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Barry Lam
Vassar College
  1. Are Cantonese Speakers Really Descriptivists? Revisiting Cross-Cultural Semantics.Barry Lam - 2010 - Cognition 115 (2):320–32.
    In an article in Cognition, Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich [Machery et al., 2004] present data which purports to show that “East Asian” native Cantonese speakers tend to have descriptivist intuitions about the referents of proper names, while “Western” native English speakers tend to have causal-historical intuitions about proper names. Machery et al take this finding to support the view that some intuitions, the universality of which they claim is central to philosophical theories, vary according to cultural background. Machery et (...)
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  2. Calibrated Probabilities and the Epistemology of Disagreement.Barry Lam - 2013 - Synthese 190 (6):1079-1098.
    This paper assesses the comparative reliability of two belief-revision rules relevant to the epistemology of disagreement, the Equal Weight and Stay the Course rules. I use two measures of reliability for probabilistic belief-revision rules, calibration and Brier Scoring, to give a precise account of epistemic peerhood and epistemic reliability. On the calibration measure of reliability, epistemic peerhood is easy to come by, and employing the Equal Weight rule generally renders you less reliable than Staying the Course. On the Brier-Score measure (...)
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  3.  19
    The Invisible Hand From the Grave.Barry Lam - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 15 (3).
    The practice of giving the wealthy perpetual control of their assets is re-emerging in an era of great wealth inequality, long after it had been banned in common law countries. The philosophical justification for such control rests on the claim that there are posthumous rights to wealth, and that such rights do not extend in problematic way to other goods, such as political suffrage. On the basis of such a claim, we give people freedom of testation, and deem them vulnerable (...)
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  4. The Dynamic Foundations of Epistemic Rationality.Barry Lam - forthcoming - Philosophy.
    Classical theories of epistemic rationality take an agent\\textquoteright{}s individual beliefs to be the only things that are rational or irrational. For them, rationality is wholly static. Recent work in epistemology take sets of individual beliefs and also changes of belief over time to be rational or irrational. For these theories, rationality is both static and dynamic. However, for both groups, static rationality is fundamental. In my dissertation, I argue to the contrary that, in fact, all rationality is dynamic rationality. Epistemic (...)
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  5.  28
    Justified Believing is Tracking Your Evidential Commitments.Barry Lam - 2012 - Logos and Episteme 3 (4):545-564.
    In this paper, I give an account of the conditions for rationally changing your beliefs that respects three constraints; 1) that rational believing is a matter ofrespecting your evidence, 2) that evidence seems to have both objective and subjective features, and that our set of beliefs seem to rationally commit us to certain propositions, regardless of the evidential support we have for these propositions. On the view I outline, rationally believing or giving up a belief is a matter of your (...)
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  6.  56
    Vagueness and Ambivalence.Barry Lam - 2013 - Acta Analytica 28 (3):359-379.
    What is the proper attitude toward what is expressed by a vague sentence in the face of borderline evidence? Some call this attitude “ambivalence” and distinguish it from uncertainty. It has been argued that Classical Epistemicism conjoined with classical probability theory fails to characterize this attitude, and that we must therefore abandon classical logic or classical probabilities in the presence of vagueness. In this paper, I give a characterization of ambivalence assuming a supervaluationist semantics for vague terms that does not (...)
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  7. A New Argument Against the Instrumental Conception of Epistemic Rationality.Barry Lam - unknown
    According to the Instrumental Conception of Epistemic Rationality believing rationally is believing in such a way so as to best satisfy one’s cognitive goals. I provide a novel argument against the Instrumental Conception on the basis of an unnoticed phenomenon I call “rational preemption.” You can now revise your plans and actions rationally in order to preempt or prevent foreseeable future irrationality. However, you cannot now revise your beliefs rationally in order to preempt or prevent foreseeable future irrationality. The ability (...)
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  8.  5
    Hi-Phi Nation.Barry Lam - 2018 - The Philosophers' Magazine 81:119-120.
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  9. The Use of Narrative in Public Philosophy.Barry Lam - 2019 - Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice 1:89-99.
    For the past two years on my podcast, Hi-Phi Nation, I have been experimenting with using storytelling to increase audience and engagement with contemporary academic philosophy. I offer this paper as a motivation and guide for philosophers interested in how to use storytelling to increase audience engagement in public-facing work. The key is to use the narrative structure to tie a philosophical issue to a character whose changes in fortune over time arise because of a conflict in philosophical ideas, the (...)
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