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41. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 3
Lucian Petrescu John Duns Scotus and the Ontology of Mixture
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This paper presents Duns Scotus’s theory of mixture in the context of medieval discussions over Aristotle’s theory of mixed bodies. It revisits the accounts of mixture given by Avicenna, Averroes, and Thomas Aquinas, before presenting Scotus’s account as a reaction to Averroes. It argues that Duns Scotus rejected the Aristotelian theory of mixture altogether and that his account went contrary to the entire Latin tradition. Scotus denies that mixts arise out of the four classical elements and he maintains that both the elemental forms and the elemental qualities are lost in the mixture. Consequently, he denies the distinction between the process of mixture and that of substantial change through generation and corruption. The reassessment of Scotus’s account modifies the current historical representation of this discussion, inherited from Anneliese Maier.
42. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 3
Helen Steward Précis of "A Metaphysics for Freedom"
43. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Nicholas Laskowski How to Pull a Metaphysical Rabbit out of an End-Relational Semantic Hat
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Analytic reductivism in metaethics has long been out of philosophical vogue. In Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normativity (2014), Stephen Finlay tries to resuscitate it by developing an analytic metaethical reductive naturalistic semantics for ‘good.’ He argues that an end-relational semantics is the simplest account that can explain all of the data concerning the term, and hence the most plausible theory of it. I argue that there are several assumptions that a reductive naturalist would need to make about contextual parameter completion, to derive reductive naturalism from an end-relational semantics—assumptions that nonnaturalists might forcefully resist. I also argue for the claim that an end-relational semantics could provide surprising resources for nonnaturalists to address semantic worries about their views—the upshot of which paints the way for a new and sophisticated nonnaturalism about the semantics of moral discourse. Nonnaturalists have long suspected that they need not worry about semantics and this paper lends support to that suspicion.
44. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Peter A. Sutton Moore's "New" Open Question Argument
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For more than 100 years, metaethicists have overlooked the best version of G. E. Moore’s Open Question Argument. This despite the fact that it appears on the same page of Principia Ethica as his other, weaker versions of the argument. This better Open Question Argument does not rely on introspection of the meanings of ethical terms, and so does not fall to the standard criticisms of Moore. In this paper, I present this “new” Open Question Argument and show that Moore has done to naturalistic ethics something like what Plato’s Euthyphro does to supernaturalistic ethics.
45. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Justin Morton, Eric Sampson Parsimony and the Argument from Queerness
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In his recent book Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence, Jonas Olson attempts to revive the argument from queerness originally made famous by J. L. Mackie. In this paper, we do three things. First, we eliminate four untenable formulations of the argument. Second, we argue that the most plausible formulation is one that depends crucially upon considerations of parsimony. Finally, we evaluate this formulation of the argument. We conclude that it is unproblematic for proponents of moral nonnaturalism—the target of the argument from queerness.
46. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
William J. FitzPatrick Skepticism about Naturalizing Normativity: In Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism
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There is perhaps no more widely shared conviction in contemporary metaethics, even among those who hold otherwise divergent views, than that practical normativity must be capable of being naturalized (i.e., captured fully within a metaphysically naturalist worldview). My aim is to illuminate the central reasons for skepticism about this. While certain naturalizing projects are plausible for very limited purposes, it is unlikely that any can provide everything we might reasonably want from an account of goodness and badness, rightness and wrongness, and unqualified reasons for acting—at least if we are unwilling to accept certain deflationary or bullet-biting moves. Some naturalizing views can be shown to fail outright to capture the relevant normative facts or properties, while others have more promise but can also be seen to have certain limitations and costs, failing to capture elements that some of us take to be important to an adequate theory of practical normativity. There are, of course, far more naturalizing moves than can be considered here, so the aim is not to establish the truth of nonnaturalism through a process of elimination. But I hope to say enough to bring out the central worries about naturalizing projects and to pose some challenges that apply more widely, with the aim of showing that ethical nonnaturalism remains an attractive and well-motivated option at least for those of us who reject both nihilism and various forms of ethical deflation.
47. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Aaron Elliott Can Moral Principles Explain Supervenience?
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The distribution of moral properties supervenes on the distribution of natural properties, and this provides a puzzle for nonnaturalism: what could explain supervenience if moral properties are not natural properties? Enoch claims moral principles explain supervenience. But this solution is incomplete without an account of what moral principles and properties are, and what relation holds between them. This paper begins to develop such an account by exploring analogous issues for Realism about Laws of nature in philosophy of science. Appealing to Mumford’s Central Dilemma for Realism about Laws, I argue that for moral principles to explain supervenience, moral properties must be ontologically dependent on the principles. I suggest that moral properties are relations between moral principles and natural properties. I also explore what it would take to adapt this explanation to a pluralistic theory of morality. Contributory reasons avoid the Cartwright Problem for Laws in a way component forces cannot.
48. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 4
Christopher Cowie A New Explanatory Challenge for Nonnaturalists
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According to some contemporary nonnaturalists about normativity (e.g., Parfit, Scanlon, Dworkin), normative facts exist in an ontologically non-committing sense. These nonnaturalists face an explanatory burden. They must explain their claim that normative facts exist in such a sense. I identify criteria for an adequate explanation, and extract five distinct candidate explanations from the writings of these authors (based on causal efficacy, analogy with modality, fundamentality, domain-relativity and first-order considerations respectively). I assess each. None is both (a) informative and (b) recognizable as a version of contemporary nonnaturalism. In light of this, I assess the best options for proponents of this view.
49. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Gary Hatfield Natural Geometry in Descartes and Kepler
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According to Kepler and Descartes, the geometry of the triangle formed by the two eyes when focused on a single point affords perception of the distance to that point. Kepler characterized the processes involved as associative learning. Descartes described the processes as a “natural geometry.” Many interpreters have Descartes holding that perceivers calculate the distance to the focal point using angle-side-angle, calculations that are reduced to unnoticed mental habits in adult vision. This article offers a purely psychophysiological interpretation of Descartes’s natural geometry. In his account of perceived limb position from the Treatise on Man, he envisioned a central brain state that controls ocular convergence (and accommodation) and thereby co-varies with the distance from observer to object. A psychophysiological law relates the visual perception of distance to this brain state. Descartes also invokes more traditional theories of distance and size perception based on unnoticed judgments, yielding a hybrid account.
50. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Deborah Brown Animal Automatism and Machine Intelligence
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Descartes’s uncompromising rejection of the possibility of animal intelligence was among his most controversial theses. That rejection is based on (1) his commitment to the doctrine of animal automatism and (2) two tests that he takes to be sufficient indicators of thought (the action and language tests). Of these two tests, only the language test is truly definitive, and Descartes is firmly of the view that no animal could demonstrate the capacity to use signs to convey meaning in “all the circumstances of life.” The topic is fascinating for forcing us to ponder what exactly reason is for Descartes and the role it plays in everyday life. This article explores the tensions in Descartes’s arguments produced by an over reliance on the analogy between animals and clocks, including the question of what to make of Descartes’s recognition of the need to posit representational and information-processing subsystems in the brain.
51. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Lisa Shapiro Memory in the Meditations
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This paper considers just how memory works throughout the Meditations to adduce Descartes’s conception of memory. Examining the meditator’s memory at work raises some questions about the nature of Cartesian memory and its epistemic role. What is the distinction between remembering and repeating a thought? If remembering is not simply repeating a thought, then what is involved in properly remembering? Can we remember properly while adding or shifting content, say, in virtue of articulating relations between ideas? If so, what is the relation between remembering and reasoning, since both would then involve relations of ideas? These questions become salient in considering the meditator’s creative recollections in the Third and especially the Sixth Meditations. After briefly considering what Descartes does say about memory, I consider two other strategies for addressing those questions: an analogy with innate ideas, and attending to the role that other thinkers play in one’s own recollections.
52. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Tad M. Schmaltz The Metaphysics of Rest in Descartes and Malebranche
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I consider a somewhat obscure but important feature of Descartes’s physics that concerns the notion of the “force of rest.” Contrary to a prominent occasionalist interpretation of Descartes’s physics, I argue that Descartes himself attributes real forces to resting bodies. I also take his account of rest to conflict with the view that God conserves the world by “re-creating” it anew at each moment. I turn next to the role of rest in Malebranche. Malebranche takes Descartes to endorse his own occasionalist version of physics. However, he nonetheless rejects Descartes’s account of rest by appealing to the fact that whereas God’s production of motion requires a power beyond the mere power to create, his production of rest requires only the latter power. It turns out that this argument in Malebranche is incompatible with the sort of “re-creationist” account of divine conservation that he is widely thought to have inherited from Descartes.
53. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Daniel Garber Descartes among the Novatores
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In the Discours de la méthode, Descartes presents himself as a heroic figure, standing up against the current Aristotelian orthodoxy in philosophy, and offering something new, a mechanist physics and the metaphysics to go along with it. But Descartes was by no means the only challenger to Aristotelian natural philosophy: by Descartes’s day, there were many. Descartes was read as one of this group, generally called the novatores (innovators) in Latin, and often severely criticized for their advocacy of the new. Descartes himself wanted to separate his philosophy from that of the novatores, who were thought to seek novelty rather than truth. But it was not so easy to distance himself. Many contemporary commentators, like Charles Sorel, put Descartes squarely in their camp, but at exactly the moment when novelty and innovation in natural philosophy was changing from being worthy of scorn to being praiseworthy.
54. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Lex Newman Attention, Voluntarism, and Liberty in Descartes's Account of Judgment
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This essay addresses two main aspects of Descartes’s views on the mind’s voluntary control over judgment. First, I argue that in his view, the mind’s control over judgment is indirect: rather than believing things directly at will, the mind’s voluntary control is exercised by directing its attention to reasons—the reasons then doing the work of determining either assent, dissent, or suspension. Second, I argue that the foregoing indirect voluntarism account undermines an influential line of argument purporting to show that Descartes holds a compatibilist account of the mind’s liberty in its judgment formation. On the broader interpretation that emerges, Descartes assigns a more significant role to attention in proper judgment formation than has generally been acknowledged.
55. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
L. A. Paul Transformative Choice: Discussion and Replies
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In “What you can’t expect when you’re expecting,” I argue that, if you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, you cannot make this decision rationally—at least, not if your decision is based on what you think it would be like for you to become a parent. My argument hinges on the idea that becoming a parent is a transformative experience. This unique type of experience often transforms people in a deep and personal sense, and in the process, changes their preferences.In section 1, I will explain transformative experience in terms of radical first-personal epistemic and self change. In section 2, I’ll explain the notion of subjective value that I use to develop the decision problem. In section 3, I will discuss the way we ordinarily combine our introspective assessments with testimony and evidence. In section 4, I will discuss the problems for rational decision-making. In section 5, I will explore the problem of first-personally transformed future selves. In section 6, I will engage with the main themes and arguments and ideas of the authors of the papers contributed to this volume.
56. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
L. A. Paul What You Can’t Expect When You’re Expecting
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It seems natural to choose whether to have a child by reflecting on what it would be like to actually have a child. I argue that this natural approach fails. If you choose to become a parent, and your choice is based on projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. If you choose to remain childless, and your choice is based upon projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. This suggests we should reject our ordinary conception of how to make this life-changing decision, and raises general questions about how to rationally approach important life choices.
57. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Antti Kauppinen What's So Great about Experience?
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Suppose that our life choices result in unpredictable experiences, as L. A. Paul has recently argued. What does this mean for the possibility of rational prudential choice? Not as much as Paul thinks. First, what’s valuable about experience is its broadly hedonic quality, and empirical studies suggest we tend to significantly overestimate the impact of our choices in this respect. Second, contrary to what Paul suggests, the value of finding out what an outcome is like for us does not suffice to rationalize life choices, because much more important values are at stake. Third, because these other prudential goods, such as achievement, personal relationships, and meaningfulness, are typically more important than the quality of our experience (which is in any case unlikely to be bad when we realize non-experiential goods), life choices should be made on what I call a story-regarding rather than experience-regarding basis.
58. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Tom Dougherty, Sophie Horowitz, Paulina Sliwa Expecting the Unexpected
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In an influential paper, L. A. Paul argues that one cannot rationally decide whether to have children. In particular, she argues that such a decision is intractable for standard decision theory. Paul’s central argument in this paper rests on the claim that becoming a parent is “epistemically transformative”—prior to becoming a parent, it is impossible to know what being a parent is like. Paul argues that because parenting is epistemically transformative, one cannot estimate the values of the various outcomes of a decision whether to become a parent. In response, we argue that it is possible to estimate the value of epistemically transformative experiences. Therefore, there is no special difficulty involved in deciding whether to undergo epistemically transformative experiences. Insofar as major life decisions do pose a challenge to decision theory, we suggest that this is because they often involve separate, familiar problems.
59. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Elizabeth Harman Transformative Experiences and Reliance on Moral Testimony
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Some experiences are transformative in that it is impossible to imagine experiencing them until one experiences them. It has been argued that pregnancy and parenthood are like that, and that therefore one cannot make a rational decision whether to become a mother. I argue that pregnancy and parenthood are not like that; but that if even if they are, a woman can still make a rational decision by relying on testimony about the value of these experiences. I then discuss an objection that such testimony will be unreliable because parents will reflect on their being glad that their children exist, and will not realize that it’s reasonable to be glad their children exist even if the parents’ lives are thereby worse. I argue that despite this possible route to unreliable testimony, in general it is reasonable to rely on others’ testimony about the value of their lives.
60. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Jennifer Carr Epistemic Expansions
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Epistemic transformations—changes in one’s space of entertainable possibilities—are sometimes rational, sometimes irrational. Epistemology should take seriously the possibility of rationally evaluable epistemic transformations. Epistemic decision theory compares belief states in terms of epistemic value. But it’s standardly restricted to belief states that don’t differ in their conceptual resources. I argue that epistemic decision theory should be expanded to make belief states with differing conceptual resources comparable. I characterize some possible constraints on epistemic utility functions. Traditionally, it’s been assumed that the epistemic utility of a total belief state determines the epistemic utility of individual (partial) beliefs in a simple, intuitive way. Naive generalizations of extant accounts generate a kind of repugnant conclusion. I characterize some possible alternatives, reflecting different epistemic norms.