Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Michael Burke, Peter Abelard and Galen Strawson

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17 ideas

4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 1. Mereology
Abelard's mereology involves privileged and natural divisions, and principal parts [Abelard, by King,P]
     Full Idea: Abelard's theory of substantial integral wholes is not a pure mereology in the modern sense, since he holds that there are privileged divisions; ..the division of a whole must be into its principal parts. Some wholes have a natural division.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: This is a mereology that cuts nature at the joints, rather than Lewis's 'unrestricted composition', so I find Abelard rather appealing.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
If 'animal' is wholly present in Socrates and an ass, then 'animal' is rational and irrational [Abelard, by King,P]
     Full Idea: Abelard argued that if the universal 'animal' were completely present in both Socrates and an ass, making each wholly an animal, then the same thing, animal, will be simultaneously rational and irrational, with contraries present in the whole thing.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: If we have universals for rationality and irrationality, they can distinguish the two. But we must also say that rationality is not an aspect of animal, which seems to mean that mind isn't either. What is the essence of an animal? Not reason?
Abelard was an irrealist about virtually everything apart from concrete individuals [Abelard, by King,P]
     Full Idea: Abelard was an irrealist about universals, but also about propositions, events, times other than the present, natural kinds, relations, wholes, absolute space, hylomorphic composites, and the like. The concrete individual is enough to populate the world.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: If a Nominalist claims that 'only particulars exist', this makes him an extreme nominalist, and remarkably materialistic for his time (though he accepted the soul, as well as God).
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
Only words can be 'predicated of many'; the universality is just in its mode of signifying [Abelard, by Panaccio]
     Full Idea: Abelard concluded that only words can be 'predicated of many'. A universal is nothing but a general linguistic predicate, and its universality depends not on its mode of being, but on its mode of signifying.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Claude Panaccio - Medieval Problem of Universals 'Peter'
     A reaction: Abelard seems to be the originator of what is now called Predicate Nominalism, with Nelson Goodman as his modern representative. If it is just words, is there no fact of two things having the 'same' property?
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...
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 4. De re / De dicto modality
The de dicto-de re modality distinction dates back to Abelard [Abelard, by Orenstein]
     Full Idea: The de dicto-de re modality distinction dates back to Abelard.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.7
     A reaction: Most modern philosophers couldn't (apparently) care less where a concept originated, but one of the principles of this database is that such things do matter. I'm not sure why, but if we want the whole picture, we need the historical picture.
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 8. Abstractionism Critique
Abelard's problem is the purely singular aspects of things won't account for abstraction [Panaccio on Abelard]
     Full Idea: Abelard's problem is that it is not clear how singular forms could do the job they are supposed to do - to account for abstraction, namely - if they were purely singular aspects.
     From: comment on Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Claude Panaccio - Medieval Problem of Universals 'Peter'
     A reaction: A very nice question! If we say that abstracta are just acquired by ignoring all but that feature in some objects, how do we identify 'that' feature in order to select it? The instances must share something in common to be abstracted.
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 3. Predicates
Nothing external can truly be predicated of an object [Abelard, by Panaccio]
     Full Idea: Abelard argued from the commonly accepted definition of a universal as 'what can be predicated of man', that no external thing can ever be predicated of anything.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Claude Panaccio - Medieval Problem of Universals 'Peter'
     A reaction: It sounds to me as if Abelard is confusing predicates with properties! Maybe no external can be a property of anything, but I take predicates to just be part of what you can say about anything, and that had better included external facts.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 7. Critique of Kinds
Natural kinds are not special; they are just well-defined resemblance collections [Abelard, by King,P]
     Full Idea: In Abelard's view a natural kind is a well-defined collection of things that have the same features, so that natural kinds have no special status, being no more than discrete integral wholes whose principle of membership is similarity.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: I take a natural kind to be a completely stable and invariant class of things. Presumably this invariance has an underlying explanation, but Abelard seems to take the Humean line that we cannot penetrate beyond the experienced surface.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
A phenomenalist about objects has to be a regularity theorist about causation [Strawson,G]
     Full Idea: If you are a phenomenalist about objects, then there is an important sense in which you ought to be a Regularity theorist about what causation is, in such objects.
     From: Galen Strawson (The Secret Connexion [1989], App C)
     A reaction: Strawson is denying that Hume is a phenomenalist. One might go a little further, and say that a phenomenalist should abandon the idea of causation (as Russell did).