Hume?s familiar sceptical argument against induction brands as irrational our practice of generalising from observed regularities because of its reliance on the assumption that nature is uniform, an assumption which is unjustifiable. The argument which I wish to consider focuses instead on the observed regularities that are required if we are legitimately to extrapolate from experience. According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning involves a constant conjunction. But in fact we do not encounter such invariable uniformities: our experience (...) is, almost invariably, irregular. So setting aside Hume?s sceptical qualms about the very attempt to form expectations about the hitherto unobserved, how can we justify our ignoring such irregularities? My conclusion is that, even if the principle of uniformity can be justified, our practice is irrational by Hume?s lights. This is a new Humean critique of our ?causal reasoning,? for, although Hume does not present it, the ingredients are all his. (shrink)
In this paper I adduce a new argument in support of the claim that IBE is an autonomous (indispensable) form of inference, based on a familiar, yet surprisingly, under-discussed, problem for Hume’s theory of induction. I then use some insights thereby gleaned to argue for the (reductionist) claim that induction is really IBE, and draw some normative conclusions.
An impossibility result pertaining to the aggregation of individual judgements is thought by many to have significant implications for political theory, social epistemology and metaphysics. When members of a group hold a rational set of judgments on some interconnected questions, the theorem shows, it isn't always (logically) possible for them to aggregate their judgements into a collective one in conformity with seemingly very plausible constraints. I reject one of the constraints which engender the dilemma. The analogy with the lottery paradox, (...) I argue, shows that rational belief needn't be consistent. So the alleged implications of the dilemma are dispelled. (shrink)
In this paper I offer solutions to two problems which our moral practice engenders for expressivism, the meta-ethical doctrine according to which ethical statements aren't propositional, susceptible of truth and falsity, but, rather, express the speaker's non-cognitive attitudes. First, the expressivist must show that arguments which are valid when interpreted propositionally are valid when construed expressivistically, and vice versa. The second difficulty is the Frege-Geach problem. Moral arguments employ atomic sentences, negations, disjunctions, etc., and, by expressivist lights, the meaning of (...) a moral sentence depends on the attitude that it expresses. Since one's attitude varies as one asserts a claim, or negates it, or cites it as a disjunct, etc., the meaning of the relevant phrase changes as well, so the argument equivocates. (Formal proofs are provided in appendices to the paper.). (shrink)
According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning, or—to use his terminology (T 188.8.131.52; SBN 86)1—"the inference we draw from cause to effect" (or vice versa), involves a constant conjunction. "We remember to have had frequent instances of the existence of one species of objects; and also remember, that the individuals of another species of objects have always attended them. . . . Thus we remember to have seen that species of object we call flame, and to have felt (...) that species of sensation we call heat. We likewise call to mind their constant conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther ceremony, we call the one cause and the other effect, and infer the existence of the one from that of the .. (shrink)
The Cable Guy will definitely come between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and I can bet on one of two possibilities: that he will arrive between 8 and 12, or between 12 and 4. Since I have no more information, it seems (eminently) plausible to suppose the two bets are equally attractive. Yet Hajek has presented a tantalising argument that purports to show that the later interval is, initial appearances to the contrary, more choice worthy. In this paper, I rebut (...) the argument. (shrink)
Leslie’s doomsday argument purports to show that the likelihood of the human race perishing soon is greater than we think. The probability we attach to it, based on our estimate of the chance of various calamities which might bring extinction about (a nuclear holocaust, an ecological disaster, etc.), should be adjusted as follows. If the human race were to survive for a long time, we, livingnow, would be atypical. So our living now increases the probability that the human race will (...) end shortly. In this paper, I criticize some attempts to rebut the argument, and present my own. To facilitate the analysis, I consider a structurally similar problem, the “ShootingRoom.”. (shrink)
According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning involves a constant conjunction. But, as Price points out, Hume misrepresents ordinary induction: we experience very few constant conjunctions. In this paper, I examine several ways of defending Hume’s (psychological) account of our practice against Price’s objection, and conclude that the theory cannot be upheld.
