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24 Quantificational Logic and Empty Names

The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as $\exists xt = x$; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that in order to specify the truth conditions of certain sentences involving constants or variables that don’t denote, one has to apparently quantify over things that are not identical to anything. In this paper I defend a contingentist, non-Meinongian metaphysics within a positive free logic. I argue that although certain names and free variables do not actually refer to anything, in each case there might have been something they actually refer to, allowing one to interpret the contingentist claims without quantifying over mere possibilia.

Andrew Bacon vol. 13 December 2013
18 Does String Theory Posit Extended Simples?

It is sometimes claimed that string theory posits a fundamental ontology including extended mereological simples, in the form either of minimum-sized regions of space or of the strings themselves. But there is very little in the actual theory to support this claim, and much that suggests it is false. Extant string theories treat space as a continuum, and strings do not behave like simples.

David John Baker vol. 16 November 2016
13 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 vol. 11 November 2011
18 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 [2005]. Our challenge to U makes more trouble for its proponents than do the worries about U expressed by Gideon Rosen [2001] and Thomas Kelly [2010]. Moreover, if Kelly [2010] 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 vol. 11 December 2011
03 How Mathematics Can Make a Difference

Standard approaches to counterfactuals in the philosophy of explanation are geared toward causal explanation. We show how to extend the counterfactual theory of explanation to non-causal cases, involving extra-mathematical explanation: the explanation of physical facts (in part) by mathematical facts. Using a structural equation framework, we model impossible perturbations to mathematics and the resulting differences made to physical explananda in two important cases of extra-mathematical explanation. We address some objections to our approach.

Sam Baron; Mark Colyvan; David Ripley vol. 17 January 2017
11 Moral Coercion

The practices of using hostages to obtain concessions and using human shields to deter aggression share an important characteristic which warrants a univocal reference to both sorts of conduct: they both involve manipulating our commitment to morality, as a means to achieving wrongful ends. I call this type of conduct “moral coercion”. In this paper I (a) present an account of moral coercion by linking it to coercion more generally, (b) determine whether and to what degree the coerced agent is liable for the harms resulting from acceding to moral coercion, and (c) investigate factors relevant to determining whether we ought to accede to moral coercion. In so doing, I provide grounds for the intuition that we “allow evil to succeed” when we accede to moral coercion.

Saba Bazargan vol. 14 May 2014
37 Two Conceptions of Phenomenology

The phenomenal particularity thesis says that if a mind-independent particular is consciously perceived in a given perception, that particular is among the constituents of the perception’s phenomenology. Martin, Campbell, Gomes and French and others defend this thesis. Against them are Mehta, Montague, Schellenberg and others, who have produced strong arguments that the phenomenal particularity thesis is false. Unfortunately, neither side has persuaded the other, and it seems that the debate between them is now at an impasse. This paper aims to break through this impasse. It argues that we have reached the impasse because two distinct conceptions of phenomenology—a “narrow” conception and a “broad” conception—are compatible with our what-it-is-like characterizations of phenomenology. It also suggests that each of these two conceptions has its own theoretical value and use. Therefore, the paper recommends a pluralistic position, on which we acknowledge that there are two kinds of phenomenology: narrow phenomenology (an entity conceived according to the narrow conception) and broad phenomenology (an entity conceived according to the broad conception). The phenomenal particularity thesis is true only with respect to the latter.

Ori Beck vol. 19 2019
10 Noncognitivism and Epistemic Evaluations

This paper develops a new challenge for moral noncognitivism. In brief, the challenge is this: Beliefs — both moral and non-moral — are epistemically evaluable, whereas desires are not. It is tempting to explain this difference in terms of differences in the functional roles of beliefs and desires. However, this explanation stands in tension with noncognitivism, which maintains that moral beliefs have a desire-like functional role. After critically reviewing some initial responses to the challenge, I suggest a solution, which involves rethinking the functional relationship between desire and belief.

Bob Beddor vol. 19 2019
08 New Work For Certainty

This paper argues that we should assign certainty a central place in epistemology. While epistemic certainty played an important role in the history of epistemology, recent epistemology has tended to dismiss certainty as an unattainable ideal, focusing its attention on knowledge instead. I argue that this is a mistake. Attending to certainty attributions in the wild suggests that much of our everyday knowledge qualifies, in appropriate contexts, as certain. After developing a semantics for certainty ascriptions, I put certainty to explanatory work. Specifically, I argue that by taking certainty as our central epistemic notion, we can shed light on a variety of important topics, including evidence and evidential probability, epistemic modals, and the normative constraints on credence and assertion.

Bob Beddor vol. 20 2020
42 Is Leibniz's Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles Necessary or Contingent?

The Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII)—the principle that no two numerically distinct things are perfectly similar—features prominently in Leibniz’s metaphysics. Despite its centrality to his philosophical system, it is surprisingly difficult to determine what modal status Leibniz ascribes to the PII. On many occasions Leibniz appears to endorse the necessity of the PII. There are a number of passages,however (especially in his correspondence with Clarke), where Leibniz seems to imply that numerically distinct indiscernibles are possible, which suggests that he subscribes to a merely contingent version of the PII. In this paper I attempt to resolve this apparent inconsistency. I argue that Leibniz consistently takes the PII to be necessary and that this view of his shines through even in his correspondence with Clarke. I also show that competing interpretations, on which Leibniz’s PII is contingent, misread a number of crucial passages from this correspondence.

