Browse by Author
The Possibility of Choice: Three Accounts of the Problem with Coercion
There is a strong moral presumption against the use of coercion, and those who are coerced seem to be less responsible for the actions they were coerced to perform. Both these considerations seem to reflect the effect of coercion on the victim’s choice. This paper examines three ways of understanding this effect. First, I argue against understanding victims as unable to engage in genuine action. Next, I consider the suggestion that victims are unable to consent to participate in the coercer’s plan. Although this suggestion is promising, I argue that the inability to consent reflects a more basic problem. Victims are unable to exercise what I call ‘normative authority’: they are unable to make discretionary changes in the permissions and obligations that they and others have. This final account yields a compelling understanding of why coercion is impermissible when it is and reveals a unique way in which impermissible coercion affects the responsibility of victims.
|Japa Pallikkathayil||vol. 11||November 2011|
Self-Blindness and Self-Knowledge
Many philosophers hold constitutive theories of self-knowledge in the sense that they think either that a person’s psychological states depend upon her having true beliefs about them, or that a person’s believing that she is in a particular psychological state depends upon her actually being in that state. One way to support this type of view can be found in Shoemaker’s well-known argument that an absurd condition, which he calls “self-blindness”, would be possible if a subject’s psychological states and her higher-order beliefs about them were wholly distinct existences. A second reason to endorse a constitutive theory is the widespread conviction that first-person access is epistemically special. In this essay, I shall argue that even if self-blindness is impossible, the best explanation for this does not deny that a person’s psychological states are wholly distinct from her beliefs about them. I shall then attempt to account for the epistemic distinctiveness of first-person access on the basis of fundamental features of rational cognition. One advantage of this account over constitutive theories of self-knowledge is that it is better placed to explain our fallibility and ignorance.
|Matthew Parrott||vol. 17||August 2017|
Theories of Truth and Convention T
Partly due to the influence of Tarski's work, it is commonly assumed that any good theory of truth implies biconditionals of the sort mentioned in Convention T: instances of the T-Schema "s is true in L if and only if p" where the sentence substituted for "p" is equivalent in meaning to s. I argue that we must take care to distinguish the claim that implying such instances is sufficient for adequacy in an account of truth from the claim that doing so is necessary. The claim that doing so is sufficient is a common component of deflationary theories of truth, while the claim that it is necessary, though often assumed, must be denied by proponents of rival inflationary theories of truth. I discuss the clarification of the debate between these views of truth that results from distinguishing the necessity and the sufficiency claims, and examine the prospects for its resolution.
|Douglas Patterson||vol. 2||December 2002|
How We Know What We’re Doing
Abstract: G.E.M. Anscombe famously claimed that acting intentionally entails knowing "without observation" what one is doing. Among those that have taken her claim seriously, an influential response has been to suppose that in order to explain this fact, we should conclude that intentions are a species of belief. This paper argues that there are good reasons to reject this "cognitivist" view of intention in favor of the view that intentions are distinctively practical attitudes that are not beliefs and do not constitutively involve the belief that one will do what one intends. A theory is then proposed on behalf of Distinctive Practical Attitude views of intention to explain Anscombe's non-observational knowledge phenomenon. It is argued that intentions do not embody non-observational knowledge, but they do provide the evidential basis for it: we know without observation what we are doing by inferring from our intentions.
|Sarah K. Paul||vol. 9||October 2009|
In their theories of know how, proponents of Intellectualism routinely appeal to ‘practical modes of presentation’. But what are practical modes of presentation? And what makes them distinctively practical? In this essay, I develop a Fregean account of practical modes of presentation: I argue that there are such things as practical senses and I give a theory of what they are. One of the challenges facing the proponent of a distinctively Fregean construal of practical modes of presentation is to provide an account of their nature on which they are plausible qua Fregean senses. I take up this challenge, arguing that we find examples of practical senses in the semantic values assigned to programs by operational semantics for programming languages. By looking at a species of practical senses, we will have taken one important step towards legitimizing the genus. In particular, I show that certain features of operational semantic values can be generalized towards a comprehensive theory of practical senses. The upshot is a full-fledged account of what practical senses are, which can be put to use in an explanatory theory of know how.
