihood,
though reasoned, can be misleadingly seductive. Guesses can be selected for trial
strategically, for their caution (for which Peirce gave as example the game of Twenty
Questions), breadth, or incomplexity.[155] One can discover only that which would be revealed
through their sufficient experience anyway, and so the point is to expedite it; economy of
research demands the leap, so to speak, of abduction and governs its art.[154]

2. Deductive phase. Two stages:

i. Explication. Not clearly premised, but a deductive analysis of the

hypothesis so as to render its parts as clear as possible.
ii. Demonstration: Deductive Argumentation, Euclidean in procedure.
Explicit deduction of consequences of the hypothesis as predictions about
evidence to be found. Corollarial or, if needed, Theorematic.

3. Inductive phase. Evaluation of the hypothesis, inferring from observational or

experimental tests of its deduced consequences. The long-run validity of the rule of induction
is deducible from the principle (presuppositional to reasoning in general) that the real "is only
the object of the final opinion to which sufficient investigation would lead";[143] in other
words, anything excluding such a process would never be real. Induction involving the
ongoing accumulation of evidence follows "a method which, sufficiently persisted in," will
"diminish the error below any predesignate degree." Three stages:

i. Classification. Not clearly premised, but an inductive classing of objects

of experience under general ideas.
ii. Probation: direct Inductive Argumentation. Crude or Gradual in
procedure. Crude Induction, founded on experience in one mass (CP
2.759), presumes that future experience on a question will not differ
utterly from all past experience (CP 2.756). Gradual Induction makes a
new estimate of the proportion of truth in the hypothesis after each test,
and is Qualitative or Quantitative. Qualitative Gradual Induction depends
on estimating the relative evident weights of the various qualities of the
subject class under investigation (CP 2.759; see also CP 7.11420).
Quantitative Gradual Induction depends on how often, in a fair sample of

instances of S, S is found actually accompanied by P that was predicted for
S (CP 2.758). It depends on measurements, or statistics, or counting.
iii. Sentential Induction. "...which, by Inductive reasonings, appraises the
different Probations singly, then their combinations, then makes self-
appraisal of these very appraisals themselves, and passes final judgment
on the whole result".
Against Cartesianism
Peirce drew on the methodological implications of the four incapacities no genuine
introspection, no intuition in the sense of non-inferential cognition, no thought but in signs,
and no conception of the absolutely incognizable to attack philosophical Cartesianism, of
which he said that:[121]

1. "It teaches that philosophy must begin in universal doubt" when, instead, we start with
preconceptions, "prejudices [...] which it does not occur to us can be questioned", though
we may find reason to question them later. "Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what
we do not doubt in our hearts."

2. "It teaches that the ultimate test of certainty the individual consciousness" when,
instead, in science a theory stays on probation till agreement is reached, then it has no
actual doubters left. No lone individual can reasonably hope to fulfill philosophy's multi-
generational dream. When "candid and disciplined minds" continue to disagree on a
theoretical issue, even the theory's author should feel doubts about it.

3. It trusts to "a single thread of inference depending often upon inconspicuous premisses"
when, instead, philosophy should, "like the successful sciences", proceed only from
tangible, scrutinizable premisses and trust not to any one argument but instead to "the
multitude and variety of its arguments" as forming, not a chain at least as weak as its
weakest link, but "a cable whose fibers", soever "slender, are sufficiently numerous and
intimately connected".

4. It renders many facts "absolutely inexplicable, unless to say that 'God makes them so' is to
be regarded as an explanation"[156] when, instead, philosophy should avoid being
"unidealistic",[157] misbelieving that something real can defy or evade all possible ideas,
and supposing, inevitably, "some absolutely inexplicable, unanalyzable ultimate", which
explanatory surmise explains nothing and so is inadmissible.

Peirce divided metaphysics into (1) ontology or general metaphysics, (2) psychical or
religious metaphysics, and (3) physical metaphysics.

Peirce outlined two fields, "Cenoscopy" and "Science of Review", both of which he called
philosophy. Both included philosophy about science. In 1903 he arranged them, from more to
less theoretically basic, thus:[102]

1. Science of Discovery.

1. Mathematics.

2. Cenoscopy (philosophy as discussed earlier in this article
categorial, normative, metaphysical), as First Philosophy,
concerns positive phenomena in general, does not rely on
findings from special sciences, and includes the general
study of inquiry and scientific method.

3. Idioscopy, or the Special Sciences (of nature and mind).

2. Science of Review, as Ultimate Philosophy, arranges "...the results of

discovery, beginning with digests, and going on to endeavor to form a
philosophy of science". His examples included Humboldt's Cosmos,
Comte's Philosophie positive, and Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy.

3. Practical Science, or the Arts.

Peirce placed, within Science of Review, the work and theory of classifying the sciences
(including mathematics and philosophy). His classifications, on which he worked for many
years, draw on argument and wide knowledge, and are of interest both as a map for
navigating his philosophy and as an accomplished polymath's survey of research in his time.

Hanson's best-known work is Patterns of Discovery (1958), in which he argues that what we
see and perceive is not what our senses receive, but is instead filtered sensory information,
where the filter is our existing preconceptions a concept later called a 'thematic
framework.' He cited optical illusions such as the famous old Parisienne woman (Patterns of
Discovery, p. 11), which can be seen in different ways. Hanson drew a distinction between
'seeing as' and 'seeing that' which became a key idea in evolving theories of perception and
meaning. He wanted to formulate a logic explaining how scientific discoveries take place. He
used Charles Sanders Peirce's notion of abduction for this.[1]

The philosophical issues involved were important elements in Hanson's views of perception
and epistemology. He was intrigued by paradoxes, and with the related concepts of
uncertainty, undecidability/unprovability, and incompleteness; he sought models of cognition
that could embrace these elements, rather than simply explain them away.

Abductive reasoning (also called abduction,[1] abductive inference[2] or retroduction[3]) is

a form of logical inference which goes from an observation to a theory which accounts for the
observation, ideally seeking to find the simplest and most likely explanation. In abductive
reasoning, unlike in deductive reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion. One
can understand abductive reasoning as "inference to the best explanation".[4]

In the 1990s, as computing power grew, the fields of law,[5] computer science, and artificial
intelligence research[6] spurred renewed interest in the subject of abduction.[7] Diagnostic
expert systems frequently employ abduction.

1 History

2 Deduction, induction, and abduction

o 2.1 Deductive reasoning (deduction)

o 2.2 Inductive reasoning (induction)

o 2.3 Abductive reasoning (abduction)

3 Formalizations of abduction

o 3.1 Logic-based abduction

o 3.2 Set-cover abduction

o 3.3 Abductive validation

o 3.4 Probabilistic abduction

o 3.5 Subjective logic abduction

4 History

Peirce consistently characterized it as the kind of inference that originates a hypothesis by

concluding in an explanation, though an unassured one, for some very curious or surprising
(anomalous) observation stated in a premise. As early as 1865 he wrote that all conceptions of
cause and force are reached through hypothetical inference; in the 1900s he wrote that all
explanatory content of theories is reached through abduction. In other respects Peirce revised
his view of abduction over the years.[18]

In later years his view came to be:

Abduction is guessing.[8] It is "very little hampered" by rules of logic. [9]

Even a well-prepared mind's individual guesses are more frequently wrong
than right.[19] But the success of our guesses far exceeds that of random
luck and seems born of attunement to nature by instinct [20] (some speak of
intuition in such contexts[21]).

Abduction guesses a new or outside idea so as to account in a plausible,

instinctive, economical way for a surprising or very complicated
phenomenon. That is its proximate aim. [20]

Its longer aim is to economize inquiry itself. Its rationale is inductive: it

works often enough, is the only source of new ideas, and has no substitute
in expediting the discovery of new truths. [22] Its rationale especially
involves its role in coordination with other modes of inference in inquiry. It
is inference to explanatory hypotheses for selection of those best worth

Pragmatism is the logic of abduction. Upon the generation of an
explanation (which he came to regard as instinctively guided), the
pragmatic maxim gives the necessary and sufficient logical rule to
abduction in general. The hypothesis, being insecure, needs to have
conceivable[23] implications for informed practice, so as to be testable [24][25]
and, through its trials, to expedite and economize inquiry. The economy of
research is what calls for abduction and governs its art. [11]

Writing in 1910, Peirce admits that "in almost everything I printed before the beginning of
this century I more or less mixed up hypothesis and induction" and he traces the confusion of
these two types of reasoning to logicians' too "narrow and formalistic a conception of
inference, as necessarily having formulated judgments from its premises."[2

o 4.1 1867

o 4.2 1878

o 4.3 1883

o 4.4 1902 and after

o 4.5 Pragmatism

o 4.6 Three levels of logic about abduction

Peirce came over the years to divide (philosophical) logic into three departments:

1. Stechiology, or speculative grammar, on the conditions for

meaningfulness. Classification of signs (semblances, symptoms, symbols,
etc.) and their combinations (as well as their objects and interpretants).

2. Logical critic, or logic proper, on validity or justifiability of inference, the

conditions for true representation. Critique of arguments in their various
modes (deduction, induction, abduction).

3. Methodeutic, or speculative rhetoric, on the conditions for determination

of interpretations. Methodology of inquiry in its interplay of modes.

Peirce had, from the start, seen the modes of inference as being coordinated together in
scientific inquiry and, by the 1900s, held that hypothetical inference in particular is
inadequately treated at the level of critique of arguments.[24][25] To increase the assurance of a
hypothetical conclusion, one needs to deduce implications about evidence to be found,
predictions which induction can test through observation so as to evaluate the hypothesis.
That is Peirce's outline of the scientific method of inquiry, as covered in his inquiry
methodology, which includes pragmatism or, as he later called it, pragmaticism, the
clarification of ideas in terms of their conceivable implications regarding informed practice.

4.6.1 Classification of signs

4.6.2 Critique of arguments

4.6.3 Methodology of inquiry

At the methodeutical level Peirce held that a hypothesis is judged and selected[24] for testing
because it offers, via its trial, to expedite and economize the inquiry process itself toward new
truths, first of all by being testable and also by further economies,[11] in terms of cost, value,
and relationships among guesses (hypotheses). Here, considerations such as probability,
absent from the treatment of abduction at the critical level, come into play. For examples:

Cost: A simple but low-odds guess, if low in cost to test for falsity, may
belong first in line for testing, to get it out of the way. If surprisingly it
stands up to tests, that is worth knowing early in the inquiry, which
otherwise might have stayed long on a wrong though seemingly likelier

Value: A guess is intrinsically worth testing if it has instinctual plausibility

or reasoned objective probability, while subjective likelihood, though
reasoned, can be treacherous.

Interrelationships: Guesses can be chosen for trial strategically for their

o caution, for which Peirce gave as example the game of Twenty


o breadth of applicability to explain various phenomena, and

o incomplexity, that of a hypothesis that seems too simple but whose

trial "may give a good 'leave,' as the billiard-players say", and be
instructive for the pursuit of various and conflicting hypotheses that
are less simple.[42]

o 4.7 Other writers

5 Applications

o 5.1 Artificial intelligence

o 5.2 Medicine

o 5.3 Automated planning

o 5.4 Intelligence analysis

o 5.5 Belief revision

o 5.6 Philosophy of science

o 5.7 Historical linguistics

o 5.8 Anthropology

6 See also

7 References

8 Notes

9 External links


Informally, two kinds of logical reasoning can be distinguished in addition to formal

deduction: induction and abduction. Given a precondition or premise, a conclusion or logical
consequence and a rule or material conditional that implies the conclusion given the
precondition, one can explain that:

Deductive reasoning determines whether the truth of a conclusion can

be determined for that rule, based solely on the truth of the premises.
Example: "When it rains, things outside get wet. The grass is outside,
therefore: when it rains, the grass gets wet." Mathematical logic and
philosophical logic are commonly associated with this type of reasoning.

Inductive reasoning attempts to support a determination of the rule. It

hypothesizes a rule after numerous examples are taken to be a conclusion
that follows from a precondition in terms of such a rule. Example: "The
grass got wet numerous times when it rained, therefore: the grass always
gets wet when it rains." While they may be persuasive, these arguments
are not deductively valid, see the problem of induction. Science is
associated with this type of reasoning.

Inductive-creative reasoning this term has been coined by D. Iosif to

combine the specificity of the observation set from the inductive arena
and the creativity (and intuition) element from the abductive arena
therefore providing a cogent view of the future. This methodology will
result in grounded creative thinking and can be used in strategy planning
to generate future as-yet unobserved phenomena. One example would be:
"we observed a large number of white swans on all continents and
hypothesize that we need to protect by law all swans that are white but
also black (in existence but unobserved) and red (possibly to be re-
engineered in a distant future)". While inductive reasoning cannot yield an
absolutely certain conclusion, it can actually increase human knowledge (it
is ampliative).

Abductive reasoning, aka inference to the best explanation, selects a

cogent set of preconditions. Given a true conclusion and a rule, it attempts
to select some possible premises that, if true also, can support the
conclusion, though not uniquely. Example: "When it rains, the grass gets

wet. The grass is wet. Therefore, it might have rained." This kind of
reasoning can be used to develop a hypothesis, which in turn can be
tested by additional reasoning or data. Diagnosticians, detectives, and
scientists often use this type of reasoning.

First published Wed Mar 9, 2011

Abduction or, as it is also often called, Inference to the Best Explanation is a type of
inference that assigns special status to explanatory considerations. Most philosophers agree
that this type of inference is frequently employed, in some form or other, both in everyday
and in scientific reasoning. However, the exact form as well as the normative status of
abduction are still matters of controversy. This entry contrasts abduction with other types of
inference; points at prominent uses of it, both in and outside philosophy; considers various
more or less precise statements of it; discusses its normative status; and highlights possible
connections between abduction and Bayesian confirmation theory.

1. Abduction: The General Idea

o 1.1 Deduction, induction, abduction

o 1.2 The ubiquity of abduction

2. Explicating Abduction

3. The Status of Abduction

o 3.1 Criticisms

o 3.2 Defenses

4. Abduction versus Bayesian Confirmation Theory


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Related Entries

1. Abduction: The General Idea

You happen to know that Tim and Harry have recently had a terrible row that ended their
friendship. Now someone tells you that she just saw Tim and Harry jogging together. The
best explanation for this that you can think of is that they made up. You conclude that they are
friends again.

One morning you enter the kitchen to find a plate and cup on the table, with breadcrumbs and
a pat of butter on it, and surrounded by a jar of jam, a pack of sugar, and an empty carton of
milk. You conclude that one of your house-mates got up at night to make him- or herself a
midnight snack and was too tired to clear the table. This, you think, best explains the scene
you are facing. To be sure, it might be that someone burgled the house and took the time to
have a bite while on the job, or a house-mate might have arranged the things on the table
without having a midnight snack but just to make you believe that someone had a midnight
snack. But these hypotheses strike you as providing much more contrived explanations of the
data than the one you infer to.

Walking along the beach, you see what looks like a picture of Winston Churchill in the sand.
It could be that, as in the opening pages of Hilary Putnam's (1981), what you see is actually
the trace of an ant crawling on the beach. The much simpler, and therefore (you think) much
better, explanation is that someone intentionally drew a picture of Churchill in the sand. That,
in any case, is what you come away believing.

In these examples, the conclusions do not follow logically from the premises. For instance, it
does not follow logically that Tim and Harry are friends again from the premises that they
had a terrible row which ended their friendship and that they have just been seen jogging
together; it does not even follow, we may suppose, from all the information you have about
Tim and Harry. Nor do you have any useful statistical data about friendships, terrible rows,
and joggers that might warrant an inference from the information that you have about Tim
and Harry to the conclusion that they are friends again, or even to the conclusion that,
probably (or with a certain probability), they are friends again. What leads you to the
conclusion, and what according to a considerable number of philosophers may also warrant
this conclusion, is precisely the fact that Tim and Harry's being friends again would, if true,
best explain the fact that they have just been seen jogging together. (The proviso that a
hypothesis be true if it is to explain anything is taken as read from here on.) Similar remarks
apply to the other two examples. The type of inference exhibited here is called abduction or,
somewhat more commonly nowadays, Inference to the Best Explanation.


As conclusion, please read my articles on the process of theorizing. And pay special attention
to the few steps and characteristics mentioned by Weick Pay special attention to the first

It deals with brain storming or brain dumping as one collects the data to be investigated. The
development of problem statements by means of that data. Dealing with these problem

statements in different ways. For example the analysis of the concepts or terms being
employed. The identification of implicit assumptions and tacit pre-suppositions being made.
The development and testing of conjectures concerning the problem statements. Working
ones way through all the stapes and stages of the processes of theorizing. One will frequently
return to earlier stages, being informed about and aware of all sorts of issues and problems.

When one finally begins to draw conclusions with the assistance of tools such as abductive
reasoning as suggested by Pierce one would personally have acquired experience about many
of the different steps, stages, levels, dimensions and features of the processes of theorizing. In
this manner one will be able to refine ones theorizing skills.

I add as an appendix a paper from a Conference on the Possibility of Philosophy as a science.

By adding that paper or any other articles it does not mean that I support or reject any of the
ideas stated in them. My main aim is merely to inform about these thoughts in an attempt to
encourage interest in and an awareness of the need to take notice of the processes of
theorizing, by all students, and especially students of philosophy as the doing of philosophy
or philosophizing, appears to resemble many characteristics and stages of the processes of
theorizing. In so far that the latter might well replace the doing of philosophy?

Theory Construction as Disciplined Imagination
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4. The Methodology of Metaphysics

Is there a unified methodology for metaphysics more broadly understood? Some think the
task of the metaphysician is to identify and argue for explanatory relations of various kinds.
According to Fine (2001), metaphysicians are in the business of providing theories of which
facts or propositions ground other facts or propositions, and which facts or propositions hold
in reality. For example, a philosopher might hold that tables and other composite objects
exist, but think that facts about tables are completely grounded in facts about the
arrangements of point particles or facts about the state of a wave function. This
metaphysician would hold that there are no facts about tables in reality; rather, there are
facts about arrangements of particles. Schaffer 2010 proposes a similar view, but holds that
metaphysical grounding relations hold not between facts but between entities. According to
Schaffer, the fundamental entity/entities should be understood as the entity/entities that
grounds/ground all others. On Schaffer's conception we can meaningfully ask whether a table
is grounded in its parts or vice versa. We can even theorize (as Schaffer does) that the world
as a whole is the ultimate ground for everything.

Another noteworthy approach (Sider 2012) holds that the task of the metaphysician is to
explain the world in terms of its fundamental structure. For Sider, what unites (good)
metaphysics as a discipline is that its theories are all framed in terms that pick out the
fundamental structure of the world. For example, according to Sider we may understand
causal nihilism as the view that causal relations do not feature in the fundamental structure
of the world, and so the best language for describing the world will eschew causal predicates.

5. Is Metaphysics Possible?
It may also be that there is no internal unity to metaphysics. More strongly, perhaps there is
no such thing as metaphysicsor at least nothing that deserves to be called a science or a
study or a discipline. Perhaps, as some philosophers have proposed, no metaphysical
statement or theory is either true or false. Or perhaps, as others have proposed, metaphysical
theories have truth-values, but it is impossible to find out what they are. At least since the
time of Hume, there have been philosophers who have proposed that metaphysics is
impossibleeither because its questions are meaningless or because they are impossible to
answer. The remainder of this entry will be a discussion of some recent arguments for the
impossibility of metaphysics.

Let us suppose that we are confident that we are able to identify every statement as either a
metaphysical statement or not a metaphysical statement. (We need not suppose that this
ability is grounded in some non-trivial definition or account of metaphysics.) Let us call the
thesis that all metaphysical statements are meaningless the strong form of the thesis that
metaphysics is impossible. (At one time, an enemy of metaphysics might have been content
to say that all metaphysical statements were false. But this is obviously not a possible thesis if
the denial of a metaphysical statement must itself be a metaphysical statement) And let us call
the following statement the weak form of the thesis that metaphysics is impossible:
metaphysical statements are meaningful, but human beings can never discover whether any
metaphysical statement is true or false (or probable or improbable or warranted or

Let us briefly examine an example of the strong form of the thesis that metaphysics is
impossible. The logical positivists maintained that the meaning of a (non-analytic) statement
consisted entirely in the predictions it made about possible experience. They maintained,
further, that metaphysical statements (which were obviously not put forward as analytic
truths) made no predictions about experience. Therefore, they concluded, metaphysical
statements are meaninglessor, better, the statements we classify as metaphysical are not
really statements at all: they are things that look like statements but aren't, rather as
mannequins are things that look like human beings but aren't.

But (many philosophers asked) how does the logical positivist's central thesis

The meaning of a statement consists entirely in the predictions it makes about possible
experience fare by its own standards? Does this thesis make any predictions about possible
experiences? Could some observation show that it was true? Could some experiment show
that it was false? It would seem not. It would seem that everything in the world would look
the samelike thiswhether this thesis was true or false. (Will the positivist reply that the
offset sentence is analytic? This reply is problematic in that it implies that the multitude of
native speakers of English who reject the logical positivists' account of meaning somehow
cannot see that that sentence is true in virtue of the meaning of the word meaningwhich
is no technical term but a word of ordinary English.) And, therefore, if the statement is true it
is meaningless; or, what is the same thing, if it is meaningful, it is false. Logical positivism
would therefore seem to say of itself that it is false or meaningless; it would be seem to be, to
use a currently fashionable phrase, self-referentially incoherent.

Current advocates of metaphysical anti-realism also advocate a strong form of the thesis that
metaphysics is impossible. Insofar as it is possible to find a coherent line of argument in the
writings of any anti-realist, it is hard to see why they, like the logical positivists, are not open
to a charge of self-referential incoherency. Indeed, there is much to be said for the conclusion
that all forms of the strong thesis fall prey to self-referential incoherency. Put very abstractly,
the case against proponents of the strong thesis may be put like this. Dr. McZed, a strong
anti-metaphysician, contends that any piece of text that does not pass some test she specifies
is meaningless (if she is typical of strong anti-metaphysicians, she will say that any text that
fails the test represents an attempt to use language in a way in which language cannot be
used). And she contends further that any piece of text that can plausibly be identified as
metaphysical must fail this test. But it invariably turns out that various sentences that are
essential components of McZed's case against metaphysics themselves fail to pass her test. A
test-case for this very schematic and abstract refutation of all refutations of metaphysics is the
very sophisticated and subtle critique of metaphysics (it purports to apply only to the kind of

metaphysics exemplified by the seventeenth-century rationalists and current analytical
metaphysics) presented in van Fraassen 2002. It is a defensible position that van Fraassen's
case against metaphysics depends essentially on certain theses that, although they are not
themselves metaphysical theses, are nevertheless open to many of the criticisms he brings
against metaphysical theses.

The weak form of the thesis that metaphysics is impossible is this: there is something about
the human mind (perhaps even the minds of all rational agents or all finite rational agents)
that unfits it for reaching metaphysical conclusions in any reliable way. This idea is at least as
old as Kant, but a version of it that is much more modest than Kant's (and much easier to
understand) has been carefully presented in McGinn 1993. McGinn's argument for the
conclusion that the human mind is (as a matter of evolutionary contingency, and not simply
because it is a mind) incapable of a satisfactory treatment of a large range of philosophical
questions (a range that includes all metaphysical questions), however, depends on speculative
factual theses about human cognitive capacities that are in principle subject to empirical
refutation and which are at present without significant empirical support. For a different
defense of the weak thesis, see Thomasson 2009.

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Kripke, Saul, 1972, Naming and Necessity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University

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Lewis, David, 1973, Causation, Journal of Philosophy, 70: 55667.

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Lowe, E. J., 2006, The Four-Category Ontology: A Metaphysical Foundation for
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Paul, L.A. and Ned Hall, 2013, Causation: A User's Guide, Oxford: Oxford
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Prior, A.N., 1998, The Notion of the Present, in Metaphysics: The Big Questions,
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, 1953, Reference and Modality, in Quine 1961: 139159.

, 1960, Word and Object, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Review, 119. 3176.

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Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology, David J. Chalmers,
David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thomson, Judith Jarvis, 1998, The Statue and Clay, Nos, 32: 149173

Van Fraassen, Bas C., 2002, The Empirical Stance, New Haven, CT: Yale University

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(Reissued in paperback 2008. Published in French translation 2011 as Fiction et

"What can we do, when we do Metaphysics?", forthcoming in Giuseppina d'Oro and Soren
Overgaard, eds. Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

What can we do, when we do metaphysics?

Amie L. Thomasson

What are we doing, when we do metaphysics? A tempting answer

popular among contemporary metaphysiciansis to think of metaphysics as
engaged in discovering especially deep or fundamental facts about the world.
But there are familiar and formidable problems for this heavyweight conception
of metaphysics. First, it leaves the epistemology of metaphysics unclear: by what
methods are we supposed to be able to discover these deep or fundamental
features of reality? Second, it leaves metaphysics in danger of falling prey to a
rivalry with sciencefor isnt it the purview of physics to discover the deep and
fundamental facts about reality, and doesnt it do so better than metaphysics?
Third, the radical and persistent disagreements that have characterized
metaphysics for millennia lead to skepticism about whether metaphysicians are

really succeeding in discovering such factswhich might encourage some to
abandon metaphysics altogether.
In the face of these difficulties, deflationary positions about metaphysics
have become increasingly prominent. The deflationist is suspicious of the
thought that metaphysicians are like scientists in discovering deep facts about
the world and its nature. The deflationist also takes a more cautious view of the
methods available to metaphysics, typically limiting what we can sensibly do in
metaphysics to some combination of conceptual and empirical workwith the
metaphysicians share of the work being largely a matter of conceptual analysis.
But the idea that the core work of metaphysics is conceptual analysis makes it
difficult to account for the felt depth, importance, and world-orientation of
debates in metaphysics. Indeed many have thought that this leaves metaphysics
nothing of interest to do.
I think this is too hasty, however. Here I aim to sketch a broader
conceptualist model, on which metaphysics may undertake not merely
descriptive but also normative conceptual work. This broader model, I will argue,
enables us to preserveand in some cases improve onthe advantages of the
descriptive conceptualist approach in avoiding epistemic mysteries and rivalry
with science. But it also enables us to give a more satisfying view than
descriptive conceptual analysis can of what we can do when we do metaphysics:
a view that does far better at explaining the radical disagreement that persists in
metaphysics, and gives a much more satisfying account of the apparent world-
orientation, depth, and potential importance of work in metaphysics. Yet it does
so without sacrificing the demystifying advantages of deflationism.

Experimental Philosophy and the Methods of Ontology, Monist. 95/2. (April 2012):

"Research Problems and Methods in Metaphysics", in Robert Barnard and Neil Manson,
eds. The Continuum Companion to Metaphysics. Continuum International Publishing:
London: 14-45 (2012).

