The enjoyment of beauty has a peculiar, mildly intoxicating quality of feeling The science of aesthetics investigates the conditions under which things are felt as beautiful, but it has been unable to give any explanation of the nature and origin of beauty Psychoanalysis, unfortunately, has scarcely anything to say about beauty either.1 Freud.
In theorizing the postmodern, one inevitably encounters the postmodern assault on theory, such as Lyotard's and Foucault's attack on modern theory for its alleged totalizing and essentializing character. The argument is ironic, of course, since it falsely homogenizes a heterogeneous "modern tradition" and since postmodern theorists like Foucault and Baudrillard are often as totalizing as any modern thinker (Kellner 1989 and Best 1995). But where Lyotard seeks justification of theory within localized language games, arguing that no universal criteria are (...) possible to ground objective truths or universal values, Foucault steadfastly resists any efforts, local or otherwise, to validate normative concepts and theoretical perspectives. For Foucault, justification ensnares one in metaphysical illusions like "truth" and the only concern of the philosopher-critic is to dismantle old ways of thinking, to attack existing traditions and institutions, and to open up new horizons of experience for greater individual freedom. What matters, then, is results, and if actions bring greater freedom, the theoretical perspectives informing them are "justified." From this perspective, theoretical discourse is seen not so much as "correct" or true," but as "efficacious," as producing positive effects. (shrink)
The postmodern turn which has so marked social and cultural theory also involves conflicts between modern and postmodern politics. In this essay, we articulate the differences between modern and postmodern politics and argue against one-sided positions which dogmatically reject one tradition or the other in favor of partisanship for either the modern or the postmodern. Arguing for a politics of alliance and solidarity, we claim that this project is best served by drawing on the most progressive elements of both (...) the modern and postmodern traditions. Developing a new politics involves overcoming the limitations of certain versions of modern politics and postmodern identity politics in order to develop a politics of alliance and solidarity equal to the challenges of the coming millennium. (shrink)
In this volume comprised of sixteen essays and rebuttals, author and professor of philosophy Susan Haack responds to her fellow philosophers and her critics on a wide range of topics that involve much more than the esoteric nature of contemporary philosophy. Instead, as is Haack's forte, she asserts her views on important current issues such as how scientists conduct their work, the ethics of affirmative action and the pitfalls of preferential hiring, and how the distorted reality the postmodern thinkers (...) have presented has corrupted legal thinking. Her charge is to bring clarity, precision, integrity, and most of all, practicality to her field of study. (shrink)
I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one is causally responsible for the (...) good. I argue that the best theory of the meaning of life should clearly distinguish between subjective fulfillment and objective meaningfulness. The GCA respects the distinction. And it is superior to its leading rivals in the recent literature, most notably those of Erik Wielenberg and Susan Wolf. (shrink)
I focus on two claims that have been made about the relationship between inference to the best explanation (IBE) and induction. The first is that IBE is an autonomous (indispensable) form of inference. The second claim is that induction is a special case of IBE. I adduce a new argument in support of the autonomy claim, use some insights thereby gleaned to argue for the reductionist claim, and draw some normative conclusions.
[Working paper] Philosophers occasionally invoke Lipsey and Lancaster's "general theory of second best" to challenge the ideal guidance view, the view that ideal political principles can provide normative guidelines for our efforts to address injustice amidst unfavorable circumstances. Roughly, the theorem says: if certain conditions are met, then what we should do in nonideal circumstances does not necessarily approximate what we should do in ideal circumstances. But extant challenges to the ideal guidance view are based on mistaken interpretations of (...) the theorem's antecedent condition. I show that, once we understand the antecedent condition correctly, the theory of second best does not present as tough a challenge to the ideal guidance view as is typically believed. (shrink)
This article generalizes the explanationist account of inference to the best explanation (IBE). It draws a clear distinction between IBE and abduction and presents abduction as the first step of IBE. The second step amounts to the evaluation of explanatory power, which consist in the degree of explanatory virtues that a hypothesis exhibits. Moreover, even though coherence is the most often cited explanatory virtue, on pain of circularity, it should not be treated as one of the explanatory virtues. Rather, (...) coherence should be equated with explanatory power and considered to be derivable from the other explanatory virtues: unification, explanatory depth and simplicity. (shrink)
This article discusses how inference to the best explanation (IBE) can be justified as a practical meta-argument. It is, firstly, justified as a practical argument insofar as accepting the best explanation as true can be shown to further a specific aim. And because this aim is a discursive one which proponents can rationally pursue in—and relative to—a complex controversy, namely maximising the robustness of one’s position, IBE can be conceived, secondly, as a meta-argument. My analysis thus bears a (...) certain analogy to Sellars’ well-known justification of inductive reasoning (Sellars, In: Essays in honour of Carl G. Hempel, 1969); it is based on recently developed theories of complex argumentation (Betz, In: Theorie dialektischer Strukturen, 2010a). (shrink)
In his early lecture note Versuch einiger Betrachtungen über den Optimismus (1759) a young supporter of metaphysical optimism called Immanuel Kant tested the Leibnizian optimism by posing some counter-arguments against it only to falsify them. His counter-arguments were very inventive and they feature often in modern scholarship on Leibniz. In this paper I will present Kant’s main arguments and evaluate them. I will argue that Kant’s understanding on Leibnizian optimism is little misguided and for this reason his own positive counter-argument (...) despite its ingeniousness is problematic. His second solution to the problem is comparable to the doctrine of metaphysical optimism, but fails also for the same reason as the first one. -/- . (shrink)
[Susan Hurley] I argue that the aim to neutralize the influence of luck on distribution cannot provide a basis for egalitarianism: it can neither specify nor justify an egalitarian distribution. Luck and responsibility can play a role in determining what justice requires to be redistributed, but from this we cannot derive how to distribute: we cannot derive a pattern of distribution from the 'currency' of distributive justice. I argue that the contrary view faces a dilemma, according to whether it (...) understands luck in interpersonal or counterfactual terms. /// [Richard J. Arneson] Does it make sense to hold that, if it is bad that some people are worse off than others, it is worse if those who are worse off come to be so through sheer bad luck that it is beyond their power to control? In her contribution to this symposium, Susan Hurley cautions against a closely related fallacy: from the fact that people have come to an unequal condition through unchosen bad luck, it does not follow that, if we aim to undo the influence of unchosen luck, we ought to institute equality of condition. Forswearing the fallacy that Hurley analyses is compatible with answering the question affirmatively, and more generally with holding that principles of distributive justice should be sensitive to the distinction between chosen and unchosen bad luck. This essay explores how this might be done. (shrink)
Perhaps the most troubling medical decisionmaking cases facing state courts involve serious health care decisions for persons with severe or profound mental retardation. Existing legal standards such as substituted judgment and best interests limit or skew relevant information. As an alternative, a best respect legal standard would prod decision makers to exhaust additional sources of information before making a surrogate medical decision. Such a legal standard also offers a more complete approach to all surrogate medical decisions.
