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I Ought, Therefore I Can Obey
According to typical ought-implies-can principles, if you have an obligation to vaccinate me tomorrow, then you can vaccinate me tomorrow. Such principles are uninformative about conditional obligations: what if you only have an obligation to vaccinate me tomorrow if you synthesize a vaccine today? Then maybe you cannot vaccinate me tomorrow (e.g., because you cannot synthesize a vaccine); what you can do instead, I propose, is make it the case that the conditional obligation is not violated (i.e., that you do not both synthesize a vaccine today and fail to vaccinate me tomorrow). More generally, I propose the ought-implies-can-obey principle: an agent has an obligation only at times at which the agent can obey the obligation (i.e., can make it the case that the obligation is not violated). I also propose another principle, which captures the idea that ‘ought’ implies ‘can avoid’. I defend both principles mainly by arguing that they help explain why agents lose (i.e., stop having) obligations, including conditional ones.
|Peter B. M. Vranas||PDF (700kb)|
Exploring a New Argument for Synchronic Chance
A synchronic probability is the probability at a time that an outcome occurs at that very time. Common sense invokes synchronic probabilities with values between 0 and 1 (e.g., the probability right now that the top card of this deck is presently the ace of spades is 1/52), as do scientific theories such as classical statistical mechanics. Recently, philosophers have argued about whether any synchronic probabilities are best interpreted as objective chances. I add to this debate an underappreciated reason we might have to believe in synchronic chance; it might turn out that the best interpretation of our common sense and scientific theories is one in which the macrophysical properties of physical systems are partly determined by synchronic chance distributions over microphysical properties of those systems. Additionally, I argue against the common charge that synchronic probability fails to satisfy various platitudes about chance—most notably Lewis’s (1986) Principal Principle.
|Katrina Elliott||PDF (401kb)|
Gruesome Freedom: The Moral Limits of Non-Constraint
Many philosophers conceive of freedom as non-interference. Such conceptions unify two core commitments. First, they associate freedom with non-constraint. And second, they take seriously a distinction between the interpersonal and the non-personal. As a result, they focus our attention exclusively (or at least, disproportionately) on constraints attributable to other people’s choices – that is, on interference. I argue that these commitments manifest two distinct concerns: first, for a wide range of options; and second, for other people’s respect. However, construing freedom as non-interference unifies these concerns in a way that does justice to neither. In particular, it focuses our attention on phenomena that are at best tangential, and at worst hostile, to our interest in respect. If we wish to preserve the distinctive significance of the interpersonal, we would be better served by a conception of freedom that focuses immediately on what I call "the social conditions of respect."
|John Lawless||PDF (404kb)|
Kant on Strict Right
For Kant right and ethics are two formally distinct departments of a single morality of reason and freedom. Unlike ethics, right involves an authorization to coerce, and this coercion serves as a pathological incentive. I argue that for Kant the distinctive character of right flows from the fact that juridical obligation has a different relational structure than ethical obligation. I argue that this relational structure explains the connection of right to coercion, and also explains how a categorical imperative can be known a priori to issue in both a pathological and non-pathological incentive. Thus the justification of coercion and its special role as incentive are rooted in the relational character of juridical obligations, and so ultimately in categorical imperatives of reason. Since this pathological incentive has a moral basis in the structure of juridical obligations, and so ultimately in a representation of moral laws, I argue that Kant’s discussion of the juridical incentive of coercion is more continuous with his main discussion of moral incentives in the Critique of Practical Reason than it might at first appear. I illustrate the consequences of this reading by discussing the propensity to injustice, as Kant understands it, and the unique way in which the juridical incentive undermines it.
|Ben Laurence||PDF (449kb)|
A Minimal Characterization of Indeterminacy
The current literature on indeterminacy centers around two (related) projects. One concerns the logic of indeterminacy; the other concerns its nature or source. The aim of this paper is to introduce, motivate and go some way toward addressing a new, third project: that of providing what I call a minimal characterization (MC) of indeterminacy. An MC, to a first approximation, is a relatively pre-theoretical characterization of indeterminacy that is neutral between the various substantive theories of the nature and logic of indeterminacy. An MC thus captures a generic sense of indeterminacy that, at least in principle, is recognized by all parties to the debate over the phenomenon’s underlying nature and logic. I begin by introducing the concept of an MC and outlining some of the main theoretical virtues of providing an MC. I then establish some desiderata on a suitable MC, and use these desiderata to rule out various initially attractive proposals. In the final part of the paper I sketch the beginnings of my own MC and defend it against objections.
