I offer an epistemological defense of the thesis that it is possible to know a false proposition. (This is a companion to “The Myth of Factive Verbs,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research forthcoming.).
I propose that safety and sensitivity conditionals may be used to explain the reliability of beliefs in necessary truths, by appeal to a non-standard semantics for counterfactuals with impossible antecedents and necessarily true consequents.
Block is concerned with the question whether there are cases of phenomenology in the absence of cognitive access. I assume that, more precisely, the question is whether there are cases in which a subject S has a phenomenological experience E to which S does not have direct cognitive access? (S might have indirect cognitive access to E through scientiﬁc reasoning. I take it that’s not the sort of cognitive access in question.).
The approach to generative grammar originating with Chomsky (1957) has been enormously successful within linguistics. Seeing such success, one wonders whether a similar approach might help us understand other human domains besides language. One such domain is morality. Could there be universal generative moral grammar? More specifically, might it be useful to moral theory to develop an explicit generative account of parts of particular moralities in the way it has proved useful to linguistics to produce generative grammars for parts of (...) particular languages? Should moral theorists attempt to develop a theory of moral universals that is analogous to the theory of universal grammar in linguistics? Can moral theorists develop a “principles and parameters” account of possible moralities inspired by the principles and parameters approach to language in current linguistics? Could there be a “minimalist” program for moral theory inspired by the minimalist program in linguistics? In this chapter we offer a preliminary account of some analogies, focusing on clarifying issues, making distinctions, and considering how—in a general way—such analogies might yield a fruitful research program for moral theory. There are two main parts to our discussion, one focusing on an analogy between generative grammar and moral theory, the other focusing on analogies between universal grammar and theories of moral universals. In the first part, we say a little about the background and say how we are going to understand morality and moral theory. We describe certain aspects of generative grammar and how claims about generative grammars are tested, allowing for a distinction between “competence” and “performance”. We then try to say what a corresponding “generative moral grammar” would be and how it would be tested. We next discuss a number of objections to the analogy between moral theory and generative grammar and indicate possible responses. In the second part, we discuss certain universal constraints on grammars and consider whether there might be similar constraints on moralities. Then we discuss how linguists describe core aspects of languages in terms of principles and parameters and consider what aspects of moralities might be described in similar terms. After that we make some brief remarks about minimalism. (shrink)
How do people reason about the what follows from certain assumptions? How do they think about implications between statements. According to one theory, people try to use a small number of mental rules of inference to construct an argument for or proof of a relevant conclusion from the assumptions (e.g., Rips 1994). According to a competing theory, people construct one or more mental models of the situation described in the assumptions and try to determine what conclusion ﬁts with the model (...) or models constructed (e.g., Johnson-Laird 1983, 2006). The present collection oﬀers eleven contributions to the mental models theory. (shrink)
According to moral relativism, there is not a single true morality. There are a variety of possible moralities or moral frames of reference, and whether something is morally right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, etc. is a relative matter—relative to one or another morality or moral frame of reference. Something can be morally right relative to one moral frame of reference and morally wrong relative to another. It is useful to compare moral relativism to other relativisms. One (...) possible comparison is with motion relativism. There is no such thing as absolute motion or absolute rest. Whether something is moving or at rest is relative to a spatio-temporal frame of reference. Something may be at rest in one frame of reference and moving in another. There is no such thing as absolute motion and absolute rest, but we can make do with relative motion and rest. Similarly, moral relativism is the view that, although there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong, we can make do with relative right and wrong. (shrink)
