Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Regress Argument Against the Language of Thought Hypothesis

This objection has plagued the Language of Thought hypothesis (aka LOTH) since it's very conception. In fact Jerry Fodor included a reply to such objections in his 1975 book the Language of Thought, however these objections have refused to go away. It dubious whether such objections to the Language of Thought hypothesis do in fact under the hypothesis. 

Many of the supporters of LOTH often appeal to the idea of a language of thought to explain a number of things about our natural languages. For example the language of thought has been appealed to in order to explain the following: 

  • How natural languages (i.e French, English, Russian etc.) are learned 
  • How our natural languages are to be understood 
  • And finally how utterances in a natural language can be meaningful 
There are couple of instances in Fodor (1975) which empathize the points above. For example Fodor claims that natural languages are learned through a process of forming and confirming hypothesis regarding the translation of sentences in natural language into mentalese sentences. The LOTH gives us a representational medium in which the representation of the truth conditions of natural language sentences can occur. The Language of Thought theorist further posits that our natural languages are understood because such understanding consists in the translation of our standard natural language sentences into sentences in mentalese. Again sentences in our standard natural language are taken to meaningful in virtue of the meanings of the corresponding mentalese sentences.  

Simon Blackburn (1984) has claimed that either explanations of this kind lead to an regress as we ought to have to give an explanation of how a language of thought is learned, or that they are simply gratuitous because if it is possible to give a successful explanation which doesn't lead to regress, we ought to have given such an explanation for our natural languages without positing a language of thought at all. 

Fodor's response to such objections can be found in Fodor (1975) and goes roughly as follows:

  • The Language of Thought is innate it is not learned.
  • The Language of Thought is understood in a different sense to how we understand our natural language comprehension. 
  • That sentences in a language of thought are not meaningful in virtue of another meaningful language but rather in a completely different way. 
While Fodor's replies to the regress argument aren't totally plausible and may not convince everyone. But Laurence and Margolis (1997) have pointed out that the regress argument against LOTH (at least in the form that Blackburn presents it) relies on the assumption that the language of thought is only posited to explain certain facts about natural language acquisition and natural language comprehension. If it can be shown that there is other empirical phenomena for which the LOTH provides a good explanation then the hypothesis is not gratuitous in the way Blackburn suggests. In fact there does seem to be a good deal empirical evidence that can be best explained by positing a LOT (consider both the systematicity and productivity argument). 

Monday, 17 December 2012

An Introduction to Divine Command Theory

People still often attempt to make the connection between God and morality and is something theists often argue in favor of. Such theories have a long history in philosophy for example, Aquinas and many other philosophers and theologians have held the belief that all of morality is ultimately grounded in some particular theistic framework. Divine Command theory is essentially the claim that morality is dependent on God and his commands, with the moral good action being the one that is commanded by God. Of course the content of these various commands vary from religion to religion. What all versions share in common is that they claim morality ultimately rests on God. Divine Command theory has been widely criticized by philosophers but still carries significant weight in the religious community.  

First, I want to examine the supposed link between morality and God that Divine Command theorists claim there is. For one many in modern society don't believe in the existence of God, which appears to be problematic for the Divine Command theorist. As we may want to hold that many of those who do not believe in God are morally good people. It appears that the Divine Command theorist either has to hold that they are not morally good or that such individuals are only good when they're actions happen to coincide with the commands of God. Secondly, what if the God(s) is unjust as the ancient Greek gods of mount Olympus were portrayed to be. This again would seem to be problematic for Divine command theorists, however the majority of theorists would assert that God by definition couldn't be unjust. 

However if we accept that God is moral we are faced by another problem one that was first formulated by Plato over 2000 years ago. Namely, the Euthyphro Dilemma found unsurprisingly in the dialogue Euthyphro. Essentially the dilemma can be presented as such: 
Either acts are moral because God commands us to undertake them. Or alternatively God commands these actions because they are morally required. 
This taken in turn with the following premises seems to seriously undermine the Divine Command theory: 

  1.  For the claim that God is good to be both meaningful and true, there must be an independent criterion of goodness independent of God's commands
  2. If we accept that there is some criterion of goodness or morality independent of God's commands, then we have to accept that Divine Command theory is false. 
So we conclude that for the claim that God is good to be meaningful and true, we must reject Divine command theory. Some however do not accept that Euthyphro dilemma gives us grounds to reject Divine Command theory and that the command theorist can successfully answer the objection in a number of ways. 

However philosopher Ralf Cudworth the leader of the English platonists during the 17th Century also formulated an argument against the Divine Command theory. Cudworth's argument against the Divine Command theory can be summarized in the following way: 

  • 1) If Divine Theory is correct, God commanding us to torture an innocent child to death would be morally right. 
  • 2) However, it is not true that if God did in fact command us to torture an innocent child to death this command would make such an action morally right.
  • C)Divine Command therefore is false or incorrect. 

20th Century Philosopher and theologian, Philip L. Quinn (passed away 2004) best known for his defense command theory responded by asserting that it is not possible that God could command the torturing and ultimate death of a small child. However God could never command such a thing because God is inherently and necessarily just. This as many have pointed out appears to be absurd. If we take a look at the following presentation of Quinn's argument.

  • 1) Divine Command theory is correct, all moral requirements are ultimately derived from God's commands. 
  • 2) All moral requirements derive from God, before God made any commands there were no moral requirements. 
  • C1) No moral requirements can exist before a God has made divine commands. 
  • P3) However according to Quinn, even before God had ever made divine commands there were requirements of justice restraining his divine commands. 
  • C2) The requirements of justice constraining God's divine commands were not moral requirements. 
This line of argument appears to be terribly problematic, how can one say that the requirements of justice constraining God's commands were in no way moral requirements. It is commonly taken that justice is an important element or the aim of morality itself. Even if these kind of problems have always haunted Divine Command theory from its very conception, it is apparent that the argument holds a lot of sway among religious individuals and some academic theologians. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Philosophy Video: Introduction to Ethics and Moral Issues by Richard Brown

I have previously featured Richard Brown's Introduction to Philosophy video lecture series on this blog. However, Dr. Richard Brown has another online philosophy class this time dealing with ethics and moral issues. While ethics and morality, aren't Richard Brown's particular area of expertise (the majority of his research being undertaken in the philosophy of mind) it is very clear throughout the lectures that he has a very good understanding of the subject matter. Each lecture consists of a number of slides with Richard Brown running through the content contained on the slide in more detail. The course takes a largely historical approach after beginning with a lecture explaining philosophical ethics. The course would make a good starting point for those who want an introduction that allows them to read and engage with academic works in the field of ethics. While it doesn't make for a totally comprehensive introduction to the topic of ethics (mainly due to the fact the course consists of 8 lectures); anyone who has become interested in the topics of ethics and wishes to learn more would find this is a good starting point. 

