Monday, April 26, 2010

Powers vs. Humean Supervenience

I’ve been interested in ontological accounts which feature dispositional properties (also known as dispositions or powers) in the starring role.  This intriguing draft paper, “Goodbye, Humean Supervenience”, by Oxford's Troy Cross, sets out to show that David LewisHumean supervenience program (which seeks to reduce everything to a mosaic of categorical properties) fails, since it can be reinterpreted as a system where Lewis’ fundamental properties are in fact identical to dispositions.  This implication can’t be rejected without abandoning the account of properties as sets of possibilia.   The possibility unattractive feature of the dispositional doppelganger of Lewis’ story is its appeal to nonlocal circumstances as the trigger for the manifestation of the powers.  My notes on the paper follow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Balaguer on Free Will, Part Three

The last post discussed Mark Balaguer’s argument that that the question of libertarian freedom reduces to the question of indeterminism at the point of decision.  In this post, I’ll summarize his argument that the presence or absence of the indeterminism in question is an open scientific problem.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Balaguer on Free Will, Part Two

There are two steps in Mark Balaguer’s argument (contained in chapters 3 and 4 of his book, respectively).  In the first step, the subject of this post, he argues that the question of freedom reduces to a question of indeterminism in decision-making.  In the second step (to be discussed in the next post) he argues that the presence or absence of the relevant indeterminism is an open scientific problem.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Balaguer on Free Will, Part One

After reading and enjoying one of Mark Balaguer’s papers on free will I also ordered and read his book Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem.   Not only did I like his approach to the topic, but his opening arguments, discussed below, clarified for me the reasons for my own vague dissatisfaction with much of the contemporary literature on free will.

(Note:  In these posts I’ll present much of the discussion in my own words; Balaguer himself is very precise in defining his terms and setting forth the arguments.  So, I recommend the book for those interested, but also in the online domain take a look at this paper, "The Metaphysical Irrelevance of the Compatibilism Debate", which overlaps with the first two chapters of the book, as well as a discussion of the paper and then the book itself in several posts and comment sections at the “The Garden of Forking Paths” blog – here, here, here, and here.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I Agree With Sam Harris on Science and Morality

Sam Harris has a short talk here on why he thinks "science can answer moral questions."  A follow-up to some initial criticism is here, and a brief discussion of "getting an ought from an is" is here.  He evidently has a book forthcoming related to all this.

While the philosophically more talented will have issues with his arguments (and with my brief discussion of this complex topic below), I agree with his main thrust.  There are two key steps here:  first, we include first-person experiences in our view of nature, and second, we locate the target for our (natural) moral instincts in the qualities of the experiences of sentient creatures.