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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 12, Issue 2, July 2011
Philosophy's Future: Science or Something Else?

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editor’s introduction
1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Zach Weber Issue Introduction
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2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Clinton Golding A Conception of Philosophical Progress
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There is no consensus about appropriate philosophical method that can be relied on to settle philosophical questions and instead of established findings, there are multiple conflicting arguments and positions, and widespread disagreement and debate. Given this feature of philosophy, it might seem that philosophy has proven to be a worthless endeavour, with no possibility of philosophical progress. The challenge then is to develop a conception of philosophy that reconciles the lack of general or lasting agreement with the possibility of philosophical progress. I present such a conception in this paper. I argue that the aim of philosophy is to resolve philosophical problems, which is different from establishing settled and final answers or positions. Philosophical problems involve inadequate or incongruous conceptions that cannot be settled once and for all but can be resolved by transforming our conceptions so they are now congruous and adequate. There is philosophical progress every time a warranted, defensible position is developed that resolves a philosophical problem, even if there are competing resolutions and further problems to resolve, as there always are in philosophy.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
James Tartaglia Philosophy between Religion and Science
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Philosophical concerns are evidenced from the beginning of human literature, which have no obvious connection to philosophy’s mainstream epistemological and metaphysical problematic. I reject the views that the nature of philosophy is a philosophical question, and that the discipline is united by methodology, arguing that it must be united by subject matter. The origins of the discipline provide reasons to doubt the existence of a unifying subject matter, however, and scepticism about philosophy also arises from its a priori methodology and apparent lack of progress. In response, I argue that philosophy acquired a distinctive subject matter when the concept of transcendence was introduced into attempts to gain a systematic understanding of the world and our place within it; philosophy thereby pursues the same aim of achieving a synoptic vision of reality as religion, but resembles science in its development and employment of rigorous methodologies. Philosophy’s subject matter explains why it must be pursued a priori, and it only appears not to have progressed when aims are neglected, and it is inappropriately assimilated to science.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Nathan Sinclair A Distinction between Science and Philosophy
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Ever since Kant published his Critique of Pure Reason, most philosophers have taken the distinction between science and philosophy to depend upon the existence of a class of truths especially amenable to philosophical investigation. In recent times, Quine’s arguments against the analytic-synthetic distinction have cast doubt over the existence of such a class of special philosophical truths and consequently many now doubt that there is a sharp distinction between science and philosophy. In this paper, I present a perfectly sharp distinction between science and philosophy that does not depend upon any distinction between philosophical and scientific truths.
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Duncan Richter Philosophy and Poetry
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Philosophy certainly has connections with science but it is not itself a science. Nor is it literature. But it is related to literature in a way that excessive emphasis on science can obscure. In this paper I defend the rather old-fashioned view that philosophy is essentially linguistic. I also argue, less conventionally, that there is an unavoidable personal aspect to at least some philosophical problems, and in answering them we must speak for ourselves without being able to count on every other speaker of our language agreeing with us or even understanding what we say. Where the rules of our language are not set we must, so to speak, make them up for ourselves as we go. In this way philosophy requires the kind of linguistic creativity more often associated with poetical kinds of literature. Drawing on the work of Cora Diamond and Alice Crary, I argue that philosophy should be regarded as, not identical with, but continuous with poetry.
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Ross Barham Metaphilosophical Dualism
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There exist two equally prominent, though seemingly divergent metaphilosophical viewpoints. One takes philosophy to be an essentially revolutionary process. The other sees philosophy as a constructive, collaborative enterprise that seeks increased rigor and consensus. Recent debate in the philosophy of language regarding the relationship of particular languages to the general capacity for language reveals an illuminating structural analogy with these divergent metaphilosophical trends. While neither debate is settled herein, regardless of their eventual determinations, it is concluded that there is little reason to suppose that philosophy will some day become a science, at least not in any metaphilosophically meaningful sense of the phrase.
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Richard Kamber Philosophy’s Future as a Problem-Solving Discipline: The Promise of Experimental Philosophy
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Scientists often reach provisional agreement solutions to problems central to their disciplines, whereas philosophers do not. Although philosophy has been practiced by outstanding intellects for over two thousand years, philosophers have not reached agreement, provisional or otherwise, on the solution or dissolution of any central philosophical problem by philosophical methods. What about philosophy’s future? Until about 1970, philosophers were generally optimistic. Some pinned their hopes on revolution in methodology, others on reform of practice. The case for gradual reform still finds articulate advocates in philosophers like Michael Dummett and Timothy Williamson, but many philosophers today suspect that perennial disagreement may be inescapable. I consider three explanations for the inescapability of perennial disagreement—Richard Rorty’s relativism, Colin McGinn’s skepticism, and Nicholas Rescher’s pluralism—and find each wanting. I argue that a better explanation is the resistance of philosophers to commit, as scientists do, to formulating testable theories and collecting data to help decide between competing theories. I close by proposing that experimental philosophy, a movement still in its infancy, holds the promise of reuniting philosophy with science and moving philosophers closer to agreement on the solution of its central problems.
8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Ian James Kidd The Contingency of Science and the Future of Philosophy
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Contemporary metaphilosophical debates on the future of philosophy invariably include references to the natural sciences. This is wholly understandable given the cognitive and cultural authority of the sciences and their contributions to philosophical thought and practice. However such appeals to the sciences should be moderated by reflections on contingency of sciences. Using the work of contemporary historians and philosophers of science, I argue that an awareness of the radical contingency of science supports the claim that philosophy’s future should not be construed as either dependent or necessarily related to that of the sciences. Therefore contemporary debates – about the possibility of philosophy’s status as a science, say – should be tempered by an appreciation of the fact that science may cease to be a significant feature of future metaphilosophical debates. I conclude by considering the implications of this claim for assessments of the progressiveness of philosophy.
9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Eric Dietrich There Is No Progress in Philosophy
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Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with. Even more outrageous than this claim, though, is the blatant denial of its obvious truth by many practicing philosophers. The No-Progress view is explored and argued for here. Its denial is diagnosed as a form of anosognosia, a mental condition where the affected person denies there is any problem. The theories of two eminent philosophers supporting the No-Progress view are also examined. The final section offers an explanation for philosophy’s inability to solve any philosophical problem, ever. The paper closes with some reflections on philosophy’s future.
book reviews
10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Alan Soble Quit Your Kvetching: The Humor of Woody Allen
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11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
Peter H. Denton Review of The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature, by Pierre Hadot, trans. Michael Chase
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12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 12 > Issue: 2
David Boersema Review of The Pragmatism Reader: From Peirce through the Present, ed. Robert B. Talisse and Scott F. Aikin
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