Ideas of Kit Fine, by Theme

[British, fl. 1996, Professor at New York University.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 4. Aims of Philosophy / c. Philosophy as generalisation
We understand things through their dependency relations
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 6. Despair over Philosophy
Philosophers with a new concept are like children with a new toy
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics deals with the existence of things and with the nature of things
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 2. Possibility of Metaphysics
If metaphysics can't be settled, it hardly matters whether it makes sense
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics beyond Science
Realist metaphysics concerns what is real; naive metaphysics concerns natures of things
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 6. Against Metaphysics
'Quietist' says abandon metaphysics because answers are unattainable (as in Kant's noumenon)
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 1. Analysis
Study vagueness first by its logic, then by its truth-conditions, and then its metaphysics
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 2. Conceptual Analysis
My account shows how the concept works, rather than giving an analysis
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 5. Against Analysis
Concern for rigour can get in the way of understanding phenomena
2. Reason / D. Definition / 2. Aims of Definition
Definitions concern how we should speak, not how things are
2. Reason / D. Definition / 3. Types of Definition
Implicit definitions must be satisfiable, creative definitions introduce things, contextual definitions build on things
'Creative definitions' do not presuppose the existence of the objects defined
2. Reason / D. Definition / 4. Real Definition
Definitions formed an abstract hierarchy for Aristotle, as sets do for us
Modern philosophy has largely abandoned real definitions, apart from sortals
Maybe two objects might require simultaneous real definitions, as with two simultaneous terms
2. Reason / D. Definition / 5. Genus and Differentia
Aristotle sees hierarchies in definitions using genus and differentia (as we see them in sets)
2. Reason / D. Definition / 6. Definition by Essence
Defining a term and giving the essence of an object don't just resemble - they are the same
The essence or definition of an essence involves either a class of properties or a class of propositions
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 3. Truthmaker Maximalism
Truths need not always have their source in what exists
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 5. What Makes Truths / a. What makes truths
Some sentences depend for their truth on worldly circumstances, and others do not
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 7. Making Modal Truths
If the truth-making relation is modal, then modal truths will be grounded in anything
4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 3. Modal Logic Systems / h. System S5
S5 provides the correct logic for necessity in the broadly logical sense
4. Formal Logic / E. Nonclassical Logics / 3. Many-Valued Logic
Strong Kleene disjunction just needs one true disjunct; Weak needs the other to have some value
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 5. Conceptions of Set / e. Iterative sets
There is no stage at which we can take all the sets to have been generated
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 1. Mereology
Part and whole contribute asymmetrically to one another, so must differ
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 3. Axioms of Mereology
We might combine the axioms of set theory with the axioms of mereology
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 1. Logical Consequence
Logical consequence is verification by a possible world within a truth-set
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 2. Excluded Middle
Excluded Middle, and classical logic, may fail for vague predicates
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 1. Logical Form
Is it the sentence-token or the sentence-type that has a logical form?
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / a. Logical connectives
Logical concepts rest on certain inferences, not on facts about implications
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 4. Variables in Logic
Variables can be viewed as special terms - functions taking assignments into individuals
In separate expressions variables seem identical in role, but in the same expression they aren't
The 'algebraic' account of variables reduces quantification to the algebra of its component parts
'Instantial' accounts of variables say we grasp arbitrary instances from their use in quantification
The usual Tarskian interpretation of variables is to specify their range of values
I think of variables as objects rather than as signs
It seemed that Frege gave the syntax for variables, and Tarski the semantics, and that was that
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 8. Theories in Logic
Theories in logic are sentences closed under consequence, but in truth discussions theories have axioms
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / b. Names as descriptive
Cicero/Cicero and Cicero/Tully may differ in relationship, despite being semantically the same
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / f. Names eliminated
Quine's arguments fail because he naively conflates names with descriptions
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 3. Property (λ-) Abstraction
The property of Property Abstraction says any suitable condition must imply a property
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 4. Substitutional Quantification
Substitutional quantification is referential quantification over expressions
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 5. Second-Order Quantification
If you ask what F the second-order quantifier quantifies over, you treat it as first-order
5. Theory of Logic / I. Semantics of Logic / 1. Semantics of Logic
Assigning an entity to each predicate in semantics is largely a technical convenience
5. Theory of Logic / I. Semantics of Logic / 3. Logical Truth
Logic holding between indefinite sentences is the core of all language
A logical truth is true in virtue of the nature of the logical concepts
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / b. Types of number
Dedekind cuts lead to the bizarre idea that there are many different number 1's
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / i. Reals from cuts
Why should a Dedekind cut correspond to a number?
