Metaphysics & Epistemology
Metaphysics is concerned with the nature of existence and the universe, and epistemology is a related area focused on exploring knowledge.Our Faculty
Philosophy of Science & the Sciences
Philosophy of science is concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science and of various branches of science.Our Faculty
Philosophy of Mind & Cognitive Science
These areas investigate the nature of cognition, probing the nature of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and related disciplines.Our Faculty
Ethics & Value
Philosophers working in ethics and value look into and question the frameworks of personal and societal morality, and how these influence human behavior.Our Faculty
History of Philosophy
Experts in history of philosophy focus on one or more eras of human thought and their significance at the time and, often, their relevance in terms of contemporary understanding.Our Faculty
the faculty bookshelf
Faith and Humility
This book is devoted to articulating the connections between the nature and value of faith and humility. The goal is to understand faith and humility in a way that does not discriminate between religious and mundane contexts, between sacred and secular. It arises from a conviction that these two character traits are important to a flourishing life, and intimately related to each other in such a way that the presence of one demands the presence of the other. In particular, the book defends the claim that each of these virtues provides a necessary, compensating balance to the potential downside of the other virtue. The result of such an inquiry, if that inquiry is successful, will require a re-orienting of discussions surrounding faith, including debates about the relationship between faith and reason.
Beyond Vision: Philosophical Essays
Beyond Vision brings together eight essays by Casey O'Callaghan. The works draw theoretical and philosophical lessons about perception, the nature of its objects, and sensory awareness through sustained attention to extra-visual and multisensory forms of perception and perceptual consciousness. O'Callaghan focuses on auditory perception, perception of spoken language, and multisensory perception.
The Construction of Human Kinds
Ron Mallon explores how thinking and talking about kinds of person can bring those kinds into being. Social constructionist explanations of human kinds like race, gender, and homosexuality are commonplace in the social sciences and humanities, but what do they mean and what are their implications?
Mallon understands socially constructed kinds as the real, sometimes stable products of our cognitive and representational practices, and he suggests that reference to such kinds can figure in our everyday and scientific practices of representing the social world. The result is a realistic, naturalistic account of how human representations might contribute to making up the parts of the social world that they represent.
Layering and Directionality: Metrical Stress in Optimality Theory
The metrical grid, the prosodic hierarchy, and the devices that establish directional parsing effects are closely intertwined in metrical stress theory. The metrical grid is the structure that represents stress patterns. The locations of stressed positions on the grid are constrained by the positions of categories in the prosodic hierarchy. Both the metrical grid and the prosodic hierarchy are manipulated by constraints, such as alignment constraints, that establish directional orientations within these structures. Assumptions about the representations affect the behavior of the constraints, and the particular formulation of the constraints influences the ultimate configuration of the representations. Layering and Directionality is unique in the OT literature in that it examines both halves of the equation. It addresses the formulation of constraints that produce directional parsing effects, but it also addresses assumptions concerning prosodic and metrical structure. The book presents and defends three central proposals: the Weak Bracketing approach to layering relationships between prosodic categories, the Optimal Mapping approach to the relationship between prosodic categories and the metrical grid, and the Relation-Specific Alignment approach to parsing directionality. The book is also unique in its coverage of OT accounts, comparing the proposed approach to approaches that range from Generalized Alignment in standard OT to the more recent Iterative Foot Optimization couched within the framework of Harmonic Serialism. The book draws extensively on the typological literature to evaluate the predictions of the accounts examined.
Rationality and Reflection: How to Think About What to Think
Jonathan L. Kvanvig presents a conception of rationality which answers to the need arising out of the egocentric predicament concerning what to do and what to believe. He does so in a way that avoids, on the one hand, reducing rationality to the level of beasts, and on the other hand, elevating it so that only the most reflective among us are capable of rational beliefs. Rationality and Reflection sets out a theory of rationality--a theory about how to determine what to think--which defends a significant degree of optionality in the story of what is reasonable for people to think, and thereby provides a framework for explaining what kinds of rational disagreement are possible. The theory is labelled Perspectivalism and it offers a unique account of rationality, one that cuts across the usual distinctions between Foundationalism and Coherentism and between Internalism and Externalism. It also differs significantly from Evidentialism, maintaining that, to the extent that rationality is connected to the notion of evidence, it is a function both of the evidence one has and what one makes of it.
