Ideas from 'Writing the Book of the World' by Theodore Sider [2011], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Writing the Book of the World' by Sider,Theodore [OUP 2011,978-0-19-969790-8]].

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1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 2. Possibility of Metaphysics
Your metaphysics is 'cheating' if your ontology won't support the beliefs you accept
                        Full Idea: Ontological 'cheaters' are those ne'er-do-well metaphysicians (such as presentists, phenomenalists, or solipsists) who refuse to countenance a sufficiently robust conception of the fundamental to underwrite the truths they accept.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 08.4)
                        A reaction: Presentists are placed in rather insalubrious company here, The notion of 'cheaters' is nice, and I associate it with Australian philosophy, and the reason that was admired by David Lewis.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics as Science
Metaphysics is not about what exists or is true or essential; it is about the structure of reality
                        Full Idea: Metaphysics, at bottom, is about the fundamental structure of reality. Not about what's necessarily true. Not about what properties are essential. Not about conceptual analysis. Not about what there is. Structure.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 01)
                        A reaction: The opening words of his book. I take them to be absolutely correct, and to articulate the new orthodoxy about metaphysics which has emerged since about 1995. He expands this as being about patterns, categories and joints.
Extreme doubts about metaphysics also threaten to undermine the science of unobservables
                        Full Idea: The most extreme critics of metaphysics base their critique on sweeping views about language (logical positivism), or knowledge (empiricism), ...but this notoriously threatens the science of unobservables as much as it threatens metaphysics.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 05.1)
                        A reaction: These criticisms also threaten speculative physics (even about what is possibly observable).
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 6. Metaphysics as Conceptual
It seems unlikely that the way we speak will give insights into the universe
                        Full Idea: It has always seemed odd that insight into the fundamental workings of the universe should be gained by reflection on how we think and speak.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 07.8)
                        A reaction: A nice expression of what should by now be obvious to all philosophers - that analysis of language is not going to reveal very much. It is merely clearing the undergrowth so that we can go somewhere.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 4. Conceptual Analysis
Conceptual analysts trust particular intuitions much more than general ones
                        Full Idea: Conceptual analysts generally regard intuitive judgements about particular cases as being far more diagnostic than intuitive judgements about general principles.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 02.4 n7)
                        A reaction: Since I take the aim to be the building up an accurate picture about general truths, it would be daft to just leap to our intuitions about those general truths. Equally you can't cut intuition out of the picture (pace Ladyman).
2. Reason / D. Definition / 13. Against Definition
It seems possible for a correct definition to be factually incorrect, as in defining 'contact'
                        Full Idea: Arguably, 'there is absolutely no space between two objects in contact' is false, but definitional of 'contact'. ...We need a word for true definitional sentences. I propose: 'analytic'.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 09.8)
Philosophical concepts are rarely defined, and are not understood by means of definitions
                        Full Idea: Philosophical concepts of interest are rarely reductively defined; still more rarely does our understanding of such concepts rest on definitions. ...(We generally understand concepts to the extent that we know what role they play in thinking).
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 02.1)
                        A reaction: I'm not sure that I agree with this. I suspect that Sider has the notion of definition in mind that is influenced by lexicography. Aristotle's concept of definition I take to be lengthy and expansive, and that is very relevant to philosophy.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 3. Value of Truth
We don't care about plain truth, but truth in joint-carving terms
                        Full Idea: What we care about is truth in joint-carving terms, not just truth.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 04.5)
                        A reaction: The thought is that it matters what conceptual scheme is used to express the truth (the 'ideology'). Truths can be true but uninformative or unexplanatory.
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 5. What Makes Truths / b. Objects make truths
Orthodox truthmaker theories make entities fundamental, but that is poor for explanation
                        Full Idea: According to the entrenched truthmaker theorist, the fundamental facts consist just of facts citing the existence of entities. It's hard to see how all the complexity we experience could possibly be explained from that sparse basis.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 08.5)
                        A reaction: This may be the 'entrenched' truthmaker view, but it is not clear why there could not be more complicated fundamental truthmakers, with structure as well as entities. And powers.
