In this chapter I want to take up some of the problems that must be faced by any defender of the objectivity of ethics who wishes to make sense of the actual complexity of the subject. The treatment will be general and very incomplete. Essentially I shall discuss some examples in order to suggest that the enterprise is not hopeless.
Internalists have criticised reliabilism for overlooking the importance of the subject's point of view in the generation of knowledge. This paper argues that there is a troubling ambiguity in the intuitive examples that internalists have used to make their case, and on either way of resolving this ambiguity, reliabilism is untouched. However, the argument used to defend reliabilism against the internalist cases could also be used to defend a more radical form of externalism in epistemology.
In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke insists that all knowledge consists in perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. However, he also insists that knowledge extends to outer reality, claiming that perception yields ‘sensitive knowledge’ of the existence of outer objects. Some scholars have argued that Locke did not really mean to restrict knowledge to perceptions of relations within the realm of ideas; others have argued that sensitive knowledge is not strictly speaking a form of knowledge for Locke. (...) This chapter argues that Locke’s conception of sensitive knowledge is in fact compatible with his official definition of knowledge, and discusses his treatment of the problem of skepticism, both in the Essay and in the correspondence with Stillingfleet. (shrink)
Do epistemic intuitions tell us anything about knowledge? Stich has argued that we respond to cases according to our contingent cultural programming, and not in a manner that tends to reveal anything significant about knowledge itself. I’ve argued that a cross-culturally universal capacity for mindreading produces the intuitive sense that the subject of a case has or lacks knowledge. This paper responds to Stich’s charge that mindreading is cross-culturally varied in a way that will strip epistemic intuitions of their evidential (...) value. I argue that existing work on cross-cultural variation in mindreading favors my position over Stich’s. (shrink)
In the philosophical literature on mental states, the paradigmatic examples of mental states are beliefs, desires, intentions, and phenomenal states such as being in pain. The corresponding list in the psychological literature on mental state attribution includes one further member: the state of knowledge. This article examines the reasons why developmental, comparative and social psychologists have classified knowledge as a mental state, while most recent philosophers--with the notable exception of Timothy Williamson-- have not. The disagreement is traced back to a (...) difference in how each side understands the relationship between the concepts of knowledge and belief, concepts which are understood in both disciplines to be closely linked. Psychologists and philosophers other than Williamson have generally have disagreed about which of the pair is prior and which is derivative. The rival claims of priority are examined both in the light of philosophical arguments by Williamson and others, and in the light of empirical work on mental state attribution. (shrink)
Williamson has a strikingly economical way of showing how justified true belief can fail to constitute knowledge: he models a class of Gettier cases by means of two simple constraints. His constraints can be shown to rely on some unstated assumptions about the relationship between reality and appearance. These assumptions are epistemologically non-trivial but can be defended as plausible idealizations of our actual predicament, in part because they align well with empirical work on the metacognitive dimension of experience.
Do laypeople and philosophers differ in their attributions of knowledge? Starmans and Friedman maintain that laypeople differ from philosophers in taking ‘authentic evidence’ Gettier cases to be cases of knowledge. Their reply helpfully clarifies the distinction between ‘authentic evidence’ and ‘apparent evidence’. Using their sharpened presentation of this distinction, we contend that the argument of our original paper still stands.
Intuitively, there is a difference between knowledge and mere belief. Contemporary philosophical work on the nature of this difference has focused on scenarios known as “Gettier cases.” Designed as counterexamples to the classical theory that knowledge is justified true belief, these cases feature agents who arrive at true beliefs in ways which seem reasonable or justified, while nevertheless seeming to lack knowledge. Prior empirical investigation of these cases has raised questions about whether lay people generally share philosophers’ intuitions about these (...) cases, or whether lay intuitions vary depending on individual factors (e.g. ethnicity) or factors related to specific types of Gettier cases (e.g. cases that include apparent evidence). We report an experiment on lay attributions of knowledge and justification for a wide range of Gettier Cases and for a related class of controversial cases known as Skeptical Pressure cases, which are also thought by philosophers to elicit intuitive denials of knowledge. Although participants rated true beliefs in Gettier and Skeptical Pressure cases as being justified, they were significantly less likely to attribute knowledge for these cases than for matched true belief cases. This pattern of response was consistent across different variations of Gettier cases and did not vary by ethnicity or gender, although attributions of justification were found to be positively related to measures of empathy. These findings therefore suggest that across demographic groups, laypeople share similar epistemic concepts with philosophers, recognizing a difference between knowledge and justified true belief. (shrink)
