Much of experimental philosophy consists of surveying 'folk' intuitions about philosophically relevant issues. Are the results of these surveys evidence that the relevant folk intuitions cannot be predicted from the ‘armchair’? We found that a solid majority of philosophers could predict even results claimed to be 'surprising'. But, we argue, this does not mean that such experiments have no role at all in philosophy.
This paper looks at the phenomenon of ethical vagueness by asking the question, how ought one to reason about what to do when confronted with a case of ethical vagueness? I begin by arguing that we must confront this question, since ethical vagueness is inescapable. I then outline one attractive answer to the question: we ought to maximize expected moral value when confronted with ethical vagueness. This idea yields determinate results for what one rationally ought to do in cases of (...) ethical vagueness. But what it recommends is dependent on which substantive theory of vagueness is true; one can't draw conclusions about how to reason about vagueness in ethics in the absence of concrete assumptions about the nature of vagueness. (shrink)
Quasi-realist Expressivists offer accounts of normative truth, normative facts, and normative properties which make their view apparently indistinguishable from Realist views on these subjects. This chapter explores the idea that there is still a substantial metaphysical difference between Realism and Quasi-realism, since they differ over the extent to which normative properties are metaphysically elite in David Lewis’s sense. Eliteness is an explanatory notion, and Realists need the explanatory features of eliteness to explain how different communities refer to the same property (...) with their word “ought.” While Quasi-realists can agree with Realists about which property “ought” refers to, the same resources they use to explain normative truth, reference, and facthood also explain why the referential facts are this way. Thus eliteness does not enter the explanatory picture for the Quasi-realist, and the metaphysics of obligation looks very different on the Realist and Quasi-realist views. (shrink)
Billy Dunaway develops and defends a framework for realism about morality. He defends the idea that moral properties are privileged parts of reality which are the referents for our moral terms. He suggests how it is that we can know about morality, and what the limits to moral disagreement are.
To what extent are the answers to theological questions knowable? And if the relevant answers are knowable, which sorts of inquirers are in a position to know them? In this chapter we shall not answer these questions directly but instead supply a range of tools that may help us make progress here. The tools consist of plausible structural constraints on knowledge. After articulating them, we shall go on to indicate some ways in which they interact with theological scepticism. In some (...) cases the structural constraints bear directly on whether one can know answers to theological questions. But the structural considerations are related to theological scepticism in other interesting ways as well; for instance we will also be using them to explore the significance of scepticism, by addressing questions such as ‘To what extent does it matter whether or not we can know the answer to theological questions?’. (shrink)
James Dreier (Philos Perspect 18: 23-44, 2004) states what he calls the "Problem of Creeping Minimalism": that metaethical Expressivists can accept a series of claims about meaning, under which all of the sentences that Realists can accept are consistent with Expressivism. This would allow Expressivists to accept all of the Realist's sentences, and as Dreier points out, make it difficult to say what the difference between the two views is. That Expressivists can accept these claims about meaning has been suggested (...) by Simon Blackburn on behalf of his "quasirealist". I argue against the assumption that there is a way to interpret the Realist's sentences in a way that renders them consistent with Expressivism. (shrink)
This paper is about avoiding commitment to an ontology of possible worlds with two primitives: a hyperintensional connective like ‘in virtue of’, and primitive quantification into predicate position. I argue that these tools (which some believe can be independently motivated) render dispensable the ontology of possible worlds needed by traditional anaylses of modality. They also shed new light on the notion of truth-at-a-world.
