Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Sarah Bakewell, Roy Ellen and Jody Azzouni

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

19 ideas

1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 2. Phenomenology
Later phenomenologists tried hard to incorporate social relationships [Bakewell]
     Full Idea: Ever since Husserl, phenomenologists and existentialists had been trying to stretch the definition of existence to incorporate our social lives and relationships.
     From: Sarah Bakewell (At the Existentialist Café [2016], 08)
     A reaction: I see a parallel move in Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument. Husserl's later work seems to have been along those lines. Putnam's Twin Earth too.
Phenomenology begins from the immediate, rather than from axioms and theories [Bakewell]
     Full Idea: Traditional philosophy often started with abstract axioms or theories, but the German phenomenologists went straight for life as they experienced it, moment to moment.
     From: Sarah Bakewell (At the Existentialist Café [2016], 01)
     A reaction: Bakewell gives this as the gist of what Aron said to Sartre in 1933, providing the bridge from phenomenology to existentialism. The obvious thought is that everybody outside philosophy starts from immediate experience, so why is this philosophy?
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 12. Rejecting Truthmakers
'Mickey Mouse is a fictional mouse' is true without a truthmaker [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: 'Mickey Mouse is a fictional mouse' can be taken as true without have any truthmaker.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.3)
     A reaction: There might be an equivocation over 'true' here. 'What, really really true that he IS a fictional mouse?'
3. Truth / H. Deflationary Truth / 1. Redundant Truth
Truth is dispensable, by replacing truth claims with the sentence itself [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: No truth predicate is ever indispensable, because Tarski biconditionals, the equivalences between sentences and explicit truth ascriptions to those sentences, allow us to replace explicit truth ascriptions with the sentences themselves.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Holding a sentence to be true isn't the same as saying that it is true, and it isn't the same as saying the sentence, because one might say it in an ironic tone of voice.
3. Truth / H. Deflationary Truth / 2. Deflationary Truth
Truth lets us assent to sentences we can't explicitly exhibit [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: My take on truth is a fairly deflationary one: The role of the truth predicate is to enable us to assent to sentences we can't explicitly exhibit.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Intro)
     A reaction: Clearly this is a role for truth, as in 'I forget what he said, but I know it was true', but it isn't remotely what most people understand by true. We use 'true' about totally explicit sentences all the time.
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / e. Empty names
Names function the same way, even if there is no object [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: Names function the same way (semantically and grammatically) regardless of whether or not there's an object that they refer to.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.3 n55)
     A reaction: I take this to be a fairly clear rebuttal of the 'Fido'-Fido view of names (that the meaning of the name IS the dog), which never seems to quite go away. A name is a peg on which description may be hung, seems a good slogan to me.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 6. Criterion for Existence
That all existents have causal powers is unknowable; the claim is simply an epistemic one [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: If the argument isn't that, metaphysically speaking, anything that exists must have causal powers - how on earth would we show that? - rather, the claim is an epistemic one. Any thing we're in a position to know about we must causally interact with.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.4)
     A reaction: A very good point. I am attracted to causal power as a criterion for existence, but Azzouni's distinction is vital. Maybe there is just no point in even talking about things which exist but have no causal powers.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Fictionalism
If fictional objects really don't exist, then they aren't abstract objects [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: It's robustly part of common sense that fictional objects don't exist in any sense at all, and this means they aren't abstracta either.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.3)
     A reaction: Nice. It is so easy to have some philosopher dilute and equivocate over the word 'object' until you find yourself committed to all sorts of daft things as somehow having objectual existence. We can discuss things which don't exist in any way at all.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 11. Ontological Commitment / a. Ontological commitment
Modern metaphysics often derives ontology from the logical forms of sentences [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: It is widespread in contemporary metaphysics to extract commitments to various types of object on the basis of the logical form of certain sentences.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.7)
     A reaction: I'm with Azzouni in thinking that this procedure is a very bad idea. I'm increasingly inclined towards the wild view that people are only ontologically committed to things if they explicitly say that they are so committed.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 11. Ontological Commitment / b. Commitment of quantifiers
If objectual quantifiers ontologically commit, so does the metalanguage for its semantics [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: The argument that objectual quantifiers are ontologically committing has the crucial and unnoticed presupposition that the language in which the semantics for the objectual quantifiers is couched (the 'metalanguage') also has quantifiers with commitment.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.3)
