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Profile: Michael Huemer (University of Colorado, Boulder)
  1. Michael Huemer, Against Equality.
    The form of egalitarianism I am concerned with holds that equality in the distribution of welfare across persons is intrinsically good . In other words, it is good for people to be equally well-off, and bad for some to be better off than others, apart from consideration of any further consequences of such equality or..
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  2. Michael Huemer, An Examination of Aristotle's Ethics.
    At the beginning of the Nichomachean Ethics , Aristotle announces his intention to discover what is the good, or the chief good (book I, chapter 2). In the rest of the work, however, there follow such a multitude of answers to this question endorsed by Aristotle, that at its conclusion one may understandably wonder what the upshot of Aristotle's ethics was. One might wonder whether the good, as Aristotle saw it, was that at which all things in fact aim (as (...)
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  3. Michael Huemer, A Guide to Writing.
    This is not a comprehensive style guide; rather, it focuses on the most common problems I have found in student writing. Sections A and B give general tips on how to write a paper (esp. a philosophy paper). Sections C-F list common errors.
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  4. Michael Huemer, A Liberal Realist Answer to Debunking Skepticism: The Empirical Case for Realism.
    Debunking skeptics claim that our moral beliefs are formed by processes unsuited to identifying objective facts, such as emotions inculcated by our genes and culture; therefore, they say, even if there are objective moral facts, we probably don’t know them. I argue that the debunking skeptics cannot explain the pervasive trend toward liberalization of values over human history, and that the best explanation is the realist’s: humanity is becoming increasingly liberal because liberalism is the objectively correct moral stance.
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  5. Michael Huemer, A Proof of Free Will.
    The _minimal free will thesis_ (MFT) holds that at least some of the time, someone has more than one course of action that he can perform. (1) This is the least that must be true in order for it to be said that there is free will. It may be disputed whether the truth of MFT is _sufficient_ for us to 'have free will,' (2) but there is no doubt that the main philosophical challenge to the belief in free will (...)
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  6. Michael Huemer, Critique of "the Objectivist Ethics&Quot;.
    The following responds to "The Objectivist Ethics" by Ayn Rand. I assume the reader is familiar with it. I begin with a general overview of what is wrong with it. I follow this with a set of more detailed comments, which make a paragraph-by-paragraph examination of her statements in the essay. The latter also elaborates further some of the points made in the overview.
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  7. Michael Huemer, On the Need for Social Coercion.
    The problem I am concerned with is very general: Why do we need a coercive institution in our society to control our behavior? This question is a little different from "Why do we need a government?" in two ways: First, because "coercive institution" is a broader term than "government"; probably not every coercive institution that controlled people's behavior would be called a government, though every government is a coercive institution (that is, an institution exercising coercion as one of its main (...)
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  8. Michael Huemer, Quantum Mechanics for Philosophers.
    You pass an electron through an inhomogeneous magnetic field (this is produced by a type of magnet, but don’t worry about the details). The field causes the electron to swerve. It is found that all electrons swerve by the same amount, and half of them swerve up, while the other half swerve down. See a video illustration of this.
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  9. Michael Huemer, Reason, Objectivity, and Goodness.
    This paper will focus on my conception of the nature of morality, which I call intuitionism. My conception is inspired in large part by earlier intuitionists (Moore, Ross, and Prichard), though I do not claim they would all agree exactly with everything I say.
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  10. Michael Huemer, Student Evaluations: A Critical Review.
    Informal student evaluations of faculty were started in the 1960's by enterprising college students.(1) Since then, their use has spread so that now they are administered in almost all American colleges and universities and are probably the main source of information used for evaluating faculty teaching performance.(2) There is an enormous literature on the subject of student evaluations of faculty (SEF).(3) The following is a summary of some developments in that literature that should be of special interest to faculty, with (...)
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  11. Michael Huemer, The Duty to Disregard the Law.
    In the practice of jury nullification, a jury votes to acquit a defendant in disregard of the factual evidence, on the grounds that a conviction would result in injustice, either because the law itself is unjust or because its application in the particular case would be unjust. The practice is widely condemned by courts, which strenuously attempt to prevent it. Nevertheless, the arguments against jury nullification are surprisingly weak. I argue that, pursuant to the general ethical duty to avoid causing (...)
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  12. Michael Huemer, The Objectivist Theory of Free Will.
    Imagine we are at a murder trial. Randy Smith is accused of killing his Aunt Millie. The defense admits that on the night of the murder, Smith had an argument with his Aunt, that he took a pistol out of his jacket and shot her. She died of the gunshot wound. Smith knew that the gun was loaded, that Millie was directly in front of it, and that he was pulling the trigger. He was not insane at the time, there (...)