"Artifacts in Metaphysics", in Handbook of the Philosophy of the Technological Sciences,

ed. Anthonie Meijers. Elsevier Science, 2009.

"Answerable and Unanswerable Questions", in MetaMetaphysics, eds. David Chalmers,

Ryan Wasserman, and David Manley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009: 444-471.

"Conceptual Analysis in Phenomenology and Ordinary Language Philosophy", in Michael

Beaney, ed. The Analytic Turn: Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology.
London: Routledge, 2007.

"Phenomenology and the Development of Analytic Philosophy", Southern Journal of
Philosophy vol. XL, supplement (Proceedings of the 2001 Spindel Conference "Origins: The
Common Sources of the Analytic and Phenomenological Traditions"): 115-142.

Download the PDF version here (These are very good illustrations of what AP is doing, their
methods and subject-matter- for example in meta/metaphysics, ontology etc).

[PDF]Metametaphysics new essays on the foundation of ontology
Metametaphysics. New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology edited by. David
Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan. Wasserman. CLARENDON PRESS ...

Davidson's Method of Truth in Metaphysics - The University of North ...
by WG Lycan - Cited by 1 - Related articles

Davidson's Method of Truth in Metaphysics. William G. Lycan. University of North

Carolina. Davidson made a strikingly distinctive and valuable contribution to ..

Davidsons Method of Truth in Metaphysics

William G. Lycan

University of North Carolina

Davidson made a strikingly distinctive and valuable contribution to the practice of

ontology. It was a species of argument for the existence of things of one kind or another. It

was inspired by Quines doctrine that To be is to be the value of a bound variable, but it

combined that with Davidsons own apparently antiQuinean views on semantics and logical

form in natural language. Roughly: Suppose truth-conditional analysis of certain English

sentences assigns them logical forms containing characteristic quantifiers, and the quantifiers

domains include entities of a certain sort. Then, assuming that some of the relevant sentences

are true, it follows that there exist entities of that sort.

1. Davidsons own classic instance of this method was his argument for the existence of

events, in The Logical Form of Action Sentences (1967b). But, preliminaries:

According to his theory of meaning (1967c, 1970), the core meaning of a natural-

language sentenceits propositional or locutionary content as opposed to its illocutionary

force or what on an occasion its utterer might have meant by itis that sentences truth

condition. The truth condition is determined by the meanings of the sentences smallest

meaningful parts together with their syntactic mode of composition, and it is best represented

by a formula of some explicitly truth-defined logical system acting as what Quine called a

canonical idiom.1 Such a formula wears its own truth condition on its sleeve, in that its truth

condition is computable on the basis of the usual Tarskian set of extensions for the atomic

elements of that system plus a set of recursive rules that project the semantic values of a

formulas elements through truth-functional and other syntactic compounding into a truth-

condition for the formula as a whole.

In that way, our original English sentence has its logical and semantical features


by its associated formula (call that explicitly truth-defined formula the sentences semantic

representation, though that is not Davidsons own term). Via the semantic representation too,

logical anomalies are resolved, and other semantically puzzling features of the target

explained, just as Russell intended at the time he fashioned the Theory of Descriptions. The

natural-language sentences simply inherit their perceived semantical features, such as

entailments, from the formal properties of their semantic representations.

To do semantics in Davidsonian fashion is (using his method of deriving Tarskian T-

sentences) to assign semantic representations and thereby explicit truth-conditions to


language sentences, in such a way as to illuminate semantic structure consonantly with what

known of the sentences syntactic structure. A semantic analysis of a target sentence will
have, or should have, testable consequences: it will predict ambiguities, synonymies,
anomalies, logical implications, and the like. Capturing implications is a main goal, perhaps
the main goal,

of the enterprise.2..

This university (I looked at and quotes from Prof Michael Tooleys site) has excellent under-
graduate lectures online about topic that illustrate very clearly the subject-matter (for example
in Metaphysics and Epistemology, as well as in Logic, Reasoning, the types and uses of
arguments and analysis. The different types of analysis and how to investigate them, as
well as ways to identify and evaluate different types of arguments).

Philosophy 4340/5340

[DOC]Philosophy 5340 - Epistemology
Philosophy 3340 - Epistemology. Topic 2 - The Problem of Analyzing the Concept
of Knowledge. Handout: Analyses of the Concept of Knowledge: An Overview

Epistemology - An Overview
Philosophy 5340



Topic I. Introductory Discussion: The Nature of Epistemology

Basic Types of Questions: (1) Questions of analysis; (2) Questions of justification.

Analysis: (1) Analysis of fundamental epistemological concepts; (2) Analysis of different
types of statements - such as statements about physical objects, about unobservable entities,
about minds and mental states, about the past, and about the future.

Basic Concepts Related to Analysis: Translation, analytic truths, necessary conditions and
sufficient conditions, logical supervenience, realist analyses versus reductionist analyses.

Justification: (1) The general issue of skepticism versus foundationalism versus

coherentism; (2) The possibility, and the scope of, noninferential knowledge, or of
noninferentially justified beliefs; (3) Inferential knowledge, or inferentially justified beliefs.

Basic Concepts and Distinctions Related to Epistemic Justification: Knowledge, truth,

correspondence, objective certainty versus subjective certainty, belief, degrees of belief,
justified belief, evidence, probability, inference, deductive inference versus inductive
inference, instantial generalization versus hypothetico-deductive method (or inference to the
best explanation), inferential knowledge versus noninferential knowledge, inferred versus
non-inferred belief, inferentially justified belief versus noninferentially justified belief.

The Relation between Analysis and Justification: Reductionist versus realist analyses of
various types of statements, and their relation to different responses to skeptical challenges.

Topic II. The Analysis of the Concept of Knowledge

The Traditional Tripartite Analysis: Knowledge is justified true belief.

Gettier's Counterexamples: (1) Existential generalization, and the case of Smith, Jones,
and the person who will get the job; (2) Disjunction, and the case of Brown, Barcelona, and
owning a Ford.

Responses to Gettier's Counterexamples: (1) Supplementation strategies; (2) A

strengthening strategy.

Supplementation Strategies: (1) No false intermediate conclusions; (2) No undermining

evidence; (3) Causal connections; (4) Inference to the best explanation; (5)
Discrimination and counterfactuals; (6) Knowledge as tracking, and the closure condition
for knowledge.

A Strengthening Strategy: Rozeboom, knowledge, and complete certainty. A skeptical

outcome? Ordinary 'knowledge' as an approximation to the ideal?

Crucial Test Cases for Analyses of the Concept of Knowledge: (1) Gettier-style cases;
(2) Broken causal chain cases - e.g., the hologram example; (3) Cases with deviant causal
connections - e.g., the modified hologram example; (4) Cases of undermining via potential
evidence that one does not actually possess - e.g., Tom Grabit; (5) Non-discriminability
cases - e.g., barns versus barn facades.

Some Possible Theses: (1) Knowledge = justified belief, plus the truth of all of the beliefs
used in the inferences; (2) In determining whether a justified true belief is a case of
knowledge, the truth of propositions that one does not believe may also be relevant; (3) The
right sorts of causal connections are also crucial to whether a given justified true belief is a
case of knowledge; (4) The truth-values of relevant counterfactual statements are also
crucial to whether a given justified true belief is a case of knowledge.

Topic III. Skepticism

The Scope of Skepticism: (1) Knowledge versus justified belief; (2) Certain knowledge
versus knowledge in general; (3) Contingent propositions versus necessary propositions;
(4) Inferentially justified beliefs versus noninferentially justified beliefs; (5) Global versus

A Basic Skeptical Pattern of Argument: (1) The beliefs in question cannot be

noninferentially justified; (2) No deductive bridging of the gap from the evidence to the
conclusion is possible; (3) No bridging via instantial generalization; (4) Instantial
generalization is the only legitimate type of inductive inference; (5) Deduction and induction
are the only legitimate types of inference; (6) Conclusion: the beliefs in question cannot be

Targets of this Pattern of Skeptical Argument: Beliefs about (1) macroscopic objects, (2)
other minds, (3) the past, (4) laws of nature, and the future, and (5) submicroscopic objects.

Possible Responses to this Basic Skeptical Pattern of Argument: (1) Direct realism; (2)
Reductionism; (3) Instantial induction without reductionism; (4) The explanatory theories
approach: hypothetico-deductive method.

Comments on these Responses to the Skeptical Argument: (1) Questions of justification

and questions of analysis are interrelated; (2) Different responses may be appropriate to
skeptical challenges in different areas.

Topic IV. Theories of Justification: Foundationalism Versus Coherentism

The Epistemic Regress Argument: (1) There are only four possibilities with regard to
inferentially justified beliefs: (i) The regress of justification is a finite one, terminating in
noninferentially justified beliefs; (ii) The regress of justification is finite, but it terminates,
instead, in one or more beliefs that are not justified - either inferentially or noninferentially;
(iii) Inferential justification proceeds in a circle, or in a more complex closed loops; (iv)
The regress of justification is infinite, with no belief occurring more than once. (2) If
possibilities (ii), (iii), or (iv) obtained, the belief in question would not be justified. (3)
Hence the only way to avoid skepticism is possibility (i): justification must terminate in
beliefs that are noninferentially justified.

Foundationalism: (1) There can be noninferential knowledge, or at least noninferentially

justified beliefs; (2) All other knowledge is justified on the basis of noninferential
knowledge, and all other justified beliefs are justified on the basis of noninferentially justified

beliefs. Classical foundationalism involves: (a) Indubitable and infallible starting points;
(b) Deductive inference. Moderate foundationalism differs in these respects: (a)
Noninferential knowledge need not be indubitable, and noninferentially justified beliefs need
not be infallible; (b) The relevant inferences need not be deductive.

Arguments for Foundationalism: (1) The epistemic regress argument; (2) The argument
concerning the possibility of evidentially isolated, justified beliefs.

Possible Characteristics of Noninferential Knowledge, or of Noninferentially Justified

Beliefs: (1) Infallibility; (2) Objective certainty; (3) Subjective certainty; (4)
Indubitability - logical or psychological; (5) Indefeasibility.

Coherentism: Coherence theories of truth versus coherence theories of justification.

Coherence theories of truth versus correspondence theories of truth. Different concepts of
coherence: (1) Probability and relations of mutual support; (2) Explanatory interrelations.

A Standard Objection to a Coherence Theory of Truth: The possibility of equally

coherent, but mutually incompatible, sets of propositions. The isomorphic, or mapping
version, of this objection: the generation of another set of propositions by a systematic
interchange of individual concepts and predicate concepts.

Two Arguments Against Foundationalism, and in Support of a Coherence Theories of

Justification: (1) The doxastic ascent argument; (2) The question of whether the idea of
the immediately given is ultimately coherent.

Possible Objections to Coherentism: (1) Isn't it possible for there to be alternative, equally
coherent, but mutually incompatible, sets of beliefs? (2) Is there a good reason for thinking
that coherent beliefs are likely to be true? (3) Shouldn't observational beliefs be assigned a
special, epistemic place? 4) Direct acquaintance and understanding the meaning of
semantically basic terms; (5) Fumerton's objection that coherence Is too easily achieved: (6)
Fumerton's objection that coherentism, combined with internalism, leads to an infinite
regress; (7) Fumerton's objection that rational beliefs need not even be mutually consistent -
the "Lottery Paradox" case; (8) Disagreements and the impossibility of "pooling evidence";
(9) The possibility of evidentially isolated, justified beliefs.

Topic V. Perceptual Knowledge and the External World

Three Main Alternatives: (1) Direct realism; (2) Phenomenalism; (3) Indirect realism, or
the representative theory of perception.

Four Varieties of Direct Realism: (1) 'Pre-scientific' direct realism; (2) Armstrong's
"perception as the mere acquisition of beliefs" form of direct realism; (3) Sellars's version of
direct realism; (4) Searle's "experiences as also intentional states" version of direct realism.

Two Forms of Phenomenalism: (1) Classical phenomenalism, and the reductionist analysis
of statements about physical objects; (2) Instrumentalist phenomenalism, and the non-
existence of physical objects. (Stace)

Important Concepts and Distinctions: Conscious versus unconscious inference; realist
versus reductionist analyses of statements about physical objects; semantically or analytically
basic terms and concepts; realist, reductionist, and instrumentalist interpretations of scientific
theories; inference to the best explanation; counterfactuals, or subjunctive conditional
statements, and "hypothetical experiences".

Some Central Issues Connected with Perceptual Knowledge:

(1) Do experiences involve emergent properties?

(2) Is talk about physical objects analyzable, or are at least some sentences about physical
objects semantically basic and unanalyzable?
(3) If all sentences about physical objects are analyzable, what is the correct analysis?
(4) Does perception always involve the acquisition of beliefs about sense experiences?
(5) If perception always involves the acquisition of beliefs about sense experiences, do the
beliefs thus acquired, together with memory knowledge, suffice to justify the beliefs about
physical objects that one comes to have as a result of perception?

Issue 1: Do Experiences Involve Emergent Properties?

(1) Thomas Nagel's "What It's Like to Be a Bat" Argument

(2) Frank Jackson's "What Mary Doesn't Know" Argument
(3) The Inverted Spectrum Argument
(4) Armstrong's Indeterminacy Objection
(5) Armstrong's Intransitivity Objection
(6) The Epistemic Objection.

Issue 2: Are Sentences About Physical Objects Analyzable?

(1) The Ostensive Definability Requirement

(2) The "Blind Man" Argument.

Issue 3: If Sentences About Physical Objects Are Analyzable, What Is the Correct

Armstrong's Objections to Phenomenalism:

(1) Unperceived objects as having only a "hypothetical existence";
(2) A world with material objects, but no minds?
(3) Determinate physical objects and indeterminate sense experiences;
(4) Can phenomenalism explain the public nature of space and time?
(5) The problem of qualitatively indistinguishable minds existing at the same time;
(6) Can phenomenalism account for the unity of the mind?

Crucial Objections to Phenomenalism?

(1) "Mindless World" Objections;
(2) The "Truth-Makers for Counterfactuals" Objection;
(3) The "Exceptionless Laws" Argument.

Issue 4: Does Perception that Results in Perceptual Belief Always Involve the
Acquisition of Beliefs About Sense Experiences?

(1) The Peculiarity Intuition;

(2) The Case of Abnormal Conditions of Observation.

Issue 5: Are Beliefs about Physical Objects Inferentially Justified?

(1) The "Retreat to More Modest Beliefs" Argument;

(2) The "Justification and Internal States" Argument;
(3) The Appeal to Hypothetico-Deductive Inference;
(4) The "Naturalness of the Theory of Physical Objects" Argument.

Topic VI. The Justification of Beliefs about Other Minds

Some Important Issues:

(1) How can one justify beliefs about other minds and their mental states?
(2) Can we have noninferentially justified beliefs about others minds?
(3) If all or some of our beliefs about other minds are inferentially justified, what type of
evidence is relevant? Is it evidence concerning behavior, or evidence concerning internal
constitution, or both?
(4) How does one get from the evidence to the desired conclusion?
(5) What is the scope of the mental - that is, what sorts of things enjoy mental states? Non-
human animals? Possible extraterrestrials with a very different physiological makeup?
(6) What account is to be given of the very concept of a mind? And what type of analysis is
to be given of statements about different types of mental states?
(7) Are there any significant divisions between types of mental states, in the sense that a very
different type of account might have to be given for some types of mental states than others?
(8) What is the "mark" of the mental? That is to say, what is it that distinguishes states of
affairs that are mental states from those that are not? (Consciousness and intentionality as
two important answers.)

Four Different Accounts of the Analysis of Mental Concepts: (1) One anti-reductionist
approach: a "raw feel", or "qualia", or phenomenalistic account; (2) A second anti-
reductionist approach: intentionality as a defining property of mental states; (3) Analytical,
or logical, behaviorism; (4) Functionalism, and the identification of mental states on the
basis of their causal roles, rather than on the basis of their intrinsic natures. The computer
program analogy.

Intensional Language and Intentional States: Intensional contexts versus extensional

contexts; the interchange of co-referential terms within extensional contexts as preserving
truth-values; existential quantification, or "quantifying in", as permissible within extensional
contexts; the relation of these two features to patterns of inference.

Consciousness and the Mental: Is consciousness a mark of the mental? Is it a sufficient
condition of the mental? Is it a necessary condition of the mental?

Intentionality and the Mental: Is intentionality a mark of the mental? Is it a sufficient

condition of the mental? Is it a necessary condition of the mental? "That" clauses and two
types of mental states.

Language, and the Question of the Source of Intentionality: Is the intentionality of

language more basic than the intentionality of the mental, or vice versa? Is intentionality
related to causal and/or dispositional properties? The argument from purely physical systems
- e.g., the case of the heat-seeking missile.

The Relation between the Problem of Other Minds, and the Analysis of Talk about
Mental States: Two theories that greatly simplify the problem: (1) Analytical behaviorism;
(2) Functionalism.

Objections to Analytical Behaviorism: (l) The inverted spectrum argument; (2) The
unconsciousness argument; (3) The understanding sensation terms argument.

Alternative Accounts of the Justification of our Beliefs about Other Minds: (1) The
argument from analogy; (2) Psychological theory and the inference to the best explanation;
(3) A combined approach; (4) A non-analogical argument based upon use of mentalistic

Some Crucial Issues: (1) Is evidence concerning one's own case crucial or not? (2) Is
evidence about an individual's behavior, or output states, sufficient? (3) Is evidence about
stimulation of an individual, about its input states, sufficient? (4) Is evidence about an
individual's constitution, or internal makeup, crucial or not?

The Argument from Analogy: Two types of laws that one might establish in one's own
case: (1) Laws concerning physical causes of mental states; (2) Laws concerning mental
causes of behavior. Generalizing from one's own case to that of other, relevantly similar

Objections to the Argument from Analogy: (l) The verifiability objection; (2) Strawson's
objection; (3) The checkability objection; (4) The objection that the reasoning is
inductively unsound; (5) The objection that the reasoning lends only very weak support to
the conclusion; (6) The objection that, though the argument from analogy is in principle
sound, it implies that justified beliefs about other minds presupposes detailed
neurophysiological knowledge.

Psychological Theory and the Inference to the Best Explanation: The irrelevance of
evidence concerning one's own case; the use of hypothetico-deductive method, or inference
to the best explanation, to confirm hypotheses concerning the existence of other minds.

Possible Objections to the Inference to the Best Explanation Approach: (1) Machines
and paralyzed persons; (2): Epiphenomenalism and knowledge of other minds; (3) An

unjustifiably strong hypothesis. (The third objection is the crucial one, and the thrust of it is
that a functionalist interpretation of our everyday psychological theory results in an
ontologically more modest theory, but one with equal explanatory power.)

A Combined Approach: Physiology and Behavior: The key ideas here are: (1) One
makes use of causal laws that run from the physical to the mental, and from the mental to the
physical; (2) The sorts of input-output relations that one finds in one's own case are also
found in the case of individuals with similar bodies; (3) Those input-output relations are
explained, in one's own case, on the basis of causal laws that involve experiences, or states of
consciousness; (4) It is extremely unlikely that precisely the same input-output relations
would exist in the case of other bodies if they did not have the same basis.

An Argument Based upon the Use of Mentalistic Language: This final type of argument
turns upon facts of the following sorts: (l) Other organisms appear to use and understand
mentalistic language; (2) Other organisms appear to assert that they have states of
consciousness. (Compare Michael Scriven's article, "The Compleat Robot: A Prolegomena to
Androidology".) If this sort of argument works, it can be applied to entities that are
physically very different from life forms found on earth - both extraterrestrials, and super-

Topic VII. The Justification of Beliefs about the Past

Some Distinctions: Knowledge of the past versus memory knowledge; memory beliefs
versus memory experiences; memories of experienced events versus memories of facts.

Some Preliminary Issues: (1) Is all knowledge of the past either itself memory knowledge,
or else based upon memory knowledge? (2) Do memory experiences involve images? (3) If
memory experiences do involve images, is this epistemologically important? (4) Are
memory experiences epistemologically necessary, or are memory beliefs sufficient? (5) Are
apparent memories of experienced events epistemologically more significant than apparent
memories of facts? (6) Can the concept of the past be analyzed, and if so, how?

Alternative Accounts of the Justification of our Memory Beliefs: (1) Direct realism; (2)
An a priori argument for the theses that memory must be generally reliable; (3) An appeal to
the specious present; (4) The use of hypothetico-deductive reasoning on its own.

Direct Realism: Two versions of direct realism with respect to the justification of memory
beliefs: (1) A memory image approach, paralleling Sellars's approach to perceptual
knowledge; (2) A non-phenomenological approach, paralleling Armstrong's approach to
perceptual knowledge.

Comments on Direct Realism: A reason for preferring the non-phenomenological version to

the memory image version: the former does not provide a sufficient answer to skepticism.
Can any reason be offered for thinking that beliefs about the past can be noninferentially
justified? The failure of beliefs about the past to possess characteristics typically associated
with noninferentially justified beliefs.

An A Priori Argument for the Reliability of Memory? Is it logically possible that all of
one's memories might be incorrect? Shoemaker's formulation of the a priori argument, based
upon a proposed criterion for when it is reasonable to regard a translation as correct. Three
criticisms of Shoemaker: (1) It is important to distinguish between observation statements
and theoretical statements, and this is relevant to the translation issue; (2) Nonlinguistic
behavior is often crucial in determining what beliefs to assign to a person; (3) Later
linguistic behavior can also be relevant with regard to the ascription of memory beliefs.

An Appeal to the Specious Present: Two formulations: (1) A version using inductive
generalization; (2) A version, advanced by R. F. Harrod, involving an appeal to hypothetico-
deductive method.

Possible Objections to Harrod's Argument: (1) The circularity objection: the concept of
the specious present is analyzable, and it turns out to involve the concept of memory
knowledge; (2) Even if one experiences were instantaneous, and there were no specious
present, beliefs about the past could still be justified; (3) If memory knowledge presupposes
a specious present, then it presupposes memory experiences, and this means that one does not
have a fully satisfactory answer to skepticism; (4) Harrod has not shown that the hypothesis
that there is a past is the best explanation of the specious present.

A Hypothetico-Deductive Account of the Justification of Beliefs about the Past: Beliefs

about the past are justified via an inference to the best explanation of one's present beliefs,
and other present states of affairs. The superiority of the hypothesis that present beliefs were
caused by past events over the hypothesis that the world just now popped into existence; One
objection that must be overcome: the hypothesis that the world has been around forever - or,
at least, for a long time - cannot be shown to be superior to "Russell's hypothesis" that the
world has existed for only five minutes.


Methods that Metaphysicians Use

Method 1: The appeal to what one can imagine where imagining some state of

affairs involves forming a vivid image of that state of affairs.

Such appeals to what one can imagine are used to support claims that

something is logically possible.

Example 1: Humans and Immaterial Minds

Can one imagine surviving the destruction of ones body? The idea is that

one can form a vivid picture of what it would be like to continue to have

experiences, thoughts, memories, and other mental states, and ones that were

causally linked to ones earlier mental states, at a time after which ones body had

been destroyed. Some philosophers, such as Richard Swinburne, have held that

since one can do that, it is logically possible that one could survive the destruction

of ones body. But if it is logically possible to survive the destruction of ones body,

then one cannot be identical with ones body.

What is one to say about this argument? Since there is excellent evidence that

ones psychological capacities and abilities depend on ones brain, and will not

survive the destruction of ones brain, there is surely something wrong with this

argument. But what exactly is wrong with this argument? Does the error lie in the

view that ones ability to imagine something, to picture something vividly, is

grounds for concluding that the thing in question is logically possible? Or does the

error lie elsewhere?

Consider precisely what it is that one can vividly imagine. One can imagine

experiences and memories that belong to a single, unified consciousness, that exist

after the destruction of ones body, and where the memories include memories of

experiences that one had before the destruction of ones body. But those experiences

and memories have to belong to a mind, with various capacities, if one is to have

survived the destruction of ones body, and that mind will be an immaterial

substance, since we are not considering the possibility of surviving in a new body.

Now, however, if one is to have survived, the mind that exists after the destruction

of ones body must be identical with the mind that existed before the destruction of

ones body. Suppose now that materialism about human beings is true. Then the

mind that existed before the destruction of ones body was identical with ones

brain, so if one is to be imagining surviving the destruction of ones body, one has to

be imagining vividly or otherwise that the material mind that existed earlier is

identical with the immaterial mind that exists later. Is this possible?

If the answer is that it is not, then what one is imagining is not ones

surviving the destruction of ones body: what one is imagining is the coming into

existence of an immaterial mind that, although not identical with ones earlier mind,

contains memories of ones earlier experiences, and perhaps the same beliefs,

desires, attitudes, and personality traits.

On the other hand, if it is possible, given appropriate laws of nature, for a

brain to morph into an immaterial substance, so that the later immaterial mind is

identical with the earlier brain, then there is no impossibility in surviving the

destruction of ones body even if one is identical with ones body.

Either way, then, Richard Swinburnes argument is unsound.

Example 2: Time Travel and Backwards Causation

A second example involves imagining that one is traveling in a time machine,

back into the past. Again, it might seem that one can form a series of vivid pictures

of what it would be like to travel back to the year 1900, and to have experiences

there. Does this then provide good support for the idea that time travel into the past

is logically possible?

If it does, it also provides good grounds for concluding that backward

causation causation in which later events cause earlier ones is logically possible.

But if backward causation is logically possible, then mustnt causal loops be logically

possible. But causal loops may involve self-supporting causal loops, or, more

dramatically, self-undercutting causal loops. If such things are problematic, then the

question arises whether what one imagines when one thinks of oneself as imagining

what it would be like to travel back into the past really provides good grounds for

concluding that time travel is logically possible.

The crucial question to ask in such a case is this: What exactly can one

vividly imagine in such a case? Try imagining travelling back a day into the past.

As regards what one can vividly imagine as contrasted with what one can

conceive is it not the case that it does not differ from what one can vividly imagine

if one imagined oneself being transported instead to an alternative spatiotemporal

realm that is just like the way this world was yesterday? If this is right, then ones

description of what one is imagining as imagining that one has travelled back into

the past goes beyond the content of the vivid image that one has formed. The vivid

image provides no support, then, for the claim that time travel back into the past is

logically possible.

Method 2: The appeal to what one cannot imagine.

Such appeals to what one cannot imagine, in cases where, if the state of

affairs in question did exist, it would be perceivable, are sometimes used to support

claims that that state of affairs is logically impossible.

Example: The Incompatibility of Different Color Properties

Can one imagine something that is both completely red and at least partly

green? It seems that one cannot, and many philosophers have taken that as grounds

for concluding that it is logically impossible for something to be both completely red

and at least partly green.

