Theory choice can be approached in at least four ways. One of these calls for the application of decision theory, and this article endorses this approach. But applying standard forms of decision theory imposes an overly demanding standard of numeric information, supposedly satisfied by point-valued utility and probability functions. To ameliorate this difficulty, a version of decision theory that requires merely comparative utilities and plausibilities is proposed. After a brief summary of this alternative, the article illustrates how comparative decision theory (...) affords a rational reconstruction of decisions made by exemplary scientists in two cases of theory choice: Buffon’s law and the luminiferous ether. It also offers a rational reconstruction of two cases of theory diagnosis: Mendeleev’s anomalies and the Pioneer anomaly. (shrink)
Some decisions result in cognitive consequences such as information gained and information lost. The focus of this study, however, is decisions with consequences that are partly or completely noncognitive. These decisions are typically referred to as ‘real-life decisions’. According to a common complaint, the challenges of real-life decision making cannot be met by decision theory. This complaint has at least two principal motives. One is the maximizing objection that to require agents to determine the optimal act under real-world constraints is (...) unrealistic. The other is the precision objection that the numeric requirements for applying decision theory are overly demanding for real-life decisions. Responses to both objections are aired in the History section of this chapter. The maximizing objection is addressed with reference to work by Weirich and Pollock, while the precision objection is countered via a proposal by Kyburg and another by Gärdenfors and Sahlin. However, the Current Research section urges a different response to the precision objection by introducing a comparative version of decision theory. Drawing on Chu and Halpern’s notion of generalized expected utility, this version of decision theory permits many choices to be based on merely comparative plausibilities and utilities. Finally, the Further Research section undertakes an open-ended exploration of three of the assumptions upon which this form of decision theory (and many others) is based: transitivity, independence, and plausibilistic decision rules. (shrink)
The focus of this study is cognitive choice: the selection of one cognitive option (a hypothesis, a theory, or an axiom, for instance) rather than another. The study proposes that cognitive choice should be based on the plausibilities of states posited by rival cognitive options and the utilities of these options' information outcomes. The proposal introduces a form of decision theory that is novel because comparative; it permits many choices among cognitive options to be based on merely comparative plausibilities and (...) utilities. This form of decision theory intersects with recommendations by advocates of decision theory for cognitive choice, on the one hand, and defenders of comparative evaluation of scientific hypotheses and theories, on the other. But it differs from prior decision-theoretic proposals because it requires no more than minimal precision in specifying plausibilities and utilities. And it differs from comparative proposals because none has shown how comparative evaluations can be carried out within a decision-theoretic framework. (shrink)
Other Voices: Readings in Spanish Philosophy represents high points of nearly two millennia of Spanish philosophy, from first-century thinkers in Roman Hispania to those of the twentieth century. John R. Welch has selected, and in several cases translated excerpts from the works of thirteen philosophers: Seneca, Quintilian, Isidore of Seville, Ibn Rushd (Averroës), Moses Maimonides, Ramón Llull, Juan Luis Vives, Francisco de Vitoria, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Francisco Suárez, Benito Jerónimo Feijóo, Miguel de Unamuno, and José Ortega y Gasset. Welch (...) provides a brief introduction to each historical period or philosophical movement represented and a biographical introduction to each philosopher. Of special interest are the selection from Feijóo’s “A Defense of Women” (an attack on misogyny), which has not been translated into English since the eighteenth century; the arguments on the justification of war by Vitoria and Las Casas (in the context of the Spanish conquest); and Unamuno’s celebration of the concrete over the abstract, desire over reason. (shrink)
Vagueness is epistemic, according to some. Vagueness is ontological, according to others. This article deploys what I take to be a compromise position. Predicates are coined in specific contexts for specific purposes, but these limited practices do not automatically fix the extensions of predicates over the domain of all objects. The linguistic community using the predicate has rarely considered, much less decided, all questions that might arise about the predicate’s extension. To this extent, the ontological view is correct. But a (...) predicate that applies in some contexts can be reasonably extended to other contexts where it is initially vague. This process of development approximates the cognitive remedy for vagueness that the epistemic view prescribes. The process is piecemeal and inductive, akin to what von Wright described as the molding of concepts. Vagueness cannot be understood apart from the backdrop of classification, for vagueness is classification gone awry. Hence these pages explore the classification of particulars, both its clear successes and vague failures. How we classify unique particulars is the theme of Sections 2 and 3, which are primarily descriptive. Section 2 identifies a way of classifying particulars that pervades discourse of all sorts, and Section 3 illustrates its use in a field notorious for vagueness: ethics. Why a certain particular should (or should not) be classified in a certain way is a normative question, however, and it occupies Sections 4 and 5. Section 4 proposes a norm for strong arguments by analogy, and Section 5 illustrates how the norm might resolve vagueness in one kind of ethical dispute. This norm, which has a strong probabilistic component, is one way of affirming that probability is a guide to life. (shrink)
This chapter examines gruesome predicates, the most notorious of which is 'grue'. It proceeds by extending the analysis of Theo A. F. Kuipers' From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism in three directions. It proposes an amplified typology of grue problems, first of all, and argues that one such problem is the root of the rest. Second, it suggests a solution to this root problem influenced by Kuipers' Bayesian solution to a related problem. Finally, it expands the class of gruesome predicates by (...) incorporating Quine's 'undetached rabbit part', 'rabbit stage', and the like, and shows how they can be managed along the same Bayesian lines. (shrink)
Javier Muguerza’s Ethics and Perplexity makes a highly original contribution to the debate over dialogical reason. The work opens with a letter that establishes a parallel between Ethics and Perplexity and Maimonides’s classic Guide of the Perplexed. It concludes with an interview that repeatedly strikes sparks on Spanish philosophy’s emergence from its “long quarantine,” as Muguerza puts it. These informal pieces—witty, informative, conversational—orbit the nucleus of the work: a formidable critique of dialogical reason. The result is a volume by turns (...) vivid and profound. (shrink)
Reyes Mate's Memory of the West looks back in order to look forward. It is a sustained reflection on the great disillusion Europe experienced after World War I. Europeans understood that bombs had buried the Enlightenment. They knew that, to avoid catastrophe, they had to think anew. The catastrophe came, but Cohen, Benjamin, Kafka, and Rosenzweig had sounded the warning.
