Brian Weatherson University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, University of St. Andrews
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  • Faculty, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Research staff, University of St. Andrews
  • PhD, Monash University, 1998.

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  1. Brian Weatherson, Norms of Assertion and Expressivism.
    This paper was written for a workshop on ethics and epistemology at Missouri. I use an example from unpublished work with Ishani Maitra to develop a new kind of argument for expressivism. (I don’t endorse the argument, but I think it is interesting.) Roughly, the argument is that knowledge is a norm governing assertions, but moral claims do not have to be known to be properly made, so to make a moral claim is not to make an assertion. Some suggestions (...)
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  2. Brian Weatherson, Tracking, Closure and Conjunctions.
    Comments on Sherri Rousch’s Tracking Truth for the 2006 Philosophy of Science Association conference.
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  3. B. Weatherson & A. Egan (eds.) (forthcoming). Epistemic Modals. Oxford.
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  4. Brian Weatherson (forthcoming). Centrality and Marginalisation. Philosophical Studies:1-17.
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  5. Brian Weatherson (2014). Games, Beliefs and Credences. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1).
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  6. Brian Weatherson (2013). And Otherwise. In David Phiroze Christensen & Jennifer Lackey (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford University Press. 54.
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  7. Brian Weatherson (2013). Disagreements, Philosophical and Otherwise. In Jennifer Lackey & David Christensen (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford University Press. 54.
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  8. Brian Weatherson (2013). Margins and Errors. Inquiry 56 (1):63-76.
    Recently, Timothy Williamson has argued that considerations about margins of errors can generate a new class of cases where agents have justified true beliefs without knowledge. I think this is a great argument, and it has a number of interesting philosophical conclusions. In this note I’m going to go over the assumptions of Williamson’s argument. I’m going to argue that the assumptions which generate the justification without knowledge are true. I’m then going to go over some of the recent arguments (...)
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  9. Brian Weatherson (2013). Ross on Sleeping Beauty. Philosophical Studies 163 (2):503-512.
    In two excellent recent papers, Jacob Ross has argued that the standard arguments for the ‘thirder’ answer to the Sleeping Beauty puzzle lead to violations of countable additivity. The problem is that most arguments for that answer generalise in awkward ways when he looks at the whole class of what he calls Sleeping Beauty problems. In this note I develop a new argument for the thirder answer that doesn't generalise in this way.
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  10. Brian Weatherson (2013). Running Risks Morally. Philosophical Studies 167 (1):1-23.
    I defend normative externalism from the objection that it cannot account for the wrongfulness of moral recklessness. The defence is fairly simple—there is no wrong of moral recklessness. There is an intuitive argument by analogy that there should be a wrong of moral recklessness, and the bulk of the paper consists of a response to this analogy. A central part of my response is that if people were motivated to avoid moral recklessness, they would have to have an unpleasant sort (...)
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  11. Brian Weatherson (2013). The Role of Naturalness in Lewis's Theory of Meaning. Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 1 (10).
    Many writers have held that in his later work, David Lewis adopted a theory of predicate meaning such that the meaning of a predicate is the most natural property that is (mostly) consistent with the way the predicate is used. That orthodox interpretation is shared by both supporters and critics of Lewis's theory of meaning, but it has recently been strongly criticised by Wolfgang Schwarz. In this paper, I accept many of Schwarze's criticisms of the orthodox interpretation, and add some (...)
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  12. Jonathan Ichikawa, Ishani Maitra & Brian Weatherson (2012). In Defense of a Kripkean Dogma. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):56-68.
  13. David Jehle & Brian Weatherson (2012). Dogmatism, Probability, and Logical Uncertainty. In Greg Restall & Gillian Kay Russell (eds.), New Waves in Philosophical Logic. Palgrave Macmillan. 95--111.
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  14. Ishani Maitra, Brian Weatherson & Jonathan Ichikawa (2012). In Defense of a Kripkean Dogma. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):56-68.
    In “Against Arguments from Reference” (Mallon et al., 2009), Ron Mallon, Edouard Machery, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich (hereafter, MMNS) argue that recent experiments concerning reference undermine various philosophical arguments that presuppose the correctness of the causal-historical theory of reference. We will argue three things in reply. First, the experiments in question—concerning Kripke’s Gödel/Schmidt example—don’t really speak to the dispute between descriptivism and the causal-historical theory; though the two theories are empirically testable, we need to look at quite different data (...)
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  15. Brian Weatherson (2012). Explanation, Idealisation and the Goldilocks Problem. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2):461-473.
    Michael Strevens’s book Depth is a great achievement.1 To say anything interesting, useful and true about explanation requires taking on fundamental issues in the metaphysics and epistemology of science. So this book not only tells us a lot about scientific explanation, it has a lot to say about causation, lawhood, probability and the relation between the physical and the special sciences. It should be read by anyone interested in any of those questions, which includes presumably the vast majority of readers (...)
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  16. Brian Weatherson (2012). Induction and Supposition. The Reasoner 6:78-80.
