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Agnosticism, Inquiry, and Unanswerable Questions

Abstract

In her paper “Why Suspend Judging?” Jane Friedman has argued that being agnostic about some question entails that one has an inquiring attitude towards that question. Call this the agnostic-as-inquirer thesis. I argue that the agnostic-as-inquirer thesis is implausible. Specifically, I maintain that the agnostic-as-inquirer thesis requires that we deny the existence of a kind of agent that plausibly exists; namely, one who is both agnostic about Q because they regard their available evidence as insufficient for answering Q and who decides not to inquire into Q because they believe Q to be unanswerable. I claim that it is not only possible for such an agent to exist, but that such an agent is also epistemically permissible.

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Frustrating Absences

Abstract

Experiences of absence are common in everyday life, but have received little philosophical attention until recently, when two positions regarding the nature of such experiences surfaced in the literature. According to the Perceptual View, experiences of absence are perceptual in nature. This is denied by the Surprise-Based View, according to which experiences of absence belong together with cases of surprise. In this paper, I show that there is a kind of experience of absence—which I call frustrating absences—that has been overlooked by the Perceptual View and by the Surprise Based-View and that cannot be adequately explained by them. I offer an alternative account to deal with frustrating absences, one according to which experiencing frustrating absences is a matter of subjects having desires for something to be present frustrated by the world. Finally, I argue that there may well be different kinds of experiences of absence.

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The Social Furniture of Virtual Worlds

Abstract

David Chalmers argues that virtual objects exist in the form of data structures that have causal powers. I argue that there is a large class of virtual objects that are social objects and that do not depend upon data structures for their existence. I also argue that data structures are themselves fundamentally social objects. Thus, virtual objects are fundamentally social objects.

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Virtual Realism: Really Realism or only Virtually so? A Comment on D. J. Chalmers’s Petrus Hispanus Lectures

Abstract

What is the status of a cat in a virtual reality environment? Is it a real object? Or part of a fiction? Virtual realism, as defended by D. J. Chalmers, takes it to be a virtual object that really exists, that has properties and is involved in real events. His preferred specification of virtual realism identifies the cat with a digital object. The project of this paper is to use a comparison between virtual reality environments and scientific computer simulations to critically engage with Chalmers’s position. I first argue that, if it is sound, his virtual realism should also be applied to objects that figure in scientific computer simulations, e.g. to simulated galaxies. This leads to a slippery slope because it implies an unreasonable proliferation of digital objects. A philosophical analysis of scientific computer simulations suggests an alternative picture: The cat and the galaxies are parts of fictional models for which the computer provides model descriptions. This result motivates a deeper analysis of the way in which Chalmers builds up his realism. I argue that he buys realism too cheap. For instance, he does not really specify what virtual objects are supposed to be. As a result, rhetoric aside, his virtual realism isn’t far from a sort of fictionalism.

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Virtual Reality: Fictional all the Way Down (and that’s OK)

Abstract

Are virtual objects real? I will claim that the question sets us up for the wrong type of conclusion: Chalmers (2017) argues that a virtual calculator (like other entities) is a real calculator when it is “organizationally invariant” with its non-virtual counterpart—when it performs calculation. However, virtual reality and games are defined by the fact that they always selectively implement their source material. Even the most detailed virtual car will still have an infinite range of details which are missing (gas, engines, pistons, fuel, chemical reactions, molecules, atoms). This means that even the most detailed virtual object will still have fictional aspects. Rather than argue that virtual objects are, or aren’t, real, it is preferable to think of overlaps and continuities between the fictional and the real, where even the most painstakingly detailed virtual reality implementation of a non-virtual object is still art: a human process of selection and interpretation. Virtual reality should therefore not be philosophically understood just as a technological implementation on a trajectory to perfection, but as a cultural artifact which derives its value in part from its simplification and difference from its source material.

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”Due honor to their relics”: Thomas Aquinas as Teacher and Object of Veneration

Abstract

After his death an intense struggle ensued for ownership of the relics of Thomas Aquinas. There were both pious and political motives for the desire to possess the bones of the saint. This article introduces the topic by describing the places where Aquinas’ relics can now be found. We then outline Aquinas’ own views on the veneration of relics, which is characterized by an appreciation of the practice but with great caution to avoid superstition. An historical overview of the fate of Aquinas’ relics sheds light on their significance, particularly in light of the canonization process. The final reflection considers the fate of Aquinas’ relics in light of his own theology.

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In Defense of Aristotle: Thomas Aquinas on the Identity of the Living Body and the Corpse of Christ

Abstract

The so-called. ‘Christianization’ of Aristotle in the Middle Ages and in particular by Thomas Aquinas remains a vexed debate. A case by case study seems to be a fruitful approach. One of these cases concerns Aristotle’s definition of the soul in De anima II, 1(412b10-25). Applying this philosophical claim to the theological question Utrum Christus fuerit homo in triduo mortis seems to be not without difficulty, as St. Thomas’ frequent treatments of this question show. In this paper I analyze these texts and show how Aquinas on multiple occasions follows De anima II, 1 and similar texts of Aristotle and defends a robust Aristotelian position, even in light of the significance of his recovery of Greek Church Fathers.

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Peace and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas

Abstract

In both the 20th and 21st centuries, there has been a lively debate concerning beauty’s transcendental status in Aquinas’ thought. Nobody, however, has noticed that this debate can be replicated with peace. Peace’s place vis-à-vis the transcendentals is also ambiguous. This paper argues that peace is not an independent transcendental, but a transcendental of the good. In peace’s positive and negative rationes, union/order and rest/tranquility, it is reduced to the transcendental good. Yet through this reduction, peace adds conceptual content to ens. Inasmuch as something is, it is ordered/in union. Inasmuch as something is, it is at rest/tranquil.

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Scriptural Plurality in the Writings of Thomas Aquinas: The Case of Psalm 67, 7

Abstract

Thomas Aquinas makes occasional references to the coexistence of multiple versions of the Bible. In particular, Thomas was familiar with several versions of the Latin Psalter used in liturgical and scholarly contexts. This article examines Thomas’s references to Ps. 67, 7 as a test case for understanding the role of scriptural plurality in his biblical hermeneutics. Thomas associates this verse with the theme of unity within religious life, the relation of the Eucharist to ecclesial unity, and ecclesial unity in itself. Thomas’s citations of alternate versions of this verse often appear to be consciously chosen in accord with his exegetical purposes.

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