Peacocke argues that all epistemic entitlements depend at bottom on a priori entitlements, determined by "constitutive conditions" for the application of concepts. He does not address familiar doubts about the distinction between constitutive and nonconstitutive conditions of application. (These doubts are based on the widely accepted idea that justification begins with all of one's current beliefs and methods and seeks to modify these only to improve their overall coherence with each other, hoping ultimately for "reflective equilibrium.") In addition, Peacocke conflates (...) issues about inference with issues about implication and proof and seriously misrepresents David Lewis' view about the content of indicative conditionals. (shrink)
In this article, we provide a tutorial overview of some aspects of statistical learning theory, which also goes by other names such as statistical pattern recognition, nonparametric classification and estimation, and supervised learning. We focus on the problem of two-class pattern classification for various reasons. This problem is rich enough to capture many of the interesting aspects that are present in the cases of more than two classes and in the problem of estimation, and many of the results can be (...) extended to these cases. Focusing on two-class pattern classification simplifies our discussion, and yet it is directly applicable to a wide range of practical settings. (shrink)
What is distinctive about my views in epistemology? One thing is that my concern with epistemology is a concern with methodology. Furthermore, I reject psychologism about logic and reject the idea that deductive rules like modus ponens are in any way rules of inference. I accept a kind of methodological conservatism and reject methodological theories that appeal to special foundations, analytic truth, or a priori justification. Although I believe that there are significant practical aspects of theoretical reasoning, I reject the (...) suggestion that theoretical reasoning is a special case of practical reasoning applied to a special epistemic goal. I also believe that a methodological epistemology that is concerned with the reliability of inferential methods can benefit from an appreciation of important relevant concepts and results about reliability in statistical learning theory. (shrink)
I begin by summarizing the first two chapters of (Harman 1986). The first chapter stresses the importance of not confusing inference with implication and of not confusing reasoning with the sort of argument studied in deductive logic. Inference and reasoning are psychological events or processes that can be done more or less well. The sort of implication and argument studied in deductive logic have to do with relations among propositions and with structures of propositions distinguished into premises, intermediate steps, and (...) conclusion. Deductive logic is not a particular psychological subject and is not a particularly normative subject, although one might attempt to develop a logic of belief or a deontic logic, for example. (shrink)
One relatively central idea is that guilt feelings are warranted if an agent knows that he or she has acted morally wrongly. It might be said that in such a case the agent has a strong reason to feel guilt, that the agent ought to have guilt feelings, that the agent is justified in having guilt feelings and unjustified in not having guilt feelings. It might be said that it would be immoral of an agent not to have feelings of (...) guilt after realizing that he or she has acted morally wrongly or that only an agent with bad character would not have such feelings. (shrink)
In (Harman 2007) I argued “that a purely objective account of conscious experience cannot always by itself give an understanding of what it is like to have that experience.” Following Nagel (1974), I suggested that such a gap “has no obvious metaphysical implications. It [merely] reflects the distinction between two kinds of understanding,” objective and subjective, where subjective understanding or “Das Verstehen” (Dilthey 1883/1989) of another creature’s experience involves knowing what it is like to have that experience—knowing what sort of (...) experience of one’s own would correspond to the other creature’s experience. (shrink)
For philosophical naturalism, as I understand it, philosophy is continuous with natural science. It takes the methods of philosophy to be continuous with those of the natural sciences and is sceptical of allegedly apriori intuitions which it claims need to be tested against one’s other beliefs and, ideally, against the world.
In these notes, I will use the word “reasoning” to refer to something people do. The general category includes both internal reasoning, reasoning things out by oneself—inference and deliberation—and external reasoning with others—arguing, discussing and negotiating.
"What Is Cognitive Access?" PDF. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (2007 [published 2008]): 505. Brief comments on a paper of Ned Block's. "Mechanical Mind," a review of Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science by Margaret Boden. Online Published Version . From American Scientist (2008): 76-81.
