Ideas of Brian Ellis, by Theme

[Australian, b.1929, Professor at La Trobe University, and the University of Melbourne.]

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1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics aims at the simplest explanation, without regard to testability
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysics as Science
Ontology should give insight into or an explanation of the world revealed by science
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 5. Against Analysis
Essentialism says metaphysics can't be done by analysing unreliable language
4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 3. Modal Logic Systems / h. System S5
Real possibility and necessity has the logic of S5, which links equivalence classes of worlds of the same kind
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 1. Overview of Logic
We can base logic on acceptability, and abandon the Fregean account by truth-preservation
5. Theory of Logic / I. Semantics of Logic / 6. Extensionalism
Humean conceptions of reality drive the adoption of extensional logic
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 1. Foundations for Mathematics
Mathematics is the formal study of the categorical dimensions of things
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 2. Processes
Objects and substances are a subcategory of the natural kinds of processes
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / c. Reduction of events
A physical event is any change of distribution of energy
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 8. States of Affairs
Modern trope theory tries, like logical atomism, to reduce things to elementary states
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 1. Nature of Properties
The extension of a property is a contingent fact, so cannot be the essence of the property
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 3. Types of Properties
Properties are 'dispositional', or 'categorical' (the latter as 'block' or 'intrinsic' structures)
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 5. Natural Properties
There is no property of 'fragility', as things are each fragile in a distinctive way
Physical properties are those relevant to how a physical system might act
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 6. Categorical Properties
Essentialism needs categorical properties (spatiotemporal and numerical relations) and dispositions
Spatial, temporal and numerical relations have causal roles, without being causal
Typical 'categorical' properties are spatio-temporal, such as shape
The property of 'being an electron' is not of anything, and only electrons could have it
The passive view of nature says categorical properties are basic, but others say dispositions
I support categorical properties, although most people only want causal powers
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
'Being a methane molecule' is not a property - it is just a predicate
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 11. Properties as Sets
Properties and relations are discovered, so they can't be mere sets of individuals
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 12. Denial of Properties
Redness is not a property as it is not mind-independent
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 1. Powers
Space, time, and some other basics, are not causal powers
Causal powers must necessarily act the way they do
Causal powers are often directional (e.g. centripetal, centrifugal, circulatory)
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 2. Powers as Basic
Causal powers can't rest on things which lack causal power
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 3. Powers as Derived
Basic powers may not be explained by structure, if at the bottom level there is no structure
Maybe dispositions can be explained by intrinsic properties or structures
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 5. Powers and Properties
Properties have powers; they aren't just ways for logicians to classify objects
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
The most fundamental properties of nature (mass, charge, spin ...) all seem to be dispositions
Nearly all fundamental properties of physics are dispositional
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / b. Dispositions and powers
A causal power is a disposition to produce forces
Powers are dispositions of the essences of kinds that involve them in causation
Causal powers are a proper subset of the dispositional properties
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 1. Universals
Universals are all types of natural kind
There are 'substantive' (objects of some kind), 'dynamic' (events of some kind) and 'property' universals
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 1. Structure of an Object
Categorical properties depend only on the structures they represent
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 1. Essences of Objects
Kripke and others have made essentialism once again respectable
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 2. Types of Essence
'Individual essences' fix a particular individual, and 'kind essences' fix the kind it belongs to
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 3. Individual Essences
Scientific essentialism doesn't really need Kripkean individual essences
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 5. Essence as Kind
A real essence is a kind's distinctive properties
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Essential properties are usually quantitatively determinate
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 13. Nominal Essence
'Real essence' makes it what it is; 'nominal essence' makes us categorise it a certain way
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
The old idea that identity depends on essence and behaviour is rejected by the empiricists
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 7. Indiscernible Objects
One thing can look like something else, without being the something else
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 3. Types of Necessity
Necessities are distinguished by their grounds, not their different modalities
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 5. Metaphysical Necessity
Metaphysical necessity holds between things in the world and things they make true
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
Scientific essentialists say science should define the limits of the possible
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 1. Sources of Necessity
Metaphysical necessities are those depending on the essential nature of things
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 5. Modality from Actuality
Essentialists deny possible worlds, and say possibilities are what is compatible with the actual world