Conventional wisdom and commonsense morality tend to take the integrity of persons for granted. But for people in systematically unjust societies, self-respect and human dignity may prove to be impossible dreams.Susan Babbitt explores the implications of this insight, arguing that in the face of systemic injustice, individual and social rationality may require the transformation rather than the realization of deep-seated aims, interests, and values. In particular, under such conditions, she argues, the cultivation and ongoing exercise of moral imagination is (...) necessary to discover and defend a more humane social vision. Impossible Dreams is one of those rare books that fruitfully combines discourses that were previously largely separate: feminist and antiracist political theory, analytic ethics and philosophy of mind, and a wide range of non-philosophical literature on the lives of oppressed peoples around the world. It is both an object lesson in reaching across academic barriers and a demonstration of how the best of feminist philosophy can be in conversation with the best of “mainstream” philosophy—as well as affect the lives of real people. (shrink)
According to the knowledge argument, physicalism fails because when physically omniscient Mary first sees red, her gain in phenomenal knowledge involves a gain in factual knowledge. Thus not all facts are physical facts. According to the ability hypothesis, the knowledge argument fails because Mary only acquires abilities to imagine, remember and recognise redness, and not new factual knowledge. I argue that reducing Mary’s new knowledge to abilities does not affect the issue of whether she also learns factually: I show that (...) gaining specific new phenomenal knowledge is required for acquiring abilities of the relevant kind. Phenomenal knowledge being basic to abilities, and not vice versa, it is left an open question whether someone who acquires such abilities also learns something factual. The answer depends on whether the new phenomenal knowledge involved is factual. But this is the same question we wanted to settle when first considering the knowledge argument. The ability hypothesis, therefore, has offered us no dialectical progress with the knowledge argument, and is best forgotten. (shrink)
Metaethical—or, more generally, metanormative—realism faces a serious epistemological challenge. Realists owe us—very roughly speaking—an account of how it is that we can have epistemic access to the normative truths about which they are realists. This much is, it seems, uncontroversial among metaethicists, myself included. But this is as far as the agreement goes, for it is not clear—nor uncontroversial—how best to understand the challenge, what the best realist way of coping with it is, and how successful this attempt (...) is. In this paper I try, first, to present the challenge in its strongest version, and second, to show how realists—indeed, robust realists—can cope with it. The strongest version of the challenge is, I argue, that of explaining the correlation between our normative beliefs and the independent normative truths. And I suggest an evolutionary explanation (of a pre-established harmony kind) as a way of solving it. (shrink)
(Pdf updated to final, slightly revised version of November 2010) -/- Almost everyone would prefer to lead a meaningful life. But what is meaning in life and what makes a life meaningful? I argue, first, for a new analysis of the concept of meaningfulness in terms of the appropriateness of feelings of fulfilment and admiration. Second, I argue that while the best current conceptions of meaningfulness, such as Susan Wolf’s view that in a meaningful life ‘subjective attraction meets (...) objective attractiveness’, do a fairly good job capturing meaningfulness at a time, we need an account that makes sense of the intimate connection between meaningfulness and having a direction in one’s life. According to the Teleological View I propose, what makes a single chapter of a life most meaningful is success in reaching central, objectively valuable goals as a result of exercising essential human capacities. Life as a whole is most meaningful when past efforts increase the success of future goal-setting, goal-seeking, and goal-reaching, so that the life forms a coherent whole without being dedicated to a single aim. Since coherence in this sense is a holistic property of a life, global prudential value is not a function of local prudential values. I suggest that just as pleasure is the final good of human beings as subjects of experience, meaningfulness is the final good of human beings as active agents. (shrink)
How do we go about weighing evidence, testing hypotheses, and making inferences? The model of "inference to the best explanation" (IBE) -- that we infer the hypothesis that would, if correct, provide the best explanation of the available evidence--offers a compelling account of inferences both in science and in ordinary life. Widely cited by epistemologists and philosophers of science, IBE has nonetheless remained little more than a slogan. Now this influential work has been thoroughly revised and updated, and (...) features a new introduction and two new chapters. Inference to the Best Explanation is an unrivaled exposition of a theory of particular interest in the fields both of epistemology and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
I argue against the tendency in the philosophy of science literature to link abduction to the inference to the best explanation (IBE), and in particular, to claim that Peircean abduction is a conceptual predecessor to IBE. This is not to discount either abduction or IBE. Rather the purpose of this paper is to clarify the relation between Peircean abduction and IBE in accounting for ampliative inference in science. This paper aims at a proper classification—not justification—of types of scientific reasoning. (...) In particular, I claim that Peircean abduction is an in-depth account of the process of generating explanatory hypotheses, while IBE, at least in Peter Lipton’s thorough treatment, is a more encompassing account of the processes both of generating and of evaluating scientific hypotheses. There is then a two-fold problem with the claim that abduction is IBE. On the one hand, it conflates abduction and induction, which are two distinct forms of logical inference, with two distinct aims, as shown by Charles S. Peirce; on the other hand it lacks a clear sense of the full scope of IBE as an account of scientific inference. (shrink)
It is common for contemporary metaphysical realists to adopt Quine's criterion of ontological commitment while at the same time repudiating his ontological pragmatism. 2 Drawing heavily from the work of others—especially Joseph Melia and Stephen Yablo—I will argue that the resulting approach to meta-ontology is unstable. In particular, if we are metaphysical realists, we need not accept ontological commitment to whatever is quantified over by our best first-order theories.
"Be All You Can Be," the Army recruiting poster urges young men and women. Many parents share the sentiment. They want their children to be the best they can be. For many parents, their most important project in life is to pursue that goal, and they make sacrifices to see it happen. And why shouldn't parents aim to make their offspring the best they can be?
In a situation in which several explanations compete, is the one that is better qua explanation also the one we should regard as the more likely to be true? Realists usually answer in the affirmative. They then go on to argue that since realism provides the best explanation for the success of science, realism can be inferred to. Nonrealists, on the other hand, answer the above question in the negative, thereby renouncing the inference to realism. In this paper I (...) separate the two issues. In the first section it is argued that a rationale can be provided for the inference to the best explanation; in the second, that this rationale cannot justify an inference to realism. The defence of the inference rests on the claim that our standards of explanatory power are subject to critical examination, which, in turn, should be informed by empirical considerations. By means of a comparison of the realist's explanation for the success of science with that of conventionalism and instrumentalism it is then shown that realism does not offer a superior explanation and should not, therefore, be inferred to. (shrink)
I argue that law is not best considered an essentially contested concept. After first explaining the notion of essential contestability and disaggregating the concept of law into several related concepts, I show that the most basic and general concept of law does not fit within the criteria generally offered for essential contestation. I then buttress this claim with the additional explanation that essential contestation is itself a framework for understanding complex concepts and therefore should only be applied when it (...) is useful to gain a greater understanding of uses of the concept to which it is applied (adducing criteria for making such judgments of usefulness). With that in mind, I then show that applying the appellation of essential contestation to the concept of law does not helpfully illuminate the most general concept of law (usually of most interest to legal philosophers) and therefore it should not be used, while allowing that it might be more useful for the related concept of the rule of law. (shrink)
In his work on the epistemology of testimony, Peter Lipton developed an account of testimonial inference that aimed at descriptive adequacy as well as justificatory sophistication. According to „testimonial inference to the best explanation‟ (TIBE), we accept what a speaker tells us because the truth of her claim figures in the best explanation of the fact that she made it. In the present paper, I argue for a modification of this picture. In particular, I argue that IBE plays (...) a dual role in the management and justification of testimony. On the one hand, the coherence and success of our testimony-based projects provides general abductive support for a default stance of testimonial acceptance; on the other hand, we are justified in rejecting specific testimonial claims whenever the best explanation of the instances of testimony we encounter entails, or makes probable, the falsity or unreliability of the testimony in question. (shrink)
We ought to perform our best option—that is, the option that we have most reason, all things considered, to perform. This is perhaps the most fundamental and least controversial of all normative principles concerning action. Yet, it is not, I believe, well understood. For even setting aside questions about what our options are and what our reasons are, there are prior questions concerning how best to formulate the principle. In this paper, I address these questions. One of the (...) more interesting upshots of this inquiry is that the deontic statuses (e.g., obligatory, optional, and impermissible) of individual actions are determined by the deontic statuses of the larger sets of actions of which they are a part. And, as I show, this has a number of interesting implications both for normative theory and for our understanding of practical reasons. (shrink)
In this article I explore Leibniz's claim in the Theodicy that on the essential points Malebranche's theodicy "reduces to" his own view. This judgment may seem to be warranted given that both thinkers emphasize that evils are justified by the fact that they follow from the simple and uniform laws that govern that world which is worthy of divine creation. However, I argue that Leibniz's theodicy differs in several crucial respects from Malebranche's. I begin with a qualified endorsement of Charles (...) Larmore's recent claim that remarks in Malebranche's correspondence with Leibniz indicate that their theodicies rely on incompatible conceptions of the moral rationality of divine action. I also attempt to go beyond Larmore's discussion in highlighting further differences concerning the sort of freedom involved in the divine act of creation. My conclusion is that these differing conceptions of divine morality and divine freedom reveal that in contrast to the case of Leibniz, Malebranche's theodicy not only does not require that God create anything at all, but also is compatible with the result that the world he decides to create is not uniquely the best possible. (shrink)
Van Fraassen (1989) argues that Inference to the Best Explanation is incoherent in the sense that adopting it as a rule for belief change will make one susceptible to a dynamic Dutch book. The present paper argues against this. A strategy is described that allows us to infer to the best explanation free of charge.
