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Showing posts from December, 2012

Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism refuted

Here's my central criticism of Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). It's novel and was published in Analysis last year. Here's the gist. Plantinga argues that if naturalism and evolution are true, then semantic epiphenomenalism is very probably true - that's to say, the content of our beliefs does not causally impinge on our behaviour. And if semantic properties such as having such-and-such content or being true cannot causally impinge on behaviour, then they cannot be selected for by unguided evolution. Plantinga's argument requires, crucially, that there be no conceptual links between belief content and behaviour of a sort that it's actually very plausible to suppose exist (note that to suppose there are such conceptual links is not necessarily to suppose that content can be exhaustively captured in terms of behaviour or functional role, etc. in the way logical behaviourists or functionalists suppose). It turns o

Students - make a 1 min film and win £9K

Just receievd this as an author of a OUP Very Short Introduction book (Humanism). Dear All As a Very Short Introductions author, I am writing to let you know of a large UK VSI competition in partnership with the Guardian newspaper. As part of a wider campaign to promote the series to students, this ‘Very Short Film’ competition carries an eye-catching £9,000 first prize, which will pay the winning student’s tuition fees for a year. Students will be asked to produce a one-minute film about a subject close to their hearts. From 1st October through to Christmas, the Guardian will be showcasing the competition and video entries on its recently launched Guardian Students site. The closing date is 31st December, with a live final in March 2013 to be held in London. More information can be found here: As many of you are lecturers, teachers, and professors in your fields, we felt it would be a good idea to inform as many of our VSI authors as possib

Bertrand Russell: Names and descriptions

(From my book The Great Philosophers ) Our focus is on Russell’s theory of descriptions , and his view on how ordinary proper names function. Russell considered his theory of descriptions to be one of his most important contributions to philosophy. A puzzle about existence Let’s begin by sketching out an ancient and infernal puzzle: how do proper names – such as John, Paris or Jupiter – function? What role do they play in those sentences within which they appear? An obvious suggestion would be that they refer . Take the sentence: John is tall. We use ‘John’ to refer to a particular individual. We then assert something about this individual – namely, he is tall. The claim is true if the individual to whom we refer is tall, and false if he isn’t. Another apparent use of a referring expression is: The tallest building is in Kuala Lumpur. Here, it’s tempting to suppose we use the description ‘the tallest building’ to refer to a particular building. We then claim