4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 7. Barcan Formula
The Barcan schema implies if X might have fathered something, there is something X might have fathered
                        Full Idea: If we accept the Barcan and converse Barcan schemas, this leads to surprising ontological consequences. Wittgenstein might have fathered something, so, by the Barcan schema, there is something that Wittgenstein might have fathered.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 11.9)
                        A reaction: [He cites Tim Williamson for this line of thought] I was liking the Barcan picture, by now I am backing away fast. They cannot be serious!
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 1. Mereology
'Gunk' is an object in which proper parts all endlessly have further proper parts
                        Full Idea: An object is 'gunky' if each of its parts has further proper parts; thus gunk involves infinite descent in the part-whole relation.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 07.11.2)
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 3. Axioms of Mereology
Which should be primitive in mereology - part, or overlap?
                        Full Idea: Should our fundamental theory of part and whole take 'part' or 'overlap' as primitive?
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 02.3)
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 1. Overview of Logic
There is a real issue over what is the 'correct' logic
                        Full Idea: Certain debates over the 'correct' logic are genuine, and not linguistic or conceptual.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 01.3)
                        A reaction: It is rather hard to give arguments in favour of this view, but I am pleased to have the authority of Sider with me.
'It is raining' and 'it is not raining' can't be legislated, so we can't legislate 'p or ¬p'
                        Full Idea: I cannot legislate-true 'It is raining' and I cannot legislate true 'It is not raining', so if I cannot legislate either true then I cannot legislate-true the disjunction 'it is raining or it is not raining'.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 06.5)
                        A reaction: This strikes me as a very simple and very persuasive argument against the idea that logic is a mere convention. I take disjunction to be an abstract summary of how the world works. Sider seems sympathetic.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 6. Classical Logic
Classical logic is good for mathematics and science, but less good for natural language
                        Full Idea: Despite its brilliant success in mathematics and fundamental science, classical logic applies uneasily to natural language.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 10.6)
                        A reaction: He gives examples of the conditional, and debates over the meaning of 'and', 'or' and 'not', and also names and quantifiers. Many modern philosophical problems result from this conflict.
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 1. Logical Consequence
Modal accounts of logical consequence are simple necessity, or essential use of logical words
                        Full Idea: The simplest modal account is that logical consequence is just necessary consequence; another modal account says that logical consequences are modal consequences that involve only logical words essentially.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.3)
                        A reaction: [He cites Quine's 'Carnap and Logical Truth' for the second idea] Sider is asserting that Humeans like him dislike modality, and hence need a nonmodal account of logical consequence.
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / a. Logical connectives
Define logical constants by role in proofs, or as fixed in meaning, or as topic-neutral
                        Full Idea: Some say that logical constants are those expressions that are defined by their proof-theoretic roles, others that they are the expressions whose semantic values are permutation-invariant, and still others that they are the topic-neutral expressions.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 10.3)
                        A reaction: [He cites MacFarlane 2005 as giving a survey of this]
5. Theory of Logic / H. Proof Systems / 4. Natural Deduction
'Tonk' is supposed to follow the elimination and introduction rules, but it can't be so interpreted
                        Full Idea: 'Tonk' is stipulated by Prior to stand for a meaning that obeys the elimination and introduction rules; but there simply is no such meaning; 'tonk' cannot be interpreted so as to obey the rules.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 06.5)
                        A reaction: 'Tonk' thus seems to present a problem for so-called 'natural' deduction, if the natural deduction consists of nothing more than obey elimination and introduction rules.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 5. Supervenience / a. Nature of supervenience
Supervenience is a modal connection
                        Full Idea: Supervenience is just a kind of modal connection.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 09.10)
                        A reaction: It says what would happen, as well as what does. This is big for Sider because he rejects modality as a feature of actuality. I think the world is crammed full of modal facts, so supervenience should be a handy tool for me.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 6. Fundamentals / b. Types of fundamental
Is fundamentality in whole propositions (and holistic), or in concepts (and atomic)?
