What are the philosophical views of contemporary professional philosophers? Are more philosophers theists or atheists? Physicalists or non-physicalists? Deontologists, consequentialists, or virtue ethicists? We surveyed many professional philosophers in order to help determine the answers to these and other questions. This article documents the results.
This book appears as the eighth installment of the series Controversies, which is edited by Marcelo Dascal at Tel Aviv University. The series has as its stated goal publishing "studies in the theory of controversy, . . . studies in the history of controversy forms and their evolution, case studies of particular or current controversies, . . . and other controversy focused books". Senderowicz is a Kantian scholar, having also written The Coherence of Kant's Transcendental Idealism and several papers interpreting (...) Kant. Both of these themes are evident in Controversies and the Metaphysics of Mind. The book offers a decidedly neo-Kantian interpretation of the role that controversies play in metaphysical theorizing and applies this interpretation to two recent debates in the metaphysics of mind. The first is the debate about physicalism and the second is the debate about personal identity. The issues that are addressed include the relation of metaphysics to science and whether or not metaphysics deals with a distinctive subject matter or uses a distinctive method. This puts the book amongst the growing number of works in metametaphysics. (shrink)
The philosophical interest of verbal disputes is twofold. First, they play a key role in philosophical method. Many philosophical disagreements are at least partly verbal, and almost every philosophical dispute has been diagnosed as verbal at some point. Here we can see the diagnosis of verbal disputes as a tool for philosophical progress. Second, they are interesting as a subject matter for first-order philosophy. Reflection on the existence and nature of verbal disputes can reveal something about the nature of concepts, (...) language, and meaning. In this article I first characterize verbal disputes, spell out a method for isolating and resolving them, and draw out conclusions for philosophical methodology. I then use the framework to draw out consequences in first-order philosophy. In particular, I argue that the analysis of verbal disputes can be used to support the existence of a distinctive sort of primitive concept and that it can be used to reconstruct a version of an analytic/synthetic distinction, where both are characterized in dialectical terms alone. (shrink)
This special issue of Erkenntnis is devoted to the varieties of disagreement that arise in different areas of discourse, and the consequences we should draw from these disagreements, either concerning the subject matter and its objectivity, or concerning our own views about this subject matter if we learn, for example, that an epistemic peer disagrees with our view. In this introduction we sketch the background to the recent philosophical discussions of these questions, and the location occupied therein by the articles (...) in this collection. (shrink)
Some moral disagreements are so persistent that we suspect they are deep: we would disagree even when we have all relevant information and no one makes any mistakes (this is also known as faultless disagreement). The possibility of deep disagreement is thought to drive cognitivists toward relativism, but most cognitivists reject relativism. There is an alternative. According to divergentism, cognitivists can reject relativism while allowing for deep disagreement. This view has rarely been defended at length, but many philosophers have implicitly (...) endorsed its elements. I will defend it. (shrink)
Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with. Even more outrageous than this claim, though, is the blatant denial of its obvious truth by many practicing philosophers. The No-Progress view is explored and argued for here. Its denial is diagnosed as a form of anosognosia, a (...) mental condition where the affected person denies there is any problem. The theories of two eminent philosophers supporting the No-Progress view are also examined. The final section offers an explanation for philosophy's inability to solve any philosophical problem, ever. The paper closes with some reflections on philosophy's future. (shrink)
If you retain your belief upon learning that a large number and percentage of your recognized epistemic superiors disagree with you, then what happens to the epistemic status of your belief? I investigate that theoretical question as well has the applied case of philosophical disagreement—especially disagreement regarding purely philosophical error theories, theories that do not have much empirical support and that reject large swaths of our most commonsensical beliefs. I argue that even if all those error theories are false, either (...) (a) the average philosopher’s true commonsensical beliefs are epistemically impoverished, or (b) a good portion of philosophy is bunk and philosophers should give up most of their error theories despite the fact that their supporting arguments are generally as good as or even better than other philosophical arguments. (shrink)
Philosophers often find themselves in disagreement with contemporary philosophers they know full well to be their epistemic superiors on the topics relevant to the disagreement. This looks epistemically irresponsible. I offer a detailed investigation of this problem of the reflective epistemic renegade. I argue that although in some cases the renegade is not epistemically blameworthy, and the renegade situation is significantly less common than most would think, in a troublesome number of cases in which the situation arises the renegade is (...) blameworthy in her disagreement with recognized epistemic superiors. I also offer some thoughts on what it would mean for philosophical practice for us to refrain from being renegades. Finally, I show how a new kind of radical skepticism emerges from modest theses regarding the renegade. (shrink)
