Abstract. Richard Feldman’s Uniqueness Thesis holds that “a body of evidence justifies at most one proposition out of a competing set of proposi- tions”. The opposing position, permissivism, allows distinct rational agents to adopt differing attitudes towards a proposition given the same body of evidence. We assess various motivations that have been offered for Uniqueness, including: concerns about achieving consensus, a strong form of evidentialism, worries about epistemically arbitrary influences on belief, a focus on truth-conduciveness, and consequences for peer disagreement. (...) We argue that each of these motivations either misunderstands the commitments of permissivism or is question-begging. Better understanding permissivism makes it a much more plausible position. (shrink)
Different people reason differently, which means that sometimes they reach different conclusions from the same evidence. We maintain that this is not only natural, but rational. In this essay we explore the epistemology of that state of affairs. First we will canvass arguments for and against the claim that rational methods of reasoning must always reach the same conclusions from the same evidence. Then we will consider whether the acknowledgment that people have divergent rational reasoning methods should undermine one’s confidence (...) in one’s own reasoning. Finally we will explore how agents who employ distinct yet equally rational methods of reasoning should respond to interactions with the products of each others’ reasoning. We find that the epistemology of multiple reasoning methods has been misunderstood by a number of authors writing on epistemic permissiveness and peer disagreement. (shrink)
Inflationists have argued that truth is a causal-explanatory property on the grounds that true belief facilitates practical success: we must postulate truth to explain the practical success of certain actions performed by rational agents. Deflationists, however, have a seductive response. Rather than deny that true belief facilitates practical success, the deflationist maintains that the sole role for truth here is as a device for generalisation. In particular, each individual instance of practical success can be explained only by reference to a (...) relevant instance of a T-schema; the role of truth is just to generalise over these individualised explanations. I present a critical problem for this strategy. Analogues of the deflationist’s individualised explanations can be produced by way of explanation of coincidental instances of practical success where the agent merely has the right false beliefs. By deflationary lights, there is no substantive explanatory difference between such coincidental and non-coincidental instances of practical success. But the non-/coincidental distinction just is an explanatory distinction. The deflationist’s individualised explanations of non-coincidental instances of practical success must therefore be inadequate. However, I argue that the deflationist’s prospects for establishing an explanatory contrast between these cases by supplementing her individualised explanations are, at best, bleak. The inflationist, by contrast, is entitled to the obvious further explanatory premise needed to make sense of the distinction. As such, pending some future deflationary rejoinder, the deflationary construal of the principle that true belief facilitates practical success must be rejected; and with it the deflationary conception of truth. (shrink)
Conditionals whose antecedent and consequent are not somehow internally connected tend to strike us as odd. The received doctrine is that this felt oddness is to be explained pragmatically. Exactly how the pragmatic explanation is supposed to go has remained elusive, however. This paper discusses recent philosophical and psychological work that attempts to account semantically for the apparent oddness of conditionals lacking an internal connection between their parts.
My concern in this paper is a debate between Pascal Engel and Richard Rorty documented in the book What’s the Use of Truth? Both Engel and Rorty problematize the natural suggestion that attaining truth is a goal of our inquiries. Where Rorty thinks this means that truth is not something we should aim for at all over and beyond justification, Engel maintains that truth still plays a distinct role in our intellectual and daily lives. Thus, the debate between Engel and (...) Rorty ends in a standoff. In the present paper, I question the claim that truth is not a goal of inquiry. I do so from the point of view of a systematic and general theory of rational goal-setting which has its roots in management science. I argue, in this connection, that Rorty’s central claim rests on a principle of goal-setting rationality that is generally invalid. The bottom line is that the goal of truth, like other visionary goals, is likely to have the positive effect of increasing motivation and effort, and this may offset the drawbacks which Rorty, rightly, calls attention to. In largely following Rorty in this regard, Engel is making one concession too much to his opponent. (shrink)
The traditional connection between logic and reasoning has been under pressure ever since Gilbert Harman attacked the received view that logic yields norms for what we should believe. In this article I first place Harman's challenge in the broader context of the dialectic between logical revisionists like Bob Meyer and sceptics about the role of logic in reasoning like Harman. I then develop a formal model based on contemporary epistemic and doxastic logic in which the relation between logic and norms (...) for belief can be captured. (shrink)
