Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Michael Burke, D.H. Mellor and Alan Sidelle

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38 ideas

1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 6. Metaphysics as Conceptual
Metaphysics is clarifying how we speak and think (and possibly improving it) [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Metaphysics, for the conventionalist, is not a matter of trying to see deeply into the structure of mind-independent reality, but of trying to clarify the way we actually speak and think, and perhaps negotiating ways of doing this to our best advantage.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Note that he is still allowing space for 'revisionary' as well as for 'descriptive' metaphysics. I can't wholly accept this, as I really do think we can have some deep insights into reality, but Sidelle is articulating a large part of the truth.
2. Reason / E. Argument / 7. Thought Experiments
We seem to base necessities on thought experiments and imagination [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Judgments of necessity seem always to be based on thought experiments and appeals to what we can imagine.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.1)
     A reaction: That is, the denial of this thing seems inconceivable. I would say that they are also based on coherence. The idea that we can think without imagination is nonsense.
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 5. What Makes Truths / a. What makes truths
We might use 'facta' to refer to the truth-makers for facts [Mellor, by Schaffer,J]
     Full Idea: Mellor offers a distinction between 'facts' and 'facta' (the latter being the truth-makers for facts).
     From: report of D.H. Mellor (The Facts of Causation [1995]) by Jonathan Schaffer - The Metaphysics of Causation 1.1
     A reaction: The idea is that 'facta' can do the work in causation, because 'facts' are not part of the world. This seems a very helpful terminology, which should be encouraged, since 'fact' is plainly ambiguous in current usage.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 2. Need for Properties
A property is merely a constituent of laws of nature; temperature is just part of thermodynamics [Mellor]
     Full Idea: Being a constituent of probabilistic laws of nature is all there is to being a property. There is no more to temperature than the thermodynamics and other laws they occur in.
     From: D.H. Mellor (Properties and Predicates [1991], 'Props')
     A reaction: How could thermodynamics be worked out without a prior concept of temperature? I think it is at least plausible to deny that there are any 'laws' of nature. But even Quine can't deny that some things are too hot to touch.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
There is obviously a possible predicate for every property [Mellor]
     Full Idea: To every property there obviously corresponds a possible predicate applying to all and only those particulars with that property.
     From: D.H. Mellor (Properties and Predicates [1991], 'Intro')
     A reaction: This doesn't strike me as at all obvious. If nature dictates the properties, there may be vastly more than any human language could cope with. It is daft to say that a property can only exist if humanity can come up with a predicate for it.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / d. Dispositions as occurrent
There doesn't seem to be anything in the actual world that can determine modal facts [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Metaphysically, nothing in the actual world seems to be a candidate for determining what is necessarily the case.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.4)
     A reaction: I file this under 'Dispositions' to show what is at stake in the debate about dispositional and categorical properties. I take a commitment to dispositions to be a commitment to modal facts about the actual world.
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
We need universals for causation and laws of nature; the latter give them their identity [Mellor]
     Full Idea: I take the main reason for believing in contingent universals to be the roles they play in causation and in laws of nature, and those laws are what I take to give those universals their identity.
     From: D.H. Mellor (Properties and Predicates [1991], 'Props')
     A reaction: He agrees with Armstrong. Sounds a bit circular - laws are built on universals, and universals are identified by laws. It resembles a functionalist account of mental events. I think it is wrong. A different account of laws will be needed...
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
If properties were just the meanings of predicates, they couldn't give predicates their meaning [Mellor]
     Full Idea: One reason for denying that properties just are the meanings of our predicates is that, if they were, they could not give our predicates their meanings.
     From: D.H. Mellor (Properties and Predicates [1991], 'Props')
     A reaction: Neither way round sounds quite right to me. Predicate nominalism is wrong, but what is meant by a property 'giving' a predicate its meaning? It doesn't seem to allow room for error in our attempts to name the properties.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / e. Individuation by kind
Persistence conditions cannot contradict, so there must be a 'dominant sortal' [Burke,M, by Hawley]
     Full Idea: Burke says a single object cannot have incompatible persistence conditions, for this would entail that there are events in which the object would both survive and perish. He says one sortal 'dominates' the other (sweater dominates thread).
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Katherine Hawley - How Things Persist 5.3
     A reaction: This I take to be the most extreme version of sortal essentialism, and strikes me as incredibly gerrymandered and unacceptable. It is just too anthropocentric to count as genuine metaphysics. I may care more about the thread.