|Carlotta Pavese||vol. 15||November 2015|
William King on Free Will
William King's De Origine Mali (1702) contains an interesting, sophisticated, and original account of free will. King finds 'necessitarian' theories of freedom, such as those advocated by Hobbes and Locke, inadequate, but argues that standard versions of libertarianism commit one to the claim that free will is a faculty for going wrong. On such views, free will is something we would be better off without. King argues that both problems can be avoided by holding that we confer value on objects by valuing them. Such a view secures sourcehood and alternative possibilities while denying that free will is simply a capacity to choose contrary to our best judgment. This theory escapes all of the objections levelled against it by Leibniz and also has interesting consequences for ethics: although constructed within a eudaimonist framework, King's theory gives rise to a very strong moral requirement of respect for individual self-determination.
|Kenneth L. Pearce||vol. 19||2019|
Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions
According to Leibniz's late metaphysics, sensory perception represents to us as extended, colored, textured, etc., a world which fundamentally consists only of non-spatial, colorless entities, the monads. It is a short step from here to the conclusion that sensory perception radically misleads us about the true nature of reality. In this paper, I argue that this oft-repeated claim is false. Leibniz holds that in typical cases of body perception the bodies perceived really exist and have the qualities, both primary and secondary, they are perceived to have. At the same time, Leibniz holds that our perceptions of these bodies are accurate representations of the monads from which the bodies result. The contrary thesis — that our body perceptions are misrepresentations of the monads — stems from a misunderstanding of Leibniz's theory of confused concepts and his phenomenalist account of the nature of body. Clarifying these issues will have important consequences for our understanding of Leibniz's idealistic metaphysics and the manner in which that metaphysical theory is meant to support mechanistic science.
|Kenneth L. Pearce||vol. 16||February 2016|
Suárez on the Reduction of Categorical Relations
Francisco Suárez wrote one of the most thorough treatments in the Western philosophical tradition of the metaphysics of relations. Suárez, so I argue, is a reductivist about categorical relations, i.e., about the relations that make up one of the Aristotelian categories of being. One thing being similar to another requires nothing more than those two things and their non-relational qualities. Suárez is wary, however, of identifying too closely with earlier reductivists of the nominalist school, since he retains a pair of traditional commitments that he thinks they were too quick to jettison: namely, that two relata do not contribute equally to their relation and that there are non-mutual relations. The latter commitment in particular ends up leading Suárez down an unsatisfactory path.
|Sydney Penner||vol. 13||January 2013|
Spinoza on Extension
This paper argues that Spinoza does not take extension in space to be a fundamental property of physical things. This means that when Spinoza calls either substance or a mode “an Extended thing”, he does not mean that it is a thing extended in three dimensions. The argument proceeds by showing, first, that Spinoza does not associate extension in space with substance, and second, that finite bodies, or physical things, are not understood through the intellect when they are conceived as extended in space. I conclude by articulating some suggestions about where we should go from here in trying to understand Spinoza’s account of the attribute of extension and of the physical world.
|Alison Peterman||vol. 15||April 2015|
Accuracy and the credence-belief connection
Probabilism says an agent is rational only if her credences are probabilistic. This paper is concerned with the so-called Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism. This argument begins with the claim that the sole fundamental source of epistemic value for a credence is its accuracy. It then shows that, however we measure accuracy, any non-probabilistic credences are accuracy-dominated: that is, there are alternative credences that are guaranteed to be more accurate than them. It follows that non-probabilistic credences are irrational. In this paper, I identify and explore a lacuna in this argument. I grant that, if the only doxastic attitudes are credal attitudes, the argument succeeds. But many philosophers say that, alongside credences, there are other doxastic attitudes, such as full beliefs. What's more, those philosophers typically claim, these other doxastic attitudes are closely connected to credences, either as a matter of necessity or normatively. Now, since full beliefs are also doxastic attitudes, it seems that, like credences, the sole source of epistemic value for them is their accuracy. Thus, if we wish to measure the epistemic value of an agent's total doxastic state, we must include not only the accuracy of her credences, but also the accuracy of her full beliefs. However, if this is the case, there is a problem for the Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism. For all the argument says, there might be non-probabilistic credences such that there is no total doxastic state that accuracy-dominates the total doxastic state to which those credences belong.
