Public and government outrage over recent tax fraud and tax shelter cases led to significant changes in the preparer penalty laws under the Small Business Work Opportunity Act of 2007. This study experimentally examines the effectiveness of the revised preparer penalty provisions at reducing tax preparer aggressiveness. Specifically, we examine the impact of two significant components of the changes to the preparer penalty provisions - the increase in penalty amount and the increase in the likelihood of sustaining the tax position (...) required to avoid penalty imposition (required likelihood threshold) - on tax preparers’ willingness to (1) recommend an uncertain position and (2) sign a tax return containing an aggressive position. The results suggest that both the increase in penalty amount and the increase in required likelihood threshold reduce tax preparers’ willingness to recommend an uncertain position and/or sign a tax return containing an aggressive position. Of the two components, the results indicate that the increase in required likelihood threshold is more effective at reducing tax preparer aggressiveness than the increase in penalty amount. Congress may want to rethink its recent decision to reduce the required likelihood threshold for many of the decisions that tax preparers make with their clients. (shrink)
The Fine-tuning argument takes the existence of life as evidence that an agent had a hand in making the universe. The argument is thought to hinge on the claim that ‘fine-tuning’ of various parameters is required for life to evolve. Jonathan Weisberg argues that even granting that life can provide evidence for design, further data about the fine-tuning required add nothing to the case. Weisberg charges the argument rests on unsupported assumptions about a designer’s preference for a fine-tuned universe (over (...) and above favouring life). I argue that he is mistaken. The assumptions that Weisberg grants (for the sake of argument) are sufficient to make fine-tuning relevant to design. (shrink)
White, Robert; Moo, Jonathan In an age when many have begun to consider widespread environmental collapse inevitable, the certain hope held out in the Christian gospel rules out both complacency and despair. Scripture's vision of a future for all of creation that is secure in Christ and given by God's grace challenges Christians to a radical environmental ethos that is marked by wisdom, self-sacrifice, perseverance, love and joy.
Oh, the places I’ve been: A valediction. In August 2009, when I joined The Hastings Center as a research assistant, I was an ambitious recent graduate of Davidson College with a thirst to learn more about bioethics and its role in the policy-making process. Nearly two years later, as I approach my last day at The Hastings Center, I am reminded of my first day, one that alone might make aspiring bioethicists envious. At the conclusion of lunch, Dan Callahan, the (...) Center’s cofounder, invited me to his office to discuss my academic and professional interests. Although I understand why I may have been so nervous walking into his office that day, I quickly learned that he was as genuinely interested to hear what I, a .. (shrink)
Schopenhauer was one of the first Western philosophers to appreciate the significance of Indian philosophy. He comments on “the admirable agreement” between his own thought and the teachings of Buddhism, and he praises the wisdom of the Upanishads as among the most profound productions of the human mind. But how accurate is his grasp of Indian philosophy? In this essay I focus on three significant points of comparison: compassion, the illusory nature of the individual, and the value of life. To (...) what extent are these themes shared by Schopenhauer and Indian philosophy? To what extent is Schopenhauer’s account at odds with prevailing Indian views? Schopenhauer’s philosophy raises significant questions concerning the limits of cross-cultural appropriation and encounter. (shrink)
I believe that Tom is the proud father of a baby boy. Why do I think his child is a boy? A natural answer might be that I remember that his name is ‘Owen’ which is usually a boy’s name. Here I’ve given information that might be part of a causal explanation of my believing that Tom’s baby is a boy. I do have such a memory and it is largely what sustains my conviction. But I haven’t given you just (...) any causally relevant information, I’ve given my grounds for my belief. I’ve given reasons that might justify me in supposing that Tom’s baby is a boy. Less naturally, the question might be taken as a request for a broader causal explanation of my holding this belief. Appropriate answers might cite all manner of facts concerning the evolution of the human race, why I chose to pursue philosophy and hence came to know Tom, the mechanisms of email transmission, the firing of various neurons, the circumstances of concept formation as a result of which I’m able to grasp the thought that Tom’s baby is a boy, and so on. It is an interesting question what distinguishes the narrower set of answers that I first suggested. I won’t pursue that here. I assume you have a good enough sense of the distinction I’m drawing. We might call the narrower set of answers justifying reasons, the kind of reasons I might cite in justifying my belief. Answers of the first sort are clearly relevant to epistemological evaluation. In assessing whether you know p or are rational in believing it to the degree you do, I will naturally want to consider what reasons you have for your belief. In deliberating myself about whether to believe p, in seeking an answer to the question of whether p, I will naturally consider what reasons or grounds I have to suppose that p. But what I want to focus on here is how explanations of the broader sort bear on such questions as whether to believe p. From a third-person perspective we can ask, ‘In assessing the epistemic status of S’s belief that p, what is the relevance of causal information that lies outside of the realm of justifying reasons?’ From the first-person standpoint we can ask ‘In seeking to answer whether p, how should such causal information affect my deliberations?’ At first it might seem that such broader causal information could have little relevance if any. Like any belief my belief that p can be traced back to innumerable causes from far and wide.. (shrink)
the symmetry of our evidential situation. If our confidence is best modeled by a standard probability function this means that we are to distribute our subjective probability or credence sharply and evenly over possibilities among which our evidence does not discriminate. Once thought to be the central principle of probabilistic reasoning by great..
