If only Boghossian’s eminently reasonable book were required reading for every freshman considering entrance into the humanities—the next generation of lay-people would be saved from the uncomprehending repetition of relativist slogans, and future scholars would be kept from mounting baroque, ineﬀectual attempts at their defense. Fear of Knowledge is engaging, easy to read, and hard to dispute. It’s a satisfying work for those in the choir who will enjoy seeing written on the page precisely what we would say to (...) constructivists were we endowed with Boghossian’s rhetorical elegance. And a great many in the po-mo congregation can expect the book sent to them as suggested reading by their more analytically minded colleagues. I’ve already ordered a few in an attempt to stave oﬀ inane conversations I would otherwise certainly face this holiday season.  Boghossian begins by addressing a relativistic claim he calls equal validity, ‘that there are many radically diﬀerent yet “equally valid” ways of knowing the world, with science being just one of them’ (p. 2). As Boghossian surely re-. (shrink)
In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge in Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these bank cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make in his critique of Stanley. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our intuitions about such cases are. To account for these (...) results, one must develop a better conception of the connection between a subject's interests and her body of knowledge than those offered by Stanley and Schaffer. (shrink)
How do we know right from wrong? Do we even have moral knowledge? Moral epistemology studies these and related questions about our understanding of virtue and vice. It is one of philosophy’s perennial problems, reaching back to Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Hume and Kant, and has recently been the subject of intense debate as a result of findings in developmental and social psychology. Throughout the book Zimmerman argues that our belief in moral knowledge can survive sceptical challenges. He also draws (...) on a rich range of examples from Plato’s Meno and Dickens’ David Copperfield to Bernard Madoff and Saddam Hussein. (shrink)
Ordinary moral thinking about morality and rationality is inconsistent. To arrive at a view of morality that is as faithful to common thought as consistency will allow we must admit that it is not always irrational to knowingly act against the weight of reasons.
Recent philosophical discussions of self-knowledge have focused on basic cases: our knowledge of our own thoughts, beliefs, sensations, experiences, preferences, and intentions. Empiricists argue that we acquire this sort of self-knowledge through inner perception; rationalists assign basic self-knowledge an even more secure source in reason and conceptual understanding. I try to split the difference. Although our knowledge of our own beliefs and thoughts is conceptually insured, our knowledge of our experiences is relevantly like our perceptual knowledge of the external world.
Recent years have brought relativistic accounts of knowledge, first-person belief, and future contingents to prominence. I discuss these views, distinguish non-trivial from trivial forms of relativism, and then argue against relativism in all of its substantive varieties.
Hume's claim that reason is a slave to the passions involves both a causal thesis: reason cannot cause action without the aid of the passions, and an evaluative thesis: it is improper to evaluate our actions in terms of their reasonableness. On my reading, Hume motivates his causal thesis by arguing that accurate representation is the function of reason, where a faculty of this kind cannot produce action on its own. (The interpretation helps vindicate Hume of the common charge that (...) he "begs the question" against his opponents.) But Hume's causal thesis does not entail his evaluative thesis, and his commitment to the latter is incredibly thin. According to Hume's positive theory, our evaluative judgments originate in reason integrated with sympathy or humanity. And, I argue, the resulting view depicts us as having substantive, non-instrumental reasons to fulfill our obligations to both prudence and morality. (shrink)
Neo-Cartesian approaches to belief place greater evidential weight on a subject's introspective judgments than do neo-behaviorist accounts. As a result, the two views differ on whether our absent-minded and weak-willed actions are guided by belief. I argue that simulationist accounts of the concept of belief are committed to neo-Cartesianism, and, though the conceptual and empirical issues that arise are inextricably intertwined, I discuss experimental results that should point theory-theorists in that direction as well. Belief is even less closely connected to (...) behaviour than most contemporary functionalists allow. (shrink)
Constitutivist accounts of self-knowledge argue that a noncontingent, conceptual relation holds between our first-order mental states and our introspective awareness of them. I explicate a constitutivist account of our knowledge of our own beliefs and defend it against criticisms recently raised by Christopher Peacocke. According to Peacocke, constitutivism says that our second-order introspective beliefs are groundless. I show that Peacocke’s arguments apply to reliabilism not to constitutivism per se, and that by adopting a functionalist account of direct accessibility a constitutivist (...) can avoid reliabilism. I then argue that the resulting view is preferable to Peacocke’s own account of self-knowledge. (shrink)
Burge follows Descartes in claiming that the category of conceptually self-verifying judgments includes (but is not restricted to) judgments that give rise to sincere assertions of sentences of the form, 'I am thinking that p'. In this paper I argue that Burge’s Cartesian insight is hard to reconcile with Fregean accounts of the content of thought. Burge's intuitively compelling claim that cogito judgments are conceptually self-verifying poses a real challenge to neo-Fregean theories of content.
Jordi Fernández has recently responded to my objection that his 'extrospectionist' account of self-knowledge posits necessary and sufficient conditions for introspective justification which are neither necessary nor sufficient. I show that my criticisms survive his response unscathed.
Descartes famously argued, on purely conceptual grounds, that even an extremely powerful being could not trick him into mistakenly judging that he was thinking. Of course, it is not necessarily true that Descartes is thinking. Still, Descartes claimed, it is necessarily true that if a person judges that she is thinking, that person is thinking. Following Tyler Burge (1988) we call such judgments ‘self-verifying.’ More exactly, a judgment j performed by a subject S at a time t is selfverifying if (...) and only if the fact that S has made j at t entails that j is true at t.2 Burge follows Descartes in claiming that the category of conceptually self-verifying judgments includes (but is not restricted to) judgments that give rise to sincere assertions of sentences of the form, ‘I am thinking that p’. We call such judgments ‘cogito’ judgments. In this paper I argue that Burge’s Cartesian insight is hard to reconcile with Fregean accounts of the content of thought. Theorists have tried to account for the self-verifying status of cogito judgments by arguing that the second-order judgment that one is thinking that p contains the thought that p as a part of it. I argue (§1) that the accuracy of the containment model is entailed by a Russellian view of content (according to which ‘‘belief’’ contexts are both extensional and transparent) when the Russellian view is attached to some fairly uncontroversial assumptions. The accuracy of the containment model is also entailed by non-hierarchical Fregean views of content according to which expressions in oblique contexts both denote and express ﬁrst-level senses (§2), but there are compelling arguments against non-hierarchical Fregean views (§3). Moreover, the extremely plausible account of self-veriﬁcation provided by Russellianism is not entailed by theories that follow Frege in accepting a hierarchy of senses and so allow that expressions in oblique contexts express senses that are not identical to the senses they there denote (§4).. (shrink)
Jordi Fernandez has recently offered an interesting account of introspective justification according to which the very states that (subjectively) justify one's first-order belief that p justify one's second order belief that one believes that p. I provide two objections to Fernandez's account.