Lines of Thought: Rethinking Philosophical Assumptions is a highly innovative and powerfully argued book. According to the author, noted Brazilian philosopher Claudio Costa, many philosophical ideas that today are widely seen as old-fashioned suggests replacing the causal-historical view of proper names with a much more sophisticated form of descriptive-internalist theory able to meet Kripke’s challenges. In epistemology, he argues convincingly that we should return to the old traditional tripartite definition of knowledge, reformulated in a much more complex form in which Gettier’s problem disappear. The correct response to skepticism about the external world should not be to adopt new and more fanciful views, but rather to carefully analyze the different kinds of reality attributions implied by the argument and responsible for its equivocal character. In metaphysics, he argues for a more complex reformulation of the traditional compatibilist approach of free will, relating it intrinsically with the causal theory of action and making it powerful enough to assimilate the best elements of hierarchical views. Finally, according to the author, contemporary analytic philosophy suffers from a lack of comprehensiveness. In response to this, the papers in this collection aim to restore something of the broader perspective, salvaging isolated insights by integrating them into more comprehensive views. The text is written in a clear and accessible style that meets the needs of not only professional philosophers, but also of contemporary students and laypersons.
This is an impressive contribution to answering several important questions of analytic philosophy. Few philosophers have written on such difficult questions with comparable lucidity and originality.
Guido Antônio de Almeida - Emeritus professor of philosophy - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Claudio Costa's collection of philosophical essays covers many of the central problems of philosophy - the nature of philosophy and of knowledge, how names refers to individuals, frewill and consciousness. He reminds us of some of the major insights on these issues from the early years of 'linguistic philosophy' and develops important objections to some more recent views about them".
Richard Swinburne - Emeritus Noloth professor of philosophy - Oxford University
(from the back-cover)
SUMMARY OF THE MAIN IDEAS
For me, contemporary analytic philosophy suffers from a lack of comprehensiveness due to the growing influence of related particular sciences, and this ‘scientism’ tends to transform philosophy into a handmaiden of science. Partially because of this, I defend the view that many philosophical ideas that today are widely considered old-fashioned and outdated should not be abandoned, but instead should be extensively reworked and reformulated.
The book Lines of Thought is a collection of published and unpublished papers, presented in a revised and expanded form:
The most important paper in the collection is a long essay called ‘Outline of a Theory of Proper Names’, which is an expanded and corrected version of an earlier paper published in the journal Ratio.
In this essay, a new and much more sophisticated version of the cluster theory of proper names emerges. Thus, calling localizing description a description that expresses a rule for the spatio-temporal location of the reference, and calling a characterizing description a description that expresses the rule that is the proper reason for our choice of the name, we can state the following form of the identification rule for any proper name:
A proper name N refers to an object of a certain class C iff in a sufficient manner and more than in any other case, its localizing description applies and/or its characterizing description applies.
Normal speakers do not need to know the identifying rule, but must know enough from it to be able to insert adequately the name in the discourse.
The identifying rule, turned into a description, is a rigid designator, applicable in all possible worlds where the object to be referred can be found. This explains the rigidity of proper names.
Since usual definite descriptions are loosely associated with the identifying rule of proper names of the objects they are usually designating, they are accidental designators.
To show that this view is right we need only consider cases of definite descriptions that do not belong to the cluster of descriptions of any proper name, for example, ‘the third cavalry regiment of Cintra’. This description is rigid, since it will be applied in any possible world where there is a third cavalry regiment of Cintra.
This theory not only gives descriptive paraphrases of actual discoveries of Kripke, but allows us to explain the most relevant classical counterexamples to descriptivism more precisely than Searle’s memorable attempt to do it in the chapter 9 of his book Intentionality.
Since proper names is a touching stone to the theories of reference, a radical change of perspective in the direction of descriptivism should bring with it also a radical change in the way we understand the reference of others terms and expressions.
Another relevant paper in the collection is the previously unpublished ‘On the Concept of Water’, proposing a neo-descriptivist analysis of this concept.
For me the word ‘water’ has two nuclei of meaning: an old popular nucleus, and a new scientific nucleus. A complete descriptivist view must extend itself to the scientific meaning too, since ‘Water is made of H2O’ is a descriptive sentence that is found in the definition of water given by modern dictionaries.
