I have defined several new philosophically-related terms for the Comprehensible Philosophy Dictionary (a work in progress). You can let me know if you think any of the terms need further clarification or if any need improvement for any other reason.
abstract particulars – A synonym for “trope.”
abusive ad hominem – (1) A fallacious type of reasoning that uses an insult or negative characteristic of a person as a reason to reject that person’s argument or claim. For example, we could say that Sam is stupid because he didn’t know that lead is toxic, and we can use that is a reason to reject Sam’s claim that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Sometimes abusive ad hominems are not explicitly given as a reason to reject a person’s argument or claim, but it can still be used to encourage others to do so as a manipulative debate tactic. For example, if Sam was in a debate with Lucy, then Lucy might decide to keep reminding everyone that “Sam is stupid because he didn’t know the Earth revolves around the Sun.” See “halo effect” for more information. (2) An insult or a pronouncement that a person has a negative characteristic. This is not necessarily fallacious when (a) it’s not used as a reason to reject an argument or statement and (b) it’s not used as a manipulative debate tactic.
actual – (1) What relates to the actual world. For example, Socrates was a philosopher in the actual world, but was a carpenter in a possible world. (2) What is real or exists.
actual duty – A duty that can’t be overridden by other considerations. For example, we plausibly have an actual duty not to murder people. “Actual duty” can be contrasted with “prima facie duty.” See “obligation” for more information.
actual entity – A synonym for “actual occasion.”
actual obligation – A synonym for “actual duty.”
actual occasion – A momentary event or time slice of reality. According to process philosophy, actual occasions are ultimately the only real parts of the world. The view of objects (such as tables and cats) as enduring in time is an illusion.
actual world – The possible world we exist in. There could be other possible worlds, and they would say that their world is the actual world as well. See “metaphysical modality” for more information.
actualism – The view that some things that don’t actually exist could have existed, and that everything that exists is actual—there are no merely possible beings. For example, sea serpents could have existed, but they don’t actually exist. Moreover, there is no type of being other than that of actual existence. There are multiple actualist theories that attempt to account for what it means for something to not actually exist that could have existed. “Actualism” can be contrasted with “possibilism.”
ad hominem abusive – A synonym for “abusive ad hominem.”
ad hominem circumstantial – A synonym for “circumstantial ad homimem.”
ad hominem – A Latin phrase that literally means “to the person.” It refers to disparaging remarks, and usually to fallacious types of reasoning that make use of disparaging remarks. For example, we could respond to the a doctor’s claim that “smoking is unhealthy” by saying the doctor who made the argument drinks too much alcohol. There are at least three types of ad hominems: (a) abusive ad hominen, (b) circumstantial ad hominem, and (c) tu quoque.
agent intellect – Aristotle’s view of an active intellect. The active intellect is the part of us that is needed to attain knowledge when effort is involved. It is also understood that the agent intellect somehow involves the universal ability of people to have the same knowledge of the world. The observations we make seem to somehow use the same concepts (which involves the essence of things). For example, we see a dog and somehow know about the concept of dogs. Some people argue that the agent intellect is a shared mind of concepts and others believe it is merely one element of each individual’s mind. “Agent intellect” can be contrasted with “patient intellect.”
alternate possibilities – See “epistemic alternate possibilities” or “ontological alternate possibilities.”
altruism – (1) Actions that benefit others without a primary concern for self-interest. Altruism does not require self-sacrifice but altruistic acts do require that one does not expect to attain benefits in proportion to (or greater than) those given to others. (2) See “desire-independent reason.” (3) In biology, altruism refers to an organism that gives a benefit to another organism without benefiting itself, and the benefit is measured in terms of reproductive advantage.
analytical behaviorism – The view that all talk of minds and mental facts are actually about behavior. This view states that all talk about minds and psychological phenomenon can be replaced by talk about behavior.
anaphora – Interpretations and explanations that require previous interpretations or explanations. For example, “Jessica swam all day. Later at night, she had sore muscles.” In this case the first statement is needed for us to know that “she” refers to Jessica.
appeal to flattery – A fallacious type of reasoning that uses flattery in the hope of persuading someone to agree with a conclusion. For example, a man can be told that he should buy a tuxedo because he looks so good in it, but he might not actually need it, or it might cost too much. It’s similar to the “appeal to vanity.” The appeal to flattery is generally not given as an explicit argument, and it’s often used as a manipulative tactic of persuasion. See “appeal to the people” for more information.
appeal to pity – A type of reasoning that attempts to incite feelings of empathy in order to persuade people to agree with a certain feeling. The appeal to pity is mainly known as a fallacious type of argument or manipulative tactic used for persuasion. For example, “You should give me ten dollars because my dog died this year.” It’s not clear that the money has anything to do with the dog dying. Even so, not all appeals of pity are fallacious. Knowing that certain people need our help can be a good reason for us to help them, and it could be appropriate for us to feel pity and be motivated to help those people as a result.
appeal to snobbery – A type of reasoning that uses a person’s interest in being part of an elite as a reason to accept a certain conclusion. The appeal to snobbery is mainly known for being a type of fallacious reasoning. For example, “you should get a monocle because it’s the type of thing the elites have.” A much better reason to get a monocle is if it’s needed for vision correction, but glasses tend to be a more practical option anyway. However, it is possible for an appeal to snobbery to be nonfallacious in certain contexts. There could be a good reason for people to want to be associated with elites, and certain things we identify with elites could increase the odds of being associated with them.
appeal to the people – (1) A type of reasoning that uses a person’s interest in the opinion of others as a reason to accept a certain conclusion. Our interest in the opinion of others is sometimes based on our interest in being valued or fitting in. The appeal to the people is mainly known as a fallacious type of argument. For example, “You should give to charity, so people think you are a good person.” A much better reason to give to charity is to actually help people. Some appeals to the people are direct (certain specific people’s opinions are considered) and some are indirect (the opinions of people are just considered in general). There are at least three types of appeal to the people fallacies: (a) the “appeal to vanity,” (b) “appeal to snobbery,” and (c) “appeal to popularity.” (2) People often use “appeal to people” as a synonym for “appeal to popularity.”
appeal to vanity – A type of reasoning that uses a person’s interest in being attractive or valued by others as a reason to accept a certain conclusion. The appeal to vanity is mainly known for being a type of fallacious reasoning. For example, “you should exercise every day because more people will want to date you.” Consider that exercising for that reason is rather superficial and there might be more important reasons to exercise, such as to be more healthy. An appeal to vanity is not necessarily fallacious because vanity-related interests might be worth consideration. Perhaps buying deodorant or jewelry are reasonable purchase options precisely because of the limited importance that certain vanity-related interests have. Also see “appeal to popularity” and “appeal to flattery”for more information.
appeal to unqualified authority – A fallacious type of “appeal to authority.”
argument chain – A synonym for “compound argument.”
argument from evil – An argument that the “problem of evil” is a good reason to reject the existence of an all good and all powerful God.
associativity – See “association” or “associative.”
associative – The property of being able to move parentheses without losing meaning. “2 + (3 + 1)” is associative because it means the same thing as “(2 + 3) +1.” In propositional logic, conjunction and disjunction are associative. “(A and B) and C” means the same thing as “A and (B and C),” and “(A or B) or C” means the same thing as “A or (B or C).” See “association” for more information.
atomic argument – An argument with a single conclusion. None of the premises of an atomic argument are argued for because then they would also be conclusions. For example, “All whales are mammals. All whales are animals. Therefore, all wales are animals.” In this case the only conclusion is “all whales are animals.” “Atomic argument” can be contrasted with “compound argument.”
attributionism – (1) The view that there are no inherently religious or mystical experiences. The attributionist will say that some people attribute a religious or mystical character to an experience, but it is not because the experience is inherently different from other experiences. Attributionists deny that there are parts of reality that could only be experienced from a mystical experience. In that case no experience (prior to argument) could be good evidence for a supernatural God’s existence because we could be deceived and we might have been actually experiencing something other than God’s existence. Moreover, we would have to reason about the mystical experience to know what it is probably an experience of. “Attributionism” can be contrasted with “inherentism.” (2) A view concerning moral responsibility that we are morally responsible for our morally significant non-voluntary emotional reactions and attitudes. For example, it is plausible to think that a person who enjoys the thought of an innocent child’s suffering has emotions that are morally blameworthy.
autoepistemic reasoning – Reasoning concerning one’s own knowledge and ignorance. Sometimes we can think we know something precisely based on our ignorance—if something were true, then we would know about it. For example, a woman might reasonably believe she isn’t a queen precisely because she has no reason to think that she is one.
