This chapter, which examines views about abortion and death, discusses claims about abortion and explains some ways for considering these claims to be true. It analyzes whether abortion causes the death of a fetus and whether bringing death to a fetus greatly harms it, also discussing the relevant issues of nonsentient fetus, intermediate judgment argument, and the unequal harm of death judgment.
This chapter discusses Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s theory of the actual world as the best of all possible worlds. The chapter opens with Leibniz’s response to the two most basic questions of metaphysics: Why is there something rather than nothing? And, why do certain things exist while other equally possible things do not? It examines Leibniz’s critique of Baruch Spinoza’s metaphysics, with particular reference to the argument that God must make a choice among possible worlds because not all possibles are “compossible.” In addition, it explores Leibniz’s claim that the best of all possible worlds is the world containing the highest level of perfection or reality, intelligibility, order, and harmony. The chapter concludes by looking at three theological doctrines underlying Leibniz’s conception of the best of all possible worlds: divine creation, conservation, and concurrence.
James F. Woodward
Agency and interventionist theories of causation take as their point of departure a common-sense idea about the connection between causation and manipulation: causal relationships are relationships that are potentially exploitable for purposes of manipulation and control. Very roughly, if C causes E then if C were to be manipulated in the right way, there would be an associated change in E. Conversely, if there would be a change in E, were the right sort of manipulation of C to occur, then C causes E. Accounts of causation in this vein have been defended by Collingwood, Gasking, and others. Similar ideas are defended by many social scientists and by some statisticians and theorists of experimental design.
This article provides an overview of recent agent-causal theories, explaining what motivates them to postulate an “ontologically primitive” notion of causation by an agent or substance that is not reducible to ordinary modes of event-causation. It considers different accounts of the agent-causal view which have been defended by libertarians. It also poses the question whether agent-causal theories require a substance dualism of mind and body since they posit a causal relation between an agent and action irreducible to ordinary modes of causation. It argues that agent-causal theories do not necessarily require substance dualism, but may require causal powers and properties that are ontologically emergent.
S. Marc Cohen
Aristotle's Physics is a study of nature (phusis) and of natural objects (ta phusei). According to him, these objects—either all of them or at least some of them—are in motion. That is, they are kinoumena, things that are subject to change. The first book of the Physics is largely devoted to this task. The account of substantial change in the Physics is devoid of any commitment to prime matter. Aristotle also takes up the topics of alteration and coming-to-be in De Generatione et Corruptione. He adopts a kind of conservation principle: “the corruption of one thing is the generation of another, and vice versa.” In addition, Aristotle points out that all changes involve both a subject (hupokeimenon) and an attribute (pathos) of a sort which can be predicated of the subject, and says that either one of these is capable of “change” (metabolê).
This article discusses objections to all three kinds of libertarian theory. It first reprises and further develops criticisms of noncausalist and event-causal (EC) libertarian theories. It argues that libertarian theories of both kinds face as yet unresolved problems including issue about luck and control, the requirements of intentional action, and the role of psychological causes in free agency. It then turns to agent-causal theories. It explains reasons for doubting the possibility of “causation by an enduring substance, which does not consist in causation by events involving that substance” (such as agent-causal theorists propose), and concludes on a skeptical note about the viability of libertarian accounts of free will generally.
There are various motives for refining the notion of cause. Aristotle's was an interest in providing the most informative and illuminating method of explaining the central natural phenomena of his universe. A different sort of motive is created by problems of free will and responsibility, of which readers may have been reminded by the reference to indeterminism. The thought that our free and responsible behaviour is caused by factors over which we have no control has often seemed impossible to accept and impossible to reject. The challenge then is to refine the notion of cause either so that the thought becomes more acceptable or so that it becomes more rejectable.
John W. Carroll
Anti-reductionism is the view that causation cannot be analysed non-nomically and, further, that causation still resists analysis even when the non-causal, nomic concepts are made available. In other words, the anti-reductionist maintains that there can be no non-causal analysis of causation. Indeed, some anti-reductionists hold that causation does not supervene on the non-causal facts. This article is an overview and defence of anti-reductionism. It locates anti-reductionism relative to some possible companion doctrines and recounts the development of anti-reductionism.
In Physics, Aristotle starts his positive account of the infinite by raising a problem: “[I]f one supposes it not to exist, many impossible things result, and equally if one supposes it to exist.” His views on time, extended magnitudes, and number imply that there must be some sense in which the infinite exists, for he holds that time has no beginning or end, magnitudes are infinitely divisible, and there is no highest number. In Aristotle's view, a plurality cannot escape having bounds if all of its members exist at once. Two interesting, and contrasting, interpretations of Aristotle's account can be found in the work of Jaako Hintikka and of Jonathan Lear. Hintikka tries to explain the sense in which the infinite is actually, and the sense in which its being is like the being of a day or a contest. Lear focuses on the sense in which the infinite is only potential, and emphasizes that an infinite, unlike a day or a contest, is always incomplete.
Aristotle's categorial scheme had an unparalleled effect not only on his own philosophical system, but also on the systems of many of the greatest philosophers in the Western tradition. The set of doctrines in the Categories, known as categorialism, play, for instance, a central role in Aristotle's discussion of change in the Physics, in the science of being qua being in the Metaphysics, and in the rejection of Platonic ethics in the Nicomachean Ethics. Plainly, the enterprise of categorialism inaugurated by Aristotle runs deep in the philosophical psyche. Even so, despite its wide-reaching influence—and, indeed owing to that influence—any attempt to describe categorialism faces a significant difficulty: experts disagree on many of its most important and fundamental aspects. This article argues that Aristotle's categorial scheme, as is the case with many works in the history of philosophy, is best illuminated by opposing beams of interpretive light. It examines how Aristotle arrived at his list of categories and considers the connection between Aristotle's categories and his hylomorphism.
