Epistemic trespassers judge matters outside their field of expertise. Trespassing is ubiquitous in this age of interdisciplinary research and recognizing this will require us to be more intellectually modest.
Changing our minds isn't easy. Even when we recognize our views are disputed by intelligent and informed people, we rarely doubt our rightness. Why is this so? How can we become more open-minded, putting ourselves in a better position to tolerate conflict, advance collective inquiry, and learn from differing perspectives in a complex world? -/- Nathan Ballantyne defends the indispensable role of epistemology in tackling these issues. For early modern philosophers, the point of reflecting on inquiry was to understand (...) how our beliefs are often distorted by prejudice and self-interest, and to improve the foundations of human knowledge. Ballantyne seeks to recover and modernize this classical tradition by vigorously defending an interdisciplinary approach to epistemology, blending philosophical theorizing with insights from the social and cognitive sciences. -/- Many of us need tools to help us think more circumspectly about our controversial views. Ballantyne develops a method for distinguishing between our reasonable and unreasonable opinions, in light of evidence about bias, information overload, and rival experts. This method guides us to greater intellectual openness--in the spirit of skeptics from Socrates to Montaigne to Bertrand Russell--making us more inclined to admit that sometimes we don't have the right answers. With vibrant prose and fascinating examples from science and history, Ballantyne shows how epistemology can help us know our limits. (shrink)
The Counterfactual Comparative Account of Harm says that an event is overall harmful for someone if and only if it makes her worse off than she otherwise would have been. I defend this account from two common objections.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a claim of metaphysical modality, in possession of good alethic standing, must be in want of an essentialist foundation. Or at least so say the advocates of the reductive-essence-first view, according to which all modality is to be reductively defined in terms of essence. Here, I contest this bit of current wisdom. In particular, I offer two puzzles—one concerning the essences of non-compossible, complementary entities, and a second involving entities whose essences are modally (...) ‘loaded’—that together strongly call into question the possibility of reducing modality to essence. (shrink)
Metaphysics, Mathematics, and Meaning brings together Nathan Salmon's influential papers on topics in the metaphysics of existence, non-existence, and fiction; modality and its logic; strict identity, including personal identity; numbers and numerical quantifiers; the philosophical significance of Godel's Incompleteness theorems; and semantic content and designation. Including a previously unpublished essay and a helpful new introduction to orient the reader, the volume offers rich and varied sustenance for philosophers and logicians.
In a very short time, it is likely that we will identify many of the genetic variants underlying individual differences in intelligence. We should be prepared for the possibility that these variants are not distributed identically among all geographic populations, and that this explains some of the phenotypic differences in measured intelligence among groups. However, some philosophers and scientists believe that we should refrain from conducting research that might demonstrate the (partly) genetic origin of group differences in IQ. Many scholars (...) view academic interest in this topic as inherently morally suspect or even racist. The majority of philosophers and social scientists take it for granted that all population differences in intelligence are due to environmental factors. The present paper argues that the widespread practice of ignoring or rejecting research on intelligence differences can have unintended negative consequences. Social policies predicated on environmentalist theories of group differences may fail to achieve their aims. Large swaths of academic work in both the humanities and social sciences assume the truth of environmentalism and are vulnerable to being undermined. We have failed to work through the moral implications of group differences to prepare for the possibility that they will be shown to exist. (shrink)