The 'dominant' of two coinciding sortals is the one that entails the widest range of properties [Burke,M, by Sider]
     Full Idea: Burke claims that the 'dominant' sortal is the one whose satisfaction entails possession of the widest range of properties. For example, the statue (unlike the lump of clay) also possesses aesthetic properties, and hence is dominant.
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Theodore Sider - Four Dimensionalism 5.4
     A reaction: [there are three papers by Burke on this; see all the quotations from Burke] Presumably one sortal could entail a single very important property, and the other sortal entail a huge range of trivial properties. What does being a 'thing' entail?
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / b. Unifying aggregates
'The rock' either refers to an object, or to a collection of parts, or to some stuff [Burke,M, by Wasserman]
     Full Idea: Burke distinguishes three different readings of 'the rock'. It can be a singular description denoting an object, or a plural description denoting all the little pieces of rock, or a mass description the relevant rocky stuff.
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Ryan Wasserman - Material Constitution 5
     A reaction: Idea 16068 is an objection to the second reading. Only the first reading seems plausible, so we must just get over all the difficulties philosophers have unearthed about knowing exactly what an 'object' is. I offer you essentialism. Rocks have unity.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / b. Cat and its tail
Tib goes out of existence when the tail is lost, because Tib was never the 'cat' [Burke,M, by Sider]
     Full Idea: Burke argues that Tib (the whole cat apart from its tail) goes out of existence when the tail is lost. His essentialist principle is that if something is ever of a particular sort (such as 'cat') then it is always of that sort. Tib is not initially a cat.
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Theodore Sider - Four Dimensionalism 5.4
     A reaction: This I take to be a souped up version of Wiggins, and I just don't buy that identity conditions are decided by sortals, when it seems obvious that sortals are parasitic on identities.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / c. Statue and clay
Sculpting a lump of clay destroys one object, and replaces it with another one [Burke,M, by Wasserman]
     Full Idea: On Burke's view, the process of sculpting a lump of clay into a statue destroys one object (a mere lump of clay) and replaces it with another (a statue).
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Ryan Wasserman - Material Constitution 5
     A reaction: There is something right about this, but how many intermediate objects are created during the transition. It seems to make the notion of an object very conventional.
Burke says when two object coincide, one of them is destroyed in the process [Burke,M, by Hawley]
     Full Idea: Michael Burke argues that a sweater is identical with the thread that consitutes it, that both were created at the moment when they began to coincide, and that the original thread was destroyed in the process.
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Katherine Hawley - How Things Persist 5.3
     A reaction: [Burke's ideas are spread over three articles] It is the thread which is destroyed, because the sweater is the 'dominant sortal' (which strikes me as a particularlyd desperate concept).
Maybe the clay becomes a different lump when it becomes a statue [Burke,M, by Koslicki]
     Full Idea: Burke has argued in a series of papers that the lump of clay which constitutes the statue is numerically distinct from the lump of clay which exists before or after the statue exists. The first is a statue, while the second is merely a lump of clay.
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Kathrin Koslicki - The Structure of Objects
     A reaction: Koslicki objects that this introduces radically different persistence conditions from normal. It would mean that a pile of sugar was a different pile of sugar every time a grain moved (even slightly). You couldn't step into the same sugar twice.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / d. Coincident objects
Two entities can coincide as one, but only one of them (the dominant sortal) fixes persistence conditions [Burke,M, by Sider]
     Full Idea: Michael Burke has given an account that avoids distinguishing coinciding entities. ...The statue/lump satisfies both 'lump' and 'statue', but only the latter determines that object's persistence conditions, and so is that object's 'dominant sortal'.
     From: report of Michael Burke (Dion and Theon: an essentialist solution [1994]) by Theodore Sider - Four Dimensionalism 5.4
     A reaction: Presumably a lump on its own can have its own persistance conditions (as a 'lump'), but those would presumably be lost if you shaped it into a statue. Burke concedes that. Can of worms. Using a book as a doorstop...
