A popular account of epistemic justification holds that justification, in essence, aims at truth. An influential objection against this account points out that it is committed to holding that only true beliefs could be justified, which most epistemologists regard as sufficient reason to reject the account. In this paper I defend the view that epistemic justification aims at truth, not by denying that it is committed to epistemic justification being factive, but by showing that, when we focus on the relevant (...) sense of ‘justification’, it isn’t in fact possible for a belief to be at once justified and false. To this end, I consider and reject three popular intuitions speaking in favor of the possibility of justified false beliefs, and show that a factive account of epistemic justification is less detrimental to our normal belief forming practices than often supposed. (shrink)
Many philosophers have sought to account for doxastic and epistemic norms by supposing that belief ‘aims at truth.’ A central challenge for this approach is to articulate a version of the truth-aim that is at once weak enough to be compatible with the many truth-independent influences on belief formation, and strong enough to explain the relevant norms in the desired way. One phenomenon in particular has seemed to require a relatively strong construal of the truth-aim thesis, namely ‘transparency’ in doxastic (...) deliberation. In this paper, I argue that the debate over transparency has been in the grip of a false presupposition, namely that the phenomenon must be explained in terms of being a feature of deliberation framed by the concept of belief. Giving up this presupposition makes it possible to adopt weaker and more plausible versions of the truth-aim thesis in accounting for doxastic and epistemic norms. (shrink)
In a recent article, I criticized Kathrin Glüer and Åsa Wikforss's so-called “no guidance argument” against the truth norm for belief, for conflating the conditions under which that norm recommends belief with the psychological state one must be in to apply the norm. In response, Glüer and Wikforss have offered a new formulation of the no guidance argument, which makes it apparent that no such conflation is made. However, their new formulation of the argument presupposes a much too narrow understanding (...) of what it takes for a norm to influence behaviour, and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of the truth norm. Once this is taken into account, it becomes clear that the no guidance argument fails. (shrink)
For at least three decades, philosophers have argued that general causation and causal explanation are contrastive in nature. When we seek a causal explanation of some particular event, we are usually interested in knowing why that event happened rather than some other specified event. And general causal claims, which state that certain event types cause certain other event types, seem to make sense only if appropriate contrasts to the types of events acting as cause and effect are specified. In recent (...) years, philosophers have extended the contrastive theory of causation to encompass singular causation as well. In this article, I argue that this extension of the theory was a mistake. Although general causation and causal explanation may well be contrastive in nature, singular causation is not. (shrink)
It is widely held that the possibility of value-incomparability between alternatives poses a serious threat to comparativism. Some comparativists have proposed to avoid this problem by supplementing the three traditional value relations with a fourth value relation, variously identified as "roughly equal" or "on a par", which is supposed to hold between alternatives that are incomparable by the three traditional value relations. However, in a recent article in this journal, Nien-he Hsieh has proposed that the comparisons thought to require rough (...) equality or parity could instead be understood in terms of the concept of "clumpiness". Against this suggestion, Martin Peterson has argued that the concept of clumpiness allows agents to be exploited in money-pumps, and thus that there is no way of linking clumpiness to rational choice. This would remove the central appeal of the concept. In this note, I show that Peterson’s argument fails to establish that the concept of clumpiness allows agents to be exploited in money-pumps. (shrink)
Philosophers have long been concerned about what we know and how we know it. Increasingly, however, a related question has gained prominence in philosophical discussion: what should we believe and why? This volume brings together twelve new essays that address different aspects of this question. The essays examine foundational questions about reasons for belief, and use new research on reasons for belief to address traditional epistemological concerns such as knowledge, justification and perceptually acquired beliefs. This book will be of interest (...) to philosophers working on epistemology, theoretical reason, rationality, perception and ethics. It will also be of interest to cognitive scientists and psychologists who wish to gain deeper insight into normative questions about belief and knowledge. (shrink)
In a recent paper (2008), I presented two arguments against the thesis that intentional states are essentially normative. In this paper, I defend those arguments from two recent responses, one from Nick Zangwill in his (2010), and one from Daniel Laurier in the present volume, and offer improvements of my arguments in light of Laurier’s criticism.
In this paper I propose a teleological account of epistemic reasons. In recent years, the main challenge for any such account has been to explicate a sense in which epistemic reasons depend on the value of epistemic properties. I argue that while epistemic reasons do not directly depend on the value of epistemic properties, they depend on a different class of reasons which are value based in a direct sense, namely reasons to form beliefs about certain propositions or subject matters. (...) In short, S has an epistemic reason to believe that p if and only if S is such that if S has reason to form a belief about p, then S ought to believe that p. I then propose a teleological explanation of this relationship. It is also shown how the proposal can avoid various subsidiary objections commonly thought to riddle the teleological account. (shrink)
Causation is of undeniable importance to our understanding of, and interaction with our surroundings. Despite this, the correct understanding of causation remains subject to considerable philosophical controversy. In this article, I introduce the most influential philosophical theories of causation, and provide an overview of the main difficulties that has led to the currently most popular versions of these theories.
