Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric

Though many pioneering feminists were deeply influenced by American pragmatism, their contemporary followers have generally ignored that tradition because of its marginalization by a philosophical mainstream intent on neutral analyses devoid of subjectivity. In this revealing work, Charlene Haddock Seigfried effectively reunites two major social and philosophical movements, arguing that pragmatism, because of its focus on the emancipatory potential of everyday experiences, offers feminism its most viable and powerful philosophical foundation. With careful attention to their interwoven histories and contemporary concerns, Pragmatism and Feminism effectively invigorates both traditions, opening them to new interpretations and appropriations and asserting their timely philosophical relevance. This foundational work in feminist theory simultaneously invites and guides future scholarship in an area of rapidly emerging significance.

Truth and the End of Inquiry: A Peircean Account of Truth

C.S. Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, argued that truth is what we would agree upon, were inquiry to be pursued as far as it could fruitfully go. In this book, Misak argues for and elucidates the pragmatic account of truth, paying attention both to Peirce’s texts and to the requirements of a suitable account of truth. An important argument of the book is that we must be sensitive to the difference between offering a definition of truth and engaging in a distinctively pragmatic project. The pragmatic project spells out the relationship between truth and inquiry; it articulates the consequences of a statement’s being true. The existence of a distinct pragmatic enterprise has implications for the status of the pragmatic account of truth and for the way in which philosophy should be conducted.

Philosophers in the Republic: Plato’s Two Paradigms

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates contends that philosophers make the best rulers because only they behold with their mind’s eye the eternal and purely intelligible Forms of the Just, the Noble, and the Good. When, in addition, these men and women are endowed with a vast array of moral, intellectual, and personal virtues and are appropriately educated, surely no one could doubt the wisdom of entrusting to them the governance of cities. Although it is widely—and reasonably—assumed that all the Republic’s philosophers are the same, Roslyn Weiss argues in this boldly original book that the Republic actually contains two distinct and irreconcilable portrayals of the philosopher.

According to Weiss, Plato’s two paradigms of the philosopher are the “philosopher by nature” and the “philosopher by design.” Philosophers by design, as the allegory of the Cave vividly shows, must be forcibly dragged from the material world of pleasure to the sublime realm of the intellect, and from there back down again to the “Cave” to rule the beautiful city envisioned by Socrates and his interlocutors. Yet philosophers by nature, described earlier in the Republic, are distinguished by their natural yearning to encounter the transcendent realm of pure Forms, as well as by a willingness to serve others—at least under appropriate circumstances. In contrast to both sets of philosophers stands Socrates, who represents a third paradigm, one, however, that is no more than hinted at in the Republic. As a man who not only loves “what is” but is also utterly devoted to the justice of others—even at great personal cost—Socrates surpasses both the philosophers by design and the philosophers by nature. By shedding light on an aspect of the Republic that has escaped notice, Weiss’s new interpretation will challenge Plato scholars to revisit their assumptions about Plato’s moral and political philosophy.

Before Nature: Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science

In the modern West, we take for granted that what we call the “natural world” confronts us all and always has—but Before Nature explores that almost unimaginable time when there was no such conception of “nature”—no word, reference, or sense for it.

Before the concept of nature formed over the long history of European philosophy and science, our ancestors in ancient Assyria and Babylonia developed an inquiry into the world in a way that is kindred to our modern science. With Before Nature, Francesca Rochberg explores that Assyro-Babylonian knowledge tradition and shows how it relates to the entire history of science. From a modern, Western perspective, a world not conceived somehow within the framework of physical nature is difficult—if not impossible—to imagine. Yet, as Rochberg lays out, ancient investigations of regularity and irregularity, norms and anomalies clearly established an axis of knowledge between the knower and an intelligible, ordered world. Rochberg is the first scholar to make a case for how exactly we can understand cuneiform knowledge, observation, prediction, and explanation in relation to science—without recourse to later ideas of nature. Systematically examining the whole of Mesopotamian science with a distinctive historical and methodological approach, Before Nature will open up surprising new pathways for studying the history of science.

Plato on Parts and Wholes: The Metaphysics of Structure

This book is an examination of Plato’s treatment of the relation between a whole and its parts in a group of Plato’s later works: the Theaetetus, Parmenides, Sophist, Philebus, and Timaeus. Plato’s discussions of part and whole in these texts fall into two distinct groups: a problematic one in which he explores, without endorsing, a model of composition as identity; and another in which he develops an alternative to this rejected model. Each model is concerned with the nature of composition of a whole from its parts, such that a whole is an individual, rather than a mere collection or heap. According to the problematic model of composition, a whole is identical to its many parts, that is, the relation of many parts to one whole is just the relation of identity. This model is shown to have the paradoxical consequence that the same thing(s) is (or are) both one thing and many things, and for this reason, amongst others, it cannot support an adequate account of composition. According to the alternative model of composition, wholes of parts are contentful structures (or, instances of such structures), whose parts get their identity only in the context of the whole they compose. Plato presents the structure of such wholes as the proper objects of Platonic science: essentially irreducible, intelligible, and normative in character.