One of the deepest ideological divides in contemporary epistemology concerns the relative importance of belief versus credence. A prominent consideration in favor of credence-based epistemology is the ease with which it appears to account for rational action. In contrast, cases with risky payoff structures threaten to break the link between rational belief and rational action. This threat poses a challenge to traditional epistemology, which maintains the theoretical prominence of belief. The core problem, we suggest, is that belief may not be (...) enough to register all aspects of a subject’s epistemic position with respect to any given proposition. We claim this problem can be solved by introducing other doxastic attitudes—genuine representations—that differ in strength from belief. The resulting alternative picture, a kind of doxastic states pluralism, retains the central features of traditional epistemology—most saliently, an emphasis on truth as a kind of objective accuracy—while adequately accounting for rational action. (shrink)
In some cases of disagreement it seems that neither party is at fault or making a mistake. This phenomenon, so-called faultless disagreement, has recently been invoked as a key motivation for relativist treatments of domains prone to such disagreements. The conceivability of faultless disagreement therefore appears incompatible with traditional realists semantics. This paper examines recent attempts to accommodate faultless disagreement without giving up on realism. We argue that the accommodation is unsatisfactory. However, the examination highlights that “faultless” is multiply ambiguous. (...) The more overarching purpose is to examine the consequences of this—more generally, how to think about faultless disagreement. (shrink)
I present a novel strategy to account for two thoughts concerning disagreements about taste: (i) that they need not involve any substantive fault (faultlessness); (ii) that the faultlessness of a contrary opinion can be coherently appreciated from within a committed perspective (parity). Under the assumption that judgments of taste are truth-apt and governed by the truth-norm, I argue that understanding how exactly truth is normative offers a strategy for accounting for both thoughts. I distinguish between different ways in which truth (...) governs judgment to substantiate the thesis that truth’s normative function varies according to the subject matter at issue. I then argue that truth’s normative guidance in the domain of taste is characteristically weak. I introduce an intuitive distinction between basic and refined taste, and show how this distinction affects questions of faultlessness and parity. Last, I discuss the idea of alethic suberogation in connection with disagreement about refined taste. (shrink)
Ascriptions of truth give rise to an explanatory asymmetry. For instance, we accept ‘ is true because Rex is barking’ but reject ‘Rex is barking because is true’. Benjamin Schnieder and other philosophers have recently proposed a fresh explanation of this asymmetry : they have suggested that the asymmetry has a conceptual rather than a metaphysical source. The main business of this paper is to assess this proposal, both on its own terms and as an option for deflationists. I offer (...) a pair of objections to the proposal and defend them from counter-objections. To conclude, I discuss how else to explain the asymmetry, and set out the implications for deflationism and correspondence theories of truth. (shrink)
One of Mill's primary targets, throughout his work, is intuitionism. In this paper, I distinguish two strands of intuitionism, against which Mill offers separate arguments. The first strand, a priorism, makes an epistemic claim about how we come to know norms. The second strand, ‘first principle pluralism’, makes a structural claim about how many fundamental norms there are. In this paper, I suggest that one natural reading of Mill's argument against first principle pluralism is incompatible with the naturalism that drives (...) his argument against a priorism. It must, therefore, be discarded. Such a reading, however, covertly attributes Mill realist commitments about the normative. These commitments are unnecessary. To the extent that Mill's argument against first principle pluralism is taken seriously, I suggest, it is an argument that points towards Mill as having an antirealist approach to the normative. (shrink)
Many moral philosophers accept the Debunking Thesis, according to which facts about natural selection provide debunking explanations for certain of our moral beliefs. I argue that philosophers who accept the Debunking Thesis beg important questions in the philosophy of biology. They assume that past selection can explain why you or I hold certain of the moral beliefs we do. A position advanced by many prominent philosophers of biology implies that this assumption is false. According to the Negative View, natural selection (...) cannot explain the traits of individuals. Hence, facts about past selection cannot provide debunking explanations for any of our moral beliefs. The aim of this paper is to explore the conflict between the Debunking Thesis and the Negative View. (shrink)
The author of “Evidence, Explanation, Enhanced Indispensability” advances a criticism to the Enhanced Indispensability Argument and the use of Inference to the Best Explanation in order to draw ontological conclusions from mathematical explanations in science. His argument relies on the availability of equivalent though competing explanations, and a pluralist stance on explanation. I discuss whether pluralism emerges as a stable position, and focus here on two main points: whether cases of equivalent explanations have been actually offered, and which ontological consequences (...) should follow from these. (shrink)
This paper outlines a new metasemantic theory of moral reason statements, focused on explaining how the reasons thus stated can be inescapable. The motivation for the theory is in part that it can explain this and other phenomena concerning moral reasons. The account also suggests a general recipe for explanations of conceptual features of moral reason statements. (Published with Open Access.).
