Ideas of John Heil, by Theme

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

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 2. Wise People
The best philosophers I know are the best people I know
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 6. Despair over Philosophy
Using a technical vocabulary actually prevents discussion of the presuppositions
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 2. Possibility of Metaphysics
Questions of explanation should not be confused with metaphyics
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 4. Ordinary Language
If you begin philosophy with language, you find yourself trapped in it
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 1. Aims of Science
There is no such thing as 'science'; there are just many different sciences
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 6. Ockham's Razor
Parsimony does not imply the world is simple, but that our theories should try to be
A theory with few fundamental principles might still posit a lot of entities
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 4. Uses of Truth
Truth relates truthbearers to truthmakers
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 1. For Truthmakers
Philosophers of the past took the truthmaking idea for granted
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 3. Truthmaker Maximalism
Not all truths need truthmakers - mathematics and logic seem to be just true
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 4. Truthmaker Necessitarianism
The view that truth making is entailment is misguided and misleading
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 8. Critique of Set Theory
God does not create the world, and then add the classes
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 4. The Infinite / a. The Infinite
Infinite numbers are qualitatively different - they are not just very large numbers
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 6. Mathematical Structuralism / e. Structuralism critique
How could structures be mathematical truthmakers? Maths is just true, without truthmakers
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 2. Reduction
The reductionist programme dispenses with levels of reality
Our categories lack the neat arrangement needed for reduction
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 3. Levels of Reality
A higher level is 'supervenient' if it is determined by lower levels, but has its own natural laws
There are levels of organisation, complexity, description and explanation, but not of reality
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 1. Realism
Realism says some of our concepts 'cut nature at the joints'
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 3. Anti-realism
Anti-realists who reduce reality to language must explain the existence of language
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / d. Commitment of theories
Fundamental ontology aims at the preconditions for any true theory
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
Our quantifications only reveal the truths we accept; the ontology and truthmakers are another matter
7. Existence / E. Categories / 4. Category Realism
Ontology aims to give the fundamental categories of being
7. Existence / E. Categories / 5. Category Anti-Realism
Concepts don't carve up the world, which has endless overlooked or ignored divisions
8. Modes of Existence / A. Relations / 1. Nature of Relations
Most philosophers now (absurdly) believe that relations fully exist
8. Modes of Existence / A. Relations / 2. Internal Relations
If causal relations are power manifestations, that makes them internal relations
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 2. Need for Properties
We need properties to explain how the world works
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 5. Natural Properties
Functionalists in Fodor's camp usually say that a genuine property is one that figures in some causal laws
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 6. Categorical Properties
Categorical properties were introduced by philosophers as actual properties, not if-then properties
A stone does not possess the property of being a stone; its other properties make it a stone
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 7. Emergent Properties
Complex properties are just arrangements of simple properties; they do not "emerge" as separate
Complex properties are not new properties, they are merely new combinations of properties
Emergent properties will need emergent substances to bear them
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 9. Qualities
I think of properties as simultaneously dispositional and qualitative
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
From the property predicates P and Q, we can get 'P or Q', but it doesn't have to designate another property
A predicate applies truly if it picks out a real property of objects
In Fa, F may not be a property of a, but a determinable, satisfied by some determinate
Predicates only match properties at the level of fundamentals
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 11. Properties as Sets
Properties have causal roles which sets can't possibly have
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / a. Nature of tropes
A theory of universals says similarity is identity of parts; for modes, similarity is primitive
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / b. Critique of tropes
The supporters of 'tropes' treat objects as bundles of tropes, when I think objects 'possess' properties
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 3. Powers as Derived
Powers or dispositions are usually seen as caused by lower-level qualities
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 5. Powers and Properties
Are all properties powers, or are there also qualities, or do qualities have the powers?
Properties are both qualitative and dispositional - they are powerful qualities
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
Are a property's dispositions built in, or contingently added?
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
Universals explain one-over-many relations, and similar qualities, and similar behaviour
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 6. Platonic Forms / d. Forms critiques
How could you tell if the universals were missing from a world of instances?
