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Ideas of Kathrin Koslicki, by Text

[German, fl. 2008, Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.]

1997 Isolation and Non-arbitrary Division
p.424 There is no deep reason why we count carrots but not asparagus
     Full Idea: Why do speakers of English count carrots but not asparagus? There is no 'deep' reason.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Isolation and Non-arbitrary Division [1997])
     A reaction: Koslick is offering this to defend the Fregean conceptual view of counting, but what seems to matter is what is countable, and not whether we happen to count it. You don't need to know what carrots are to count them. Cooks count asparagus.
2.2 p.411 We can still count squares, even if they overlap
     Full Idea: The fact that there is overlap does not seem to inhibit our ability to count squares.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Isolation and Non-arbitrary Division [1997], 2.2)
     A reaction: She has a diagram of three squares overlapping slightly at their corners. Contrary to Frege, these seems to depend on a subliminal concept of the square that doesn't depend on language.
2.2 p.413 We struggle to count branches and waves because our concepts lack clear boundaries
     Full Idea: The reason we have a hard time counting the branches and the waves is because our concepts 'branches on the tree' and 'waves on the ocean' do not determine sufficiently precise boundaries: the concepts do not draw a clear invisible line around each thing.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Isolation and Non-arbitrary Division [1997], 2.2)
     A reaction: This is the 'isolation' referred to in Frege.
2.2 p.416 Objects do not naturally form countable units
     Full Idea: Objects do not by themselves naturally fall into countable units.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Isolation and Non-arbitrary Division [1997], 2.2)
     A reaction: Hm. This seems to be modern Fregean orthodoxy. Why did the institution of counting ever get started if the things in the world didn't demand counting? Even birds are aware of the number of eggs in their nest (because they miss a stolen one).
2.2 p.417 We talk of snow as what stays the same, when it is a heap or drift or expanse
     Full Idea: Talk of snow concerns what stays the same when some snow changes, as it might be, from a heap of snow to a drift, to an expanse.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Isolation and Non-arbitrary Division [1997], 2.2)
     A reaction: The whiteness also stays the same, but isn't stuff.
2008 The Structure of Objects
Info p.6 The clay is just a part of the statue (its matter); the rest consists of its form or structure
     Full Idea: That objects are compounds of matter and form yields a solution to the Problem of Constitution: the clay is merely a proper part of the statue (viz. its matter); the 'remainder' of the statue is its formal or structural components which distinguish it.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], Info)
     A reaction: Thus philosophers have thought that it might consist of two objects because they have failed to grasp what an 'object' is. I would add that we need to mention 'essence', so that the statue can survive minor modifications. This is the solution!
Intro p.4 Wholes in modern mereology are intended to replace sets, so they closely resemble them
     Full Idea: The modern theory of parts and wholes was intended primarily to replace set theory; in this way, wholes came out looking as much like sets as they possibly could, without set theory's commitment to an infinite hierarchy of abstract objects.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], Intro)
     A reaction: A very nice clarificatory remark, which explains well this rather baffling phenomenon of people who think there is nothing more to a whole than a pile of parts, as if a scrap heap were the same as a fleet of motor cars.
Intro p.5 I aim to put the notion of structure or form back into the concepts of part, whole and object
     Full Idea: My project is to put the notion of structure or form squarely back at the center of any adequate account of the notion of part, whole and object.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], Intro)
     A reaction: Excellent. It is the fault of logicians, who presumably can't cope with such elusive and complex concepts, that we have ended up with objects as lists of things or properties, or quantifications over them.
Intro p.6 Structure or form are right at the centre of modern rigorous modes of enquiry
     Full Idea: The notion of structure or form, far from being a mysterious and causally inert invention of philosophers, lies at the very center of many scientific and other rigorous endeavours, such as mathematics, logic, linguistics, chemistry and music.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], Intro)
     A reaction: This echoes my own belief exactly, and places Aristotle at the centre of the modern stage. Her list of subjects is intriguing, and will need a bit of thought.