This paper motivates and describes a non-alethic approach to faultless disagreement involving predicates of personal taste. In section 1 I describe problems faced by Sundell's indexicalist approach, and MacFarlane's relativist approach. In section 2 I develop an alternative, non-alethic, approach. The non-alethic approach is broadly expressivist in that it endorses both the negative semantic thesis that simple sentences containing PPTs do not semantically encode complete propositions and the positive pragmatic thesis that such sentences are used to express evaluative mental states. (...) Finally, in section 3 I explain how the non-alethic approach explains faultless disagreement. (shrink)
Many philosophers employ an intellectual division of labour. Philosophy tells us what the truth conditions of various philosophically interesting sentences are. For example, atomic sentences containing numerals are sentences containing singular terms putatively referring to numbers; sentences about what could be are sentences quantifying over possible worlds and so on. Some discipline outside of philosophy tells us that certain of these sentences are true. The purported result is that such philosophically controversial entities as numbers and possible worlds have been shown (...) to exist. I criticize this ‘twin-track strategy’ and try to show that the two components conflict rather than complement each other. (shrink)
Relativism and contextualism are the most popular accounts of faultless disagreement, but Crispin Wright once argued for an account I call divergentism. According to divergentism, parties who possess all relevant information and use the same standards of assessment in the same context of utterance can disagree about the same proposition without either party being in epistemic fault, yet only one of them is right. This view is an alternative to relativism, indexical contextualism, and nonindexical contextualism, and has advantages over those (...) views. Wright eventually abandoned this view in favor of relativism for reasons related to a conciliationist view of disagreement between epistemic peers. I argue that he gave up on divergentism too soon. (shrink)
There are three elements in this paper. One is what we shall call ‘the Hungarian project’. This is the collected work of Andréka, Madarász, Németi, Székely and others. The second is Molinini’s philosophical work on the nature of mathematical explanations in science. The third is my pluralist approach to mathematics. The theses of this paper are that the Hungarian project gives genuine mathematical explanations for physical phenomena. A pluralist account of mathematical explanation can help us with appreciating the significance of (...) the Hungarian project. The significance consists in the fruitfulness and spread of the project. The spread is wide because the explanations are written in the very familiar language of first-order logic with identity. For this reason, the explanation is understandable to many mathematicians. Because of the methodology adopted in the Hungarian project, the explanations are fruitful in another sense. In the Hungarian project certain questions are asked that would not be asked with a more usual methodology. The Hungarians are distinguished from other scientists in asking logical and mathematical questions, and these both deepen our understanding of the physical theories and induce further spread to mathematics and philosophy. (shrink)
This paper introduces a new approach to the theory of truthmaking. According to this approach, there are multiple forms of truthmaking. Here, I characterize and motivate a specific version of this approach, which I call a ‘Pluralist Theory of Truthmaking.’ It is suggested that truthmaking is a plural, variegated phenomenon wherein different kinds of truths, e.g., positive truths, negative truths, counterfactual truths, etc., are made true in different ways. While the paper only aims to lay the groundwork for a Pluralist (...) Theory of Truthmaking, I show how the theory can be applied to positive and negative truths. The upshot of this application is that truthmaking pluralism allows us to provide negative truths with ‘non-suspicious’ truthmakers. Finally, it is argued that Truthmaker Maximalists would do well to endorse truthmaking pluralism, as it offers a new strategy for upholding Maximalism while diminishing controversial ontological commitments. (shrink)
Jim Hopkins defends a ‘straight’ response to Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations, a response he ascribes to Wittgenstein himself. According to this response, what makes it the case that A means that P is that it is possible for another to interpret A as meaning that P. Hopkins thus advances a form of interpretivist judgment-dependence about meaning. I argue that this response, as well as a variant, does not succeed.
