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Ideas of John Heil, by Text

[American, fl. 1996, Professor at Davidson College, North Carolina, the Washington Univ, St Louis.]

1998 Philosophy of Mind
Intro p.6 There is no such thing as 'science'; there are just many different sciences
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as science; there are only sciences: physics, chemistry, meteorology, geology, biology, psychology, sociology.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Intro)
     A reaction: A simple but nice point. It suggests that maybe each science has an entirely different method, and style of reasoning, experiment and explanation. Some have strict laws, others have 'ceteris paribus' laws.
Pref p.-3 From the property predicates P and Q, we can get 'P or Q', but it doesn't have to designate another property
     Full Idea: If P and Q are predicates denoting properties, we can construct a disjunctive predicate ('P or Q'). But it is not clear that this gives us any right whatever to suppose that 'P or Q' designates a property.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Pref)
     A reaction: An important idea, needed to disentangle our ontology from our language, and realise that they are separate. Properties are natural; predicates are conventional.
Pref p.-3 You can't embrace the formal apparatus of possible worlds, but reject the ontology
     Full Idea: We should be suspicious of anyone who embraces the formal apparatus of possible worlds while rejecting the ontology.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Pref)
     A reaction: What matters is that good philosophy should not duck the ontological implications of any apparatus. If only embracing the 'ontology of possible worlds' were a simple matter. What makes one world 'close' to another?
Ch.2 p.30 If causation is just regularities in events, the interaction of mind and body is not a special problem
     Full Idea: If causal relations boil down to nothing more than regularities (as Hume suggests), then it is a mistake to regard the absence of a mechanism or causal link between mental events and material events as a special problem.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.2)
     A reaction: So critics of Descartes who were baffled by interaction, were actually sniffing Hume's wholesale scepticism about necessary causation. Even so, physical conjunction is more tangible than spiritual conjunction.
Ch.2 p.34 Idealism explains appearances by identifying appearances with reality
     Full Idea: Idealism explains appearances by identifying appearances with reality.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Nicely put. There is a certain intellectual integrity about idealism, but it is still mad. The overall picture seems to me incoherent if we don't assume that appearances are bringing us close to reality (without ever quite getting there).
Ch.2 p.41 If you can have the boat without its current planks, and the planks with no boat, the planks aren't the boat
     Full Idea: If a boat can continue to exist after the planks that currently make it up have ceased to exist, and if the planks could continue to exist when the boat does not, then a boat cannot be identified with the planks that make it up at a given time.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.2)
     A reaction: This seems obvious, but it opposes Locke's claim that the particles of an object are its identity. Does this mean identities are entirely in our heads, and not a feature of nature? I want to resist that.
Ch.2 n p.48 'Property dualism' says mind and body are not substances, but distinct families of properties
     Full Idea: 'Property dualism' is the view according to which the mental and the physical are not distinguishable kinds of substance, but distinct families of properties.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.2 n)
     A reaction: I am struggling to make sense of properties being in distinct families. If it is like smells and colours, it doesn't say much, and if the difference is more profound then it begins to look like old-fashioned dualism in disguise.
Ch.3 p.55 A scientist could know everything about the physiology of headaches, but never have had one
     Full Idea: Imagine a neuroscientist who is intimately familiar with the physiology of headaches, but who has never actually experienced a headache.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.3)
     A reaction: A more realistic version of Frank Jackson's 'Mary'. Doctors need to know that headaches are unpleasant; what they actually feel like seems irrelevant (epiphenomenal). What's it like to only have two pairs of shoes?
Ch.3 p.64 No mental state entails inevitable behaviour, because other beliefs or desires may intervene
     Full Idea: Any attempt to say what behaviour follows from a given state of mind can be shown to be false by producing an example in which the state of mind is present but, owing to the addition of new beliefs and desires, the behaviour does not follow.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.3)
     A reaction: The objection seems misplaced against eliminative behaviourism, because there are held to be no mental states to correlate with the behavior. There is just behaviour, some times the same, sometimes different.
Ch.3 p.72 The appeal of the identity theory is its simplicity, and its solution to the mental causation problem
     Full Idea: The identity theory is preferable to dualism since 1) if mental events are neurological, it is easy to explain causal relations between them, and 2) if we can account for mental phenomena by reference to brains and their properties, we don't need minds.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.3)
     A reaction: One might add that it fits into the overall scientific world, and permits the possible closure of physics. The challenge is that identity theory must 'save the phenomena'.
Ch.3 p.75 Early identity theory talked of mind and brain 'processes', but now the focus is properties
     Full Idea: The early identity theorists talked of identifying mental processes with brain processes, but I am now proposing it as a theory about properties.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.3)
     A reaction: Since a process is presumably composed of more basic ontological ingredients, this is presumably a good move, but there is still a vagueness about the whole concept of a 'property'.
Ch.4 p.94 Functionalists emphasise that mental processes are not to be reduced to what realises them
     Full Idea: The functionalists' point is that higher-level properties like being in pain or computing the sum of 7 and 5 are not to be identified with ("reduced to") or mistaken for their realisers.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.4)
     A reaction: I take it that functionalist minds can't be reduced because they are abstractions rather than physical entities. Nevertheless, the implied ontology seems to be entirely physical, and hence in some sense reductionist.
Ch.4 p.97 Hearts are material, but functionalism says the property of being a heart is not a material property
     Full Idea: Although your heart is a material object, the property of being a heart is, if we accept the functionalist picture, not a material property.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.4)
     A reaction: Presumably functional properties are not physical because they are multiply realisable. The property of being a heart is more like a theoretical flow diagram than it is like a muscle. That word 'property' again…
Ch.4 p.116 Higher-level sciences cannot be reduced, because their concepts mark boundaries invisible at lower levels
     Full Idea: The categories definitive of a given science mark off boundaries that are largely invisible within science at lower levels. That is why there is, in general, no prospect of reducing a higher-level science to a science at some lower level.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.4)
     A reaction: This sounds slick, but I am unconvinced. Molecules only exist at the level of chemistry, but they are built up out of physics, and the 'boundaries' could be explained in physics, if you had the knowledge and patience.
Ch.4 p.117 Higher-level sciences designate real properties of objects, which are not reducible to lower levels
     Full Idea: The categories embedded in a higher-level science (psychology, for instance) designate genuine properties of objects, which are not reducible to properties found in sciences at lower levels.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.4)
     A reaction: This isn't an argument against reductionism. It is obviously true that someone with a physics degree won't make a good doctor. It's these wretched 'property' things again. Is 'found repulsive by me' a property terrorists?
Ch.4 p.118 Functionalists in Fodor's camp usually say that a genuine property is one that figures in some causal laws
     Full Idea: Functionalists in Fodor's camp usually say that a genuine property is one that figures in some causal laws.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.4)
     A reaction: The problem is that anything which can't figure in a causal law will therefore be undetectable, so we could only speculate about the existence of such properties, never know them.
Ch.5 p.133 If propositions are abstract entities, how do human beings interact with them?
     Full Idea: Anyone who takes propositions to be abstract entities owes the rest of us an account of how human beings could interact with such things.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.5)
     A reaction: He makes this sound impossible, but that would mean that all abstraction is impossible, and there are no such things as ideas and concepts. In the end something has to be miraculous, so let it be our ability to think about abstractions.
