Ideas of Roderick Chisholm, by Theme

[American, 1916 - 1999, Taught at Brown University, Long Island.]

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1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 6. Metaphysics as Conceptual
Many philosophers aim to understand metaphysics by studying ourselves
     Full Idea: Leibniz, Reid, Brentano and others have held that, by considering certain obvious facts about ourselves, we can arrive at an understanding of the general principles of metaphysics. The present book is intended to confirm that view.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], Intro 1)
     A reaction: I sympathise, but don't really agree. I see metaphysics as a process of filtering ourselves out of the picture, leaving an account of how things actually are.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 6. Logical Analysis
I use variables to show that each item remains the same entity throughout
     Full Idea: My use of variables is not merely pedantic; it indicates that the various items on our list pertain to one and the same entity throughout.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], Intro 2)
     A reaction: I am one of those poor souls who finds modern analytic philosophy challenging simply because I think in terms of old fashioned words, instead of thinking like mathematicians and logicians. This is a nice defence of their approach.
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / a. Nature of events
Events are states of affairs that occur at certain places and times
     Full Idea: We will restrict events to those states of affairs which occur at certain places and times.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 4.6)
     A reaction: If I say 'the bomb may explode sometime', that doesn't seem to refer to an event. Philosophers like Chisholm bowl along, defining left, right and centre, and never seem to step back from their system and ask obvious critical questions.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 8. States of Affairs
I propose that events and propositions are two types of states of affairs
     Full Idea: I will propose that events are said to constitute one type of states of affairs, and propositions another
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 4.1)
     A reaction: I would much prefer to distinguish between the static and the dynamic, so we have a static or timeless state of affairs, and a dynamic event or process. Propositions I take to be neither. He really means 'facts', which subsume the whole lot.
A state of affairs pertains to a thing if it implies that it has some property
     Full Idea: A state of affairs pertains to a thing if it implies the thing to have a certain property.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.4)
     A reaction: For this to work, we must include extrinsic and relational properties, and properties which are derived from mere predication. I think this is bad metaphysics, and leads to endless confusions.
The mark of a state of affairs is that it is capable of being accepted
     Full Idea: We will say that the mark of a state of affairs is the fact that it is capable of being accepted.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 4.2)
     A reaction: I find this a quite bewildering proposal. It means that it is impossible for there to be a state of affairs which is beyond human conception, but why commit to that?
7. Existence / E. Categories / 3. Proposed Categories
Chisholm divides things into contingent and necessary, and then individuals, states and non-states
     Full Idea: Chisholm's Ontological Categories: ENTIA - {Contingent - [Individual - (Boundaries)(Substances)] [States - (Events)]} {Necessary - [States] [Non-States - (Attributes)(Substance)]}
     From: report of Roderick Chisholm (A Realistic Theory of Categories [1996], p.3) by Jan Westerhoff - Ontological Categories §01
     A reaction: [I am attempting a textual representation of a tree diagram! The bracket-styles indicate the levels.]
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 1. Nature of Properties
Some properties can never be had, like being a round square
     Full Idea: There are properties which nothing can possibly have; an example is the property of being both round and square.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 4.2)
     A reaction: This is a rather bizarre Meinongian claim. For a start it sounds like two properties not one. Is there a property of being both 'over here' and 'over there'? We might say the round-square property must exist, for God to fail to implement it (?)
