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20 The Essential Non-Indexical

The aim of this paper is to argue that our non-first-personal ways of thinking of ourselves – those we would naturally express in language without using first person pronouns – are just as important to our agency as our indexical ways of thinking of ourselves. They are just important in different ways. Specifically, I argue that a thinker who is systematically excluded from these non-first-personal modes of self-directed thought would be excluded from participation in some of the domains of agency we value most as part of a full human life: the domains of agency associated with our social identities.

Léa Salje vol. 19 2019
01 Interventions in Premise Semantics

This paper investigates what happens when we merge two different lines of theorizing about counterfactuals. One is the comparative closeness view, which was developed by Stalnaker and Lewis in the framework of possible worlds semantics. The second is the interventionist view, which is part of the causal models framework developed in statistics and computer science. Common lore and existing literature have it that the two views can be easily fit together, aside from a few details. I argue that, on the contrary, transplanting causal-models-inspired ideas in a possible worlds framework yields a new semantics. The difference is grounded in different algorithms for handling inconsistent information, hence it touches on issues that are at the very heart of a semantics for contrary-to-fact conditionals. Roughly, Stalnaker/Lewis semantics requires us to evaluate the consequent of a counterfactual at all closest antecedent-verifying possibilities. Causal-models-based semantics also does this, but in addition uses the information contained in the antecedent, together with background causal information, to shift what worlds count as closest. This makes systematically different predictions and generates a new logic. The upshot is that we have a new semantics to study, and a substantial theoretical choice to make.

Paolo Santorio vol. 19 2019
09 Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy

Moral philosophers of late have been examining the implications of experimental social psychology for ethics. The focus of attention has been on situationism—the thesis that we routinely underestimate the extent to which minor situational variables influence morally significant behavior. Situationism has been seen as a threat to prevailing lay and philosophical theories of character, personhood, and agency. In this paper, I outline the situationist literature and critique one of its upshots: the admonition to carefully select one’s situational contexts. Besides being limited in application, this strategy accentuates an untenable person/situation dichotomy. The deeper lesson of situationism lies in highlighting the interconnectedness of all social behavior—how we are inextricably involved in the actions of others, and how minor tweaks in our own behavior can lead to major payoffs in our moral lives. Situationism is better seen as an opportunity for moral progress than a threat to individual autonomy.

Hagop Sarkissian vol. 10 August 2010
07 The Artificial Virtues of Thought: Correctness and Cognition in Hume

In this essay, I discuss two familiar objections to Hume's account of cognition, focusing on his ability to give a satisfactory account of the more normative dimensions of thought and language use. In doing so, I argue that Hume’s implicit account of these issues is far richer than is normally assumed. In particular, I show that Hume’s account of convention-driven artificial virtues like justice also applies to the proper use of conventional public languages. I then use this connection between Hume’s conception of language and his moral theory to show how he can respond to a number of basic objections to his views. In doing so, I explore the sense in which human cognition is essentially linguistic, and so social, for Hume, as well as many other issues concerning the relationship between Hume’s philosophy of mind and language, his epistemology, and his ethics.

Karl Schafer vol. 19 2019
01 Curious Virtues in Hume’s Epistemology

This paper explores Hume's relationship to skepticism — and, in particular, his relationship to the skeptical arguments outlined in Part 1.4 of the Treatise. Following recent work on these issues, I give a broadly non-skeptical interpretation of these passages. But this leaves us with the question of why Hume endorses such a response. I consider and criticize a popular answer to this question: the Practical Reading, according to which Hume's positive evaluation of some forms of reasoning at the close of Book 1 is based on purely practical grounds. Although I agree with one version of this interpretation that Hume's evaluation of his own reasoning in 1.4.7 has deep structural similarities with Humean moral evaluation, I argue that the former mode of evaluation is best thought of as concerned — not with narrowly practical considerations — but instead with a form of epistemic virtue. I then go on to outline the theory of epistemic virtue that I take to be implicit in Hume's account — one which focuses on the role of the "intellectual" passions of curiosity and ambition in epistemic evaluation.

Karl Schafer vol. 14 January 2014
11 The Ground Between the Gaps

According to a line of thought tracing from Descartes, Leibniz, and Locke through to Kripke, Levine, and Chalmers, there is a special explanatory gap arising between the physical and the phenomenal. I argue that the physical-phenomenal gap is not special but rather that such gaps are pervasive, lurking in the transition from the physical to the chemical and in every concrete transition from more to less fundamental. Correlatively, I argue that such gaps are unproblematic, so long as they are bridged by substantive principles of metaphysical grounding. So I articulate a form of physicalism — “ground physicalism” — on which the physical grounds the chemical, the biological, and the psychological, and explain how ground physicalism resolves explanatory gap worries.

