We argue that all gradable expressions in natural language obey a principle that we call Comparability: if x and y are both F to some degree, then either x is at least as F as y or y is at least as F as x. This principle has been widely rejected among philosophers, especially by ethicists, and its falsity has been claimed to have important normative implications. We argue that Comparability is needed to explain the goodness of several patterns of (...) inference that seem manifestly valid, that the purported failures of Comparability would have absurd consequences, and that the influential arguments against Comparability are less compelling than they may have initially seemed. (shrink)
We defend three controversial claims about preference, credence, and choice. First, all agents (not just rational ones) have complete preferences. Second, all agents (again, not just rational ones) have real-valued credences in every proposition in which they are confident to any degree. Third, there is almost always some unique thing we ought to do, want, or believe.
Sometimes it seems that an existing bearer of value should be preserved even though it could be destroyed and replaced with something of equal or greater value. How can this conservative intuition be explained and justified? This paper distinguishes three answers, which I call existential, attitudinal, and object-affecting conservatism. I raise some problems for existential and attitudinal conservatism, and suggest how they can be solved by object-affecting conservatism.
A survey of the recent literature suggests that physicians should engage religious patients on religious grounds when the patient cites religious considerations for a medical decision. We offer two arguments that physicians ought to avoid engaging patients in this manner. The first is the Public Reason Argument. We explain why physicians are relevantly akin to public officials. This suggests that it is not the physician’s proper role to engage in religious deliberation. This is because the public character of a physician’s (...) role binds him/her to public reason, which precludes the use of religious considerations. The second argument is the Fiduciary Argument. We show that the patient-physician relationship is a fiduciary relationship, which suggests that the patient has the clinical expectation that physicians limit themselves to medical considerations. Since engaging in religious deliberations lies outside this set of considerations, such engagement undermines trust and therefore damages the patient-physician relationship. (shrink)
Innovative practice occurs when a clinician provides something new, untested, or nonstandard to a patient in the course of clinical care, rather than as part of a research study. Commentators have noted that patients engaged in innovative practice are at significant risk of suffering harm, exploitation, or autonomy violations. By creating a pathway for harmful or nonbeneficial interventions to spread within medical practice without being subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation, innovative practice poses similar risks to the wider community of patients (...) and society as a whole. Given these concerns, how should we control and oversee innovative practice, and in particular, how should we coordinate innovative practice and clinical research? In this article, I argue that an ethical approach to overseeing innovative practice must encourage the early transition to rigorous clinical research without delaying or deferring the development of beneficial innovations or violating the autonomy rights of clinicians and their patients. (shrink)
The Rachels–Temkin spectrum arguments against the transitivity of better than involve good or bad experiences, lives, or outcomes that vary along multiple dimensions—e.g., duration and intensity of pleasure or pain. This paper presents variations on these arguments involving combinations of good and bad experiences, which have even more radical implications than the violation of transitivity. These variations force opponents of transitivity to conclude that something good is worse than something that isn’t good, on pain of rejecting the good altogether. That (...) is impossible, so we must reject the spectrum arguments. (shrink)
Introductory students regularly endorse naïve skepticism—unsupported or uncritical doubt about the existence and universality of truth—for a variety of reasons. Though some of the reasons for students’ skepticism can be traced back to the student—for example, a desire to avoid engaging with controversial material or a desire to avoid offense—naïve skepticism is also the result of how introductory courses are taught, deemphasizing truth to promote students’ abilities to develop basic disciplinary skills. While this strategy has a number of pedagogical benefits, (...) it prevents students in early stages of intellectual development from understanding truth as a threshold concept. Using philosophy as a case study, I argue that we can make progress against naïve skepticism by clearly discussing how metadisciplinary aims differ at the disciplinary and course levels in a way that is meaningful, reinforced, and accessible. (shrink)