Given Quine's views on philosophical methodology, he should not have taken the axioms of classical mereology to be "self-evident", or "analytic"; but rather, he should have set out to justify them by what might be broadly called an "inference to the best explanation". He does very little to this end. In particular, he does little to examine alternative theories, to see if there might be anything they could explain better than classical mereology can. I argue that there is something (...) important that needs to be explained, namely, the way that properties "travel around in clusters" (eg. we often know that "when and where there is something with such-and-such property, there is also something with so-and-so other property", and so on). I argue that these clusterings of properties can be given various subtle (broadly "commonsense") explanations using a version of mereology that denies the classical axiom of "extensionality" (that is, denying that two distinct things must have distinct parts). I offer a challenge to the Quinean metaphysics: to show that these "non-extensional" explanations can be replaced by better explanations that use only classical, extensional mereology and set theory. (shrink)
Niiniluoto (2003) has offered an incisive and comprehensive review of the recent debates about abduction. There is little on which I disagree with him. So, in this commentary, I shall try to cast some doubts to the attempts to render Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) within a Bayesian framework.
Theory theorists conceive of social cognition as a theoretical and observational enterprise rather than a practical and interactive one. According to them, we do our best to explain other people's actions and mental experience by appealing to folk psychology as a kind of rule book that serves to guide our observations through our puzzling encounters with others. Seemingly, for them, most of our encounters count as puzzling, and other people are always in need of explanation. By contrast, simulation theorists (...) do their best to avoid the theoretical stance by using their own experience as the measure of everyone else's. When it comes to explaining how we understand other people some of the very best contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists are simulationists. For example, Vittorio Gallese, Alvin Goldman, Robert Gordon, Jane Heal, Susan Hurley, and Marc Jeannerod. This short list of simulationists, however, already involves some problems. Not everyone on this list understands simulation in the same way. In effect, there are different simulation theories, and although it is important to distinguish them, and I will do so before I go much further, I will in the end argue against all of them. For several reasons I don't think that the concept of simulation explains our primary and pervasive way of understanding others, any more than theory theory does. (shrink)
Perhaps the most significant contemporary theory of lawhood is the Best System (/MRL) view on which laws are true generalizations that best systematize knowledge. Our question in this paper will be how best to formulate a theory of this kind. We’ll argue that an acceptable MRL should (i) avoid inter-system comparisons of simplicity, strength, and balance, (ii) make lawhood epistemically accessible, and (iii) allow for laws in the special sciences. Attention to these problems will bring into focus (...) a useful menu of novel MRL theories, some of which solve problems the original MRL theory could not. Hence we conceive of the paper as moving toward a better Best System theory of laws. (shrink)
Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues to (...) Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the best explanation (IBE) does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This paper discusses the nature and the status of inference to the best explanation (IBE). We (1) outline the foundational role given IBE by its defenders and the arguments of critics who deny it any place at all; (2) argue that, on the two main conceptions of explanation, IBE cannot be a foundational inference rule; (3) sketch an account of IBE that makes it contextual and dependent on substantive empirical assumptions, much as simplicity seems to be; (4) show how (...) that account avoids the critics' complaints and leaves IBE an important role; and (5) sketch how our account can clarify debates over IBE in arguments for scientific realism. (shrink)
Defences of inference to the best explanation (IBE) frequently associate IBE with scientific realism, the idea that it is reasonable to believe our best scientific theories. I argue that this linkage is unfortunate. IBE does not warrant belief, since the fact that a theory is the best available explanation does not show it to be (even probably) true. What IBE does warrant is acceptance: taking a proposition as a premise in theoretical and/or practical reasoning. We ought to (...) accept our best scientific theories since they are the theories that are most likely to lead to the goal of science, which is that of knowledge. In support of this claim I invoke Bill Lycan's Panglossian reflections regarding Mother Nature.1. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that if one closely follows Hobbes' line of reasoning in Leviathan, in particular his distinction between the second and the third law of nature, and the logic of his contractarian theory, then Hobbes' state of nature is best translated into the language of game theory by an assurance game, and not by a one-shot or iterated prisoner's dilemma game, nor by an assurance dilemma game. Further, I support Hobbes' conclusion that the sovereign must always (...) punish the Foole, and even exclude her from the cooperative framework or take her life, if she defects once society is established, which is best expressed in the language of game theory by a grim strategy. That is, compared to existing game-theoretic interpretations of Hobbes, I argue that the sovereign plays a grim strategy with the citizens once society is established, and not the individuals with one another in the state of nature. (shrink)
This paper focuses on a combination of the antiskeptical strategies offered by semantic externalism and the inference to the best explanation. I argue that the most difficult problems of the two strategies can be solved, if the strategies are combined: The strategy offered by semantic externalism is successful against standard skeptical brain-in-a-vat arguments. But the strategy is ineffective, if the skeptical argument is referring to the recent-envatment scenario. However, by focusing on the scenario of recent envatment the most difficult (...) problems of the antiskeptical strategy posed by the inference to the best explanation can be solved. The most difficult problems with this strategy are: (1) Why is an explanation of our experience offered by the skeptical hypothesis more complex than our standard explanation? (2) Why is the more complex explanation less likely to be true? By focussing on the recent envatment hypothesis both questions can be answered satisfactorily. Therefore, the combination of semantic externalism and the inference to the best explanation yields a powerful antiskeptical argument. (shrink)
Alva Noë is a modern-day empiricist. His book Action in Perception is chockablock with contemporary cognitive science; its preface and notes (not to mention general erudition) point to on-going collaboration with Evan Thompson, Kevin O’Regan, and Susan Hurley. Their research investigates the sensorimotor bases of consciousness, and Action in Perception is offered as its philosophical backdrop. As such, the book presents a series of ideas and interpretations that constitute what Noë calls the “enactive approach” to perception, many of which (...) are explicitly phenomenological in orientation. So those on the lookout for imaginative philosophy of mind will find Noë's work particularly compelling. (Noë would prefer "already feeling about for imaginative philosophy of mind," because on his account paradigmatic perceptual activity is tactile rather than visual.) In this review I will not address the empirical details concerning Noë and his compatriots, but will instead focus on the way Noë’s enactive approach should be situated vis-à-vis traditional phenomenology. Action in Perception is part of the grand project of a robustly scientific knowledge of human perceptual experience, but it is clearly also a philosophical theory, so I will address it philosophically. I address it as I take it to be: one of the best works in the philosophy of perception to appear in a very long time. (shrink)
William Rowe and others argue that if ours is a possible world than which there is a better, it follows that God does not exist. If this is correct, then if there is no best possible world, it is not so much as possible that God exist. I reject the key premise of Rowe's argument. The key to seeing that it is false, I suggest, is seeing that God is subject to something fairly called moral luck. In this first (...) part of the article, I set up Rowe's argument, indicate my strategy, introduce the notion of moral luck and show how it bears on Rowe's claims. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to review critically Julian Savulescu's principle of 'Procreative Beneficence,' which holds that prospective parents are morally obligated to select, of the possible children they could have, those with the greatest chance of leading the best life. According to this principle, prospective parents are obliged to use the technique of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select for the 'best' embryos, a decision that ought to be made based on the presence or absence of (...) both disease traits and non-disease traits such as intelligence. While several articles have been written in response to Savulescu's principle, none has systematically explored its philosophical underpinnings to demonstrate where it breaks down. In this paper I argue that the examples that Savulescu employs to support his theory in fact fail to justify it. He presents these examples as analogous to PGD, when in fact they differ from it in subtle but morally relevant ways. Specifically, Savulescu fails to acknowledge the fact that his examples evoke deontological and virtue ethics concerns that are absent in the context of PGD. These differences turn out to be crucial, so that, in the end, the analogies bear little support for his theory. Finally, I lay out the implications of this analysis for reproductive ethics. (shrink)
Inference to the Best Explanation has become the subject of a livelydebate in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists maintain, while scientificantirealists deny, that it is a compelling rule of inference. It seems that anyattempt to settle this debate empirically must beg the question against theantirealist. The present paper argues that this impression is misleading. A methodis described that, by combining Glymour''s theory of bootstrapping and Hacking''sarguments from microscopy, allows us to test IBE without begging any antirealistissues.