Hydrogen is one of the few molecules that has been incarcerated in the molecular cage of C60 to form the endohedral supramolecular complex H2@C60. In this confinement, hydrogen acquires new properties. Its translation motion, within the C60 cavity, becomes quantized, is correlated with its rotation and breaks inversion symmetry that induces infrared (IR) activity of H2. We apply IR spectroscopy to study the dynamics of hydrogen isotopologues H2, D2 and HD incarcerated in C60. The translation and rotation modes appear as (...) side bands to the hydrogen vibration mode in the mid-IR part of the absorption spectrum. Because of the large mass difference of hydrogen and C60 and the high symmetry of C60 the problem is almost identical to a vibrating rotor moving in a three-dimensional spherical potential. We derive potential, rotation, vibration and dipole moment parameters from the analysis of the IR absorption spectra. Our results were used to derive the parameters of a pairwise additive five-dimensional potential energy surface for H2@C60. The same parameters were used to predict H2 energies inside C70. We compare the predicted energies and the low-temperature IR absorption spectra of H2@C70. (shrink)
Background: Visual scanpath analyses provide important information about attention allocation and attention shifting during visual exploration of social situations. This study investigated whether patients with schizophrenia simply show restricted free visual exploration behaviour reflected by reduced saccade frequency and increased fixation duration or whether patients use qualitatively different exploration strategies than healthy controls. Methods: Scanpaths of 32 patients with schizophrenia and age-matched 33 healthy controls were assessed while participants freely explored six photos of daily life situations (20 seconds/photo) evaluated for (...) cognitive complexity and emotional strain. Using fixation and saccade parameters, we compared temporal changes in exploration behaviour, cluster analyses, attentional landscapes and analyses of scanpath similarities between both groups. Results: We found fewer fixation clusters, longer fixation durations within a cluster, fewer changes between clusters, and a greater increase of fixation duration over time in patients compared to controls. Scanpath patterns and attentional landscapes in patients also differed significantly from those of controls. Generally, cognitive complexity and emotional strain had significant effects on visual exploration behaviour. This effect was similar in both groups as were physical properties of fixation locations. Conclusions: Longer attention allocation to a given feature in a scene and less attention shifts in patients suggest a more focal processing mode compared to a more ambient exploration strategy in controls. These visual exploration alterations were present in patients independently of cognitive complexity, emotional strain or physical properties of visual cues implying that they represent a rather general deficit. Despite this impairment, patients were able to adapt their scanning behaviour to changes in cognitive complexity and emotional strain similar to controls. (shrink)
Enacted theories of consciousness conjecture that perception and cognition arise from an active experience of the regular relations that are tying together the sensory stimulation of different modalities and associated motor actions. Previous experiments investigated this concept by employing the technique of sensory substitution. Building on these studies, here we test a set of hypotheses derived from this framework and investigate the utility of sensory augmentation in handicapped people. We provide a late blind subject with a new set of sensorimotor (...) laws: A vibro-tactile belt continually signals the direction of magnetic north. The subject completed a set of behavioral tests before and after an extended training period. The tests were complemented by questionnaires and interviews. This newly supplied information improved performance on different time scales. In a pointing task we demonstrate an instant improvement of performance based on the signal provided by the device. Furthermore, the signal was helpful in relevant daily tasks, often complicated for the blind, such as keeping a direction over longer distances or taking shortcuts in familiar environments. A homing task with an additional attentional load demonstrated a significant improvement after training. The subject found the directional information highly expedient for the adjustment of his inner maps of familiar environments and describes an increase in his feeling of security when exploring unfamiliar environments with the belt. The results give evidence for a firm integration of the newly supplied signals into the behavior of this late blind subject with better navigational performance and more courageous behavior in unfamiliar environments. Most importantly, the complementary information provided by the belt lead to a positive emotional impact with enhanced feeling of security. This experimental approach demonstrates the potential of sensory augmentation devices for the help of handicapped people. (shrink)
French phenomenology focused on “the body” to avoid the supposed transcendental idealism of Husserl’s phenomenology, and to provide an “existential” or “empirical” account of the origin of meaning, as Ricoeur put it. In practice, however, this has implicitly presupposed a Cartesian problematic of the relation between body and mind or “subject.” This is the source of the ultimate frustration of this effort, as well as the persistence of a “mystery” of meaning (to cite Merleau-Ponty and Henry). This essay offers an (...) alternative, considering the embodiment of any meaningful experience, suggesting finally that embodiment must be accounted for in terms of subjection. (shrink)
Many epistemologists use intuitive responses to particular cases as evidence for their theories. Recently, experimental philosophers have challenged the evidential value of intuitions, suggesting that our responses to particular cases are unstable, inconsistent with the responses of the untrained, and swayed by factors such as ethnicity and gender. This paper presents evidence that neither gender nor ethnicity influence epistemic intuitions, and that the standard responses to Gettier cases and the like are widely shared. It argues that epistemic intuitions are produced (...) by the natural ‘mindreading’ capacity that underpins ordinary attributions of belief and knowledge in everyday social interaction. Although this capacity is fallible, its weaknesses are similar to the weaknesses of natural capacities such as sensory perception. Experimentalists who do not wish to be skeptical about ordinary empirical methods have no good reason to be skeptical about epistemic intuitions. (shrink)