Sebastian Bender vol. 19 2019
02 Luminosity Regained

The linchpin of Williamson (2000)'s radically externalist epistemological program is an argument for the claim that no non-trivial condition is luminous-that no non-trivial condition is such that whenever it obtains, one is in a position to know that it obtains. I argue that Williamson's anti-luminosity argument succeeds only if one assumes that, even in the limit of ideal reflection, the obtaining of the condition in question and one's beliefs about that condition can be radically disjoint from one another. However, no self-respecting defender of the luminosity of the mental would ever make such an assumption. Thus Williamson can only secure his controversial claims in epistemology by taking for granted certain equally controversial claims in the philosophy of mind. What emerges is that the best bet for defending an internalist epistemology against Williamson's attack is to take there to be a tight, intimate connection between (to take one example) our experiences and our beliefs upon reflection about the obtaining of those experiences, or between (to take another example) the rationality of our beliefs and our beliefs upon reflection about the rationality of those beliefs.

Selim Berker vol. 8 March 2008
50 Friendship, Trust and Moral Self-Perfection

This paper develops an account of moral friendship that both draws on and revises Kant’s conception of moral friendship for the purpose of explaining how trusting and being trusted in the way that Kant describes supports moral self-perfection beyond increased self-knowledge and refinement of judgment. I will argue that cultivation of the virtues of friendship is important to the pursuit of moral self-perfection, specifically with respect to combatting the unsociable side of our unsociable sociability. Reciprocal trust shelters the individual’s predisposition to goodness, which comes under attack by the passions in social relations wherein distrust is the default. Reciprocal trust also enables communion, the importance of which has been undervalued in analyses of moral self-perfection.

Mavis Biss vol. 19 2019
07 Kantian Decision Making Under Uncertainty: Dignity, Price, and Consistency

The idea that there is a fundamental difference in value between persons and things, and that respecting this difference is an important moral requirement, has strong intuitive appeal. Kantian ethics is unique in placing this requirement at the center of a moral system and in explicating the conditions for complying with it. Unlike challenges to Kantian ethics that focus on tragic cases that pit respect for one person against respect for another, this paper focuses on the question of how we can respect the value distinction between persons and things under conditions of uncertainty. After exploring why decision making under uncertainty is a neglected topic among Kantians and demonstrating how uncertainty challenges our ability to comply with this norm, we propose a notion of morally insignificant risk within a framework that allows agents to navigate real-world decisions involving material benefit and some risk to dignity without violating the Kantian’s core commitments. We conclude by exploring some of the challenges facing this approach.

Adam Bjorndahl; Alex John London; Kevin J.S. Zollman vol. 17 April 2017
10 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 vol. 10 August 2010
17 ‘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 vol. 11 December 2011
03 Are There Indefeasible Epistemic Rules?

What if your peers tell you that you should disregard your perceptions? Worse, what if your peers tell you to disregard the testimony of your peers? How should we respond if we get evidence that seems to undermine our epistemic rules? Several philosophers (e.g. Elga 2010, Titelbaum 2015) have argued that some epistemic rules are indefeasible. I will argue that all epistemic rules are defeasible. The result is a kind of epistemic particularism, according to which there are no simple rules connecting descriptive and normative facts. I will argue that this type of particularism is more plausible in epistemology than in ethics. The result is an unwieldy and possibly infinitely long epistemic rule — an Uber-rule. I will argue that the Uber-rule applies to all agents, but is still defeasible — one may get misleading evidence against it and rationally lower one’s credence in it.

Darren Bradley vol. 19 2019
13 How to Explain How-Possibly

Explaining how something is possible is a familiar and epistemically important achievement in both science and ordinary life. But a satisfactory general account of how-possibly explanation has not yet been given. A crucial desideratum for a successful account is that it must differentiate a demonstration that something is possible from an explanation of how it is possible. In this paper, I offer an account of how-possibly explanation that fully captures this distinction. I motivate my account using two cases, one from ordinary life and one from ornithology. On my account, a how-possibly explanation is a greater achievement than a mere description of how a state of affairs might possibly obtain. In addition to being a potential explanation of why some state of affairs actually obtains, a how-possibly explanation must involve the relief of an imaginative frustration on the part of its recipient. When a recipient’s imaginative frustration is relieved, she does not just know that the state of affairs in question is possible, but is also able to imagine how it could possibly obtain.