Ch.5 p.134 Truth-conditions correspond to the idea of 'literal meaning'
     Full Idea: I intend the notion of truth-conditions to correspond to what I have called 'literal meaning'.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.5)
     A reaction: Yes. If I identify myself to you by saying "the spam is in the fridge", that always has a literal meaning (which we assemble from the words), as well as connotation in this particular context.
Ch.5 p.136 To understand 'birds warble' and 'tigers growl', you must also understand 'tigers warble'
     Full Idea: There is something puzzling about the notion that someone could understand the sentences "birds warble" and "tigers growl", yet have no idea what the sentence "tigers warble" meant.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.5)
     A reaction: True enough, but this need not imply the full thesis of linguistic holism. Words are assembled like bricks. I know tigers might warble, but stones don't. Might fish warble? Or volcanoes? I must know that 'birds warble' is not a tautology.
Ch.5 p.152 Folk psychology and neuroscience are no more competitors than cartography and geology are
     Full Idea: Folk psychology and neuroscience are not competitors, any more than cartography and geology are competitors.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.5)
     A reaction: This seems true enough, unless someone like Fodor claims that the correct way to do neuroscience is to try to explicate folk psychology categories in terms of brain function. Folk psychology is fine for folk.
Ch.5 p.170 It seems contradictory to be asked to believe that we can be eliminativist about beliefs
     Full Idea: Some have argued that eliminativism about propositional attitudes is self-refuting. If no one believes anything, then how could we believe the eliminativist thesis?
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.5)
     A reaction: Sounds slick, but it doesn't strike me as a big problem. Presumably you don't 'believe' eliminativism. You treat some of your brain processes as if they fell into the fictional category of 'belief'.
Ch.6 p.175 Different generations focus on either the quality of mind, or its scientific standing, or the content of thought
     Full Idea: One generation addresses the qualitative aspect of mentality, the next focuses on its scientific standing, its successor takes up the problem of mental content, then the cycle starts all over again…
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: This pinpoints the three interlinked questions. We seem to be currently obsessed with the quality of experience (the 'Hard Question'), but the biggest questions is how the three aspects fit together. If there are three necessities here, they must coexist.
Ch.6 p.180 The supporters of 'tropes' treat objects as bundles of tropes, when I think objects 'possess' properties
     Full Idea: I resist the term 'trope' as it has become common for the proponents of tropes to regard objects as "bundles" of tropes. This turns tropes into something too much resembling parts of objects for my taste. .I think an object is a possessor of properties.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: This seems to imply a belief in 'substance', which is an intrinsically dodgy concept, but something has to exist. Keep ontology and epistemology separate! We can only know bundles of properties.
Ch.6 p.180 Complex properties are just arrangements of simple properties; they do not "emerge" as separate
     Full Idea: Complex properties do not "emerge"; they are nothing "over and above" the properties of the simple constituents duly arranged.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: I am glad to see someone challenging the concept of 'emergence', which strikes me as incoherent. Small properties add up to macro-properties (like 'steep', or 'square').
Ch.6 p.184 Disposition is a fundamental feature of reality, since basic particles are capable of endless possible interactions
     Full Idea: If there are elementary particles, then they are certainly capable of endless interactions beyond those in which they actually engage. Everything points to dispositionality being a fundamental feature of our world.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: I'm not convinced that my ontology has to include something called a 'disposition'. Dispositions are the consequence of how things are. Are there passive dispositions?
Ch.6 p.192 Complex properties are not new properties, they are merely new combinations of properties
     Full Idea: New combinations of properties are just that: new combinations, not new properties. (This is not to reject complex properties, but only to reaffirm that complex properties are nothing over and above their constituents suitably arranged).
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: I wish I could be so confidence, but no one seems quite sure what a property is. Are they defined causally, or as 'qualities'? If the latter, what is a quality? Are there basic properties? Can properties merge to form a new one?
Ch.6 p.193 A higher level is 'supervenient' if it is determined by lower levels, but has its own natural laws
     Full Idea: 'Supervenience' means lower-level objects and properties suffice for the higher level ones, but the higher level is distinct from its ground, which is reflected in the higher level being governed by distinct laws of nature.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: A nice summary of Davidson's idea. It feels wrong to me. Can I create some 'new laws of nature' by combining things novelly in a laboratory so that a supervenient state emerges. Sounds silly to me. Must we invoke God to achieve this?
Ch.6 p.196 A stone does not possess the property of being a stone; its other properties make it a stone
     Full Idea: A predicate that does not designate a property could nevertheless hold true of an object in virtue of that object's properties. An object is a stone not in virtue of holding the property of being a stone, but because it possesses certain other properties.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: Sounds simple but important, especially in relation to the mind. We are left with the problem of how to individuate a property, and the possibility of 'basic' properties.
Ch.6 p.198 If minds are realised materially, it looks as if the material laws will pre-empt any causal role for mind
     Full Idea: If a mental property is realised by a material property, then it looks as though its material realiser pre-empts any causal contribution on the part of the realised mental property.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: This has a beautiful simplicity about it. I can see how some very odd phenomena might suddenly appear out of a physical combination, but not how entirely new causal laws can be created.
Ch.6 p.200 'Multiple realisability' needs to clearly distinguish low-level realisers from what is realised
     Full Idea: Proponents of multiple realisability regard it as vital to distinguish realised, higher-level properties from their lower-level realisers.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: So that the very idea of 'multiple realisability' begs the question. Minds are private, so it is never clear what has been realised, especially in non-linguistic brains.
Ch.6 p.202 Multiple realisability is not a relation among properties, but an application of predicates to resembling things
     Full Idea: Multiple realisability is not a relation among properties; it is the phenomenon of predicates applying to objects in virtue of distinct, though pertinently similar, properties possessed by those objects.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: The analogies for multiple realisability usually involve functions rather than properties or predicates (different types of corkscrew). Pain or belief in danger are not just 'predicates'.
Ch.6 p.206 Whatever exists has qualities, so it is no surprise that states of minds have qualities
     Full Idea: Whatever exists has qualities, so it is no surprise that states of minds have qualities.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: If only I knew what a 'quality' was. Do combinations have qualities in addition to the qualities of the components? A pair of trees, a pile of sand, a mass of neurons.
Ch.6 p.210 Error must be possible in introspection, because error is possible in all judgements
     Full Idea: Error, like truth, presupposes judgement. Judgements you make about your conscious states are distinct from those states. This leaves room for error.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: This sounds very neat. The reply would have to be that a lot of introspection is not judgement, but direct perception of self-evident facts and truths. I agree with Heil.
Ch.6 p.212 Propositional attitudes are not the only intentional states; there is also mental imagery
     Full Idea: Some philosophers have thought that intentional states are exhausted by propositional attitudes, but what about mental imagery? You may have propositional attitudes to food, but I would wager that most of your thoughts about it are imagistic.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: Seems right. If I encounter an object by which I am bewildered, I may form no propositions at all about it, but I can still contemplate the object.
Ch.6 p.212 Is mental imagery pictorial, or is it propositional?
     Full Idea: A fierce debate has raged between proponents of 'pictorial' conceptions of imagery (Kosslyn) and those who take imagery to be propositional (Pylyshyn).
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: This may not be a simple dilemma. Pure pictorial imagery seem possible (abstract patterns) and pure propositions are okay (maths), but in most thought they are inextricable. The image is the proposition (a nuclear cloud).
