This paper draws a line of demarcation between fallibilism and infallibilism. Taking Cartesian Infallibilism as a guide, it advances a picture of infallibilism whereby infallible knowledge requires, among other conditions, luminosity of a truth-guaranteeing property. Some implications for contemporary theories of knowledge are explored.
I advance a novel argument for an infallibilist theory of knowledge, according to which we know all and only those propositions that are certain for us. I argue that this theory lets us reconcile major extant theories of knowledge, in the following sense: for any of these theories, if we require that its central condition (evidential support, reliability, safety, etc.) obtains to a maximal degree, we get a theory of knowledge extensionally equivalent to infallibilism. As such, the infallibilist can affirm (...) that, when their conditions are suitably interpreted, most post-Gettier theories of knowledge offer necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. The infallibilist can thus reconcile major theories of knowledge, and is in a better position to explain the intuitive appeal of these theories than the fallibilist who only accepts one of them, and rejects the rest. (shrink)
In “How to Be an Infallibilist,” Julien Dutant (2016, 149) presents a simple and seemingly plausible argument that knowledge requires infallible belief—roughly, belief that could not be mistaken. As Dutant recognizes, infallibilism is almost universally dismissed, in large part because it seems to rule out any knowledge of the physical world. He seeks to show how we can be an Infallibilist without being a skeptic, based on the assumption that knowledge has a safety condition. I critically examine each line of (...) Dutant’s argument, showing that the argument is unsound on any plausible interpretation. I also question the idea that knowledge cannot be the conjunction of true belief and a nonfactive condition, that any belief about the physical world could not be false, and that any nonskeptical alternative to infallibilism would have to allow knowledge of chancy outcomes. I briefly suggest that a fallibilist account can be strict enough to satisfy the Infallibilist’s quest for certainty. (shrink)
Some recent epistemologists propose that certainty is the norm of action and assertion. This proposal is subject to skeptical worries. If, as is usually supposed, certainty is very hard to come by, legitimate action and assertion will be rare. To remedy this, some have conjoined their certainty-norms with a context-sensitive semantics for ‘certainty’. For a proposition to be certain for you, you only need to be able to exclude relevant alternatives. I argue that, depending on what makes an alternative relevant, (...) this kind of view is disingenuous. In particular, if an alternative can be made relevant by being relevant to rational action, it allows an escape from the skeptical consequences only by licensing David Lewis-style utterances of the form, “You know that p only if there is no probability, no matter how small, that not-p—Psst!—Unless that probability is really small.” While there are legitimate ways to exclude some possibilities from relevance, it is disingenuous, I argue, to exclude possibilities from relevance on the basis of the very characteristic—low but nonzero probability—that is claimed to be incompatible with certainty. (shrink)
I develop one partial explanation of the origins of our fallibilist intuitions about knowledge in ordinary language fallibilism and argue that this explanation indicates that our epistemic methodology should be more impartial and theory-neutral. First, I explain why the so-called Moorean constraint (cf. Hawthorne 2005, 111) that encapsulates fallibilist intuitions is fallibilism’s cornerstone. Second, I describe a pattern of fallibilist reasoning in light of the influential dual processing and heuristics and biases approach to cognition (cf. Kahneman 2011; Thaler and Sunstein (...) 2008; Evans 2017). I suggest that this pattern of reasoning involves the question-substitution heuristic, the availability and representativeness heuristics, the focusing bias as well as framing effects, priming and the anchoring and adjusting heuristic. Third, I argue that this fallibilist pattern of reasoning is methodologically dubious because it involves a vicious circularity and briefly outline an alternative, more impartial and theory-neutral abductive methodology for the theory of knowledge. Finally, I briefly explain how this analysis sheds light on the ordinary language fallibilism of Moore (1939), Austin (1961), Wittgenstein (1969) and Chisholm (1982). (shrink)
Collocations are recurrent combinations of words where one lexical item occurs near another lexical item with a frequency far greater than chance. Collocations can be used to study meaning. I argue that the collocational phrase ‘really know’, in conjunction with some reasonable interpretive conclusions, provides us with evidence that the verb ‘know’ has an infallibilist sense. I make my case, first, by arguing that ‘really’ when part of the phrase ‘really know’ is best understood as synonymous with ‘truly’. I then (...) argue that there are two plausible interpretations of the function that ‘really’ plays in the phrase ‘really know’. On the first interpretation, ‘really’ helps distinguish claims about genuine infallibilist knowing from loose talk about ‘knowing’. On the second interpretation, ‘really’ is often used to disambiguate an infallibilist sense of ‘know’ from a fallibilist sense of ‘know’. On either interpretation, there is an infallibilist sense of ‘know’. (shrink)
This paper is a response to “Inferential Evidence” by Jeffrey Dunn, in which he argues that my account of evidence is internally inconsistent, and that any form of Bayesian epistemology excludes evidence gained by inductive inference (which my account allows). In response, I show how the alleged inconsistency dissolves once the process of gaining evidence by inductive inference is fully articulated into the relevant stages, with due attention to the potential role of recognitional capacities.