the Background – A term for the set of abilities, dispositions, practices, and background assumptions that are not themselves intentional states. According to John Searle, the Background is what helps us know that when someone requests that we wash the dishes, we aren’t supposed to wash them in the laundry machine. We probably never even considered the idea, so it’s not necessarily a belief we had in the back of our mind or had to actually learn at some point. However, some background assumptions might have been learned at some point and still be considered to be part of the Background.
background knowledge – (1) Knowledge people have that is not explicitly discussed or thought about. For example, most people know that there’s Oxygen in the air, but they don’t think about it very often. (2) See “background assumptions.”
bare identity – Something that is not any type of thing. If something is bare identity, then there is no way to answer the question, “What is it?” It is not obvious if there are any examples of bare identity. “Bare identity” can be contrasted with “sortal.”
bare particular – A synonym with “thin particular.”
bare particularism – The view that there are “thin particulars” and that things are more than just a collection of properties. Bare particularism requires us to reject the “bundle theory of substance.”
behaviorism – (1) The view that psychology is the science of behavior rather than of the mind, and that behavior can be understood and explained without referring to psychological phenomenon. All references to psychological states of affairs in science are thought to be problematic and should be either removed or replaced with statements about behavior. See “radical behaviorism,” “methodological behaviorism,” “psychological behaviorism,” and “analytical behaviorism” for more information. (2) The view that the only valuable evidence of various psychological states of affairs is the behavior of those who have them. Such a view would say that there’s no way we can know if two people have different psychological states of affairs when their behavior is identical.
beneficence – A type of action that’s characterized by kindness. Beneficent actions are those that help others or increase goodness in the world.
benevolence – The virtue of being good and a predisposition to help others. A person who helps a lot of people could be said to be benevolent.
biological naturalism – John Searle’s view of the mind, which is characterized by the belief that the mind is an emergent feature of the brain. The underlying processes that cause the mind to exist are brain processes, and brain activity is not identical to mental activity. The mind is thought to have a genuine causal impact on the brain to explain how there can be a mind-body interaction. See “emergentism” for more information.
Boolean algebra – A system of symbolic propositional logic that preceded other modern advancements in mathematical logic, which was originally developed by George Boole.
Boolean logic – A synonym for “Boolean algebra.”
broad scope – A synonym for “wide scope.”
bundle theory of substance – The view that individuals are nothing more than a collection of properties. For example, Hannah Arendt was a political theorist who studied philosophy, lived from 1906 to 1975, etc. The “bundle theory of substance” can be contrasted with “haecceitism.”
the Church-Turing thesis – The view that every mechanical computation can be fulfilled by a Turing machine, which is basically what we now think of as a computer. See “Turing machine” for more information.
circumstantial ad hominem – (1) A fallacious type of reasoning that opposes an argument or claim based on the circumstances of the person who makes the argument or claim. Perhaps the most common attack is that the person who makes the argument or claim has a bias or can benefit by attaining agreement. Consider the following example—“Pauline believes that marijuana should be legal, but she likes to smoke marijuana, so we shouldn’t listen to her.” In this case we should consider the reasons that marijuana should be legal (or not) rather than Pauline’s personal habits. Consider that someone could also argue that those who want growing fruits and vegetables to remain legal are probably also interested in eating them, but that in no way gives us a reason to reject that viewpoint. (2) A potentially nonfallacious type of reasoning that opposes an argument or claim based on the circumstances of the person who makes the argument or claim. For example, we know that studies that claimed to prove that smoking cigarettes is safe were funded by the tobacco industry, and that gave us a strong reason not to take those studies very seriously. Of course, we could take a closer look to see if the studies were conducted properly or if any other studies have differing results. The circumstantial ad hominem is not fallacious when used to doubt the authority of a claim when there really is a good reason for us to do so.
civil disobedience – To protest what one believes to be unjust laws or policies by not complying with them (or with noncompliance with other laws) generally through nonviolent resistance. For example, Henry David Thoreau refused to pay taxes to protest a war against Mexico. The violation of unjust laws or customs is also common, such as when Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus, which was where black people were asked to sit.
civil rights – Legal rights a person must have in order to be an equal citizen. To give some citizens more rights or privileges can make them a group with greater power and a higher social status than others. For example, black people in the United States fought for equal rights during the Civil Rights Movement. It is often thought that civil rights requires that people be granted and denied privileges (such as jobs or a raise) based on something relevant (such as merit) rather than due to something irrelevant, such as religion, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation.
cognitive decision theory – A synonym for “epistemic utility theory.”
collective attitudes – Attitudes that are shared by people, such as the attitude people share that money has value. If no one agreed that money had value, then it wouldn’t exist. See “collective intentionality” for more information.
collective intentionality – The ability of multiple minds to be directed at something as a group rather than merely individually. Collective intentionality is involved when multiple people have a joint pursuit (such as creating a building), it’s thought to explain how money can have value (because that requires more than one person to think of it as money), and it’s thought to explain how there can be institutions (because things like the House of Representatives only exist because we all treat them like they exist). See “institutional fact” for more information.
common knowledge – Knowledge shared by all people (of some group), who also know that the others know it. For example, everyone who pays or receives money is part of a coordinated system that requires them all to agree that money has value. Institutions and social status plausibly also require common knowledge to exist. See “collective attitudes,” “background assumptions,” and “institutional facts” for more information.
compositionality – The view that any sentence in a language can be understood in terms of the structure and the meaning of the words. For example, “Jeff is tall” can be understood if we know that Jeff is a person and “is tall” is used to describe him as having a longer body than people do generally. However, some sentences seem to require us to know something about the intentions of the speaker or the context that it’s said in. For example, “this is a five dollar bill” along with a person pointing at it would seem to require both intentions and a context.
compound argument – An argument with more than one conclusion. A compound argument could be considered to be two or more related arguments. In many cases one or more premises of a compound argument are argued for. For example, “We know the Earth orbits the Sun because it best explains our experiences. If the Earth orbits the Sun, then the Earth has lower mass than the Sun. Therefore, the Earth has lower mass than the Sun.” In this case the premise that states “the Earth orbits the Sun” is also the conclusion of an argument with the premise “the theory that the Earth orbits the Sun is the best explanation of our experiences.” “Compound argument” can be contrasted with “atomic argument.”
commutative – The property of being able to change the order of various symbols without changing the meaning. For example, “2 + 3” means the same thing as “3 +2.” In propositional logic, conjunction and disjunction are commutative. See “commutation” for more information.
concrete particular – A synonym for “thick particular.”
concrete properties – A synonym for “trope.”
contextomy – A synonym for “quoting out of context.”
contractualism – (1) The view that morality is ultimately based on a social contract or agreement. (2) The view that the moral status of various things depends on how reasonable it would be to accept it as a moral principle that everyone has to accept. For example, an action could be said to be wrong if no one could reasonably accept a set of moral principles that are compatible with the action.
corpuscle – A small particle. A corpuscle is not the same thing as the philosophical concept of an atom because those were thought to be indivisible, but it was thought that corpuscles could be divided.
corrigibility – (1) The property of a justification that indicates that we can be given a good reason to reject it. For example, you can see a cat on a mat, but we could find out that we are hallucinating. (2) “Corrigibility” is sometimes used as a synonym for “fallibility.”
constitutionalism – The view that governments should have limited powers, and that the legitimacy of governments depends on those limitations being maintained. For example, it’s thought that the government shouldn’t be allowed to arrest everyone who disagrees with the decisions it makes.
cooked-up example – An example that is created simply to have an example. For example, we could use an example of a logical fallacy that was actually given by someone, but sometimes a cooked-up example can make the fallacious argument more explicit and easier to understand.
cosmological argument – A type of argument for the existence of God that states that the universe itself couldn’t have existed without a first cause (a deity that could create it).
cosmopolitanism – The view that we should think of ourselves as citizens of the world rather than merely as citizens of some smaller group of people (such as a nation). For example, a modest cosmopolitanism would require that we do not totally dismiss or marginalize the interests of those who aren’t citizens of our particular group. A more extreme cosmopolitanism would include the rejection that members of smaller groups owe their group something more than they owe members of other groups.
counter model – An interpretation of an argument made within a formal system of logic that gives us true premises and a false conclusion. Counter models prove arguments to be invalid. See “counterexample” for more information.
cultural pluralism – The view that sub-cultures should maintain their unique existence rather than assimilate into the larger culture. For example, people from China who move to the USA could keep their own traditions, language, etc. Many areas have a “China town” where many of these traditions are reinforced through communities.
dangling comparative – An adjective used to compare two or more things without it being clear what exactly the adjective is about. For example, “more,” “better,” or “faster.” We want to know—more what? Better in what way? How is it faster? For example, a cookie could be said to be better than the competition. If we aren’t told how it’s better, then we can’t analyze the comparison properly. See “incomplete comparison” for more information.
