Ideas of E.J. Lowe, by Theme

[British, 1950 - 2014, Professor at Durham University.]

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1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the mapping of possibilities
Science needs metaphysics to weed out its presuppositions
Metaphysics aims to identify categories of being, and show their interdependency
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysics as Science
Metaphysics is concerned with the fundamental structure of reality as a whole
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics beyond Science
Only metaphysics can decide whether identity survives through change
Metaphysics tells us what there could be, rather than what there is
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 5. Metaphysics as Conceptual
Maybe such concepts as causation, identity and existence are primitive and irreducible
Philosophy aims not at the 'analysis of concepts', but at understanding the essences of things
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 2. Positivism
If all that exists is what is being measured, what about the people and instruments doing the measuring?
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 6. Ockham's Razor
It is more extravagant, in general, to revise one's logic than to augment one's ontology
2. Reason / D. Definition / 6. Definition by Essence
Defining an ellipse by conic sections reveals necessities, but not the essence of an ellipse
An essence is what an entity is, revealed by a real definition; this is not an entity in its own right
A definition of a circle will show what it is, and show its generating principle
2. Reason / D. Definition / 11. Ostensive Definition
Simple things like 'red' can be given real ostensive definitions
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 2. Truthmaker Relation
Propositions are made true, in virtue of something which explains its truth
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 2. Correspondence to Facts
Maybe facts are just true propositions
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 3. Correspondence Truth critique
One-to-one correspondence would need countable, individuable items
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 1. Set Theory
A set is a 'number of things', not a 'collection', because nothing actually collects the members
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 3. Types of Set / b. Empty (Null) Set
I don't believe in the empty set, because (lacking members) it lacks identity-conditions
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 3. Objectual Quantification
It is better if the existential quantifier refers to 'something', rather than a 'thing' which needs individuation
5. Theory of Logic / I. Semantics of Logic / 1. Semantics of Logic
Syntactical methods of proof need only structure, where semantic methods (truth-tables) need truth
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 4. Paradoxes in Logic / a. Achilles paradox
An infinite series of tasks can't be completed because it has no last member
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 1. Mathematics
It might be argued that mathematics does not, or should not, aim at truth
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 4. Definitions of Number / c. Fregean numbers
Numbers are universals, being sets whose instances are sets of appropriate cardinality
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 4. Definitions of Number / d. Hume's Principle
Simple counting is more basic than spotting that one-to-one correlation makes sets equinumerous
Fs and Gs are identical in number if they one-to-one correlate with one another
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 1. Mathematical Platonism / a. For mathematical platonism
Sets are instances of numbers (rather than 'collections'); numbers explain sets, not vice versa
If 2 is a particular, then adding particulars to themselves does nothing, and 2+2=2
If there are infinite numbers and finite concrete objects, this implies that numbers are abstract objects
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 1. Mathematical Platonism / b. Against mathematical platonism
Does the existence of numbers matter, in the way space, time and persons do?
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 1. Nature of Existence
All possible worlds contain abstracta (e.g. numbers), which means they contain concrete objects
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 6. Abstract Existence
Nominalists deny abstract objects, because we can have no reason to believe in their existence
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 8. Criterion for Existence
Perhaps possession of causal power is the hallmark of existence (and a reason to deny the void)
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 1. Nature of Change
Maybe particles are unchanging, and intrinsic change in things is their rearrangement
Heraclitus says change is new creation, and Spinoza that it is just phases of the one substance
Four theories of qualitative change are 'a is F now', or 'a is F-at-t', or 'a-at-t is F', or 'a is-at-t F'
Change can be of composition (the component parts), or quality (properties), or substance
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / a. Nature of events
Events are changes or non-changes in properties and relations of persisting objects
Numerically distinct events of the same kind (like two battles) can coincide in space and time
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / b. Events as primitive
Maybe modern physics requires an event-ontology, rather than a thing-ontology
Events are ontologically indispensable for singular causal explanations
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / c. Reduction of events
Events are changes in the properties of or relations between things
Maybe an event is the exemplification of a property at a time
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Facts / a. Facts
Are facts wholly abstract, or can they contain some concrete constituents?
Facts cannot be wholly abstract if they enter into causal relations
The problem with the structured complex view of facts is what binds the constituents
It is whimsical to try to count facts - how many facts did I learn before breakfast?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Facts / d. Facts rejected
Facts are needed for truth-making and causation, but they seem to lack identity criteria
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / a. Ontological commitment
Two of the main rivals for the foundations of ontology are substances, and facts or states-of-affairs
Some abstractions exist despite lacking causal powers, because explanation needs them
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
How can a theory of meaning show the ontological commitments of two paraphrases of one idea?