To what extent should we trust our natural instincts about knowledge? The question has special urgency for epistemologists who want to draw evidential support for their theories from certain intuitive epistemic assessments while discounting others as misleading. This paper focuses on the viability of endorsing the legitimacy of Gettier intuitions while resisting the intuitive pull of skepticism – a combination of moves that most mainstream epistemologists find appealing. Awkwardly enough, the “good” Gettier intuitions and the “bad” skeptical intuitions seem to (...) be equally strong. This chapter argues that it is not a coincidence that these two types of intuition register with equal force: they are generated by a common mechanism. However, the input to this mechanism is interestingly different in the two types of case, and different in a way that can support the mainstream view that Gettier cases tell us something about knowledge where skeptical intuitions involve systematic error. (shrink)
Explaining moral intuitions is one of the hot topics of recent cognitive science. In the present article we focus on a factor that attracted surprisingly little attention so far, namely the temporal order in which moral scenarios are presented. We argue that previous research points to a systematic pattern of order effects that has been overlooked until now: only judgments of actions that are normally regarded as morally acceptable are susceptible to be affected by the order of presentation, and this (...) in turn is only the case if the dilemma is immediately preceded by a dilemma in which the proposed action was considered as not morally acceptable. We conducted an experiment that largely confirmed this pattern and allowed us to analyze by what individual level responses it was generated. We argue that investigating order effects is necessary for approaching a complete descriptive moral theory. Furthermore, we discuss the implications of these findings for moral philosophy. (shrink)
Once upon a time, they managed to bring Neverland into the bedrooms; they were seen as the heroes of a new era. However, as heroes always tend to walk a fine line between good and evil, it does not come as a surprise that a decade later the perception has dramatically changed; the fairy tale turned into a nightmare. Are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) no more than data-guzzling monsters that need to be tamed? In November, the European Commission published a (...) “Comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union” which seems to nod approval. The approach seeks to strengthen the individual’s rights regarding the use of data by ISPs. The Commission notes that children deserve specific protection in this context due to the fact that their awareness of risks and consequences is usually underdeveloped. Both a general principle of transparent processing and specific obligations for data controllers regarding the type of information to be provided and the modalities for providing it had to be taken into account. Not only legal but also self-regulatory initiatives should contribute to a better enforcement of data protection rules. This approach is both applauded and heavily criticized by the European Data Protection Supervisor. In particular, he argues that children’s particular interests have not been sufficiently addressed presenting a long list of suggestions for improvement including specific provisions against behavioral advertising, the exclusion of some data categories, an age threshold or special requirements on the issue of informed consent and a reinforcement of data controllers’ accountability. Is there really a need for a new magic formula? This paper reviews the current options for addressing the challenges of the use of personal data of minors by ISPs. (shrink)
Harman’s lottery paradox, generalized by Vogel to a number of other cases, involves a curious pattern of intuitive knowledge ascriptions: certain propositions seem easier to know than various higher-probability propositions that are recognized to follow from them. For example, it seems easier to judge that someone knows his car is now on Avenue A, where he parked it an hour ago, than to judge that he knows that it is not the case that his car has been stolen and driven (...) away in the last hour. Contextualists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that ‘knows’ does not always denote the same relationship; subject-sensitive invariantists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that non-traditional factors such as practical interests figure in knowledge; still others have argued that the Harman Vogel pattern gives us a reason to abandon the principle that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This paper argues that there is a psychological explanation of the strange pattern of intuitions, grounded in the manner in which we shift between an automatic or heuristic mode of judgment and a controlled or systematic mode. Understanding the psychology behind the pattern of intuitions enables us to see that the pattern gives us no reason to abandon traditional intellectualist invariantism. The psychological account of the paradox also yields new resources for clarifying and defending the single premise closure principle for knowledge ascriptions. (shrink)
