Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy
French (Peter) & Wettstein (Howard), Eds.
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.


Amazon Book Description

  1. The Midwest Studies in Philosophy series has been one of the most respected publications for new works in philosophy for over twenty years.
  2. This volume explores the evolving trends that philosophy as a discipline is facing. The new directions explored include articles such as Identity in the Talmud, Existential relativity, Reasons and the Deductive Ideal, Criteria and Truth, Locke and Post–Modern Epistemology, A Priori Philosophy after an A Posteriori Turn, and Things and their Parts.
  3. Midwest Studies in Philosophy features some of the key thinkers in the field, and many of these articles are especially well-suited for classroom teaching.


Wiley-Blackwell; Volume XXIII edition (1 Mar. 2000)

"Ackerman (Felicia) - Late in the Quest: A Study of Malory's Morte Darthur as a New Direction in Philosophy"

Source: French (Peter) & Wettstein (Howard), Eds. - Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Adler (Jonathan) - The Ethics of Belief: Off the Wrong Track"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

COMMENT: This is a critique of "Plantinga (Alvin) - Reason and Belief in God".

"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Unity without Identity: A New Look at Material Constitution"

Source: Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 1999, Vol. XXIII Issue 1, p144, 22p

Author’s Abstract
  1. "Unity without Identity" sets out in explicit detail an account of material constitution, according to which the relation between a statue1 and the piece of marble that it is made of is not identity.
  2. The relation of constitution is like identity in that if x constitutes y at t, then x and y have many properties in common at t. It is unlike identity in that if x constitutes y at t, then x and y are of different kinds.
  3. After explaining the notion of borrowing properties, I reply to a number of objections.

Philosophers Index Abstract
    Focuses on the material constitution of identity. Dichotomy of identity; Account of constitution; Schema for constitution.

Author’s Introduction
  1. It is time to rethink age-old questions about material constitution. What is the relation between, say, a lump of clay and a statue2 that it makes up, or between a red and white piece of metal and a stop sign, or between a person and her body? Assuming that there is a single relation between members of each of these pairs, is the relation "strict" identity, "contingent" identity or something else? Although this question has generated substantial controversy recently, I believe that there is philosophical gain to be had from thinking through the issues from scratch. Many of the charges and counter-charges are based on the following dichotomy: For any x and y that are related as the lump of clay is to the statue3 that it makes up, either x is identical to y, or X and y are separate entities, independent of each other. By giving up this dichotomy, we will be able to begin to make sense, I hope, of an intermediate unity relation that holds promise for solving a raft of philosophical problems, including the problem of how persons are related to their bodies. And if I am correct, then this relation — constitution without identity — is ubiquitous and interesting in its own right, apart from the light that it sheds on human persons.
  2. My overall aim here is constructive: I want to set out and defend an explicit account of what it is for an object x to constitute an object y at time t. According to my account, if x constitutes y (at any time), then x <> y. (Thus, I reject the first half of the dichotomy above.) Although I join the ranks of those who deny that the relation between the members of any of the pairs is identity in any sense, I depart from those ranks by also denying a central aspect of what has been called "the standard account." Suppose that "Copper" is a name for the piece of copper that makes up a copper statue4, "Statue." According to "the standard account," Copper is not (predicatively) a statue5. I believe that "the standard account" construes Copper and Statue as too separate. On my view, by contrast, the relation between Copper and Statue is so intimate that, although Copper and Statue are not identical, Copper is, nonetheless, a statue6 in virtue of the fact that Copper constitutes a statue7. (Thus, I reject the second half of the dichotomy.) Copper borrows the property of being a statue8 from Statue, where "borrowing" is spelled out in detail below. The account of borrowing properties will show why, when x constitutes y at t, x and y share so many of their properties at t, without being identical. So, my account is intended as a third alternative, beyond the alternatives (either identity or separate existence) countenanced by the dichotomy.
  3. Constitution is a relation in many ways similar to identity, but it is not the same relation as identity. We need constitution to be similar to identity in order to account for the fact that if x constitutes y, then x and y are spatially coincident and share many properties; but we also need constitution to differ from identity in order to account for the fact that if x constitutes y, then x and y are of different kinds and can survive different sorts of changes. Since a large part of my task is to distinguish constitution from identity, I will be emphasizing ways in which x and y are distinct if x constitutes y. But too much emphasis on their distinctness would be misleading: for, as we see in the case of Copper and Statue, x and y are not separate, independently existing individuals. Again: I want to make sense of constitution as a third category, intermediate between identity and separate existence.
  4. My starting point is with familiar things that populate the everyday world— "moderate-sized specimens of dry goods," as J. L. Austin called them. Beginning in medias res, I want to give a unified account of a fundamental relation — constitution — that holds everywhere one turns: Pieces of paper constitute dollar bills; DNA molecules constitute genes; hunks of metal constitute carburettors; bodies constitute persons; stones constitute monuments; pieces of marble constitute sculptures. If constitution is as widespread a relation as I think it is, then there is good reason to try to develop an account of it.