In thinking about this, it is worth asking a related question: Can one imagine

something that is reddish-green in color? Here, too, it seems that one cannot. But is

it logically impossible that something should be reddish-green? Given that

something can be reddish-blue, reddish-yellow, greenish-blue, and greenish yellow,

is it reasonable to think that it is logically impossible for something to be reddish-


Method 3: The appeal to what one can coherently conceive.

Sometimes claims about what is logically possible are supported by claims

about what one can coherently conceive, rather than by claims about what one can

imagine. But what does it mean to say that one can coherently conceive of some

propositions being true? Does it mean that when one contemplates the proposition

in question, one is unable to see how it gives rise to any contradiction? If so, then

that may provide some support for the conclusion that the proposition expresses a

logical possibility, but it is not clear that the support is very strong, since a

proposition may be such that the proposition is necessarily false, and yet it may be

very hard indeed to show that this is so.

Example 1: Fermats Last Theorem

When one contemplates the following proposition

(*) There are whole numbers x, y, z, and n, such that n > 2 and such that xn + yn = zn

no contradiction appears to follow from that proposition. But, as Andrew Wiles

showed in 1993, that proposition is necessarily false.

Example 2: The Goldbach Conjecture

Can one coherently conceive of an even number greater than 2 that is not

equal to the sum of two prime numbers? If one contemplates the proposition that

there is such a number, no evident contradiction is apparent. But if the Goldbach

Conjecture is true, there is no such number, and so the proposition that there is such

a number will express a logical impossibility.

Method 4: The appeal to what one cannot coherently conceive

One can also appeal to what one cannot coherently conceive to support

claims about what is logically impossible. If to be able to coherently conceive of

something is to be able to contemplate the relevant proposition without seeing any

contradiction arising from it, not to be able to coherently conceive of something is

for one to see, when one contemplates a proposition, that some contradiction does

follow from it. But then it is certainly true that the proposition does not express a

logical possibility. This method, then, seems unproblematic.

Method 5: The Appeal to Intuitions, or Intellectual Seemings

Sometimes philosophers, to support claims about what is logically possible,

or logically impossible, appeal not to what one can or cannot imagine, nor to what

one can or cannot coherently conceive, but, instead, to intuitions about what is

logically possible, or logically impossible.

What are intuitions? One answer is that to have an intuition that something

is the case is for it to seem to one that it is the case, where the seeming, rather than

depending, either directly or indirectly, upon perception or sensory experience,

arises directly out of contemplation of the proposition in question. In short,

Person S has an intuition that proposition p is true

= def.

Person Ss contemplating proposition p is itself sufficient to bring it about that it

seems to S that p is true.


If merely contemplating a proposition suffices to make it the case that it

seems to one that the proposition is true, then it would seem that the truth of the

proposition cannot depend upon anything outside of the proposition, and so it

would seem that the proposition, if true, must be necessarily true. If an intuition

can provide grounds for thinking that a proposition p is true, it would seem that it

also provides grounds for thinking that proposition p is necessarily true. In doing

so, it also provides grounds for thinking that not p is necessarily false. The method

of intuition, then, if sound, would seem to provide grounds for conclusions about

the modal status of propositions that is, for conclusion about what is logically

necessary, logically impossible, and logically possible.

But is the method sound? I am inclined to think that when it seems to one

that something is logically possible, that seeming is likely to rest simply upon ones

inability to see how the proposition in question can give rise to any contradiction. If

this is right, then the appeal to intuitions has only as much force as the appeal to

what one can coherently conceive.

Similarly when one appeals to the fact that it seems to one that something is

logically impossible, I do not see why weight should be placed on that unless it rests

upon ones seeing that the proposition in question gives rise to a contradiction. If

that is right, then the appeal to intuitions concerning what is logically impossible has

no force beyond what is present in an appeal to what one cannot coherently


Method 6: Conceptual analysis.

Here the basic ideas are, first, that some concepts can be analyzed in terms of,

can be explained in terms of, other concepts; secondly, that the relation of analysis is

an asymmetric relation, so that if there is an analysis of concept A that involves

concept B, there cannot be an analysis of concept B that involves concept A; and,

thirdly, that the process of analysis, rather than being one that goes on forever, must

terminate in concepts that cannot be analyzed, that are analytically basic.

Nelson Goodmans Challenge to this View: Analysis as Merely Relative to a

Conceptual System

X is grue at time t = def. Either X is green at time t and t is earlier than t0, or X is blue

at time t and t is either t0 or later than t0.

X is bleen at time t = def. Either X is blue at time t and t is earlier than t0, or X is

green at time t and t is either t0 or later than t0.

These definitions suggest that the concepts of being grue and bleen are less

basic than the concepts of being blue and green. But Goodman argues that he can

equally well claim:

X is green at time t = def. Either X is grue at time t and t is earlier than t0, or X is

bleen at time t and t is either t0 or later than t0.

X is blue at time t = def. Either X is bleen at time t and t is earlier than t0, or X is grue

at time t and t is either t0 or later than t0.

Syntactically, in short, it is true at least that there are analytical equivalences

that are completely parallel.

Method 7: The proof of propositions using logic alone.

Example 1: The non-existence of the Russell set, R, defined as the set of all sets

that are not members of themselves.

Bertrand Russells Proof of the Non-Existence of the Russell Set

is the symbol typically used for the relation of set membership. So !! says

that X is a member of the set Y.

Then ! !, in saying that S belongs to set S, is saying that S is a set that belongs to

itself, while ~(! !) says that S is a set that does not belong to itself.

Notice that the sets that one typically thinks of do not have themselves as

members: the set of all horses does not, for example, contain itself as a member, for

all of its members are horses, and no set is a horse.

Can one think of any sets that do belong to themselves? Well, must not the

universal set, U, defined as the set that contains every set, be a set that contains itself

as a member?

Next, define the Russell set call it R as the set of all and only sets that are

not members of themselves:

!! = def. ~(!!).

Question: Is it the case that !!? Does the Russell set belong to itself?

Well, either !!, or ~(!!)

(1) Suppose then that !!. It then follows immediately from the definition of the

Russell set R that ~(!!). So we have a contradiction.

(1) Suppose, on the other hand, that ~ !! , It then follows immediately from the

definition of the Russell set R that !!. So once again we have a contradiction.

In either case, then, we have a contradiction. So if the Russell set R exists, if there is

a set that contains all and only those sets that are not members of themselves, a

contradiction is true.

Like most philosophers, Russell held that there are no true contradictions,

and so he concluded that there could not be a set of all and only sets that are not

members of themselves. (Graham Priest, an Australian philosopher, and advocate

of dialethic logic, maintains that the correct conclusion to draw is that there are some

true contradictions.)

Example 2: The non-existence of the universal set, U, defined as the set of all sets.

The following principle seems extremely plausible:

For any set S, and any property P, one can define the set T that consists of all and

only members of set S that have property P.

But if that principle is right, if the universal set, U, defined as the set containing

absolutely every set that exists, exists, then one can define the Russell set, R, since

that is just the subset of U that consist of the members of that set that have the

property of not belonging to themselves.

Accordingly, if universal set, U the set of all sets existed, so would the

Russell set, R the set of all sets that are not members of themselves, and so we

would again have a contradiction.

Method 8: The proof of propositions using logic plus conceptual analysis.

Analytic truths can be defined as truths that are derivable from logical truths

in the narrow sense that is, from purely formal logical truths by the substitution

of synonymous expressions.

Historical Note

Immanuel Kant defined analytical truths as subject-predicate propositions

whose predicate concept is contained in its subject as, for example, in the

proposition that all bachelors are unmarried. This definition is, however, too

narrow, since it means that analytically true propositions are restricted to

propositions of a subject-predicate form, whereas analytically true propositions can

have other logical forms.

What are some examples of analytically true propositions that are not of

subject-predicate form? Here are some candidates:

(1) The proposition that 5 < 7

(2) The proposition that if x < y, and y < z, then x < z.

(3) The proposition that if x is a subset of y, and y is a subset of z, then x is a subset of


(4) The proposition that if x is heavier than y, and y is heavier than z, then x is

heavier than z.

But how does one show that these are analytic when analytic truths are

defined, not as Kant did, but as truths that are derivable from logical truths in the

narrow sense that is, from purely formal logical truths by the substitution of

synonymous expressions? Here is an illustration in the case of the fourth of the

above propositions.

1. Introduce the term outbalances, where x outbalances y is defined as follows:

When x and y are placed on opposite sides of a balance scale, the side with x on goes

down, and the side with y on it goes up.

2. So defined, there can be possible worlds where x outbalances y, and y outbalances

z, but z outbalances x.

3. Now define the concept of being heavier than as follows:

A is heavier than B = def. A outbalances B, and it is true that (x)(y)(z)(If x

outbalances y, and y outbalances z, then x outbalances z).

4. Then one can use the following proposition, which is a purely formal logical


If (1) A outbalances B and (x)(y)(z)(If x outbalances y, and y outbalances z, then x

outbalances z), and (2) If B outbalances C and (x)(y)(z)(If x outbalances y, and y

outbalances z, then x outbalances z), then (3) A outbalances C and (x)(y)(z)(If x

outbalances y, and y outbalances z, then x outbalances z).

5. Substitution of the definition of A is heavier than B will then yield the

proposition that if A is heavier than B and B is heavier than C, then A is heavier than


Possible Examples:

(a) A cause cannot succeed its effect.

(b) Time cannot be cyclic.

(c) All properties are completely determinate.


Often, in metaphysics, philosophers have tried to establish negative

existential claims - that is, claims to the effect that certain things do not exist - by

arguing that it is logically impossible for them to exist, and have tried to establish

the latter by showing that the proposition that things of the type in question do exist

leads to a contradiction.

The use of logic alone, or logic plus conceptual analysis, to establish positive

existential claims is much less common - with the ontological argument being one of

the very rare cases where such a line of argument has been attempted.

Method 9: The use of inference to the best causal explanation.


(a) Arguments for the existence of God, or a first cause, or an unmoved mover.

(b) Arguments for the existence of other minds.

(c) Arguments for the existence of a mind-independent physical world.

Method 10: The use of inference to the best non-causal explanation.

Example 1: Laws of Nature

Here the basic idea is that cosmic regularities, if they do not obtain in virtue

of some atomic state of affairs, would be immensely improbable.

Example 2: Causal Relations

Here one basic idea is that there are striking temporal asymmetries in the

world that would be immensely improbable if there were no causation in the world.

(Poppers case of outgoing concentric waves, and the case of outgoing spherical

wave fronts.)


One needs to ask, however, whether inference to the best explanation can be a

fundamental method. Consider, in particular, inference to the best causal

explanation. The concept of causation is itself a concept whose analysis is very

difficult, and is it not surprising to see such a concept playing a role in a

fundamental inductive principle? Wouldnt one think that inductive logic, at its

most basic level, should be free of such concepts, just as deductive logic is? That is

certainly the view of some philosophers most notably Bas van Fraassen, who has

argued at length that the principle of inference to the best explanation should be


I think that van Fraassen is right in maintaining that the principle of inference

to the best explanation cannot be a basic principle of inductive logic. But that does

not mean that it cannot be a sound principle, for it may be possible to derive the

principle of inference to the best explanation from fundamental principles of

inductive logic, together with an analysis of the notion of explanation, and quite

possibly also an analysis of the concept of causation.

But how would the more basic inductive principles be formulated? The

answer is given by the next method that metaphysicians have used:

Method 11: The use of a system of logical probability to show that certain things

are likely to be the case, or that certain things are unlikely to be the case.


(1) The mathematician Thomas Bayes (1702-1761), in his posthumously published

"An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances (1763), starting

from the assumption that all propensities are equally likely, showed how statistical

information about the behavior of an object could justify probabilistic conclusions

concerning that objects underlying propensities.

(2) If metaphysically robust, governing laws of nature are logically impossible, then

it is very unlikely that the world contains any cosmic regularities.

(3) If metaphysically robust, governing laws of nature are, on the other hand,

logically possible, then it can be very likely that the world does contain cosmic


Method 12: The use of inference to the best account of the truth conditions of

statements of a certain type.

Example 1: David Lewis's account of the truth conditions of statements about

logical possibilities.

Lewiss idea of possible worlds is as follows. Possible worlds are concrete

entities. They are concrete spatiotemporal worlds of concrete objects, where

different possible worlds are completely unrelated to one another, worlds that stand

in no temporal, spatial, causal, or other external relation to one another.

Given this notion of possible worlds, David Lewis argues that one was

justified in postulating the existence of such things since they are needed to provide

truthmakers for statements about logical possibilities. Consider, for example, the

proposition that the existence of a talking donkey is logically possible. Lewiss view

is that what makes that proposition true is that there is a concrete, spatiotemporal

world that is not our world, and that is not connected spatially, temporally, or

causally, or in any other way to our world, and which contains a talking donkey.

What is a truthmaker? The idea of a truthmaker for a given proposition is the

idea of a state of affairs that serves to make that proposition true, where as state of

affairs consists either of some entitys having a property, or two or more entities

standing in some relation, or some more complex combination of these things.

Lewiss argument appears to appeal to something like the following


The Strong Truthmaker Principle: For every true proposition, there is some state of

affairs that is a truthmaker for that proposition.

But as Lewis was aware, at least later on, the Strong Truthmaker Principle is

problematic. First of all, consider, for example, a statement that says that something

lacks a certain property, such as

A is not red.

Many metaphysicians hold that if P is a genuine property, then there is no genuine

property that consists in somethings lacking property P. There are, as it is said, no

negative properties.

The reason for holding that there are no negative properties is as follows.

Genuine properties are viewed as entities that are present in all of the things that

have the property in question, and because of the presence of a single entity what

is referred to as a universal in different particulars, all of those particulars must

exactly resemble each other in a certain respect. But things that are, for example,

not circular in shape can have a variety of shapes, and so there need not be any

respect in which all things that are not circular exactly resemble each other, and in

virtue of which they are not circular. So there is no property of not being circular.

But then if states of affairs consist of things having properties, and of two or

more things standing in relations, what can the truthmaker be for a statement such

as A is not circular?

But secondly, even if one either accepts the idea of negative properties, or,

alternatively, and I think preferably, one holds that states of affairs can include

somethings lacking a genuine property, this will not enable one to provide

truthmakers for all propositions. In particular, consider negative existential

propositions, such as the proposition that there are no unicorns. What state of

affairs could be the truthmaker for that proposition? One answer that one might try

is that it is a huge conjunctive state of affairs, each conjunct of which consists in a

state of affairs that involves some particular individual lacking the property of being

a unicorn, or having the negative property of not being a unicorn. But nothing

about that conjunctive state of affairs ensures that there arent any individuals

beyond those involved in the various states of affairs that enter into the conjunctive

state of affairs. So such a conjunctive state of affairs cannot provide a truthmaker for

the proposition that there are no unicorns.

Some philosophers, such as David Armstrong, have attempted to provide an

answer. But David Lewis, following the lead of John Bigelow, was inclined to

abandon the Strong Truthmaker Principle in favor of a different principle:

The Difference-Maker Principle: For any proposition p, and any two worlds W

and V, if p is true in W but false in V, then either W must contain a truthmaker for p

or else V must contain a truthmaker for ~p.

The problem for Lewiss argument for possible worlds is then that when one

shifts from the Strong Truthmaker Principle to the Difference-Maker Principle, the

latter principle does not apply in the case of necessarily true propositions, since if p


is a necessarily true proposition, there arent possible worlds W and V such that p is

true in W but false in V.

Example 2: The postulation of second-order relations between universals to serve

as truthmakers for statements of laws of nature.

Method 13: The appeal to direct acquaintance.


(1) The existence of emergent, sensuous properties.

In philosophy of mind, one of the major issues concerns the existence of what

are referred to as qualia (Singular: quale pronounced either kwalay or

kwalee.) Qualia are qualitative properties involved in experiences, such as colors in

visual perception. Their existence is controversial, since if they exist, it is hard to see

how they can be reduced to the particles, forces, properties, and relations that entre

into theories in physics.

(2) The existence of a flow of time.

Some people hold that in experience one is aware of the flow or passage of

time, where such flow or passage is something more than its merely being the case

that events stand in relations of temporal priority.

(3) Phenomenological approaches to philosophy, and phenomenological states.

Philosophers who adopt a phenomenological approach typically claim that

one can be directly aware of properties of psychological states other than qualia of

the sensory variety. Thus it is often claimed, for example, that one can be aware of

cognitive qualia, such as what it is like to be a belief, or a thought, or a desire, or that

one can be aware of the intentionality of some mental states, of what it is for a

mental state to be about some other state of affairs.

Method 14: The appeal to non-intellectual seemings

Mike Huemer, in his book Skepticism and the Veil of Perception, advances the

following principle:

(PC) If it seems to S as if P, then S has at least prima facie justification for believing

that P. (99)

If Huemers (PC) principle is correct, then one can appeal to non-intellectual

seemings in support of a variety of important metaphysical propositions, including:

(a) There is a mind-independent physical world.

(b) God exists.

(c) Humans have libertarian free will.

Comment: Everything turns upon whether (PC) is sound. I believe that it is not, for

a variety of reasons. For one thing, I do not think that there is any concept of

seeming that has all of the properties that Huemers (PC) principle requires.



This course will focus upon the fundamental skills, methods, concepts and distinctions that are essential for the
study of philosophy.

The basic skills covered will include the writing of philosophy papers, the reading of articles, the extraction of
arguments, and the evaluation of arguments.

The philosophical methods discussed will include the technique of counterexamples, the formulation of
analyses by searching for necessary conditions, reductive analyses of concepts, functionalist analyses of
concepts, methods of analyzing theoretical terms, the technique of reductio ad absurdum arguments, and the use
of infinite regress arguments.

The basic concepts to be covered will include the concepts of analysis, supervenience, reduction, quasi-logical
vocabulary, theoretical terms, subjunctive conditionals, the verifiability principle, logical form, truthmakers,
modal logic, and possible worlds, while the distinctions examined will include necessary versus sufficient
conditions, a priori versus a posteriori knowledge, necessary versus contingent truths, analytic versus synthetic
statements, sense versus reference, intensional versus extensional contexts, de re versus de dicto statements,
deduction versus induction, and inductive generalization versus inference to the best explanation.

Philosophy 3480: Critical Thinking

Lecture: Background Material for Exercise 1
Inference-Indicators and the Logical
Structure of an Argument

1. The Idea of an Inference-Indicator

To offer an argument is to claim that certain things are the case, and that they provide a
reason for believing that something else is the case. The propositions that one puts forward
as reasons for believing something else are the premises of the argument. The proposition
that they are intended to support is the conclusion of the argument. The logical steps by
which one moves from the premises to the conclusion are the inferences.

To understand the logical structure of an argument is simply a matter of knowing what
these three components are. To determine what the logical structure is one needs, therefore,
to answer the following questions:

(1) What is the basic conclusion that this argument is attempting to establish?

(2) What are the premises, or assumptions, that the person is putting forward in support of
the conclusion?

(3) What are the inferences that the person is making, and which are supposed to take one
from the premises to the final conclusion?

How does one go about answering these questions? The answer is that a passage that
contains an argument will generally contain a number of words or phrases that function as
inference-indicators. Consider, for example, the following sentence:

"I have just polished off two six packs; I am feeling very nauseous; I am unable
to get up off the floor, and the rest of the world is spinning around me at
something approaching the speed of light. Therefore I am probably slightly
Here the word "therefore" is an inference-indicator, and it functions to
indicate that the fact that I have just polished off two six packs, am feeling very
nauseous, am unable to get up off the floor, etc., is a reason for drawing the
conclusion that I am probably slightly drunk. So the pattern it points to is the

[Reason, inference indicator, conclusion].

Other inference indicators work in the opposite way. They indicate that what follows
the inference indicator provides a reason for what precedes it. Here is an example of that sort
of inference-indicator:

"Mary is probably a marginally better tennis player than I am, since she has
beaten me 6-0 in each of the last ten sets we have played."
The word "since" is an inference indicator. In particular, it indicates that what
follows it - i.e., the fact Mary has beaten me 6-0 in the last ten sets that we've
played - is a reason for believing what precedes it - i.e. that Mary is probably a
marginally better tennis player than I am. So the pattern this sort of inference
indicator points to is as follows:

[Conclusion, inference indicator, reason].

Notice, however, that with words that are inference indicators of this second type, it is
sometimes possible for the world order to be inverted:

"Since Mary has beaten me 6-0 in each of the last ten sets we have played, she
is probably a marginally better tennis player than I am."

When this is done, the pattern that this sort of inference indicator points to is
instead this:

[Inference indicator, reason, conclusion].

But what is always true with this sort of inference indicator is that the inference
indicator is always followed by the reason.

2. Inference-Indicators Versus Argument-Indicators

Consider the following passage:

"The existence of a deity who created our world can be proved in the following
way. Everything that exists either is due to chance, or results from the operation
of natural laws that made its existence necessary, or is due to the action of an
intelligent designer and creator. Our world contains things, however - such as
living organisms - that are very complex indeed, and because of this it is
unreasonable to suppose that their existence is simply a matter of chance. But
neither is it the case that the existence of such things is necessitated by natural
law. Consequently, there must be an intelligent designer and creator who is
ultimately responsible for the existence of such things."
Are there any inference-indicators present in this passage? The three most
plausible candidates are the three expressions "can be proved in the following
way", because", and Consequently". Of these, the second and the third are
inference-indicators, but the first is not. Why is this? The answer is that while
the expression "can be proved in the following way" is what might be referred to
as an argument-indicator, it is not an inference-indicator, since while it indicates
that an argument, or proof, is about to be set out, it does not point to any
specific inference in that argument - that is, to any transition from a premise to a
conclusion. The word because, by contrast, indicates that the proposition
referred to by the term this is a reason for accepting the claim that follows.
Similarly, the word "Consequently" also points to an inference, since it indicates
that what follows it is a conclusion, and that what precedes it contains one or
more premises on which the conclusion in question is based.

In short, argument-indicators are valuable in that they do alert you to the fact that the
author is offering an argument in support of his or her view. But, unlike inference-indicators,
they provide one with no help in working out what the logical structure of the argument in
question is.

3. Some Common Inference-indicators of the Two Types

1. Inference-indicators of Type 1:

[Reason, Inference-indicator, Conclusion]

therefore hence consequently
so thus accordingly
as a consequence entails implies
from which it follows

2. Inference-indicators of Type 2:

[Conclusion, Inference-indicator, Reason]

[Inference-indicator, Reason, Conclusion]

since for because

is implied by is entailed by is a consequence of
follows from

4. Utilizing Inference-indicators to Work out the Logical Structure of an


The basic idea, then, is that one can pick out passages that contain arguments, and begin
to work out the logical structure of those arguments, by looking for words and phrases, such
as those listed above, that function as one or other of the two types of inference-indicators.

In doing this, however, there are two points that it is important to note. First, there are
other words and phrases, besides those listed above, that function as inference-indicators.
The above lists contain only some of the more common ones.

Secondly, however, there are some words that it may be tempting to view as inference-
indicators, but that are not functioning in that way. (Especially tricky in this regard are words
that often function as inference-indicators, but that do not always do so.)

5. Some Words that Are Not Inference-Indicators

Of the words and expressions that can easily be mistaken for inference-indicators, four
categories, in particular, deserve attention.

(1) Argument-Indicators or Proof-Indicators

This category was discussed above. The basic idea is that these proof-indicator or
argument-indicator expressions point to a claim for which someone is going to offer an
argument, but they are not inference-indicators, since they do not point to an inference - that
is, a move from a premise to a conclusion.

Here are some typical examples of this sort of expression:

can be proved that can be demonstrated that can be shown that

(2) Contrastive Terms

As the label suggests, contrastive terms do not point to the presence of an argument, let
alone to a specific inference: they simply contrast one claim with another claim.

Here are some typical examples of contrastive expressions:

but nonetheless nevertheless on the contrary

(3) Enumerative Terms

This third category consists of expressions that sometimes indicate premises involved in
an argument, but these expressions do not point to a place where an inference is being made -
where one is moving from one or more premises to a conclusion.

Here are some typical examples of this sort of expression:

first second next in addition moreover

(4) Conditional Statements and the Word then

The word then, when it is not a temporal term, occurs within conditional statements ?
that is, statements of the form if p then q ? and in such cases, it may be tempting view the
word then as an inference-indicator.

The source of this temptation is probably that some if . . . then - - - statements are
closely related to inferences. Consider, for example, the statement If Socrates is a man, and
all men are mortal, then Socrates is mortal. Because this statement expresses a necessary
truth, and does so in virtue of its logical form, there is a corresponding, valid argument,
(1) Socrates is a man.

(2) All men are mortal.


(3) Socrates is mortal.

Nevertheless, if . . . then - - - statements do not express inferences in arguments. For

one thing, it is only when an if . . . then - - - statement is necessarily true (and in virtue of
its logical form), that there will be a corresponding, valid argument. More important, in an
argument, one is asserting that the premises are true, and that the conclusion is true. To
advance an if . . . then - - - statement, however, is not to assert either that that antecedent is
true, or that the consequent is true.

The term then in an if . . . then - - - statement should be viewed, accordingly, as part
of a sentential connective, on a par with words like and and or.

(5) Causal Explanation Expressions

This final category is an especially tricky one, since it involves words that often function
as inference-indicators, but that do not do so in some contexts. Consider, for example, the
word "because" in the following sentence

(1) Suzanne has been swimming very good times because she has been doing a good deal of
weight training

The word because is often an inference-indicator, but it is not so in the case of the
present sentence. The reason is that the fact that Suzanne has been doing a good deal of
weight training is not being offered as a reason for believing that Suzanne has been
swimming very good times. It is being offered, rather, as a causal explanation of the fact that
she is swimming good times. So it is important to distinguish, in the case of sentences
containing the word "because", between sentences that offer reasons for thinking that some
claim is true and sentences that offer a causal explanation (or other type of explanation) for
why something is the case.

As another illustration of the need for care in identifying inference-indicators, consider

the following three sentences containing the word "since":

(2) 1001 is not a prime number, since it is divisible by 11.

(3) Paul hasn't written to me since he went to Europe.

(4) John hasnt played golf the past two years, since he has been living in Antarctica.

In the first of these sentences, "since" does function as an inference-indicator, but in the
second it indicates, instead, a temporal relation, while in the third it refers to an explanation
of a certain fact, rather than offering a reason for thinking that something is true.

Careful attention to wording can sometimes help one to determine whether or not one
has an inference-indicator. To see this, compare sentence (1) with sentence (5):

(5) Suzanne must be swimming very good times, because she has been doing a good deal of
weight training.

