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17 Fanaticism and Sacred Values

What, if anything, is fanaticism? Philosophers including Locke, Hume, Shaftesbury, and Kant offered an account of fanaticism, analyzing it as (1) unwavering commitment to an ideal, together with (2) unwillingness to subject the ideal (or its premises) to rational critique and (3) the presumption of a non-rational sanction for the ideal. In the first part of the paper, I explain this account and argue that it does not succeed: among other things, it entails that a paradigmatically peaceful and tolerant individual can be a fanatic. The following sections argue that the fanatic is distinguished by four features: (4) the adoption of sacred values; (5) the need to treat these values as unconditional and unquestionable in order to preserve a particular form of psychic unity; (6) the sense that the status of these values is threatened by lack of widespread acceptance; and (7) the identification with a group, where the group is defined by shared commitment to the sacred values. If the account succeeds, it not only reveals the nature of fanaticism, but also uncovers a distinctive form of ethical critique: we can critique a way of understanding values not on the grounds that it is false, but on the grounds that it promotes a particular form of social pathology.

Paul Katsafanas vol. 19 2019
19 Pluralism and Peer Review in Philosophy

Recently, mainstream philosophy journals have tended to implement more and more stringent forms of peer review (e.g., from double-anonymous to triple-anonymous), probably in an attempt to prevent editorial decisions that are based on factors other than quality. Against this trend, we propose that journals should relax their standards of acceptance, as well as be less restrictive about whom is to decide what is admitted into the debate. We start by arguing, partly on the basis of the history of peer review in the journal Mind, that past and current peer review practices attest to partisanship with respect to philosophical approach (at least). Then, we explain that such partisanship conflicts with the standard aims of peer review, and that it is both epistemically and morally problematic. This assessment suggests that, if feasible, journals should treat all available and proposed standards of acceptance in philosophy as epistemically equal, and that philosophical work should be evaluated in terms of the novelty and significance of its contribution to developing thought in ways that are of value. Finally, we show, in a programmatic way, that improving the current situation is feasible, and can be done fairly easily.

J. Katzav; K. Vaesen vol. 17 September 2017
08 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 vol. 18 2018
14 “Kant’s Diagnosis of the Unity of Skepticism”

I explicate and defend Kant's analysis of “skepticism” as a single, metaphilosophically unified rational phenomenon (at A756–764/B784–797, for instance). Kant anticipates one of the defining trends of contemporary epistemology's approach to radical philosophical skepticism: the thought that skepticism cannot be directly refuted, by demonstrating its falsity, but must be diagnosed, to show that its premises are unnatural, and consequently fail to be rationally compelling from within our own nonskeptical standpoint. Kant's most ambitious claim here is that he will develop this diagnosis in a unitary fashion, by demonstrating that Cartesian, Humean, Pyrrhonian, and Agrippan skepticism are essentially interrelated as so many means to “the skeptic's” defining philosophical end. This “unity thesis” comes in both weak and strong variations. First, and more weakly, Kant argues that apparently distinct skeptical problematics share certain crucial metaphilosophical assumptions about the nature of reason, and the role of philosophical self-knowledge. More strongly, he also claims that the four problematics just mentioned are related hierarchically, in that the more fundamental skeptical worries constitute the essential dialectical context for the less fundamental ones, such that the more superficial problematics only arise if a logically prior worry is first acceded to. By showing how deeply these two unity theses structure Kant's Critical methodology, I argue that the Kantian view of philosophy as a “doctrine of wisdom” incorporates, and arguably surpasses, a number of key insights found in more recent work. The final result is that the transcendental philosopher may hope to co-opt the attractions of skepticism without making any unnecessary concessions along the way.