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  17. Brian Weatherson (2012). Knowledge, Bets, and Interests. In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), Knowledge Ascriptions. Oxford University Press. 75--103.
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  18. Brian Weatherson (2011). Defending Interest-Relative Invariantism. Logos and Episteme 2 (4):591-609.
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  19. Brian Weatherson (2011). Stalnaker on Sleeping Beauty. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 155 (3):445-456.
    The Sleeping Beauty puzzle provides a nice illustration of the approach to self-locating belief defended by Robert Stalnaker in Our Knowledge of the Internal World (Stalnaker, 2008), as well as a test of the utility of that method. The setup of the Sleeping Beauty puzzle is by now fairly familiar. On Sunday Sleeping Beauty is told the rules of the game, and a (known to be) fair coin is flipped. On Monday, Sleeping Beauty is woken, and then put back to (...)
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  20. Ishani Maitra & Brian Weatherson (2010). Assertion, Knowledge, and Action. Philosophical Studies 149 (1):99 - 118.
    We argue against the knowledge rule of assertion, and in favour of integrating the account of assertion more tightly with our best theories of evidence and action. We think that the knowledge rule has an incredible consequence when it comes to practical deliberation, that it can be right for a person to do something that she can't properly assert she can do. We develop some vignettes that show how this is possible, and how odd this consequence is. We then argue (...)
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  21. B. Weatherson (2010). No Royal Road to Relativism. [REVIEW] Analysis 71 (1):133-143.
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  22. Brian Weatherson (2010). Vagueness as Indeterminacy. In Richard Dietz & Sebastiano Moruzzi (eds.), Cuts and Clouds: Vaguenesss, its Nature and its Logic. Oup Oxford.
    Vagueness as Indeterminacy. I defend the traditional view that a vague term is one with an indeterminate denotation from a bevy of recent challenges.
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  23. Andy Egan & B. Weatherson (eds.) (2009). Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press.
    The ten new essays in this volume explore various answers to these questions, including those offered by contextualism, relativism, and expressivism.
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  24. Brian Weatherson (2009). Conditionals and Indexical Relativism. Synthese 166 (2):333-357.
    I set out and defend a view on indicative conditionals that I call “indexical relativism”. The core of the view is that which proposition is (semantically) expressed by an utterance of a conditional is a function of (among other things) the speaker’s context and the assessor’s context. This implies a kind of relativism, namely that a single utterance may be correctly assessed as true by one assessor and false by another.
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  25. Brian Weatherson, David Lewis. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  26. Brian Weatherson & Andy Egan (2009). Introduction: Epistemic Modals and Epistemic Modality. In Andy Egan & B. Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press.
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  27. Brian Weatherson (2008). Attitudes and Relativism. Philosophical Perspectives 22 (1):527-544.
    Data about attitude reports provide some of the most interesting arguments for, and against, various theses of semantic relativism. This paper is a short survey of three such arguments. First, I’ll argue (against recent work by von Fintel and Gillies) that relativists can explain the behaviour of relativistic terms in factive attitude reports. Second, I’ll argue (against Glanzberg) that looking at attitude reports suggests that relativists have a more plausible story to tell than contextualists about the division of labour between (...)
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  28. Brian Weatherson (2008). Deontology and Descartes's Demon. Journal of Philosophy 105 (9):540-569.
    In his Principles of Philosophy, Descartes says, Finally, it is so manifest that we possess a free will, capable of giving or withholding its assent, that this truth must be reckoned among the first and most common notions which are born with us.
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  29. B. Weatherson (2007). Review: David Lewis. [REVIEW] Mind 116 (461):191-193.
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  30. Brian Weatherson (2007). Doing Philosophy with Words. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 135 (3):429 - 437.
    This paper discusses the coverage of ordinary language philosophy in Scott Soames' Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century. After praising the book's virtues, I raise three points where I dissent from Soames' take on the history. First, I suggest that there is more to ordinary language philosophy than the rather implausible version of it that Soames sees to have been destroyed by Grice. Second, I argue that confusions between analyticity, necessity and priority are less important to the ordinary language period (...)
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  31. Brian Weatherson (2007). Humeans Aren't Out of Their Minds. Noûs 41 (3):529–535.
  32. Brian Weatherson (2007). Review: Doing Philosophy with Words. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 135 (3):429 - 437.
    This paper discusses the coverage of ordinary language philosophy in Scott Soames' "Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century". After praising the book's virtues, I raise three points where I dissent from Soames' take on the history. First, I suggest that there is more to ordinary language philosophy than the rather implausible version of it that Soames sees to have been destroyed by Grice. Second, I argue that confusions between analyticity, necessity and priority are less important to the ordinary language period (...)
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  33. Brian Weatherson (2007). The Bayesian and the Dogmatist. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (1pt2):169 - 185.
    There is a lot of philosophically interesting work being done in the borderlands between traditional and formal epistemology. It is easy to think that this would all be one-way traffic. When we try to formalise a traditional theory, we see that its hidden assumptions are inconsistent or otherwise untenable. Or we see that the proponents of the theory had been conflating two concepts that careful formal work lets us distinguish. Either way, the formalist teaches the traditionalist a lesson about what (...)
