I take pseudoscience to be a pretence at science. Pretences are innumerable, limited only by our imagination and credulity. As Stove points out, ‘numerology is actually quite as different from astrology as astrology is from astronomy’ (Stove 1991, 187). We are sure that ‘something has gone appallingly wrong’ (Stove 1991, 180) and yet ‘thoughts…can go wrong in a multiplicity of ways, none of which anyone yet understands’ (Stove 1991, 190). Often all we can do is give a careful description of (...) a way of pretending, a motivation for pretence, a source of pretension. In this chapter I attempt the latter. We will be concerned with the relation of conviction to rational belief. I shall be suggesting that the question of whether an enquiry is a pretence at science can be, in part, a question over the role of conviction in rational belief, and that the answer is to be found in the philosophical problem of the role of values in rational belief. (shrink)
In his important recent book Schroeder proposes a Humean theory of reasons that he calls hypotheticalism. His rigourous account of the weight of reasons is crucial to his theory, both as an element of the theory and constituting his defence to powerful standard objections to Humean theories of reasons. In this paper I examine that rigourous account and show it to face problems of vacuity and consonance. There are technical resources that may be brought to bear on the problem of (...) vacuity but implementation is not simple and philosophical motivation a further difficulty. Even supposing vacuity is fixed, the problems of consonance bring to light a different obstruction lying in Schroeder’s path. There is a difference between the general weighing of reasons and the context specificity of the correct placing of weight on them in deliberation and this difference cannot be fixed by the resources in the account. For these reasons we are still waiting for a plausible Humean theory of reasons. (shrink)
Recent research on moral decision-making has suggested that many common moral judgments are based on immediate intuitions. However, some individuals arrive at highly counterintuitive utilitarian conclusions about when it is permissible to harm other individuals. Such utilitarian judgments have been attributed to effortful reasoning that has overcome our natural emotional aversion to harming others. Recent studies, however, suggest that such utilitarian judgments might also result from a decreased aversion to harming others, due to a deficit in empathic concern and social (...) emotion. The present study investigated the neural basis of such indifference to harming using functional neuroimaging during engagement in moral dilemmas. A tendency to counterintuitive utilitarian judgment was associated both with ‘psychoticism’, a trait associated with a lack of empathic concern and antisocial tendencies, and with ‘need for cognition’, a trait reflecting preference for effortful cognition. Importantly, only psychoticism was also negatively correlated with activation in the subgenual cingulate cortex (SCC), a brain area implicated in empathic concern and social emotions such as guilt, during counterintuitive utilitarian judgments. Our findings suggest that when individuals reach highly counterintuitive utilitarian conclusions, this need not reflect greater engagement in explicit moral deliberation. It may rather reflect a lack of empathic concern, and diminished aversion to harming others. (shrink)
Neuroimaging studies on moral decision-making have thus far largely focused on differences between moral judgments with opposing utilitarian (well-being maximizing) and deontological (duty-based) content. However, these studies have investigated moral dilemmas involving extreme situations, and did not control for two distinct dimensions of moral judgment: whether or not it is intuitive (immediately compelling to most people) and whether it is utilitarian or deontological in content. By contrasting dilemmas where utilitarian judgments are counterintuitive with dilemmas in which they are intuitive, we (...) were able to use functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify the neural correlates of intuitive and counterintuitive judgments across a range of moral situations. Irrespective of content (utilitarian/deontological), counterintuitive moral judgments were associated with greater difficulty and with activation in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, suggesting that such judgments may involve emotional conflict; intuitive judgments were linked to activation in the visual and premotor cortex. In addition, we obtained evidence that neural differences in moral judgment in such dilemmas are largely due to whether they are intuitive and not, as previously assumed, to differences between utilitarian and deontological judgments. Our findings therefore do not support theories that have generally associated utilitarian and deontological judgments with distinct neural systems. (shrink)
Neuroscience and psychology have recently turned their attention to the study of the subpersonal underpinnings of moral judgment. In this article we critically examine an influential strand of research originating in Greene's neuroimaging studies of ‘utilitarian’ and ‘non-utilitarian’ moral judgement. We argue that given that the explananda of this research are specific personal-level states—moral judgments with certain propositional contents—its methodology has to be sensitive to criteria for ascribing states with such contents to subjects. We argue that current research has often (...) failed to meet this constraint by failing to correctly ‘fix’ key aspects of moral judgment, criticism we support by detailed examples from the scientific literature. (shrink)
Bangu (2010) claims that Bertrand’s paradox rests on a hitherto unrecognized assumption, which assumption is sufficiently dubious to throw the burden of proof back onto ‘objectors to [the principle of indifference]’ (2010: 31). We show that Bangu’s objection to the assumption is ill-founded and that the assumption is provably true.