Ch.6 p.212 If you are a functionalist, there appears to be no room for qualia
     Full Idea: If you are a functionalist, there appears to be no room for qualia.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: The problem is not that qualia must be denied, but that there is strong pressure to class them as epiphenomena. However, a raw colour can have a causal role (e.g. in an art gallery). Best to say (with Chalmers?) that functions cause qualia?
Ch.6 p.215 The widespread externalist view says intentionality has content because of causal links of agent to world
     Full Idea: The prevailing 'externalist' line on intentionality regards intentional states of mind as owing their content (what they are of, or about) to causal relations agents bear to the world.
     From: John Heil (Philosophy of Mind [1998], Ch.6)
     A reaction: This goes back to Putnam's Twin Earth. 'Meanings aren't in the head'. I may defer to experts about what 'elm' means, but I may also be arrogantly wrong about what 'juniper' means.
2003 From an Ontological Point of View
Pref p.-9 If you begin philosophy with language, you find yourself trapped in it
     Full Idea: If you start with language and try to work your way outwards, you will never get outside language.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Pref)
     A reaction: This voices my pessimism about the linguistic approach to philosophy (and I don't just mean analysis of ordinary language), though I wonder if the career of (say) John Searle is a counterexample.
Intro p.10 There are levels of organisation, complexity, description and explanation, but not of reality
     Full Idea: We should accept levels of organisation, levels of complexity, levels of description, and levels of explanation, but not the levels of reality favoured by many anti-reductionists. The world is then ontologically, but not analytically, reductive.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: This sounds right to me. The crunch questions seem to be whether the boundaries at higher levels of organisation exist lower down, and whether the causal laws of the higher levels can be translated without remainder into lower level laws.
Intro p.10 If propositions are states of affairs or sets of possible worlds, these lack truth values
     Full Idea: When pressed, philosophers will describe propositions as states of affairs or sets of possible worlds. But wait! Neither sets of possible worlds nor states of affairs - electrons being negatively charged, for instance - have truth values.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: I'm not sure that I see a problem. A pure proposition, expressed as, say "there is a giraffe on the roof" only acquires a truth value at the point where you assert it or believe it. There IS a possible world where there is a giraffe on the roof.
Intro p.11 The view that truth making is entailment is misguided and misleading
     Full Idea: I argue that the widely held view that truth making is to be understood as entailment is misguided in principle and potentially misleading.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: If reality was just one particle, what would entail the truths about it? Suppose something appears to be self-evident true about reality, but no one can think of any entailments to derive it? Do we assume a priori that they are possible?
Intro p.11 I think of properties as simultaneously dispositional and qualitative
     Full Idea: Some philosophers who accept that properties are intrinsic features of objects regard them as pure powers, pure dispositionalities; I prefer to think of properties as simultaneously dispositional and qualitative.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: I am uneasy about 'qualitative' as a category, and am inclined to reduce it to being a dispositional power to cause primary and secondary qualities in observers. Roughness is only a power, not a quality, if there are no observers.
Intro p.12 Trope theorists usually see objects as 'bundles' of tropes
     Full Idea: Philosophers identifying themselves as trope theorists have, by and large, accepted some form of the 'bundle theory' of objects: an object is a bundle of compresent tropes.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: This view eliminates anything called 'matter' or 'substance' or a 'bare particular'. I think I agree with Heil that this doesn't give a coherent picture, as properties seem to be 'of' something, and bundles always raise the question of what unites them.
Intro p.12 Similarity among modes will explain everthing universals were for
     Full Idea: My contention is that similarity among modes can do the job universals are conventionally postulated to do.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: See Idea 4441 for Russell's nice objection to this view. The very process by which we observes similarities (as assess their degrees) needs to be explained by any adequate theory of properties or universals.
Intro p.14 Dispositionality provides the grounding for intentionality
     Full Idea: Dispositionality provides the grounding for intentionality.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: This is a view with which I am sympathetic, though I am not sure if it explains anything. It would be necessary to identify a disposition of basic matter that could be built up into the disposition of a brain to think about things.
Intro p.14 Qualia are not extra appendages, but intrinsic ingredients of material states and processes
     Full Idea: Properties of conscious experience, the so-called qualia, are not dangling appendages to material states and processes but intrinsic ingredients of those states and processes.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], Intro)
     A reaction: Personally I am inclined to the view that qualia are intrinsic to the processes and NOT to the 'states'. Heil must be right, though. I am sure qualia are not just epiphenomena - they are too useful.
02.3 p.20 If a car is a higher-level entity, distinct from its parts, how could it ever do anything?
     Full Idea: If we regard a Volvo car as a higher-level entity with its own independent reality, something distinct from its constituents (arranged in particular ways and variously connected to other things), we render mysterious how Volvos could do anything at all.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 02.3)
     A reaction: This seems to me perhaps the key reason why we have to be reductionists. The so-called 'bridge laws' from mind to brain are not just needed to explain the mind, they are also essential to show how a mind would cause behaviour.
03.2 p.23 The Picture Theory claims we can read reality from our ways of speaking about it
     Full Idea: The theory of language which I designate the 'Picture Theory' says that language pictures reality in roughly the sense that we can 'read off' features of reality from our ways of speaking about it.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 03.2)
     A reaction: Heil, quite rightly, attacks this view very strongly. I think of it as the great twentieth century philosophical heresy, that leads to shocking views like relativism and anti-realism.
03.3 p.26 A predicate applies truly if it picks out a real property of objects
     Full Idea: When a predicate applies truly to an object, it does so in virtue of designating a property possessed by that object and by every object to which the predicate truly applies (or would apply).
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 03.3)
     A reaction: I am sympathetic to Heil's aim of shifting our attention from arbitrary predicates to natural properties, but it won't avoid Fodor's problem (Idea 7014) that all kinds of whimsical predicates will apply 'truly', but fail to pick out anything significant.
04.2 p.41 Objects are substances, which are objects considered as the bearer of properties
     Full Idea: I think of objects as substances, and a substance is an object considered as a bearer of properties.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 04.2)
     A reaction: This is an area of philosophy I always find disconcerting, where an account of how we should see objects seems to have no connection at all to what physicists report about objects. 'Considered as' seems to make substances entirely conventional.
04.3 p.34 The standard view is that causal sequences are backed by laws, and between particular events
     Full Idea: The notion that every causal sequence if backed by a law, like the idea that causation is a relation among particular events, forms a part of philosophy's Humean heritage.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 04.3)
     A reaction: This nicely pinpoints a view that needs to come under attack. I take the view that there are no 'laws' - other than the regularities in behaviour that result from the interaction of essential dispositional properties. Essences don't need laws.
04.3 p.35 The reductionist programme dispenses with levels of reality
     Full Idea: The reductionist programme dispenses with levels of reality.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 04.3)
     A reaction: Fodor, for example, claims that certain causal laws only operate at high levels of reality. I agree with Heil's idea - the notion that there are different realities around here that don't connect properly to one another is philosopher's madness.
05.2 p.41 Maybe there is only one substance, space-time or a quantum field
     Full Idea: It would seem distinctly possible that there is but a single substance: space-time or some all-encompassing quantum field.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 05.2)
     A reaction: This would at least meet my concern that philosophers' 'substances' don't seem to connect to what physicists talk about. I wonder if anyone knows what a 'quantum field' is? The clash between relativity and quantum theory is being alluded to.
