We discuss explanation of an earlier event by a later event, and argue that prima facie cases of backwards event explanation are ubiquitous. Some examples: (1) I am tidying my flat because my brother is coming to visit tomorrow. (2) The scarlet pimpernels are closing because it is about to rain. (3) The volcano is smoking because it is going to erupt soon. We then look at various ways people might attempt to explain away these prima facie cases by arguing (...) that in each case the 'real' explanation is something else. We argue that none of the explaining-away strategies are successful, and so any plausible account of explanation should either make room for backwards explanation, or have a good story to tell about why it doesn't have to. (shrink)
Philosophers readily talk about merely verbal disputes, usually without much or any explicit reflection on what these are, and a good deal of methodological significance is attached to discovering whether a dispute is merely verbal or not. Currently, metaphilosophical advances are being made towards a clearer understanding of what exactly it takes for something to be a merely verbal dispute. This paper engages with this growing literature, pointing out some problems with existing approaches, and develops a new proposal which builds (...) on their strengths. (shrink)
David Lewis is associated with the controversial thesis that some properties are more eligible than others to be the referents of our predicates solely in virtue of those properties’ being more natural; independently, that is, of anything to do with our patterns of usage of the relevant predicates. On such a view, the natural properties act as ‘reference magnets’. In this paper I explore (though I do not endorse) a related thesis in epistemology: that some propositions are ‘justification magnets’. According (...) to the doctrine of justification magnetism, we have better justification for some propositions than for others solely in virtue of certain features of those propositions; independently, that is, of anything to do with evidential support or cognitive accomplishment. In the course of discussing an objection to justification magnetism I describe (though I do not endorse) a novel approach to epistemology akin to interpretationism in the theory of reference. (shrink)
Abstract This paper examines the kind of epistemic circularity which, according to Ernest Sosa, is unavoidably entailed whenever one has what he calls ?reflective? knowledge (that is, knowledge that p such that the knower reflectively endorses the reliability of the epistemic sources by which she came to her belief that p). I begin by describing the relevant kind of circularity and its role in Sosa's epistemology, en route presenting and resisting Sosa's arguments that this kind of circularity is not vicious. (...) Then I consider the somewhat complex relationship between Sosa's views on epistemic circularity and his response to the Problem of Easy Knowledge, arguing that (on one interpretation of Sosa, at least) a complete solution to that problem cannot be extracted from Sosa's work unless the aforementioned epistemic circularity can be proved non-vicious. (shrink)
Boghossian claims that we can acquire a priori knowledge by means of a certain form of argument, our grasp of whose premises relies on the existence of implicit definitions. I discuss an objection to his ‘analytic theory of the a priori’. The worry is that in order to employ this kind of argument we must already know its conclusion. Boghossian has responded to this type of objection in recent work, but I argue that his responses are unconvincing. Along the way, (...) I resist Ebert’s reasons for thinking that Boghossian’s argument fails to transmit warrant from its premises to its conclusion. (shrink)
Grounding Concepts tackles the issue of arithmetical knowledge, developing a new position which respects three intuitions which have appeared impossible to satisfy simultaneously: a priorism, mind-independence realism, and empiricism. -/- Drawing on a wide range of philosophical influences, but avoiding unnecessary technicality, a view is developed whereby arithmetic can be known through the examination of empirically grounded concepts. These are concepts which, owing to their relationship to sensory input, are non-accidentally accurate representations of the mind-independent world. Examination of such concepts (...) is an armchair activity, but enables us to recover information which has been encoded in the way our concepts represent. Emphasis on the key role of the senses in securing this coding relationship means that the view respects empiricism, but without undermining the mind-independence of arithmetic or the fact that it is knowable by means of a special armchair method called conceptual examination. -/- A wealth of related issues are covered during the course of the book, including definitions of realism, conditions on knowledge, the problems with extant empiricist approaches to the a priori, mathematical explanation, mathematical indispensability, pragmatism, conventionalism, empiricist criteria for meaningfulness, epistemic externalism and foundationalism. The discussion encompasses themes from the work of Locke, Kant, Ayer, Wittgenstein, Quine, McDowell, Field, Peacocke, Boghossian, and many others. (shrink)
In recent work Timothy Williamson argues that the epistemology of metaphysical modality is a special case of the epistemology of counterfactuals. I argue that Williamson has not provided an adequate argument for this controversial claim, and that it is not obvious how what he says should be supplemented in order to derive such an argument. But I suggest that an important moral of his discussion survives this point. The moral is that experience could play an epistemic role which is more (...) epistemically significant than a mere 'enabling' role but not equivalent to an evidential role. (shrink)
forthcoming in American Philosophical Quarterly. We argue that it would seem to be a mistake to blame Liar-like paradox on certain features of the object language, since the effect can be created with very minimal object languages that contain none of the usual suspects (truth-like predicates, reference to their own truth-bearers, negation, etc.).
I argue that Fitch’s ‘paradox of knowability’ presents no special problem for the epistemic anti-realist who believes that reality is epistemically accessible to us. For the claim which is the target of the argument (If p then it is possible to know p) is not a commitment of anti-realism. The epistemic anti-realist’s commitment is (or should be) to the recognizability of the states of affairs which render true propositions true, not to the knowability of the propositions themselves. A formal apparatus (...) for discussing the recognizability of states of affairs is offered, and other prima facie similar approaches to the paradox argument are reviewed. (shrink)
This paper takes the form of a critical discussion of Crispin Wright’s notion of entitlement of cognitive project. I examine various strategies for defending the claim that entitlement can make acceptance of a proposition epistemically rational, including one which appeals to epistemic consequentialism. Ultimately, I argue, none of these strategies is successful, but the attempt to isolate points of disagreement with Wright issues in some positive proposals as to how an epistemic consequentialist should characterize epistemic rationality.
in American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (3), July 2007, pp. 259-72. Argues that epistemically normative claims are made true by the same facts as, but do not mean the same as, certain natural-sounding claims.
Lewis has argued that quasi-realism is fictionalism. Blackburn denies this, offering reasons which rely on a descriptive reading of quasi-realism. This note offers a different, more general argument against Lewis's claim, available to prescriptive as well as descriptive quasi-realists.
The goal of the research programme I describe in this article is a realist epistemology for arithmetic which respects arithmetic's special epistemic status (the status usually described as a prioricity) yet accommodates naturalistic concerns by remaining fundamentally empiricist. I argue that the central claims which would allow us to develop such an epistemology are (i) that arithmetical truths are known through an examination of our arithmetical concepts; (ii) that (at least our basic) arithmetical concepts are accurate mental representations of elements (...) of the arithmetical structure of the independent world; (iii) that (ii) obtains in virtue of the normal functioning of our sensory apparatus. The first of these claims protects arithmetic's special epistemic status relative, for example, to the laws of physics, the second preserves the independence of arithmetical truth, and the third ensures that we remain empiricists. Preliminaries Justifying and grounding concepts Cameras and filters An epistemology for arithmetic Concluding remarks. (shrink)
I argue that mind-independence realism should be characterised in terms of what I call 'essential', rather than 'modal', independence from our mental lives. I explore the connections between the two kinds of independence, and argue that characterizations in terms of essence respect more intuitions about what realism is, harmonize better with standard characterizations of anti-realism, and avert the threat of subversion from Blackburn's quasi-realist.