Aulisio and Arora argue that the moral significance of value imposition explains the moral distinction between traditional conscientious objection and non-traditional conscientious objection. The former objects to directly performing actions, whereas the latter objects to indirectly assisting actions on the grounds that indirectly assisting makes the actor morally complicit. Examples of non-traditional conscientious objection include objections to the duty to refer. Typically, we expect physicians who object to a practice to refer, but the non-traditional conscientious objector physician refuses to refer. (...) Aulisio and Arora argue that physicians have a duty to refer because refusing to do so violates the patient’s values. While we agree with Aulisio and Arora’s conclusions, we argue value imposition cannot adequately explain the moral difference between traditional conscientious objection and non-traditional conscientious objection. Treating autonomy as the freedom to live in accordance with one’s values, as Aulisio and Arora do, is a departure from traditional liberal conceptions of autonomy and consequently fails to explain the moral difference between the two kinds of objection. We outline how a traditional liberal understanding of autonomy would help in this regard, and we make two additional arguments—one that maintains that non-traditional conscientious objection undermines society’s autonomy, and another that maintains that it undermines the physician-patient relationship—to establish why physicians have a duty to refer. (shrink)
I defend the view that a reason for someone to do something is just a reason why she ought to do it. This simple view has been thought incompatible with the existence of reasons to do things that we may refrain from doing or even ought not to do. For it is widely assumed that there are reasons why we ought to do something only if we ought to do it. I present several counterexamples to this principle and reject some (...) ways of understanding "ought" so that the principle is compatible with my examples. I conclude with a hypothesis for when and why the principle should be expected to fail. (shrink)
This paper is about the role of interpersonal comparisons in Harsanyi's aggregation theorem. Harsanyi interpreted his theorem to show that a broadly utilitarian theory of distribution must be true even if there are no interpersonal comparisons of well-being. How is this possible? The orthodox view is that it is not. Some argue that the interpersonal comparability of well-being is hidden in Harsanyi's premises. Others argue that it is a surprising conclusion of Harsanyi's theorem, which is not presupposed by any one (...) of the premises. I argue instead that Harsanyi was right: his theorem and its weighted-utilitarian conclusion do not require interpersonal comparisons of well-being. The key to making sense of this possibility is to treat Harsanyi's weights as dimensional constants rather than dimensionless numbers. (shrink)
Probability theory promises to deliver an exact and unified foundation for inquiry in epistemology and philosophy of science. But philosophy of religion is also fertile ground for the application of probabilistic thinking. This volume presents original contributions from twelve contemporary researchers, both established and emerging, to offer a representative sample of the work currently being carried out in this potentially rich field of inquiry. Grouped into five parts, the chapters span a broad range of traditional issues in religious epistemology. The (...) first three parts discuss the evidential impact of various considerations that have been brought to bear on the question of the existence of God. These include witness reports of the occurrence of miraculous events, the existence of complex biological adaptations, the apparent 'fine-tuning' for life of various physical constants and the existence of seemingly unnecessary evil. The fourth part addresses a number of issues raised by Pascal's famous pragmatic argument for theistic belief. A final part offers probabilistic perspectives on the rationality of faith and the epistemic significance of religious disagreement. (shrink)
This paper is about teaching philosophy to high school students through Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate. LD, also known as “values debate,” includes topics from ethics and political philosophy. Thousands of high school students across the U.S. debate these topics in class, after school, and at weekend tournaments. We argue that LD is a particularly effective tool for teaching philosophy, but also that LD today falls short of its potential. We argue that the problems with LD are not inevitable, and we offer (...) strategic recommendations for improving LD as a tool for teaching philosophy. Ultimately, our aim is to create a dialogue between LD and academic philosophy, with the hope that such dialogue will improve LD’s capacity to teach students how to do philosophy. (shrink)
I present a new argument for the repugnant conclusion. The core of the argument is a risky, intrapersonal analogue of the mere addition paradox. The argument is important for three reasons. First, some solutions to Parfit’s original puzzle do not obviously generalize to the intrapersonal puzzle in a plausible way. Second, it raises independently important questions about how to make decisions under uncertainty for the sake of people whose existence might depend on what we do. And, third, it suggests various (...) difficulties for leading views about the value of a person’s life compared to her nonexistence. (shrink)
