April 26, 2011

Phenomenalisms, De Re and De Dicto

'Phenomenalism' is the name given to Berkeley's doctrine that the being (existence) of material objects consists in their being perceived (their esse is percipi - PHK 3). This formula is, however, several ways ambiguous. Here I just want to point out one of them. (I have been thinking about these issues in connection with a paper I am writing on the question of whether Leibniz was a phenomenalist, and, if so, of what sort.) The ambiguity I am concerned with here is a de re/de dicto ambiguity. De re is Latin for 'concerning the thing', and de dicto is Latin...
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April 18, 2011

The History of Swampman

It's been a while since I posted anything here, so I thought I'd take Jeremy's recent discussion of Davidson's 'Swampman' case (and modifications thereof) as an occasion to post a historical tidbit about swampman-like scenarios. Davidson's story - of a duplicate of himself being created by a lightning strike in a swamp - has obvious resemblances to the DC Comics character Swamp Thing. What is less obvious, less well known, and not mentioned on Swamp Thing's Wikipedia page, is that the swampman scenario was actually originated by Theodore Sturgeon in his short story "It", originally published in Unknown in August of 1940. Sturgeon himself, who was not a follower of comic books, did not know about his influence on that genre until he was invited to receive an award at the San Diego Comic Convention in 1975. Sturgeon's own description of the event can be found in the introduction to his 1984 collection, Alien Cargo, and is quoted in the story notes to "It" in the first volume of Sturgeon's Complete Stories.
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April 5, 2011

Quote of the Day: Confuting and Convincing

I think that as the proper end of our conference ought to be supposed the discovery and defence of truth, so truth may be justified, not only by persuading its adversaries, but, where that cannot be done, by shewing them to be unreasonable. Arguments, therefore, which carry light have their effect, even against an opponent who shuts his eyes, because they shew him to be obstinate and prejudiced. (Berkeley, Alciphron 4.2) This thought comes back at the end of the book, where Dion observes, "how unaccountable it [is] that men so easy to confute should yet be so difficult to...
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April 4, 2011

Philosophers' Carnival 123

Philosophers' Carnival 123 is now up at Faith in Philosophy with a philosophy of religion focus, and a link to my post on reactive attitudes.
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April 1, 2011

Concluding Remarks on Sobel's Logic and Theism

Having finished my series of discussions on Jordan Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism, I thought I should post some concluding thoughts. The parts of Sobel's book I found most interesting were his discussions of a variety of ontological and cosmological arguments for the existence of God. His book is quite thorough (as it should be, given its length) and, in general, I think his evaluations are careful and fair. I, of course, have found plenty of occasions to disagree with him. However, I found his discussions consistently interesting and well-informed, and never simply dismissive of opponents. He chooses his opponents...
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