Several philosophers claim that the greenhouse gas emissions from actions like a Sunday drive are so miniscule that they will make no difference whatsoever with regard to anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) and its expected harms. This paper argues that this claim of individual causal inefficacy is false. First, if AGCC is not reducible at least in part to ordinary actions, then the cause would have to be a metaphysically odd emergent entity. Second, a plausible (dis-)utility calculation reveals that such (...) actions have a not-insignificant amount of expected harm. One upshot is that the near-exclusive focus in the literature on AGCC as a collective action problem is too restricted. The paper also provides several moral psychological explanations of why it is so difficult to comprehend individual responsibility with regard to global phenomena, including a reappraisal of Thomas Nagel’s view of the absurd. (shrink)
There is some consensus that for S to know that p, it cannot be merely a matter of luck that S’s belief that p is true. This consideration has led Duncan Pritchard and others to propose a safety condition on knowledge. In this paper, we argue that the safety condition is not a proper formulation of the intuition that knowledge excludes luck. We suggest an alternative proposal in the same spirit as safety, and find it lacking as well.
The question of how disability affects wellbeing has occupied a number of philosophers in recent years. However, this literature has proceeded without a careful examination of the fairly vast empirical research on the topic. In this paper, I review the scholarly literature and discuss some philosophically-relevant aspects of it. On average, those with disabilities have a significantly lower level of wellbeing than those without disabilities. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that this reduction in wellbeing is not due entirely to ableist (...) factors. Hence, I argue that it shows that the Mere Difference View of disability is most likely false. However, the literature indeed shows that disabled people typically live good lives. Thus, despite its rejection of the Mere Difference View, it still upholds a disability-affirmative view. These findings allow for a measured critique of some of Peter Singer’s writings on disability. (shrink)
In this article, we re-examine Pascal’s Mugging, and argue that it is a deeper problem than the St. Petersburg paradox. We offer a way out that is consistent with classical decision theory. Specifically, we propose a “many muggers” response analogous to the “many gods” objection to Pascal’s Wager. When a very tiny probability of a great reward becomes a salient outcome of a choice, such as in the offer of the mugger, it can be discounted on the condition that there (...) are other symmetric, non-salient rewards that one may receive if one chooses otherwise. (shrink)
Richard Feldman and William Lycan have defended a view according to which a necessary condition for a doxastic agent to have knowledge is that the agent’s belief is not essentially based on any false assumptions. I call this the no-essential-false-assumption account, or NEFA. Peter Klein considers examples of what he calls “useful false beliefs” and alters his own account of knowledge in a way which can be seen as a refinement of NEFA. This paper shows that NEFA, even given Klein’s (...) refinement, is subject to counterexample: a doxastic agent may possess knowledge despite having an essential false assumption. Advocates of NEFA could simply reject the intuition that the example is a case of knowledge. However, if the example is interpreted as not being a case of knowledge, then it can be used as a potential counterexample against both safety and sensitivity views of knowledge. I also provide a further case which, I claim, is problematic for all of the accounts just mentioned. I then propose, briefly, an alternative account of knowledge which handles all these cases appropriately. (shrink)
Gignac and Zajenkowski (2020) find that “the degree to which people mispredicted their objectively measured intelligence was equal across the whole spectrum of objectively measured intelligence”. This Comment shows that Gignac and Zajenkowski’s (2020) finding of homoscedasticity is likely the result of a recoding choice by the experimenters and does not in fact indicate that the Dunning-Kruger Effect is a mere statistical artifact. Specifically, Gignac and Zajenkowski (2020) recoded test subjects’ responses to a question regarding self-assessed comparative IQ onto a (...) linear IQ scale when a normal IQ scale would likely have been more appropriate. More generally, researchers studying self-assessed intelligence should be aware of potential measurement problems that may arise when transforming an ordinal scale onto an interval scale. (shrink)
All ordinary decisions involve some risk. If I go outside for a walk, I may trip and injure myself. But if I don’t go for a walk, I slightly increase my chances of cardiovascular disease. Typically, we disregard most small risks. When, for practical purposes, is it appropriate for one to ignore risk? This issue looms large because many activities performed by those in wealthy societies, such as driving a car, in some way risk contributing to climate harms. Are these (...) activities morally appropriate? -/- In this paper, I first summarize and respond to some arguments that purport to show that it is appropriate to ignore or discount very small risks. I argue that because our rationality is bounded, it is impossible for us to include every small risk in our decision-making process, and so we may reasonably use heuristics to guide many decisions. However, contrary to some thinkers, I argue that this does not violate the spirit of expected value theory; it merely shows that we should adopt a so-called "two-level" view. Our use of heuristics allows for the reasonable ignoring of some risks, and this perhaps explains why one might be inclined to think that individual climate-related risks are negligible. However, virtually all greenhouse-gas emitting activities in fact have some climate risk on the negative side of the ledger, and the use of heuristics does not permit the general ignoring of climate-change-related risk by individuals on grounds of expediency of judgment and decision-making. (shrink)
There has been much work on ontological dependence in recent literature. However, relatively little of it has been dedicated to the ways in which individual physical objects may depend on other distinct, non-overlapping objects. This paper gives several examples of such object-dependence and distinguishes between different types of it. The paper also introduces and refines the notion of an n-tet. N-tets (typically) occur when there are object-dependence relations between n objects. I claim that the identity (or, rather, what I call (...) the n-dentity) conditions for n-tets are not grounded in the individual identity conditions of each of the n objects, but instead are metaphysically basic. The paper then briefly discusses some ramifications of accepting object-dependence (and n-tets) on the philosophy of biology, ethics, and logic. (shrink)
Jesper Kallestrup has provided an insightful response to our paper, “Epistemic Structure in Non-Summative Social Knowledge”. Kallestrup identifies some important issues pertaining to our non-summative, non-supervenient account of group knowledge which we did not address in our original paper. Here, we develop our view further in light of Kallestrup’s helpful reply.