A traditional pastime of philosophers is the analysis of rhetoric and the repudiation of sophistry. Nevertheless, some of what philosophers call sophistry might rather be a subtle repudiation of the traditional principles of rationality. In this paper I start by granting the Sophist his repudiation and outline some of the obstacles to settling the dispute between Sophists and Rationalists. I then suggest that we should distinguish pragmatic Sophism from nihilistic Sophism. In the hope of driving a wedge between these two (...) I illustrate the way in which the two are confounded when Sophism is advanced by use of a particular rhetorical manoeuvre and then give an argument against nihilistic Sophism which even a nihilistic Sophist should be persuaded by. (shrink)
In this paper I prove that holistic coherentism is logically equivalent to the conjunction of symmetry and quasi-transitivity of epistemic support and a condition on justified beliefs. On the way I defend Tom Stoneham from a criticism made by Darrell Rowbottom and prove a premiss of Stoneham’s argument to be an entailment of coherentism.
We call something a paradox if it strikes us as peculiar in a certain way, if it strikes us as something that is not simply nonsense, and yet it poses some difficulty in seeing how it could make sense. When we examine paradoxes more closely, we find that for some the peculiarity is relieved and for others it intensifies. Some are peculiar because they jar with how we expect things to go, but the jarring is to do with imprecision and (...) misunderstandings in our thought, failures to appreciate the breadth of possibility consistent with our beliefs. Other paradoxes, however, pose deep problems. Closer examination does not explain them away. Instead, they challenge the coherence of certain conceptual resources and hence challenge the significance of beliefs which deploy those resources. I shall call the former kind weak paradoxes and the latter, strong paradoxes. Whether a particular paradox is weak or strong is sometimes a matter of controversy—sometimes it has been realised that what was thought strong is in fact weak, and vice versa,— but the distinction between the two kinds is generally thought to be worth drawing. In this Cchapter, I shall cover both weak and strong probabilistic paradoxes. (shrink)
The principle of indifference is supposed to suffice for the rational assignation of probabilities to possibilities. Bertrand advances a probability problem, now known as his paradox, to which the principle is supposed to apply; yet, just because the problem is ill‐posed in a technical sense, applying it leads to a contradiction. Examining an ambiguity in the notion of an ill‐posed problem shows that there are precisely two strategies for resolving the paradox: the distinction strategy and the well‐posing strategy. The main (...) contenders for resolving the paradox, Marinoff and Jaynes, offer solutions which exemplify these two strategies. I show that Marinoff’s attempt at the distinction strategy fails, and I offer a general refutation of this strategy. The situation for the well‐posing strategy is more complex. Careful formulation of the paradox within measure theory shows that one of Bertrand’s original three options can be ruled out but also shows that piecemeal attempts at the well‐posing strategy will not succeed. What is required is an appeal to general principle. I show that Jaynes’s use of such a principle, the symmetry requirement, fails to resolve the paradox; that a notion of metaindifference also fails; and that, while the well‐posing strategy may not be conclusively refutable, there is no reason to think that it can succeed. So the current situation is this. The failure of Marinoff’s and Jaynes’s solutions means that the paradox remains unresolved, and of the only two strategies for resolution, one is refuted and we have no reason to think the other will succeed. Consequently, Bertrand’s paradox continues to stand in refutation of the principle of indifference. (shrink)
In ‘How to part ways smoothly’ Hud Hudson (2007) presents ‘two temporally-continuous spatially unextended material objects that ... share all of their temporal parts up until their very last time-slice’ (2007: 156). They share their location throughout all but the last instant of their lives, at which instant they are a metre apart. Hudson claims that they part smoothly. I shall show that they don’t.