Jonathan Schaffer vol. 17 May 2017
21 The Allegedly Cartesian Roots of Spinoza's Metaphysics

There is a familiar story about Spinoza on which his substance monism arises straightforwardly from Descartes’ own conception of substance, which the latter combines—not entirely consistently—with substance pluralism. I argue that this story is mistaken: substance pluralism is fully consistent with Descartes’ conception of substance; it is also consistent with his claim that the term ‘substance’ is non-univocal. In defense of these claims, I argue that Descartes denies, whereas Spinoza accepts, that causation precludes the kind of independence that is characteristic of substance; further, I show how Descartes’ denial is based on his view that causal relations do not belong to the natures of their relata, whereas Spinoza’s acceptance follows from his commitment to an intimate link between causation and conception (conceiving-through), which Descartes also rejects.

Anat Schechtman vol. 18
08 The Metaphysics of Surfaces in Suárez and Descartes

In his discussions of the Eucharist, Descartes gives prominent place to the notion of the “surfaces” of bodies. Given this context, it may seem that his account of surfaces is of limited interest. However, I hope to show that such an account is in fact linked to a philosophically significant medieval debate over whether certain mathematical “indivisibles”, including surfaces, really exist in nature. Moreover, the particular emphasis in Descartes on the fact that surfaces are modes rather than parts of bodies bespeaks the influence of the later scholastic Francisco Suárez. However, in his own contribution to the medieval debate, Suárez refrained from identifying surfaces with modes, holding instead that they are special “constituents” of bodies that differ from the parts of which these bodies are composed. Two main conclusions derive from the comparison of the views of Suárez and Descartes on surfaces. The first is that Descartes’s “modal realist” account is in fact superior to the “moderate realist” account that Suárez offers, for reasons internal to Suárez’s own system. The second is that Suárez’s reasons for refraining from adopting modal realism in this case serve to highlight a serious deficiency in Descartes’s version of this view. In this way, a consideration of the relevant Suárezian background allows us to better appreciate both the strengths and the weaknesses of Descartes’s stance on the metaphysics of surfaces.

Tad M. Schmaltz vol. 19 2019
01 Realism and Reduction: the Quest for Robustness

It doesn't seem possible to be a realist about the traditional Christian God while claiming to be able to reduce God talk in naturalistically acceptable terms. Reduction, in this case, seems obviously eliminativist. Many philosophers seem to think that the same is true of the normative-that reductive "realists" about the normative are not really realists about the normative at all, or at least, only in some attenuated sense. This paper takes on the challenge of articulating what it is that makes reductive theological realism look hopeless, with the aim of explaining why we should think that the normative is relevantly different. Although it follows from my diagnosis that reductivists have their work cut out for them, I find nothing which suggests that the prospects for a successful reductive realism about the normative are in any way diminished-particularly for reductive views about reasons. Even reductivists, I argue, can at least aspire to a realism that is robust.

Mark Schroeder vol. 5 February 2005
01 Donald Davidson's Theory of Mind is Non-Normative

Donald Davidson's theory of mind is widely regarded as a normative theory. This is a something of a confusion. Once a distinction has been made between the categorisation scheme of a norm and the norm's force-maker, it becomes clear that a Davidsonian theory of mind is not a normative theory after all. Making clear the distinction, applying it to Davidson's theory of mind, and showing its significance are the main purposes of this paper. In the concluding paragraphs, a sketch is given of how a truly normative Davidsonian theory of mind might be formulated.

Timothy Schroeder vol. 3 May 2003
03 Normative Concepts and Motivation

Philip Pettit, Michael Smith, and Tyler Burge have suggested that the similarities between theoretical and practical reasoning can bolster the case for judgment internalism - i.e. the claim that normative judgments are necessarily connected to motivation. In this paper, I first flesh out the rationale for this new approach to internalism. I then argue that even if there are reasons for thinking that internalism holds in the theoretical domain, these reasons don't generalize to the practical domain.

François Schroeter vol. 5 May 2005
25 Normative Concepts: A Connectedness Model

This paper proposes a new relational account of concepts and shows how it is particularly well suited to characterizing normative concepts. The key advantage of our ‘connectedness’ model is that it explains how subjects can share the same normative concepts despite radical divergences in the descriptive or motivational commitments they associate with them. The connectedness model builds social and historical facts into the foundations of concept identity. This aspect of the model, we suggest, reshapes normative epistemology and provides new resources for a vindication of realism in ethics.

Laura Schroeter; François Schroeter vol. 14 July 2014
13 Normative realism: co-reference without convergence?

This paper examines whether realists can explain co-reference without appealing to subjects’ ideal convergence in judgment. This question is particularly pressing in the normative domain, since deep disagreement about the applicability of normative predicates suggests that different speakers may not pick out the same property when they use normative terms. Normative realists, we believe, have not been sufficiently aware of the difficulties involved in providing a theory of reference-determination. Our aim in this paper is to clarify the nature of this reference-fixing task and the challenges that arise for a non-convergentist normative realist. Our focal point will be Richard Boyd’s externalist account, which has been a model for non-convergentist theories of reference in metaethics. A close examination of Boyd’s account of reference and the ways it could be developed or supplemented, we’ll argue, suggests that explaining co-reference without convergence in the normative domain is a more challenging problem than many realists have supposed.

