Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

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[Revised entry by Catherine Driscoll on January 16, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The term 'sociobiology' was introduced in E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) as the "systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior" (Wilson, 1975, 4). Wilson seems to intend "the biological basis of behavior" to refer to the social and ecological causes driving the evolution of behavior in animal populations, rather than the neurological or psychological causes of...
Categories: Philosophy

Descartes' Modal Metaphysics

Sat, 2018-01-13 02:20
[Revised entry by David Cunning on January 12, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Descartes sometimes speaks of things that have possible existence, in addition to speaking of things as having actual existence. He also speaks of eternal and necessary truths that are the product of God's free and wholly unconstrained activity. One of the interpretive projects that is inspired by Descartes' sometimes provocative claims about possibility and necessity is the construction of a general Cartesian theory of modality. Any such theory would of course need to be sensitive to all of the claims that Descartes makes...
Categories: Philosophy

The Normativity of Meaning and Content

Sat, 2018-01-13 01:59
[Revised entry by Kathrin Glüer and Åsa Wikforss on January 12, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] There is a long tradition of thinking of language as conventional in its nature, dating back at least to Aristotle (De Interpretatione). By appealing to the role of conventions, it is thought, we can distinguish linguistic signs, the meaningful use of words, from mere natural 'signs'. During the last century the thesis that language is essentially conventional has played a central role within philosophy of language, and has even been called...
Categories: Philosophy

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Properties

Fri, 2018-01-12 01:01
[Revised entry by Brian Weatherson and Dan Marshall on January 11, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] We have some of our properties purely in virtue of the way we are. (Our mass is an example.) We have other properties in virtue of the way we interact with the world. (Our weight is an example.) The former are the intrinsic properties, the latter are the extrinsic properties. This seems to be an intuitive enough distinction to grasp, and hence the intuitive distinction has made its way into many discussions in philosophy, including discussions in ethics, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of physics. Unfortunately,...
Categories: Philosophy


Thu, 2018-01-11 02:23
[Revised entry by Brian McLaughlin and Karen Bennett on January 10, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties. In slogan form, "there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference". As we shall see, this slogan can be cashed out in many different ways....
Categories: Philosophy

The Grounds of Moral Status

Thu, 2018-01-11 00:46
[Revised entry by Agnieszka Jaworska and Julie Tannenbaum on January 10, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] An entity has moral status if and only if it or its interests morally matter to some degree for the entity's own sake. For instance, an animal may be said to have moral status if its suffering is at least somewhat morally bad, on account of this animal itself and regardless of the consequences for other beings....
Categories: Philosophy

Possible Objects

Wed, 2018-01-10 03:46
[Revised entry by Takashi Yagisawa on January 9, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Deep theorizing about possibility requires theorizing about possible objects. One popular approach regards the notion of a possible object as intertwined with the notion of a possible world. There are two widely discussed types of theory concerning the nature of possible worlds: actualist representationism and possibilist realism. They support two opposing views about possible objects. Examination of the ways in which they do so reveals difficulties on both sides. There is another popular approach, which has been influenced by the philosophy...
Categories: Philosophy

Samuel Alexander

Tue, 2018-01-09 07:28
[Revised entry by Emily A. E. Thomas on January 8, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The Australian-born philosopher Samuel Alexander (1859 - 1938) was a prominent figure in early twentieth-century British philosophy. He is best known as one of the progenitors of British Emergentism, a movement that claimed that mind "emerges" from matter. Alexander rejected idealism, and accordingly can also be labelled a "new realist" alongside the likes of Bertrand Russell; however, unlike other new realists,...
Categories: Philosophy

Aristotle's Natural Philosophy

Tue, 2018-01-09 06:45
[Revised entry by Istvan Bodnar on January 8, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Aristotle had a lifelong interest in the study of nature. He investigated a variety of different topics, ranging from general issues like motion, causation, place and time, to systematic explorations and explanations of natural phenomena across different kinds of natural entities. These different inquiries are integrated into the framework of a single overarching enterprise describing the domain of natural entities. Aristotle provides the general theoretical...
Categories: Philosophy

Marcus Aurelius

Fri, 2017-12-22 19:38
[Revised entry by Rachana Kamtekar on December 22, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] The second century CE Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was also a Stoic philosopher, and his Meditations, which he wrote to and for himself, offers readers a unique opportunity to see how an ancient person (indeed an emperor) might try to live a Stoic life, according to which only virtue is good, only vice is bad, and the things which we normally busy ourselves with are all indifferent to our happiness (for our lives are not made good or bad by our having or lacking them). The difficulties Marcus faces putting Stoicism into practice are philosophical as well as practical, and...
Categories: Philosophy


Thu, 2017-12-21 02:06
[Revised entry by Wil Waluchow on December 20, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Constitutionalism is the idea, often associated with the political theories of John Locke and the founders of the American republic, that government can and should be legally limited in its powers, and that its authority or legitimacy depends on its observing these limitations. This idea brings with it a host of vexing questions of interest not only to legal scholars, but to anyone keen to explore the legal and philosophical foundations of the state. How can a government be legally limited if law is the creation of government? Does this...
Categories: Philosophy