Many economists and philosophers assume that status quo bias is necessarily irrational. I argue that, in some cases, status quo bias is fully rational. I discuss the rationality of status quo bias on both subjective and objective theories of the rationality of preferences. I argue that subjective theories cannot plausibly condemn this bias as irrational. I then discuss one kind of objective theory, which holds that a conservative bias toward existing things of value is rational. This account can fruitfully explain (...) some compelling aspects of common sense morality, and it may justify status quo bias. (shrink)
Totalism Without Repugnance.Jacob M. Nebel - 2022 - In Jeff McMahan, Tim Campbell, James Goodrich & Ketan Ramakrishnan (eds.), Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 200-231.details
Totalism is the view that one distribution of well-being is better than another just in case the one contains a greater sum of well-being than the other. Many philosophers, following Parfit, reject totalism on the grounds that it entails the repugnant conclusion: that, for any number of excellent lives, there is some number of lives that are barely worth living whose existence would be better. This paper develops a theory of welfare aggregation—the lexical-threshold view—that allows totalism to avoid the repugnant (...) conclusion, as well as its analogues involving suffering populations and the lengths of individual lives. The theory is grounded in some independently plausible views about the structure of well-being, identifies a new source of incommensurability in population ethics, and avoids some of the implausibly extreme consequences of other lexical views, without violating the intuitive separability of lives. (shrink)
It is well known that classical, aka ‘sharp’, Bayesian decision theory, which models belief states as single probability functions, faces a number of serious difficulties with respect to its handling of agnosticism. These difficulties have led to the increasing popularity of so-called ‘imprecise’ models of decision-making, which represent belief states as sets of probability functions. In a recent paper, however, Adam Elga has argued in favour of a putative normative principle of sequential choice that he claims to be borne out (...) by the sharp model but not by any promising incarnation of its imprecise counterpart. After first pointing out that Elga has fallen short of establishing that his principle is indeed uniquely borne out by the sharp model, I cast aspersions on its plausibility. I show that a slight weakening of the principle is satisfied by at least one, but interestingly not all, varieties of the imprecise model and point out that Elga has failed to motivate his stronger commitment. (shrink)
The standard view of "believes" and other propositional attitude verbs is that such verbs express relations between agents and propositions. A sentence of the form “S believes that p” is true just in case S stands in the belief-relation to the proposition that p; this proposition is the referent of the complement clause "that p." On this view, we would expect the clausal complements of propositional attitude verbs to be freely intersubstitutable with their corresponding proposition descriptions—e.g., "the proposition that p"—as (...) they are in the case of "believes." In many cases, however, intersubstitution of that-clauses and proposition descriptions fails to preserve truth value or even grammaticality. These substitution failures lead some philosophers to reject the standard view of propositional attitude reports. Others conclude that propositional attitude verbs are systematically ambiguous. I reject both these views. On my view, the that-clause complements of propositional attitude verbs denote propositions, but proposition descriptions do not. (shrink)
Matthew Adler's Measuring Social Welfare is an introduction to the social welfare function (SWF) methodology. This essay questions some ideas at the core of the SWF methodology having to do with the relation between the SWF and the measure of well-being. The facts about individual well-being do not single out a particular scale on which well-being must be measured. As with physical quantities, there are multiple scales that can be used to represent the same information about well-being; no one scale (...) is special. Like physical laws, the SWF and its ranking of distributions cannot depend on exactly which of these scales we use. Adler and other theorists in the SWF tradition have used this idea to derive highly restrictive constraints on the shape of the SWF. These constraints rule out seemingly plausible views about distributive justice and population ethics. I argue, however, that these constraints stem from a simple but instructive mistake. The SWF should not be applied to vectors of numbers such as 1 and 2, but rather to vectors of dimensioned quantities such as 1 util and 2 utils. This seemingly pedantic suggestion turns out to have far-reaching consequences. Unlike the orthodox SWF approach, treating welfare levels as dimensioned quantities lets us distinguish between real changes in well-being and mere changes in the unit of measurement. It does this without making the SWF depend on the scale on which welfare is measured, and in a way that avoids the restrictive constraints on the shape of the SWF. (shrink)