Matthew A. Kelsey vol. 14 May 2014
32 On Indicative And Subjunctive Conditionals

At the center of the literature on conditionals lies the division between indicative and subjunctive conditionals, and Ernest Adams’ famous minimal pair: (1) If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, someone else did. (2) If Oswald hadn’t shot Kennedy, someone else would have. While a lot of attention is paid to figuring out what these different kinds of conditionals mean, significantly less attention has been paid to the question of why their grammatical differences give rise to their semantic differences. In this paper, I articulate and defend an answer to this question that illuminates and unifies the meanings of both kinds of conditionals. The basic idea is that epistemic and metaphysical possibilities differ with respect to their interaction with time, such that there can be present epistemic possibilities with different pasts, while present metaphysical possibilities share the same past. The interpretation of conditionals is subject to a pragmatic constraint that rules out interpretations in which their consequents are directly settled by information used to build their domains. The past + future morphology on subjunctives, but not indicatives, is what allows them to receive a metaphysical interpretation in light of this pragmatic constraint. The resulting theory predicts several surprising features of indicatives and subjunctives, which I argue are correct.

Justin Khoo vol. 15 December 2015
04 The Shapelessness Hypothesis

In this paper I discuss the shapelessnesss hypothesis, which is often referred to and relied on by certain sorts of ethical and evaluative cognitivist, and which they use primarily in arguing against a certain, influential form of noncognitivism. I aim to (i) set out exactly what the hypothesis is; (ii) show that its original and traditional use is left wanting; and (iii) show that there is some rehabilitation on offer that might have a chance of convincing neutrals.

Simon Kirchin vol. 10 May 2010
48 Slurs Are Directives

Recent work on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs has explored a variety of ways of explaining their potential to derogate, with the most popular family of approaches appealing to either: (i), the doxastic or evaluative attitudes or commitments expressed by — or (ii), the propositions concerning such attitudes or commitments semantically or pragmatically communicated by — the speakers who use them. I begin by arguing that no such speaker-oriented approach can be correct. I then propose an alternative treatment of slurs, according to which they are semantically associated with both descriptive and directive content. On the view I defend, when speakers use slurs, they simultaneously propose to add an at-issue proposition to the conversational common ground and issue a not-at-issue directive to their interlocutors to adopt a derogatory perspective toward members of the targeted group. This proposal both avoids the problems faced by other accounts and opens up a novel way of thinking about the phenomenon of appropriation.

Cameron Domenico Kirk-Giannini vol. 19 2019
32 Between Anarchism and Suicide: On William James's Religious Therapy

William James’s religious writing displays a therapeutic concern for two key social problems: an epidemic of suicide among educated Victorians who worried (he thought) that a scientific worldview left no room for God; and material poverty and bleak employment prospects for others. James sought a conception of God that would therapeutically comfort his melancholic peers while also girding them to fight for better social conditions—a fight he associated with political anarchism. What is perhaps most unique about James’s approach to religion emerges when we consider the relationship of his therapeutic project to his treatment of religious epistemology. For James took his suicidal peers to need more than tea and sympathy. They needed to be convinced, through rational argument, that religious faith is epistemically permissible in light of their methodological naturalism. That is to say that theoretic success in James’s treatment of religion is to be measured by therapeutic success. His argument for epistemic permissibility began by treating religious faith as a “hypothesis.” He took naturalism to permit entertaining a hypothesis just in case it is testable, and not contravened by available evidence. So he developed a distinctive conception of God—what he called the “pluralistic hypothesis”—that proposed a plurality of independent entities in the universe, only one of which is God. In contrast to the monistic hypothesis (roughly what we would call “pantheism”), pluralism is empirically testable in principle. But crucially, the hypothesis is underdetermined by any evidence available now. This purported, in-principle testability would make religious pluralism epistemically permissible to entertain (and so potentially a source of consolation for the scientifically educated). And since salvation is possible on this view without being guaranteed, the pluralistic hypothesis stands to discourage social and political quietism (and so it is also a potential spur to fight material poverty).

Alexander Klein vol. 19 2019
19 Of Archery and Virtue: Ancient and Modern Conceptions of Value

I argue that comparisons of Stoic virtue to stochastic skills — now standard in the secondary literature on Stoicism — are based on a misreading of the sources and distort the Stoic position in two respects. In paradigmatic stochastic skills such as archery, medicine, or navigation the value of the skill’s external end justifies the existence and practice of the skill and constitutes an appropriate focus of rational motivation. Neither claim applies to virtue as the Stoics understand it. The stochastic model of virtue almost certainly originated with Carneades and should be distinguished clearly from the Stoic account. Doing so clarifies the Stoic position and shows that it anticipates what Thomas Hurka calls a modern view of value.