Evolutionary psychology is a science in the making, working toward the goal of showing how psychological adaptation underlies much human behavior. The knee-jerk reaction that sociobiology is unscientific because it tells just-so stories has become a common charge against evolutionary psychology as well. My main positive thesis is that inference to the best explanation is a proper method for evolutionary analyses, and it supplies a new perspective on the issues raised in Schlinger's (1996) just-so story critique. My main negative (...) thesis is that, like many nonevolutionist critics, Schlinger's objections arise from misunderstandings of the evolutionary approach.Evolutionary psychology has progressed beyond telling just-so stories. It has found a host of ingenious special techniques to test hypotheses about the adaptive significance and proximate mechanisms of behavior. Naturalistic data using the comparative method combined with controlled tests using statistical analyses of data provide good evidence for a variety of hypotheses about behavioral control mechanisms — whether in nonhumans or in humans. For instance, the work of Gangestad and Thornhill on evolved mate preferences and fluctuating asymmetry of body type (FA) is a model of success. As the quantity and quality of evidence increase, we are entitled not just to regard such evolutionary hypotheses as preferable, but also as true. Such studies combine to show that the best explanation of the psychic unity of humankind — common patterns across societies, history, and cultures exposed by evolutionists — is the gendered, adapted, evolved species-typical design of the mind. (shrink)
Plato presents a hierarchy of five cities, each representing a structural arrangement of the soul. The timocratic soul, characterized by its governance by spirit and its consequent desire for esteem and aversion to shame, is ranked as the second-best kind of soul, though this should strike us as surprising since the timocratic figure would seem to be duplicitous, intellectually passive, and at the mercy of the fortuitous opinions of others. This timocrat's position thus raises problems concerning the intrinsic value (...) of the spirited part of the soul, problems that are best solved by comparing the auxiliary to the timocrat, both of whom represent different forms of second-best morality. A lengthy discussion of the early education's effect on the spirited part shows how the auxiliary represents the best kind of moral agent that the second-best nature (silver-souled individuals) can develop into. This is because the early education ensures that the auxiliary and the philosopher share the same basic structure of soul, with reason being in control of each, though the auxiliary's natural deficiencies create some limitations in terms of his or her moral self-sufficiency. The timocrat by contrast represents the second-best kind of moral agent that the best nature (gold-souled individuals) can develop into. The timocrat is morally inferior to the auxiliary and seems to embody Homeric shame-culture. Plato is critical of this approach to morality, but the timocrat justifiably occupies the second position in the hierarchy on account of his or her concern for the opinions of others. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us Digg Reddit Technorati What's this? (shrink)
According to one influential view, advanced by Jonathan Adler, David Owens and Susan Hurley, epistemic akrasia is impossible because when we form a full belief, any apparent evidence against that belief loses its power over us. Thus theoretical reasoning is quite unlike practical reasoning, in that in the latter our desires continue to exert a pull, even when they are outweighed by countervailing considerations. I call this argument against the possibility of epistemic akrasia the subsumption view. The subsumption view (...) accurately reflects the nature of reasoning in a range of everyday cases. But, as I show, it is quite false with regard to controversial questions, like philosophical disputes. In these, evidence against our best judgments continues to exert a hold on us. Thus, the claimed disanalogy between practical and theoretical reasoning fails. (shrink)
I defend a realist commitment to the truth of our most empirically successful current scientific theories—on the ground that it provides the best explanation of their success and the success of their falsified predecessors. I argue that this Best Current Theory Realism (BCTR) is superior to preservative realism (PR) and the structural realism (SR). I show that PR and SR rest on the implausible assumption that the success of outdated theories requires the realist to hold that these theories (...) possessed truthful components. PR is undone by the fact that past theories succeeded even though their ontological claims about unobservables are false. SR backpeddles to argue that the realist is only committed to the truth about the structure of relations implied by the outdated theory, in order to explain its success. I argue that the structural component of theories is too bare-bones thin to explain the predictive/explanatory success of outdated theories. I conclude that BCTR can meet these objections to PR and SR, and also overcome the pessimistic meta-induction. (shrink)
This paper considers how we decide whether to believe what we are told. Inference to the Best Explanation, a popular general account of non-demonstrative reasoning, is applied to this task. The core idea of this application is that we believe what we are told when the truth of what we are told would figure in the best explanation of the fact that we were told it. We believe the fact uttered when it is part of the best (...) explanation of the fact of utterance. Having provided some articulation of this account of testimonial inference, the paper goes on to consider whether the account is informative and whether it is plausible. (shrink)
I present a novel argument for the position that a morally unsurpassable God must create the best world that He has the power to create. I show that grace-based considerations of the sort proposed by Robert Adams neither refute my argument nor establish that a morally unsurpassable God need not create the best. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of my argument for the ‘no-best-world’ response to the problem of evil. (Published Online February 17 2004).
It is well known that the process of scientific inquiry, according to Peirce, is drivenby three types of inference, namely abduction, deduction, and induction. What isbehind these labels is, however, not so clear. In particular, the common identificationof abduction with Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) begs the question,since IBE appears to be covered by Peirce's concept of induction, not that of abduction.Consequently, abduction ought to be distinguished from IBE, at least on Peirce's account. The main aim of the (...) paper, however, is to show that this distinction is most relevant with respect to current problems in philosophy of science and epistemology (like attempts to supply suitable notions of realism and truth as well as related concepts like coherence and unification). In particular, I also try to show that (and in what way) Peirce's inferential triad can function as a method that ensures both coherence and correspondence. It is in this respect that his careful distinction between abduction and induction (or IBE) ought to be heeded. (shrink)
Leibniz argued that God would not create a world unless it was the best possible world. I defend Leibniz’s argument. I then consider whether God could refrain from creating if there were no best possible world. I argue that God, on pain of contradiction, could not refrain from creating in such a situation. I conclude that either this is the best possible world or God is not our creator.