deductively valid – A synonym for “valid argument.” “Deductively valid” arguments can be contrasted with “strong arguments.” See “deduction” for more information.
defeasible – (1) Reasoning that can be defeated by additional information. Defeasible arguments could be considered to be reasons to believe something, all things equal—one consideration in favor of a conclusion. Many believe that defeasible reasoning can be rationally compelling, but defeasible reasoning is not deductively valid. For example, inductive reasoning is defeasible. All scientific conclusions are supported by defeasible reasoning. (2) Reasoning that can have true premises and a false conclusion. Defeasible reasoning can’t be deductively valid. Inductive reasoning is an example of defeasible reasoning. (3) “Defeasible duty” refers to “prima facie duty.” (4) “Defeasible” is sometimes used as a synonym for “pro tanto reason.”
defeater – The information that can defeat a defeasible argument. Defeaters are reasons against conclusions that are more important than the previous defeasible support for the conclusion. They override the reason we had to believe something. For example, Newton’s theory of physics was plausibly defeated (as being a complete theory) when it failed to predict the motion of Mercury, which was predicted using Einstein’s theory of physics. See “rebutting defeater” and “undercutting defeater” for more information.
definite description – A descriptive reference to something with the form “the A.” For example, “the cat.” This describes whatever we refer to as “a cat” rather than an inanimate object, some other type of animal, something abstract, etc. Sometimes something means “the A” without being explicit, such as when we say, “A woman climbed the tree, and she was wearing sunglasses. This could be taken to mean “A woman climbed the tree, and the woman was wearing sunglasses.” Definite descriptions are often studied in order to better know how to translate a natural language into a formal system of logic. For example, Bertrand Russell believes that “the A is B” should be translated into predicate logic as “∃x(Ax ∧ ∀y(Ay → x=y) ∧ Bx),” which means “There’s something thing such that it’s an A, no more than one thing is an A, and every A is B.” “Definite description” can be contrasted with “indefinite description.”
divine intellect – The view of Plato’s Forms as being part of an intelligence within the realm of the Forms, and that we can know about the Forms because they are already part of our own intellect.
divine illumination – The view that the human mind requires divine assistance in order to function properly. The view is not that a divine being creates minds or keeps them around. It is that certain activities (perhaps attaining knowledge) requires an active divine presence or interaction. For example, Plato’s view that we all know the Forms already seems to imply that something divine gave us knowledge of the Forms before we were born.
dipolar – (1) The view of something as having two different aspects. For example, some people think that everything has a mental and a physical aspect. (2) The view of God as having two different aspects. Generally, one aspect is said to be eternal and unchanging, but the other is said to be contingent.
disputation – A structured debate meant to help move along a rational discussion that could help people improve their beliefs, which was developed in the middle ages and was generally used for theological and scientific debates.
distributive – See “distribution.”
divine – (1) “The divine” is the reality of God or gods. (2) Relating to gods.
doctrine of analogy – The view that the only way we can talk about God is by analogy because our language is meant to be about imperfect beings and can’t apply to God in the same way. The meaning of terms we use to describe God could be said to be metaphorical or figurative, but the doctrine of analogy states that there is some element of truth involved.
doctrine of divine immutability – The view that God’s nature can’t be changed. God can have thoughts (a change of one thought to another), and can interact with things that happen in the world without its nature being changed. That requires the change to be more serious and could involve a change in God’s essence.
doctrine of double effect – The view that doing serious harm can be morally permissible when it’s necessary for a significant greater good. For example, many people agree that it could be permissible to kill when necessary for self-defense.
dominance – (1) The norm of decision theory that states that a person ought to do whatever will lead to the greatest utility (the most valued or desired state) given the way the world is. See “stochastic dominance” for more information. (2) To have greater importance than other things. (3) To have power over others.
down-up causation – A synonym for “upward causation.”
downward causation – The effect a higher level reality has on a lower level reality. More precisely, the causal impact ontologically emergent parts of reality can have on non-emergent parts of reality. For example, some people argue that the mind is emergent and can have a causal impact on atoms. If the mind is capable of moving the body, then the mind is capable of moving the atoms in the body. This is in contrast to the view that causation is best understood as simple elements having an impact on complex elements rather than the other way around. See “ontological emergence” for more information. “Downward causation” can be contrasted with “upward causation.”
duty proper – A synonym for “actual duty.”
dyad – (1) A concept developed by Pythagoras that refers to the number 2, the principle of twoness, and the idea of otherness. According to Numenius, Pythagoras called God the “Monad,” and matter the “Dyad.” (2) A synonym for “Demiurge.” (3) A group of two people.
egoism – (1) See “ethical egoism.” (2) See “psychological egoism.” (3) The denial that desire-independent reasons can exist.
emergence – See “epistemic emergence” or “ontological emergence.”
emergentism – See “ontological emergence” or “ontological emergence.”
epistemic alternate possibilities – Different things that could happen for all we know. When making decisions, we don’t necessarily know what options we consider could actually happen, but we are likely to try to do one that we think could actually happen. “Epistemic alternate possibilities” can be contrasted with “ontological alternate possibilities.” Also see “epistemic possibility” for more information.
epistemic emergence – Our inability to know how to reduce one phenomenon into another. For example, chemistry is epistemically emergent insofar as we don’t know how to reduce it to physics—the laws of physics (and interaction of energy and particles) is currently insufficient to predict the behavior of all chemical reactions. “Epistemic emergence” can be contrasted with “ontological emergence.”
epistemic mentalism – The view that justifications for beliefs must be some mental state of the person who has the belief. For example, justifications could take the form of propositions that are understood by a person. We could justify the belief that “the Sun will probably rise tomorrow” by knowing that “the Sun has risen every day of human history; and if the Sun has risen every day of human history, then the Sun will probably rise tomorrow.”
epistemic optimism – The view that people that engage in rational debate or philosophical discussion are likely to improve their beliefs as a result—that their beliefs will be more truthful and/or more likely true as a result. The epistemic optimist is also more likely to agree that philosophers or scientists can be experts (know more than other people about their particular specialization), and that philosophy or science can make progress over time as a whole.
epistemic pessimism – The opposite of “epistemic optimism.” Epistemic pessimists reject epistemic optimism.
epistemic possibility – What could happen for all we know. For example, for all we know it might rain tomorrow. See “epistemic alternate possibility” for more information.
epistemic probability – The odds of various certain statements have of being true based on the information we have available. As far as we know, certain statements have higher odds of being true than others. For example, it is likely that all dogs give birth to live young (rather than some laying eggs) based on our current observations of dogs. We should make sure not to confuse “epistemic probability” with “verisimilitude.” “Epistemic probability” can be contrasted with “ontological probability.”
equivalence – (1) See “logical equivalence.” (2) See “material equivalence.” (3) See “rules of replacement.” (4) A rule of replacement that takes two forms: (a) “a if and only if b” means the same thing as “if a, then b; and if b, then a.” (b) “a if and only if b” means the same thing as “a and b” and/or “not-a and not-b.” (“a” and “b” stand for any two propositions.) For example, “Socrates is a rational animal if and only if Socrates is a person” means the same thing as “Socrates is a rational animal and a person, or Socrates is not a rational animal and not a person.” (5) Multiple things that have the same meaning or importance are said to be equivalent in that respect. See “equivocation” and “false equivalence” for more information.
eternalism – The view that everything exists that was around in the past and everything exists that’s around right now. We can say that some things exist in the past (such as pterosaurs) and other things exist right now (such as computers). However, eternalists reject the existence of anything from the future. The number of things that exists increases as time passes. For example, dinosaurs would be said to exist in the past, but no creatures that will evolve into existence in the future are said to exist. They aren’t even things that are said to exist in the future. Instead, we should say they will exist in the future.
ethical formalism – An ethical theory that defines ethical judgments entirely in terms of the form (logical structure) rather than content (meaning of various terms). Ethical formalists believe that the form of ethical judgments is both necessary and sufficient to understanding them. Formal logical systems are used to help us understand the form of logical judgments, called deontic logic. “Ethical formalism” can be contrasted with “formal ethics.”
ethical intuitionism – A synonym for “Ross’s intuitionism.”
ethical libertarianism – (1) The view that people own themselves (at least initially) and have a moral right to acquire property. (2) See “political libertarianism.”
ethical modality – The distinction between what is obligatory and what is permissible. We communicate ethical modality by using terms, such as “must,” “should,” and “ought.” See “deontic quantifier” for more information.
evidential problem of evil – The question concerning if the existence of evil in the world as we know it is unlikely to exist assuming that an all good and all powerful God also exists. Many people argue that the evidential problem of evil seems to indicate that (part of) the best explanation for the evil we experience in our world is that God doesn’t exist. The “evidential problem of evil” can be contrasted with the “logical problem of evil.” See the “problem of evil” for more information.