Some properties, such as 'being a widow', can be seen as 'rooted outside the time they are had'
     Full Idea: Some properties may be said to be 'rooted outside the times at which they are had'. Examples are the property of being a widow and the property of being a future President.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 3.4)
     A reaction: This is the sort of mess you when you treat the category in which an object belongs as if it was one of its properties. We categorise because of properties.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
If some dogs are brown, that entails the properties of 'being brown' and 'being canine'
     Full Idea: The state of affairs which is some dogs being brown may be said to entail (make it necessarily so) the property of 'being brown', as well as the properties of 'being canine' and 'being both brown and canine'.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.4)
     A reaction: And the property of 'being such that it is both brown and canine and brown or canine'. Etc. This is dangerous nonsense. Making all truths entail the existence of some property means we can no longer get to grips with real properties.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / a. Individuation
Maybe we can only individuate things by relating them to ourselves
     Full Idea: It may well be that the only way we have, ultimately, of individuating anything is to relate it uniquely to ourselves.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.5)
     A reaction: I'm guessing that Chisholm is thinking of 'ourselves' as meaning just himself, but I'm thinking this is plausible if he means the human community. I doubt whether there is much a philosopher can say on individuation that is revealing or precise.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / d. Individuation by haecceity
Being the tallest man is an 'individual concept', but not a haecceity
     Full Idea: Being the tallest man and being President of the United States are 'individual concepts', but not haecceities.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.4)
     A reaction: Chisholm introduces this term, to help him explain his haecceity more clearly. (His proposal on that adds a lot of fog to this area of metaphysics).
A haecceity is a property had necessarily, and strictly confined to one entity
     Full Idea: An individual essence or haecceity is a narrower type of individual concept. This is a property which is had necessarily, and which it is impossible for any other thing to have.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.4)
     A reaction: [Apologies to Chisholm for leaving out the variables from his definition of haecceity. See Idea 15802] See also Idea 15805. The tallest man is unique, but someone else could become the tallest man. No one else could acquire 'being Socrates'.
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 7. Substratum
A peach is sweet and fuzzy, but it doesn't 'have' those qualities
     Full Idea: Our idea of a peach is not an idea of something that 'has' those particular qualities, but the concrete thing that 'is' sweet and round and fuzzy.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.6)
     A reaction: This is the beginnings of his 'adverbial' account of properties, with which you have to sympathise. It tries to eliminate the possibility of some propertyless thing, to which properties can then be added, like sprinkling sugar on it.
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / b. Sums of parts
If x is ever part of y, then y is necessarily such that x is part of y at any time that y exists
     Full Idea: Chisholm has an axiom: if x is a proper part of y, then necessarily if y exists then x is part of it. If x is ever part of y, they y is necessarily such that x is part of y at any time that y exists.
     From: report of Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], p.149) by Peter Simons - Parts 5.3
     A reaction: This is Chisholm's notorious mereological essentialism, that all parts are necessary, and change of part means change of thing. However, it looks to me more like a proposal about what properties are necessary, not what are essential.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 3. Individual Essences
A traditional individual essence includes all of a thing's necessary characteristics
     Full Idea: According to the traditional account of individual essence, each thing has only one individual essence and it includes all the characteristics that the thing has necessarily.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.4)
     A reaction: Chisholm is steeped in medieval theology, but I don't think this is quite what Aristotle meant. Everyone nowadays has to exclude the 'trivial' necessary properties, for a start. But why? I'm contemplating things which survive the loss of their essence.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 14. Knowledge of Essences
If there are essential properties, how do you find out what they are?
     Full Idea: It seems to me that if Adam does have essential properties, there is no procedure at all for finding out what they are.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Identity through Possible Worlds [1967], p.85)
     A reaction: My tentative suggestion is that the essential properties are those which explain the nature, power, function and role of Adam in the 'actual' world. Whatever possibilities he acquires, he had better retain the capacity to be the First Man.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 7. Intermittent Objects
Intermittence is seen in a toy fort, which is dismantled then rebuilt with the same bricks
     Full Idea: Chisholm poses the problem of intermittence with the case of a toy fort which is built from toy bricks, taken apart, and then reassembled with the same bricks in the same position.
