Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

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Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Fri, 2020-05-01 05:56
[New Entry by Vincent C. Müller on April 30, 2020.] Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are digital technologies that will have significant impact on the development of humanity in the near future. They have raised fundamental questions about what we should do with these systems, what the systems themselves should do, what risks they involve, and how we can control these. After the Introduction to the field (s1), the main themes (s2) of this...
Categories: Philosophy


Wed, 2020-04-29 02:27
[Revised entry by Brent Pickett on April 28, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The term 'homosexuality' was coined in the late 19th century by an Austrian-born Hungarian psychologist, Karoly Maria Benkert. Although the term is new, discussions about sexuality in general, and same-sex attraction in particular, have occasioned philosophical discussion ranging from Plato's Symposium to contemporary queer theory. Since the history of cultural understandings of same-sex attraction is relevant to the philosophical issues raised by those understandings, it is necessary...
Categories: Philosophy

Methodological Individualism

Tue, 2020-04-28 01:18
[Revised entry by Joseph Heath on April 27, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] This doctrine was introduced as a methodological precept for the social sciences by Max Weber, most importantly in the first chapter of Economy and Society (1922). It amounts to the claim that social phenomena must be explained by showing how they result from individual actions, which in turn must be explained through reference to the intentional states that motivate the individual actors. It involves, in other words, a commitment to the primacy of...
Categories: Philosophy

al-Farabi’s Psychology and Epistemology

Mon, 2020-04-27 03:56
[Revised entry by Luis Xavier López-Farjeat on April 26, 2020. Changes to: Bibliography, notes.html] Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī (c. 870 - 950), known in the Arabic philosophical tradition as the "Second Master" (al-mu'allim al-thānī) after Aristotle, and Alpharabius/Alfarabi in the Latin West tradition, is one of the major thinkers in the history of Islamic philosophy. He wrote extensively on logic, philosophy of language, metaphysics, natural philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, philosophical psychology and epistemology. His teachings had a strong Aristotelian...
Categories: Philosophy

Scottish Philosophy in the 19th Century

Sat, 2020-04-25 00:27
[Revised entry by Gordon Graham on April 24, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Philosophical debate in 19th century Scotland was very vigorous, its agenda being set in large part by the impact of Kant and German Idealism on the philosophical tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment. The principal figures are Thomas Brown, Sir William Hamilton, James Frederick Ferrier and Alexander Bain, and later in the century, the so-called "Scottish Idealists" notably James Hutchison Stirling, Edward Caird, and D.G. Ritchie. The self-conscious identity of the Scottish philosophical tradition owes...
Categories: Philosophy

Recursive Functions

Thu, 2020-04-23 09:01
[New Entry by Walter Dean on April 23, 2020.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Walter Dean replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous authors.] The recursive functions are a class of functions on the natural numbers studied in computability theory, a branch of contemporary mathematical logic which was originally known...
Categories: Philosophy

Hume’s Newtonianism and Anti-Newtonianism

Wed, 2020-04-22 04:22
[Revised entry by Eric Schliesser and Tamás Demeter on April 21, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] David Hume's philosophy, especially the positive project of his "science of man", is often thought to be modeled on Newton's successes in natural philosophy. Hume's self-described "experimental method" (see the subtitle to Treatise) and the resemblance of his "rules of reasoning" (THN 1.3.15)[1] with Newton's are said to be evidence for this position (Noxon...
Categories: Philosophy

The Role of Decoherence in Quantum Mechanics

Wed, 2020-04-22 03:13
[Revised entry by Guido Bacciagaluppi on April 21, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Interference phenomena are a well-known and crucial aspect of quantum mechanics, famously exemplified by the two-slit experiment. There are many situations, however, in which interference effects are artificially or spontaneously suppressed. The theory of decoherence is precisely the study of such situations. It is is relevant (or is claimed to be relevant) to a variety of questions ranging from the measurement problem to the arrow of time, and in particular to the...
Categories: Philosophy

Hume’s Aesthetics

Wed, 2020-04-22 02:46
[Revised entry by Theodore Gracyk on April 21, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] David Hume's views on aesthetic theory and the philosophy of art are to be found in his work on moral theory and in several essays. Although there is a tendency to emphasize the two essays devoted to art, "Of the Standard of Taste" and "Of Tragedy," his views on art and aesthetic judgment are intimately connected to his moral philosophy and theories of human thought and emotion. His theory of taste and beauty is not entirely original, but his arguments generally display the keen analysis typical of his best...
Categories: Philosophy

Non-Deductive Methods in Mathematics

Wed, 2020-04-22 02:13
[Revised entry by Alan Baker on April 21, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] As it stands, there is no single, well-defined philosophical subfield devoted to the study of non-deductive methods in mathematics. As the term is being used here, it incorporates a cluster of different philosophical positions, approaches, and research programs whose common motivation is the view that (i) there are non-deductive aspects of mathematical methodology and that (ii) the identification and analysis of these aspects has the potential to be philosophically fruitful....
Categories: Philosophy