Scott Sehon argues for a complex view about the relation between commonsense psychology and the physical sciences.1 He rejects any sort of Cartesian dualism and believes that the common-sense psychological facts supervene on the physical facts. Nevertheless he asserts that there is an important respect in which common-sense psychology is independent of the physical sciences. Despite supervenience, we are not to expect any sort of reduction of common-sense psychology to physical science, nor are we to expect the physical sciences to (...) conﬂict with common-sense psychology. (shrink)
Philosophers sometimes approach meaning metaphorically, for example, by speaking of “grasping” meanings, as if understanding consists in getting mental hands around something.1 Philosophers say that a theory of meaning should be a theory about the meanings that people assign to expressions in their language, that to understand other people requires identifying the meanings they associate with what they are saying, and that to translate an expression of another language into your own is to find an expression in your language with (...) the same meaning as the expression in the other language. (shrink)
Hawthorne discusses (without endorsing) the following instance of our (T1) , “One knows that one is seeing a desk by taking for granted, but without knowing, that one is not a brain in a vat” (510). We believe that this is a commonsensical way of describing an ordinary situation. Intuitively, one knows one is seeing a desk. Intuitively one is normally justified in taking it for granted that one is not a brain in a vat, but one does not know (...) one isn’t a brain in a vat. (shrink)
In Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) remarks that she is “not much on rear window ethics.” While in the world of the film this indicates moral issues having to do with watching real events, Fremont’s remark immediately suggests moral issues that seem, though I shall challenge this below, to be quite different: moral issues having to do with watching fictional events. Consumers of fictions are voyeurs of a somewhat different kind than Fremont and L.B. Jeffries (James (...) Stewart), but questions about the moral appropriateness of watching, and more interestingly, of ways of watching, arise in both cases. Recall Hume’s claim in “Of the Standard of Taste,” concerning a poem in which “vicious manners are described, without being marked with the proper characters of blame and disapprobation.”1 Hume claims that: [T]his must be allowed to disfigure the poem, and to be a real deformity. I cannot, nor is it proper I should, enter into such sentiments; and however I may excuse the poet, on account of the manners in his age, I never can relish the composition. (shrink)
According to the “received view” of Rudolf Carnap’s philosophy, he attempted (and failed) to establish phenomenalistic foundations for science and wielded the verificationist criterion of cognitive significance against traditional metaphysics, religion and values. This characterization of Carnap’s philosophy has come to us primarily through A. J. Ayer’s introduction of positivism to the English-speaking world in his Language, Truth and Logic1 and the preliminary sketches of positivistic doctrine with which many of W.V. Quine’s essays begin (and go on, inevitably, to repudiate).2 (...) It is now largely taken for granted that the various objections leveled at verificationism—that none of its many reformulations draws the intended line between meaningful science and meaningless metaphysics and that it is meaningless according to itself--are devastating.3 As a result, Carnap’s work has been allotted a largely historical role, if a significant one: contemporary views are often identified and distinguished by what in his and the positivist’s account of philosophy, science, language, and. (shrink)
Humeans hold that actions are movements of an agent's body that are suitably caused by a desire that things be a certain way and a belief on the agent's behalf that something she can just do, namely perform a movement of her body of the kind to be explained, has some suitable chance of making things that way (Davidson 1963). Movements of the body that are caused in some other way aren't actions, but are rather things that merely happen to (...) agents. (shrink)
In his elegant discussion, Sripada distinguishes three possible innate bases for aspects of morality: (1) certain specific principles might be innate, (2) a less simple “principles and parameters” model might apply, and (3) innate biases might have have some influence over what morality a person acquires without determining the content of that morality.1 He argues against (1) and (2) and in favor of (3). Without disputing his case for (3) I will try to say why I think that his arguments (...) against (1) and (2) are inconclusive and that it remains possible that all three kinds of bases have a significant impact on human morality. (shrink)
This is indeed a fallacy, if the relevant sort of consistency is logical consistency. However, the expression “is consistent with” is often used by scientists to mean something much stronger, something like confirms or even strongly confirms.
Statistical Learning Theory (e.g., Hastie et al., 2001; Vapnik, 1998, 2000, 2006) is the basic theory behind contemporary machine learning and data-mining. We suggest that the theory provides an excellent framework for philosophical thinking about inductive inference.
Analogies are often theoretically useful. Important principles of electricity are suggested by an analogy between water current flowing through a pipe and electrical current “flowing” through a wire. A basic theory of sound is suggested by an analogy between waves caused by a stone being dropped into a still lake and “sound waves” caused by a disturbance in air.
The most basic theme in Davidson’s writings in philosophy of language in the 1960s is that we are finite beings whose mastery of the indefinitely many expressions of our language must somehow arise out of our mastery of finite resources. Otherwise, there would be an unbounded number of distinct things to learn in learning a language, which would make language learning..