In the pair of articles of which this is the first, I shall present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. All these problems and proposals concern the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue here is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness (...) should be thought of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In this, first, article, I shall discuss the general issue of relativism about representational content. I shall claim that there are legitimate ways of attributing contents that are absolute truth-bearers, and there are also equally legitimate ways of attributing relativistic representational contents. In the companion piece “Relativism 2: Semantic Content”, I look in more detail at the more specific question whether semantic contents (i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language) should be construed in an absolutist or a relativist way. (shrink)
One class of central debates between normative realists appears to concern whether we should be naturalists or reductionists about the normative. However, metaethical discussion of naturalism and reduction is often inconsistent, murky, or uninformative. This can make it hard to see why commitments relative to these metaphysical categories should matter to normative realists. This paper aims to clarify the nature of these categories, and their significance in debates between normative realists. I develop and defend what I call the joint-carving taxonomy, (...) which builds on David Lewis’ notion of elite properties. I argue that this taxonomy is clear and metaphysically interesting, and answers to distinctive taxonomic interests of normative realists. I also suggest that it has important implications for the project of adjudicating debates among normative realists. (shrink)
Hilbert’s choice operators τ and ε, when added to intuitionistic logic, strengthen it. In the presence of certain extensionality axioms they produce classical logic, while in the presence of weaker decidability conditions for terms they produce various superintuitionistic intermediate logics. In this thesis, I argue that there are important philosophical lessons to be learned from these results. To make the case, I begin with a historical discussion situating the development of Hilbert’s operators in relation to his evolving program in the (...) foundations of mathematics and in relation to philosophical motivations leading to the development of intuitionistic logic. This sets the stage for a brief description of the relevant part of Dummett’s program to recast debates in metaphysics, and in particular disputes about realism and anti-realism, as closely intertwined with issues in philosophical logic, with the acceptance of classical logic for a domain reflecting a commitment to realism for that domain. Then I review extant results about what is provable and what is not when one adds epsilon to intuitionistic logic, largely due to Bell and DeVidi, and I give several new proofs of intermediate logics from intuitionistic logic+ε without identity. With all this in hand, I turn to a discussion of the philosophical significance of choice operators. Among the conclusions I defend are that these results provide a finer-grained basis for Dummett’s contention that commitment to classically valid but intuitionistically invalid principles reflect metaphysical commitments by showing those principles to be derivable from certain existence assumptions; that Dummett’s framework is improved by these results as they show that questions of realism and anti-realism are not an “all or nothing” matter, but that there are plausibly metaphysical stances between the poles of anti-realism and realism, because different sorts of ontological assumptions yield intermediate rather than classical logic; and that these intermediate positions between classical and intuitionistic logic link up in interesting ways with our intuitions about issues of objectivity and reality, and do so usefully by linking to questions around intriguing everyday concepts such as “is smart,” which I suggest involve a number of distinct dimensions which might themselves be objective, but because of their multivalent structure are themselves intermediate between being objective and not. Finally, I discuss the implications of these results for ongoing debates about the status of arbitrary and ideal objects in the foundations of logic, showing among other things that much of the discussion is flawed because it does not recognize the degree to which the claims being made depend on the presumption that one is working with a very strong logic. (shrink)
Moral Relativism can be considered an attractive alternative to realism because relativists can make good sense of cultural and societal disagreements by seeing them as faultless. However, we can show that this advantage is made possible by systematically disagreeing with moral phenomenology. Relativists make a substantial distinction between intercultural and intracultural discourses which turns out to be incoherent. This can be shown by making use of Crispin Wright’s notion of Cognitive Command.