The rest of the lectures can be found at: OnlinePhilosophyClass 

For those who wish to find out more about Dr Richard Brown I recommend you visit his academic page

Friday, 14 December 2012

Dennett's Objection to the Language of Thought Hypothesis

The well known philosopher Daniel Dennett formulated one of the first serious objections to the language of thought hypothesis (LOTH) in his review to Jerry Fodor's (1975) foundational book on the subject. Dennett's objection is essentially that it is possible for their to be propositional attitudes without explicit representation. To make his point Dennett introduces an example:
In a recent conversation with the designer of a chess-playing program I heard the following criticism of a rival program: “it thinks it should get its queen out early.” This ascribes a propositional attitude to the program in a very useful and predictive way, for as the designer went on to say, one can usefully count on chasing that queen around the board. But for all the many levels of explicit representation to be found in that program, nowhere is anything roughly synonymous with “I should get my queen out early” explicitly tokened. The level of analysis to which the designer's remark belongs describes features of the program that are, in an entirely innocent way, emergent properties of the computational processes that have “engineering reality.” I see no reason to believe that the relation between belief-talk and psychological talk will be any more direct. (Dennett 1981: 107) 
The rival but critical chess programmer assigns a propositional attitude to the rival program; namely that the rival program thinks it should move its queen out into play early in the game. Such an ascription of a propositional attitude is both useful and predictive. For example when we wish to program our chess computer to play the rival program we may consider the fact that the other program thinks it should get its queen early and respond by making sure we have an adequate defense for such an event. But if we understand how chess programs operate we know that there is no internal representation within the code of a chess computer which represents the propositional attitude that the program 'should get its queen out early'. Dennett sees no reason why the relation between our standard everyday belief talk and talk of psychological processes will be anymore direct than in the chess program/computer example. 

The chess program doesn't have  a dispositional or potential, belief regarding the early movement of its queen. Rather it operates with the belief that it ought to get its queen out early in the game.There appears to be lots of everyday examples where we reason using certain rules of inference without directly or explicitly representing this rules of inference.  

This objection from Dennett hasn't been particularly well received and it is widely regarded that Language of Thought theorists can provide a more than an adequate reply to such objections. The standard reply involves distinguishing between the rules regarding the way Mentalese data structures are manipulated and the data structures themselves. The Language of Thought hypothesis is not committed to every rule being explicitly represented. It is a nomological fact that in a computational device can be explicitly represented some have to be hard wired into the system. It is in this way that language of thought theorists do not have to contend that rules will be explicitly represented, it is data structures that have to be explicitly represented. With these data structures being manipulated formally by rules, causal manipulation is not itself possible without explicit tokening of these representations. It is possible to account for dispositional propositional attitudes in terms of an appropriate principle of inferential closure of explicitly represented propositional attitudes. 

A chess program involves at least some certain explicit representations (for example chess board, pieces and some of the rules). Which of the rules of the program are explicit and which are implicit is an empirical matter of fact. What Dennett's objection essentially does it point to the fact that some rules may be emergent out of the implementation of explicit rules and data structures. This does not undermine the language of thought hypothesis, as it possible to account for these emergent rules in terms of data structures and explicit representations. 

Dennett D (1981), Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1981

Did Wittgenstein have Asperger's Sydrome?

Wittgenstein is now commonly featured on lists of people suspected to have asperger's syndrome. As Wittgenstein is deceased it may impossible to ever definitively prove that he in fact had asperger's. It is well established that posthumous diagnosis of psychological conditions or syndromes is highly unreliable but this still hasn't quietened the debate regarding whether many of history's great minds in fact had asperger's syndrome. 

Many have become interested in the question of whether Wittgenstein had asperger's, with much of this contemporary interest in the question of whether the great philosopher had asperger's being stirred up by Michael Fitzgerald's 2004 book 'Autism and Creativity: Is there a link Between Austim in Men and Exceptional Ability'. In this book Fitzgerald gives Wittgenstein as a case study, claiming that the development from the ideas of the Tractatus to the Philosophical Investigations was in part caused by Wittgenstein's social development. With the method taken in the Philosophical Investigations having a particular focus on the social dimension of language. Fitzgerald alleges that this development mirrors the personal development of many people with asperger's syndrome. This is certainly a rather contentious claim, in fact there are group of Wittgenstein scholars called the new Wittgensteinians who rejected the traditional view that there are two separate Wittgenstein's as such, rather contending that the clear distinction between the thought of the early and late Wittgenstein is false. If such a interpretation is correct (I personally doubt it is) it seems to seriously undermine  Fitzgeralds example of Wittgenstein as a case study of social development.  

Some have gone further than Fitzgerald in asserting that Wittgenstein has asperger's syndrome. Example being the Japanese psychologist Y. Ishiskaya who in his paper 'Wittgenstein and Asperger Syndrome: Did Wittgenstein have this syndrome?' concludes that Wittgenstein in fact did have Aspergers, classification ICD-10. This diagnosis was undertaken by examining Wittgenstein's social interactions throughout his life and concluding that much of Wittgenstein's social behavior was consistent with an individual with Asperger's syndrome.  
His interpersonal relationships were characterized by ego-centricity and a lack of concern or empathy for others as well as a lack of a sense of social interaction. He tended to be detached and isolated from others, but did seek close relationships with a few people, often one person at a time. The conduct of his daily life was dominated by the tendency to be obsessive, stereotypic, and persistent. He was reported to have been clumsy, and his accent and intonation when speaking to have been bizarre.(Abstract, Ishishkaya 2003) 
All of this according to Ishishkaya is taken to be sufficient to diagnose Wittgenstein with Aspergers syndrome. The validity of historical diagnosis is subject to serious scrutiny with many people being suspicious of such posthumous diagnosis.  

