When I tell you that it’s raining, I describe a way the world is—viz., rainy. I say something whose truth turns on how things are with the weather in the world. Likewise when I tell you that the weatherman thinks that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I say turns on how things are with the weatherman’s state of mind in the world. Likewise when I tell you that I think that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I (...) say turns on how things are with my state of mind in the world. (shrink)
Within the linguistics literature it is often claimed that epistemicmodality, unlike other kinds of modality, does not contribute to truth-conditional content. In this paper I challenge this view. I reanalyze a variety of arguments which have been used in support of the non-truth-conditional view and show that they can be handled on an alternative analysis of epistemicmodality. # 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. This essay demonstrates that a dynamic theory about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemic modals. The first part of the story offers a unifying treatment of disputes about epistemicmodality and disputes about matters of fact while at the (...) same time avoiding the complexities of alternative theories. The second part of the story extends the basic framework to cover some complicated data about retraction and the interaction between epistemicmodality and tense. A comparison between the suggestion made in this essay and current versions of the orthodoxy is provided. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the acquisition of certain aspects of the meaning of epistemic modal verbs. Epistemic modals encode the probability, predictability or certainty of the proposition embedded under the modal verb. The sentences in (1) are examples of epistemic modality1.
way on the information available in the contexts in which they are used, it’s not surprising that there is a minor but growing industry of work in semantics and the philosophy of language concerned with the precise nature of the context-dependency of epistemically modalized sentences. Take, for instance, an epistemic might-claim like..
way on the information available in the contexts in which they are used, it’s not surprising that there is a minor but growing industry of work in semantics and the philosophy of language concerned with the precise nature of the context-dependency of epistemically modalized sentences. Take, for instance, an epistemic might-claim like..
There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know (...) that it does not obtain. But this is problematic for a few reasons. One issue, one that we’ll come back to, concerns the first two words. The analysis appears to quantify over possibilities. But what are they? As we said, that will become a large issue pretty soon, so let’s set it aside for now. A more immediate problem is that it isn’t clear what it is to have de re attitudes towards possibilities, such that we know a particular possibility does or doesn’t obtain. Let’s try rephrasing our analysis so that it avoids this complication. (shrink)
On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language (...) use. Recently, though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
Invariantism about ‘might’ says that ‘might’ semantically expresses the same modal property in every context. This paper presents and defends a version of invariantism. According to it, ‘might’ semantically expresses the same weak modal property in every context. However, speakers who utter sentences containing ‘might’ typically assert propositions concerning stronger types of modality, including epistemicmodality. This theory can explain the phenomena that motivate contextualist theories of epistemic uses of ‘might’, and can be defended from objections (...) of the sort that relativists mount against contextualist theories. (shrink)
By “epistemic modals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and it (...) might be false,” I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing and (...) interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
In “Epistemic Modals,” Seth Yalcin argues that what explains the deficiency of sentences containing epistemic modals of the form ‘p and it might be that not-p’ is that sentences of this sort are strictly contradictory, and thus are not instances of a Moore-paradox as has been previous suggested. Benjamin Schnieder, however, argues in his Yalcin’s explanation of these sentences’ deficiency turns out to be insufficiently general, as it cannot account for less complex but still defective sentences, such as (...) ‘Suppose it might be raining.’ Consequently, Schnieder proposes his own, expressivist treatment of epistemic modals which he thinks can explain the deficiency of both the original sentence type as well as more complex cases of embedded sentences containing epistemic modals. In this study, I argue that although Schnieder is right to draw our attention to the explanatory failure of Yalcin’s account, we aren’t forced to adopt Schnieder’s expressivist account of epistemic modals. I defend instead a contextualist-friendly alternative which explains the deficiencies of all the relevant sentence types, while avoiding both the defects of Yalcin’s account and the intuitive costs of expressivism. (shrink)
This paper presents and discusses a range of counterexamples to the common view that quantifiers cannot take scope over epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for ‘force modifier’ theories of epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for Robert Stalnaker’s theory of counterfactuals, according to which a special kind of epistemic modal must be able to scope over a whole counterfactual. Finally, some of the counterexamples suggest that David Lewis must countenance ‘would’ counterfactuals in (...) which a covert ‘would’ scopes over the whole consequent of the counterfactual, including an overt ‘might.’. (shrink)
Michael Huemer (2007) has articulated a provocative account of the concept of "epistemic possibility" which he hopes will explicate the explanatory value of the concept while also lending support to a broader anti-skeptical strategy. While I think his account has a number of advantages, many of which Huemer himself identifies, there are also significant disadvantages which should prompt us to seek an alternative. In this paper I describe an alternative which builds on some of the better features of Huemer's (...) account, while avoiding its shortcomings. After having explained why this alternative avoids the problems I attribute to Huemer's position, I will conclude by presenting some independent considerations in favor of my account, which recommends that epistemic possibility claims be subjected to the same evidentialist standards to which belief and assertion are usually held accountable. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that epistemic modals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemic modals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemic modals.
The similarities between the philosophical debates surrounding assessment sensitivity and moral luck run so deep that one can easily adapt almost any argument from one debate, change some terms, adapt the examples, and end up with an argument relevant to the other. This article takes Brian Rosebury's strategy for resisting moral luck in “Moral Responsibility and ‘Moral Luck' ” (1995) and turns it into a strategy for resisting assessment sensitivity. The article shows that one of Bernard Williams's examples motivating moral (...) luck is very similar to one of the examples John MacFarlane uses to motivate the assessment sensitivity of epistemic modals, and in particular the assessment sensitivity of the auxiliary verb “might.” This means that, if Rosebury is right and we do not actually need moral luck to explain Williams's example, we may not need assessment sensitivity to account for the semantic behaviour of the epistemic modal verb “might” either. (shrink)
Imagine that Ann, asked to name her favorite treat, answers: 1. Licorice is tasty Imagine that Ben, having hidden some licorice in the cupboard, whispers to Ann: 2. There might be licorice in the cupboard. What if any role is played by perspective—whom the licorice is tasty to, whose evidence allows for licorice in the cupboard—in the semantics of such sentences?
Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are (...) explored. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by (...) assertions of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, …’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, …’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals, according to which they express propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or (...) group. This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework, using broadly Gricean resources. (shrink)
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemic modals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemic modals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemic modals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemic modals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing epistemic modals?
