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Category: Metaphysics

Essence

Essence, (essentia, from esse, to be,) “the very being of anything, whereby it is what it is.” Locke. It is an ancient scholastic word, which…

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Fundamentalist atheism?

One of the more annoying claims some people make is that atheists are or can be fundamentalists. This is annoying for two reasons: one is that atheists rarely go out and picket funerals or insist on what people can do in their own bedrooms based on a literal reading of Voltaire or Hume. The other is that it implies that atheism is like a religion or ideology. In an otherwise balanced article that takes issue with the first point, u n d e r v e r s e inadvertently adopts the latter position.

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On hierarchies

We often make an appeal to hierarchical relations, in social and political discourse, in religion, in metaphysics (or that odd part of it called mereology) and more recently in social behaviour in animals, called ethology. But what we don’t do much is discuss what it is that a hierarchy is, in general terms. So I aim to do that now.

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When do species begin?

Last night I attended a talk by Alexander Bird of Bristol on the metaphysics of natural kinds. I confess that a lot of it struck me as largely irrelevant to the actuality of the science as the level of metaphysics here, involving possible worlds and necessity, not to mention semantic properties, exceeds the metaphysical concerns of sciences. Biology, as I often say, has a very small metaphysics. No infinite denumerable lists or impossible worlds in biology.

In the course of the talk, Bird made the following claim, about speciation [below the fold].

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What is a philosopher?

Before you all go making rude comments, go read this post by Michèle Lamont at Crooked Timber and especially the interesting comments that follow.

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The doctrine of double truth

Somewhere on the internecks, I engaged in a discussion of the origins of the “double truth” theory. I wish I could find it again (let me know if you know), but I was asked where the doctrine arose. I have done a little digging, and this is a report on that.

The “double truth” theory is roughly this:

If you use reason, then you will be led to a number of conclusions (where “reason” is the use of evidence and logic of various kinds).

If you rely on faith and revelation, which is the source of knowledge of the things of God, etc., then you may be led to a number of different conclusions.

These are the two truths, and the relationship between them is the subject of much debate in theology (not so much in philosophy, and almost not at all in science). Some have held that the truths of faith must agree with the truths of science, because God is author of both, and so any apparent conflict shows that we have failed to understand one or the other. Some (like Luther in his more excitable moments) have held that faith always trumps reason. Some have held that science must trump faith (if religion is to apply in the modern world). And so on. Some take a misquoted slogan of Tertullian’s and argue that we should hold to faith because it is absurd according to reason (a view he did not hold).

So, where does this come from?

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