Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Michael Burke, Robert Nozick and Tim Mawson

unexpand these ideas     |    start again     |     specify just one area for these philosophers


24 ideas

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...
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / c. Aim of beliefs
Maybe knowledge is belief which 'tracks' the truth [Nozick, by Williams,M]
     Full Idea: Nozick suggests that knowledge is just belief which 'tracks the truth' (hence leaving out justification).
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Philosophical Explanations [1981]) by Michael Williams - Problems of Knowledge Ch. 2
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 4. Tracking the Facts
A true belief isn't knowledge if it would be believed even if false. It should 'track the truth' [Nozick, by Dancy,J]
     Full Idea: Nozick says Gettier cases aren't knowledge because the proposition would be believed even if false. Proper justification must be more sensitive to the truth ("track the truth").
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Philosophical Explanations [1981], 3.1) by Jonathan Dancy - Intro to Contemporary Epistemology 3.1
     A reaction: This is a bad idea. I see a genuine tree in my garden and believe it is there, so I know it. That I might have believed it if I was in virtually reality, or observing a mirror, won't alter that.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / f. Ultimate value
Freedom to live according to our own conception of the good is the ultimate value [Nozick, by Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: Nozick says that the freedom to lead our lives in accordance with our own conception of the good is the ultimate value, so important that it cannot be sacrificed for other social ideals (e.g. equality of opportunity).
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.2.b.ii
     A reaction: Clearly this ultimate value will not apply to children, so this view needs a sharp dislocation between children and adults. But some adults need a lot of looking after. Maybe we ALL need looking after (by one another)?
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 2. Ideal of Pleasure
If an experience machine gives you any experience you want, should you hook up for life? [Nozick]
     Full Idea: Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired ...such as writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. ...Should you plug into this machine for life?
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], 3 'Experience')
     A reaction: A classic though experiment which crystalises a major problem with hedonistic utilitarianism. My addition is a machine which maximises the pleasure of my family and friends, to save me the bother of doing it.
25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
A minimal state should protect, but a state forcing us to do more is unjustified [Nozick]
     Full Idea: A minimal state, limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified; any more extensive state will violate persons' rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified.
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], Pref)
     A reaction: This has some plausibility for a huge modern state, where we don't know one another, but it would be a ridiculous attitude in a traditional village.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / d. Free market
If people hold things legitimately, just distribution is simply the result of free exchanges [Nozick, by Kymlicka]
     Full Idea: If we assume that everyone is entitled to the goods they currently possess (their 'holdings'), then a just distribution is simply whatever distribution results from people's free exchanges.
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.1.b
     A reaction: If people's current 'legitimate' holdings are hugely unequal, it seems very unlikely that the ensuing exchanges will be 'free' in the way that Nozick envisages.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / a. Basis of rights
Rights are moral significance, or liberty, or right not to be restrained, or entitlement [Mawson]
     Full Idea: A 'right' can mean 'x counts morally', or 'x is permitted to do this' (liberty), or 'x can't be stopped from doing this' (negative right), or 'someone should provide this for x'.
     From: Tim Mawson (Animal Rights talk [2003]), quoted by PG - lecture notes
     A reaction: A useful analysis. It is a useful preliminary to considering whether any of these are natural rights. Personally I am sympathetic to that concept. You cannot deny a person's right to self-defence, even when you are sitting on them. Persons have rights.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / c. Property rights
Property is legitimate by initial acquisition, voluntary transfer, or rectification of injustice [Nozick, by Swift]
     Full Idea: Nozick identified three ways in which people can acquire a legitimate property holding: initial acquisition, voluntary transfer, and rectification (of unjust transfers).
     From: report of Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Adam Swift - Political Philosophy (3rd ed) 1 'Nozick'
     A reaction: I think it is a delusion to look for justice in the ownership of property. You can't claim justice for buying property if the money to do it was acquired unjustly. And what rights over those who live on the land come with the 'ownership'?
Nozick assumes initial holdings include property rights, but we can challenge that [Kymlicka on Nozick]
     Full Idea: Nozick assumes that the initial distribution of holdings includes full property-rights over them, ..but our preferred theory may not involve distributing such particular rights to particular people. ...The legitimacy of such rights is what is in question.
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.1.c
     A reaction: [somewhat compressed] All of these political philosophies seem to have questionable values (such as freedom or equality) built into their initial assumptions.
How did the private property get started? If violence was involved, we can redistribute it [Kymlicka on Nozick]
     Full Idea: How did these natural resources, which were not initially owned by anyone, come to be part of someone's private property? ...The fact that the initial acquisition often involved force means there is no moral objection to redistributing existing wealth.
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.2.b
     A reaction: [He cites G.A. Cphen 1988 for the second point] Put like this, Nozick's theory just looks like the sort of propaganda which is typically put out by the winners. Is there an implicit threat of violent resistance in his advocacy of individual rights?
Can I come to own the sea, by mixing my private tomato juice with it? [Nozick]
     Full Idea: If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea so that its molecules mingle evenly throughout the sea, do I thereby come to own the sea?
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], p.175)
     A reaction: This is a reductio of Locke's claim that I can own land by 'mixing' my labour with it. At first glance, mixing something with something would seem to have nothing to do with ownership.
If property is only initially acquired by denying the rights of others, Nozick can't get started [Kymlicka on Nozick]
     Full Idea: If there is no way that people can appropriate unowned resources for themselves without denying other people's claim to equal consideration, then Nozick's right of transfer never gets off the ground.
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974]) by Will Kymlicka - Contemporary Political Philosophy: Intro 4.2.b.i
     A reaction: The actual history of these things is too complex to judge. Early peoples desperately wanted a lord to rule over them, and their lord's ownership of the land implied the people's right to live there. See Anglo-Saxon poetry.
Unowned things may be permanently acquired, if it doesn't worsen the position of other people [Nozick]
     Full Idea: One may acquire a permanent bequeathable property right in a previously unowned thing, as long as the position of others no longer at liberty to use the thing is not thereby worsened.
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], p.178), quoted by G.A. Cohen - Are Freedom and Equality Compatible? 2
     A reaction: Cohen attacks this vigorously. His main point is that Nozick has a very narrow view of what the acquisition should be compared with. There are many alternatives. Does being made unable to improve something 'worsen' a person's condition?
Maybe land was originally collectively owned, rather than unowned? [Cohen,GA on Nozick]
     Full Idea: Why should we not regard land as originally collectively owned rather than, as Nozick takes for granted, owned by no one?
     From: comment on Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], p.178) by G.A. Cohen - Are Freedom and Equality Compatible? 2
     A reaction: Did native Americans and Australians collectively own the land? Lots of peoples, I suspect, don't privately own anything, because the very concept has never occured to them (and they have no legal system).
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 3. Anarchism
Individual rights are so strong that the state and its officials must be very limited in power [Nozick]
     Full Idea: Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do.
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], Pref)
     A reaction: This claim appears to be an axiom, but I'm not sure that the notion of 'rights' make any sense unless someone is granting the rights, where the someone is either a strong individual, or the community (perhaps represented by the state).
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 6. Liberalism
States can't enforce mutual aid on citizens, or interfere for their own good [Nozick]
     Full Idea: A state may not use its coercive apparatus for the purposes of getting some citizens to aid others, or in order to prohibit activities to people for their own good or protection.
     From: Robert Nozick (Anarchy,State, and Utopia [1974], Pref)
     A reaction: You certainly can't apply these principles to children, so becoming an 'adult' seems to be a very profound step in Nozick's account. At what age must we stop interfering with people for their own good. If the state is prohibited, are neighbours also?