|David E. Taylor||PDF (550kb)|
Abortion, Ultrasound, and Moral Persuasion
We ought to treat others’ moral views with respect, even when we disagree. But what does that mean? This paper articulates a moral obligation to make ourselves open to sincere moral persuasion by others. Doing so allows us to participate in valuable relationships of reciprocal respect for agency. Yet this proposal can sound tritely agreeable. To explore its full implications, the paper applies the general obligation to one of the most challenging topics of moral disagreement: the morality of abortion. I consider and reject arguments that abortion decisions have special features exempting them from the obligation to be open to moral persuasion. Further, I argue that viewing fetal ultrasound images can accomplish morally persuasion. Accordingly, in at least some cases a woman seeking abortion has an obligation to view fetal ultrasound images as a means of being open to moral persuasion. However, this conclusion does not support recent laws compelling women seeking abortion to view ultrasound images; such laws are in fact incompatible with the respect for agency that underwrites the obligation to be open to persuasion.
|Regina Rini||PDF (430kb)|
Kant, Grounding, and Things in Themselves
One of the central issues dividing proponents of metaphysical interpretations of transcendental idealism concerns Kant’s views on the distinctness of things in themselves and appearances. Proponents of metaphysical one-object interpretations claim that things in themselves and appearances are related by some kind(s) of one-object grounding relation(s), through which the grounding and grounded relata are different aspects of the same object. Proponents of metaphysical two-object interpretations, by contrast, claim that things in themselves and appearances are related by some kind(s) of two-object grounding relation(s), through which the grounding and grounded relata involve distinct objects. By way of investigating Kant’s overarching account of grounding, I will argue that the most plausible metaphysical interpretation of transcendental idealism is one on which we can know that there are things in themselves grounding appearances, but not which specific kind(s) of one- or two-object grounding relation(s) obtain(s) between them. Our ignorance of things in themselves therefore extends to their distinctness from appearances — pace both metaphysical one-object interpretations and metaphysical two-object interpretations.
|Joe Stratmann||PDF (494kb)|
Epistemic Norms and Epistemic Accountability
Everyone agrees that not all norms that govern belief and assertion are epistemic. But not enough attention has been paid to distinguishing epistemic norms from others. Norms in general differ from merely evaluative standards in virtue of the fact that it is fitting to hold subjects accountable for violating them, provided they lack an excuse. Different kinds of norm are most readily distinguished by their distinctive mode of accountability. My thesis is roughly that a norm is epistemic if and only if its violation makes it fitting to reduce epistemic trust in the subject, even if there is no doubt about their sincerity, honesty, or other moral virtues. That is, violations of epistemic norms don’t merit resentment or other forms of blame, but rather (other things being equal) deduction of credibility points in internal scorekeeping and related attitudinal and behavioral changes. As Fricker’s work on epistemic injustice shows, such distrust is undesirable from the point of view of an epistemic agent. Consequently, when one manifests epistemic distrust towards a subject in suitable circumstances, it amounts a way of holding her accountable. Since this form of accountability involves no opprobrium, there is good reason to think it is not linked to voluntary control in the same way as moral accountability. Finally, I make use of this account of what makes epistemic norms distinctive to point out some faulty diagnostics in debates about norms of assertion. My aim is not to defend any substantive view, however, but only to offer tools for identifying the right kind of evidence for epistemic norms.
|Antti Kauppinen||PDF (356kb)|
On Classical Motion
The impetus theory of motion states that to be in motion is to have a non-zero velocity. The at-at theory of motion states that to be in motion is to be at different places at different times, which in classical physics is naturally understood as the reduction of velocities to position developments. I first defend the at-at theory against the criticism raised by Arntzenius that it renders determinism impossible. I then develop a novel impetus theory of motion that reduces positions to velocity developments. As this impetus theory of motion is by construction a mirror image of the at-at theory of motion, I claim that the two theories of motion are in fact epistemically on par --- despite the unfamiliar metaphysical picture of the world furnished by the impetus version.
