It is possible that a fair coin tossed infinitely many times will always land heads. So the probability of such a sequence of outcomes should, intuitively, be positive, albeit miniscule: 0 probability ought to be reserved for impossible events. And, furthermore, since the tosses are independent and the probability of heads (and tails) on a single toss is half, all sequences are equiprobable. But Williamson has adduced an argument that purports to show that our intuitions notwithstanding, the probability of an (...) infinite sequence is 0. In this paper, I rebut his argument.No Abstract. (shrink)
I defend the suggestion that the rational probability in the Sleeping Beauty paradox is one third. The reasoning in its favour is familiar: for every heads-waking, there are two tails-wakings. To complete the defense, I rebut the reasoning which purports to justify the competing suggestion – that the correct probability is half – by undermining its premise, that no new information has been received.
In this paper I adduce a new argument in support of the claim that IBE is an autonomous form of inference, based on a familiar, yet surprisingly, under-discussed, problem for Hume’s theory of induction. I then use some insights thereby gleaned to argue for the claim that induction is really IBE, and draw some normative conclusions.
In two curiously neglected papers, David Lewis claims to reduce to absurdity the supposition (commonly labeled DAB) that (some) desires are belief-like. My aim in this paper is to explain the significance of this claim and rebut the proof.
Do we really know the things we think we know? Are any of our beliefs reasonable? Scepticism gives a pessimistic reply to these important epistemological questions - we don't know anything; none of our beliefs are reasonable. But can such a seemingly paradoxical claim be more than an intellectual curiousity? And if it is, can it be refuted? Ruth Weintraub answers yes to both these questions. The sceptical challenge is a formidable one, and should be confronted, not dismissed. The theoretical (...) and practical difficulties it presents - in that the sceptical life cannot be lived, and the doctrine seems self-defeating - are in fact superficial, according to Ruth Weintraub. Her study looks at the sceptical arguments of Descartes, Hume and the ancient Greek sceptic, Sextus Empiricus. The author argues that by drawing on philosophy, rather than science, the sceptical challenge can be answered. _The Sceptical Challenge_ is a bold and original response to scepticism; it represents a new way of looking at the field for philosophers of epistemology. (shrink)
In this paper I offer solutions to two problems which our moral practice engenders for expressivism, the meta-ethical doctrine according to which ethical statements aren't propositional, susceptible of truth and falsity, but, rather, express the speaker's non-cognitive attitudes. First, the expressivist must show that arguments which are valid when interpreted propositionally are valid when construed expressivistically, and vice versa. The second difficulty is the Frege-Geach problem. Moral arguments employ atomic sentences, negations, disjunctions, etc., and, by expressivist lights, the meaning of (...) a moral sentence depends on the attitude that it expresses. Since one's attitude varies as one asserts a claim, or negates it, or cites it as a disjunct, etc., the meaning of the relevant phrase changes as well, so the argument equivocates. (Formal proofs are provided in appendices to the paper.). (shrink)
This article considers two arguments that purport to show that inductive reasoning is unjustified: the argument adduced by Sextus Empiricus and the (better known and more formidable) argument given by Hume in the Treatise. While Sextus’ argument can quite easily be rebutted, a close examination of the premises of Hume’s argument shows that they are seemingly cogent. Because the sceptical claim is very unintuitive, the sceptical argument constitutes a paradox. And since attributions of justification are theoretical, and the claim that (...) they are never (or seldom) true isn’t preposterous, the correct response to the paradox may well be to admit that the sceptic has exposed our error in making them. (shrink)
Hume’s famous argument against the credibility of testimony about miracles invokes two premises: 1) The reliability of the witness (the extent to which he is informed and truthful) must be compared with the intrinsic probability of the miracle. 2) The initial probability of a miracle is always small enough to outweigh the improbability that the testimony is false (even when the witness is assumed to be reliable). I defend the first premise of the argument, showing that Hume’s argument can be (...) applied to purported observations of miracles, as well. I then show that Hume failed to provide an adequate support for his second premise. A more cogent defence can be provided for a weaker premise. The resultant argument has, consequently, a less sweeping conclusion than Hume’s. (shrink)
I present a puzzle which seems simple, but is found to have interesting implications for confirmation. Its dissolution also helps us to throw light on the relationship between first- and second-order probabilities construed as rational degrees of belief.
A seemingly plausible application of Bayesian decision-theoretic reasoning to determine one's rational degrees of belief yields a paradoxical conclusion: one ought to jettison one's intermediate credences in favour of more extreme (opinionated) ones. I discuss various attempts to solve the paradox, those involving the acceptance of the paradoxical conclusion, and those which attempt to block its derivation.