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  34. Brian Weatherson (2006). Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Properties. In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2006 Edition).
    I have some of my properties purely in virtue of the way I am. (My mass is an example.) I have other properties in virtue of the way I interact with the world. (My weight is an example.) The former are the intrinsic properties, the latter are the extrinsic properties. This seems to be an intuitive enough distinction to grasp, and hence the intuitive distinction has made its way into many discussions in ethics, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and even epistemology. (...)
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  35. Brian Weatherson (2006). Questioning Contextualism. In Stephen Cade Hetherington (ed.), Aspects of Knowing: Epistemological Essays. Elsevier. 133-147.
    I argue that orthodox contextualist theories concerning 'know' make false predictions concerning the proper answers to questions containing 'know'.
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  36. Brian Weatherson (2006). The Asymmetric Magnets Problem. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):479–492.
    There are many controversial theses about intrinsicness and duplication. The first aim of this paper is to introduce a puzzle that shows that two of the uncontroversial sounding ones can’t both be true. The second aim is to suggest that the best way out of the puzzle requires sharpening some distinctions that are too frequently blurred, and adopting a fairly radical reconception of the ways things are.
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  37. Andy Egan, John Hawthorne & Brian Weatherson (2005). Epistemic Modals in Context. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (eds.), Contextualism in Philosophy. Oxford University Press. 131-170.
    A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic modals. If (...)
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  38. Brian Weatherson (2005). Can We Do Without Pragmatic Encroachment? Philosophical Perspectives 19 (1):417–443.
    I consider the problem of how to derive what an agent believes from their credence function and utility function. I argue the best solution of this problem is pragmatic, i.e. it is sensitive to the kinds of choices actually facing the agent. I further argue that this explains why our notion of justified belief appears to be pragmatic, as is argued e.g. by Fantl and McGrath. The notion of epistemic justification is not really a pragmatic notion, but it is being (...)
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  39. Brian Weatherson (2005). Review of Frank Jackson (Ed.), Graham Priest (Ed.), Lewisian Themes: The Philosophy of David K. Lewis. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (8).
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  40. Brian Weatherson (2005). Scepticism, Rationalism and Externalism. Oxford Studies in Epistemology 1:311-331.
    This paper is about three of the most prominent debates in modern epistemology. The conclusion is that three prima facie appealing positions in these debates cannot be held simultaneously. The first debate is scepticism vs anti-scepticism. My conclusions apply to most kinds of debates between sceptics and their opponents, but I will focus on the inductive sceptic, who claims we cannot come to know what will happen in the future by induction. This is a fairly weak kind of scepticism, and (...)
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  41. Brian Weatherson (2005). Should We Respond to Evil with Indifference? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (3):613–635.
    In a recent article, Adam Elga outlines a strategy for “Defeating Dr Evil with Self-Locating Belief”. The strategy relies on an indifference principle that is not up to the task. In general, there are two things to dislike about indifference principles: adopting one normally means confusing risk for uncertainty, and they tend to lead to incoherent views in some ‘paradoxical’ situations. I argue that both kinds of objection can be levelled against Elga’s indifference principle. There are also some difficulties with (...)
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  42. Brian Weatherson (2005). True, Truer, Truest. Philosophical Studies 123 (1-2):47-70.
    What the world needs now is another theory of vagueness. Not because the old theories are useless. Quite the contrary, the old theories provide many of the materials we need to construct the truest theory of vagueness ever seen. The theory shall be similar in motivation to supervaluationism, but more akin to many-valued theories in conceptualisation. What I take from the many-valued theories is the idea that some sentences can be truer than others. But I say very different things to (...)
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  43. Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (2004). Prankster's Ethics. Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):45–52.
    Diversity is a good thing. Some of its value is instrumental. Having people around with diverse beliefs, or customs, or tastes, can expand our horizons and potentially raise to salience some potential true beliefs, useful customs or apt tastes. Even diversity of error can be useful. Seeing other people fall away from the true and the useful in distinctive ways can immunise us against similar errors. And there are a variety of pleasant interactions, not least philosophical exchange, that wouldn’t be (...)
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  44. John Hawthorne & Brian Weatherson (2004). Chopping Up Gunk. The Monist 87 (3):339-50.
    We show that someone who believes in both gunk and the possibility of supertasks has to give up either a plausible principle about where gunk can be located, or plausible conservation principles.
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  45. Brian Weatherson (2004). Luminous Margins. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (3):373 – 383.
    Timothy Williamson has recently argued that few mental states are luminous , meaning that to be in that state is to be in a position to know that you are in the state. His argument rests on the plausible principle that beliefs only count as knowledge if they are safely true. That is, any belief that could easily have been false is not a piece of knowledge. I argue that the form of the safety rule Williamson uses is inappropriate, and (...)
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  46. Brian Weatherson (2004). Morality, Fiction, and Possibility. Philosophers' Imprint 4 (3):1-27.