Laura Schroeter; François Schroeter vol. 13 July 2013
03 Gruesome Diagonals

Frank Jackson and David Chalmers have suggested that the diagonal intensions defined by their two-dimensional framework can play the two key roles of Fregean senses: they provide a priori accessible extension conditions for a representation and they provide the identity conditions for meanings and thought contents. In this paper, I clarify the nature of the psychological abilities that are needed to underwrite the first role. I then argue that these psychological abilities are not sufficiently stable or cognitively salient to individuate meanings or thought contents.

Laura Schroeter vol. 3 August 2003
08 A Causal Understanding of When and When Not to Jeffrey Conditionalize

There are cases of ineffable learning — i. e., cases where an agent learns something, but becomes certain of nothing that she can express — where it is rational to update by Jeffrey conditionalization. But there are likewise cases of ineffable learning where updating by Jeffrey conditionalization is irrational. In this paper, we first characterize a novel class of cases where it is irrational to update by Jeffrey conditionalization. Then we use the d-separation criterion (from the graphical approach to causal modeling) to develop a causal understanding of when and when not to Jeffrey conditionalize that (unlike other norms on offer) bars updating by Jeffrey conditionalization in these cases. Finally, we reflect on how the possibility of so-called “unfaithful” causal systems bears on the normative force of the causal updating norm that we advocate.

Ben Schwan; Reuben Stern vol. 17 May 2017
06 Ability and Possibility

According to the classical quantificational analysis of modals, an agent has the ability to perform an act iff (roughly) relevant facts about the agent and her environment are compatible with her performing the act. The analysis faces a number of problems, many of which can be traced to the fact that it takes even accidental performance of an act as proof of the relevant ability. I argue that ability statements are systematically ambiguous: on one reading, accidental performance really is enough; on another, more is required. The stronger notion of ability plays a central role in normative contexts. Both readings, I argue, can be captured within the classical quantificational framework, provided we allow conversational context to impose restrictions not just on the “accessible worlds” (the facts that are held fixed), but also on what counts as a performance of the relevant act among these worlds.

Wolfgang Schwarz vol. 20 2020
15 Understanding “Practical Knowledge”

The concept of practical knowledge is central to G.E.M. Anscombe's argument in Intention, yet its meaning is little understood. There are several reasons for this, including a lack of attention to Anscombe's ancient and medieval sources for the concept, and an emphasis on the (supposedly) more straightforward concept of knowledge "without observation" in the interpretation of Anscombe's position. This paper remedies the situation, first by appealing to the writings of Thomas Aquinas to develop an account of practical knowledge as a distinctive form of thought that "aims at production" of things that lie within an agent's power; and then by showing how this Thomistic understanding of practical cognition seems to have been Anscombe's, too. Having done this, I question whether the thesis that agential knowledge is practical knowledge entails that an agent always has non-observational knowledge of what she is intentionally doing. I answer "Not": Anscombe's claims to the contrary rest on a misleading assimilation of human beings' finite agency to that of an infinite agent like God.

John Schwenkler vol. 15 June 2015
17 Immunity and Self-Awareness

Three pathologies of alienation (thought insertion, anarchic hand syndrome, and somatoparaphrenia) have been claimed to refute the philosophical thesis that introspection-based self-ascriptions of mental states are immune to error through misidentification. In this paper, I show that this critique of the Immunity Thesis is misguided; the cases of alienation either are not self-ascriptions or do not involve misidentification. Rather, these cases undermine a widely assumed explanation of immunity, which is based on the idea that self-ascriptions of mental states are identification-free. I argue that, given a certain understanding of the Immunity Thesis, identification-freedom does not explain immunity anyhow, and I offer an alternative explanation, one which posits a tight link between first-personal awareness and ownership of a mental state.

Max Seeger vol. 15 July 2015
26 Pythagoreanism: A Number of Theories

Pythagoreanism, the claim that ‘all is number’, is rarely taken seriously these days as a candidate for the sober metaphysical truth. This is a mistake. I distinguish various versions of Pythagoreanism. Some such versions are unmotivated, some are subject to serious objections, and some are both. But, I argue, there is a robust version of Pythagoreanism—according to which there is a true theory whose ontology and ideology are wholly mathematical from which every truth follows—that is both well-motivated and not subject to any serious objection. Given that fact, Pythagoreanism ought to be a serious metaphysical contender.

