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03 Thoroughly Modern McTaggart: Or, What McTaggart Would Have Said if He Had Read the General Theory of Relativity

The philosophical literature on time and change is fixated on the issue of whether the B-series account of change is adequate or whether real change requires Becoming of either the property-based variety of McTaggart's A-series or the non-property-based form embodied in C. D. Broad's idea of the piling up of successive layers of existence. For present purposes it is assumed that the B-series suffices to ground real change. But then it is noted that modern science in the guise of Einstein's general theory poses a threat to real change by implying that none of the genuine physical magnitudes countenanced by the theory changes its value with time. The aims of this paper are to explain how this seemingly paradoxical conclusion arises and to assess the merits and demerits of possible reactions to it.

John Earman vol. 2 August 2002
11 Updating on the Credences of Others: Disagreement, Agreement, and Synergy

We introduce a family of rules for adjusting one’s credences in response to learning the credences of others. These rules have a number of desirable features. 1. They yield the posterior credences that would result from updating by standard Bayesian conditionalization on one’s peers’ reported credences if one’s likelihood function takes a particular simple form. 2. In the simplest form, they are symmetric among the agents in the group. 3. They map neatly onto the familiar Condorcet voting results. 4. They preserve shared agreement about independence in a wide range of cases. 5. They commute with conditionalization and with multiple peer updates. Importantly, these rules have a surprising property that we call synergy — peer testimony of credences can provide mutually supporting evidence raising an individual’s credence higher than any peer’s initial prior report. At first, this may seem to be a strike against them. We argue, however, that synergy is actually a desirable feature and the failure of other updating rules to yield synergy is a strike against them.

Kenny Easwaran; Luke Fenton-Glynn; Christopher Hitchcock; Joel D. Velasco vol. 16 June 2016
27 Decision Theory without Representation Theorems

Naive versions of decision theory take probabilities and utilities as primitive and use expected value to give norms on rational decision. However, standard decision theory takes rational preference as primitive and uses it to construct probability and utility. This paper shows how to justify a version of the naive theory, by taking dominance as the most basic normatively required preference relation, and then extending it by various conditions under which agents should be indifferent between acts. The resulting theory can make all the decisions of classical expected utility theory, plus more in cases where expected utilities are infinite or undefined. Although the theory requires similarly strong assumptions to classical expected utility theory, versions of the theory can be developed with slightly weaker assumptions, without having to prove a new representation theorem for the weaker theory. This alternate foundation is particularly useful if probability is prior to preference, as suggested by the recent program to base probabilism on accuracy and alethic considerations rather than pragmatic ones.

Kenny Easwaran vol. 14 August 2014
08 Moral Community: Escaping the Ethical State of Nature

I attempt to vindicate our authority to create new practical reasons for others by making choices of our own. In The Doctrine of Right Kant argues that we have an obligation to leave the Juridical State of Nature and found the state. In a less familiar passage in Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason he argues for an obligation to leave what he calls the Ethical State of Nature and join together in the Moral Community. I read both texts as addressing and trying to resolve a tension between our individual freedom and our authority to make claims on one another. I explicate the political argument, and then develop the view that Kant sketches in the Religion, arguing that regarding others as capable of making choices that give you reasons to act is a condition of the full exercise of your autonomy.

Kyla Ebels-Duggan vol. 9 August 2009
04 The Virtue of Law-Abidance

The last half-century has seen a steady loss of confidence in the defensibility of a duty to obey the law - even a qualified, pro tanto duty to obey the laws of a just or nearly just state. Over roughly the same period, there has been increasing interest in virtue ethics as an alternative to the dominant consequentialist and deontological approaches to normative ethics. Curiously, these two tendencies have so far only just barely linked up. Although there has been discussion of the question whether patriotism should be considered a virtue, and abstract discussion about the virtuous person's relation to authority and justice in general, there has been little virtue-oriented discussion having specific reference to the kinds of difficulties that have motivated the ascendant skepticism about political obligation. This silence has persisted despite repeated calls for renewed work on "virtue politics ". This article proposes and defends a preliminary account of law-abidance (as contrasted to obedience) as a virtue. It argues that a virtue-theoretic account of our relation to the law offers advantages that are not contingent upon the independence or priority of the virtues with respect to consequentialist and deontological components of a complete moral theory. Chief among these advantages is the promise of an alternative to the deadlocked positions taken by apologists for the duty to obey the law and their philosophical-anarchist critics - positions which have tacitly been assumed to exhaust the viable possibilities.