    Authors have a lot of leeway with regard to what they can make true in their story. In general, if the author says that p is true in the fiction we’re reading, we believe that p is true in that fiction. And if we’re playing along with the fictional game, we imagine that, along with everything else in the story, p is true. But there are exceptions to these general principles. Many authors, most notably Kendall Walton and Tamar Szabó Gendler, (...)
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  47. Brian Weatherson (2003). From Classical to Intuitionistic Probability. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 44 (2):111-123.
    We generalize the Kolmogorov axioms for probability calculus to obtain conditions defining, for any given logic, a class of probability functions relative to that logic, coinciding with the standard probability functions in the special case of classical logic but allowing consideration of other classes of "essentially Kolmogorovian" probability functions relative to other logics. We take a broad view of the Bayesian approach as dictating inter alia that from the perspective of a given logic, rational degrees of belief are those representable (...)
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  48. Brian Weatherson (2003). Are You a Sim? Philosophical Quarterly 53 (212):425–431.
    Nick Bostrom argues that if we accept some plausible assumptions about how the future will unfold, we should believe we are probably not humans. The argument appeals crucially to an indifference principle whose precise content is a little unclear. I set out four possible interpretations of the principle, none of which can be used to support Bostrom’s argument. On the first two interpretations the principle is false, on the third it does not entail the conclusion, and on the fourth it (...)
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  49. Brian Weatherson (2003). Epistemicism, Parasites, and Vague Names. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2):276 – 279.
    John Burgess has recently argued that Timothy Williamson’s attempts to avoid the objection that his theory of vagueness is based on an untenable metaphysics of content are unsuccessful. Burgess’s arguments are important, and largely correct, but there is a mistake in the discussion of one of the key examples. In this note I provide some alternative examples and use them to repair the mistaken section of the argument.
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  50. Brian Weatherson (2003). Many Many Problems. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (213):481–501.
    Recently four different papers have suggested that the supervaluational solution to the Problem of the Many is flawed. Stephen Schiffer (1998, 2000a, 2000b) has argued that the theory cannot account for reports of speech involving vague singular terms. Vann McGee and Brian McLaughlin (2000) say that theory cannot, yet, account for vague singular beliefs. Neil McKinnon (2002) has argued that we cannot provide a plausible theory of when precisifications are acceptable, which the supervaluational theory needs. And Roy Sorensen (2000) argues (...)
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  51. Brian Weatherson (2003). Nine Objections to Steiner and Wolff on Land Disputes. Analysis 63 (4):321–327.
    In the July 2003 Analysis, Hillel Steiner and Jonathan Wolff propose a framework for “resolving disputed land claims between competing nations or ethnic groups.” The idea is that we should auction off the land, with the loser of the auction getting the money. While this might mean that the richer party will normally end up with the land, and this is normally not thought to be a good thing, if the auction is conducted as they specify “it will turn out (...)
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  52. Brian Weatherson (2003). Review of Christopher Gauker, Words Without Meaning. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2003 (9).
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  53. Brian Weatherson (2003). Review of Rosanna Keefe, Theories of Vagueness. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67:491-494.
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  54. Brian Weatherson (2003). Review of Vagueness and Contradiction by Roy Sorenson. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (1):290--2.
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  55. Brian Weatherson (2003). Theories of Vagueness. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (2):491-493.
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  56. Brian Weatherson (2003). Vagueness and Contradiction. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2):290 – 292.
    Book Information Vagueness and Contradiction. Vagueness and Contradiction Roy Sorensen Oxford Clarendon Press 2001 208 £25 By Roy Sorensen. Clarendon Press. Oxford. Pp. 208. £25.
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  57. Brian Weatherson (2003). What Good Are Counterexamples? Philosophical Studies 115 (1):1-31.
    Intuitively, Gettier cases are instances of justified true beliefs that are not cases of knowledge. Should we therefore conclude that knowledge is not justified true belief? Only if we have reason to trust intuition here. But intuitions are unreliable in a wide range of cases. And it can be argued that the Gettier intuitions have a greater resemblance to unreliable intuitions than to reliable intuitions. Whats distinctive about the faulty intuitions, I argue, is that respecting them would mean abandoning a (...)
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  58. B. Weatherson (2002). Real Conditionals. Philosophical Review 111 (4):609-611.
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  59. Brian Weatherson (2002). Michael DePaul and William Ramsey, Eds., Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry: DePaul, Michael, and Ramsey, William, Eds. Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998. Pp. 335. $68.00 (Cloth); $23.95 (Paper). [REVIEW] Ethics 112 (2):361-364.
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  60. Brian Weatherson (2002). Keynes, Uncertainty and Interest Rates. Cambridge Journal of Economics 26 (1):47-62.
    Uncertainty plays an important role in The General Theory, particularly in the theory of interest rates. Keynes did not provide a theory of uncertainty, but he did make some enlightening remarks about the direction he thought such a theory should take. I argue that some modern innovations in the theory of probability allow us to build a theory which captures these Keynesian insights. If this is the right theory, however, uncertainty cannot carry its weight in Keynes’s arguments. This does not (...)
