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Walter Ott
University of Virginia
  1.  47
    The Case Against Powers.Walter Ott - forthcoming - In Stathis Psillos, Benjamin Hill & Henrik Lagerlund (eds.), Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford University Press.
    Powers ontologies are currently enjoying a resurgence. This would be dispiriting news for the moderns; in their eyes, to imbue bodies with powers is to slide back into the scholastic slime from which they helped philosophy crawl. I focus on Descartes’s ‘little souls’ argument, which points to a genuine and, I think persisting, defect in powers theories. The problem is that an Aristotelian power is intrinsic to whatever has it. Once this move is accepted, it becomes very hard to see (...)
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  2. Phenomenal Intentionality and the Problem of Representation.Walter Ott - 2016 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2 (1):131--145.
    According to the phenomenal intentionality research program, a state’s intentional content is fixed by its phenomenal character. Defenders of this view have little to say about just how this grounding is accomplished. I argue that without a robust account of representation, the research program promises too little. Unfortunately, most of the well-developed accounts of representation – asymmetric dependence, teleosemantics, and the like – ground representation in external relations such as causation. Such accounts are inconsistent with the core of the phenomenal (...)
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  3. Malebranche and the Riddle of Sensation.Walter Ott - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):689-712.
    Like their contemporary counterparts, early modern philosophers find themselves in a predicament. On one hand, there are strong reasons to deny that sensations are representations. For there seems to be nothing in the world for them to represent. On the other hand, some sensory representations seem to be required for us to experience bodies. How else could one perceive the boundaries of a body, except by means of different shadings of color? I argue that Nicolas Malebranche offers an extreme -- (...)
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  4. Propositional Attitudes in Modern Philosophy.Walter Ott - 2002 - Dialogue 41 (3):551-568.
    Philosophers of the modern period are often presented as having made an elementary error: that of confounding the atttitude one adopts toward a proposition with its content. By examining the works of Locke and the Port-Royalians, I show that this accusation is ill-founded and that Locke, in particular, has the resources to construct a theory of propositional attitudes.
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  5. Hume on Meaning.Walter Ott - 2006 - Hume Studies 32 (2):233-252.
    Hume’s views on language have been widely misunderstood. Typical discussions cast Hume as either a linguistic idealist who holds that words refer to ideas or a proto-verificationist. I argue that both readings are wide of the mark and develop my own positive account. Humean signification emerges as a relation whereby a word can both indicate ideas in the mind of the speaker and cause us to have those ideas. If I am right, Hume offers a consistent view on meaning that (...)
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  6. Locke and the Real Problem of Causation.Walter Ott - 2015 - Locke Studies 15:53-77.
    Discussions of John Locke’s theory of causation tend, understandably, to focus on the related notion of power and in particular the dialectic with David Hume. But Locke faces a very different threat, one that is internal to his view. For he argues both that causation is a relation and that relations are not real. The obvious conclusion is intolerable. And yet the premises, I argue, are unassailable. Building on an interpretation of Locke’s treatment of relations I have developed elsewhere, I (...)
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  7. Locke's Exclusion Argument.Walter Ott - 2010 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 27 (2):181-196.
    In this paper, I argue that Locke is not in fact agnostic about the ultimate nature of the mind. In particular, he produces an argument, much like Jaegwon Kim's exclusion argument, to show that any materialist view that takes mental states to supervene on physical states is committed to epiphenomenalism. This result helps illuminate Locke's otherwise puzzling notion of 'superaddition.'.
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  8.  31
    ‘Archetypes Without Patterns’: Locke on Relations and Mixed Modes.Walter Ott - 2017 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 99 (3):300-325.
    John Locke’s claims about relations (such as cause and effect) and mixed modes (such as beauty and murder) have been controversial since the publication of the Essay. His earliest critics read him as a thoroughgoing anti-realist who denies that such things exist. More charitable readers have sought to read Locke’s claims away. Against both, I argue that Locke is making ontological claims, but that his views do not have the absurd consequences his defenders fear. By examining Locke’s texts, as well (...)
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  9. Locke and the Scholastics on Theological Discourse.Walter Ott - 1997 - Locke Studies 28 (1):51-66.
    On the face of it, Locke rejects the scholastics' main tool for making sense of talk of God, namely, analogy. Instead, Locke claims that we generate an idea of God by 'enlarging' our ideas of some attributes (such as knowledge) with the idea of infinity. Through an analysis of Locke's idea of infinity, I argue that he is in fact not so distant from the scholastics and in particular must rely on analogy of inequality.
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  10.  46
    Leibniz on Sensation and the Limits of Reason.Walter Ott - 2016 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 33 (2):135-153.
    I argue that Leibniz’s doctrine of sensory representation is intended in part to close an explanatory gap in his philosophical system. Unlike the twentieth century explanatory gap, which stretches between neural states on one side and phenomenal character on the other, Leibniz’s gap lies between experiences of secondary qualities like color and taste and the objects that cause them. The problem is that the precise arrangement and distribution of such experiences can never be given a full explanation. In response, Leibniz (...)
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