Justification Logic

Tue, 2020-04-21 03:22
[Revised entry by Sergei Artemov and Melvin Fitting on April 20, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, supplement.html] You may say, "I know that Abraham Lincoln was a tall man. " In turn you may be asked how you know. You would almost certainly not reply semantically, Hintikka-style, that Abraham Lincoln was tall in all situations compatible with your knowledge. Instead you would more likely say, "I read about Abraham Lincoln's height in several books, and I have seen photographs of him next to other people. " One certifies knowledge by providing a...
Categories: Philosophy


Tue, 2020-04-21 01:44
[Revised entry by Andrew Altman on April 20, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Discrimination is prohibited by six of the core international human rights documents. The vast majority of the world's states have constitutional or statutory provisions outlawing discrimination (Osin and Porat 2005). And most philosophical, political, and legal discussions of discrimination proceed on the premise that discrimination is morally wrong and, in a wide range of cases, ought to be legally prohibited. However, co-existing with this impressive...
Categories: Philosophy

Baruch Spinoza

Fri, 2020-04-17 03:23
[Revised entry by Steven Nadler on April 16, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Bento (in Hebrew, Baruch; in Latin, Benedictus) Spinoza is one of the most important philosophers - and certainly the most radical - of the early modern period. His thought combines a commitment to a number of Cartesian metaphysical and epistemological principles with elements from ancient Stoicism, Hobbes, and medieval Jewish rationalism into a nonetheless highly original system. His extremely naturalistic views on God, the world, the human being and knowledge serve to ground a moral philosophy centered on the control...
Categories: Philosophy

Quantum Approaches to Consciousness

Fri, 2020-04-17 02:02
[Revised entry by Harald Atmanspacher on April 16, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] It is widely accepted that consciousness or, more generally, mental activity is in some way correlated to the behavior of the material brain. Since quantum theory is the most fundamental theory of matter that is currently available, it is a legitimate question to ask whether quantum theory can help us to understand consciousness. Several approaches answering this question affirmatively, proposed in recent decades, will be surveyed. There are three basic types of corresponding approaches: (1) consciousness is a manifestation of...
Categories: Philosophy

Roger Bacon

Thu, 2020-04-16 02:51
[Revised entry by Jeremiah Hackett on April 15, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Roger Bacon (1214/1220 - 1292), Master of Arts, contemporary of Robert Kilwardby, Peter of Spain, and Albert the Great at the University of Paris in the 1240s, was one of the early Masters who taught Aristotle's works on natural philosophy and metaphysics. Sometime after 1248 - 49, he became an independent scholar with an interest in languages, mastering the known Greek and Arabic texts on the science of optics. In 1256/57, either at Paris or Oxford, he joined the Franciscan Order. By 1262 he believed that his university...
Categories: Philosophy

Ancient Logic

Thu, 2020-04-16 02:51
[Revised entry by Susanne Bobzien on April 15, 2020. Changes to: Bibliography] Logic as a discipline starts with the transition from the more or less unreflective use of logical methods and argument patterns to the reflection on and inquiry into these methods and patterns and their elements, including the syntax and semantics of sentences. In Greek and Roman antiquity, discussions of some elements of logic and a focus on methods of inference can be traced back to the late 5th century BCE. The Sophists, and later Plato (early 4th c.)...
Categories: Philosophy

Space and Time: Inertial Frames

Thu, 2020-04-16 01:23
[Revised entry by Robert DiSalle on April 15, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] A "frame of reference" is a standard relative to which motion and rest may be measured; any set of points or objects that are at rest relative to one another enables us, in principle, to describe the relative motions of bodies. A frame of reference is therefore a purely kinematical device, for the geometrical description of motion without regard to the masses or forces involved. A dynamical account of motion leads to the idea of an "inertial frame," or a reference frame relative to which motions have distinguished dynamical...
Categories: Philosophy

Imaginative Resistance

Tue, 2020-04-14 03:26
[New Entry by Emine Hande Tuna on April 13, 2020.] The phenomenon of "imaginative resistance" refers to psychological difficulties otherwise competent imaginers experience when engaging in particular imaginative activities prompted by works of fiction. Usually, we seem to have no trouble engaging with time-travel or space-exploration stories, superhero movies, or talking non-human animal fables. At other times, we do not seem to be able to play along that easily; for instance, when we are presented with an alternative Macbeth where...
Categories: Philosophy

Rudolf Carnap

Sun, 2020-04-12 04:13
[Revised entry by Hannes Leitgeb and André Carus on April 11, 2020. Changes to: Bibliography] Rudolf Carnap (1891 - 1970) was one of the best-known philosophers of the twentieth century. Notorious as one of the founders, and perhaps the leading philosophical representative, of the movement known as logical positivism or logical empiricism, he was one of the originators of the new field of philosophy of science and later a leading contributor to semantics and inductive logic. Though his views underwent significant changes at various points, he continued to reaffirm the basic tenets of logical empiricism, and is still...
Categories: Philosophy


Sun, 2020-04-12 04:09
[Revised entry by Matthias Steup and Ram Neta on April 11, 2020. Changes to: Main text, notes.html Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] The term "epistemology" comes from the Greek words "episteme" and "logos". "Episteme" can be translated as "knowledge" or "understanding" or "acquaintance", while "logos" can be translated as "account" or "argument" or "reason". Just as each of these different translations captures some facet of the meaning of these Greek terms, so too does each translation capture a different facet of...
Categories: Philosophy