Epistemologists have traditionally been concerned with two issues: the justification of particular beliefs or sets of beliefs, and claims to knowledge. I propose to examine the relative import of these questions by comparing the gravity of the threat posed by two sceptics: one who questions the justifiability of our beliefs, and one who doubts our knowledge claims.
Hausman has recently provided an argument against identifying well-being with preference-satisfaction. I will focus on two of his premises. Hausman’s arguments for the first, I will suggest, fail. If the third premise is correct, I shall then argue, it can be used to undermine other plausible conceptions of the good.
There are very few philosophical issues which are so intimately associated with one single philosopher as is the problem of induction with Hume. This paper argues against this received opinion. It shows that Hume was neither the first to think induction problematic, nor the originator of the argument he adduced in support of the (sceptical) position. It then explains his (more modest) contribution. Its primary concern, however, is not historical. By considering Hume’s contribution to the problem of induction, it is (...) argued, we can come to a better understanding of this recalcitrant problem. (shrink)
Comparisons between utilities pose a pressing problem if, while incapable of being grounded, they are required in ethical deliberation. My aim is to consider whether there are epistemological impediments to implementing such ethical choices. Can we find ourselves being persuaded of the ethical need to compare utilities of different individuals, yet unable to do so because the comparisons cannot be warranted? I argue that the problem cannot arise; no plausible moral principle will invoke magnitudes which are inscrutable.
In this paper I consider the surprise examination paradox from a practical perspective, paying special attention to the communicative role of the teacher’s promise to the students. This perspective, which places the promise within a practice, rather than viewing it in the abstract, imposes constraints on adequate solutions to the paradox. In the light of these constraints, I examine various solutions which have been offered, and suggest two of my own.
Hume invokes the separability of perceptions to derive some of his most contentious pronouncements. To assess the cogency of the arguments, the notion must first be clarified. The clarification reveals that sic different separability claims must be distinguished. Of these, I consider the three that are rarely discussed. They turn out to be unacceptable. Locke espouses none of them.This Article does not have an abstract.
The mythical1 hungry ass, facing two identical bundles of hay equidistant from him, has engendered two related questions. Can he choose one of the bundles, there seemingly being nothing to incline him one way or the other? If he can, the second puzzle — pertaining to rational choice — arises. It seems the ass cannot rationally choose one of the bundles, because there is no sufficient reason for any choice.2In what follows, I will argue that choice is possible even when (...) there is no option which is better than the others (section II), and that it is perfectly reasonable to choose an option even when there is no sufficient reason for it (section III). I will then (section IV) point to another puzzling feature of the .. (shrink)
According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning involves a constant conjunction. But, as Price points out, Hume misrepresents ordinary induction: we experience very few constant conjunctions. In this paper, I examine several ways of defending Hume’s account of our practice against Price’s objection, and conclude that the theory cannot be upheld.
I consider a seemingly attractive strategy for grappling with the mind-body problem. It is often thought that materialists are committed to spatially locating mental events, whereas dualists are barred from so doing. The thought naturally arises, then, that reasons for or against the spatiality of the mental may be wielded to adjudicate between the different positions in the mind-body dispute. Showing that mental events are spatially located, it may be thought, is ipso facto showing the truth of materialism. Conversely, it (...) seems, if we can show that mental events are not spatially located, we will have refuted materialism. The strategy looks promising because it reduces a very abstruse problem to a much more tractable one. Unfortunately, I will argue, it can’t be implemented. (shrink)
Hume is sometimes thought to provide a ‘naturalistic’ response to the sceptic. I consider two ways in which this response may be construed. According to the first, the fact that we are psychologically determined to hold a belief provides it with justification. According to the second, ‘natural’ beliefs provide limits within which reason can legitimately be employed, limits which the sceptic transgresses when he attempts to defend his position. Both versions of the naturalistic response to scepticism, I will argue, aren't (...) plausible. And they aren't, at least not predominantly, Hume's. (shrink)
ABSTRACT In this paper, I defend a new solution to the problem of peer disagreement, the question as to how you should respond when you learn that your ‘epistemic peer’ disagrees with you about some issue. I consider four test cases that together impugn every extant full-blown theory about peer disagreement. I present my own solution, show that it delivers the intuitive verdict in the test cases and address some objections.