Aaron Segal vol. 19 2019
34 Two Feelings in the Beautiful: Kant on the Structure of Judgments of Beauty

In this paper, I propose a solution to a notorious puzzle that lies at the heart of Kant’s Critique of Judgment. The puzzle arises because Kant asserts two apparently conflicting claims: (1) F→J: A judgment of beauty is aesthetic, i.e., grounded in feeling. (2) J→F: A judgment of beauty could not be based on and must ground the feeling of pleasure in the beautiful. I argue that (1) and (2) are consistent. Kant’s text indicates that he distinguishes two feelings: the feeling of the harmony of the cognitive faculties that is the ground of judgments of beauty (F1 → J), and the feeling of pleasure that is its consequence (J → F2). I develop and defend a view of Kant’s account of the structure of judgments of beauty that incorporates this crucial distinction. Next, I argue that my view resolves another long-standing problem for Kant’s “Deduction” of judgments of beauty: it allows him to claim that the harmony of the faculties is a condition of judgment in general without implying, absurdly, that all judgments are pleasurable.

Janum Sethi vol. 19 2019
15 Retrospection

This paper argues from the rationality of nostalgia, affirmation, and regret to a principle of ‘specificity’: it can be rational to respond more strongly to facts that provide us with reasons than to the fact that such reasons exist.

Kieran Setiya vol. 16 August 2016
31 The Midlife Crisis

Philosophy can solve the midlife crisis, at least in one of its forms. This crisis turns on the exhaustibility of our ends. The solution is to value ends that are ‘atelic,’ so inexhaustible. Topics include: John Stuart Mill's nervous breakdown; Aristotle on the finality of the highest good; and Schopenhauer on the futility of desire.

Kieran Setiya vol. 14 November 2014
09 Murdoch on the Sovereignty of Good

Considering her fame, Iris Murdoch's presence in contemporary philosophy is surprisingly limited. She is rarely cited and less often discussed. The reasons for this neglect are various, but they include the difficulty of finding definite arguments in her work. This essay attempts to recover The Sovereignty of Good as an intervention in existing and perennial disputes. Murdoch defends a radical internalism about moral reasons that avoids the problem of ethical rationalism and the question "Why be moral?" She derives this conception from a general theory of concepts that has Platonic roots, a theory on which the conditions of concept-possession are tied to the norms of practical and theoretical reason. As well as saving morality from the sceptic, this theory supports an ontological proof of the reality of the Good.

Kieran Setiya vol. 13 May 2013
05 How Action Governs Intention

Why can't deliberation conclude in an intention except by considering whether to perform the intended action? I argue that the answer to this question entails that reasons for intention are determined by reasons for action. Understanding this feature of practical deliberation thus allows us to solve the toxin puzzle.

Nishi Shah vol. 8 July 2008
01 Sidgwick on Moral Motivation

Sidgwick holds that moral judgments are claims about what it is reasonable to do. He also holds that these judgments about what it is reasonable to do can motivate. He must, then, respond to Hume's argument that reason cannot motivate. I clarify Sidgwick's claims, give his argument against Hume, and reply to various Humean objections.

Robert Shaver vol. 6 February 2006
16 There Can Be No Turing-Test-Passing Memorizing Machines

Anti-behaviorist arguments against the validity of the Turing Test as a sufficient condition for attributing intelligence are based on a memorizing machine, which has recorded within it responses to every possible Turing Test interaction of up to a fixed length. The mere possibility of such a machine is claimed to be enough to invalidate the Turing Test. I consider the nomological possibility of memorizing machines, and how long a Turing Test they can pass. I replicate my previous analysis of this critical Turing Test length based on the age of the universe, show how considerations of communication time shorten that estimate and allow eliminating the sole remaining contingent assumption, and argue that the bound is so short that it is incompatible with the very notion of the Turing Test. I conclude that the memorizing machine objection to the Turing Test as a sufficient condition for attributing intelligence is invalid.

Stuart M. Shieber vol. 14 June 2014
01 The Role of Perception in Demonstrative Reference

Siegel defends "Limited Intentionism", a theory of what secures the semantic reference of uses of bare demonstratives ("this", "that" and their plurals). According to Limited Intentionism, demonstrative reference is fixed by perceptually anchored intentions on the part of the speaker.

Susanna Siegel vol. 2 June 2002
07 Why ‘Ought’ Detaches: Or, Why You Ought to Get with My Friends (If You Want to Be My Lover)

This paper argues that a standard analysis of modals from formal semantics suggests a solution to the detaching problem — the problem of whether un-embedded 'ought'-claims can "detach" (be derived) from hypothetical imperatives and their antecedent conditions. On a broadly Kratzerian analysis, modals have a skeletal conventional meaning and receive a particular reading (e.g., deontic, epistemic, teleological) only relative to certain forms of contextual supplementation. I argue that 'ought'-claims can detach — subject to an important qualification — but only as long as the 'ought's in the conditional premise and conclusion are interpreted relative to the same ordering sources. Although modus ponens can be shown to fail with hypothetical imperatives, the cases in question do not constitute a failure of detachment in the sense that ethicists have cared about. Rival wide-scoping accounts are proven to be linguistically problematic. They make incorrect predictions about the meanings of hypothetical imperatives, and founder in response to quantificational variants of the detaching problem.