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 6. Necessity from Essence
Individual essences necessitate that individual; natural kind essences necessitate kind membership
Metaphysical necessities are true in virtue of the essences of things
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 3. A Posteriori Necessary
Essentialists say natural laws are in a new category: necessary a posteriori
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 4. Conceivable as Possible / a. Conceivable as possible
Imagination tests what is possible for all we know, not true possibility
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / c. Possible worlds realism
Possible worlds realism is only needed to give truth conditions for modals and conditionals
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / b. Primary/secondary
Essentialists mostly accept the primary/secondary qualities distinction
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / c. Primary qualities
Primary qualities are number, figure, size, texture, motion, configuration, impenetrability and (?) mass
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 2. Aim of Science
Science aims to explain things, not just describe them
14. Science / C. Induction / 3. Limits of Induction
If events are unconnected, then induction cannot be solved
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Emeralds are naturally green, and only an external force could turn them blue
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / c. Explanations by coherence
Good explanations unify
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / e. Necessity in explanations
Essentialists don't infer from some to all, but from essences to necessary behaviour
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / h. Explanations by mechanism
Explanations of particular events are not essentialist, as they don't reveal essential structures
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / j. Explanations by essence
To give essentialist explanations there have to be natural kinds
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 6. Idealisation
The point of models in theories is not to idealise, but to focus on what is essential
19. Language / A. Language / 6. Predicates
Predicates assert properties, values, denials, relations, conventions, existence and fabrications
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 1. Acting on Desires
Humans have variable dispositions, and also power to change their dispositions
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 3. Agent Causation
Regularity theories of causation cannot give an account of human agency
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 2. Human Nature
Essentialism fits in with Darwinism, but not with extreme politics of left or right
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / f. Presentism
The present is the collapse of the light wavefront from the Big Bang
Simultaneity can be temporal equidistance from the Big Bang
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / a. Natural kinds
Natural kinds are of objects/substances, or events/processes, or intrinsic natures
The natural kinds are objects, processes and properties/relations
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / b. Defining kinds
There are natural kinds of processes
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / c. Knowing kinds
There might be uninstantiated natural kinds, such as transuranic elements which have never occurred
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / d. Source of kinds
Natural kinds are distinguished by resting on essences
Essentialism says natural kinds are fundamental to nature, and determine the laws
Natural kind structures go right down to the bottom level
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / e. Necessity of kinds
For essentialists two members of a natural kind must be identical
The whole of our world is a natural kind, so all worlds like it necessarily have the same laws
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / g. Critique of kinds
If there are borderline cases between natural kinds, that makes them superficial
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
Essentialists regard inanimate objects as genuine causal agents
Essentialists believe causation is necessary, resulting from dispositions and circumstances
A general theory of causation is only possible in an area if natural kinds are involved
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 1. Laws of Nature
We must explain the necessity, idealisation, ontology and structure of natural laws
Least action is not a causal law, but a 'global law', describing a global essence
Laws of nature are just descriptions of how things are disposed to behave
Laws don't exist in the world; they are true of the world
For 'passivists' behaviour is imposed on things from outside
The laws of nature imitate the hierarchy of natural kinds
Laws of nature tend to describe ideal things, or ideal circumstances
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
Causal relations cannot be reduced to regularities, as they could occur just once
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / a. Scientific essentialism
A proton must have its causal role, because without it it wouldn't be a proton
What is most distinctive of scientific essentialism is regarding processes as natural kinds
Scientific essentialism is more concerned with explanation than with identity (Locke, not Kripke)
The ontological fundamentals are dispositions, and also categorical (spatio-temporal and structural) properties
Essentialists say dispositions are basic, rather than supervenient on matter and natural laws
The essence of uranium is its atomic number and its electron shell
A species requires a genus, and its essence includes the essence of the genus
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / b. Scientific necessity
A primary aim of science is to show the limits of the possible
For essentialists, laws of nature are metaphysically necessary, being based on essences of natural kinds
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / c. Essence and laws
A hierarchy of natural kinds is elaborate ontology, but needed to explain natural laws
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / d. Knowing essences
Essentialism requires a clear separation of semantics, epistemology and ontology
Without general principles, we couldn't predict the behaviour of dispositional properties
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 3. Force
I deny forces as entities that intervene in causation, but are not themselves causal
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 4. Energy
Energy is the key multi-valued property, vital to scientific realism