For second years
The Lecture Plan:
In the 1st week, the topic was free will, with a brief introduction to metaphysics first of all.
The 2nd week topic was colour (the topic for the essay).
In the 3rd week, there was a gap ¾ no lectures.
The 4th week topic was modality.
The three lectures of 5th and 6th week were devoted to truth.
The textbook by Michael Jubien's Metaphysics (Blackwell 1997). It is in the bookshop. Go buy!
By the way, an excellent philosophy dictionary is by Simon Blackburn, and
it is the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (1994). It is quite amusing in
places, and fun to browse in, following entries from one to the other. The Cambridge
Dictionary of Philosophy (1995), edited by Robert Audi is also very good;
it is more in-depth than
I'll now run through the topics. (You can skip forward from this menu.)
(The notes on each topic become progressively fuller.)
You should read 1.1 of the textbook carefully; and then the rest of the chapter more quickly. Don't get bogged down in anything you don't understand. Move on.
Here is a brief summary of the beginning of my first lecture where I introduced metaphysics
Metaphysics is about what there is ¾ about what the world is like. It asks: what is freedom? What is colour? What is necessity? What is truth? I suggested that science cannot answer all such metaphysical questions because science itself makes metaphysical assumptions about what the world is like. In the textbook, Jubien talks of 'analysing concepts' as if this was a way of doing metaphysics. By contrast, I claimed that we have a kind of 'folk metaphysics' that our concepts or language presupposes. Analysing concepts may reveal our folk metaphysics. But folk metaphysics can in principle be wrong. The world may not be the way we assume it to be in our thought and talk. Concepts may be misleading. That is what some think about freedom, colour and necessity. On the other hand, folk metaphysics may be correct. It may truly represent what there is and what the world is like.
Read the textbook, chapter 7.
(Section 7.1 is quite heavy going on causation and laws. And section 3 is on fatalism, which is less central. Skim those sections, but turn your brain up full for 7.2.)
A very very basic quick introduction to the issue of free will (at
sub-ordinary level) can be found in the chapter "Free Will" of Thomas
Nagel’s What Does it all Mean? (
You could try the notes on Jubien on free will on the web by Tomis
Kapitan who works at
Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will (
Do we have free will? Are we determined? Can we be both free and determined?
Here is a brief summary of my lectures on free will.
1. I first introduced the ideas of freedom and then determinism. Students should have a good grasp of what is involved in these ideas. I distinguished fatalism from determinism. And I argued that quantum mechanics was irrelevant to the free will issue.
2. I then introduced the idea of compatibilism. Students should be able to state what this is and exactly how it seems to resolve the original problem. (The compatibilist has a special conception of free action ¾ very roughly, an action caused in the right way, by the persons beliefs and desires.)
3. Van Inwagen’s argument against compatibilism was considered next. (Very roughly, the idea is that the state of the world 1000 years ago plus the laws of nature determines what I do, so I couldn’t have done otherwise). Reply (a) involved subtleties with "I could have done otherwise, if I had chosen otherwise". Reply (b) involved denying the ‘could have done otherwise’ principle (Daniel Dennett makes this move).
4. Lastly, I looked at problems of detail with compatibilism. (a) hypnosis (b) brainwashing (c) psychosis. What’s the difference between them and us? If there is no principled difference, the compatibilist has a problem. But maybe there is some principled difference. If so, what is it?
This is the topic for the essay.
Read chapter 6 of the textbook.
The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (ed. Edward Craig) has a 3-page entry on colour, which might be useful.
Alex Byrne and David Hilbert,
The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy on the internet has a useful survey article on colour by Barry Maund at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/color/
What are colours? Are they real, or creatures of our minds?
We will look at three theories: (1) subjectivism (or 'dispositionism'), (2) objectivism (or ' realism'), and (3) illusionism. (I'll only briefly mention Jubien's own theory, 'independent ambiguism'.)
Here is a brief summary of my lectures on colour.
(1) Subjectivism/dispositionalism. First I stated the theory. The idea, roughly, is that colour is a dispositional relation to subjective experiences. Redness is a disposition to produce perceptual experiences of a certain character. In favour of the theory was the fact that we can imagine a radical divergence between two sets of colour experiences, and we would have no basis for condemning one set of experiences as mistaken. On the other hand, the problems for subjectivism were: (a) the fact that we talk of colour in non-relational terms (unlike 'to the left of'); (b) circularity ¾ 'green is the disposition to produce experience of greeness'. This connects with the 'intentional directedness' of our experiences of colour ¾ the fact that colours are the objects of our experiences; and (c) potential counter-examples ¾ photographic paper, the shy chameleon, and killer-yellow.
