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29 Learning and Value Change

Accuracy-first accounts of rational learning attempt to vindicate the intuitive idea that, while rationally-formed belief need not be true, it is nevertheless likely to be true. To this end, they attempt to show that the Bayesian’s rational learning norms are a consequence of the rational pursuit of accuracy. Existing accounts fall short of this goal, for they presuppose evidential norms which are not and cannot be vindicated in terms of the single-minded pursuit of accuracy. I propose an alternative account, according to which learning experiences rationalize changes in the way you value accuracy, which in turn rationalizes changes in belief. I show that this account is capable of vindicating the Bayesian’s rational learning norms in terms of the single-minded pursuit of accuracy, so long as accuracy is rationally valued.

J. Dmitri Gallow vol. 19 2019
07 Why I Am Not a Likelihoodist

Frequentist statistical methods continue to predominate in many areas of science despite prominent calls for "statistical reform." They do so in part because their main rivals, Bayesian methods, appeal to prior probability distributions that arguably lack an objective justification in typical cases. Some methodologists find a third approach called likelihoodism attractive because it avoids important objections to frequentism without appealing to prior probabilities. However, likelihoodist methods do not provide guidance for belief or action, but only assessments of data as evidence. I argue that there is no good way to use those assessments to guide beliefs or actions without appealing to prior probabilities, and that as a result likelihoodism is not a viable alternative to frequentism and Bayesianism for statistical reform efforts in science.

Greg Gandenberger vol. 16 May 2016
10 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 vol. 11 September 2011
09 Spinozistic Expression

I investigate the meaning and significance of Spinoza’s elusive concept of “expression”. I do so by situating expression among his canonical relations of conception, causation, and inherence. I argue that, for Spinoza, expression necessarily corresponds to what is sufficient for conception, but implies neither causation nor inherence. This correspondence with sufficient conditions on conception and the pulling apart of expression from causation and inherence has important consequences for our grasp of the interconnections among Spinoza’s key metaphysical relations. But it also has profound implications for our understanding of the essential structure of Spinoza’s ontology itself, and for the proper assessment of his rationalism. I explore these consequences by explicating Spinoza’s assertion that substance and each of its attributes are “conceived through themselves”, and by demonstrating that, on his view (though contrary to that of most commentators), the relation of conception is not to be accounted for in causal terms. A systematic treatment of the expression relation sheds new light on these issues. The result is a view of the underpinnings of Spinoza’s metaphysics that is as surprising as it is compelling.

Zachary Micah Gartenberg vol. 17 May 2017
04 Aristotle on Induction and First Principles

Aristotle's cognitive ideal is a form of understanding that requires a sophisticated grasp of scientific first principles. At the end of the Analytics, Aristotle tells us that we learn these principles by induction (epagôgê). But on the whole, commentators have found this an implausible claim: induction seems far too basic a process to yield the sort of knowledge Aristotle's account requires. In this paper I argue that this criticism is misguided. I defend a broader reading of Aristotelian induction, on which there's good sense to be made of the claim that we come to grasp first principles inductively, and show that this reading is a natural one given Aristotle's broader views on scientific learning.

Marc Gasser-Wingate vol. 16 February 2016
02 A Proof of Induction?

Does the past rationally bear on the future? David Hume argued that we lack good reason to think that it does. He insisted in particular that we lack - and forever will lack - anything like a demonstrative proof of such a rational bearing. A surprising mathematical result can be read as an invitation to reconsider Hume's confidence.

Alexander George vol. 7 March 2007
01 Linguistic Practice and Its Discontents: Quine and Davidson on the Source of Sense

A rich tradition in philosophy takes truths about meaning to be wholly determined by how language is used; meanings do not guide use of language from behind the scenes, but instead are fixed by such use. Linguistic practice, on this conception, exhausts the facts to which the project of understanding another must be faithful. But how is linguistic practice to be characterized? No one has addressed this question more seriously than W. V. Quine, who sought for many years to formulate a conception of use that makes sense of certain key features of meaning. The nature, development, and adequacy of his formulations are here explored. All are found to fall short of what he wanted to achieve. Donald Davidson has introduced significant variations on Quine's project. The resulting position is also examined, but likewise found to be problematic. Finally, a neo-Quinean conception is sketched, as are some of the problems such a view would have to surmount.

