In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein talks about action and the will. The main ideas we need to be acquainted with in order to understand Wittgenstein's remarks on this topic are, first, Arthur Schopenhauer's neo-Kantian theory of the will, which Wittgenstein seems to have fully accepted in 1916, and which still influenced his thinking in 1947, and second, the theory advanced in William James's The Principles of Psychology, which Wittgenstein encountered in the 1930s, and rejected root and branch. Schopenhauer and James were in turn reacting, in very different ways, to the empiricist theory of the will, which received its classic exposition in John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This article argues that Wittgenstein's treatment of action and the will in Philosophical Investigations is seriously flawed. Wittgenstein fails to disentangle the active/passive distinction and the voluntary/not voluntary distinction; he fails to see that voluntariness is not only an attribute of activity, but of passivity as well; and he confuses action and motion.
This article focuses on the distinction between analytic truths and synthetic truths (i.e. every truth that isn’t analytic), and between a priori truths and a posteriori truths (i.e. every truth that isn’t a priori) in philosophy, beginning with a brief historical survey of work on the two distinctions, their relationship to each other, and to the necessary/contingent distinction. Four important stops in the history are considered: two involving Kant and W. V. O. Quine, and two relating to logical positivism and semantic externalism. The article then examines questions that have been raised about the analytic–synthetic and a priori–a posteriori distinctions, such as whether all distinctively philosophical truths fall on one side of the line and whether the distinction is relevant to philosophy. It also discusses the argument that there is a lot more a priori knowledge than we ever thought, and concludes by describing epistemological accounts of analyticity.
This article examines philosopher J. L. Austin's argument against skepticism. It explains Austin's response to questions concerning the evaluation of Cartesian arguments in favour of skepticism and the correctness of the conclusion of the said arguments. It also mentions Austin's argument in his 1946 article that attention to everyday practice of making and challenging knowledge claims makes it clear that it is a practice in which there is a substantial constraint on what counts as a legitimate challenge to a person's claim to knowledge.
Christa Davis Acampora
Ecce Homo offers Nietzsche’s own interpretation of himself, his thoughts, and his works. This article analyzes how the text bears on his ideas about agency, fate, and freedom. It presents an account of “how one becomes what one is.” For Nietzsche, a person is a set of drives ordered or ranked a certain way; there is no will or subject separate from these that could carry out the work of becoming. What is most important is that one’s drives be coordinated in a single entity. Through these tactics some of us can become what we are.
This article examines Nietzsche’s thoughts about becoming and being, and how these are at odds with both knowledge and life. It discusses how Nietzsche addresses this problem, beginning with its historical part: Nietzsche’s story of how the philosophical tradition first builds the concept of being, but then pulls it down by the stages described in the famous ‘history of an error’ chapter in Twilight of the Idols. This development culminates in the replacement of being with becoming. But understanding what Nietzsche means by becoming requires an understanding of its relation to time. We arrive at a genuine sense of becoming only by stripping away our experience of time as succession.
This article examines Bishop Berkeley's view and treatment of skepticism based on the content of his books Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. It explains that the Principles of Human Knowledge was not well received when it was published in 1710 because readers and reviewers understood his denial of the existence of material substance as supporting skepticism. In his second book, Berkeley showed how he was opposed to skepticism. He also showed that there were some common principles of philosophers, and that these principles, either individually or jointly, lead to skepticism of some form.
Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick
Beyond Good and Evil is considered Nietzsche’s most important and comprehensive philosophical work. This article explores two problems involving the book’s form and content, faced by those who acknowledge the book’s importance. The solution to these problems is recognizing the distinction between an exoteric and an esoteric reading of Nietzsche’s words. An exoteric reading articulates a crude naturalism, but an esoteric reading shows his normative aspirations that leave behind the methods of science.