2.2 p.25 For three-dimensionalist parthood must be a three-place relation, including times
     Full Idea: Parthood (for the three-dimensionalist) must be a three-place relation between pairs of objects and times, not the timeless two-place relation at work in the original Calculus of Individuals.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 2.2)
3.1 p.45 Wholes are entities distinct from their parts, and have different properties
     Full Idea: A commitment to wholes is a commitment to entities that are numerically distinct from their parts (by Leibniz's Law, they don't share all of their properties - the parts typically exist, but the whole doesn't, prior to its creation).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 3.1)
     A reaction: Presumably in classical mereology no act of 'creation' is needed, since all the parts in the universe already form all the possible wholes into which they might combine, however bizarrely. p.55 'Categorical' properties exist in the actual world, and 'hypothetical' properties in other worlds
     Full Idea: The 'categorical' properties are roughly those that concern what goes on in the actual world; the properties excluded from that family are the 'hypothetical' ones, which concern what goes on in other worlds.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008],
     A reaction: The awkward guest at this little party is the 'dispositional' properties, which are held to exist in the actual world, but have implications for other worlds. I'm a fan of them.
4.2.2 p.115 If a whole is just a structure, a dinner party wouldn't need the guests to turn up
     Full Idea: If a whole is just a structure, we wonder how the guests could really be part of the dinner party seating structure, when the complex whole is fully exhausted by the structure that specifies the slots.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 4.2.2)
     A reaction: This cuts both ways. A dinner party may necessarily require guests, but the seating plan can be specified in the absence of any guests, who may never turn up. A seating plan is not a dinner party. Perhaps we have two objects here.
5.1 p.93 The 'aggregative' objections says mereology gets existence and location of objects wrong
     Full Idea: The 'aggregative' objection to classical extensional mereology is that it assigns simply the wrong, set-like conditions of existence and spatio-temporal location to ordinary material objects.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 5.1)
     A reaction: [She attributes this to Kit Fine] The point is that there is more to a whole than just some parts, otherwise you could scatter the parts across the globe (or even across time) and claim that the object still existed. It's obvious really.
7.2.11 p.192 Wholes are not just their parts; a whole is an entity distinct from the proper parts
     Full Idea: In my approach (as in that of Plato and Aristotle), wholes are in no way identified with parts; rather, a commitment to wholes is a commitment to entities numerically distinct from their proper parts.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 7.2.11)
     A reaction: Calling the whole an 'entity' doesn't seem to capture it. She seems to think there are some extra parts, in addition to the material parts, that make something a whole. I think this might be a category mistake. A structure is an abstraction.
7.2.12 p.195 The parts may be the same type as the whole, like a building made of buildings
     Full Idea: A building may be composed of proper parts which are themselves buildings; a particular pattern may be composed of proper parts which are themselves patterns (even the same pattern, on a smaller scale).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 7.2.12)
     A reaction: This strikes me as a rather important observation, if you are (erroneously) trying to establish the identity of a thing simply by categorising its type. p.179 Statue and clay differ in modal and temporal properties, and in constitution
     Full Idea: The statue and the clay appear to differ in modal properties (such as being able to survive squashing), and temporal properties (coming into existence after the lump of clay), and in constitution (only the statue is constituted of the clay).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008],
     A reaction: I think the modal properties are the biggest problem here. You can't say a thing and its constitution are different objects, as they are necessarily connected. Structure comes into existence at t, but the structure isn't the whole object. n17 p.179 There are at least six versions of constitution being identity
     Full Idea: The view that constitution is identity has many versions: eliminativism (van Inwagen), identity relative to time (Gallois), identity relativized to sort (Geach), four-dimensionalism (Lewis, Sider), contingent identity (Gibbard), dominant kinds (Burke).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], n17)
     A reaction: [she offers other names- useful footnote] Eliminativism says there is no identity. Gallois's view is Heraclitus. Geach seems to deny nature, since sorts are partly conventional. 4-D, nah! Gibbard: it could be the thing but lack its identity? Kinds wrong.
8.2 p.202 Should vernacular classifications ever be counted as natural kind terms?
     Full Idea: It is controversial whether classificatory expressions from the vernacular should ever really be counted as genuine natural kind terms.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 8.2)
     A reaction: This is a similar confrontation between the folk and the scientific specialist as we find in folk psychology. There are good defences of folk psychology, and it looks plausible to defend the folk classifications as having priority.