A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic (...) modals. If we want to respect these evaluations, our best option is a relativist theory of epistemic modals. On a relativist theory, an utterance of a might be F can be true relative to one context of evaluation and false relative to another. We argue that such a theory does better than any rival approach at capturing all the behaviour of epistemic modals. (shrink)
I want to discuss a puzzle about the semantics of epistemic modals, like “It might be the case that” as it occurs in “It might be the case that Goldbach’s conjecture is false.”1 I’ll argue that the puzzle cannot be adequately explained on standard accounts of the semantics of epistemic modals, and that a proper solution requires relativizing utterance truth to a context of assessment, a semantic device whose utility and coherence I have defended elsewhere for future contingents (...) (MacFarlane.. (shrink)
Attention to the conversational role of alethic terms seems to dominate, and even sometimes exhaust, many contemporary analyses of the nature of truth. Yet, because truth plays a role in judgment and assertion regardless of whether alethic terms are expressly used, such analyses cannot be comprehensive or fully adequate. A more general analysis of the nature of truth is therefore required – one which continues to explain the significance of truth independently of the role alethic terms play in discourse. We (...) undertake such an analysis in this paper; in particular, we start with certain elements from Kant and Frege, and develop a construct of truth as a normative modality of cognitive acts (e.g., thought, judgment, assertion). Using the various biconditional T-schemas to sanction the general passage from assertions to (equivalent) assertions of truth, we then suggest that an illocutionary analysis of truth can contribute to its locutionary analysis as well, including the analysis of diverse constructions involving alethic terms that have been largely overlooked in the philosophical literature. Finally, we briefly indicate the importance of distinguishing between alethic and epistemic modalities. (shrink)
Predicates of personal taste (fun, tasty) and epistemic modals (might, must) share a similar analytical difficulty in determining whose taste or knowledge is being expressed. Accordingly, they have parallel behavior in attitude reports and in a certain kind of disagreement. On the other hand, they differ in how freely they can be linked to a contextually salient individual, with epistemic modals being much more restricted in this respect. I propose an account of both classes using Lasersohn’s (Linguistics and (...) Philosophy 28: 643–686, 2005) “judge” parameter, at the same time arguing for crucial changes to Lasersohn’s view in order to allow the extension to epistemic modals and address empirical problems faced by his account. (shrink)
Recently, Yalcin (Epistemic modals. Mind, 116 , 983–1026, 2007) put forward a novel account of epistemic modals. It is based on the observation that sentences of the form ‘ & Might ’ do not embed under ‘suppose’ and ‘if’. Yalcin concludes that such sentences must be contradictory and develops a notion of informational consequence which validates this idea. I will show that informational consequence is inadequate as an account of the logic of epistemic modals: it cannot deal (...) with reasoning from uncertain premises. Finally, I offer an alternative way of explaining the relevant linguistic data. (shrink)
In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we offer (...) an explanation of why certain locutions invite insensitive assessments, focusing primarily on ’tasty’ and ’might’. We spell out some reasons why felicitous insensitive assessments are puzzling and argue briefly that recent attempts to accommodate such assessments (including attempts by John MacFarlane, Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies) all fail to provide more than hints at a solution to the puzzle. In the main part of the paper, we develop an account of felicitous insensitive assessments by identifying a number of pragmatic factors that influence the felicity of assessments. Before closing, we argue that the role of these factors extend beyond cases considered in the debate about assessor-relativism and fit comfortably with standard contextualist analyses of the relevant locutions. (shrink)
I defend a contextualist account of bare epistemic modal claims against recent objections. I argue that in uttering a sentence of the form ‘It might be that p,’ a speaker is performing two speech acts. First, she is (directly) asserting that in view of the knowledge possessed by some relevant group, it might be that p. The content of this first speech act is accounted for by the contextualist view. But the speaker's utterance also generates an indirect speech act (...) that consists in a weak suggestive that p. Since this second speech act is typically the main point of a bare epistemic modal utterance, our (negative or positive) responses to the utterance actually target this second speech act. I show how this two-speech-act account can explain the data recently adduced against contextualism. (shrink)
Epistemic closure has been a central issue in epistemology over the last forty years. According to versions of the relevant alternatives and subjunctivist theories of knowledge, epistemic closure can fail: an agent who knows some propositions can fail to know a logical consequence of those propositions, even if the agent explicitly believes the consequence (having “competently deduced” it from the known propositions). In this sense, the claim that epistemic closure can fail must be distinguished from the fact (...) that agents do not always believe, let alone know, the consequences of what they know—a fact that raises the “problem of logical omniscience” that has been central in epistemic logic. -/- This paper, part I of II, is a study of epistemic closure from the perspective of epistemic logic. First, I introduce models for epistemic logic, based on Lewis’s models for counterfactuals, that correspond closely to the pictures of the relevant alternatives and subjunctivist theories of knowledge in epistemology. Second, I give an exact characterization of the closure properties of knowledge according to these theories, as formalized. Finally, I consider the relation between closure and higher-order knowledge. The philosophical repercussions of these results and results from part II, which prompt a reassessment of the issue of closure in epistemology, are discussed further in companion papers. -/- As a contribution to modal logic, this paper demonstrates an alternative approach to proving modal completeness theorems, without the standard canonical model construction. By “modal decomposition” I obtain completeness and other results for two non-normal modal logics with respect to new semantics. One of these logics, dubbed the logic of ranked relevant alternatives, appears not to have been previously identified in the modal logic literature. More broadly, the paper presents epistemology as a rich area for logical study. (shrink)
There are many ways the world might be, for all I know. For all I know, it might be that there is life on Jupiter, and it might be that there is not. It might be that Australia will win the next Ashes series, and it might be that they will not. It might be that my great-grandfather was my great-grandmother's second cousin, and it might be that he was not. It might be that copper is a compound, and it (...) might be that it is not. (shrink)
Seven proposed accounts of epistemic possibility are criticized, and a new account is proposed, making use of the notion of having justification for dismissing a proposition. The new account explains intuitions about otherwise puzzling cases, upholds plausible general principles about epistemic possibility, and explains the practical import of epistemicmodality judgements. It is suggested that judgements about epistemic possibility function to assess which propositions are worthy of further inquiry.
Anti-materialist thought experiments as, e.g., zombie arguments, have posed some of the most vexing problems for materialist accounts of phenomenal consciousness. I doubt, however, that arguments of this kind can refute the core thesis of materialism. Although I do not question that there is something very special about an adequate explanation of phenomenal consciousness, and although I accept the epistemic irreducibility of phenomenal consciousness, I deny that modal arguments reach far enough to establish essentialism about consciousness. I will draw (...) upon a relativistic conception of modal space and suggest to strictly separate between varieties of metaphysical possibility - depending on which world is considered as actual, and depending on accessibility relations. It is shown that the modal argument cannot endanger the reductive explanation of the mind-brain relation if one distinguishes carefully between possibility according to primary intensions (epistemic possibility) and possibility according to secondary intensions (meta-physical possibility). Modal arguments are strong enough to make an epistemological point but not an ontological one. (shrink)
It is widely assumed in the developmental literature that certain classes of modal expression appear later in language acquisition than others; specifically, epistemic interpretations lag behind non-epistemic (or root) interpretations. An explanation for these findings is proposed in terms of the child’s developing theory of mind, i.e. the ability to attribute to oneself and others mental representations, and to reason inferentially about them. It is hypothesized that epistemicmodality crucially implicates theory-of-mind abilities and is therefore (...) expected to depend on prior developments in the child's ability to handle representations of mental representations. In support of this hypothesis, it is shown that autistic individuals (who arguably possess a deficient theory-of-mind mechanism) have difficulty with epistemics. (shrink)
Syntactic logics do not suffer from the problems of logical omniscience but are often thought to lack interesting properties relating to epistemic notions. By focusing on the case of rule-based agents, I develop a framework for modelling resource-bounded agents and show that the resulting models have a number of interesting properties.
