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The Dynamics of Non-Being
Maybe there is something rather than nothing because the nothingness force acted on itself, and when the nothing nothings itself it produces something. Robert Nozick suggested this as a candidate explanation of the fact that there is something rather than nothing. If he is right that it is a candidate explanation, we should pay attention: there are not many candidates out there. But his "explanation" looks, instead, like a paradigm case of philosophical nonsense. In this paper I describe a "metaphysical dynamics" that makes sense out of Nozick's apparent nonsense.
|Bradford Skow||PDF (1.3mb)|
Decisions, Diachronic Autonomy, and the Division of Deliberative Labor
It is often argued that future-directed decisions are effective at shaping our future conduct because they give rise, at the time of action, to a decisive reason to act as originally decided. In this paper, I argue that standard accounts of decision-based reasons are unsatisfactory. For they focus either on tie-breaking scenarios or cases of self-directed distal manipulation. I argue that future-directed decisions are better understood as tools for the non-manipulative, intrapersonal division of deliberative labor over time. A future-directed decision to ϕ gives rise to a defeasible exclusionary reason to ϕ. This reason is grounded on the default authority that is normally granted to one’s prior self as an “expert” deliberator. I argue that this kind of exclusionary reason is the only one that can account for the effectiveness of future-directed decisions at shaping our diachronic agency without violating our autonomy over time.
|Luca Ferrero||PDF (441kb)|
Practical Imagination and its Limits
It is common to talk about options, where an option is a course of action an agent can take. A course of action, in turn, is that which can be the object of intention. It has not often been noticed in the literature, though, that there are two ways to understand what makes something an option: first, an option just is some course of action physically open (or, to be maximally liberal, logically open) to an agent; second, an option just is some course of action that the agent either in fact deliberates about taking or is psychologically capable of deliberating about taking. At any given time, there are far more courses of action open to an agent than the agent can or does deliberate about taking. What determines which courses of action an agent deliberates about as an option, and why do so many other courses of action remain out of deliberative view? I argue that while values, ends, the demands of both means-end coherence and consistency of beliefs contribute to the determination of which courses of action an agent sees as options, they cannot be the whole story. I argue that another mechanism, which I call the practical imagination, is primarily responsible for which courses of action an agent sees as options. Drawing upon both recent work in developmental and social psychology and a strain of philosophical argument that has attempted to show how human beings have a practical understanding of themselves that is mediated by what we can call a narrative identity, I argue that the norms governing the construction of a narrative identity are among the most important, albeit not the only, norms governing the practical imagination and that, just as we should look to the norms of practical reason to explain and critically reflect on practical deliberation, we should look to the norms of practical imagination to explain and critically reflect on the process by which an agent comes to see some course of action as an option.
|Matthew Noah Smith||PDF (403kb)|
The Shapelessness Hypothesis
In this paper I discuss the shapelessnesss hypothesis, which is often referred to and relied on by certain sorts of ethical and evaluative cognitivist, and which they use primarily in arguing against a certain, influential form of noncognitivism. I aim to (i) set out exactly what the hypothesis is; (ii) show that its original and traditional use is left wanting; and (iii) show that there is some rehabilitation on offer that might have a chance of convincing neutrals.
|Simon Kirchin||PDF (468kb)|
Subjective Probabilities Should be Sharp
Many have claimed that unspecific evidence sometimes demands unsharp, indeterminate, imprecise, vague, or interval-valued probabilities. Against this, a variant of the diachronic Dutch Book argument shows that perfectly rational agents always have perfectly sharp probabilities.
|Adam Elga||PDF (397kb)|
Ceteris Paribus Laws: Generics and Natural Kinds
Ceteris Paribus (cp-)laws may be said to hold only “other things equal,” signaling that their truth is compatible with a range of exceptions. This paper provides a new semantic account for some of the sentences used to state cp-laws. Its core approach is to relate these laws to natural language on the one hand — by arguing that cp-laws are most naturally expressed with generics — and to natural kinds on the other — by arguing that the semantics of generics in the context of the special sciences are best spelled out by appeal to natural kinds. The paper then goes on to draw on these semantics in order to illuminate several problems raised by cp-laws, some familiar, some new.