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  13. Michael Huemer, The Philosophical Complaint Against Emergence.
    In _The Mind and its Place in Nature_ , C.D. Broad tries to show, as he says (p. 59), that "there is no doubt" that the Theory of Emergence is a logically possible view with a good deal in its favor. And in his history of British Emergentism, McLaughlin states that emergentism is perfectly internally coherent, although he doesn't think it has any empirical evidence in its favor at present. I am inclined to agree with the assessment that emergentism is (...)
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  14. Michael Huemer, The Subjectivist's Dilemma.
    Sometimes a second-order claim can undermine the first- order claim that it's about. Consider Moore's paradox: "It is raining, but I don't believe it." What makes this sentence paradoxical and seemingly contradictory, although formally it is consistent, is that the second half of the claim undercuts the speaker's right to assert the first half. If the speaker does not believe it is raining, he has no right to assert that it is raining. There are other examples along similar lines: "It (...)
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  15. Michael Huemer, The Theory of Economic Value.
    People want things, and they tend to act in such a way as to get the things they want, to the best of their ability.1 Sometimes our wants conflict with each other, so that we are forced to choose between different things that we want. When this happens, we normally choose the thing that we want more, over the thing that we want less. Behaving in this way is what we call “rational”; more specifically, it is “instrumentally rational.” Instrumental rationality (...)
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  16. Michael Huemer, Why I Am Not an Objectivist.
    3.1. Why logic is a priori. 3.2. Why mathematics is a priori. 3.3. Why ethics is a priori. 3.4. The nature of a priori knowledge - Acquired through the faculty of reason; knowledge of universals. 4. Universals 4.1. What are they? - "universal" & "particular" defined 4.2. The (real) problem of universals - "nominalism" & "realism" defined; why these are the only two possible positions. 4.3. Rand the realist - why Rand must be a realist, whether she knows it or (...)
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  17. Michael Huemer, Why People Are Irrational About Politics.
    I look for explanations for the phenomenon of widespread, strong, and persistent disagreements about political issues. The best explanation is provided by the hypothesis that most people are irrational about politics and not, for example, that political issues are particularly difficult or that we lack sufficient evidence for resolving them. I discuss how this irrationality works and why people are especially irrational about politics.
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  18. Michael Huemer (2013). An Ontological Proof of Moral Realism. Social Philosophy and Policy 30 (1-2):259-279.
    The essay argues that while there is no general agreement on whether moral realism is true, there is general agreement on at least some of the moral obligations that we have if moral realism is true. Given that moral realism might be true, and given that we know some of the things we ought to do if it is true, we have a reason to do those things. Furthermore, this reason is itself an objective moral reason. Thus, if moral realism (...)
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  19. Michael Huemer (2013). Epistemological Asymmetries Between Belief and Experience. Philosophical Studies 162 (3):741-748.
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  20. Michael Huemer, Phenomenal Conservatism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Phenomenal Conservatism Phenomenal Conservatism is a theory in epistemology that seeks, roughly, to ground justified beliefs in the way things “appear” or “seem” to the subject who holds a belief. The theory fits with an internalistic form of foundationalism—that is, the view that some beliefs are justified non-inferentially (not on the basis of other beliefs), and that […].
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  21. Michael Huemer (2013). Phenomenal Conservatism Über Alles. In Chris Tucker (ed.), Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism. Oup Usa. 328.
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  22. Michael Huemer (2013). Transitivity, Comparative Value, and the Methods of Ethics. Ethics 123 (2):318-345.
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  23. Michael Huemer (2012). Against Equality and Priority. Utilitas 24 (04):483-501.
    -/- I start from three premises, roughly as follows: (1) that if possible world x is better than world y for every individual who exists in either world, then x is better than y; (2) that if x has a higher average utility, a higher total utility, and no more inequality than y, then x is better than y; (3) that better than is transitive. From these premises, it follows that benefits given to the worse off contribute no more to (...)
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  24. Michael Huemer (2011). Does Probability Theory Refute Coherentism? Journal of Philosophy 108 (1):35-54.
    Recent results in probability theory have cast doubt on the coherence theory of justification, allegedly showing that coherence cannot produce justification for beliefs in the absence of foundational justification, and that there can be no measure of coherence on which coherence is generally truth-conducive. I argue that the coherentist can reject some of the assumptions on which these theorems depend. Coherence can then be held to produce justification on its own, and truth-conducive measures of coherence can be constructed.
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  25. Michael Huemer (2011). Epistemological Egoism and Agent-Centered Norms. In Trent Dougherty (ed.), Evidentialism and its Discontents. Oxford University Press. 17.