Alex Silk vol. 14 March 2014
14 Mind-Body Union and the Limits of Cartesian Metaphysics

Human beings pose a problem for Descartes’ metaphysics. They seem to be more than a mere sum of their mental and bodily parts; human beings, Descartes insists, are unions of mind and body. But what does that union amount to? In the first, negative, part of this paper I argue that, by Descartes’ own lights, there is no way for us to answer this question if we are looking for a proper metaphysics of the union. Metaphysics is the job of the intellect; it involves understanding. On Descartes’ considered view, we don’t understand the union; we feel it through the internal senses. In the second, positive, part of the paper I argue that, while Descartes does not (and cannot) give a properly metaphysical account of the union, he does provide a rich phenomenology of it that is of both theoretical and practical interest. Along the way, I suggest a phenomenological reading of a number of important passages that scholars have interpreted as Descartes’ attempt to provide a metaphysics of the union.

Alison Simmons vol. 17 July 2017
02 Cartesian Consciousness Reconsidered

Descartes revolutionized our conception of the mind by identifying consciousness as the mark of the mental: all and only thoughts are conscious. Today the idea that all thoughts are conscious seems obviously wrong. Worse, however, Descartes himself seems to posit a whole host of unconscious thoughts. Something is not as it seems. Either Descartes is remarkably inconsistent, or his claim that all thought is conscious is more nuanced than it appears. In this paper I argue that while Descartes was indeed unwavering in his commitment to the conscious mark, he had the resources to distinguish different types and degrees of consciousness that make for a richer cognitive psychology than he is typically credited with.

Alison Simmons vol. 12 January 2012
09 Natural Conventions and Indirect Speech Acts

In this paper, we develop the notion of a natural convention, and illustrate its usefulness in a detailed examination of indirect requests in English. Our treatment of convention is grounded in Lewis’s (1969) seminal account; we do not here redefine convention, but rather explore the space of possibilities within Lewis’s definition, highlighting certain types of variation that Lewis de-emphasized. Applied to the case of indirect requests, which we view through a Searlean lens, the notion of natural convention allows us to give a nuanced answer to the question: Are indirect requests conventional? In conclusion, we reflect on the consequences of our view for the understanding of the semantics/pragmatics divide.

Mandy Simons; Kevin J. S. Zollman vol. 19 2019
01 The Dynamics of Non-Being

Maybe there is something rather than nothing because the nothingness force acted on itself, and when the nothing nothings itself it produces something. Robert Nozick suggested this as a candidate explanation of the fact that there is something rather than nothing. If he is right that it is a candidate explanation, we should pay attention: there are not many candidates out there. But his "explanation" looks, instead, like a paradigm case of philosophical nonsense. In this paper I describe a "metaphysical dynamics" that makes sense out of Nozick's apparent nonsense.

Bradford Skow vol. 10 January 2010
10 Local and Global Relativity Principles

Local versions of the (special) principle of relativity say that if the same type of experiment is conducted in two isolated, unaccelerated laboratories, then the outcomes of those experiments must be the same. Global versions of the principle say that if you take a physically possible world and boost the entire material content of that world, you get another physically possible world. Some authors say that the local and the global principles are logically independent, and that the local version is more important. These authors are wrong. I argue that the global version entails the local version, and discuss why a counterexample to this entailment offered by Tim Budden fails.

Bradford Skow vol. 8 October 2008
23 Mill's Conversion: The Herschel Connection

Between the first and second editions of A System of Logic, John Stuart Mill underwent a startling conversion from an uncompromising frequentist philosophy of probability to a thoroughly Bayesian degree-of-belief view. The conversion was effected by correspondence with the eminent scientist Sir John Herschel, to whom Mill already owed what have become known as Mill's Methods of Experimental Inference. We present the relevant correspondence, and discuss the extent of Mill's conversion.

Brian Skyrms vol. 18 2018
19 Basic Action and Practical Knowledge

It is a commonplace in philosophy of action that there is and must be teleologically basic action: something done on an occasion without doing it by means of doing anything else. It is widely believed that basic actions are exercises of skill. As the source of the need for basic action is the structure of practical reasoning, this yields a conception of skill and practical reasoning as complementary but mutually exclusive. On this view, practical reasoning and complex intentional action depend on skill and basic action, but the latter pair are not themselves rationally structured: the movements a basic action comprises are not intentional actions, and they are not structured as means to an end. However, Michael Thompson and Douglas Lavin have argued that action that bears no inner rational structure is not intentional action at all, and that therefore there can be no such thing as basic action. In this paper, I argue that their critique shows that standard conceptions of basic action are indeed untenable, but not that we can do without an alternative. I develop an alternative conception of skill and basic action on which their basicness is not to be equated with simplicity: like deliberation and non-basic action, they are teleologically complex, but their complexity takes a different form. On this view, skill contrasts with deliberation—not because it is not a manifestation of practical reason, but because the two are specifically different manifestations of practical reason.

