Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

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Donald Davidson

Tue, 2019-06-25 01:26
[Revised entry by Jeff Malpas on June 24, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Donald Davidson was one of the most important philosophers of the latter half of the twentieth century and with a reception and influence that, of American philosophers, is perhaps matched only by that of W. V. O. Quine. Davidson's ideas, presented in a series of essays (and one posthumous monograph) from the 1960s onwards, have had an impact in a range of areas from semantic theory through to epistemology and ethics. His work exhibits a breadth of approach, as well as a unitary and systematic character, that is unusual within...
Categories: Philosophy

Donald Cary Williams

Tue, 2019-06-25 00:56
[Revised entry by Keith Campbell, James Franklin, and Douglas Ehring on June 24, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The published work of Donald Williams (1899 - 1983) ranges across a broad spectrum in philosophy, but his importance as a philosopher rests in large measure on four major achievements. Firstly, in a period when the role of philosophy was being diminished and trivialized, he persisted with a traditional style of philosophizing. Although it remained unfashionable throughout most of his active years, he held to the classic program of Western philosophy: to explain and defend our capacity to attain knowledge (so far as that reaches), in the light of that to present a...
Categories: Philosophy

Voting Methods

6 hours 5 min ago
[Revised entry by Eric Pacuit on June 24, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] A fundamental problem faced by any group of people is how to arrive at a good group decision when there is disagreement among its members. The difficulties are most evident when there is a large number of people with diverse opinions, such as, when electing leaders in a national election. But it is often not any easier with smaller groups, such as, when a committee must select a candidate to hire, or when a group of friends must decide where to go for dinner. Mathematicians, philosophers, political scientists and economists have devised various...
Categories: Philosophy

Biological Individuals

Sat, 2019-06-22 05:22
[Revised entry by Robert A. Wilson and Matthew Barker on June 21, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, figdesc.html] The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range...
Categories: Philosophy

Denis Diderot

Thu, 2019-06-20 05:14
[New Entry by Charles T. Wolfe and J.B. Shank on June 19, 2019.] Because of his public leadership of the philosophe party in eighteenth-century France, Voltaire stands today as the iconic example of the French Enlightenment philosopher. Denis Diderot (1713 - 1784) is often seen as Voltaire's second in that role since it was around both men that the Enlightenment philosophes rallied as a movement after 1750. The epochal project, which Diderot jointly pursued with Jean le Rond D'Alembert, to "change the common way of thinking"...
Categories: Philosophy

Teleological Arguments for God’s Existence

Thu, 2019-06-20 02:41
[Revised entry by Del Ratzsch and Jeffrey Koperski on June 19, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question is typically taken to be supernatural. Philosophically inclined thinkers have both historically and at present labored to shape the relevant intuition into a more formal, logically rigorous inference. The resultant theistic arguments, in their various logical forms, share a focus on plan, purpose,...
Categories: Philosophy


Thu, 2019-06-20 02:08
[Revised entry by Anya Plutynski on June 19, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Cancer is a worldwide epidemic. It is the first or second leading cause of death before age 70 in ninety-one countries, as of 2015. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, "there will be an estimated 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths in 2018," and cancer is expected to be the "leading cause of death in every country of the world in the 21st century" (Bray, et al. 2018). While overall cancer...
Categories: Philosophy

Experiment in Physics

Wed, 2019-06-19 02:39
[Revised entry by Allan Franklin and Slobodan Perovic on June 18, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Physics, and natural science in general, is a reasonable enterprise based on valid experimental evidence, criticism, and rational discussion. It provides us with knowledge of the physical world, and it is experiment that provides the evidence that grounds this knowledge. Experiment plays many roles in science. One of its important roles is to test theories and to provide the basis for scientific knowledge.[1]...
Categories: Philosophy

Cosmology: Methodological Debates in the 1930s and 1940s

Wed, 2019-06-19 02:20
[Revised entry by George Gale on June 18, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Sometimes, philosophy drives science. Cosmology between 1932 - 48 provides an excellent example how explicitly philosophical considerations directed the evolution of a modern science during a crucial period of its development. The following article exhibits these philosophical aspects of cosmological thinking in detail, beginning with a brief sketch of the historical development of general relativity cosmology until 1932. Following this, the historical...
Categories: Philosophy

Darwin: From Origin of Species to Descent of Man

Tue, 2019-06-18 05:25
[New Entry by Phillip Sloan on June 17, 2019.] [Editor's Note: Much of the content in the following entry originally appeared in the entry titled The Concept of Evolution to 1872. The latter has been split into two separate entries.]...
Categories: Philosophy