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / l. Zero
Unless we know whether 0 is identical with the null set, we create confusions
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / o. Units
Number cannot be defined as addition of ones, since that needs the number; it is a single act of abstraction
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 4. Definitions of Number / c. Fregean numbers
The existence of numbers is not a matter of identities, but of constituents of the world
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 4. Definitions of Number / d. Hume's Principle
Hume's Principle is either adequate for number but fails to define properly, or vice versa
If Hume's Principle can define numbers, we needn't worry about its truth
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 5. Mathematics as Set Theory / b. Mathematics is not set theory
Set-theoretic imperialists think sets can represent every mathematical object
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 6. Mathematical Structuralism / b. Varieties of structuralism
Dedekindian abstraction talks of 'positions', where Cantorian abstraction talks of similar objects
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 1. Mathematical Platonism / b. Against mathematical platonism
It is plausible that x^2 = -1 had no solutions before complex numbers were 'introduced'
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / a. Mathematical empiricism
The indispensability argument shows that nature is non-numerical, not the denial of numbers
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / a. Early logicism
Logicists say mathematics can be derived from definitions, and can be known that way
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / c. Neo-logicism
Proceduralism offers a version of logicism with no axioms, or objects, or ontological commitment
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / a. Constructivism
The objects and truths of mathematics are imperative procedures for their construction
My Proceduralism has one simple rule, and four complex rules
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 1. Nature of Existence
'Exists' is a predicate, not a quantifier; 'electrons exist' is like 'electrons spin'
For ontology we need, not internal or external views, but a view from outside reality
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 2. Types of Existence
There are levels of existence, as well as reality; objects exist at the lowest level in which they can function
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / b. Being and existence
An object's 'being' isn't existence; there's more to an object than existence, and its nature doesn't include existence
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 6. Abstract Existence
Abstracts cannot be identified with sets
Points in Euclidean space are abstract objects, but not introduced by abstraction
Postulationism says avoid abstract objects by giving procedures that produce truth
Just as we introduced complex numbers, so we introduced sums and temporal parts
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 8. Criterion for Existence
Real objects are those which figure in the facts that constitute reality
Being real and being fundamental are separate; Thales's water might be real and divisible
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 1. Grounding / a. Nature of grounding
An immediate ground is the next lower level, which gives the concept of a hierarchy
'Strict' ground moves down the explanations, but 'weak' ground can move sideways
We learn grounding from what is grounded, not what does the grounding
If you make 'grounding' fundamental, you have to mention some non-fundamental notions
Something is grounded when it holds, and is explained, and necessitated by something else
Formal grounding needs transitivity of grounding, no self-grounding, and the existence of both parties
2+2=4 is necessary if it is snowing, but not true in virtue of the fact that it is snowing
If you say one thing causes another, that leaves open that the 'other' has its own distinct reality
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 1. Grounding / b. Relata of grounding
Grounding relations are best expressed as relations between sentences
If grounding is a relation it must be between entities of the same type, preferably between facts
Ground is best understood as a sentence operator, rather than a relation between predicates
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 1. Grounding / c. Grounding and explanation
Maybe bottom-up grounding shows constitution, and top-down grounding shows essence
Philosophical explanation is largely by ground (just as cause is used in science)
Only metaphysical grounding must be explained by essence
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 1. Grounding / d. Grounding and reduction
We can only explain how a reduction is possible if we accept the concept of ground
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 2. Reduction
Reduction might be producing a sentence which gets closer to the logical form
Reduction might be semantic, where a reduced sentence is understood through its reduction
Reduction is modal, if the reductions necessarily entail the truth of the target sentence