This chapter has two objectives. The first is to clarify Aristotle’s view of the first principles of the sciences. The second is to stake out a critical position with respect to this view. The paper sketches an alternative to Aristotle’s intuitionism based in part on the use of quantitative inductive logics.
This chapter identifies two types of moral dilemma. The first type is described as ethical clash: whether affirmative action is just or unjust, for example, or whether withholding information from an inquisitive relative is honest or dishonest. In these cases the dilemma takes the form of conflict between an ethical predicate and its complement. The second type of moral dilemma is ethical overlap. Instead of a clash between a single predicate and its complement, here two or more predicates apply. Dilemmas (...) associated with white lies, for example, often depart from the recognition that such acts are both dishonest and avoid inflicting pain. Similarly, social dilemmas over progressive taxation may arise despite agreement that progressive systems both decrease liberty and increase equality. Which predicate should take precedence? Strategies for dealing with both types of dilemma are proposed. (shrink)
The article explores the handling of singular analogy in quantitative inductive logics. It concentrates on two analogical patterns coextensive with the traditional argument from analogy: perfect and imperfect analogy. Each is examined within Carnap’s λ-continuum, Carnap’s and Stegmüller’s λ-η continuum, Carnap’s Basic System, Hintikka’s α-λ continuum, and Hintikka’s and Niiniluoto’s K-dimensional system. Itis argued that these logics handle perfect analogies with ease, and that imperfect analogies, while unmanageable in some logics, are quite manageable in others. The paper concludes with a (...) modification of the K-dimensional system that synthesizes independent proposals by Kuipers and Niiniluoto. (shrink)
This chapter explores arguments from analogy containing ethical predicates like 'just', 'courageous', and 'honest'. The approach is Wittgensteinian in a double sense. The role of paradigm cases in ethical discourse is emphasized, first of all, and the inductive logics to be employed spring from Wittgenstein's remarks on probability (1922). Although these logics rely on a semantic concept of range, they yield results for the ethical problems treated here only if grounded in certain kinds of pragmatic consensus.
How do we distinguish good and bad analogies? Luis A. Camacho proposed that false analogies be construed as false material conditionals. This article offers a counter-proposal: analogies of all sorts can be understood as singular inductive inferences. For the sake of simplicity, this proposal is illustrated with reference to Carnap's favorite inductive method c*.
This article sketches descriptive and normative components of a theory of ethical value. The normative component, which receives the lion’s share of attention, is developed by adapting Laudan’s levels of scientific discourse. The resulting levels of ethical discourse can be critically addressed through the use of inductive inference, falsification, and causal inference. These techniques are likewise appropriate to the corresponding levels of scientific discourse.
This article defends the philosophy of the Renaissance against a critique by Ortega y Gasset. Renaissance philosophy, it is argued, was a rebirth of the Hellenistic and Roman conviction that theory should not be pursued for its own sake; rather, it should be kept on a short leash controlled by practical ends. This Renaissance view is a precursor to the contemporary anti-theory of thinkers like Aranguren, Toulmin, and Williams.
This article tackles a number of puzzles related to Aristotle’s practical syllogism, notably the relationship between deliberation and the practical syllogism, the distinction between deliberative and reconstructive practical syllogisms, and the nature of the conclusion of the practical syllogism.
Llull and Leibniz both subscribed to conceptual atomism, the belief that the majority of concepts are compounds constructed from a relatively small number of primitive concepts. Llull worked out techniques for finding the logically possible combinations of his primitives, but Leibniz criticized Llull’s execution of these techniques. This article argues that Leibniz was right about things being more complicated than Llull thought but that he was wrong about the details. The paper attempts to correct these details.
Individual people are morally responsible. But can groups of people - corporations and nations, for example - be morally responsible as well? An affirmative answer has been defended by appealing to two criteria, here identified as the turnover test and the distribution test. The article argues for a Scotch verdict: neither criterion proves the point.
According to Quine, terms of divided reference like 'rabbit' have two sorts of problems: problems of direct and deferred ostension. Hence the reference of these terms is inscrutable. This article holds that the problems of deferred ostension can be handled by Goodman's theory of projection, and that the problems of direct ostension turn out to be pedestrian problems of signs.