Here the word "must" indicates that the speaker, rather than reporting a fact that he or
she is already aware of - the fact that Suzanne is swimming very good times - is instead
drawing a conclusion from something else that he or she knows, namely, that Suzanne has
been doing a good deal of weight training. (Terms such as must and necessarily typically
function in either of two quite different ways. Sometimes they indicate that a certain
proposition is necessarily true, rather than merely contingently so, and sometimes ? as in the

present case - they indicate instead that the proposition in question follows from some other

Similarly, compare sentence (3) with sentence (6):

(6) Paul can't have written to anyone, since he is in Europe, and all the mail carriers there are
on strike.

Just as with the use of the term "must" in sentence (5), so the use of the word "can't" in
sentence (6) strongly suggests that the speaker, rather than referring to a fact that he or she
already knows - namely, that Paul hasn't written to anyone - is instead drawing that
conclusion from other things that he or she knows - namely, that Paul is in Europe, and that
all the mail carriers there are on strike.

Philosophy 3480: Critical Thinking

Lecture: Background Material for Exercise 2
Reasons, Arguments, and the Concept of Validity
(1) The Concept of Validity
Consider the following three arguments:

The moon is not made out of a dairy product

Cheese is a dairy product
Therefore: The moon is not made out of cheese

The moon is made out of cheddar cheese

Cheddar cheese is blue cheese
Therefore: The moon is made out of blue cheese

There are trees in the Quad

It sometimes snows in Boulder
Therefore: There are cars in New York city.

As the above arguments illustrate, the evaluation of any argument involves two issues.
First, are the premises of the argument plausible - that is, likely to be true? Secondly, do the
premises provide satisfactory support for the conclusion of the argument?

Arguments are traditionally divided into two sorts: inductive and deductive. In an
inductive argument, where the reasoning is good, the premises make it likely that the
conclusion is true. In a deductive argument, on the other hand, the reasoning is good only if

the relationship between the premises and the conclusion is such that it is logically impossible
for all of the premises to be true, and yet the conclusion false.

Deductive arguments where the reasoning is good are described as valid arguments. A
valid argument, accordingly, is one where the truth of the premises suffices to guarantee the
truth of the conclusion.

In ethics, almost all of the arguments that one encounters are deductive arguments, rather
than inductive ones. The question of whether the reasoning involved in an argument is good
in the case of an ethical arguments almost always comes down, therefore, to the question of
whether the reasoning is valid.

(2) A General Test for Validity

Intuitively, then, what one can do to test whether an argument is valid is to ask oneself if
one can imagine a world - which may be very different from the actual world - in which all of
the premises of the argument are true, but the conclusion is false. If one can, then the
argument is invalid (or fallacious).

In testing whether an argument is valid, it is important, when trying to imagine a world

in which the premises are all true, and yet the conclusion false, not to add on to the premises,
unconsciously, extra assumptions that one naturally associates with the premises in question.
For adding on such extra assumptions may suffice to guarantee the truth of the conclusion
when the original premises themselves would not have not done so.

(3) Testing for Valid and Invalid Inference by Venn

The study of logic began with Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), and one of the things that
Aristotle particularly focused upon was the study of what are known as syllogistic arguments,
where a syllogistic argument consists of two premises and a conclusion, and where the two
premises share a common term - the middle term - which is not present in the conclusion.

Here are two examples of syllogistic arguments:

Socrates is a man
All men are mortal
Therefore: Socrates is mortal

All politicians are honest and forthright people

No honest and forthright people are demagogues
Therefore: No politicians are demagogues

Here, in the case of the first of these arguments, the middle term - which occurs in both
premises, but not in the conclusion - is "man"/"men", while, in the second argument, the
middle term is the expression "honest and forthright people".

Notice, also, that the statements in a syllogistic argument typically contain terms such as
"all", "some", "no", "any", and "every" - although one can also have statements that refer
instead to some specific individual - such as the statements "Socrates is a man" and 'Socrates
is mortal" in the case of the first argument.

Aristotle set out rules specifying when such syllogistic arguments are valid, and when
they are invalid. Doing so is a somewhat complex matter, as will be clear if one considers
variations on the following syllogistic argument:

All As are Bs
All Bs are Cs
All As are Cs

The term "all" occurs in both of the premises and in the conclusion. In each case, one could
replace the given occurrence of the term "all" by the term "no", or by the term "some",
generating arguments of a different logical form. So, for example, one could replace the
second occurrence by "some", and the third by "no", giving one the following argument:

All As are Bs
Some Bs are Cs
No As are Cs

The first argument form is valid, and the second is not. One needs, then, rules that specify
which forms are valid, and which not. Moreover, since there are three possibilities for each
occurrence of he term "all", one can generate a total of (3 x 3 x 3) = 27 different argument
forms. This does not mean that one will need 27 separate rules. But it does suggest that
giving a satisfactory account may be a somewhat complicated matter.

Long after the time of Aristotle, however, logicians arrived at much simpler ways of
evaluating arguments that involve statements containing terms such as "all", "some", "no",
"any", and "every", and which say that everything has some property, or that some things
have some property, or that nothing has some property. In particular, the logician Venn
(1834-1923) developed a very simple and useful technique for determining whether an
argument is valid - now called the method of Venn diagrams.

The method provides a vivid way in which one can determine whether or not there could
be possible worlds where all of the premises of a given argument are true, but the consequent
false. The technique that Venn developed is as follows. First, one uses a circle - or any other
closed curve - to represent the set of all the things that have some property, P. The idea is that
things that fall inside the circle have property P, while things that fall outside the circle do

Secondly, if one uses two circles, A and B, to represent the things that have property P,
and the things that have property Q, respectively, then there are four ways in which those two
circles can be arranged relative to one another:

(1) Circle A could be inside of circle B;

(2) Circle B could be inside of circle A;
(3) Circles A and B could overlap without either being inside the other;
(4) Circles A and B might be totally outside of one another.

If one circle falls within another, that must indicate that everything with the property
represented by the former circle also has the property represented by the latter circle. So
possibilities (1) and (2) above correspond to:

(1) All things with property P have property Q;

(2) All things with property Q have property P.

If, on the other hand, circles A and B overlap without either being inside the other, that
corresponds to the possibility that

(3) Some things with property P have property Q.

Finally, if circles A and B are totally outside of one another, that corresponds to the possibility

(4) Nothing with property P has property Q.

Thirdly, there may, of course, be sets of things that are completely empty - such as the
set of all unicorns. One needs to have a way of representing, then, the statement that a given
set is not empty. This can be done by placing a letter inside the circle in question.

Fourthly, some arguments refer to a specific individual - such as Socrates. In that case,
one should choose a letter to represent that specific individual - such as the letter 's' for
Socrates - and one can then place it inside of the relevant circle or circles.

Finally, one evaluates a given argument by drawing in circles to represent all the
properties mentioned in the premises or in the conclusion, and uses letters to represent any
specific individuals referred to in the premises or in the conclusion, and then one considers all
of the possible ways in which the circles and letters might be arranged so as to make all of the
premises true. The question then is whether there is any arrangement that makes all of the
premises true, but makes the conclusion false. If there is, the argument is invalid. If there is
no such arrangement, the argument is valid.

As an exercise, try diagramming the following arguments to determine, for each

argument, whether it is valid or not.
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore: Socrates is mortal

Marlboro men do not eat quiche

John does not eat quiche
Therefore: John is a Marlboro man

(4) Valid and Invalid Patterns of Inference - Hypothetical

Consider the following arguments:

Argument 1: If it's not raining today, we'll go on a picnic
It's not raining today
Therefore: We'll go on a picnic.

Argument 2: If it's not raining today, we'll go on a picnic

It's raining today
Therefore: We won't go on a picnic.

Argument 3: If it's not raining today, we'll go on a picnic

We won't go on a picnic
Therefore: It's raining today.

Argument 4: If it's not raining today, we'll go on a picnic

We'll go on a picnic
Therefore: It's not raining today.

Which of these arguments is valid - that is, which of these arguments is such that it is
logically impossible for all of the premises to be true, while the conclusion is false?

In thinking about this, it may be helpful to notice that one can consistently say: "If it's
not raining today, we'll go on a picnic; if it is raining today, we'll (still) go on a picnic. That
is, we'll go on a picnic regardless of whether it rains." Noticing that this is perfectly
consistent may help one to see that arguments 2 and 4 are not valid. For if some conclusion,
C, does not follow when you add more information to your original premises, then the
original premises cannot suffice to ensure that the conclusion, C, is true.

One way of guarding against the temptation of fallacious inferences involving "if-then"
statements is to be familiar with rules about valid and invalid forms of inference involving
"if-then" statements.

I. The following inferences are valid:

If p, then q If p then q
p Not q
Therefore: q Therefore: Not p

(Affirming the antecedent) (Denying the consequent)

II. The following inferences are not valid:

If p, then q If p then q
q Not p
Therefore: p Therefore: Not q

(Affirming the consequent) (Denying the antecedent)

Philosophy 3480: Critical Thinking
Lecture: Background Material for Exercise 3
Extracting an Argument from a Text
1. An Overview

How does one extract an argument from a passage, and then formulate that argument in
a complete and explicit fashion? In outline, the answer is as follows:

(1) First, look for inference indicators in the passage.

(2) Secondly, ask yourself, with regard to each inference indicator, which type of inference
indicator it is. Is it of the same type as "therefore" - where the inference indictor is followed
by the conclusion, and preceded by one or more premises:

[Premise - Inference Indicator - Conclusion]

Or is it of the same type as "since" or "because" - where the inference indictor is followed by
one or more premises, and where the conclusion either precedes the inference indicator, or
else follows the premise:

[Conclusion - Inference Indicator - Premise]

[Inference Indicator - Premise - Conclusion]

(3) Having decided upon the type of inference indicator that is involved, you can then make
use of the information to arrive at the relevant conclusion, together with at least one of the
premises involved in the inference, since if the inference indicator is of the same type as
"therefore", the conclusion will follow the inference indicator, while the premise will precede
the inference indicator, and if the inference indicator is instead of the same type as "since",
what follows the inference indicator will be a premise, and the conclusion will either precede
the inference indicator, or else come after the premise.

(4) Inferences usually involve two premises. Consequently, there will usually be one more
premise that one needs to identify. So scan the text in the vicinity of the inference indicator
to see if there is another statement that it appears the author is using, in conjunction with the
premise already identified, to generate the conclusion in question.

(5) If no other premise appears to be part of the text, is there an implicit premise that it is
plausible to ascribe to the author? Here you can often use the mechanical method of arriving
at possible implicit premises, which is set out below.

(6) Once you have arrived at the premises and the conclusion for the sub-arguments
associated with all of the inference indicators, try to link the sub-arguments together in such a
way that every conclusion of a sub-argument - with the exception of the grand conclusion that
the argument as a whole is supposed to establish - is a premise in another sub-argument.

(7) Your final goal should be a fully explicit, and logically organized argument. Such an
argument will have the following features:

(1) It will be a series of statements, and will include all of the premises, both stated and
unstated, plus the final conclusion, plus any intermediate conclusions that were used in
getting from the premises to final conclusion.

(2) It is probably best to place a number in front of each statement, so that it is easy to refer
to that statement later on, both within the argument itself, and when one is discussing the

(3) If a statement is a premise, it should be indicated that this is so.

(4) If a statement is not a premise, it must be inferred from one or more earlier statements in
the argument, and one should indicate which statements are supposed to entail it. This can be
done either by giving the numbers of the statements from which it is supposed to follow, or,
as we shall be doing later on, by means of a diagram.

(5) The final statement in the argument will be the grand conclusion.

2. The Idea of Implicit Premises

Let us now look at some of these steps in more detail, starting first with the idea of
implicit premises.

The basic point here is that it is often the case that people, in setting out an argument, do
not bother to state explicitly all of the premises or assumptions that play an essential role in
the argument. Assumptions that are thought by the person in question to be widely shared,
and uncontroversial, are likely not to be mentioned. The same in generally true with respect
to premises that seem obvious, given the argument as a whole, or the context in which it is
being advanced.

As an illustration, consider the following argument, which was used in an earlier

discussion of the idea of an inference indicator:

"I have just polished off two six-packs; I am feeling very nauseous; I am unable to get up off
the floor, and the rest of the world is spinning around me at something approaching the speed
of light. Therefore I am probably slightly drunk."
When I say that I have just polished off two six-packs, that I am feeling very nauseous,
and so on, and then conclude that I am probably somewhat drunk, it is natural to conclude
that the six-packs in question contained beer, rather than, say, mineral water. I did not, of
course, explicitly say, at any point, that they contained beer rather than mineral water. None
the less, it is reasonable for you to view the claim that they contained beer as one of my
unstated premises, since given the context of the argument as a whole, it is easy to see why I
should think that it was not something that needed to be explicitly mentioned. If, of course, I
am right in front of you, in a lively state, you need merely ask me whether the proposition
that the six-packs contained beer was one of the unstated premises of my argument. But if I

am no longer around, or have passed out, or you are simply reading the argument when I am
not present, there will be no alternative but to interpret the argument, charitably, as involving
the unstated premise that the six-packs did contain beer.

3. An Illustration of the Expansion of a Condensed Argument

Let me now illustrate some of the above steps by considering a very simple argument.
Suppose that someone says that it is wrong for people to have blood transfusions, and when
asked why it is wrong, responds as follows:

"It is wrong to have blood transfusions because the Bible says that God has forbidden us to
have blood transfusions."
The first step involves a preliminary identification of the logical structure of the
argument. Given the brevity of the argument, and the presence of the inference-indicator
term, "because", this is relatively straightforward. What precedes the term "because" -
namely, the claim that it is wrong to have blood transfusions - must be the conclusion, while
what follows - namely, that the Bible says that God has forbidden us to have blood
transfusions - must be the premise. So we now have the following argument

The Bible says that God has forbidden us to have blood transfusions.

Therefore: It is wrong to have blood transfusions.

This argument is surely incomplete. So let us move on to the next step, and ask whether
there are any assumptions, which the person had in mind, but neglected to state explicitly in
the above formulation of the argument. It seems very likely indeed that there are, since it
seems likely that if we were to ask a person who had put forward the above argument what
connection there is between his claim that the Bible says that God has forbidden us to have
blood transfusions, and his claim that it is wrong to have blood transfusions - that is to say,
why he thinks that the former provides a reason for accepting the latter - he would respond by
saying, first, that if the Bible says that God has forbidden us to have blood transfusions, then
God has forbidden us to have blood transfusions, since everything the Bible says is true, and
secondly, that if God has forbidden us to have blood transfusions, then it is wrong for us to
have blood transfusions, since whatever God forbids is necessarily wrong. In short, it is
likely that a person who advanced that above argument would be relying up-on the following
two, unstated assumptions:

(i) Everything the Bible says is true;

(ii) Whatever God forbids us to do is wrong.

Given these additional, unstated assumptions, we can now move on to the task of setting
out an explicit formulation of the argument as a whole. One way of doing this would be as

(1) The Bible says that God has forbidden us to have blood transfusions. (An explicit

(2) Everything the Bible says is true. (Implicit premise).

(3) God has forbidden us to have blood transfusions.

(An intermediate conclusion, inferred from statements (1) and (2).)

(4) Whatever God forbids us to do is wrong. (An unstated assumption).

(5) It is wrong for us to have blood transfusions. (The final conclusion, inferred from
statements (3) and (4).)

4. The Idea of Linking Together Sub-Arguments

Consider the following, very plausible argument:

"All left wingers are aliens! How do I know? Well left wingers must all come from Venus,
given that they're women. But you wonder whether left wingers are all women? Well they
must be, mustn't they? After all, left wingers are soft-hearted and caring people."
In expanding this into a fully explicit argument, the first step is to identify the inference
indicators. Here, we have some rather long phrases serving as inference indicators, indicating
by the underlining:
"All left wingers are aliens! How do I know? Well left wingers must all come from Venus,
given that they're women. But you wonder whether left wingers are all women? Well they
must be, mustn't they? After all, left wingers are soft-hearted and caring people."
Next, one asks about the type of each inference indicator, and here it appears that each is
of the same type as "since" - that is, they are of the following sort:

[Conclusion - Inference Indicator - Premise]

By making use of this information, and selecting material after the inference indictor as
the premise, and appropriate material preceding it as the conclusion, one arrives at the
following partial statements of the three sub-arguments:

Sub-Argument 1

All left wingers come from Venus

Therefore: All left wingers are aliens

Sub-Argument 2

All left wingers are women

Therefore: All left wingers come from Venus

Sub-Argument 3

All left wingers are soft-hearted and caring people

Therefore: All left wingers are women

In the case of each sub-argument, a premise is missing. The next step, then, is to find, in
each case, a second premise that, together with the first premise, might plausibly be viewed
as generating the relevant conclusion. Here the most plausible candidates, I think, are as
indicated below:

Sub-Argument 1

(1) All left wingers come from Venus [Explicit premise]

(2) All things that come from Venus are aliens [Implicit premise]

Therefore: (3) All left wingers are aliens [Grand conclusion]

Sub-Argument 2

(4) All left wingers are women [Explicit premise]

(5) All women come from Venus [Implicit premise]

Therefore: (6) All left wingers come from Venus [Intermediate conclusion]

Sub-Argument 3

(7) All left wingers are soft-hearted and caring people [Explicit

(8) All soft-hearted and caring people are women [Implicit


Therefore: (9) All left wingers are women [Intermediate conclusion]

In the next section, I shall set out a mechanical method of locating missing premises.
First, however, I want to introduce the idea of linking together sub-arguments so that the
argument as a whole is set out in a logical fashion.

To do this, notice that each of the two intermediate conclusions occurs as a premise in
one of the other two arguments. Thus the intermediate conclusion that is statement (6) is
identical with statement (1), which is a premise in the first sub-argument. Similarly, the
intermediate conclusion that is statement (9) is identical with statement (4), which is a
premise in the second sub-argument.

It is possible, because of this, to arrange the above arguments in a series where every
step is either a premise, or something that follows from earlier steps. When this is done, the
argument as a whole will contain seven statements, since, as we have seen, of the nine
statements in the above three sub-arguments, two occur twice.

Here is the rearranged argument, with the statements renumbered:

(1) All left wingers are soft-hearted and caring people [Explicit premise]

(2) All soft-hearted and caring people are women [Implicit premise]

Therefore: (3) All left wingers are women [From (1) and (2)]

(4) All women come from Venus [Implicit premise]

Therefore: (5) All left wingers come from Venus [From (3) and (4)]

(6) All things that come from Venus are aliens [Implicit premise]

Therefore: (7) All left wingers are aliens [From (5) and (6)]

5. A Mechanical Method for Arriving at Implicit Premises

Consider the first inference in the above argument:

(1) All left wingers are soft-hearted and caring people

(2) All soft-hearted and caring people are women

Therefore: (3) All left wingers are women

This argument has a certain logical form, or structure. To see what that structure is,
replacing the following expressions - "left wingers", "soft-hearted and caring people", and
"women" by "As", "Bs", and "Cs" respectively. This gives us:

(1) All As are Bs

(2) All Bs are Cs

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Thus formulated, one can see that the argument has the following features:

(1) Both of the premises, and the conclusion, begin with the word "all".

(2) No general term occurs in the conclusion unless it occurs in one (but not both) of the
premises. Thus the general term "As" occurs in the conclusion and in premise (1), while the
general term "Cs" occurs in the conclusion and in premise (2).

(3) One general term - namely, "Bs" does not occur in the conclusion, but it does occur in
both premises.

(4) Moreover, that term occurs in a different position in the two premises. In the first
premise, "Bs" is in the consequent of the "all" statement, whereas in the second premise it is
in the antecedent.

At this point, it is very helpful to have a label for a term that functions in the way that "Bs"
does in the above argument schema. The label traditionally used here is "middle term". A
middle term can, then, be defined as follows:

A middle term is a term that has the following properties:

(1) It occurs in both premises;

(2) It does not occur in the conclusion;

(3) In arguments that involve three "all" statements, the term in question occurs in a different
position in the two premises - namely, in the antecedent of one, and in the consequent of the

The above provides one with a mechanical method of arriving at missing premises in
arguments of the relevant sort - that is, that involve three "all" statements. (Similar methods
can be used for arguments with a different logical form.) For suppose that one is confronted
with an argument with a missing premise, such as:

(1) All As are Bs

(2) ??

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Looking at this argument, one can see that it contains a general term - namely "Bs" - that
does not occur in the conclusion. That term, accordingly, must be the middle term, and so it
must occur in both premises. In addition, since one is presumably dealing with an argument
that involves three "all" statements, one knows that the middle term must occur in a different
position in the two premises. So this allows us to partially fill in the missing second premise:

(1) All As are Bs

(2) All Bs are ??

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Next, one knows that in arguments of the sort we are considering - and which are
referred to as syllogistic arguments - any general terms that occur in the conclusion just occur
in one of the premises. (This is not true of other types of arguments.) This means that since
the term "Cs" occurs in the conclusion, it must also occur in one of the premises. There is,
however, only one place that is still blank. Putting the term "Cs" in that location then gives
us the following argument, in which the missing second premise has been completely

(1) All As are Bs

(2) All Bs are Cs

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Finally, suppose, instead, that it was the premise at (1) that was missing, so that all that
we had was:

(1) ??

(2) All Bs are Cs

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Looking at this argument, one can see that it, too, contains a general term - namely "Bs"
- that does not occur in the conclusion. That term, accordingly, must be the middle term, and

so it must occur in both premises. Moreover, since one is presumably dealing with an
argument that involves three "all" statements, one knows that the middle term must occur in a
different position in the two premises. So this allows us to partially fill in the missing second

(1) All ?? are Bs

(2) All Bs are Cs

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Next, one knows that in syllogistic arguments that any general terms that occur in the
conclusion just occur in one of the premises. (This is not true of other types of arguments.)
This means that since the term "As" occurs in the conclusion, it must also occur in one of the
premises. There is, however, only one place that is still blank. Putting the term "As" in that
location then gives us the following argument, in which the missing premise has once again
been completely identified:

(1) All As are Bs

(2) All Bs are Cs

Therefore: (3) All As are Cs

Philosophy 3480: Critical Thinking

Lecture: Background Material for Exercise 4

The Method of Counterexamples

One of the most important methods for evaluating moral claims - both one's own and
those of others - is the method, or technique, of counterexamples. But this method is also
applicable to factual claims that involve no moral content, and since the situation is simpler
there, it may be best if we begin with its use in that area.

1.1 Non-Moral Generalizations and the Technique of Counterexamples

Generalizations can vary greatly in complexity. But it will suffice, for understanding
what the technique of counterexamples is, if one considers generalizations of the following
two simple types:

(1) Anything that has property P ALWAYS has property Q as well;;

(2) Something that has property P NEVER has property Q.

Confronted with any generalization, the first thing to do is to look for counterexamples.
If the generalization in question is one that asserts that anything that has property P always
has property Q as well, then a counterexample will consist of something that has property P,
but that does not have property Q. On the other hand, if the generalization is one that asserts
that nothing that has property P ever has property Q, then a counterexample will be a case of
something that has both property P and property Q.

Consider, for example, the following generalization:

"All swans are white."

A counterexample to this generalization would be something that had the property of being a
swan, but which was not white: a black swan from Australia.

The technique of counterexamples points, incidentally, to one habit that it is very

important to acquire - the habit of taking generalizations seriously. Thus, if someone asserts
that something is always the case, or that it is never the case, you should immediately ask
whether there are any counterexamples. If it has been claimed that all Ps are Qs, can one find
a case of a P that is not a Q? Or, if it has been claimed that Ps are never Qs, can one point to
a case of a P that is a Q?

Some people, by contrast, tend to put forward generalizations very casually, and when
confronted with a counterexample, respond by saying, "That's the exception that proves the
rule." The appropriate reply is simply: "No it isn't. It's a case which shows that your
generalization is false, and so has to be abandoned."

1.2 Moral Claims and the Technique of Counterexamples

When the technique of counterexamples is applied to general moral claims, the same
basic idea is involved as in the case of purely descriptive or factual generalizations that do not
involve any moral content. There are, however, some special considerations that arise when
the technique of counterexamples is applied to moral claims, and that need to be kept clearly
in mind. These involve:

(1) The distinction between absolute moral rules, and prima facie rules;

(2) The idea of doomsday-style counterexamples;

(3) The value of counterexamples that are not of the doomsday variety;

(4) The use of purely imaginary cases;

(5) Counterexamples and rights claims;

(6) The scope of the method of counterexamples;

(7) The reason why the method is so often fruitful;

(8) Searching for the most effective counterexamples.

1.2.1 The Distinction between Absolute Moral Rules, and Prima Facie Moral

The first point, and perhaps the most important, is that many moral statements can be
interpreted in either of two very different ways. Consider, for example, the following claim:
"Adultery is always morally wrong." A person who utters this statement might be saying
either that

(1) Adultery is always wrong, all things considered, regardless of the circumstances, and
regardless of the consequences,
or that
(2) Adultery is always prima facie wrong; it is always wrong in itself; it is always wrong
other things being equal.

What is the difference between these two claims? Suppose that Mary is in a rather odd
situation, in which the only way in which she can save the life of some innocent person is by
committing adultery. Someone who maintains that adultery is prima facie wrong might say
that, although adultery was always wrong in itself, nonetheless Mary should commit adultery
in order to save the life of the innocent person. In contrast, someone who held that adultery
was always wrong, all things considered, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of
the consequences, would say that Mary should not commit adultery, even though an innocent
person will die if she doesn't.

One needs to distinguish, therefore, between absolute moral rules and prima facie moral
rules. An absolute moral rule is one that asserts either that a certain sort of action is wrong
without qualification, and so should never be performed, or, alternatively, that an action is
obligatory, and so should always be performed in the appropriate circumstances. A prima
facie moral rule, in contrast, is one that specifies what have been called right-making and
wrong-making properties of actions - a right-making property being one that makes it
obligatory, other things being equal, to perform an action, and a wrong-making property
being one that makes it wrong, other things being equal, to perform an action.

The importance of this distinction in connection with the technique of counterexamples

lies in the fact that it is often more difficult to find a plausible counterexample to a moral
statement when it is interpreted as expressing a prima facie moral rule than when it is
interpreted as expressing as absolute moral rule. Someone who holds that adultery is
absolutely wrong is saying that one ought not to commit adultery even if that is the only way
to prevent a nuclear holocaust, and many people would view this case as a convincing
counterexample to the claim that adultery is absolutely wrong. But cases such as this leave
untouched the claim that adultery is prima facie wrong. A person who advances the latter
claim can happily concede that one ought to commit adultery if that is the only way to
prevent a nuclear holocaust, while maintaining that adultery is always wrong in itself. For
what he or she can say is, first, that while the fact that an action is a case of adultery is a

wrong-making characteristic of that action, in the case we are considering the action also has
a right-making characteristic - namely, that of being an action that saves the life of an
innocent person - and, secondly, that the latter, right-making characteristic is more significant
than the former, wrong-making characteristic, so that, thirdly, the action in question is one
that is right, all things considered.

