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Inspired by the feature of the same name, created by Princeton philosopher Richard Chappell, I've decided to post a "web of beliefs" where I post my current opinions on certain key areas of philosophical inquiry. This will not only give a better picture of my thought for reader, but is also a useful tool for tracking the evolution of my own thought. NOTE: I do not have what I consider an informed opinion on everything. I've only posted my opinions on areas of philosophy where I think I have a defensible, coherent position.

Metaphysics

I'm a supporter of Ontic Structural Realism in ontology and the philosophy of science, which essentially hybridizes Platonism and structural realism into a uniquely naturalist metaphysical framework.

One area that has been of great interest to me of late is the metaphysics of modality, i.e. the metaphysical implications of the logic of necessity and possibility. I was especially motivated by David Lewis' infamous work On the Plurality of Worlds, where he defends the radical idea that all logically possible worlds are actual worlds - in other words, that "actual" is indexical. I disagree with modal realism, and have been clarifying my reasons for doing so in the context of creating a broader theory of modality - one which regards possibility and necessity as abstract human approximations that play an epistemic role only, and that "actual" is not indexical, but is synonymous with "exists." My theory is not finished, but I'm leaning towards an even more reductionist theory than Alvin Plantinga's actualism, whereby "possible worlds" are abstract entities that exist in the same way numbers do (I disagree with this because it presumes a more radical and traditional Platonism than I accept as part of my belief in ontic structural realism).

In ontology, I argue in favor of the notion that there are two meanings of "existence" and that equivocation between them is the cause of much of our metaphysical confusion. Specifically, I distinguish between superficial existence, which is the case with most of the things we regard as existing, which distinguishes between possible worlds, and ontological existence, which describes the sorts of things possible worlds are "made of." Personally, I think the later is mathematical laws, as per ontic structural realism.

I'm a naturalist presuppositionalist and a supernatural noncongnitivist. I think that metaphysical naturalism is necessarily true because all other theories and incoherent and/or meaningless.

Epistemology

I continue to defend a broad externalism post-Gettier (obviously, this means I accept the validity of Gettier cases). This theory needs greater precision, however.

I'm a fallibist, meaning that I think even someone behaving rationally can arrive at a false conclusion for a variety of reasons, including incomplete data, problems with the person's broader framework of beliefs, etc.

When it comes to perception, I defend Daniel Dennett's error-checking model, where the brain rapidly constructs "hypotheses" in the form "there exists an x and a y and a....such that..." then checks them against incoming data in a rapid loop. It is worth noting that this idea has proved very useful to cognitive scientists in explaining hallucination.

Philosophy of Science

I defend a broad scientific realism. See Metaphysics for more, or better yet check out my article Ontology and Continuity in Science: A Brief Defense of Ontic Structural Realism.

I defend a broadly Popperian conception of science, with the caveat that I go beyond pancritical rationalism and accept that scientific theories can actually be known to make certain true statements about the way the world is.

I accept the idea of theory-ladenness. There are no purely observational terms. We always experience mostly a theoretical model of the world, not things in themselves, but unlike in the transcendental idealism of Kant, we can still access the things-in-themselves with science, those things being mathematical and logical structures. To give an example of theory ladenness, the statement "the flower is green" is actually the same as "there exists an x such that..." In other words, the ability to translate literally all statements about the way things are into Ramsey sentences demonstrates they are no different from what we'd normally regard as theoretical statements about supposedly theoretical entities like electrons. This actually supports scientific realism, since what is "immediately observable by the unaided senses" is in no way privileged.


Philosophy of Language

I defend a mix of the correspondence and coherence theory of truth. My theory of truth is intimately tied to my metaphysics. I'd call my idea of what happens when we make true statements about states of affairs in the world to be "objectively relative" in that the framework ultimately does not have ontological status, but that relative to the framework truth is not a matter of opinion, and depends on both coherence and correspondence because the line between "coherence" and "correspondence" erodes given that we mean "corresponding to the framework" or "cohering with the framework." However, we can also make true ontological statements, those being statements about the form of mathematical and logical laws of the universe as described by an ideal science.

I think the analytic-synthetic distinction is valid (contra Quine et al.).

I accept Kant's notion of synthetic a priori and Kripke's related ideas on of contingent a priori and necessary a posteriori. To borrow an example from Kripke, take the metal object in Paris used to define a meter. We shall call that object S. Now, we can know that "S is one meter long" a priori, since it is true by definition. But is it necessary? Not so. There is a possible world in which S has a different length. While it is intuitively tempting to equate the meanings of phrases with definitions, this is one of those rare cases where that normally reliable reasoning does not hold. When we fix the definition of "one meter," it becomes a rigid designator. "One meter," being a rigid designator, has the same meaning in all possible worlds - distinct from "the length of S." We can use another example from Kripke, who in turn borrowed it from Hilary Putnam, to also illustrate to notion of necessary a posteriori. Suppose we take the suggestion "cats are animals." We found this out through the investigations of natural science. But it is conceivable that cats are not actually animals, but, say, moving globs of a new substance called blurk. When we found out that cats were not animals but blurk, would we conclude "oh, cats don't exist?" No, we would decide that cats were not as we thought they were. This is a matter of a posteriori discovery. Yet animality is a necessary property of cats, because being an animal is part of what it is to be a cat.

Philosophy of Mind

I support a physicalist view of the mind as something the brain does. All propositions about mental states or properties are ultimately reducible to statements about physics, via semantic modification.

I'm undecided on functionalism and substrate-independence.

Zombies are impossible, i.e. it is impossible for there to be something that is like a conscious human in every way except not capable of being conscious.

I agree broadly with Dennett's views of the mind, but break with him over the issue of animal consciousness, as I take a more nuanced view of both the relationship between consciousness and language, and the status of "language" in non-humans.

Metaethics

I'm a moral realist (thinks there are moral facts). The naturalist/non-naturalist distinction is unimportant to me, since I'm a moral realist for non-ontological reasons. I'm also obviously a cognitivist.

I support Derek Parfit's notion of reason-giving facts.

Normative Ethics

I accept Parfit's thesis that there is no fundamental divide between consequentialism and deontology, or at least there need not be.

I'm leaning in the direction of some sort of contractualism, though I need to flesh my theories out. I'm mixing and matching between the views of Parfit, Rawls, Kant, Nussbaum, Dworkin, and Scanlon.

Unnecessary moral prohibitions are themselves normative wrongs.

Philosophy of Religion

I've recently moved from being a weak atheist (lack of affirmation that deities exist) to a strong atheist. I think I can confidently assert that no deities exist.

I'm a theological noncognitivist, in that I think all or most god-concepts are invalid because they are meaningless, for two main reasons. First is Francois Tremblay's argument that "god" has no positive-defined primary attributes. To illustrate what this means, when asked "what is a dress?" saying "it is beautiful and elegant" gives us no actual concept of what a dress is, and thus none of our assertions about dresses are propositional at all - they are, in Wolfgang Pauli's words, "not even wrong." I also accept the verification challenge of Michael Martin, in that we have no criteria by which we'd judge the correctness of propositions about God.

I support atheist presuppositionalism on the basis of the necessity of naturalism. The reasoning processes used to propose theism tacitly assume a universe possessing of regularities by virtue of being governed entirely by immutable mathematical and logical laws.

Political Philosophy

I'm politically schizophrenic. I've retreated from narrow Marxism and am focusing my efforts on the issue of egalitarianism broadly, as well as the nature of justice and the constraints on legitimate government.

Jurisprudence

I've moved away from positivism to interpretavism, which adopts aspects of natural law, positivism, and realism.
 
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