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  61. Brian Weatherson (2002). Misleading Indexicals. Analysis 62 (4):308–310.
    In “Now the French are invading England” (Analysis 62, 2002, pp. 34-41), Komarine Romdenh-Romluc offers a new theory of the relationship between recorded indexicals and their content. Romdenh-Romluc’s proposes that Kaplan’s basic idea, that reference is determined by applying a rule to a context, is correct, but we have to be careful about what the context is, since it is not always the context of utterance. A few well known examples illustrate this. The “here” and “now” in “I am not (...)
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  62. Brian Weatherson (2002). Moral Uncertainty and Its Consequences. Mind 111 (443):693-696.
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  63. Brian Weatherson (2002). Review: Moral Uncertainty and its Consequences. [REVIEW] Mind 111 (443):693-696.
  64. Brian Weatherson (2002). Review of David Wiggins, S Ameness and Substance Renewed. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2002 (9).
    Sameness and Substance Renewed (hereafter, 2001) is, in effect, a second edition of Wiggins’s 1980 book Sameness and Substance (hereafter, 1980), which in turn expanded and corrected some ideas in his 1967 Identity and Spatio Temporal Continuity (hereafter, 1967). All three books have similar aims. The first is to argue, primarily against Geach, that identity is absolute not relative. The second is to argue that, despite this, whenever an identity claim a = b is true, there is a sortal f (...)
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  65. Brian Weatherson (2001). Indicative and Subjunctive Conditionals. Philosophical Quarterly 51 (203):200-216.
    This paper presents a new theory of the truth conditions for indicative conditionals. The theory allows us to give a fairly unified account of the semantics for indicative and subjunctive conditionals, though there remains a distinction between the two classes. Put simply, the idea behind the theory is that the distinction between the indicative and the subjunctive parallels the distinction between the necessary and the a priori. Since that distinction is best understood formally using the resources of two-dimensional modal logic, (...)
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  66. Brian Weatherson (2001). Indicatives and Subjunctives. Philosophical Quarterly 51:200--216.
    This paper presents a new theory of the truth conditions for indicative conditionals. The theory allows us to give a fairly unified account of the semantics for indicative and subjunctive conditionals, though there remains a distinction between the two classes. Put simply, the idea behind the theory is that the distinction between the indicative and the subjunctive parallels the distinction between the necessary and the a priori. Since that distinction is best understood formally using the resources of two-dimensional modal logic, (...)
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  67. Brian Weatherson (2001). Intrinsic Properties and Combinatorial Principles. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):365-380.
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  68. Brian Weatherson (1999). Begging the Question and Bayesians. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 30:687-697.
    The arguments for Bayesianism in the literature fall into three broad categories. There are Dutch Book arguments, both of the traditional pragmatic variety and the modern ‘depragmatised’ form. And there are arguments from the so-called ‘representation theorems’. The arguments have many similarities, for example they have a common conclusion, and they all derive epistemic constraints from considerations about coherent preferences, but they have enough differences to produce hostilities between their proponents. In a recent paper, Maher (1997) has argued that the (...)
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  69. Ishani Maitra & Brian Weatherson, In Defence of the ACA's Medicaid Expansion.
    The only part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ‘the ACA’) struck down in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) et al. v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al. was a provision expanding Medicaid. We will argue that this was a mistake; the provision should not have been struck down. We’ll do this by identifying a test that C.J. Roberts used to justify his view that this provision was unconstitutional. We’ll defend that test against (...)
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  70. Brian Weatherson, EK.
    Timothy Williamson has argued that our evidence is what we know. This implies that anything we come to know by inference instantly becomes part of our evidence, and that all of our evidence is true. I argue that neither of these implications is correct. I conclude by noting a rival theory of evidence, one based on a suggestion Jerry Fodor makes in The Modularity of Mind , is not vulnerable to the criticisms I make of Williamson, nor to the criticisms (...)
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  71. Brian Weatherson, Beliefs Old and New.
    Traditional philosophy talks a lot about beliefs. Modern philosophy talks a lot about degrees of belief. Are these two concepts related? We suggest they are: X believes that p iff X 's degree of belief is one. We offer a contextualist account of belief to handle the most obvious counterexamples.
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  72. Brian Weatherson, Conditionals, Predicates and Probability.
    Ernest Adams has claimed that a probabilistic account of validity gives the best account of our intuitive judgements about the validity of arguments. In particular, he claims, it has the best hope of accounting for our judgements about many arguments involving conditionals. Most of the examples in the literature on this topic have been arguments framed in the language of propositional logic. I show that once we consider arguments involving predicates and involving identity, Adams’s strategy is less successful.
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  73. Brian Weatherson, Doomsday and the Extinction of Baseball.
    John Leslie's Doomsday argument uses the frequency interpretation of probability to argue that the end of the universe is closer than we might have thought. Oh well - all the worse for the frequency interpretation.
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  74. Brian Weatherson, Do Judgments Screen Evidence?