8.3.1 p.204 Natural kinds support inductive inferences, from previous samples to the next one
     Full Idea: Natural kinds are said to stand out from other classifications because they support legitimate inductive inferences when we observe that past samples of copper conduct electricity and infer that the next sample will too.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 8.3.1)
     A reaction: A slightly more precise version of the Upanishad definition of natural kinds which I favour (Idea 8153). If you can't predict the next one from the previous one, it isn't a natural kind. You can't quite predict the next tiger from the previous one.
8.4.1 p.211 There are apparently no scientific laws concerning biological species
     Full Idea: It has been observed that there are apparently no scientific laws concerning biological species.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 8.4.1)
     A reaction: The central concept of biology I take to be a 'mechanism'. and I suspect that this view of science is actually applicable in physics and chemistry, with so-called 'laws' being a merely superficial description of what is going on.
8.4.1 p.212 Concepts for species are either intrinsic structure, or relations like breeding or ancestry
     Full Idea: Candidate species concepts can be intrinsic: morphological, physiological or genetic similarity; or relational: biology such as interbreeding and reproductive isolation, ecology, such as mate recognition in a niche, or phylogenetics (ancestor relations).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 8.4.1)
     A reaction: She says the relational ones are more popular, but I gather they all hit problems. See John Dupré on the hopelessness of the whole task.
8.6.2 p.231 The Kripke/Putnam approach to natural kind terms seems to give them excessive stability
     Full Idea: Theoretical terms such as 'mass', 'force', 'motion', 'species' and 'phlogiston' seem to indicate that the Kripke/Putnam approach to natural kind terms is committed to an excessive amount of stability in the meaning and reference of such expressions.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 8.6.2)
     A reaction: This sounds right to me. The notion of 'rigid' designation gives a nice framework for modal logic, but it doesn't seem to fit the shifting patterns of scientific thought.
9.3.1 n6 p.241 Some questions concern mathematical entities, rather than whole structures
     Full Idea: Those who hold that not all mathematical questions can be concerned with structural matters can point to 'why are π or e transcendental?' or 'how are the prime numbers distributed?' as questions about particular features in the domain.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 9.3.1 n6)
     A reaction: [She cites Mac Lane on this] The reply would have to be that we only have those particular notions because we have abstracted them from structures, as in deriving π for circles.
9.3.2 p.242 'Roses are red; therefore, roses are colored' seems truth-preserving, but not valid in a system
     Full Idea: 'Roses are red; therefore, roses are colored' may be necessarily truth-preserving, but it would not be classified as logically valid by standard systems of logic.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 9.3.2)
9.3.2 n8 p.243 Consequence is truth-preserving, either despite substitutions, or in all interpretations
     Full Idea: Two conceptions of logical consequence: a substitutional account, where no substitution of non-logical terms for others (of the right syntactic category) produce true premises and false conclusions; and model theory, where no interpretation can do it.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 9.3.2 n8)
     A reaction: [compressed]
9.6 p.259 Structures have positions, constituent types and number, and some invariable parts
     Full Idea: Structures make available positions or places for objects, and place restraints on the type of constituent, and on their configuration. ...These lead to restrictions on the number of objects, and on which parts of the structure are invariable.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (The Structure of Objects [2008], 9.6)
     A reaction: [compressed] That's a pretty good first shot at saying what a structure is, which I have so far not discovered any other writer willing to do. I take this to be an exploration of what Aristotle meant by 'form'.
2012 Essence, Necessity and Explanation
13.1 p.188 An essence and what merely follow from it are distinct
     Full Idea: We can distinguish (as Aristotle and Fine do) between what belongs to the essence of an object, and what merely follows from the essence of an object.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.1)
     A reaction: This can help to clarify the confusions that result from treating necessary properties as if they were essential.
13.1 p.189 In demonstration, the explanatory order must mirror the causal order of the phenomena
     Full Idea: Demonstration encompasses more than deductive entailment, in that the explanatory order of priority represented in a successful demonstration must mirror precisely the causal order of priority present in the phenomena in question.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.1)
     A reaction: She is referring to Aristotle's 'Posterior Analytics'. Put so clearly this sounds like an incredibly useful concept in discussing how we present good modern scientific explanations. Reinstating Aristotle is a major priority for philosophy!
13.2 p.190 If an object exists, then its essential properties are necessary
     Full Idea: If an object has a certain property essentially, then it follows that the object has the property necessarily (if it exists).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.2)
     A reaction: She is citing Fine, who says that the converse (necessity implying essence) is false. I agree with that. I also willing to challenge the first bit. I suspect an object can retain identity and lose essence. Coma patient; broken clock; aged athlete.