Those of us who take skepticism seriously typically have two relevant beliefs: (a) it’s plausible (even if false) that in order to know that I have hands I have to be able to epistemically neutralize, to some significant degree, some skeptical hypotheses, such as the brain-in-a-vat (BIV) one; and (b) it’s also plausible (even if false) that I can’t so neutralize those hypotheses. There is no reason for us to also think (c) that the BIV hypothesis, for instance, is plausible (...) or probably true. In order to take skepticism seriously it’s sufficient to hold (a) and (b); one need not hold (c). Indeed, philosophers who accept (a) and (b) never endorse (c). Show me a philosopher who suspects that he is a brain in a vat and I’ll show you someone who is deranged! That’s one thing that bothers undergraduates in philosophy. They object: why on earth do some philosophers take the BIV hypothesis to pose any threat at all to our beliefs given that those very same philosophers think that there’s no real chance that the BIV hypothesis is true? Sure, the BIV hypothesis is formally inconsistent with my belief that I have hands, so if the former is true then my belief is false. But so what? Why should that bare inconsistency matter so much? Is this strange attitude amongst philosophers the result of some logic fetish infecting the philosophical community? It is sometimes said that the skeptical hypotheses are not only inconsistent with our beliefs but are explanatory of our experiences, which is supposed to make them more of a threat. But students aren’t fooled: although the skeptical hypotheses may attempt to explain why our experience is as it is, it’s the kind of attempt appropriate for science fiction movies that are all special effects and virtually no plot. No one with any sense of reality will take the evil demon hypothesis to be even tenuously explanatory. (shrink)
I’m going to argue for a set of restricted skeptical results: roughly put, we don’t know that fire engines are red, we don’t know that we sometimes have pains in our lower backs, we don’t know that John Rawls was kind, and we don’t even know that we believe any of those truths. However, people unfamiliar with philosophy and cognitive science do know all those things. The skeptical argument is traditional in form: here’s a skeptical hypothesis; you can’t epistemically neutralize (...) it, you have to be able to neutralize it to know P; so you don’t know P. But the skeptical hypotheses I plug into it are “real, live” scientific-philosophical hypotheses often thought to be actually true, unlike any of the outrageous traditional skeptical hypotheses (e.g., ‘You’re a brain in a vat’). So I call the resulting skepticism Live Skepticism. Notably, the Live Skeptic’s argument goes through even if we adopt the clever anti-skeptical fixes thought up in recent years such as reliabilism, relevant alternatives theory, contextualism, and the rejection of epistemic closure. Furthermore, the scope of Live Skepticism is bizarre: although we don’t know the simple facts noted above, many of us do know that there are black holes and other amazing facts. (shrink)
The following three propositions appear to be individually defensible but jointly inconsistent: (1) reliability is a necessary condition on epistemic justification; (2) on contested matters in philosophy, my beliefs are not reliably formed; (3) some of these beliefs are epistemically justified. I explore the nature and scope of the problem, examine and reject some candidate solutions, compare the issue with ones arising in discussions about disagreement, and offer a brief assessment of our predicament.
In the history of philosophical thought, few themes loom as large as skepticism. Skepticism has been the most visible and important part of debates about knowledge. Skepticism at its most basic questions our cognitive achievements, challenges our ability to obtain reliable knowledge; casting doubt on our attempts to seek and understand the truth about everything from ethics, to other minds, religious belief, and even the underlying structure of matter and reality. Since Descartes, the defense of knowledge against skepticism has been (...) one of the primary tasks not just of epistemology but philosophy itself. The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism features twenty-six newly commissioned chapters by top figures in the field. Part One contains articles explaining important kinds of skeptical reasoning. Part Two focuses on responses to skeptical arguments. Part Three concentrates on important contemporary issues revolving around skepticism. As the first volume of its kind, the articles make significant contributions to the debate on skepticism. (shrink)
One way to challenge the substantiveness of a particular philosophical issue is to argue that those who debate the issue are engaged in a merely verbal dispute. For example, it has been maintained that the apparent disagreement over the mind/brain identity thesis is a merely verbal dispute, and thus that there is no substantive question of whether or not mental properties are identical to neurological properties. The goal of this paper is to help clarify the relationship between mere verbalness and (...) substantiveness. I first argue that we should see mere verbalness as a certain kind of discourse defect that arises when the parties differ as to what each takes to be the immediate question under discussion. I then argue that mere verbalness, so understood, does not imply that the question either party is attempting to address is a non-substantive one. Even if it turns out that the parties to the mind/brain dispute are addressing subtly different questions, these might both be substantive questions to which their respective metaphysical views provide substantive answers. One reason it is tempting to reach deflationary conclusions from the charge of mere verbalness is that we fail to distinguish it from the claim that a sentence under dispute is, in a certain sense, indisputable. Another reason is that we fail to distinguish mere verbalness from a certain sort of indeterminacy. While indisputability and indeterminacy plausibly capture forms of non-substantiveness, I argue that mere verbalness is insufficient to establish either indisputability or indeterminacy. (shrink)
