Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

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Thomas Paine

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[Revised entry by Mark Philp on September 19, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer, controversialist and international revolutionary. His Common Sense (1776) was a central text behind the call for American independence from Britain; his Rights of Man (1791 - 2) was the most widely read pamphlet in the movement for reform in Britain in the 1790s and for the opening decades of the nineteenth century; he was active in the French Revolution and was a member of the French National Convention between 1792 and 1795; he is seen by many as a key figure in the emergence of claims for the state's responsibilities for welfare and educational provision, and...
Categories: Philosophy

Arguments for Incompatibilism

Tue, 2017-09-19 05:49
[Revised entry by Kadri Vihvelin on September 18, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] We believe that we have free will and this belief is so firmly entrenched in our daily lives that it is almost impossible to take seriously the thought that it might be mistaken. We deliberate and make choices, for instance, and in so doing we assume that there is more than one choice we can make, more than one action we are able to perform. When we look back and regret a foolish choice, or blame ourselves for not doing something we should have done, we assume that we could have chosen and done otherwise. When we look forward and make...
Categories: Philosophy

Medieval Theories of Analogy

Sat, 2017-09-16 03:16
[Revised entry by E. Jennifer Ashworth on September 15, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Medieval theories of analogy were a response to problems in three areas: logic, theology, and metaphysics. Logicians were concerned with the use of words having more than one sense, whether completely different, or related in some way. Theologians were concerned with language about God. How can we speak about a transcendent, totally simple spiritual being without altering the sense of the words we use? Metaphysicians were concerned with talk about reality. How can we say...
Categories: Philosophy

W.E.B. Du Bois

Thu, 2017-09-14 06:58
[New Entry by Robert Gooding-Williams on September 13, 2017.] William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868 - 1963) believed that his life acquired its only deep significance through its participation in what he called "the Negro problem," or, later, "the race problem." Whether that is true or not, it is difficult to deny that anyone, at any time, has thought about the race problem in its many aspects more profoundly, extensively, and subtly than W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois was an activist and a journalist, a historian...
Categories: Philosophy

Innateness and Contemporary Theories of Cognition

Thu, 2017-09-14 04:25
[Revised entry by Jerry Samet and Deborah Zaitchik on September 13, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Nativism and Empiricism are rival approaches to questions about the origins of knowledge. Roughly speaking, Nativists hold that important elements of our understanding of the world are innate, that they are part of our initial condition, and thus do not have to be learned from experience. Empiricists deny this, claiming that all knowledge is based in experience. Different Nativist and Empiricist views spell out the details in different ways, depending on which elements of our knowledge are at issue, what counts as understanding, what is meant by...
Categories: Philosophy

Alternative Axiomatic Set Theories

Wed, 2017-09-13 02:18
[Revised entry by M. Randall Holmes on September 12, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] By "alternative set theories" we mean systems of set theory differing significantly from the dominant ZF (Zermelo-Frankel set theory) and its close relatives (though we will review these systems in the article). Among the systems we will review are typed theories of sets, Zermelo set theory and its variations, New Foundations and related systems, positive set theories, and constructive set theories. An interest in the range of alternative set theories does not presuppose an interest in replacing the dominant set...
Categories: Philosophy

Plato's Ethics and Politics in The Republic

Wed, 2017-09-13 02:00
[Revised entry by Eric Brown on September 12, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Plato's Republic centers on a simple question: is it always better to be just than unjust? The puzzles in Book One prepare for this question, and Glaucon and Adeimantus make it explicit at the beginning of Book Two. To answer the question, Socrates takes a long way around, sketching an account of a good city on the grounds that a good city would be just and that defining justice as a virtue of a city would help to define justice as a virtue of a human being....
Categories: Philosophy


Sat, 2017-09-09 03:13
[Revised entry by Lisa Herzog on September 8, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Markets are institutions in which individuals or collective agents exchange goods and services. They usually use money as a medium of exchange, which leads to the formation of prices. Markets can be distinguished according to the goods or services traded in them (e.g., financial markets, housing markets, labor markets), according to their scope (e.g., regional, national, international markets), or according to their structure (e.g., competitive markets, oligopolistic markets, monopolistic markets). From a normative perspective, markets are of...
Categories: Philosophy

Epistemic Paradoxes

Fri, 2017-09-08 01:29
[Revised entry by Roy Sorensen on September 7, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Epistemic paradoxes are riddles that turn on the concept of knowledge (episteme is Greek for knowledge). Typically, there are conflicting, well-credentialed answers to these questions (or pseudo-questions). Thus the riddle immediately informs us of an inconsistency. In the long run, the riddle goads and guides us into correcting at least one deep error - if not directly about knowledge, then about its kindred concepts such as justification, rational belief, and evidence....
Categories: Philosophy