Nicholas Rescher claims that rational decision theory “may leave us in the lurch”, because there are two apparently acceptable ways of applying “the standard machinery of expected-value analysis” to his Dr. Psycho paradox which recommend contradictory actions. He detects a similar contradiction in Newcomb’s problem. We consider his claims from the point of view of both Bayesian decision theory and causal decision theory. In Dr. Psycho and in Newcomb’s Problem, Rescher has used premisses about probabilities which he assumes to be (...) independent. From the former point of view, we show that the probability premisses are not independent but inconsistent, and their inconsistency is provable within probability theory alone. From the latter point of view, we show that their consistency can be saved, but then the contradictory recommendations evaporate. Consequently, whether one subscribes to evidential or causal decision theory, rational decision theory is not in any way vitiated by Rescher’s arguments. (shrink)
Dretske proposes a theory of knowledge in terms of a theory of information, but wishes to deny that empirical knowledge settles the large question of scepticism. This leads him to deny the closure of knowledge under known entailment. In a recent paper Jäger argues that Dretske’s theory of information entails closure for knowledge, ‘at least for the kind of propositions here at issue’ (Jäger 2004:194). If Jäger is right, Dretske is seriously embarrassed and must give something up. In this paper (...) I show that there are two flaws in Jäger’s argument. The principle of informational closure considered by Jäger is incompatible with Dretske’s theory of information, and Jäger’s argument that Dretske is committed to a certain kind of substitution instance of that principle of informational closure is invalid. I propose adequacy conditions on signalled information and use them to motivate a formulation of a general closure principle for signalled information. I show that Dretske’s account of information satisfies the adequacy conditions, but in a way which commits him to an instance of the general closure principle. I argue that Dretske is consequently committed to closure for some cases of knowledge for which he wishes to deny closure. Finally, I sketch how, on the basis of the closure principle to which Dretske is committed, Jäger’s broader argument may yet go through. (shrink)
Benardete presents a version of Zeno's dichotomy in which an infinite sequence of gods each intends to raise a barrier iff a traveller reaches the position where they intend to raise their barrier. In this paper, I demonstrate the abstract form of the Benardete Dichotomy. I show that the diagnosis based on that form can do philosophical work not done by earlier papers rejecting Priest's version of the Benardete Dichotomy, and that the diagnosis extends to a paradox not normally classified (...) as a dichotomy. I show how the form is exploited to generate paradox. Introduction The form of the Benardete dichotomy 2.1 The unsatisfiable pair diagnosis Applying the unsatisfiable pair diagnosis 3.1 Perez Laraudogoitia 3.2 Hawthorne 3.3 Angel 3.4 Yablo and Sorensen Exploiting the form. (shrink)
Many of the philosophical doctrines purveyed by postmodernists have been roundly refuted, yet people continue to be taken in by the dishonest devices used in proselytizing for postmodernism. I exhibit, name, and analyse five favourite rhetorical manoeuvres: Troll's Truisms, Motte and Bailey Doctrines, Equivocating Fulcra, the Postmodernist Fox Trot, and Rankly Relativising Fields. Anyone familiar with postmodernist writing will recognise their pervasive hold on the dialectic of postmodernism and come to judge that dialectic as it ought to be judged.
Previous claims to have resolved the two-envelope paradox have been premature. The paradoxical argument has been exposed as manifestly fallacious if there is an upper limit to the amount of money that may be put in an envelope; but the paradoxical cases which can be described if this limitation is removed do not involve mathematical error, nor can they be explained away in terms of the strangeness of infinity. Only by taking account of the partial sums of the infinite series (...) of expected gains can the paradox be resolved. (shrink)