According to McDowell, conceptualism necessarily follows from the thesis that Kant falls into Sellars’ myth of the given. However, by comparing Sellars’ and McDowell’s versions of the myth of the given, it emerges that while Sellars introduces the myth of the given as a critique of empirical fundamentalism, McDowell’s critique is directed at minimal empiricism. The aim of this paper is to show that Kant’s theory of cognition does not fall into either of the two variants of the aforementioned myth. It thus argues against a conceptualist interpretation of Kant’s transcendental philosophy. It shows this by examining the Transcendental Aesthetic and the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason.
One of Kant’s categories—a priori concepts the possession and applicability of which are necessary conditions of possible experience—is a concept of necessity. But it is unclear why the concept of necessity, as Kant defines it, should be a category thus understood. My aim is to offer a reading of Kant that fills this lacuna: the category of necessity is required to make necessity as it features in the world of experience understandable: a concept that the understanding can grasp and employ in cognition of objects. Kant’s view has potential wider significance for accounts of the function of necessity judgments.
Scholars have assumed what I call the synthetic interpretation, according to which the aim of Socrates’ first voyage (Phaedo 97b8–99d3) is to determine features of each object in the world by considering what features are good for it. Against this I argue for what I call the analytic interpretation, according to which it is to determine what the good is by considering why each object has its features as it does. I shall then show that my analytic interpretation sheds new light on the objective and method of his second voyage (99d4–100a3). It has been discussed in the literature whether the theory of Forms is intended to explain things teleologically. But I argue that its point is rather for indirectly discovering the teleological cause, which Socrates attempted, but failed, to discover because of his reliance on empirical observation through the senses.
This paper draws out and connects two neglected issues in Kant’s conception of a priori knowledge. Both concern topics that have been central to contemporary epistemology and to formal epistemology in particular: knowability and luminosity. Does Kant commit to some form of knowability principle according to which certain necessary truths are in principle knowable to beings like us? Does Kant commit to some form of luminosity principle according to which, if a subject knows a priori, then they can know that they know a priori? I defend affirmative answers to both of these questions, and by considering the special kind of modality involved in Kant’s conceptions of possible experience and the essential completability of metaphysics, I argue that his combination of knowability and luminosity principles leads Kant into difficulty.
In this paper I propose a notion of propria inspired by Aristotle, on which propria are non-essential, necessary properties explained by the essence of a thing. My proposal differs from the characterization of propria by Kit Fine and Kathrin Koslicki: unlike Fine, the relation of explanation on my account can’t be assimilated to a notion of logical entailment. In disagreement with Koslicki, I suggest that the explanatory relation at issue needs not be necessary. My account of essence is conceptually parsimonious: it illuminates the contribution of essence to explanation without relying on obscure notions such as Aristotelian form or identity.
Relying upon a very close reading of all of the definitions given in Euclid’s Elements, I argue that this mathematical treatise contains a philosophical treatment of mathematical objects. Specifically, I show that Euclid draws elaborate metaphysical distinctions between (i) substances and non-substantial attributes of substances, (ii) different kinds of substance, and (iii) different kinds of non-substance. While the general metaphysical theory adopted in the Elements resembles that of Aristotle in many respects, Euclid does not employ Aristotle’s terminology, or indeed, any philosophical terminology at all. Instead, Euclid systematically uses different types of definition to distinguish between metaphysically different kinds of mathematical object.
On the one hand, Aristotle claims that the matter of a material thing is not part of its form. On the other hand, he suggests that the proper account of a natural thing must include a specification of the kind of matter in which it is realized. There are three possible strategies for dealing with this apparent tension. First, there may be two kinds of definition, so that the definition of the form of a thing does not include any specification of its matter, whereas the definition of a compound does. Second, the definition of a substance may not include a specification of its matter at all, but still reveal in what kinds of matter its form can be realized. Third, there may be a special kind of matter, functional matter, which belongs to the form of certain things. I will show that the functional matter of a thing does not belong to its form (in a strict sense of “form”), but that an adequate account of natural substances and their functions must nonetheless involve a reference to their functional matter. This means that the function of a natural thing is not the same as its form and that its adequate account as a natural thing is not a definition (in a strict sense of “form” and “definition”).
This paper offers an overview of the history of the axiom forma dat esse, which was commonly quoted during the Middle Ages to describe formal causality. The first part of the paper studies the origin of this principle, and recalls how the ambiguity of Boethius’s first formulation of it in the De Trinitate was variously interpreted by the members of the School of Chartres. Then, the paper examines the various declensions of the axiom that existed in the late Middle Ages, and shows how its evolution significantly follows the progressive decline of the Aristotelian model of formal causality.
This paper develops a valid reconstruction in first-order predicate logic of Leibniz’s argument for his complete concept definition of substance in §8 of the Discours de Métaphysique. Following G. Rodriguez-Pereyra, it construes the argument as resting on two substantial premises, the “merely verbal” Aristotelian definition and Leibniz’s concept containment theory of truth, and it understands the resulting “real” definition as saying not that an entity is a substance iff its complete concept contains every predicate of that entity, but iff its complete concept contains every predicate of any subject to which that concept is truly attributable. An account is suggested of why Leibniz criticises the Aristotelian definition as merely nominal and how he takes his own definition to overcome this shortcoming: while on the Aristotelian basis the predication relation could generate endless chains, so that substances as endpoints of predication would be impossible, Leibniz’s definition reveals lowest species as such endpoints, which he therefore identifies with individual substances. Since duplicate lowest species make no sense, the Identity of Indiscernibles for substances follows. The reading suggests a Platonist interpretation according to which substances do not so much have but are individual essences, natures or forms.