Unconscious logical inference seems to rely on the syntactic structures of mental representations (Quilty-Dunn & Mandelbaum 2018). Other transitions, such as transitions using iconic representations and associative transitions, are harder to assimilate to syntax-based theories. Here we tackle these difficulties head on in the interest of a fuller taxonomy of mental transitions. Along the way we discuss how icons can be compositional without having constituent structure, and expand and defend the “symmetry condition” on Associationism (the idea that associative links and (...) transitions are perfectly symmetric). In the end, we show how a BIT (“bare inferential transition”) theory can cohabitate with these other non-inferential mental transitions. (shrink)
Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc gilt als Entdecker des Orion-Nebels . Als solcher ist er seit neunzig Jahren bekannt. Der französische Astronom und Wissenschaftshistoriker Guillaume Bigourdan zog diesen Schluss aus Aufzeichnungen, die er in Peirescs unveröffentlichtem Journal des observations entdeckt und 1916 veröffentlicht hatte. Demnach soll Peiresc den Orion-Nebel im November 1610 beobachtet haben. Peirescs Zeitgenossen jedoch war diese Beobachtung verborgen geblieben, und niemandem sonst gelang sie so früh nach Einführung des Teleskops. Mittlerweile sind Zweifel an Peirescs Entdeckung angemeldet (...) worden. Die von Bigourdan veröffentlichten Notizen sind bislang keiner eingehenden Prüfung unterzogen worden. Der vorliegende Aufsatz liefert eine neue Transkription sowie erstmals eine Übersetzung der lateinischen Handschrift. Im Vergleich dazu erweist sich die Bigourdansche Edition häufig als nicht korrekt. Peirescs Orion-Bericht, der hier erstmals in Gänze lesbar vorliegt, wirft neue Fragen auf. Denn aus ihm geht nicht hervor, welche Region im Sternbild Orion, welche Sterne und welche Nebelobjekte Peiresc 1610 beobachtete. Die vollständige Lektüre von Peirescs Notizen verlangt nach einer neuen Interpretation seiner Beobachtungen im Sternbild Orion. Nur so ließe sich klären, ob tatsächlich schon Peiresc den Orion-Nebel sehen konnte oder ob womöglich M42 erst später sichtbar wurde.SummaryNicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc is seen as the first to have discovered the Orion nebula in 1610. Peiresc's discovery remained completely unknown until it was brought to light by the French astronomer and historian of science, Guillaume Bigourdan, in 1916. Besides Peiresc, however, nobody else is known to have seen M42 so early in the seventeenth century. Doubts have been raised about Peiresc's discovery. Curiously enough, the passages from Peiresc's Journal published in 1916 have neither been thoroughly interpreted nor translated yet. The following article presents a new transcription of Peiresc's manuscript notes on Orion as well as a German and an English translation of the Latin text. When comparing the manuscript of Peiresc's Journal with Bigourdan's transcription, it becomes clear that Bigourdan has not reproduced the Latin text correctly. The content itself raises questions about the nature of Peiresc's observation. One cannot tell with certainty what region of Orion or what stars or nebular objects Peiresc was actually observing. From rereading Peiresc's notes, it becomes clear that a new interpretation is needed in order to determine if he could already see the Orion nebula in 1610 or if the Orion nebula appeared later in the seventeenth century. (shrink)
After a number of decades of research into the dynamics of rational belief, the belief revision theory community remains split on the appropriate handling of sequences of changes in view, the issue of so-called iterated revision. It has long been suggested that the matter is at least partly settled by facts pertaining to the results of various single revisions of one’s initial state of belief. Recent work has pushed this thesis further, offering various strong principles that ultimately result in a (...) wholesale reduction of iterated to one-shot revision. The present paper offers grounds to hold that these principles should be significantly weakened and that the reductionist thesis should ultimately be rejected. Furthermore, the considerations provided suggest a close connection between the logic of iterated belief change and the logic of evidential relevance. (shrink)
Buddhism originated and developed in an Indian cultural context that featured many first-person practices for producing and exploring states of consciousness through the systematic training of attention. In contrast, the dominant methods of investigating the mind in Western cognitive science have emphasized third-person observation of the brain and behavior. In this chapter, we explore how these two different projects might prove mutually beneficial. We lay the groundwork for a cross-cultural cognitive science by using one traditional Buddhist model of the mind (...) – that of the five aggregates – as a lens for examining contemporary cognitive science conceptions of consciousness. (shrink)
How should we choose between uncertain prospects in which different possible people might exist at different levels of wellbeing? Alex Voorhoeve and Marc Fleurbaey offer an egalitarian answer to this question. I give some reasons to reject their answer and then sketch an alternative, which I call person-affecting prioritarianism.