This volume gathers eleven new and three previously unpublished essays that take on questions of epistemic justification, responsibility, and virtue. It contains the best recent work in this area by major figures such as Ernest Sosa, Robert Audi, Alvin Goldman, and Susan Haak.
This paper considers an application of work on probabilistic measures of coherence to inference to the best explanation (IBE). Rather than considering information reported from different sources, as is usually the case when discussing coherence measures, the approach adopted here is to use a coherence measure to rank competing explanations in terms of their coherence with a piece of evidence. By adopting such an approach IBE can be made more precise and so a major objection to this mode of (...) reasoning can be addressed. Advantages of the coherence-based approach are pointed out by comparing it with several other ways to characterize ‘best explanation’ and showing that it takes into account their insights while overcoming some of their problems. The consequences of adopting this approach for IBE are discussed in the context of recent discussions about the relationship between IBE and Bayesianism. (shrink)
Inference to the Best Explanation and Bayesianism have both been proposed as descriptions of the way that people make inferences. This paper argues that one result from cognitive psychology, the "feminist bank teller" experiment, suggests that people use Inference to the Best Explanation rather than Bayesian techniques.
Susan Haack presents a striking and appealing figure in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. In spite of British birth and education, she appears to bridge the gap between analytic philosophy and American pragmatism, with its more diverse influences and sources. Well known for her writings in the philosophy of logic and epistemology, she fuses something of the hard-headed debunking style of a Bertrand Russell with a lively interest in Peirce, James and Dewey.
Consider Susan Hurley's depiction of mainstream views of the mind: "The mind is a kind of sandwich, and cognition is the filling" (p. 401). This particular sandwich (with perception as the bottom loaf and action as the top loaf) tastes foul to Hurley, who devotes most of "Consciousness in Action" to a systematic and sometimes extraordinarily detailed critique of what has otherwise been dubbed "classical" models of the mind. This critique then provides the basis for her alternative proposal, in (...) which perception, action and environment are deeply intertwined. (shrink)
Susan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why it Matters Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s10677-011-9321-8 Authors Simon Derpmann, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Philosophisches Seminar, Domplatz 23, 48143 Münster, Germany Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Online ISSN 1572-8447 Print ISSN 1386-2820.
In a remark written sometime between 1933 and 1943, Wittgenstein suggests that philosophy ought really to be written as one “writes a poem.” Around this time he also talks of simile as the “best thing” in philosophy. In this paper I consider what it would mean to take such claims seriously. Through examining newly discovered material from the (unpublished) Skinner manuscripts (MSS), I offer an analysis of Wittgenstein's approach to literary techniques (broadly conceived) and see how this impacts on (...) his conception of philosophy. (shrink)
There is good reason to suppose that our best physical theories are false: In addition to its own internal problems, the standard formulation of quantum mechanics is logically incompatible with special relativity. I will also argue that we have no concrete idea what it means to claim that these theories are approximately true.
The Argument from Inferiority holds that our world cannot be the creation of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being; for if it were, it would be the best of all possible worlds, which evidently it is not. We argue that this argument rests on an implausible principle concerning which worlds it is permissible for an omnipotent being to create: roughly, the principle that such a being ought not to create a non-best world. More specifically, we argue that this principle (...) is plausible only if we assume that there is a best element in the set of all possible worlds. However, as we show, there are conceivable scenarios in which that assumption does not hold. (shrink)
This paper formulates what I think is the basic problem of any attempt to characterise the abstract structure of scientific method, viz., that it has to satisfy two conflicting desiderata: it should be ampliative (contentincreasing) and it should confer epistemic warrant on its outcomes. Then, after two extreme solutions to the problem of the method, viz., Enumerative Induction and the Method of Hypothesis, are examined, the paper argues that abduction, suitably understood as Inference to the Best Explanation, offers the (...)best description of scientific method and solves the foregoing problem in the best way: it strikes the best balance between ampliation and epistemic warrant. (shrink)
14. Forthcoming. 'The Best of All Possible Worlds' (PDF file) (with Campbell Brown), Synthese (Kluwer). The Argument from Inferiority holds that our world cannot be the creation of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being; for if it were, it would be the best of all possible worlds, which evidently it is not. We argue that this argument rests on an implausible principle concerning which worlds it is permissible for an omnipotent being to create: roughly, the principle that such a (...) being ought not to create a non-best world. More specifically, we argue that this principle is plausible only if we assume that there is a best element in the set of all possible worlds. However, as we show, there are conceivable scenarios in which that assumption does not hold. (shrink)
An approach to inference to the best explanation integrating a Popperianconception of natural laws together with a modified Hempelian account of explanation, one the one hand, and Hacking's law of likelihood (in its nomicguise), on the other, which provides a robust abductivist model of sciencethat appears to overcome the obstacles that confront its inductivist,deductivist, and hypothetico-deductivist alternatives.This philosophy of scienceclarifies and illuminates some fundamental aspects of ontology and epistemology, especially concerning the relations between frequencies and propensities. Among the most (...) important elements of this conception is thecentral role of degrees of nomic expectability in explanation, prediction,and inference, for which this investigation provides a theoretical defense. (shrink)
In an article previously published in this journal, Phillip Montague critically surveys and rejects a handful of contemporary attempts to explain why state punishment is morally justified. Among those targeted is one of my defences of the censure theory of punishment, according to which state punishment is justified because the political community has a duty to express disapproval of those guilty of injustice. My defence of censure theory supposes, per argumentum, that there is always some defeasible moral reason for the (...) state to proportionately punish the guilty, and then demonstrates that censure theory best entails and explains this intuition. Montague does not question the intuition, but instead argues that three rival theories of punishment, including his societal-defence view, account for it to no worse a degree than my censure theory. In this article I defend my initial argument, noting resources for its defence that Montague does not appreciate and that, I maintain, provide those who believe that there is always pro tanto injustice in the state failing to proportionately punish the guilty reason to adopt censure theory over all competitors, including Montagueâs societal-defence theory. (shrink)
Opponents of inference to the best explanation often raise the objection that theories that give us the best explanation of some phenomena need not be the most probable ones. And they are certainly right. But what can we conclude from this insight? Should we ban abduction from theory choice and work instead, for example, with a Bayesian approach? This would be a mistake brought about by a certain misapprehension of the epistemological task. We have to think about the (...) real aims of epistemology and scientific practice in order to see that we are not primarily interested in the most probable theories but in explanatory ones leading to a coherent model of our world. (shrink)