    Agent-centered epistemic norms direct thinkers to attach different significance to their own epistemically relevant states than they attach to the similar states of others. Thus, if S and T both know, for certain, that S has the intuition that P, this might justify S in believing that P, yet fail to justify T in believing that P. I defend agent-centeredness and explain how an agent-centered theory can accommodate intuitions that seem to favor agent-neutrality.
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  26. Michael Huemer (2011). Phenomenal Conservatism and Self-Defeat: A Reply to DePoe. Philosophical Studies 156 (1):1-13.
    John DePoe has criticized the self-defeat argument for Phenomenal Conservatism. He argues that acquaintance, rather than appearance, may form the basis for non-inferentially justified beliefs, and that Phenomenal Conservatism conflicts with a central motivation for internalism. I explain how Phenomenal Conservatism and the self-defeat argument may survive these challenges.
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  27. Michael Huemer (2011). The Puzzle of Metacoherence. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):1-21.
    Moore’s paradox supports the principle of “metacoherence”, i.e., that if one categorically believes that P, one is committed to accepting that one knows that P. The principle raises puzzles about how, when one has justification for P, one also has justification for the claim that one knows P. I reject a skeptical answer as well as a bootstrapping answer, and I suggest that we typically have independent justification for the claim that we know P.
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  28. Michael Huemer (2010). Is There a Right to Immigrate? Social Theory and Practice 36 (3):429-461.
    Immigration restrictions violate the prima facie right of potential immigrants not to be subject to harmful coercion. This prima facie right is not neutralized or outweighed by the economic, fiscal, or cultural effects of immigration, nor by the state’s special duties to its own citizens, or to its poorest citizens. Nor does the state have a right to control citizenship conditions in the same way that private clubs may control their membership conditions.
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  29. Michael Huemer (2010). Lexical Priority and the Problem of Risk. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):332-351.
    Some theories of practical reasons incorporate a lexical priority structure, according to which some practical reasons have infinitely greater weight than others. This includes absolute deontological theories and axiological theories that take some goods to be categorically superior to others. These theories face problems involving cases in which there is a non-extreme probability that a given reason applies. In view of such cases, lexical-priority theories are in danger of becoming irrelevant to decision-making, becoming absurdly demanding, or generating paradoxical cases in (...)
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  30. Daniel C. Dennett, Eric Olson, Derek Parfit, Ray Kurzweil & Michael Huemer (2009). What Am I? Free Will and the Nature of Persons. In Susan Schneider (ed.), Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  31. Michael Huemer (2009). Explanationist Aid for the Theory of Inductive Logic. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2):345-375.
    A central problem facing a probabilistic approach to the problem of induction is the difficulty of sufficiently constraining prior probabilities so as to yield the conclusion that induction is cogent. The Principle of Indifference, according to which alternatives are equiprobable when one has no grounds for preferring one over another, represents one way of addressing this problem; however, the Principle faces the well-known problem that multiple interpretations of it are possible, leading to incompatible conclusions. I propose a partial solution to (...)
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  32. Michael Huemer (2009). Apology of a Modest Intuitionist. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1):222-236.
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  33. Michael Huemer (2009). A Paradox for Weak Deontology. Utilitas 21 (4):464-477.
    Deontological ethicists generally agree that there is a way of harming others such that it is wrong to harm others in that way for the sake of producing a comparable but greater benefit for others. Given plausible assumptions about this type of harm, this principle yields the paradoxical result that it may be wrong to do A, wrong to do B, but permissible to do (A and B).
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  34. Michael Huemer (2009). Free Will and Determinism in the World of Minority Report. In Susan Schneider (ed.), Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. Wiley-Blackwell. 103.
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  35. Michael Huemer (2009). Précis of Ethical Intuitionism. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1):192-196.
    I summarize the main conclusions of my 2005 book, Ethical Intuitionism, for the book symposium in this issue.
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  36. Michael Huemer (2009). The State. In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues of Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell. 257--274.
  37. Michael Huemer (2009). Values and Morals: Outline of a Skeptical Realism. Philosophical Issues 19 (1):113-130.
    I propose a skeptical form of moral realism, according to which, while there are objective values, many of the evaluative properties appealed to in common sense moral thinking, particularly “thick” evaluative properties, may be illusory. I suggest that “immorality” may be an example of a thick evaluative term that denotes no real property.
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  38. Michael Huemer (2009). When is Parsimony a Virtue? Philosophical Quarterly 59 (235):216-236.
