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Why Philosophers Are Obsessed With Brains in Jars

An old philosophical chestnut discussed in The Atlantic. Words and concepts used by a brain in a vat can’t be meaningfully applied to real objects outside of the brain’s experience, because the ability to have causal interaction with the specific things that words name is inherently how such words acquire meaning, Putnam argued. Artificial intelligenceCognitive…

Hilary Putnam 1926-2016

It is notable that the so-called “new atheists” never did take on Putnam. Shows how lily-livered they really are, picking on the usual easy targets. Ditto for his critique of scientism. Putnam’s Mind, Language and Reality. Philosophical Papers, vol. 2. remains one of my favorite books. The Guardian obit. Martha Nussbaum on Putnam. EpistemologyethicsfunctionalismHilary PutnamJewish PhilosophymetaphysicsPhilosophy of Languagephilosophy…

Sameness and Substance Renewed

Below is David Wiggins’ Preface from one of my favourite books. A tough read but well worth the effort. Here also is the Table of Contents and Preamble. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When Sameness and Substance (Blackwell, 1980) went out of print, Cambridge University Press agreed to take over the book. They suggested that the Longer Notes be dropped…

Russell’s “On Denoting”

Speaking of Davidson, here is a two-parter from Stephen Neale (a Davidson expert) on Russell’s seminal paper “On Denoting” published in MIND in 1905 and the ensuing philosophical debate centred around it. “On Denoting” is arguably the most important philosophical paper of the 20th Century, a paper one has to tackle if one is trying to…

Donald Davidson

I met DD very briefly at the LSE in the early 90s. Putnam had recently filled the Peacock Theatre and I expected that since DD was to be there that he would fill the auditorium easily. Oddly enough, the event was held in a small seminar room in the warren that LSE is and was severely oversubscribed.…

Hayek, Popper, and the Causal Theory of the Mind

Here are excerpts from Ed Feser’s essay. In late 1952, F. A. Hayek sent his friend Karl Popper a copy of his recently published book The Sensory Order: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Theoretical Psychology. In a letter dated December 2, 1952, Popper acknowledged receipt of the book and responded as follows to what…

Searle on externalism

Can you say a few words on where we are, today, in the externalism-internalism debate? I have never been able to see any merit in the arguments for externalism. The most famous account is probably Putnam’s Twin Earth argument. I think he did succeed in showing that the checklist conception of the definition of general…

Hayek, Popper, and the Causal Theory of the Mind

Here is the introduction to Ed Feser’s paper from Hayek in Mind. In late 1952, F. A. Hayek sent his friend Karl Popper a copy of his recently published book The Sensory Order: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Theoretical Psychology. In a letter dated December 2, 1952, Popper acknowledged receipt of the book and…