(2) Objectivism/realism. The idea is that colours are intrinsic, mind-independent properties of physical things. (a) Common-sense (folk metaphysics) seems to support this view. (Our colour language is non-relational.) Also, (b) it is common sense that we can be wrong about colour. We distinguish real and apparent colours. These two points suggest that we conceive of colours as objective. However, there is then a question about how objective colour properties relate to physical properties. Can colour be reduced to a physical property? There seems to be no property of surfaces that all red things share. But perhaps the surface texture of an object plays the role of reflecting light in a certain band, which could have been played by another surface property. However, there are still problems about the possibility of radically divergent experiences of colour, together with our tolerance of this divergence. That seems not to be compatible with thinking of colour as a mind-independent objective property.
(Jubien's Independent Ambiguism. He thinks that the concept of colour is ambiguous between the subjective and objective concepts. But this does not evade the circularity objection, and the directedness of our experience of colour, which afflicts subjectivism.)
(3) Illusionism. On this view, there are no colour properties. And science cannot be reconciled with common sense. The illusionist agrees with the objectivist about the content of colour experiences. They purport to represent objective properties. That's our folk metaphysics. But this folk metaphysics is false. Nothing corresponds to colour as we represent it. This revisionary view is made plausible if we think that objectivism (and not subjectivism) is correct as an account of our experience, and we also think that the divergence points means that there can be no such objective properties. Together, those points encourage illusionism.
Read chapter 8 of the textbook. (Don't worry too much about 'problem (2)', pp. 137-38, or section (ii) (pp. 139-40.)
The entries in the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (ed. Edward Craig) are very good. Check the entries on 'essentialism', 'necessary truth and convention', and 'possible worlds'.
You could try the notes on Jubien on modality on the web by Tomis Kapitan: http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~phildept/Kapitan/Jubmod.html
Perhaps try Michael Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual, Cornell, 1979.
Or David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds, Blackwell, 1986.
A recent article I found very interesting is Nicholas Rescher, "How Many Possible Worlds Are There", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, June, 1999.
How should we understand possibility and necessity? Are there real possible worlds? Or is there a way of understanding possibility and necessity without possible worlds?
We will look at three theories: (1) the possible world theory of David Lewis; (2) abstract worlds; and (3) the more Aristotelian alternative that Jubien and others favour. We will concentrate on (1), looking only briefly at (2) and (3).
Here is a brief summary of my lectures on modality.
(1) I began by introducing our everyday ideas of necessity, possibility and contingency. The notions can be explained in terms of each other. (E.g. Necessarily p = not possibly not p.) I gave examples of necessary, possible and contingent truths. (You should be able to give examples.) I distinguished different kinds of possibility ¾ physical possibility should be distinguished from metaphysical possibility, and epistemic possibility is something different again. Physical possibility is what is possible given the laws of nature, whereas epistemic possibility is what is possible given our knowledge. "That parcel might explode." (Although I didn't mention this in the lectures, logical or conceptual possibility is probably best seen as a combination of metaphysical and epistemic possibility ¾ but don't worry about that.) Metaphysical possibility is what we are most interested in.
(2) There is the related idea that things have essential properties. Gascoigne could have been a philosopher but he could not have been a fish. You are essentially the children of your parents; you could not have sprung from the genetic material of different parents. Whales are essential mammals. (For sophisticates ¾ even if there is more to being an essential property than being a property that a thing has necessarily, an essential property at least implies some such necessary property.)
(3) We can translate modal talk into talk about possible worlds. Necessary truth is truth in all possible worlds. Contingent truth is truth in the actual world. Possible truth is truth is some possible world.
(4) David Lewis takes such talk literally. He thinks that there really are possible worlds other than the actual world, and they are no less real. These worlds are spatio-temporal wholes. The worlds are 'concrete'. But each world is isolated from the others. They stand in no spatial, temporal or causal relation to each other. So there are purple cows and unicorns, but none of them are our 'world mates'. "Actual" is like "now" ¾ non-present times are as real as the present, just as other worlds exist just as the actual world exists. I selected five problems with this theory.
(a) The Humphrey objection. (This is Jubien's first objection.) If we say "Humphrey might have won" surely we are surely talking about him and not about someone like him in another possible world. One reply (on Lewis' behalf) says that we are saying of Humphrey that he stands in a certain relation to an other-worldly person. But this is implausible. The modal property (that he might have won) doesn't seem like such a relation.
(b) The relevance objection. (This is Jubien's third objection.) Even if there are all the spatio-temporally unconnected worlds that Lewis says there are, why would they be the truth-makers of modal claims? They would seem like just more actual objects.
