Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

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Logic and Games

Sat, 2019-08-17 02:51
[Revised entry by Wilfrid Hodges and Jouko Väänänen on August 16, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Games between two players, of the kind where one player wins and one loses, became a familiar tool in many branches of logic during the second half of the twentieth century. Important examples are semantic games used to define truth, back-and-forth games used to compare structures, and dialogue games to express (and perhaps explain) formal proofs....
Categories: Philosophy


Sat, 2019-08-17 01:10
[Revised entry by Cameron Buckner and James Garson on August 16, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Connectionism is a movement in cognitive science that hopes to explain intellectual abilities using artificial neural networks (also known as "neural networks" or "neural nets"). Neural networks are simplified models of the brain composed of large numbers of units (the analogs of neurons) together with weights that measure the strength of connections between the units. These weights model the effects of the synapses that link one neuron to another. Experiments on models of this kind have demonstrated an ability to learn such...
Categories: Philosophy

The Equivalence of Mass and Energy

Fri, 2019-08-16 05:25
[Revised entry by Francisco Fernflores on August 15, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Einstein correctly described the equivalence of mass and energy as "the most important upshot of the special theory of relativity" (Einstein 1919), for this result lies at the core of modern physics. Many commentators have observed that in Einstein's first derivation of this famous result, he did not express it with the equation (E = mc^2). Instead, Einstein concluded that if an object, which is at rest relative to an inertial frame, either absorbs or emits an amount of energy (L), its inertial mass...
Categories: Philosophy

Normative Theories of Rational Choice: Expected Utility

Fri, 2019-08-16 05:22
[Revised entry by R. A. Briggs on August 15, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] We must often make decisions under conditions of uncertainty. Pursuing a degree in biology may lead to lucrative employment, or to unemployment and crushing debt. A doctor's appointment may result in the early detection and treatment of a disease, or it may be a waste of money. Expected utility theory is an account of how to choose rationally when you are not sure which outcome will result from your acts. Its basic slogan is: choose the act with the highest expected...
Categories: Philosophy

Frank Ramsey

Thu, 2019-08-15 01:48
[New Entry by Fraser MacBride, Mathieu Marion, María José Frápolli, Dorothy Edgington, Edward Elliott, Sebastian Lutz, and Jeffrey Paris on August 14, 2019.] Frank Plumpton Ramsey (1903 - 30) made seminal contributions to philosophy, mathematics and economics. Whilst he was acknowledged as a genius by his contemporaries, some of his most important ideas were not appreciated until decades later; now better appreciated, they continue to bear an influence upon contemporary philosophy. His historic significance was to usher in a new phase of analytic philosophy, which initially built upon the logical atomist doctrines of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, raising their ideas to a new level of sophistication, but ultimately he became their successor rather than...
Categories: Philosophy


Wed, 2019-08-14 04:37
[New Entry by James Tabery on August 13, 2019.] Evelyn Fox Keller dubbed the 1900s the "century of the gene", and for good reason (Fox Keller 2002). During a 100-year span that opened with excitement about the research Mendel conducted decades earlier and closed with the Human Genome Project, disciplines ranging from comparative anatomy to oncology were infused with genetic concepts, genetic principles, and genetic methodologies. The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen this trend only expand....
Categories: Philosophy

The Epistemic Basing Relation

Wed, 2019-08-14 00:48
[Revised entry by Keith Allen Korcz on August 13, 2019. Changes to: Bibliography] The epistemic basing relation is the relation which holds between a reason and a belief if and only if the reason is a reason for which the belief is held. It is generally thought to be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a belief's being justified that the belief be based on a reason. The basing relation is what distinguishes good reasons which a person possesses that contribute to the personal justification of a given belief from good reasons...
Categories: Philosophy


Tue, 2019-08-13 07:48
[Revised entry by Richard Hayes on August 12, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, the followers of which are called Mādhyamikas, was one of the two principal schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, the other school being the Yogācāra. The name of the school is a reference to the claim made of Buddhism in general that it is a middle path (madhyamā pratipad) that avoids the two extremes of eternalism - the doctrine that all things exist because of an eternal essence - and...
Categories: Philosophy

Representational Theories of Consciousness

Tue, 2019-08-13 01:49
[Revised entry by William Lycan on August 12, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The idea of representation has been central in discussions of intentionality for many years. But only more recently has it begun playing a wider role in the philosophy of mind, particularly in theories of consciousness. Indeed, there are now multiple representational theories of consciousness, corresponding to different uses of the term "conscious," each attempting to explain the corresponding phenomenon in terms of representation. More cautiously, each theory attempts to explain its target phenomenon in...
Categories: Philosophy

Translating and Interpreting Chinese Philosophy

Sat, 2019-08-10 04:32
[Revised entry by Henry Rosemont Jr. on August 9, 2019. Changes to: Bibliography] Issues and problems of interpretation of written texts are distinct from issues and problems of translations of them, but the two can rarely be analyzed apart from each other. Moreover, both are closely related by matters of language. Difficulties encountered in translation of texts obviously generate difficulties in interpreting them, and vice versa: the less confidence we have that we understand what a text is about the more difficult it is to be confident of our own (or anyone else's) translation of it....
Categories: Philosophy

