Philosophers readily talk about merely verbal disputes, usually without much or any explicit reflection on what these are, and a good deal of methodological significance is attached to discovering whether a dispute is merely verbal or not. Currently, metaphilosophical advances are being made towards a clearer understanding of what exactly it takes for something to be a merely verbal dispute. This paper engages with this growing literature, pointing out some problems with existing approaches, and develops a new proposal which builds (...) on their strengths. (shrink)
This paper takes the form of a critical discussion of Crispin Wright’s notion of entitlement of cognitive project. I examine various strategies for defending the claim that entitlement can make acceptance of a proposition epistemically rational, including one which appeals to epistemic consequentialism. Ultimately, I argue, none of these strategies is successful, but the attempt to isolate points of disagreement with Wright issues in some positive proposals as to how an epistemic consequentialist should characterize epistemic rationality.
Are there dispositions which not only do not manifest, but which could not manifest? We argue that there are dispositions to Ф in circumstances C where C is impossible, and some where Ф is impossible. Furthermore, postulating these dispositions does useful theoretical work. This paper describes a number of cases of dispositions had by objects even though those dispositions are not possibly manifest, and argues for the importance of these dispositions.
I argue that mind-independence realism should be characterised in terms of what I call 'essential', rather than 'modal', independence from our mental lives. I explore the connections between the two kinds of independence, and argue that characterizations in terms of essence respect more intuitions about what realism is, harmonize better with standard characterizations of anti-realism, and avert the threat of subversion from Blackburn's quasi-realist.
In recent work Timothy Williamson argues that the epistemology of metaphysical modality is a special case of the epistemology of counterfactuals. I argue that Williamson has not provided an adequate argument for this controversial claim, and that it is not obvious how what he says should be supplemented in order to derive such an argument. But I suggest that an important moral of his discussion survives this point. The moral is that experience could play an epistemic role which is more (...) epistemically significant than a mere 'enabling' role but not equivalent to an evidential role. (shrink)
There is a New Idea in epistemology. It goes by the name of ‘knowledge first,’ and it is particularly associated with Timothy Williamson’s book Knowledge and Its Limits. In slogan form, to put knowledge first is to treat knowledge as basic or fundamental, and to explain other states—belief, justification, maybe even content itself—in terms of knowledge, instead of vice versa. The idea has proven enormously interesting, and equally controversial. But deep foundational questions about its actual content remain relatively unexplored. We (...) think that a wide variety of views travel under the banner of ‘knowledge first’ (and that the slogan doesn’t help much with differentiating them). Furthermore, we think it is far from straightforward to draw connections between certain of these views; they are more independent than they are often assumed to be. Our project here is exploratory and clarificatory. We mean to tease apart various ‘knowledge first’ claims, and explore what connections they do or do not have with one another. Our taxonomy is offered in §2, and connections are explored in §3. The result, we hope, will be a clearer understanding of just what the knowledge first theses are. We conclude, in §4, with some brief suggestions as to how we think the various theses might be evaluated. (shrink)
We discuss explanation of an earlier event by a later event, and argue that prima facie cases of backwards event explanation are ubiquitous. Some examples: (1) I am tidying my flat because my brother is coming to visit tomorrow. (2) The scarlet pimpernels are closing because it is about to rain. (3) The volcano is smoking because it is going to erupt soon. We then look at various ways people might attempt to explain away these prima facie cases by arguing (...) that in each case the 'real' explanation is something else. We argue that none of the explaining-away strategies are successful, and so any plausible account of explanation should either make room for backwards explanation, or have a good story to tell about why it doesn't have to. (shrink)