"Cranor (Carl F.) - Empirically and Institutionally Rich Legal and Moral Philosophy"

Source: French (Peter) & Wettstein (Howard), Eds. - Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Fine (Kit) - Things and Their Parts"

Source: Midwest Studies In Philosophy; 1999, Vol. XXIII Issue 1, p61, 14p

Philosopher’s Index Abstract
  1. Focuses on a theory of the general nature of material things.
  2. Consideration of part-whole;
  3. Timeless part;
  4. Temporary part;
  5. Rigid embodiment.

"Foley (Richard) - Locke and the Crisis of Postmodern Epistemology"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Fumerton (Richard) - A Priori Philosophy after an A Posteriori Turn"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Harrison (Bernard) - Criteria and Truth"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Heil (John) - The Ontological Turn"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Hirsch (Eli) - Identity in the Talmud"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Kornblith (Hilary) - Distrusting Reason"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Kornblith (Hilary) - Reasons and the Deductive Ideal"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Sosa (Ernest) - Existential Relativity"

Source: Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 1999, Vol. XXIII Issue 1, p132, 12p

Philosopher’s Index Abstract
  1. Focuses on the philosophy of existential relativity.
  2. Composition of artifacts and natural objects;
  3. Elimination theory;
  4. Disagreement between users of rival conceptual schemes.

Author’s Conclusion (excerpted)
  1. So our choices, none pleasant, seem to be these:
    • Eliminativism: Supposed entities that derive ontologically from underlying entities do not exist, not really. But this carries a commitment to an ontological bottom, one that seems little better than dogma, on pain of nihilism1.
    • Absolutism: Eliminativism is false. Moreover, there are no restrictions on the appropriate matter-form pairs that can constitute objects. Any matter-form pair whatever, at any given ontological level, determines a corresponding derived entity at the next higher level, so long as the matter takes that form. This is the “explosion” of reality.
    • Unrestricted absolutism: Absolutism is true. Moreover, any existential claim is to be assessed for truth or falsity relative to all objects and properties without restriction.
    • Conceptual relativism: Absolutism is true. Moreover, existential claims are true or false only relative to the context of speech or thought, which restricts the sorts of objects relevant to the assessment. Such restrictions are governed by various pragmatic or theoretical considerations.
  2. Note how moderate this conceptual relativism turns out to be. It is even absolutist and objectivist enough to accept the “explosion.” Reality is objectively much richer and more bizarre than is perhaps commonly recognized. All sorts of weird entities derive from any given level of particulars and properties. Snowdiscalls2 are just one straightforwardly simple example. Our objective metaphysics is hence absolutist and latitudinarian, given our inability to find any well-motivated objective restriction on the matter-form pairs that constitute derived entities. Our relativism applies to the truth or falsity of existential and other ontologically committed claims. It is here that a restriction is imposed by the conceptual scheme of the claimant speaker or thinker. But the restriction is as harmless and even trivial as is that involved in a claim that some selected figure f is “shapeless” made in full awareness that f does have some specific shape, however irregular. Similarly, someone who claims that there are only snowballs at location L may be relying on some context-driven restriction of the totality of objects which, in full strictness, one would recognize at that location. Speaking loosely and popularly we may hence say that there are only snowballs there, even if strictly and philosophically one would recognize much that is not dreamt of in our ordinary talk.
  3. Have we a robust intuition that snowballs are a different order of entity, somehow less a product of conceptual artifice, than snowdiscalls, or a robust intuition that doorstops are too dependent on the vagaries of human convenience and convention to count as distinctive kinds of entities no matter how artificial? And if doorstops do not count, how or why can cars count? Or is any such intuition displaced under reflection by corresponding intuitions about such natural kinds3 as animals and elements? But what exactly enables us to distinguish the distinguished classes of entities favored as objectively real, by contrast with the artificial or shadowy snowdiscalls, doorstops, hammers, snowballs, and even cars? I have here raised this question, but any claim of originality would be ludicrous. Here I have tried to frame that question in a context that rejects eliminativism on one side, and questions the “explosion” on the other. But in the end I do express a preference for the latitudinarian “explosion.” This preference is motivated by the rejection of eliminativism on one side, and by my failure to find attractive and well-motivated restrictions on allowable matter-form pairs on the other. My preference can only be tentative, however, given the vast history of the issue and the subtle and intricate contemporary discussions of it. I do point to a way in which one might be able to accommodate some of the intuitions that drive the desire for restriction, through a kind of metalinguistic or metaconceptual ascent. And it is through this ascent that our relativism emerges. It remains to be seen, however, whether the accommodation thus made possible will be accommodating enough.