However there appears to be significant evidence that Wittgenstein displayed many of the traits that are associated with asperger's syndrome. Many of the stories and accounts featured in Ray Monk's brilliant biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein seem to be quite consistent with the claim that Wittgenstein in fact did have asperger's syndrome. It seems that the claim that Wittgenstein may of in fact had asperger's syndrome to pretty plausible, I suggest that anyone interested in claims regarding whether Wittgenstein did in fact have asperger's read Ray Monk's biography. While Monk never claims or states that Wittgenstein had asperger's syndrome it appears that Wittgenstein's personality and character is at least consistent with a diagnosis of asperger's syndrome. 

While it will not be possible to definitively answer the question of whether Wittgenstein had asperger's syndrome, some of the evidence does point towards a diagnosis of Wittgenstein being aspergic. The problem with both Ishiskaya and Fitzgerald's claims is that posthumous diagnosis of such conditions is highly unreliable. With all that being said the possibility that Wittgenstein was aspergic may better help us understand both the man and his work a little bit better. 


Fitzgerald M, (2004), Autism and Creativity: Is there a link Between Austim in Men and Exceptional Ability
Monk R (1991), Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, Vintage 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Book Review: Free Will: A Contemporary Introduction by Robert Kane

Written by Robert Kane a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who himself is a well respected academic who has written numerous papers on the topic of Free Will. The book aims to provide an introduction to the wider subject matter of Free Will. With the book being divided up into a number of short chapters discussing different theories and positions on Free Will and its relation to moral responsibility.  

The book is divided logical into chapters each discussing a different topic. It is clear from how the book is laid out that the book is aimed to be a course text for undergraduate level teaching, with it being possible to model a course which roughly followed the chapters of the book. The book presupposes absolutely no knowledge about the subject matter, with the first chapter providing an introduction to the Free Will problem. Where the book really succeeds is in providing an accessible introduction to each of the topics discussed, while also examining some of the arguments from the leading contributors to the debate. Robert Kane is an excellent writer fairly assessing each position and argument discussed in terms that anybody could understand.  

Where the book will probably fall short is for those interested in the topic but are not undertaking a introductory or undergraduate course. As the book is pretty formulaic and only gives summary introductions to each of the topics discussed.Those who are interested in reading about Free Will for enjoyment or out of interest may be better suited by purchasing another book. Though I could see someone reading Free Will: A  Contemporary Introduction while reading a collection of essays alongside it. As Kane's book would provide a good introduction to the topic matter allowing you to then read a more in depth exposition of the positions taken in the book with Kane providing Suggested Reading at the conclusion of each chapter.However, it would be probably more interesting to read a book such as Daniel Dennett's 'Freedom Evolves' which is an extended defense of the compatibilist position on Free Will. 

However this book is still to be commended and makes for a excellent contemporary introduction to the topic of free will and is generally considered to be the best of its kind. The clear limitation in regards to this book is that is clearly intended for use alongside a course in the subject matter. I would recommend that anyone doing a undergraduate on Free Will purchase this book as it is sure to help in some regards. The only criticism I could have would be the book is rather pricey for such a short tome and is currently selling for £15 on 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Alleged Impossibility of Moral Responsibility: Galen Strawson's Basic Argument

Galen Strawson the son of the famous English philosopher P.F Strawson is probably best known for his positions on free will and his exposition of panpsychism. But today we are going to be taking a detailed look at Strawson's Basic Argument.

Galen Strawson believes that true moral responsibility is in fact impossible as we cannot be the cause of ourselves. Galen contends that the argument does not require that either determinism or indeterminism be the case, with the argument demonstrating the impossibility of free will either way. Strawson's Basic Argument has produced much interest and to many unversed in philosophy seems very plausible. However the argument hasn't had quite the same effect on those working in the field of academic philosophy, something that it appears Strawson (1994) is somewhat befuddled with.  

The most detailed exposition of his Basic Argument appears in Strawson's 1994 paper 'The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility' where Galen outlines four different but very similar versions of the Basic Argument. What makes the Basic Argument a very interesting talking point is the fact that it can be outlined in a way which makes it easy for a lay men to understand while also presenting a serious challenge to the possibility of moral responsibility. 

Strawson begins by stating the argument in most basic form and that argument goes as follows: 

  1. Nothing can be causa sui - nothing can be the cause of itself 
  2. In order to be truly morally responsible for one's actions one would have to be causa sui, at least in certain mental respects
  3. Therefore nothing can be truly morally responsible. (Strawson 1994:5) 
It appears on the surface than this argument is valid as if we accept the premises the conclusion appears to follow. I'm going to leave the question of soundness to later. Strawson then goes onto then lay out ten point version of the argument, which himself he admits is a rather cumbersome version of the said argument. However he says that the argument can be put in a more natural form without losing much of what the more detailed and albeit more cumbersome argument had. The natural form of the argument is presented as follows: 
  1. It is undeniable that one is the way, one is initially, as result of heredity and early experience, and it is undeniable that these things for which one cannot be held to be in any way responsible. 
  2. One cannot at any later stage in life hope to accede to true moral responsibility for the way one is by trying to change the way one already is as a result of heredity and previous experience. For, 
  3. both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of one's success in one's attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and previous experience. And
  4. any further changes that one can bring about only after one has brought about certain initial changes will in turn be determined, via the initial change by heredity and previous experience. 
  5. This may not be the whole story, for it may be that some changes in the way one is are traceable not to heredity and experience but to influence of indeterministic or random factors.(Strawson 1994:7) [But it is absurd to hold that this could somehow contribute to moral responsibility.] 
According to Strawson this demonstrates the impossibility of moral responsibility. The fact that our early character development is not in hands, due to it being down totally to our genetics and environmental factors (such as a caring home etc.) precluded the possibility. For Strawson to be morally responsible we must be able to choose what kind of person we are in conscious manner. However, later in life when we hope accede to true moral responsibility by trying to change our character we are led into a infinite regress. As any attempt to make a change oneself and the degree of success in such a change will come down to our previous experience  and our genetics, both of which are clearly out of our control. While this may not be the whole story in how we develop our personality or character traits any role that randomness plays does nothing in terms of making us morally responsible. Again how can we be responsible for something totally out of our control. 