Alexander George vol. 4 February 2004
15 Pragmatic Encroachment and the Challenge from Epistemic Injustice

I present a challenge to epistemological pragmatic encroachment theories from epistemic injustice. The challenge invokes the idea that a knowing subject may be wronged by being regarded as lacking knowledge due to social identity prejudices. However, in an important class of such cases, pragmatic encroachers appear to be committed to the view that the subject does not know. Hence, pragmatic encroachment theories appear to be incapable of accounting for an important type of injustice – namely, discriminatory epistemic injustice. Consequently, pragmatic encroachment theories run the risk of obscuring or even sanctioning epistemically unjust judgments that arise due to problematic social stereotypes or unjust folk epistemological biases. In contrast, the epistemological view that rejects pragmatic encroachment – namely, strict purist invariantism – is capable of straightforwardly diagnosing the cases of discriminatory epistemic injustice as such. While the challenge is not a conclusive one, it calls for a response. Moreover, it illuminates very different conceptions of epistemology’s role in mitigating epistemic injustice.

Mikkel Gerken vol. 19 2019
54 Plurdurance

Like most theories in first order metaphysics, theories of persistence generally aim at metaphysically necessary truth. Consequently, those that accept proper temporal parts of material entities are maximally competitive only when they accord with the full range of metaphysically possible temporal mereological structures. Consider, for example, a structure in which every element is a proper temporal part of some others (temporal junk). The present essay argues that temporal junk plausibly is possible and that perdurantism, the thesis that material entities persist by having distinct proper temporal parts at distinct times, does not accord with it. The essay then outlines a novel four-dimensionalist theory of persistence that accommodates junk. On this theory, material entities persist not in virtue of possessing proper temporal parts, but rather in virtue of being grounded by certain pluralities of fundamental property instances over their careers, and by sub-pluralities thereof over corresponding sub-intervals of their careers. Accordingly, this way of persisting is dubbed ‘plurdurance’.

Daniel Giberman vol. 19 2019
02 Binding, Compositionality, and Semantic Values

In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions (or anything else appropriate to be the objects of assertions or the contents of attitudes). Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years. Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that render them no longer propositional. Focusing in recent variants of these arguments involving quantification and binding, we argue that a correct understanding of how composition works gives no reason to relativize semantic values, and that propositional semantic values are in fact the preferred option. We take our argument to be mainly empirical, but along the way, we defend some more general theses. Simple propositional semantic values are viable in composition, we maintain, because composition is itself a complex phenomenon, involving multiple modes of composition. Furthermore, some composition principles make adjustments to the meanings of constituents in the course of composition. These adjustments are by triggered syntactic environments. We argue such small contributions of meaning from syntactic structure are acceptable.

Michael Glanzberg; Jeffrey C. King vol. 20 2020
06 Folk Psychology as a Model

I argue that everyday folk-psychological skill might best be explained in terms of the deployment of something like a model, in a specific sense drawn from recent philosophy of science. Theoretical models in this sense do not make definite commitments about the systems they are used to understand; they are employed with a particular kind of flexibility. This analysis is used to dissolve the eliminativism debate of the 1980s, and to transform a number of other questions about the status and role of folk psychology.

Peter Godfrey-Smith vol. 5 November 2005
14 A Preface Paradox for Intention

In this paper I argue that there is a preface paradox for intention. The preface paradox for intention shows that intentions do not obey an agglomeration norm, requiring one to intend conjunctions of whatever else one intends. But what norms do intentions obey? I will argue that intentions come in degrees. These partial intentions are governed by the norms of the probability calculus. First, I will give a dispositional theory of partial intention, on which degrees of intention are the degrees to which one possesses the dispositions characteristic of full intention. I will use this dispositional theory to defend probabilism about intention. Next, I will offer a more general argument for probabilism about intention. To do so, I will generalize recent decision theoretic arguments for probabilism from the case of belief to the case of intention.

Simon Goldstein vol. 16 July 2016
03 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 vol. 11 March 2011
13 Conway’s Ontological Objection to Cartesian Dualism

Anne Conway disagrees with substance dualism, the thesis that minds and bodies differ in nature or essence. Instead, she holds that “the distinction between spirit and body is only modal and incremental, not essential and substantial” (CP 6.11, 40). Yet several of her arguments against dualism have little force against the Cartesian, since they rely on premises no Cartesian would accept. In this paper, I show that Conway does have at least one powerful objection to substance dualism, drawn from premises that Descartes seems bound to accept. She argues that two substances differ in nature only if they differ in their “original and peculiar” cause (CP 6.4, 30); yet all created substances have the same original and peculiar cause; so, all created substances have the same nature. As I argue, the Cartesian is under a surprising amount of pressure to accept Conway’s argument, since its key premise is motivated by a conception of substance similar to one endorsed by Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy.

John Grey vol. 17 July 2017