ABSTRACT According to the received view, Hume is a much more rigorous and consistent concept-empiricist than Locke. Hume is supposed to have taken as a starting point Locke's meaning-empiricism, and worked out its full radical implications. Locke, by way of contrast, cowered from drawing his theory's strange consequences. The received view about Locke's and Hume's concept-empiricism is mistaken, I shall argue. Hume may be more uncompromising, but he is not more rigorous than Locke. It is not because of timidity that (...) Locke does not draw Hume's conclusions from his empiricism. It is, rather, because of his much sounder method. (shrink)
The Cable Guy will definitely come between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and I can bet on one of two possibilities: that he will arrive between 8 and 12, or between 12 and 4. Since I have no more information, it seems (eminently) plausible to suppose the two bets are equally attractive. Yet Hajek has presented a tantalising argument that purports to show that the later interval is, initial appearances to the contrary, more choice-worthy. In this paper, I rebut the (...) argument. (shrink)
Two kinds of considerations are thought to be relevant to the correct response to the discovery of a peer who disagrees with you about some question. The first is general principles pertaining to disagreement. According to the second kind of consideration, a theory about the correct response to peer disagreement must conform to our intuitions about test cases. In this paper, I argue against the assumption that imperfect conformity to our intuitions about test cases must count against a theory about (...) peer disagreement, offer a principled way of shrugging off a theory’s failure to deliver the intuitive verdict, and consider the main extant theories from the new methodological perspective. (shrink)
Leslie’s doomsday argument purports to show that the likelihood of the human race perishing soon is greater than we think. The probability we attach to it, based on our estimate of the chance of various calamities which might bring extinction about, should be adjusted as follows. If the human race were to survive for a long time, we, livingnow, would be atypical. So our living now increases the probability that the human race will end shortly. In this paper, I criticize (...) some attempts to rebut the argument, and present my own. To facilitate the analysis, I consider a structurally similar problem, the “ShootingRoom.”. (shrink)
The reason Descartes cites for invoking the demon argument in addition to the dream argument is that the demon argument is intended to broaden the scope of Descartes’ scepticism, to subsume additional beliefs under it. I present an additional, unfamiliar reason. There is, I argue, an important difference between the two sceptical arguments. It pertains not to their scope, but to their “depth”, to the kind of scepticism they are capable of inducing.
The interpretation of the belief in external objects (“bodies”) Hume ascribes to us isn’t often discussed, and this is surprising, because the parallel question, pertaining to Hume’s construal of the belief about necessity, is hotly debated. As in the case of causation, the content Hume ascribes to the belief in “bodies” is susceptible to more than one reading. Indeed, there is here a plethora of interpretations, engendered by the fact that Hume distinguishes between the belief of the ordinary (vulgar) person (...) (including philosophers outside the study) and the “philosophical” belief, and each can be construed in more than one way. I defend the Idealist reading for both the vulgar and the philosophers. (shrink)
RÉSUMÉ: Si on la définit comme une action contraire au bon jugement de l'agent, l'action acrasique se trouve exclue par le principe selon lequel une personne a forcément l'intention de faire ce qu'elle juge devoir faire. Une fois ce principe rejeté, comme je le propose ici, le problème traditionnel de l'acrasie, qui est celui de sa possibilité même, s'évanouit. Je soutiens, cependant, qu'un problème plus limité semble se poser si nous admettons que les actions acrasiques doivent s'expliquer par des raisons, (...) et je requiers que les explications en de tels cas soient de type naturaliste. Je montre que la difficulté se trouve résolue par une compréhension adéquate de la nature des explications naturalistes. (shrink)
In the “diminution argument,” which Hume adduces in the Treatise section “Scepticism with Regard to Reason,” he infers from our universal fallibility that “all the rules of logic require a continual diminution, and at last a total extinction of belief and evidence.” My aim in this paper is, first, to show that on all extant interpretations of the argument, it turns out to be very weak, and, second, that there is in the vicinity a significant sceptical argument in support of (...) the conclusion that all our beliefs are totally unjustified, an argument that cannot be easily dismissed. (shrink)