In a recent article for this journal, Bryan Pilkington makes a number of critical observations about one of our arguments for non-traditional medical conscientious objectors’ duty to refer. Non-traditional conscientious objectors are those professionals who object to indirectly performing actions—like, say, referring to a physician who will perform an abortion. In our response here, we discuss his central objection and clarify our position on the role of value conflicts in non-traditional conscientious objection.
Legitimate political institutions sometimes produce clearly unjust laws. It is widely recognized, especially in the context of war, that agents of the state may not enforce political decisions that are very seriously unjust or are the decisions of illegitimate governments. But may agents of legitimate states enforce unjust, but not massively unjust, laws? In this paper, I respond to three defences of the view that it is permissible to enforce these unjust laws. Analogues of the Walzerian argument from patriotism, the (...) Vitorian epistemic argument, and the proceduralist argument found in Rawls, Estlund, and others do not show that law enforcement is usually permitted to enforce unjust laws. Finally, I develop a proceduralist argument for the thesis that law enforcement is permitted to disregard unjust laws. I conclude by considering objections concerning the problem of optimizing society for justice and the problem of law enforcement agents with deplorable moral beliefs. (shrink)
Lara Buchak argues for a version of rank-weighted utilitarianism that assigns greater weight to the interests of the worse off. She argues that our distributive principles should be derived from the preferences of rational individuals behind a veil of ignorance, who ought to be risk averse. I argue that Buchak’s appeal to the veil of ignorance leads to a particular way of extending rank-weighted utilitarianism to the evaluation of uncertain prospects. This method recommends choices that violate the unanimous preferences of (...) rational individuals and choices that guarantee worse distributions. These results, I suggest, undermine Buchak’s argument for rank-weighted utilitarianism. (shrink)
Perceptual systems respond to proximal stimuli by forming mental representations of distal stimuli. A central goal for the philosophy of perception is to characterize the representations delivered by perceptual systems. It may be that all perceptual representations are in some way proprietarily perceptual and differ from the representational format of thought (Dretske 1981; Carey 2009; Burge 2010; Block ms.). Or it may instead be that perception and cognition always trade in the same code (Prinz 2002; Pylyshyn 2003). This paper rejects (...) both approaches in favor of perceptual pluralism, the thesis that perception delivers a multiplicity of representational formats, some proprietary and some shared with cognition. The argument for perceptual pluralism marshals a wide array of empirical evidence in favor of iconic (i.e., image-like, analog) representations in perception as well as discursive (i.e., language-like, digital) perceptual object representations. (shrink)
I argue that sports clubs should be punished for bad behaviour by their fans in a way that affects the club’s sporting success: for example, we are justified in imposing points deductions and competition disqualifications on the basis of racist chanting. This is despite a worry that punishing clubs in such a way is unfair because it targets the sports team rather than the fans who misbehaved. I argue that this belies a misunderstanding of the nature of sports clubs and (...) of the nature of sporting success. Further, I argue that fans should want to be held responsible in such a way because it vindicates the significant role that they play in the life of their club. (shrink)
In a recent article, Douven and Williamson offer both (i) a rebuttal of various recent suggested sufficient conditions for rational acceptability and (ii) an alleged ‘generalization’ of this rebuttal, which, they claim, tells against a much broader class of potential suggestions. However, not only is the result mentioned in (ii) not a generalization of the findings referred to in (i), but in contrast to the latter, it fails to have the probative force advertised. Their paper does however, if unwittingly, bring (...) us a step closer to a precise characterization of an important class of rationally unacceptable propositions—the class of lottery propositions for equiprobable lotteries. This helps pave the way to the construction of a genuinely lottery-paradox-proof alternative to the suggestions criticized in (i). (shrink)
In this article, I examine stigmatizing and especially patronizing attitudes towards others’ depression that people who are well-intentioned produce. The strategy of the article is to consider the social experience of depression through two separate subfields of philosophy: epistemic injustice and phenomenology. The solution that I propose is a phenomenological account of empathy. The empathetic attitude that I argue for involves actively listening to the depressed individual and taking their depression testimony as direct evidence. The article has been written both (...) for those who seek to better support neurodiverse people in their lives and for depressives (and other neurodivergents) themselves in order to provide them with a better account for advocating for themselves against social stigma. (shrink)