evil – (1) Something that’s morally wrong or a character flaw. For example, it is evil to kill people for fun, and it’s evil to enjoy the suffering of innocent people. (2) Negative value. For example pain could be considered an evil. (3) The unholy and immoral nature of a demon-like being that enjoys the suffering of innocent people.
external relations – Relations that don’t affect the nature of beings. For example, Bob might decide to drive around a cat that’s crossing the road. The relationship between Bob and the cat caused him to do something, but it didn’t have an effect on his nature. “External relations” can be contrasted with “internal relations.”
external world – Everything that exists outside of your own mind. For example, the experience of a cat on a mat is in your mind (and might just be a dream), but we say that it’s true that a cat is on the mat when it properly describes reality (and isn’t just in your mind).
fallacy of ambiguity – A fallacious type of argument that involves an unclear statement or term. These fallacies tend to rely on vagueness or ambiguity. For example, “Amber has a family tree. Therefore, she must have a plant that needs sunlight.” There are at least two different types of fallacies of ambiguity: (a) equivocation and (b) amphiboly.
fallacy of grammatical analogy – A fallacious type of argument that is structurally analogous to a good argument, but requires an unwarranted assumption. For example, “The human body is made up of atoms. So, each atom must be a part of the human body.” (Some atoms are part of the body of a lizard, or aren’t part of the body of anything.) There are at least two different types of fallacies of grammatical analogy: (a) composition and (b) division.
fallacy of induction – A fallacious type of argument that has potentially relevant premises, but the premises have less evidence than is necessary to make the conclusion probable. For example, “I got sick when wearing these shoes, so they obviously made me sick.” There are different types of fallacies of induction, such as the following: (a) appeal to authority, (b) appeal to ignorance, (c) hasty generalization, (d) false cause, (e) slippery slope, (f) and weak analogy.
fallacy of language – A synonym for “fallacy of ambiguity.”
fallacy of presumption – A fallacious type of argument that has a presupposition that is not adequately argued for. For example, “John is a cop. Therefore, John is a police officer.” This argument is circular, and we are not actually given any reason to agree with the premise or conclusion. There are different types of fallacies of presumption, such as the following: (a) begging the question, (b) complex question, and (c) false dichotomy.
fallacy of relevance – A fallacious type of argument that has premises that aren’t relevant to the conclusion. For example, “John is tall. Therefore, Samantha should go to the store.” There are different types of fallacies of relevance, such as the following: (a) the appeal to force, (b) appeal to the people, (c) ad hominem, (d) missing the point, (e) red herring, and (f) straw man.
fallacy of weak induction – A synonym for “fallacy of induction.”
fallibility – The property of having a chance of being proven false. For example, our scientific knowledge is fallible, even though we should believe the best science has to offer.
false equivalence – To treat two things as having equal goodness that don’t actually have equal goodness. For example, when the news program on television gives two different people of opposing views a chance to explain their views as though their views are equally justified when actually one person’s view has already been discredited by scientific studies.
fideism – The view that faith is separate from (and perhaps opposed to) reason. Many also think that fideism requires people to reject reason in favor of faith, at least in some circumstances, because faith is understood as being a better (or perhaps the only) way to attain certain true beliefs.
final conclusion – A synonym for “main conclusion.”
fine tuning argument – A type of argument for the existence of God that states that the laws of nature have to be precisely tuned a certain way for living beings like us to exist, and that the laws of nature probably would have been different without a deity that could assure us that the laws of nature are tuned the right way.
form – (1) See “argument form.” (2) See “Platonic forms.” (3) See “essence.” (4) In ordinary language, ‘form’ refers to shape.
formal ethics – A formal logical system used to examine the form of various ethical statements. The symbolic notation used is called deontic logic, which makes use of deontic quantifiers. For example, “Op” means “p” is an obligation.” “Formal ethics” can be contrasted with “ethical formalism.”
four-dimensionalism – (1) See “perdurantism.” (2) The view that time is actually the fourth spatial dimension, similar to height, width, and depth. This view seems to imply that determinism is true.
free market – An economic system that is coordinated by supply and demand (prices go up as supply goes down), has little to no government regulation, and has no monopolies (businesses that lack competition).
fundamental question – (1) A question of central importance for philosophy, such as “what is being?” (2) A question that requires an answer in order to answer many other related questions. For example, there is a sense that we need to answer the question, “what is knowledge?” before we can answer the question, “Do we know anything?”
generalization – A statement that uses available information to make predictions or to come to conclusions based on an entire group. For example, we use a sample of individuals who try out various drugs to find out if the drug is likely to help other people suffering from the same medical conditions. See “induction” and “hasty generalization” for more information.
genuine problem – An issue that concerns facts. For example, we might wonder if the universe is still expanding. This is a scientific question that should have an answer. “Genuine problem” can be contrasted with “pseudo-problem.”
Gettier problem – A type of conterexample to the view that knowledge is justified true belief, which was originally developed by Edmund Gettier. For example, if you believe Emily is a police officer based on a photo you see of her wearing a police uniform. She really is a police officer, but the photo is a picture of her wearing a Halloween costume from two years before she really become a police officer. The belief is justified and true, but it’s based on a deceptive kind of information. If you knew it was just a Halloween costume, then you wouldn’t have believed she was a police officer.
Godel’s incompleteness theorems – Godel proved that finite formal systems will be unable to answer all relevant questions. A finite formal system is basically a computer program (system manipulation), and Godel proved that it is impossible for any such system to be able to answer all mathematical questions, even though human beings can generally answer them. Many people think that Godel’s proof shows that there’s something inadequate about mathematics or logic, but Godel thought that it showed that we sometimes need to be able to do mathematics intuitively rather than how computers do. See “formal system” for more information.
haecceitism – The view that there are unanalyzable properties that makes something a specific individual. For example, it’s what would make Socrates him rather than someone else. Every object could be said to be unique and haecceitists will say that there’s unanalyzable properties that make each thing what it is rather than something else. “Haecceitism” can be contrasted with the “bundle theory of substance.”
haecceity – The unanalyzable properties that makes something a specific individual. For example, it’s what would make Arisototle who he is rather than someone else.
higher level reality – The parts of reality that are emergent and irreducible (greater than the sum of their parts). See “ontological emergence” for more information. “Higher level reality” can be contrasted with “lower level reality.”
hylomorphism – The Aristotelian view that substance is a combination of matter and form. Each thing that exists is thought to have both matter and form. For example, an apple has matter (the stuff it’s made out of) and form (it’s shape). However, Aristotle’s conception of form also included a thing’s “essence.” See “substance,” “matter,” and “form” for more information.
hypokeimenon – What makes something what it is, even if it is changed. For example it’s what makes Socrates the same person throughout his entire life. Also see “quiddity” and “haecceity” for more information.
identity theory of truth – The view that there’s some sense that true propositions are true because they are identical with some type of truthmaker. For example, “Sharks are fish” is true because it’s somehow identical with something else. The identity theory of truth is taken to be an alternative to the “correspondence theory of truth” and those who endorse it hope that it avoids the problem that facts and true propositions seem too different to ever correspond to one another. The words “sharks are fish” seem quite different from whatever reality the correspondence theorist believes they describe. One criticism of the identity theory of truth is that it doesn’t seem compatible with the view that truthmakers are parts of reality, which is often what we seem to intend to refer to when we hope to say something true. See “truthmaker,” “fact,” “truth condition,” and “true” for more information.
idiolect – A language (or part of a language) of a single person that can be entirely understood in terms of that person’s intrinsic nature, such as their unique sensations or knowledge.
iff – Shorthand for “if and only if.” See “material equivalence” for more information.
ignoratio elenchi – Latin for “ignorance of refutation.” A synonym for “red herring.”
illogicality – Ignorance about the concepts and methods involved with logic. Many people know very little about logic and are not skilled at doing various logical problems, but they tend to be even more confident in their logical competence as a result.
illusionism – The view that free will doesn’t exist, and that it’s an illusion. Illusionists believe that we have deceptive experiences that could be described as “experiences of free will.”
immediate inference – A valid argument with one premise. For example, “All mammals are animals. Therefore, it is not the case that some mammals are not animals.”
immutability – To have a nature that can’t be changed. This could be understood as having an essence that can’t be changed. Having a body undergo change or to be affected by one’s environment isn’t generally enough to lack immutability because what one is can stay the same.
imperative – A normative sentence that’s neither true nor false, such as commands and prescriptions. Examples include, “Go to the store!” and “Don’t punch people!” See “categorical imperative,” “hypothetical imperative,” and “prescriptivism” for more information.
imperative logic – A formal logical system that focuses on imperatives (commands) rather than propositions. An imperative is neither true nor false. For example, “Go to the store!” and “If you go to the store, buy milk!” implies, “Buy Milk!” See “imperative” for more information.
