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Profile: Barry Lam (Vassar College)
  1. Barry Lam, A New Argument Against the Instrumental Conception of Epistemic Rationality.
    According to the Instrumental Conception of Epistemic Rationality believing rationally is believing in such a way so as to best satisfy one’s cognitive goals. I provide a novel argument against the Instrumental Conception on the basis of an unnoticed phenomenon I call “rational preemption.” You can now revise your plans and actions rationally in order to preempt or prevent foreseeable future irrationality. However, you cannot now revise your beliefs rationally in order to preempt or prevent foreseeable future irrationality. The ability (...)
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  2. Barry Lam (forthcoming). The Dynamic Foundations of Epistemic Rationality. Philosophy.
    Classical theories of epistemic rationality take an agent\\textquoteright{}s individual beliefs to be the only things that are rational or irrational. For them, rationality is wholly static. Recent work in epistemology take sets of individual beliefs and also changes of belief over time to be rational or irrational. For these theories, rationality is both static and dynamic. However, for both groups, static rationality is fundamental. In my dissertation, I argue to the contrary that, in fact, all rationality is dynamic rationality. Epistemic (...)
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  3. Barry Lam (2013). Calibrated Probabilities and the Epistemology of Disagreement. Synthese 190 (6):1079-1098.
    This paper assesses the comparative reliability of two belief-revision rules relevant to the epistemology of disagreement, the Equal Weight and Stay the Course rules. I use two measures of reliability for probabilistic belief-revision rules, calibration and Brier Scoring, to give a precise account of epistemic peerhood and epistemic reliability. On the calibration measure of reliability, epistemic peerhood is easy to come by, and employing the Equal Weight rule generally renders you less reliable than Staying the Course. On the Brier-Score measure (...)
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  4. Barry Lam (2013). Vagueness and Ambivalence. Acta Analytica 28 (3):359-379.
    What is the proper attitude toward what is expressed by a vague sentence in the face of borderline evidence? Some call this attitude “ambivalence” and distinguish it from uncertainty. It has been argued that Classical Epistemicism conjoined with classical probability theory fails to characterize this attitude, and that we must therefore abandon classical logic or classical probabilities in the presence of vagueness. In this paper, I give a characterization of ambivalence assuming a supervaluationist semantics for vague terms that does not (...)
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  5. Barry Lam (2011). On the Rationality of Belief-Invariance in Light of Peer Disagreement. Philosophical Review 120 (2):207 - 245.
    This paper considers two questions. First, what is the scope of the Equal Weight View? Is it the case that meeting halfway is the uniquely rational method of belief-revision in all cases of known peer disagreement? The answer is no. It is sometimes rational to maintain your own opinion in the face of peer disagreement. But this leaves open the possibility that the Equal Weight View is indeed sometimes the uniquely rational method of belief revision. Precisely what is the skeptical (...)
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  6. Barry Lam (2010). Are Cantonese Speakers Really Descriptivists? Revisiting Cross-Cultural Semantics. Cognition 115 (2):320–32.
    In an article in Cognition, Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich [Machery et al., 2004] present data which purports to show that “East Asian” native Cantonese speakers tend to have descriptivist intuitions about the referents of proper names, while “Western” native English speakers tend to have causal-historical intuitions about proper names. Machery et al take this finding to support the view that some intuitions, the universality of which they claim is central to philosophical theories, vary according to cultural background. Machery et (...)
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