How, then, does on go about constructing counterexamples to claims that some action is
prima facie morally wrong? This is an important question, and it will be addressed later, in
section 1.3.

1.2.2 The Idea of Doomsday-Style Counterexamples

Some counterexamples to absolute moral claims involve an instance of the type of

action that the person is claiming is always morally wrong where not performing the action in
those particular circumstances will have some extremely bad consequences - such as, in the
above example, the death of an innocent person, or, more dramatically, the destruction of all
life on earth. Hence the label: "doomsday-style" counterexample.

1.2.3 The Advantage of Non-Doomsday-Style Counterexamples

Doomsday-style counterexamples can be very effective against many absolute moral

claims. But they have the disadvantage that they cannot be used against prima facie moral
claims, since there the person who is advancing the moral claim can simply reply that while
the action in question is not wrong in the doomsday case, the reason is that the prima facie
wrongness of performing the action is outweighed by the prima facie rightness of performing
an action that will prevent a horrendous outcome.

In addition, if someone advances an absolute moral claim, and you respond by offering a
doomsday-style counterexample, the person may grant that your counterexample has force
against the absolute moral rule, but then shift to the corresponding prima facie rule - at which
point your counterexample will not have any force.

Non-doomsday-style counterexamples have the advantage, then, of greater applicability,

because they apply to prima facie moral rules, as well as absolute ones, and, as a
consequence, someone who initially advances an absolute moral claim cannot escape your
counterexample by shifting to the corresponding prima facie claim.

1.2.4 The Use of Imaginary Cases

Confronted with a factual generalization, such as that all swans are white, it will be of no
use to appeal to an imaginary case of a pink swan. A counterexample to the generalization
must be some actual swan that is not white; hypothetical non-white swans do not count. The
situation is different, in this respect, in the case of at least some moral generalizations. For at
least some moral generalizations are concerned, not only with all the cases of actions of a
given sort that actually arise, but with all possible actions of that sort. So if, for example,
someone maintains that it is prima facie wrong to break a promise, he or she is not saying
merely that every case of breaking a promise throughout all of history has some property
which, other things being equal, will make the action wrong. The claim is rather that the
property of being a case of breaking one's promise is a wrong-making property so that there
could not possibly be an action that had that property which did not have at least one wrong-

making property. To claim that it is prima facie wrong to break one's promises is therefore to
make a claim that covers both actual and possible actions that involve the breaking of a

The upshot is that in applying the technique of counterexamples to moral claims, it will
often be unnecessary to point to a case of some actual action that falls under the moral
generalization, but that fails to have the moral property which, according to the
generalization, it ought to have. A purely imaginary, or hypothetical case, will often suffice.
This is illustrated by the discussion above of the claim that adultery is always wrong, all
things considered, and regardless of either the circumstances or the consequences. For it is
unlikely that there has ever been an actual case where the only way in which someone could
prevent a nuclear holocaust was by committing adultery. The case is therefore a purely
hypothetical one. This in no way makes it, however, a less effective counterexample.

1.2.5 Counterexamples and Rights Claims

Some moral generalizations involves claims about rights. What does it means for
something to have a right? At the very least, for A to have a right not to be treated in a certain
way - call it M - it must be at least prima facie wrong to treat A in way M. But that is not
sufficient, since the fact that it is wrong for Mary to drink Sue's beer does not mean that the
beer has a right not to be drunk, or a right not to be drunk by Mary. The right here belongs to
Sue, not to the beer. Thus, to say that something has a right is not merely to say that it would
be wrong to treat it in a certain way: it is also to say that if one were to treat it in that way,
one would be wronging the thing in question, rather than wronging something, or someone,

In short, if one is considering a claim that something has some right, one must ask not
only (1) whether treating it in a certain way would be wrong, but (2) if so, whether such
treatment would also wrong the thing in question.

1.2.6 The Scope of the Method of Counterexamples

How widely applicable is the technique of counterexamples? The answer is that it is

potentially applicable to every moral claim that anyone advances. But how can this be so,
given that while some moral claims take the form of general claims, others do not? The
answer is that in the case where someone puts forward a moral claim that, rather than being
general in form, concerns only what someone did, or what someone is considering doing, in a
particular situation, a defense of the specific claim will ultimately have to appeal to general
moral principles. As a consequence, every moral claim either is, or depends upon, some
general moral claim, and this means that the technique of searching for counterexamples to
generalizations is a technique that is always relevant in any moral discussion.

1.2.7 The Reason Why the Method is So Often Fruitful

People sometimes wonder how the technique of searching for counterexamples can
possibly be an effective technique to use in moral discussions. For suppose that John claims
that all actions of type M are morally wrong, and Mary tries to convince John that he is
mistaken by describing a certain action which is of type M, but which she believes is not
morally wrong. Given that John believes that all actions of type M are wrong, wont he
simply reject her proposed counterexample, and hold that the action which she describes is

morally wrong? So that while the case that Mary proposes as a counterexample to the
generalization may seem to Mary to be a plausible counterexample, it will not seem so to
John, and so it cannot help their discussion to move ahead.

The answer is that people, in advancing a general moral claim, do not always consider
all of the different sorts of cases that fall under the general claim. A persons acceptance of a
generalization may often rest upon quite a limited range of cases. As a consequence, if Mary
focuses upon a case ? either actual or hypothetical ? which is of a sort that John may not have
considered, then she may very well come up with one where his moral intuitions do not
square with those of the general moral claim which he has advanced. What is a
counterexample for Mary may therefore be a counterexample for John as well, and thus
provide him with a reason for modifying or abandoning his original moral claim.

1.2.8 Searching for the Most Effective Counterexamples.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that one is searching for counterexamples that are
as uncontroversial as possible, since the goal is to find something that will be effective in
providing a person who accepts the generalization with a reason for entertaining doubts about
its acceptability.

1.3 Finding Counterexamples to Prima Facie Moral Claims

We have seen that it is much easier to find potentially convincing counterexamples to

principles that are advanced as absolute moral rules than to principles that are advanced as
prima facie moral rules, since doomsday-style counterexamples often work in the form case,
but not in the latter. How, then, does on go about locating potentially effective
counterexamples when one is confronted with what is being claimed to be a prima facie
moral rule?

Suppose that someone claims that all actions of type A are prima facie wrong. What
properties will a potentially effective counterexample need to have? The answer would seem
to be as follows:

(1) The action in question must be one of type A which most people would not view as
morally wrong, all things considered.

(2) Either there must be no right-making characteristic at all that is present in the action in
question or else, if there is a right-making characteristic that is present, it must not be
sufficiently weighty that it could explain why the action in question is not wrong, all things

The idea underlying condition (2) is this. First, if there is an action of type A that is not
morally wrong all things considered, and that possesses no right-making characteristic, then
that action cannot possess any wrong-making characteristic either, and so it cannot be the
case that being an action of type A is itself a wrong-making characteristic. Secondly, if the
action in question does possess a right-making characteristic, but one that is not sufficiently
important to outweigh the purported wrong-making characteristic of being an action of type
A, then the right-making characteristic cannot suffice to explain why the action in question is

not wrong all things considered, and so there is no alternative to the conclusion that being an
action of type A is not a wrong-making characteristic.

Let us now try finding effective counterexamples to some prima facie moral claims.
Consider, for example, the following five moral claims:

1. Adultery is always prima facie wrong.

2. It is always prima facie wrong to kill someone who wants to live.

3. Breaking the law is always (at least) prima facie wrong.

4. Divorce is always prima facie wrong

5. Pleasurable experiences are always prima facie good.

(The first four claims involve moral principles concerning the wrongness of actions. The
fifth is a different type of moral claim, and of a sort that we have not so far considered, as it is
concerned not with the rightness or wrongness of actions, but with the value - the goodness or
badness - of states of affairs of a certain type.)

Let us now consider how one might arrive at promising counterexamples to the above
five claims. (Before reading on, try coming up with a plausible counterexample. This will
not always be easy. If you have difficulty, see if the hints and suggestions that follow help.)

Hints and Suggestions

For claim 1: Try thinking about harm, deception, and breaking promises.

For claim 2: Think about someone who is, or has been, very naughty.

For claim 3: Don't confine yourself just to laws that exist at the present time. Consider laws
that existed at earlier times, both in this country and in other countries.

For claim 1: Try thinking about divorce and the idea of harm.

For claim 1: Can you think of any pleasures that do not make the world a better place?


1. Adultery is always prima facie wrong.

What explanation might people offer of the wrongness of adultery? There are many
possibilities, but some are as follows: (1) Adultery involves breaking a promise to be sexual
faithful to one's spouse. (2) Adultery involves deceiving one's spouse, or at least not being
honest with him or her about a very important matter. (3) Adultery involves a significant
chance that one's spouse will find out what one has done, and be harmed by it. (4) Adultery
may destroy one's marriage, and, thereby, inflict suffering upon one's children.

The idea, then, is to think of a case of adultery where the factors just listed are absent.
For example: John and Mary are a swinging couple with no children who give each other
permission to have sexual relations with others at a party they are both attending.

Now, of course, not everyone would concede that this is a sound counterexample. One
might think, for example, that marriage is a contract that involves not just John and Mary, but
God as well, and that in committing adultery, even with each other's permission and approval,
John and Mary are breaking a promise that they made to God, and not just to one another.
Nevertheless, this is still a very promising counterexample, and one that many people would
view as sound, and the key to arriving at it was to construct a case where various factors that
bear upon the morality of adultery are not present.

2. It is always prima facie wrong to kill someone who wants to live.

Are there cases in which you would think it was justified to kill someone? Suppose that
you were being attacked by someone who was armed, and who it appeared wanted to kill
you. Or suppose you knew that the person in question was America's most wanted serial

In short, one good type of counterexample to claim 2 involves the case where you kill a
guilty aggressor in self-defense, and the crucial thing that you needed to notice about claim 2
was that it did not specify that the person in question was innocent.

Once that is noticed, another potentially effective counterexample may spring to mind as
well - namely, the case of capital punishment involving a person who has been found guilty
of some horrendous series of crimes. (Since many more people reject capital punishment
than reject killing in self-defense, this second counterexample will not be quite as effective as
the first. But it is still very relevant, and quite strong.)

3. Breaking the law is always (at least) prima facie wrong.

Here one should ask what grounds there might be for disobeying a law. One answer is
that the law may itself be immoral, in that it may itself involve a violation of the rights of
people. Consider, for example, the following laws from earlier times:

(1) Laws in America concerning the ownership of slaves, or racial intermarriage.

(2) Laws in America denying women the right to vote.

(3) Laws in Nazi Germany concerning the treatment of Jews and certain other groups.

(4) Laws in the middle ages concerning the appropriate punishment - namely, execution - for
holding heretical religious beliefs.

Can you think of any present-day laws that you would hold are unjust?

4. Divorce is always prima facie wrong

Here, as in the case of adultery, it is helpful to ask what reasons there might be for
holding that divorce is harmful. One reason might be that divorce may harm either the man
or the woman. Another is that it may harm any children that they have. Once again, then, the
strategy is to construct a case where these sorts of consideration are not present. For
example: the people involved do not yet have any children, they have found that they both
prefer living on their own to living with someone else, and both of them want to abandon
their marriage, and go back to living as single individuals.

Here, too, as in the adultery case, not everyone will agree that this is a convincing
counterexample - since, here too, some will hold that marriage is a contract with God, and not
just with one another. But, once again, one has a potentially very effective counterexample,
since one has constructed a case where factors that might make divorce wrong have been

5. Pleasurable experiences are always prima facie good.

Some pleasurable experiences may be bad all things considered, because they may lead
to consequences that involve, say, suffering that outweighs the pleasure. But how could a
pleasurable experience not be prima facie, or intrinsically, good? How could a pleasurable
experience not be such as, in itself, makes the world a better place?

The answer emerges if one considers people who enjoy doing things that harm others -
the psychopath who enjoys torturing and murdering people. So the suggestion is that the
world is not a better place if such a person gets great pleasure from such activity than it
would be if he or she got only a little pleasure from it, and thus that sadistic pleasures are a
counterexample to the claim that pleasure is always prima facie good.

Some people might argue that the judgment that sadistic pleasure is not prima facie good
is based upon a confusion, and that one is mistakenly transferring one's disapproval of the
sadistic action over to the pleasure that results from that action. I do not think that there is a
confusion here. But one could avoid this objection by shifting to a slightly different case
where there is no sadistic action - namely, the case of a person who simply takes pleasure in
any suffering that he or she happens to see people undergoing.


Some Metaphysical Questions

The following are among the bewildering variety of questions that raise

metaphysical issues:

(1) Is there anything that must be true of absolutely everything that exists?

(2) Must anything that exists have

intrinsic properties?

(3) What are properties? Are they universals, or tropes, or . . .?

(4) Must anything that exists stand in some relation to something else?

(5) Must anything that exists be completely determinate, or can there be vague


(6) Can there be things that exist that are not in time?

(7) Is there anything that is not part of the spatiotemporal world?

(8) What are the truthmakers for mathematical statements?

(9) What are numbers?

(10) Can there be necessarily existent entities?

(11) What is it for something to be an actual entity?

(12) Is everything that exists

an actual entity?

(13) What are the truthmakers for statements of logical possibility?

(14) Do merely possible worlds exist?

(15) What sorts of things are possible worlds?

(16) Is change really possible?

(17) Can there be things that are in principle unobservable?

(18) Can one make sense of a non-

reductionist view of theoretical entities?

(19) Can there be aspects of reality that are in principle unknowable?

(20) Why is there something, rather than nothing?

(21) Could the world contain only dispositional properties?

(22) Can there be pure dispositional properties


is, properties that have no

categorical basis?

(23) What is time?

(24) Is time real, or an illusion?


Could time be cyclic?

(26) Can there be time without change?

(27) Is space real, or an illusion?

Basic Concepts, Methods, Issues, Questions, and Arguments
Topic I. What Is Metaphysics?
A Definition of Metaphysics: Metaphysics is the philosophical investigation of the ultimate nature of reality.

Some Basic Types of Questions in Metaphysics: (1) Questions concerning reality as a whole; (2) Questions
concerning things that must be true of absolutely everything that exists; (3) Questions concerning possibilities
for existence; (4) Questions concerning fundamental aspects of contingent things; (5) Questions concerning the
nature of human beings.

The Problem of Method in Metaphysics: Science, especially physics, is also concerned with arriving at
knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality. How do the methods used in metaphysics relate to, and differ from,
the methods used in science? Is metaphysics a legitimate discipline, rather than pure speculation, or armchair

Methods Used in Metaphysics, and Some Examples: (1) The appeal to what one can imagine where
imagining some state of affairs involves forming a vivid image of that state of affairs. (2) The appeal to what
one cannot imagine. (3) The appeal to what one can coherently conceive. (4) The appeal to what one cannot
coherently conceive. (5) The appeal to intuitions about what is logically possible, or logically impossible, to
support claims about what really is logically possible, or logically impossible. (Comment: Appeals of these
five sorts occur, for example, in connection with the evaluation of proposed analyses of concepts, and in
connection with attempts to formulate truth conditions.) (6) Conceptual analysis (7) The proof of propositions
using logic alone. (Bertrand Russell and (a) the non-existence of set of all sets that do no belong to themselves,
and (b) the non-existence of a set of all sets) (8) The proof of propositions using logic plus conceptual analysis.
(Analytic truths as derivable from logical truths in the narrow sense by the substitution of synonymous
expressions.) (Examples: A cause cannot succeed its effect. All properties are completely determinate.)
(9) The use of inference to the best causal explanation. (Examples: God; other minds) (10) The use of
inference to the best non-causal explanation. (Examples: Laws of nature; causal relations) (11) The use of a
system of logical probability to show that certain things are likely to be the case, or that certain things are
unlikely to be the case. (12) The use of inference to the best account of the truth conditions of some statement.
(The idea of a robust correspondence theory of truth) (Example: David Lewis's account of the truth conditions
of statements about possibilities.) (13) The appeal to direct acquaintance. (Example: The existence of
emergent, sensuous properties)

The Status of Metaphysical Truths, and Questions of Method: Are some metaphysical propositions merely
contingently true? If so what methods can be used to establish such contingent truths? Are some metaphysical
propositions necessarily true? What methods are appropriate in such cases?

Truthmakers and Metaphysical Propositions: Do all true statements require truthmaking states of affairs that
are external to the statements? What about logically true, or analytically true statements? (Compare Lewis's
postulation of possible worlds to supply truthmakers for modal statements.)

Topic II. Identity and Persistence

Two Important Preliminary Distinctions: (1) Qualitative identity versus numerical identity; (2) Numerical
identity versus the unity relation.

The Definition of Numerical Identity: (1) Numerical identity is a purely logical relation; (2) Numerical
identity can be defined via introduction and elimination rules.

A Potentially Misleading Way of Talking: "synchronic identity" versus "diachronic identity". Identity is not a
cross-temporal relation.

Realist versus Reductionist Accounts of the Synchronic Unity Relation: (1) What makes it the case that two
property instances that exist at the same time belong to one and the same thing? (2) Is the synchronic unity
relation unique and unanalyzable, or is it analyzable? (3) Is it reducible, for example, to nomological
connections between property instances? (4) Or does the synchronic unity relation have to be analyzed in terms
of causal relations to property instances that exist at earlier times?

Realist versus Reductionist Accounts of the Diachronic Unity Relation: (1) What makes it the case that two
property instances that exist at different times belong to one and the same persisting thing? (2) Is the diachronic
unity relation unique and unanalyzable, or is it reducible, for example, to causal connections of an appropriate
sort? (3) Causal connections as a necessary condition of the presence of the unity relation: Armstrong's
annihilation/creation case. (4) Are all questions of identity settled once all causal relations are settled? (5) The
issues raised by fission and fusion cases.

The Diachronic Unity Relation and the Definition of Persisting Entities: (1) The diachronic unity as a
relation not between temporal parts, but between property instances existing at different times; (2) Fission and
fusion cases show that the diachronic unity relation cannot be both symmetric and transitive, whereas identity is;
(3) Can one define a persisting entity ("identity over time") in terms of property instances that are related via a
non-branching unity relation?

Topic III. Personal Identity

Personal Identity - Realist and Reductionist Alternatives: (1) The diachronic unity relation is an irreducible
relation, both in the case of persons, and in the case of inanimate objects; (2) The diachronic unity relation is an
irreducible relation in the case of immaterial egos, and so there would be a fact of the matter in fission cases;
(3) Bodily identity is a necessary and sufficient condition of personal identity; (4) Brain identity is a necessary
and sufficient condition of personal identity; (5) The unity relation is a matter of relations between occurrent
psychological states; (6) The unity relation is a matter of relations between psychological states, both occurrent
states and underlying powers; (7) The unity relation is a matter of relations between psychological states, both
occurrent states and underlying powers, and also a matter of those states' being instantiated in the same
underlying stuff, where the latter might be either the same brain, or the same immaterial substance.

Important Thought Experiments and Test Cases: (1) Interchanging psychological states between different
brains; (2) The transference of psychological states and powers to a different immaterial substance; (3) The
destruction of all psychological states, together with the continued existence of brain and body; (4)
Shoemakers brain transplant case; (5) The case where one hemisphere is destroyed; (6) The case where one
hemisphere is destroyed, and the other hemisphere is transplanted; (7) The case where both hemispheres are
transplanted into different bodies; (8) Derek Parfit's fusion cases; (9) The reprogramming case; (10)
Teletransportation cases, (a) with the same matter arranged the same way, (b) with the same matter arranged a
different way, and (c) with completely different matter.

Issues Raised by Derek Parfit: (1) Is it possible to make sense of the notion of "surviving" in a case where the
resulting person is not identical with the original person? (2) Must there always be a true answer to any
question concerning identity in any conceivable case? (3) Is identity an important matter? (4) Is what matters
an all-or-nothing matter, or a matter of degree? (5) Can one set out an account of memory, which is such that it
is not an analytic truth that if A has a memory of experience E, then E is an experience that A had? (6) Can all
mental states be described impersonally - that is, in a way that does not presuppose the existence of any person
at all? (7) Does personal identity just consist in bodily and psychological continuity, or is it a further fact,
independent of the facts about these continuities? (8) If there is a further fact, is it (a) a deep fact, and (b) an all-
or-nothing fact?

Topic IV. The Nature of the Mind

Some Important Issues: (1) What account is to be given of the very concept of a mind? (2) What type of
analysis is to be given of statements about different types of mental states? (3) Are there any significant
divisions between types of mental states, in the sense that a very different type of account might have to be
given for some types of mental states than others? (4) What is the "mark" of the mental? That is to say, what is
it that distinguishes states of affairs that are mental states from those that are not? (Consciousness and
intentionality as two important answers.)

Four Different Accounts of the Analysis of Mental Concepts: (1) One anti-reductionist approach: a "raw
feel", or "qualia", or phenomenalistic account;
(2) A second anti-reductionist approach: intentionality as a defining property of mental states; (3) Analytical, or
logical, behaviorism; (4) Functionalism, and the identification of mental states (primarily) on the basis of their
causal roles, rather than on the basis of their intrinsic natures. The computer program analogy.

Three Main Families of Views Concerning the Nature of the Mind:

(1) Physicalistic views of a reductionist sort; (2) Non-physicalistic views;
(3) Emergent physicalism.

Physicalistic Views of a Reductionist Sort: (1) Analytical behaviorism: concepts of mental states are to be
analyzed in terms of behavior both actual behavior and behavioral dispositions; (2) Mind-brain identity
theory: This involves (a) a functionalist account of the mind, and of mental states; (b) an identification of those
functional states with the physical states that realize them; (3) Mental states are functional states, physically

realized. This involves (a) a functionalist account of the mind, and of mental states; (b) an identification of
mental states with, so to speak, the program that the brain is running, rather than with the specific physical
processes that are involved in the running of the program; (4) Eliminativism: this is the view that no minds,
and no mental states, exist.

Non-Physicalistic Views: (1) Property dualism: there are non-physical properties, in the form of emergent
qualia; (2) Intentional state dualism according to which intentionality is the mark of the mental; (3)
Substance dualism: the mind is an immaterial entity; (4) Idealism - the view that there is no mind-independent
physical world.

Emergent Physicalism: There are emergent, sensuous properties - qualia - but they are physical properties, and
everything that exists is purely physical.

Property Dualism versus Emergent Physicalism: Does one have logically privileged access to qualia, or are
they in principle publicly observable?

Arguments for Substance Dualism: (1) The argument from personal identity, advanced by Richard Swinburne;
(2) The argument from human freedom and responsibility; (3) The knowledge argument, advanced by J. P.
Moreland and Scott B. Rae; (4) The argument from intentionality; (5) The argument from the existence of
paranormal powers, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis; (6) The argument from
out-of-body experiences, and near-death experiences.

Arguments against Substance Dualism: (1) General arguments for materialism; (2) The crucial argument: the
appeal to specific facts about humans, including (a) the results of blows to the head, (b) the effects of damage to
different parts of the brain, (c) diseases that affect mental functioning, including Alzheimers, (d) aging and the
mind, (e) the gradual development of psychological capacities as humans mature, (f) the inheritance of
intellectual abilities and psychological traits, (g) the great psychological similarity between identical twins than
between fraternal twins, (h) the existence of psychotropic drugs, which can affect ones mental state and
functioning; and (i) the correlations between differences in psychological capacities across species with
differences in the neural structures found in their brains.

Analytical Behaviorism: (1) Actual behavior versus behavioral dispositions; (2) The irrelevance of the nature
of the causal connections between stimulus and response.

A Functionalist Analysis of Mental Concepts: (1) Mental states are individuated into different types on the
basis of relations to (a) stimulation of the organism, (b) behavioral response, and (c) other mental states; (2) On
most functionalist accounts, the relations in question are causal relations. So a mental state is the type of mental
state it in virtue of its causal role. (David Armstrong also allows the relation of resemblance.) (3) The intrinsic
nature of a state is irrelevant to the question of whether it is a mental state, and, if so, what type of mental state it

Objections to Analytical Behaviorism: (l) The inverted spectrum argument;

(2) The unconsciousness, or absent qualia, argument; (3) The understanding sensation terms argument.
(Compare Thomas Nagel's "What it's like to be a bat" argument, or Frank Jackson's case of Mary.)

A Crucial Question: Do the preceding objections to analytical behaviorism also tell against a functionalist
account of metal concepts?

Topic V. Consciousness, and the Existence of Emergent, Sensuous Qualities

Important Types of Arguments in Support of the Existence of Emergent Qualities: (l) Thomas Nagel's
"What It's Like to Be a Bat" Argument; (2) The Continuity Objection, and the Line-Drawing Problem; (3) Frank
Jackson's "What Mary Doesn't Know" Argument; (4) The Logical/Metaphysical/Nomological Possibility of an
Inverted Spectrum; (5) David Chalmers Argument: The Logical/Metaphysical Possibility of Zombies; (6) The
Unconscious Perceivers Argument; (7) The Understanding Sensation Terms Argument.

Armstrong's Early Arguments against the Existence of Emergent Qualities:

(1) Armstrong's indeterminacy objection; (5) Armstrongs intransitivity objection.

Thomas Nagel's Arguments: (1) The relocation used in the case of "phenomenal" physical properties is no
longer available in the case of qualia; (2) Qualia are known by introspection, while properties of brain states are
not known by introspection; (3) The "what it's like to be a bat" argument.

Paul Churchland's Responses to Nagel's Three Arguments: (1) Argument 1: The relocation move is
incorrect in the case of the "phenomenal" properties of physical objects; (2) Argument 2 is unsound, since it
mistakenly assumes that a certain context is extensional; (3) Argument 3 can be answered in the same way as
Frank Jackson's argument, which is essentially the same.

Responses to Thomas Nagel's Third Argument, and to Frank Jackson's Argument: (1) What Mary
acquires when he leaves the room is not propositional knowledge; (2) David Lewis and Laurence Nemirow:
Mary acquires the ability to make certain sensory discriminations in a direct fashion, using only her body; (3)
Paul Churchland: Mary acquires a representation of sensory variables in some prelinguistic or sublinguistic
medium of representation.

Comments on the Lewis/Nemirow and Churchland Responses: (1) The difference between the
Lewis/Nemirow response and the Churchland is that the former focuses upon an ability, and the latter on the
state underlying that ability; (2) Both responses are open to the same objection: Very different states can be a
prelinguistic representation of a given property of physical objects, and those representing states might involve
either (a) different qualia, or (b) no qualia at all. (3) This shows, however, that the Nagel/Thomas argument
really presupposes either the inverted spectrum argument, or the absent qualia argument.