impossibilism – The view that it is metaphysically impossible for free will to exist. Impossibilism is a rejection of both “compatibilism” and “incompatibilism.” It is the view that there’s no free will in possible worlds. Compatibilism is the view that there’s free will in certain deterministic possible worlds; and incompatibilism is the view that there’s free will in certain indeterministic possible worlds, but none in deterministic possible worlds. See “free will,” “compatibilism,” “incompatibilism,” and “determinism” for more information.
indefeasible – (1) Reasoning that can’t be defeated by additional information. Indefeasible arguments are sufficient reasons to believe a conclusion and no additional information could provide a better reason to reject the conclusion. Many believe that indefeasible reasoning must be rationally compelling and deductively valid. (2) Reasoning that can’t have true premises and a false conclusion. Indefeasible reasoning of this kind must be deductively valid.
indefinite description – A descriptive reference to something with the form “an A.” For example, “a cat.” One important issue is how to translate indefinite descriptions into a logical form. According to Bertrand Russell, “A is B” can be translated into predicate logic as “∃x(Ax ∧ Bx),” which means “There’s at least one A that’s a B.” “Indefinite description” can be contrasted with “definite description.”
individual accidents – A synonym for “trope.”
incomplete comparison – A fallacious type of argument or persuasive tactic used in advertising. The comparison is incomplete in such a way so that it can’t be refuted. For example, to say that a product is “better” without saying how it’s better. See “dangling comparative” for more information.
incompleteness theorem – A deductive proof that a system is incomplete—that there are certain relevant questions that the system can’t answer. See “Godel’s incompleteness theorems” for more information.
incorrigibility – (1) The property of a justification that assures us that there can’t be given a good reason to reject it. Such a justification could be used to justify a false belief, even though we would never have a good reason to reject the belief. For example, some claim that having an experience of pain is incorrigible because there is nothing more to the existence of pain than the experience. (2) “Incorrigibility” is sometimes used as a synonym for “infallibility.”
infallibilism – The rejection of “fallibilism.”
infallibility – The property of having no chance of being false. For example, some people believe that much of our mathematical knowledge is known to be absolutely certain and can’t be shown to be false.
insolubles – Paradoxes (such as the liar’s paradox) that don’t seem to have a solution.
internal relations – An interrelationship between beings that affect the nature of the beings. For example, some species become symbiotic (mutually beneficial) through evolution, such as bees and certain flowers that can’t spread pollen without bees. “Internal relations” can be contrasted with “external relations.”
irreducible complexity – (1) When something complex can’t currently be understood in terms of the simple elements involved. See “epistemic emergence” for more information. (2) When something complex is greater than the sum of its parts. It literally can’t be explained by the smaller elements involved. See “ontological emergence” for more information.
kenosis – To empty oneself to be receptive to God’s will.
logical behaviorism – A synonym for “analytical behaviorism.”
logical monism – The view that there’s only one correct logical system. This view is generally based on the idea that we make discoveries in logic and that we have made many improvements in logic over the years. For example, predicate logic is often thought to capture logical facts better than propositional logic. Logical monism is consistent with the view that logic is meant to help us know how to reason well, and that there are improper ways to reason about things. “Logical monism” can be contrasted with “logical pluralism.”
logical pluralism – The view that there are multiple correct logical systems. This view is generally based on the idea that there are no logical facts to discover, so any consistent logical system we find useful does what it needs to do. “Logical pluralism” can be contrasted with “logical monism.”
logical problem of evil – The question concerning if the existence of an all good and all powerful God is logically inconsistent with the existence of evil (as we know it to actually exist). Some people argue that there are no possible worlds with God and evil. The “logical problem of evil” can be contrasted with the “evidential problem of evil.” See the “problem of evil” for more information.
logicality – (1) Relating to logic. (2) Consistent with the principles of logic.
lower level reality – The parts of reality that are equal to the sum of their parts (rather than greater than the sum of their parts). See “ontological emergence” for more information. “Lower level reality” can be contrasted with “higher level reality.”
main conclusion – The conclusion of an argument that is not used as a premise. For example, consider the following argument—“We should believe that punching people is generally wrong because it causes suffering. If punching people is generally wrong, then it would be wrong to punch someone just for fun. Therefore, it’s wrong to punch someone just for fun.” In this case the main conclusion is “it’s wrong to punch someone just for fun.” “Main conclusion” can be contrasted with “sub-conclusion.”
many-valued logic – A formal logical system that has more values than true or false, generally to help account for the fact that some statements seem closer to being true than others. For example, the statement “the Sun is a sphere” is closer to the truth than the statement “the Sun is a cube.” Both statements would be taken to be false under a literal interpretation when “true” and “false” are the only two options.
material constitution – The material or physical part of an object (as opposed to the shape or essence of the object). For example, a spear carved from wood is made of wood and wood is its material constitution, but it has the shape of a spear.
material substratum – A synonym for “substratum.”
mathematical logic – Symbolic logic applied to mathematics. See “formal logic” for more information.
mentalism – See “epistemic mentalism” or “ontological mentalism.”
metaphysical emergence – A synonym with “ontological emergence.”
metaphysical probability – A synonym for “ontological probability.”
methodological behaviorism – The view that scientists should focus on behavior rather than the mind (or mental states). Any reference to the mind or mental states in psychology are thought to be problematic and should either be removed or replaced with facts about behavior.
missing the point – (1) A fallacious type of argument with a stated conclusion that could be taken to follow the premises, but a much better conclusion actually follows from the premises given our background knowledge. For example, consider the following argument—“Susan was angry about her bad day at work and so she threw Bob’s glass cup on the floor, which broke the glass cup. Therefore, Bob should have bought a plastic cup instead of a glass cup.” In this case a much better conclusion would have been “Susan shouldn’t have thrown the glass cup on the floor.” (2) To fail to understand the purpose of something.
modal scope fallacy – An argument that commits a fallacy that equivocates modal terms (involving necessity and possibility). For example, “John says that the plane was seen over the Moon, but no plane can fly all the way to the Moon. Obviously he didn’t see that.” In this case we are told that a plane is over the Moon (so it must be possible for it to do so), but we know that it’s impossible for planes to go to the Moon to go over it. Even so, in this case we know that the plane was only seen as above the Moon from a certain viewpoint. That can happen. What can’t happen is for a plane to literally go all the way over the Moon to go above it. See “modal quantifier” for more information.
modal term – A term that relates to necessity or possibility. Other examples include “can,” “can’t,” and “contingent.” See “modal quantifier” and “modality” for more information.
model – (1) An interpretation of a statement made within a formal system of logic. For example, “A and/or B” is a statement of predicate logic. We can interpret “A” to mean “all dogs are mammals” and “B” to mean “all dogs are reptiles.” In this case the statement means “all dogs are mammals and/or all dogs are reptiles,” which is true. (2) A representation of something, such as a model plane or a mathematical model of the weather. (3) A person used to wear clothing to help increase sales. (4) A good example, such as a model citizen.
moral argument for the existence of God – A type of argument for the existence of God based on the idea that morality as we know it to exist would be impossible without the existence of God. It’s often thought that morality only exists because God makes it exist. Also see the “Euthyphro dilemma” for more information.
moral fact – The reality, relations, or state of affairs that makes moral statements true. One potential example is “all things equal, torture is morally wrong” because suffering is intrinsically bad. Moral facts are not taken to be facts that only concern our beliefs and desires. Saying that it’s a fact that torturing is morally wrong could not refer to the fact that people of some society agree that pain is bad. The view that moral facts exist is called “moral realism,” and the view that they don’t exist is called “moral anti-realism.”
mutual knowledge – Something multiple people all know, and they all know that the others in their group know it. For example, Jane and Jake both know that the George Washington was the first president of the United States, and they can both know that the other also knows it. See “common knowledge” for more information.
mysterianism – The view that we can’t understand free will or know whether free will is compatible with determinism. At the same time mysterians often believe we have no choice but to believe we have free will anyway.
narrow scope – Having a low number of things covered by a term. For example, “mammal” has a more narrow scope than “animal.” See “low redefinition” for more information.
natural kinds – Various kinds of things found in the world that are not merely arbitrarily categorized. For example, we say that we used to think whales were fish, but we now know they are mammals. Other examples include the chemical elements (such as oxygen and water), and various types of particles examined by physicists (such as atoms and electrons). However, various scientific anti-realists argue that we are often (or always) mistaken to think that these groupings are more than an arbitrary grouping that we use out of convenience.