Many philosophers believe that judgments about propositional attitudes, or about which mental states are expressed by which sentences, are normative judgments. If this is so, then metanormative expressivism must be given expressivist treatment. This might seem to make expressivism self-defeating or worrisomely circular, or to frustrate the explanatory ambitions central to the view. I argue that recent objections along these lines to giving an expressivist account of expressivism are not successful. I shall also suggest that in order to deal with (...) these worries, Dreier's influential response to the so-called ‘problem of creeping minimalism’ must be slightly revised. (shrink)
Apparently, aiming to comply with the norm ‘Believe that P if and only if the proposition that P is true’ can hardly differ from aiming to comply with the norm ‘Believe that P if and only if the proposition that P is epistemically justified’. So one may be tempted to agree with Richard Rorty that the distinction between truth and justification is pragmatically useless because it cannot make any difference ‘when the question is about what I should believe now’. I (...) resist this conclusion by arguing that the distinction between truth and justification is pragmatically useful even if the two properties are indeed normatively coincident. The argument I offer turns on the claim that truth plays an explanatory role that justification is inherently incapable of playing. However, my contention is not just that the distinction between truth and justification is pragmatically useful because truth is a bona fide explanatory notion. It is that the distinction between truth and justification is pragmatically useful because the realization that the former plays an explanatory role that the latter is inherently incapable of playing gives access to reasons which would otherwise escape our attention. If truth is a bona fide explanatory notion, the distinction between truth and justification is pragmatically useful because it is precisely when the question is about what I should believe now that attending to such a distinction will often make a difference – and it will make a difference even if the two properties are in fact normatively coincident. (shrink)
I argue that there is no metaphysically substantive property of truth. Although many take this thesis to be central to deflationism about truth, it is sometimes left unclear what a metaphysically substantive property of truth is supposed to be. I offer a precise account by relying on the distinction between the property and concept of truth. Metaphysical substantivism is the view that the property of truth is a sparse property, regardless of how one understands the nature of sparse properties. I (...) then offer two new arguments against metaphysical substantivism that employ ideas involving recombination and truthmaking. First, I argue that there are no theoretically compelling reasons to posit the existence of a metaphysically substantive property of truth. Secondly, I argue that if we do posit the existence of such a property, then we end up with a view that is either contradictory or unmotivated. What we’re left with is a metaphysically deflationary account of the property of truth that fully respects the metaphysical ambitions of truthmaker theory, and that is consistent with both the view that truth is a deflated, explanatorily impotent concept and the view that truth is an explanatorily powerful concept. (shrink)
In this paper, I will trace a distinction between two different ways of thinking about doxastic conflicts. The first way emphasises what is going on at the level of semantics, when two subjects disagree by uttering certain sentences or accepting certain contents. The second way emphasises some aspects that are epistemic in kind, which concern what subjects are rationally required to do whenever they disagree with someone. The semantics-oriented and epistemically-oriented notions will serve for the purpose of assessing some aspects (...) of the debate that revolves around the notions of disagreement on matters of inclination. These aspects include: (i) the idea that disagreements in areas of inclination are somehow defective (Egan 2010); (ii) the idea that Relativism makes disagreement epistemically insignificant (Carter 2013); (iii) the idea that there can be faultless disagreements in which faultlessness is epistemic in kind (Schafer 2011). (shrink)
The expression conditional fallacy identifies a family of arguments deemed to entail odd and false consequences for notions defined in terms of counterfactuals. The antirealist notion of truth is typically defined in terms of what a rational enquirer or a community of rational enquirers would believe if they were suitably informed. This notion is deemed to entail, via the conditional fallacy, odd and false propositions, for example that there necessarily exists a rational enquirer. If these consequences do indeed follow from (...) the antirealist notion of truth, alethic antirealism should probably be rejected. In this paper we analyse the conditional fallacy from a semantic (i.e. model-theoretic) point of view. This allows us to identify with precision the philosophical commitments that ground the validity of this type of argument. We show that the conditional fallacy arguments against alethic antirealism are valid only if controversial metaphysical assumptions are accepted. We suggest that the antirealist is not committed to the conditional fallacy because she is not committed to some of these assumptions. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to connect the current debate on relative truth to the discussions of theories of truth in general, in which the so-called platitudes about truth have recently played a prominent role. Truth-relativists propose adding to the standard truth predicate an argument-place for an extra parameter over and above a possible world and they presume that the predicate that results from this relativization is a truth predicate. Yet this relativization arguably isn't just an innocuous extrapolation of (...) the Lewis-Kaplan line in semantics that naturally conserves the predicate's status as a truth predicate. This status has to be specifically established. I'll discuss arguments to the effect that truth-relativists fail on that score since relative truth doesn't satisfy certain basic platitudes about truth, in particular the Equivalence Schema and the normativity of truth. This suggests that a relativized truth predicate cannot play the role required of a truth predicate. I shall discuss the relativist's defensive strategies in detail, the most promising of which is to claim that it is legitimate to deny the Equivalence Schema by arguing that relativism introduces a revisionary concept of truth and so fundamentally revises semantics. However, I'll point out that solely invoking semantic revision doesn't suffice to justify a denial of the Equivalence Schema and that any further justification of such a denial is ad hoc or question begging. Moreover, I suggest that with respect to the normativity of truth the prospects of truth-relativism are equally dim. (shrink)
This entry explores Charles Peirce's account of truth in terms of the end or ‘limit’ of inquiry. This account is distinct from – and arguably more objectivist than – views of truth found in other pragmatists such as James and Rorty. The roots of the account in mathematical concepts is explored, and it is defended from objections that it is (i) incoherent, (ii) in its faith in convergence, too realist and (iii) in its ‘internal realism’, not realist enough.
