Three distinct but related questions can be asked about the meaningfulness of one's life. The first is 'What is the meaning of life?', which can be called 'the cosmic question about meaningfulness'; the second is 'What is a meaningful life?', which can be called 'the general question about meaningfulness'; and the third is 'What is the meaning of my life?', which can be called 'the personal question about meaningfulness'. I argue that in order to deal with all three questions we (...) should start with the personal question. There is a way of understanding the personal question which allows us to answer it independently of any consideration of the cosmic question, but which nonetheless helps us see why the cosmic question should be dismissed as a bad question. Besides, a recommendable answer to the general question can be derived from my understanding of how the personal question should be answered. Two notions are essential to my account, namely, the notion of identities and the notion of a biographical life. And the account can be epitomized in this enticing way: a person's life is meaningful if it contains material for an autobiography that she thinks is worth writing and others think is worth reading. (shrink)
Abstract: Williamson argues that when one feels cold, one may not be in a position to know that one feels cold. He thinks this argument can be generalized to show that no mental states are such that when we are in them we are in a position to know that we are in them. I argue that his argument is a sorites argument in disguise because it relies on the implicit premise that warming up is gradual. Williamson claims that his (...) argument is not a sorites argument; I explain why he has not given us any reason to accept the claim. (shrink)
Although explanation is a central topic in the philosophy of science, there is an important issue concerning explanation that has not been discussed much, namely, why some phenomena need an explanation while some do not. In this paper we first explain why this is an important issue, and then discuss two accounts of the need for explanation that can be gathered from the literature. We argue that both accounts are inadequate. The main purpose of the paper is, however, to offer (...) a normative account of the need for explanation. On this account, a demand for explanation is possible only against the background of a certain understanding of the world. It is the map we are using that provides us with the concepts and beliefs in terms of which we can ask for an explanation. And a phenomenon needs explanation only when it does not fit the map—the phenomenon’s not fitting the map is a good reason for us to look for an explanation of it. This account not only captures our pre-theoretical understanding of the need for explanation, but also is in accordance with our practice of demanding an explanation. (shrink)
McTaggart’s argument for the unreality of time was first published in the 1908 article “The Unreality of Time,” and a revised version appeared in the 1927 book The Nature of Existence. I argue that these two versions are significantly different. The second construction of the argument is important because it neutralizes a compelling objection. McTaggart’s initial argument tries to show that the conception of an A-series is self-contradictory. A natural objection is that the apparent contradiction can be resolved by making (...) clear that an event has incompatible A-properties only successively. McTaggart anticipates and responds to the objection. My main contention is this: McTaggart’s initial response to the objection fails, but in the second construction of his argument he succeeds in showing that the contradiction cannot be resolved in the way suggested by the objection. I also explain why the second construction has been overlooked for so long. (shrink)
Some philosophers understand epistemological skepticism as merely presenting a paradox to be solved, a paradox given rise to by some apparently forceful arguments. I argue that such a view needs to be justified, and that the best way to do so is to show that we cannot help seeing skepticism as obviously false. The obviousness (to us) of the falsity of skepticism is, I suggest, explained by the fact that we cannot live without knowledge-beliefs (a knowledge-belief about the world is (...) a belief that a person or a group of people know that p, where p is an empirical proposition about the world). I then go on to argue for the indispensability of knowledge-beliefs. The first line of argument appeals to the practical aspects of our employment of the concept of knowledge, and the second line of argument draws on some Davidsonian ideas concerning understanding and massive agreement. (shrink)
One version of the argument for design relies on the assumption that the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for the existence of life requires an explanation. I argue that the assumption is false. Philosophers who argue for the assumption usually appeal to analogies, such as the one in which a person was to draw a particular straw among a very large number of straws in order not to be killed. Philosophers on the other side appeal to analogies like the case (...) of winning a lottery. I analyze the two analogies and explain why the lottery analogy is the right one to use. In the light of such an analysis, we can see that although the cosmic feature of being life-permitting is rare, it does not allow life-permitting possible universes to stand out because there are other rare cosmic features that other possible universes have. (shrink)
Insulation is a noticeable phenomenon in the case of most non-Pyrrhonian sceptics about human knowledge. A sceptic is experiencing insulation when his scepticism does not have any effect on his common sense beliefs, and his common sense beliefs do not have any effect on his scepticism. I try to show why this is a puzzling phenomenon, and how it can be explained. It is puzzling because insulation seems to require blindness to one's own epistemic irresponsibility and irrationality, while the sceptic (...) presumably cares a lot about being epistemically responsible and rational. Insulation can be explained by means of a notion of philosophical detachment: to be detached from one's own beliefs about the world is to take an other-personal position towards those beliefs, treating them as if they are another person's beliefs. It is because of this that the sceptic's scepticism is insulated from his scepticism because he cannot be detached from his beliefs about the world when he is engaging in everyday, practical activities. I conclude the paper with a brief discussion of the generality of the problem of insulation. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson argues against the tactic of criticizing confidence in a theory by identifying a logical consequence of the theory whose probability is not raised by the evidence. He dubs it “the consequence fallacy”. In this paper, we will show that Williamson’s formulation of the tactic in question is ambiguous. On one reading of Williamson’s formulation, the tactic is indeed a fallacy, but it is not a commonly used tactic; on another reading, it is a commonly used tactic (or at (...) least more often used than the former tactic), but it is not a fallacy. (shrink)
I first argue that the skeptic needs an internalist conception of justification for her argument for skepticism. I then argue that the skeptic also needs to show that we do not have perceptual access to the world if her skepticism is to be a real threat to human knowledge of the world. This, I conclude, puts the skeptic in a dilemma, for internalist conceptions of justification presuppose that we have perceptual access to the world.