[What It’s Like, or What It’s About? The Place of Consciousness in the Material World] Summary: The book is both a survey of the contemporary debate and a defense of a distinctive position. Most philosophers nowadays assume that the focus of the philosophy of consciousness, its shared explanandum, is a certain property of experience variously called “phenomenal character,” “qualitative character,” “qualia” or “phenomenology,” understood in terms of what it is like to undergo the experience in question. Consciousness as defined in (...) terms of its phenomenal aspect is often called “phenomenal consciousness.” The major issue that occupies most thinkers is whether this phenomenal character happens to be a physical property, or whether it is rather sui generis. Those who believe the former are materialists; those who conclude the latter are dualists. As the currently dominant metaphysic is materialism – also sometimes called physicalism – the challenge appears to be to slot phenomenal properties among the physical properties that ultimately make up the world. David Chalmers argued powerfully that we can go very far in situating many mental properties in the physical world – namely, the properties that can be understood in functional terms – but that phenomenal properties resist such a treatment. Chalmers calls this “the hard problem” of consciousness. But there are also some quite powerful positive arguments for dualism. The two most influential ones are the modal argument, also offered by Chalmers, and the knowledge argument invented by Frank Jackson. Chalmers invites us to conceive of creatures that are exactly like human beings – physically, functionally, behaviorally – only bereft of phenomenal consciousness. If such creatures are conceivable, says Chalmers, they are metaphysically possible. And if they are metaphysically possible, materialism is false. Jackson, for his part, suggests we imagine Mary who has spent her entire life inside a black-and-white room and has seen the world through a black-and-white TV screen. But she also happens to know everything there is to know about the physics of color. And yet, Jackson suggests that once Mary is finally released from her room and sees a lawn outside, she learns something new: that this is what it is like to experience green color. The current work on consciousness is by and large characterized by attempts to answer these two dualistic arguments. I try to make sense of the positions within the domain of philosophy of consciousness by means of two major distinctions that mutually intersect. First, there is a distinction between dualism and materialism. An apparent third alternative currently on offer, the so-called Russellian monism, is unstable, collapsing into either dualism (panpsychism) or materialism (Russellian physicalism). Materialism comes in two main flavors: either the a posteriori physicalism, which detects an epistemic gap between phenomenal and physical truths, hence denying that the former could be derived from the latter; or the a priori physicalism, which does not acknowledge any such obstacle. The second major distinction is between phenomenism and representationalism. It’s true that Ned Block, who introduced this contrast, meant to distinguish between two kinds of materialism. But I believe that the distinction actually intersects the one between materialism and dualism. We thus arrive at a table with six slots, representing six main positions in the philosophy of consciousness: (1) dualist phenomenism (Chalmers, the early Jackson, and Tyler Burge); (2) dualist representationalism (René Descartes); (3) aposteriori materialist phenomenism (Block); (4) a posteriori materialist representationalism (Michael Tye, Fred Dretske, David Rosenthal); (5) a priori materialist phenomenism (David Lewis); and (6) a priori materialist representationalism (Daniel Dennett, Derk Pereboom). However, this scheme is in fact somewhat misleading. It is true that Dennett is usually classified as an apriori materialist (or, more precisely an apriori materialist representationalist), but I believe that needs to be corrected. In order to understand why, I first analyze varieties of materialist representationalism in detail, in particular various construals of phenomenal character in terms of representation, or intentionality, which includes a discussion of the identity of its content (the issue of externalism). By contrast, Dennett rejects the concept of phenomenal character. Consciousness has no intrinsic, publicly inaccessible properties. On that ground, Dennett builds an empirical, fully functionalist theory of consciousness, which he also tries to integrate within a general Darwinian framework. From that point of view, one can contrast Dennettian and representationalist views on the issue of animal consciousness. In addition to his rejection of phenomenal character, Dennett also abstains from the regular metaphysical departure point of regular materialism. He does not so much ask how an enigmatic property of consciousness fits an antecedently characterized world, but rather how far we can investigate all aspects of the world, including consciousness, using the scientific method. He is thus a methodological naturalist, rather than a metaphysical materialist. While this approach removes obstacles to the science of consciousness, it does not solve what might be called “the hardest problem” – of intentionality, not phenomenal consciousness. The hardest problem consists in the fact that our intentional discourse involves conflicting commitments that prevent a coherent metaphysic of representational states. However, it does not follow that we should give up on this discourse as a theoretical means of reduction as well as a practical tool of explanation. But it might be that intentional discourse is a somewhat pseudo one. (shrink)