Mental Representation in Medieval Philosophy

Fri, 2017-09-08 01:17
[Revised entry by Henrik Lagerlund on September 7, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The notions of mental representation and intentionality are intrinsically related in contemporary philosophy of mind, since it is usually thought that a mental state has content or is about something other than itself due to its representational nature. These notions have a parallel history in medieval philosophy as well, but it has been intentionality that has attracted medieval scholars' attention (for example, in Knudsen 1982, Pasnau 1997, Perler 2001 and Perler 2002). There have only been a few studies on mental representation (Tweedale 1990, Pasnau 1997, King 2007 and Lagerlund...
Categories: Philosophy

Leibniz on Causation

Thu, 2017-09-07 02:39
[Revised entry by Marc Bobro on September 6, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Substances, according to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 - 1716), always act; furthermore, since even finite, created substances are naturally indestructible and thus immortal, substances continue to act forever. To what or to whom do substances causally owe their action? In Leibniz's day, this question more or less becomes a question about the causal role of God. Is God the only genuine causal agent in nature? Or does God's causal contribution, at least in the ordinary development of nature, consist "merely" in the...
Categories: Philosophy

Carl Hempel

Thu, 2017-09-07 02:30
[Revised entry by James Fetzer on September 6, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Carl G. Hempel (1905 - 1997) was the principal proponent of the "covering law" theory of explanation and the paradoxes of confirmation as basic elements of the theory of science. A master of philosophical methodology, Hempel pursued explications of initially vague and ambiguous concepts, which were required to satisfy very specific criteria of adequacy. With Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach, he was instrumental in the transformation of the dominant philosophical movement of the 1930s and 40s, which was known as...
Categories: Philosophy

Curry's Paradox

Thu, 2017-09-07 02:05
[Revised entry by Lionel Shapiro and Jc Beall on September 6, 2017. Changes to: 0] "Curry's paradox", as the term is used by philosophers today, refers to a wide variety of paradoxes of self-reference or circularity that trace their modern ancestry to Curry (1942b) and Lob (1955).[1] The common characteristic of these so-called Curry paradoxes is the way they exploit a notion of implication, entailment or consequence,...
Categories: Philosophy


Thu, 2017-09-07 01:46
[Revised entry by Roger Crisp on September 6, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Well-being is most commonly used in philosophy to describe what is non-instrumentally or ultimately good for a person. The question of what well-being consists in is of independent interest, but it is of great importance in moral philosophy, especially in the case of utilitarianism, according to which the only moral requirement is that well-being be maximized. Significant challenges to the very notion have been mounted, in particular by G.E. Moore and T.M. Scanlon. It has become standard to distinguish theories of well-being as either hedonist theories,...
Categories: Philosophy

James Ward

Sun, 2017-09-03 03:36
[Revised entry by Pierfrancesco Basile on September 2, 2017. Changes to: Bibliography] British idealism was the dominant philosophical movement in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Its best-known representatives - philosophers of the like of Thomas Hill Green and Francis Herbert Bradley - held a version of Absolute idealism, the theory that reality is a single unified consciousness or cosmic experience. The doctrine has its roots in the philosophies of Spinoza, Kant and Hegel, but the British idealists elaborated it in independent,...
Categories: Philosophy

Marsilio Ficino

Sun, 2017-09-03 03:29
[Revised entry by Christopher S. Celenza on September 2, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Marsilio Ficino (1433 - 99) combined elements drawn from different philosophical, religious, and literary traditions to become one of the most famous philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. Ficino's writings, however, are difficult, and there is no single work of his that attained canonical status once the historiography of Western philosophy was set on its modern footing in the eighteenth century....
Categories: Philosophy


Sat, 2017-09-02 02:58
[Revised entry by Christopher Mole on September 1, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Attention is involved in the selective directedness of our mental lives. The nature of this selectivity is one of the principal points of disagreement between the extant theories of attention. Some of the most influential theories treat the selectivity of attention as resulting from limitations in the brain's capacity to process the complex properties of multiple perceptual stimuli. Other theories take the selectivity of attention to be the result of limitations in the thinking subject's capacity to consciously entertain...
Categories: Philosophy

Pascal's Wager

Sat, 2017-09-02 00:41
[Revised entry by Alan Hájek on September 1, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] "Pascal's Wager" is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single section of his Pensees, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a 'wager' - it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as "Pascal's Wager". We...
Categories: Philosophy


Fri, 2017-09-01 05:31
[Revised entry by Roy Sorensen on August 31, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Since metaphysics is the study of what exists, one might expect metaphysicians to have little to say about the limit case in which nothing exists. But ever since Parmenides in the fifth century BCE, there has been rich commentary on whether an empty world is possible, whether there are vacuums, and about the nature of privations and negation....
Categories: Philosophy

Callicles and Thrasymachus

Fri, 2017-09-01 00:57
[Revised entry by Rachel Barney on August 31, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Callicles and Thrasymachus are the two great exemplars in philosophy of contemptuous challenge to conventional morality. Both are characters in Platonic dialogues, in the Gorgias and Book I of the Republic respectively; both denounce the virtue of justice, dikaiosune, as an artificial brake on self-interest, a fraud to be seen through by intelligent people. Together, Thrasymachus and Callicles have fallen into the folk mythology of moral philosophy as 'the immoralist' (or...
Categories: Philosophy