Armstrong's Later Anti-Qualia Arguments: (1) Minds as making up only a very small part of the universe;
(2) The peculiar nature of the laws that must be postulated; (3) The need for a large number of extra laws; (4)
The problem of the relation between mind and body: Should one opt for epiphenomenalism, or for
interactionism, or for a pre-established harmony? All are deeply problematic: (a) The pre-established harmony
view would only work if the mental were a self-contained realm, which it is not; (b) Epiphenomenalism is
'paradoxical'; (c) Interactionism entails, first, that physics is an incomplete account even of the inanimate world.

Topic VI. Intentionality and the Mind

Intensional Language and Intentional States: Intensional contexts versus extensional contexts; the
interchange of co-referential terms within extensional contexts as preserving truth-values; existential
quantification, or "quantifying in", as permissible within extensional contexts; the relation of these two features
to patterns of inference.

Consciousness and the Mental: Is consciousness a mark of the mental? Is it a sufficient condition of the
mental? Is it a necessary condition of the mental?

Intentionality and the Mental: Is intentionality a mark of the mental? Is it a sufficient condition of the
mental? Is it a necessary condition of the mental? "That" clauses and two types of mental states.

Language, and the Question of the Source of Intentionality: Is the intentionality of language more basic than
the intentionality of the mental, or vice versa? Is intentionality related to causal and/or dispositional properties?
The argument from purely physical systems - e.g., the case of the heat-seeking missile.

Topic VII. Is Change Possible?

Important Arguments Against the Possibility of Change: (1) Parmenides argument concerning being and
non-being; (2) Zenos four arguments:
(a) Achilles and the Tortoise; (b) The Dichotomy; (c) The Arrow; (d) The Stadium; (3) Benardete's "Serrated
Continuum" versions of Zeno's paradox: (a) An infinite number of wall-building deities in T-shirts; (b) The
infinite sequence of deafening sounds; (c) The infinite pile of thinner and thinner slabs; (d) The book with
thinner and thinner pages; (4) McTaggart's argument for the unreality of time.

Some Relevant Ideas: (1) With regard to Parmenides' argument: Does change require negative properties? (2)
With regard to Zeno's arguments:
(a) Infinite series that have finite sums; (b) An action that has an infinite number of parts need not involve an
infinite number of sub-actions, since one can intentionally will some outcome without separately willing each
part of that outcome; (c) If space or time is infinitely divisible, there will be no next location, or next moment;
(d) Infinite collections of things versus infinitely divisible things (Aristotle and actual infinities versus potential

(e) Russell's analysis of motion as simply being in different locations at different times; (f) Fallacies involving
switching the order of quantifiers.
(3) With regard to Benardete's paradoxes: (a) Causally sufficient conditions versus conditions that are actually
efficacious; (b) Causally sufficient conditions that are never actual.

Topic VIII. Time: Realist Versus Reductionist Views

Distinctions and Concepts: (1) The concept of space; (2) The idea of empty space, or space-time; (3) Realist
views of space: (a) Empty space is possible; (b) Facts about space are not logically supervenient upon spatial
relations between things or events; (4) Reductionist views of space: (a) Space cannot exist unless there are
spatially related things or events; (b) Facts about space are not logically supervenient upon spatial relations
between things or events. (Similarly: realist versus reductionist views of (a) time and (b) space-time.

Philosophical Arguments against Realist Views of Space: (1) General arguments against anything
unobservable; (2) Something is real only if it is causally connected to other things; (3) Leibnizs Principle of
the Identity of Indiscernibles.

A Philosophical Argument for Realist Views of Space: Space provides truth-makers for statements about
empirical possibilities concerning unoccupied locations in space.

Scientific Arguments for Realist Views of Space and Time: (1) Newton's arguments for absolute space: (a)
Force as producing a change in absolute motion, but not necessarily in relative motion; (b) Rotational motion
relative to absolute space shows itself by its effects (The bucket argument, and the two globes argument. (2)
Newtons argument for absolute time: Time enters into the laws of nature, and cannot be merely "sensible"
time. (3) Einsteins General Theory of Relativity allows for the possibility of empty space-time. (4) The idea of
worlds with only laws of pure succession, and the fact that our world is not such a world: temporal magnitudes
as the best explanation of correlations between different causal processes, both of the same type, and different

The Issue of the Relation between Time and Change: (1) Aristotle's view that change is the measure of time,
and thus that if there is no time, there is no change; (2) The bearing of Newton's views upon Aristotle thesis:
(a) The problem of getting a sensible measure of time that involves a constant interval; (b) The need to provide
an explanation of correlations between causal processes: Newton's postulation of a temporal measure intrinsic to
space itself; (3) Worlds where there is time, but no measure of time, because there are no quantitative temporal
relations; (4) Sydney Shoemaker's argument for the possibility of time without any change: (a) Local freezes
versus total freezes; (b) Objections to local freezes versus objections to total freezes; (c) A verificationist
objection? (d) Alternative hypotheses? (e) The causation objection: temporally extended causes, or action at a
temporal distance?

Topic IX. Time: Static Versus Dynamic Views

Some Fundamental Questions concerning the Nature of Time: (1) Does time have a direction? (2) If so, is
it a feature of time itself, or is it definable in terms of the patterns that are found in time - such as increasing
entropy, or expansion of the universe? (3) Are there fundamental differences between the past, the present, and
the future? (a) Do past, present, and future differ with regard to being real? (b) Are there special, tensed
properties of pastness, presentness, and futurity? (c) Or do terms like 'past', 'present', and 'future' simply serve to
locate events temporally relative to the speaker in question, just as terms such as 'here' and 'there' simply locate
things spatially relative to the speaker?

Dynamic versus Static Views of the Nature of Time: (1) The static conception of change: change is simply
the possession of different properties by a thing at different times; (2) The dynamic conception of change: what
facts there are, and thus what propositions are true or false, changes from one time to another; (3) The
ontological concepts of being actual, and of being actual as of a particular time; (4) The corresponding
semantical concepts of being true simpliciter, and of being true at a time.

Tensed Temporal Concepts versus Tenseless Temporal Concepts: (1) Tensed concepts are ones that locate
events relative to the present. Examples: past, present, future, five minutes in the past. (2) Tenseless temporal
concepts are ones that pick out a temporal relation between events that does not involve any reference to the
present. Examples: earlier than, simultaneous with, three hours later than, two minutes apart.

The Issue of Analyzability: (1) Can tenseless temporal concepts be analyzed in terms of tensed ones? (2) Can
tensed concepts be analyzed in terms of tenseless temporal concepts?

Objections to Attempts to Analyze Tenseless Temporal Concepts in Tensed Terms: (1) The concept of the
future is needed, and yet it cannot be taken as analytically basic; (2) One also needs relational tensed concepts,
such as that of being past at a time, and these appear to involve the earlier than relation.

Can Tensed Concepts be Analyzed in terms of Tenseless Temporal Concepts?

(1) Analyses that provide a translation versus analyses that provide truth conditions; (2) Translational analyses
are unsound; (3) Analyses that involve indexicals: Analyses that involve only static world concepts - such as
those of being earlier than and of being simultaneous with, versus those that involve dynamic world concepts -
such as that of truth at a time.

Which are More Basic: Tenseless Quantifiers or Tensed Quantifiers? (1) The future tensed existential
quantifier, 'there will be', cannot be taken as basic; (2) One needs quantifiers that range over possible non-
temporal entities, such as numbers and propositions.

Arguments in support of a Dynamic View of Time: (1) The appeal to the phenomenological of our
experience of time: Can one be directly aware of the fact that the world is a dynamic one? (2) The linguistic
argument: tensed sentences cannot be analyzed in terms of tenseless sentences; (3) Steven Cahn's argument
that if the world were static, logical fatalism would be true; (4) The controllability argument: how the future is
depends upon what one does now, whereas how the past is does not; (5) The direction of time argument: If the
world is static, one cannot give an adequate account of the direction of time; (6) The argument from causation:
reductionist approaches to causation are unsound, and the correct realist account is such that causation can only
exist in a dynamic world. (Comment: I think there are satisfactory answers to the first five arguments.)

Arguments in support of a Static View of Time: (1) The argument from simplicity: a static world is simpler
than a dynamic world; (2) No satisfactory explanation can be given of the idea of a dynamic world; (3)
McTaggart's argument: the existence of tensed facts would give rise to a contradiction;
(4) Instantaneous events cannot possess different tensed properties at different times; (5) Mellor's argument:
the truth-values of tensed sentences are completely fixed by tenseless facts; (6) The "how fast does time flow?"
objection; (7) A dynamic view of time can be ruled out on scientific grounds, since a dynamic world involves
absolute simultaneity, and the latter is rendered implausible by Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.

Arguments Based upon the Special Theory of Relativity (STR): (1) The modest argument: STR does not
postulate any relations of absolute simultaneity; (2) Putnam's claim: STR entails that all events - past, present,
and future - are equally real; (3) Stein's response to Putnam's argument;
(4) Causal relations between parts of spacetime, realistically conceived, and a defense of absolute simultaneity:
the simplest hypothesis is that the causal relations between parts of space-time are non-branching ones.

McTaggart's Argument for the Unreality of Time: (1) The A-series versus the B-series. (2) McTaggart's
support for the claim that the B-series cannot involve real change: spatial parts versus temporal parts; (3) The
A-series gives rise to a contradiction; (4) If tenseless sentences are not analyzable in tensed terms, there is a
simple answer to McTaggart's argument, since one can specify, in tenseless terms, using dates, when events have
the various tensed properties. No contradiction then even threatens to arise.

Topic X. A Causal Theory of the Direction of Time

Some Alternatives with regard to a Causal Theory: (1) A causal theory of time, or of spacetime? (2) An
account in terms of actual causal connections, or in terms of causal connectibility? (3) A causal theory of the
direction of time, or of all temporal relations?

A Prerequisite of any Causal Theory: An account of the direction of causation that does not involve any
temporal notions.

Elements of a Possible Causal Theory: (1) A definition of simultaneity in terms of spatial relations; (2)
Causal priority as a sufficient condition of temporal priority; (3) A definition of temporal priority in terms of
causal priority plus simultaneity; (4) Causal relations as holding between spacetime points.

Objections to Causal Theories of Time: (1) Causal priority presupposes temporal priority; (2) Accounts
involving causal connectibility are implicitly circular; (3) Backward causation is logically possible; (4) Empty

spatiotemporal regions are logically possible; (5) Events that are not causally connected to other events are
logically possible; (6) Spacetime itself could be totally empty.

Topic XI. Laws of Nature: Realist Versus Reductionist Views

Realist versus Reductionist Views of Laws of Nature: (1) Reductionism: what laws of nature there are is
totally fixed by the complete history of the world; (2) Realism: laws of nature are not logically supervenient
upon the history of the world. There could be two worlds with precisely the same history, but with different
laws. (3) Reductionism and regularities: Non-probabilistic laws are either just cosmic regularities, or cosmic
regularities that satisfy certain further constraints.

Arguments for a Reductionist View of Laws of Nature: (1) The appeal to ontological simplicity; (2)
Arguments against theoretical entities: (a) the problem of meaning; (b) the problem of confirmation; (3) The
inference problem: How do laws, realistically conceived, entail the corresponding regularities? (Bas van
Fraassen and David Lewis)

Arguments for a Realist View of Laws of Nature: (1) The problem of distinguishing between laws and
cosmic, accidental regularities; (2) The logical possibilities of basic, uninstantiated laws; (3) The improbability
of mere cosmic regularities; (4) The problem of giving a reductionist account of probabilistic laws.

Topic XII. Causation: Realist Versus Reductionist Views

Realist Versus Reductionist Views of Causation: (1) Strong reductionism: Causal relations between events
are logically supervenient upon the non-causal properties of events, and the non-causal relations between them;
(2) Weak reductionism: Causal relations between events are logically supervenient upon causal laws plus the
non-causal properties of events, and the non-causal relations between them.

Arguments for a Realist View of Causation: (1) The problem of giving an account of the direction of
causation: (a) Simple worlds that are time symmetric as regards the events they contain; (b) 'Temporally
inverted' worlds. (2) Underdetermination objections: (a) The problem posed by indeterministic laws; (b) The
possibility of uncaused events; (c) Uncaused events plus probabilistic laws; (d) The possibility of exact

Topic XIII. Freedom of the Will: Logical Fatalism

Logical Fatalism: it follows from logical principles alone that whatever happens could not have not happened.

Important Distinctions: (1) The law of bivalence (For any proposition p, either p is true or p is false.) versus
the law of excluded middle (For any proposition p, either p or ~p); (2) Truth versus truth at a time.

Two Distinct Arguments in Aristotle's On Interpretation: (1) An argument that involves the law of bivalence;
(2) An argument that involves, instead, only the law of excluded middle.

Implications of Aristotle's Solution with Respect to Logic: (1) There is a third truth-value-
indeterminateness; (2) Propositions can change their truth-values; (3) Propositions can also change modally
from not being inevitable to being inevitable.

Implications of Aristotle's Solution with Respect to Time: (1) Time is real; (2) A static view of time cannot
be correct: one must adopt a dynamic view.

Criticisms of Cahn's Discussion: (1) The analytic law of excluded middle entails what Cahn refers to as the
synthetic law of excluded middle i.e., the law of bivalence; (2) The second argument for logical fatalism set out
above does not involve even the analytic law of excluded; (3) Cahn is mistaken in thinking that acceptance of a
static view of the world makes the argument for logical fatalism unanswerable; (4) Cahn's discussion is faulty
because he fails to distinguish between the classical notion of truth simpliciter and the temporally-indexed
notion of truth at a time.

A Sound Version of Aristotle's Own Response to the Argument: (1) One must distinguish between truth
simpliciter and truth at a time; (2) The principle of bivalence must be accepted in the case of truth, but rejected
in the case of truth at a time; (3) If a proposition about the future is true at an earlier time, that does generate a
fatalistic conclusion; (4) But a proposition's being true simpliciter does not generate any fatalistic conclusion,

An Important Objection to Aristotle's Response to the Argument for Logical Fatalism: (1) If one admits a
third truth-value in the case of truth at a time, it turns out that disjunction is not a truth functional connective;
(2) It is, however, possible to answer this objection; (3) The key ideas needed are, first, a distinction between a
proposition's being true because there is a state of affairs in the world that makes it true, and a proposition's
being true because of its logical form, and secondly, that the idea that what are normally referred to as the truth
functional connectives can be defined in terms of tables whose entries record factual truth status, where a
proposition is factually true if and only if there is some state of affairs external to it that makes it true.

Topic XIV. Freedom of the Will: Theological Fatalism

A Crucial Distinction: God conceived of as an entity outside of time versus God conceived of as an entity in

Objections to the Idea that God is Outside of Time? (1) Can something outside of time be causally related to
things in time? (2) Can there be causal relations without temporal relations?

The Idea of God in Time and the Accidental Necessity Versions of the Foreknowledge Dilemma: The basic
ideas: (1) The Aristotelian idea of the (accidental) necessity of the past; (2) God's temporally earlier belief
states as necessary; (3) Whatever is entailed by what is accidentally necessary is itself accidentally necessary.

A Version of the Argument Based upon the Assumption that God Is Infallible: (1) God's belief at t1 that I
will do S at t3 is accidentally necessary at t2; (2) If A is accidentally necessary at t and A strictly implies B, then
B is accidentally necessary* at t; (3) God's belief at t1 strictly implies my act at t3; (4) So my act at t3 is
accidentally necessary* at t2; (5) If my act at t3 is accidentally necessary* at t2, I cannot do otherwise than
bring about that act at t3; (6) If when I bring about an act I cannot do otherwise, I do not bring it about freely;
(7) Therefore, I do not bring about my act at t3 freely.

Linda Zagzebski's Three Proposed Solutions: (1) The individuation of beliefs in the case of God; (2) Harry
Frankfurt's argument for the view that one may freely perform an action that one could not have refrained from
performing; (3) The rejection of principle of the transference of accidental necessity.

The Problem with the Second Solution: The argument can be restated so that, rather than starting out from the
premise that God's belief at t1 that I will do S at t3 is accidentally necessary at t2, it starts out from the premise
that God's belief at t1 that I will freely do S at t3 is accidentally necessary at t2. The Frankfurt idea is then

An Alternative Solution: (1) Statements about free future actions are not now either true or false: they are
indeterminate; (2) One can have knowledge of events only if either (a) one has knowledge of a sufficient cause,
or (b) the event itself causally gives rise to one's belief; (3) The first possibility is ruled out in the case of free
actions; (4) Backward causation is logically impossible; (5) So the second possibility is ruled out in the case of
belies about later events; (6) Therefore knowledge of free, future actions is logically impossible; (7) To be
omniscient does not involve the ability to now what it is logically impossible to know; (8) Consequently, God's
omniscience is compatible with his not having any knowledge of the actions which people will freely perform in
the future; (9) Moreover, the lack of such knowledge would not prevent God from exercising providential
control over human history, since all that is needed for that is knowledge of what a person is in the process of
freely doing at a given time.

Philosophical Analysis
Samuel Gorovitz, Merrill Hintikka,
Donald Provence, and Ron G. Williams


Elementary Logic

2. Arguments, Validity, and Truth

Let us consider some examples to illustrate the general discussion above.

(1) All men are bipeds.

A (2) Edgar is a man.

(3) (Therefore) Edgar is a biped.

is an argument in which line A(3) is the conclusion that is indicated to follow from lines A(1) and A(2). If we
know A(1) and A(2), we can deduce that A(3) is true. Lines A(1) and A(2) are called premises; line A(3) is
called the conclusion. Here the fact that a conclusion is sometimes, but not always, marked by a word such as
therefore or so is shown by enclosing the indicator in parentheses.

Consider the following three sentences:

(1) All women are bipeds.

B (2) Helen is a woman.

(3) (Therefore) Rover is a biped.

Here, too, we have an argument, which bears some rese blance to A in form. But this time we notice
something strange. The purported conclusion, line B(3), does not follow from the premises at alL Even if B(1)
and B(2) are true, B(3) is not thereby guaranteed to be true. So B, like A, is an argument; but B, unlike A, is not
a good argument Its conclusion does not follow from its premises, and we call such arguments invalid.

I may know that no one in San Francisco is seven feet tall and that Jean Jones is a five-foot New Yorker.
Still, I can assert that if it were true that all San Franciscans are seven feet tall and that Jean Jones lives in San
Francisco, then it would be true that Jean Jones is seven feet talL My argument would look like this:

(1) All San Franciscans are seven feet talL

C (2) Jean Jones is a San Franciscan.

(3) (Therefore) Jean Jones is seven feet talL

Argument C, like argument A, is valid; that is, both arguments are such that it must be that if the premises are
true, the conclusion is true. The conclusion of a valid argument is a logical consequence of its premises, and the
premises are said to imply or to entail the conclusion. But C, unlike A, has false premises. Thus C is a valid
argument, but it is not sound. Argument C illustrates the fact that a sentence can be the conclusion of a valid
argument and still be false. For, to say that a sentence is the conclusion of a valid argument is to say only that
its truth is guaranteed ~fthe premises of the argument are true. But consider D:

(1) All men are mortaL

D (2) Socrates is a man.

(3) (Therefore) Jean Jones is seven feet tall.

Here the conclusion clearly does not follow. Argument D is invalid. Yet D(3) is the same sentence as C(3).
That sentence is both the conclusion of a valid argument and the conclusion of an invalid argument. It is helpful
in beginning the study of philosophy to speak only of arguments, not of sentences, as being valid or invalid
and to speak only of sentences as being true or false.

To illustrate further the difference between truth and validity, let us consider the following arguments:

(1) All professional tennis players are athletes. T

E (2) Billie Jean King is a professional tennis player. T V

(3) Billie Jean King is an athlete. T

(1) All Oakland Raiders are football players. T

F (2) Ken Stabler is a football player. T I

(3) Ken Stabler is an Oakland Raider. T

(1) All athletes are professional golfers. F

G (2) Arthur Ashe is an athlete. T V

(3) Arthur Asbe is a professional golfer. F

(1) All philosophers are Greeks. F

H (2) Inge Broverman is a psychologist. T I

(3) Inge Broverman is a Greek. F

(1) All humans are whales. F

I (2) All whales are mammals. T V

(3) All humans are mammals. T

(1) All whales are humans. F

J (2) All whales are mammals. T I

(3) All humans are mammals. T

(1) All humans are dogs. F

K (2) Lassie is a human. F V

(3) Lassie is a dog. T

(1) All humans are fish. F

L (2) Lassie is a human. F I

(3) Lassie is a dog. T

(1) All senators are Democrats. F

M (2) Gerald Ford is a senator. F V

(3) Gerald Ford is a Democrat. F

(1) All Federal judges are Republicans. F

N (2) Barbara Jordan is a Republican. F I

(3) Barbara Jordan is a Federal judge F

(1) All Republican senators are U.S. citizens. T

O (2) All Democratic senators are U.S. citizens. T I

(3) All Republican senators are Democratic senators. F

grounds and the third as a conclusion which is purported to follow from the premises. It is convenient to
speak of the truth value of a sentence in referring to its truth, if the sentence is true, or to its falsity, if the
sentence is false. For many of these arguments, their validity or invalidity is intuitively obvious. Since a proof
of the validity or invalidity of these arguments is beyond the scope of this book, we will capitalize on the
readers intuitions in using these arguments to illustrate some important points about relations between an
arguments validity or invalidity and the truth values of its premises and conclusion.

We note, for example, that E is a valid argument with true premises and a true conclusion, while F is an
invalid argument although, as in the case of E, each of its premises and its conclusion are true. We can
schematize this situation, as we have done to the right of the above arguments, indicating the truth value of

premises and conclusion (using T for true and F for false) and the validity or invalidity of each argument
(using V for valid and I for invalid).

Argument G is a valid argument with one false premise, one true premise, and a false conclusion. However
H, while it is like G in having one false premise, one true premise, and a false conclusion, is unlike G in a most
important respect: H 2. Arguments, Validity, and Truth (11 is an invalid argument. The pair of arguments G and
H (as well as each of the pairs E and F, I, and J, K and L, M and N) illustrates that two arguments may be
exactly alike in respect to the truth value of their premises and their respective conclusions while differing in
an all-important respect: their validity or invalidity. This fact is not surprising if we recall that an argument is
valid just in case it is not possible for its premises to be true while its conclusion is false.

How does F fare in light of this informal account of validity? Although its conclusion is in fact true, it is
possible for the premises of F to be true and its conclusion false. Stabler could be traded to another football
team, or he might play out his option and sign with a rival club. In fact, even though the conclusion of F is true
when this page is being written, that sentence may have a different truth value when you are reading this book.
Similarly, many other sentences in our example arguments may have different truth values as you read this
book than they had when we indicated their truth values. The truth of the premises of F does not exclude these
possibilities; the truth of the premises of F does not guarantee the truth of its conclusion. It is beyond the scope
of this book to provide the reader with skills needed to demonstrate that the truth of the premises of E does
guarantee the truth of its conclusion. Nonetheless, the possibility that Billie Jean King is not an athlete is
excluded by the truth of the premises of E.

Arguments E, G, I, K, and M are all valid. Yet only E, I, and K have true conclusions. So we see that the
conclusion of a valid argument may be a false sentence. A valid argument guarantees the preservation of truth
in that its conclusion is true if all its premises are true. This requirement on a valid argument says nothing
about the truth value of the conclusion of a valid argument with one or more false premises. The conclusion of
such an argument may be true (consider I and K); the conclusion of such an argument may be false (consider G
and M). While we cannot know that the conclusion of a valid argument is true on the basis of knowing that the
argument is valid, we do know that the conclusion of a valid argument would be true if all its premises were
true. Consider G; if it were true that all athletes are professional golfers and that Arthur Ashe is an athlete, then
it would be true that Arthur Ashe is a professional golfer.

If the premises of G were true, it would be a sound argument, a valid argument all of whose premises are
true. The truth value of the sentences that constitute the premises and conclusion of an argument may differ
from one time to another. Thus the soundness of an argument may differ at different times. But the validity of
an argument, the relation between its premises and its conclusion which we have expressed informally as
guaranteeing the preservation of truth, cannot change. Of course, our ability to recognize or to demonstrate its
validity may change. At the time this book is written, E is a sound argument. But if, for instance, Billie Jean
King were no longer a professional tennis player, E would no longer be a sound argument, although its
conclusion might remain true. But it would remain a valid argument, no less so if its conclusion were false.

An invalid argument does not guarantee the preservation of truth. The above discussion of F indicates that
an argument can fail to guarantee that if its premises are true so also is its conclusion, even if its premises and
conclusion are in fact true. But neither does an invalid argument guarantee that falsity in the premises will be
preserved in the conclusion. In other words, an invalid argument may have one or more false premises and a
true conclusion (consider J and L). Since a valid argument does not guarantee the preservation of falsity
(consider 1 and K), we can say that no argument guarantees that if one or more of its premises is false then so
is its conclusion.

Of course an invalid argument with one or more false premises may have a false conclusion, as do
arguments H and N. And an invalid argument, all of whose premises are true, may have a true conclusion
(consider F) or a false conclusion (consider O)~ In short we may say that no invalid argument guarantees either
that its conclusion is true or that it is false. From the pair of arguments I and J, as well as K and 4 we see that a
sentence that is the conclusion of an invalid argument may be the conclusion of a valid argument also. If a

sentence is the conclusion of an invalid argument, that argument does not guarantee its truth; it remains an
open question whether there is a valid or a sound argument of which it is the conclusion.

Argument 0 has true premises and a false conclusion; so 0 is an obviously invalid argument. Among the
invalid arguments above, 0 is the only one whose invalidity is obvious merely from the assertion of section 1
that an argument is valid just in case it is not possible for all its premises to be true while its conclusion is false.
Argument 0 alone presents us with an actual instance of that possibility which is excluded for a valid argument.
It is for this reason that no argument is paired with 0 as each other invalid argument is grouped with a valid
argument. For there can be no valid argument whose premises are true and whose conclusion is false.

Of course not all invalid arguments display their invalidity in the truth values of their premises and
conclusion; not all invalid arguments have premises that are in fact true and a conclusion that is in fact false.
Argument F, for instance, has a true conclusion. To argue that it is invalid, we attempted to describe situations
in which its premises would be true but its conclusion would be false. We did not have to argue that any such
situation actually is the case. For an argument is invalid if it is possible that its premises are true while its
conclusion is false. Argument H, for example, has a false premise; so its invalidity is not obvious from the truth
values of its premises and conclusion alone. Again we attempt to describe a situation in which its premises
would be true and argue that H is invalid by showing that in such a situation its conclusion might be false.
Suppose it were true that all philosophers are Greeks and that Inge Broverman is a psychologist; it would still
be possible that she is not Greek. Roughly speaking, even if the premises of H were true, they would offer no
support, and certainly no guarantee, of the truth of the conclusion of H.