05.3 p.44 Concepts don't carve up the world, which has endless overlooked or ignored divisions
     Full Idea: Concepts do not 'carve up' the world; the world already contains endless divisions, most of which we remain oblivious to or ignore.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 05.3)
     A reaction: Concepts could still carve up the world, without ever aspiring to do a complete job. We carve up the aspects that interest us, but the majority of the carving is in response to natural divisions, not whimsical conventions.
06.4 p.59 If the world is theory-dependent, the theories themselves can't be theory-dependent
     Full Idea: If the world is somehow theory-dependent, this implies, on pain of a regress, that theories are not theory-dependent.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 06.4)
     A reaction: I am not sure where this puts the ontology of theories, but this is a nice question, of a type which never seems to occur to your more simple-minded relativist.
09.2 p.87 Powers or dispositions are usually seen as caused by lower-level qualities
     Full Idea: The modern default position on dispositionality is that powers or dispositions are higher-level properties objects possess by virtue of those objects' possession of lower-level qualitative (categorical) properties.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 09.2)
     A reaction: The new idea which is being floated by Heil, and which I prefer, is that dispositions or powers are basic. A 'quality' is a much more dubious entity than a power.
09.4 p.94 Are a property's dispositions built in, or contingently added?
     Full Idea: There is a dispute over whether a property's dispositionality is built into the property or whether it is a contingent add-on.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 09.4)
     A reaction: Put that way, the idea that it is built in seems much more plausible. If it is an add-on, an explanation of why that disposition is added to that particular property seems required. If it is built in, it seems legitimate to accept it as a brute fact.
11.2 p.114 Science is sometimes said to classify powers, neglecting qualities
     Full Idea: The sciences are sometimes said to be in the business of identifying and classifying powers; the mass of an electron, its spin and charge, could be regarded as powers possessed by the electron; science is silent on an electron's qualities.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 11.2)
     A reaction: Heil raises the possibility that qualities are real, despite the silence of science; he wants colour to be a real quality. I like the simpler version of science. Qualities are the mental effects of powers; there exist substances, powers and effects.
11.3 p.115 Functionalists say objects can be the same in disposition but differ in quality
     Full Idea: A central tenet of functionalism is that objects can be dispositionally indiscernible but differ qualitatively as much as you please.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 11.3)
     A reaction: This refers to the multiple realisability of functions. Presumably we reconcile essentialism with the functionalist view by saying that dispositions result from combinations of qualities. A unique combination of qualities will necessitate a disposition.
11.4 p.118 If properties were qualities without dispositions, they would be undetectable
     Full Idea: A pure quality, a property altogether lacking in dispositionality, would be undetectable and would, in one obvious sense, make no difference to its possessor.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 11.4)
     A reaction: This seems to be a very forceful and simple reason why we cannot view properties simply as qualities of things. Heil wants properties to be dispositions and qualities; personally I would vote for them just being dispositions or powers.
11.6 p.122 Can we distinguish the way a property is from the property?
     Full Idea: It is not clear to me that we easily distinguish ways a property is from the property itself.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 11.6)
     A reaction: To defend properties as qualities, he is confusing ontology and epistemology. Presumably he means by 'ways a property is' what I would prefer to call 'ways a property seems to be'. I don't believe a smell is simply what it seems to be.
12.1 p.126 Properties don't possess ways they are, because that just is the property
     Full Idea: Objects possess properties, but I am sceptical of the idea that properties possess properties; just as a property is a way some object is, a property of a property would be a way a property is, but that is just the property itself.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 12.1)
     A reaction: This is quite a good defence of the idea that properties are qualities as well as dispositions. However, if we make the qualities of properties into secondary qualities, and the dispositions into primary qualities, the absurdity melts away.
12.2 p.129 Objects join sets because of properties; the property is not bestowed by set membership
     Full Idea: The set of red objects is the set of objects possessing a property: being red. Objects are members of the set in virtue of possessing this property; they do not possess the property in virtue of belonging to the set.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 12.2)
     A reaction: This seems to be a very effective denial of the claim that universals are sets. However, if 'being a Londoner' counts as a property, you can only have it by joining the London set. Being tall is more fundamental than being a Londoner.
13.1 p.137 Universals explain one-over-many relations, and similar qualities, and similar behaviour
     Full Idea: Universals can explain the one-over-many problem, and easily explain similarity relations between objects, and explain the similar behaviour of similar objects.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 13.1)
     A reaction: A useful summary. If you accept it, you seem to be faced with a choice between Plato (who has universals existing independently of particulars) and Armstrong (who makes them real, but existing only in particulars).
13.4 p.142 The real natural properties are sparse, but there are many complex properties
     Full Idea: I am sympathetic to the idea that the real properties are 'sparse'; ...but if, in counting kinds of property, we include complex properties as well as simple properties, the image of sparseness evaporates.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 13.4)
     A reaction: This seems right to me, and invites the obvious question of which are the sparse real properties. Presumably we let the physicists tell us that, though Heil wants to include qualities like phenomenal colour, which physicists ignore.
13.4 n6 p.143 God does not create the world, and then add the classes
     Full Idea: It is hard to see classes as an 'addition of being'; God does not create the world, and then add the classes.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 13.4 n6)
     A reaction: This seems right. We may be tempted into believing in the reality of classes when considering maths, but it seems utterly implausible when considering trees or cows.
13.6 p.146 A theory with few fundamental principles might still posit a lot of entities
     Full Idea: It could well turn out that a simpler theory - a theory with fewer fundamental principles - posits more entities than a more complex competitor.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 13.6)
     A reaction: See also Idea 4036. The point here is that you can't simply translate Ockham as 'keep it simple', as there are different types of simplicity. The best theory will negotiate a balance between entities and principles.
13.6 p.146 Parsimony does not imply the world is simple, but that our theories should try to be
     Full Idea: A commitment to parsimony is not a commitment to a conception of the world as simple. The idea, rather, is that we should not complicate our theories about the world unnecessarily.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 13.6)
     A reaction: In other words, Ockham's Razor is about us, not about the world. It would be absurd to make the a priori assumption that the world has to be simple. Are we, though, creating bad theories by insisting that they should be simple?
13.7 p.148 How could you tell if the universals were missing from a world of instances?
     Full Idea: Imagine a pair of worlds, one in which there are the universals and their instances and one in which there are just the instances (a world of modes). How would the absence of universals make itself felt?
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 13.7)
     A reaction: A nice question for Plato, very much in the spirit of Aristotle's string of questions. Compare 'suppose the physics remained, but someone removed the laws'. Either chaos ensues, or you realise they were redundant. Same with Forms.
14.10 p.163 Secondary qualities are just primary qualities considered in the light of their effect on us
     Full Idea: Secondary qualities are just ordinary properties - roughly, Locke's primary qualities - considered in the light of their effects on us.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 14.10)
     A reaction: Unconvincing. If they only acquire their ontological status as primary qualities if they have to be considered in relation to something (us), then that is not a primary quality.