Two theses are central to recent work on the epistemology of disagreement: Conciliationism:?In a revealed peer disagreement over P, each thinker should give at least some weight to her peer's attitude. Uniqueness:?For any given proposition and total body of evidence, the evidence fully justifies exactly one level of confidence in the proposition. 1This paper is the product of full and equal collaboration between its authors. Does Conciliationism commit one to Uniqueness? Thomas Kelly 2010 has argued that it does. After some (...) scene-setting (?1), in ?2 we explain and criticize Kelly's argument, thereby defeating his larger argument that Conciliationism deserves no dialectical special treatment. But we argue further that Conciliationists are committed to a disjunction, one of whose disjuncts is Uniqueness, that amounts to an ?extremely strong and unobvious position? (??3?4). If we are correct, theorists should not treat Conciliationism as a default position in debates about the epistemic significance of disagreement. (shrink)
Rather infamously, Kit Fine provided a series of counter-examples which purport to show that the modalist program of analysing essence in terms of metaphysical necessity is fundamentally misguided. Several would-be modalists have since responded, attempting to save the position from this Finean Challenge. This paper evaluates and rejects a trio of such responses, from Della Rocca, Zalta, and Gorman. But I’m not here arguing for Fine’s conclusion – ultimately, this is a fight amongst friends, with Della Rocca, Zalta, Gorman, and (...) I all wanting to be modalists, but disagreeing on the details. As such, while my primary aim is to show what’s wrong with this trio, the secondary aim is demonstrating how what’s right about them in fact pushes one towards my own sparse modalist account. So while the primary conclusion of this paper is negative, the secondary, positive, conclusion is that modalists shouldn’t give up hope – plausible responses to Fine are still out there. (shrink)
Two theses figure centrally in work on the epistemology of disagreement: Equal Weight (‘EW’) and Uniqueness (‘U’). According to EW, you should give precisely as much weight to the attitude of a disagreeing epistemic peer as you give to your own attitude. U has it that, for any given proposition and total body of evidence, some doxastic attitude is the one the evidence makes rational (justifies) toward that proposition. Although EW has received considerable discussion, the case for U has not (...) been critically evaluated. Endorsing U, we argue, commits one to the highly controversial thesis that whatever fixes your rational attitudes can do so only by fixing what evidence you have. This commitment imposes a relatively demanding requirement on justified belief in U, one that we argue is not satisfied by what is currently the strongest available case for U, due to Roger White . Our challenge to U makes more trouble for its proponents than do the worries about U expressed by Gideon Rosen  and Thomas Kelly . Moreover, if Kelly  is correct in thinking that EW “carries with it a commitment to” U—a claim which we accept for reasons similar to Kelly’s but is beyond this paper’s scope (but see Ballantyne and Coffman [forthcoming])—then our challenge to U bears importantly on EW: to the extent that our challenge to U succeeds, EW also suffers. (shrink)
A key question has been underexplored in the literature on conscientious objection: if a physician is required to perform ‘medical activities,’ what is a medical activity? This paper explores the question by employing a teleological evaluation of medicine and examining the analogy of military conscripts, commonly cited in the conscientious objection debate. It argues that physicians (and other healthcare professionals) can only be expected to perform and support medical acts – acts directed towards their patients’ health. That is, physicians cannot (...) be forced to provide or support services that are not medical in nature, even if such activities support other socially desirable pursuits. This does not necessarily mean that medical professionals cannot or should not provide non-medical services, but only that they are under no obligation to provide them. (shrink)
I defend the widely-held view that morally worthy action need not be motivated by a desire to promote rightness as such. Some have recently come to reject this view, arguing that desires for rightness as such are necessary for avoiding a certain kind of luck thought incompatible with morally worthy action. I show that those who defend desires for rightness as such on the basis of this argument misunderstand the relationship between moral worth and the kind of luck that their (...) argument employs. Consequently, the argument provides no reason to doubt the popular view that a desire for rightness as such is no part of virtue. I conclude by suggesting that a family of worries about merely accidentally right action presuppose one side of the recent debate about objectivism and perspectivism about moral rightness. (shrink)
Many philosophers think that punishment is intentionally harmful and that this makes it especially hard to morally justify. Explanations for the latter intuition often say questionable things about the moral significance of the intent to harm. I argue that there’s a better way to explain this intuition.
Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is “self-correcting”—that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence—may not be correct in all (...) contexts. In this paper, documentation spanning from the early 1970s to the present is collected, which reveals the influence of scientists’ moral and political commitments on the study of intelligence. It is suggested that misrepresenting findings in science to achieve desirable social goals will ultimately harm both science and society. (shrink)
There are certain uses of and and or that cannot be explained by their normal meanings as truth-functional connectives, even with sophisticated pragmatic resources. These include examples such as The cops show up, and a fight will break out (‘If the cops show up, a fight will break out’), and I have no friends, or I would throw a party (‘I have no friends. If I did have friends, I would throw a party.’). We argue that these uses are indeed (...) distinct from the more ordinary uses of and and or, but that they are nonetheless related in a principled way. To explain them we give an analysis of what we call the dynamic effects of connectives, which arise in all their uses. The special uses at issue are then argued to be instances where the connectives exhibit their dynamic effects without their truth-conditional meaning. (shrink)
Rather infamously, Kit Fine provided a series of counter‐examples which purport to show that attempts to understand essence in terms of metaphysical necessity are ‘fundamentally misguided’. Here, my aim is to put forward a new version of modalism that is, I argue, immune to Fine's counter‐examples. The core of this new modalist account is a sparseness restriction, such that an object's essential properties are those sparse properties it has in every world in which it exists. After first motivating this sparseness (...) restriction, I proceed to show how the resulting sparse modalism circumvents Fine's original counter‐examples. After dismissing a potential problem concerning the membership relation, I conclude that, as at least one form of modalism is viable, the project of understanding essence in terms of metaphysical necessity is not so fundamentally misguided after all. (shrink)
Contemporary Western culture is experiencing a heightened awareness of religious diversity. This article surveys a range of possible responses to such diversity, and distinguishes between responses that concern the salvation or moral transformation of persons (soteriological views) and those that concern the alethic or epistemic status of religious beliefs (doctrinal views). After providing a brief taxonomy of these positions and their possible relations to one another, the article focuses primarily on competing views about the truth and rationality of religious beliefs (...) (e.g., pluralism, exclusivism, and skepticism). Here a heavy emphasis is placed on arguments for and against the rationality and moral propriety of retaining one's religious beliefs in the face of disagreement. The article surveys some of the more prominent arguments from the literature on this topic and closes with suggestions for further research. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Most of what we believe comes to us from the word of others, but we do not always believe what we are told. We often reject thinkers' reports by attributing biases to them. We may call this debunking. In this essay, I consider how debunking might work and then examine whether, and how often, it can help to preserve rational belief in the face of disagreement.
I demonstrate that a "speech act" theory of meaning for imperatives is—contra a dominant position in philosophy and linguistics—theoretically desirable. A speech act-theoretic account of the meaning of an imperative !φ is characterized, broadly, by the following claims. -/- LINGUISTIC MEANING AS USE !φ’s meaning is a matter of the speech act an utterance of it conventionally functions to express—what a speaker conventionally uses it to do (its conventional discourse function, CDF). -/- IMPERATIVE USE AS PRACTICAL !φ's CDF is to (...) express a practical (non-representational) state of mind—one concerning an agent's preferences and plans, rather than her beliefs. -/- Opposed to speech act accounts is a preponderance of views which deny that a sentence's linguistic meaning is a matter of what speech act it is used to perform, or its CDF. On such accounts, meaning is, instead, a matter of "static" properties of the sentence—e.g., how it depicts the world as being (or, more neutrally, the properties of a model-theoretic object with which the semantic value of the sentence co-varies). On one version of a static account, an imperative 'shut the window!' might, for instance, depict the world as being such that the window must be shut. -/- Static accounts are traditionally motivated against speech act-theoretic accounts by appeal to supposedly irremediable explanatory deficiencies in the latter. Whatever a static account loses in saying (prima facie counterintuitively) that an imperative conventionally represents, or expresses a picture of the world, is said to be offset by its ability to explain a variety of phenomena for which speech act-theoretic accounts are said to lack good explanations (even, in many cases, the bare ability to offer something that might meet basic criteria on what a good explanation should be like). -/- I aim to turn the tables on static accounts. I do this by showing that speech act accounts are capable of giving explanations of phenomena which fans of static accounts have alleged them unable to give. Indeed, for a variety of absolutely fundamental phenomena having to do with the conventional meaning of imperatives (and other types of practical language), speech act accounts provide natural and theoretically satisfying explanations, where a representational account provides none. (shrink)
