Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • PERCEPTION AND SKILL: THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR A SCIENCE OF PERCEPTION

    Author:
    Ellen Fridland
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    David Rosenthal
    Abstract:

    I argue in my dissertation that if diachronic cognitive penetration is caused by skill, then such changes in perceptual processing are legitimate instances of cognitive penetration. As such, perceptual processing is not modular. I argue this by (1) presenting a detailed analysis of the definition of cognitive penetration, (2) arguing that propositional knowledge cannot account for practical know-how, and (3) providing a definition of skill that highlights its practical and irreducibly cognitive nature. Taken together, these considerations amount to an argument for the possibility of a genuine instance of cognitive penetration, which results from the regular instantiation of skill.

  • Self-Determination and Moral Responsibility

    Author:
    Ezra Fried
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Peter Simpson
    Abstract:

    "Self-Determinism" is the claim that we can originate acts - that someone can be the first source of his act. It is often thought that freedom and moral responsibility require the ability to originate acts. I argue that this is not so. However, there is a special kind of moral responsibility that we can have for an act only if we have originated it or might have originated another. Someone has this "pure" moral responsibility for his act just in case he deserves that we take the purely moral attitude toward him of liking or disliking him as a person in considering the act, as opposed to our also considering and explaining his performance of it in an objective, scientific way. I argue that the origination of an act can be understood in a way that preserves the dominant view of causation according to which events (including acts) are always caused by other events. A beginning-less series of originative acts terminates in the final originated act. This is an origination because the agent is the subject of every act in the series. I advocate a moderate, moral self-determinism according to which an agent's personality restricts the range of acts that he can originate, and according to which he originates them only for the sake of their rightness.

  • Essays on Identity: A Defense of Logical Orthodoxy

    Author:
    Sergio Gallegos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Richard Mendelsohn
    Abstract:

    My dissertation defends a commonly accepted package involving a certain number of theses that lie at the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of language and philosophy of logic. The package, which includes (i) the classical thesis that identity is a one-one relation that is absolute, necessary and determinate and (ii) the Kripkean theses that true identity statements involving only rigid designators are necessary and that proper names are rigid designators (along with the consequences of these two theses such as the view that true identity statements involving only proper names are necessary), occupies a central role in many philosophical discussions where it functions both as a sanction of certain avenues of inquiry and as a constraint on the development of others. In spite of its inner consistency and overwhelming persuasiveness, the package has been criticized from many different angles. For instance, some philosophers claim that there are many different identity relations relativized to different sorts of things rather than an absolute identity relation because the latter view is undermined by paradoxes. Others maintain that, pace Kripke, there are true contingent identity statements involving only proper names because the reference of a proper name in a counterfactual situation is given by a sortal concept associated to it. Furthermore, some hold that identity is indeterminate in certain circumstances because the strongest arguments that aim to show the inconsistency of the view that identity is indeterminate may be blocked successfully. The first chapter of my dissertation is concerned with answering the challenge raised against the absolute character of identity. After reviewing the traditional considerations put forward by relative identity theorists as well as some novel arguments, I conclude that identity is absolute. In the second chapter, I consider in detail some of the most prominent arguments given to maintain that there are true contingent identity statements involving proper names as well as an argument given to show that the proof of the necessity of identity involves a vicious circularity and I show that all the arguments involve serious flaws, thus clearing of doubts the Kripkean portion of the package. The third chapter vindicates the view that indeterminate identity is inconsistent by providing a defense of Evans' argument for the inconsistency of indeterminate identity against a number of objections that have been addressed to it.