’ The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism has been widely read and discussed by philosophers who are interested in skepticism about our knowledge of the external world.1 Some of his later writings on the topic (such as Stroud (1989) and (1994)) are considered essential reading too. This does not, however, mean that what Stroud says about skepticism2 has as much impact on the discussion of skepticism as it deserves. It seems that his insights into the nature of skepticism have been (...) largely misunderstood or missed. Although Stroud has never argued for skepticism or claimed that skepticism is true, he has been ” ( 2001 37) The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism is, as the title says so clearly, that skepticism is philosophically significant and should be considered seriously, but skepticism is still felt by most philosophers. (shrink)
Barry Stroud's work has had a profound impact on a very wide array of philosophical topics, but there has heretofore been no book-length treatment of his work. The current collection aims to redress this gap, with 13 essays on Stroud's work, all but one new to this volume.
P. F. Strawson suggests an anti-sceptical strategy which consists in offering good reason for ignoring scepticism rather than trying to refute it, and the reason he offers is that beliefs about the external world are indispensable to us. I give an exposition of Strawson's arguments for the indispensability thesis and explain why they are not strong enough. I then propose an argument based on some of Davidson's ideas in his theory of radical interpretation, which I think can establish the indispensability (...) thesis. Finally, I spell out the force of Strawson's anti-sceptical strategy by arguing that we have good reason for ignoring scepticism not only because beliefs about the world are indispensable, but also because it is irrational to have both beliefs about the world and sceptical doubts. (shrink)
Some epistemologists resist skepticism about the external world even though they admit that it is supported by apparently convincing arguments that they do not see how to refute. I argue that such a seemingly irrational attitude towards skepticism is justified. The justification I offer consists in showing that anyone who accepts skepticism is in a patently irrational position, whereas we do not have to refute skepticism to have some reason to believe that we have knowledge of the world. Although this (...) does not show that skepticism is false, it does show that we can reasonably ignore skepticism even when we are engaging in epistemological investigations. My arguments require an examination of what it is to accept skepticism, and I argue against the idea that the acceptance of skepticism is rationally insulated from our everyday convictions. Having argued that there is a special irrationality in being a skeptic, I explain why most philosophers do not see it that way. In explaining that, I offer an account of what it is to be in a skeptical frame of mind and to be in a sense detached from one's own beliefs. (shrink)
I argue that Moore's arguments have anti-skeptical force even though they beg the question against skepticism because they target the skeptic rather than skepticism directly. Moore offers two arguments which are usually conflated by his interpreters, namely, his proof of an external world and a reductio argument. I explain why the anti-skeptical force of the latter has to be derived from that of the former. I consider an objection to Moore that is based on distinguishing between the everyday and the (...) philosophical contexts. I argue that the objection fails even on the most plausible understanding of the distinction. (shrink)
I argue that it is a main theme of Davidson's theory of interpretation that interpretive charity implies the impossibility of massive disagreement. There is clear textual support for that. I then argue that from the first-person point of view of a full-blooded interpreter, the theme must be accepted; and that is precisely why Davidson accepts it. If massive disagreement between speaker and interpreter seems to us easy to imagine, it is only because the imagination involved is third-personal and not full-blooded.