The past decade and a half has seen an absolute explosion of literature discussing the structure of reality. One particular focus here has been on the fundamental. However, while there has been extensive discussion, numerous fundamental questions about fundamentality have not been touched upon. In this chapter, I focus on one such lacuna about the modal strength of fundamentality. More specifically, I am interested in exploring the contingent fundamentality thesis - that is, the idea that the fundamentalia are only contingently (...) fundamental (or, in property-terms, that the property of being fundamental is not a (weakly) necessary property). And while I think this thesis is plausible – indeed, I show here that it lurks in the unexamined shadows/assumptions of some fairly prominent positions – as far as I can tell, nothing has been said either for or against it. Here, I hope to fix this by giving the thesis a proper airing. In this way, this chapter represents a first-pass at exploring not only the modal status of fundamentality, but also offers a starting point for examining broader issues about the relationship between fundamentality and modality. (shrink)
We offer an original argument for the existence of universal fictions—that is, fictions within which every possible proposition is true. Specifically, we detail a trio of such fictions, along with an easy-to-follow recipe for generating more. After exploring several consequences and dismissing some objections, we conclude that fiction, unlike reality, is unlimited when it comes to truth.
Abstract Both parties in the active philosophical debate concerning the conceptual character of perception trace their roots back to Kant's account of sensible intuition in the Critique of Pure Reason. This striking fact can be attributed to Kant's tendency both to assert and to deny the involvement of our conceptual capacities in sensible intuition. He appears to waver between these two positions in different passages, and can thus seem thoroughly confused on this issue. But this is not, in fact, the (...) case, for, as I will argue, the appearance of contradiction in his account stems from the failure of some commentators to pay sufficient attention to Kant's developmental approach to philosophy. Although he begins by asserting the independence of intuition, Kant proceeds from this nonconceptualist starting point to reveal a deeper connection between intuitions and concepts. On this reading, Kant's seemingly conflicting claims are actually the result of a careful and deliberate strategy for gradually convincing his readers of the conceptual nature of perception. (shrink)
Bare particularism is a constituent ontology according to which substances—concrete, particular objects like people, tables, and tomatoes—are complex entities constituted by their properties and their bare particulars. Yet, aside from this description, much about bare particularism is fundamentally unclear. In this paper, I attempt to clarify this muddle by elucidating the key metaphysical commitments underpinning any plausible formulation of the position. So the aim here is primarily catechismal rather than evangelical—I don’t intend to convert anyone to bare particularism, but, by (...) looking at a series of questions, to instead specify what, if one is a bare particularist, one is committed to. Along the way, I address three major objections: a classic objection about whether bare particulars have properties, a new objection raised by Bailey, and an understanding objection that questions some of the position’s resources. (shrink)
Throughout his career, Derek Parfit made the bold suggestion, at various times under the heading of the "Normativity Objection," that anyone in possession of normative concepts is in a position to know, on the basis of their competence with such concepts alone, that reductive realism in ethics is not even possible. Despite the prominent role that the Normativity Objection plays in Parfit's non-reductive account of the nature of normativity, when the objection hasn't been ignored, it's been criticized and even derided. (...) We argue that the exclusively negative attention that the objection has received has been a mistake. On our reading, Parfit's Normativity Objection poses a serious threat to reductivism, as it exposes the uneasy relationship between our a priori knowledge of a range of distinctly normative truths and the typical package of semantic commitments that reductivists have embraced since the Kripkean revolution. (shrink)