Various proposals have suggested that an adequate explanatory theory should reduce the number or the cardinality of the set of logically independent claims that need be accepted in order to entail a body of data. A (and perhaps the only) well-formed proposal of this kind is William Kneale’s: an explanatory theory should be finitely axiomatizable but it’s set of logical consequences in the data language should not be finitely axiomatizable. Craig and Vaught showed that Kneale theories (almost) always exist for (...) any recursively enumerable but not finitely axiomatizable set of data sentences in a first order language with identity. Kneale’s criterion underdetermines explanation even given all possible data in the data language; gratuitous axioms may be “tacked on.” Define a Kneale theory, T, to be logically minimal if it is deducible from every Kneale theory (in the vocabulary of T) that entails the same statements in the data language as does T. If they exist, minimal Kneale theories are candidates for best explanations: they are “bold” in a sense close to Popper’s; some minimal Kneale theory is true if any Kneale theory is true; the minimal Kneale theory that is data equivalent to any given Kneale theory is unique; and no Kneale theory is more probable than some minimal Kneale theory. I show that under the Craig-Vaught conditions, no minimal Kneale theories exist. (shrink)
The quantitative argument against the notion of a best possible world claims that, no matter how many worthwhile lives a world contains, another world contains more and is, other things being equal, better. Parfit’s ‘ Mere Addition Paradox ’ suggests that defenders of this argument must accept his ‘ Repugnant Conclusion ’ : that outcomes containing billions upon billions of lives barely worth living are better than outcomes containing fewer lives of higher quality. Several responses to the Paradox are (...) discussed and rejected as either inadequate or unavailable in a theistic context. The quantitative argument fails if some world is such that addition to it is not possible, i.e., if it is intensively infinite, as Liebniz claimed. If the notion of such a world is incoherent, then no world is quantitatively best and the quantitative argument succeeds, but only at the cost of embracing the Repugnant Conclusion. (shrink)
David Lewis[ii] has long defended an account of scientific law acceptable even to an empiricist with significant metaphysical scruples. On this account, the laws are defined to be the consequences of the best system for axiomitizing all occurrent fact. Here "best system" means the set of sentences which yields the best combination of strength of descriptive content[iii] with simplicity of exposition. And occurrent facts, the facts to be systematized, are roughly the particular facts about a localized space-time (...) region that are non-modal, non-dispositional, and non-causal. (shrink)
Federal efforts beginning in the 1990's have successfully increased pediatric research to improve medical care for all children. Since 1997, the FDA has requested 800 pediatric studies involving 45,000 children. Much of this research is "non-beneficial"; that is, it exposes pediatric subjects to risk even though these children will not benefit from participating in the research. Non-beneficial pediatric research (NBPR) seems, by definition, contrary to the best interests of pediatric subjects, which is why one state supreme court has essentially (...) prohibited it. It also appears that the only plausible rationale for this research is utilitarian, as it risks some children for the good of all. But that rationale is troubling. This Article answers two related questions: (1) What is the appropriate legal relationship between NBPR and the "best interests of the child" standard? (2) What is the ethical justification for this research? I argue that courts should hold that the "best interests" standard governs pediatric research. But, contrary to existing case law, courts must consider the benefits to each child, including pediatric subjects, from a policy that permits NBPR, and not simply consider that a non-beneficial protocol presents more risk than potential benefit to a child. Moreover, I argue that the justification for the practice need not be utilitarian. There is no need to appeal to the greater good to justify the research because each child has reason to endorse a policy permitting NBPR where there is a very low ceiling on acceptable risk, and each child has reason to participate in a practice from which she benefits. More controversially, I argue that each child, like other persons, has reason to help others when she can do so at little to no cost to herself. The Article then highlights practical implications of the offered justifications. (shrink)
Peter Lipton has attempted to flesh out a model of Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) by clarifying explanation in terms of a causal model. But Lipton's account of explanation makes an adequate explanation depend on a principle which is virtually identical to Mill's Method of Difference. This has the result of collapsing IBE on Lipton's account of it into causal inference as conceived by the Causal-Inference model of induction. According to this model, many of our inductions are inferences (...) from effects to their probable causes, and Mill's Methods are canons to guide such inferences. Thus, Lipton's account of IBE fails to represent an advance over the already familiar Causal-Inference Model of induction. (shrink)
David Lewis's best-system analysis of laws of nature is perhaps the best known sophisticated regularity theory of laws. Its strengths are widely recognized, even by some of its ablest critics. Yet it suffers from what appears to be a glaring weakness: It seems to grant an arbitrary privilege to the standards of our own scientific culture. I argue that by reformulating, or reinterpreting, Lewis's exposition of the best-system analysis, we arrive at a view that is free of (...) this weakness. The resulting theory of laws has the surprising consequence that the term "law of nature" is indexical. (shrink)
It is sometimes argued that if God were to exist, then the actual world would be the best possible world. However, given that the actual world is clearly not the best possible world, then God doesn’t exist. In response, some have argued that the world could always be improved with the creation of new people and that there is thus no best possible world. I argue that this reasoning gives rise to an instance of Parfit’s mere addition (...) paradox and should thus be rejected. Others (Robert Adams, in particular) have argued that the actual world may, in fact, be the best possible world, at least for all actual people. I argue that this reasoning gives rise to Parfit’s non-identity problem and should thus be rejected. (shrink)
In recent work on the foundations of statistical mechanics and the arrow of time, Barry Loewer and David Albert have developed a view that defends both a best system account of laws and a physicalist fundamentalism. I argue that there is a tension between their account of laws, which emphasizes the pragmatic element in assessing the relative strength of different deductive systems, and their reductivism or funda- mentalism. If we take the pragmatic dimension in their account seriously, then the (...) laws of the special sciences should be part of our best explanatory system of the world, as well. (shrink)
Andrews et al. effectively argue that, despite prominent criticism, adaptationism can be a viable research strategy. We agree. In our complementary commentary, we discuss the neglected method of inference to the best explanation and argue that it is a valuable addition to the adaptationist's methodological practice.
The first sentence of NE I.2 has roughly the form: "If A [there is a universal end] and B (because, if not-B, then C), then D [this end will be the best good]". According to some commentators, Aristotle uses B to infer A; but then the sentence is fallacious. According to other commentators, Aristotle does not use B (until later on); but then the sentence is bizarre. Contrary to both sets of commentators (but following Wedin 1981), I suggest that (...) Aristotle uses B together with A to infer validly that there is a non-instrumental -- and thus unique -- universal end (hence D). On this interpretation the above two problems disappear, but a subtler problem emerges: not-B does not entail C. (shrink)
The Last Best Hope Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s11007-012-9221-1 Authors Steven Crowell, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA Journal Continental Philosophy Review Online ISSN 1573-1103 Print ISSN 1387-2842.
