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1. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 45
Saja Parvizian Al-Ghazālī and Descartes on Defeating Skepticism
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Commentators have noticed the striking similarities between the skep­tical arguments of al-Ghazālī’s Deliverance from Error and Descartes’ Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. However, commentators agree that their solutions to skepticism are radically different. Al-Ghazālī does not use rational proofs to defeat skepticism; rather, he relies on a supernatural light [nūr] sent by God to rescue him from skepticism. Descartes, on the other hand, relies on the natural light of reason [lumen naturale] to prove the existence of God, mind, and body. In this paper, I argue that Descartes’ solution is closer to al-Ghazālī’s than commentators have allowed. A close reading of the cosmological argument of the Third Meditation reveals that there is also a type of divine intervention em­ployed in the Meditations, which helps Descartes defeat skepticism. This reading may buttress the case made by some that al-Ghazālī influenced Descartes; but more importantly, it requires us to rethink key features of Descartes’ epistemology.
2. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 45
Andrei Ionuţ Mărăşoiu Intellectual Virtues and Biased Understanding
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Biases affect much of our epistemic lives. Do they affect how we understand things? For Linda Zagzebski, we only understand something when we manifest intellectual virtues or skills. Relying on how widespread biases are, J. Adam Carter and Duncan Pritchard raise a skeptical objection to understanding so conceived. It runs as follows: most of us seem to understand many things. We genuinely understand only when we manifest intellectual virtues or skills, and are cognitively responsible for so doing. Yet much of what we seem to understand consists in conceptions whose formation could have easily been due to biases instead, and the work of biases is opaque to reflection. If conceptions constituting how we understand things could have easily been due to biases, then we are not cognitively responsible for them because we cannot reflectively appraise what we understand. So, we are mistaken in thinking we genuinely understand most of the time. I will defend the grounding of understanding in intellectual virtues and skills from Carter and Pritchard’s objection. We are cognitively responsible for understanding when we manifest our expertise. We can do so, I will argue, without being required to reflectively appraise what we understand.
3. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 29
Nicholas Rescher Immediate Experience and Ontology: (A Pragmatic Perspective on Philosophical Realism)
4. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 29
Bruce N. Waller The Almost Invisible Ghost in the Moral Responsibility Machine
5. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Daniel Laurier Between Phenomenalism and Objectivism: An Examination of R. Brandom’s Account of the Objectivity of Discursive Deontic Statuses
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Brandom (1994) claims to have succeeded in showing how certain kinds of social practices can institute objective deontic statuses and confer objective conceptual contents on certain performances. This paper proposes a reconstruction of how, on Brandom’s views, this is supposed to come about, and a critical examination of the explicit arguments offered in support for this claim.
6. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Wayne A. Davis On Begging the Systematicity Question
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Robert Cummins has argued that Jerry Fodor’s well-known systematicity argument begs the question. I show that the systematicity argument for thought structure does not beg the question, nor run in either explanatory nor inferential circles, nor illegitimately project sentence structure onto thoughts. Because the evidence does not presuppose that thought has structure, connectionist explanations of the same interconnections between thoughts are at least possibilities. Butthey are likely to be ad hoc.
7. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Patrick A. Tully Victims of Abortion and “Victims” of Contraception: A Reply to Phil Gosselin
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It has been argued that killing persons is wrong because it deprives them of future experiences. Some opponents of abortion argue that the same apples to potential persons—fetuses, zygotes, embryos, etc.—so that to destroy them is as wrong as killing a person. Phil Gosselin rejects this position, employing the reductio argument that if it were so, contraception would be equally wrong, since it destroys potential persons that are gamete pairs. I argue in this paper that Gosselin’s position on the ontological status of the “victim” of contraception, the gamete pair, is flawed in such a way that his conclusion that there is no morally relevant difference between what is destroyed by abortion and what is destroyed by contraception fails. A gamete pair is ontologically different from a fetus; “victims” of contraception and victims of abortion are not significantly analogous, and the reductio that depends upon their similarity for its force is unsuccessful.
8. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Thomas D. Bontly Exclusion, Overdetermination, and the Nature of Causation
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A typical thesis of contemporary materialism holds that mental properties and events supervene on, without being reducible to, physical properties and events. Many philosophers have grown skeptical about the causal efficacy of irreducibly supervenient properties, however, and one of the main reasons is an assumption about causation which Jaegwon Kim calls the causal exclusion principle. I argue here that this principle runs afoul of cases of genuine causal overdetermination.Many would argue that causal overdetermination is impossible anyway, but a careful analysis of these arguments shows them to be misguided. Finally, I examine the reasons given in support of the causal exclusion principle, and I conclude that it is plausible if, and probably only if, a certain view of the nature of causation turns out to be correct. Since that view of causation is unacceptable to nonreductivists on other grounds, however, it turns out that exclusion-based arguments essentially beg the question.
9. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Daniel Howard-Snyder, Christian Lee On a “Fatal Dilemma” for Moderate Foundationalism
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Contemporary foundationalists prefer Moderate Foundationalism over Strong Foundationalism. In this paper, we assess two arguments against the former which have been recently defended by Timothy McGrew. Three theses are central to the discussion: that only beliefs can be probabilifying evidence, that justification is internal, in McGrew’s sense of the term, and that only beliefs can be nonarbitrary justifying reasons.
10. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Brian Harding Epoché, the Transcendental Ego, and Intersubjectivity in Husserl’s Phenomenology
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This essay is concerned with defending Husserl against the criticism that he is insuffi ciently attentive to intersubjectivity. It has two moments; the fi rst articulates what I take to be a general version of the critique and then turns to a discussion of a version derived from Wittgenstein’s private language argument and the ensuing debate regarding this critique between Suzanne Cunningham and Peter Hutcheson. This discussion concludes by noting a general agreement betweenthe two participants that Husserl’s ego is not directly involved in intersubjective relationships. I argue that as long as this is granted, the broader criticism cannot be answered. Whence, the second moment defends Husserl against this critique arguing that Husserl’s transcendental ego is an intersubjective one.
11. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Weng-Fang Wang OK or OK*—Putnam’s Way to Essentialism
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Hilary Putnam made the claim several times that the direct reference theory (DRT) he endorsed had startling consequences for the theory of necessary truth and essentialism. If DRT was correct, so he claimed, it followed that things belonging to natural kinds had their deep structures necessarily. Inspired by Keith Donnellan, Nathan Salmon tried to spell out what Putnam seemed to have in mind when making the claim, and Salmon called the result of his analysis “the OK mechanism.” Salmon showed that it was not DRT, but some other essentialism-entailing premise, that had the claimed startling consequences in the OK mechanism. In this paper, I argue that Salmon’s OK is not the right interpretation of Putnam’s intended mechanism. Instead, I present Putnam’s intention as the OK* mechanism, and show that, in OK*, DRT does have the claimed startling consequences when supplemented only with other metaphysically innocent, purely empirically verifiable premises.
12. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Chris Meyers Wants and Desires: A Critique of Conativist Theory of Motivation
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In this paper I will argue against the Humean theory of motivation, or “conativism” which claims that all actions are ultimately generated by desires. Conativism is supported by (1) a behavioral analysis of desire as a disposition to act in certain ways, and (2) the difference between belief and desire in terms of their different “direction of fi t” with the world. I will show that this behavioral account of desire cannot provide an adequate explanation of action. Mere disposition to act (what I call “wanting”) does not explain why the agent acts; insofar as it explains the action desire is a feeling. I will then argue against the direction of fit argument by showing that beliefs about what we ought to do have both directions of fit—the belief has one direction of fit, and the content of the belief (the ought-clause) has the opposite direction of fit.
13. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Thornton C. Lockwood, Jr. A Topical Bibliography of Scholarship on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: 1880 to 2004
14. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Robert Francis Allen Free Will and Indeterminism: Robert Kane’s Libertarianism
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Drawing on Aristotle’s notion of “ultimate responsibility,” Robert Kane argues that to be exercising a free will an agent must have taken some character forming decisions for which there were no sufficient conditions or decisive reasons. That is, an agent whose will is free not only had the ability to develop values and beliefs besides those that presently make up her motives, but could have exercised that ability without being irrational. An agent wills freely, on this view, by beingultimately responsible for how she is currently disposed to act. Kane needs, then, to show how an agent could be responsible for decisions that her deliberations did not guarantee. He must also explain how a decision for which there is no decisive reason could yet be rational, assuming that the responsibility engendering decisions forming the basis of a free will would be rational. I shall argue here that Kane has achieved neither of these goals.
15. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Martin Montminy Meaning Skepticism and Normativity
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Saul Kripke has raised a powerful skeptical objection to an account of meaning based on dispositions. He argues that attempts to explain meaning on the basis of dispositions, no matter how sophisticated, are bound to fail because meaning is normative, whereas dispositions are descriptive. I provide a clear account of the normativity objection, which has often been seen as obscure or been conflated with other objections Kripke raises. I offer a straight solution to the skeptical paradox based on a dispositional approach to meaning that survives the normativity objection. A key aspect of my approach is the assimilation of meaning to secondary properties such as color. I compare meaning attributions with reductive explanations of high-level phenomena in other areas, and argue that there are no differences in kind between the two. Consequently, skepticism about meaning is not better warranted than a similar skepticism about reductive explanations of other high-level phenomena.
16. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Scott Kimbrough Descartes on Physical Causes of Impaired Judgment
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Descartes is typically interpreted as asserting two related theses: 1) that the will is absolutely free in the sense that no bodily state can compel it or restrain its activity; and 2) that error is always avoidable, no matter what the condition of the body. On the basis of Descartes’s discussions of insanity and dreaming, I argue that both of these interpretive claims are false. In other words, Descartes acknowledged that a diseased or otherwise out of sorts body can compel the will to affirm obscure and confused perceptions. After marshalling textual evidence for this conclusion, I go on to show how Descartes’s acknowledgment of physically induced impaired judgment can be squared with his unqualified assertions of free will, his commitment to the non-deceptiveness of God, and his epistemology.
17. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Peter Gratton Heidegger and Levinas on the Question of Temporality
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Emmanuel Levinas’s contribution to philosophical conceptions of time can be understood fully only in terms of his debt to Heidegger. Taking up Levinas’s critiques of Heidegger’s Destruktion of the Aristotelian conception of time in Being and Time, this paper argues that Levinas is ultimately unable to refuse fully, for reasons having to do with Heidegger’s disastrous alignment with the Nazis in the 1930s, the debt he owes to Heidegger, his earliest and most lasting influence. Despite his problems with the Dasein analytic, Levinas does not repudiate Heidegger’s essential contributions to a deconstruction of the history of ontology. Indeed, Levinas assumes this de-structuring as providing the necessary opening for his own contribution to rethinking the notion of time. In the last section of this paper, we tease out what Levinas’s analysis means for his ambivalent relationship to Heidegger, but also in his quest to go “beyond” phenomenology.
18. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Filimon Peonidis Autonomy and Sympathy: Towards a Post-Kantian Moral Humanism
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Kantian moral humanism refers to Kant’s ingenious effort to conceive human beings as bearers of an intrinsic and non-negotiable value that is grounded on the fact that they are autonomous lawgivers in a kingdom of ends. However, the highly idealised character of his project and its metaphysical underpinnings render the association between man’s inner worth and autonomy problematic for the modern reader. In this essay we argue for a more down to earth moral humanism that still supports the above association but through an alternative route. In our “moral image” introspection, interaction, and sympathy, conceived as a primitive emotion that motivates us to care for the good of other people, play a central grounding role. However, while we are now more certain about the soundness of the general moral framework concerning the justification of the inherent value of human beings, we are less confident about the obligations it generates. This is the price we pay as we descend from Kant’s orderly moral heaven to the messy reality of human affairs.
19. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Robert Cummins, Jim Blackmon, David Byrd, Alexa Lee, Martin Roth What Systematicity Isn’t: Reply to Davis
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In “On Begging the Systematicity Question,” Wayne Davis criticizes the suggestion of Cummins et al. that the alleged systematicity of thought is not as obvious as is sometimes supposed, and hence not reliable evidence for the language of thought hypothesis. We offer a brief reply.
20. Journal of Philosophical Research: Volume > 30
Steven Hendley From the Second to the Third Person and Back Again: Habermas and Brandom on Discursive Practice
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Habermas and Brandom remain divided on a key point in their theories of language concerning the priority of a participant vs. a third-person, observational perspective onto language. I examine this dispute as it has played out in a recent exchange between them, attempting to explicate and defend a qualified version of Habermas’s claim in the light of his more developed treatment of this issue elsewhere. Once the defensible content of Habermas’s claim is clarified, I argue that Habermas’s critique of Brandom highlights an important way in which Brandom fails to follow through adquately in the development of his own understanding of language as a distinctively social practice. The value in Habermas’s criticism of Brandom’s work lies not in exposing an unbridgeable gulf between their two positions, but in helping us to work out more consistently the social perspective onto language that informs both their work.