Jacob Klein vol. 14 June 2014
06 Autonomy Without Paradox: Kant, Self-Legislation and the Moral Law

Within Kantian ethics and Kant scholarship, it is widely assumed that autonomy consists in the self-legislation of the principle of morality (the Moral Law). In this paper, we challenge this view on both textual and philosophical grounds. We argue that Kant never unequivocally claims that the Moral Law is self-legislated and that he is not philosophically committed to this claim by his overall conception of morality. Instead, the idea of autonomy concerns only substantive moral laws (in the plural), such as the law that one ought not to lie. We argue that autonomy, thus understood, does not have the paradoxical features widely associated with it. Rather, our account highlights a theoretical option that has been neglected in the current debate on whether Kant is best interpreted as a realist or a constructivist, namely that the Moral Law is an a priori principle of pure practical reason that neither requires nor admits of being grounded in anything else.

Pauline Kleingeld; Marcus Willaschek vol. 19 2019
02 Putting Form Before Function: Logical Grammar in Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein

The positions of Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein on the priority of complexes over (propositional) functions are sketched, challenging those who take the "judgment centered" aspects of the Tractatus to be inherited from Frege not Russell. Frege's views on the priority of judgments are problematic, and unlike Wittgenstein's. Russell's views on these matters, and their development, are discussed in detail, and shown to be more sophisticated than usually supposed. Certain misreadings of Russell, including those regarding the relationship between propositional functions and universals, are exposed. Wittgenstein's and Russell's views on logical grammar are shown to be very similar. Russell's type theory does not countenance types of genuine entities nor metaphysical truths that cannot be put into words, contrary to conventional wisdom. I relate this to the debate over "inexpressible truths" in the Tractatus. I lastly comment on the changes to Russell's views brought about by Wittgenstein's influence.

Kevin C. Klement vol. 4 August 2004
14 The Open Instruction Theory of Attitude Reports and the Pragmatics of Answers

Reports on beliefs, desires, and other attitudes continue to raise foundational questions about linguistic meaning and the pragmatics of utterance interpretation. There is a strong intuition that an attitude report like ‘John believes that Mary smokes’ can simply convey the singular proposition that the individual Mary is believed by John to have the property of smoking. Yet, there is also a strong intuition that ‘Lois believes that Superman can fly’ can additionally convey how an individual is represented (viz. as a superhero not as a reporter). Cases of this sort can be generated with any name in a suitable context (Kripke 1979). It is far from settled how this should be explained. I propose the Open Instruction Theory (OIT), according to which the linguistic meaning of attitude report sentences consists in instructions to create mental models, where those instructions leave open, depending on the state of the discourse, the possibility of singular interpretations as well as of complex interpretations including information about ways of representing. The account makes precise the idea that attitude report sentences with proper names are semantically nonspecific (Soames 2004), rather than indexical (Schiffer 2000), yielding predictions about syntactic constraints on interpretation. On this view, linguistic meaning itself does not provide determinate propositions. Since Gricean pragmatics requires determinate propositions as input, I propose new principles of pragmatics for literal utterance interpretation that do not require them but remain strongly constrained by linguistic meaning. The core principle is “inference to the most responsive interpretation.” Roughly, among the range of literal interpretations allowed by linguistic meaning, the listener generates the one that most fully answers the background question she seeks to answer by engaging in discourse. The pragmatics of literal utterance interpretation is the pragmatics of interpreting potential answers, even if communicative intention may be more important for conversational implicature. The account predicts cases in which our interpretations differ from what we would take the speaker to have had in mind. Singular interpretations of attitude reports have a special status as default interpretations. I suggest some advantages of OIT over indexicalist, DRT, and free enrichment theories. I argue that to the extent that we have to go beyond a strict principle of linguistic constraint (Stanley 2005), we should aim toward a principle of psychological constraint.

