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June 14 2017


Descartes' Theory of Ideas

[Revised entry by Kurt Smith on June 14, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Ideas are among the most important items in Descartes' philosophy. They serve to unify his ontology and epistemology. As he says in a letter to Guillaume Gibieuf (1583 - 1650), dated 19 January 1642, "I am certain that I can have no knowledge of what is outside me except by means of the ideas I have within me."[1] Descartes never published anything that specifically worked out a theory of ideas. Even so, he said enough in published and unpublished...

Historicist Theories of Scientific Rationality

[Revised entry by Thomas Nickles on June 14, 2017. Changes to: 0] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Thomas Nickles replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous authors.] Many scientists, philosophers, and laypersons have regarded science as the one human enterprise that successfully escapes the contingencies...

Logics for Analyzing Power in Normal Form Games

[New Entry by Paolo Turrini on June 14, 2017.] This entry discusses the use of mathematical languages to express and analyze the formal properties of power in normal form games. The mathematical languages discussed in this entry will be referred to as logics, and classified according to their ability to express game-related concepts. The material in this entry will be limited to the logical analysis of...

June 13 2017


Scientific Realism

[Revised entry by Anjan Chakravartty on June 12, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Debates about scientific realism are closely connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science, for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge. Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude toward the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences. This epistemic attitude has important metaphysical and semantic dimensions, and these various commitments are contested by a number of rival epistemologies of science, known...

June 09 2017


August Wilhelm von Schlegel

[Revised entry by Katia D. Hay on June 9, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] August W. Schlegel (Sept. 5, 1767, Hanover - May 12, 1845, Bonn) was a German essayist, critic, translator, philosopher, and poet. Although the philosophical dimension and profundity of his writings remain underrated, he is considered to be one of the founders of the German Romantic Movement - which he conceived of as a European movement - as well as one of the most prominent disseminators of its philosophical foundational ideas, not only in Germany but also abroad and, most notably, in Britain....

June 08 2017


Philosophy of Systems and Synthetic Biology

[New Entry by Sara Green on June 8, 2017.] This entry aims to clarify how systems and synthetic biology contribute to and extend discussions within philosophy of science. Unlike fields such as developmental biology or molecular biology, systems and synthetic biology are not easily demarcated by a focus on a specific subject area or level of organization. Rather, they are characterized by the development and application of mathematical, computational, and synthetic modeling strategies in response to complex problems and challenges within the life sciences. Proponents...


[New Entry by John Hyman and Katerina Bantinaki on June 8, 2017.] Depiction or pictorial representation was studied less intensively by philosophers than linguistic meaning until the 1960s. The traditional doctrine that pictures represent objects by copying their appearance had been challenged by art theorists since the first quarter of the twentieth century, when what were thought of as illusionistic styles of painting lost favour, due to the growing prestige of so-called "primitive" artistic styles, and the fauvist and cubist experiments of artists at that time. But it took several decades...

Cusanus, Nicolaus [Nicolas of Cusa]

[Revised entry by Clyde Lee Miller on June 8, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Arguably the most important German thinker of fifteenth century, Nicholas of Cusa (1401 - 1464) was also an ecclesiastical reformer, administrator and cardinal. His life-long effort was to reform and unite the universal and Roman Church, whether as canon law expert at the Council of Basel and after, as legate to Constantinople and later to German dioceses and houses of religion, as bishop in his own diocese of Brixen, and as advisor in the papal curia. His active...

June 07 2017


The Genotype/Phenotype Distinction

[Revised entry by Peter Taylor and Richard Lewontin on June 6, 2017. Changes to: 0] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Peter Taylor and Richard Lewontin replaces the former entry on this topic by Richard Lewontin.] The predominant current-day meaning of genotype is some relevant part of the DNA passed to the organism by its parents. The...

June 04 2017



[Revised entry by John Culp on June 3, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] "Panentheism" is a constructed word composed of the English equivalents of the Greek terms "pan", meaning all, "en", meaning in, and "theism", meaning God. Panentheism considers God and the world to be inter-related with the world being in God and God being in the world. It offers an increasingly popular alternative to both traditional theism and pantheism. Panentheism seeks to avoid either isolating God from the world as traditional theism often does or identifying God with the...

May 31 2017


Equality of Educational Opportunity

[New Entry by Liam Shields, Anne Newman, and Debra Satz on May 31, 2017.] It is widely accepted that educational opportunities for children ought to be equal. This thesis follows from two observations about education and children: first, that education significantly influences a person's life chances in terms of labor market success, preparation for democratic citizenship, and general human flourishing; and second, that children's life chances should not be fixed by certain morally arbitrary circumstances of their birth such as their social class, race, and gender. But the precise meaning of, and...

Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract

[Revised entry by Fred D'Agostino, Gerald Gaus, and John Thrasher on May 31, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The idea of the social contract goes back at least to Epicurus (Thrasher 2013). In its recognizably modern form, however, the idea is revived by Thomas Hobbes; it was developed in different ways by John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. After Kant, the idea largely fell into disrepute until it was resurrected by John Rawls. It is now at the heart of the work of a number of moral and political philosophers....


[Revised entry by Paul M. Hughes and Brandon Warmke on May 31, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] To forgive is to respond in a particular way to someone who has treated someone badly or wrongly. Forgiveness is therefore a dyadic relation involving a wrongdoer and a wronged party, and is thought to be a way in which victims of wrongdoing alter both their and a wrongdoer's status by, for instance, acknowledging yet moving past a moral transgression. Commonly, forgiveness is thought to involve the giving up of certain negative emotions towards the wrongdoer, the forbearance of negative reactions against the...

May 30 2017


The Theology of Aristotle

[Revised entry by Peter Adamson on May 30, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] In the ninth century, Plotinus was translated into Arabic. Long sections of this translation went under the title Theology of Aristotle. The attribution of the work to Aristotle helped the text to become an influential source of Neoplatonic ideas in the Arabic-speaking world. But the Arabic Plotinus materials are important not only as a conduit for Plotinus' ideas; they also differ on numerous points from their ultimate source. Thus the Theology, along with other texts derived from the Arabic...

May 29 2017


Computation in Physical Systems

[Revised entry by Gualtiero Piccinini on May 29, 2017. Changes to: Bibliography] In our ordinary discourse, we distinguish between physical systems that perform computations, such as computers and calculators, and physical systems that don't, such as rocks. Among computing devices, we distinguish between more and less powerful ones. These distinctions affect our behavior: if a device is computationally more powerful than another, we pay more money for it. What grounds these distinctions? What is the principled difference, if there is one,...

Margaret Lucas Cavendish

[Revised entry by David Cunning on May 29, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Margaret Lucas Cavendish was a philosopher, poet, scientist, fiction-writer, and playwright who lived in the Seventeenth Century. Her work is important for a number of reasons. One is that it lays out an early and very compelling version of the naturalism that is found in current-day philosophy and science. It also offers important insights that bear on recent discussions of the nature and characteristics of intelligence and the question of whether or not the bodies that surround us are intelligent or have an intelligent cause....

Mary Shepherd

[New Entry by Martha Bolton on May 28, 2017.] Mary Shepherd (1777 - 1847) is the author of several works advocating a systematic metaphysics and theory of knowledge which were highly regarded by her contemporaries. Born and raised a short distance from Edinburgh and well versed in the intellectual life of the city, she urges a philosophy adamantly opposed to main tenets of the Scottish school. She finds them unable to sustain scientific inquiry, everyday practical reasoning, and belief in an almighty deity. Her aim is to replace them with a metaphysics consisting of...

May 27 2017


The Lambda Calculus

[Revised entry by Jesse Alama on May 26, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The l-calculus is, at heart, a simple notation for functions and application. The main ideas are applying a function to an argument and forming functions by abstraction. The syntax of basic l-calculus is quite sparse, making it an elegant, focused notation for representing functions. Functions and arguments are on a par with one another. The result is an intensional theory of functions as rules of computation, contrasting with an extensional theory of functions as sets of ordered pairs. Despite its sparse syntax, the expressiveness and flexibility of the l-calculus...

May 26 2017


The Epistemology of Religion

[Revised entry by Peter Forrest on May 26, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Contemporary epistemology of religion may conveniently be treated as a debate over whether evidentialism applies to religious beliefs, or whether we should instead adopt a more permissive epistemology. Here evidentialism is the initially plausible position that a belief is justified only if "it is proportioned to the evidence". For example, suppose a local weather forecaster has noticed that over the two hundred years since records began a wetter than average Winter is followed in 85% of...

Jean Jacques Rousseau

[Revised entry by Christopher Bertram on May 26, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains an important figure in the history of philosophy, both because of his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and because of his influence on later thinkers. Rousseau's own view of philosophy and philosophers was firmly negative, seeing philosophers as the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as playing a role in the alienation of the modern individual from humanity's natural impulse to...
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