In questioning the soundness of Strawson's argument it is important to question his concept of true moral responsibility. Strawson has quite a unique and striking conception of what it means for someone to be ultimately morally responsible. He introduces the notion of 'Heaven and Hell responsibility', what true moral responsibility entails for Strawson is that 'it makes sense at least, to suppose that it could be just to punish someone with (eternal) torment in hell and reward others with (eternal) bliss'(Strawson 1994:9). When you take moral responsibility to be such a serious matter it becomes clear why Strawson insists that we must be able to choose who we are to be able to achieve true moral responsibility. The reason that Strawson endorses such a conception of moral responsibility appears to be because he believes that such a conception lines up with our intuitive deep understanding of moral responsibility. 

This is where it seems to get at least problematic for Strawson's argument. As their are other conceptions of what moral responsibility which do not require that we choose how to be in certain mental respects. For example, a compatibilist conception of moral responsibility would contend that an individual would be morally responsible for his actions provided his act wasn't caused by a certain set of constraints (such kleptomaniac impulses, threats and instances of force). What Strawson fails to do demonstrate why his conception of moral responsibility is the correct one. What he does claim is that his conception of moral responsibility is broadly the intuitive conception held by the majority of the public. If this is all that Strawson is able to demonstrate then its clear doesn't show that moral responsibility is in fact impossible, the most it can do is show that moral responsibility cannot be of the kind Strawson endorses. In fact a number of results from experimental philosophy appear to show that the average laymen endorses a conception of moral responsibility which is in fact compatibilist. 

In order to show the impossibility of moral responsibility, what Strawson needs is a couple extra premises on his argument in order to be able to demonstrate that his conception of moral responsibility is the correct one. However this appears to be an impossible task and therefore the best he can do is claim that his argument shows that our deep seated intuitive understanding of moral responsibility is undermined. But even such a claim seems particularly dubious due to the fact Strawson endorses a rather extreme conception of moral responsibility. 

Strawson G, 1994, The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility in Philosophical Studies 75: 5-24, 1994, Kluwer Academic Publishers

Monday, 13 August 2012

Book Review: Free Will by Sam Harris (2012)

This short essay written by the philosopher come neuroscientist Sam Harris (best known for his activism in the atheist community) discusses the topic of Free Will. The first thing that should be noted about the book is that the book is particularly brief especially considering the quite hefty RRP of £5.99. 

Sam Harris's basic argument in the book is that science has shown us that every event has a cause. Developments in the field of neuroscience will show us that the same goes for our own actions, every action of a conscious agent will be shown to be entirely caused by neurological going on's of which the agent has no control. Harris rightfully disregards quantum indeterminacy    as being a way to bring Free Will into the picture. For example if there was a 20% possibility of a person entering mental state A and an 80% chance of them entering mental state B due to quantum indeterminacy, it would still not allow for the possibility of free will. As the individual would play no part in determining his actions.  

All this is very well but Harris's argument against the existence of free will depends on accepting the completeness of physics. Harris assumes that physics and the other physical sciences will give us an explanation of all phenomena, both mental and physical. However if this appeal means physics as it currently stands then it is clear that the physical sciences currently fail to explain all phenomena in purely physical terms. If Harris claim is rather that the complete theory of everything will explain everything in physical terms then the claim is rather trivial. Some Philosophers have pointed out that we do not know what the physical sciences may end up appealing to, in order to explain particular phenomena. (See Mellor and Crane - There is no question of Physicalism).  

Harris doesn't attempt to engage with the arguments of libertarians (who believe in the existence of free will). He merely brushes such arguments away saying that no respectable individual or intellectual can hold such views in age where science is prospering as it is now. In fact many philosophers and some respectable neuroscientists hold that free will is a distinct possibility. Harris's rejection of libertarians strikes me as intellectually dishonest. 

Next Harris turns to the arguments of the compatibilists who hold that the notion of free will is compatible with a deterministic universe. While Harris does engage with some the arguments of the compatibilists, his essential argument is that the compatibilists understand what free will means in a way which is radically different to what the man in the street understands by the term. In this regard I feel that Harris is broadly right. However I would still have liked to seen more significance placed on this part of the book. 

Finally, Harris attempts to provide answer to some of the problems we face in accepting a deterministic universe. Here Harris attempts to show that morality is possible even if one accepts that free will is merely an illusion. Harris a consequentialist argues that we could still send people to prison and punish them for crime etc. on the grounds that this could maximize flourishing within a particular society. Harris also argues that accepting free will was an illusion would lead to greater compassion for others as we would understand that people were merely products of nuture and nature. One could see how a more compassionate and understanding society would be beneficial to everyone, however it seems questionable whether this would be what would actually happen. 

Free Will by Sam Harris may be worth a read for those who are interested in the subject matter and can pick up the book relatively cheaply. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Philosophy Video: Peter Singer - Ethics Without Religion

Today I'm posting another Peter Singer guest lecture this time the lecture by Singer was given at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne. This video features Singer preaching pretty much to the choir though he put and developed his points in a very articulate way. Many religious believers believe that morality or ethics cannot exist without the existence of a supreme being. This sentiment has been expressed not only by hard-line fundamentalists but by some of history's better authors. The belief that morality cannot exist without a God can be best expressed in the words Dostoevsky who famously said 'If God does not exist, everything is permitted'. Here Peter Singer attempts to show that this simply not the case and does a pretty good job at showing that religion cannot be the source of morality. As usual Singer is his insightful and thought provoking self, though it should be noted that he doesn't delve into his particular moral beliefs. Worth a watch for those interested in this particular topic. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Book Review: The Puzzle of Ethics

The Puzzle of Ethics is written by Peter Vardy and Paul Grosch. The book aims to a function as a complete introduction to the subject of Ethics and thus the book is divided into two sections. Heythrop College Philosophy of Religion lecturer Peter Vardy handles the first section of the book which deals with different ethical theories. While Paul Grosch handles the second section of the book which discusses various issues in the field of Applied Ethics. 

This division of the book works quite well as it is very useful to have an understanding of ethical theory before approaching many of the questions in the field of applied ethics.There is however a couple of problems with this division it is often quite difficult to talk about ethical theory without taking about some of the consequences of that theory which means the distinction between ethical theory and applied ethics becomes blurred somewhat. Secondly many people may be far more interested in the second half the book and I can imagine this may lead to them skipping over all the important ethical theory contained within the first half of the book.  While I wouldn't advise readers to do this it something I feel that many readers will inevitably end up doing.  