The most rigorous framework for theorizing about the measurement and aggregation of value is the framework of social welfare functionals developed by Amartya Sen. In this framework, a social or overall betterness ordering is assigned to each possible profile of real-valued utility functions. Different possibilities for the measurability and interpersonal comparability of well-being are captured, in this framework, by invariance conditions, which require the same ordering to be assigned to profiles that are deemed informationally equivalent. But these invariance conditions are (...) highly restrictive and it is not clear whether they really follow from the underlying measurability/comparability possibilities with which they are associated. -/- The alternative framework developed in this paper cuts out the middleman of utilities, replacing them with the properties that utilities are supposed to represent. This allows us to define the measurability/comparability possibilities directly, without the use of any invariance condition, and to state social welfare functionals that violate the standard invariance conditions without requiring inadmissible information. This suggests that the invariance conditions cannot be justified in the standard way. But they do follow from a simple principle that can be motivated by some familiar considerations from the metaphysics of quantities. I conclude by considering the case for this principle. (shrink)
According to the person-affecting restriction, one distribution of welfare can be better than another only if there is someone for whom it is better. Extant problems for the person-affecting restriction involve variable-population cases, such as the nonidentity problem, which are notoriously controversial and difficult to resolve. This paper develops a fixed-population problem for the person-affecting restriction. The problem reveals that, in the presence of incommensurable welfare levels, the person-affecting restriction is incompatible with minimal requirements of impartial beneficence even in fixed-population (...) contexts. (shrink)
In this paper I examine John Rawls’s understanding of desert. Against Samuel Scheffler, I maintain that the reasons underlying Rawls’s rejection of the traditional view of distributive desert in A Theory of Justice also commit him to rejecting the traditional view of retributive desert. Unlike Rawls’s critics, however, I view this commitment in a positive light. I also argue that Rawls’s later work commits him to rejecting retributivism as a public justification for punishment.
Several philosophers have recently argued that policies aimed at reducing human fertility are a practical and morally justifiable way to mitigate the risk of dangerous climate change. There is a powerful objection to such “population engineering” proposals: even if drastic fertility reductions are needed to prevent dangerous climate change, implementing those reductions would wreak havoc on the global economy, which would seriously undermine international antipoverty efforts. In this article, we articulate this economic objection to population engineering and show how it (...) fails. We argue, first, that the economic objection paints an inaccurate picture of the complicated relationship between demographic change and economic growth, and second, that any untoward economic effects of fertility reduction can be mitigated with additional policies. Specifically, we argue that supplementing fertility reduction with policies that facilitate the emigration of younger people from developing nations to developed nations could allow for both global reductions in GHG emissions and continued economic stability. Further, we show that moral arguments against such unprecedented increases in immigration are unsuccessful. We conclude that population engineering is a practical and morally justifiable tool for addressing the twin evils of climate change and global poverty. (shrink)
‘Fake news’ has become an increasingly common refrain in public discourse, though the term itself has several uses, at least one of which constitutes Frankfurtian bullshit. After examining what sorts of fake news appeals do and do not count as bullshit, I discuss strategies for overcoming our openness to such bullshit. I do so by drawing a parallel between openness to bullshit and naïve skepticism—one’s willingness to reject the concept of truth on unsupported or ill-considered grounds—and suggest that this parallel (...) indicates three principles for how we ought to combat our openness to fake news and other bullshit. First, the root causes of bullshit openness are not monolithic; we should adopt anti-bullshit strategies in recognition of this fact. Second, our efforts to overcome bullshit openness should be collaborative efforts to create an environment that allows for sustained interrogation of our bullshit openness, rather than a confrontational provision of contrary evidence, despite the fact that such strategies are more time-intensive. Third, social media is unlikely to be a fertile ground on which we will make meaningful progress in the fight against bullshit because of the inherent nature of social media platforms as spaces for short, declarative, confrontational claims. (shrink)
Crispin Wright’s discussion of the notion of ‘transmission-failure’ promises to have important philosophical ramifications, both in epistemology and beyond. This paper offers a precise, formal characterisation of the concept within a Bayesian framework. The interpretation given avoids the serious shortcomings of a recent alternative proposal due to Samir Okasha.
