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Abstraction and the Origin of General Ideas
Philosophers have often claimed that general ideas or representations have their origin in abstraction, but it remains unclear exactly what abstraction as a psychological process consists in. We argue that the Lockean aspiration of using abstraction to explain the origins of all general representations cannot work and that at least some general representations have to be innate. We then offer an explicit framework for understanding abstraction, one that treats abstraction as a computational process that operates over an innate quality space of fine-grained general representations. We argue that this framework has important philosophical implications for the nativism-empiricism dispute, for questions about the acquisition of unstructured representations, and for questions about the relation between human and animal minds.
|Stephen Laurence; Eric Margolis||vol. 12||December 2012|
Accuracy and the credence-belief connection
Probabilism says an agent is rational only if her credences are probabilistic. This paper is concerned with the so-called Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism. This argument begins with the claim that the sole fundamental source of epistemic value for a credence is its accuracy. It then shows that, however we measure accuracy, any non-probabilistic credences are accuracy-dominated: that is, there are alternative credences that are guaranteed to be more accurate than them. It follows that non-probabilistic credences are irrational. In this paper, I identify and explore a lacuna in this argument. I grant that, if the only doxastic attitudes are credal attitudes, the argument succeeds. But many philosophers say that, alongside credences, there are other doxastic attitudes, such as full beliefs. What's more, those philosophers typically claim, these other doxastic attitudes are closely connected to credences, either as a matter of necessity or normatively. Now, since full beliefs are also doxastic attitudes, it seems that, like credences, the sole source of epistemic value for them is their accuracy. Thus, if we wish to measure the epistemic value of an agent's total doxastic state, we must include not only the accuracy of her credences, but also the accuracy of her full beliefs. However, if this is the case, there is a problem for the Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism. For all the argument says, there might be non-probabilistic credences such that there is no total doxastic state that accuracy-dominates the total doxastic state to which those credences belong.
|Richard Pettigrew||vol. 15||June 2015|
The Act of Choice
Choice is one of the central elements in the experience of free will, but it has not received a good account from either compatibilists or libertarians. This paper develops an account of choice based around three features: (i) choice is an action; (ii) choice is not determined by one's prior beliefs and desires; (iii) once the question of what to do has arisen, choice is typically both necessary and sufficient for moving to action. These features might appear to support a libertarian account, but they do not. Instead it is argued that all three features can be accommodated within a compatibilist account, where choice is needed because of agents' inabilities to arrive at judgements about what is best. Choice differs though from random picking: in choosing, agents frequently (though not always) deploy abilities that enable them to make good choices. In such cases, judgements about what is best will frequently follow the choice. Finally, choice is distinguished from agency and, on the basis of the distinction, the claim that choice is an action is made good.
|Richard Holton||vol. 6||September 2006|
The Aesthetics of Actor-Character Race Matching in Film Fictions
Marguerite Clark as Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1918). Charlton Heston as Ramon Miguel Vargas in Touch of Evil (1958). Mizuo Peck as Sacagawea in Night at the Museum (2006). From the early days of cinema to its classic-era through to the contemporary Hollywood age, the history of cinema is replete with films in which the racial (or ethnic) background of a principal character does not match the background of the actor or actress portraying that character. I call this actor-character race-mismatching. In this paper, I mainly explore whether a coherent and plausible account can be given of race-matching in terms of purely aesthetic considerations, i.e., an account that absent moral considerations can nevertheless coherently and productively answer the following questions: can race-mismatching itself ever be an aesthetic defect of a film, and if so, under what conditions can race-mismatching be such an aesthetic defect. I claim that once we have in place a precise account of the nature of race-matching, it becomes clear that films for which race-mismatching appears to constitute an aesthetic defect are actually films with which properly engaging requires audiences to satisfy inconsistent epistemic conditions. In such cases, I claim, race mismatching constitutes an aesthetic defect for the film-fiction because—in virtue of the inconsistency underwritten by the race-mismatching—that film-fiction undermines the very uptake it prescribes. I then argue that if what’s defective about race-mismatching aesthetically is predicated on something being defective about race-mismatching epistemically, then if there is nothing in principle defective about race-mismatching epistemically, then so too for mismatching aesthetically (and so too for mismatching morally). From this I conclude that reasons stemming only from race-matching/mismatching itself lack the normative force sufficient to warrant the claim that film-fictions ought not race-mismatch.
|Christy Mag Uidhir||vol. 12||January 2012|
Agency and Evil in Fichte’s Ethics
This paper examines Fichte's proof of evil in §16 of the System of Ethics. According to the majority of commentators, Fichte was mistaken to consider his proof Kantian in spirit (Piché 1999; Kosch 2006, 2011; Dews 2008; and Breazeale 2014). For rather than locate our propensity to evil in an act of free choice, Fichte locates it in a natural force of inertia. However, the distance between Kant and Fichte begins to close if we read his concept of inertia, not as a material force, but as a tendency to resist the work of agency and autonomy. There are, I argue, both textual and conceptual reasons in support of a figurative interpretation. In the course of presenting these reasons, I also uncover an important insight guiding Fichte's analysis of evil in the System of Ethics: namely, his claim that we can never fully step back from ourselves in reflection. In the concluding sections of the paper, I argue that Fichte's insight may solve a particular skeptical threat facing recent Kantian accounts of normativity.
|Owen Ware||vol. 15||March 2015|
Anticipated Emotions and Emotional Valence
This paper addresses two questions: first, when making decisions about what to do, does the mere fact that we will feel regretful or guilty or proud afterward give us reason to act? I argue that these emotions of self-assessment give us little or no reason to act. The second question concerns emotional valence — how desirable or undesirable our emotions are. What is it that determines the valence of an emotion like regret? I argue that the valence of emotions, and indeed of feelings like pain more broadly, is a function of the sensations they involve. As I suggest, understanding the point about emotional valence helps us answer the first question about anticipated emotions. The paper concludes with a discussion of death-bed regrets, and of whether teenagers should listen to their annoying parents.