14.11 p.166 Realism says some of our concepts 'cut nature at the joints'
     Full Idea: Realism is sometimes said to involve a commitment to the idea that certain of our concepts, those with respect to which we are realists, 'carve reality at the joints'.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 14.11)
     A reaction: Clearly not all concepts cut nature at the joints (e.g. we have concepts of things we know to be imaginary). Personally I am committed to this view of realism. I try very hard to use concepts that cut accurately; why shouldn't I sometimes succeed?
14.2 p.152 Similar objects have similar properties; properties are directly similar
     Full Idea: Objects are similar by virtue of possessing similar properties; properties, in contrast, are not similar in virtue of anything.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 14.2)
     A reaction: I am not sure if I can understand the concept of similarity if there is no answer to the question 'In what respect?' I suppose David Hume is happy to take resemblance as given and basic, but it could be defined as 'sharing identical properties'.
14.5 p.157 A theory of universals says similarity is identity of parts; for modes, similarity is primitive
     Full Idea: The friend of universals has an account of similarity relations as relations of identity and partial identity; the friend of modes must regard similarity relations as primitive and irreducible.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 14.5)
     A reaction: We always seem to be able to ask 'in what respect' a similarity occurs. If similarity is 'primitive and irreducible', we should not be able to analyse and explain a similarity, yet we seem able to. I conclude that Heil is wrong.
14.8 p.160 Multiple realisability is actually one predicate applying to a diverse range of properties
     Full Idea: Cases of multiple realisability are typically cases in which some predicate ('is red', 'is in pain') applies to an object in virtue of that object's possession of any of a diverse range of properties.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 14.8)
     A reaction: If the properties are diverse, why does one predicate apply to them? I take it that in the case of the pain, the predicate is ambiguous in applying to the behaviour or the phenomenal property. Same behaviour is possible with many qualia.
15.3 p.172 Rather than 'substance' I use 'objects', which have properties
     Full Idea: I prefer the more colloquial 'object' to the traditional term 'substance'. An object can be regarded as a possessor of properties: as something that is red, spherical and pungent, for instance.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 15.3)
     A reaction: A nice move, but it seems to beg the question of 'what is it that has the properties?' Objects and substances do two different jobs in our ontology. Heil is just refusing to discuss what it is that has properties.
16.3 p.182 Statues and bronze lumps have discernible differences, so can't be identical
     Full Idea: Applications of the principle of the indiscernibility of identicals apparently obliges us to distinguish the statue and the lump of bronze making it up.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 16.3)
     A reaction: In other words, statues and lumps of bronze have different properties. It is a moot point, though, whether there are any discernible differences between that statue at time t and its constituting lump of bronze at time t.
16.5 p.184 Do we reduce statues to bronze, or eliminate statues, or allow statues and bronze?
     Full Idea: Must we choose between reductionism (the statue is the lump of bronze), eliminativism (there are no statues, only statue-shaped lumps of bronze), and a commitment to coincident objects?
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 16.5)
     A reaction: (Heil goes on to offer his own view). Coincident objects sounds the least plausible view. Modern statues are only statues if we see them that way, but a tree is definitely a tree. Trenton Merricks is good on eliminativism.
17.3 p.200 Objects only have secondary qualities because they have primary qualities
     Full Idea: Secondary qualities are not distinct from primary qualities: an object's possession of a given secondary quality is a matter of its possession of certain complex primary qualities.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 17.3)
     A reaction: The bottom line here is that, if essentialism is right, colours are not properties at all (see Idea 5456). Heil wants to subsume secondary properties within primary properties. I think we should sharply distinguish them.
17.4 p.201 Colours aren't surface properties, because of radiant sources and the colour of the sky
     Full Idea: Theories that take colours to be properties of the surfaces of objects have difficulty accounting for a host of phenomena including coloured light emitted by radiant sources and so-called film colours (the colour of the sky, for instance).
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 17.4)
     A reaction: Personally I never thought that colours might be actual properties of surfaces, but it is nice to have spelled out a couple of instances that make it very implausible. Neon and sodium lights I take to be examples of the first case.
17.4 p.201 Treating colour as light radiation has the implausible result that tomatoes are not red
     Full Idea: Theories that tie colours to features of light radiation deal with radiant and diffused colours, but yield implausible results for objects; tomatoes are not red, on such a view, but merely reflect red light.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 17.4)
     A reaction: I see absolutely no problem with the philosophical denial that tomatoes are actually red, while continuing to use 'red' of tomatoes in the normal way. When we analyse our processes of knowledge acquisition, we must give up 'common sense'.
18.2 p.208 Intentionality now has internalist (intrinsic to thinkers) and externalist (environment or community) views
     Full Idea: Nowadays philosophers concerned with intentionality divide into two camps. Internalists epitomise a traditional approach to thought, as intrinsic features of thinkers; externalists say it depends on contextual factors (environment or community).
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 18.2)
     A reaction: This is basic to understanding modern debates (those that grow out of Putnam's Twin Earth). Externalism is fashionable, but I am reluctant to shake off my quaint internalism. Start by separating strict and literal meaning from speaker's meaning.
18.4 p.214 Intentionality is based in dispositions, which are intrinsic to agents, suggesting internalism
     Full Idea: I suggest that intentionality is grounded in the dispositionalities of agents. Dispositions are intrinsic to agents, so this places me on the side of the internalists and against the externalists.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 18.4)
     A reaction: I think this is a key idea, and the right view. The key question is whether we see intentionality as active or passive. The externalist view seems to see the brain as a passive organ which the world manipulates. If the brain is active, what is it doing?
18.5 n6 p.215 Externalism is causal-historical, or social, or biological
     Full Idea: Some externalists focus on causal-historical connections, others emphasise social matters (especially thinkers' linguistic communities), still others focus on biological function.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 18.5 n6)
     A reaction: Helpful. The social view strikes me as the one to take most seriously (allowing for contextual views of justification, and for the social role of experts). The problem is to combine the social view with realism and a robust view of truth.
19.8 p.236 One form of explanation is by decomposition
     Full Idea: One form of explanation is by decomposition.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 19.8)
     A reaction: This is a fancy word for taking it apart, presumably to see how it works, which implies a functional explanation, rather than to see what it is made of, which seeks an ontological explanation. Simply 'decomposing' something wouldn't in itself explain.
19.8 n14 p.235 The 'explanatory gap' is used to say consciousness is inexplicable, at least with current concepts
     Full Idea: The expression 'explanatory gap' was coined by Joseph Levine in 1983. McGinn and Chalmers have invoked it in defence of the view that consciousness is physically inexplicable, and Nagel that it is inexplicable given existing conceptual resources.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 19.8 n14)
     A reaction: Coining a few concepts isn't going to help, but discovering more about the brain might. With computer simulations we will 'see' more of the physical end of thought. Psychologists may break thought down into physically more manageable components.
20.1 n1 p.241 Philosophers' zombies aim to show consciousness is over and above the physical world
     Full Idea: Philosophers' zombies (invented by Robert Kirk) differ from the zombies of folklore; they are intended to make clear the idea that consciousness is an addition of being, something 'over and above' the physical world.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 20.1 n1)
     A reaction: The famous defender of zombies is David Chalmers. You can't believe in zombies if you believe (as I do) that 'the physical entails the mental'. Could there be redness without something that is red? If consciousness is extra, what is conscious?