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
Similarity among modes will explain everthing universals were for
Similar objects have similar properties; properties are directly similar
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 5. Class Nominalism
Objects join sets because of properties; the property is not bestowed by set membership
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 1. Physical Objects
Trope theorists usually see objects as 'bundles' of tropes
Objects are substances, which are objects considered as the bearer of properties
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 2. Abstract Objects / d. Problems with abstracta
Abstract objects wouldn't be very popular without the implicit idea of truthmakers
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / a. Substance
Substances bear properties, so must be simple, and not consist of further substances
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / c. Types of substance
Maybe there is only one substance, space-time or a quantum field
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / e. Substance critique
Rather than 'substance' I use 'objects', which have properties
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / c. Statue and clay
Statues and bronze lumps have discernible differences, so can't be identical
Do we reduce statues to bronze, or eliminate statues, or allow statues and bronze?
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / a. Parts of objects
A 'gunky' universe would literally have no parts at all
Spatial parts are just regions, but objects depend on and are made up of substantial parts
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / c. Wholes from parts
Many wholes can survive replacement of their parts
Dunes depend on sand grains, but line segments depend on the whole line
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 9. Ship of Theseus
If you can have the boat without its current planks, and the planks with no boat, the planks aren't the boat
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 6. Necessity from Essence
If basic physics has natures, then why not reality itself? That would then found the deepest necessities
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / c. Possible worlds realism
You can't embrace the formal apparatus of possible worlds, but reject the ontology
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / e. Against possible worlds
If possible worlds are just fictions, they can't be truthmakers for modal judgements
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism
Idealism explains appearances by identifying appearances with reality
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / a. Qualities in perception
If properties were qualities without dispositions, they would be undetectable
Can we distinguish the way a property is from the property?
Properties don't possess ways they are, because that just is the property
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / d. Secondary qualities
Secondary qualities are just primary qualities considered in the light of their effect on us
Objects only have secondary qualities because they have primary qualities
Colours aren't surface properties, because of radiant sources and the colour of the sky
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / e. Primary/secondary critique
Treating colour as light radiation has the implausible result that tomatoes are not red
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 6. Relativism Critique
If the world is just texts or social constructs, what are texts and social constructs?
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
If the world is theory-dependent, the theories themselves can't be theory-dependent
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 2. Aim of Science
Science is sometimes said to classify powers, neglecting qualities
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / i. Explanations by reduction
One form of explanation is by decomposition
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / e. Questions about mind
Different generations focus on either the quality of mind, or its scientific standing, or the content of thought
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 3. Mental Causation
If minds are realised materially, it looks as if the material laws will pre-empt any causal role for mind
15. Nature of Minds / B. Properties of Minds / 1. Consciousness / a. Consciousness
Whatever exists has qualities, so it is no surprise that states of minds have qualities
15. Nature of Minds / B. Properties of Minds / 4. Intentionality / a. Nature of intentionality
Propositional attitudes are not the only intentional states; there is also mental imagery
15. Nature of Minds / B. Properties of Minds / 4. Intentionality / b. Intentionality theories
The widespread externalist view says intentionality has content because of causal links of agent to world
Dispositionality provides the grounding for intentionality
Intentionality now has internalist (intrinsic to thinkers) and externalist (environment or community) views
15. Nature of Minds / B. Properties of Minds / 5. Qualia / c. Explaining qualia
Qualia are not extra appendages, but intrinsic ingredients of material states and processes
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 3. Abstraction by mind
Mental abstraction does not make what is abstracted mind-dependent
Without abstraction we couldn't think systematically
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 5. Generalisation by mind
Only particulars exist, and generality is our mode of presentation
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 1. Introspection
Error must be possible in introspection, because error is possible in all judgements
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 2. Interactionism
If causation is just regularities in events, the interaction of mind and body is not a special problem