     From: report of Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], p.90) by Peter Simons - Parts 5.3
     A reaction: You could strengthen the case, or the problem, by using those very bricks to build a ship during the interval. Or building a fort with a different design. Most people would be happy to say that same object (token) has been rebuilt.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 5. Self-Identity
The property of being identical with me is an individual concept
     Full Idea: I wish to urge that the property of being identical with me is an individual concept.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.4)
     A reaction: I can just about live with the claim (for formal purposes) that I am identical with myself, but I strongly resist my then having a 'property' consisting of 'being identical with myself' (or 'not being identical with somone else' etc.).
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 9. Sameness
There is 'loose' identity between things if their properties, or truths about them, might differ
     Full Idea: I suggest that there is a 'loose' sense of identity that is consistent with saying 'A has a property that B does not have', or 'some things are true of A but not of B'.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 3.2)
     A reaction: He is trying to explicate Bishop Butler's famous distinction between 'strict and philosophical' and 'loose and popular' senses. We might want to claim that the genuine identity relation is the 'loose' one (pace the logicians and mathematicians).
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / a. Transworld identity
Could possible Adams gradually transform into Noah, and vice versa?
     Full Idea: If Adam lived for 931 years in a possible world, instead of his actual 930 years, ..then Adam and Noah could gradually exchange their ages and other properties...and we could trace Adam in a world back to the actual Noah, and vice versa.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Identity through Possible Worlds [1967], p.81-2)
     A reaction: [very compressed] Chisholm was one of the first to raise this problem for possible worlds, though it had been Quine's objection to modal logic all along. Only Adam having essential properties seems to stop this slippery slope, says Chisholm.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 5. Aiming at Truth
We have a basic epistemic duty to believe truth and avoid error
     Full Idea: Chisholm says our fundamental epistemic duties arise from the fundamental duty to (do one's best to) believe the truth and avoid error.
     From: report of Roderick Chisholm (Theory of Knowledge (2nd ed 1977) [1966]) by Jonathan Kvanvig - Truth is not the Primary Epistemic Goal 'Epistemic'
     A reaction: Since it strikes me as impossible to perceive something as being true, and yet still not believe it (except in moments of shock), I don't see why we need to introduce dubious claims about 'duty' here. Stupidity isn't a failure of duty.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / d. Sense-data problems
Do sense-data have structure, location, weight, and constituting matter?
     Full Idea: Does a red sense-datum or appearance have a back side as well as a front? Where is it located? Does it have any weight? What is it made of?
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.8)
     A reaction: A reductive physicalist like myself is not so troubled by questions like this, which smack of Descartes's non-spatial argument for dualism.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 8. Adverbial Theory
'I feel depressed' is more like 'he runs slowly' than like 'he has a red book'
     Full Idea: The sentences 'I feel depressed' and 'I feel exuberant' are related in the way in which 'He runs slowly' and 'He runs swiftly' are related, and not in the way in which 'He has a red book' and 'He has a brown book' are related.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.8)
     A reaction: Ducasse 1942 and Chisholm 1957 seem to be the sources of the adverbial theory. I gather Chisholm gave it up late in his career. The adverbial theory seems sort of right, but it doesn't illuminate what is happening.
So called 'sense-data' are best seen as 'modifications' of the person experiencing them
     Full Idea: We may summarise my way of looking at appearing by saying that so-called appearances or sense-data are 'affections' or 'modifications' of the person who is said to experience them.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.8)
     A reaction: Hm. That seems to transfer the ontological problem of the redness of the tomato from the tomato to the perceiver, but leave the basic difficulty untouched. I think we need to pull apart the intrinsic and subjective ingredients here.
If we can say a man senses 'redly', why not also 'rectangularly'?