Will Small vol. 19 2019
21 Why Throwing 92 Heads in a Row Is Not Surprising

Tom Stoppard’s "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" opens with a puzzling scene in which the title characters are betting on coin throws and observe a seemingly astonishing run of 92 heads in a row. Guildenstern grows uneasy and proposes a number of unsettling explanations for what is occurring. Then, in a sudden change of heart, he appears to suggest that there is nothing surprising about what they are witnessing, and nothing that needs any explanation. He says ‘…each individual coin spun individually is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise each individual time it does.’ In this article I argue that Guildenstern is right – there is nothing surprising about throwing 92 heads in a row. I go on to consider the relationship between surprise, probability and belief.

Martin Smith vol. 17 October 2017
03 Practical Imagination and its Limits

It is common to talk about options, where an option is a course of action an agent can take. A course of action, in turn, is that which can be the object of intention. It has not often been noticed in the literature, though, that there are two ways to understand what makes something an option: first, an option just is some course of action physically open (or, to be maximally liberal, logically open) to an agent; second, an option just is some course of action that the agent either in fact deliberates about taking or is psychologically capable of deliberating about taking. At any given time, there are far more courses of action open to an agent than the agent can or does deliberate about taking. What determines which courses of action an agent deliberates about as an option, and why do so many other courses of action remain out of deliberative view? I argue that while values, ends, the demands of both means-end coherence and consistency of beliefs contribute to the determination of which courses of action an agent sees as options, they cannot be the whole story. I argue that another mechanism, which I call the practical imagination, is primarily responsible for which courses of action an agent sees as options. Drawing upon both recent work in developmental and social psychology and a strain of philosophical argument that has attempted to show how human beings have a practical understanding of themselves that is mediated by what we can call a narrative identity, I argue that the norms governing the construction of a narrative identity are among the most important, albeit not the only, norms governing the practical imagination and that, just as we should look to the norms of practical reason to explain and critically reflect on practical deliberation, we should look to the norms of practical imagination to explain and critically reflect on the process by which an agent comes to see some course of action as an option.

Matthew Noah Smith vol. 10 May 2010
08 The Impotence of the Demandingness Objection

Consequentialism, many philosophers have claimed, asks too much of us to be a plausible ethical theory. Indeed, the theory's severe demandingness is often claimed to be its chief flaw. My thesis is that as we come to better understand this objection, we see that, even if it signals or tracks the existence of a real problem for Consequentialism, it cannot itself be a fundamental problem with the view. The objection cannot itself provide good reason to break with Consequentialism, because it must presuppose prior and independent breaks with the view. The way the objection measures the demandingness of an ethical theory reflects rather than justifies being in the grip of key anti-Consequentialist conclusions. We should reject Consequentialism independently of the Objection or not at all. Thus, we can reduce by one the list of worrisome fundamental complaints against Consequentialism.

David Sobel vol. 7 September 2007
01 Conditionals: A Unifying Ranking-Theoretic Perspective

The paper takes an expressivistic perspective, i.e., it takes conditionals of all sorts to primarily express (features of) conditional beliefs. Therefore it is based on what it takes to be the best account of conditional belief, namely ranking theory. It proposes not to start looking at the bewildering linguistic phenomenology, but first to systematically study the various options of expressing features of conditional belief. Those options by far transcend the Ramsey test and include relevancies of various kinds and in particular the so-called “circumstances are such that” reading, under which also all conditionals representing causal relations can be subsumed. In this way a unifying perspective on the many kinds of conditionals is offered. The final section explains the considerable extent to which truth conditions for conditionals, which may seem lost in the expressivistic or epistemic perspective, may be recovered.

Wolfgang Spohn vol. 15 January 2015
33 Kant and the object of determinate experience

On an influential view, Newton's mechanics is built into Kant's very theory of exact knowledge. However, Newtonian dynamics had serious explanatory limits already known by 1750. Thus we might worry that Kant's Analytic is too narrow to ground enough exact knowledge. In this paper, I draw on Enlightenment dynamics to show that Kant's notion of determinate objecthood is sufficiently broad, non-trivial, and still relevant to the present.

Marius Stan vol. 15 December 2015
18 Who’s Afraid of Double Affection?

There is substantial textual evidence that Kant held the doctrine of double affection: subjects are causally affected both by things in themselves and by appearances. However, Kant commentators have been loath to attribute this view to him, for the doctrine of double affection is widely thought to face insuperable problems. I begin by explaining what I take to be the most serious problem faced by the doctrine of double affection: appearances cannot cause the very experience in virtue of which they have their empirical properties. My solution consists in distinguishing the sense of ‘experience’ in which empirical objects cause experience from the sense of ‘experience’ in which experience determines empirical objects. I call the latter “universal experience”. I develop my conception of universal experience, and then I explain how it solves the problem of double affection. I conclude by addressing several objections.

Nicholas F. Stang vol. 15 July 2015
10 What ‘If’?