The notion of reduction (unlike that of 'ground') implies the unreality of what is reduced
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 4. Ontological Dependence
A natural modal account of dependence says x depends on y if y must exist when x does
An object depends on another if the second cannot be eliminated from the first's definition
There is 'weak' dependence in one definition, and 'strong' dependence in all the definitions
Dependency is the real counterpart of one term defining another
An object is dependent if its essence prevents it from existing without some other object
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 7. Abstract/Concrete / a. Abstract/concrete
Possible objects are abstract; actual concrete objects are possible; so abstract/concrete are compatible
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 7. Abstract/Concrete / b. Levels of abstraction
A generative conception of abstracts proposes stages, based on concepts of previous objects
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 2. Reality
Reality is a primitive metaphysical concept, which cannot be understood in other terms
In metaphysics, reality is regarded as either 'factual', or as 'fundamental'
Bottom level facts are subject to time and world, middle to world but not time, and top to neither
A non-standard realism, with no privileged standpoint, might challenge its absoluteness or coherence
Why should what is explanatorily basic be therefore more real?
What is real can only be settled in terms of 'ground'
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Facts / a. Facts
Facts, such as redness and roundness of a ball, can be 'fused' into one fact
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Facts / b. Types of fact
Tensed and tenseless sentences state two sorts of fact, which belong to two different 'realms' of reality
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / c. Vagueness as semantic
Vagueness is semantic, a deficiency of meaning
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / e. Supervaluation for vagueness
A vague sentence is only true for all ways of making it completely precise
Logical connectives cease to be truth-functional if vagueness is treated with three values
Meaning is both actual (determining instances) and potential (possibility of greater precision)
With the super-truth approach, the classical connectives continue to work
Borderline cases must be under our control, as capable of greater precision
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / b. Commitment of quantifiers
Ontological claims are often universal, and not a matter of existential quantification
8. Modes of Existence / A. Relations / 1. Nature of Relations
The 'standard' view of relations is that they hold of several objects in a given order
Language imposes a direction on a road which is not really part of the road
The 'positionalist' view of relations says the number of places is fixed, but not the order
A block on top of another contains one relation, not both 'on top of' and 'beneath'
Explain biased relations as orderings of the unbiased, or the unbiased as permutation classes of the biased?
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 4. Powers as Essence
The possible Aristotelian view that forms are real and active principles is clearly wrong
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 3. Objects in Thought
Objects, as well as sentences, can have logical form
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / a. Intrinsic unification
Modal features are not part of entities, because they are accounted for by the entity
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / c. Unity as conceptual
We should understand identity in terms of the propositions it renders true
Hierarchical set membership models objects better than the subset or aggregate relations do
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / e. Vague objects
Vagueness can be in predicates, names or quantifiers
A thing might be vaguely vague, giving us higher-order vagueness
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 3. Matter of an Object
The matter is a relatively unstructured version of the object, like a set without membership structure
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 6. Constitution of an Object
There is no distinctive idea of constitution, because you can't say constitution begins and ends
Is there a plausible Aristotelian notion of constitution, applicable to both physical and non-physical?
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / a. Parts of objects
A 'timeless' part just is a part, not a part at some time; some atoms are timeless parts of a water molecule
A 'temporary' part is a part at one time, but may not be at another, like a carburetor
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / b. Sums of parts
An 'aggregative' sum is spread in time, and exists whenever a component exists
An 'compound' sum is not spread in time, and only exists when all the components exists
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / c. Wholes from parts
Two sorts of whole have 'rigid embodiment' (timeless parts) or 'variable embodiment' (temporary parts)
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 1. Essences of Objects
Can the essence of an object circularly involve itself, or involve another object?