Thinking and speaking about time is ridden with puzzles and paradoxes. How do human beings conceptualize time? Why, for example, does the availability of tense vary in different languages? How do the lines of information from tense, aspect, temporal adverbs, and context interact in the mind? Does time describe events? If real time does not flow, where do the concepts of the past, present and future come from? Are they basic concepts or are they composed out of more primitive constituents? (...) And, finally, what is the semantics of expressions with temporal reference? This book offers a new approach to the representation of meaning of temporally-located utterances and discourses. Temporality, the author suggests, should be taken to mean degrees of certainty, understood in turn as degrees of acceptability concerning the eventuality referred to in the speaker's utterance. She presents theoretical arguments and empirical evidence from Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages to show that speakers represent the past, present, and future as degrees of epistemicmodality. She argues that temporality can be subsumed under the general label of acceptability or attitude and, rather like the semantic category of evidentiality, founded on the strength of evidence. In the approach she develops, modality provides basic conceptual building blocks for the concept of time and at the same time semantic building blocks for representing temporal expressions in her framework of Default Semantics. Dr Jaszczolt sets the results of her research in the context of linguistic and philosophical work in semantics and pragmatics. (shrink)
A successful theory of the language of subjective uncertainty would meet several important constraints. First, it would explain how use of the language of subjective uncertainty aﬀects addressees’ states of subjective uncertainty. Second, it would explain how such use affects what possibilities are treated as live for purposes of conversation. Third, it would accommodate 'quantifying in' to the scope of epistemic modals. Fourth, it would explain the norms governing the language of subjective uncertainty, and the diﬀerences between them and (...) the norms governing the language of subjective certainty. Neither truth conditional nor traditional force modfier theories of the language of subjective uncertainty look adequate to the task of satisfying all four of these constraints. (shrink)
Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “conventionalism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that conventionalism is superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about (...) class='Hi'>epistemic normativity, which is motivated by appeal to philosophical naturalism (§1). Conventionalism says that epistemic discourse describes how things stands relative to a conventional set of “epistemic” values; such discourse is akin to normative discourse relative to the conventional rules of a club (§2). I defend conventionalism by appeal to a “reverse open question argument,” which says, pace expressivism, that epistemic discourse leaves the relevant normative questions open (§3). (shrink)
What is our epistemic access to metaphysical modality? Timothy Williamson suggests that the epistemology of counterfactuals will provide the answer. This paper challenges Williamson's account and argues that certain elements of the epistemology of counterfactuals that he discusses, namely so called background knowledge and constitutive facts, are already saturated with modal content which his account fails to explain. Williamson's account will first be outlined and the role of background knowledge and constitutive facts analysed. Their key role is to (...) restrict our imagination to rule out irrelevant counterfactual suppositions. However, background knowledge turns out to be problematic in cases where we are dealing with metaphysically possible counterfactual suppositions that violate the actual laws of physics. As we will see, unless Williamson assumes that background knowledge corresponds with the actual, true laws of physics and that these laws are metaphysically necessary, it will be difficult to address this problem. Furthermore, Williamson's account fails to accommodate the distinction between conceivable yet metaphysically impossible scenarios, and conceivable and metaphysically possible scenarios. This is because background knowledge and constitutive facts are based strictly on our knowledge of the actual world. Williamson does attempt to address this concern with regard to metaphysical necessities – as they hold across all possible worlds – but we will see that even in this case the explanation is questionable. These problems, it will be suggested, cannot be addressed in a counterfactual account of the epistemology of modality. The paper finishes with an analysis of Williamson's possible rejoinders and some discussion about the prospects of an alternative account of modal epistemology. (shrink)
where F is a contradiction (I use his numbering). Tim says about these equivalences: (1) “modulo the implicit recognition of this equivalence, the epistemology of metaphysically modal thinking is a special case of the epistemology of counterfactual thinking. Whoever has what it takes to understand the counterfactual conditional and the elementary logical auxiliaries ~ and F has what it takes to understand possibility and necessity operators.” (158) (2) The idea that we evaluate metaphysically modal claims “by some quite different means (...) [from those we use to evaluate counterfactuals – CP] is highly fanciful, since it indicates a bizarre lack of cognitive economy and has no plausible explanation of where the alternative cognitive resources might come from” (162) (3) “the capacity to handle metaphysical modality is an “accidental” byproduct of the cognitive mechanisms that provide our capacity to handle counterfactual conditionals” (162). The biconditional corresponding to a proposed definition of a concept C may be necessary and a priori. But that leaves open these questions: (1) Does the definition contribute to an explanation of why what are in fact truths containing C are true? (The Explanation Question) (2) Does the definition contribute to an explanation of our knowledge of certain contents containing C? (Epistemic Question) (3) Does the definition contribute to an explanation of our understanding or grasp of contents containing C? (Understanding Question) I argue that applied to (17) and (18), considered as definitions, the answers to these three.. (shrink)
The presence of luck in our cognitive as in our moral lives shows that the quality of our intellectual character may not be entirely up to us as individuals, and that our motivation and even our ability to desire the truth, like our moral goodness, can be fragile. This paper uses epistemologists'responses to the problem of “epistemic luck” as a sounding board and locates the source of some of their deepest disagreements in divergent, value-charged “interests in explanation,” which epistemologists (...) bring with them to discussions of knowledge and justification. In so doing, I delineate both the commonalities and key differences between those authors I describe as virtue reliabilists and those I describe as virtue responsibilists. (shrink)
This paper discusses the possibility of modelling inductive inference (Gold 1967) in dynamic epistemic logic (see e.g. van Ditmarsch et al. 2007). The general purpose is to propose a semantic basis for designing a modal logic for learning in the limit. First, we analyze a variety of epistemological notions involved in identification in the limit and match it with traditional epistemic and doxastic logic approaches. Then, we provide a comparison of learning by erasing (Lange et al. 1996) and (...) iterated epistemic update (Baltag and Moss 2004) as analyzed in dynamic epistemic logic. We show that finite identification can be modelled in dynamic epistemic logic, and that the elimination process of learning by erasing can be seen as iterated belief-revision modelled in dynamic doxastic logic. Finally, we propose viewing hypothesis spaces as temporal frames and discuss possible advantages of that perspective. (shrink)
Two arguments have recently been advanced that Maxwell-Boltzmann particles areindistinguishable just like Bose–Einstein and Fermi–Dirac particles. Bringing modalmetaphysics to bear on these arguments shows that ontological indistinguishabilityfor classical (MB) particles does not follow. The first argument, resting on symmetryin the occupation representation for all three cases, fails since peculiar correlationsexist in the quantum (BE and FD) context as harbingers of ontic indistinguishability,while the indistinguishability of classical particles remains purely epistemic. The secondargument, deriving from the classical limits of quantum statistical (...) partition functions,embodies a conceptual confusion. After clarifying the doctrine of haecceitism, a thirdargument is considered that attempts to deflate metaphysical concerns altogether byshowing that the phase-space and distribution-space representations of MB-statisticshave contrary haecceitistic import. Careful analysis shows this argument to fail as well,leaving de re modality unproblematically grounding particle identity in the classicalcontext while genuine puzzlement about the underlying ontology remains for quantumstatistics. (shrink)