José Luis Bermúdez
This article examines the basis of Cartesian skepticism as contained in René Descartes' Meditation 1. It traces the complex argumentation of Meditation 1 and explores the differences between Cartesian skeptical arguments and the skeptical arguments discussed in the ancient world. It suggests that the radical nature of the doubts raised by Descartes is rooted in the radical error that Cartesian science posits in our everyday experience of the world and the hypothetical and morally certain nature of the scientific edifice that is proposed to replace the commonsense view of the world enshrined in Aristotelian science.
This article examines some philosophical questions about knowledge of modality, including how we determine whether a proposition is necessary or contingent and what procedures to use for recognizing possibility. It maintains that virtually anything is conceivable, and that conceivability is therefore incapable of providing a reliable test for possibility. Whether a conceivable state of affairs is genuinely possible depends on whether it is compatible with the class of necessary truths. But this means that we must have some independent way of recognizing necessity. The article explains that independent access to necessity in terms of the hypothesis that various modal truths constitute an implicit definition of necessity. To a large extent, our knowledge of necessity derives from our grasp of this definition. The article also criticizes Cartesian modal arguments for dualism, and raises an objection to the view that metaphysical necessity can be reductively explained in terms of subjunctive conditionals.
Peter D. Klein
This article discusses contemporary response to the epistemic regress problem or Agrippa's trilemma. The epistemic regress problem is considered the most crucial in the entire theory of knowledge and it is a major concern for many contemporary epistemologists. However, only two of the three alternative solutions have been developed in any detail, foundationalism and coherentism. Infinitism was not seriously considered as a solution because of the finite-mind objection. This article also provides a brief evaluation of foundationalism, emergent coherentism, and infinitism.
Charles W. Mills
This article tries to provide a genealogy for, and a characterization of, “critical philosophy of race,” which has only recently begun to gain formal recognition as a subject within the discipline. After discussing the contested periodization of race and racism, the author turns to the related question of whether they have affected the history of Western philosophy from the classical epoch to modernity. Then he reviews contemporary scholarship in critical philosophy of race, looking at standard divisions of the field: metaphysics (the metaphysics of race); epistemology (social epistemology, standpoint theory, and “whiteness”); aesthetics (race and structures of feeling, racism and anti-racism in works of art); ethics (the moral challenges of slavery, white supremacy, and their ongoing legacy); social and political philosophy (competing analyses of racism as a concept, competing etiologies of racism as a reality, racial domination and racial justice); and existentialism, phenomenology, and pragmatism (the lived experience of race).
This article explores the epistemological significance of disagreement in philosophy in the light of some currently prominent theories of disagreement. More specifically, it asks whether the kind of pervasive and intractable disagreement that is characteristic of philosophy warrants a certain kind of skepticism about the subject. Some hold that, given the kind of disagreement found in philosophy, it would be irrational to hold confident views about controversial philosophical questions. According to this line of thought, the rational response to the diversity of opinion within philosophy is that of the philosophical agnostic, who consistently suspends judgment about controversial issues. Against this, it is argued that there is no plausible view about the epistemology of disagreement on which philosophical agnosticism is compelling.
Desmond M. Clarke
This article examines the epistemological aspects of religious belief in early modern Europe. It suggests that the most prominent feature of Christian creeds during this period was their plurality and mutual inconsistency and that efforts to address this issue focused on the capacity of our natural cognitive faculties to limit the scope of faith and to establish the authenticity and meaning of documents that were said to have been inspired by God. It was widely accepted that the probability of any religious belief depends on the probability that it was revealed by God and that it has been correctly interpreted. Thus, the proliferation of inconsistent creeds by a wide range of churches provided many reasons to doubt both the source and the interpretation of doctrines that were presented as if they were indubitable.
Paul S. Loeb
This article shows that Nietzsche’s published presentations endorse the cosmological truth of eternal recurrence and that they indicate how belief in this truth can be supported with direct mnemonic evidence as well as a priori scientific proof. It also introduces a refutation of any attempt to construe Nietzsche’s doctrine as a thought experiment that would help to test or promote the affirmation of nonrecurring life.