This essay offers a critical appraisal of some claims recently advanced by Crispin Wright and others in support of a response-dispositional (RD) approach to issues in epistemology, ethics, political theory, and philosophy of the social sciences. These claims take a lead from Plato's discussion of the status of moral value-judgements in the Euthyphro and from Locke's account of 'secondary qualities' such as colour, texture and taste. The idea is that a suitably specified description of best opinion (or optimal response) (...) for some given area of discourse will provide all that is needed in the way of objectivity while avoiding the problems raised by anti-realists like Michael Dummett with respect to the existence of truth-values that transcend our utmost powers of recognition or verification. I focus on three main areas - mathematics, morals and constitutional law - and argue that an RD approach falls short in certain crucial respects. That is to say, it works out either as a trivial (tautological) claim to the effect that 'best judgement' cannot - per definiens - diverge from truth under conditions of idealized epistemic warrant, or as an approach that leans strongly towards the anti-realist side of the argument. Thus the promised 'third way' - here as in other present-day contexts of debate - most often carries no substantive implications for our thinking about truth, moral virtue, or justice. Elsewhere, especially when applied to juridical matters, it lays chief stress on the truth-constitutive role of human judgements or responses, and hence the impossibility of appealing to standards of natural justice beyond some existing highest authority or source of constitutional warrant. This point is made with specific reference to recent events surrounding the 'election' (or leverage-into-office) of President George W. Bush. In such cases, I conclude, an RD approach would tend strongly to endorse the view that 'best opinion' - as enshrined, say, in the deliverance of US Supreme Court justices - is the furthest we can get towards an adequate assessment of the moral and political issues. Key Words: anti-realism ethics judgement mathematics political theory realism response-dependence. (shrink)
The building and maintaining of a tolerant society requires both a general policy of toleration on the behalf of the state, as well as a minimal number of acts of intolerance by individual citizens towards their fellow citizens. It is this second area of citizen-citizen relations that is of most interest for education policy. There are those who argue that the best way to achieve a tolerant society is by encouraging, or even requiring, the respect and appreciation of difference (...) amongst a citizenry. In this paper I argue that using education to encourage the respect and appreciation of difference is deeply problematic for both adults and children. I argue that it is a poor servant of those whose differences it is meant to protect, and crucially that it cannot be justified on the key liberal premise of protecting the freedom of individuals to live their (non-harming) lives as they see fit. I conclude by putting forward the educational alternative of respecting the basic rights of citizens irrespective of your view of their differences. (shrink)
Individuals who become ill as a result of personal lifestyle choices often shift the monetary costs of their healthcare needs to the taxpaying public or to fellow members of a private insurance pool. Some argue that policies permitting such cost shifting are unfair. Arguments for this view may seem to draw support from luck egalitarian accounts of distributive justice. This essay argues that the luck egalitarian framework provides no such support. To allocate healthcare costs on the basis of personal responsibility (...) would arbitrarily and publicly burden socially detectable risk-takers while undetectable risk-takers continue to get a free ride. That problem is unavoidable even on the assumption that distributive institutions outside the healthcare sector are fully just. In actual, farfrom-just societies, imposing personal liability for the costs of voluntary risk taking would be wrong for an additional reason. Doing so would tend to magnify existing distributive injustices. These conclusions draw attention to two common ‘moral fallacies of the second best’ that can arise when applying ideal normative theory to matters of institutional design and in real-world policy contexts. (shrink)
In this paper I want to cast doubt on the claim that there is a legitimate process of reasoning to the best explanation which can serve as an alternative to either straightforward inductive reasoning or a combination of inductive and deductive reasoning. I shall argue a) that paradigmatic cases of acceptable arguments to the best explanation must be considered enthymemes and b) that when the suppressed premises are made explicit we have all of the premises we need to (...) present either a straightforward inductive argument or an argument employing both induction and deduction. (shrink)
Is it ever rational to believe that a scientific theory is even approximately true? The evidence, however extensive, will not entail the theory it supports: the grounds for belief always remain inductive. Consequently, the realist who holds that there can be rational grounds for belief remains hostage to wholesale Humean scepticism about induction. The Humean argument has yet to be conclusively turned, but that project is not my present concern. Instead, I propose to consider intermediate forms of scepticism which attempt (...) to show that, even if we grant scientists considerable inductive powers, rational belief in theory remains impossible. I will argue that some of these intermediate forms of scepticism are unstable, leading either back to radical Humean doubt or towards a moderate realism. I will focus especially on the argument from `underconsideration'. This argument has two premises. The ranking premise states that the testing of theories yields only a comparative warrant. Scientists can rank the competing theories they have generated with respect to likelihood of truth. The premise grants that this process is known to be highly reliable, so that the more probable theory is always ranked ahead of a less probable competitor and the truth, if it is among the theories generated, is likely to be ranked first, but the warrant remains comparative. In short, testing enables scientists to say which of the competing theories they have generated is likeliest to be correct, but does not itself reveal how likely the likeliest theory is. The second premise of the argument, the no-privilege premise, states that scientists have no reason to suppose that the process by which they generate theories for testing makes it likely that a true theory will be among those generated. It always remains possible that the truth lies rather among those theories nobody has considered, and there is no way of judging how likely this is. The conclusion of the argument is that, while the best of the.... (shrink)
In the space of possible worlds, there might be a best possible world (a uniquely best world or a world tied for best with some other worlds). Or, instead, for every possible world, there might be a better possible world. Suppose that the latter is true, i.e., that there is no best world. Many have thought that there is then an argument against the existence of God, i.e., the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect (...) being; we will call such arguments no-best-world arguments . In this paper, we discuss ability-based objections to such arguments; an ability-based objection to a no-best world argument claims that the argument fails because one or more of its premises conflict with a plausible principle connecting the applicability of some type of moral evaluation to the agent’s possession of a relevant ability. In particular, we formulate and evaluate an important new ability-based objection to the most promising no-best world argument. (shrink)
Bruce Langtry's ‘God, the Best and Evil’ is a fine contribution to the literature. Here, I review the contents of the book, and then provide some critical remarks that, as fas as I know, have not been made elsewhere. In particular, I argue that his criticism of my formulations of logical arguments from evil (in my Arguing about Gods) is unsuccessful.
Susan Stebbing’s paper “Logical Positivism and Analysis” (March 1933) was unusually critical of Wittgenstein. It put up a sharp opposition between Cambridge analytic philosophy of Moore and Russell and the positivist philosophy of the Vienna Circle to which she included Wittgenstein from 1929–32. Above all, positivists were interested in analyzing language, analytic philosophers in analyzing facts. Moreover, whereas analytic philosophers were engaged in directional analysis which seeks to illuminate the multiplicity of the analyzed facts, positivists aimed at final analysis (...) which “proves” that there are simples. Stebbing’s paper urged Wittgenstein to recast his philosophy and 1933 abandon those components of it that linked him to the Vienna Circle. (shrink)
Abstract Susan Moller Okin has criticized Michael Sandel's view that the family is an example of an institution that is sometimes ?above? or ?beyond? justice, and for which justice is not, under the best conditions, a virtue. She argues that he both misses the point of justice as a virtue of social institutions and that he idealizes the family, and after undertaking this ?ground-clearing?, goes on to argue that families should be just. This paper offers a qualified defense (...) of Sandel. I argue, first, that Sandel has not missed the point of justice as a virtue of social institutions. But I go on to argue, more centrally, that if we distinguish between what I call ?internal? and ?social? justice of the family, and look carefully at the conclusions of Okin's own arguments, we see that she has really argued for the social justice of the family, and that this can be maintained alongside Sandel's vision of the family as an institution within which considerations of justice are neither central, nor necessarily appropriate. I try to carve out space both for Sandel's vision of the family, and for Okin's substantive feminist conclusions about family-based gender injustice. (shrink)
I examine Carrier’s and Ladyman’s structural realist (‘SR’) explanation of the predictive success of phlogiston chemistry. On their account, it succeeds because phlogiston chemists grasped that there is some common unobservable structure of relations underlying combustion, calcification, and respiration. I argue that this SR account depends on assuming the truth of current chemical theory of oxidation and reduction, which provides a better explanation of the success of phlogiston theory than SR provides. I defend an alternative version of inference-to-the-best-explanation scientific (...) realism which I call ‘Best Current Theory Realism’ (BCTR) and argue that it can answer the pessimistic meta-induction. (shrink)
Leibniz's best-of-all-possible worlds solution to the problem of evil isdefended. Enlightenment misrepresentations are removed. The apparentobviousness of the possibility of better worlds is undermined by the muchbetter understanding achieved in modern mathematical sciences of howglobal structure constrains local possibilities. It is argued that alternativeviews, especially standard materialism, fail to make sense of the problem ofevil, by implying that evil does not matter, absolutely speaking. Finally, itis shown how ordinary religious thinking incorporates the essentials ofLeibniz's view.