In-Page Footnotes ("Sosa (Ernest) - Existential Relativity")

Footnote 2: Defined as an entity constituted by a piece of snow as matter and as form any shape between being round and being disc-shaped.

"Swoyer (Chris) - How Ontology Might Be Possible: Explanation and Inference in Metaphysics"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

"Unger (Peter) - The Mystery of The Physical and the Matter of Qualities: A Paper for Professor Shaffer"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

COMMENT: Connect to "Unger (Peter) - The Mystery of The Physical"?

"Zimmerman (Dean) - Born Yesterday: Personal Autonomy for Agents without a Past"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XXIII) - New Directions in Philosophy

Author’s Introduction
  1. Bertrand Russell famously speculated whether it is conceptually possible for the world as it presents itself to us in perception and "memory" to have been created five minutes ago.' As I recall, he did sensibly reject the hypothesis, not on a priori grounds, but simply because it is a very bad empirical hypothesis. Here, I want to explore a similar question of slightly more modest dimensions: is it conceptual!} possible, on grounds to be established a priori, that I or even you, gentle reader, tit full-fledged autonomous agents we undoubtedly are, might have been created fi>? minutes ago, equipped with just the normal adult psychologies we actually have. replete with all of their rich and fascinating features? Or, are the very ideas of "agency," "autonomy," and "responsibility" and the like "essentially historical and/or "essentially externalist" in a way that would block the possibility posed? Less pedantically put: is the very idea of "instant autonomy" conceptually incoherent?
  2. One is inclined to respond: surely not! Let us handle this more limited question in much the same fashion Russell handled his more grand one. To be sure, neither you nor I was in fact created that recently. You are a "person with a past" and so am I. But the competing hypothesis is to be ruled out on entirely empirical grounds. It is a very bad hypothesis about the nature and genesis of human agency. And so, I agree, t is. But is it merely that?
  3. Many philosophers of language and mind would be inclined to argue "no" on the grounds (inter alia) that any being capable of full-fledged conceptual thought or of reasoning of any significant complexity must necessarily be appropriately embodied and embedded in the spatiotemporal world. Hilary Putnam, for example, appeals to certain a priori constraints on reference-fixing to debunk the venerable skeptical idea that we might, for all we know, be brains-in-vats entertaining that very hypothesis about ourselves. He has many allies in the philosophy of language and mind, where it has become a virtual orthodoxy that propositional content must satisfy certain a priori constraints on how the references and extensions of the constituent terms have come to be fixed. The constraints in question are "external" to the individual's psychology, and in most such accounts "essentially historical." (Hereafter no scare quotes around these labels.) Thus if the speaker and/or thinker is not embedded in the right sort of social, biological, or engineering context, including a history of uses of the term, then he or she will necessarily be unable to entertain propositional attitudes with certain kinds of content, and on more extreme versions of the view, unable to entertain any propositional attitudes at all. (The most vivid example of such putative complete failure is Davidson's "swampman." A close second are Dretskean artifacts that lack "do it yourself understanding.")
  4. This is all very well for the philosophy of language and mind, but note that this externalist orthodoxy might turn out to have important implications for the theory of autonomous agency as well. For, to count as real agents, not just mindless instruments or devices, we must (inter alia) be able to engage in genuine practical reasoning. And however that most difficult notion is ultimately to be explicated, it will surely involve some kinds of vehicles, some kinds of mental attitudes with representational content and semantic properties. In folk psychology and its cognitivist scientific heirs, wants and beliefs or states very much like them ("valences" or "expectancies," say) are the obvious candidates. (It would be nice to be able to sidestep controversies about whether elements in connectionist networks have representational import, and if so, what kind and whether the internalist/externalist debate has any application to them. However, this will not be completely possible. See Section 5.) But if the externalist-historicist orthodoxy about content-ascription is correct, then an individual who fails to be embodied and embedded in the right sort of physical, biological, social, engineering, and historical context cannot engage in real practical reasoning, on grounds that can be established a priori. But this means that if you and I are indeed genuinely autonomous and responsible agents, a conviction that I am as loath as you to give up, then it is conceptually impossible that we have been created five minutes ago. The very idea of "instant agency" is ruled out... on a priori grounds. Thus proponents of causal-historical semantic theories of mental content seem to be committed to a particularized version of the a priori thesis Russell so sensibly rejected on more empirical grounds. (Come to think of it, couldn't Russell himself have deployed similar reasoning to rule out his more cosmic speculation? ... Nah! ... Wrong theory of reference.)

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - May 2019. Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com. File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page