The Credo of the Canberra Planners

(As formulated by Daniel Nolan)

We believe in a mind-independent, metaphysically real world,
and the correspondence theory of truth.
We believe in the reality of the past, and of the future,
and we are four-dimensionalists (or at least three-plus-one dimensionalists) about spacetime.

We believe in conceptual analysis, the a priori , and narrow content.
Ramsification over platitudes leads to the systematisation of theory,
and thereby enables identification of the best deservers for theoretical terms.

We are materialists and functionalists about the mind.
We reject spooks and epiphenomena of all sorts.

We are Humean about value, but not about causation.

We believe in the reality of properties and relations
(though we are agnostic about whether they are universals, tropes or special sets).
We believe in unrestricted mereological composition, and believe in the existence of sets.
We believe in possible worlds (though we admit puzzlement about their nature).
We believe in morals, and colours, and all manner of "secondary qualities".
We are consequentialists, but of all shades, and with a variety of meta-ethical justifications.

We believe in the substantial correctness of the doctrines of David Lewis about most things
(except the nature of possible worlds).
We respect the opinions of the folk, and are naturalists, with great respect for the findings
of science (suitably interpreted).

We look for inter-theoretic reductions,
And the supervenience of all on the microphysical,


Some comments about this credo (2001):

This Credo was composed in 1996, and was my attempt to sum up a cluster of doctrines which made up the "Canberra Plan", an originally disparaging term for a group of beliefs held by many people in the Philosophy Program at the Research School (RSSS) at the Australian National University.

The Credo has dated a little, but not so much as to be no guide to the doctrines held by today's paradigm Canberra planners: I leave it to others to chart what the differences might be today. One piece of the Canberra Plan circa 1996 which didn't make it into the Credo, I notice looking back on it, was our commitment to using supervaluationism in the philosophy of language, to handle such things as vagueness, but maybe also things like the problem of the many, multiple best deservers, etc. There was also our tendency to drag in two-dimensional modal logic at the drop of a hat to deal with puzzles: a tendency which is if anything more pronouced there today than it was when I was there.

Here are some comments from a previous version of this webpage (I think they mostly date from the 1996 version of the credo webpage). They will shed more light on what the Credo was supposed to be, and provide necessary disclaimers:


Firstly, not everyone who is a Canberra Planner believes everything in this credo - in fact, I could not find a single Canberra planner who believed in all of it. To be a Canberra planner is a matter of believing enough of the doctrines associated with the Canberra plan - most of which I have tried to capture with the Credo.

Secondly, not everyone who is in the philosophy program in the RSSS is a Canberra planner - some even see themselves as very much opposed to the Canberra plan. Nevertheless, the credo gives some idea of some of the cluster of doctrines associated with much of the philosophy in the Research School of the ANU, circa 1995-1996. Potted summaries of views associated with a philosophical movement, even such a minor one as the Canberra Plan, are virtually always simplifications, and this credo may well be no exception. Still, I asked most of the people around the department what they thought of the views in the credo, and those who were antecedently expected to be Canberra planners turned out to agree with most of it, so hopefully it is of some use.

Finally, a personal disclaimer - I, Daniel Nolan, do not agree with all of the doctrines expressed in the Credo. I suppose that I'm one of the Canberra planners, but I have significant disagreements with the plan in several areas. I'm not even close to being a paradigm Canberra planner, and the Credo above would differ from my philosophical credo, should I ever formulate it.

Some History of the Canberra Plan

The term "Canberra Plan" was invented, so far as I know, by Huw Price, who invented it as a label for how philosophy was meant to be done in the Research School at the ANU. The first use of it in published print, is, again as far as I know, in a paper by Huw Price and John Hawthorne called "How to stand up for non-cognitivists" in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74(1996), 275-292. Originally this label was meant to apply to the view captured in the second paragraph of the credo, and the imputation was that this approach was artifical and lifeless, just like Canberra is supposed to be.

Note that there are two differing uses of the terms "Canberra Plan" and "Canberra Planners". The first is the use in the Price/O'Leary Hawthorne article, according to which the Canberra plan is mostly the approach to conceptual analysis consisting of finding the best-deservers for the Ramsey-sentences constructed from the folk-platitudes. (For a translation of that, see the Price/O'Leary Hawthorne paper). This may well be the more common useage - it is the useage of John Bigelow, for example, another populariser of the term "Canberra Plan". The second useage is to refer to a wider collection of beliefs about philosophical topics more generally - this is the useage which I have attempted to capture in the Credo. This useage is common among those who are or have been in the Philosophy Program at the ANU, though we use the term in the first sense sometimes too.

Still to come.. A translation of the Credo into ordinary English, with some sort of commentary. A few people have expressed interest in seeing something like this, but I haven't got around to it yet. Any volunteers welcome...

Daniel Nolan

Page Last Modified: 31/08/04.  Previous edit:  10/11/01. Minor formatting change 05/10/09