     A reaction: That is, presumably we find ourselves ontologically committed to the existence of quantifiers, and are also looking at an infinite regress. See Idea 12439.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 11. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
In the vernacular there is no unequivocal ontological commitment [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: There are no linguistic devices, no idioms (not 'there is', not 'exists') that unequivocally indicate ontological commitment in the vernacular.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Intro)
     A reaction: This seems right, since people talk in such ways about soap opera, while understanding the ontological situation perfectly well. Presumably Quine is seeking higher standards than the vernacular, if we are doing science.
We only get ontology from semantics if we have already smuggled it in [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: A slogan: One can't read ontological commitments from semantic conditions unless one has already smuggled into those semantic conditions the ontology one would like to read off.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.3)
     A reaction: The arguments supporting this are subtle, but it's good enough for me, as I never thought anyone was ontologically committed just because they used the vagueries of language to try to say what's going on around here.
7. Existence / E. Categories / 1. Categories
Monothetic categories have fixed defining features, and polythetic categories do not [Ellen]
     Full Idea: Many categories are 'monothetic' (the defining set of features is always unique), and others are 'polythetic' (single features being neither essential to group membership nor sufficient to allocate an item to a group).
     From: Roy Ellen (Anthropological Studies of Classification [1996], p.33)
     A reaction: This seems a rather important distinction which hasn't made its way into philosophy, where there is a horrible tendency to oversimplify, with the dream of a neat and unified picture. But see Goodman's 'Imperfect Community' problem (Idea 7957).
In symbolic classification, the categories are linked to rules [Ellen]
     Full Idea: Symbolic classification occurs when we use some things as a means of saying something about other things. ..They enhance the significance of some categories, so that categories imply rules and rules imply categories.
     From: Roy Ellen (Anthropological Studies of Classification [1996], p.35)
     A reaction: I'm afraid the anthropologists seem to have more of interest to say about categories than philosophers do. Though maybe we couldn't do anthropology if philosophers had made us more self-conscious about categories. Teamwork!
7. Existence / E. Categories / 2. Categorisation
Several words may label a category; one word can name several categories; some categories lack words [Ellen]
     Full Idea: Words are not always a good guide to the existence of categories: there may be several words which label the same categories (synonyms). and the same word can be used for quite different ideas. Some categories may exist without being labelled.
     From: Roy Ellen (Categories, Classification, Cogn. Anthropology [2006], I)
     A reaction: This is the sort of point which seems obvious to anyone outside philosophy, but which philosophers seem to find difficult to accept. Philosophers should pay much more attention to animals, and to illiterate peoples. Varieties of rice can lack labels.
7. Existence / E. Categories / 5. Category Anti-Realism
Continuous experience sometimes needs imposition of boundaries to create categories [Ellen]
     Full Idea: Because parts of our experience of the world are complexly continuous, it is occasionally necessary to impose boundaries to produce categories at all.
     From: Roy Ellen (Anthropological Studies of Classification [1996], p.33)
     A reaction: I like it. Ellen says that people tend to universally cut nature somewhere around the joints, but we can't cope with large things, so the sea tends to be labelled in sections, even though most of the world's seas are continuous.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Impossible objects
Things that don't exist don't have any properties [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: Things that don't exist don't have any properties.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.4)
     A reaction: Sounds reasonable! I totally agree, but that is because my notion of properties is sparse and naturalistic. If you identify properties with predicates (which some weird people seem to), then non-existents can have properties like 'absence' or 'nullity'.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 4. Cultural relativism
Classification is no longer held to be rooted in social institutions [Ellen]
     Full Idea: The view that all classification finds its roots in social institutions is now generally considered untenable.
     From: Roy Ellen (Anthropological Studies of Classification [1996], p.36)
     A reaction: And about time too. Ellen (an anthropologist) inevitably emphasises the complexity of the situation, but endorses the idea that people everywhere largely cut nature at the joints.
27. Natural Reality / F. Chemistry / 3. Periodic Table
The periodic table not only defines the elements, but also excludes other possible elements [Azzouni]
     Full Idea: The periodic table not only governs what elements there can be, with their properties, but also explicitly excludes others sorts of elements, because the elements are individuated by the number of discrete protons in their nuclei.
     From: Jody Azzouni (Deflating Existential Consequence [2004], Ch.7)
     A reaction: It has to be central to the thesis of scientific essentialism that the possibilities in nature are far more restricted than is normally thought, and this observation illustrates the view nicely. He makes a similar point about subatomic particles.