William A. Edmundson vol. 6 December 2006
10 Inner and Outer Truth

Kit Fine and Robert Adams have independently introduced a distinction between two ways in which a proposition might be true with respect to a world. A proposition is true at a world if it correctly represents the world. A proposition is true in a world, if it exists in that world and correctly represents it. In this paper, I clarify this distinction between outer and inner truth, defend it against recent charges of unintelligibly and argue that outer truth tracks counterfactual possibility while inner truth tracks counter-actual possibility. This connection allows us to clarify the relationship between possibility, possible actuality and the thesis of serious actualism, which is the thesis that nothing could have had a property without existing. I show that this undermines serious actualists' scruples against reading sentences like `Even if Socrates had not existed, he might have' as expressing true and genuinely de re propositions about Socrates. More generally, the connection I draw provides the serious actualist with a justification for treating actually existing but contingent objects differently from how he treats merely possible objects.

Iris Einheuser vol. 12 April 2012
05 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 vol. 10 May 2010
21 Reason in its Practical Application

Is practical reason a cognitive faculty? Do practical judgments make claims about a subject matter that are appropriately assessed in terms of their agreement with that subject matter? According to Kantians like Christine Korsgaard, the answer is no. To think otherwise is to conflate the theoretical and the practical, the epistemic and the ethical. I am not convinced. In this paper, I motivate my skepticism through examination of the very figure who inspires Korsgaard's rejection of cognitivism: Kant. For as I read him, Kant does not construe the distinction between theoretical and practical reason in terms of a distinction between cognitive and non-cognitive faculties but in terms of two distinct applications of a single faculty of reason, which is through-and-through cognitive. Thus, practical, no less than theoretical, reason cognizes a subject matter, and so practical, no less than theoretical, reason is straightforwardly subject to familiar epistemic standards of truth, warrant, and knowledge. Of course, even if I am right about Kant, this does not show that Korsgaard is wrong about reason; and I will offer no direct argument against her position here. Nonetheless, I believe that reflection on Kant's true view, with its careful treatment of and respect for both the practicality and rationality of reason, should perhaps lead us to rethink what it means to be a rationalist in ethics.

E. Sonny Elizondo vol. 13 October 2013
23 Reasons, Dispositions, and Value

In this paper, I will discuss an objection to Buck-Passing (BP) accounts of value, such as Reasons Fundamentalism. Buck-Passing views take value to be derivative of or reducible to reasons. The objection is that since there can be value in possible worlds in which there are no reasons, value must not be ontologically derivative of reasons. Thus, BP is false. In this paper, I show that by accepting a dispositionalist revision, BP can allow such worlds while maintaining that reasons are interestingly prior to value, and without having to adopt any controversial metaphysics. I show this by exploring the debate over the nature of dispositions, identifying the diverse resources BP can appeal to. The paper proceeds as follows. I first explain BP. Next, I discuss a few versions of the challenge, settling on what seems to be the strongest form. Following this, I show that on many accounts of dispositions, while we should accept that particular instances of dispositions are prior to their particular manifestations, we should also accept that there is a sense in which dispositions are dependent on their manifestations. This provides BP with resources to respond to the challenge: BP can accept a dispositional revision, without committing to a theory of dispositions. Finally, I will respond to two objections. The first is about whether there are dispositions with impossible manifestations, contrary to my thesis that dispositions depend on their manifestations. The second is about whether there could be value where it would be impossible for that value to give reasons.

Aaron P. Elliott vol. 17 November 2017
02 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 vol. 18 2018
27 Francisco Suárez on Beings of Reason and Non-Strict Ontological Pluralism

For Francisco Suárez, beings of reason are non-existent objects that we can think about, objects like goat-stags and round squares. The first section of the fifty-fourth of Suárez’s Metaphysical Disputations is about the ontological status of beings of reason. Suárez’s view has been the subject of disagreement in the literature because he sometimes says that there are beings of reason, and he sometimes says there are not. In this paper, I argue for and explain an ontological pluralist reading of Suárez. Ontological pluralism is the claim that there is more than one way of being. I distinguish between two varieties of ontological pluralism, strict and non-strict, and argue that Suárez endorsed the latter. In the contemporary literature, it is sometimes alleged that ontological pluralism is an idle hypothesis, unintelligible or philosophically vacuous. I argue that Suárez has a response to this objection in his argument against ontological monism.

Brian Embry vol. 19 2019
16 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 vol. 18 2018
04 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 vol. 11 March 2011