These minor concerns aside Vardy and Grosch should be commended for the good work the have done in putting together this book. The book provides one of the more comprehensive introduction to Ethics around attempting to get to grips with both ethical theory and its application. The book will be easily followed by those with no philosophical background and will provide readers with a good solid introduction to some of the key ethical questions and theories. However the educated layman may find the book somewhat lightweight as the Puzzle of Ethics is a book the should be firmly placed in the Introductions to Philosophy category.  

I would recommend this book to anyone whose interested in the field of ethics and want a text that can introduce them to the topic, as this will suffice as a sterling introduction to the subject. It would also make a good read for those about to start a philosophy degree or undertaking an A level in the subject. I feel those who have done University courses in ethics may find the book a bit lightweight, but I would still recommend it as a useful read. As it's chapters do make for good introductions to a number of various subjects within the field of ethics.  

All this being said I would have to say that Grosch and Vardy have succeeded in producing one of the best basic introductory texts in the field of ethics. The book has rightfully received praise for this accomplishment and I thoroughly concur with such sentiment. I would recommend this book for any one who wants an Introductory book to ethics and moral philosophy. For readers who are more versed in the field this may not be quite the book your looking for.  

The book is widely available and in still in print meaning the book can be picked up at all good book stores or alternatively at Amazon.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Resources: A.J Ayer

Free Online Resources  

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains a solid article on A.J Ayer and his philosophy. The article discusses most of the important work undertaken by Ayer, and includes a useful section on meaning and truth as discussed by Ayer in his 1936 book Language, Truth and Logic.  

Squashed Philosophers: Ayer, written by Glyn Hughes this page aims to take the all important points of Language, Truth and Logic and present them in a way which will allow the reader to get to grips with the book within an hour. Glyn Hughes should be commended for what is a rather good abridged version of the book, though of course I still recommend that one reads the full book. 

There are two separate Wikipedia articles that may be of interest to those who are studying Ayer. Both are rather sparse and contain relatively little philosophical content, but they still may be worth a read. At the time of witting it appears that both articles are also free from any major blunders and misrepresentations. Language, Truth and Logic and A.J Ayer on Wikipedia. 

A series of lecture notes on Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic can be found online in PDF form. I believe that these lectures were written by Oxford Philosophy faculty member Peter Kail and they provide a great introduction to some of the ideas featured in Ayer's work. The lecture notes can be found at the following locations Lecture I: Introduction, Lecture II: The Verification Principle, Lecture III: Definitions, Reduction and The Verification Principle, Lecture IV: Analyticity, Confirmation and Holism, Lecture V: Critique of Ethics and Theology, Lecture VI: Minds

An article called A.J Ayer's Philosophy and It's Greatness can be found on UCL's website. Written by Ted Honderich the article provides a broad survey of Ayer's work as well as providing information on the general philosophical background in which he is work set against. 

Books on A.J Ayer 

A.J Ayer by John Foster is part of The Arguments of the Philosopher series which outlines the arguments of various influential philosophers and critically discusses the said arguments to an academic level. The first half the book is dedicated to Langauge, Truth and Logic, while the second half of the book discusses Ayer's later work. This book is currently the most conclusive book of the Philosophy of A.J Ayer and is unfortunately unavailable in paperback form at the time of writing.  

Another notable book worth mentioning is Ben Rogers brilliant biography of A.J Ayer which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the life of the great Philosopher. The book can be picked up second hand for a couple of pounds on Amazon

The Philosophy of A.J Ayer edited by Lewis Eden Harris appears to be a very comprehensive survey of Ayers work featuring a total of 24 essays. Ayer himself replied 20 of the 24 essays contained in the book. As I'm not familiar with the book and due to the fact that it is currently out of print, I'm going to hold short of recommending the book. 

Academic Essays/Papers on A.J Ayer 
All of the following essays can be found on JSTOR or for free elsewhere online, while the resource isn't free many Universities have access to the service. 

Anthony Quinn provides a great biography of A.J Ayer which can be found online for free and was originally published in the Proceedings of the British Academy 94, 1997. This is perhaps the best freely available biography of A.J Ayer.  

Ayer's First Empiricist Criterion of Meaning: Why Does It Fail? is a four page journal article written by Philosopher David Lewis. In the article David Lewis outlines why the first formulation of the verification principle by Ayer fails due to the fact that it lets in patent nonsense. Available on JSTOR. 

Metaphysics and Meaning is a 1935 paper written by W.T Stace. Here Stace attacks Ayer's 1934 paper entitled 'A Demonstration of the Impossibility of Metaphysics'. Stace makes a number of thoughtful objections throughout the 22 page paper. It should be noted that Ayer responded to many of Stace's objections in another paper the following year. All of which can be found on JSTOR.  

Some Consequences of Professor A.J Ayer's Verification Principle is a 1950 paper written by D.J Connor which goes through some of the implications of Ayer's verification principle.  

Philosophy Video: Introductory Course by Richard Brown

Dr Richard Brown is a member of faculty at the City University of New York. He is also the associate professor of philosophy at LaGuardia Community College. This series of lectures makes up the online content for one of his taught courses at LaGuardia community college, namely Introduction to Philosophy. The lectures consist of a number of slides which are talked through by Dr Brown and these generally outline the key points very well. Dr Richard Brown is clearly very knowledgeable about the subject matter discussed and many people will find this content valuable especially if they have not studied philosophy formally. The first lecture is rather drawn out and aims to provide an answer to the question 'What is philosophy?'. Dr Brown takes historical approach throughout the course discussing a variety of important philosophers. Starting with the ancients the course moves through the history of philosophy right up to modern day philosophy of mind. This course is definitely a recommended watch or listen for those new to philosophy, even though the quality of each lecture varies somewhat. 