|C. D. McCoy||PDF (238kb)|
Foundations and Philosophy
The Univalent Foundations of mathematics take the point of view that all of mathematics can be encoded in terms of spatial notions like "point" and "path". We will argue that this new point of view has important implications for philosophy, and especially for those parts of analytic philosophy that take set theory and first-order logic as their benchmark of rigor. To do so, we will explore the connection between foundations and philosophy, outline what is distinctive about the logic of the Univalent Foundations, and then describe new philosophical theses one can express in terms of this new logic.
|Dimitris Tsementzis; Hans Halvorson||PDF (204kb)|
Rational Credence Through Reasoning
Whereas Bayesians have proposed norms such as probabilism, which requires immediate and permanent certainty in all logical truths, I propose a framework on which credences, including credences in logical truths, are rational because they are based on reasoning that follows plausible rules for the adoption of credences. I argue that my proposed framework has many virtues. In particular, it resolves the problem of logical omniscience.
|Sinan Dogramaci||PDF (251kb)|
Epistemology from an Evaluativist Perspective
The paper presents a kind of normative anti-realist view of epistemology, in the same ballpark as recent versions of expressivism. But the primary focus of the paper is less on this meta-epistemological view itself than on how it should affect ground-level issues in epistemology: for instance, how it should deal with certain forms of skepticism, and how it allows for fundamental revision in epistemic practices (deductive, inductive and perceptual). It is hoped that these methodological consequences will seem attractive independent of the normative anti-realism. Indeed, some normative realists seem to embrace the view on skepticism, but it is argued that their position is unstable: the realism undermines the methodology. The general theme of the paper is that the issue of normative realism is deeply entwined with issues of methodology, in strong contrast to the common claim that meta-epistemological views in the tradition of expressivism have no first order impact.
|Hartry Field||PDF (519kb)|
Generics, Conservativity, and Kind-Subordination
Many approaches to the semantics of generic sentences posit an unpronounced quantifier gen. However, while overt quantifiers are conservative, gen does not seem to be. A quantifier Q is conservative iff instances of the following schemas are equivalent: Q As are F and Q As are As that are F. All ravens are black is obviously equivalent to All ravens are ravens that are black, yet ravens are black is not equivalent to ravens are ravens that are black. This may cast doubt on theviability of quantificational analyses of generics. This paper proposes a theory of why such “conservativity” generics are problematic that is compatible with the conservativity of gen and also accounts for perennially troublesome examples such as books are paperbacks and bees are workers.
|Bernhard Nickel||PDF (214kb)|
Anticipating Failure and Avoiding It
I argue for a conciliationist treatment of peer disagreement, on the grounds that the evidence that non-conciliatory theorists point to--the evidence that conciliatory-friendly independence principles would rule out--bears a troubling relation to accuracy. Namely, we can anticipate that trying to respond to it is a bad deal with respect to our expected accuracy. I consequently argue that we shouldn't try to respond to it. Instead we should ignore it, and be conciliationists.
|Robert Steel||PDF (603kb)|
Reflection Principles and the Liar in Context
Contextualist approaches to the Liar Paradox postulate the occurrence of a context shift in the course of the Liar reasoning. In particular, according to the contextualist proposal advanced by Charles Parsons (1974) and Michael Glanzberg (2001, 2004), the Liar sentence L (asserting that L does not express a true proposition) doesn’t express a true proposition in the initial context of reasoning c, but expresses a true one in a new, richer context c', where more propositions are available for expression. On the further assumption that Liar sentences involve propositional quantifiers whose domains may vary with context, the Liar reasoning is blocked. But why should context shift? We argue that the paradox involves principles of contextualist reflection that explain, by analogy with well-known reflection principles for arithmetic, why context must shift from c to c' in the course of the Liar reasoning. This provides a diagnosis of the Liar Paradox—one that equally applies to two revenge arguments against contextualist approaches, one recently advanced by Andrew Bacon (2015), the other mentioned by Charles Parsons (1974) and more recently revived by Cory Juhl (1997).