Do we apply higher epistemic standards to subjects with high stakes? This paper argues that we expect different outward behavior from high-stakes subjects—for example, we expect them to collect more evidence than their low-stakes counterparts—but not because of any change in epistemic standards. Rather, we naturally expect subjects in any condition to think in a roughly adaptive manner, balancing the expected costs of additional evidence collection against the expected value of gains in accuracy. The paper reviews a body of empirical (...) work on the automatic regulation of cognitive effort in response to stakes, and argues that we naturally see high- and low-stakes subjects as experiencing different levels of ‘epistemic anxiety’, and anticipate different levels of cognitive effort from them for this reason. If unresolved epistemic anxiety always bars an ascription of knowledge, then we can explain our responses to cases involving shifting stakes without positing any variation in the standards of intuitive knowledge ascription. (shrink)
Epistemologists generally agree that the stringency of intuitive ascriptions of knowledge is increased when unrealized possibilities ofenor are mentioned. Non-sceptical invanantists (Williamson, Hawthorne) think it a mistake to yield in such cases to the temptation to be more stringent, but they do not deny that we feel it. They contend that the temptation is best explained as the product of a psychological bias known as the availability heuristic. I argue against the availability explanation, and sketch a rival account of what (...) happens to us psychologically when possibilities of error are raised. (shrink)
There is a remedy available for many of our ailments: Psychopharmacology promises to alleviate unsatisfying memory, bad moods, and low self-esteem. Bioethicists have long discussed the ethical implications of enhancement interventions. However, they have not considered relevant evidence from psychology and economics. The growth in autonomy in many areas of life is publicized as progress for the individual. However, the broadening of areas at one’s disposal together with the increasing individualization of value systems leads to situations in which the range (...) of options asks too much of the individual. I scrutinize whether increased self-determination and unbound possibilities are really in a person’s best interests. Evidence from psychology and economics challenges the assumption that unlimited autonomy is best in all cases. The responsibility for autonomous self-formation that comes with possibilities provided by neuro-enhancement developments can be a burden. To guarantee quality of life I suggest a balance of beneficence, support, and respect for autonomy. (shrink)
We demonstrate that common genetic polymorphisms contribute to the increasing heterogeneity of cognitive functioning in old age. We assess two common Val/Met polymorphisms, one affecting the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme, which degrades dopamine (DA) in prefrontal cortex (PFC), and the other influencing the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein. In two tasks (Wisconsin Card Sorting and spatial working memory), we find that effects of COMT genotype on cognitive performance are magnified in old age and modulated by BDNF genotype. Older COMT Val homozygotes (...) showed particularly low levels of performance if they were also BDNF Met carriers. The age-associated magnification of COMT gene effects provides novel information on the inverted U-shaped relation linking dopaminergic neuromodulation in PFC to cognitive performance. The modulation of COMT effects by BDNF extends recent evidence of close interactions between frontal and medial-temporal circuitries in executive functioning and working memory. (shrink)
Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject's practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called ?need-for-closure?) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one's cognition. (...) Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism can easily accommodate such cases. (shrink)
i The 2005 decision by Judge John E. Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was celebrated by all red-blooded American liberals as a victory over the forces of darkness. The result was probably inevitable, in view of the reckless expression by some members of the Dover School Board of their desire to put religion into the classroom, and the clumsiness of their prescribed statement in trying to dissimulate that aim.1 But the conﬂicts aired in this trial—over the status (...) of evolutionary theory, the arguments for intelligent design, and the nature of science—reveal an intellectually unhealthy situation. The political urge to defend science education against the threats of religious orthodoxy, understandable though it is, has resulted in a counterorthodoxy, supported by bad arguments, and a tendency to overstate the legitimate scientiﬁc claims of evolutionary theory. Skeptics about the theory are seen as so dangerous, and so disreputably motivated, that they must be denied any shred of.. (shrink)
We naturally evaluate the beliefs of others, sometimes by deliberate calculation, and sometimes in a more immediate fashion. Epistemic intuitions are immediate assessments arising when someone’s condition appears to fall on one side or the other of some significant divide in epistemology. After giving a rough sketch of several major features of epistemic intuitions, this article reviews the history of the current philosophical debate about them and describes the major positions in that debate. Linguists and psychologists also study epistemic assessments; (...) the last section of the paper discusses some of their research and its potential relevance to epistemology. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the meaning of Du Bois’s concept of “abolition democracy” and on the ideology of the abstract rights-bearing subject. In Abolition Democracy, Angela Y. Davis calls for the abolition of oppressive institutions, such as U.S. prisons, in order to engender abolition democracy. She also questions how subjects appear before the law, which justifies and normalizes inhumane practices, such as the death penalty. In conclusion, the paper explores ideas on how to conceptualize thinking “beyond” the prison industrial complex (...) not only in North America but globally. (shrink)
At any given time, an individual has certain beliefs and certain procedures or methods for modifying those beliefs. In The Realm of Reason, as in his previous book, Being Known (1999), Christopher Peacocke is concerned with the elusive question of what it is for someone to be “entitled” to a given belief or procedure.1..