                        Full Idea: The locus of fundamentality for a Finean is the whole proposition, whereas for me it is the proposition-part. Fundamentality is holistic for the Finean, atomistic for me.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 08.3)
                        A reaction: This is because Kit Fine has pushed fundamentality into a relation (grounding), rather than into the particular entities involved (if I understand Sider's reading of him aright). My first intuition is to side with Sider. I'm on Sider's side...
Tables and chairs have fundamental existence, but not fundamental natures
                        Full Idea: The existence of tables and chairs is just as fundamental as the existence of electrons (in contrast, perhaps, with smirks and shadows, which do not exist fundamentally). However, tables and chairs have nonfundamental natures.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 08.7)
                        A reaction: This seems to be a good clarification, and to me the 'nature' of something points towards its essence. However, I suppose he refers here to the place of something in a dependence hierarchy. But then, why does it have that place? What power?
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 8. Stuff / a. Pure stuff
Unlike things, stuff obeys unrestricted composition and mereological essentialism
                        Full Idea: Stuff obeys unrestricted composition and mereological essentialism, whereas things do not.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 09.6.2)
                        A reaction: [He cites Markosian 2004]
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 8. States of Affairs
We must distinguish 'concrete' from 'abstract' and necessary states of affairs.
                        Full Idea: The truthmaker theorist's 'concrete' states of affairs must be distinguished from necessarily existing 'abstract' states of affairs.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 08.4)
                        A reaction: [He cites Plantinga's 'Nature of Necessity' for the second one; I presume the first one is Armstrong]
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / d. Commitment of theories
Accept the ontology of your best theory - and also that it carves nature at the joints
                        Full Idea: We can add to the Quinean advice to believe the ontology of your best theory that you should also regard the ideology of your best theory as carving at the joints.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 02.3)
                        A reaction: I've never liked the original Quinean formulation, but this is much better. I just take my ontological commitments to reside in me, not in whatever theory I am currently employing. I may be dubious about my own theory.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 3. Types of Properties
A property is intrinsic if an object alone in the world can instantiate it
                        Full Idea: Chisholm and Kim proposed a modal notion of an 'intrinsic' property - that a property is intrinsic if and only if it is possibly instantiated by an object that is alone in the world.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 01.2)
                        A reaction: [He cites Chisholm 1976:127 and Kim 1982:59-60] Sider then gives a counterexample from David Lewis (Idea 14979).
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
Predicates can be 'sparse' if there is a universal, or if there is a natural property or relation
                        Full Idea: For Armstrong a predicate is sparse when there exists a corresponding universal; for Lewis, a predicate is sparse when there exists a corresponding natural property or relation.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 06)
                        A reaction: I like 'sparse' properties, but have no sympathy with Armstrong, and am cautious about Lewis. I like Shoemaker's account, which makes properties even sparser. 'Abundant' so-called properties are my pet hate. They are 'predicates'!
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Essence (even if nonmodal) is not fundamental in metaphysics
                        Full Idea: We should not regard nonmodal essence as being metaphysically basic: fundamental theories need essence no more than they need modality.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.1)
                        A reaction: He is discussing Kit Fine, and notes that Fine offers a nonmodal view of essence, but still doesn't make it fundamental. I am a fan of essences, but making them fundamental in metaphysics seems unlikely.
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 1. Sources of Necessity
Modal terms in English are entirely contextual, with no modality outside the language
                        Full Idea: English modals are context-dependent through and through; there is no stable 'outer modality'.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.7)
                        A reaction: Sider has been doing so well up to here. To me this is swallowing the bait of linguistic approaches to philosophy which he has fought so hard to avoid.
Humeans say that we decide what is necessary
                        Full Idea: The spirit of Humeanism is that necessity is not a realm to be discovered. We draw the lines around what is necessary.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.3)
                        A reaction: I disagree, but it is hard to argue the point. My intuitions are that the obvious necessities of logic and mathematics reflect the way nature has to be. The deepest necessities are patterns (about which God has no choice).
