Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

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Updated: 10 hours 49 min ago

Russell’s Logical Atomism

6 hours 52 min ago
[Revised entry by Kevin Klement on October 14, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970) described his philosophy as a kind of "logical atomism", by which he meant to endorse both a metaphysical view and a certain methodology for doing philosophy. The metaphysical view amounts to the claim that the world consists of a plurality of independently existing things exhibiting qualities and standing in relations. According to logical atomism, all truths are ultimately dependent upon a layer of atomic facts, which consist either of a...
Categories: Philosophy

Personal Identity and Ethics

Sat, 2019-10-12 06:49
[Revised entry by David Shoemaker on October 11, 2019. Changes to: Bibliography] What justifies our holding one person over another morally responsible for a past action? Why am I justified in having a special prudential concern for one particular future person over all others? Why do many of us think that maximizing the good within a single life is perfectly acceptable, but maximizing the good across lives is wrong? For these and other normative questions, it looks like any answer we come up with will have to make essential reference to personal identity. So, for...
Categories: Philosophy

John Duns Scotus

Fri, 2019-10-11 13:46
[Revised entry by Thomas Williams on October 11, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] John Duns Scotus (1265/66 - 1308) was one of the most important and influential philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages. His brilliantly complex and nuanced thought, which earned him the nickname "the Subtle Doctor," left a mark on discussions of such disparate topics as the semantics of religious language, the problem of universals, divine illumination, and the nature of human freedom. This essay first lays out what is known about Scotus's life and the dating...
Categories: Philosophy

Relational Quantum Mechanics

Wed, 2019-10-09 01:53
[Revised entry by Federico Laudisa and Carlo Rovelli on October 8, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Relational Quantum Mechanics (RQM) is the most recent among the interpretations of quantum mechanics which are most discussed today. It was introduced in 1996, with quantum gravity as a remote motivation (Rovelli 1996); interests in it has slowly but steadily grown only in the last decades. RQM is essentially a refinement of the textbook "Copenhagen" interpretation, where the role of the Copenhagen observer is not limited to the classical world, but can instead be assumed by any physical system. RQM rejects an ontic...
Categories: Philosophy

Structuralism in Physics

Sat, 2019-10-05 05:18
[Revised entry by Heinz-Juergen Schmidt on October 4, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Under the heading of "structuralism in physics" there are three different but closely related research programs in philosophy of science and, in particular, in philosophy of physics. These programs were initiated by the work of Joseph Sneed, Gunther Ludwig, and Erhard Scheibe, respectively, since the begin of the 1970s. For the sake of simplicity we will use these names in order to refer to the three programs, without the intention of ignoring or minimizing the contributions of other scholars. (See the Bibliography.) The term...
Categories: Philosophy

Causation in the Law

Fri, 2019-10-04 05:15
[New Entry by Michael Moore on October 3, 2019.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Michael Moore replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous authors.] In this context the basic questions concerning causation in the law are: (i) what are the criteria in law for deciding whether one action...
Categories: Philosophy

Richard Price

Fri, 2019-10-04 03:14
[New Entry by David McNaughton on October 3, 2019.] Richard Price (1723 - 1791) was a prominent dissenting minister and a leading figure in philosophical and political thought in the second half of the eighteenth century. As well as publishing on a wide range of subjects, including ethics, politics, theology, and probability theory, he also greatly advanced work on actuarial tables, which enabled insurers to predict more accurately the life-expectancy of people in their differing circumstances. His passionate commitment to the cause of liberty led him to take a prominent public role in...
Categories: Philosophy

François Poulain de la Barre

Fri, 2019-10-04 03:03
[New Entry by Martina Reuter on October 3, 2019.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Martina Reuter replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous author.] Francois Poulain de la Barre (1648 - 1723) is known for his treatises De l'egalite des deux sexes [On the Equality of the Two Sexes] (1673), De l'education...
Categories: Philosophy

Lvov-Warsaw School

Tue, 2019-10-01 07:04
[Revised entry by Jan Woleński on September 30, 2019. Changes to: Bibliography] The Lvov-Warsaw School (LWS) was the most important movement in the history of Polish philosophy. It was established by Kazimierz Twardowski at the end of the 19th century in Lvov (i.e., the Ukrainian city of Lviv, which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The LWS flourished in the years 1918 - 1939. Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Tadeusz Kotarbiński, Stanisław Leśniewski, Jan Łukasiewicz and Alfred Tarski...
Categories: Philosophy

Quantum Computing

Tue, 2019-10-01 02:52
[Revised entry by Amit Hagar and Michael Cuffaro on September 30, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Combining physics, mathematics and computer science, quantum computing and its sister discipline of quantum information have developed in the past few decades from visionary ideas to two of the most fascinating areas of quantum theory. General interest and excitement in quantum computing was initially triggered by Peter Shor (1994) who showed how a quantum algorithm could exponentially “speed-up” classical computation and factor large numbers...
Categories: Philosophy

