Category: Philosophy

  • Reflection #4: Kant, Hume, method, and the need for the Third Critique

    One of Hume’s most famous positions, defended in both A Treatise of Human Nature and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, is that we cannot use reason to gain knowledge of any causal relation or any regularity in the world. Hume argues that causation — at least insofar as we can know it — is merely…

  • Reflection #3: Against metaphysical possibility

    Can a crocodile and a rooster mate and get a young? Disappointingly, they cannot. It’s impossible. Of course this impossibility has to be established empirically, either by trying to get a rooster and a crocodile to mate; or, more plausibly, by developing an understanding of reproductive processes and genetics that allows us to say with…

  • Reflection #2: Normativity and Korsgaard

    I’ve just read The Sources of Normativity, the 1992 Tanner Lectures of Christine M. Korsgaard. The book was recommended to me by my colleague Tim Meijers after I came into his office bothering him about duties. Not his duties, but the nature of duties. See, I don’t really get duties; or rather, what I don’t…

  • Reflection #1: Judgement and Practice

    I look out of the window and see that it rains. I judge that it rains. Now my colleague Thomas Fossen (in his new book, Facing Authority) tells me that judgement is different depending on practical consequences. My judgement that the Putin regime is illegitimate is not the same as a Russian person’s judgement that…

  • Disjunctivism, acts, and attempts

    Here is one way to formulate what is at stake in the quarrel between disjunctivists and conjunctivists in the philosophy of perception. According to conjunctivists, the mental act in which I am engaged when I see a red apple and when I merely seem to see a red apple is the same act. There is…

  • Neo-Quineanism and the method of metaphysics

    Here is an example of a metaphysical dispute in contemporary analytic philosophy: there are presentists, who say that only the present exists and the past and the future do not, and there are eternalists, who say that the past, present and future all exist. Questions can arise about whether this dispute is substantive. Could it…

  • Anti-realism and the decline of truth

    It’s by now a familiar argument: thinkers of what might be called a ‘relativist’, ‘postmodern’ or ‘anti-realist’ bent get accused of having corrupted science and society, leading to naked ideology in the universities and a blatant disregard for truth in the public sphere. While few will believe that Trump and his followers have deeply studied…

  • Locating value

    Do things have intrinsic value? If there are things out there that have intrinsic value, doesn’t that mean that we are lucky to be living in a world that contains such things? Could those same things also exist without the value built into them? How do we detect the value in things? All of these…

  • On knowledge and belief

    We are finite knowers. This is a platitude. But it easy to lose sight of what the platitude means. Part of what it means is that we do not know everything; that the amount of things we know is finite — perhaps in the mathematical sense of the term, but certainly, and more importantly, in…

  • Kantian and Cartesian scepticism

    I recently wrote about the unity of Kant’s cognitive powers. Just now I was reading an article by Arata Hamawaki, “Cartesian Skepticism, Kantian Skepticism, and Two Conceptions of Self-consciousness”, published in The Logical Alien: Conant and his Critics, edited by Sofia Miguens. Hamawaki writes something that may seem to contradict the claims that I made…