Philipp Koralus vol. 12 September 2012
13 Debunking Perceptual Beliefs about Ordinary Objects

Debunking arguments are arguments that aim to undermine some range of beliefs by showing that those beliefs are not appropriately connected to their subject matter. Arguments of this sort rear their heads in a wide variety of domains, threatening beliefs about morality, mathematics, logic, color, and the existence of God. Perceptual beliefs about ordinary objects, however, are widely thought to be invulnerable to such arguments. I will show that this is a mistake. I articulate a debunking argument that purports to undermine our most basic perceptual beliefs. I then challenge a number of responses to the argument, including the “permissivist” response that there are a plenitude of objects before us, virtually guaranteeing the accuracy of our object beliefs.

Daniel Z. Korman vol. 14 May 2014
09 Dominance Conditionals and the Newcomb Problem

The dominance conditional 'If I drink the contents of cup A, I will drink more than if drink the contents of cup B' is true if we know that the first cup contains more than the second. In the first part of the paper, I show that only one kind of theory of indicative conditionals can explain this fact — a Stalnaker-type semantics. In the second part of the paper, I show that dominance conditionals can help explain a long-standing mystery: the question of how one-boxers and two-boxers are guided by conditionals to their respective answers to the Newcomb problem. I will suggest that both implicitly appeal to a decision theoretic principle I will call the Dominance Norm (DN), a principle that connects indicative dominance conditionals with rational courses of action. Finally, I show that DN in combination with a Stalnaker-type theory of indicatives commits us to the two-boxing answer in the Newcomb problem.

Theodore Korzukhin vol. 14 April 2014
12 Individuality and Rights in Fichte's Ethics

I propose solutions to two longstanding interpretive questions about J.G. Fichte’s 1796–97 Foundations of Natural Right: 1. What does Fichte mean when he describes the theory of right as ‘independent’ of moral theory, and what motivates that independence thesis? 2. What does Fichte mean when he describes requirements of right and the principle of right as ‘hypothetical’ imperatives, and how is that characterization consistent with his claim to have derived the concept of right as a condition of possibility of self-consciousness? Answers to both questions are motivated by an approach to the text that looks at it through the lens of Fichte’s 1798 System of Ethics, into which its results must fit if, as Fichte believes, the possibility of morally sanctioned interactions with others requires standing in some law-governed political relationship with them.

Michelle Kosch vol. 17 June 2017
30 Practical deliberation and the voice of conscience in Fichte’s 1798 System of Ethics

J.G. Fichte’s 1798 System of Ethics is seldom read, despite the fact that it remains, after more than two centuries, one of the most original and insightful efforts at a systematic normative ethical theory on Kantian foundations. Part of the reason for its obscurity lies in the perceived implausibility of Fichte’s account of practical deliberation and of the authority of individual conscience. The view typically attributed to Fichte is a conjunction of four claims: that moral deliberation consists entirely in consultation of one’s conscience; that conscience is a faculty that gives immediate epistemic access to substantive moral truths; that conformity with the verdict of conscience is the sole criterion of the moral worth of actions; and that an individual’s conscientious decision is therefore morally incorrigible. This set of views is indeed implausible; but Fichte in fact held none of them. Hegel was the first to attribute them to him and, incredibly, Hegel’s has remained for 200 years the dominant interpretation, even among scholars of Fichte. In this paper I explain how Fichte actually thought about practical deliberation and the role of conscience, and diagnose the sources of appeal of the Hegelian interpretation.

Michelle Kosch vol. 14 October 2014
49 The Intentional Structure of Moods

Moods are sometimes claimed to constitute an exception to the rule that mental phenomena are intentional (in the sense of representing something). In reaction, some philosophers have argued that moods are in fact intentional, but exhibit a special and unusual kind of intentionality: They represent the world as a whole, or everything indiscriminately, rather than some more specific object(s). In this paper, I present a problem for extant versions of this idea, then propose a revision that solves the problem but also entrains an important change in our understanding of the nature of moods—and indeed of the nature of mind. What emerges is an intentionalist account that emphasizes the role of attitude rather than content in determining the character of moods.

