This paper motivates and develops a novel semantics for several epistemic expressions, including possibility modals and indicative conditionals. The semantics I defend constitutes an alternative to standard truth conditional theories, as it assigns sets of probability spaces as sentential semantic values. I argue that what my theory lacks in conservatism is made up for by its strength. In particular, my semantics accounts for the distinctive behavior of nested epistemic modals, indicative conditionals embedded under probability operators, and instances (...) of constructive dilemma containing epistemic vocabulary. (shrink)
This paper defines and defends time-slice epistemology, according to which there are no essentially diachronic norms of rationality. First I motivate and distinguish two notions of time-slice epistemology. Then I defend time-slice theories of action under indeterminacy, i.e. theories about how you should act when the outcome of your decision depends on some indeterminate claim. I raise objections to a theory of action under indeterminacy recently defended by Robbie Williams, and I propose some alternative theories in its place. Throughout this (...) discussion, I defend a more general moral about action under indeterminacy, namely that time-slice theories are supported by strong analogies with ethical theories. In particular, our understanding of agents torn between interpretations of a decision situation should be guided by our theories of agents torn between incommensurable values. (shrink)
Recently many have argued that agents must sometimes have credences that are imprecise, represented by a set of probability measures. But opponents claim that fans of imprecise credences cannot provide a decision theory that protects agents who follow it from foregoing sure money. In particular, agents with imprecise credences appear doomed to act irrationally in diachronic cases, where they are called to make decisions at earlier and later times. I respond to this claim on behalf of imprecise credence fans. Once (...) we appreciate the complexity of our intuitions about rational decision making, we can see that diachronic cases are in fact evidence for the essential claims motivating imprecise credence models. I argue that our decision theory for imprecise agents should mirror our decision theory for agents in moral dilemmas, and I develop permissive norms that explain our intuitions about both sorts of agents. (shrink)
This paper argues that just as full beliefs can constitute knowledge, so can properties of your credence distribution. The resulting notion of probabilistic knowledge helps us give a natural account of knowledge ascriptions embedding language of subjective uncertainty, and a simple diagnosis of probabilistic analogs of Gettier cases. Just like propositional knowledge, probabilistic knowledge is factive, safe, and sensitive. And it helps us build knowledge-based norms of action without accepting implausible semantic assumptions or endorsing the claim that knowledge is interest-relative.
This paper argues that several leading theories of subjunctive conditionals are incompatible with ordinary intuitions about what credences we ought to have in subjunctive conditionals. In short, our theory of subjunctives should intuitively display semantic humility, i.e. our semantic theory should deliver the truth conditions of sentences without pronouncing on whether those conditions actually obtain. In addition to describing intuitions about subjunctive conditionals, I argue that we can derive these ordinary intuitions from justified premises, and I answer a possible worry (...) for my derivation by refuting a subjunctive triviality result modeled on (Lewis 1976). I conclude that the debate over the correct theory of subjunctive conditionals requires settling meta-philosophical questions about the relative value of various virtues of first-order theories of subjunctive conditionals. (shrink)
I demonstrate that the theory of persistence defended in Sider  does not accommodate our intuitions about counting sentences. I develop two theories that improve on Sider's: a contextualist theory and an error theory. I argue that the latter is stronger, simpler, and better fitted to some important ordinary language judgments than rival four-dimensionalist theories of persistence.
Recently, von Fintel (2001) and Gillies (2007) have argued that certain sequences of counterfactuals, namely reverse Sobel sequences, should motivate us to abandon standard truth conditional theories of counterfactuals for dynamic semantic theories. I argue that we can give a pragmatic account of our judgments about counterfactuals without giving up the standard semantics. In particular, I introduce a pragmatic principle governing assertability, and I use this principle to explain a variety of subtle data concerning reverse Sobel sequences.
It is commonly held that Wittgenstein abandoned the Tractatus largely because of a problem concerning color incompatibility. My aim is to solve this problem on Wittgenstein’s behalf. First I introduce the central program of the Tractatus (§1) and the color incompatibility problem (§2). Then I solve the problem without abandoning any Tractarian ideas (§3), and show that given certain weak assumptions, the central program of the Tractatus can in fact be accomplished (§4). I conclude by distinguishing my system of analysis (...) from others and by explaining the historical underpinnings of my understanding of the nature of elementary propositions (§5). (shrink)
This paper discusses several case studies that illustrate the relationship between the philosophy of language and three branches of linguistics: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Among other things, I identify binding arguments in the linguistics literature preceding (Stanley 2000), and I invent binding arguments to evaluate various semantic and pragmatic theories of belief ascriptions.
Traditional procedures for rational updating fail when it comes to self-locating opinions, such as your credences about where you are and what time it is. This paper develops an updating procedure for rational agents with self-locating beliefs. In short, I argue that rational updating can be factored into two steps. The first step uses information you recall from your previous self to form a hypothetical credence distribution, and the second step changes this hypothetical distribution to reflect information you have genuinely (...) learned as time has passed. While the second step resembles traditional procedures of updating by conditionalization, the first is best understood by analogy to traditional models of how agents transmit self-locating opinions through ordinary interpersonal communication. (shrink)
It is commonly assumed that when we assign different credences to a proposition, a perfect compromise between our opinions simply ‘splits the difference’ between our credences. I introduce and defend an alternative account, namely that a perfect compromise maximizes the average of the expected epistemic values that we each assign to alternative credences in the disputed proposition. I compare the compromise strategy I introduce with the traditional strategy of compromising by splitting the difference, and I argue that my strategy is (...) a reasonable characterization of epistemic compromise. (shrink)