According to the received view, Hume is a much more rigorous and consistent concept-empiricist than Locke. Hume is supposed to have taken as a starting point Locke’s meaning-empiricism, and worked out its full radical implicalions. Locke, by way of contrast, cowered from drawing his theory’s strange consequences. The received view about Locke’s and Hume’s concept-empiricism is mistaken, I shall argue. Hume may be more uncompromising (although he too falters), but he is not more rigorous than Locke. It is not because (...) of (intellectual) timidity that Locke does not draw Hume’s conclusions from his empiricism. It is, rather, because of his much sounder method.Selon l’opinion génerale, Hume est un empiriciste conceptuel beaucoup plus rigoureux et consistent que Locke. On croit que Hume a pris l’empiricisme des significations de Locke comme son point de depart et puis élabore toutes ses implifications radicales -- et que Locke, au contraire, se retire et évite de tirer les etranges conséquences de sa théorie. Je veux soutenir que l’opinion acceptée sur l’empiricisme conceptuel de Locke et Hume est en erreur. Hume est peut-être plus décidé (quoique lui, aussi, hésite) mais il n’est pas plus rigoureux que Locke. Si Locke ne tire pas les conclusions d’Hume de son empiricisme ce n’est pas a cause de sa timidite (intellectuelle). Plutôt, il le fait grace a sa methode beaucoup mieux fondée. (shrink)
Hume’s Copy Principle, which accords precedence to impressions over ideas, is restricted to simple perceptions. Yet in all the conceptual analyses Hume conducts by attempting to fit an impression to a (putative) idea, he never checks for simplicity. And this seems to vitiate the analyses: we cannot conclude from the lack of a preceding impression that a putative idea is bogus, unless it is simple. In this paper I criticise several attempts to account for Hume’s seemingly cavalier attitude, and offer (...) one of my own. (shrink)
Hume is sometimes thought to provide a ‘naturalistic’ response to the sceptic. I consider two ways in which this response may be construed. According to the first, the fact that we are psychologically determined to hold a belief provides it with justification. According to the second, ‘natural’ beliefs provide limits within which reason can legitimately be employed, limits which the sceptic transgresses when he attempts to defend his position. Both versions of the naturalistic response to scepticism, I will argue, aren't (...) plausible. And they aren't, at least not predominantly, Hume's. (shrink)
A seemingly plausible application of Bayesian decision-theoretic reasoning to determine one's rational degrees of belief yields a paradoxical conclusion: one ought to jettison one's intermediate credences in favour of more extreme (opinionated) ones. I discuss various attempts to solve the paradox, those involving the acceptance of the paradoxical conclusion, and those which attempt to block its derivation.
It seems obvious that our beliefs are logically imperfect in two ways: they are neither deductively closed nor logically consistent. But this common-sense truism has been judged erroneous by some philosophers in the light of various arguments. In defence of common sense I consider and rebut interpretative arguments for logical perfection and show that the assumption espoused by common sense is theoretically superior, and capable - unlike its rival - of accounting for the informativeness of mathematics. Finally, I suggest that (...) common sense opens the way to genuine disputes about the correct logic. (shrink)
Descartes’ circle has been extensively discussed, and I do not wish to add another paper to that literature. Rather, I use the circle to facilitate our understanding of two types of scepticism and the proper attitude to them. Descartes’ text is especially apt for this purpose, because a case can be made for attributing to him both types. Although I will touch on the interpretative question, that is not my main aim. My contention is that one brand - whether or (...) not it is the one that Descartes favoured - should be taken very seriously, and Descartes’ failure to respond to it non circularly cannot be met with equanimity. (shrink)
Skepticism gives a pessimistic reply to questions on whether we really know the things we think we know, and whether our beliefs are reasonable. The theoretical and practical difficulties presented by the skeptical challenge--in that the skeptical life cannot be lived, and the doctrine seems self-defeating--are in fact superficial, according to Ruth Weintraub. Her study looks at several famous skeptical arguments of Descartes, Hume, and the ancient Greek skeptic, Sextus Empiricus. She argues that by drawing on philosophy, rather than science, (...) the skeptical challenge can be answered. (shrink)
Hume’s famous argument against the credibility of testimony about miracles invokes two premises: 1) The reliability of the witness (the extent to which he is informed and truthful) must be compared with the intrinsic probability of the miracle. 2) The initial probability of a miracle is always small enough to outweigh the improbability that the testimony is false (even when the witness is assumed to be reliable). I defend the first premise of the argument, showing that Hume’s argument can be (...) applied to purported observations of miracles, as well. I then show that Hume failed to provide an adequate support for his second premise. A more cogent defence can be provided for a weaker premise. The resultant argument has, consequently, a less sweeping conclusion than Hume’s. (shrink)
There are arguments which purport to rebut psychological determinism by appealing to its alleged incompatibility with rationality. I argue that they all fail. Against Davidson, I argue that rationality does not preclude the existence of psychological laws. Against Popper, I argue that rationality is compatible with the possibility of predicting human actions. Against Schlesinger, I claim that Newcomb's problem cannot be invoked to show that human actions are unpredictable. Having vindicated the possibility of a rationally-based theory of action, I consider (...) the form it might take. (shrink)
Fallibilism is an attractive epistemological position, avoiding the Scylla of rationalism, and the Charybdis of scepticism. Acknowledging, on the one hand, human imperfection, yet claiming that science and rational inquiry are possible. Fallibilism is a thesis, but equally importantly – an epistemological recommendation. that we should never be absolutely sure of anything. My aim in this paper is to drive a wedge between the thesis and the recommendation. The (eminently plausible) doctrine, I shall argue, cannot be used to ground the (...) epistemological prescription for caution. (shrink)
Epistemologists have traditionally been concerned with two issues: the justification of particular beliefs or sets of beliefs, and claims to knowledge. I propose to examine the relative import of these questions by comparing the gravity of the threat posed by two sceptics: one who questions the justifiability of our beliefs, and one who doubts our knowledge claims.
In this paper, I examine the possibility of accounting for the rationality of belief-formation by utilising decision-theoretic considerations. I consider the utilities to be used by such an approach, propose to employ verisimilitude as a measure of cognitive utility, and suggest a natural way of generalising any measure of verisimilitude defined on propositions to partial belief-systems, a generalisation which may enable us to incorporate Popper's insightful notion of verisimilitude within a Bayesian framework. I examine a dilemma generated by the decision-theoretic (...) procedure and consider an adequacy condition (immodesty) designed to ameliorate one of its horns. Finally, I argue in a sceptical vein that no adequate verisimilitude measure can be used decision-theoretically. (shrink)