A Critical Introduction to Skepticism
Skepticism remains a central and defining issue in epistemology, and in the wider tradition of Western philosophy. To better understand the contemporary position of this important philosophical subject, Allan Hazlett introduces a range of topics, including:
• Ancient skepticism
• skeptical arguments in the work of Hume and Descartes
• Cartesian skepticism in contemporary epistemology
• anti-skeptical strategies, including Mooreanism, nonclosure, and contextualism
• additional varieties of skepticism
• the practical consequences of Cartesian skepticism
Presenting a comprehensive survey of the key problems, arguments, and theories, together with additional readings, A Critical Introduction to Skepticism is an ideal guide for students and scholars looking to understand how skepticism is shaping epistemology today.
The value of true belief has played a central role in history of philosophy--consider Socrates' slogan that the unexamined life is not worth living, and Aristotle's claim that everyone naturally wants knowledge--as well as in contemporary epistemology, where questions about the value of knowledge have recently taken center stage. It has usually been assumed that accurate representation--true belief--is valuable, either instrumentally or for its own sake. In A Luxury of the Understanding, Allan Hazlett offers a critical study of that assumption, and of the main ways in which it can be defended.
In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences
Neuroscientists investigate the mechanisms of spatial memory. Molecular biologists study the mechanisms of protein synthesis and the myriad mechanisms of gene regulation. Ecologists study nutrient cycling mechanisms and their devastating imbalances in estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, much of biology and its history involves biologists constructing, evaluating, and revising their understanding of mechanisms.
Philosophy: Traditional and Experimental Readings
Recently, the fields of empirical and experimental philosophy have generated tremendous excitement, due to unexpected results that have challenged philosophical dogma. Responding to this trend, Philosophy: Traditional and Experimental Readings is the first introductory philosophy reader to integrate cutting-edge work in empirical and experimental philosophy with traditional philosophy.
Featuring coverage that is equal parts historical, contemporary, and empirical/experimental, this topically organized reader provides students with a unique introduction to both the core and the vanguard of philosophy. The text is enhanced by pedagogical tools including commentary on each reading and chapter, study questions, suggested further readings, and a glossary.
Destiny and Deliberation: Essays in Philosophical Theology
Jonathan Kvanvig presents a compelling new work in philosophical theology on the universe, creation, and the afterlife. Organised thematically by the endpoints of time, the volume begins by addressing eschatological matters--the doctrines of heaven and hell--and ends with an account of divine deliberation and creation. Kvanvig develops a coherent theistic outlook which reconciles a traditional, high conception of deity, with full providential control over all aspects of creation, with full providential control over all aspects of creation, with a conception of human beings as free and morally responsible. The resulting position and defense is labeled "Philosophical Arminianism," and deserves attention in a broad range of religious traditions.
Debating the Ethics of Immigration: Is There a Right to Exclude?
Do states have the right to prevent potential immigrants from crossing their borders, or should people have the freedom to migrate and settle wherever they wish? Christopher Heath Wellman and Phillip Cole develop and defend opposing answers to this timely and important question. In addition to engaging with each other's arguments, Wellman and Cole address a range of central questions and prominent positions on this topic. The authors therefore provide a critical overview of the major contributions to the ethics of migration, as well as developing original, provocative positions of their own.
Kant's Theory of Virtue
Anne Margaret Baxley offers a systematic interpretation of Kant's theory of virtue, whose most distinctive features have not been properly understood. She explores the rich moral psychology in Kant's later and less widely read works on ethics, and argues that the key to understanding his account of virtue is the concept of autocracy, a form of moral self-government in which reason rules over sensibility. Although certain aspects of Kant's theory bear comparison to more familiar Aristotelian claims about virtue, Baxley contends that its most important aspects combine to produce something different - a distinctively modern, egalitarian conception of virtue which is an important and overlooked alternative to the more traditional Greek views which have dominated contemporary virtue ethics.