Speciesist or biological accounts of moral status can be defended by showing that all members of Homo sapiens have a moral status conferring property. In this article, I argue that the most promising defense locates the moral status conferring property in the relational property of being biologically tied to other humans. This requires that biological ties ground moral obligations. I consider and reject the best defenses of that premise. Thus, we are left with compelling evidence that biological ties and membership (...) in a biological category like “species” ground neither moral obligations nor moral status. Because it is crucial to account for the moral significance of family bonds, I conclude by describing the sense in which biological ties matter morally. (shrink)
This article provides a discussion of the principle of transmission of evidential support across entailment from the perspective of belief revision theory in the AGM tradition. After outlining and briefly defending a small number of basic principles of belief change, which include a number of belief contraction analogues of the Darwiche-Pearl postulates for iterated revision, a proposal is then made concerning the connection between evidential beliefs and belief change policies in rational agents. This proposal is found to be suffcient to (...) establish the truth of a much-discussed intuition regarding transmission failure. (shrink)
I outline four competing probabilistic accounts of contrastive evidential support and consider various considerations that might help arbitrate between these. The upshot of the discussion is that the so-called 'Law of Likelihood' is to be preferred to any of the alternatives considered.
As the ongoing literature on the paradoxes of the Lottery and the Preface reminds us, the nature of the relation between probability and rational acceptability remains far from settled. This article provides a novel perspective on the matter by exploiting a recently noted structural parallel with the problem of judgment aggregation. After offering a number of general desiderata on the relation between finite probability models and sets of accepted sentences in a Boolean sentential language, it is noted that a number (...) of these constraints will be satisfied if and only if acceptable sentences are true under all valuations in a distinguished non-empty set W. Drawing inspiration from distance-based aggregation procedures, various scoring rule based membership conditions for W are discussed and a possible point of contact with ranking theory is considered. The paper closes with various suggestions for further research. (shrink)
It appears to have gone unnoticed in the literature that Pollock's widely endorsed analysis of evidential defeat entails a remarkably strong symmetry principle, according to which, for any three propositions D, E and H, if both E and D provide a reason to believe H, then D is a defeater for E's support for H if and only if, in turn, E is a defeater for D's support for H. After illustrating the counterintuitiveness of this constraint, a simple, more suitable, (...) alternative to the Pollockian account is offered. (shrink)
Cognitive biases can lead to misinterpretations of human and non-human biology and behavior. The concept of the Umwelt describes phylogenetic contrasts in the sensory realms of different species and has important implications for evolutionary studies of cognition (including biases) and social behavior. It has recently been suggested that the microbiome (the diverse network of microorganisms in a given environment, including those within a host organism such as humans) has an influential role in host behavior and health. In this paper, we (...) discuss the host’s microbiome in relation to cognitive biases and the concept of the Umwelt. Failing to consider the role of host–microbiome (collectively termed a “holobiont”) interactions in a given behavior, may underpin a potentially important cognitive bias – which we refer to as the Holobiont Blindspot. We also suggest that microbially mediated behavioral responses could augment our understanding of the Umwelt. For example, the potential role of the microbiome in perception and action could be an important component of the system that gives rise to the Umwelt. We also discuss whether microbial symbionts could be considered in System 1 thinking – that is, decisions driven by perception, intuition and associative memory. Recognizing Holobiont Blindspots and considering the microbiome as a key factor in the Umwelt and System 1 thinking has the potential to advance studies of cognition. Furthermore, investigating Holobiont Blindspots could have important implications for our understanding of social behaviors and mental health. Indeed, the way we think about how we think may need to be revisited. (shrink)
I explore what BernardWilliams means by regarding one’s action ‘purely externally, as one might regard anyone else’s action’, and how it links to regret and agent-regret. I suggest some ways that we might understand the external view: as a failure to recognize what one has done, in terms of Williams’s distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic luck, and as akin to Thomas Nagel’s distinction between an internal and external view. I argue that none of these captures what Williams was getting at (...) because they do not allow one to take a view on one’s action. I offer two alternative accounts. One turns around what we identify with, the other concerns what we care about. Both accounts capture how I might regret, rather than agent-regret, my own action. I demonstrate that these accounts can explain the relationship between an insurance payout and the external view, and they can explain the agent-relativity of agent-regret. (shrink)