7. Existence / E. Categories / 1. Categories
Ontological categories are not natural kinds: the latter can only be distinguished using the former
7. Existence / E. Categories / 3. Proposed Categories
The top division of categories is either abstract/concrete, or universal/particular, or necessary/contingent
Lowe divides things into universals and particulars, then kinds and properties, and abstract/concrete
The main categories of existence are either universal and particular, or abstract and concrete
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 8. Properties as Modes
Modes are beings that are related both to substances and to universals
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
Is 'the Thames is broad in London' relational, or adverbial, or segmental?
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / a. Nature of tropes
I prefer 'modes' to 'tropes', because it emphasises their dependence
Trope theory says blueness is a real feature of objects, but not the same as an identical blue found elsewhere
Maybe a cushion is just a bundle of tropes, such as roundness, blueness and softness
Tropes seem to be abstract entities, because they can't exist alone, but must come in bundles
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / b. Critique of tropes
Tropes cannot have clear identity-conditions, so they are not objects
How can tropes depend on objects for their identity, if objects are just bundles of tropes?
Why cannot a trope float off and join another bundle?
Does a ball snug in plaster have one trope, or two which coincide?
Tropes have existence independently of any entities
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 1. Universals
The category of universals can be sub-divided into properties and relations
Sortal terms for universals involve a substance, whereas adjectival terms do not
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
Real universals are needed to explain laws of nature
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 4. Uninstantiated Universals
Particulars are instantiations, and universals are instantiables
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
Nominalists believe that only particulars exist
Universals do not exist, but are useful inventions of the mind, involving words or ideas
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
Two things can only resemble one another in some respect, and that may reintroduce a universal
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
Not all predicates can be properties - 'is non-self-exemplifying', for example
'Is non-self-exemplifying' is a predicate which cannot denote a property (as it would be a contradiction)
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 5. Class Nominalism
If 'blueness' is a set of particulars, there is danger of circularity, or using universals, in identifying the set
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 1. Physical Objects
Perhaps concrete objects are entities which are in space-time and subject to causality
Our commitment to the existence of objects should depend on their explanatory value
Objects are entities with full identity-conditions, but there are entities other than objects
To be an object at all requires identity-conditions
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 2. Abstract Objects / c. Modern abstracta
Bodies, properties, relations, events, numbers, sets and propositions are 'things' if they exist
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 3. Objects in Thought
An object is an entity which has identity-conditions
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Individuation / a. Individuation
Some things (such as electrons) can be countable, while lacking proper identity
Neither mere matter nor pure form can individuate a sphere, so it must be a combination
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Individuation / b. Individuation by properties
Criteria of identity cannot individuate objects, because they are shared among different types
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Individuation / c. Individuation by location
Diversity of two tigers is their difference in space-time; difference of matter is a consequence
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Individuation / e. Individuation by kind
Individuation principles identify what kind it is; identity criteria distinguish items of the same kind
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 6. Nihilism about Objects
Conventionalists see the world as an amorphous lump without identities, but are we part of the lump?
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / d. Substance defined
A 'substance' is an object which doesn't depend for existence on other objects
On substances, Leibniz emphasises unity, Spinoza independence, Locke relations to qualities
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / c. Statue and clay
Statues can't survive much change to their shape, unlike lumps of bronze, which must retain material
The essence of lumps and statues shows that two objects coincide but are numerically distinct
The essence of a bronze statue shows that it could be made of different bronze
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 3. Unity Problems / d. Coincident objects
Holes, shadows and spots of light can coincide without being identical
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 5. Composition of an Object
The identity of composite objects isn't fixed by original composition, because how do you identify the origin?
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 4. Essence as Definition
Grasping an essence is just grasping a real definition
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 8. Essence as Explanatory
All things must have an essence (a 'what it is'), or we would be unable to think about them
Explanation can't give an account of essence, because it is too multi-faceted
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 14. Knowledge of Essences
Knowing an essence is just knowing what the thing is, not knowing some further thing
If we must know some entity to know an essence, we lack a faculty to do that
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 2. Objects that Change
A 'substance' is a thing that remains the same when its properties change
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 3. Three-Dimensionalism
An object 'endures' if it is always wholly present, and 'perdures' if different parts exist at different times
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 4. Four-Dimensionalism
How can you identify temporal parts of tomatoes without referring to tomatoes?
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 9. Ship of Theseus
If old parts are stored and then appropriated, they are no longer part of the original (which is the renovated ship).