Anti-realism is often claimed to be preferable to realism on epistemological grounds: while realists have difficulty explaining how we can ever know claims if we are realists about it, anti-realism faces no analogous problem. This paper focuses on anti-realism about normativity to investigate this alleged advantage to anti-realism in detail. I set up a framework in which a version of anti-realism explains a type of modal reliability that appears to be epistemologically promising, and plausibly explains the appearance of an epistemological (...) advantage to realism. But, I argue, this appearance is illusory, and on closer investigation the anti-realist view does not succeed in explaining the presence of familiar epistemological properties for normative belief like knowledge or the absence of defeat. My conclusion on the basis of this framework is that there is a tension in the anti-realist view between the urge to idealize the conditions in which normative beliefs ground normative facts, and a robust kind of reliability that normative belief can have if the anti-realist resists these idealizations. (shrink)
This paper advances two theses about evolutionary debunking arguments in ethics. The first is that, while such arguments are often motivated with the rhetoric of ‘luck', proponents of these arguments have not distinguished between the kinds of luck that might lead to the formation of a true belief. Once we make the needed distinctions, the relevance of the kind of luck which can be derived from broadly evolutionary explanations to the epistemological conclusions debunkers draw is suspect. The second thesis is (...) that debunkers might successfully show that epistemic luck is relevant to their concerns. But they will need to include specific premises about the kind of evolutionary mechanism that explains the beliefs that the debunker targets. Proponents of debunking arguments, if they continue to insist on using luck-based considerations, are then hostage to empirical fortune in a way not previously recognized. (shrink)
It is not an exaggeration to say that Allan Gibbard is one of the most significant contributors to philosophy over the last five decades. Gibbard's work covers an impressive number of subfields within philosophy, including ethics, philosophy of language, decision theory, epistemology, and metaphysics. It also engages with, and makes significant contributions to, work from the natural and social sciences. This volume is not a collection of artifacts from past decades of philosophy. Instead, it is a collection of essays that (...) each make a significant contribution to contemporary work in philosophy. This reflects the fact that Gibbard's work has not only had a massive influence on past discussion in philosophy but also continues to influence new directions of philosophical research. With contributions from: Sara Aronowitz, Simon Blackburn, Paul Boghossian, David Braddon-Mitchell, Nate Charlow, Stephen Darwall, Jamie Dreier, Billy Dunaway, Melissa Fusco, Sona Ghosh, Allan Gibbard, Bill Harper, Paul Horwich, Zoë Johnson King, Tristram McPherson, Howard Nye, Lauren Olin, Caleb Perl, David Plunkett, Peter Railton, Connie Rosati, Mark Schroeder, Alex Silk, Daniel J. Singer, Brian Skyrms, and Seth Yalcin. (shrink)
It is often claimed that realism about normativity entails that it is difficult for us to know anything about it. I refine this thought by characterizing realism as a thesis which is committed to explaining a semantic thesis about possible uses of normative language: that normative terms like ‘ought’ are semantically stable, in the sense that the term refers to the same property even if it is used differently. There are independent arguments which show that a realist view, if it (...) is plausible, should entail semantic stability for ‘ought’. In this paper I argue that, if the realist succeeds in explaining semantic stability, the realist view implies that normative beliefs will be at risk of being false, and hence not knowledge. Central to this argument is a phenomenon I call meta-semantic risk. I argue that the phenomenon of meta-semantic risk gives rise to a significant dose of normative skepticism for the realist, but it does not entail wholesale skepticism, since the epistemic threats are only contingent, and threatens only precise normative beliefs. I close by sketching two arguments that may show that even this limited form of skepticism counts significantly against the realist view. (shrink)
Philosophers and theologians have traditionally been impressed with arguments which purport to show that predicates such as ‘wise,’ ‘good,’ and ‘powerful’ cannot, when applied to God, mean what they ordinarily mean when applied to everyday creatures. Theological predications, according to these arguments, cannot be univocal with ordinary predications. Philosophers in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions presented accounts of how non-univocal theological predications could be true of God. These are commonly known as analogical and apophatic accounts of the divine predicates. (...) In this paper, I argue that representatives from each tradition also took epistemological constraints on an account of theological predication seriously. That is, they took it to be important to show not only how a predicate could be true of God, but also how we could know that it is true. Epistemological constraints of this kind, I argue, are non-trivial, since many accounts of the truth of theological predications entail that it is impossible or difficult to know them. Moreover, epistemological constraints are also important for ongoing discussions of theological predication, as they are violated by several contemporary accounts in the literature. (shrink)
This article sketches how the debate over divine predications should be informed by the medieval Islamicate tradition. We emphasize the focus not only on the metaphysics and language of divine predications by al-Ghazali, Maimonides, and others, but also on the epistemology of divine predications. In particular, we emphasize the importance of a theory that explains not only what it takes to make a divine predication true, but also whether these predications are knowable. The epistemological element is central, because traditional views (...) of theology aim to avoid theological skepticism, which is the view that, even if there are theological truths, these truths are unknowable. We pursue this point by emphasizing the role of substantives in al-Ghazalı’s theory of divine predicates, and Maimonides’s discussion of negative predications. In closing we apply these lessons to some recent discussions of theological predication. (shrink)