|Richard Pettigrew||vol. 15||June 2015|
Deference Done Right
There are many kinds of epistemic experts to which we might wish to defer in setting our credences. These include: highly rational agents, objective chances, our own future credences, our own current credences, and evidential (or logical) probabilities. But exactly what constraint does a deference requirement place on an agent's credences? In this paper we consider three answers, inspired by three principles that have been proposed for deference to objective chances. We consider how these options fare when applied to the other kinds of epistemic experts mentioned above. Of the three deference principles we consider, we argue that two of the options face insuperable difficulties. The third, on the other hand, fares well|at least when it is applied in a particular way.
|Richard Pettigrew; Michael G. Titelbaum||vol. 14||December 2014|
First Person Data, Publicity and Self-Measurement
First-person data have been both condemned and hailed because of their alleged privacy. Critics argue that science must be based on public evidence: since first-person data are private, they should be banned from science. Apologists reply that first-person data are necessary for understanding the mind: since first-person data are private, scientists must be allowed to use private evidence. I argue that both views rest on a false premise. In psychology and neuroscience, the subjects issuing first-person reports and other sources of first-person data play the epistemic role of a (self-) measuring instrument. Data from measuring instruments are public and can be validated by public methods. Therefore, first-person data are as public as other scientific data: their use in science is legitimate, in accordance with standard scientific methodology.
|Gualtiero Piccinini||vol. 9||October 2009|
A Quinean Critique of Ostrich Nominalism
Ostrich nominalists often cite Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment in order to claim that their view is more parsimonious than rival positions in ontology such as realism. We show that Quine’s criterion, properly understood, does not support this claim. Indeed, we show that ostrich nominalism has a far more profligate ontology than realism.
|Bryan Pickel; Nicholas Mantegani||vol. 12||March 2012|
The Unsolvability of The Quintic: A Case Study in Abstract Mathematical Explanation
This paper identifies one way that a mathematical proof can be more explanatory than another proof. This is by invoking a more abstract kind of entity than the topic of the theorem. These abstract mathematical explanations are identified via an investigation of a canonical instance of modern mathematics: the Galois theory proof that there is no general solution in radicals for fifth-degree polynomial equations. I claim that abstract explanations are best seen as describing a special sort of dependence relation between distinct mathematical domains. This case study highlights the importance of the conceptual, as opposed to computational, turn of much of modern mathematics, as recently emphasized by Tappenden and Avigad. The approach adopted here is contrasted with alternative proposals by Steiner and Kitcher.
|Christopher Pincock||vol. 15||January 2015|
Logically Simple Properties and Relations
This paper presents an account of what it is for a property or relation (or ‘attribute’ for short) to be logically simple. Based on this account, it is shown, among other things, that the logically simple attributes are in at least one important way sparse. This in turn lends support to the view that the concept of a logically simple attribute can be regarded as a promising substitute for Lewis’s concept of a perfectly natural attribute. At least in part, the advantage of using the former concept lies in the fact that it is amenable to analysis, where that analysis—i. e., the account put forward in this paper—requires the adoption neither of an Armstrongian theory of universals nor of a primitive notion of naturalness, fundamentality, or grounding.
|Jan Plate||vol. 16||January 2016|
Disagreement and the Semantics of Normative and Evaluative Terms
In constructing semantic theories of normative and evaluative terms, philosophers have commonly deployed a certain type of disagreement-based argument. The premise of the argument observes the possibility of genuine disagreement between users of a certain normative or evaluative term, while the conclusion of the argument is that, however differently those speakers employ the term, they must mean the same thing by it. After all, if they did not, then they would not really disagree. We argue that in many of the cases in which this argument is deployed, the conclusion not only fails to follow from the premises, but is very likely false. Disagreements between speakers who do not mean the same things by their words are common, genuine, and not easily distinguished from ordinary disagreements over the truth of literally expressed content. We make this case by developing the notion of a metalinguistic negotiation, an exchange in which speakers tacitly negotiate the proper deployment of some linguistic expression in a context. Metalinguistic negotiations express disagreements over information that is (a) conveyed pragmatically (rather than via literal semantic content) and (b) about what (and how) concepts should be deployed in the context at hand. We argue that neither of these features poses any obstacle to metalinguistic negotiations serving to express genuine, substantive disagreements that can be well worth engaging in. Contrary to what has been widely assumed in the literature, many normative and evaluative disputes—among ordinary speakers and even among philosophers themselves—may be of exactly this type, a conclusion with important consequences for both the subject matter and the methodology of metanormative theory.