20.2 p.242 Functionalism cannot explain consciousness just by functional organisation
     Full Idea: Functionalism has been widely criticized on the grounds that it is implausible to think that functional organization alone could suffice for conscious experience.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 20.2)
     A reaction: He cites Block's 'Chinese Mind' as an example. The obvious reply is that you can't explain consciousness with a lump of meat, or with behaviour, or with an anomalous property, or even with a non-physical substance.
20.3 p.243 Zombies are based on the idea that consciousness relates contingently to the physical
     Full Idea: The possibility of zombies is founded on the idea that consciousness is related contingently to physical states and processes.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 20.3)
     A reaction: The question is, how do you decide whether the relationship is contingent or necessary? Hence the interest in whether conceivability entails possibility. Kripke attacks the idea of contingent identity, pointing towards necessity, and away from zombies.
20.5 p.247 Functionalists deny zombies, since identity of functional state means identity of mental state
     Full Idea: Functionalists deny that zombies are possible since states of mind (including conscious states) are purely functional states. If two agents are in the same functional state, regardless of qualitative difference, they are in the same mental state.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 20.5)
     A reaction: In its 'brief' form this idea begins to smell of tautology. Only the right sort of functional state would entail a mental state, and how else can that functional state be defined, apart from its leading to a mental state?
20.6 p.249 If the world is just texts or social constructs, what are texts and social constructs?
     Full Idea: For those who regard the world as text or a social construct, are texts and social constructs real entities? If they are, what are they?
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 20.6)
     A reaction: A nice turn-the-tables question. The oldest attacks of all on scepticism and relativism consist of showing that the positions themselves rest on knowledge or truth. Nietzsche may be the best model for relativists. E.g. Idea 4420.
20.6 p.249 Anti-realists who reduce reality to language must explain the existence of language
     Full Idea: Anti-realist philosophers, and those who hope to reduce metaphysics to (or replace it with) the philosophy of language, owe the rest of us an account of the ontology of language.
     From: John Heil (From an Ontological Point of View [2003], 20.6)
     A reaction: A nice turning-the-tables question. In all accounts of relativism, x is usually said to be relative to y. You haven't got proper relativism if you haven't relativised both x and y. But relativised them to what? Nietzsche's 'perspectivism' (Idea 4420)?
2009 Relations
Intro p.310 We want the ontology of relations, not just a formal way of specifying them
     Full Idea: A satisfying account of relations must be ontologically serious. This means refusing to rest content with abstract specifications of relations as sets of ordered n-tuples.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], Intro)
     A reaction: A set of ordered entities would give the extension of a relation, which wouldn't, among other things, explain co-extensive relations (if all the people to my left were also taller than me). Heil's is a general cry from the heart about formal philosophy.
'Causal' p.317 If properties are powers, then causal relations are internal relations
     Full Idea: On the conception that properties are powers, it is no longer obvious that causal relations are external relations. Given the powers - all the powers in play - you have the manifestations.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], 'Causal')
     A reaction: This also delivers on a plate the necessity felt to be in causal relations, because the relation is inevitable once you are given the relata. But can you have an accidental (rather than essential) internal relation? Not in the case of numbers.
'Causal' p.319 Truthmaking is a clear example of an internal relation
     Full Idea: Truthmaking is a paradigmatic internal relation: if you have a truthbearer, a representation, and you have the world as the truthbearer represents it as being, you have truthmaking, you have the truthbearer's being true.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], 'Causal')
     A reaction: It is nice to have an example of an internal relation other than numbers, and closer to the concrete world. Is the relation between the world and facts about the world the same thing, or another example?
'External' p.314 If R internally relates a and b, and you have a and b, you thereby have R
     Full Idea: A simple way to think about internal relations is: if R internally relates a and b, then, if you have a and b, you thereby have R. If you have six and you have five, you thereby have six's being greater than five.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], 'External')
     A reaction: This seems to work a lot better for abstracta than for physical objects, where I am struggling to think of a parallel example. Parenthood? Temporal relations between things? Acorn and oak?
'Founding' p.316 In the case of 5 and 6, their relational truthmaker is just the numbers
     Full Idea: We might say that the truthmakers for 'six is greater than five' are six and five themselves. On this view, truthmakers for one class of relational truths are non-relational features of the world.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], 'Founding')
     A reaction: That seems to be a good way of expressing the existence of an internal relation.
'Founding' p.317 Two people are indirectly related by height; the direct relation is internal, between properties
     Full Idea: If Simmias is taller than Socrates, they are indirectly related; they are related via their possession of properties that are themselves directly - and internally - related. Hence relational truths are made true by non-relational features of the world.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], 'Founding')
     A reaction: This seems to be a strategy for reducing external relations to internal relations, which are intrinsic to objects, which thus reduces the ontology. Heil is not endorsing it, but cites Kit Fine 2000. The germ of this idea is in Plato.
'Relational' p.310 Maybe all the other features of the world can be reduced to relations
     Full Idea: A striking idea is that relations are ontologically primary: monadic, non-relational features of the world are constituted by relations. A view of this kind is defended by Peirce, and contemporary 'structural realists' like Ladyman.
     From: John Heil (Relations [2009], 'Relational')
     A reaction: I can't make sense of this proposal, which seems to offer relations with no relata. What is a relation? What is it made of? How do you individuate two instances of a relations, without reference to the relata?
2012 The Universe as We Find It
Pref p.-4 Using a technical vocabulary actually prevents discussion of the presuppositions
     Full Idea: Sharing a technical vocabulary is to share a tidy collection of assumptions. Reliance on that vocabulary serves to foreclose discussion of those assumptions.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], Pref)
     A reaction: Love it! I am endlessly frustrated by papers that launch into a discussion using a terminology that is riddled with dubious prior assumptions. And that includes common terms like 'property', as well as obscure neologisms.
Pref p.-2 The best philosophers I know are the best people I know
     Full Idea: Philosophers are not invariably the best people, but the best philosophers I know are the best people I know.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], Pref)
     A reaction: How very nicely expressed. I have often thought the same about lovers of literature, but been horribly disappointed by some of them. On the whole I have found philosophy-lovers to be slightly superior to literature-lovers!
01.1 p.1 Only particulars exist, and generality is our mode of presentation
     Full Idea: Existing things are particular, and generality is a feature of our ways of representing the universe.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 01.1)
     A reaction: This is right, and expressed with beautiful simplicity. How could anyone disagree with this? But they do!
01.1 p.2 Fundamental ontology aims at the preconditions for any true theory
     Full Idea: Fundamental ontology is in the business of telling us what the universe must be like if any theory is true.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 01.1)
     A reaction: Heil is good at stating simple ideas simply. This seems to be a bold claim, but I think I agree with it.
01.2 p.3 Questions of explanation should not be confused with metaphyics
     Full Idea: There is an unfortunate tendency to conflate epistemological issues bearing on explanation with issues in metaphysics.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 01.2)
     A reaction: This is where Heil and I part ways. I just don't believe in the utterly pure metaphysics which he thinks we can do. Our drive to explain moulds our vision of reality, say I.
01.3 p.4 Substances bear properties, so must be simple, and not consist of further substances
     Full Idea: Substances, as property bearers, must be simple; substances of necessity lack constituents that are themselves substances.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 01.3)
     A reaction: How can he think that this is a truth of pure metaphysics? A crowd has properties because we think of it as a simple substance, not because it actually is one. Can properties have properties? Are tree and leaf both substances?