Uriah Kriegel vol. 19 2019
12 The Epistemological Challenge of Revisionary Metaphysics

This paper presents a systematic challenge to the viability of revisionary metaphysics. The challenge is to provide epistemic grounds on which one might justifiably believe that a revisionary-metaphysical theory in some area is more likely to be true than its competitors. I argue that upon close examination, the main candidates for providing such grounds — empirical evidence, intuition, and the theoretical virtues — all turn out to be unsatisfactory.

Uriah Kriegel vol. 13 June 2013
12 Counterfactuals and the Epistemology of Modality

The paper provides an explanation of our knowledge of metaphysical modality, or modal knowledge, from our ability to evaluate counterfactual conditionals. The latter ability lends itself to an evolutionary explanation since it enables us to learn from mistakes. Different logical principles linking counterfactuals to metaphysical modality can be employed to extend this explanation to the epistemology of modality. While the epistemological use of some of these principles is either philosophically implausible or empirically inadequate, the equivalence of ‘Necessarily p’ with ‘For all q, if q were the case, p would be the case’ is a suitable starting-point for an explanation of modal knowledge.

Thomas Kroedel vol. 12 July 2012
11 The Nature of Noise

There is a growing consensus in the philosophical literature that sounds differ rather profoundly from colors. Colors are qualities, while sounds are particulars of some sort or other, such as events or pressure waves. A key motivation for this is that sounds seem to be transient, to evolve over time, to begin and end, while colors seem like stable qualities of objects' surfaces. I argue that sounds are indeed, like colors, stable qualities of objects. Sounds are not transient, and they do not seem to be, even though they are typically perceived transiently. In particular, sounds are dispositions of objects to vibrate in response to being stimulated. This stable property view of sounds aligns nicely with, and owes an inspirational debt to, reflectance physicalist accounts of color. The upshot is a unified picture of colors, sounds, and the perception thereof.

John Kulvicki vol. 8 November 2008
15 Foul Behavior

Disgust originated as an evolutionary adaptation for avoiding disease, but it has since infiltrated morality. Many philosophers are skeptical of moral disgust. Skeptics argue that disgust is unreliable and harmful, and that we should eliminate or minimize feelings of disgust in moral thought. However, these arguments are unsuccessful. They do not show that disgust is more problematic than other emotions implicated in morality. Moreover, empirical research suggests that disgust supports important norms and values. Disgust is frequently elicited by “reciprocity violations,” i.e., acts of cheating, dishonesty, and exploitation. The emotion is a fitting response because it accurately reflects the ability of these moral wrongs to pollute and to circulate. Repurposing its original functions, moral disgust motivates social exclusion, tracks the spread of immorality, and acts as a signaling system to coordinate sanctioning. Instead of expunging ourselves of moral disgust, then, we should seek to understand its virtues and its vices.

Victor Kumar vol. 17 July 2017
01 How Are Thick Terms Evaluative?

Ethicists are typically willing to grant that thick terms (e.g. ‘courageous’ and ‘murder’) are somehow associated with evaluations. But they tend to disagree about what exactly this relationship is. Does a thick term’s evaluation come by way of its semantic content? Or is the evaluation pragmatically associated with the thick term (e.g. via conversational implicature)? In this paper, I argue that thick terms are semantically associated with evaluations. In particular, I argue that many thick concepts (if not all) conceptually entail evaluative contents. The Semantic View has a number of outspoken critics, but I shall limit discussion to the most recent—Pekka Väyrynen—who believes that objectionable thick concepts present a problem for the Semantic View. After advancing my positive argument in favor of the Semantic View (section II), I argue that Väyrynen’s attack is unsuccessful (section III). One reason ethicists cite for not focusing on thick concepts is that such concepts are supposedly not semantically evaluative whereas traditional thin concepts (e.g. good and wrong) are. But if my view is correct, then this reason must be rejected.

Brent G. Kyle vol. 13 January 2013