13.3.1 p.198 Individuals are perceived, but demonstration and definition require universals
     Full Idea: Individual instances of a kind of phenomenon, in Aristotle's view, can only be perceived through sense-perception; but they are not the proper subject-matter of scientific demonstration and definition.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.3.1)
     A reaction: A footnote (11) explains that this is because they involve syllogisms, which require universals. I take Aristotle, and anyone sensible, to rest on individual essences, but inevitably turn to generic essences when language becomes involved.
13.3.1 p.199 In a demonstration the middle term explains, by being part of the definition
     Full Idea: In a proper demonstrative argument, the middle term must be explanatory of the conclusion, in a very specific sense: the middle term must state what properly belongs to the definition of the kind of phenomenon in question.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.3.1)
     A reaction: So 'All men are mortal, S is a man, so S is mortal'. The middle term is 'man', which gives a generic explanation for why S is mortal. Explanation as categorisation? I don't think this is the whole story of Aristotelian explanation.
13.3.1 p.200 A successful Aristotelian 'definition' is what sciences produces after an investigation
     Full Idea: My current use of the Aristotelian term 'definition' is intended to correspond to what is typically accessible to a scientist only at the end of a successful investigation into the nature of a particular phenomenon.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.3.1)
     A reaction: It is crucial to understand that Aristotle's definitions could be several hundred pages long. It has nothing to do with dictionary definitions. He proposes 'nominal' and 'real' definitions.
13.3.1 p.200 Essences cause necessary features, and definitions describe those necessary features
     Full Idea: Since essences cause the other necessary features of a thing, so definitions, as the linguistic correlates of essences, explain, together with other axioms, the propositions describing those necessary features.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.3.1)
     A reaction: This is nice and clear. Definitions are NOT essences - they are the linguistic correlates of essences, and mirror those essences. The necessary features are not the only things needing explanation. That picture is too passive.
13.3.1 n10 p.198 Discovering the Aristotelian essence of thunder will tell us why thunder occurs
     Full Idea: Both the question 'what is thunder?', and the question 'why does thunder occur?', for Aristotle, are answered simultaneously, once it has been discovered what the essence of thunder it, i.e. what it is to be thunder.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.3.1 n10)
     A reaction: I take this idea to be pretty much the whole story about essences.
13.3.1 n15 p.200 Greek uses the same word for 'cause' and 'explanation'
     Full Idea: The Greek does not disambiguate between 'cause' and 'explanation', since the same terms ('aitia' and 'aition') can be translated in both ways.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Essence, Necessity and Explanation [2012], 13.3.1 n15)
     A reaction: This is essential information if we are to understand Aristotle's Four Causes, which are quite baffling if we take 'causes' in the modern way. The are the Four Modes of Explanation.
2012 Varieties of Ontological Dependence
7.4 p.196 For Fine, essences are propositions true because of identity, so they are just real definitions
     Full Idea: Fine assumes that essences can be identified with collections of propositions that are true in virtue of the identity of a particular object, or objects. ...There is not, on this approach, much of a distinction between essences and real definitions.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.4)
     A reaction: This won't do, because the essence of a physical object is not a set of propositions, it is some aspects of the object itself, which are described in a definition. Koslicki notes that psuché is an essence, and the soul is hardly a set of propositions!
7.4 p.198 Real definitions don't just single out a thing; they must also explain its essence
     Full Idea: A statement expressing a real definition must also accomplish more than simply to offer two different ways of singling out the same entity, since the definiens must also be explanatory of the essential nature of the definiendum.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.4)
     A reaction: This is why Aristotelian definitions are not just short lexicographical definitions, but may be quite length. Effectively, a definition IS an explanation.
7.4 p.199 It is more explanatory if you show how a number is constructed from basic entities and relations
     Full Idea: Being the successor of the successor of 0 is more explanatory than being predecessor of 3 of the nature of 2, since it mirrors more closely the method by which 2 is constructed from a basic entity, 0, and a relation (successor) taken as primitive.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.4)
     A reaction: This assumes numbers are 'constructed', which they are in the axiomatised system of Peano Arithmetic, but presumably the numbers were given in ordinary experience before 'construction' occurred to anyone. Nevertheless, I really like this.