01.4 p.9 Most philosophers now (absurdly) believe that relations fully exist
     Full Idea: It is a measure of how far we have fallen that so few philosophers nowadays see any difficulty at all in the idea that relations have full ontological standing.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 01.4)
     A reaction: We have 'fallen' because medieval metaphysicians didn't believe it. Russell seems to have started, and the tendency to derive ontology from logic has secured the belief in relations. How else can you be allowed to write aRb? I agree with Heil.
01.5 p.10 Not all truths need truthmakers - mathematics and logic seem to be just true
     Full Idea: I do not subscribe to the thesis that every truth requires a truthmaker. Mathematical truths and truths of logic are compatible with any way the universe could be.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 01.5)
     A reaction: He makes that sound like a knock-down argument, but I'm not convinced. I see logic and mathematics as growing out of nature, though that is a very unfashionable view. I'm almost ashamed of it. But I'm not giving it up. See Carrie Jenkins.
02.3 p.17 We need properties to explain how the world works
     Full Idea: When a tomato depresses a scale, it does so in virtue of its mass - how it is masswise - and not in virtue of its colour or shape. Were we barred from saying such things, we would be unable to formulate truths about the fundamental things.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 02.3)
     A reaction: It doesn't follow that we have an ontological commitment to properties, but we certainly need to point out the obvious fact that things being one way rather than another makes a difference to what happens.
02.3 p.18 Properties have causal roles which sets can't possibly have
     Full Idea: Properties are central to the universe's causal order in a way that sets could not possibly be.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 02.3)
     A reaction: The idea that properties actually are sets is just ridiculous. It may be that you can treat them as sets and get by quite well. The sets can be subsumed into descriptions of causal processes (or something).
02.5 p.25 Ontology aims to give the fundamental categories of being
     Full Idea: The task of ontology is to spell out the fundamental categories of being.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 02.5)
     A reaction: This is the aspiration of 'pure' metaphysics, which I don't quite believe in. There is too much convention involved, on the one hand, and physics on the other.
02.6 p.29 Emergent properties will need emergent substances to bear them
     Full Idea: If you are going to have emergent fundamental properties, you are going to need emergent fundamental substances as bearers of those properties.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 02.6)
     A reaction: Presumably the theory of emergent properties (which I take to be nonsense, in its hardcore form) says that the substance is unchanged, but the property is new. Or else the bundle gives collective birth to a new member. Search me.
03.1 p.34 Many wholes can survive replacement of their parts
     Full Idea: A whole - or some wholes - might be thought to survive gradual replacement of its parts, perhaps, but not their elimination.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.1)
     A reaction: You can't casually replace the precious golden parts of a statue with cheap lead ones. It depends on whether the parts matter. Nevertheless this is a really important idea in metaphysics. It enables the s=Ship of Theseus to survive some change.
03.1 p.35 Spatial parts are just regions, but objects depend on and are made up of substantial parts
     Full Idea: An object is not made up of its spatial parts: spatial parts are regions of some object. ...Complex objects, wholes, are made up of, and so depend on, their substantial parts.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.1)
     A reaction: Presumably objects also 'depend on' their spatial parts, so I am not convinced that we have a sharp distinction here.
03.3 p.40 A 'gunky' universe would literally have no parts at all
     Full Idea: Blancmange 'gunky' universes are not just universes with an endless number of parts. Rather a blancmange universe is a universe with no simple parts, no parts themselves lacking parts.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.3)
     A reaction: Hm. Lewis seemed to think it was parts all the way down. Is gunk homogeneous stuff, or what is endlessly subdividable, or an infinite shrinking of parts? We demand clarity.
03.4 p.40 Dunes depend on sand grains, but line segments depend on the whole line
     Full Idea: A sand dune depends on the individual grains of sand that make it up. In an important sense, however, a line's segments depend on the line rather than it on them.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.4)
     A reaction: The illustrations are not clear cut. As you cut off segments of the line, you reduce its length. Heil is hoping for something neat here, but I don't think he has quite got. The difficulty of trying to do pure metaphysics!
03.5 p.43 Infinite numbers are qualitatively different - they are not just very large numbers
     Full Idea: It is a mistake to think of an infinite number as a very large number. Infinite numbers differ qualitatively from finite numbers.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.5)
     A reaction: He cites Dedekind's idea that a proper subset of an infinite number can match one-one with the number. Respectable numbers don't behave in this disgraceful fashion. This should be on the wall of every seminar on philosophy of mathematics.
03.6 p.45 If there were infinite electrons, they could vanish without affecting total mass-energy
     Full Idea: In a universe containing an infinite number of electrons would mass-energy be conserved? ...Electrons could come and go without affecting the total mass-energy.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.6)
     A reaction: This seems to be a very persuasive reason for doubting that the universe contains an infinite number of electrons. In fact I suspect that infinite numbers have no bearing on nature at all. (Actually, I suspect them of being fictions).
03.7 p.47 Electrons are treated as particles, but they lose their individuality in relations
     Full Idea: Although it is convenient to speak of electrons as particles or elementary substances, when they enter into relations they can 'lose their individuality. Then an electron becomes a kind of 'abstract particular', a way a given system is, a mode.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 03.7)
     A reaction: Heil rightly warns us against basing our metaphysics on disputed theories of quantum mechanics.
04.3 p.58 Categorical properties were introduced by philosophers as actual properties, not if-then properties
     Full Idea: Categorical properties were introduced originally by philosophers bent on distinguishing properties possessed 'categorically', that is, actually, by objects from mere if-then, conditional properties, mere potentialities.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 04.3)
     A reaction: He cites Ryle on dispositions in support. It is questionable whether it is a clear or useful distinction. Heil says the new distinction foreclosed the older more active view of properties.
04.4 p.60 Are all properties powers, or are there also qualities, or do qualities have the powers?
     Full Idea: Some philosophers who embrace properties as powers hold that every property is a power (Bird), or that some properties are qualities and some are powers (Ellis; Molnar). The latter include powers which are 'grounded in' qualities (Mumford).
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 04.4)
     A reaction: I don't like Heil's emphasis on 'qualities', which seems to imply their phenomenal rather than their real aspect. I'm inclined to favour the all-powers view, but can't answer the question 'but what HAS these powers?' Stuff is intrinsically powerful.
05.1 p.84 Properties are both qualitative and dispositional - they are powerful qualities
     Full Idea: In my account of properties they are at once qualitative and dispositional: properties are powerful qualities.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 05.1)
     A reaction: I have never managed to understand what Heil means by 'qualities'. Is he talking about the phenomenal aspects of powers? Does he mean categorical properties. I can't find an ontological space for his things to slot into.
05.7 p.106 Mental abstraction does not make what is abstracted mind-dependent
     Full Idea: Talk of abstraction and 'partial consideration' (Locke) does not make what is abstracted mind-dependent. In abstracting, you attend to what is there to be considered.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 05.7)
     A reaction: Quite so. The point is to focus on aspects of reality. Does anyone seriously doubt that reality has 'aspects'?
06.1 p.118 We should focus on actual causings, rather than on laws and causal sequences
     Full Idea: I believe our understanding of causation would benefit from a shift of attention from causal sequences and laws, to instances of causation: 'causings'.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 06.1)
     A reaction: His aim is to get away from generalities, and focus on the actual operation of powers which is involved. He likes the case of two playing cards propped against one another. I'm on his side. Laws come last in the story, and should not come first.