I treat you as a thermometer when I use your belief states as more or less reliable indicators of the facts. Should I treat myself in a parallel way? Should I think of the outputs of my faculties and yours as like the readings of two thermometers the way a third party would? I explore some of the difficulties in answering these questions. If I am to treat myself as well as others as thermometers in this way, it would appear (...) that I cannot reasonably trust my own convictions over yours unless I have antecedent reason to suppose that I am more likely than you to get things right. I appeal to some probabilistic considerations to suggest that our predicament as thermometers might not actually be as bad as it seems. (shrink)
Introduction -- The mathematical roots of the concept of analogy -- Aristotle : the uses of analogy -- Aristotle : analogy and language -- Thomas Aquinas -- Immanuel Kant -- Karl Barth -- Final reflections.
In this paper I examine Rousseau's strategy for teaching compassion in Book Four of Emile. In particular, I look at the three maxims on compassion that help to organise Rousseau's discussion, and the precise strategy that Emile's tutor uses to instil compassion while avoiding other passions, such as anger, fear and pride. The very idea of an education in compassion is an important one: Rousseau's discussion remains relevant, and he has correctly understood the significance of compassion for modern life. But (...) in linking compassion to self-interest, he creates a tension between Emile's natural sentiments, including compassion, as a way of bringing him into the social order. The Buddhist and Christian views of compassion help to clarify some of the difficulties with Rousseau's account. (shrink)
This disagreement extends to the fundamental details of physical and biochemical theories. On the other hand, (2) There is almostuniversal agreementthatlife did notfirstcome aboutmerely by chance. This is not to say that all scientists think that life’s existence was inevitable. The common view is that given a fuller understanding of the physical and biological conditions and processes involved, the emergence of life should be seen to be quite likely, or at least not very surprising. The view which is almost universally (...) rejected by researchers in the field is that the numerous and prima facie improbable physical and biological requirements for life all fell together just by a fluke, like so many dice tumbling out of a bag and landing all sixes. Most importantly, for the purposes of the following discussion, (3) The conviction that life did not arise largely by chance is treated as epistem- ically prior to the development of alternative theories. C 2007, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation C 2007, Blackwell Publishing, Inc. (shrink)
Epistemic subjectivism, as I am using the term, is a view in the same spirit as relativism, rooted in skepticism about the objectivity or universality of epistemic norms. I explore some ways that we might motivate subjectivism drawing from some common themes in analytic epistemology. Without diagnosing where the arguments go wrong, I argue that the resulting position is untenable.
I argue that its appearing to you that P does not provide justification for believing that P unless you have independent justification for the denial of skeptical alternatives – hypotheses incompatible with P but such that if they were true, it would still appear to you that P. Thus I challenge the popular view of ‘dogmatism,’ according to which for some contents P, you need only lack reason to suspect that skeptical alternatives are true, in order for an experience as (...) of P to justify belief that P. I pursue three lines of objection to dogmatism, having to do with probabilistic reasoning, considerations of future or hypothetically available justification, and epistemic circularity. I briefly sketch a fall-back position which avoids the problems raised. (shrink)
It is notoriously difficult to spell out the norms of inductive reasoning in a neat set of rules. I explore the idea that explanatory considerations are the key to sorting out the good inductive inferences from the bad. After defending the crucial explanatory virtue of stability, I apply this approach to a range of inductive inferences, puzzles, and principles such as the Raven and Grue problems, and the significance of varied data and random sampling.