Prominent instances of anti-luck epistemology, in particular sensitivity and safety accounts of knowledge, introduce a modal condition on the pertinent belief in terms of closeness or similarity of possible worlds. Very roughly speaking, a belief must continue to be true in close possibilities in order to qualify as knowledge. Such closeness-accounts derive much support from their (alleged) ability to eliminate standard instances of epistemic luck as they appear in prominent Gettier-type examples. The article argues that there are new Gettier-type (...) examples which are grounded in “distant” epistemic luck. It is demonstrated that sensitivity and safety theories cannot handle such examples. (shrink)
Relativism offers a nifty way of accommodating most of our intuitions about epistemic modals, predicates of personal taste, color expressions, future contingents, and conditionals. But in spite of its manifest merits relativism is squarely at odds with epistemic value monism: the view that truth is the highest epistemic goal. I will call the argument from relativism to epistemic value pluralism the trivial argument for epistemic value pluralism. After formulating the argument, I will look at three (...) possible ways to refute it. I will then argue that two of these are unsuccessful, and defend the third, which involves denying that there are any genuinely relative truths. (shrink)
People increasingly form beliefs based on information gained from automatically filtered Internet sources such as search engines. However, the workings of such sources are often opaque, preventing subjects from knowing whether the information provided is biased or incomplete. Users’ reliance on Internet technologies whose modes of operation are concealed from them raises serious concerns about the justificatory status of the beliefs they end up forming. Yet it is unclear how to address these concerns within standard theories of knowledge and justification. (...) To shed light on the problem, we introduce a novel conceptual framework that clarifies the relations between justified belief, epistemic responsibility, action, and the technological resources available to a subject. We argue that justified belief is subject to certain epistemic responsibilities that accompany the subject’s particular decision-taking circumstances, and that one typical responsibility is to ascertain, so far as one can, whether the information upon which the judgment will rest is biased or incomplete. What this responsibility comprises is partly determined by the inquiry-enabling technologies available to the subject. We argue that a subject’s beliefs that are formed based on Internet-filtered information are less justified than they would be if she either knew how filtering worked or relied on additional sources, and that the subject may have the epistemic responsibility to take measures to enhance the justificatory status of such beliefs.. (shrink)
In this paper I defend a pure proceduralist conception of legitimacy that applies to epistemic democracy. This conception, which I call pure epistemic proceduralism, does not depend on procedure-independent standards for good outcomes and relies on a proceduralist epistemology. It identifies a democratic decision as legitimate if it is the outcome of a process that satisfies certain conditions of political and epistemic fairness. My argument starts with a rejection of instrumentalism – the view that political equality is (...) only instrumentally valuable. I reject instrumentalism on two grounds: (i) because it fails to respect reasonable value pluralism and to recognize the constitutive role of democratic procedures for legitimacy in pluralist societies, and (ii) because it neglects the constructive function of democratic decision-making. I then consider two alternatives to pure epistemic proceduralism: David Estlund's version of epistemic proceduralism and a Deweyan account of epistemic democracy. I argue that only pure epistemic proceduralism can make good on both shortcomings of instrumentalism, whereas each of the other two approaches only makes good on one and neglects the other. (shrink)
Contemporary epistemology of peer disagreement has largely focused on our immediate normative response to prima facie instances of disagreement. Whereas some philosophers demand that we should withhold judgment (or moderate our credences) in such cases, others argue that, unless new evidence becomes available, disagreement at best gives us reason to demote our interlocutor from his peer status. But what makes someone an epistemic peer in the first place? This question has not received the attention it deserves. I begin by (...) surveying different notions of ‘epistemic peer’ that have been peddled in the contemporary literature, arguing that they tend to build normative assumptions about the correct response to disagreement into the notion of peerhood. Instead, I argue, epistemic peerhood needs to be taken seriously in its own right. Importantly, for epistemic agents to count as peers, they should exhibit a comparable degree of reflective awareness of the character and limitations of their own knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper I present a criticism of Sarah Moss‘ recent proposal to use scoring rules as a means of reaching epistemic compromise in disagreements between epistemic peers that have encountered conflict. The problem I have with Moss‘ proposal is twofold. Firstly, it appears to involve a double counting of epistemic value. Secondly, it isn‘t clear whether the notion of epistemic value that Moss appeals to actually involves the type of value that would be acceptable and (...) unproblematic to regard as epistemic. (shrink)
A well-known open problem in epistemic logic is to give a syntactic characterization of the successful formulas. Semantically, a formula is successful if and only if for any pointed model where it is true, it remains true after deleting all points where the formula was false. The classic example of a formula that is not successful in this sense is the “Moore sentence” p ∧ ¬BOXp, read as “p is true but you do not know p.” Not only is (...) the Moore sentence unsuccessful, it is self-refuting, for it never remains true as described. We show that in logics of knowledge and belief for a single agent (extended by S5), Moorean phenomena are the source of all self-refutation; moreover, in logics for an introspective agent (extending KD45), Moorean phenomena are the source of all unsuccessfulness as well. This is a distinctive feature of such logics, for with a non-introspective agent or multiple agents, non-Moorean unsuccessful formulas appear. We also consider how successful and self-refuting formulas relate to the Cartesian and learnable formulas, which have been discussed in connection with Fitch’s “paradox of knowability.” We show that the Cartesian formulas are exactly the formulas that are not eventually self-refuting and that not all learnable formulas are successful. In an appendix, we give syntactic characterizations of the successful and the self-refuting formulas. (shrink)
Abstract Suppose you know that someone is your epistemic peer regarding some topic. You admit that you cannot think of any relevant epistemic advantage you have over her when it comes to that topic; you admit that she is just as likely as you to get P?s truth-value right. Alternatively, you might know that she is your epistemic superior regarding the topic. And then after learning this about her you find out that she disagrees with you about (...) P. In those situations it appears that the confidence with which one holds one?s belief should be significantly reduced. My primary goal in this essay is to present and reflect upon a set of cases of disagreement that have not been discussed in the literature but are vital to consider. I argue that in the new cases one is reasonable in not lowering one?s confidence in the belief. Then I articulate and defend an ambitious principle, the Disagreement Principle, meant to answer the question ?Under what conditions am I epistemically blameworthy in retaining my belief with the same level of confidence after I have discovered recognized peers or superiors who disagree with me?? (shrink)
Do epistemic intuitions tell us anything about knowledge? Stich has argued that we respond to cases according to our contingent cultural programming, and not in a manner that tends to reveal anything significant about knowledge itself. I’ve argued that a cross-culturally universal capacity for mindreading produces the intuitive sense that the subject of a case has or lacks knowledge. This paper responds to Stich’s charge that mindreading is cross-culturally varied in a way that will strip epistemic intuitions of (...) their evidential value. I argue that existing work on cross-cultural variation in mindreading favors my position over Stich’s. (shrink)
William Alston’s argument against the deontological conception of epistemic justification is a classic—and much debated—piece of contemporary epistemology. At the heart of Alston’s argument, however, lies a very simple mistake which, surprisingly, appears to have gone unnoticed in the vast literature now devoted to the argument. After having shown why some of the standard responses to Alston’s argument don’t work, we elucidate the mistake and offer a hypothesis as to why it has escaped attention.