  • Essays on Identity: A Defense of Logical Orthodoxy

    Author:
    Sergio Gallegos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Richard Mendelsohn
    Abstract:

    My dissertation defends a commonly accepted package involving a certain number of theses that lie at the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of language and philosophy of logic. The package, which includes (i) the classical thesis that identity is a one-one relation that is absolute, necessary and determinate and (ii) the Kripkean theses that true identity statements involving only rigid designators are necessary and that proper names are rigid designators (along with the consequences of these two theses such as the view that true identity statements involving only proper names are necessary), occupies a central role in many philosophical discussions where it functions both as a sanction of certain avenues of inquiry and as a constraint on the development of others. In spite of its inner consistency and overwhelming persuasiveness, the package has been criticized from many different angles. For instance, some philosophers claim that there are many different identity relations relativized to different sorts of things rather than an absolute identity relation because the latter view is undermined by paradoxes. Others maintain that, pace Kripke, there are true contingent identity statements involving only proper names because the reference of a proper name in a counterfactual situation is given by a sortal concept associated to it. Furthermore, some hold that identity is indeterminate in certain circumstances because the strongest arguments that aim to show the inconsistency of the view that identity is indeterminate may be blocked successfully. The first chapter of my dissertation is concerned with answering the challenge raised against the absolute character of identity. After reviewing the traditional considerations put forward by relative identity theorists as well as some novel arguments, I conclude that identity is absolute. In the second chapter, I consider in detail some of the most prominent arguments given to maintain that there are true contingent identity statements involving proper names as well as an argument given to show that the proof of the necessity of identity involves a vicious circularity and I show that all the arguments involve serious flaws, thus clearing of doubts the Kripkean portion of the package. The third chapter vindicates the view that indeterminate identity is inconsistent by providing a defense of Evans' argument for the inconsistency of indeterminate identity against a number of objections that have been addressed to it.

  • Conceptual Roles and Conceptual Explanation: How Internalism Can Provide Everything We Need From A Theory of Concepts, and Why Externalism Can't

    Author:
    Cressida Gaukroger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Jesse Prinz
    Abstract:

    This dissertation attacks externalism about concepts. It argues that attributions of mental state content that posit externally individuated concepts lack explanatory power. Only the intrinsic or local properties of mental states are relevant to causal explanations of behaviour - relational or non-local properties of mental states do not have causal power. This dissertation focuses on expanding upon this argument, and showing that it has significant consequences for those who assert the externalist position. I begin by setting out the primary criticisms levelled at internalist theories of concepts. These include the claims that a theory that individuates concepts purely internally will be unable to explain linguistic communication, or shared categorisation activities; it will not be able to account for intuitions we have about the nature and structure of our own concepts; and concepts, so conceived, would not be able to track objects in the world, nor would they be truth evaluable. I address these concerns systematically by asking how well externalism would respond to such requirements on a theory of concepts. I argue that the failure of attributions of mental state content that posit externally individuated concepts to explain behaviour, also means that externalism will be unable to explain behaviours such as linguistic communication. I challenge the value of externalist intuitions, particularly those generated by Twin Earth style thought experiments. I also argue that one can substitute an internalist-compatible account of conceptual utility and accuracy for a requirement of concepts having truth-evaluable properties, and thereby have a theory of concepts that provides a better link between our mentally representing the world, and our interacting with it. I conclude that only the local or internal features of concepts will be able to account for the observable phenomena that concepts are believed to explain.

  • A Critique of Saul Kripke's "Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language"

    Author:
    Chrysoula Gitsoulis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Paul Horwich
    Abstract:

    In Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, Saul Kripke presents a controversial skeptical argument, which he attributes to Wittgenstein's interlocutor in the Philosophical Investigations [PI]. The argument purports to show that there are no facts that correspond to what we mean by our words. Kripke maintains, moreover, that the conclusion of Wittgenstein's so-called private language argument is a corollary of results Wittgenstein establishes in §§137-202 of PI concerning the topic of following-a-rule, and not the conclusion of an independently developed argument in §§243ff of PI, as most commentators take it to be. In this work, I assess Kripke's skeptical argument both in its own right, and as an interpretation of the rule-following sections of PI. In its own right, I try to show that it is critically flawed. However, as an interpretation of the rule-following sections of PI, I try to show that it is essentially correct. I do this by showing that Kripke's interpretation squares with and supports the metaphilosophical framework developed by Wittgenstein in §§107-136 of PI, which immediately precedes his remarks on following-a-rule.