Lecture 2: Pre-Socratic Philosophy 
Lecture 3: Socrates and the Socratic Turn 
Lecture 4: Plato 
Lecture 5: Aristotle I : Logic and Rational Thought 
Lecture 6: Aristotle II: The Philosopher 
Lecture 7: Descartes I: The Method of Doubt 
Lecture 8: Descartes II: A Priori Knowledge and Mind/Body Dualism 
Lecture 9: Locke and Berkeley 
Lecture 10: Hume I : Empiricism and the A priori 
Lecture 11: Hume II : The Problem of Induction and the Self 
Lecture 12: Kant I: Synthetic A Priori Knowledge 
Lecture 13: Kant II: Transcendental Idealism 
Lecture 14: Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: Dualism and Materialism 

To find out more about Dr Richard Brown visit his personal website here.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind V: Identity Theories of Mind

With the Behaviourist project having collapsed under the weight of various objections, materialism was faced with the challenge of producing a theory which could account for both mental-physical and physical-mental causation. Identity theory was given its first modern formulation by a number of prominent philosophers in the 1950's. The most notable of proponents of identity theory were U.T Place, J.J.C Smart and David Armstrong, all of whom wrote reasonably accessible papers on the subject which can be found in a number of anthologies. 

All of these early proponents of identity theory advanced what is now known as a type identity theory. This theses stated that minds are equivalent to brains, for every type of mental event there must be a corresponding type of brain event. Just associating mental states with brain states simply isn't enough; they are in fact type identical. Every single mental state is equivalent to a physical event, namely a particular brain event (Identity theorists might extend the brain to include the Central Nervous System). Part of the reason why this reductionism was so attractive is that great progress had been made in other physical sciences. An example of a successful reduction would be reducing the complicated concept of heat to mean molecular motion. If the same could be done for mental states it would justify the feeling among the scientific community that mental states are in fact brain states. 

An example of such a reduction often proposed by the original type identity theorists is that of C-fibers firing being type identical to pain. Though we now know that this is bad neuro biology and in fact different types of pain involve the firing of different fibers. The statement that the firing of C-fibers is type identical with pain, is a form of reductive physicalism and claims that the realm of the mental is nothing more than the physical and that the mental can be totally reduced to the physical. You can see that in a way this is more radical than Logical Behaviourism, which can be put forward simply as a claim about the meaning of mental terms.  

Those who adopted the identity thesis were unable to put forward any empirical arguments for it. This was due to the fact that the most that can be empirically established is a correlation between mental states and brain states. It is perfectly possible that empirical science could refute the correlation as it did with C-fibers being identical with pain. Rather the identity theorist offers philosophical arguments in favor of identity theory. Here we are going to run through a number of arguments offered up as a reason to adopt an identity theory of mind.  

  1. The Argument from Explanation: Favored by J.J.C Smart, he contends that we should adopt identity theory by appealing to Ockham's Razor. It possible for us to explain everything in terms of the physical without having to appeal to special mental entities which lie outside the physical realm. 
  2. The Argument from Causation: Noting that certain physical events are caused by mental events and appealing to the causal closure of physics, we are supposed to conclude that all mental events are equivalent with physical events. 
But there are a number of problems facing the type identity theories of mind. So have contended that type identity theories are chauvinistic. This is due to the fact that they deny the possibility of multiple realizability. For example say we accept that the firing of C-fibers is equivalent to pain, we seem to be denying the possibility of animals such as dogs having pain. This is due to the fact that other animals do not have the same neuro biology as us and pain may be realized in different ways in different species. This means the firing of c-fibers is not necessary for pain. It seems that this problem can be avoided by introducing an element of species relativity to the theory, so instead of saying that pain is equivalent to C-fibers we say that pain in human is equivalent to C-fibers firing and pain in dogs is equivalent to the firing of D1 fibers. 

But a species relative type identity theory may still be to restrictive. For example it is possible that pain in me could be realized in a different way from how it is realized in you. There seems to be plenty of empirical evidence showing that different parts of the brain can take over functions typically associated with other parts of the brain in patients with brain damage. One example would be patients who experience the phenomena known as blindsight.  Another objection that can made against type identity theory, namely that it assumes the completeness of physics (the belief that physics will ultimately give us an explanation of all phenomena). Clearly our current physics doesn't give us a complete explanation of phenomena. Claiming that physics means the complete theory of everything given to us at the end day, is merely trivial  to claim that everything is physical. 

In response to the many of the objections made against type identity theories, many identity theorists adopted a weaker form of the doctrine. Token identity theories are weaker in the sense that a token identity theorist doesn't hold that a given mental state is identical with a particular brain state, but rather that mental states are identical with some kind of brain state. In its very weakest formulation a token identity theorist holds that every time that an individual is in some mental state the subject must also be in a some kind of physical state. But generally most token identity theorists want to make a stronger claim namely that every mental event is dependent on some kind of physical event. This an asymmetric relationship as the mental depends on the physical, but the physical is not dependent on the mental. This is normally described by saying that the mental supervenes on the physical. Though there are many problems relating to how we are meant to spell this out (See Horgan). 

A number of problems remain for the token identity theorist, including how fine grained should any of the proposed token identities be, how the theory will impact on generalizations which folk psychology relies (for example it could become apparent that there every pain is a unique one off). But the problem that really led to the demise of identity theory is Kripke's critique of materialism, which I will not go into here as to properly cover the subject matter would require a dedicated post.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Book Review: Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Objections to a Science of Consciousness

Sweet Dreams was published in 2005, and is one of Dennett's lesser well known books, but I would contend is still of great importance if one wishes to fully understand Dennett's stance on consciousness. The product description written on Amazon makes out as if the book is some kind of direct follow up to his 1991 book Consciousness Explained. In fact this books content is largely from the content Jean Nicord lectures given by Dennett. This book more directly deals with many of the objections that have been put to Dennett's theory of consciousness and see's Dennett reply to these objections in a more head on style.  

The book of course is better understood if one has read Dennett's first book Consciousness Explained, but any avid reader in the philosophy of mind will be familiar with many of the objections he attempts to formulate a reply to in this book. Topics include the possibility of Zombies and Frank Jackson's now infamous Mary's Room argument. Large amounts of this book can be seen as attacking the idea of Qualia and the idea that there is some particular aspect of consciousness which is out of the reach of science. 

Dennett does make some revision to his original theory of consciousness as outlined in 1991's Consciousness Explained in reply to certain objections and to fit better what new research has outlined. But the changes are minor and you won't have missed much if you decide to not to read this book. Though the chapter further detailing how we might advance a third person science of consciousness is both interesting and valuable.  

Dennett is a great writer and this book is no exception, each chapter deals with its primary issue well and can be easily read by educated layman unlike many highly academic philosophy books. The only weakness is that the book often repeats itself, this is probably due to the contents have being originally presented in the form of Jean Nicord lecture series. While this repetition is noticeable it only slightly detracts from the book.   