the Network – A combination of coordinated beliefs, desires, and other intentional states that are required for any particular mental state to make sense. For example, a man who thinks “I want to be a billionaire to buy a mansion at Beverly Hills” in our day and age has a quite different intentional state than someone who thinks it from fifty thousand years ago. Such a person in the past wouldn’t know what it means to be a billionaire, what a mansion is, or what Beverley Hills is.
noëtics – The systematic study of the mind or intellect when it’s taken to have an essence or divine element. Examples of noetic theories include Aristotle’s view of the “active intellect” and the neoplatonist view of the “divine intellect.”
non-monotonic logic – Formal frameworks developed to help differentiate good from bad defeasible reasoning. Such a framework can help us understand when an argument’s conclusion is probable rather than validly deduced.
noncognitive logic – Systems of formal logic that lack truth values. See “imperative logic” for more information.
the nonidentity problem – If we do something that can harm the well-being of future persons, then not doing it is likely to cause those specific future persons to not exist in the first place. For example, Barak Obama only exists because a specific sperm cell fertilized a specific egg. If someone decided to pollute the world less, then he might have never been born. Many people think this is a problem for the view that we have obligations not to harm people who will exist in the future because different people will exist in the future depending on our decisions.
objectivism – Ayn Rand’s philosophical view of ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. One defining characteristic of her view is that it’s egoistic—we are never obligated to help others and that the most important thing is rational self-interest.
obligation proper – A synonym for “actual duty.”
ontological alternate possibilities – Different things that could actually happen in reality. For example, those who believe in libertarian free will believe that there really are different options we can choose from that could actually occur. The view that ontological alternate possibilities exist requires us to reject determinism. If determinism is true, then everything that happens is entirely caused by previous states of affairs and nothing could happen differently than they actually happen. “Ontological alternate possibilities” can be contrasted with “epistemic alternate possibilities.” Also see “ontological possibility” and “determinism” for more information.
ontological argument – A type of argument for the existence of God that states that our conception of supremse perfection or God (as the supremely perfect being) requires us to accept that God exists because existence is a perfection. It is said that God would not be supremely perfect without existing because existence is a perfection.
ontological emergence – The view that something is “greater than the sum of its parts” or that something has an irreducible existence that exists because of an underlying state of affairs. For example, some scientists and philosophers think that the mind is an emergent phenomena that exists because of brain activity, but the mind is not the same thing as brain activity. Ontological emergence is generally thought to involve something complex that can’t be explained by something more simple. (If a molecule’s behavior isn’t entirely caused by the atoms it’s made out of, then something complex can’t be explained by something more simple.) See “top-down causation” for more information. “Ontological emergence” can be contrasted with “epistemic emergence.”
ontological mentalism – In philosophy of mind, mentalism is the view that the mind is capable of interacting with the body and can cause the body to move in various ways. For example, a person who tries to raise her arm could actually raise her arm as a result.
ontological possibility – A synonym for “metaphysical possibility.”
ontological probability – The odds of something actually happening. Ontological probability concerns what is true of the world and not what we would guess to be true based on our current information about the world. If determinism is true, then everything that happens has to happen exactly as they happen, and there’s no chance of anything happening differently. In that case there’s a 100% chance of everything happening only one way. However, if the world is indeterministic, than there could be some events that have a chance of happening that might not actually happen. “Ontological probability” can be contrasted with “epistemic probability.”
open question argument – An objection given against the view that moral terminology, such as “right” and “wrong,” has the same meaning as something nonmoral. For example, the view that “bad” means “pain.” The open question is basically, “This is an example of nonmoral states of affairs, but is it an example of the moral concept?” For example, some people might think “bad” means the same thing as “pain.” We could then ask, “Punishing criminals often causes them pain, but is it always bad?” The problem is that these types of questions seem like good questions no matter how we define moral terms in terms of nonmoral terms. The open question argument is not meant to challenge the view that certain moral facts are identical to certain nonmoral facts. It is a question about terminology rather than metaphysics.
ordinary language philosophy – The view that philosophical issues are the result of conceptual confusions that can be resolved by realizing what words actually mean in everyday life. For example, some philosophers think knowledge is impossible because we can’t know anything for sure unless we can argue for it; but every argument requires a reason to agree with the conclusion, so we would need reasons to believe the reasons on and on forever. An ordinary language philosopher might disagree that knowledge is impossible because they might not think the ordinary meaning of ‘knowledge’ requires a reason to believe anything. Also see “quietism” and the “regress problem” for more information.
oversimplified cause – A fallacious type of argument that indicates that there are fewer causes than we should believe exists. For example, “Identical twins don’t always have the same personality. Therefore, personality is entirely developed by our environment.” In this case it seems more likely that our personality is developed by several different factors, and our genetic code could be included in the number of factors involved.
oversimplification – (1) A synonym for “oversimplified cause.” (2) To describe something with less nuance and detail than would be appropriate. For example, to say that Aristotle’s view of ethics “is just that we should try to avoid extremes.” Aristotle’s view of ethics is much more detailed and nuanced than that, and to claim otherwise is false. Keep in mind that some simplification can be appropriate in some circumstances, such as when we are summarizing a person’s theory. It can be cumbersome and impractical to require people to completely avoid simplifying things.
ownership – To have the right to use some object. To own something implies that there’s something wrong with other people taking the object without permission (which would be to steal it). However, ownership also includes the right to transfer the object to someone else (who borrows it or becomes the new owner).
Oxford philosophy – A synonym for “ordinary language philosophy.”
panentheism – The view that God has a presence in the natural world that have an interrelationship with the physical world. It does not claim that God is identical to the universe, and it does not claim that God exists outside the universe either. God is thought to change the nature of the natural world, and the natural world is thought to change the nature of Gods. Traditional theists agree that God can be affected by the natural world and respond to it, but they deny that God’s nature can be changed by its interrelationship with the natural world.
paraconsistent logic – A logical system that lacks the principle of explosion—a validly deduced contradiction don’t imply that everything is true. Paraconsistent logic rejects the following rule of inference—“A and not-A. Therefore, B.” One motivation for paraconsistent logic is that we often have contradictory information, but we don’t think it’s appropriate to use that information to come to absurd conclusions. See the “principle of explosion” for more information.
particular – (1) A single thing that has an identity and persists in time. (2) See “concrete particular” and “thin particular.”
paternalism – The view that the government or an organization should help protect people from themselves, even if it limits their freedom. For example, the law that requires people to wear seat belts when in moving cars is a paternalistic law.
patient intellect – Aristotle’s view of a passive intellect, which is the part of us that is needed to attain knowledge without effort. Having various concepts (of the essence of things), such as what it means to be a dog, is thought to require no effort. “Patient intellect” can be contrasted with “agent intellect.”
perfectionism – (1) The view that the primary importance of ethics is to live (and help others live) an excellent human life, generally involving the perfection or improvement of oneself in terms of human nature (e.g. rationality). Aristotle is one example of a perfectionist of this type. (2) The view that, all thing equal, we should prefer a political system that helps people live excellent human lives, generally with a perfectionist type of ethics in mind. (3) The view that an excellent human life has value and might not involve very much pleasure. This view requires us to reject hedonism because pleasure is not understood to be the only good.
perichoresis – The view that there’s an interrelationship between the members of the trinity (father, son, and holy spirit). The father is part of the son and spirit, the son is part of the father and spirit, and the spirit is part of the father and son. The three parts of the trinity are not taken to be identical.
personal attack – (1) See “abusive ad hominem.” (2) To say something negative about a person, such as “John is an addict who drinks too much alcohol.”
personalism – The view that people have primary philosophical importance, and that certain social factors could detract us from properly treating people as the primary focus. For example, some people argued that individualism has depersonalized philosophy. Some personalists also believe that knowledge of being a person is the ultimately the best way to also know about all other major philosophical subjects, such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and logic.
pessimistic induction – The view that scientific theories are likely false based on the fact that many scientific theories have been proven false throughout history. For example, the phlogiston theory and vitalism were proven false.
possibilism – The view that some things that actually don’t exist could have existed because they are merely possible beings. For example, unicorns don’t exist, but might have existed, and there is a sense that unicorns are merely possible beings. In addition to actually existing things, possibilists believe there are merely possible things—a type of being quite different from the type of being of actually existing. We might say that things that are merely possible exist in possible worlds that aren’t the actual world. “Possibilism” can be contrasted with “actualism.”
prehension – The way one moment of experience incorporates and relates to earlier moments of experience. For example, consider the experience of a cat falling from a tree. In one moment you see a tree with a cat in mid air, and the moment before you saw the cat was slightly higher up still in mid air. We experience things in such a way that multiple moments are combined. We couldn’t understand what it means for a cat to fall from a tree without understanding that the cat is moving through space and time, and exists in various locations depending on the moment.
prescription – (1) See “imperative.” (2) Information concerning someone’s medical needs, such as a prescription for a certain type of medicine given by a doctor to a patient.
