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Core Concepts

Best Explanation
Divided Line
Downward Causation
Emergent Dualism
Identity Theory
Infinite Regress
Mental Causation
Multiple Realizability
Possible Worlds
Schrödinger's Cat


Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
Michael Burke
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
Sam Harris
William Hasker
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
Thomas Nagel
Otto Neurath
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Karl Popper
Huw Price
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf


Michael Arbib
Walter Baade
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins
Terrence Deacon
Lüder Deecke
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Philipp Frank
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Donald Hebb
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Art Hobson
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
Simon Kochen
Hans Kornhuber
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
John McCarthy
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Abraham Pais
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
John Stachel
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
Max Tegmark
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Vlatko Vedral
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek
Konrad Zuse
Fritz Zwicky


Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium

Laurence BonJour
Laurence BonJour criticizes much of contemporary epistemology. In his book Epistemic Justification, he says that the typical concerns of recent epistemologists - the Gettier problem, doubts about closure, the lottery paradox, contextual views, etc. - are "devouring much time and effort and philosophical cleverness and giving almost nothing back in return" (A Companion to Epistemology, 2nd ed., p.118)

In a recent profile of his work, he says:

My epistemological thinking has focused primarily on a set of related issues that I take to be the central issues of epistemology, both historically and substantively. Do we have good reasons for thinking that our various beliefs about the world (primarily about the common-sense world of material objects, including its history and scientific nature) are true? If we have such reasons, what is their detailed nature and structure, and how ultimately cogent are they?

In recent epistemology, issues in this vicinity have been standardly formulated in terms of the concepts of knowledge and epistemic justification; and my own discussion has often been couched in these terms. I have lately come to think, however, for reasons that are briefly suggested in the final section of this self- profile, that such formulations, are inessential and, to a significant degree, misleading. What the great historical epistemologists (here I have especially Descartes and Locke in mind) were asking more than anything else was, I believe, just the questions I have mentioned, even though they often couched them in terms of knowledge (though rarely, if ever, in terms of the somewhat technical notion of justification).

Much recent epistemological discussion has been devoted to the issue between internalist and externalist theories of justification and knowledge. Here I shall only say that, as I understand the issues listed above, externalist views are simply irrelevant to them: externalism may offer conceptions of knowledge or of justification or perhaps even (in what I can understand only as a stipulated sense) of a reason for a belief, but having a reason is an essentially internalist notion.

One might think that BonJour's concern with "the common-sense world of material objects" would make him externalist and leaning toward "naturalizing" epistemology by using scientific methods. But BonJour is a strong internalist who originally defended coherentism but now defends "Pure Reason."

BonJour now argues for a Cartesian foundationalism and a priori justification. He describes his rationalist conception of the a priori:

In contrast to the radical changes in my views concerning empirical reasons, my position on a priori reasons has remained essentially unchanged. In opposition to the radical empiricism that denies the very existence of a priori reasons and the moderate empiricism that insists that they are confined to claims that are analytic, I have defended the traditional rationalist view that a priori insight yields genuinely cogent reasons for accepting non-analytic claims about the world. My main argument for such a view is extremely simple, but also, I believe, quite compelling. It begins with two premises that only a very extreme skeptic can deny: first, that experience or observation provides, in some way, direct reasons for accepting certain empirical claims; and, second, that the class of broadly empirical claims for which we have good reasons is much larger than thai for which there are reasons of this directly experiential sort. (The former class would include at least claims about unobserved situations in the past and present, claims about the future, claims about unobservable entities of various sorts, and claims about laws of nature.) The argument is then that we can have a good reason for some claim in this former class only if we have a logically prior good reason for a conditional proposition having some claim (or conjunction of claims) supported by directly experiential reasons as the antecedent and the claim in question as the consequent. And the reason for this conditional proposition can only be a priori, since it is obviously not a matter of direct experience.

BonJour accepts the traditional view that a priori reasons are based on an immediate insight into the truth, indeed a necessary truth.

Turning to the positive aspect of the concept of an a priori reason, the traditional view, which I believe to be essentially correct, is that in the most basic cases such reasons result from direct or immediate insight into the truth, indeed the necessary truth, of the relevant claim. A derivative class of a priori reasons results from similar insights into the derivability of a claim from one or more premises for which such a priori reasons exist or from a chain of such derivations. And a partially a priori reason may result from an a priori insight into the derivability of a claim from others established on broadly empirical grounds.

Here it is important to be clear that insights of this sort are not supposed to be merely brute convictions of truth, on a par with hunches that may be psychologically compelling. On the contrary, a priori insights purport to reveal not just that the claim in question must be true but also, at some level, why this is so. They are thus putative insights into the essential nature of things or situations of the relevant kind, into the way that reality in the respect in question must be. But, contrary to the most standard historical views, the idea of an a priori reason does not imply either: (i) that experience could not also count for or against the claim in question; or (ii) that an a priori reason could not be overridden by experience; or still less (iii) that an a priori reason renders the claim certain or infallible.

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