Sounds: A Philosophical Theory
Sounds proposes a novel theory of sounds and auditory perception. Against the widely accepted philosophical view that sounds are among the secondary or sensible qualities, O'Callaghan argues that, on any perceptually plausible account, sounds are events. But this does not imply that sounds are waves that propagate through a medium, such as air or water. Rather, sounds are events that take place in one's environment at or near the objects and happenings that bring them about. This account captures the way in which sounds essentially are creatures of time, and situates sounds in a world populated by items and events that have significance for us.
Sounds & Perception
Sounds and Perception is a collection of original essays on auditory perception and the nature of sounds - an emerging area of interest in the philosophy of mind and perception, and in the metaphysics of sensible qualities. The individual essays discuss a wide range of issues, including the nature of sound, the spatial aspects of auditory experience, hearing silence, musical experience, and the perception of speech; a substantial introduction by the editors serves to contextualise the essays and make connections between them.
Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience
What distinguishes good explanations in neuroscience from bad? Carl F. Craver constructs and defends standards for evaluating neuroscientific explanations that are grounded in a systematic view of what neuroscientific explanations are: descriptions of multilevel mechanisms. In developing this approach, he draws on a wide range of examples in the history of neuroscience (e.g. Hodgkin and Huxley model of the action potential and LTP as a putative explanation for different kinds of memory), as well as recent philosophical work on the nature of scientific explanation. Readers in neuroscience, psychology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science will find much to provoke and stimulate them in this book.
A Liberal Theory of International Justice
A Liberal Theory of International Justice advances a novel theory of international justice that combines the orthodox liberal notion that the lives of individuals are what ultimately matter morally with the putatively antiliberal idea of an irreducibly collective right of self-governance. The individual and her rights are placed at center stage insofar as political states are judged legitimate if they adequately protect the human rights of their constituents and respect the rights of all others. Yet, the book argues that legitimate states have a moral right to self-determination and that this right is inherently collective, irreducible to the individual rights of the persons who constitute them.
Cogito, Ergo Sum: A Life of René Descartes
Descartes’s motto was that a life well hidden is well lived. Much of his own life is obscure to us now, which has led to tales of the great philosopher lying in bed meditating each morning until eleven, piously following the dictates of a Cardinal, writing verses for a Queen, and so on. Many of these myths are exploded in Cogito Ergo Sum, the first biography published since 1920 based on extensive original archival and field research. It is also explicitly the life of Descartes, in the flesh and blood, not a compendium of technical analyses of philosophical positions found in “life and works” biographies so dear to contemporary professional philosophers.
The Knowability Paradox
The paradox of knowability, derived from a proof by Frederic Fitch in 1963, is one of the deepest paradoxes concerning the nature of truth. Jonathan Kvanvig argues that the depth of the paradox has not been adequately appreciated. It has long been known that the paradox threatens antirealist conceptions of truth according to which truth is epistemic. If truth is epistemic, what better way to express that idea than to maintain that all truths are knowable? In the face of the paradox, however, such a characterization threatens to undermine antirealism. If Fitch's proof is valid, then one can be an antirealist of this sort only by endorsing the conclusion of the proof that all truths are known.
This book thus provides a thorough investigation of the literature on the paradox, and also proposes a solution to the deeper of the two problems raised by Fitch's proof. It provides a complete picture of the paradoxicality that results from Fitch's proof, and presents a solution to the paradox that claims to address both problems raised by the original proof.
From an Ontological Point of View
From an Ontological Point of View is a highly original and accessible exploration of fundamental questions about what there is. John Heil discusses such issues as whether the world includes levels of reality; the nature of objects and properties; the demands of realism; what makes things true; qualities, powers, and the relation these bear to one another. He advances an account of the fundamental constituents of the world around us, and applies this account to problems that have plagued recent work in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics (color, intentionality, and the nature of consciousness).
