Telephone: 0191 334 6550
Email: philosophical.writings@dur.ac.uk

Summer 2006

No. 32, Summer 2006
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Papers
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THE NEGATIVE CHARACTERISATION OF PHYSICALISM, Mark Bradley – University of Leeds.
One recent attempt to capture the content of physicalism involves characterising it negatively in terms of the non-mental. This thesis is criticised on the grounds that it fails to provide a sufficient condition for an adequate characterisation of physicalism, since, from a global physicalist perspective, it has both nothing to say about other so-called non-physical entities and fails to exclude them from the fundamental entities that such an account must posit. This latter problem is also faced by a more local form of physicalism – one that restricts itself to just the mental domain. Some possible responses from the physicalist are briefly discussed and dismissed, and it is suggested that the physicalist must have some implicit idea of what she means by ‘the physical’, an idea which must amount to more than simply ‘the non-mental’.
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NATURALISM AND TRIVIALITY, Attila Tanyi – Central European University.
The paper examines Derek Parfit’s claim that naturalism trivializes the agent’s practical argument and therefore abolishes the normativity of its conclusion. In the first section, I present Parfit’s charge in detail. After this I discuss three possible responses to the objection. I show that the first two responses either fail or are inconclusive. Trying to avoid Parfit’s charge by endorsing irreductionist naturalism is not a solution because this form of naturalism is metaphysically untenable. Non-descriptive naturalism, on the other hand, does not answer the pressing concern behind Parfit’s charge. I conclude that we had better turn to the third response: Peter Railton’s vindicatory reductionism. However, I also argue that naturalism can only avoid triviality in this way if it is able to respond to further challenges concerning the vindication of the reduction it proposes. Hence, though not a knockdown argument as it is intended to be, Parfit’s charge can still pose a threat to naturalist accounts of normativity.
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FREQUENCY-DRIVEN PROBABILITIES IN QUANTITATIVE CAUSAL ANALYSIS, Federica Russo – University of Kent.
This paper addresses the problem of the interpretation of probability in quantitative causal analysis. I argue that probability has to be interpreted according to a Bayesian framework in which degrees of belief are frequency-driven. This interpretation can account for the peculiar use and meaning of probability in generic and single-case causal inferences involved in this domain.
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NATURALISM AND THE BUCK-PASSING ACCOUNT OF VALUE, Francesco Orsi – Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa.
It has been thought that the prospects for non-naturalism about normativity may be significantly advanced if non-naturalists take the relation of being a reason as the basic normative entity, and so if, inter alia, they endorse a buck-passing account of value. This is thought to yield theoretical benefits regarding (i) the open question argument, (ii) the defence against the charge of queerness, and (iii) demands of parsimony. In the paper I contest these claims. Non-naturalists need not focus on reasons, and so need not, as non-naturalists, endorse a buck-passing account of value. They can choose to hold evaluative notions to be the basic ones, or to have a (reasoned) plurality of basic normative concepts and properties. The debate with the naturalist in those three respects is not going to be significantly influenced by such preliminary conceptual decisions.
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Reviews
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Gerald K. Harrison – The Concept of a Plural Society.
Georgette Taylor – Cabinets for the Curious: Looking Back at Early English Museums.
Matthew Bennett – What Philosophy Is.
Matthew Conduct – Action in Perception.
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