     Full Idea: If we say a man 'senses redly', may we also say that he 'senses rhomboidally' or 'senses rectangularly'? There is no reason why not.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.8)
     A reaction: This is Chisholm replying to one of the best known objections to the adverbial theory. Can we sense 'wobblyrhomboidallywithpinkdots-ly'? Can we perceive 'landscapely'? The problem is bigger than he thinks.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / a. Foundationalism
The 'doctrine of the given' is correct; some beliefs or statements are self-justifying
     Full Idea: In my opinion, the 'doctrine of the given' is correct in saying that there are some beliefs or statements which are 'self-justifying' and that among such beliefs are statements some of which concern appearances or 'ways of being appeared to'.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (The Myth of the Given [1964], §12)
     A reaction: To boldly assert that they are 'self-justifying' invites a landslide of criticisms, pointing at a regress. It might be better to say they are self-evident, or intuitively known, or primitive, or true by the natural light of reason.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / a. Explanation
Explanations have states of affairs as their objects
     Full Idea: I suggest that states of affairs constitute the objects of the theory of explanation.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 4.4)
     A reaction: It is good to ask what the constituents of a theory of explanation might be. He has an all-embracing notion of state of affairs, whereas I would say that events and processes are separate. See Idea 15828.
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 3. Self as Non-physical
I am picked out uniquely by my individual essence, which is 'being identical with myself'
     Full Idea: What picks me out uniquely, without relating me to some other being? It can only be the property of 'being me' or 'being identical with myself', which can only be an individual essence or haecceity, a property I cannot fail to have.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.5)
     A reaction: Only a philosopher (and a modern analytic one at that) would imagine that this was some crucial insight into how we know our own identities.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 3. Limits of Introspection
Sartre says the ego is 'opaque'; I prefer to say that it is 'transparent'
     Full Idea: Sartre says the ego is 'opaque'; I would think it better to say that the ego is 'transparent'.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.8)
     A reaction: Insofar as we evidently have a self, I would say it is neither. It is directly experienced, through willing, motivation, and mental focus.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 3. Reference of 'I'
People use 'I' to refer to themselves, with the meaning of their own individual essence
     Full Idea: Each person uses the first person pronoun to refer to himself, and in such a way that its reference (Bedeutung) is to himself and its intention (Sinn) is his own individual essence.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 1.5)
     A reaction: I think this is exactly right, and may be the basis of the way we essentialise in our understanding of the rest of reality. I have a strong notion of what is essential in me and what is not.
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 1. Self as Indeterminate
Bad theories of the self see it as abstract, or as a bundle, or as a process
     Full Idea: Some very strange theories of the self suggest it is an abstract object, such as a class, or a property, or a function. Some theories imply that I am a collection, or a bundle, or a structure, or an event, or a process (or even a verb!).
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], Intro 4)
     A reaction: I certainly reject the abstract lot, but the second lot doesn't sound so silly to me, especially 'structure' and 'process'. I don't buy the idea that the Self is an indivisible monad. It is a central aspect of brain process - the prioritiser of thought.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 4. For Free Will
If actions are not caused by other events, and are not causeless, they must be caused by the person
     Full Idea: If the action is not caused by some other event, and it is not causeless, this leaves the possibility that it is caused by something else instead, and this something can only be the agent, the man.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Human Freedom and the Self [1964], p.28)
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 5. Against Free Will
If free will miraculously interrupts causation, animals might do that; why would we want to do it?
     Full Idea: Chisholm holds the quaint doctrine that human freedom entails an absence of causal determination; a free action is a miracle. This gives no basis for doubting that animals have such freedom; and why would we care whether we can interrupt the causal order?
     From: comment on Roderick Chisholm (Human Freedom and the Self [1964]) by Harry G. Frankfurt - Freedom of the Will and concept of a person §IV
     A reaction: [compressed] Chisholm is the spokesman for 'agent causation', Frankfurt for freedom as second-level volitions. I'm with Frankfurt. The belief in 'agents' and 'free will' may sound plausible, until the proposal is spelled out in causal terms.