The real value of the book lies in the sections which tackle head on the objections that have arguably plagued modern Philosophy of Mind. Even if one doesn't agree with Daniel Dennett's views this is valuable reading for all who are interested in the topic of consciousness. Though it should be said that this follow up is not essential reading unlike his 1991 Consciousness Explained

Available from very few book stores and on Amazon. 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind IV: Behaviourism

Before I start the fourth post of the Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind series, I want to admit the fact that I'm quite sympathetic to Behaviourism. 

The Behaviourist movement was influential in Philosophy during the 1930's, 40's and 50's with its influence beginning to wane significantly in the 1960's. The Behaviourist movement in Philosophy was motivated in part by answering concerns first raised in Descartes work. And in part by the need to for an account of the mental which would be compatible with materialism and the new scientific world view. While the motivation behind methodological Behaviourism was largely derived from the lack of progress made in the field of Psychology which at that time relied heavily on introspective methods. We have two very different and distinct ways of ascribing mental states and concepts, we can ascribe them on the basis of first person introspection or alternatively we can ascribe them to others on the based on their behaviour. Many philosophers have been deeply suspicious of the ascription of mental states by the means of first person introspection which seems to lead to accepting some kind of Cartesian project.

But according to Behaviourism, the talk of hidden mental events which cannot be observed is totally mistake.The Behaviourist holds that the behavior of an organism is completely exhausted by its observable response to stimuli. The psychology of the said organism simply consists in the relationship between the various stimuli and response. This position was prominent not only in Philosophy but was also widely accepted in psychology with its most notable proponents being B.F Skinner and John B. Watson. For the behaviourist, talk of a hidden mental realm which exists between the stimuli and the response is a fiction. Being in the mental state is no more than the tendency to react to certain stimuli with certain responses. For example, being in pain is no more than a tendency to move away and vocalize the sound  'Ouch' when hit by hard a object with considerable force.  

As you can see this simple form of Behaviourism is rather lacking. As behaviour is neither necessary or sufficient for the ascription of a mental state. Take the example of an extraordinary actor who was pretending to be in pain, if the actors acting skills were so refined in that his behaviour was indistinguishable from someone who was actually in pain. This would show that behaviour alone is not necessary for the ascription of a particular mental state. For a brief period of time during the 1940's a plant toxin called Curare was used as anesthetic. In fact Curare does not work as anesthetic but merely causes the total temporary paralysis of a particular subject. A patient being operated on while paralyzed by Curare would be in considerable pain but would not be able to provide any observable evidence indicating their pain. This example shows that behaviour is also not sufficient for the ascription of pain, as it is possible to be in pain without any observational behaviour. 

Another problem for Behaviourism as outlined by those like Skinner and Watson, is the distance between certain mental states and the observational behaviour which would confirm that particular mental. Take the belief that Oxford University is the best University in the United Kingdom, what behaviour would verify this. It seems it could be near impossible isolate the correct behaviour for ascribing such a belief.  

Philosophers did not have to accept such radical methodological behaviorism, with the majority behaviourist philosophers adopting what is commonly referred to as Logical Behaviourism. Logical Behaviourism is not a theory regarding how experimental psychology should be undertaken it is instead a semantic theory about the meaning of mental terms. According to Logical Behaviourism, the attribution of a mental state to a person or animal simply consists in saying that the person or animal is disposed to behave in a certain way in certain circumstances. For example saying James is thirsty is simply to say that James is disposed to drink water if exposed to an appropriate opportunity to drink some water. This is a considerable improvement over basic behaviourism as it allows the behavioural analysis to open ended or infinite, so it seems we are much better equipped when we are dealing beliefs and other complicated subject matter. We may be able to analyse the belief that Oxford is the best university in the United Kingdom into an opened set of behavioural statements, such as 'Remarking on the reputation of Oxford as a University when asked'. Even if it is not possible in practice to complete such a set of dispositions, the fact that it remains logically possible is enough for maintaining Logical Behaviourism. Logical Behaviourism is also advantageous as it does not require that the abandonment of mental talk as long as we remember that talk of the mental could be replaced by a complete behavioural analysis. 

Even with all of this being said in favor of Logical Behaviourism there still seems to be one crucial objection to overcome namely that behaviour is neither necessary or sufficient  for the ascription of mental states. But it can be argued that this objection can also be overcome by adopting a richer notion of what constitutes behaviour. The most successful attempt at this was made Hempel in his 1935 paper The Logical Analysis of Psychology. Adopting a verificationist theory of meaning and construing behaviour in the widest possible sense it can be argued that Hempel showed that behaviour is both necessary and sufficient for the ascription of mental states. But whether we are willing to accept Hempel's verification theory of meaning and his wider notion of behaviour which includes every physical fact about a subject is a different matter. For one verificationist theory of meaning have been shown to be hugely problematic and much of what Hempel takes to be Behaviour is deeply debatable. As Hempel seems to be using the word behaviour in way that is contrary to our every day understanding of the term. In fact I believe Hempel's theory has many features in common with some of the identity theories that took the place of Behaviorism in the philosophical community.  

A number of other objections have made against Logical Behaviourism. Concerns have made about how Behaviourism fails to provide an account of mental-mental causation. Take the following the example 'Jill's fear of dogs and her belief that a dog is in front of her causes her to run away'. Behaviourism seems to struggle to explain such cases mental-mental causation as it appears that there is no way to explain such cases in terms of explicit behaviour. Again it could be argued that this objection could be avoided by adopting a richer notion of what constitutes behaviour to include facts about the persons physiology. This is related to another objection about the alleged circularity of the behaviourist project, there will be a vast number of appropriate responses to any one stimuli with differing responses being largely down to the differing beliefs of the subject. Therefore it seems there is no way to analyse away the mental without positing beliefs or desires that are not explicitly observable in behaviour.  

I'm going to finish off with one final objection (and one bad joke) to behaviourism, it seems that we do not access our own mental states by observing our own behaviour but through first person introspection. This alleged absurdity with behaviourism is often put in the form of a joke. 
Two behaviourist psychologists are talking to each after sex, one of them says to the other 'I see can that you enjoyed yourself, but how was it for me'?