Our ability to think, argue and reason is determined by our ability to question. Questions are a vital component of critical thinking, yet we underestimate the role they play. Using Questions to Think puts questioning back in the spotlight. -/- Naming the parts of questions at the same time as we name parts of thought, this one-of-a-kind introduction allows us to see how questions relate to the definitions of propositions, premises, conclusions, and the validity of arguments. Why is this important? (...) Making the role of questions visible in thinking, reasoning, and dialogue, allows us to: -/- - Ask better questions - Improve our capability to understand an argument - Exercise vigilance in the act of questioning - Make explicit what you already know implicitly - Engage with ideas that contradict our own - See ideas in broader context -/- Breathing new life into our current approach to critical thinking, this practical, much-needed textbook moves us away from the traditional focus on formal argument and fallacy identification, combines the Kantian critique of reason with Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics and reminds us why thinking can only be understood as an answer to a question. (shrink)
While it is tempting to suppose that an act has moral worth just when and because it is motivated by sufficient moral reasons, philosophers have, largely, come to doubt this analysis. Doubt is rooted in two claims. The first is that some facts can motivate a given act in multiple ways, not all of which are consistent with moral worth. The second is the orthodox view that normative reasons are facts. I defend the tempting analysis by proposing and defending a (...) heterodox account of both normative and motivating reasons that is inspired by Donald Davidson’s primary reasons. We should adopt the heterodox view, I argue, because it addresses an overlooked but fatal defect in the orthodox conception of reasons, of which challenges to the tempting analysis are a special case. (shrink)
Some philosophers think that the challenge of justifying punishment can be met by a theory that emphasizes the expressive character of punishment. A particular type of theories of this sort - call it Expressive Retributivism [ER] - combines retributivist and expressivist considerations. These theories are retributivist since they justify punishment as an intrinsically appropriate response to wrongdoing, as something wrongdoers deserve, but the expressivist element in these theories seeks to correct for the traditional obscurity of retributivism. Retributivists often rely on (...) appeals to controversial intuitions involving obscure concepts. While retributive intuitions can be compelling, some worry that the justificatory challenge cannot be met merely by appealing to them. ER tries to enhance the clarity and justificatory power of these intuitions and the concepts they invoke by appealing to an expressive conception of punishment. I argue that these theories fail to justify punishment and that there is reason to think that they cannot, in principle, justify punishment. (shrink)
Recent work on the nature of luck widely endorses the thesis that an event is good or bad luck for an individual only if it is significant for that individual. In this paper, I explore this thesis, showing that it raises questions about interests, well-being, and the philosophical uses of luck. In Sect. 1, I examine several accounts of significance, due to Pritchard (2005), Coffman (2007), and Rescher (1995). Then in Sect. 2 I consider what some theorists want to ‘do’ (...) with luck, taking important examples from epistemology (explaining Gettier-style examples) and political philosophy (offering a rationale for the just distribution of resources in society), while suggesting implications for significance. Drawing together lessons from Sects. 1 and 2, I develop a new account of significance in Sect. 3 before concluding with reflections on the debate in Sect. 4. (shrink)
My title is meant to suggest a continuation of the sort of philosophical investigation into the nature of language and modality undertaken in Rudolf Carnap’s Meaning and Necessity and Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity. My topic belongs in a class with meaning and naming. It is demonstratives—that is, expressions like ‘that darn cat’ or the pronoun ‘he’ used deictically. A few philosophers deserve particular credit for advancing our understanding of demonstratives and other indexical words. Though Naming and Necessity is concerned (...) with proper names, not demonstratives, it opened wide a window that had remained mostly shut in Meaning and Necessity but that, thanks largely to Kripke, shall forevermore remain unbarred. Understanding of demonstrative semantics grew by a quantum leap in David Kaplan’s remarkable work, especially in his masterpiece “Demonstratives” together with its companion “Afterthoughts.” In contrast to the direct-reference propensities of these two contemporary figures, Gottlob Frege, with his uncompromisingly thoroughgoing intensionalism, shed important light on the workings of demonstratives in “Der Gedanke”—more specifically, in a few brief but insightful remarks from a single paragraph concerning tense and temporal indexicality. (shrink)