For Hobbes (but not for Kant) a person's actions can be deduced from their desires and beliefs
     Full Idea: According to Hobbes, if we fully know what a man desires and believes, and we know the state of his physical stimuli, we may logically deduce what he will try to do. But Kant says no such statements can ever imply what a man will do.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Human Freedom and the Self [1964], p.32)
Determinism claims that every event has a sufficient causal pre-condition
     Full Idea: Determinism is the proposition that, for every event that occurs, there occurs a sufficient causal condition of that event.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 2.2)
     A reaction: You need an ontology of events to put it precisely this way. Doesn't it also work the other way: that there is an event for every sufficient causal condition? The beginning and the end of reality pose problems.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 1. Action Theory
If a desire leads to a satisfactory result by an odd route, the causal theory looks wrong
     Full Idea: If someone wants to kill his uncle to inherit a fortune, and having this desire makes him so agitated that he loses control of his car and kills a pedestrian, who turns out to be his uncle, the conditions of the causal theory seem to be satisfied.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Freedom and Action [1966]), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 6 'Deviant'
     A reaction: This line of argument has undermined all sorts of causal theories that were fashionable in the 1960s and 70s. Explanation should lead to understanding, but a deviant causal chain doesn't explain the outcome. The causal theory can be tightened.
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / c. Agent causation
There has to be a brain event which is not caused by another event, but by the agent
     Full Idea: There must be some event A, presumably some cerebral event, which is not caused by any other event, but by the agent.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Freedom and Action [1966], p.20), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 4 'Agent'
     A reaction: I'm afraid this thought strikes me as quaintly ridiculous. What kind of metaphysics can allow causation outside the natural nexus, yet occuring within the physical brain? This is a relic of religious dualism. Let it go.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 4. Responsibility for Actions
Responsibility seems to conflict with events being either caused or not caused
     Full Idea: The free will problem is that humans seem to be responsible, but this seems to conflict with the idea that every event is caused by some other event, and it also conflicts with the view that the action is not caused at all.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Human Freedom and the Self [1964], p.24)
Desires may rule us, but are we responsible for our desires?
     Full Idea: If a flood of desires causes a weak-willed man to give in to temptation, …the question now becomes, is he responsible for the beliefs and desires he happens to have?
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Human Freedom and the Self [1964], p.25)
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 5. Action Dilemmas / c. Omissions
There are mere omissions (through ignorance, perhaps), and people can 'commit an omission'
     Full Idea: If a man does not respond to a greeting, if he was unaware that he was addressed then his failure to respond may be a mere omission. But if he intended to snub the man, then he could be said to have 'committed the omission'.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 2.6)
     A reaction: Chisholm has an extensive knowledge of Catholic theology. These neat divisions are subject to vagueness and a continuum of cases in real life.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 1. Nature
The concept of physical necessity is basic to both causation, and to the concept of nature
     Full Idea: It is generally agreed, I think, that the concept of physical necessity, or a law of nature, is fundamental to the theory of causation and, more generally, to the concept of nature.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 2.3)
     A reaction: This seems intuitively right, but we might be able to formulate a concept of nature that had a bit less necessity in it, especially if we read a few books on quantum theory first.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
Some propose a distinct 'agent causation', as well as 'event causation'
     Full Idea: Sometimes a distinction is made between 'event causation' and 'agent causation' and it has been suggested that there is an unbridgeable gap between the two.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 2.5)
     A reaction: Nope, don't buy that. I connect it with Davidson's 'anomalous monism', that tries to combine one substance with separate laws of action. The metaphysical price for such a theory is too high to pay.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Causation among objects relates either events or states
     Full Idea: Between natural objects we may say that causation is a relation between events or states of affairs.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Human Freedom and the Self [1964], p.28)
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 7. Strictness of Laws
A 'law of nature' is just something which is physically necessary
     Full Idea: When we say something is 'physically necessary' we can replace it with 'law of nature'.
     From: Roderick Chisholm (Person and Object [1976], 2.2)
     A reaction: [plucked out of context even more than usual!] This is illuminating about what contemporary philosophers (such as Armstrong) seem to mean by a law of nature. It is not some grand equation, but a small local necessary connection.