I begin by making some distinctions between kinds of response to a skeptical claim, the purpose of which is to explain what I mean by a "dissolution" of the problem of induction, and to focus on one of the ways it can be implemented. I then argue that previous attempts to dissolve the problem in this way fail, present mine, and defend it. Finally, I show that the dissolution of the problem doesn't improve our normative situation and may even worsen (...) it. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider some ways in which the Copy Principle and Hume’s nominalism impinge on one another, concluding that the marriage is not a happy one. I argue for the following claims. First, Hume’s argument against indeterminate ideas isn’t cogent even if the Copy Principle is accepted. But this does not vindicate Locke: the imagistic conception of ideas, presupposed by the Copy Principle, will force Locke to accept something like Hume’s view of the way general terms function, the (...) availability of abstract ideas notwithstanding. Second, Hume’s discussion of nominalism provides support for the “old Hume” interpretation, which takes the Copy Principle to be a criterion of meaningfulness, as against the “new Hume” reading, according to which it constrains what we can know. Finally, nominalism forces Hume to adopt a more complicated theory of ideas. (shrink)
There are arguments which purport to rebut psychological determinism by appealing to its alleged incompatibility with rationality. I argue that they all fail. Against Davidson, I argue that rationality does not preclude the existence of psychological laws. Against Popper, I argue that rationality is compatible with the possibility of predicting human actions. Against Schlesinger, I claim that Newcomb's problem cannot be invoked to show that human actions are unpredictable. Having vindicated the possibility of a rationally-based theory of action, I consider (...) the form it might take. (shrink)
An impossibility result pertaining to the aggregation of individual judgements is thought by many to have significant implications for political theory, social epistemology and metaphysics. When members of a group hold a rational set of judgments on some interconnected questions, the theorem shows, it isn't always (logically) possible for them to aggregate their judgements into a collective one in conformity with seemingly very plausible constraints. I reject one of the constraints which engender the dilemma. The analogy with the lottery paradox, (...) I argue, shows that rational belief needn't be consistent. So the alleged implications of the dilemma are dispelled. (shrink)
I aim to stand the received view about verificationism on its head. It is commonly thought that verificationism is a powerful philosophical tool, which we could deploy very effectively if only it weren’t so hopelessly implausible. On the contrary, I argue. Verificationism - if properly construed - may well be true. But its philosophical applications are chimerical.
Descartes’ circle has been extensively discussed, and I do not wish to add another paper to that literature. Rather, I use the circle to facilitate our understanding of two types of scepticism and the proper attitude to them. Descartes’ text is especially apt for this purpose, because a case can be made for attributing to him both types. Although I will touch on the interpretative question, that is not my main aim. My contention is that one brand - whether or (...) not it is the one that Descartes favoured - should be taken very seriously, and Descartes’ failure to respond to it non circularly cannot be met with equanimity. (shrink)
In the section of the Treatise titled “Of the immateriality of the soul”, Hume adduces an argument to show that nothing can be “locally conjoined” with all of a person’s perceptions. The argument is seldom discussed, and deserves attention, mainly because it can be transformed into an argument against the very existence of a soul. In this paper, I present and closely examine both arguments, Hume’s argument and the one against the existence of the soul. Both, I conclude, are fallacious.
Hume?s familiar sceptical argument against induction brands as irrational our practice of generalising from observed regularities because of its reliance on the assumption that nature is uniform, an assumption which is unjustifiable. The argument which I wish to consider focuses instead on the observed regularities that are required if we are legitimately to extrapolate from experience. According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning involves a constant conjunction. But in fact we do not encounter such invariable uniformities: our experience (...) is, almost invariably, irregular. So setting aside Hume?s sceptical qualms about the very attempt to form expectations about the hitherto unobserved, how can we justify our ignoring such irregularities? My conclusion is that, even if the principle of uniformity can be justified, our practice is irrational by Hume?s lights. This is a new Humean critique of our ?causal reasoning,? for, although Hume does not present it, the ingredients are all his. (shrink)
After defending the pluralistic approach to the interpretation of probability statements, I argue that the correctness of objective probability statements is not to be explained in terms of objective probabilities attached to propositions. Such an explanation will enable us to uphold an intuitively appealing connection between probability and action only in indeterministic contexts, whereas the objectivity of probability statements doesn’t depend on the truth of indeterminism. I show how objective probability statements can be interpreted without ascribing objective probabilities to propositions. (...) Finally, I draw a cautionary conclusion about the prospects for providing a probabilistic analysis of causation. (shrink)
The nature of consciousness has long been a central concern for philosophers of the mind. My purpose in this paper is to argue that it is the existence of some unconscious mental states which poses problems for the action theory of belief. Showing their existence to be compatible with theory is not straightforward, and requires an account of unconscious belief and desire which is at odds with that favoured by many action-theorists.