    Parsimony is a virtue of empirical theories. Is it also a virtue of philosophical theories? I review four contemporary accounts of the virtue of parsimony in empirical theorizing, and consider how each might apply to two prominent appeals to parsimony in the philosophical literature, those made on behalf of physicalism and on behalf of nominalism. None of the accounts of the virtue of parsimony extends naturally to either of these philosophical cases. This suggests that in typical philosophical contexts, ontological simplicity (...)
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  39. Michael Huemer (2008). In Defence of Repugnance. Mind 117 (468):899-933.
    I defend the 'Repugnant' Conclusion that for any possible population of happy people, a population containing a sufficient number of people with lives barely worth living would be better. Four lines of argument converge on this conclusion, and the conclusion has a simple, natural theoretical explanation. The opposition to the Repugnant Conclusion rests on a bare appeal to intuition. This intuition is open to charges of being influenced by multiple distorting factors. Several theories of population ethics have been devised to (...)
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  40. Michael Huemer (2008). Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology - by Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood. Philosophical Books 49 (4):388-390.
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  41. Michael Huemer (2008). Revisionary Intuitionism. Social Philosophy and Policy 25 (1):368-392.
    I argue that, given evidence of the factors that tend to distort our intuitions, ethical intuitionists should disown a wide range of common moral intuitions, and that they should typically give preference to abstract, formal intuitions over more substantive ethical intuitions. In place of the common sense morality with which intuitionism has traditionally allied, the suggested approach may lead to a highly revisionary normative ethics.
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  42. Michael Huemer (2008). The Drug Laws Don't Work. The Philosophers' Magazine (41):71-75.
    Illegal drugs are not inherently unclean, any more than alcohol, tobacco, or canola oil. All of these are simply chemicals that people choose to ingest for enjoyment, and that can harm our health if used to excess. Most of the sordid associations we have with illegal drugs are actually the product of the drug laws: it is because of the laws that drugs are sold on the black market, that Latin American crime bosses are made rich, that government officials are (...)
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  43. Michael Huemer (2007). Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):30–55.
    I defend the principle of Phenomenal Conservatism, on which appearances of all kinds generate at least some justification for belief. I argue that there is no reason for privileging introspection or intuition over perceptual experience as a source of justified belief; that those who deny Phenomenal Conservatism are in a self-defeating position, in that their view cannot be both true and justified; and that thedemand for a metajustification for Phenomenal Conservatism either is an easily met demand, or is an unfair (...)
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  44. Michael Huemer (2007). Epistemic Possibility. Synthese 156 (1):119 - 142.
    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 epistemic modality judgements. It is suggested that judgements about epistemic possibility function to assess which propositions are worthy of further inquiry.
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  45. Michael Huemer (2007). Moore's Paradox and the Norm of Belief. In Susana Nuccetelli & Gary Seay (eds.), Themes From G. E. Moore: New Essays in Epistemology and Ethics. Clarendon Press.
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  46. Michael Huemer (2007). Reply to Fred Seddon, "Recent Writings on Ethics" (Spring 2007): On Behalf of Ethical Intuitionism. Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 9 (1):181 - 184.
    This is a response by the author of Ethical Intuitionism to criticisms raised by Fred Seddon (Jars, Spring 2007). Among other things, Huemer observes that his attack on ethical reductionism does not depend upon excluding relational properties from consideration at the start; that he does not claim that all philosophers are intuitionists; and that Objectivism is susceptible to the general arguments he discusses against the possibility of deriving an "ought" from an "is".
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  47. Michael Huemer (2007). Weak Bayesian Coherentism. Synthese 157 (3):337 - 346.
    Recent results in probability theory have cast doubt on coherentism, purportedly showing (a) that coherence among a set of beliefs cannot raise their probability unless individual beliefs have some independent credibility, and (b) that no possible measure of coherence makes coherence generally probability-enhancing. I argue that coherentists can reject assumptions on which these theorems depend, and I derive a general condition under which the concurrence of two information sources lacking individual credibility can raise the probability of what they report.
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  48. Michael Huemer (2006). Phenomenal Conservatism and the Internalist Intuition. American Philosophical Quarterly 43 (2):147-158.
    Externalist theories of justification create the possibility of cases in which everything appears to one relevantly similar with respect to two propositions, yet one proposition is justified while the other is not. Internalists find this difficult to accept, because it seems irrational in such a case to affirm one proposition and not the other. The underlying internalist intuition supports a specific internalist theory, Phenomenal Conservatism, on which epistemic justification is conferred by appearances.
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  49. Michael Huemer (2006). Review of Erik Olsson, Against Coherence: Truth, Probability, and Justification. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2006 (5).
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