(c) The extravagance objection. It's metaphysically extravagant to postulate an infinite number of worlds beyond the actual world. (Lewis replies that it's not, or not in any naughty sense.)
(d) The 'primitive thisness' objection. Surely worlds cannot be individuated in purely qualitative or general terms. Could there be two qualitatively indiscernible worlds? Two new pins have different relational properties. But this is not true of worlds. There must be something that it is to be one world rather than another.
(e) The epistemological objection. How can we have access to worlds that stand in no spatial, temporal or causal relation to the actual world? There is also an access problem with mathematics, but that doesn't seem to help much.
(5) Some philosophers take possible worlds to be abstract objects, like propositions, or linguistic entities like sentences. Both these views are implausible. (One objection is that the actual world is a possible world, but it is not an abstract object or a linguistic object.)
(6) 'Primitivist' views remain. Jubien's 'property theory' may be a theory of this sort. He explains modality as a relation between properties. But it is also true that individuals can also have essences. On Aristotle's view, modality and essence are primitive, basic and unanalysable notions. Every thing and every property of every thing has essential properties. There is no non-modal reality in terms of which we could explain modality. So the attempt to explain what modality is in other terms is a mistake.
Read chapter 5 of the textbook.
Alvin Goldman's Knowledge in a Social
R. Kirkham, Theories of Truth, MIT Press 1992.
William Alston, A Realist Theory of Truth, Cornell, 1996.
What is truth? Is it a relation between our beliefs and the world? Is truth epistemic? Is truth ‘relative’? Is it merely a device for ‘disquotation’?.
We will look at (1) the correspondence theory (Jubien calls these 'metaphysical' theories); (2) epistemic theories, including coherence theories (these would be one variety of what Jubien calls 'epistemic' theories); (3) the pragmaticist theory; (4) the relativist theory; and lastly (5) the disquotational theory (which Jubien doesn't discuss).
Here is a brief summary of my lectures on truth
(a) What is truth? If we try to 'analyse the concept' of truth, we are doing 'folk metaphysics ¾ revealing our assumptions about what sort of property truth is. But that folk theory might be false. (Some have held that the paradox of the Cretan liar, who said "all Cretans are liars", shows this.) And perhaps in common sense we do not think of truth as a real property. Perhaps talking of truth has some other point. But let us start off investigating the idea that truth is some kind of property.
(b) I think the issue of what the 'bearers' of truth are is important, although most people you will read on truth pay little attention to the issue. Jubien goes with 'propositions'. They are alleged to be what we are thinking about ¾ abstract objects, like numbers, outside space and time, with no causal powers. They are supposed to be entities like That Grass Is Green. (Quine refers to propositions as 'creatures of darkness'.) Anyhow, lots philosophers of language seem to believe in them, even though I would have thought that it is more plausible that we are thinking about snow or grass, rather than abstract objects. Rivals, as truth bearers, are utterances of sentences, sentence types, and beliefs. My view is that beliefs are the primary truth-bearers. (Can we say "What I desire is true" ¾ we should be able to, on the proposition theory?) And I think that sentences or utterances are only true in as far as they express beliefs. Jubien and many others who think that proposition are truth-bearers think that there were propositions and truths before there was intelligent life, but those who think that sentences or beliefs are truth-bearers think that there were no truths back then since there were no truth-bearers.
1. The correspondence theory. On this theory truth is a relation between truth-bearers and truth-makers. Truth is a relation between the mind and the world. As Alvin Goldman points out, this theory links this use of 'true' to its use in 'true friend', 'true love', 'true to oneself', 'true to the cause' etc. Truth is descriptive success, a faithfulness of the truth-bearer to reality. A crucial point about this theory is that the world makes beliefs (or whatever) true. Truth depends on the world. This issue will keep recurring when thinking about this topic. It is a point about the direction of explanation. A sentence/belief/proposition is true because of how the world is, not vice versa. As we shall see, only the correspondence theory respects this fundamental and intuitive point. Objections to the theory worry about the correspondence relation and also about what facts are. I shall just look at the latter. Objectors complain: What are facts? Are there facts for each true proposition? Are there negative or disjunctive facts? Facts seem to be as 'fine-grained' as sentences. Therefore facts are some kind of projection from sentences. But this worry is baseless. (a) We should have a 'coarse-grained' theory of facts. One and the same fact can make different sentences/beliefs/propositions true. For example the fact that John ran makes it a fact that either John ran or Mary ran and that John did not sit, and thus the fact that John ran can also make true the belief (sentence/proposition) that John ran or Mary ran or the belief (sentence/proposition) that John did not sit. (b) Facts are not just true sentences because facts can cause things unlike true sentences. The fact that the government lost the war caused the government to fall. The true sentence "the government lost the war" didn't cause the government to fall. (c) Intuitively facts make true sentences true. They explain why they are true. So the facts do not just amount to true sentences.