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 2. Types of Essence
How do we distinguish basic from derived esssences?
Essences are either taken as real definitions, or as necessary properties
Maybe some things have essential relationships as well as essential properties
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 3. Individual Essences
Being a man is a consequence of his essence, not constitutive of it
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 4. Essence as Definition
An object only essentially has a property if that property follows from every definition of the object
If there are alternative definitions, then we have three possibilities for essence
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 6. Essence as Unifier
Essentially having a property is naturally expressed as 'the property it must have to be what it is'
What it is is fixed prior to existence or the object's worldly features
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 7. Essence and Necessity / a. Essence as necessary properties
Simple modal essentialism refers to necessary properties of an object
Essentialist claims can be formulated more clearly with quantified modal logic
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 7. Essence and Necessity / b. Essence not necessities
Essence as necessary properties produces a profusion of essential properties
The nature of singleton Socrates has him as a member, but not vice versa
It is not part of the essence of Socrates that a huge array of necessary truths should hold
Metaphysical necessity is a special case of essence, not vice versa
We must distinguish between the identity or essence of an object, and its necessary features
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 8. Essence as Explanatory
An essential property of something must be bound up with what it is to be that thing
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Essential properties are part of an object's 'definition'
Essential features of an object have no relation to how things actually are
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 3. Three-Dimensionalism
Genuine motion, rather than variation of position, requires the 'entire presence' of the object
3-D says things are stretched in space but not in time, and entire at a time but not at a location
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 4. Four-Dimensionalism
4-D says things are stretched in space and in time, and not entire at a time or at a location
You can ask when the wedding was, but not (usually) when the bride was
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 5. Temporal Parts
Three-dimensionalist can accept temporal parts, as things enduring only for an instant
Even a three-dimensionalist might identify temporal parts, in their thinking
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 12. Origin as Essential
If Socrates lacks necessary existence, then his nature cannot require his parents' existence
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 1. Concept of Identity
I can only represent individuals as the same if I do not already represent them as the same
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 5. Self-Identity
Self-identity should have two components, its existence, and its neutral identity with itself
If Cicero=Tully refers to the man twice, then surely Cicero=Cicero does as well?
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 6. Identity between Objects
We would understand identity between objects, even if their existence was impossible
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 3. Types of Necessity
The three basic types of necessity are metaphysical, natural and normative
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 5. Metaphysical Necessity
Metaphysical necessity may be 'whatever the circumstance', or 'regardless of circumstances'
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 8. Transcendental Necessity
Proper necessary truths hold whatever the circumstances; transcendent truths regardless of circumstances
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 11. Denial of Necessity
Empiricists suspect modal notions: either it happens or it doesn't; it is just regularities.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
Possible states of affairs are not propositions; a proposition can't be a state of affairs!
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 1. Sources of Necessity
Each basic modality has its 'own' explanatory relation
The subject of a proposition need not be the source of its necessity
Each area of enquiry, and its source, has its own distinctive type of necessity
Every necessary truth is grounded in the nature of something
The role of semantic necessity in semantics is like metaphysical necessity in metaphysics
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 4. Necessity from Concepts
Conceptual necessities rest on the nature of all concepts
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 6. Necessity from Essence
Socrates is necessarily distinct from the Eiffel Tower, but that is not part of his essence
It is the nature of Socrates to be a man, so necessarily he is a man
Metaphysical necessities are true in virtue of the nature of all objects
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 2. Nature of Possible Worlds / a. Nature of possible worlds
The actual world is a possible world, so we can't define possible worlds as 'what might have been'
The actual world is a totality of facts, so we also think of possible worlds as totalities
Possible worlds may be more limited, to how things might actually turn out
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / d. Secondary qualities
Although colour depends on us, we can describe the world that way if it picks out fundamentals
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 7. Testimony
Unsupported testimony may still be believable
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
We explain by identity (what it is), or by truth (how things are)
Is there metaphysical explanation (as well as causal), involving a constitutive form of determination?