Disagreement is a pervasive feature of human life whose skeptical implications have been emphasized particularly by the ancient Pyrrhonists and by contemporary moral skeptics. Although the connection between disagreement and skepticism is also a focus of analysis in the emerging and burgeoning area of epistemology concerned with the significance of controversy, it has arguably not received the full attention it deserves. The present volume explores for the first time the possible skeptical consequences of disagreement in different areas and from different (...) perspectives, with an emphasis in the current debate over the epistemic impact of disagreement. The thirteen new essays collected here examine the Pyrrhonian approach to disagreement and its relevance to the present epistemological discussions of the topic; the relationship between disagreement and moral realism and antirealism; disagreement-based skeptical arguments in contemporary epistemology; and disagreement and the possibility of philosophical knowledge and justified belief. Given the ever-growing interest in both the significance of disagreement and the challenge of skepticism, this volume makes a new contribution by conjugating two important trends in current philosophical research. (shrink)
Metaphysics is concerned with the foundations of reality. It asks questions about the nature of the world, such as: Aside from concrete objects, are there also abstract objects like numbers and properties? Does every event have a cause? What is the nature of possibility and necessity? When do several things make up a single bigger thing? Do the past and future exist? And so on. -/- Metametaphysics is concerned with the foundations of metaphysics. It asks: Do the questions of metaphysics (...) really have answers? If so, are these answers substantive or just a matter of how we use words? And what is the best procedure for arriving at them—common sense and conceptual analysis? Or assessing competing hypotheses with quasi-scientific criteria? -/- This volume gathers together sixteen new essays that are concerned with the semantics, epistemology, and methodology of metaphysics. My aim is to introduce these essays within a more general (and mildly opinionated) survey of contemporary challenges to metaphysics . (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that appeals to intuition are weak arguments because intellectual intuition is an unreliable belief-forming process, since it yields incompatible verdicts in response to the same cases, and since the inference from 'It seems to S that p' to 'p' is unreliable. Since the reliability of intellectual intuition is a necessary condition for strong appeals to intuition, it follows that appeals to intuition are weak arguments.
In this paper, I argue that, just as the problem of unconceived alternatives provides a basis for a New Induction on the History of Science to the effect that a realist view of science is unwarranted, the problem of unconceived objections provides a basis for a New Induction on the History of Philosophy to the effect that a realist view of philosophy is unwarranted. I raise this problem not only for skepticism’s sake but also for the sake of making a (...) point about philosophical argumentation, namely, that anticipating objections to one’s claim is not the same as supporting one’s claim. In other words, defending p from objections does not amount to support or evidence for p. This, in turn, presents dialectical and pragma-dialectical approaches to argumentation with the following question: does proper argumentation require that arguers anticipate and respond to unconceived objections? (shrink)
Throughout much of the 20th Century, the relationship between analytic and continental philosophy has been one of disinterest, caution or hostility. Recent debates in philosophy have highlighted some of the similarities between the two approaches and even envisaged a post-continental and post-analytic philosophy. -/- Opening with a history of key encounters between philosophers of opposing camps since the late 19th Century - from Frege and Husserl to Derrida and Searle - the book goes on to explore in detail the main (...) methodological differences between the two approaches. This covers a very wide range of topics, from issues of style and clarity of exposition to formal methods arising from logic and probability theory. The final section presents a balanced critique of the two schools’ approaches to key issues such as Time, Truth, Subjectivity, Mind and Body, Language and Meaning, and Ethics. -/- Analytic Versus Continental is the first sustained analysis of both approaches to philosophy, examining the limits and possibilities of each. It provides a clear overview of a much-disputed history and, in highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of both traditions, also offers future directions for both continental and analytic philosophy. (shrink)
Analytic and Continental philosophy have become increasingly specialised and differentiated fields of endeavour. This important collection of essays details some of the more significant methodological and philosophical differences that have separated the two traditions, as well as examining the manner in which received understandings of the divide are being challenged by certain thinkers whose work might best be described as post-analytic and meta-continental. -/- Together these essays offer a well-defined sense of the field, of its once dominant distinctions and of (...) some of the most productive new areas generating influential ideas and controversy. In an attempt to get to the bottom of precisely what it is that separates the analytic and continental traditions, the essays in this volume compare and contrast them on certain issues, including truth, time and subjectivity. The book engages with a range of key thinkers from phenomenology, post-structuralism, analytic philosophy and post-analytic philosophy, examines the strengths and weaknesses of each tradition, and ultimately encourages enhanced understanding, dialogue and even rapprochement between these sometimes antagonistic adversaries. (shrink)
One view of philosophy that is sometimes expressed, especially by scientists, is that while philosophers are good at asking questions, they are poor at producing convincing answers. And the perceived divide between philosophical and scientific methods is often pointed to as the major culprit behind this lack of progress. Looking back at the history of philosophy, however, we find that this methodological divide is a relatively recent invention. Further, it is one that has been challenged over the past decade by (...) the modern incarnation of experimental philosophy. How might the reincorporation of empirical methods into philosophy aid the process of making philosophical progress? Building off of the work of Sytsma (2010), we argue that one way it does so is by offering a means of resolving some disputes that arise in philosophy. We illustrate how philosophical disputes may sometimes be resolved empirically by looking at the recent experimental literature on intuitions about reference. (shrink)