A Theory of Secession: The Case for Political Self-Determination
Offering an unapologetic defense of the right to secede, Christopher Heath Wellman argues that any group has a moral right to secede as long as its political divorce will leave it and the remainder state in a position to perform the requisite political functions. He explains that there is nothing contradictory about valuing legitimate states, while permitting their division. Thus, if one values self-determination, then one has good reason to conclude that people have a right to determine their political boundaries.
Is There a Duty to Obey the Law?
The central question in political philosophy is whether political states have the right to coerce their constituents and whether citizens have a moral duty to obey the commands of their state. In this 2005 book, Christopher Heath Wellman and A. John Simmons defend opposing answers to this question. Wellman bases his argument on samaritan obligations to perform easy rescues, arguing that each of us has a moral duty to obey the law as his or her fair share of the communal samaritan chore of rescuing our compatriots from the perils of the state of nature. Simmons counters that this, and all other attempts to explain our duty to obey the law, fail. He defends a position of philosophical anarchism, the view that no existing state is legitimate and that there is no strong moral presumption in favor of obedience to, or compliance with, any existing state.
With Respect for Nature: Living as Part of the Natural World
Explores how humans can take the lives of animals and plants while maintaining a proper respect both for ecosystems and for those who live in them.
We eat, inevitably, at the expense of other living creatures. How can we take the lives of plants and animals while maintaining a proper respect for both ecosystems and the individuals who live in them—including ourselves? In this book philosopher J. Claude Evans challenges much of the accepted wisdom in environmental ethics and argues that human participation in the natural cycles of life and death can have positive moral value.
With a guide for the nonphilosophical reader, and set against the background of careful and penetrating critiques of Albert Schweitzer's principle of reverence for life and Paul Taylor's philosophy of respect for nature, Evans uses hunting and catch-and-release fishing as test cases in calling for a robust sense of membership in the natural world. The result is an approachable, existential philosophy that emphasizes the positive value of human involvement in natural processes in which life and death, giving and receiving, self and other are intertwined.
Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics
Now in an updated edition with fresh perspectives on high-profile ethical issues such as torture and same-sex marriage, this collection pairs cogently argued essays by leading philosophers with opposing views on fault-line public concerns. This is a evisedr and updated new edition with six new pairs of essays on prominent contemporary issues including torture and same-sex marriage, and a survey of theories of ethics by Stephen Darwall. Leading philosophers tackle colleagues with opposing views in contrasting essays on core issues in applied ethics.
Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction
When first published, John Heil's introduction quickly became a widely used guide for students with little or no background in philosophy to central issues of philosophy of mind. Heil provided an introduction free of formalisms, technical trappings, and specialized terminology. He offered clear arguments and explanations, focusing on the ontological basis of mentality and its place in the material world. The book concluded with a systematic discussion of questions the book raises--and a sketch of a unified metaphysics of mind--thus inviting scholarly attention while providing a book very well suited for an introductory course.
This Third Edition builds on these strengths and incorporates new material on theories of consciousness, computationalism, the language of thought, and animal minds as well as other emerging areas of research. With an updated reading list at the end of each chapter and a revised bibliography, this new edition will again make it the indispensable primer for anyone seeking a better understanding of the central metaphysical issues in philosophy of mind.
Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology
This anthology provides a comprehensive and self-contained introduction to the philosophy of mind. Featuring an extensive and varied collection of fifty classical and contemporary readings, it also offers substantial section introductions--which set the extracts in context and guide readers through them--discussion questions, and guides to further reading. Ideal for undergraduate courses, the book is organized into twelve sections, providing instructors with flexibility in designing and teaching a variety of courses.
Historical Dictionary of Decartes and Cartesian Philosophy
The Historical Dictionary of Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy includes many entries on Descartes's writings, concepts, and findings. Since it is historical, there are other entries on those who supported him, those who criticized him, those who corrected him, and those who together formed one of the major movements in philosophy, Cartesianism. To better understand the period, the authors drew up a brief chronology, and to see how Descartes and Cartesianism fit into the general picture, they have written an introduction and a biography. Since everything cannot be summed up in one volume, a bibliography directs readers to numerous other sources on issues of particular interest.