This chapter considers the nature of the causal asymmetry, or even more generally, the asymmetry of influence. Putting aside explanations which would appeal to an asymmetry in time as explaining this asymmetry, it aims to show, using current physical theory and no ad hoc time asymmetric assumptions, why it is that future-directed influence sometimes advances one's goals but backward-directed influence does not. The chapter claims that agency is crucial to the explanation of the influence asymmetry. It provides an exhaustive account of the advancement asymmetry that is connected with fundamental physics, influence, causation, counterfactual dependence, and related notions in palatable ways.
Presocratic atomism was one of the most influential of the early theories: both Plato and Aristotle thought of it as a major competing theory, and it was an important source for post-Aristotelian Hellenistic theories. It has been commonplace that the atomism developed first by Leucippus of Abdera and then by Democritus of Abdera was a reaction to the Eleatic arguments of Zeno and Melissus, but the details of that influence have sometimes seemed rather hazy. This article brings them into sharper focus. This article considers the Eleatic foundations of atomism, especially the question of the importance of Zeno and Melissus for Democritus. By concentrating on some of the less-studied aspects of atomism and especially of the development of the concept of the unlimited into the notion of the infinite, it furthers the understanding of not only the development of early atomism but also the Eleatics Zeno and Melissus.
This chapter, which examines the goodness of life and the badness of death, also analyzes what people lose by dying and explains the principle of the constant-length additively separable theories. It suggests that when people die, what they lose is the rest of their life, and suggests that the badness of this loss or death can be measured by how good the life was.
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.
John F. Wippel
Aquinas mentioned that the word ‘being’ (ens) signifies ‘that which is’ or ‘that which exists’. Aquinas recognized with Parmenides that the act of being cannot be divided by something completely outside being itself in the way a genus is divided into species by differences, for outside being there is only nonbeing and, as he also held, being is not a genus. Aquinas reasons that being can be divided by certain modes that are realized within being. These may be either certain general modes that follow upon every being, or more particularized modes that correspond to diverse modes of existing. The general modes of being (often referred to as transcendentals) are found wherever being itself is realized so that every being is also ‘one’, a ‘thing’, ‘something’ ‘good’, and ‘true’. Aquinas denied that a proper definition could be given for substance or for the other predicaments because each of them is a supreme genus and again because being itself cannot be regarded as a genus. Aquinas argued for a fundamental composition and distinction within every finite substance of two distinct ontological principles of being that include an essence that accounts for the fact that it is a being of a given kind and a distinct act of existing (esse) that accounts for the fact that it actually exists.
This article argues that the most difficult conceptual hurdle in the way of a contemporary analytical philosopher trying to approach medieval philosophy is the notion of being or existence. It considers the recent criticism of an eminent analytical philosopher, Sir Anthony Kenny, of the doctrine of being of an equally eminent medieval philosopher-theologian, Thomas Aquinas. The article also develops a reconstruction of the doctrine of Aquinas that is just as exact and accessible as the Fregean doctrine which serves as Kenny's background, and is able to provide adequate replies to Kenny's main objections.
Maximilian de Gaynesford
Being human and engaging in philosophy are interdependent if not identical. In one direction, to engage in philosophy is to think about what it is to be human. Kant bequeathed this view to his successors when he claimed that philosophy could be reduced to what he called anthropology: the study of what it is to be human. In the other direction, the conviction that being human is to engage in philosophy has been expressed in various ways, from Hegel to Heidegger. The central insight here is that humans share a characteristic and peculiar form of being, one that is both able and constrained to question that being. The deepest expression of this tenet, as it operates in both directions in continental philosophy, is to be found in the writings of Heidegger, and specifically the anthropology of Being and Time and other works of the same period.
According to Aristotle, there is a science (epistêmê) that studies being qua being, and the attributes belonging to it in its own right. This claim, which opens Metaphysics IV 1, is both surprising and unsettling—surprising because Aristotle seems elsewhere to deny the existence of any such science, and unsettling because his denial seems very plausibly grounded. He claims that each science studies a unified genus, but denies that there is a single genus for all beings; claims which evidently conspire against the science. Aristotle announces: “[I]f there is no genus of being and every science requires its own genus, then there is no science of being.” This seems, moreover, to be precisely the conclusion he draws in his Eudemian Ethics, where Aristotle maintains that we should no more look for a general science of being than we should look for a general science of goodness. This article looks at three problems about the science of being qua being: The Possibility Problem, the Extension Problem, and the Intension Problem.
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.
Beyond Theoretical Reduction and Layer‐Cake Antireduction: How DNA Retooled Genetics and Transformed Biological Practice
C. Kenneth Waters
Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA transformed biology by providing a basis for explaining a wide variety of phenomena. Philosophical discussion concerning this discovery can be organized around two opposing views: theoretical reductionism and layer-cake antireductionism. The view about genetics that emerges from “theoretical reductionism” is of a two-tiered science: an upper tier of theoretical principles associated with the classical theory of genetics and a lower tier of theoretical principles about molecular processes involving DNA. The view about genetics that emerges from antireductionist view is also of a two-tiered science: an upper tier of theoretical principles aimed at explaining transmission phenomena and a lower tier of theoretical principles aimed at explaining phenomena of replication and expression of the genetic material.