Friday, 29 June 2012

Philosophy Video: Daniel Dennett: Can we know our own minds

In this TED Talk from 2007 well known Philosopher of Mind, Daniel Dennett outlines a number of experiments which are meant to show that we do not have the privileged access to the contents of our own mind. Some of Dennett's views are considered quite controversial by some within the field (for example his denial of the existence of Qualia). This talk expresses Dennett's outlook on such issues but if the talk has one fault it is that he fails to outline the philosophical importance of the experiments discussed in the lecture. The lecture seems to be mainly based on a chapter from his 2005 book Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness. I would recommend that anyone who found this particular talk interesting and wants to know more about the particular change blindness experiments and their philosophical implications read the aforementioned book.   

Chapter 3, Explaining the ''Magic'' of Consciousness, Sweet Dreams, MIT 2005

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Is a Philosophy degree worth doing?

It is possible to sum up my answer to this question in one word, YES. But nonetheless I will provide some of my thoughts to back up my assertion and make my case that Philosophy is possibly one of the best degrees you could do.

Philosophy is an oft ridiculed degree and it is my opinion that this unfair. Their is a strong perception that all philosophers do is to pose unanswerable and ridiculous questions making the subject completely trivial. This is a total misrepresentation of Philosophy as I understand it. Philosophy has and always will be at the forefront of trying to get grips with some of the most important issues there are. Research in Applied Ethics and the Philosophy of Mind are just two areas of philosophy were cutting edge research is being undertaken which may change the way we think about many important issues.  

The importance of Philosophy as both foundational to the sciences and asking some of the most important questions that face us on a day to day basis. I can see this can be clearly missed by those who don't really understand philosophy or have bought into the myth portrayed by many in the media that philosophy is a useless and trivial academic pursuit. Some of this criticism may arise from the high profile that certain deconstructionists such as Derrida have received. It should be pointed out that Derrida's work has been somewhat more influential in the field of literary criticism. I feel Philosophers should be somewhat aggrieved with the treatment Philosophy often receives. 

A very annoying question often put to Philosophy students is 'What are you going to do with that?'.  I feel there is two ways to answer this question. My initial reaction to such an impertinent question is when did the sole purpose of education become to simply get a high paying graduate job? Education has intrinsic as well as instrumental value, I feel that undertaking a Philosophy degree has enriched my life in a way that doing a degree in say Accounting wouldn't. The second answer to this question is 'Anything', I feel a Philosophy degree provides those who undertake it with the analytic and linguistic skills to really compete in competitive and dynamic job market. Quite frankly I feel that a degree in Philosophy is significantly more challenging than some other more vocational subjects that people seem willing to embrace with open arms. I would even go as far to say that Philosophy is one of the more challenging 

My thoughts on the practical use of a Philosophy degree aren't just the mad ramblings of one undergraduate Philosophy student but seem to be backed up by increasing real world evidence. Other the past couple of years I have noticed an increased number of articles in the British media promoting the usefulness of the degree in terms of post graduate employment and I'm glad to see that Philosophy is beginning to be treated with the respect it deserves. 

Further Reading 
Guardian Article on Post Graduate Employment

Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind III: Non-Cartesian Dualism

Not all Dualists are of the Cartesian variety discussed in the previous post in this series. These Philosophers are known as Non-Cartesian Dualists. One type of Non-Cartesian Dualism is known as a property dualism. Property Dualism only posits one kind of substance but this substance has two distinct properties namely mental and physical properties. One well known example of Non-Cartesian Dualism is Donald Davidson's Anomalous Monism. Davidson's dualism will not be our focus in today's post rather we will focus on another prominent example of Non-Cartesian Dualism. 

Lowe's Non-Cartesian Dualism 
E.J Lowe is probably the most influential dualist in philosophy of the mind at the moment, with his form of Non-Cartesian Dualism having made significant impact. Lowe is interested in the identity conditions in cases of strict identity for token items. Let me briefly explain the token/type divide which many readers may not be familiar with. Generally in our common usage of language when we talk about something be identical with something else; we are talking of type identity. Two relatives with a strikingly similar nose may be said to have the same nose, in this instance we are talking in terms of type identity. Token identity differs in that when we say that two things are token identical we really only have one token instance. 

Lowe's Non-Cartersian Dualism is interested in how an object can be picked out or individuated. For this purpose Lowe sets out five rules of identity, three uncontroversial and generally accepted and two rules of his own which are intended to clarify the relationship between the mind and body. 

Lowe's Rules of Identity 

  1. Before any sensible talk can be made about something it must be picked out or individuated. There are two ways of classifying things: i) Classification as individuation (eg. Descartes and Lowe are people) and ii) Classification as characterization where I go on to tell you certain things about various individuated objects (eg. Lowe works in a University department studying the Philosophy of Mind). 
  2. Leibniz's Law, this states that if two things which exist at the same time (say A and B), are  identical with one another then any properties of A must be properties of B and vice versa.  
  3. When we individuate things we make room for re-identifying it. Namely you ascribe particular persistence conditions. To individuate something in a meaningful way you must have some idea of what it is for something to come in and come out of existence. 
  4. Lowe's first rule. If two things have token identity (explained earlier) then they must have come into existence at same time and have the same persistence conditions. 
  5. Lowe's second rule. You cannot individuate one thing in two different ways but multiple characterizations of a thing can be possible.  
For Lowe this laws are meant to show us how it is possible that a person is not necessarily identical with their body but at the same time isn't separable from their body either. One clear example of this is that for Lowe I'm not identical with the mass or composition molecules that make up my body at any one time. As the mass of molecules that make up my body is liable to change over time and we wouldn't want to say I ceased to exist every time my bodily composition changed. According to Lowe a person is metaphysically dependent on their body, so a body is required for person-hood. E.J Lowe thinks that mind and body are distinct substances which happen to share a number of properties (for example person hood or self hood requires the existence of a body). 

Non-Cartesian Dualism a more attractive proposition? 
It seems clear that a sophisticated Non-Cartesian Dualism, such as the Dualism offered by E.J Lowe and Donald Davidson is certainly superior to the Dualism offered by Descartes. But does this mean that it makes for a more attractive proposition than Cartesian Dualism and I would have to say that such Dualism is still extremely problematic. For example what is often taken to be the real problem for Descartes account namely Mind-Body causation seems to apply equally here and there seems to be no simple way to account for how the mind and body are meant to causally interact.