When sufficiently developed, this analysis allows us to give an internalist answer to Putnam’s twin earth experiment, as resulting from our projection of one of these senses in Oscar’s indexical use of the word. For according with the context of interests involved we can emphasize the popular meaning of the world ‘water’ or the scientific meaning of this world.
Moreover, distinguishing several senses in which we can say that ‘Water is H2O’, our analysis shows more clearly than two-dimensinalist views why it is misleading to see this statement as being necessary a posteriori. To make it clear: for me in the statement ‘Water is H2O’ the word ‘water’ can be understood as ‘watery liquid’ or as ‘dihydrogen monoxide’, according to the context. In the first case the statement will be read as contingent a posteriori. In the second it will be read as necessary a priori. Kripke simply mixed the contingence of the first statement with the necessity of the second, arriving in this way to the necessary a posteriori.
As Wittgenstein would say, Kripke’s conclusion results from a metaphysical confusion caused by lack of attention to the ways in which language really works.
Another relevant paper is called ‘Free Will and the Soft Constraints of Reason’ is a modern defense of compatibilism in which the causal theory of action is used to explain different levels of free will.
According to that theory, reasoning causes volitions that cause actions. Freedom can be constrained, externally or internally, by pressure or limitation, under a reasonable range of alternatives, in these three levels: physical, motivational and rational, in the last case possibly without awareness of the agent, what makes it important and contestable and demands a detailed explanation.
The upshot is a view potentially able to incorporate the results of modern hierarchical views.
This paper is followed by a compatibilist analysis of our feeling that we can do otherwise, with consequences for the arguments of Van Inwagen and Harry Frankfurt.
‘A Perspectival Definition of Knowledge’ is a paper revising the old tripartite definition of knowledge in a way in which Gettiers problem disappears without creating new difficulties, since the internal link between the conditions of justification and truth is made fully explicit in a formal way. The basic intuition is that the adequate justification must be able to satisfy the condition of truth to the knowledge-evaluator in the moment of his evaluation. However, the details of the definition are partially formal and too complex to be explained in few words.
The most difficult paper is, I believe, ‘The Sceptical Deal With our Concept of External Reality’. This paper offers shows that both, the modus tollens skeptical argument about the reality of the external world, as much as the modus ponens anti-skeptical argument about the external world, are both equivocal and consequently falacious. The way to get this result is through an analysis of the concept of reality. I show that this concept is ambiguous; it has a sense in the usual contexts and another sense in the context of skeptical hypothesis. Since there is an implicit attribution or disattribution of reality in the different sentences of the skeptical and anti-skeptical arguments, the passages from the premises to the conclusion are implicitly equivocal and consequently fallacious.
This paper contains an passant a developed proof of the external world. It is in my view in the whole philosophical literature the only proof that really works. It is able to explain why we are so sure that the external world is real.
What these papers have in common is that they belong to the same program of restoring something from the traditional comprehensiveness of philosophy, often by reviving views that by many are, I believe, wrongly considered outdated.
A last word: This book seems to me obviously relevant. But I have Asperger syndrome, live alone in a great island, I am an outsider. I sent the manuscript of this book to MIT-press and to Cambridge University Press, which together with OUP detain a kind of monopoly of the philosophical market, and they refuse even to read it. Then I published the book in the Cambridge Scholars Publishing, a very nice publisher, but without reputation in philosophy, what means that no influential journal will make a review.
Maybe this helps to explain the lack of originality of most of present philosophy. No one dares to break with the paradigm which seems to be pressured from above. It is as if with the movies; the best movie makers are outsiders while Hollywood domains the market. Maybe it is only my personal case. But maybe I should say, repeating Hamlet, that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark.
SINCE I AM A COMPLETE OUTSIDER, AN "ASPIE" LIVING ALONE IN A GREAT ISLAND IN THE ATLANTIC SOUTH, IT IS BETTER TO BE INCISIVE. I’M ADVERTISING HERE FOR MY GROUNDBREAKING WORK “LINES OF THOUGHT: RETHINKING PHILOSOPHICAL ASSUMPTIONS”!
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