The reduction of grounding to causation, or each to a more general relation of which they are species, has sometimes been justified by the impressive inferential capacity of structural equation modelling, causal Bayes nets, and interventionist causal modelling. Many criticisms of this assimilation focus on how causation is inadequate for grounding. Here, I examine the other direction: how treating grounding in the image of causation makes the resulting view worse for causation. The distinctive features of causal modelling that make this (...) connection appealing are distorted beyond use by forcing them to fit onto grounding. The very inferential strength that makes causation attractive is only possible because of a narrow construal of what counts as a causal relation; as soon as that broadens, the inferential capacity markedly diminishes. Making causation suitable for application to grounding spoils what was appealing about causation for this task in the first place. However, grounding need not appeal to causation: causal modelling does not have exclusive claim to structural equation modeling or other formal techniques of modelling structure. I offer a case in favour of a different kind of metaphysical frugality, which tend towards narrow, more restrictive construals of relations like causation or grounding, because then each relation behaves more homogenously. This more homogenous behavior delivers stronger inferential power per relation even though there may be more relations to which one is committed. (shrink)
It is well known that Carnap, early in his philosophical career, took most of metaphysics to consist of meaningless pseudostatements. In contrast to this meaning-theoretic critique of metaphysics, we develop what we take to be Carnap’s later value-based critique. We argue that this later critique is forceful against several central contemporary metaphysical debates, its origin in the principle of tolerance notwithstanding.
Grounding is not required for explanation in metaphysics, and, more generally, in philosophy. An account independent of grounding is available. Grounding claims do not provide the explanations that they are alleged to. The case for displacing supervenience in favour of grounding is mistaken. Grounding is a zombie idea: it staggers on in philosophical culture despite being thoroughly discredited.
I examine the relation between naturalistically motivated and other critiques of grounding and similar critiques of the contrast between A- and B-theoretic views of time. I argue that even the combined dialectical upshot of nonunity objections in the latter case is not what it is in the former. I sympathetically discuss the objection that the notion of grounding is not intelligible and part of ‘esoteric’ metaphysics; this objection turns out to be just as serious in the case of the A/B (...) contrast. I then consider whether grounding is needed to draw the A/B contrast in the first place and answer this question in the negative. Finally, I comment on the costs of esotericism in both cases. (shrink)
Recent enthusiasm for grounding often begins by observing that inquiry in metaphysics (and other areas) features a distinctive species of noncausal explanation. Having labeled this species “grounding explanation,” it’s a short step to the conclusion that we need a philosophical theory of grounding itself: an allegedly fundamental relation of metaphysical dependency between facts, such that a “grounding explanation” of some fact succeeds by providing information about what “grounds” that fact. This short step is hasty. For another live option is to (...) accept that grounding explanation is a legitimate form of explanation, but to give it a thoroughly epistemic treatment, one that does not see it as involving any sort of special metaphysical relationship or structure at all. This paper sketches such a treatment, drawing inspiration from reflections on explanatory structure in mathematics. (shrink)
Skepticism about grounding is the view that ground-theoretic concepts shouldn’t be used in metaphysical theorizing. Possible reasons for adopting this attitude are numerous: perhaps grounding is unintelligible; or perhaps it’s never instantiated; or perhaps it’s just too heterogeneous to be theoretically useful. Unfortunately, as currently pursued the debate between grounding enthusiasts and skeptics is insufficiently structured. This paper’s purpose is to impose a measure of conceptual rigor on the debate by offering an opinionated taxonomy of views with a reasonable claim (...) to being “skeptical.” I argue that carving up logical space into pro- and anti-grounding views isn’t especially helpful; rather, we should recognize various degrees of ground-theoretic involvement depending on how inflationary our understanding of the theoretical term ‘ground’ is. (shrink)