This paper offers a discussion of metaphysical pluralism, alethic pluralism, and logical pluralism. According to the metaphysical pluralist, there are several ways of being. According to the alethic pluralist, there are several ways of being true, and according to the logical pluralist, there are several ways of being valid. Each of these three forms of pluralism will be considered on its own, but the ambition of the paper is to explore possible connections between them. My primary objective is to present (...) and develop a positive account according to which the different forms of pluralism are intimately related. I will proceed in two steps. First, I will investigate the connection between alethic pluralism and logical pluralism. I will argue that a certain version of alethic pluralism supports logical pluralism. Second, I will connect alethic pluralism and logical pluralism to metaphysical pluralism. I will suggest that the former two are at least partly founded on the latter. (shrink)
Group agents have been represented as expressive fictions by those who treat ascriptions of agency to groups as metaphorical; as pragmatic fictions by those who think that the agency ascribed to groups belongs in the first place to a distinct individual or set of individuals; and as theoretical fictions by those who think that postulating group agents serves no indispensable role in our theory of the social world. This paper identifies, criticizes and rejects each of these views, defending a strong (...) realist position. (shrink)
Say that two goals are normatively coincident just in case one cannot aim for one goal without automatically aiming for the other. While knowledge and justification are distinct epistemic goals, with distinct achievement conditions, this paper begins from the suggestion that they are nevertheless normatively coincident—aiming for knowledge and aiming for justification are one and the same activity. A number of surprising consequences follow from this—both specific consequences about how we can ascribe knowledge and justification in lottery cases and more (...) general consequences about the nature of justification and the relationship between justification and evidential probability. Many of these consequences turn out to be at variance with conventional, prevailing views. (shrink)
According to a traditional argument against moral realism, the existence of objective moral facts is hard to reconcile with the existence of radical disagreement over moral issues. An increasingly popular response to this argument is to insist that it generalizes too easily. Thus, it has been argued that if one rejects moral realism on the basis of disagreement then one is committed to similar views about epistemology and meta-ethics itself, since the disagreements that arise in those areas are just as (...) deep as the moral ones. This in turn is taken to show that a moral anti-realist should seek another basis for her position. For, if she extends her anti-realism also to epistemology and meta-ethics, then she is no longer in a position to say that her meta-ethical position is (objectively) true or that it is a fact that we have reason to accept it. She therefore seems left with a position that hardly even seems to be a position. The purpose of the paper is to challenge this response and in particular the claim that the argument from disagreement applies equally well to epistemology and meta-ethics as it does to ethics. It is argued that, despite contrary appearances, there are crucial differences between the disagreements that occur in ethics compared to those that arise in the other areas. Moreover, even granted that the disagreements are just as deep, there are other differences between the areas that nevertheless justify drawing different conclusions about their status from the existence of those disagreements. (shrink)
Creeping minimalism threatens to cloud the distinction between realist and anti-realist metaethical views. When anti-realist views equip themselves with minimalist theories of truth and other semantic notions, they are able to take on more and more of the doctrines of realism (such as the existence of moral truths, facts, and beliefs). But then they start to look suspiciously like realist views. I suggest that creeping minimalism is a problem only if moral realism is understood primarily as a semantic doctrine. I (...) argue that moral realism is better understood instead as a metaphysical doctrine. As a result, we can usefully regiment the metaethical debate into one about moral truthmakers: in virtue of what are moral judgments true? I show how the notion of truthmaking has been simmering just below the surface of the metaethical debate, and how it reveals one metaethical view (quasi-realism) to be a stronger contender than the others. (shrink)
This paper investigates the nature of scientific realism. I begin by considering the anomalous fact that Bas van Fraassen’s account of scientific realism is strikingly similar to Arthur Fine’s account of scientific non-realism. To resolve this puzzle, I demonstrate how the two theorists understand the nature of truth and its connection to ontology, and how that informs their conception of the realism debate. I then argue that the debate is much better captured by the theory of truthmaking, and not by (...) any particular theory of truth. To be a scientific realist is to adopt a realism-relevant account of what makes true the scientific theories one accepts. The truthmaking approach restores realism’s metaphysical core—distancing itself from linguistic conceptions of the debate—and thereby offers a better characterization of what is at stake in the question of scientific realism. (shrink)