|Bernhard Nickel||PDF (467kb)|
This paper presents an argument for the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the PSR, the principle according to which each thing that exists has an explanation. I begin with several widespread and extremely plausible arguments that I call explicability arguments in which a certain situation is rejected precisely because it would be arbitrary. Building on these plausible cases, I construct a series of explicability arguments that culminates in an explicability argument concerning existence itself. This argument amounts to the claim that the PSR is true. The plausibility of the initial cases in the series provides the basis of an argument for the PSR, an argument that can be rebutted only by drawing a line between the plausible early cases in the series and the apparently unacceptable later cases. I argue that no principled reason for drawing this line has been found and that one cannot draw an unprincipled or arbitrary line without begging the question. The paper concludes that, therefore, this defense of the PSR remains unrebutted and that we have a powerful, new reason to embrace the PSR.
|Michael Della Rocca||PDF (336kb)|
Kant's Metaphysics of the Self
I argue that Kant's Critique of Pure Reason offers a positive metaphysical account of the thinking self. Previous interpreters have overlooked this account, I believe, because they have held that any metaphysical view of the self would be incompatible with both Kant's insistence on the limitations of cognition and with his project in the Paralogisms. Closer examination, however, shows that neither of those aspects of the Critique precludes a metaphysical account of the self, and that other aspects (namely, the structure of Kant's overall project and the commitments of his claims in the Transcendental Deduction) require such an account. Drawing on a principle of 'effect-relative composition,' I argue that Kant's self is neither an activity, a form, nor a representation, but instead an individual constituted by the thing or things that bring about the unity of a course of experience.
|Colin Marshall||PDF (518kb)|
Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy
Moral philosophers of late have been examining the implications of experimental social psychology for ethics. The focus of attention has been on situationism—the thesis that we routinely underestimate the extent to which minor situational variables influence morally significant behavior. Situationism has been seen as a threat to prevailing lay and philosophical theories of character, personhood, and agency. In this paper, I outline the situationist literature and critique one of its upshots: the admonition to carefully select one’s situational contexts. Besides being limited in application, this strategy accentuates an untenable person/situation dichotomy. The deeper lesson of situationism lies in highlighting the interconnectedness of all social behavior—how we are inextricably involved in the actions of others, and how minor tweaks in our own behavior can lead to major payoffs in our moral lives. Situationism is better seen as an opportunity for moral progress than a threat to individual autonomy.
|Hagop Sarkissian||PDF (424kb)|
Higher-order Vagueness, Radical Unclarity, and Absolute Agnosticism
The paper presents a new theory of higher-order vagueness. This theory is an improvement on current theories of vagueness in that it (i) describes the kind of borderline cases relevant to the Sorites paradox, (ii) retains the ‘robustness’ of vague predicates, (iii) introduces a notion of higher-order vagueness that is compositional, but (iv) avoids the paradoxes of higher-order vagueness. The theory’s central building-blocks: Borderlinehood is defined as radical unclarity. Unclarity is defined by means of competent, rational, informed speakers (‘CRISPs’) whose competence, etc., is indexed to the scope of the unclarity operator. The unclarity is radical since it eliminates clear cases of unclarity and, that is, clear borderline cases. This radical unclarity leads to a (bivalence-compatible, non-intuitionist) absolute agnosticism about the semantic status of all borderline cases. The corresponding modal system would be a non-normal variation on S4M.
|Susanne Bobzien||PDF (826kb)|
Lying and Deception
According to the standard philosophical definition of lying, you lie if you say something that you believe to be false with the intent to deceive. Recently, several philosophers have argued that an intention to deceive is not a necessary condition on lying. But even if they are correct, it might still be suggested that the standard philosophical definition captures the type of lie that philosophers are primarily interested in (viz., lies that are intended to deceive). In this paper, I argue that the standard philosophical definition is not adequate as a definition of deceptive lying either. I then suggest two plausible alternative definitions of this concept.
|Don Fallis||PDF (489kb)|
Dispositional compatibilists argue that a proper understanding of our abilities vindicates both compatibilism and the principle of Alternate Possibilities (the claim that the ability to do otherwise is required for freedom and moral responsibility). In this paper, I argue that this is mistaken. Both analyses of dispositions and abilities should distinguish between local and global dispositions or abilities. Once this distinction is in place, we see that neither thesis is established by an analysis of abilities.
|Ann Whittle||PDF (467kb)|