How a group G can know that p has been the subject of much investigation in social epistemology in recent years. This paper clarifies and defends a form of non-supervenient, non-summative group knowledge: G can know that p even if none of the members of G knows that p, and whether or not G knows that p does not locally supervene on the mental states of the members of G. Instead, we argue that what is central to G knowing that (...) p is whether G has an epistemic structure that is functioning appropriately in accord with the action-related purposes of the group, and this structure may include non-agential elements such as devices that retain or process information. We argue that recent objections to non-summative group knowledge given by Jennifer Lackey do not in fact succeed in undermining the view, but do help to clarify the nature of non-summative group knowledge. The main upshot of our response to Lackey’s objections is that groups put their knowledge into action in ways that often differ from how individuals do so, and social epistemologists should be careful to notice these differences, especially insofar as groups often structure themselves by employing various epistemically-relevant devices. (shrink)
This paper develops a Humean environmental meta-ethic to apply to the animal world and, given some further considerations, to the rest of nature. Our interpretation extends Hume’s account of sympathy, our natural ability to sympathize with the emotions of others, so that we may sympathize not only with human beings but also animals, plants and ecosystems as well. Further, we suggest that Hume has the resources for an account of environmental value that applies to non-human animals, non-sentient elements of nature (...) as well as nature as whole even without the appeal to sympathy. One consequence of this approach is that the reasons for promoting animal welfare need not be restricted to sentientist reasons. (shrink)
[Author's note: I am posting this dissertation since it may be of interest to some people working on vagueness and related topics. It does not represent my current views on the topic. I have never attempted to publish any of this work, though I hope some day to return to it.] -/- Philosophers have devoted a lot of attention to vagueness in recent years, but there is still no general consensus about how to resolve the Sorites paradox. Timothy Williamson‘s epistemic (...) view, which claims that our vague terms have unknown sharp boundaries, is the most popular and most controversial current account. No one has shown exactly what is wrong the epistemic view and no one has provided a satisfying alternative to it. These two projects – articulating what is wrong with the epistemic view, and providing a plausible alternative – are the primary goals of this dissertation. -/- Additionally, I survey ordinary intuitions that underlie Sorites paradoxes, and I note how these intuitions inform, and are informed by, a number of deeper philosophical debates in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and ethics. In part, this serves as an explanation of why the Sorites paradox has remained so difficult to resolve. -/- The most common objection to the epistemic view – that it provides an unsatisfactory account of the connection between meaning and use – has not been successful in undermining the view. My own objection is a metaphysical, and not a semantic, objection: the epistemic view fails to provide the best explanation of what objects and properties exist. Instead, an eliminativist account of macro-level objects and properties, according to which there are no mountains and there is no property of being lavender-colored, is a better metaphysical account than one that claims that there are mountains and color properties that have sharp boundaries. -/- Of course, this eliminativist view is intuitively unappealing, and to show how statements in ordinary language can in some way be taken to be true, I introduce the normative choice account. According to this view, although non-normative facts about linguistic behavior and about the external world do not determine a precise reference for our terms, our choices may do so. I claim that this provides all that is needed for there to be semantic normativity. First, we are still guided in our choices to some extent by psychological tendencies, and second, there are resources in semantic deliberation to respond to aberrant uses of language. (shrink)
Thomas Hurka, in his book Virtue, Vice, and Value, and elsewhere, develops a recursive analysis of higher-order pleasures and pains. The account leads Hurka to some potentially controversial conclusions. For instance, Hurka argues on its basis that some states are both good and evil and also that the view he calls the conditionality view is false. In this paper, I argue that Hurka’s formulation of the recursive account is unusual and inelegant, and that Hurka reaches his conclusions only because of (...) its peculiar aspects. I provide an alternative recursive account which is similar in spirit to Hurka’s but which is theoretically elegant and does not entail those conclusions. (shrink)