I examine the warrants we have in light of the empirical successes of a kind of model I call ‘hybrid models’, a kind that includes climate models among its members. I argue that these warrants’ strengths depend on inferential virtues that are not just explanatory virtues, contrary to what would be the case if inference to the best explanation (IBE) provided the warrants. I also argue that the warrants in question, unlike those IBE provides, guide inferences only to model (...) implications about which there is real uncertainty. My conclusion provides criteria of adequacy for epistemologies of climate and other hybrid models. (shrink)
Expert reasoning is responsible for some of the most stunning human achievements, but also for some of the most disastrous decisions ever made. The argumentative theory of reasoning has proven very effective at explaining the pattern of reasoning’s successes and failures. In the present article, it is expanded to account for expert reasoning. The argumentative theory predicts that reasoning should display a strong confirmation bias. If argument quality is not sufficiently high in a domain, the confirmation bias will make experts (...) tap into their vast knowledge to defend whatever opinion they hold, with polarization and overconfidence as expected results. By contrast, experts should benefit even more from the power of group discussion to make the best of the confirmation bias—when they genuinely disagree that is, otherwise polarization is again likely to ensue. When experts interact with laymen other mechanisms can take the lead, in particular trust calibration and consistency checking. They can yield poor outcomes if experts do not have a sustained interaction with laymen, or if the laymen have strong opinions when they witness a debate between experts. Seeing reasoning as a mechanism of epistemic vigilance aimed at finding and evaluating arguments helps make better sense of expert reasoning performance, be it in individual ratiocination, in debates with other experts, or in interactions with laymen. (shrink)
The one central point in all my writing on this top i c , f rom “ Fa m i n e , Af f luence and Morality” onward,has been that the failure of people in the rich nations to make any signiﬁcant sacriﬁces in order to assist people who are dying from poverty - related causes is ethically ind efensible. It is not simply the absence of charity, let alone of m oral saintliness: It is wron g, and on (...) e cannot claim to be a morally decent person unless one is doing far more than the typical comfortably-off person does. Nothing Kuper has said, either in his original article or his reply to my response, contradicts this central claim. His arguments go to the details of how best we can assist people in desperate poverty. Perhaps instead of giving mon ey to Ox f a m , he su gge s t s , we should buy goods from su pp l i ers wh o ensure a fair return to laborers in developing countries. Perhaps we should stop going to F l orida and Pa ri s , and inste ad go on environ m en t a lly su s t a i n a ble and non ex p l oi t ative trips to devel oping co u n tri e s . Perh a p s we should support movements against corru pti on , or for bet ter terms of trade for devel oping co u n tri e s . I ’d be very happy if people would do any or all of these things, and if they have nothing left over to give to Ox f a m , that wo u l d n’t tro u ble me ei t h er. I don’t claim to have any expertise in assessing wh et h er these opti ons are bet ter or wors e than giving to Oxfam. If someone can convincingly show me that one of them is clear-. (shrink)
In the first section of this paper I discuss what Leibniz meant by a miracle and why Leibniz’s definition of the best of all possible worlds implies that it is a world in which miracles are minimized. In the second part of the paper I argue that human happiness within the best of all possible worlds also requires, on Leibniz’s principles, that miracles must there be minimized. In the third section of the paper I consider what, if any, (...) miracles actually remain possible for Leibniz within the best of all possible worlds. In the final section I discuss one important kind of event upon which Leibniz vacillated whether it required miraculous intervention -- namely, the elevation of the sensitive soul to rationality -- and some speculation about the cause of this vacillation in Leibniz is offered. (shrink)
This paper focuses much-needed attention on the ethical nature of customer relationship management (CRM) strategies in organisations. The research uses an in-depth case study to reflect on the design, implementation and use of ‘best practice’ associated with CRM. We argue that conventional CRM philosophy is based on a fairly narrow construct that fails to consider ethical issues appropriately. We highlight why ethical considerations are important when organisations use CRM and how a more holistic approach incorporating some of Alasdair MacIntyre's (...) ideas on virtue ethics could be relevant. (shrink)
‘Adams worlds’ are possible worlds that contain no creature whose life is not worth living or whose life is overall worse than in any other possible world in which it would have existed. Creating an Adams world involves no wrongdoing or unkindness towards creatures on the part of the creator. I argue that the notion of an Adams world is of little value in theodicy. Theists are not only committed to thinking that this world was created without wrongdoing or unkindness (...) but also must rule out the possibility that the world might have been better had God not existed. Nor is there much reason, independent of the availability of a satisfactory theodicy, for believing that the actual world is an Adams world. The need for a theodicy constructed along Leibnizian lines, incorporating the claim that this world is the best possible, is thus reinforced. (shrink)
This paper seeks to discover if urban planning has any 'internal values' which might help guide its practitioners and provide standards with which to judge their works, thereby providing for some disciplinary autonomy. After arguing that such values can best be discovered through an examination of the history of utopian urban planning, I examine one period in that history, the early Renaissance and, in particular, the work of Leon Battista Alberti. Against Susan Lang's thesis that Alberti's work was (...) guided by the fundamental value of beauty, I argue that Alberti was centrally concerned to design cities that would help their citizens develop civic virtue. Against Françoise Choay's thesis that Alberti was not a utopian, I argue that Alberti was a procedural utopian interested in advancing certain political goals. This analysis suggests that urban planning has an internal value structure which includes some specific political values. (shrink)
A new analysis of the Best Interests Standard is given and applied to the controversy about testing children for untreatable, severe late-onset genetic diseases, such as Huntington's disease or Alzheimer's disease. A professional consensus recommends against such predictive testing, because it is not in children's best interest. Critics disagree. The Best Interests Standard can be a powerful way to resolve such disputes. This paper begins by analyzing its meaning into three necessary and jointly sufficient conditions showing it: (...) is an "umbrella" standard, used differently in different contexts, has objective and subjective features, is more than people's intuitions about how to rank potential benefits and risks in deciding for others but also includes evidence, established rights, duties and thresholds of acceptable care, and can have different professional, medical, moral and legal uses, as in this dispute. Using this standard, support is given for the professional consensus based on concerns about discrimination, analogies to adult choices, consistency with clinical judgments for adults, and desires to preserve of an open future for children. Support is also given for parents' legal authority to decide what genetic tests to do. (shrink)
The paper examines the view that individuals have a claim to the jobs for which they are the best qualified. It seeks to show this view to be groundless, and to offer, instead, a luck egalitarian account of justice in hiring. That account consists of three components: monism, non-meritocracy, and non-discrimination. To demonstrate the coherence of this view, two particular internal conflicts are addressed. First, luck egalitarian monism (the view that jobs are not special) may end up violating the (...) non-discrimination requirement. Second, non-discrimination, it is often suggested, cannot be defined without reference to qualifications, thus violating the non-meritocracy requirement. The paper seeks to address these, as well as other, potential objections, and show that whereas meritocratic accounts are without basis, luck egalitarianism provides a coherent and attractive account of justice in hiring. (shrink)
This article analyzes the evolution of best practices in the maquiladora industry in Mexico. Since the mid-1960s, the maquiladora has been understood as a simple assembly activity based on cheap labor, with low added value, and limited linkage with local suppliers. However, the maquiladora industry has evolved since the early 1980s as a consequence of the adoption of best practices in the productive processes and industrial organization. The best practices examined in this article are increases or improvements (...) in complex activities, capabilities, just-in-time, continuous improvement, environmental performance, and job safety. The data come from three surveys administered in major U.S./Mexico border cities in 1990, 2002, and 2006. Based on an analysis of these surveys, there has been a broad diffusion of the best organizational practices since the 1960s. (shrink)