What is a Conspiracy Theory?

In much of the current academic and public discussion, conspiracy theories are portrayed as a negative phenomenon, linked to misinformation, mistrust in experts and institutions, and political propaganda. Rather surprisingly, however, philosophers working on this topic have been reluctant to incorporate a negatively evaluative aspect when either analyzing or engineering the concept conspiracy theory. In this paper, we present empirical data on the nature of the concept conspiracy theory from five studies designed to test the existence, prevalence and exact form of an evaluative dimension to the ordinary concept conspiracy theory. These results reveal that, while there is a descriptive concept of conspiracy theory, the predominant use of conspiracy theory is deeply evaluative, encoding information about epistemic deficiency and often also derogatory and disparaging information. On the basis of these results, we present a new strategy for engineering conspiracy theory to promote theoretical investigations and institutional discussions of this phenomenon. We argue for engineering conspiracy theory to encode an epistemic evaluation, and to introduce a descriptive expression—such as ‘conspiratorial explanation’—to refer to the purely descriptive concept conspiracy theory.

Moral Enhancement, Self-Governance, and Resistance

John Harris recently argued that the moral bioenhancement proposed by Persson and Savulescu can damage moral agency by depriving recipients of their freedom to fall (freedom to make wrongful choices) and therefore should not be pursued. The link Harris makes between moral agency and the freedom to fall, however, implies that all forms of moral enhancement that aim to make the enhancement recipients less likely to “fall,” including moral education, are detrimental to moral agency. In this article, I present a new moral agency–based critique against the moral bioenhancement program envisaged by Persson and Savulescu. I argue that the irresistible influences exerted by the bioenhancement program harm our capabilities for conducting accurate self-reflection and forming decisions that truly express our will, subsequently undermining our moral agency.

The Money Pump Is Necessarily Diachronic

In “The Irrelevance of the Diachronic Money-Pump Argument for Acyclicity,” The Journal of Philosophy CX, 8 (August 2013), 460-464, Johan E. Gustafsson contends that if Davidson, McKinsey and Suppes’ diachronic money-pump argument in their “Outlines of a Formal Theory of Value, I,” Philosophy of Science 22 (1955), 140-160 is valid, so is the synchronic argument Gustafsson himself offers. He concludes that the latter renders irrelevant diachronic choice considerations in general, and the two best-known diachronic solutions to the money pump problem in particular. I argue here that this reasoning is incorrect, and that Gustafsson’s synchronic argument is faulty on independent grounds. Specifically, it is based on a false analogy between the derivation of a synchronic ordinal ranking from a transitive series of pairwise comparisons, and the putative derivation of such a ranking from an intransitive series. The latter is not possible under the assumption of revealed preference theory, and is highly improbable even if that assumption is rejected. Moreover, Gustafsson’s argument raises issues of fidelity to the historical texts that must be addressed. I conclude that the money pump, and cyclical choice more generally, are necessarily diachronic; and therefore that the two best-known diachronic solutions to the money pump problem remain relevant.

Fetuses, Orphans, and a Famous Violinist: On the Ethics and Politics of Abortion

In this paper, I urge feminists to re-center fetal moral status in their theorizing about abortion. I argue that fundamental feminist normative commitments are at odds with efforts to de-emphasize fetal moral status: The feminist commitment to ensuring care for dependents supports surprising conclusions with regard to the ethics of abortion, and the feminist commitment to politicizing the personal has surprising conclusions regarding the politics of abortion. But these feminist insights also support the conclusion that, conditional on fetal moral status, care for unwanted fetuses would be a social obligation that only derivatively falls to women who are unwillingly pregnant.

Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume II: A Kantian Conception

Adrian Piper argues that the Humean conception can be made to work only if it is placed in the context of a wider and genuinely universal conception of the self, whose origins are to be found in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. This conception comprises the basic canons of classical logic, which provide both a model of motivation and a model of rationality. These supply necessary conditions both for the coherence and integrity of the self and also for unified agency. The Kantian conception solves certain intractable problems in decision theory by integrating it into classical predicate logic, and provides answers to longstanding controversies in metaethics concerning moral motivation, rational final ends, and moral justification that the Humean conception engenders. In addition, it sheds light on certain kinds of moral behavior – for example, the whistleblower – that the Humean conception is at a loss to explain.