Friends of Wright-entitlement cannot appeal to direct epistemic consequentialism (believe or accept what maximizes expected epistemic value) in order to account for the epistemic rationality of accepting Wright-entitled propositions. The tenability of direct consequentialism is undermined by the “Truth Fairy”: a powerful being who offers you great epistemic reward (in terms of true beliefs) if you accept a proposition p for which you have evidence neither for nor against. However, this chapter argues that a form of indirect epistemic consequentialism seems (...) promising as a way to deal with the Truth Fairy problem. The relevant form of indirect consequentialism accommodates evidentialism but allows for exceptions in the case of anti-sceptical hypotheses. Since these are the kind of propositions to which Wright-entitlement is supposed to apply—i.e. cornerstone propositions—indirect consequentialism is entitlement-friendly. (shrink)
This chapter attempts to put structure on some of the different philosophical uses of ‘intuition’. It argues that ‘intuition’-hood is associated with four bundles of symptoms: a commonsensicality bundle; an a prioricity and immediacy bundle, and a metaphilosophical bundle. Tentatively suggesting that the word ‘intuition’ as used by philosophers is best regarded as ambiguous, the chapter offers a much simpler view concerning the meaning of ‘intuition’ in philosophy. With some of the attacks on ‘intuition’ as an epistemic source explored, the (...) chapter concludes that one significant kind of philosophical ‘intuition’, related to a prioricity and conceptual truth, can be defended against a range of typical epistemological challenges. (shrink)
There is surely something right about Craig’s view: we are unlikely to succeed in any attempt to analyse away the intricacies in our concept of knowledge. We cannot realistically hope to uncover a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for A knows that p which are in all cases either clearly satisfied or clearly not satisfied. Nor, I suspect, is it possible to offer necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge which are widely accepted as being more securely understood than knowledge (...) itself. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore the traditional conception of a prioricity as epistemic independence of evidence from sense experience. We investigate the fortunes of the traditional conception in the light of recent challenges by Timothy Williamson. We contend that Williamson’s arguments can be resisted in various ways. En route, we argue that Williamson’s views are not as distant from tradition as they might seem at first glance.
This paper builds on some important recent work by Amie Thomasson, wherein she argues that recent disputes about the existence of ordinary objects have arisen due to eliminiativist metaphysicians’ misunderstandings. Some, she argues, are mistaken about how the language of quantification works, while others neglect the existence and significance of certain analytic entailments. Thomasson claims that once these misunderstandings are cleared away, it is trivially easy to answer existence questions about ordinary objects using everyday empirical methods of investigation. She reveals (...) how two conflicting metaontologies can lead to different positions in the first-order debate. In this paper, I bring a third metaontological perspective to the table: one that enables us to maintain that ontological disputes about ordinary objects are not trivially easy to settle, even if we agree with Thomasson that they are merely verbal. These are serious verbal disputes. (shrink)
The goal of the research programme I describe in this article is a realist epistemology for arithmetic which respects arithmetic's special epistemic status (the status usually described as a prioricity) yet accommodates naturalistic concerns by remaining fundamentally empiricist. I argue that the central claims which would allow us to develop such an epistemology are (i) that arithmetical truths are known through an examination of our arithmetical concepts; (ii) that (at least our basic) arithmetical concepts are accurate mental representations of elements (...) of the arithmetical structure of the independent world; (iii) that (ii) obtains in virtue of the normal functioning of our sensory apparatus. The first of these claims protects arithmetic's special epistemic status relative, for example, to the laws of physics, the second preserves the independence of arithmetical truth, and the third ensures that we remain empiricists. Preliminaries Justifying and grounding concepts Cameras and filters An epistemology for arithmetic Concluding remarks. (shrink)
in American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (3), July 2007, pp. 259-72. Argues that epistemically normative claims are made true by the same facts as, but do not mean the same as, certain natural-sounding claims.
ABSTRACT:The paper begins by surveying a range of possible views on the metaphysics of romantic love, organizing them as responses to a single question. It then outlines a position, constructionist functionalism, according to which romantic love is characterized by a functional role that is at least partly constituted by social matters, although this role may be realized by states that are not socially constructed.
