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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
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
Fritz Zwicky


Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium

Fred Dretske

Fred Dretske is an epistemologist who proposed in his 1971 essay "Conclusive Reasons," that evidence, grounds, and reasons should be considered as justifications for beliefs. He says that we can
say of any subject, S, who believes that P and who has conclusive reasons for believing that P, that, given these reasons, he could not be wrong about P or, given these reasons, it is false that he might be mistaken about P.

Suppose, then, that

(1) S knows that P and he knows this on the basis (simply) of R entails

(2) R would not be the case unless P were the case.

The latter formula expresses a connection between R and P which is strong enough, I submit, to permit us to say that if (2) is true, then R is a conclusive reason for P. For if (2) is true, we are entitled, not only to deny that, given R, not-P is the case, but also that, given R, not-P might be the case. That is to say, (2) eliminates R and not-P as a possible (joint) state of affairs and, when we are given R, it eliminates not-P as a possible state of affairs. This is so because (2) entails the falsity of,

(3) Although R is the case P might not be the case.

How can Dretske's claim that the evidence, grounds, or reasons must be "conclusive" strengthen the case for knowledge? He admits there are many examples of mistaken knowledge claims, one where the thermometer used is known to stick at readings above 98.6 degrees and another example of mistaken testimony.

And he cites Gilbert Harman's example of the lottery player with a friend that will provide the $100,00 prize in the event the player gets a losing ticket. This contrived case is similar to the highly unlikely but possible Edmund Gettier's 1963 and Keith Lehrer's sophistical examples.

Dretske approved Alvin Goldman's development of a causal account of knowledge. (This idea that causes matter goes back to Frank Ramsey.)

Dretske's work was just a few years after Willard van Orman Quine had proposed the "naturalization" of epistemology, by which he meant seeing epistemology of a part of empirical science. This was the end of searching for a priori justifications of true belief

In 1981 Dretske called for epistemology to be put on an information-science basis.

At the time when cognitive science was proposing mind models based on input and output from digital computers, Dretske likened the problem of knowledge to an analysis of the information communicated by statements or propositions (which he called "digital") and by pictures or images (which he called "analog").

In his book Knowledge and the Flow of Information, Dretske reviewed Claude Shannon's mathematical treatment of the amount of information that can be communicated over a channel between a source s and a receiver r.

He showed that alternative possibilities must exist for messages, otherwise no information is transmitted. (In a deterministic world, the total information is conserved over time.)

Information, Dretske claimed, can causally sustain belief, although he asked himself "How can an abstract commodity like information be causally efficacious".

For his answer, Dretske fell back to the standard epistemological arguments. S knows F because he has received a signal s over an information channel that F is the case. But an information-theoretic argument as to how S learns something does not advance the quality or verifiability of the presumed knowledge.

As Charles Sanders Peirce and Frank Ramsey knew, that requires a connection between the belief or knowledge and the efficacious behavior of the agent.

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