Browse by Volume
Thick Concepts and Variability
Some philosophers hold that so-called "thick" terms and concepts in ethics (such as 'cruel,' 'selfish,' 'courageous,' and 'generous') are contextually variable with respect to the valence (positive or negative) of the evaluations that they may be used to convey. Some of these philosophers use this variability claim to argue that thick terms and concepts are not inherently evaluative in meaning; rather their use conveys evaluations as a broadly pragmatic matter. I argue that one sort of putative examples of contextual variability in evaluative valence that are found in the literature fail to support the variability claim and that another sort of putative examples are open to a wide range of explanations that have different implications for the relationship between thick terms and concepts and evaluation. I conclude that considerations of contextual variability fail to settle whether thick terms and concepts are inherently evaluative in meaning. In closing I suggest a more promising line of research.
|Pekka Väyrynen||PDF (369kb)|
Purity of Methods
Throughout history, mathematicians have expressed preference for solutions to problems that avoid introducing concepts that are in one sense or another “foreign” or “alien” to the problem under investigation. This preference for “purity” (which German writers commonly referred to as “methoden Reinheit”) has taken various forms. It has also been persistent. This notwithstanding, it has not been analyzed at even a basic philosophical level. In this paper we give a basic analysis of one conception of purity—what we call topical purity—and discuss its epistemological significance.
|Michael Detlefsen; Andrew Arana||PDF (338kb)|
Iterated Modalities, Meaning and A Priori Knowledge
Recent work on the philosophy of modality has tended to pass over questions about iterated modalities in favour of constructing ambitious metaphysical theories of possibility and necessity, despite the central importance of the iterated modalities to modal logic. Yet there are numerous unresolved but fundamental issues involving iterated modalities: Chandler and Salmon have provided forceful arguments against the widespread assumption that all necessary truths are necessarily necessary, for example. The current paper examines a range of ways in which one might seek to identify limited regions within which some of the most well-known principles featuring iterated modalities may safely be assumed.
|Dominic Gregory||PDF (350kb)|
Giving Practical Reasons
I am writing a mediocre paper on a topic you are not particularly interested in. You don't have, it seems safe to assume, a (normative) reason to read my draft. I then ask whether you would be willing to have a look and tell me what you think. Suddenly you do have a (normative) reason to read my draft. By my asking, I managed to give you the reason to read the draft. What does such reason-giving consist in? And how is it that we can do it? In this paper, I characterize what I call robust reason giving, the kind present in requests. I distinguish it from epistemic and merely triggering reason-giving, I discuss in detail the phenomenology of robust reason-giving, and I offer an analysis of robust reason-giving in terms of the complex intentions of the reason-giver and of the normative background.
|David Enoch||PDF (467kb)|
The Psychological Basis of the Harman-Vogel Paradox
Harman’s lottery paradox, generalized by Vogel to a number of other cases, involves a curious pattern of intuitive knowledge ascriptions: certain propositions seem easier to know than various higher-probability propositions that are recognized to follow from them. For example, it seems easier to judge that someone knows his car is now on Avenue A, where he parked it an hour ago, than to judge that he knows that it is not the case that his car has been stolen and driven away in the last hour. Contextualists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that ‘knows’ does not always denote the same relationship; subject-sensitive invariantists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that non-traditional factors such as practical interests figure in knowledge; still others have argued that the Harman Vogel pattern gives us a reason to abandon the principle that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This paper argues that there is a psychological explanation of the strange pattern of intuitions, grounded in the manner in which we shift between an automatic or heuristic mode of judgment and a controlled or systematic mode. Understanding the psychology behind the pattern of intuitions enables us to see that the pattern gives us no reason to abandon traditional intellectualist invariantism. The psychological account of the paradox also yields new resources for clarifying and defending the single premise closure principle for knowledge ascriptions.
|Jennifer Nagel||PDF (578kb)|
Disagreement, Question-Begging, and Epistemic Self-Criticism
Responding rationally to the information that others disagree with one’s beliefs requires assessing the epistemic credentials of the opposing beliefs. Conciliatory accounts of disagreement flow in part from holding that these assessments must be independent from one’s own initial reasoning on the disputed matter. I argue that this claim, properly understood, does not have the untoward consequences some have worried about. Moreover, some of the difficulties it does engender must be faced by many less conciliatory accounts of disagreement (and, more generally, by accounts of rationally responding to evidence of one’s epistemic malfunction).
|David Christensen||PDF (477kb)|
The Role of Authority
The most influential account of authority – Joseph Raz's service conception – is an account of the role of authority, in that it is an account of its point or function. However, authority does not have a characteristic role to play, and even if it did, the ability to play a role is not, by itself, sufficient to establish authority. The aim of this essay is to shift our focus from roles that authority plays to roles that people play – which we can also call roles of authority – such as chef, teacher, and parent. To justify authority, we need to justify the practices in which roles of authority play a part.
|Scott Hershovitz||PDF (447kb)|
Manifest Failure: The Gettier Problem Solved
This paper provides a principled and elegant solution to the Gettier problem. The key move is to draw a general metaphysical distinction and conscript it for epistemological purposes. Section 1 introduces the Gettier problem. Sections 2–5 discuss instructively wrong or incomplete previous proposals. Section 6 presents my solution and explains its virtues. Section 7 answers the most common objection.