Discussions of political obligation and political authority have long focused on the idea that the commands of genuine authorities constitute content-independent reasons. Despite its centrality in these debates, the notion of content-independence is unclear and controversial, with some claiming that it is incoherent, useless, or increasingly irrelevant. I clarify content-independence by focusing on how reasons can depend on features of their source or container. I then solve the long-standing puzzle of whether the fact that laws can constitute content-independent reasons is (...) consistent with the fact that some laws must fail to bind due to their egregiously unjust content. Finally I defend my understanding of content-independence against challenges and show why it retains a place of special importance for questions about the law and political obligation. Content-independence highlights that it is some feature of the law or law-making process in general that is supposed to generate moral obligations for citizens, not the merits of particular laws. (shrink)
David Lewis and Peter van Inwagen have claimed that there are no “knockdown” arguments in philosophy. Their claim appears to be at odds with common philosophical practice: philosophers often write as though their conclusions are established or proven and that the considerations offered for these conclusions are decisive. In this paper, I examine some questions raised by Lewis’s and van Inwagen’s contention. What are knockdown arguments? Are there any in philosophy? If not, why not? These questions concern the nature of (...) the philosophical enterprise and our answers have implications for the limits on the attitudes of informed, rational thinkers. (shrink)
A paradox about sets of properties is presented. The paradox, which invokes an impredicatively defined property, is formalized in a free third-order logic with lambda-abstraction, through a classically proof-theoretically valid deduction of a contradiction from a single premise to the effect that every property has a unit set. Something like a model is offered to establish that the premise is, although classically inconsistent, nevertheless consistent, so that the paradox discredits the logic employed. A resolution through the ramified theory of types (...) is considered. Finally, a general scheme that generates a family of analogous paradoxes and a generally applicable resolution are proposed. (shrink)
Recently, Michael Huemer has defended the Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism: If it seems to S that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p. This principle has potentially far-reaching implications. Huemer uses it to argue against skepticism and to defend a version of ethical intuitionism. I employ a reductio to show that PC is false. If PC is true, beliefs can yield justification for believing their contents in cases (...) where, intuitively, they should not be able to do so. I argue that there are cases where a belief that p can behave like an appearance that p and thereby make it seem to one that p. (shrink)
I argue that Davidson's conception of motivating reasons as belief-desire pairs suggests a model of normative reasons for action that is superior to the orthodox conception according to which normative reasons are propositions, facts, or the truth-makers of such facts.
In the transcendental deduction, the central argument of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant seeks to secure the objective validity of our basic categories of thought. He distinguishes objective and subjective sides of this argument. The latter side, the subjective deduction, is normally understood as an investigation of our cognitive faculties. It is identified with Kant’s account of a threefold synthesis involved in our cognition of objects of experience, and it is said to precede and ground Kant’s proof of the (...) validity of the categories in the objective deduction. I challenge this standard reading of the subjective deduction, arguing, first, that there is little textual evidence for it, and, second, that it encourages a problematic conception of how the deduction works. In its place, I present a new reading of the subjective deduction. Rather than being a broad investigation of our cognitive faculties, it should be seen as addressing a specific worry that arises in the course of the objective deduction. The latter establishes the need for a necessary connection between our capacities for thinking and being given objects, but Kant acknowledges that his readers might struggle to comprehend how these seemingly independent capacities are coordinated. Even worse, they might well believe that in asserting this necessary connection, Kant’s position amounts to an implausible subjective idealism. The subjective deduction ismeant to allay these concerns by showing that they rest on a misunderstanding of the relation between these faculties. This new reading of the subjective deduction offers a better fit with Kant’s text. It also has broader implications, for it reveals the more philosophically plausible account of our relation to the world as thinkers that Kant is defending – an account that is largely obscured by the standard reading of the subjective deduction. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that logic, whatever it may be, is normative. While accounting for the normativity of logic is a challenge for any view of logic, in this paper I argue that it is particularly problematic for certain types of logical pluralists, due to what I call the normative problem for logical pluralism. I introduce the NPLP, distinguish it from other problems that logical pluralists may face, and show that it is unsolvable for one prominent type of logical pluralism.