Ethicists are typically willing to grant that thick terms (e.g. ‘courageous’ and ‘murder’) are somehow associated with evaluations. But they tend to disagree about what exactly this relationship is. Does a thick term’s evaluation come by way of its semantic content? Or is the evaluation pragmatically associated with the thick term (e.g. via conversational implicature)? In this paper, I argue that thick terms are semantically associated with evaluations. In particular, I argue that many thick concepts (if not all) conceptually entail (...) evaluative contents. The Semantic View has a number of outspoken critics, but I shall limit discussion to the most recent--Pekka Väyrynen--who believes that objectionable thick concepts present a problem for the Semantic View. After advancing my positive argument in favor of the Semantic View (section II), I argue that Väyrynen’s attack is unsuccessful (section III). One reason ethicists cite for not focusing on thick concepts is that such concepts are supposedly not semantically evaluative whereas traditional thin concepts (e.g. good and wrong) are. But if my view is correct, then this reason must be rejected. (shrink)
This paper proposes a new Separabilist account of thick concepts, called the Expansion View (or EV). According to EV, thick concepts are expanded contents of thin terms. An expanded content is, roughly, the semantic content of a predicate along with modifiers. Although EV is a form of Separabilism, it is distinct from the only kind of Separabilism discussed in the literature, and it has many features that Inseparabilists want from an account of thick concepts. EV can also give non-cognitivists a (...) novel escape from the Anti-Disentangling Argument. §I explains the approach of all previous Separabilists, and argues that there’s no reason for Separabilists to take this approach. §II explains EV. §III fends off objections. And §IV explains how non-cognitivist proponents of EV can escape the Anti-Disentangling Argument. (shrink)
Despite recent controversies surrounding the principle that knowledge entails truth (KT), this paper aims to prove that the principle is true. It offers a proof of (KT) in the following sense. It advances a deductively valid argument for (KT), whose premises are, by most lights, obviously true. Moreover, each premise is buttressed by at least two supporting arguments. And finally, all premises and supporting arguments can be rationally accepted by people who don’t already accept (KT).
I argue that the Standard View of ignorance is at odds with the claim that knowledge entails truth. In particular, if knowledge entails truth then we cannot explain away some apparent absurdities that arise from the Standard View of ignorance. I then discuss a modified version of the Standard View, which simply adds a truth requirement to the original Standard View. I show that the two main arguments for the original Standard View fail to support this modified view.
A term expresses a thick concept if it expresses a specific evaluative concept that is also substantially descriptive. It is a matter of debate how this rough account should be unpacked, but examples can help to convey the basic idea. Thick concepts are often illustrated with virtue concepts like courageous and generous, action concepts like murder and betray, epistemic concepts like dogmatic and wise, and aesthetic concepts like gaudy and brilliant. These concepts seem to be evaluative, unlike purely descriptive concepts (...) such as red and water. But they also seem different from general evaluative concepts. In particular, thick concepts are typically contrasted with thin concepts like good, wrong, permissible, and ought, which are general evaluative concepts that do not seem substantially descriptive. When Jane says that Max is good, she appears to be evaluating him without providing much description, if any. Thick concepts, on the other hand, are evaluative and substantially descriptive at the same time. For instance, when Max says that Jane is courageous, he seems to be doing two things: evaluating her positively and describing her as willing to face risk. Because of their descriptiveness, thick concepts are especially good candidates for evaluative concepts that pick out properties in the world. Thus they provide an avenue for thinking about ethical claims as being about the world in the same way as descriptive claims. -/- Thick concepts became a focal point in ethics during the second half of the twentieth century. At that time, discussions of thick concepts began to emerge in response to certain disagreements about thin concepts. For example, in twentieth-century ethics, consequentialists and deontologists hotly debated various accounts of good and right. It was also claimed by non-cognitivists and error-theorists that these thin concepts do not correspond to any properties in the world. Dissatisfaction with these viewpoints prompted many ethicists to consider the implications of thick concepts. The notion of a thick concept was thought to provide insight into meta-ethical questions such as whether there is a fact-value distinction, whether there are ethical truths, and, if there are such truths, whether these truths are objective. Some ethicists also theorized about the role that thick concepts can play in normative ethics, such as in virtue theory. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the interest in thick concepts had spread to other philosophical disciplines such as epistemology, aesthetics, metaphysics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of law. -/- Nevertheless, the emerging interest in thick concepts has sparked debates over many questions: How exactly are thick concepts evaluative? How do they combine evaluation and description? How are thick concepts related to thin concepts? And do thick concepts have the sort of significance commonly attributed to them? This article surveys various attempts at answering these questions. (shrink)