A rational person doesn’t believe just anything. There are limits on what it is rational to believe. How wide are these limits? That’s the main question that interests me here. But a secondary question immediately arises: What factors impose these limits? A first stab is to say that one’s evidence determines what it is epistemically permissible for one to believe. Many will claim that there are further, non-evidentiary factors relevant to the epistemic rationality of belief. I will be ignoring the (...) details of alternative answers in order to focus on the question of what kind of rational constraints one’s evidence puts on belief. Our main question concerns how far epistemic permission and obligation can come apart.1 Suppose I am epistemically permitted to believe P, i.e., it would not be irrational for me to believe it. Am I thereby obliged to believe P, or are other options rationally available to me?2 Might I be equally rational in remaining agnostic about P, or even believing not-P? Or could even a slightly stronger or weaker degree of confidence be just as reasonable? (shrink)
Among theories which ﬁt all of our data, we prefer the simpler over the more complex. Why? Surely not merely for practical convenience or aesthetic pleasure. But how could we be justiﬁed in this preference without knowing in advance that the world is more likely to be simple than complex? And isn’t this a rather extravagant a priori assumption to make? I want to suggest some steps we can take toward reducing this embarrassment, by showing that the assumption which supports (...) favouring simplicity is far more modest than it ﬁrst seems. (shrink)
The artist Francis Bacon frequently depicted the open screaming mouth in his powerful paintings. But according to Lessing's classic work, _Laocoon, a scream is inherently ugly and a "blot on a painting productive of the worst possible effect." The conjunction of Lessing and Bacon is clearly a provocative one and it can tell us much about the fortunes of contemporary aesthetics.
According to the thesis of Strong Predictionism, we typically have stronger evidence for a theory if it was used to predict certain data, than if it was deliberately constructed to accommodate those same data, even if we fully grasp the theory and all the evidence on which it was based. This thesis faces powerful objections and the existing arguments in support of it are seriously flawed. I offer a new defence of Strong Predictionism which overcomes the objections and provides a (...) deeper understanding of the epistemic importance of prediction. I conclude by applying this account to strategies for defending scientific realism. (shrink)
Questions on "animal rights" in a cross-national survey conducted in 1993 provide an opportunity to compare the applicability to this issue of two theories of the socio-political changes summed up in "postmodernity": Inglehart's (1997) thesis of "postmaterialist values" and Franklin's (1999) synthesis of theories of late modernity. Although Inglehart seems not to have addressed human-nonhuman animal relations, it is reasonable to apply his theory of changing values under conditions of "existential security" to "animal rights." Inglehart's postmaterialism thesis argues that new (...) values emerged within specific groups because of the achievement of material security. Although emphasizing human needs, they shift the agenda toward a series of lifestyle choices that favor extending lifestyle choices, rights, and environmental considerations. Franklin's account of nonhuman animals and modern cultures stresses a generalized "ontological insecurity." Under postmodern conditions, changes to core aspects of social and cultural life are both fragile and fugitive. As neighborhood, community, family, and friendship relations lose their normative and enduring qualities, companion animals increasingly are drawn in to those formerly exclusive human emotional spaces. With a method used by Inglehart and a focus in countries where his postmaterialist effects should be most evident, this study derives and tests different expectations from the theories, then tests them against data from a survey supporting Inglehart's theory. His theory is not well supported. We conclude that its own anthropocentrism limits it and that the allowance for hybrids of nature-culture in Franklin's account offers more promise for a social theory of animal rights in changing times. (shrink)
ports the thesis that there exist very many universes. The view has found favor with a number of philosophers such as Derek Parfit ~1998!, J. J. C. Smart ~1989! and Peter van Inwagen ~1993!.1 My purpose is to argue that this is a mistake. First let me set out the issue in more detail.