    Suppose a rational agent S has some evidence E that bears on p, and on that basis makes a judgment about p. For simplicity, we’ll normally assume that she judges that p, though we’re also interested in cases where the agent makes other judgments, such as that p is probable, or that p is well-supported by the evidence. We’ll also assume, again for simplicity, that the agent knows that E is the basis for her judgment. Finally, we’ll assume that the (...)
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  75. Brian Weatherson, Easy Knowledge and Other Epistemic Virtues.
    This paper has three aims. First, I’ll argue that there’s no good reason to accept any kind of ‘easy knowledge’ objection to externalist foundationalism. It might be a little surprising that we can come to know that our perception is accurate by using our perception, but any attempt to argue this is impossible seems to rest on either false premises or fallacious reasoning. Second, there is something defective about using our perception to test whether our perception is working. What this (...)
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  76. Brian Weatherson, From Classical to Constructive Probability.
    We generalize the Kolmogorov axioms for probability calculus to obtain conditions defining, for any given logic, a class of probability functions relative to that logic, coinciding with the standard probability functions in the special case of classical logic but allowing consideration of other classes of “essentially Kolmogorovian” probability functions relative to other logics. We take a broad view of the Bayesian approach as dictating inter alia that from the perspective of a given logic, rational degrees of belief are those representable (...)
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  77. Brian Weatherson, Growing Individuals and Temporary Intrinsics.
    I argue that ordinary objects are fusions of past and present, but not future, temporal parts. This theory provides the neatest solution to some puzzles concerning intrinsic properties, and is supported by some surprising linguistic data. (This paper is probably inconsistent with some other papers I've written, but the line it runs is at least amusing and original.).
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  78. Brian Weatherson, Humean Supervenience.
    As with many aspects of David Lewis’s work, it is hard to provide a better summary of his views than he provided himself. So the following introduction to what the Humean Supervenience view is will follow the opening pages of Lewis (1994a) extremely closely. But for those readers who haven’t read that paper, here’s the nickel version.
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  79. Brian Weatherson, Intuitions and Conceptual Analysis: Week Five.
    An important tradition in metaphysics takes its job to be finding a limited number of ingredients with which we can tell the complete story of the world (or some subject matter). Physicalism, for example, claims that the list of ingredients sufficient to tell the complete story about the very small, or about the non-sentient, is sufficient to tell the complete story about all of the world. Some people take the moral of this kind of metaphysics to be eliminativist; that we (...)
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  80. Brian Weatherson, Keynes and Wittgenstein.
    Three recent books have argued that Keynes’s philosophy, like Wittgenstein’s, underwent a radical foundational shift. It is argued that Keynes, like Wittgenstein, moved from an atomic Cartesian individualism to a more conventionalist, intersubjective philosophy. It is sometimes argued this was caused by Wittgenstein’s concurrent conversion. Further, it is argued that recognising this shift is important for understanding Keynes’s later economics. In this paper I argue that the evidence adduced for these theses is insubstantial, and other available evidence contradicts their claims.
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  81. Brian Weatherson, Probability in Philosophy.
    I’m not sure how much knowledge everyone already has, so I’d like to start with a little questionnaire. On a card, say for each of the following topics whether you’re familiar with the topic, have heard of it but aren’t familiar with it, or have never heard of it.
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  82. Brian Weatherson, Reflections on Lewis, Naturalness and Meaning.
    It is sometimes claimed (e.g., by Sider (2001a,b); Holton (2003); Stalnaker (2004); Williams (2007); Weatherson (2003, 2010)) that a theory of predicate meaning that assigns a central role to naturalness is either (a) Lewisian, (b) true, or (c) both. The theory in question is rarely developed in particularly great detail, but the rough intuitive idea is that the meaning of a predicate is the most natural property that is more-or-less consistent with the usage of the predicate. The point of this (...)
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  83. Brian Weatherson, Sameness and Substance Renewed.
    Sameness and Substance Renewed (hereafter, 2001) is, in effect, a second edition of Wiggins’s 1980 book Sameness and Substance (hereafter, 1980), which in turn expanded and corrected some ideas in his 1967 Identity and Spatio-Temporal Continuity (hereafter, 1967). All three books have similar aims. The first is to argue, primarily against Geach, that identity is absolute not relative. The second is to argue that, despite this, whenever an identity claim a = b is true, there is a sortal f such (...)
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  84. Brian Weatherson, The Problem of the Many.
    As anyone who has flown out of a cloud knows, the boundaries of a cloud are a lot less sharp up close than they can appear on the ground. Even when it seems clearly true that there is one, sharply bounded, cloud up there, really there are thousands of water droplets that are neither determinately part of the cloud, nor determinately outside it. Consider any object that consists of the core of the cloud, plus an arbitrary selection of these droplets. (...)
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  85. Brian Weatherson, The Temporal Generality Problem.
    The generality problem is a well-known problem for process reliabilist theories of justification. Here’s how the problem usually gets started. In the first instance, token processes of belief formation are not themselves reliable or unreliable. Rather, it is types of processes of belief formation that are reliable or unreliable. But any token process is an instance of many different types. And these types may differ in reliability.