There has been much discussion of powers or real dispositions in the past decade, but there remains an issue that has been inadequately treated. This concerns the precise modal value that comes with dispositionality. We contend in this paper that dispositionality involves a non-alethic, sui generis, irreducible modality. Dispositions only tend towards their manifestations; they do not necessitate them. Tendency is, of course, a dispositional term itself, so this last statement offers little by way of illumination. But given our (...) thesis on the irreducible nature of dispositionality, we maintain that it cannot be explicated correctly in non-dispositional terms. Nevertheless, we all have experience of dispositionality at work, through the exercise or our own powers and the action of other powers upon us. The notion of dispositionality that we acquire is one that involves a modality stronger than pure contingency but weaker than necessity. The recognition of this distinct modal value for dispositionality is one of the biggest oversights in the growing literature in the area. Yet it is there for all to see in even the most mundane example. (shrink)
This paper contributes to an increasing literature strengthening the connection between epistemic logic and epistemology (Van Benthem, Hendricks). I give a survey of the most important applications of epistemic logic in epistemology. I show how it is used in the history of philosophy (Steiner's reconstruction of Descartes' sceptical argument), in solutions to Moore's paradox (Hintikka), in discussions about the relation between knowledge and belief (Lenzen) and in an alleged refutation of verificationism (Fitch) and I examine an early argument (...) about the (im)possibility of epistemic logic (Hocutt). Subsequently, I deal with interpretive questions about epistemic logic that, although implicitly, already appeared in the first section. I contend that a conception of epistemic logic as a theory of knowledge assertions is incoherent, and I argue that it does not make sense to adopt a normative interpretation of epistemic logic. Finally, I show ways to extend epistemic logic with other branches of philosophical logic so as to make it useful for some epistemological questions. Conditional logics and logics of public announcement are used to understand causal theories of knowledge and versions of reliabilism. Temporal logic helps understand some dynamic aspects of knowledge as well as the verificationist thesis. (shrink)
Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar position regarding ethical discourse; however, some (...) authors (e.g. Field, Heller, Gibbard, Blackburn, Chrisman) have recently defended a similar view regarding epistemic discourse. Others (especially Kvanvig, Cuneo, and Lynch) have argued that epistemic expressivism faces special problems, not necessarily attaching to expressivism about other areas. Their arguments differ in interesting ways, but the common strategy is an attempt to show that the very sort of meta-epistemological theorizing needed to articulate and establish epistemic expressivism involves the epistemic expressivist in some sort of internal incoherence or self-defeat. That is, they think that articulating or defending the position requires implicit commitment to the negation of one of the positions core tenets. This paper responds to those arguments on behalf of epistemic expressivism, suggesting that they each misunderstand what is crucial to epistemic expressivism. By responding to these arguments, we hope to achieve more clarity about what epistemic expressivism is and why one might want to endorse it in a meta-epistemology. (shrink)
The internalism/externalism debate is of interest in epistemology since it addresses one of the most fundamental questions in the discipline: what is the basic nature of knowledge and epistemic justification? It is generally held that if a positive epistemic status obtains, this is not a brute fact. Rather if a belief is, for example, justified, it is justified in virtue of some further condition(s) obtaining. What has been called epistemic internalism holds, as the label suggests, is that (...) all the relevant factors that determine justification must be “internal” (in a sense that needs to be specified). Epistemic externalism is the denial of internalism. Epistemic internalism about justification is the subject of this article. <br> After introducing the central intuitive considerations that have tended to motivate internalism, this paper will explore different ways of construing the internalist position (or family of positions). In addition to classical formulations, more recent formulations will be discussed, concluding with a discussion of an emerging position known as “Epistemological Disjunctivism”, which its advocates claim preserves the most important features of more traditional forms of internalism, while avoiding their difficulties. Epistemological Disjunctivism is particularly worthy of attention since if true, it promises to bridge internalist and externalist epistemologies, bringing a rapprochement to two sides of what may otherwise appear a deep and intractable debate about the fundamental nature of epistemology. <br>. (shrink)
One of Kripke's fundamental objections to descriptivism was that the theory misclassifies certain _a posteriori_ propositions expressed by sentences involving names as _a priori_. Though nowadays very few philosophers would endorse a descriptivism of the sort that Kripke criticized, many find two-dimensional semantics attractive as a kind of successor theory. Because two-dimensionalism needn't be a form of descriptivism, it is not open to the epistemic argument as formulated by Kripke; but the most promising versions of two-dimensionalism are open to (...) a close relative of that argument. (shrink)
Kant's speculative theistic proof rests on a distinction between “logical” and “real” modality that he developed very early in the pre-critical period. The only way to explain facts about real possibility, according to Kant, is to appeal to the properties of a unique, necessary, and “most real” being. Here I reconstruct the proof in its historical context, focusing on the role played by the theory of modality both in motivating the argument (in the pre-critical period) and, ultimately, in (...) undoing it as a source of knowledge of God's existence (in the critical period). Along the way I examine Kant's version of the now-popular “actualist” thesis that facts about what is possible must be explained by facts about what is actual. I conclude by discussing why the critical Kant claims both that there are rational grounds for accepting the conclusion of his theistic proof, and that such acceptance can not count as knowledge. This is important, I argue, because the same considerations ultimately motivate his prohibition on knowledge of things-in-themselves generally. -/- . (shrink)
Epistemic possibilities are relative to bodies of information, or perspectives. To claim that something is epistemically possible is typically to claim that it is possible relative one’s own current perspective. We generally do this by using bare, unqualified epistemic possibility (EP) sentences, ones that don’t mention our perspective. The fact that epistemic possibilities are relative to perspectives suggests that these bare EP sentences fall short of fully expressing propositions, contrary to what both contextualists and relativists take for (...) granted. Although they rightly reject propositional invariantism, the implausible view that a bare EP sentence expresses the same classical (absolutely true or absolutely false) proposition in any context, they maintain that a change in perspective shifts either the sentence’s propositional content (to a proposition involving a different perspective) or its truth-value (the same perspectivally neutral proposition now evaluated from a different perspective). I deny that the semantic contents of bare EP sentences shift at all. But I also deny that these contents have truth-values. Rather, according to the radical invariantism I defend, these contents are not full-fledged propositions but merely propositional radicals. Only explicitly relativized EP sentences manage fully to express propositions, and these perspective-involving propositions are the only EP propositions there are. Nevertheless, bare EP sentences are perfectly capable of being used to assert EP propositions, because utterances of them implicitly allude to the relevant perspective. Various problem cases challenge radical invariantism to explain pragmatically which perspective is read into the utterance of a given bare EP sentence. Unlike contextualism and relativism, it can do this without having to resort to any semantic bells and whistles.. (shrink)
It is commonly supposed that metaphysical modal claims are to be evaluated with respect to a single domain of possible worlds: a claim is metaphysically necessary just in case it is true in every possible world, and metaphysically possible just in case it is true in some possible world. We argue that the standard understanding is incorrect; rather, whether a given claim is metaphysically necessary or possible is relative to which world is indicatively actual. We motivate our view by attention (...) to discussions in Salmon 1989 and Fine 2005, in which various data are taken to support rejecting the transitivity of accessibility (Salmon) and modal monism (Fine); we argue that relativized metaphysical modality can accommodate these data compatible with both standard modal logic(s) and modal monism. Noting an analogy with two-dimensional semantics, we argue that metaphysical modality has a complex structure, reflecting what is counterfactually possible, relative to each indicatively actual world. In arguing for the need for relativization, we are broadly on the same side as Crossley and Humberstone (1977) and Davies and Humberstone (1979); our contribution here is, first, to offer distinctively metaphysical reasons for relativization, and second, to show that relativization can be incorporated in ways minimally departing from standard modal logic(s). (shrink)
Epistemic freedom is the freedom to affirm any one of several incompatible propositions without risk of being wrong. We sometimes have this freedom, strange as it seems, and our having it sheds some light on the topic of free will and determinism.
