This paper defends the view, put roughly, that to think that p is to guess that p is the answer to the question at hand, and that to think that p rationally is for one’s guess to that question to be in a certain sense non-arbitrary. Some theses that will be argued for along the way include: that thinking is question-sensitive and, correspondingly, that ‘thinks’ is context-sensitive; that it can be rational to think that p while having arbitrarily low credence (...) that p; that, nonetheless, rational thinking is closed under entailment; that thinking does not supervene on credence; and that in many cases what one thinks on certain matters is, in a very literal sense, a choice. Finally, since there are strong reasons to believe that thinking just is believing, there are strong reasons to think that all this goes for belief as well. (shrink)
How is what we believe related to how we act? That depends on what we mean by ‘believe’. On the one hand, there is what we're sure of: what our names are, where we were born, whether we are sitting in front of a screen. Surety, in this sense, is not uncommon — it does not imply Cartesian absolute certainty, from which no possible course of experience could dislodge us. But there are many things that we think that we are (...) not sure of. For example, you might think that it will rain sometime this month, but not be sure that it will. Both what we're sure of and what we think have important normative connections to action. But the connections are quite different. This paper explores these issues with respect to assertion, inquiry, and decision making. We conclude by arguing that there is no theoretically significant notion of ‘full belief’ intermediate in strength between thinking and being sure. (shrink)
This paper defends the simple view that in asserting that p, one lies iff one knows that p is false. Along the way it draws some morals about deception, knowledge, Gettier cases, belief, assertion, and the relationship between first- and higher-order norms.
This paper considers some puzzling knowledge ascriptions and argues that they present prima facie counterexamples to credence, belief, and justification conditions on knowledge, as well as to many of the standard meta-semantic assumptions about the context-sensitivity of ‘know’. It argues that these ascriptions provide new evidence in favor of contextualist theories of knowledge—in particular those that take the interpretation of ‘know’ to be sensitive to the mechanisms of constraint.
This paper presents a puzzle involving embedded attitude reports. We resolve the puzzle by arguing that attitude verbs take restricted readings: in some environments the denotation of attitude verbs can be restricted by a given proposition. For example, when these verbs are embedded in the consequent of a conditional, they can be restricted by the proposition expressed by the conditional’s antecedent. We formulate and motivate two conditions on the availability of verb restrictions: a constraint that ties the content of restrictions (...) to the “dynamic effects” of sentential connectives and a constraint that limits the availability of restriction effects to present tense verbs with first-person subjects. However, we also present some cases that make trouble for these conditions, and outline some possible ways of modifying the view to account for the recalcitrant data. We conclude with a brief discussion of some of the connections between our semantics for attitude verbs and issues concerning epistemic modals and theories of knowledge. (shrink)
A plausible principle about the felicitous use of indicative conditionals says that there is something strange about asserting an indicative conditional when you know whether its antecedent is true. But in most contexts there is nothing strange at all about asserting indicative conditionals like ‘If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, then someone else did’. This paper argues that the only compelling explanation of these facts requires the resources of contextualism about knowledge.
An action is agentially perfect if and only if, if a person tries to perform it, they succeed, and, if a person performs it, they try to. We argue that trying itself is agentially perfect: if a person tries to try to do something, they try to do it; and, if a person tries to do something, they try to try to do it. We show how this claim sheds new light on the logical structure of intentional action, on the (...) question of whether basic actions are tryings, and on the notion of “options” in decision theory. On the way to these central ideas, we argue that a person can try to do something even if they believe it is impossible that they will succeed, that a person can try to do something even if they do not want to succeed, and that a person can try to do something even if they do not intend to succeed. (shrink)
Although much has been written about the truth-conditions of de re attitude reports, little attention has been paid to certain ‘ultra-liberal’ uses of those reports. We believe that if these uses are legitimate, then a number of interesting consequences for various theses in philosophical semantics follow. The majority of the paper involves describing these consequences. In short, we argue that, if true, ultra-liberal reports: bring counterexamples to a popular approach to de re attitude ascriptions, which we will call ‘descriptivism’; and (...) combine with independently plausible principles about the logic of belief to imply that subjects can achieve omniscience about what exists from the armchair. Although we are not committed to the view that ultra-liberal reports are false, in the final part of the paper we discuss the prospects of pursuing a line according to which the acceptability of such reports ought not be taken at face value. We conclude by arguing that those who are sympathetic with this move might have reason to doubt the truth of an even broader class of acceptable de re attitude reports, namely those that have been taken to undermine orthodox accounts of de re attitude ascriptions. (shrink)
This paper argues that two widely accepted principles about the indicative conditional jointly presuppose the falsity of one of the most prominent arguments against epistemological iteration principles. The first principle about the indicative conditional, which has close ties both to the Ramsey test and the “or‐to‐if” inference, says that knowing a material conditional suffices for knowing the corresponding indicative. The second principle says that conditional contradictions cannot be true when their antecedents are epistemically possible. Taken together, these principles entail that (...) it is impossible to be in a certain kind of epistemic state: namely, a state of ignorance about which of two partially overlapping bodies of knowledge corresponds to one's actual one. However, some of the more popular “margin for error” style arguments against epistemological iteration principles suggest that such states are not only possible, but commonplace. I argue that the tension between these views runs deep, arising just as much for non‐factive attitudes like belief, presupposition, and certainty. I also argue that this is worse news for those who accept the principles about the indicative conditional than it is for those who reject epistemological iteration principles. (shrink)
This paper is about teaching philosophy to high school students through Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate. LD, also known as “values debate,” includes topics from ethics and political philosophy. Thousands of high school students across the U.S. debate these topics in class, after school, and at weekend tournaments. We argue that LD is a particularly effective tool for teaching philosophy, but also that LD today falls short of its potential. We argue that the problems with LD are not inevitable, and we offer (...) strategic recommendations for improving LD as a tool for teaching philosophy. Ultimately, our aim is to create a dialogue between LD and academic philosophy, with the hope that such dialogue will improve LD’s capacity to teach students how to do philosophy. (shrink)