|David Plunkett; Tim Sundell||vol. 13||December 2013|
Finite agents such as human beings have reasoning and updating processes that are extended in time; consequently, there is always some lag between the point at which we gain new reasons and the point at which our attitudes have fully responded to those reasons. This phenomenon, which I call rational delay, poses a threat to the most common ways of formulating rational requirements on our attitudes, which do not allow rational beings to exhibit such delay. In this paper, I show first how this problem undermines synchronic formulations of rational norms. Then I show how it likewise undermines the most natural diachronic modifications of these norms. Ultimately, I argue that a successful account of rational delay will reject norms that directly govern attitudes or states of mind like belief and intention altogether, in favor of norms that fundamentally concern temporally extended rational processes like deliberation.
|Abelard Podgorski||vol. 17||February 2017|
Hume’s Treatment of Denial in the Treatise
David Hume fancied himself the Newton of the mind, aiming to reinvent the study of human mental life in the same way that Newton had revolutionized physics. And it was his view that the novel account of belief he proposed in his Treatise of Human Nature was one of that work’s central philosophical contributions. From the earliest responses to the Treatise forward, however, there was deep pessimism about the prospects for his account. It is easy to understand the source of this pessimism: The constraints he employed in theorizing stem from his Newtonian ambitions. Constraints such as his copy principle and his decision to rely only on variations in “force and vivacity” for differentiating types of mental states severely limit his available explanatory resources. However, it is one thing to regard an account as untenable, and quite another to understand where it fails. In this paper, I focus on one long-standing objection to Hume’s account — the objection that Hume cannot offer an account of negative belief or denial — as presented by Hume’s contemporary Thomas Reid, as well as more recently by Barry Stroud, and defend Hume from this objection. I argue that Hume both should and does endorse an account of negative belief based in relations of contrariety between contents, rather than between mental activities, and survey the different options available to Hume for spelling out an account of contrary contents.
|Lewis Powell||vol. 14||August 2014|
It is a commonplace that there are limits to the ways we can permissibly treat people, even in the service of good ends. For example, we may not steal someone’s wallet, even if we wish to donate the contents to famine relief, or break a promise to help a col-league move, even if we encounter someone else on the way whose need is somewhat more urgent. In other words, we should observe constraints against mistreating people, even when violating a constraint is the only way to prevent further, similar violations or other, greater evils. But, despite its intuitive appeal, the view that there are constraints has drawn considerable criticism, and at-tempts to provide a rationale for constraints have been, at best, substantially incomplete. In this paper, I develop a novel rationale for constraints that fills important gaps left by views in the literature: put roughly, observing constraints is a condition for being worthy of a certain form of trust, which I call civic trust, and being worthy of such trust is an essential part of living with others in the kind of harmony that characterizes morally permissible interaction. By focusing, in ways that other accounts do not, on the role that observing constraints plays in our psychological lives, this approach not only makes the structure of constraints more intelligible, but also helps us better appreciate the reason-giving force of constraints, and better understand the kind of moral community to which we should aspire.
|Ryan Preston-Roedder||vol. 17||February 2017|
Kant on the Cosmological Argument
In the first Critique Kant levels two main charges against the cosmological argument. First, it commits the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi. Second, in two rather different ways, it presupposes the ontological argument. Commentators have struggled to find merit in either of these charges. The paper argues that they can nonetheless be shown to have some merit, so long as one takes care to correctly identify the version of the cosmological argument that Kant means to be attacking. That turns out to be a charitably modified version of the argument run by Christian Wolff. Having described Kant’s target argument, the paper goes on to explicate his criticisms and to weigh their merits.
|Ian Proops||vol. 14||May 2014|