|Julien Murzi; Lorenzo Rossi||PDF (236kb)|
Against Utopianism: Noncompliance and Multiple Agents
Does it count against a normative theory in political philosophy that it is in some important sense infeasible, that its prescriptions are unlikely to be complied with? Though a positive answer seems plausible, it has proved hard to defend against the claim (most forcefully made by David Estlund) that this is not how normative theories work - noncompliance shows a problem with the noncomplying agents, not with the normative theory. I think that this line of thought - this defense of Utopianism - wins the battle but loses the war. It’s right about what does and what does not refute a normative theory. It’s wrong in misidentifying the problem. The right way to think about the feasibility worry is as essentially involving multiple agents, and how expected noncompliance by one agent may refute a normative claim addressed at another. Thus understood, feasibility problems may very well refute a theory in political philosophy. In this paper I develop this understanding of the feasibility worry, tie it to more general discussions in normative ethics (about the morally right way to take into account expected violations by others), and in political philosophy (about ideal and non-ideal theory; a long appendix engages that debate in detail).
|David Enoch||PDF (407kb)|
Williams’s Pragmatic Genealogy and Self-Effacing Functionality
In Truth and Truthfulness, Bernard Williams sought to defend the value of truth by giving a vindicatory genealogy revealing its instrumental value. But what separates Williams’s instrumental vindication from the indirect utilitarianism of which he was a critic? And how can genealogy vindicate anything, let alone something which, as Williams says of the concept of truth, does not have a history? In this paper, I propose to resolve these puzzles by reading Williams as a type of pragmatist and his genealogy as a pragmatic genealogy. On this basis, I show just in what sense Williams’s genealogy can by itself yield reasons to cultivate a sense of the value of truth. Using various criticisms of Williams’s genealogical method as a foil, I then develop an understanding of pragmatic genealogy which reveals it to be uniquely suited to dealing with practices exhibiting what I call self-effacing functionality—practices that are functional only insofar as and because we do not engage in them for their functionality. I conclude with an assessment of the wider significance of Williams’s genealogy for his own oeuvre and for further genealogical inquiry.
|Matthieu Queloz||PDF (535kb)|
Conceived This Way: Innateness Defended
We propose a novel account of the distinction between innate and acquired biological traits: biological traits are innate to the degree that they are caused by factors intrinsic to the organism at the time of its origin; they are acquired to the degree that they are caused by factors extrinsic to the organism. This account borrows from recent work on causation in order to make rigorous the notion of quantitative contributions to traits by different factors in development. We avoid the pitfalls of previous accounts and argue that the distinction between innate and acquired traits is scientifically useful. We therefore address not only previous accounts of innateness but also skeptics about any account. The two are linked, in that a better account of innateness also enables us better to address the skeptics.
|Robert Northcott; Gualtiero Piccinini||PDF (443kb)|
Setting Sail: The Development and Reception of Quine’s Naturalism
Contemporary analytic philosophy is dominated by meta-philosophical naturalism, the view that philosophy ought to be continuous with science. This naturalistic turn is for a significant part due to the work of W. V. Quine. Yet, the development and the reception of Quine’s naturalism have never been systematically studied. In this paper, I examine Quine’s evolving naturalism as well as the reception of his views. Scrutinizing a large set of unpublished notes, correspondence, drafts, papers, and lectures as well as published responses to Quine’s work, I show how both internal tensions and external criticisms forced him to continuously develop, rebrand, and refine his meta-philosophy before he eventually settled on the position that would spark the naturalistic turn in analytic philosophy.
|Sander Verhaegh||PDF (520kb)|
The Discretionary Normativity of Requests
Being able to ask others to do things, and thereby giving them reasons to do those things, is a prominent feature of our interpersonal lives. In this paper, I discuss the distinctive normative status of requests – what makes them different from commands and demands. I argue for a theory of this normative phenomenon which explains the sense in which the reasons presented in requests are a matter of discretion. This discretionary quality, I argue, is something that other theories cannot accommodate, though it is a significant aspect of the relations that people stand in to one another, and the kinds of practical reasons that flow from those relations.
|James H. P. Lewis||PDF (439kb)|
The Allegedly Cartesian Roots of Spinoza's Metaphysics
There is a familiar story about Spinoza on which his substance monism arises straightforwardly from Descartes’ own conception of substance, which the latter combines—not entirely consistently—with substance pluralism. I argue that this story is mistaken: substance pluralism is fully consistent with Descartes’ conception of substance; it is also consistent with his claim that the term ‘substance’ is non-univocal. In defense of these claims, I argue that Descartes denies, whereas Spinoza accepts, that causation precludes the kind of independence that is characteristic of substance; further, I show how Descartes’ denial is based on his view that causal relations do not belong to the natures of their relata, whereas Spinoza’s acceptance follows from his commitment to an intimate link between causation and conception (conceiving-through), which Descartes also rejects.
|Anat Schechtman||PDF (582kb)|
Is Zhuangzi a Fictionalist?