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  86. Brian Weatherson, Vagueness Without Toleration: Reply to Greenough.
    Patrick Greenough has argued that a predicate is vague iff it is epistemically tolerant. I show that there are some counterexamples to this analysis, and that it rests on some fairly contentious theories about the behaviour of vague terms in propositional attitude reports.
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  87. Brian Weatherson, Week Eleven: Objections to Jackson.
    One of the benefits of the 2D framework we looked at last week was that it explained how we could understand a sentence without knowing which proposition it expressed. And we could do this even if we give an account of understanding which is closely tied to the possible worlds semantics we use to analyse propositions. Really this can be done very easily, without appeal to any high-flying Kripkean cases. In “Analytic Metaphysics” Jackson discusses a very simple case of it. (...)
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  88. Brian Weatherson, Words Without Meaning.
    In philosophy it’s hard to find a view that hasn’t had an ism associated with it, but there are some. Some theories are too obscure or too fantastic to be named. And occasionally a theory is too deeply entrenched to even be conceptualised as a theory. For example, many of us hold without thinking about it the theory that “the central function of language is to enable a speaker to reveal his or her thoughts to a hearer,” (3) that in (...)
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  89. Brian Weatherson, A Reductio for Reliabilism.
    In “A Reliabilist Solution to the Problem of Promiscuous Bootstrapping”, Hilary Kornblith (2009) proposes a reliabilist solution to the bootstrapping problem. I’m going to argue that Kornblith’s proposal, far from solving the bootstrapping problem, in fact makes the problem much harder for the reliabilist to solve. Indeed, I’m going to argue that Kornblith’s considerations give us a way to develop a quick reductio of a certain kind of reliabilism. Let’s start with a crude statement of the problem. The bootstrapper, call (...)
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  90. Brian Weatherson, Book Review. [REVIEW]
    This collection arose out of a conference on intuitions at the University of Notre Dame in April 1996. The papers in it mainly address two related questions: (a) How much evidential weight should be assigned to intuitions? and (b) Are concepts governed by necessary and sufficient conditions, or are they governed by ‘family resemblance’ conditions, as Wittgenstein suggested? The book includes four papers by psychologists relating and analyzing some empirical findings concerning intuitions and eleven papers by philosophers endorsing various answers (...)
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  91. Brian Weatherson, Disagreeing About Disagreement.
    I argue with my friends a lot. That is, I offer them reasons to believe all sorts of philosophical conclusions. Sadly, despite the quality of my arguments, and despite their apparent intelligence, they don’t always agree. They keep insisting on principles in the face of my wittier and wittier counterexamples, and they keep offering their own dull alleged counterexamples to my clever principles. What is a philosopher to do in these circumstances? (And I don’t mean get better friends.) One popular (...)
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  92. Brian Weatherson, Dogmatism and Intuitionistic Probability.
    Many epistemologists hold that an agent can come to justifiably believe that p is true by seeing that it appears that p is true, without having any antecedent reason to believe that visual impressions are generally reliable. Certain reliabilists think this, at least if the agent’s vision is generally reliable. And it is a central tenet of dogmatism (as described by Pryor (2000) and Pryor (2004)) that this is possible. Against these positions it has been argued (e.g. by Cohen (2005) (...)
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  93. Brian Weatherson, Dutch Books and Infinity.
    Peter Walley argues that a vague credal state need not be representable by a set of probability functions that could represent precise credal states, because he believes that the members of the representor set need not be countably additive. I argue that the states he defends are in a way incoherent.
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  94. Brian Weatherson, Decision Making with Imprecise Probabilities.
    Orthodox Bayesian decision theory requires an agent’s beliefs representable by a real-valued function, ideally a probability function. Many theorists have argued this is too restrictive; it can be perfectly reasonable to have indeterminate degrees of belief. So doxastic states are ideally representable by a set of probability functions. One consequence of this is that the expected value of a gamble will be imprecise. This paper looks at the attempts to extend Bayesian decision theory to deal with such cases, and concludes (...)
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  95. Brian Weatherson, Evidence Neutrality.
    • Perceptual Evidence is Psychological My perceptual evidence consists in facts about the psychological states I am in when undergoing a perceptual experience. (If you don’t think that evidence is propositional, the evidence might be the states themeslves; I’m going to presuppose evidence is propositional, and factive, for this talk.) So, for instance, my perceptual evidence might include that I’m visually representing that there is a table in front of me.
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  96. Brian Weatherson, First Draft of ”Moderate Rationalism and Bayesian Scepticism”.
    This paper is part of a larger campaign against moderation in foundational epistemology. I think the only plausible responses to a kind of Humean sceptic are, radical responses. The Humean sceptic I have in mind tells us about a sceptical scenario, ss, where our evidence is just as it actually is, but some purported piece of knowledge of ours is false. The sceptic names the proposition You aren’t in ss as s, and calls on us to respond to the following (...)
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  97. Brian Weatherson, Game Playing Under Ignorance.