Evolutionary Thought Before Darwin

Tue, 2019-06-18 05:25
[New Entry by Phillip Sloan on June 17, 2019.] [Editor's Note: Much of the content in the following entry originally appeared in the entry titled The Concept of Evolution to 1872. The latter has been split into two separate entries.]...
Categories: Philosophy


Tue, 2019-06-18 04:02
[Revised entry by Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence on June 17, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Concepts are the building blocks of thoughts. Consequently, they are crucial to such psychological processes as categorization, inference, memory, learning, and decision-making. This much is relatively uncontroversial. But the nature of concepts - the kind of things concepts are - and the constraints that govern a theory of concepts have been the subject of much debate (Margolis a Laurence 1999, Margolis a Laurence 2015). This is due, at least in part, to the fact that disputes about concepts often reflect deeply opposing...
Categories: Philosophy


Thu, 2019-06-13 03:23
[Revised entry by Michael Rescorla on June 12, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The central philosophical task posed by conventions is to analyze what they are and how they differ from mere regularities of action and cognition. Subsidiary questions include: How do conventions arise? How are they sustained? How do we select between alternative conventions? Why should one conform to convention? What social good, if any, do conventions serve? How does convention relate to such notions as rule, norm, custom, practice, institution, and social contract? Apart from...
Categories: Philosophy

Knowledge by Acquaintance vs. Description

Thu, 2019-06-13 03:21
[Revised entry by Ali Hasan and Richard Fumerton on June 12, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The terminology is most clearly associated with Bertrand Russell, but the distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description is arguably a critical component of classical or traditional versions of foundationalism. Let us say that one has inferential or nonfoundational knowledge that p when one's knowledge that p depends on one's knowledge of some other proposition(s) from which one can legitimately infer p; and one has foundational or noninferential knowledge that...
Categories: Philosophy

Probability in Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

Thu, 2019-06-13 00:56
[Revised entry by Rudolf Schuessler on June 12, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Probability-related terminology played an important role in medieval and Renaissance philosophy. Terms such as 'probable' (probabilis), 'credible' (credibilis) or 'truth-like' (verisimilis) were used to assess philosophical claims, qualify uncertain conclusions, gauge the force of arguments and temper academic disagreement. Beyond that, they had a significant impact on the regulation of legal proceedings, moral action and everyday life. The probability-related terminology of the...
Categories: Philosophy

Intuitionism in the Philosophy of Mathematics

Wed, 2019-06-12 03:17
[Revised entry by Rosalie Iemhoff on June 11, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Intuitionism is a philosophy of mathematics that was introduced by the Dutch mathematician L.E.J. Brouwer (1881 - 1966). Intuitionism is based on the idea that mathematics is a creation of the mind. The truth of a mathematical statement can only be conceived via a mental construction that proves it to be true, and the communication between mathematicians only serves as a means to create the same mental process in different minds....
Categories: Philosophy

Epistemic Logic

Sat, 2019-06-08 03:36
[New Entry by Rasmus Rendsvig and John Symons on June 7, 2019.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Rasmus Rendsvig and John Symons replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous authors.] Epistemic logic is a subfield of epistemology concerned with logical...
Categories: Philosophy

The Consistent Histories Approach to Quantum Mechanics

Fri, 2019-06-07 01:17
[Revised entry by Robert B. Griffiths on June 6, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, reading.html] The consistent histories, also known as decoherent histories, approach to quantum interpretation is broadly compatible with standard quantum mechanics as found in textbooks. However, the concept of measurement by which probabilities are introduced in standard quantum theory no longer plays a fundamental role. Instead, all quantum time dependence is probabilistic (stochastic), with probabilities given by the Born rule or its extensions. By requiring that the description of a quantum system be carried out using a well-defined probabilistic sample space (called a...
Categories: Philosophy

Theological Voluntarism

Wed, 2019-06-05 03:37
[Revised entry by Mark Murphy on June 4, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] There is a class of metaethical and normative views that commonly goes by the name 'divine command theory.' What all members of this class have in common is that they hold that what God wills is relevant to determining the moral status of some set of entities (acts, states of affairs, character traits, etc., or some combination of these). But the name 'divine command theory' is a bit misleading: what these views have in common is their appeal to the divine will; while many of these views hold that the relevant act of...
Categories: Philosophy

Retrocausality in Quantum Mechanics

Tue, 2019-06-04 05:23
[New Entry by Simon Friederich and Peter W. Evans on June 3, 2019.] Quantum theory provides a framework for modern theoretical physics that enjoys enormous predictive and explanatory success. Yet, in view of the so-called "measurement problem", there is no consensus on how physical reality can possibly be such that this framework has this success. The theory is thus an extremely well-functioning algorithm to predict and explain the results of observations, but no consensus on which kind of objective reality might plausibly underlie these observations....
Categories: Philosophy