Archives For Samuel Lebens

Author Information: John Williams, Singapore Management University, johnwilliams@smu.edu.sg

Williams, John. “True Succession and Inheritance of Traditions: Looking Back on the Debate.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 9 (2014): 15-29.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1A2

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Introduction

Starting with my (1988) and largely continued by David Ruben’s instructive (2013a), a lively debate has occurred over how one is to analyze the concepts of true succession and membership of a tradition in order to identify the source of the intractability typically found in disputes in which two groups each claim that it, but not its rival, is in the tradition of some earlier group.

This debate was initially between myself (2013a, 2013b) and Ruben (2013b, 2013c) but later involved Samuel Lebens (2013a, 2013b), Jonathan Payton (2013a, 2013b), Martin Beckstein (2014a, 2014b) and Ruben (2013d, 2014a, 2014b). The time seems ripe to summarize the main lines of the debate to try to draw some lessons from it as we go along and then indicate possible further lines of inquiry.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: David-Hillel Ruben, University of London, Emeritus, david.ruben1@yahoo.co.uk

Ruben, David-Hillel. “Internal and External Perspectives: Reply to Beckstein ” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 3 (2014): 55-56.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1kv

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I want to pick up on a perspective at the end of Martin Beckstein’s contribution, and (I now see) one that Beckstein continues from Samuel Lebens earlier contributions, that I had missed entirely.

My original article was written entirely from an external, ‘objective’ perspective as if by someone outside the dispute about the continuity of a tradition over time. I offered criteria that can be applied by an outsider to ‘judge’ which if either party has a better claim to membership in a tradition. Continue Reading…

Author Information:Martin Beckstein, University of Zurich, martin.beckstein@philos.uzh.ch

Beckstein, Martin. “Traditions and True Successors: A Few Pragmatic Considerations” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 3 (2014): 30-36.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1jo

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Building upon previous work by John Williams, David-Hillel Ruben has launched an exciting discussion about traditions and true successors that Williams and Ruben themselves, as well as Samuel Lebens and Jonathan Payton, have taken several steps further. In particular, I consider Payton’s proposal for the concept of inheritance of a tradition through a causal-similarity chain convincing (Payton 2013a, 43, “Inheritance*”). While I also concur with Payton in regard to his proposed modifications of Ruben’s initial concept of true succession (Payton 2013a, 41, “Successor*”), I suggest that some further modifications be made. These modifications include, on the one hand, that we incorporate a causal connection into the concept of true successorhood and, on the other hand, that we exclude the possibility that a true successor may develop a retrograde or degenerate version of the predecessor’s cultural heritage. Moreover, I propose to make a small change in the wording, in order to make the concept slightly more flexible and perhaps accommodate to some extent a point made by Lebens. (This change in the wording should, analogically and for the same reasons, be made with regard to the concept of inheritance of a tradition.)  Continue Reading…

Author Information: David Hillel-Ruben, University of London, Emeritus, david.ruben1@yahoo.co.uk

Ruben, David-Hillel. “More on True Succession and Tradition: Replying to Lebens and Payton.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2, no. 12 (2013): 29-31.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-18P

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That for which I most want to thank Lebens and Payton, is for joining me in a discussion of this fascinating topic. Reading Lebens in particular reminds me how I despaired at times of my being able to cover all the bases. Traditions (and true succession) cover such a wide variety of phenomena that I was always aware that there could be counterexamples. Notwithstanding that despair, I decided to make a start and I am pleased that they have joined me in furthering this complicated endeavour of grasping intellectually this rich and multi-faceted set of topics. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Samuel Lebens, University of Notre Dame, samuel_lebens@hotmail.com

Lebens, Samuel. 2013. “Counterfactual Approval and Idiosyncratic Counterfactual Approval” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (11): 65-69.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-160

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Jonathan Payton (2013) has done a great deal to clarify and sharpen the various concepts developed by David Hillel Ruben’s (2013) account of traditions and true successors (who was, in turn, building upon work already done by John Williams (1988)). Among Payton’s most valuable contributions is his revised notion of inheritance, which ensures that identity of traditions over time should be a transitive relation (even though similarity, one of the relations that inheritance is defined in terms of, is intransitive).

Furthermore, by distinguishing sharply between notions of inheritance and notions of successorhood, Payton is able to yield the following intuitive results:

  • Members of the analytic tradition of philosophy, despite holding views that vary greatly from the founders of that tradition, have an equal claim to be called its inheritors, as long as their views stand to the views of those founders in the right chain of causal similarities

E.g.: Wittgenstein’s views caused Anscombe to hold similar views to his own, whose views, in turn, caused Dummett to hold similar views to Anscombe, whose views, in turn, caused Dorothy Edgington to hold similar views to Dummett. And, even though Dorothy Edginton’s views may be very dissimilar to Wittgenstein’s, the chain that I have described, entitles her to be an inheritor of the tradition that Wittgenstein partly founded.

  • Only thinkers with views very similar to the early Wittgenstein can be said to be true-successors of the early Wittgenstein. True-succession, for Payton, is not transitive. Dorothy Edgington may be an inheritor of Wittgenstein’s tradition, but she isn’t a true successor to Wittgenstein’s early views.

These two results seem absolutely right, and, to the extent that Payton’s conceptual clarification has allowed us to achieve these results, he is to be congratulated. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Samuel Lebens, University of Notre Dame, samuel_lebens@hotmail.com

Lebens, Samuel. 2013. “True Successors and Counterfactual Approval.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (10): 26-31.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-ZW

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David-Hillel Ruben and John Williams have treated us to a fascinating discussion about the nature of true-succession, faithful-succession, intellectual traditions, and traditions of practice. In these comments, I want to focus on two related aspects of their ongoing discussion, in the hope of forging either (a) a new approach to identity-conditions of a tradition over time, or, at least, (b) a new disambiguation of the term ‘tradition’.

Direction

One issue that has divided the two thinkers can be called the ‘direction debate’. Williams (1988, 161) had once argued that one of the criteria for being a true-successor of a past individual (or, we can widen it to being a true-successor of a past group or community) would have to be forward-looking, from the perspective of the predecessor. The criterion in question (which I paraphrase in my own words) was this:

FORWARD-LOOKING CRITERION: An individual (or group) B is a true successor of an individual (or group) A iff A would, all things being equal, have developed more or less the same central ideas (or practices) as those actually developed by B. Continue Reading…