presentism – The view that the only things that exist are here right now. Anything that was around in the past, but isn’t around anymore no longer exists. Presentism tells us that what exists has to exist in the present as opposed to the past or future. For example, dinosaurs would be said to no longer exist because they aren’t around anymore.
prima facie duty – Duties that give us a reason to act a certain way, but can be overriden. For example, it is plausible to think we have a prima facie duty not to kill people, but we might have an overriding reason to kill a mass murderer when necessary to save lives. Some people argue that prima facie duties don’t apply at all when they are overriden, but others argue that they always count as a consideration in favor of certain behavior, even when they are overridden. See “prima facie reason” and “pro tanto reason” for more information.
prima facie obligation – A synonym for “prima facie duty.”
prima facie reason – A reason for acting or believing a certain way that only counts as a reason given that certain conditions aren’t met. They are reasons for acting or believing when considered in isolation, but they can be overridden. When they are overridden, they aren’t reasons for acting or believing at all. For example, seeing a unicorn is not a good reason to believe that unicorns exist when we know we are dreaming. “Prima facie reason” can be contrasted with “pro tanto reason.”
primary quality – An element of an object that actually exists as part of the object and is not merely experienced as existing. A common example is shape. It has been suggested that all primary qualities can be mathematically modeled. “Primary quality” can be contrasted with “secondary quality.”
prime matter – A conception of matter without form. According to Aristotle, we can conceptualize matter without form, but all matter actually has a form. For example, a lump of clay has a shape to it. The clay could be understood to be prime matter when it is thought of in the abstract without a shape. However, Aristotle thought that form could involve essential characteristics other than shape. (e.g. Humans are thought to be rational animals.)
principle of beneficence – A principle that makes helping others (or increasing the goodness in the world) a central theme of ethics. For example, utilitarianism has a principle of beneficence because it requires us to try to make people as happy as possible.
principle of double effect – A synonym for “doctrine of double effect.”
principle of explosion – The view that a true contradiction would imply that every possible proposition is also true. In other words, the principle of explosion states that the following is a valid rule of inference—“A and not-A. Therefore, B.” This could be implied by the rational status of the indirect proof. We can prove any conclusion to be true by assuming it’s false and showing how the falsity of the conclusion implies a contradiction to be true, which is taken to be impossible. See “indirect proof” and “contradiction” for more information.
private language – A language that is only known by one person and can’t possibly be known by any other person. For example, the language could only refer to the speaker’s unique sensations or knowledge.
pro tanto reason – A consideration in favor of acting or believing a certain way. There can be overriding reasons to act or believe differently than what a pro tonto reason would require. It could be said that one reason can be defeated by another when there is a better reason not to act or believe the way that the pro tanto reason would indicate. Pro tanto reasons are involved when we reason about costs and benefits. For example, knowing that having a cavity filled causes pain is a pro tanto reason to not have the cavity filled, but we generally think that there are even better reasons to have the cavity filled, such as to avoid future pain that the cavity would cause if it’s not filled. “Pro tanto reason” can be contrasted with “prima facie reason.”
pro tanto – Latin for “only to that extent.” For example, “pro tanto reasons” give us a consideration in favor of a certain action or belief, but there can still be even better reasons against that action or belief.
pro tanto duty – A synonym for “prima facie duty.”
pro tanto obligation – A synonym for “prima facie duty.”
probability — See “epistemic probability” or “ontological probability”
process philosophy – (1) A philosophical view that is based on the idea that nature constantly changes and requires us to reject the view that there can be unchanging essences or substances. For example, Haraclitus believed that the world was always in a state of flux, and that everything is constantly changing. (2) See “process theism.”
projectivism – The view that we attribute properties to an object that doesn’t really have them. It’s often used to explain away certain intuitions, such as our intuition that certain actions are wrong. A moral projectivist could argue that we attribute wrongness to actions, but we are actually just having certain negative attitudes concerning actions that makes us view them as wrong.
proof surrogate – To imply or claim that there’s evidence for a conclusion without actually describing the evidence. A common example is the “appeal to authority.” A proof surrogate is not necessarily fallacious, but they are often used as a manipulative tactic to get people to believe there’s evidence for a belief when there’s not.
pseudo-problem – An issue that’s taken to be about various facts, but it’s actually just based on a conceptual confusion. For example, we might wonder how often dogs lay eggs until we realize that dogs are mammals and don’t lay eggs. “Pseudo-problem” can be contrasted with “genuine problem.”
psychological behaviorism – A research program that attempts to fully account for behavior in terms of external stimulation, biological facts, and other non-mental phenomenon.
qualiton – A trope that is not a relation. See “trope” for more information.
quality (and relation) bits – A synonym for “trope.”
quantificational arguments – Arguments that involve quantification—such as “all,” “some,” or “none.” For example, “No humans are cold-blooded. Some fish are cold-blooded. Therefore, some fish are not humans.” See “quantifier” for more information.
quiddity – (1) The essence of a thing that individuates and differentiates it from other things. (2) A quibble.
quietism – The view that philosophy’s role is therapeutic rather than about learning about various facts. Quietists often think that philosophy can help resolve various conceptual confusions. For example, we might wonder how the mind and body can interact, but find out that we were inappropriately attributing various metaphysical implications to the concepts. Once we find out that the metaphysical implications are not needed, there might not be any issue that needs to be resolved. Perhaps the mind and body aren’t two totally different things, as many people assume.
radical behaviorism – The view that all talk about minds and mental facts are actually about behavior, and that scientists should focus on behavior rather than mental states. In addition, radical behaviorism is a research program that attempts to fully account for behavior in terms of external stimulation and other non-mental phenomenon. This is a combination of “methodological behaviorism,” “psychological behaviorism,” and “analytical behaviorism.”
rebutting defeater – Information that would require us to reject that a conclusion follows from the premises of an argument. Rebutting defeaters are against the argument’s conclusion. For example, several positive testimonials can count in favor of a product’s effectiveness, but finding out that there are just as many negative testimonials against the product should greatly weaken any confidence we had that the product would be effective. “Rebutting defeater” can be contrasted with “undercutting defeater.”
reductive fallacy – A synonym for “oversimplified cause.”
regress problem – The question about how we can attain knowledge without leading to an infinite regress. Many people believe that we can’t know something unless we have a reason to believe it (perhaps because they think that knowledge is justified true belief). Each reason to believe something is an argument with at least one premise and conclusion. But how can you know a conclusion if you don’t know the premise(s) of the argument for the conclusion to be true as well? If you need an argument for every premise, then you will need infinite arguments to know anything. You’d need an argument for your conclusion, an argument for each premise of that argument, etc. For example, we know that “humans give birth to live young” because “we’ve never seen a human lay an egg.” But how do we know we’ve never seen a human lay an egg? We’ve never heard of it happening from historians. But how do we know that? We can keep asking for justifications for premises on and on forever. See “infinite regress” and “Münchhausen Trilemma” for more information.
reism – The view that only things exist. For example, some philosophers don’t think that propositions, universals, or abstract entities are things, and reists might reject their existence. However, not all reists agree about what exactly things are.
the repugnant conclusion – A conclusion that consequentialists will be tempted to agree with that larger populations of only marginally happy people have more value than smaller populations of very happy people. Consequentialists generally believe that everyone’s happiness has value, so one hundred marginally happy people can have something of greater value than a single very happy person. Derek Parfit believed that such a conclusion was counterintuitive, and that a group of fewer but happier people generally had more value than a much larger population of people whose lives were only barely worth living.
risk aversion – To prefer not to take risks, even at the expense of statistically likely gains. For example, many people would not want to make a choice that has a 40% chance of causing them to lose $100, even if it has a 60% chance of causing them to get $100.
schadenfreude – Pleasure attained by considering the suffering of others. We often think that it’s inappropriate to take pleasure in the suffering of others, but it is popular for entertainment to play on our interest in seeing evil people suffer (especially in revenge-themed movies). Many people also laugh when they see other people harmed, which is a common theme of slapstick comedy.
semicompatibilism – The view that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, even though free will might not be compatible with determinism.
secondary quality – An element of an object that doesn’t actually exist as part of the object because it is merely experienced as being part of an object. A common example is color. We see that trees are green, but some people argue that color is mainly about color experiences than some property of the objects we see. “Secondary quality” can be contrasted with “primary quality.”
self-ownership – To own oneself just like we can own apples or houses. See “ownership” for more information.
set – A grouping of different objects. For example, to say that all dogs are mammals implies that there’s a set of dogs, and a set of mammals. All dogs are found inside the set of mammals.
set theory – A mathematical system of the infinite that is known for having groupings. The combination of predicate logic and set theory are thought to constitute a system that is capable of formalizing all possible mathematical statements.
society – (1) According to process philosophy, a society is a series of moments. What we believe to be extended things (such as rocks, chairs, or people) are actually societies. The view of an object as something that exists in multiple moments is thought to actually be an illusion. What is truly real is actually something like a time slice—a moment of time. (2) A group of people with various traditions, shared attitudes, and an ability to communicate.