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 7. Zombies
Philosophers' zombies aim to show consciousness is over and above the physical world
Zombies are based on the idea that consciousness relates contingently to the physical
Functionalists deny zombies, since identity of functional state means identity of mental state
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 2. Behavioural Dispositions
Disposition is a fundamental feature of reality, since basic particles are capable of endless possible interactions
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 4. Behaviourism Critique
No mental state entails inevitable behaviour, because other beliefs or desires may intervene
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 1. Functionalism
Functionalists say objects can be the same in disposition but differ in quality
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 3. Psycho-Functionalism
Hearts are material, but functionalism says the property of being a heart is not a material property
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 8. Functionalism critique
Functionalism cannot explain consciousness just by functional organisation
If you are a functionalist, there appears to be no room for qualia
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 1. Reductionism critique
Higher-level sciences cannot be reduced, because their concepts mark boundaries invisible at lower levels
Higher-level sciences designate real properties of objects, which are not reducible to lower levels
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 3. Property Dualism
'Property dualism' says mind and body are not substances, but distinct families of properties
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 6. Mysterianism
The 'explanatory gap' is used to say consciousness is inexplicable, at least with current concepts
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 2. Reduction of Mind
Early identity theory talked of mind and brain 'processes', but now the focus is properties
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 3. Eliminativism
It seems contradictory to be asked to believe that we can be eliminativist about beliefs
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 5. Causal Argument
The appeal of the identity theory is its simplicity, and its solution to the mental causation problem
If a car is a higher-level entity, distinct from its parts, how could it ever do anything?
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 7. Anti-Physicalism / a. Physicalism critique
Functionalists emphasise that mental processes are not to be reduced to what realises them
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 7. Anti-Physicalism / b. Multiple realisability
'Multiple realisability' needs to clearly distinguish low-level realisers from what is realised
Multiple realisability is not a relation among properties, but an application of predicates to resembling things
Multiple realisability is actually one predicate applying to a diverse range of properties
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 7. Anti-Physicalism / c. Knowledge argument
A scientist could know everything about the physiology of headaches, but never have had one
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
Is mental imagery pictorial, or is it propositional?
You can think of tomatoes without grasping what they are
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Folk Psychology
Folk psychology and neuroscience are no more competitors than cartography and geology are
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 8. Human Thought
Non-conscious thought may be unlike conscious thought
Linguistic thought is just as imagistic as non-linguistic thought
18. Thought / C. Content / 6. Broad Content
Externalism is causal-historical, or social, or biological
18. Thought / C. Content / 7. Narrow Content
Intentionality is based in dispositions, which are intrinsic to agents, suggesting internalism
19. Language / A. Language / 1. Language
The Picture Theory claims we can read reality from our ways of speaking about it
19. Language / A. Language / 6. Predicates
The subject-predicate form reflects reality
19. Language / B. Meaning / 6. Meaning as Truth-Conditions
Truth-conditions correspond to the idea of 'literal meaning'
19. Language / B. Meaning / 9. Meaning Holism
To understand 'birds warble' and 'tigers growl', you must also understand 'tigers warble'
19. Language / E. Propositions / 5. Propositions Critique
If propositions are abstract entities, how do human beings interact with them?
If propositions are states of affairs or sets of possible worlds, these lack truth values
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / b. Objective value
Many reject 'moral realism' because they can't see any truthmakers for normative judgements
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Particular Causation / a. Observation of causation
We should focus on actual causings, rather than on laws and causal sequences
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Particular Causation / e. Probabilistic causation
Probabilistic causation is not a weak type of cause; it is just a probability of there being a cause
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / b. Nomological causation
The standard view is that causal sequences are backed by laws, and between particular events
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / j. Electrons
Electrons are treated as particles, but they lose their individuality in relations
27. Natural Reality / B. Chemistry / 2. Modern elements
The real natural properties are sparse, but there are many complex properties
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 2. Beginning
Maybe the universe is fine-tuned because it had to be, despite plans by God or Nature?
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 3. Infinite in Nature
If there were infinite electrons, they could vanish without affecting total mass-energy