06.5 p.125 Probabilistic causation is not a weak type of cause; it is just a probability of there being a cause
     Full Idea: The label 'probabilistic causation' is misleading. What you have is not a weakened or tentative kind of causing, but a probability of there being a cause.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 06.5)
     A reaction: The idea of 'probabilistic causation' strikes me as an empty philosophers' concoction, so I agree with Heil.
07.2 p.139 Philosophers of the past took the truthmaking idea for granted
     Full Idea: For millenia, philosophers operated with an implicit conception of truthmaking, a conception that remained unarticulated only because it was part of the very fabric of philosophy.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 07.2)
     A reaction: Presumably it is an advance that we have brought it out into the open, and subjected it to critical study. Does Heil want us to return to it being unquestioned? I like truthmaking, but that can't be right.
07.4 p.148 If causal relations are power manifestations, that makes them internal relations
     Full Idea: If causal relations are the manifesting of powers, then causal relations would appear to be a species of internal relation.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 07.4)
     A reaction: The point being that any relations formed are entirely dependent on the internal powers of the relata. Sounds right. There are also non-causal relations, of course.
08.01 p.152 In Fa, F may not be a property of a, but a determinable, satisfied by some determinate
     Full Idea: It may be that F applies truly to a because F is a determinable predicate satisfied by a's possession of a property answering to a determinate of that determinable predicate.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.01)
     A reaction: Heil aims to break the commitment of predicates to the existence of properties. The point is that there is no property 'coloured' to correspond to 'a is coloured'. Red might be the determinate that does the job. Nice.
08.02 p.156 Truth relates truthbearers to truthmakers
     Full Idea: Truth is a relation between a truthbearer and a truthmaker.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.02)
     A reaction: This implies that all truths have truthmakers, which is fairly controversial. Heil himself denies it!
08.07 p.169 If possible worlds are just fictions, they can't be truthmakers for modal judgements
     Full Idea: If the other possible worlds are merely useful fictions, we are left wondering what the truthmakers for all those modal judgements might be.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.07)
     A reaction: I suddenly see that this is the train of thought that led me to believe in real powers and dispositions, and which retrospectively led me to love the truthmaker idea. Even real Lewisian worlds don't seem adequate as truthmakers here.
08.07 p.170 Many reject 'moral realism' because they can't see any truthmakers for normative judgements
     Full Idea: It is the difficulty in imagining what truthmakers for normative judgements might be that leads many philosophers to find 'moral realism' unappealing.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.07)
     A reaction: I like that a lot. My proposal for metaethics is that it should be built on the concept of a 'value-maker'
08.07 p.170 Abstract objects wouldn't be very popular without the implicit idea of truthmakers
     Full Idea: It would be difficult to understand the popularity of 'abstract entities' - numbers, sets, propositions - in the absence of an implicit acknowledgement of the importance of truthmakers.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.07)
     A reaction: I love Idea 18496, because it leads us towards a better account of modality, but dislike this one because it reveals that the truthmaking idea has led us to a very poor theory. Truthmaking is a good question, but not much of an answer?
08.08 p.171 Our quantifications only reveal the truths we accept; the ontology and truthmakers are another matter
     Full Idea: Looking at what you quantify over reveals, at most, truths to which you are committed. What the ontology is, what the truthmakers are for these truths, is another matter, one tackled, if at all, only in the pursuit of fundamental physics.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.08)
     A reaction: Exactly right. Nouns don't guarantee objects, verbs don't guarantee processes. If you want to know my ontological commitments, ask me about them! Don't infer them from the sentences I hold true, because they need interpreting.
08.08 p.172 How could structures be mathematical truthmakers? Maths is just true, without truthmakers
     Full Idea: I do not understand how structures could serve as truthmakers for mathematical truths, ...Mathematical truths are not true in virtue of any way the universe is. ...Mathematical truths hold, whatever ways the universe is.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.08)
     A reaction: I like the idea of enquiring about truthmakers for mathematical truths (and my view is more empirical than Heil's), but I think it may be a misunderstanding to think that structures are intended as truthmakers. Mathematics just IS structures?
08.09 p.177 Maybe the universe is fine-tuned because it had to be, despite plans by God or Nature?
     Full Idea: Maybe the universe is fine-tuned as it is, not because things happened to fall out as they did during and immediately after the Big Bang, or because God so ordained it, but because God or the Big Bang had no choice.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.09)
     A reaction: You'd be hard put to so why it had to be fine-tuned, so this seems to be a nice speculation. Unverifiable but wholly meaningful. Maybe the stuff fine-tunes itself, by mutual interaction. Or it is the result of natural selection (Lee Smolin).
08.09 p.177 If basic physics has natures, then why not reality itself? That would then found the deepest necessities
     Full Idea: If electrons and gravitational fields have definite natures, why not reality itself? And if reality has a nature, if this makes sense, then reality grounds the deepest necessities of all.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.09)
     A reaction: Nice speculation! Scientists and verificationists seem to cry 'foul!' when philosophers offer such wild speculations, but I say that's exactly what we pay them do. I'm not sure whether I understand reality having its own nature, though!
08.10 p.178 You can think of tomatoes without grasping what they are
     Full Idea: You can entertain thoughts of things like tomatoes without a grasp of what they are.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 08.10)
     A reaction: Lowe seemed to think that you had to grasp the generic essence of a tomato before you could think about it, but I agree entirely with Heil.
09.7 p.195 Without abstraction we couldn't think systematically
     Full Idea: A capacity for abstraction is central to our capacity to think about the universe systematically.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 09.7)
     A reaction: This strikes me as obvious. We pick out the similarities, and then discuss them, as separate from their bearers. We explain why things have features in common. Some would just say systematic thinking needs universals, but that's less good.
10.1 p.206 The subject-predicate form reflects reality
     Full Idea: I like to think that the subject-predicate form reflects a fundamental division in reality.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 10.1)
     A reaction: That is, he defends the idea that there are substances, and powerful qualities pertaining to those substances. I sympathise, but this slogan makes it too simple.
12.10 p.272 Linguistic thought is just as imagistic as non-linguistic thought
     Full Idea: Thinking - ordinary conscious thinking - is imagistic. This is so for 'linguistic' or 'sentential' thoughts as well as for patently non-linguistic thoughts.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 12.10)
     A reaction: This claim (that linguistic thought is just as imagistic as non-linguistic thought) strikes me as an excellent insight.
12.10 p.273 Non-conscious thought may be unlike conscious thought
     Full Idea: Non-conscious thought need not resemble conscious thought occurring out of sight.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 12.10)
13.2 p.279 Our categories lack the neat arrangement needed for reduction
     Full Idea: Categories we use to describe and explain our universe do not line up in the neat way reductive schemes require.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 13.2)
     A reaction: He takes reduction to be largely a relation between our categories, rather than between entities, so he is bound to get this result. He may be right.
13.2 p.287 Predicates only match properties at the level of fundamentals
     Full Idea: Only when you get to fundamental physics, do predicates begin to line up with properties.
     From: John Heil (The Universe as We Find It [2012], 13.2)
     A reaction: A nice thought. I assume the actual properties of daily reality only connect to our predicates in very sloppy ways. I suppose our fundamental predicates have to converge on the actual properties, because the fog clears. Sort of.