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 3. Necessity by Convention
Conventionalism doesn't seem to apply to examples of the necessary a posteriori
                        Full Idea: Conventionalism is apparently inapplicable to Kripke's and Putnam's examples of the necessary a posteriori (and, relatedly, to de re modality).
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.1)
                        A reaction: [Sidelle 1989 discusses this]
If truths are necessary 'by convention', that seems to make them contingent
                        Full Idea: If □φ says that φ is true by convention, then □φ would apparently turn out to be contingent, since statements about what conventions we adopt are not themselves true by convention. The main axioms of S4 and S5 would be false.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.1)
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 4. Necessity from Concepts
Humeans says mathematics and logic are necessary because that is how our concept of necessity works
                        Full Idea: Why are logical (or mathematical, or analytic...) truths necessary? The Humean's answer is that this is just how our concept of necessity works.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12.11)
                        A reaction: This is why I (unlike Sider) am not a Humean. If we agreed that 'necessary' meant 'whatever is decreed by the Pope', that would so obviously not be necessary that we would have to start searching nature for true necessities.
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 5. Modality from Actuality
The world does not contain necessity and possibility - merely how things are
                        Full Idea: At bottom, the world is an amodal place. Necessity and possibility do not carve at the joints; ultimate reality is not 'full of threats and promises' (Goodman). The book of the world says how things are, not how they must or might be.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 12)
                        A reaction: Nice to see this expressed so clearly. I find it much easier to disagree with as a result. At first blush I would say that if you haven't noticed that the world is full of threats and promises, you should wake up and smell the coffee. Actuality is active.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 2. Aim of Science
A theory which doesn't fit nature is unexplanatory, even if it is true
                        Full Idea: 'Theories' based on bizarre, non-joint-carving classifications are unexplanatory even when true.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 03.1)
                        A reaction: This nicely pinpoints why I take explanation to be central to whole metaphysical enterprise.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 8. Ramsey Sentences
If I used ramsey sentences to eliminate fundamentality from my theory, that would be a real loss
                        Full Idea: If the entire theory of this book were replaced by its ramsey sentence, omitting all mention of fundamentality, something would seem to be lost.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 02.2 n2)
                        A reaction: It is a moot point whether Ramsey sentences actually eliminate anything from the ontology, but trying to wriggle out of ontological commitment looks a rather sad route to follow.
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Two applications of 'grue' do not guarantee a similarity between two things
                        Full Idea: The applicability of 'grue' to each of a pair of particulars does not guarantee the similarity of those particulars.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 06.2)
                        A reaction: Grue is not a colour but a behaviour. If two things are 'mercurial' or 'erratic', will that ensure a similarity at any given moment?
Problem predicates in induction don't reflect the structure of nature
                        Full Idea: 'Is nonblack', 'is a nonraven', and 'grue' fail to carve at the joints.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 03.3)
                        A reaction: A lot more than this needs to said, but this remark encapsulates why I find most of these paradoxes of induction uninteresting. They are all the creations of logicians, rather than of scientists.