In arguing that F and H are invalid, we have relied on the informal account that an argument is valid if
but only if it is not possible for its premises all to be true and its conclusion to be false. This technique of
arguing that an argument is invalid is not singly adequate. Consider the following argument:

(1) All squares are polygons. T

P (2) All rectangles are polygons T I

(3) All squares are rectangles T

An attempt to describe a situation in which the conclusion of P would be false while its premises are true
will faiL But it will fail not because the truth of the premises of P guarantees the truth of its conclusion. The
truth of the conclusion of P is guaranteed by information which is no part of the argument. While this
information from geometry supports the truth of the conclusion of P, it in no way strengthens the support which
argument P provides for its conclusion. Indeed the conclusion of P could be the conclusion of a sound
argument, but P is not that argument; for P is not a valid argument and so cannot be a sound argument. To argue
that P is invalid, we might produce another argument which has the same logical form as P and has true
premises and a false conclusion.

The concept of logical form is a complex one which has been the subject of considerable work among
philosophers, implicitly at least since Leibniz and explicitly since Frege. Only a brief discussion of logical
form can be undertaken in this book (see Chapter III, section 1), but the study of logic will provide the student
with tools enabling increasingly detailed analysis of form. Argument 0 has the same logical form as P. This
fact, for which the reader will find evidence in Chapter III, section 1, conjoined with the fact that 0 has true
premises and a false conclusion, provides an excellent argument that P is invalid. For an argument is valid just
in case no argument with the same form has all true premises and a false conclusion.

We have said that the goal of logic is to preserve truth and that, pursuant to this goal, the most basic mark
of quality in an argument is validity. The reader may wonder why, then, in this section we have discussed
techniques which may be used to provide evidence that an argument is invalid but not that an argument is
valid. Recalling the informal accounts of validity that have been given will provide a partial answer. An
argument is valid just in case it is not possible that its premises are all true while its conclusion is false. To
capitalize on this account in an effort to establish that an argument is valid, we would have to survey all

possibilities to determine that none of them provides a situation in which all the premises of the argument are
true while its conclusion is false. Such a survey itself is not possible in any finite period of time! But a single
situation in which the premises are all true and the conclusion false obviously is sufficient to show that such a
situation is possible and that the argument cannot be valid. An argument is valid if and only if no argument
with the same form has all true premises and a false conclusion. Analogously, to capitalize on this account in
order to establish that an argument is valid, we would have to survey all arguments (actual and possible?)
which have the same form. Such a survey is equally beyond what is possible for finite humans.

Because of these and other difficulties in establishing the validity of an argument considered in isolation
rather than as exemplil~ing the logical form on which its validity or invalidity depends, the tools of formal
logic are extremely valuable. Within the study of logic, special symbolism or notation is developed which
enables us to study the forms of arguments and to isolate many of the formal components of sentences, on
which components the validity of arguments depends. Precise rules can be stated in terms of the forms of
sentences, and the deductive methods available enable us to evaluate arguments to the extent that their form
can be expressed in the symbolic notation available to us. In addition to the informal accounts of validity
already mentioned, we can say that an argument is valid if and only if its conclusion is a logical consequence
of its premises. The methods of formal logic put us in a position better to understand the content of this and
other informal accounts of validity. Presentation and discussion of these methods are beyond the scope of this
book. However, we shall attempt, in the remaining section of this chapter and in Chapter II, to introduce the
reader to some of the most basic formal components of arguments.

Many philosophers claim that the existing tools of formal logic are inadequate to express, and therefore to
evaluate, the forms of many interesting arguments. If so, this claim provides an incentive for further
developments in logic, but it is no criticism of the value of the existing tools of logic in evaluating the
arguments whose logical forms these tools enable us to reveal

Not all arguments are of the three-line form we have been considering. And not all arguments which are
of that form appear at first glance to be so. For example:

(1) Caesar is emperor.

Q (2) (Therefore) Someone is emperor.

is a simple argument that is sound but has a different form. And:

(1) Jones is a man.

R (2) (Therefore) Jones is mortal.

is an argument that is valid only on the strength of the suppressed (or unexpressed) premise that all men are
mortal. Such an argument is clearly valid, and of the familiar three-line form, if we add the missing premise. If
we do not, we can consider the argument as incomplete rather than invalid

And of course not all arguments are either as simple in their structure or as obvious in their validity or
invalidity as those we have considered. In fact few arguments are, whether they are found in the writings of a
famous philosopher, in ones own writings, in editorials, in political debates, or in advertisements. We have
attempted to choose as examples arguments about which the reader will have accurate intuitions concerning
their validity or invalidity. Since intuitions are not infallible guides to validity, especially as arguments increase
in their complexity, we have sought to strengthen these intuitions and to provide the reader with ways to
support his or her evaluation of arguments. In the discussion of validity and its relations to the actual and
possible truth value of premises and conclusions, we hope the reader will find an increased understanding of
the concept of validity which will sharpen intuitions involved in assessing arguments. And we have attempted
to suggest ways of structuring these intuitions so that they may be extended and applied constructively to less
explicitly structured and more complex arguments.


The following can be employed as standards to evaluate articles/books as well as for

checking the methods or tools, especially arguments employed in the doing of philosophy.

Introduction Checklist: Key Questions

1. Is my introduction concise?
2. Does it contain a clear statement of my main thesis?
3. Does it indicate very briefly my main line of argument?
4. Does it explain the overall structure of my essay?

IV. An Overall Structure for Essays Focusing Upon an Argument

Philosophy essays tend to come in two main forms. First, there are essays where one is
setting out and evaluating an argument, and trying to show either that the argument is
unsound, or that the argument can be sustained. Secondly, there are essays where the focus is
instead upon some thesis, which one is either trying to establish, or trying to refute. In the
case of essays of the former sort, if you are criticizing an argument, your discussion should
involve at least the following elements:

(1) A careful exposition of the argument that you are criticizing.

(2) A detailed statement of your objection to the argument, and one which makes it clear
exactly what step in the argument you think is unsound. (Is it one of the premises that is
faulty, and if so, which one? Or is one of the inferences invalid?)

(3) If you are claiming that an inference is invalid, you need to consider whether the
argument could be slightly revised, by adding another premise, so that the faulty inference is
eliminated. If, on the other hand, you are attacking one of the premises, you need to consider
how a defender might respond. Could he or she attack your argument against the premise?
Or might it be possible for him or her to respond by offering some strong, positive support for
the premise that you are criticizing?

If, on the other hand, that you are trying to show that some argument is sound, your
discussion will need to contain the following elements:

(1) A careful setting out of the argument that you are defending.

(2) A formulation of the most important objections to your argument - either objections to
premises, or objections to steps in the reasoning.

(3) Detailed responses to those objections.

Checklist for Overall Structure for Essays Focusing upon an Argument

1. Have I formulated the relevant argument in a careful and explicit fashion?
2. If I am criticizing the argument, have I made it clear exactly what step in the argument my
criticism is directed against?
3. Have I set out the most important objections that might be raised to the view that I am
4. Have I offered careful and detailed responses to those objections?

V. An Overall Structure for Essays Focusing Upon a Thesis

Suppose, instead, you are focusing upon some thesis that you wish to defend. In this
case, your essay should contain at least the following elements:

(1) A clear and precise formulation of the thesis that you are advancing.

(2) A careful setting out of your argument (or arguments) in support of that thesis.

(3) A statement of the most important objections that can be directed, either against your
thesis itself, or against your supporting argument.

(4) Detailed responses to those objections.

Similarly, if your goal is to give reasons for rejecting some thesis, your discussion will
need to contain the following elements:

(1) A clear and precise formulation of the thesis that you are attempting to refute.

(2) A careful exposition of your argument (or arguments) against that thesis.

(3) A statement of the most important counterarguments that can be offered, either in support
of the thesis that you are criticizing, or against the objections that you have offered to that

(4) Detailed responses to those criticisms.

Checklist for Overall Structure for Essays Focusing upon a Thesis

1. Have I stated the thesis clearly?

2. Have I formulated the relevant argument (or arguments) in a careful and explicit fashion?
3. Have I set out the most important objections that might be offered?
4. Have I responded in a careful and detailed way to those objections?

VI. Exposition of Arguments

Both in essays where you are focusing upon some specific philosophical argument, and
in those where you are either defending, or criticizing, some philosophical thesis, the setting
out of arguments, and the evaluation of them, are absolutely central. How well you do these
things, then, will have a very important bearing upon the strength of your discussion.

How can one formulate arguments in an effective fashion? One thing that I would
strongly recommend is that you set out any argument in a careful step-by-step fashion, so that

it is clear, both to yourself and to the reader, both what assumptions the argument involves,
and what the reasoning is. For when this is done, it is usually much clearer exactly which
premises, or which steps in the reasoning, are most in need of support, if the argument is one
that you are defending, or which premises or inferences might most profitably be questioned
and examined, if your goal is instead to show that the argument is unsound.

When you are advancing a number of arguments, either for or against some thesis, it is
very important to avoid setting out more than one argument in a single paragraph. For this
often results in too brief an exposition of either or both of the arguments.

Finally, it is not a good idea to combine the exposition of an argument with a

consideration of possible objections to it. Set out the argument first, and when that has been
done, go on to evaluate the argument, and to consider possible objections that might be
directed against it.

Checklist for your Exposition of Arguments

1. Are your arguments carefully and explicitly set out so that both all of the assumptions, and
all of the reasoning, are clear?
2. Have you, at any point, set out more than one argument in a single paragraph?
3. Are objections and responses set out in separate paragraphs?

VII. Examining Responses to your Arguments

One crucial point to note is that responses to your arguments come in two different
forms. First, there are responses that are directed against your argument itself, and which
claim, therefore, either that some of your assumptions are implausible, or that some of your
reasoning is invalid. Secondly, there are responses that are directed against the conclusion of
your argument, and which attempt to provide reasons for thinking that that conclusion is

Objections of both sorts are important. For if you confine your discussion to a
consideration of objections to your thesis, and you fail to consider objections to your
argument, then you haven't shown that you have made out a satisfactory positive case in
support of your thesis.

How do you arrive at interesting objections to your own arguments? The crucial thing is
to look carefully at the assumptions that you have made, and to ask yourself which of those
are philosophically controversial. Then you can turn to the relevant literature to see what
sorts of argument are offered against the assumption in question by philosophers who reject

Checklist for Responses to your Argument

1. Have I explicitly indicated to the reader which of the assumptions in my argument are
philosophically controversial, and why?
2. Have I then offered reasons for thinking that those assumptions are nevertheless plausible?

3. Have I considered, and responded to, counterarguments directed against the conclusion of
my argument?

VIII. Logical and Perspicuous Structure

A crucial factor that makes for a good essay is the presence of a logical and perspicuous
structure. So it is important to ask how one can both organize one's discussion in a logical
fashion, and make that organization perspicuous to the reader.

Some suggestions concerning logical organization of essays of different types were set
out above - in sections IV and V. But how can you also make the structure of your essay
perspicuous? The main ways are, first, by beginning with an introductory paragraph of the
sort described above; secondly, by dividing your essay up into relevant sections (and possibly
also subsections); and thirdly, by using informative headings to mark off those sections (and
subsections). The reader will then be able to see at a glance how you have structured your

The main reason why a perspicuous structure is desirable is not, however, to make life
easier for readers. It is rather that when the structure of your essay is clear at a glance, it is
much easier for you to notice, when you are writing and revising your essay, that there are
gaps in your discussion, where additional material is needed, or that your essay as a whole is
not organized in the most logical and effective fashion.

Checklist for Logical and Perspicuous Structure

1. Is my essay organized into sections in a logical fashion?

2. Are the sections divided into appropriate subsections?
3. Have I made the overall structure of my essay clear by using informative headings for
sections and subsections?

IX. Overall Clarity and Conciseness

Unit 8: Knowledge

Chris Heathwood

Office: Hellems 192

What Well Cover in Unit 8

I. The Nature of Knowledge

A. What is a theory of knowledge?

B. Plato on Knowledge

1. Theaetetus Theory of Knowledge

2. Socrates Refutation of Theaetetus

3. Platos Theory of Knowledge

C. Gettiers Refutation of Plato

II. Humes Problem of Induction

The Three Fundamental

Questions of Philosophy

1. What is there?

2. What should I do?

3. How can I know?




Some Questions in


1. What is knowledge?

2. What is epistemic justification?

3. What are the fundamental sources of


4. What are the limits of human


5. What is the status of skepticism?

The Nature of Knowledge

Our First Question:

What Is Knowledge?

Putting the question this way makes the

question sound really hard. Here are two

other ways to put it:

What is it to know something?

Under what conditions is it true that a person

qualifies as knowing that something is the


An answer to this question will be a

theory of knowledge.

What is a theory of


A theory of knowledge is a statement of

the conditions under which a person

knows that something is the case.

It is a statement of this form:

S knows that p if and only if

____S____p____ .

Theories are knowledge

are supposed to reveal the

nature of knowledge.

Further Clarification of the

Question What is Knowledge?

Three Ways the Word Knows Is Used:

Bob knows how to ride a bicycle.

Bob knows the president of the U.S.

Bob knows that the earth is round.

The theories of knowledge were looking at are

about the third kind of knowledge called

knowledge that, or propositional knowledge.

How Do We Go About

Constructing (and Evaluating)

a Theory of Knowledge?

Analogy: Bachelorhood.

What is bachelorhood?

What is it to be a bachelor?

What are the conditions under which a person

qualifies as a bachelor?

What a theory of bachelorhood looks like:

x is a bachelor if and only if _____x_____.

The Socratic Method, or the

Method of Counterexamples

A generalization is proposed

We try to come up with a counterexample

to it i.e., a concrete example that

counters, or shows false, the generalization

just proposed

If we do, we have refuted the generalization

(but we might use the counterexample to

help us improve on the generalization just


If we cant, perhaps the generalization is


What Well Cover in Unit 3

I. The Nature of Knowledge

A. What is a theory of knowledge?

B. Plato on Knowledge

1. Theaetetus Theory of Knowledge

2. Socrates Refutation of Theaetetus

3. Platos Theory of Knowledge

C. Gettiers Refutation of Plato

II. Humes Problem of Induction

Plato on Knowledge

Plato (428-347 BC)

The best known ancient Greek


Student of Socrates; teacher of Aristotle

Wrote about 23 philosophical dialogues

Famous doctrine: the Theory of the


Western philosophy consists of a

series of footnotes to Plato.

- A. N. Whitehead (1929)

excerpt from the




transla ted by F.M. Cornford

Socrate s: Well , that is prec isely wh at I am puz zled abou t. I cann ot

ma ke out to my own satisfact ion what know ledge is. Can

we answer t hat question . What do you thin k?

Socrates: But the question you were asked, Theaetetus, was not, what

are the objects of knowledge, nor yet now many sorts of

knowledge there are. We did not want to count them, but to

find out what the thing itself knowledge is. Is there

nothing to that?

Theaetetus: No, you are quite right.

Socrates: Then tell me, what definition can we give with the least risk

of contradicting ourselves?

Theaetetus: The one we tried before, Socrates. I have nothing else to


Socrates: What was that?

Theaetetus: That true belief is knowledge. Surely there can at least be

no mistake in believing what is true and the consequences

are always satisfactory.

Theaetetus Theory of


The True Belief Theory:

S knows that p if and only if

(i) S believes that p; and

(ii) p is true.

Socrates Argument Against

the True Belief Theory

Soc: You will find a whole profession to prove that true belief is not knowledge.

The profession of those paragons of intellect known as orators and

lawyers. There you have men who use their skill to produce conviction,

not by instruction, but by making people believe whatever they want

them to believe. You can hardly imagine teachers so clever as to be

able, in the short time allowed by the clock, to instruct their hearers

thoroughly in the true facts of a case of robbery or other violence which

those hearers had not witnessed.

when a jury is rightly convinced of facts which can be known only by

an eyewitness, then, judging by hearsay and accepting a true belief,

they are judging without knowledge, although, if they find the right

verdict, their conviction is correct?

But if true belief and knowledge were the same thing, the best of

jurymen could never have a correct belief without knowledge. It now

appears that they must be different things.

Socrates Argument Against

The True Belief Theory

The Argument

1. If the True Belief Theory is true, then the

jury knows that I committed the crime.

2. But they dont know I committed the


3. Therefore, the True Belief Theory is not


Further Counterexamples to the True

Belief Theory of Knowledge:

a. My belief that our football team will

win their next game.

b. Groundhogs Day example.

Each case shows that true belief is not

sufficient for knowledge.

The Lesson:

a belief that is true

just because of luck does not

qualify as knowledge.

Platos Theory of Knowledge

Socrates: So when a man gets a hold of the true notion

of something without an account, his mind

does think truly of it, but he does not know

it, for if one cannot give and receive an

account of a thing, one has no knowledge of

that thing. But when he also has got hold of

an account, all this becomes possible to him

and he is fully equipped with knowledge.

a true notion with the addition of an account

is knowledge?

Platos Theory of Knowledge

The JTB Theory

S knows that p if and only if

(i) S believes that p;

(ii) p is true; and

(iii) S is justified in believing that p.

Comments About the JTB


a. How it avoids the counterexamples to the

True Belief Theory

b. Theory of Justification still needed.

c. Some possible ways to be justified in

believing something:

i. perception iv. testimony

ii. introspection v. induction

iii. memory vi. deduction

d. Theory accepted for thousands of years.

e. Theory no longer accepted today.

What Well Cover in Unit 3

I. The Nature of Knowledge

A. What is a theory of knowledge?

B. Plato on Knowledge

1. Theaetetus Theory of Knowledge

2. Socrates Refutation of Theaetetus

3. Platos Theory of Knowledge

C. Gettiers Refutation of Plato

II. The Problem of Induction

Gettiers Refutation of Plato

Edmund Gettier (1927- )

Not the best known contemporary American

philosopher, but pretty well know.

Student of his teachers at Cornell; teacher of

me at UMass.

Wrote just one 3-page paper.

Famous doctrine: Justified true belief aint


A. N. Whitehead (1929) probably didnt say

anything about Gettier.

Really good at badminton.

A Gettier-style Counterexample

STEP 1. Suppose I see your drivers

license, an Alaska drivers license.

This seems to justify me in believing

(1) You are from Alaska.

Note: this assumes that justification does

not entail truth.

(That is, that what justifies me in believing

something need not absolutely guarantee

that that thing is true.)

A Gettier-style Counterexample

STEP 2. Now suppose that on the basis of

my belief that

(1) You are from Alaska

I come to believe that

(2) Someone in my class is from Alaska.

It seems that I am justified in believing (2).

This is due to the following principle:

If S is justified in believing p, and p entails q,

and S believes q on the basis of Ss belief

that p, then S is justified in believing q.

A Gettier-style Counterexample

STEP 3. Now suppose that the drivers

license I saw was in fact a fake ID, and that

(1) You are from Alaska

is in fact false.

(Note: I have a false justified belief in (1).)

(Note also: the JTB Theory thus far implies,

correctly, that I do not know (1).)

A Gettier-style Counterexample

STEP 4. Finally, suppose that, just by

chance, someone else in the class really is

from Alaska.

In other words, my belief that

(2) Someone in my class is from Alaska

actually turns out to be true.

It is true just by luck.

A Gettier-style Counterexample

STEP 5. Lets ask some questions about

this proposition:

(2) Someone in my class is from Alaska.

FIRST QUESTION: Would you say that I

know (2)?



Is (2) true? YES

Do I believe (2)? YES

Am I justified in believing (2)? YES

A Gettier-style Counterexample

STEP 6: Thus, bringing it all together:

I have a justified true belief in (2), but I

dont know (2).

In the form of a little argument

A Gettier-style Argument Against JTB:

1. If the JTB Theory is true, then I know that

someone in our class is from Alaska.

2. But its not true that I know that someone

in our class is from Alaska.

3. Therefore, the JTB Theory is not true.

Other Gettier-style Examples

The Hallucination

Russells Clock

The Sheep in the Field

A Way to Save the JTB Theory

Note that what all the examples have in

common: the subject has highly reliable,

but not infallible, evidence for the

proposition believed.

To say that e is infallible evidence for p

is to say that e entails p.

Recall that Gettiers argument assumed

that a person can be justified in

believing something without having

infallible evidence for it.

A Way to Save the JTB Theory

But consider this thesis about


Infallibilism: S is justified in believing p

only if Ss evidence for p entails p.

If Infallibilism is true, then Gettiers

argument against JTB fails.

But is Infallibilism true?



Dictionary of Non-Philosophy - Monoskop
by F Laruelle - Cited by 11 - Related articles
Originally published as Franois Laruelle, Dictionnaire de la Non-Philosophie.
(Paris: Editions Kime, 1998.) All translations by Taylor Adkins unless otherwise ...

[PDF]A Summary of Non-Philosophy - The Warwick Journal of Philosophy


8 (1999), 138-148.

A Summary of Non-Philosophy


The Two Problems of Non-Philosophy


Non-philosophy is a discipline born from reflection upon two

problems whose solutions finally coincided: on the one hand, that of the

Ones ontological status within philosophy, which associates it, whether

explicitly or not, to Being and to the Other whilst forbidding it any

measure of radical autonomy; on the other, that of philosophys

theoretical status, insofar as philosophy is practise, affect, existence, but

lacking in a rigorous knowledge of itself, a field of objective phenomena

not yet subject to theoretical overview.


Concerning the first point, there follows an observation and a

proposal. First the observation: the One is an object at the margins of

philosophy, an object of that transcendence which is stated in terms of the


rather than in terms of the


. Accordingly, it is as much

Other as One, as divisible as it is indivisible; an object of desire rather

than of science. It occurs to the thinking that is associated or convertible

with Being, without being thought in its essence and origin (How does

the One necessarily occur to man-the-philosopher?). Philosophy

establishes itself within Being and within a certain forgetting of the One

which it ceaselessly uses in favour of Being and which it supposes as

given without further ado.


Now the proposal: to finally think the One itself, as independent

of Being and the Other, as un-convertible with them, as non-determinable

by thought and language (foreclosed to thought); to think



the One rather than trying to think the One. But to think this non-relation

to thought using the traditional means of thought; this displacement



philosophy with the help of philosophy; to think by means of

philosophy that which is no longer commensurate with the compass of

philosophy, that which escapes its authority and its sufficiency. These are

the terms of the new problem.


Concerning the second point, there follows an observation and a

proposal. First the observation: philosophy is regulated in accordance

Franois Laruelle


with a principle higher than that of Reason: the

Principle of sufficient


. The latter expresses philosophys absolute autonomy, its

essence as


-positing/donating/naming/deciding/grounding, etc. It

guarantees philosophys command of the regional disciplines and

sciences. Ultimately, it articulates the idealist pretension of philosophy as

that which is able to at least co-determine that Real which is most radical.

The counterpoise for this pretension, the price of this sufficiency, is the

impossibility for philosophy to constitute a rigorous, non-circular

thinking of itself, one which would not beg the question, that is to say, a

theory. Philosophy is self-reflection, self-consciousness; it thinks, or in

the best of cases, feels that it thinks when it thinks; this is its


Philosophy never goes beyond a widened


, an immanence limited

to self-reflection or to self-affection. It is a practice of thought, or a

feeling and an affect. Philosophy thereby manifests through this nothing

more than its own


and does not demonstrate that it is the Real to

which it lays claim, nor that it knows itself as this


. Implicit in

its existence is a transcendental hallucination of the Real, and in

philosophical self-knowledge, a transcendental illusion.


Now the proposal: how to go about elaborating, with the help of

philosophy and science but independently of the authority of the Principle

of sufficient philosophy, a rigorous theoretical knowledge, but one that

would prove adequate or attuned to philosophical existence, to the

philosophical manner of thinking? These are the terms of the new


The Identity of the Problem of Non-Philosophy or the Solution


The principle of the solution: this is the same thing as positing the

One as the Real that is radically autonomous

vis vis

philosophy, but a

Real thought according to a new use of the latters now reformed means;

the same thing as making of it the real condition or cause for a theoretical

knowledge of philosophy. The solution constitutes a new problem: how,

using the ordinary means of thought, to conceive of the One as no longer

philosophizable or convertible with Being and, at the same time, as

capable of determining an adequate theory of philosophy?


Non-philosophy typically operates in the following way:

everything is processed through a duality (of problems) which does not

constitute a Two or a pair, and through an identity (of problems, and

hence of solution) which does not constitute a Unity or synthesis. This


8 (1999)


way is known as that of the Unilateral duality which is just as much an



The resolution of the problem requires two transformations which

form an identity of transformation. First, that of the philosophical One-

Other into a radically autonomous One-in-One, a transformation of the

One as object of philosophy into vision-in-One or into a phenomenality

capable of determining knowledge.


Second, a transformation of that self-referential usage of

philosophical language which regulates the statements of philosophy, into

a new usage (one that is real and transcendental, of identity and of

unilateral duality) furnishing those statements with a double and identical

aspect: axiomatic and theorematic. The statements of the One and of its

causality as vision-in-One rather than as object or instance of philosophy,

are formed on the basis of the gradual introduction of terms and problems

of philosophical extraction, but terms and problems which now receive a

usage other than philosophical, a usage possessing a double aspect:

axiomatic on one hand, theorematic and thus transcendental on the other,

or relating to the Real and to its effects on philosophical existence.


The One is not an object/entity in itself opposed to a language in-

itself and thereby forming a philosophical or dialectical pairing of

opposites. The vision-in-One as matrix of thought is a speaking/thinking

according to

- the One. Nor is it a relation of synthesis between the

One (the Real) and language. It is a non-relation, a unilateral duality.


All the statements of non-philosophy appear as axiomatic insofar as

they constitute the Identity (in-the-last-instance) of the unilateral duality;

and as transcendental theorems insofar as each constitutes the unilateral

duality that accompanies identity. The theorems may serve as axioms on

condition of determining-in-the-last-instance other theorems; the axioms

may serve as theorems on condition of being determined-in-the-last-

instance by other axioms. Axioms and theorems do not constitute, as in

science, two distinct classes of expressions, nor, as in philosophy, a

reciprocal duality, that of propositions whose donation and demonstration

are, certain operations aside, ultimately convertible.