This paper explores the possibility that Zhuangzi (a pre-Qin Chinese philosopher) can be fruitfully interpreted as a fictionalist. It proceeds in four parts. Part one discusses two distinct and very general types of fictionalism—force and content—that might prove useful for an interpreter of the Zhuangzi. The former type of view would have it that the expressions in question—that is, the expressions that Zhuangzi is held to advocate using and interpreting non-literally—are not best seen as used in a way that aims at, e.g., truth, whereas the latter type of view would have it that the expressions in question are best seen as used in a way that aims at truth, if in a non-literal fashion. Part two surveys evidence in favor of the claim that Zhuangzi can be interpreted in terms of one or the other of these two types of fictionalism and argues that he is better characterized as endorsing a version of the former. Part three explains how interpreting Zhuangzi as a fictionalist can help to resolve notable tensions in the text and briefly explores a few additional merits of this reading of the Zhuangzi: namely, that it can give us a clearer idea of what Zhuangzi’s positive project is, unify seemingly disparate scholarly interpretations of it, and reconcile objectivist and non-objectivist strands in his work. Finally, part four concludes by gesturing toward how the interpretation proposed here might bring the Zhuangzi into productive dialogue with two longstanding philosophical questions: specifically, the question of how we should respond to skeptical (and similar) arguments, and the question of how aesthetic features of works of art—and in particular, literature—might be related to their cognitive or epistemic value (insofar as they have cognitive or epistemic value of an interesting sort).
|Julianne Nicole Chung||PDF (489kb)|
Mill's Conversion: The Herschel Connection
Between the first and second editions of A System of Logic, John Stuart Mill underwent a startling conversion from an uncompromising frequentist philosophy of probability to a thoroughly Bayesian degree-of-belief view. The conversion was effected by correspondence with the eminent scientist Sir John Herschel, to whom Mill already owed what have become known as Mill's Methods of Experimental Inference. We present the relevant correspondence, and discuss the extent of Mill's conversion.
|Brian Skyrms||PDF (5.6mb)|
How to Explain Miscomputation
Just as theory of representation is deficient if it can’t explain how misrepresentation is possible, a theory of computation is deficient if it can’t explain how miscomputation is possible. Nonetheless, philosophers have generally ignored miscomputation. My primary goal is to clarify both what miscomputation is and how to adequately explain it. Miscomputation is a special kind of malfunction: a system miscomputes when it computes in a way that it shouldn’t. To miscompute is to compute. To explain miscomputation, then, you need an adequate account of what the system is computing while malfunctioning. A secondary goal of this paper is to defend an (a quasi-)individualist, mechanistic theory of miscomputation. Computational behavior is narrowly individuated. Computational norms are widely individuated. A system miscomputes when its behavior manifests a narrow computational structure that the widely individuated norms say that it should not have.
|Chris Tucker||PDF (395kb)|
Do Reasons Expire? An Essay on Grief
Suppose we suffer a loss, such as the death of a loved one. In light of her death, we will typically feel grief, as it seems we should. After all, our loved one’s death is a reason for grief. Yet with the passage of time, our grief will typically diminish, and this seems somehow all right. However, our reason for grief ostensibly remains the same, since the passage of time does not undo our loss. How, then, could it not be wrong for grief to diminish? Or how are we to make sense of the diminution of grief? Do reasons expire? —The paper clarifies the puzzle and then considers four responses. It argues that all of them are inadequate and that there are principled reasons why this should be so: In experiencing grief we are apprehending a loss. Yet in our effort to understand the diminution of grief, we must apprehend ourselves. But because grief is not about ourselves, our apprehension of the diminution of grief is at odds with our apprehension of the object of grief. This gives rise to a kind of double-vision, which is why the puzzle eludes a solution.
|Berislav Marušić||PDF (465kb)|