I define a property of beliefs - that of being structure-limning, or of “carving nature at the joints” - and propose three epistemological applications: (i) that limning structure has pro tanto epistemic value, (ii) that a species of understanding can be defined by appeal to the notion of limning structure, and (iii) that a distinction between important and trivial truths can be articulated by appeal to the notion of limning structure.
Knowledge ascriptions seem context sensitive. Yet it is widely thought that epistemic contextualism does not have a plausible semantic implementation. We aim to overcome this concern by articulating and defending an explicit contextualist semantics for ‘know,’ which integrates a fairly orthodox contextualist conception of knowledge as the elimination of the relevant alternatives, with a fairly orthodox “Amherst” semantics for A-quantification over a contextually variable domain of situations. Whatever problems epistemic contextualism might face, lack of an orthodox semantic implementation (...) is not among them. (shrink)
In this paper I consider Saul Kripke’s famous Humphrey objection to David Lewis’s views on de re modality and argue that responses to this objection currently on the market fail to mitigate its force in any significant way.
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)
In this paper I consider a recent argument of Timothy Williamson’s that epistemic internalism and content externalism are indeed incompatible, and since he takes content externalism to be above reproach, so much the worse for epistemic internalism. However, I argue that epistemic internalism, properly understood, remains substantially unaffected no matter which view of content turns out to be correct. What is key to the New Evil Genius thought experiment is that, given everything of which the inhabitants are (...) consciously aware, the two worlds are subjectively indistinguishable for them, which is what matters on internalist accounts of epistemic justification. I argue that even if a standard moral of the New Evil Genius intuition is untenable due to considerations arising from content externalism, the case can be understood as supporting epistemic internalism in a way that is wholly compatible with content externalism. In short, epistemic internalism is committed to sameness of justificatory status between subjectively indistinguishable counterparts, not sameness of content of their justifiers. (shrink)
to use David Chalmers's jargon) claim that though zombies are conceivable, they are not metaphysically possible. This article calls this position regarding the relation between metaphysical and epistemicmodality "modal autonomism," as opposed to the "modal rationalism" endorsed by David Chalmers and Frank Jackson, who insist on a deep link between the two forms of modality. This article argues that the defense of modal rationalism presented in Chalmers and Jackson (2001) begs the question against the type-B materialist/modal (...) autonomist. The argument proceeds as follows. Modal rationalists claim that for all nonphenomenal macro properties, the appropriate supervenience conditional is both necessary and a priori. Hence, type-B materialists must engage in special pleading when they claim that the relevant supervenience conditional for phenomenal properties, expressing the supervenience of the phenomenal on the physical, is necessary but not a priori. However, what Chalmers and Jackson demonstrate, if anything, is that the conditional that includes all the microphysical plus the phenomenal in the antecedent, and nonphenomenal macro facts (such as facts about water and other natural kinds, among other things) in the consequent, is a priori. The question arises why, since facts about water and the like do not metaphysically supervene on the phenomenal facts, is it appropriate to include the phenomenal facts in the antecedent of the relevant supervenience conditional. This article argues for the following claims: First, that it's crucial to the general semantic framework Chalmers and Jackson defend that they do include the phenomenal facts in the supervenience conditional; without them, the conditional would not be a priori. Second, that the only way to argue from the a priori character of these conditionals to the applicability of modal rationalism to the nonphenomenal cases is to rely either on modal rationalism itself or on the denial of type-B materialism. Obviously, in the context of this argument, either way would beg the question. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us Digg Reddit Technorati What's this? (shrink)
One type of deflationism about metaphysical modality suggests that it can be analysed strictly in terms of linguistic or conceptual content and that there is nothing particularly metaphysical about modality. Scott Soames is explicitly opposed to this trend. However, a detailed study of Soames’s own account of modality reveals that it has striking similarities with the deflationary account. In this paper I will compare Soames’s account of a posteriori necessities concerning natural kinds with the deflationary one, specifically (...) Alan Sidelle’s account, and suggest that Soames’s account is vulnerable to the deflatonist’s critique. Furthermore, I conjecture that both the deflationary account and Soames’s account fail to fully explicate the metaphysical content of a posteriori necessities. Although I will focus on Soames, my argument may have more general implications towards the prospects of providing a meaning-based account of metaphysical modality. (shrink)
It follows from Humean principles of plenitude, I argue, that island universes are possible: physical reality might have 'absolutely isolated' parts. This makes trouble for Lewis's modal realism; but the realist has a way out. First, accept absolute actuality, which is defensible, I argue, on independent grounds. Second, revise the standard analysis of modality: modal operators are 'plural', not 'individual', quantifiers over possible worlds. This solves the problem of island universes and confers three additional benefits: an 'unqualified' principle of (...) compossibility can be accepted; the possibility of nothing can be accommodated; and the identity of indiscernible worlds can be decisively refuted. (shrink)
Do we apply higher epistemic standards to subjects with high stakes? This paper argues that we expect different outward behavior from high-stakes subjects—for example, we expect them to collect more evidence than their low-stakes counterparts—but not because of any change in epistemic standards. Rather, we naturally expect subjects in any condition to think in a roughly adaptive manner, balancing the expected costs of additional evidence collection against the expected value of gains in accuracy. The paper reviews a body (...) of empirical work on the automatic regulation of cognitive effort in response to stakes, and argues that we naturally see high- and low-stakes subjects as experiencing different levels of ‘epistemic anxiety’, and anticipate different levels of cognitive effort from them for this reason. If unresolved epistemic anxiety always bars an ascription of knowledge, then we can explain our responses to cases involving shifting stakes without positing any variation in the standards of intuitive knowledge ascription. (shrink)
In this paper, I exploit the parallel between epistemic contextualism and metaethical speaker-relativism to argue that a promising way out of two of the primary problems facing contextualism is one already explored in some detail in the ethical case – viz. expressivism. The upshot is an argument for a form of epistemic expressivism modeled on a familiar form of ethical expressivism. This provides a new nondescriptivist option for understanding the meaning of knowledge attributions, which arguably better captures the (...) normative nature of epistemic discourse than descriptivist competitors like invariantism and contextualism. (shrink)
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)
Foundationalism is false; after all, foundational beliefs are arbitrary, they do not solve the epistemic regress problem, and they cannot exist withoutother (justified) beliefs. Or so some people say. In this essay, we assess some arguments based on such claims, arguments suggested in recent work by Peter Klein and Ernest Sosa.