Many philosophers have argued that an event is lucky for an agent only if it was suitably improbable, but there is considerable disagreement about how to understand this improbability condition. This paper argues for a hitherto overlooked construal of the improbability condition in terms of the lucky agent’s epistemic situation. According to the proposed account, an event is lucky for an agent only if the agent was not in a position to know that the event would occur. It is also (...) explored whether this new account threatens the anti-luck program in epistemology. It is argued that although not detrimental to the anti-luck program, the epistemic account of luck sets certain important limits to its scope and feasibility. (shrink)
Metaphysics: 5 Questions is a collection of short interviews based on 5 questions presented to some of the most influential and prominent philosophers in the field. We hear their views on metaphysics, the aim, the scope, the future direction of research and how their work fits in these respects. Interviews with Lynne Rudder Baker, Helen Beebee, Thomas Hofweber, Hugh Mellor, Peter Menzies, Stephen Mumford, Daniel Nolan, Eric T.Olson, L. A. Paul, Lorenz B. Puntel, Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra, Gideon Rosen, Jonathan Schaffer, Peter (...) Simons, Barry Smith, Michael Tooley, Peter van Inwagen, Dean Zimmerman. (shrink)
Kathrin Glüer and Åsa Wikforss (2009) argue that any truth norm for belief, linking the correctness of believing p with the truth of p, is bound to be uninformative, since applying the norm to determine the correctness of a belief as to whether p, would itself require forming such a belief. I argue that this conflates the condition under which the norm deems beliefs correct, with the psychological state an agent must be in to apply the norm. I also show (...) that since the truth norm conflicts with other possible norms that clearly are informative, the truth norm must itself be informative. (shrink)
Semantic theories that violate semantic innocence, i.e. require reference-shifts when terms are embedded in ‘that’ clauses and the like, are often challenged by producing sentences where an anaphoric expression, while not itself embedded in a context in which reference shifts, is anaphoric on an antecedent expression that is embedded in such a context. This, in conjunction with a widely accepted principle concerning unproblematic anaphora, is used to show that such reference shifting has absurd consequences. We show that it is the (...) widely accepted principle concerning anaphora that is to be blamed for these consequences, and not the supposed sin of reference shifting. (shrink)
The theory of belief, according to which believing that p essentially involves having as an aim or purpose to believe that p truly, has recently been criticised on the grounds that the putative aim of belief does not interact with the wider aims of believers in the ways we should expect of genuine aims. I argue that this objection to the aim theory fails. When we consider a wider range of deliberative contexts concerning beliefs, it becomes obvious that the aim (...) of belief can interact with and be weighed against the wider aims of agents in the ways required for it to be a genuine aim. (shrink)
A number of authors have recently developed and defended various versions of ‘normative essentialism’ about the mental, i.e. the claim that propositional attitudes are constitutively or essentially governed by normative principles. I present two arguments to the effect that this claim cannot be right. First, if propositional attitudes were essentially normative, propositional attitude ascriptions would require non-normative justification, but since this is not a requirement of folk-psychology, propositional attitudes cannot be essentially normative. Second, if propositional attitudes were essentially normative, propositional (...) attitude ascriptions could not support normative rationality judgments, which would remove the central appeal of normative essentialism. (shrink)
Nishi Shah has recently argued that transparency in doxastic deliberation supports a strict version of evidentialism about epistemic reasons. I argue that Shah's argument relies on a principle that is incompatible with the strict version of evidentialism Shah wishes to advocate.
Does transparency in doxastic deliberation entail a constitutive norm of correctness governing belief, as Shah and Velleman argue? No, because this presupposes an implausibly strong relation between normative judgements and motivation from such judgements, ignores our interest in truth, and cannot explain why we pay different attention to how much justification we have for our beliefs in different contexts. An alternative account of transparency is available: transparency can be explained by the aim one necessarily adopts in deliberating about whether to (...) believe that p. To show this, I reconsider the role of the concept of belief in doxastic deliberation, and I defuse 'the teleologian's dilemma'. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that doxastic deliberation is transparent to the factual question of the truth of the proposition being considered for belief, and that this sets doxastic deliberation apart from practical deliberation. This feature is frequently invoked in arguments against doxastic voluntarism. I argue that transparency to factual questions occurs in practical deliberation in ways parallel to transparency in doxastic deliberation. I argue that this should make us reconsider the appeal to transparency in arguments against doxastic voluntarism, and the (...) wider issue of distinguishing theoretical from practical rationality. (shrink)
In his Knowledge and its Limits (2000) Timothy Williamson argues that knowledge can be causally efficacious and as such figure in psychological explanation. His argument for this claim figures as a response to a key objection to his overall thesis that knowing is a mental state. In this paper I argue that although Williamson succeeds in establishing that knowledge in some cases is essential to the power of certain causal explanations of actions, he fails to do this in a way (...) that establishes knowledge itself as a causal factor. The argument thus fails to support his overall claim that knowledge should be conceived as a state of mind. (shrink)
In this paper, I introduce and discuss a series of problems associated with answering the question of semantic unity, and argue that the truth theoretical approach to semantics put forward by Donald Davidson suggests a possible solution. Although not put forward explicitly as such by Davidson, it is argued that we in Davidson's interpretation of Tarski's definition of truth find the resources to illuminate and resolve the problem of unity.