No existing conditional semantics captures the dual role of 'if' in embedded interrogatives — 'X wonders if p' — and conditionals. This paper presses the importance and extent of this challenge, linking it to cross-linguistic patterns and other phenomena involving conditionals. Among these other phenomena are conditionals with multiple 'if'-clauses in the antecedent — 'if p and if q, then r' — and relevance conditionals — 'if you are hungry, there is food in the cupboard'. Both phenomena are shown to be problematic for existing analyses. Surprisingly, the decomposition of conditionals needed to capture the link with interrogatives provides a new analysis that captures all three phenomena. The model-theoretic semantics offered here relies on a dynamic conception of meaning and compositionality, a feature discussed throughout.

William B. Starr vol. 14 April 2014
34 Imaginative and Fictionality Failure: A Normative Approach

If a work of literary fiction prescribes us to imagine that the Devil made a bet with God and transformed into a poodle, then that claim is true in the fiction and we imagine accordingly. Generally, we cooperate imaginatively with literary fictions, however bizarre, and the things authors write into their stories become true in the fiction. But for some claims, such as moral falsehoods, this seems not to be straightforwardly the case, which raises the question: Why not? The puzzles such cases raise are sometimes grouped under the heading “imaginative resistance”. In this paper, I argue against what I take to be the best attempts to (a) dismiss the puzzles and (b) solve them. I also tease out subtleties not sufficiently addressed in the existing literature and end by defending a unified solution of my own. According to this solution, the puzzling phenomena occur when literary works offer inadequate and exhaustive grounds for claims. The solution’s novelty lies in its giving a normative rather than psychological or alethic explanation for the puzzling phenomena, the relevant norms being those of proper artistic appreciation.

Nils-Hennes Stear vol. 15 December 2015
14 Anticipating Failure and Avoiding It

I argue for a conciliationist treatment of peer disagreement, on the grounds that the evidence that non-conciliatory theorists point to--the evidence that conciliatory-friendly independence principles would rule out--bears a troubling relation to accuracy. Namely, we can anticipate that trying to respond to it is a bad deal with respect to our expected accuracy. I consequently argue that we shouldn't try to respond to it. Instead we should ignore it, and be conciliationists.

Robert Steel vol. 18 2018
12 Logical Pluralism and Logical Normativity

This paper explores an apparent tension between two widely held views about logic: that logic is normative and that there are multiple equally legitimate logics. The tension is this. If logic is normative, it tells us something about how we ought to reason. If, as the pluralist would have it, there are several correct logics, those logics make incompatible recommendations as to how we ought to reason. But then which of these logics should we look to for normative guidance? I argue that inasmuch as pluralism draws its motivation from its ability to defuse logical disputes---that is, disputes between advocates of rival logics---it is unable to provide an answer: pluralism collapses into monism with respect to either the strongest or the weakest admissible logic.

Florian Steinberger vol. 19 2019
27 Kant, the Paradox of Knowability, and the Meaning of ‘Experience’

It is often claimed that anti-realism is a form of transcendental idealism or that Kant is an anti-realist. It is also often claimed that anti-realists are committed to some form of knowability principle and that such principles have problematic consequences. It is therefore natural to ask whether Kant is so committed, and if he is, whether this leads him into difficulties. I argue that a standard reading of Kant does indeed have him committed to the claim that all empirical truths are knowable and that this claim entails that there is no empirical truth that is never known. I extend the result to a priori truths and draw some general philosophical lessons from this extension. However, I then propose a re-examination of Kant’s notion of experience according to which he carefully eschews any commitment to empirical knowability. Finally I respond to a remaining problem that stems from a weaker, justified believability principle.

Andrew Stephenson vol. 15 October 2015
21 Generics in Context

This paper has two central goals. The first is to argue for the metaphysical thesis that there is no such phenomenon as genericity, i.e., to argue for a form of eliminativism about genericity. The second is to defend a novel theory of generic sentences on which the unpronounced quantifier expression Gen is an indexical. An important feature of the view is that much of what has appeared to be semantic work is moved into the metasemantics. Rather than create very complex semantic clauses (or construe other complex notions as constitutive of genericity), the proposal is that those complexities are best dealt with in a metasemantic theory. Many of the puzzles which plague theories of generics are treated as instances of more general puzzles having to do with metasemantics and implicit, context-sensitive communication.

Rachel Katharine Sterken vol. 15 August 2015
23 Keeping the Shutters Closed: The Moral Value of Reserve

In this paper I defend a little noted claim of Kant’s — that we should “keep the shutters closed” on our flaws and failings. Kant’s own arguments for this claim aren’t fully satisfactorily, and they rest primarily on pragmatic considerations. My aim in this paper is to provide a more robust Kantian-inspired argument for the moral value of reserve. I argue that collaborating with others to keep the shutters closed on our individual and collective flaws aids in the difficult task of building and maintaining moral community among morally frail and flawed human beings. The paper consists of three parts. In Part I, I examine what Kant himself says about reserve. In Part II, I present a Kantian-inspired argument for the moral value of reserve, drawing on sociologist Erving Goffman’s concept of a front. Moral fronts, I argue, contribute to the fulfillment of the Kantian duties of moral self-improvement and beneficence. To put it differently, they help us instantiate the kingdom of ends in a world of imperfect human beings. In Part III, I address three objections to my argument: that fronts are deceptive, that they actually interfere with moral self-improvement, and that they preclude morally valuable forms of intimacy. I argue that my account can accommodate these concerns.