Lindsay Brainard vol. 20 2020
45 Normative Perfectionism and the Kantian Tradition

Perfectionism is an underexplored tradition, perhaps because of doubts about the grounds, content, and implications of perfectionist ideals. Aristotle, J.S. Mill, and T.H. Green are normative perfectionists, grounding perfectionist ideals in a normative conception of human nature involving personality or agency. This essay explores the prospects of normative perfectionism by examining Kant’s criticisms of the perfectionist tradition. First, Kant claims that the perfectionist can generate only hypothetical, not categorical, imperatives. But insofar as the normative perfectionist appeals to the normative category of personality or agency, rather than a biological category of humanity, it can represent perfectionist demands as categorical imperatives. Second, Kant accepts a moral asymmetry in which we aim at our own perfection but at the happiness, rather than the perfection, of others. However, the importance of autonomy in normative perfection explains why the perfectionist should recognize a self/other asymmetry. Indeed, when we see how the normative perfectionist can answer Kant’s criticisms while respecting Kant’s own claims about the connection between rational nature and moral requirements, we can see the basis for a normative perfectionist interpretation of Kant’s own ethical theory. Insofar as Kantians and normative perfectionists both base ethical demands on an appeal to rational nature, they face a common worry that the appeal to rational nature is empty or incomplete. Normative perfectionists have more and less concessive responses to this worry, providing perfectionist explanations of various apparently non-perfectionist goods. Even if we end up being pluralists about the good, perfectionist elements play an important role. Finally, because the normative perfectionist, like the Kantian, grounds its ideals and requirements in a conception of persons as rational agents, it provides a promising account of the rational authority of perfectionist demands. This comparison of normative perfectionist and Kantian essentials gives us reason to take the normative perfectionist tradition seriously.

David O. Brink vol. 19 2019
11 What do We Say When We Say How or What We Feel?

Discourse containing the verb ‘feel’, almost without exception, purports to describe inner experience. Though this much is evident, the question remains what exactly is conveyed when we talk about what and how we feel? Does discourse containing the word ‘feel’ actually succeed in describing the content and phenomenology of inner experience? If so, how does it reflect the phenomenology and content of the experience it describes? Here I offer a linguistic analysis of ‘feels’ reports and argue that a subset of ‘feels’ reports, when accurate, reflect the representational content of emotions, tactile experiences and bodily sensations. Because ‘feels’ reports may reflect the representational content of bodily experience, these types of report may be able to give us some insight into the structure of bodily experience. I argue that our descriptions of bodily experience, on the assumption that they are sometimes accurate, indicate that emotions and tactile experiences are experiences of bodily reactions to objects, whereas bodily sensations are partial descriptions of emotions and tactile experiences or other events of the body. At the end I address the concern that an adequate account of inner experience cannot be given in terms of an analysis of ordinary language.

Berit Brogaard vol. 12 June 2012
17 Medieval Approaches to Consciousness: Ockham and Chatton

My aim in this paper is to advance our understanding of medieval theories of consciousness. I focus on a particular historical debate between William Ockham (d. 1349) and Walter Chatton (d. 1343) over the nature and proper analysis of self-knowledge. My central contention is that the positions that emerge from this debate represent the two main types of approach to consciousness that can be found in the late medieval period generally. On one approach, consciousness is explained in terms of intentionality (typically, higher-order intentionality); on the other, it is understood as a non-intentional, sui generis mode of awareness.

Susan Brower-Toland vol. 12 November 2012
15 Colour layering and colour constancy

Loosely put, colour constancy for example occurs when you experience a partly shadowed wall to be uniformly coloured, or experience your favourite shirt to be the same colour both with and without sunglasses on. Controversy ensues when one seeks to interpret ‘experience’ in these contexts, for evidence of a constant colour may be indicative a constant colour in the objective world, a judgement that a constant colour would be present were things thus and so, et cetera. My primary aim is to articulate a viable conception of Present Constancy, of what occurs when a constant colour is present in experience, despite the additional presence of some experienced colour variation (e.g., correlating to a change in illumination). My proposed conception involves experienced colour layering – experiencing one opaque colour through another transparent one – and in particular requires one of those experienced layers to remain constant while the other changes. The aim is not to propose this layering conception of colour constancy as the correct interpretation of all constancy cases, but rather to develop the conception enough to demonstrate how it could and plausibly should be applied to various cases, and the virtues it has over rivals. Its virtues include a seamless application to constancy cases involving variations in filters (e.g., sunglasses) and illuminants; its ability to accommodate experiences of partial colours and error-free interpretations of difficult cases; and its broad theoretical-neutrality, allowing it to be incorporated into numerous perceptual epistemologies and ontologies. If layered constancy is prevalent, as I suspect it is, then our experiential access to colours is critically nuanced: we have been plunged into a world of colour without being told that we will rarely, if ever, look to a location and experience just one of them.

Derek H. Brown vol. 14 June 2014
01 Is Belief a Propositional Attitude?

According to proponents of the face-value account, a belief report of the form ‘S believes that p’ is true just in case the agent believes a proposition referred to by the that-clause. As against this familiar view, I argue that there are cases of true belief reports of the relevant form in which there is no proposition that the that-clause, or the speaker using the that-clause, can plausibly be taken as referring to. Moreover, I argue that given the distinctive way in which the face-value theory of belief-reports fails, there is pressure to give up the metaphysical thesis that belief is a propositional attitude. I conclude by suggesting that we allow non-propositional entities to be amongst the relata of the belief-relation, and make some speculative remarks concerning what such entities might be like.

Ray Buchanan vol. 12 January 2012