The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding
Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in epistemology--that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its parts. Using Plato's Meno as a starting point, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that it is less valuable than generally assumed. The book will appeal to students and professional philosophers in epistemology.
The Philosopher’s Demise: Learning to Speak French
Already an accomplished reader of French, Watson found himself forced to learn to speak the language when he was invited to present a paper in Paris – in French. A private crash course and lessons at the Alliance Française only served to point out how difficult it can be to learn any foreign language, especially later in life. As he confronts his own national prejudices, Watson weaves in digressions on the contrasts between France and America, on the mysteries of French engineering, and on eccentric French cavers.
A Companion to Applied Ethics
Applied or practical ethics is perhaps the largest growth area in philosophy today, and many issues in moral, social, and political life have come under philosophical scrutiny in recent years. Taken together, the essays in this volume – including two overview essays on theories of ethics and the nature of applied ethics – provide a state-of-the-art account of the most pressing moral questions facing us today. It provides a comprehensive guide to many of the most significant problems of practical ethics, and offers state-of-the-art accounts of issues in medical, environmental, legal, social, and business ethics.
Spirits and Clocks: Machine and Organism in Descartes
Although the basis of modern biology is Cartesian, Descartes's theories of biology have been more often ridiculed than studied. Yet, Dennis Des Chene demonstrates, the themes, arguments, and vocabulary of his mechanistic biology pervade the writings of many seventeenth-century authors. In his illuminating account of Cartesian physiology in its historical context, Des Chene focuses on the philosopher's innovative reworking of that field, including the nature of life, the problem of generation, and the concepts of health and illness.
Life's Form: Late Aristotelian Conceptions of the Soul
Dennis Des Chene explores how Western philosophers understood life and the soul in the early modern period―before Descartes radically changed how the universe was conceived. Life's Form is a detailed analysis of the often overlooked work of the Jesuit commentators on Aristotle whose writings dominated Western European science and the academy until the mechanistic revolution. Des Chene considers the work of scholastic writers such as Suárez and the Coimbrans, who provided thorough and sometimes profound studies of Aristotle's definitions of the soul and of life.Life's Form is not restricted only to questions relevant to the human case, such as the immortality of the soul. Des Chene analyzes what might be called the protobiology of late Aristotelians: the theory of living things in general, of their powers, and of the relation between soul and body in all organisms. His mastery of doctrinal subtlety offers insight into conceptual issues of renewed relevance to the philosophy of biology.
The Philosopher’s Diet: How to Lose Weight and Change the World
This toothsome classic takes on the combined challenges of discovering the meaning of the universe and eliminating fat at the same time. Its topic sentence contains a promise that should sell millions: “In this book, I tell how to take weight off and keep it off.” He doesn’t stop there, but continues, “The book also embodies a philosophy of life. The weight program is the content of the book, the philosophy of life is its form.” If Descartes had sat down to write a treatise on losing weight as a metaphor for maintaining discipline amidst life’s vicissitudes, it would have read much like this.
Derrida and Phenomenology
Derrida and Phenomenology is a collection of essays by various authors, entirely devoted to Jacques Derrida's writing on Edmund Husserl's phenomenology. It gives a wide range of reactions to those writings, both critical and supportive, and contains many in-depth studies.
Danto and His Critics
Updated and revised, the Second Edition of Danto and His Critics presents a series of essays by leading Danto scholars who offer their critical assessment of the influential works and ideas of Arthur C. Danto, the Johnsonian Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University and long-time art critic for The Nation. This text reflects Danto's revisions in his theory of art, reworking his views in ways that have not been systematically addressed elsewhere, features essays that critically assess the changes in Danto's thoughts and locate Danto's revised theory in the larger context of his work and of aesthetics generally, and speaks in original ways to the relation of Danto's philosophy of art to his theory of mind. Rollins connects and integrates Danto's ideas on the nature of knowledge, action, aesthetics, history, and mind, as well as his provocative thoughts on the philosophy of art for the reader.