What is moral reasoning? For that matter, what is any sort of reasoning? Let me begin by making a few distinctions. First, there is a distinction between reasoning as something that that people do and the abstract structures of proof or “argument” that are the subject matter of formal logic. I will be mainly concerned with reasoning in the first sense, reasoning that people do. Second, there is a distinction between moral reasoning with other people and moral reasoning by and (...) for yourself . Moral reasoning with others may involve discussion with them, bargaining with them, and possibly arguing with them. (shrink)
The first part of this article discusses recent skepticism about character traits. The second describes various forms of virtue ethics as reactions to such skepticism. The philosopher J.-P. Sartre argued in the 1940s that character traits are pretenses, a view that the sociologist E. Goffman elaborated in the 1950s. Since then social psychologists have shown that attributions of character traits tend to be inaccurate through the ignoring of situational factors. (Personality psychology has tended to concentrate on people's conceptions of personality (...) and character rather than on the accuracy of these conceptions). Similarly, the political theorist R. Hardin has argued for situational explanations of bloody social disputes in the former Yugoslavia and in Africa, rather than explanations in terms of ethnic hatred for example. A version of virtue ethics might identify virtues as characteristics of acts rather than character traits, as traits consisting in actual regularities in behavior, or as robust dispositions that would manifest themselves also in counterfactual situations. (shrink)
CRS says that the meanings of expressions of a language or other symbol system or the contents of mental states are determined and explained by the way symbols are used in thinking. According to CRS one.
Jason Stanley’s Knowledge and Practical Interests is a brilliant book, combining insights about knowledge with a careful examination of how recent views in epistemology fit with the best of recent linguistic semanties. Although I am largely convinced by Stanley’s objections to epistemic contextualism, I will try in what follows to formulate aversion that might have some prospect of escaping his powerful critique.
Alice has insomnia. She has trouble falling asleep and part of the problem is that she worries about it and realizes that her worrying about it tends to keep from falling asleep. It occurs to her that thinking that she will not be able to fall asleep may be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps she even has a thought that might be expressed like this: I am not going to fall asleep because of my having this very thought. This (...) thought (perhaps correctly) attributes to itself the property of keeping her awake. (shrink)
There has been considerable controversy about whether this last entailment always holds. Ordinary subjects may judge that (4) and (5) are appropriate in cases in which none of (1)-(3) are—cases in which Jack’s breaking the base is a foreseen but undesired consequence of Jack’s intentionally doing something else. It is currently debated what the best explanation of such ordinary reactions might be. It is also debated what to make of the fact that ordinary judgments using the adjective intentional or the (...) adverb intentionally seem influenced by normative considerations. (shrink)
The problem of induction is sometimes motivated via a comparison between rules of induction and rules of deduction. Valid deductive rules are necessarily truth preserving, while inductive rules are not.
Can someone be reasonable or justified in accepting a specific moral judgment not based on the prior acceptance of a general exceptioness moral principle, where acceptance of a general principle might be tacit or implicit and might not be expressible in language? This issue is an instance of a wider issue about direct or transductive inference. Developments in statistical learning theory show that such an inference can be more effective than alternative methods using inductive generalization and so can be reasonable. (...) This result carries over to moral transduction, although it is a difficult empirical issue whether people actually engage in any sort of transduction, including moral transduction. (shrink)
I. Introduction “We can and do see the truth about many things: ourselves, others, trees and animals, clouds and rivers—in the immediacy of experience.”1 Absent from Bas van Fraassen’s list of those things we see are paramecia and mitochondria. We do not see such things, van Fraassen has long maintained, because they are unobservable, that is, they are undetectable by means of the unaided senses.2 But notice that these two notions—what we can see in the “immediacy” of experience and what (...) is detectable by means of the unaided senses—are not the same. There is no incoherence in maintaining that the immediacy of experience is capable of disclosing to us truths concerning entities that are not detectable by the naked eye. And so, I claim, it does; science and technology provide us with the means to see things we have never seen before. Some of those things are van Fraassen’s unobservables. That suggestion is nothing new. Grover Maxwell long ago emphasized the continuity between seeing with and without instrumentation.3 Van Fraassen originally provided two responses to Maxwell’s arguments: some things that you can see with instruments you can also see without instruments (and those are the observables); and. (shrink)
John Hawthorne’s marvelous book contains a wealth of arguments and insights based on an impressive knowledge and understanding of contemporary discussion. We can address only a small aspect of the topic. In particular, we will offer our own answers to two questions about knowledge that he discusses.