Grounding has become all the rage in recent philosophical work and metaphilosophical discussions. While I agree that the concept of ground marks something useful, I am skeptical about the metaphysical weight many imbue it with, and the picture of ‘worldly layering’ that grounding talk inspires. My skepticism centers around the fact that grounding involves necessitation, combined with reasons for thinking matters of necessity are matters of logical or conceptual (semantic, psychological) relations. I sketch an argument for deflationism about ground based (...) on this sort of deflationism about necessity and essence. I also note that in at least some cases, the considerations supporting modal deflationism directly support deflationism about whatever grounding relations may obtain in these cases. (shrink)
Quantifier variantists accept multiple alternative ontological languages in which quantifiers obey the usual inference rules despite having different meanings. But collapse arguments seem to show that these quantifiers would be provably equivalent to one another. Cian Dorr has pushed this discussion forward by formulating the collapse argument in terms of an algebra of meanings that are common amongst the languages. I attempt to show that quantifier variantists can respond. But an important distinction between types of quantifier variance emerges, between those (...) in which quantifier meanings draw on a single objective backbone of “portions of reality,” and those (such as the type that is arguably associated with neo-Fregeanism) in which they do not. (shrink)
Concerning a conversation about grounding between Philo, a quizzical maverick, and Cleanthes, a studious devotee of the very latest trends in metaphysics. Whereas Cleanthes enthuses about grounding, Philo counsels methodological caution and greater immersion in actual scientific practice.
The notion of transgenerational community is usually based on two diachronic interactions. The first interaction consists of present generations taking up the legacy (not only economic, but also institutional, artistic, cultural, and so forth) of past generations and giving it continuity, exercising a form of active agency. The second interaction occurs when present generations pass on their legacy to future generations. This is supposed to expand the boundaries of the community in a transgenerational sense (both backward- and forward-looking). In this (...) article we argue that the transgenerational community can be grounded on a different ontological insight: future generations play the role of fictional actors for present generations, i.e., present generations entertain a present-time interaction with future generations, insofar as future generations are functional for the realization of transgenerational actions. This lays the foundations for more solid community-based bonds of intergenerational justice. (shrink)
We discuss how transgenerational communitarianism deals with public decisions involving tradeoffs between different generations’ wellbeing and having global consequences. Policies for tackling climate change are an example. Although there is a natural, evolutionary, basis for intergenerational altruism, most people lack the competencies for constituting a transgenerational community. Moreover, greater attention to future generations’ wellbeing need not substitute for collective action: a lower discount rate reflecting a stronger concern for future generations may even worsen their wellbeing. Finally, in a world of (...) irreducible value pluralism, there is no community of persons sharing moral values that can legitimize common policies for addressing global problems: only the common interest of avoiding destructive consequences may motivate collective action to face problems like climate change. (shrink)
How are relations between generations shifting? As anthropologists, our take on intergenerational relations and the rationalities on which they are based—i.e., generationality—is historically situated. In many parts of the world, generation has become a major axis of social and political struggle, sometimes of bitter conflict. This, we argue, is a corollary of post-Cold War transformations in economy and society—and a radical rupture in processes of social reproduction. These transformations have conduced to the perception of a rising ‘generation war.’ How, then, (...) in these circumstances, are we to think anew of intergenerational relations—and justice? (shrink)
The transgenerational community is based on moral similarity between contemporary and future people, referring to an ongoing moral deliberation across generations. It justifies obligations of justice towards the not yet born. Prioritarianism gives extra weight to the wellbeing of the least advantaged. I argue that both sentiments are egalitarian, and ask whether there is any tension between them. If we assume economic growth, and/or technological improvements and/or inflation, then prioritarianism prima facie implies that we should prefer to spend any dollar (...) on today’s disadvantaged than on future generations, hence is in tension with the demands of the transgenerational community. Analyzing four ways of meeting this challenge, I argue that the two principles are not in tension. (shrink)