If 5% replacement preserves a ship, we can replace 4% and 4% again, and still retain the ship
A renovation or a reconstruction of an original ship would be accepted, as long as the other one didn't exist
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 3. Relative Identity
A clear idea of the kind of an object must precede a criterion of identity for it
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 4. Type Identity
One view is that two objects of the same type are only distinguished by differing in matter
Each thing has to be of a general kind, because it belongs to some category
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 7. Indiscernible Objects
Identity of Indiscernibles (same properties, same thing) ) is not Leibniz's Law (same thing, same properties)
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 3. Types of Necessity
'Conceptual' necessity is narrow logical necessity, true because of concepts and logical laws
Logical necessities, based on laws of logic, are a proper sub-class of metaphysical necessities
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 5. Metaphysical Necessity
Metaphysical necessity is logical necessity 'broadly construed'
'Metaphysical' necessity is absolute and objective - the strongest kind of necessity
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 6. Logical Necessity
Logical necessity can be 'strict' (laws), or 'narrow' (laws and definitions), or 'broad' (all logical worlds)
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
The metaphysically possible is what acceptable principles and categories will permit
It is impossible to reach a valid false conclusion from true premises, so reason itself depends on possibility
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 2. Epistemic possibility
'Epistemic' necessity is better called 'certainty'
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 6. Necessity from Essence
If an essence implies p, then p is an essential truth, and hence metaphysically necessary
Metaphysical necessity is either an essential truth, or rests on essential truths
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / a. Possible worlds
We might eliminate 'possible' and 'necessary' in favour of quantification over possible worlds
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / e. Against possible worlds
Does every abstract possible world exist in every possible world?
We could give up possible worlds if we based necessity on essences
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 3. Belief / d. Cause of beliefs
Causal theories of belief make all beliefs true, and can't explain belief about the future
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 6. Cogito Critique
Descartes' claim to know his existence before his essence is misleading or absurd
Perhaps 'I' no more refers than the 'it' in 'it is raining'
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / b. Direct realism
'Ecological' approaches say we don't infer information, but pick it up directly from reality
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism
While space may just be appearance, time and change can't be, because the appearances change
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / a. Qualities in perception
Properties or qualities are essentially adjectival, not objectual
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 3. Representation
One must be able to visually recognise a table, as well as knowing its form
Computationalists object that the 'ecological' approach can't tell us how we get the information
Comparing shapes is proportional in time to the angle of rotation
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / d. Sense-data problems
The 'disjunctive' theory of perception says true perceptions and hallucinations need have nothing in common
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 6. Inference in Perception
Perception is a mode of belief-acquisition, and does not involve sensation
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 7. Causal Perception
Science requires a causal theory - perception of an object must be an experience caused by the object
A causal theorist can be a direct realist, if all objects of perception are external
If blindsight shows we don't need perceptual experiences, the causal theory is wrong
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 8. Adverbial Theory
How could one paraphrase very complex sense-data reports adverbially?
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Intuition
'Intuitions' are just unreliable 'hunches'; over centuries intuitions change enormously
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 3. Memory
There are memories of facts, memories of practical skills, and autobiographical memory
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 3. Illusion Scepticism
Psychologists say illusions only occur in unnatural and passive situations
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 6. Falsification
Unfalsifiability may be a failure in an empirical theory, but it is a virtue in metaphysics
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / c. Direction of explanation
If the flagpole causally explains the shadow, the shadow cannot explain the flagpole
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / d. Explaining people
The behaviour of persons and social groups seems to need rational rather than causal explanation
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / d. Location of mind
Externalists say minds depend on environment for their very existence and identity
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / e. Questions about mind
The main questions are: is mind distinct from body, and does it have unique properties?
15. Nature of Minds / B. Properties of Minds / 1. Consciousness / c. Parts of consciousness
'Phenomenal' consciousness is of qualities; 'apperceptive' consciousness includes beliefs and desires
15. Nature of Minds / B. Properties of Minds / 7. Blindsight
The brain may have two systems for vision, with only the older one intact in blindsight
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 2. Imagination
Locke's view that thoughts are made of ideas asserts the crucial role of imagination
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 3. Abstraction by mind
Properties are facets of objects, only discussable separately by an act of abstraction
16. Persons / A. Concept of a Person / 1. Existence of Persons
Personal identity is a problem across time (diachronic) and at an instant (synchronic)
Persons are selves - subjects of experience, with reflexive self-knowledge
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 1. Essential Self
All human languages have an equivalent of the word 'I'
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 1. Introspection
It seems impossible to get generally applicable mental concepts from self-observation
16. Persons / F. Self as Body / 2. Brain as the Self
If my brain could survive on its own, I cannot be identical with my whole body
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 1. Dualism
The idea that Cartesian souls are made of some ghostly 'immaterial' stuff is quite unwarranted
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 6. Epiphenomenalism
If qualia are causally inert, how can we even know about them?