The Problem of Hell
The doctrine of hell presents the most intractable version of the problem of evil, for though it might be argued that ordinary pain and evil can somehow be compensated for by the course of future experience, the pain and suffering of hell leads nowhere. This work develops an understanding of hell that is common to a broad variety of religious perspectives, and argues that the usual understandings of hell are incapable of solving the problem of hell. Kvanvig first argues that the traditional understanding of hell found in Christianity suffers from moral and epistemological inadequacies. Historically, these shortcomings lead to alternatives to the traditional doctrine of hell, such as universalism, annihilationism, or the second chance doctrine. Kvanvig shows, however, that the typical alternatives to the traditional understanding are inadequate as well. He argues that both the traditional understanding and the typical alternatives fail to solve the problem of hell because they share the common flaw of being constructed on a retributive model of hell. Kvanvig then develops a philosophical account of hell which does not depend on a retributive model and argues that it is adequate on both philosophical and theological grounds.
Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science
A philosophical study of mental imagery in which Rollins aims to show that there are no logical or methodological reasons why the brain cannot store information in the form of pictures. He proposes a theory of how images function as representations.
The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind: On the Place of the Virtues in Epistemology
In this book the author argues that the cognitive virtues have a fundamental place in epistemology, but not the place given them by most contemporary epistemologists attentive to the virtues. The cognitive virtues, according to this thesis, service as part of our cognitive ideal, and are not reducible to, or explainable by, the familiar epistemological notions of justification or knowledge. In Kvanvig's view, the cognitive virtues derive their epistemological importance from what they indicate about the person having them, rather than about the beliefs of that person. The prominent Cartesian approach to epistemology, Kvanvig believes, rests on an account of the mind that is overly intellectual and temporarily too atomistic.
Strategies of Deconstruction: Derrida and the Myth of the Voice
In the past two decades, the "movement" of deconstruction has bad tremendous impact on a number of academic, disciplines in the United States. However, its force has been rather limited in the field of philosophy, despite the fact that in Europe the practice of deconstruction emerged in the work of philosophers. Although the reasons for this can be debated, two of the more obvious explanations are the mainstream Anglo-American philosophers rarely studied the German and French philosophical traditions in great detail, and deconstruction's focus on discourse and interpretation has made it more attractive to the literary and humanistic disciplines.
With this context, Strategies of Deconstruction focuses on the early work of Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher who introduced deconstruction in Speech and Phenomena, his study of Edmund Husserl, and Of Grammatology, and whose philosophical reputation stems in no small part from his work on Husserl. In examining the philosophical import of Derrida's theories of reading, text, and language, specifically as they related to Speech and Phenomena, J. Claude Evans makes careful reference to Husserl's own texts. His analysis indicates that there are many systematic irregularities in Derrida's study and that without those irregularities Derrida's conclusions cannot be substantiated.
The Possibility of an All-Knowing God
Classical philosophical concern regarding the doctrine of omniscience arises out of the worry that divine foreknowledge is incompatible with human freedom: if God knows what humans will do, how can they be free (in the sense of being able to do otherwise)? Recent discussion has raised other problems- for example, some work on self-awareness suggests that each of us knows ourselves in a way no one else (including God) can.
These issues, as well as others, cast doubt both on the formulation of the doctrine of omniscience and the acceptibility of any formulation. This work argues that there can be an omniscient being, that a simple formulation of the doctrine in terms of knowing all truths is adequate, and that human beings can be free even if God foreknows what they will do.
The Metaphysics of Transcendental Subjectivity
The general topic of this book is the metaphysics of the subject in Kantian transcendental philosophy. A critical appreciation of Kant's achievements requires that we be able to view Kant's positions as transformations of pre-Kantian philosophy, and that we understand the ways in which contemporary philosophy changes the letter of Kantian thought in order to be true to its spirit in a new philosophical horizon. Descartes is important in two respects. One the one hand, he institutes a philosophical movement which can be said to culminate in Kant; on the other hand, Descartes is one of the major opponents against whom Kant argues in establishing his own position. In either case, the Cartesian cogito is a central concern. Wilfred Sellars restates and transforms Kantian positions in the context of contemporary philosophy after the "linguistic turn", using the Platonic metaphor that thought is similar to discourse.