From the One to the Vision-in-One



. The One is immanence and is not thinkable on the

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Are the things of this world
to thought? Are things really
to be known, to be
taken as the objective manifestations of a transcendental conditioning power? The Western
philosophical tradition, according to Franois Laruelle, presupposes just this transcendental
constitution of the reala presupposition that exalts philosophy itself as the designated
recipient of the transcendental gift. Philosophy knows what things really are because things
thingsare given to philosophy to be known. Laruelles trenchant essays show how this
presupposition controls even the ostensibly radical critiques of the philosophical tradition that
have proliferated in the postmodern aftermath of Nietzsche and Heidegger. For these critiques
persist in assuming that the disruptive other is in some way given to their own discourse
which shows itself thereby to be still philosophical. An effective critique of philosophy must
-philosophical. It must, according to Laruelle, suspend the presupposition that otherness
is given to be known, that thought has a fundamentally differential structure. Non-philosophy
begins not with difference, not with subject and object, but with the positing of
the One
. From
this axiomatic starting point, non-philosophy takes as its material philosophy, rethought
according to the One. The non-philosophy project does not, like so much postmodern
philosophy, herald the end of philosophy. It takes philosophy as an occasion to raise the
question of another kind of thoughtone that, instead of differentially
to the world
that it presupposes, asserts that it is ultimately, in the flesh,

at One
with what it can never know.
Of the post-1960s generation of modern French thinkers, Franois Laruelle is the most
difficult and arguably the most probing. He raises the question of whether there could not
be a philosophy or philosophies entirely other to philosophy as we know it, based upon
different axiomatizations. The debate that must now ensue is whether or not some pre-
theological, and non-western philosophies were not indeed already non-philosophies and
whether a non-philosophy must necessarily assume a materialist guise. Laruelle has moved
the theoretical conversation well beyond post-structuralism and postmodernism. He is a great
thinker, and we are all deeply in his debt.
John Milbank, Professor of Religion, Politics, and Ethics
University of Nottingham
Franois Laruelle, uniquely, has probed the question of materialism to its very depthsto a
point where monism challenges rationalism and the absoluteness of matter becomes a
absolute, accessible only by gnosis. After his work, the world will forever look topsy-turvy.
maybe just this insight will help us to set it right in an altogether new and unexpected
Catherine Pickstock, Reader in Philosophy and Theology,
Fellow and Tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Franois Laruelle is not the next big thing in philosophy. His thought does not aim to
reduce, or supersede that of Derrida, or Deleuze, or Badiou. That game of European master
thinkerswith each new figure superseding the previous modelis over. What Laruelle
us instead is a new vision of philosophy that is neither a right nor a wrong representation of
reality, but is a material part of the real, a
, amphiboly, or dyad that refracts the real. In
The Non-Philosophy Project
, we see Laruelle construct this vision in one of the most demanding
and provocative intellectual practices within contemporary theory: an absolutely immanent,
democratic, and materialist mode of thinking.
John Mullarkey, Professor of Film and Television Studies
Kingston University, Londo

philosophical tradition, according to Franois Laruelle, presupposes just this ... It

must, according to Laruelle, suspend the presupposition that otherness is
given ...

Resources | Speculative Heresy
[PDF]; Francois Laruelle, 'The Truth according to Hermes: Theorems on the Secret
and Communication' [PDF]; Quentin Meillassoux, Contingence et ...

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OTHER RESOURCES Speculative Realism entry

Speculative Realism Blog Aggregator

Speculative Realism Path Finder

Wikipedia Speculative Realism entry


Collapse, Vol. I: Numerical Materialism

Collapse, Vol. III: Unknown Deleuze

Collapse, Vol. IV: Concept Horror

Speculations, Vol. I


Elie Ayache, White Papers

Alain Badiou, Metaphysics and the Critique of Metaphysics

Ray Brassier, Stellar Void or Cosmic Animal: Badiou and Deleuze

Ray Brassier, Behold the Non-Rabbit: Kant, Quine, Laruelle

Ray Brassier, Badious Materialist Epistemology of Mathematics [PDF]

Ray Brassier, Genre is Obsolete [PDF]

Ray Brassier, Axiomatic Heresy: The Non-Philosophy of Francois Laruelle


Gabriel Catren, (2008) Can Classical Description of Physical Reality be


Gabriel Catren, (2008) Geometric Foundations of Classical Yang-Mills


Gabriel Catren, (2008) On Classical and Quantum Objectivity

Gabriel Catren, (2011) Quantum Ontology in the Light of Gauge Theories

Manuel DeLanda, The Geology of Morals: A Neo-Materialist Interpretation

Jacques Derrida & Francois Laruelle, Controversy over the Possibility of a
Science of Philosophy

Iain Hamilton Grant, Burning AutoPoiOedipus

Iain Hamilton Grant, Schellingianism & Postmodernism: Towards a

Materialist Naturphilosophie

Iain Hamilton Grant, The Eternal and Necessary Bond Between

Philosophy and Physics' [PDF]

Iain Hamilton Grant, The Chemistry of Darkness [PDF]

Iain Hamilton Grant, (2008) Being and Slime: The Mathematics of

Protoplasm in Lorenz Okens Physio-Philosophy

Iain Hamilton Grant, (2011) Movements of the World

Graham Harman, (2007) The Metaphysics of Objects: Latour and His

Aftermath (Draft) [PDF]

Graham Harman, (2007) On Vicarious Causation [PDF]

Graham Harman, (2008) Intentional Objects for Non-Humans [PDF]

Graham Harman, (2008) On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and


Graham Harman, (2009) A New Theory of Substance

Graham Harman, (2010) I am also of the Opinion that Materialism must

be Destroyed

Graham Harman, (2010) Time, Space, Essence, and Eidos: A New Theory
of Causation

Katerina Kolozova, Investigating the Non-Dichotomous Possibility of

Thinking Unity for a Non-Unitary Subject

Katerina Kolozova, Territorial Apories: The Imaginary and the Real Aspects
of (the) Location

Katerina Kolozova, The Project of Non-Marxism: Arguing for Monstrously

Radical Concepts [PDF]

Nick Land, Meltdown

Francois Laruelle, A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy

Francois Laruelle, A Summary of Non-Philosophy [PDF]

Francois Laruelle, Identity and Event [PDF]

Francois Laruelle, The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter

Francois Laruelle, What can Non-Philosophy do? [PDF]

Francois Laruelle, The Truth according to Hermes: Theorems on the Secret

and Communication [PDF]

Quentin Meillassoux, Contingence et Absolutisation de lUn [PDF]


Quentin Meillassoux, History and Event in the Writings of Alain Badiou

Quentin Meillassoux, (2008) Spectral Dilemma

Quentin Meillassoux, (2008) Time without Becoming [PDF, courtesy of


Thomas Metzinger, (2000) The Subjectivity of Subjective Experience

Thomas Metzinger, Response to A Self Worth Having'

Thomas Metzinger, Soul Travel for Self-less Beings

Reza Negarestani, (2008) The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo

Reza Negarestani, (2009) Instrumental Spectrality and Meillassouxs

Catoptric Controversies [PDF]

Benjamin Noys, Anarchy-without-Anarchism

Benjamin Noys, (2008) Horror Temporis

Anne-Francoise Schmid, The Hypothesis of a Non-Epistemology

Eugene Thacker, (2008) Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror

Alberto Toscano, (2009) Against Speculation, or, a Critique of the Critique

of Critique

James Trafford, (2008) The Shadow of a Puppet Dance: Metzinger, Ligotti

and the Illusion of Selfhood

Rainer Zimmermann, Various Papers

Rainer Zimmermann, Beyond the Physics of Logic [PDF]


Scot Barnett, (2010) Toward an Object-Oriented Rhetoric

Nathan Brown, (2008) On After Finitude: A Response to Peter Hallward

Simon Critchley, Back to the Great Outdoors (Review of After Finitude)

Mark Fisher, (2008) Clearing the Air

Mark Fisher, (2009) Speculative Realism

Peter Hallward, (2008) Order and Event: Badious Logics of Worlds [PDF]

Jones Irwin, (2008) A Contemporary Platonic-Christianity? On Radical

Orthodoxy [Review of The Grandeur of Reason conference]

Joseph Lawrence, On an Artificial Earth: Philosophies of Nature after


Robert Lehman, Toward a Speculative Realism (Review of After Finitude)

Benjamin Lozano, (2009) A Contested Revolution (Review of Collapse Vol.,


Daniel Miller, Nihil Unbound

Gabriel Riera, After Finitude

Brian Smith, (2009) Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics

Eugene Thacker, Nihil Unbound

Alistair Welchman, Post-Continental Philosophy

Ben Woodard, Philosophies of Nature after Schelling


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Matter (Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Warwick, 2001). [PDF]

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2007). [PDF]

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Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne:, 2011).

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(Melbourne:, 2009)

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Euro-Balkan Press, 2006). [PDF]

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Editions Kime, 1998). [PDF]

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Jane Bennett

Ian Bogost (2)

Ray Brassier

Levi Bryant (2)

Paul Ennis

Graham Harman (2)

Quentin Meillassoux

Nick Srnicek

Ben Woodard


Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities

Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development

Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy


Thinking Nature


Psyche Thomas Metzinger: Being No One


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Graham Harman, Assemblages according to Manuel DeLanda

Set of Graham Harman recordings


Ray Brassier, The Pure and Empty Form of Death: Heidegger and

Manuel DeLanda, Materialism, Experience and Philosophy

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Thomas Metzinger, Being No One: Consciousness, The Phenomenal Self,

and First-Person Perspective

John Mullarkey, Diagrammatic Actualism

Slavoj Zizek, Materialism and Theology


Organisation Non-philosophique Internationale

A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy

Let me begin in traditional terms: what is the essence, what are the possibilities of non-
philosophy? From the outset, it originated from four concerns that were coupled two by two;
and hence from dualities. It continued to develop in terms of dualities, constantly calling
them into question but never dispensing with them entirely. Its current possibilities or themes
are merely a continuation or development of this (non-) essence

Thus, my point of view here will be historical and systematic. This reconstruction after the
fact cannot avoid appearing to be a piece of retrospective self-interpretation, but since fidelity
here is not to a historically predetermined meaning or truth, but to a last instance, and hence
to the spirit of dualities, I stop short of anything that could draw us into a hermeneutics.

The genealogy of non-philosophy is problematic. Born, like everything else, of the

intersection between two original and loosely coupled problems whose coupling was not
quite as arbitrary as the encounter between Poros [Expediency] and Penia [Poverty]1 non-
philosophy has always refused to be their synthesis, and hence their offspring. Philosophy
was born of the one-sided encounter between a sleeping being (Poros) and the desire for a
child (Penia), but as a philosopher Plato ultimately remains beholden to biology he does not
get right to the bottom of Poros sleep, because he still attributes it to drunkenness and closed
eyes, to a merely slumbering intelligence. Similarly, he does not get right to the bottom of
Penias poverty, because he still attributes her desire for a child to her sighting of Poros. Plato
does not go beyond the pharmakon as coupling, as condition for the couple or procreation.

This filiation is not that of non-philosophy. Like every child, she consents to be born
according to biological conditions, but she refuses the continuity of birth; she is an orphan
and it is she who decides to be born according to X. She sees in the drunkenness of her
father merely the symptom of mans blindness, of an un-learned knowing; and sees in her

mothers desire for a child the symptom of the impossible desire for being-blind. Not refusing
the past, but refusing to be determined by it, presenting herself as the daughter of man, her
problem is that of being and remaining ahead of the image of the newborn. It is in this simply
human manner that she escapes from the biological and familial cycle and provides without
founding a new family or some sort of new city the basis-in-person for a new type of
organization: an organization of heretics, of sons or daughters of man who are continuously
newborn, grateful orphans of philosophy and the world. As for the act of birth, whereas
philosophy is destined to parricide and is only capable of acknowledging its filiation through
this founding crime, non-philosophy tries to avoid the synthesis of expediency and poverty
that is parricide. Born according to X, which is to say, according to man as the unknown,
non-philosophy joins its parents to the city of brothers and sisters, elevating its own filiation
to utopian status.

In actuality, the structure (but not the origin) of non-philosophy consists of a principal duality
and a secondary duality. The principal duality is the following:
1. The enigmatic character of the One, of its essence, its origin; the fact that it is forgotten and
subordinated to Being. The Heideggerean preoccupation with Being and the Lacanian and
Derridean preoccupation with the Other rendered this forgetting of the One more crucial, as
though the circle of philosophy had not been fully covered in its entirety. Philosophy
continuously talked about the One, presupposed it, invoked it, but without properly
thematizing it.
2. There was another kind of forgetting in the guise of philosophys abusive attitude, its abuse
of power in general; the way in which it laid claim to reality and truth, but also to
domination; the arbitrary nature of its questioning. How was such a form of thinking
possible? One that claimed to be undeniable without furnishing any credentials other than its
own practice and tradition, rather like an unfounded and interminable rumour?
So, on the one hand an entity that reigns without governing: the One; and on the other a
discipline that claims to provide a theoretical domination of the world and of other forms of
thought to such an extent that it presumes to have a proprietary claim on thinking. I found
myself faced with a new and apparently artificial duality, since in normal circumstances the
One was, after all, merely an object of philosophy. But this duality was accompanied by
another, which seemed to graft itself upon it necessarily, as though it provided the means for
realizing it. This was the duality of science and philosophy, which I have up until now tended
to privilege as a guiding thread when recapitulating the history of non-philosophy, and which
continues to hold sway in the idea of non-philosophy as a discipline. There is a sense in
which I have never exited from this space, from its type of duality and internal unity; even if,
as I hope to show, it has undergone contractions and expansions and above all
redistributions. My problem was never that of the one and the multiple, even if I often evoked
it. But in non-philosophy one must be wary of confusing the object with which one struggles,
and the essence of the struggle, the former frequently occluding the latter. My problem has
been that of the One and the two, in the sense in which the two is something specific and not
synonymous with the multiple. My problem has to do with a tradition that differs from, or is
parallel to, that of philosophy. It has to do with the struggle with philosophy. It is a
transcendental mathematics, but one that will have to abandon the Platonic or philosophical
form of transcendental numbers, and stop being a divine mathematics (Leibniz). Thus, it is a
struggle on two times two fronts: that of the One and that of the two, that of the definition of
philosophy and that of science. That makes at least four fronts. This quadripartite structure of

the struggle is the dimension within which I have confronted another quadripartite, the one
constituted by the philosophers who influenced me, as they say. When reconstructing the
history of non-philosophy, I have often confused this second quadripartite with the first,
committing a category mistake by according it an excessive influence, when in fact it was
already no more than the material for the first, or a terrain for the struggle. These problems
were resolved as I came to understand that instead of trying to unify these four sides
philosophically by binding or suturing them together in a relational exteriority, I could do so
through another kind of unity, one effected through a radically immanent cloning. As a result,
the notions of struggle and front undergo a transformation. What was required was a
unilateral leap, which is to say, abandoning all pretension on the side of the One, no longer
positing it as one of the sides or terms of the quadripartite, acknowledging its collapse or non-
consistency. This meant giving up at the same time the idea of a head to head struggle and
elaborating the notion of a unilateral front. That every struggle engages two fronts but only
puts one combatant into play was a riddle that was resolved when it turned into its own
solution. This involves a shift from the divine Logos to a practice placed under the name-of-

The problematic of the quadripartite, of its binding or cloning, has the advantage of allowing
a synoptic overview of all the stages even the most rudimentary in the research that led to
non-philosophy, and of not dismembering it in terms of historical distinctions. Before being
non-philosophical, the magma from which non-philosophy emerged has all the characteristics
of a pre-philosophical chra, from its deepest to its most superficial layer, like a landmass or
conglomerate rising up when the tectonic plates underlying the philosophical continent start
breaking up. The division of non-philosophy intro three stages privileges a historical
overview and should be inscribed within the structure of the quadripartite.

I will confine myself here to sketching an outline and drawing a continuous guiding thread
for the development of non-philosophy, while passing over two kinds of circumstance that
played a part and affected this development. On the one hand, the innumerable hesitations,
misgivings, amendments and variations in the binding of these two terms. For in the
beginning it was question as it is for every philosopher of identifying the point of suture
between the two sides of this duality, which philosophy had summarily realized or admitted
in the form of systems and their traditions. On the other hand, there were the personal
conditions under which non-philosophy existed, adverse institutional circumstances, all sorts
of phantasms, various interests that exceeded the bounds of philosophy alone these do not
need to be recalled here since we are trying to identify a structure and the history contained in

For the moment, it is still a question of binding rather than of cloning. These dualities were
already present in the initial series of works grouped together under the heading Philosophy I,
but were still being resolved to the benefit of the side of philosophy and binding, and to the
detriment of the One and science. The shift to Philosophy II occurs by way of an overturning:
it is now the One which becomes the principal theme and assumes the mantle of the real, and
philosophy that is evaluated in terms of the Ones capacity for being conceived for itself and
as such, or as immanent. This is the gist of Le principe de minorit [The Minority Principle
(1981)]. But

Non-philosophy does not effectively or successfully begin until Une biographie de
lhomme ordinaire [A Biography of the Ordinary Man (1985)], because it is there that the
problem of how to bind the four sides together is thematized and basically formulated albeit
not without difficulties through the notion of unilaterality. The conditions for this solution
are that the One acquire a radical autonomy with regard to philosophy, that it stop being a
philosophical object, and that the latter is revealed to be a transcendental appearance. It is as
though an over-neoplatonization of the One was accompanied by a corresponding over-
kantianization of philosophy as appearance

Formulated in this way, without satisfying the pretensions of philosophy vis--vis the One,
the problem increased in difficulty. We had deprived ourselves of every philosophical
solution. Nevertheless

the germ of the solution resided in this excessive separation between the One and
philosophy, which amounted to a sort of Platonic chorismos. In effect, the cause of their
exteriority or reciprocal autonomy, and hence of their unity, could no longer be philosophical
or one that operated through transcendence. Moreover, the One in question was no longer
epekeina-physical, or beyond being, so that, on the contrary, what caused this separation had
to be its radical immanence. But how could radical immanence be reconciled with

At this stage, as my path momentarily crossed that of Michel Henry, the other half of the
problem remained unresolved specifically: how could one still use philosophy which was
not designed for this end to speak of this One or radical immanence? The initial project of a
theoretical domination of philosophy and of a critique of its transcendental appearance
reappeared in a new form: that of the transformation of philosophical statements or phrases.
This was the Idea of a theoretical discipline with philosophy as its object. All of Philosophy I
and a large part of Philosophy II is devoted to a twofold task. On the one hand, to a more and
more precise binding of the duality which is outside every system or synthesis by combining
three requirements: that of the Ones radical immanence; that of the unilaterality this duality;
and finally that of the reduction of the logos to the status of a structured appearance or
material. On the other hand, to the search for a discourse that would no longer be the logos
and whose resources (despite this discourse being appropriated by the causality of the One)
would be provided by philosophy alone. Thus, to the constitution of a discipline of
philosophy in view of thinking the One.

But to present non-philosophy in this way, in terms of a problem of binding, is to tip the scale
in favour of philosophy once again albeit philosophy as the object of a discipline. It may be
that this is a step forward. And I admit that it is possible to freeze the development of non-
philosophy at one or other of its stages, so long as its essential conditions of existence are
acknowledged. I believe much of the work that will be presented to you today develops this
aspect and this concept of non-philosophy as a rigorous discipline of philosophy an aspect
which, let me repeat once more, is very real. Nevertheless, there is obviously the risk of an
excessive formalization of the rules governing this practice, in the manner of a universally
recognizable corpus guaranteeing a certain epistemological coherence

Non-philosophy is neither a universal method taking over from deconstruction, nor an

immanent process in which method and material, rational and real, are fused together, as in
Hegel. Everything depends on how unilaterality binds if I may be allowed to continue using
this term the opposing terms. Although non-philosophy has a disciplinary aspect, it is not
just another discipline.

For it is in fact the other side, that of the One, which must, by definition, have primacy over
philosophy from the outset, and it is according to it that one should unilaterally balance or
unbalance the quadripartite as a whole. The One is not just the condition of possibility for
non-philosophy this formulation is too Kantian and empirico-idealist. It is however its
presupposed, and as such is not once again at the service of philosophy. Unlike a condition or
presupposition, which disappears into the conditioned, the presupposed has an autonomy that
is irreducible to the conditioned. Whence the necessity of developing this side of the One so
as to turn it into, if not the centre, then at least the principal aspect of non-philosophy. In fact,
the essential gains, those that condition the theory, were made on the side of the One not the
One alone, but precisely this logic of unilaterality which goes together with the One and its
immanence. And it so happens that the successful adjustment of the second duality that of
philosophy and science depends on the kind of solution one has found for the first.

How is one to reestablish the structures unilateral equilibrium? Uni-laterality should no

longer be understood in a Hegelian sense as abstraction of one side at the expense of the
other. It has to be understood as a formulation close to two others used by contemporary
philosophers. It is similar to 1) no-relation in Lacans there is no sexual relation. The real in
Lacan as well as in non-philosophy is without relation in the sense that it excludes symbolic
and linguistic relation. It is generally foreclosed to relation, as is required by radical
immanence or the fact that, as Lacan says, the real always comes back to the same place. It
is also similar to 2) relation-without-relation in Derrida, who puts the absence of relation or
the Other who is without relation at the heart of relation, i.e. the Logos. In other words, Lacan
and Derrida are moved by antithetical motives with regard to the real: the former wants to
exclude all relation, while the latter is content to differentiate relation through its other and
hopes to find the real in an affect of absolute Judaic alterity. Their difference can be situated
between two conceptions of the other, but it does not basically touch on the real. Both
conceive of the without-relation in the same way: the former (Lacan) as opposed to relation,
or as non(-relation); the latter (Derrida), more subtly, as at the very least indissociable from
relation. In either case, psychoanalysis or deconstruction, relation is presupposed as that in
terms of which the real must be posited. And relation is transcendence or a certain kind of
exteriority. Both cases remain within the realm of philosophy and seek immanence, the
without-relation, through opposition or in terms of an ultimate reference to transcendence.
Under these conditions, the real cannot be radically relationless, even in Lacan where the real
and the symbolic are linked through topology. Can one follow Lacan but go beyond Lacan by
positing a real that is de-symbolized, un-chained from the signifier, unconditioned by it; yet
one which, as in Derrida, nevertheless continues to have a proven effect on the logos or
symbolic realm in general?

What I have called uni-laterality is the solution without synthesis to this problem. It is the
only kind of relation tolerated by the real as immanence and primacy over philosophy. On the
one hand, it is essentially a radical non-relation, as in Lacan but one which is genuinely
radical this time because its non-relationality follows from its immanence. More than ever,

the real returns to the same place, to such an extent that it no longer defines one and is u-topic
through and through. But on the other hand, it does not remain alone because it is separated
(from) the logos or the world it is also an Other, but without relation to transcendence,
which would otherwise continue to define it and constitute it. It is Other-thanrelation,
rather than Other torelation, whether as opposed to it (Lacan), or partially internalized by it
(Derrida). There is an alterity that goes with the One but it is itself One or radical immanence.
There is no longer an Other of the Other as there necessarily is in psychoanalysis and
philosophy. This is why I use the term unilation instead of the word relation. This the place
of the non-philosophical concept of uni-laterality: between Hegel who reduces it to an
abstraction of the understanding; Lacan who ultimately does not understand it and tolerates it
only in order to cancel it in the signifying chain through which he thinks he acknowledges it;
and Derrida and others, who try to give it a status but still within the realm of philosophical
exteriority. The radical has primacy over the uni-lateral, but primacy is not itself a relation.

More concretely, consider a philosophical system, i.e. a dyad of terms that are opposed or
correlated through a third term which is itself divided between an immanent or transcendental
One and a One that transcends the dyad. We move to a unilateral duality in the following
way. The One is no longer divisible into real and transcendental, it is real and takes the place
of one and only one term in the dyad: it now constitutes one of the two terms as indivisible
and is simply immanent to the new duality. But the status of the second term in the dyad is
also immediately transformed. It is no longer face to face with the One, which is immanent
even from the perspective of this second term, and yet it exists and makes up a duality with
the One without being face to face with it; hence without entering into relation with it. We
will say that this second term is also in-One or immanent even though it is expelled from the
One, which it does not constitute. More precisely, we will say that it is expelled only insofar
as the One is radically separate from what it gives or manifests. This is why I continue to
repeat that philosophy, which is the second term, is given in a radically immanent fashion or
in the mode of the One, even as it is expelled from the One

The unilateral duality excludes the two major types of traditional solution: the theory of
relations and the theory of judgments. It is not a relation, whether internal or external, and it
is not a judgment, whether analytic or synthetic. It is precisely because it has none of the
characteristics of a system that non-philosophy, which excludes synthesis as well as analysis,
possesses the quasi or non-analytic power of systems and their subsets, as well as the quasi or
non-synthetic power of the systems which it brushes up against in each of their points. We
use the term dualysis to designate this activity carried out through unilateral dualities, which
analyze without an operation of analysis and synthesize without an operation of synthesis.
Non-philosophical statements are neither contained analytically within those of philosophy
nor added synthetically to them. It is not a matter of complex judgments and interpretation,
but of transformation through the force of unilaterality.

Unilaterality proceeds through two stages. The first is that of the real, whose immanence is no
longer that of a punctual, still transcendent interiority, but a being-separate from what it
expels, or rather that which it is separated from. The second is transcendental and takes this
other term into account. It relates to philosophy, which, expelled-in-One so to speak, now
calls for help from the real. In the first phase, there is already duality, but on the basis of the

One and its primacy: the second term is mentioned without yet being referred to. In the
second phase, duality is explicitly present but on the basis of philosophy although it does not
go so far as to constitute a two.

The immanence of the One and the transcendence proper to philosophy are now so tightly
and intimately bound together that there is no longer any relation but only an alterity of the
One, which is an immanence without relation to philosophy even though it gives or
manifests philosophy while separating itself from it

The work undertaken since the book on non-marxism [Introduction to Non-Marxism

(2000)] has sought to carry out this intimate binding of the two sides and to justify the
discipline devoted to philosophy through the primacy and uni-laterality of the One.

Thus, as I have already said, I accept that it may be necessary to isolate aspects or moments
of non-philosophy in order to examine them, or even why not develop them into
independent disciplines. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind non-philosophys indivisible
duality, the fact that it is structured in phases, so as not to separate in an abstract fashion the
One from philosophy, and vice versa. But we have seen why this indivisibility or intimacy of
non-philosophy is not that of a system. The truth is that we find ourselves here at the heart of
the non-philosophical solution. By striving to bind and suture together opposed terms, we are
forced to realize not only that that they were not really opposed, but that they are not bound
together and that the genuinely guiding problematic for us may not be philosophical we
have been trying to prize it free from philosophy piece by piece.