Excessive boredom and the inevitability of experiencing a very bad event are two commonly cited objections to the desirability of individual immortality. It isn’t clear, however, that these objections hold weight in the context of group lives—like the lives of reading groups or labor unions. I argue that this intuition is correct: neither of the objections to an immortal individual life apply to the life of an immortal group. In the end, we may not be able to wish immortality for (...) ourselves, but we can and often should desire that good group lives go on forever, both for the sake of the group and the individuals that constitute them. Indeed, participation in immortal (or very long-lasting) groups is one way to add meaning to life. (shrink)
While in the realm of scholarly debate on intergenerational justice the mechanism of a transgenerational intertwinement has been often adopted as a chief conceptual device in view of overcoming ethical short-termism and legitimizing duties towards future generations, this paper aims at showing that there are good reasons for considering the opposite outcome. Drawing on three paradigmatic examples taken from three mainstream approaches in the debate—Rawls’s contractualism, Gauthier’s contractarianism, and indirect reciprocity—I will show how the grammar of presentism is still largely (...) operative under the surface of theories explicitly recurring to such a device and thereby advocating a chain of duties capable to reach the remote future. A short closing section will be devoted to endorsing a radical reorientation in ethics, such that a direct link to future invocations will be considered as a promising strategy for genuinely justifying intergenerational obligations. (shrink)
This article explores Mencius’s virtue-oriented ethics and its metaphysical foundation for resources they can provide to transgenerational communities. Mencius’s ethics offers moral norms for human actions that transcend those generations with whom they can interact and impact generations of people in the future. These actions range from the preservation of traditional values to the challenges of climate change, offering grounds for transgenerational justice. Mencius’s account of virtues offers a moral justification for the standards of living that are common to all (...) human beings, justifying their entitlements to certain economic, social, cultural, and environmental conditions for the cultivation of moral virtues that perfect human nature. Due to his view that the metaphysics of human nature also governs the cosmic world, the virtues that govern good human relationships will also protect the world’s natural resources, regardless of whether someone subscribes to a Confucian community. (shrink)
Political societies are essentially intergenerational—not only because they often last for many generations and because they maintain their existence largely through members having or adopting children, but because the children of members acquire entitlements simply as a result of being born or adopted by members. Even in a liberal political society, members by birth or adoption are supposed to enjoy from birth the irrevocable status of membership and the privileges it entails. They have opportunities and civil rights that outsiders cannot (...) claim. In liberal welfare states they are entitled to assistance in need. But from a liberal point of view birthright entitlements, and the obligations they entail, are problematic. I will discuss three attempts to justify them. (shrink)
Kant’s “primacy of the practical” doctrine says that we can form morally justified commitments regarding what exists, even in the absence of sufficient epistemic grounds. In this paper I critically examine three different varieties of Kant’s “moral proof” that can be found in the critical works. My claim is that the third variety—the “moral-psychological argument” based in the need to sustain moral hope and avoid demoralization—has some intriguing advantages over the other two. It starts with a premise that more clearly (...) coheres with Kant’s mature account of moral motivation, and it invokes plausible empirical-psychological theses to motivate a commitment to the full-blown classical deity—the result Kant clearly wanted. From the point of view of its structure, I think this third variety of moral argument also has the most by way of contemporary interest. (shrink)
I argue that faith is a type of trust. It is also part of a relationship in which both parties are called on to be faithful, where faithfulness is a type of trustworthiness. What distinguishes faith relationships from trust relationships is that both parties value the faith relationship intrinsically. I discuss how faith on this account can, and cannot, be rational when it goes beyond a person’s evidence. It turns out that faith has the same rationality conditions as trust, differing (...) from it only in the cases that fix our intuitions. (shrink)