|John Turri||PDF (362kb)|
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||PDF (453kb)|
Bishop Butler on Forgiveness and Resentment
On the traditional view, Butler maintains that forgiveness involves a kind of “conversion experience” in which we must forswear or let go of our resentment against wrongdoers. Against this reading, I argue that Butler never demands that we forswear resentment but only that we be resentful in the right kind of way. That is, he insists that we should be virtuously resentful, avoiding both too much resentment exhibited by the vices of malice and revenge and too little resentment where we merely condone the wrongdoer and leave ourselves open to future injury. I argue that this Butlerian approach offers us a more attractive account of forgiveness as a “virtue” than many recent discussions. In the final section, I address Butler’s challenging thesis that forgiveness is an unconditional moral duty. I argue against those who claim that forgiveness is supererogatory (Kolnai/Calhoun) or else merely morally conditional and even morally blameworthy in some cases (Murphy/Hampton/Novitz/Richards). By contrast, I defend a context-sensitive account of forgiveness which recognizes that it takes place on many different levels. I conclude by taking up the difficult issue of whether anybody can be ultimately “unforgivable”, offering some Butlerian and Strawsonian reflections that might help mitigate our judgments about such matters.
|Ernesto V. Garcia||PDF (437kb)|
Temporal Experiences and Their Parts
The paper develops an objection to the extensional model of time consciousness—the view that temporally extended events or processes, and their temporal properties, can be directly perceived as such. Importantly, following James, advocates of the extensional model typically insist that whole experiences of temporal relations between non-simultaneous events are distinct from mere successions of their temporal parts. This means, presumably, that there ought to be some feature(s) differentiating the former from the latter. I try to show why the extensional models offers no credible ground for positing such a difference.
|Philippe Chuard||PDF (815kb)|
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||PDF (553kb)|
Property Identities and Modal Arguments
Physicalists about the mind are committed to claims about property identities. Following Kripke's well-known discussion, modal arguments have emerged as major threats to such claims. This paper argues that modal arguments can be resisted by adopting a counterpart theoretic account of modal claims, and in particular modal claims involving properties. Thus physicalists have a powerful motive to adopt non-Kripkean accounts of the metaphysics of modality and the semantics of modal expressions.
|Derek Ball||PDF (205kb)|
A Flexible Contextualist Account of Epistemic Modals
On Angelika Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities whose domains are contextually restricted. Recently, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of its contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions. According to these revisionists, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s parameters. The strategy here is a broadly Gricean one; on this view, a context must be capable of publicly manifesting a speaker’s parameter-value determining intentions. I argue that all of the challenge cases can be explained in a contextualist-friendly way by appeal to the failure of this publicity constraint on contexts.
|J.L. Dowell||PDF (554kb)|
Kant on Animal Consciousness
Kant is often considered to have argued that perceptual awareness of objects in one's environment depends on the subject's possession of conceptual capacities. This conceptualist interpretation raises an immediate problem concerning the nature of perceptual awareness in non-rational, non-concept using animals. In this paper I argue that Kant’s claims concerning animal representation and consciousness do not foreclose the possibility of attributing to animals the capacity for objective perceptual consciousness, and that a non-conceptualist interpretation of Kant’s position concerning perceptual awareness can actively endorse this attribution. Kant can consistently allow that animals have a point of view on the objective world which possesses a distinctive phenomenal character while denying what seems most important to him – viz. that animals have the capacity to take cognitive attitudes towards, and thus self-ascribe, their own representational states.
|Colin McLear||PDF (161kb)|
The Possibility of Choice: Three Accounts of the Problem with Coercion
There is a strong moral presumption against the use of coercion, and those who are coerced seem to be less responsible for the actions they were coerced to perform. Both these considerations seem to reflect the effect of coercion on the victim’s choice. This paper examines three ways of understanding this effect. First, I argue against understanding victims as unable to engage in genuine action. Next, I consider the suggestion that victims are unable to consent to participate in the coercer’s plan. Although this suggestion is promising, I argue that the inability to consent reflects a more basic problem. Victims are unable to exercise what I call ‘normative authority’: they are unable to make discretionary changes in the permissions and obligations that they and others have. This final account yields a compelling understanding of why coercion is impermissible when it is and reveals a unique way in which impermissible coercion affects the responsibility of victims.
|Japa Pallikkathayil||PDF (475kb)|
‘Making up Your Mind’ and the Activity of Reason
A venerable philosophical tradition holds that we rational creatures are distinguished by our capacity for a special sort of mental agency or self-determination: we can “make up” our minds about whether to accept a given proposition. But what sort of activity is this? Many contemporary philosophers accept a Process Theory of this activity, according to which a rational subject exercises her capacity for doxastic self-determination only on certain discrete occasions, when she goes through a process of consciously deliberating about whether P and concludes by “making a judgment”, thereby bringing about a change in what she believes. I argue that this conception of our control over our beliefs implies an unacceptable picture of the agency we exercise in judging, and of the relation of such agency to the condition of belief itself. I suggest that the beliefs of a rational creature are themselves “acts of reason”, which reflect the capacity for doxastic self-determination in their very nature, not merely in certain facts about how they can originate.
|Matthew Boyle||PDF (503kb)|
Uniqueness, Evidence, and Rationality
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.
|Nathan Ballantyne; E.J. Coffman||PDF (365kb)|