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Profile: Adam Elga (Princeton University)
  1. Adam Elga, Algorithmic Information Theory: The Basics.
    Turing machine An idealized computing device attached to a tape, each square of which is capable of holding a symbol. We write a program (a nite binary string) on the tape, and start the machine. If the machine halts with string o written at a designated place on the tape.
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  2. Adam Elga, PHI321 Spacetime Problems.
    1. A particle moves back and forth along a line, increasing in speed. Graph. 2. How many equivalence classes in Galilean spacetime are there for a particle that is at rest? A particle that is moving at a constant speed? Why are the previous two questions trick questions? 3. In Galilean spacetime, there is no such thing as absolute velocity. Is there such a thing as absolute acceleration? If not, why not? If so, describe a spacetime in which there is (...)
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  3. Adam Elga, Uncomputability and Arithmetic.
    Explain how to represent claims about Turing machines (for example, claims of the form ”machine m halts on input i”) in the above language. The goal is a mechanical method for translating claims about TMs into arithmetical claims in a way that preserves truth value.
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  4. Adam Elga, Why Neo Was Too Confident That He Had Escaped the Matrix.
    According to a typical skeptical hypothesis, the evidence of your senses has been massively deceptive. Venerable skeptical hypotheses include the hypotheses that you have been deceived by a powerful evil demon, that you are now having an incredibly detailed dream, and that you are a brain in a vat. It is obviously reasonable for you now to be confident that neither of the above hypotheses is true. Epistemologists have proposed many stories to explain why that is reasonable. One theory is (...)
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  5. Adam Elga, A Coupled Attractor Model of the Rodent Head Direction System.
    Head direction (HD) cells, abundant in the rat postsubiculum and anterior thalamic nuclei, fire maximally when the rat’s head is facing a particular direction. The activity of a population of these cells forms a distributed representation of the animal’s current heading. We describe a neural network model that creates a stable, distributed representation of head direction and updates that representation in response to angular velocity information. In contrast to earlier models, our model of the head direction system accurately tracks a (...)
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  6. Adam Elga, Lucky to Be Rational.
     Fred comes to realize that if his parents had settled in a more conservative neighborhood, he would have—on the basis of essentially the same evidence—arrived at political views quite different from his actual views. Furthermore, his parents chose between liberal and conservative neighborhoods by tossing a coin. (Sher 2001).
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  7. Adam Elga, Philosophy of Religion.
    AI: Matt Strohl mstrohl@princeton.edu We start with two traditional arguments: that the apparently unnecessary pain in the universe shows that there is no god (the problem of evil), and that the apparent designed nature of the universe shows that there is a god (the argument from design). We then consider various questions in creation ethics (e.g., what sort of genetic modifications to one's offspring are justifiable) in the light of the theological arguments we have discussed so far. Next, starting with (...)
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  8. Adam Elga & Agustin Rayo, Fragmentation and Information Access.
    In order to predict and explain behavior, one cannot specify the mental state of an agent merely by saying what information she possesses. Instead one must specify what information is available to an agent relative to various purposes. Specifying mental states in this way allows us to accommodate cases of imperfect recall, cognitive accomplishments involved in logical deduction, the mental states of confused or fragmented subjects, and the difference between propositional knowledge and know-how .
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  9. Adam Elga (2013). The Puzzle of the Unmarked Clock and the New Rational Reflection Principle. Philosophical Studies 164 (1):127-139.
    The “puzzle of the unmarked clock” derives from a conflict between the following: (1) a plausible principle of epistemic modesty, and (2) “Rational Reflection”, a principle saying how one’s beliefs about what it is rational to believe constrain the rest of one’s beliefs. An independently motivated improvement to Rational Reflection preserves its spirit while resolving the conflict.
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  10. Adam Elga (2010). How to Disagree About How to Disagree. In Ted Warfield & Richard Feldman (eds.), Disagreement. Oxford University Press.
    To appear in Richard Feldman and Ted Warfield (eds.) Disagreement, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
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  11. Adam Elga (2010). Subjective Probabilities Should Be Sharp. Philosophers' Imprint 10 (05).
    Many have claimed that unspecific evidence sometimes demands unsharp, indeterminate, imprecise, vague, or interval-valued probabilities. Against this, a variant of the diachronic Dutch Book argument shows that perfectly rational agents always have perfectly sharp probabilities.
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  12. Adam Elga (2007). Isolation and Folk Physics. In Huw Price & Richard Corry (eds.), Causation, Physics, and the Constitution of Reality: Russell's Republic Revisited. Oxford University Press.
    There is a huge chasm between the notion of lawful determination that figures in fundamental physics, and the notion of causal determination that figures in the "folk physics" of everyday objects. In everyday life, we think of the behavior of an ordinary object as being determined by a small set of simple conditions. But in fundamental physics, no such conditions suffice to determine an ordinary object's behavior. What bridges the chasm is that fundamental physical laws make the folk picture of (...)
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  13. Adam Elga (2007). Reflection and Disagreement. Noûs 41 (3):478–502.