The paper provides an explanation of our knowledge of metaphysical modality, or modal knowledge, from our ability to evaluate counterfactual conditionals. The latter ability lends itself to an evolutionary explanation since it enables us to learn from mistakes. Different logical principles linking counterfactuals to metaphysical modality can be employed to extend this explanation to the epistemology of modality. While the epistemological use of some of these principles is either philosophically implausible or empirically inadequate, the equivalence of ‘Necessarily (...) p’ with ‘For all q, if q were the case, p would be the case’ is a suitable starting-point for an explanation of modal knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the “Ought Implies Can” (OIC) principle, as it is employed in epistemology, particularly in the literature on epistemic norms, is open to counterexamples. I present a counterexample to OIC and discuss several objections to it. If this counterexample works, then it shows that it is possible that S ought to believe that p, even though S cannot believe that p. If this is correct, then OIC, considered from an epistemic point of view, (...) is false, since it is supposed to hold for any S and any p. (shrink)
The lottery paradox can be solved if epistemic justification is assumed to be a species of permissibility. Given this assumption, the starting point of the paradox can be formulated as the claim that, for each lottery ticket, I am permitted to believe that it will lose. This claim is ambiguous between two readings, depending on the scope of ‘permitted’. On one reading, the claim is false; on another, it is true, but, owing to the general failure of permissibility to (...) agglomerate, does not generate the paradox. The solution generalizes to formulations of the paradox in terms of rational acceptability and doxastic rationality. (shrink)
The eleven new papers in this volume address fundamental and interrelated philosophical issues concerning modality and identity, issues that were pivotal to the development of analytic philosophy in the twentieth century, and remain a key focus of debate in the twenty-first. Identity and Modality brings together leading researchers in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of mathematics.
Conservatism about perceptual justification tells us that we cannot have perceptual justification to believe p unless we also have justification to believe that perceptual experiences are reliable. There are many ways to maintain this thesis, ways that have not been sufficiently appreciated. Most of these ways lead to at least one of two problems. The first is an over-intellectualization problem, whereas the second problem concerns the satisfaction of the epistemic basing requirement on justified belief. I argue that there is (...) at least one Conservative view that survives both difficulties, a view which has the further ability to undercut a crucial consideration that has supported Dogmatist views about perceptual justification. The final section explores a tension between Conservatism and the prospects of having a completely general account of propositional justification. Ironically, the problem is that Conservatives seem committed to making the acquisition of propositional justification too easy. My partial defense of Conservatism concludes by suggesting possible solutions to this problem. (shrink)
In this chapter, I produce counterexamples to Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism (PEC), a view about the semantics of ‘knowledge’-ascriptions that I have argued for elsewhere. According to PEC, the semantic content of the predicate ‘know’ at a context C is partly determined by the speakers’ pragmatic presuppositions at C. The problem for the view that I shall be concerned with here arises from the fact that pragmatic presuppositions are sometimes known to be true by the speakers who make them: hence (...) the Problem of Known Presuppositions. After discussing several unsuccessful ways to solve the problem, I propose the addition of a new Lewisian rule of proper ignoring to the semantics of PEC--namely, the Rule of Evidence-Based Ignoring. If the proposed account succeeds, the Problem of Known Presuppositions has a straightforward solution within the framework of PEC. (shrink)
The philosophy of modality investigates necessity and possibility, and related notions--are they objective features of mind-independent reality? If so, are they irreducible, or can modal facts be explained in other terms? This volume presents new work on modality by established leaders in the field and by up-and-coming philosophers. Between them, the papers address fundamental questions concerning realism and anti-realism about modality, the nature and basis of facts about what is possible and what is necessary, the nature of (...) modal knowledge, modal logic and its relations to necessary existence and to counterfactual reasoning. The general introduction locates the individual contributions in the wider context of the contemporary discussion of the metaphysics and epistemology of modality. (shrink)
Although several important methodologies implicitly assume the truth of epistemic conservatism, the view that holding a belief confers some measure of justification on the belief, recent criticisms have led some to conclude that epistemic conservatism is an implausible view. That conclusion is mistaken. In this article, I propose a new formulation of epistemic conservatism that is not susceptible to the criticisms leveled at earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism. In addition to withstanding these criticisms, this formulation of (...)epistemic conservatism has several benefits. First, this formulation has the benefits of earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, that is to say it makes sense of our intuitions about justification in regard to both memory beliefs and beliefs for which we have forgotten our evidence. Second, it provides a good way of responding to the skeptic’s challenge concerning the possibility of possessing knowledge of the external world posed by the Alternative Hypotheses argument. Third, it provides responses to both forms of a new skeptical problem plaguing basic knowledge structure theories, the Problem of Easy Knowledge formulated by Stewart Cohen. I argue that given the many benefits of this formulation of epistemic conservatism and the fact that it is not vulnerable to the criticisms that undermine earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, this formulation of epistemic conservatism is a plausible view to maintain. (shrink)
My NCPS 2012 conference paper. The paper is a development of the abstract below. The file you can upload contains my brief "A Fast & Frugal Rebuttal of Epistemic Situationism," while the whole paper develops a fuller reply to the Alfano, and Doris and Olin papers also presented in this session, papers in which these authors extend the "situationist challenge" to virtue ethics, to different varieties of virtue epistemology. Abstract. This paper mounts an empirically-based rebuttal to the radical implications (...) that self-described “epistemic situationists” including Mark Alfano and John Doris would have us draw from mood and conformity studies. The compatibility of virtue epistemologies with dual process theory (Kahneman; Stanovich) in cognitive and social psychology is developed as one main way of defending the empirical adequacy of many or most forms of virtue epistemology. Although philosophical situationists ignore dual process models of human reasoning, I argue that the latter offer ample empirical support for the “psychological realizability” of the intellectual character-traits posited by virtue-focused epistemologies and featured in the credit theory of knowing. Draft by Guy Axtell (Radford University), for NCPS, 2012. All rights reserved. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; or join us online at JanusBlog: The Virtue Theory Discussion Forum at http://janusblog.squarespace.com. For further development of these issues and arguments, see also my "Thinking Twice about Virtue and Vice (2013, forthcoming) . (shrink)