Experimental philosophy is an extension of the Naturalists’ Challenge to the use of intuitions in philosophy. This chapter explores this challenge and traditional or “armchair” responses to it, focusing especially on the case of reference. It first considers the role and nature of intuitions, along with two kinds of experimental philosophical challenges to their use: the challenge from irrelevant determination and the challenge from diversity. It then explores using the challenge from diversity to undermine the reliability of intuitions as evidence for the truth of philosophical claims, and examines critical responses to the challenge from diversity. The chapter concludes by evaluating the possibility that diversity in responses to thought experiments occur even within individuals, and the implications of this for the Naturalists’ Challenge.
This article examines the potential conflict between faith and reason, with emphasis on the relation between beliefs arising from revelation and beliefs arising from reason. It analyses the reasonableness or unreasonableness of faith, focusing on the conditions that make believing what one is told reasonable, or unreasonable, and the sense of reasonable intended when applied to faith. In order to have a method for determining the reasonableness of a belief, it considers two kinds of epistemic reasons: theoretical and deliberative. The chapter argues that trust in ourselves when we are epistemically conscientious is more basic than either theoretical or deliberative reasons, and more basic than any norms of reasoning. It concludes by considering the place of faith in the epistemically conscientious person and suggesting that faith has a component of belief on the word of God which does not conflict with reason directly, but which can be reasonable or unreasonable.
Maria Rosa Antognazza
This chapter discusses Leibniz’s conception of faith and its relation to reason. It shows that, for Leibniz, faith embraces both cognitive and noncognitive dimensions: although faith must be grounded in reason, it is not merely reasonable belief. Moreover, for Leibniz, a truth of faith (like any truth) can never be contrary to reason but can be above the limits of comprehension of human reason. The latter is the epistemic status of the Christian mysteries. This view raises the problem of how it can be determined whether a doctrine above the full grasp of human reason does or does not imply contradiction. The notion of “presumption” and the “strategy of defense” are discussed as Leibniz’s way to tackle this issue. Finally, the chapter explores the “motives of credibility” that, according to Leibniz, can and should be produced to uphold the credibility of a putative divine revelation, including his account of miracles.
This article explores feminist work in philosophy. It begins by distinguishing some central questions that feminist philosophers have been concerned with, and taking feminist work in epistemology as a case study, illustrates how those questions have been addressed. The chapter then goes on to consider some tools that feminist philosophers have put to use in addressing these questions. Focusing on some of these (in particular, the sex-gender distinction, oppression, objectification, situated knowledge/situated agency), the chapter discusses why they have been important, and looks at some recent debates regarding how they are best understood. The final section describes some recurring themes in feminist work in philosophy.
This article examines one of Nietzsche’s most important works, The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft). The book’s title reflects its ambition to handle painful truths, arrived at by some kind of science, in a cheerful and uplifting way. One such truth is the death of God and the way this must pull down with it God’s ‘shadow’, morality, as we find out the truth about its origins. The most sensational idea introduced in the book is the thought of eternal return. The article also considers Nietzsche’s attempts to reconcile truth and art, rejecting efforts to resolve the tension by subordinating either to the other. It looks at Nietzsche’s critique of the usual scientific methods for seeking truth; rather than renouncing truth, he anticipates a new ‘science’ better aimed at what truth there is.
This article is a defense of the history of ideas as traditionally understood. The history of ideas, as originally conceived, attempted to be both historical and philosophical. Its historical dimension consisted in placing ideas in their historical context and understanding the intentions behind the author; its philosophical dimension consisted in criticism, the internal critique of an author according to his own aims. Modern intellectual or philosophical history has separated these two components. There is the analytical history of philosophy which aims to be primarily critical or philosophical (viz., the approach advocated by Strawson and Bennet), and the historical Cambridge school which aims to be chiefly historical (viz., Skinner and Tully). The article argues that the history of philosophy is best pursued by joining the philosophical and historical approaches; it attempts to show how the attempt to pursue history without philosophy, or philosophy without history, breaks down and suffers from inevitable shortcomings.