One can have faith in someone, believe in someone and trust someone, and these notions seem closely related. Any account of faith should then address its relation to trust and belief. Like trust, faith can similarly have propositional and relational forms. One can have faith that God is good and faith in God; one can trust that another will do something and trust them to do it. Starting from a comparison between these forms of faith and trust, this paper proposes (...) a philosophical analysis of faith and its relation to trust and belief. (shrink)
I examine the relationship between taking Pascal’s wager, faith, and hope. First, I argue that many who take Pascal’s wager have genuine faith that God exists. The person of faith and the wagerer have several things in common, including a commitment to God and positive cognitive and conative attitudes toward God’s existence. If one’s credences in theism are too low to have faith, I argue that the wagerer can still hope that God exists, another commitment-justifying theological virtue. I conclude with (...) two upshots of the argument, including how it provides responses to common objections to Pascal’s wager. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that the eudaimonist virtue of hope holds pride of place in development of psychological traits that promote human flourishing. The argument is part theoretical and part empirical. On the theoretical side, hope, the virtue, is the disposition to envision future good possibilities for oneself and one’s community and to move towards those possibilities. This renders hope necessary for any agent’s self-conscious pursuit of the goods that constitute flourishing, and also for the development of other virtues. (...) On the empirical side, we draw on evidence from psychology to argue that early in development, humans need relationships of trust with caregivers to develop the future orientation and features of agency constitutive of the virtue of hope. Thus the virtue of hope generally needs to be fostered, in part, through trusting relationships for humans to flourish. (shrink)
This paper develops an account of faith as a global trait of character, and explores how it relates to trust and hope. This account is developed in terms of the functional role faith occupies: what it is that global faith does in our lives. Global faith is taken to be a disposition to persevere in seeing the good in situations, events, circumstances, and people. This trait is explored through real and fictionalised situations of difficulty and strife, and when looking back (...) at one’s past experiences and challenges. The paper locates global faith within the broader family of faith-attitudes, contrasts it with similar accounts, and shows how it contributes to valuable trustfulness and hopefulness. (shrink)
This paper addresses the relationships between hope and trust. I suggest that different kinds of hope and trust relate to one another in different ways, which I conceive of in dynamic terms. I propose that the movement of hope and trust has a unifying context: the changing structure of a human life and its dependence on other people. I further argue that the most fundamental forms of hope and trust are inextricable. Together, they comprise a diffuse way of anticipating things (...) in general, which could equally be described in terms of “faith.” This sustains a life structure upon which more specific forms of hope and trust depend. (shrink)
Can one have faith that something is the same as itself, or hope that a triangle has four sides? Accounts of the proper object of faith or of hope typically exclude modal cases, where the object of faith or hope is understood by the agent to be either necessary or impossible, on the basis of their intuitive implausibility or their incompatibility with beliefs that the agent has about the probability or possibility of the object of faith or hope. This paper (...) argues that the noncognitive components of the psychology of these attitudes—evidential resistance in the case of faith and desire in the case of hope—provide a more plausible and economical explanation for restrictions on their proper objects. (shrink)
The Reformed theological tradition has maintained that faith consists in trust, with that trust involving belief of certain doctrinal propositions. This paper has two aims. First, it contributes towards rehabilitating this conception of faith. I start, accordingly, by setting out the Reformers’ basic case: faith consists in trust because faith is a response to the promises of God, by which the Christian receives God’s forgiveness and is united with God. This argument is independent of any commitment to nondoxasticism or doxasticism (...) about faith. Second, it argues for a methodological commitment which the Reformers’ conception of faith-as-trust complies with, which I think is independently compelling, and which has significant implications for contemporary debates on faith: the kind of faith that matters is that which enables the individual to stand justified, or righteous, before God. Philosophical accounts of faith are unavoidably entangled with theological disputes about justification. (shrink)