Karen Stohr vol. 14 July 2014
07 Kant, Grounding, and Things in Themselves

One of the central issues dividing proponents of metaphysical interpretations of transcendental idealism concerns Kant’s views on the distinctness of things in themselves and appearances. Proponents of metaphysical one-object interpretations claim that things in themselves and appearances are related by some kind(s) of one-object grounding relation(s), through which the grounding and grounded relata are different aspects of the same object. Proponents of metaphysical two-object interpretations, by contrast, claim that things in themselves and appearances are related by some kind(s) of two-object grounding relation(s), through which the grounding and grounded relata involve distinct objects. By way of investigating Kant’s overarching account of grounding, I will argue that the most plausible metaphysical interpretation of transcendental idealism is one on which we can know that there are things in themselves grounding appearances, but not which specific kind(s) of one- or two-object grounding relation(s) obtain(s) between them. Our ignorance of things in themselves therefore extends to their distinctness from appearances — pace both metaphysical one-object interpretations and metaphysical two-object interpretations.

Joe Stratmann vol. 18 2018
08 Physically Contingent Laws and Counterfactual Support

The generalizations found in biology, psychology, sociology, and other high-level sciences are typically physically contingent. You might conclude that they play only a limited role in scientific investigation, on the grounds that physically contingent generalizations offer no or only feeble counterfactual support. But the link between contingency and counterfactual support is more complex than is commonly supposed. A certain class of physically contingent generalizations, comprising many, perhaps the vast majority, of those in the high-level sciences, provides strong counterfactual support of just the sort that appears to be scientifically important. This paper explains why.

Michael Strevens vol. 8 August 2008
31 The Tale of Bella and Creda

Some philosophers defend the view that epistemic agents believe by lending credence. Others defend the view that such agents lend credence by believing. It can strongly appear that the disagreement between them is notational, that nothing of substance turns on whether we are agents of one sort or the other. But that is demonstrably not so. Only one of these types of epistemic agent, at most, could manifest a human-like configuration of attitudes; and it turns out that not both types of agent are possible.

Scott Sturgeon vol. 15 December 2015
15 Thank Goodness that Argument is Over: Explaining the Temporal Value Asymmetry

An important feature of life is the temporal value asymmetry. Not to be confused with temporal discounting, the value asymmetry is the fact that we prefer future rather than past preferences be satisfied. Misfortunes are better in the past--where they are "over and done"--than in the future. Using recent work in empirical psychology and evolutionary theory, we develop a theory of the nature and causes of the temporal value asymmetry. The account we develop undercuts philosophy of time arguments such as that of Prior (1959), but more importantly, also begins a serious study of an interesting but understudied feature of our valuations and emotional attitudes. While in the spirit of certain past sketches about the possible origins of the temporal value asymmetry, our theory improves on them in many significant respects and suggests many clear avenues of future study. More generally, our hope is that work on the temporal value asymmetry will eventually attain the degree of rigor and explanatory power that the discounting asymmetry presently enjoys, for like this latter asymmetry, we believe the temporal value asymmetry has relevance to many practical issues in decision-making. Our paper can thus be seen as a call for a more unified methodological treatment of the two temporal asymmetries.

Christopher Suhler; Craig Callender vol. 12 September 2012
06 Rigid Designation and Semantic Structure

There is a considerable sub-literature, stretching back over 35 years, addressed to the question: Precisely which general terms ought to be classified as rigid designators? More fundamentally: What should we take the criterion for rigidity to be, for general terms? The aim of this paper is to give new grounds for the old view that if a general term designates the same kind in all possible worlds, then it should be classified as a rigid designator. The new grounds in question have to do with excavating the connection between rigid designation and semantic structure. Other original contributions of the present work consist in developing responses to some objections to this approach to rigid designation.

Arthur Sullivan vol. 7 August 2007
53 Race, Ideology, and the Communicative Theory of Punishment

This paper explores communicative punishment from a non-idealized perspective. I argue that, given the specific racial dynamics involved, and given the broader social and historical context in which they are embedded, American policing and punishment function as a form of racially derogatory discourse. Understood as communicative behavior, criminal justice activities express a commitment to a broader ideology. Given the facts about how the American justice system actually operates, and given its broader socio-political context, American carceral behaviors express a commitment to the same types of derogatory, subordinating anti-minority ideologies that are paradigmatically conveyed through racial slurs and similar forms of derogatory speech. Moreover, I argue, this derogatory meaning presents a significant obstacle to adequate criminal justice reform.

Steven Swartzer vol. 19 2019