Skeptical puzzles and arguments often employ knowledge-closure principles . Epistemologists widely believe that an adequate reply to the skeptic should explain why her reasoning is appealing albeit misleading; but it’s unclear what would explain the appeal of the skeptic’s closure principle, if not for its truth. In this paper, I aim to challenge the widespread commitment to knowledge-closure. But I proceed by first examining a new puzzle about failing to know—what I call the New Ignorance Puzzle . This puzzle resembles (...) to the Old Ignorance Puzzle , although it does not involve a closure principle. It instead centers on the standard view of ignorance, a highly intuitive principle stating that ignorance is merely a failure to know. In Sects. 2 and 3, I argue that the best way to solve the New Ignorance Puzzle is to reject the standard view of ignorance and to explain away its appeal via conversational implicature. I then use this solution to the New Ignorance Puzzle as a way of explaining why knowledge-closure principles would seem true, and why abominable conjunctions would seem abominable, even if such principles were false . The upshot is a new way of explaining why the skeptic’s reasoning is appealing albeit misleading. (shrink)
The Gettier problem has stymied epistemologists. But, whether or not this problem is resolvable, we still must face an important question: Why does the Gettier problem arise in the first place? So far, philosophers have seen it as either a problem peculiar to the concept of knowledge, or else an instance of a general problem about conceptual analysis. But I would like to steer a middle course. I argue that the Gettier problem arises because knowledge is a thick concept, and (...) a Gettier-like problem is just what we should expect from attempts at analyzing a thick concept. Section 2 is devoted to establishing the controversial claim that knowledge is thick, and, in Sect. 3, I show that there is a general problem for analyzing thick concepts of which the Gettier problem is a special instance. I do not take a stand on whether the Gettier problem, or its general counterpart, is resolvable. My primary aim is to bring these problems into better focus. (shrink)
Could a Nazi soldier or terrorist be courageous? The Courage Problem asks us to answer this sort of question, and then to explain why people are reluctant to give this answer. The present paper sheds new light on the Courage Problem by examining a controversy sparked by Bill Maher, who claimed that the 9/11 terrorists’ acts were ‘not cowardly.’ It is shown that Maher's controversy is fundamentally related to the Courage Problem. Then, a unified solution to both problems is provided. (...) This solution entails that gutsy people who lack good ends are not courageous. (shrink)
This entry addresses the question of whether justice is thick, thin, or neither. It discusses three main ways of understanding the difference between thick and thin – Williams’ 1985 distinction, the Continuum Approach, and Hare’s distinction. The question of how to classify justice turns out to be a problem for Williams’ 1985 distinction. If the Continuum Approach is correct, it’s far from clear why it would matter whether a given concept is classified as thick, thin, or neither. Hare’s distinction, on (...) the other hand, allows for a strong case to be made for the claim that “justice” is thick. And if “justice” is thick, in Hare’s sense, then there are at least two potential implications. The first is that justice might be a genuine value property, assuming it’s impossible for “just” to have a value-neutral counterpart. The second is that there might be intractable intercultural disagreements about what things are just. (shrink)
The doctrine of penal substitution claims that it was good (or required) for God to punish in response to human sin, and that Christ received this punishment in our stead. I argue that this doctrine’s central factual claim—that Christ was punished by God—is mistaken. In order to punish someone, one must at least believe the recipient is responsible for an offense. But God surely did not believe the innocent Christ was responsible for an offense, let alone the offense of human (...) sin. So, the central factual claim is mistaken. In the final section, I show that this critique of penal substitution does not apply to the closely-related Anselmian satisfaction theory. (shrink)
John Schellenberg has advanced the hiddenness argument against God’s existence, based on the idea that an all-loving God would seek personal relationships. This paper develops a reply to Schellenberg’s argument by examining the notion of moral impurity, as understood by Paul the Apostle. Paul conceptualized moral impurity as a causal state that transfers from person to person, like a contagious disease. He also believed that moral impurity precludes divine-human relationship. The goal of this paper is to develop these ideas into (...) a problem for one Schellenberg’s key premises. (shrink)
I argue that knowledge is a particular kind of concept known as a thick concept. Examples of thick concepts include courage, generosity, loyalty, brutality, and so forth. These concepts are commonly said to combine both evaluation and description, and one of the main goals of this dissertation is to provide a new account of how a thick concept combines these elements. It is argued that thick concepts are semantically evaluative, and that they combine evaluation and description in a way similar (...) to that of concepts like good qua dancer and bad qua violinist. In the final chapter, this basic idea is applied to the concept of knowledge. There, the concept of knowledge is analyzed in terms of good qua belief. The upshot is that two central epistemological problems—the Gettier Problem and the Value Problem—can be resolved. (shrink)