    In earlier work I argued that using ‘vague probabilities’ did not ground any argument for significantly adjusting Bayesian decision theory. In this note I show that my earlier arguments don’t carry across smoothly to game theory. Allowing agents to have vague probabilities over possible outcomes dramatically increases the range of possible Nash equilibria in certain games, and hence arguably (but only arguably) increases the range of possible rational action.
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  98. Brian Weatherson, Knowing and Understanding: Reply to Pettit.
    Dean Pettit recently argued in Mind that understanding a word did not require knowing what it meant. Adam and I show that his core arguments, which mostly turn on showing that some particular cases are cases of understanding without knowledge, do not work.
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  99. Brian Weatherson, Rules, Norms and Basic Knowledge.
    Lewis Carroll’s 1895 paper “Achilles and the Tortoise” showed that we need a distinction between rules of inference and premises. We cannot, on pain of regress, treat all rules simply as further premises in an argument. But Carroll’s paper doesn’t say very much about what rules there must be. Indeed, it is consistent with what Carroll says there to think that the only rule is -elimination. You might think that modern Bayesians, who seem to think that the only rule of (...)
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  100. Brian Weatherson, Solving an Infinite Decision Problem.
    Barrett and Artzenius posed a problem concerning infinite sequences of decisions. It appeared that the strategy of making the rational choice at each stage of the game was, in some circumstances, guaranteed to lead to lower returns than the strategy of making the irrational choice at each stage. This paper shows that there is only the appearance of paradox. The choices that Barrett and Artzenius were calling ‘rational’ cannot be economically justified, and so it is not surprising that someone who (...)
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  101. Brian Weatherson, Stages, Worms, Slices and Lumps.
    Assume, for fun, that temporal parts theory is true, and that some kind of modal realism (perhaps based on ersatz worlds) is true. Within this grand metaphysical picture, what are the ordinary objects? Do they have many temporal parts, or just one? Do they have many modal parts, or just one? I survey the issues involved in answering this question, including the problem of temporary intrinsics, the problem of the many, Kripke's objections to counterpart theory and quantifier domain restrictions.
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  102. Brian Weatherson, Three Objections to Smith on Vagueness.
    F-relevant respects are never precisely defined, but the intuitive idea is clear enough. Smart- relevant respects are mental abilities, Philosopher-relevant respects presumably include where one is employed, what kinds of things one writes, etc, and, most importantly for this paper, the only Tall-relevant respect is height.
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  103. Brian Weatherson, Vague Composition and the Problem of the Many.
    Assume also that it is vague, in some sense, which hairs are hairs of that cat. Then one might think that it is indeterminate in some sense which thing is the cat on the mat.
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  104. Brian Weatherson, Week Nine: Pragmatics, Metaphysics and Possibility.
    There’s two points left over from last week’s seminar still to discuss. The first is whether, as Lewis claims, we are justified in positing an asymmetry in the role of pragmatics. The second is whether this approach is at all justified. We’ll look at that before going on to the material scheduled for this week.
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  105. Brian Weatherson, Week Ten: Two-Dimensional Modality.
    Our primary interest this week will be in two objections Jackson mentions which seem to threaten his program. Each of them is avoided by appeal to the two-dimensional framework we sketched last week. Before we go over that framework again, we will start by looking at the objections. For reasons that may become apparent shortly, we will look at them in reverse order. So first we’ll look at this objection from Chapter 3, an objection which turns on the discovery of (...)
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  106. Brian Weatherson & Andy Egan, Epistemic Modals and Epistemic Modality.
    There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know that it does (...)
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  107. Brian Weatherson, Morality in Fiction and Consciousness in Imagination.
  108. Brian Weatherson, Probability and Scepticism.
    If we add as an extra premise that the agent does know H, then it is possible for her to know E — H, we get the conclusion that the agent does not really know H. But even without that closure premise, or something like it, the conclusion seems quite dramatic. One possible response to the argument, floated by both Descartes and Hume, is to accept the conclusion and embrace scepticism. We cannot know anything that goes beyond our evidence, so (...)
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  109. Brian Weatherson, Smith on Justification and Probability.
    Call Justificatory Probabilism (hereafter, JP) the thesis that there is some (classical) probability function Pr such that for an agent S with evidence E, the degree to which they are justified in believing a hypothesis H is given by Pr(H|E). As stated, the thesis is fairly ambiguous, though none of the disambiguations are obviously true. Indeed, several of them are obviously false. If JP is a thesis about how justified agents are in fully believing propositions, it is trivially false. I’m (...)
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  110. Brian Weatherson, Growing Individuals and Intrinsic Properties.
    Most people who believe in temporal parts believe that the referents of our ordinary referring terms, like Bill Clinton, or that table, are fusions of temporal parts from past, present and future times. Call these fusions worms, and the theory that the referents of ordinary referring terms (ordinary objects) the worm theory. Buying the metaphysical theory of temporal parts does not immediately imply that we must buy the worm theory. Theodore Sider (1996, 2000), for example, has suggested that these ordinary (...)
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