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Episteme Vol. VIII


"Thomistic Metaphysics and the Synthetic A Priori" by Brent D. Timmons

Aquinas’ metaphysics is a powerful, comprehensive system, but one that is subtle and demands careful attention. The author here argues that Henry B. Veatch’s paper, which attempts to reconcile Aquinas with Kant’s metaphysics, mistakenly turns Aquinas’ thought into a mere empirical science. The article begins with an overview of Kant’s two types of judgments and Aquinas’ notion of principia per se nota, or first principles. Aquinas’ first principles are analytic on Kant’s analysis yet are also said to give information about the world, according to Thomist thought. But “how are the principia per se nota informative about the world?”—Kant would think this impossible! The author argues that Veatch’s explanation fails to postulate the variable ways that principles can be about the world. Veatch errs in forcing metaphysics to conform to natural science. Because Aquinas’ metaphysical substances apply to all being—they are transcendent—, they naturally apply to sensible being, also.

"General Rules and the Normativity of Causal Inferences in the First Book of Hume's Treatise" by Joshua Derman

In the paper, the author has undertaken the task of illuminating the meanings and connections that constitute Hume’s account of causality. The author’s method is critical, questioning the logical consistency and explanatory power of Hume’s skeptical causality and inference, only to eventually reveal the validity of Hume’s argument. Much of the analysis is spent making sense of the seemingly contradictory or confusing statements Hume makes in his Treatise; lots of examples help this process. The paper includes addressing the paradoxical connection between our internal/subjective general rules and our customs. It also examines the interesting question of how to judge the good or bad character of a potential new custom.

"Explanatory Pervasion and the Unity of Science" by Andrew Miller

The philosophy of science has seen a range of theories since the radical introduction of reductionism as an offshoot of the logical positivists. This author argues that while the various sciences may not be unified by law, there is every reason to believe that they are unified by explanation. In essence, Alan Garfinkel and David Owens are judged to be less convincing that the arguments given by Karen Neander and Peter Menzies. The author shows the insufficiency of Garfinkel’s attempt to illustrate the missing link between macro and micro explanation in the theory of explanatory pervasion. The author then supports Neander et al., who disagree with Owens over the arguments against agglomerativity and transitivity. They offer an alternative understanding of the Aristotelian example, as well a better argument against transitivity, hinging on the difference between causal relevance and explanatory relevance. Thus, the author supports Neander and Menzies’s weaker formulation of explanatory pervasion.

"Persons, Materialism and Consciousness" by Brendan Neufeld

In this article, the author criticizes the materialist theory of mind but salvages the causal insights put forth by neurophysiology’s linkage of the mind and the brain. P. M. S. Hacker’s exegesis of Wittgenstein argues that materialist philosophers and neuroscientists make grammatical contradictions when accounting for the mental. To begin to pinpoint the error of physicalism, the author provides examples that elaborate on Norman Malcolm’s two distinct senses of the term “consciousness.” Materialism’s (and neurophysiology’s) causal nature accounts for intransitive consciousness, but neither are especially promising when it comes to transitive consciousness. In the background, there is a major problem: it is persons, not brains (which are just parts of persons), which are said to instantiate the psychological predicates that correspond to the various types of intransitive consciousness. Even still, the “brain story,” if viewed as a part of the greater “person story,” can lead us to a better theory of personhood.

"The Value of Natural Kinds from a Kripkean Perspective: A Critique of Eric Katz's 'Organism, Community and the "Substitution Problem"' by Jessica H. Mitchell

The author endeavors to extend the Kripke/Putnam theory of reference in order to improve Eric Katz’s argument in “Organism, Community, and the ‘Substitution Problem.” Katz criticizes the organism model for species and supports the community model, which supposedly strikes a balance with a species’ intrinsic value and functional purpose within a natural ecosystem. But since it can be shown that the so-called organism model includes intrinsic value, too, the substitution problem (which had plagued it for Katz) is unfounded. Because Katz’s real goal is to differentiate between the intrinsic and instrumental value of a given species, Kripke’s theory of natural kinds coupled with Putnam’s counterfactual reasoning can help make Katz’s ethics into a stronger argument. Even still, Kripke’s thought urges us to recognize that human science improves and our understanding of a species is never a fixed one. Thus, theory alone cannot definitively conclude how best to treat a given species.

"Freud on Writing: Some Historicist Perspectives" by Sanja Perovic

The author looks at three readings of Freud by Derrida, Michel de Certeau, and Deleuze/Guattari, trying to answer the question: For Freud, how does writing produce meaning and what does this historicizing function imply about the psyche in general? The author inspects two of Freud’s analogies that are to explain and justify psychoanalysis: books avoiding political censorship and the mystic writing pad. These become doorways to the ensuing criticisms. The three commentaries trace sections of Freud’s thought as they relate to his fundamental concepts and to the work those concepts are supposed to do. Read together, the readings each supply support for the conclusion that Freud illegitimately treats the unconscious as the first cause, tied as he is to the metaphysics of presence. Freud’s psychoanalyst, in the name of nothingness, makes real his historicizing of the unconscious. Freud’s thought betrays his thought.

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