After offering a characterization of what unites versions of ‘expressivism’, we highlight a number of dimensions along which expressivist views should be distinguished. We then separate four theses often associated with expressivism – a positive expressivist thesis, a positive constitutivist thesis, a negative ontological thesis, and a negative semantic thesis – and describe how traditional expressivists have attempted to incorporate them. We argue that expressivism in its traditional form may be fatally flawed, but that expressivists nonetheless have the resources for (...) preserving what is essential to their view. These resources comprise a re-configuring of expressivism, the result of which is the view we call ‘neo-expressivism’. After illustrating how the neo-expressivist model works in the case of avowals and ethical claims, we explain how it avoids the problems of traditional expressivism. (shrink)
Using a vague predicate can make commitments about the appropriate use of that predicate in the remaining part of the discourse. For instance, if I assert that some particular pig is fat, I am committed to judging any fatter pig to be fat as well. We can model this update effect by recognizing that truth depends both on the state of the world and on the state of the discourse: the truth conditions of ‘This pig is fat’ rule out evaluation (...) points for which the pig in question in world w is thinner than the cutoff for fatness in the discourse d. Then disagreements about taste are disagreements about the discourse. Unlike disagreements about the world, disagreements about the discourse can be faultless, given that none of the discourse participants has privileged authority to make pronouncements about conventions for appropriate use of a predicate. Thus on the dynamic view developed here, whether or not a dispute about taste turns out to be faultless depends in part on predictable features of the previous discourse. On this account, faultless disagreement involving predicates of personal taste does not force relativizing truth to a judge or assessor. (shrink)
Philosophical theorizing about truth manifests a desire to conform to the ordinary or folk notion of truth. This practice often involves attempts to accommodate some form of correspondence. We discuss this accommodation project in light of two empirical projects intended to describe the content of the ordinary conception of truth. One, due to Arne Naess, claims that the ordinary conception of truth is not correspondence. Our more recent study is consistent with Naess’ result. Our findings suggest that contextual factors and (...) respondent gender affect whether the folk accept that correspondence is sufficient for truth. These findings seem to show that the project of accommodating the ordinary notion of truth is more difficult than philosophers had anticipated because it is fragmentary. (shrink)
It is often alleged that, unlike typical axioms of mathematics, the Continuum Hypothesis (CH) is indeterminate. This position is normally defended on the ground that the CH is undecidable in a way that typical axioms are not. Call this kind of undecidability “absolute undecidability”. In this paper, I seek to understand what absolute undecidability could be such that one might hope to establish that (a) CH is absolutely undecidable, (b) typical axioms are not absolutely undecidable, and (c) if a mathematical (...) hypothesis is absolutely undecidable, then it is indeterminate. I shall argue that on no understanding of absolute undecidability could one hope to establish all of (a)–(c). However, I will identify one understanding of absolute undecidability on which one might hope to establish both (a) and (c) to the exclusion of (b). This suggests that a new style of mathematical antirealism deserves attention—one that does not depend on familiar epistemological or ontological concerns. The key idea behind this view is that typical mathematical hypotheses are indeterminate because they are relevantly similar to CH. (shrink)
Amongst those views sometimes attributed to the later Wittgenstein are included both a deflationary theory of truth, as well as a non-factualism about certain regions of discourse. Evidence in favor of the former attribution, it is thought, can be found in Wittgenstein?s apparent affirmation of the basic definitional equivalence of ?p? is true and p in ?136 of his Philosophical Investigations. Evidence in favor of the latter attribution, it might then be presumed, can be found in the context of the (...) so-called ?private language argument?, wherein Wittgenstein provides an expressivist treatment of first-person present tense sensation utterances. In this paper, by contrast, I will argue that Wittgenstein?s later philosophy is best understood as endorsing neither a non-factualism about sensation utterances, nor a deflationism about truth. Wittgenstein should instead be understood as offering a ?mixed? view of sensation utterances according to which some while not others are apt for expressivist treatment. Moreover, he should be thought of as identifying truth-conditions with semantic ?correctness-conditions?, and thus truth with semantic ?assertibility? (shrink)
We outline a theory of the cognitive role of belief in absolute necessity that is normative and intended to be metaphysically neutral. We take this theory to be unique in scope since it addresses simultaneously the questions of how such belief is (properly) acquired and of how it is (properly) manifest. The acquisition and manifestation conditions for belief in absolute necessity are given univocally, in terms of complex higher-order attitudes involving two distinct kinds of supposition (A-supposing and C-supposing). It is (...) subsequently argued that the proposed acquisition and manifestation conditions are rationally interdependent, and that such harmony affords explanations of connections between different facets of belief in necessity that otherwise remain mysterious. (shrink)