14. Science / C. Induction / 6. Bayes's Theorem
Bayes produces weird results if the prior probabilities are bizarre
                        Full Idea: In the Bayesian approach, bizarre prior probability distributions will result in bizarre responses to evidence.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 03.3)
                        A reaction: This is exactly what you find when people with weird beliefs encounter ridiculous evidence for things. It doesn't invalidate the formula, but just says rubbish in rubbish out.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / a. Explanation
Explanations must cite generalisations
                        Full Idea: Explanations must cite generalisations.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 07.13)
                        A reaction: I'm uneasy about this. Presumably some events have a unique explanation - a unique mechanism, perhaps. Language is inescapably general in its nature - which I take to be Aristotle's reason for agreeing the Sider. [Sider adds mechanisms on p.159]
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / b. Ultimate explanation
If the ultimate explanation is a list of entities, no laws, patterns or mechanisms can be cited
                        Full Idea: Ultimate explanations always terminate in the citation of entities; but since a mere list of entities is so unstructured, these 'explanations' cannot be systematized with detailed general laws, patterns, or mechanisms.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 08.5)
                        A reaction: We just need to distinguish between ultimate ontology and ultimate explanations. I think explanations peter out at the point where we descend below the mechanisms. Patterns or laws don't explain on their own. Causal mechanisms are the thing.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 4. Intentionality / a. Nature of intentionality
Intentionality is too superficial to appear in the catalogue of ultimate physics
                        Full Idea: One day the physicists will complete the catalogue of ultimate and irreducible properties of things. When they do, the like of spin, charm and charge will perhaps appear on the list. But aboutness sure won't; intentionality simply doesn't go that deep.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 4 Intro)
                        A reaction: Fodor's project is to give a reductive, and perhaps eliminative, account of intentionality of mind, while leaving open what one might do with the phenomenological aspects. Personally I don't think they will appear on the list either.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 6. Meaning as Use
Prior to conventions, not all green things were green?
                        Full Idea: It is absurd to say that 'before we introduced our conventions, not all green things were green'.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 06.5)
                        A reaction: Well… Different cultures label the colours of the rainbow differently, and many of them omit orange. I suspect the blue/green borderline has shifted.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 2. Analytic Truths
Conventions are contingent and analytic truths are necessary, so that isn't their explanation
                        Full Idea: To suggest that analytic truths make statements about linguistic conventions is a nonstarter; statements about linguistic conventions are contingent, whereas the statements made by typical analytic sentences are necessary.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 06.5)
                        A reaction: That 'anything yellow is extended' is not just a convention should be fairly obvious, and it is obviously necessary. But we can say that bachelors are necessarily unmarried men - given the current convention.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
Analyticity has lost its traditional role, which relied on truth by convention
                        Full Idea: Nothing can fully play the role traditionally associated with analyticity, for much of that traditional role presupposed the doctrine of truth by convention.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 09.8)
                        A reaction: Sider rejects Quine's attack on analyticity, but accepts his critique of truth by convention.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 11. Against Laws of Nature
Many of the key theories of modern physics do not appear to be 'laws'
                        Full Idea: That spacetime is 4D Lorentzian manifold, that the universe began with a singularity, and in a state of low entropy, are all central to physics, but it is a stretch to call them 'laws'. ...It has been argued that there are no laws of biology.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 03.1)
The notion of law doesn't seem to enhance physical theories
                        Full Idea: Adding the notion of law to physical theory doesn't seem to enhance its explanatory power.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 02.4)
                        A reaction: I agree with his scepticism about laws, although Sider offers it as part of his scepticism about modal facts being included in explanations of actuality. Personally I like dispositions, but not laws. See the ideas of Stephen Mumford.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space / 4. Substantival Space
Space has real betweenness and congruence structure (though it is not the Euclidean concepts)
                        Full Idea: In metaphysics, space is intrinsically structured; the genuine betweenness and congruence relations are privileged in a way that Euclidean-betweenness and Euclidean-congruence are not.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 03.4)
                        A reaction: I note that Einstein requires space to be 'curved', which implies that it is a substance with properties.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space / 6. Space-Time
The central question in the philosophy of time is: How alike are time and space?
                        Full Idea: The central question in the philosophy of time is: How alike are time and space?
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 11.1)
27. Natural Reality / D. Time / 1. Nature of Time / e. Eternalism
The spotlight theorists accepts eternal time, but with a spotlight of the present moving across it
                        Full Idea: The spotlight theorist accepts the block universe, but also something in addition: a joint-carving monadic property of presentness, which is possessed by just one moment of time, and which 'moves', to be possessed by later and later times.
                        From: Theodore Sider (Writing the Book of the World [2011], 11.9)
                        A reaction: This seems better than the merely detached eternalist view, which seems to ignore the key phenomenon. I just can't comprehend any theory which makes the future as real as the past.