Word Meaning

Sat, 2019-08-10 01:56
[Revised entry by Luca Gasparri and Diego Marconi on August 9, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Word meaning has played a somewhat marginal role in early contemporary philosophy of language, which was primarily concerned with the structural features of sentence meaning and showed less interest in the nature of the word-level input to compositional processes. Nowadays, it is well-established that the study of word meaning is crucial to the inquiry into the fundamental properties of human language. This entry provides an overview of the way issues related to word meaning have been explored in analytic philosophy and a summary...
Categories: Philosophy

Religion and Morality

Fri, 2019-08-09 05:10
[Revised entry by John Hare on August 8, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] From the beginning of the Abrahamic faiths and of Greek philosophy, religion and morality have been closely intertwined. This is true whether we go back within Greek philosophy or within Christianity and Judaism and Islam. The present entry will not try to step beyond these confines, since there are other entries on Eastern thought (see, for example, the entries on ethics in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism...
Categories: Philosophy

Emmanuel Levinas

Thu, 2019-08-08 03:03
[Revised entry by Bettina Bergo on August 7, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Emmanuel Levinas' (1905 - 1995) intellectual project was to develop a first philosophy. Whereas traditionally first philosophy denoted either metaphysics or theology, only to be reconceived by Heidegger as fundamental ontology, Levinas argued that it is ethics that should be so conceived. But rather than formulating an ethical theory, Levinas developed his philosophy in opposition to both these aforementioned approaches. It takes the form of a description and interpretation of the event of encountering another...
Categories: Philosophy

Moses Mendelssohn

Thu, 2019-08-08 00:52
[Revised entry by Daniel Dahlstrom on August 7, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Moses Mendelssohn (b. 1729, d. 1786) was a creative and eclectic thinker whose writings on metaphysics and aesthetics, political theory and theology, together with his Jewish heritage, placed him at the focal point of the German Enlightenment for over three decades. While Mendelssohn found himself at home with a metaphysics derived from writings of Leibniz, Wolff, and Baumgarten, he was also one of his age's most accomplished literary critics. His highly regarded pieces on works of Homer and Aesop, Pope and Burke, Maupertuis and...
Categories: Philosophy

God and Other Necessary Beings

Wed, 2019-08-07 05:56
[Revised entry by Matthew Davidson on August 6, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings.[1] We will be concerned with the latter sort of entity in this article....
Categories: Philosophy

Special Obligations

Wed, 2019-08-07 05:21
[Revised entry by Diane Jeske on August 6, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Special obligations are obligations owed to some subset of persons, in contrast to natural duties that are owed to all persons simply qua persons. Common sense morality seems to understand us as having special obligations to those to whom we stand in some sort of special relationship, e.g., our friends, our family members, our colleagues, our fellow citizens, and those to whom we have made promises or commitments of some sort. Special obligations are often appealed to in arguments against consequentialism, because...
Categories: Philosophy

The Philosophy of Neuroscience

Wed, 2019-08-07 05:01
[Revised entry by John Bickle, Peter Mandik, and Anthony Landreth on August 6, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Over the past four decades, philosophy of science has grown increasingly "local". Concerns have switched from general features of scientific practice to concepts, issues, and puzzles specific to particular disciplines. Philosophy of neuroscience is one natural result. This emerging area was also spurred by remarkable growth in the neurosciences themselves. Cognitive and computational neuroscience continues to encroach directly on issues traditionally addressed within the humanities, including the nature of...
Categories: Philosophy

Heidegger’s Aesthetics

Wed, 2019-08-07 04:43
[Revised entry by Iain Thomson on August 6, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Heidegger is against the modern tradition of philosophical "aesthetics" because he is for the true "work of art" which, he argues, the aesthetic approach to art eclipses. Heidegger's critique of aesthetics and his advocacy of art thus form a complementary whole. Section 1 orients the reader by providing a brief overview of Heidegger's philosophical stand against aesthetics, for art. Section 2 explains...
Categories: Philosophy

Feminist Perspectives on the Body

Sat, 2019-08-03 03:44
[Revised entry by Kathleen Lennon on August 2, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] For much of the history of western philosophy the body has been conceptualized as simply one biological object among others, part of a biological nature, which our rational faculties set us apart from, as well as an instrument to be directed, and a possible source of disruption to be controlled. Problematically, for feminists, the opposition between mind and body has also been correlated with an opposition between male and female, with the female regarded as enmeshed in her bodily existence in a way that makes attainment of...
Categories: Philosophy


Sat, 2019-08-03 03:04
[Revised entry by Linda Radzik and Colleen Murphy on August 2, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Among the things commonly described as reconciled are ideas, narratives, persons, groups, and God. To reconcile theories with one another is to render them mutually consistent. To reconcile yourself to the fact that you have cancer is to live better with the belief that you do. Reconciliation of the divine-human relationship is linked in the Christian tradition to the notion of salvation. This essay concentrates on the uses to which the concept of reconciliation has been put in the treatment of moral and political issues that arise in...
Categories: Philosophy