Solomon argues that, although recent research in social psychology has important implications for business ethics, it doesnot undermine an approach that stresses virtue ethics. However, he underestimates the empirical threat to virtue ethics, and his a prioriclaim that empirical research cannot overturn our ordinary moral psychology is overstated. His appeal to seemingly obvious differencesin character traits between people simply illustrates the fundamental attribution error. His suggestion that the Milgram and Darley andBatson experiments have to do with such character traits as (...) obedience and punctuality cannot help to explain the relevant differencesin the way people behave in different situations. His appeal to personality theory fails, because, as an intellectual academic discipline,personality theory is in shambles, mainly because it has been concerned with conceptions of personality rather than with what is trueabout personality. Solomon’s rejection of Doris’s claims about the fragmentation of character is at odds with the received view in socialpsychology. Finally, he is mistaken to think that rejecting virtue ethics implies rejecting free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Two conceptions of a priori methods and assumptions can be distinguished. First, there are the assumptions and methods accepted prior to a given inquiry. Second, there are innate assumptions and methods. For each of these two types of a priori methods and assumptions, we can also allow cases in which one starts with something that is a priori and is justified in reaching a new belief or procedure without making any appeal to new experiential data. But we should not suppose (...) there is some further sort of a priori explained in terms of some other notion of justification. If we try to construct a notion of the a priori by considering ways in which knowledge, belief, or reasoning might be though to be directly a priori, via direct insight, inability to imagine something false, intentions about use of language, and the language faculty, the resulting conception of the a prior in each of these cases reduces to either of the first two conceptions. (shrink)
Explaining Value is a selection of the best of Gilbert Harman's shorter writings in moral philosophy. The thirteen essays are divided into four sections, which focus in turn on moral relativism, values and valuing, character traits and virtue ethics, and ways of explaining aspects of morality. Harman's distinctive approach to moral philosophy has provoked much interest; this volume offers a fascinating conspectus of his most important work in the area.
Any acceptable account of moral epistemology must accord with the following points. (1) Different people acquire seemingly very different moralities. (2) All normal people acquire a moral sense, whether or not they are given explicit moral instruction. Language resembles morality in these ways. There is considerable evidence from linguistics for linguistic universals. This suggests that (3) despite the first point, there are moral universals. If so, it might be possible to develop a moral epistemology that is analogous to the theory (...) of universal grammar in linguistics. In what follows, I will try to sketch what might be involved in such a moral epistemology. (shrink)
Ordinary moral thought often commits what social psychologists call 'the fundamental attribution error'. This is the error of ignoring situational factors and overconfidently assuming that distinctive behaviour or patterns of behaviour are due to an agent's distinctive character traits. In fact, there is no evidence that people have character traits (virtues, vices, etc.) in the relevant sense. Since attribution of character traits leads to much evil, we should try to educate ourselves and others to stop doing it.
In this important new collection, Gilbert Harman presents a selection of fifteen interconnected essays on fundamental issues at the center of analytic philosophy. The book opens with a group of four essays discussing basic principles of reasoning and rationality. The next three essays argue against the once popular idea that certain claims are true and knowable by virtue of meaning. In the third group of essays Harman presents his own view of meaning and the possibility of thinking in language The (...) final three essays investigate the nature of mind, developing further the themes already set out. Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind offers an integrated presentation of this rich and influential body of work. which Harman has developed over thirty years. (shrink)
The meaning of a symbol is determined by its use, but the canonical way of specifying meaning is in a statement of the form "S means...". To be able to provide such a specification is equivalent to being able to translate the symbol S into one's own terms. A change in usage of terms involves a change of meaning iff the correct translation between earlier usage and later usage takes a term into a different expression. Such translation is holistic, a (...) matter of finding the best mapping. Sameness of meaning is a similarity relation, as is sameness of concept. The meaning of a larger expression is derived from the meaning of its parts iff the translation of the whole is derived from the translation of its parts. (shrink)
This volume is a direct result of a conference held at Princeton University to honor George A. Miller, an extraordinary psychologist. A distinguished panel of speakers from various disciplines -- psychology, philosophy, neuroscience and artificial intelligence -- were challenged to respond to Dr. Miller's query: "What has happened to cognition? In other words, what has the past 30 years contributed to our understanding of the mind? Do we really know anything that wasn't already clear to William James?" Each participant tried (...) to stand back a little from his or her most recent work, but to address the general question from his or her particular standpoint. The chapters in the present volume derive from that occasion. (shrink)
C hange in View offers an entirely original approach to the philosophical study of reasoning by identifying principles of reasoning with principles for revising one's beliefs and intentions and not with principles of logic. This crucial observation leads to a number of important and interesting consequences that impinge on psychology and artificial intelligence as well as on various branches of philosophy, from epistemology to ethics and action theory. Gilbert Harman is Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. A Bradford Book.