  14. Andy Egan & Adam Elga (2005). I Can't Believe I'm Stupid. Philosophical Perspectives 19 (1):77–93.
    It is bad news to find out that one's cognitive or perceptual faculties are defective. Furthermore, it’s not always transparent how one ought to revise one's beliefs in light of such news. Two sorts of news should be distinguished. On the one hand, there is news that a faculty is unreliable -- that it doesn't track the truth particularly well. On the other hand, there is news that a faculty is anti-reliable -- that it tends to go positively wrong. These (...)
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  15. Adam Elga (2005). On Overrating Oneself. . . And Knowing It. Philosophical Studies 123 (1-2):115 - 124.
    When it comes to evaluating our own abilities and prospects, most (non-depressed) people are subject to a distorting bias. We think that we are better – friendlier, more well-liked, better leaders, and better drivers – than we really are. Once we learn about this bias, we should ratchet down our self-evaluations to correct for it. But we don’t. That leaves us with an uncomfortable tension in our beliefs: we knowingly allow our beliefs to differ from the ones that we think (...)
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  16. Frank Arntzenius, Adam Elga & and John Hawthorne (2004). Bayesianism, Infinite Decisions, and Binding. Mind 113 (450):251-283.
    We pose and resolve several vexing decision theoretic puzzles. Some are variants of existing puzzles, such as ‘Trumped’ (Arntzenius and McCarthy 1997), ‘Rouble trouble’ (Arntzenius and Barrett 1999), ‘The airtight Dutch book’ (McGee 1999), and ‘The two envelopes puzzle’ (Broome 1999). Others are new. A unified resolution of the puzzles shows that Dutch book arguments have no force in infinite cases. It thereby provides evidence that reasonable utility functions may be unbounded and that reasonable credence functions need not be countably (...)
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  17. Frank Arntzenius, Adam Elga & John Hawthorne (2004). Bayesianism, Infinite Decisions, and Binding. Mind 113 (450):251 - 283.
    We pose and resolve several vexing decision theoretic puzzles. Some are variants of existing puzzles, such as 'Trumped' (Arntzenius and McCarthy 1997), 'Rouble trouble' (Arntzenius and Barrett 1999), 'The airtight Dutch book' (McGee 1999), and 'The two envelopes puzzle' (Broome 1995). Others are new. A unified resolution of the puzzles shows that Dutch book arguments have no force in infinite cases. It thereby provides evidence that reasonable utility functions may be unbounded and that reasonable credence functions need not be countably (...)
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  18. Frank Arntzenius, Adam Elga, John Hawthorne & Victor Caston (2004). Index of MIND Vol. 113 Nos 1–4, 2004. Mind 111:452.
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  19. Adam Elga (2004). Defeating Dr. Evil with Self-Locating Belief. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (2):383–396.
    Dr. Evil learns that a duplicate of Dr. Evil has been created. Upon learning this, how seriously should he take the hypothesis that he himself is that duplicate? I answer: very seriously. I defend a principle of indifference for self-locating belief which entails that after Dr. Evil learns that a duplicate has been created, he ought to have exactly the same degree of belief that he is Dr. Evil as that he is the duplicate. More generally, the principle shows that (...)
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  20. Adam Elga (2004). Infinitesimal Chances and the Laws of Nature. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (1):67 – 76.
    The 'best-system' analysis of lawhood [Lewis 1994] faces the 'zero-fit problem': that many systems of laws say that the chance of history going actually as it goes--the degree to which the theory 'fits' the actual course of history--is zero. Neither an appeal to infinitesimal probabilities nor a patch using standard measure theory avoids the difficulty. But there is a way to avoid it: replace the notion of 'fit' with the notion of a world being typical with respect to a theory.
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  21. Frank Jackson, Graham Priest & Adam Elga (2004). Infinitesimal Chances and the Laws of Nature. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (1):67 – 76.
    The 'best-system' analysis of lawhood [Lewis 1994] faces the 'zero-fit problem': that many systems of laws say that the chance of history going actually as it goes--the degree to which the theory 'fits' the actual course of history--is zero. Neither an appeal to infinitesimal probabilities nor a patch using standard measure theory avoids the difficulty. But there is a way to avoid it: replace the notion of 'fit' with the notion of a world being typical with respect to a theory.
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  22. Adam Elga (2001). Statistical Mechanics and the Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence. Philosophy of Science 68 (S1):S313-.
    In “Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow,” David Lewis defends an analysis of counterfactuals intended to yield the asymmetry of counterfactual dependence: that later affairs depend counterfactually on earlier ones, and not the other way around. I argue that careful attention to the dynamical properties of thermodynamically irreversible processes shows that in many ordinary cases, Lewis’s analysis fails to yield this asymmetry. Furthermore, the analysis fails in an instructive way: one that teaches us something about the connection between the asymmetry of (...)
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  23. Adam Elga (2000). Self-Locating Belief and the Sleeping Beauty Problem. Analysis 60 (2):143–147.
    In addition to being uncertain about what the world is like, one can also be uncertain about one’s own spatial or temporal location in the world. My aim is to pose a problem arising from the interaction between these two sorts of uncertainty, solve the problem, and draw two lessons from the solution.
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