Control of our own beliefs is allegedly required for the truth of epistemic evaluations, such as S ought to believe that p , or S ought to suspend judgment (and so refrain from any belief) whether p . However, we cannot usually believe or refrain from believing at will. I agree with a number of recent authors in thinking that this apparent conflict is to be resolved by distinguishing reasons for believing that give evidence that p from reasons that (...) make it desirable to believe that p whether or not p is true. I argue however that there is a different problem, one that becomes clearer in light of this solution to the first problem. Someone’s approval of our beliefs is at least often a non-evidential reason to believe, and as such cannot change our beliefs. Ought judgments aim to change the world. But ‘ought to believe’ judgments can’t do that by changing the belief, if they don’t give evidence. So I argue that we should instead regard epistemic ought judgments as aimed mainly at influencing assertions that express the belief and other actions based on the belief, in accord with recent philosophical claims that we have epistemic norms for assertion and action. (shrink)
Contents. Introduction. 1. Preliminaries. 2. Normal Form Games. 3. Extensive Games. 4. Applications of Game Theory. 5. The Methodology of Game Theory. Conclusion. Appendix. Bibliography. Index. Does game theory—the mathematical theory of strategic interaction—provide genuine explanations of human behaviour? Can game theory be used in economic consultancy or other normative contexts? Explaining Games: The Epistemic Programme in Game Theory—the first monograph on the philosophy of game theory—is an attempt to combine insights from epistemic logic and the philosophy of (...) science to investigate the applicability of game theory in such fields as economics, philosophy and strategic consultancy. I prove new mathematical theorems about the beliefs, desires and rationality principles of individual human beings, and explore in detail the logical form of game theory as it is used in explanatory and normative contexts. I argue that game theory reduces to rational choice theory if used as an explanatory device, and that game theory is nonsensical if used as a normative device. A provocative account of the history of game theory reveals that this is not bad news for all of game theory, though. Two central research programmes in game theory tried to find the ultimate characterisation of strategic interaction between rational agents. Yet, while the Nash Equilibrium Refinement Programme has done badly thanks to such research habits as overmathematisation, model-tinkering and introversion, the Epistemic Programme, I argue, has been rather successful in achieving this aim. "The 'epistemic' approach to game theory has emerged over the past twenty-five years. What is this approach? How does it differ from the conventional equilibrium-based approach to game theory? What have been its strengths and weaknesses to date? To find out, read this comprehensive and excellently written account". Adam Brandenburger, J. P. Valles Professor of Business Economics and Strategy, Stern School of Business, New York University "Reading Boudewijn de Bruin's book should be rewarding both for game theorists interested in the conceptual foundations of their discipline and for philosophers who want to learn more about formal analysis of strategic interaction. It provides an in-depth logical study of the currently dominant epistemic approaches to non-cooperative games, with an eye both to the attractions and to the serious challenges facing the Epistemic Programme". Wlodek Rabinowicz, Professor of Practical Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Lund University . (shrink)
Though it seems rather surprising in retrospect, until about twenty-ﬁve years ago no philosopher in the Western tradition had explicitly formulated the question whether there could be an epistemic analogue to practical akrasia. Also surprisingly, despite the prima facie analogue with practical akrasia (the possibility of which is not much disputed), much of the recent work on this question has defended the rather bold view that epistemic akrasia is impossible. While the arguments purporting to show the impossibility of (...)epistemic akrasia have been criticized by some, I propose instead to make a head-on attack and defend the substantive view that epistemic akrasia is possible — indeed, actual. This leaves for another day the project of diagnosing exactly where the arguments for the impossibility of epistemic akrasia go wrong. Here, I content myself with trying to show that they must go wrong, since — as I will argue — epistemic akrasia is possible. (shrink)
In disagreements about trivial matters, it often seems appropriate for disputing parties to adopt a ‘middle ground’ view about the disputed matter. But in disputes about more substantial controversies (e.g. in ethics, religion, or politics) this sort of doxastic conduct can seem viciously acquiescent. How should we distinguish between the two kinds of cases, and thereby account for our divergent intuitions about how we ought to respond to them? One possibility is to say that ceding ground in a trivial dispute (...) is appropriate because the disputing parties are usually epistemic peers within the relevant domain, whereas in a more substantial disagreement the disputing parties rarely, if ever, qualify as epistemic peers, and so ‘sticking to one’s guns’ is usually the appropriate doxastic response. My aim in this paper is to explain why this way of drawing the desired distinction is ultimately problematic, even if it seems promising at first blush. (shrink)
The following analysis shows how developments in epistemic logic can play a nontrivial role in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that the striking correspondence between two modes of identification, as distinguished in the epistemic context, and two cognitive systems distinguished by neuroscientific investigation of the visual system (the "where" and "what" systems) is not coincidental, and that it can play a clarificatory role at the most fundamental levels of neuroscientific theory.
Many contemporary philosophers accept Hume's Dictum (HD), according to which there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed entities. Tacit in Lewis's work is a potential motivation for HD, according to which one should accept HD as presupposed by the best account of the range of metaphysical possibilities---namely, a combinatorial account, applied to spatiotemporal fundamentalia. Here I elucidate and assess this Ludovician motivation for HD. After refining HD and surveying its key, recurrent role in Lewis’s work, I present (...) Lewis’s appeal to HD as providing a broadly axiomatic generating basis for the space of metaphysical modality, and canvas the prima facie advantages of the resulting combinatorial principle---HD (L-combinatorialism)---as being principled, extensionally adequate and modally reductive. Most criticisms of Lewis's combinatorialism have targeted seeming ways in which the theory overgenerates the desired space; I rather argue that HD (L-combinatorialism) seriously undergenerates the desired space in three different ways. For each way I argue that available means of overcoming the undergeneration either fail to close the gap, undermine the claim that HD (L-combinatorialism) is a principled generator of metaphysical modal space, undermine the reductive status of Lewis's combinatorialism, or call into question the truth of HD. (shrink)
The paper is concerned with the semantics of knowledge attributions(K-claims, for short) and proposes a position holding that K-claims are contextsensitive that differs from extant views on the market. First I lay down the data a semantic theory for K-claims needs to explain. Next I present and assess three views purporting to give the semantics for K-claims: contextualism, subject-sensitive invariantism and relativism. All three views are found wanting with respect to their accounting for the data. I then propose a hybrid (...) view according to which the relevant epistemic standards for evaluating K-claims are neither those at the context of the subject (subject-sensitive invariantism), nor those at the context of the assessor (relativism), but it is itself an open matter. However, given that we need a principled way of deciding which epistemic standards are the relevant ones, I provide a principle according to which the relevant standards are those that are the highest between those at the context of the subject and those at the context of the assessor/attributor. In the end I consider some objections to the view and offer some answers. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one (...) knows that they do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)