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

Spring 2007

No. 34, Spring 2007
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Papers
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NATURAL KINDS: (THICK) ESSENTIALISM OR PROMISCUOUS REALISM?, Nigel Leary – University of Birmingham.
Theoretical identity statements of the form ‘water is H2O’ are allegedly necessary truths knowable a posteriori, and assert that nothing could be water and not be H2O. The necessary a posteriori nature of these identity claims has been taken by Kripke, Putnam and Donnellan to justify a move from talk of reference (language) to talk of essence (metaphysics), and has motivated much of contemporary essentialism. In this paper I will contest this move from reference to essence, and argue that (i.) the only way to derive essentialism from semantics (specifically direct reference) is to assume it as a premise, (ii.) that contemporary essentialism is a metaphysical assumption not a thesis, and (iii.) – assuming the accuracy of the analogy between proper names and natural kind terms – present an alternative version of natural kinds classification that is interest-relative, dependent on practical application and reflects the contingent state of affairs which is our world.
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WITH OR WITHOUT GOVERNMENT: POLITICAL LEGITIMACY, PROCEDURAL JUSTICE, AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT, Vanessa Neumann – Editor-at-Large, Diplomat.
Political legitimacy and causal responsibilities are not the trumps they may appear to be in considering the justifiability of foreign intervention. Indeed, the major determinants that should guide the international laws and their enactors regarding justifiable foreign intervention are: (1) the negative duty not to partake in an unjust system that oppresses the people of another country, (2) moral uncertainty, and (3) the realities of the agents in question. These jointly work to constrain the redesign of international law to a narrower scope than in an ideal game-theoretic scenario.
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PRAGMATISM WITHOUT ‘PRAGMATISM’? A REPLY TO TALISSE, Ulf Zackariasson – University of Agder.
Robert Talisse (2002) has recently attacked the ‘developmental picture’ of pragmatism (the view that the classical pragmatists all assented to a set of core doctrines). He claims that the term ‘pragmatism’ lacks philosophically interesting content, since it does not refer to any shared set of philosophical doctrines. Although I support Talisse’s attack on the developmental picture, and show that standard defences of it are unsuccessful, I question Talisse’s presupposition that interesting philosophical agreement can only occur at a doctrinal level. Relating to recent work by Joseph Margolis, I suggest that it may prove fruitful to talk of a shared pragmatic orientation, set at a higher logical level than doctrinal agreement. Although I make no attempt to prove that such agreement is at hand among the pragmatists, I argue that it is too early to abandon the term ‘pragmatism’, because that would mean blocking certain roads of inquiry prematurely.
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A CRITICAL DISCUSSION OF THE COMPATIBILITY OF BAYESIANISM AND INFERENCE TO THE BEST EXPLANATION, Mark Alfano – City University of New York.
In this paper I critique Peter Lipton’s attempt to deal with the threat of Bayesianism (BA) to the normative aspect of his project in Inference to the Best Explanation. I consider the five approaches Lipton proposes for reconciling the doxastic recommendations of Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) with BA’s: (1) IBE gives a ‘boost’ to the posterior probability of particularly ‘lovely’ hypotheses (i.e. hypotheses with high explanatory power) after the Bayesian calculation is performed; (2) IBE helps us to set the likelihood of evidence on a given hypothesis; (3) IBE helps us to set the prior probabilities of hypotheses and evidence; (4) IBE guides us in determining which evidence is relevant to a given hypothesis (5) IBE functions as a heuristic for otherwise difficult Bayesian calculations. I agree with Lipton in rejecting (1). However, I then go on to point out difficulties for (2), (3), (4), and (5), all of which Lipton provisionally accepts. As far as (2) is concerned, the explanationist and the Bayesian both fall silent in the same situations. In the final analysis, (3) seems to be moot. (4) devolves on (2) and (3), and since I reject both of them it is a bad option. And (5) should be considered – if at all – only in unimportant cases; in vital ones, BA is clearly better. I then propose a sixth way in which IBE and BA could be seen as complementary. Yet this suggestion relegates IBE to a secondary, supporting rôle vis-à-vis BA. I then question whether this auxiliary status is the most the explanationist can hope for.
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Reviews
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Richard Stopford – Adorno’s Aesthetics of Critique.
Lisa Grover – Contextuality in Practical Reason.
Duncan Proctor – Normativity and the Will.
Ian James Kidd — The Landscape of Humanity: Art, Culture and Society.
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