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 4. Behaviourism Critique
You can only identify behaviour by ascribing belief, so the behaviour can't explain the belief
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 7. Chinese Room
A computer program is equivalent to the person AND the manual
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 8. Functionalism critique
Functionalism can't distinguish our experiences in spectrum inversion
Functionalism commits us to bizarre possibilities, such as 'zombies'
Functionalism only discusses relational properties of mental states, not intrinsic properties
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 3. Property Dualism
Non-reductive physicalism accepts token-token identity (not type-type) and asserts 'supervenience' of mind and brain
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 1. Physicalism
Physicalists must believe in narrow content (because thoughts are merely the brain states)
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 3. Eliminativism
Eliminativism is incoherent if it eliminates reason and truth as well as propositional attitudes
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
Some behaviourists believe thought is just suppressed speech
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 6. Rationality
'Base rate neglect' makes people favour the evidence over its background
People are wildly inaccurate in estimating probabilities about an observed event
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 2. Mentalese
Mentalese isn't a language, because it isn't conventional, or a means of public communication
18. Thought / C. Content / 1. Content
The naturalistic views of how content is created are the causal theory and the teleological theory
18. Thought / C. Content / 5. Twin Earth
Twin Earth cases imply that even beliefs about kinds of stuff are indexical
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 1. Concepts / a. Concepts
A concept is a way of thinking of things or kinds, whether or not they exist
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 6. Abstract Concepts / a. Abstract concepts
Abstractions are non-spatial, or dependent, or derived from concepts
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 6. Abstract Concepts / e. Abstracta by negation
Concrete and abstract objects are distinct because the former have causal powers and relations
The centre of mass of the solar system is a non-causal abstract object, despite having a location
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 6. Abstract Concepts / g. Abstracta by equivalence
You can think of a direction without a line, but a direction existing with no lines is inconceivable
18. Thought / E. Artificial Intelligence / 1. Artificial Intelligence
The 'Frame Problem' is how to program the appropriate application of general knowledge
Computers can't be rational, because they lack motivation and curiosity
18. Thought / E. Artificial Intelligence / 3. Turing Test
The Turing test is too behaviourist, and too verbal in its methods
19. Language / B. Meaning / 2. Meaning as Mental
If meaning is mental pictures, explain "the cat (or dog!) is NOT on the mat"
19. Language / D. Theories of Reference / 3. Direct Reference / a. Direct reference
Direct reference doesn't seem to require that thinkers know what it is they are thinking about
19. Language / E. Propositions / 1. Propositions
The same proposition provides contents for the that-clause of an utterance and a belief
19. Language / E. Propositions / 5. Propositions Critique
If propositions are abstract entities, how can minds depend on their causal powers?
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 1. Action Theory
The three main theories of action involve the will, or belief-plus-desire, or an agent
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / c. Reasons as causes
We feel belief and desire as reasons for choice, not causes of choice
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 3. Willed Action / a. Will to Act
Libet gives empirical support for the will, as a kind of 'executive' mental operation
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 1. Explanations of Actions
People's actions are explained either by their motives, or their reasons, or the causes
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / b. Points in space
Surfaces, lines and points are not, strictly speaking, parts of space, but 'limits', which are abstract
Points are limits of parts of space, so parts of space cannot be aggregates of them
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / d. Relational space
If space is entirely relational, what makes a boundary, or a place unoccupied by physical objects?
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / e. Existence of time
Time involves change, only the A-series explains change, but it involves contradictions, so time is unreal
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation / e. Direction of causation
If the concept of a cause says it precedes its effect, that rules out backward causation by definition
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
To cite facts as the elements in causation is to confuse states of affairs with states of objects
It seems proper to say that only substances (rather than events) have causal powers
The theories of fact causation and event causation are both worth serious consideration
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
Causal overdetermination is either actual overdetermination, or pre-emption, or the fail-safe case
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / b. Nomological causation
Causation may be instances of laws (seen either as constant conjunctions, or as necessities)
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
Hume showed that causation could at most be natural necessity, never metaphysical necessity
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
H2O isn't necessary, because different laws of nature might affect how O and H combine
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 9. Counterfactual Claims
'If he wasn't born he wouldn't have died' doesn't mean birth causes death, so causation isn't counterfactual
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 2. Movement
If motion is change of distance between objects, it involves no intrinsic change in the objects