7.4 n13 p.200 Modern views want essences just to individuate things across worlds and times
     Full Idea: According to the approach of Plantinga, Forbes and Mackie, the primary job of essences is to individuate the entities whose essences they are across worlds and times at which these entities exist.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.4 n13)
     A reaction: A helpful simplification of what is going on. I wish those authors would just say this one their first pages. They all get in a right tangle, because individuation is either too easy, or hopeless. 'Tracking' is a good word for this game.
7.5 n25 p.211 The relata of grounding are propositions or facts, but for dependence it is objects and their features
     Full Idea: The relata of the grounding relation are typically taken to be facts or propositions, while the relata of ontological dependence ...are objects and their characteristics, activities, constituents and so on.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.5 n25)
     A reaction: Interesting. Good riddance to propositions here, but this seems a bit unfair to facts, since I take facts to be in the world. Audi's concept of 'worldly facts' is what we need here.
7.6 p.212 We need a less propositional view of essence, and so must distinguish it clearly from real definitions
     Full Idea: To make room for a less propositional conception of essence than that assumed by Fine, I urge that we distinguish more firmly between essences and real definitions (which state these essences in the form of propositions).
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.6)
     A reaction: Yes. The idea that essence is just a verbal or conceptual entity would be utterly abhorrent to Aristotle (a hero for Fine), and it is anathema to me too. We intend essences to be in the world (even if we are deceived about that). They explain!
7.6 p.212 We can abstract to a dependent entity by blocking out features of its bearer
     Full Idea: In 'feature dependence', the ontologically dependent entity may be thought of as the result of a process of abstraction which takes the 'bearer' as its starting point and arrives at the abstracted entity by blocking out all the irrelevant features.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.6)
     A reaction: She seems unaware that this is traditional abstraction, found in Aristotle, and a commonplace of thought until Frege got his evil hands on abstraction and stole it for other purposes. I'm a fan.
7.6 p.213 A good explanation captures the real-world dependence among the phenomena
     Full Idea: It is plausible to think that an explanation, when successful, captures or represents (by argument, or a why? question) an underlying real-world relation of dependence which obtains among the phenomena cited.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Varieties of Ontological Dependence [2012], 7.6)
     A reaction: She cites causal dependence as an example. I'm incline to think that 'grounding' is a better word for the target of good explanations than is 'dependence' (which can, surely, be mutual, where ground has the directionality needed for explanation).
2018 Form, Matter and Substance
Intro p.5 Structured wholes are united by the teamwork needed for their capacities
     Full Idea: A structured whole derives its unity from the way in which its parts interact with other parts to allow both the whole and its parts to manifest those of their capacities which require 'team work' among the parts.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Form, Matter and Substance [2018], Intro)
     A reaction: This is a culminating thesis of her book. She defends it at length. It looks like a nice theory for things which are lucky enough to have capacities involving teamwork. Does this mean a pebble can't be unified? She wants a dynamic view.
3.2.1 p.63 The form explains kind, structure, unity and activity
     Full Idea: Hylomorphists tend to agree that the form (rather than matter) explains 1) kind membership, 2) structure, 3) unity, 4) characteristic activities.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Form, Matter and Substance [2018], 3.2.1)
     A reaction: [compressed; she explains each of them] Personally I would add continuity through change (statue/clay). Glad to see that kind membership is not part of the form. And what about explaining observed properties? Does form=essence?
3.4.3 p.99 Hylomorphic compounds need an individual form for transworld identity
     Full Idea: It is difficult to see how forms could serve as cross-world identity principles for hylomorphic compounds, unless these forms are particular or individual entities.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Form, Matter and Substance [2018], 3.4.3)
     A reaction: This is a key part of her objection to treating the form as universal or generic. I agree with her view.
5 Intro p.129 Much metaphysical debate concerns what is fundamental, rather than what exists
     Full Idea: Some of the most important debates in metaphysics or ontology do not concern existential questions, but focus on questions of fundamentality.
     From: Kathrin Koslicki (Form, Matter and Substance [2018], 5 Intro)
     A reaction: In modern times we have added the structure of existence to the mere ontological catalogue, and this idea makes another important addition to our concept of metaphysics. She gives disagreement over tropes as an example.