|Dan Moller||vol. 11||August 2011|
Aquinas on judgment and the active power of reason
This paper examines Aquinas’ account of a certain kind of rational control: the control one exercises in using one’s reason to make a judgment. Though this control is not itself a kind of voluntary control, it is a precondition for voluntariness. Aquinas claims that one’s voluntary actions must spring from judgments that are subject to one’s rational control and that, because of this, only rational animals can act voluntarily. This rational kind of control depends on a certain distinctive feature of the rational faculty. For Aquinas, reason differs from other faculties in that it can be exercised in a peculiarly self-reflective way: in exercising reason one can be grasping the point of what one is doing in that very exercise of reason. The sense in which one controls one’s rational judgment is that one is, in judging, guided by the norm of judging truly. Aquinas holds that it is only possible to be so guided because the power by which one judges (namely, reason) is self-reflective in this special sense: part of what it is to judge is to grasp the point of what one is doing in that very act of judging. The paper argues that the roots of this view can be found in neoplatonic discussions of self-constitution and self-knowledge.
|Ursula Coope||vol. 13||October 2013|
Of Archery and Virtue: Ancient and Modern Conceptions of Value
I argue that comparisons of Stoic virtue to stochastic skills — now standard in the secondary literature on Stoicism — are based on a misreading of the sources and distort the Stoic position in two respects. In paradigmatic stochastic skills such as archery, medicine, or navigation the value of the skill’s external end justifies the existence and practice of the skill and constitutes an appropriate focus of rational motivation. Neither claim applies to virtue as the Stoics understand it. The stochastic model of virtue almost certainly originated with Carneades and should be distinguished clearly from the Stoic account. Doing so clarifies the Stoic position and shows that it anticipates what Thomas Hurka calls a modern view of value.
|Jacob Klein||vol. 14||June 2014|
Aristotle on Actions from Lack of Control
The paper defends three claims about Aristotle’s theory of uncontrolled (akratic) actions in NE 7.3. First, I argue that the first part of NE 7.3 (1146b30-47a24) contains the description of the overall state of mind of the agent while she acts without control. Aristotle’s solution to the problem of uncontrolled action lies in the analogy between the uncontrolled agent and people who are drunk, mad, or asleep. This analogy is interpreted as meaning that the uncontrolled agent, while acting without control, is still in possession of her knowledge (and so she can make use of what she knows) but she is unable to use it as knowledge due to the temporary disablement of her reason by appetite. Due to this disablement, the uncontrolled agent is temporarily unable to be motivated to act by her knowledge and acts merely on her appetite. Second, I argue that the second part of NE 7.3 (1147a25-b5) provides an analysis of the particular mental state from which the uncontrolled action issues. Its central passage (1147a31-5) is a description of the uncontrolled agent’s state of mind before the uncontrolled action and not, as it has been traditionally understood, a description of her state of mind during the uncontrolled action. Third, I argue that, on Aristotle’s view, the transition from the state before the uncontrolled action to the state in which the agent already acts without control does not involve any psychological state that would constitute the agent’s choice to abandon her decision and give in to her desires but proceeds on a purely physiological level.
|Jozef Müller||vol. 15||March 2015|
Aristotle on Self-Knowledge and Friendship
In Nicomachean Ethics 10.7, Aristotle says that the contemplative wise person living the happiest and most self-sufficient life will need other people less than a person living a life of practical virtue. This seems to be in tension with Aristotle’s emphasis elsewhere on the political nature of human beings. I analyze in detail Aristotle’s most elaborate defense of the need for friends in the happy life in Nicomachean Ethics 9.9 to see whether and how he resolves the need for friends with the self-sufficiency of the happy life. The virtue-friendship described in the chapter does turn out to be more compatible with the self-contained unity of a happy life than other sorts of friendship, because collaboration in virtuous activities integrates the friend into one’s activities. This is true even for contemplative friendship, where, as Aristotle suggests in the ornate final argument of 9.9, the friends collaboratively contemplate human nature and take pleasure in the goodness of human life. The unity achieved in this kind of friendship is an imitation of God’s self-contemplative and self contained unity. Nonetheless, I conclude, there is no evidence that Aristotle did not think that friendship was conditioned on human failings and so that friends would be less necessary for those leading the most excellent contemplative lives.
|Zena Hitz||vol. 11||September 2011|
Assurance and Warrant
Previous assurance-theoretic treatments of testimony have not adequately explained how testimonial warrant depends specifically on the speaker’s mode of address – making it natural to suspect that the interpersonal element is not epistemic but merely psychological or action-theoretic. I aim to fill that explanatory gap: to specify exactly how a testifier’s assurance can create genuine epistemic warrant. In doing so I explain (a) how the illocutionary norm governing the speech act proscribes not lies but a species of bullshit, in an extension of Harry Frankfurt’s sense, (b) how that norm makes testimony fully second-personal, in Stephen Darwall’s sense, or bipolar, in Michael Thompson’s sense, and (c) how that species of second-personality or bipolarity is more fundamental than the practical species that Darwall and Thompson discuss. One attraction of this new Assurance View of testimony is that it allows us to reconceptualize the natures of normativity and responsibility more generally, viewing the assurance as implicating us in normative relations of recognition, and therefore of justice, that are not yet moralized with reactive attitudes.
|Edward S. Hinchman||vol. 14||June 2014|