2. The Epistemic theory of truth (including the coherence theory). Intuitively there seems to be distinction between what is true and our evidence or test for it. But epistemic theorists reject this contrast. They think that truth somehow consists in our evidence or justification for thinking something. (Note on terminology: Jubien uses the jargon 'epistemic theory of truth' to refer to both correspondence theories that have beliefs as truth-bearers (as opposed to propositions) as well as views that think that truth is somehow a matter of justification. Along with most others, I use 'epistemic theory of truth' only for the latter view.) However (objection), it seems that there can be justified false beliefs; and there can be truths that we don't know (about distant galaxies, for example). The epistemic theorist can then complicate their theory by saying that truth is what we would converge on in the ideal limit of inquiry. So truth does not consist in our actual justification but in the fact that we would be justified in certain circumstances. However (objection 1), surely truth often outruns what we can know. Moreover (objection 2), the direction of explanation is wrong. Where we converge in our beliefs it is (often) because we are on to the truth, not vice versa. The coherence theory is a certain kind of epistemic theory. On this theory, the truth of a belief (sentence/proposition) consists in its coherence with other beliefs. But (objection 1) would a well-written coherent novel be true? Objection 2: There might be two different systems of beliefs that conflict even though they are internally consistent. They cannot both be true. Objection 3: What exactly is 'coherence'? It is usually explicated in terms of consistency or entailment; those ideas presuppose the notion of truth.
3. The pragmatist theory of truth. On this theory, a belief is true when it is useful to believe it. But (objection 1) false beliefs can be useful and true beliefs can lead to disaster. Also (objection 2) the direction of explanation is wrong: certain beliefs are useful because they are true. Truth explains usefulness, it is not the same thing as usefulness.
4. The relativist theory of truth. On this theory, something is always true-from-some-perspective. (E.g. true-for-a-person or true-for-a-culture.) So there is no 'absolute' truth. Well, some truths are 'relative' such as the truth of indexical beliefs (those involving 'I', 'here' or 'now'). And in some societies, belching is polite. But not all claims are of this sort. Global relativism about all truth courts self-defeat. Is the claim of relativism itself absolutely truth or only true from some perspective?
5. The redundancy/disquotational theory of truth. This theory denies that 'true' ascribes a real property in the way that the other theories assume. (In this it is parallel to emotivism or expressivism about "good".) In fact most uses of the word 'true', they say, can be eliminated. Instead of saying "'Snow is white' is true" we can just say "Snow is white". The positive account is that the word 'true' is useful when we want to say things like "The last thing Einstein said was true" or "Everything the Pope says is true". But that does not require that "true" refers to a property. The meaning of "true", they say, is given us by 'Equivalence Principles' such as "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white. (Watch out to get the quote marks in the right place!) But (objection 1) what about indexicals? Is your sentence "I am hungry" true if and only if I am hungry? Some refinement, at least, is needed. Objection 2: The fact that we can get by without a word does not show that it doesn't pick out a property. Instead of saying that Michael is a bachelor we could say that he is male and unmarried. But being a bachelor is a real property of him. He is a bachelor in virtue of being male and unmarried just as something is true in virtue of having a certain content and the world being a certain way. The fact that we can often (but not always) eliminate the word "true" is neutral between correspondence and disquotational theories. Objection 3: What exactly do the Equivalence Principles say? If the "if and only if" is very weak, it will allow in "Snow is white" is true if and only if grass is green. But if it is taken to be necessarily true or an equation of meaning then the right hand side will not entail (or necessitate) the left hand side. That snow is white has nothing to do with any belief, sentence or proposition. (Perhaps the necessitation only flows from left to right.) Objection 4: Suppose we amend the so-called Equivalence Principles to get round the above problems: necessarily if the sentence "snow is white" is true then snow is white. There is then an issue about why such principles are true. Redundancy/disquotational theorists take the principles as given, whereas correspondence theorists can explain their truth. The truth-bearer "Snow is white" is made true by the fact that snow is white. Truth here is a real property (a relational property) that is determined by a truth-bearer having a certain content and the world being a certain way, just as the relation taller-than which holds between me and you is determined by my being 6 foot tall and your being 5 foot tall. So the Equivalence Principles are explained and not taken as basic and unexplainable.
And that was the end of my impartial and even-handed lectures on truth!