  • Physicalism, Substance, and the Shifting Locus of Fundamentality

    Author:
    Jonah Goldwater
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Barbara Montero
    Abstract:

    I demonstrate two main theses. First, the physicalist and Aristotelian worldviews are deeply incompatible, particularly in regards to the locus of fundamentality: where the fundamental level of reality is taken to be, which entities, processes, and facts are understood as fundamental, and, as a corollary, which are taken to be derivative or unreal. Second, the physicalist is committed to eliminativism about what the Aristotelian thinks is the fundamental basis of reality. And as these Aristotelian theses largely comport with a common-sense ontology, I thereby show that physicalism is far more revisionary than many have suspected.

  • PROBABILITY, SIMPLICITY, AND INFINITY: A CRITIQUE OF RICHARD SWINBURNE'S ARGUMENT FOR THEISM

    Author:
    Jeremy Gwiazda
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Steven Cahn
    Abstract:

    Richard Swinburne has presented an extended argument, spanning many works, the conclusion of which is that God likely exists. His argument is a cumulative argument, which means that he considers many pieces of evidence in arguing that God likely exists. The evidence he considers is evidence that is traditionally considered separately (or not at all) in arguments to God's existence. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze Swinburne's inductive, cumulative argument to the existence of God. In the course of analyzing Swinburne's work, I use his argument as a lens to focus on issues that arise in areas outside of philosophy of religion, such as philosophy of science and epistemology. Some main themes of Swinburne's argument for theism are that the infinite is simple, that God is infinite on several properties, and that simple entities are likely to exist. I closely analyze Swinburne's views on infinity and simplicity, and ultimately suggest that these concepts do not do the work that Swinburne claims they do. That is, by taking a careful look at infinity and simplicity, I suggest that Swinburne's argument fails to show that God most likely exists.

  • The Structure of Practical Rationality

    Author:
    Carl Hammer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Bernard Baumrin
    Abstract:

    Many pressing metaethical problems can be conceived as a need for placing a kind of meaningful and objective morality into an integrated and explanatory worldview, and this requires a constructive explanation of moral obligation. There are two major problems for giving such an explanation. On the one hand, moral obligations must be grounded in a general scheme of practical normativity; otherwise, they can have no authority. On the other hand, moral obligations must arise from social relations; otherwise, they lose their character as demands that a moral community has the authority to enforce. To explain practical normativity in general, I implement and refine a certain kind of explanatory strategy for normativity, which has been developed by J. David Velleman and Christine Korsgaard - constitutivism. To use this strategy, agency and action are conceptually analyzed in terms of a constitutive aim and it is argued that this aim has supreme authority for all who qualify as agents in this technical sense. I argue that a rational agent must aim at systematization of the agent's commitments, and that this aim has the authority to determine correct decision-making for the agent. To show how this can be worked into a theory of moral obligation with its special social character, I argue first for Stephen Darwall's conception of moral obligations as arising from second-personal accountability relations. Then I argue that having a commitment to participation in the moral community - the social group of individuals who jointly subscribe to mutual accountability - is a plausible condition of human nature (what most people are like). Further, it is also plausible, I argue, that for most people this commitment has an authoritative systematic position within one's scheme of commitments. Moral obligations arise directly from the accountability relations within the moral community, and so the authority of one's commitment to the moral community translates into the authority of moral obligations for that individual.

  • Speech Act Theoretic Semantics

    Author:
    Daniel Harris
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Stephen Neale
    Abstract:

    I defend the view that linguistic meaning is a relation borne by an expression to a type of speech act, and that this relation holds in virtue of our overlapping communicative dispositions, and not in virtue of linguistic conventions. I argue that this theory gives the right account of the semantics-pragmatics interface and the best-available semantics for non-declarative clauses, and show that it allows for the construction of a rigorous compositional semantic theory with greater explanatory power than both truth-conditional and dynamic semantics.