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / i. Explanations by reduction
Grounding is an explanation of truth, and needs all the virtues of good explanations
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / b. Ultimate explanation
Ultimate explanations are in 'grounds', which account for other truths, which hold in virtue of the grounding
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 5. Generalisation by mind
If green is abstracted from a thing, it is only seen as a type if it is common to many things
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 5. Supervenience of mind
If mind supervenes on the physical, it may also explain the physical (and not vice versa)
18. Thought / C. Content / 1. Content
You cannot determine the full content from a thought's intrinsic character, as relations are involved
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 2. Origin of Concepts / a. Origin of concepts
Mental files are devices for keeping track of basic coordination of objects
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 1. Abstract Thought
Fine's 'procedural postulationism' uses creative definitions, but avoids abstract ontology
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 2. Abstracta by Selection
To obtain the number 2 by abstraction, we only want to abstract the distinctness of a pair of objects
We should define abstraction in general, with number abstraction taken as a special case
Many different kinds of mathematical objects can be regarded as forms of abstraction
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 7. Abstracta by Equivalence
We can abstract from concepts (e.g. to number) and from objects (e.g. to direction)
Fine considers abstraction as reconceptualization, to produce new senses by analysing given senses
Abstractionism can be regarded as an alternative to set theory
An object is the abstract of a concept with respect to a relation on concepts
Abstraction-theoretic imperialists think Fregean abstracts can represent every mathematical object
We can combine ZF sets with abstracts as urelements
We can create objects from conditions, rather than from concepts
An abstraction principle should not 'inflate', producing more abstractions than objects
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 8. Abstractionism Critique
After abstraction all numbers seem identical, so only 0 and 1 will exist!
19. Language / B. Assigning Meanings / 2. Semantics
That two utterances say the same thing may not be intrinsic to them, but involve their relationships
The two main theories are Holism (which is inferential), and Representational (which is atomistic)
The standard aim of semantics is to assign a semantic value to each expression
Semantics is a body of semantic requirements, not semantic truths or assigned values
We should pursue semantic facts as stated by truths in theories (and not put the theories first!)
Referentialist semantics has objects for names, properties for predicates, and propositions for connectives
Fregeans approach the world through sense, Referentialists through reference
Semantics is either an assignment of semantic values, or a theory of truth
19. Language / B. Assigning Meanings / 7. Extensional Semantics
Referential semantics (unlike Fregeanism) allows objects themselves in to semantic requirements
19. Language / B. Assigning Meanings / 8. Possible Worlds Semantics
If sentence content is all worlds where it is true, all necessary truths have the same content!
19. Language / B. Assigning Meanings / 9. Indexical Semantics
I take indexicals such as 'this' and 'that' to be linked to some associated demonstration
19. Language / C. Reference / 4. Descriptive Reference / a. Sense and reference
Frege's Puzzle: from different semantics we infer different reference for two names with the same reference
19. Language / D. Propositions / 5. Unity of Propositions
A proposition ingredient is 'essential' if changing it would change the truth-value
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 2. Analytic Truths
Analytic truth may only be true in virtue of the meanings of certain terms
The meaning of 'bachelor' is irrelevant to the meaning of 'unmarried man'
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
The Quinean doubt: are semantics and facts separate, and do analytic sentences have no factual part?
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / b. Tensed (A) time
A-theorists tend to reject the tensed/tenseless distinction
It is said that in the A-theory, all existents and objects must be tensed, as well as the sentences
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / c. Tenseless (B) time
B-theorists say tensed sentences have an unfilled argument-place for a time
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / a. Scientific essentialism
Causation is easier to disrupt than logic, so metaphysics is part of nature, not vice versa
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / a. Greek matter
The components of abstract definitions could play the same role as matter for physical objects