Socratic method – A dialectical method of doing philosophy based on having a dialogue. Someone proposes an answer to a question (such as “freedom is doing whatever you want”), the answer is challenged with objections (such as “but we think freedom is a good thing, and certain criminal acts aren’t good”), and then the process repeats with a new and better answer (such as “freedom is doing whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone”). See “dialectic” and “debate” for more information.
soft emergence – (2) A synonym with “epistemic emergence.” (2) The view that there are examples of epistemic emergence, but that there is no such thing as ontological emergence. Soft emergentists believe that everything that happens is ultimately caused by the laws of physics (and interaction of particles and energy). In that case nothing happens in chemistry and biology that doesn’t really happen because of physics.
sortal – A particular (individual) with a numerical modifier that is some kind of thing in particular. Something is only a sortal if we can answer the question, “How many are there?” For example, rocks are sortals rather than water. We can meaningfully say there are two rocks, but we can’t say there are two waters. “Sortal” can be contrasted with “bare identity.”
Spencerian libertarianism – A synonym for “political libertarianism.”
stage theorist – The view that perdurantism describes reality correctly, but that the way we talk about the world is often incompatible with perdurantism when taken literally. For example, when we say, “there’s a cat on a mat,” perdurantism states that there’s actually just part of a cat on a mat, and the cat and mat both only completely exist when we consider every moment of their existence. That doesn’t sound right because we want to say that there really is a cat on a mat at any given moment. A stage theorist agrees that saying “there’s a cat on a mat” is correct, but it is taken less literally by them (perhaps more as a figure of speech).
standard form – (1) A type of categorical syllogism that has two premises and a conclusion. The first premise is the “major premise” and the second premise is the “minor premise.” (2) A traditional way to write an argument with the premises written first on separate lines and the conclusion written under the premises, and the conclusion is separated from the premises by a line. For example:
1. Whales are warm-blooded.
2. Fish are cold-blooded.
3. No whales are fish.
strong emergence – (1) A synonym with “ontological emergence.” (2) The view that ontological emergence exists. Some things are thought to be truly greater than the sum of their parts.
sub-conclusion – The conclusion of an argument that is also used as a premise. For example, consider the following argument—“We know lead is toxic because it’s the best explanation for why many people get sick and had contact with lead. If lead is toxic, then we shouldn’t use lead dishes or silverware. Therefore, we shouldn’t use lead dishes or silverware.” In this case the sub-conclusion is “lead is toxic” because another premise is used to support it. “Sub-conclusion” can be contrasted with “main conclusion.”
substance metaphysics – The view that there are substances that have a nature or essence that can’t be changed. For example, an atom (as described by Democritus) could move about, but it is a substance, so it can never be created or destroyed. See “substance” for more information.
substitution of identicals – A synonym for “Leibniz’s law.”
substratum – (1) That which has properties. (2) “Substratum” is sometimes used as a synonym for “thin particular.” (3) “Substratum” is sometimes used as a synonym for “substance.”
sunk cost fallacy – A fallacious type of reasoning that takes a past investment as a reason to continue to invest. For example, many people will decide to pay much more money to remodel their home than the original projection indicated, even when it would not be reasonable to do so. The sunk cost fallacy is based on a cognitive bias that causes us to overestimate the importance of finishing projects based on the fact that certain past investments have already been made. A person might think that their past investment was “all for nothing” if the project isn’t finished, and be unwilling to cut her losses.
supervening facts – See “supervenience.”
teleological argument – A type of argument for the existence of God that states that there’s something about the world as it exists that couldn’t have existed without being designed by a deity.
theodicy – An attempt to explain why the existence of an all good and all powerful God is probable (or not improbable) considering the evil in the world. For example, some have argued that evil exists in the world as a just punishment to humankind because of the fall in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the apple. They are responses to the “evidential problem of evil.”
thick particular – A particular (individual) along with all its properties. For example, Socrates as man with a pug nose and all this other properties.
thin particular – A particular (individual) when taken without its properties. Thin particulars are more than merely a collection of properties. If thin particulars exist, then something must exist (called a ‘thin particular’) in order for there to be anything to have properties in the first place. For example, we can conceive of Socrates as a unique being different from all others, but with no properties in particular in mind. The view that there are thin particulars requires us to reject the “bundle theory of substance.”
three-dimensionalism – (1) See “endurantism.” (2) The view that time is not a spatial dimension.
top-down causation – A synonym for “downward” causation.
transworld identity – Two individuals from different possible worlds with the same identity. For example, Aristotle might have never married in a possible world, and we might say that the individual from that world really is Aristotle. See “possible world” for more information.
trope – (1) A property or relation. For example, Sam’s love for Susan or the brown of having brown hair. Tropes are considered in the abstract, but they generally have some specific people or objects in mind that particular properties are ascribed to. One related question is if these properties exist in an abstract sense or only exist in existing things. Sometimes they are thought to be properties that can exist without a substance (e.g. without a physical object). (2) A “literary trope” is a figure of speech or common literary device.
truth-bearer – Things that are true, such as beliefs, statements, or propositions. For example, “leaves often fall from trees” is true. It’s a statement on this page, and you probably believe it as well. Truth-bearers are not facts or reality. Facts or reality are not the types of things that can be true. We use statements in an attempt describe facts and reality. “Truth-bearer” can be contrasted with “truthmaker.”
truthlikeness – A synonym for “versimilitude.”
truthmaker – What makes true statements true. If truthmakers exist and “A is true,” then a truthmaker is what makes A true. Truthmakers are generally thought to be facts, such as parts of reality. The statement “dogs have fur” is true because it describes something else that’s not a statement (dogs that exist). Statements are not truthmakers because they are the type of thing that’s true. See “fact,” “truth condition,” and “true” for more information. “Truthmaker” can be contrasted with “truth-bearer.”
upward causation – The effect lower level reality has on a higher level reality. More precisely, the causal impact simple parts of reality have on more complex parts of reality. The effect atoms and energy has on molecules is an example of upward causation. Some people think that all causal interactions found among complex parts of reality are entirely determined by simpler parts of reality, and in that case there would be nothing other than upward causation involved. “Upward causation” can be contrasted with “downward causation.”
undercutting defeater – Information that would rationally require us to reject (or seriously question) the premises used in support of an argument. For example, several positive testimonials can count in favor of a product’s effectiveness, but finding out that all the testimonials were given by people who work for the company that manufactures the product would give us a good reason to dismiss their testimonials as evidence. The product could be effective, but the testimonials won’t be a good reason for us to believe such a thing. “Undercutting defeater” can be contrasted with “rebutting defeater.”
unit properties (and relations) – A synonym for “trope.”
universal morality – The view that the same moral standards apply to everyone. Perhaps one example is, “all things equal, we ought not cause pain.” Universal morality does not state that right and wrong stay the same regardless of context. It might be wrong to kill people in general, but it might be right to kill someone when necessary for self-defense. “Universal morality” can be contrasted with “cultural relativism” and “moral absolutism.”
unsatisfiable – (1) The impossibility to interpret a set of statements as all being true. For example, “A and not-A” is unsatisfiable because we can interpret “A” to be any statement, and the proposition will be false. “A” can mean “rocks exist,” but “rocks exist and rocks don’t exist” is false. See “model” for more information. (2) A synonym with “inconsistency.” See “satisfiable” for more information.
verisimilitude – The degree of truth a statement has. For example, it isn’t strictly true to say that a baseball has a sphere-shape. It’s true enough in everyday conversation, but a sphere actually has precise mathematical properties that baseballs lack. “Verisimilitude” can be contrasted with “epistemic probability.”
weak A.I. (artificial intelligence) – A program made to simulate decision-making. For example, video games often have characters that can attack others or defend themselves in strategic ways. “Weak A.I.” can be contrasted with “strong A.I.”
wide scope – Having a high number of things covered by a term. For example, “mammal” has a wider scope than “dog.” See “high redefinition” for more information.
yes/no fallacy – A fallacious loaded question that requires a yes or no answer, but either answer could imply certain unwarranted assumptions. For example, “Do you steal money so that you can afford to buy cocaine?” Both a yes and a no answer would imply that you steal money, which is often a fallacious assumption to have. The yes/no fallacy is a type of “loaded question.”
- More Philosophy Definitions Part 1
- More Philosophy Definitions Part 2
- More Philosophy Definitions Part 3
- More Philosophy Definitions Part 4