David Lewis is associated with the controversial thesis that some properties are more eligible than others to be the referents of our predicates solely in virtue of those properties’ being more natural; independently, that is, of anything to do with our patterns of usage of the relevant predicates. On such a view, the natural properties act as ‘reference magnets’. In this paper I explore (though I do not endorse) a related thesis in epistemology: that some propositions are ‘justification magnets’. According (...) to the doctrine of justification magnetism, we have better justification for some propositions than for others solely in virtue of certain features of those propositions; independently, that is, of anything to do with evidential support or cognitive accomplishment. In the course of discussing an objection to justification magnetism I describe (though I do not endorse) a novel approach to epistemology akin to interpretationism in the theory of reference. (shrink)
This is a big-picture book, 2 written with a breadth of focus which I find admirable. It exhibits what's come to be known as the ‘intersubdiscplinary’ approach to philosophy, which is not restricted by traditional boundaries within the discipline but rather proceeds with an eye to all sorts of areas of philosophy where relevant arguments, results, analogies and strategies might be lurking. I approve of this way of doing philosophy; it seems to me that all too often that wheels are (...) reinvented, or crucial points missed, because of a lack of this sort of intersubdisciplinarity.To help guide us through such a broad landscape, this book needed to be well-signposted and clearly written, and it is. It cannot be denied, however, that the ambitious scale of The Nature of Normativity won't be to every taste. For one thing, not everyone likes big pictures. For another, this is a deep, dense and in many ways difficult book, which can only really be appreciated by sitting down with it for hours on end. It will not repay the casual skim-reader, nor is it likely to appeal to those who prefer dipping into philosophy books over reading them wholesale.The book is also long . The view under construction has a great many interlocking elements, including non-reductive normative naturalism, normative realism, a priorist intuitionism, normative internalism, the normativity of intentionality, conceptual-role semantics, contextualism, possible-worlds semantics, and certain ideas about ‘planning’ derived from the recent work of Allan Gibbard. It will be a tough read for specialists who do not share Wedgwood's familiarity with a wide range of subdisciplines, who will either have to content themselves with a superficial reading of many passages or else hunt down the necessary background material to …. (shrink)
This note concerns a puzzle about probability which has recently caught the attention of a number of philosophers. According to the current philosophical consensus, the solution to the puzzle reveals that one can acquire new information, sufficient to change one's credences in certain events, just by having a certain experience, even though one knew all along that one would have an experience which felt exactly like this. I argue that the philosophical consensus is mistaken.
Lewis has argued that quasi-realism is fictionalism. Blackburn denies this, offering reasons which rely on a descriptive reading of quasi-realism. This note offers a different, more general argument against Lewis's claim, available to prescriptive as well as descriptive quasi-realists.
Elizabeth Barnes and Robert Williams have developed a theory of metaphysical indeterminacy, via which they defend the theoretical legitimacy of vague objects. In this paper, we argue that while the Barnes–Williams theory supplies a viable account of genuine metaphysical vagueness, it cannot underwrite an account of genuinely vague objects. First we clarify the distinction between these two key theses. Then we argue that the Barnes–Williams theory of metaphysical vagueness not only fails to deliver genuinely vague objects, it in fact provides (...) grounds for rejecting them. (shrink)
We argue that it would seem to be a mistake to blame Liar-like paradox on certain features of the object language, since the effect can be created with very minimal object languages that contain none of the usual suspects (truth-like predicates, reference to their own truth-bearers, negation, etc.).
I argue that Fitch’s ‘paradox of knowability’ presents no special problem for the epistemic anti-realist who believes that reality is epistemically accessible to us. For the claim which is the target of the argument (If p then it is possible to know p) is not a commitment of anti-realism. The epistemic anti-realist’s commitment is (or should be) to the recognizability of the states of affairs which render true propositions true, not to the knowability of the propositions themselves. A formal apparatus (...) for discussing the recognizability of states of affairs is offered, and other prima facie similar approaches to the paradox argument are reviewed. (shrink)
Abstract This paper examines the kind of epistemic circularity which, according to Ernest Sosa, is unavoidably entailed whenever one has what he calls ?reflective? knowledge (that is, knowledge that p such that the knower reflectively endorses the reliability of the epistemic sources by which she came to her belief that p). I begin by describing the relevant kind of circularity and its role in Sosa's epistemology, en route presenting and resisting Sosa's arguments that this kind of circularity is not vicious. (...) Then I consider the somewhat complex relationship between Sosa's views on epistemic circularity and his response to the Problem of Easy Knowledge, arguing that (on one interpretation of Sosa, at least) a complete solution to that problem cannot be extracted from Sosa's work unless the aforementioned epistemic circularity can be proved non-vicious. (shrink)