Fallibilism is an attractive epistemological position, avoiding the Scylla of rationalism, and the Charybdis of scepticism. Acknowledging, on the one hand, human imperfection, yet claiming that science and rational inquiry are possible. Fallibilism is a thesis, but equally importantly – an epistemological recommendation. that we should never be absolutely sure of anything. My aim in this paper is to drive a wedge between the thesis and the recommendation. The (eminently plausible) doctrine, I shall argue, cannot be used to ground the (...) epistemological prescription for caution. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: According to the received view, Hume is a much more rigorous and consistent concept-empiricist than Locke. Hume is supposed to have taken as a starting point Locke’s meaning-empiricism, and worked out its full radical implicalions. Locke, by way of contrast, cowered from drawing his theory’s strange consequences. The received view about Locke’s and Hume’s concept-empiricism is mistaken, I shall argue. Hume may be more uncompromising, but he is not more rigorous than Locke. It is not because of timidity that (...) Locke does not draw Hume’s conclusions from his empiricism. It is, rather, because of his much sounder method.RÉSUMÉ: Selon l’opinion génerale, Hume est un empiriciste conceptuel beaucoup plus rigoureux et consistent que Locke. On croit que Hume a pris l’empiricisme des significations de Locke comme son point de depart et puis élabore toutes ses implifications radicales -- et que Locke, au contraire, se retire et évite de tirer les etranges conséquences de sa théorie. Je veux soutenir que l’opinion acceptée sur l’empiricisme conceptuel de Locke et Hume est en erreur. Hume est peut-être plus décidé mais il n’est pas plus rigoureux que Locke. Si Locke ne tire pas les conclusions d’Hume de son empiricisme ce n’est pas a cause de sa timidite. Plutôt, il le fait grace a sa methode beaucoup mieux fondée. (shrink)
Hume’s Copy Principle, which accords precedence to impressions over ideas, is restricted to simple perceptions. Yet in all the conceptual analyses Hume conducts by attempting to fit an impression to a (putative) idea, he never checks for simplicity. And this seems to vitiate the analyses: we cannot conclude from the lack of a preceding impression that a putative idea is bogus, unless it is simple. In this paper I criticise several attempts to account for Hume’s seemingly cavalier attitude, and offer (...) one of my own. (shrink)
It seems obvious that our beliefs are logically imperfect in two ways: they are neither deductively closed nor logically consistent. But this common-sense truism has been judged erroneous by some philosophers in the light of various arguments. In defence of common sense I consider and rebut interpretative arguments for logical perfection and show that the assumption espoused by common sense is theoretically superior, and capable - unlike its rival - of accounting for the informativeness of mathematics. Finally, I suggest that (...) common sense opens the way to genuine disputes about the correct logic. (shrink)
In the section of the Treatise titled ‘Of the immateriality of the soul’, Hume adduces an argument to show that nothing can be ‘locally conjoined’ with all of a person’s perceptions. The argument is seldom discussed, and deserves attention, mainly because it can be transformed into an argument against the very existence of a soul. In this paper, I present and closely examine both arguments, Hume’s argument and the one against the existence of the soul. Both, I conclude, are fallacious. (...) In dem Abschnitt des Treatise mit dem Titel ‚Of the immateriality of the soul‘ bringt Hume ein Argument vor, das zeigen soll, dass nichts mit allen Perzeptionen einer Person ‚lokal verknüpft‘ sein kann. Das Argument wird selten diskutiert, verdient aber Aufmerksamkeit, hauptsächlich deshalb, weil es in ein Argument gegen die Existenz der Seele umgewandelt werden kann. In diesem Aufsatz stelle ich beide Argumente – Humes Argument und das gegen die Existenz der Seele – dar und untersuche sie im Detail. Ich gelange zu der Feststellung, dass beide Argumente fehlerhaft sind. (shrink)
Hume’s three principles of association, we are led to believe from the way Hume introduces them, are supposed to account for the formation of complex ideas out of simple ones. But the account he gives, I show, is pretty poor. But Hume, in fact, has an additional issue in mind: accounting for thoughts we have with ideas we already possess, e.g.: the way one idea brings to one’s conscious mind an idea previously formed and now lying dormant, so to speak. (...) The answer Hume gives to this question, I argue, is quite passable. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the possibility of accounting for the rationality of belief-formation by utilising decision-theoretic considerations. I consider the utilities to be used by such an approach, propose to employ verisimilitude as a measure of cognitive utility, and suggest a natural way of generalising any measure of verisimilitude defined on propositions to partial belief-systems, a generalisation which may enable us to incorporate Popper's insightful notion of verisimilitude within a Bayesian framework. I examine a dilemma generated by the decision-theoretic (...) procedure and consider an adequacy condition (immodesty) designed to ameliorate one of its horns. Finally, I argue in a sceptical vein that no adequate verisimilitude measure can be used decision-theoretically. (shrink)