Christian Wolff

Tue, 2019-10-01 01:34
[Revised entry by Matt Hettche and Corey Dyck on September 30, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Christian Wolff (1679 - 1754) was a philosopher, mathematician, and scientist of the German Enlightenment. He is widely and rightly regarded as the most important and influential German philosopher between Leibniz and Kant. His scholarly output was prolific, numbering more than 50 (most multi-volume) titles, in addition to dozens of shorter essays and prefaces and nearly 500 book reviews. Through his series of textbooks, published first in German and then in Latin, Wolff made signal contributions to nearly every area of philosophical...
Categories: Philosophy


Fri, 2019-09-27 05:30
[New Entry by K. Scarlett Kingsley and Richard Parry on September 26, 2019.] In the middle of the fifth century BCE, Empedocles of Acragas formulated a philosophical program in hexameter verse that pioneered the influential four-part theory of roots (air, water, earth, and fire) along with two active principles of Love and Strife, which influenced later philosophy, medicine, mysticism, cosmology, and religion. The philosophical system responded to Parmenides' rejection of change while embracing religious injunctions and magical practices. As a result, Empedocles has occupied a significant position...
Categories: Philosophy

Computer Simulations in Science

Fri, 2019-09-27 03:59
[Revised entry by Eric Winsberg on September 26, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Computer simulation was pioneered as a scientific tool in meteorology and nuclear physics in the period directly following World War II, and since then has become indispensable in a growing number of disciplines. The list of sciences that make extensive use of computer simulation has grown to include astrophysics, particle physics, materials science, engineering, fluid mechanics, climate science, evolutionary biology, ecology, economics, decision theory, medicine,...
Categories: Philosophy

Thought Experiments

Fri, 2019-09-27 00:43
[Revised entry by James Robert Brown and Yiftach Fehige on September 26, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, figure7.jpg] Thought experiments are basically devices of the imagination. They are employed for various purposes such an entertainment, education, conceptual analysis, exploration, hypothesizing, theory selection, theory implementation, etc. Some applications are more controversial than others. Few would object to thought experiments that serve to illustrate complex states of affairs, or those that are used in educational contexts. The situation is different, however, with respect to the appropriation of imagined scenarios to investigate...
Categories: Philosophy

Peter of Spain

Thu, 2019-09-26 04:55
[Revised entry by Joke Spruyt on September 25, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Peter of Spain (thirteenth century), exact identity unknown, was the author of a standard textbook on logic, the Tractatus (Tracts),[1] which enjoyed a high renown in Europe for many centuries. His works on logic are typical examples of the type of manuals that gradually started to emerge within the context of twelfth- and thirteenth-century teaching practices. Until recently he was also identified as the author of a number of extant works on medicine....
Categories: Philosophy

Francisco Suárez

Thu, 2019-09-26 04:48
[Revised entry by Christopher Shields and Daniel Schwartz on September 25, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Francisco Suarez (1548 - 1617)[1] was a highly influential philosopher and theologian of the Second Scholastic (or "Early Modern Scholasticism"), that is, the revitalized philosophical and theological inquiry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, conducted within the tradition shaped by Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and other medieval scholastics. While Suarez is commonly praised for his comprehensive, exhaustive,...
Categories: Philosophy

Saint Augustine

Thu, 2019-09-26 04:41
[New Entry by Christian Tornau on September 25, 2019.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Christian Tornau replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous author.] Augustine was perhaps the greatest Christian philosopher of Antiquity and certainly the one who exerted the deepest and most lasting...
Categories: Philosophy

Natural Selection

Thu, 2019-09-26 03:44
[New Entry by Peter Gildenhuys on September 25, 2019.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Peter Gildenhuys replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous author.] Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace are the two co-discoverers of natural selection (Darwin a Wallace 1858), though, between the two, Darwin is the principal theorist of the notion whose most famous...
Categories: Philosophy

18th Century French Aesthetics

Thu, 2019-09-26 03:10
[Revised entry by Jennifer Tsien and Jacques Morizot on September 25, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] French philosophers of the Ancien Regime wrote treatises on beauty or taste; the term "aesthetics", coined in Latin as "aesthetica" by German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten in 1735 (s116), was not in popular usage in France and appeared only in rare instances at the end of the eighteenth century. Philosophers described taste ("gout" or "goust") as a sentiment that allowed both creators and consumers to discern the beauty of an object. At times,...
Categories: Philosophy

Qualia: The Knowledge Argument

Tue, 2019-09-24 06:10
[Revised entry by Martine Nida-Rümelin and Donnchadh O Conaill on September 23, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The knowledge argument aims to establish that conscious experience involves non-physical properties. It rests on the idea that someone who has complete physical knowledge about another conscious being might yet lack knowledge about how it feels to have the experiences of that being. It is one of the most discussed arguments against physicalism....
Categories: Philosophy