Descriptivism in the ontology of art is the thesis that the correct ontological proposal for a kind of artwork cannot show the nascent ontological conception of such things embedded in our critical and appreciative practices to be substantially mistaken. Descriptivists believe that the kinds of revisionary art ontological proposals propounded by Nelson Goodman, Gregory Currie, Mark Sagoff, and me are methodologically misconceived. In this paper I examine the case that has been made for a local form of descriptivism in the (...) ontology of art: a form that does not quarrel with the possibility of revisionism in matters of ‘fundamental metaphysics’, but which argues that special features of the arts make descriptivism in this particular sphere obligatory. David Davies, Andrew Kania and Stephen Davies are local descriptivists in this sense. I argue that the burden of proof lies with the local descriptivist, but that this burden is too heavy for him to carry. Specifically, it emerges that the only way in which the local descriptivist can motivate his position is by arguing that our artistic practices determine the art ontological facts: a thesis that local descriptivists typically appeal to, but have not been able to argue for successfully. My conclusion is that the methodological debate in the ontology of art should now proceed by focussing on the case for global descriptivism: i.e. that form of descriptivism that opposes the possibility of revisionism in ontological matters across the board. (shrink)
This paper explores how consideration of the notions of naturalness and eligibility, which have played an increasingly significant role in contemporary metaphysics, might impact on the study of truth. In particular, it aims to demonstrate how taking such notions seriously may be of benefit to ‘representational’ theories of truth by showing how the naturalness of truth on a representational account provides a response to the ‘Scope Problem’ presented by Lynch.
One of the many ways that ?deflationary? and ?inflationary? theories of truth are said to differ is in their attitude towards truth qua property. This difference used to be very easy to delineate, with deflationists denying, and inflationists asserting, that truth is a property, but more recently the debate has become a lot more complicated, owing primarily to the fact that many contemporary deflationists often do allow for truth to be considered a property. Anxious to avoid inflation, however, these deflationists (...) are at pains to point out that the truth property, on their view, is not a property of any significant interest. Correspondingly, inflationists have seen this as an opportunity to refine what kind of property they think truth is, which?according to them?moves their views beyond deflationism. The upshot of this is that there are number of different accounts in the literature of what distinguishes an inflationary truth property from a deflationary one, or?as it is sometimes put?what distinguishes a ?substantive? property from an ?insubstantive? one. This has made it hard to pin down exactly what is at issue at the metaphysical level between deflationists and inflationists, which makes it increasingly hard to see how debates between them are properly phrased. Given that these positions represent the two central attitudes towards truth in contemporary debates, this makes for a serious obstacle for the project of discerning the correct theory of truth. The aim of this paper is to discern the best way to distinguish between substantive and insubstantive properties, and thus to restore some focus to these debates. I argue that the three central distinctions in the literature fail, and offer what I take to be a more promising distinction in terms of a graded distinction between abundant and sparse properties. (shrink)
This paper defends a key aspect of the Peircean conception of truth—the idea that truth is in some sense epistemically-constrained. It does so by exploring parallels between Peirce’s epistemology of inquiry and that of Wittgenstein in On Certainty. The central argument defends a Peircean claim about truth by appeal to a view shared by Peirce and Wittgenstein about the structure of reasons. This view relies on the idea that certain claims have a special epistemic status, or function as what are (...) popularly called ‘hinge propositions’. (shrink)
: Radical meta-normative skepticism is the view that no standard, norm, or principle has objective authority or normative force. It does not deny that there are norms, standards of correctness, and principles of various kinds that render it possible that we succeed or fail in measuring up to their prerogatives. Rather, it denies that any norm has the status of commanding with objective authority, of giving rise to normative reasons to take seriously and follow its demands. Two powerful transcendental arguments (...) challenge this view. First, skepticism is said to be self-defeating: Settling what to accept, and in particular whether to accept skepticism, appears to be a reason-guided enterprise. How can skeptics coherently support their view by citing reasons in their favor after they just rejected them throughout? Second, there is the practical-deliberative version, most recently developed by David Enoch: We are essentially deliberative creatures. Yet deliberation appears to require that there are correct answers in the form of normative reasons to our practical questions. Thus confidence in the sensible nature of deliberation should inspire confidence in reasons. The essay undermines both transcendental arguments by demonstrating, first, how to support skepticism without deserting its tenets, and, second, how to deliberate in skeptical fashion. (shrink)