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 2. Types of Essence
Causal reference presupposes essentialism if it refers to modally extended entities [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Even if the causal theory of reference proper does not presuppose essentialism, it does presuppose essentialism if it is to be an account of reference to modally extended entities.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.6)
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 7. Essence and Necessity / c. Essentials are necessary
Clearly, essential predications express necessary properties [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: It is clear, of course, that if there are true essential predications, then they express necessary properties.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.2)
     A reaction: I would certainly want to ask whether essences have to be analysed as properties, and also (more boldly) whether there might not be contingent essences.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 8. Essence as Explanatory
Being a deepest explanatory feature is an actual, not a modal property [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: The property of being a deepest explanatory feature is a nonmodal property: it's an actual property.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.4)
     A reaction: I don't accept the existence of properties of the form 'being-F'. The possibility of securing a door may be the deepest explanatory feature of a lock. [To be fair to Sidelle, see context - just for once!] Dispositions are actual.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
That the essence of water is its microstructure is a convention, not a discovery [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: The necessity to water of whatever is found out to be the water's microstructure is given by convention, and is not something which is discovered.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.2)
     A reaction: A powerful point. It shows the authority of science that we accept the microstructure as the essence. The essences of statues and people are definitely not their microstructures. One H2O molecule isn't water. Why not? Macro-properties count too!
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 3. Relative Identity
We aren't clear about 'same stuff as this', so a principle of individuation is needed to identify it [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Independent of conventions, no definite sense can be given to the notion of 'the same stuff as this'. So reference-fixing must include some principle of individuation to determine the aspects of sameness for the identity referred to.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.6)
     A reaction: Is he really saying that we don't understand 'same stuff as this'? Surely animals can manage that, and they are not famous for their conventions. Sidelle has fallen into the sortalist trap, I think.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 4. De re / De dicto modality
Evaluation of de dicto modalities does not depend on the identity of its objects [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: In the evaluation of de dicto modal statements, whether some possible state of affairs is relevant to its truth does not depend on the identity of its objects, as in 'Necessarily, the President of the USA is male'.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.3)
     A reaction: This is a more clear-cut and easy to grasp criterion than most that are on offer.
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 3. Necessity by Convention
Necessary a posteriori is conventional for necessity and nonmodal for a posteriority [Sidelle, by Sider]
     Full Idea: Sidelle defends conventionalism against a posteriori necessities by 'factoring' a necessary a posteriori truth into an analytic component and a nonmodal component. The modal force then comes from the analytic part, and the a posteriority from the other.
     From: report of Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989]) by Theodore Sider - Writing the Book of the World 12.8
     A reaction: [I note that Sidelle refers, it seems, to the nonmodal component as a 'deep explanatory feature', which is exactly what I take an essence to be].
To know empirical necessities, we need empirical facts, plus conventions about which are necessary [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: What we need to know, in order to know what is empirically necessary, is some empirical fact plus our conventions that tell us which truths are necessary given which empirical facts.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.4)
     A reaction: I take this attack on a posteriori necessities to be the most persuasive part of Sidelle's case, but you can't just put all of our truths down to convention. There are stabilities in the world, as well as in our conventions.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 3. A Posteriori Necessary
The necessary a posteriori is statements either of identity or of essence [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: The necessary a posteriori crudely divides into two groups - (synthetic) identity statements (between rigid designators), and statements of essential properties. The latter is either statements of property identity, or of the essences of natural kinds.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.2)
     A reaction: He cites Kripke's examples (Hesperus,Cicero,Truman,water,gold), and divides them into the two groups. Helpful.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 4. Conceivable as Possible / a. Conceivable as possible
Empiricism explores necessities and concept-limits by imagining negations of truths [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: In the traditional empiricist picture, we go about modal enquiry by trying to see whether we can imagine a situation in which it would be correct to assert the negation of a proposed necessary truth. Thus we can find out the limits of our concepts.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.1)
Contradictoriness limits what is possible and what is imaginable [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Contradictoriness is the boundary both of what is possible and also of what is imaginable.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.4)
     A reaction: Of course we may see contradictions where there are none, and fail to grasp real hidden contradictions, so the two do not coincide in the practice. I think I would say it is 'a' boundary, not 'the' boundary.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / a. Transworld identity
The individuals and kinds involved in modality are also a matter of convention [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: It is not merely the modal facts that result from our conventions, but the individuals and kinds that are modally involved.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.3)
     A reaction: I am beginning to find Sidelle's views very sympathetic - going over to the Dark Side, I'm afraid. But conventions won't work at all if they don't correspond closely to reality.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / b. Rigid designation
A thing doesn't need transworld identity prior to rigid reference - that could be a convention of the reference [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: For a term to be rigid, it is said there must be real transworld identity prior to our use of the rigid term, ..but this may only be because we have conventional principles for individuating across worlds. 'Let's call him Fred' - perhaps explicitly rigid.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.3)
     A reaction: This seems right. An example might be a comic book character, who retains a perfect identity in all the comics, with no scars, weight change, or ageing.
'Dthat' operates to make a singular term into a rigid term [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: 'Dthat' is Kaplan's indexical operator; it operates on a given singular term, φ, and makes it into a rigid designator of whatever φ designates in the original context.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.6 n11)
     A reaction: I like this idea a lot, because it strikes me that referring to something rigidly is a clear step beyond referring to it in actuality. I refer to 'whoever turns up each week', but that is hardly rigid. The germ of 2-D semantics is here.
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 8. A Priori as Analytic
A priori knowledge is entirely of analytic truths [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: The a priori method yields a priori knowledge, and the objects of this knowledge are not facts about the world, but analytic truths.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Are we not allowed any insights at all into how the world must be, independent of how we happen to conceptualise it?
18. Thought / C. Content / 5. Twin Earth
That water is essentially H2O in some way concerns how we use 'water' [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: If water is essentially H2O, this is going to have something to do with our intentions in using 'water'.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.1)
     A reaction: This very simple point looks to be correct, and raises very important questions about the whole Twin Earth thing. When new discoveries are made, words shift their meanings. We're not quite sure what 'jade' means any more.
19. Language / B. Reference / 3. Direct Reference / b. Causal reference
Causal reference seems to get directly at the object, thus leaving its nature open [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: The causal theory of reference appears to give us a way to get at an object while leaving it undetermined what its essence or necessary features might be.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.1)
     A reaction: This pinpoints why the direct/causal theory of reference seems to open the doors to scientific essentialism. Sidelle, of course, opposes the whole programme.
19. Language / B. Reference / 5. Speaker's Reference
Because some entities overlap, reference must have analytic individuation principles [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: The phenomenon of overlapping entities requires that if our reference is to be determinate (as determinate as it is), then there must be analytic principles of individuation.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.5)
     A reaction: His point is that there is something inescapably conventional about the way in which our reference works. It isn't just some bald realist baptism.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Causal statements relate facts (which are whatever true propositions express) [Mellor, by Psillos]
     Full Idea: Mellor argues that causal statements relate facts, where facts may be seen as whatever true propositions express.
     From: report of D.H. Mellor (The Facts of Causation [1995]) by Stathis Psillos - Causation and Explanation 2.6
     A reaction: Choose between 'facts', 'objects', 'conserved quantities, 'events' (the usual one) or 'processes'. I rather like processes (Salmon) as they are a better prospect as the building blocks of an ontology.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / e. Probabilistic causation
Singular causation requires causes to raise the physical probability of their effects [Mellor]
     Full Idea: Singular causation entails physical probabilities or chances. ...Causal laws require causes to raise their effects' chances, as when fires have a greater chance of occurring when explosions do.
     From: D.H. Mellor (Properties and Predicates [1991], 'Props')
     A reaction: It seems fairly obvious that a probability can be increased without actually causing something. Just after a harmless explosion is a good moment for arsonists, especially if Mellor will be the investigating officer.
Probabilistic causation says C is a cause of E if it increases the chances of E occurring [Mellor, by Tooley]
     Full Idea: The basic idea of probabilistic causation is that a sufficient condition of C's being a cause of E is that C and E are actual, individual events, and the objective chance of E's occurring is greater given the occurrence of C than it would be without C.
     From: report of D.H. Mellor (The Facts of Causation [1995]) by Michael Tooley - Causation and Supervenience 5.3
     A reaction: Mellor has to include objective 'chances' in his ontology to support his theory. As it stands this looks like a weak theory, since the event might not occur despite C happening, and some less likely event might turn out to be the actual cause.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
Can anything in science reveal the necessity of what it discovers? [Sidelle]
     Full Idea: Is there anything in the procedures of scientists that could reveal to them that water is necessarily H2O or that gold necessarily has atomic number 79.
     From: Alan Sidelle (Necessity, Essence and Individuation [1989], Ch.4)
     A reaction: This is Leibniz's is view, that empirical evidence can never reveal necessities. Given that we know some necessities, you have an argument for rationalism.