It is widely agreed that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine's arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators.2 But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest real notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every real sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” about (...) metaphysical necessity, then paradigmatic metaphysical necessities would be necessary in one sense of “necessary”, not necessary in another, and that would be it. The question of whether they were necessary simpliciter would be like the question of whether the Parallel Postulate is true simpliciter – understood as a pure mathematical conjecture, rather than as a hypothesis about physical spacetime. In a sense, the latter question has no objective answer. In this article, I argue that paradigmatic questions of modal metaphysics are like the Parallel Postulate question. I then discuss the deflationary ramifications of this argument. I conclude with an alternative conception of the space of possibility. According to this conception, there is no objective boundary between possibility and impossibility. Along the way, I sketch an analogy between modal metaphysics and set theory. (shrink)
In response to comments on my book, Being Realistic about Reasons, by JustinClarke-Doane, David Enoch and Tristram McPherson, and Gideon Rosen, I try to clarify my domain-based view of ontology, my understanding of the epistemology of normative judgments, and my interpretation of the phenomenon of supervenience.
To have free will is to have what it takes to act freely. When an agent acts freely—when she exercises her free will—what she does is up to her. A plurality of alternatives is open to her, and she determines which she pursues. When she does, she is an ultimate source or origin of her action. So runs a familiar conception of free will.
This paper argues that the provision of effective informed consent by surgical patients requires the disclosure of material information about the comparative clinical performance of available surgeons. We develop a new ethical argument for the conclusion that comparative information about surgeons' performance - surgeons' report cards - should be provided to patients, a conclusion that has already been supported by legal and economic arguments. We consider some recent institutional and legal developments in this area, and we respond to some common (...) objections to the use of report cards on the clinical performance of surgeons. (shrink)
I want to motivate an account of what it is for an object to have a property, which may as well be called a deflationary view about properties. Such a view follows from a conception of predication I ground in the work of Donald Davidson, some of which remains unpublished. I claim that if we take seriously Davidson’s account of predication, by maintaining that sentences are the primary linguistic unit, we can define properties in terms of predicates. The aim of (...) this paper is twofold. First, I argue that this account is present in Davidson’s systematic treatment of the problem of predication. Second, I claim that this account is serviceable and economical, as it can accommodate a wide scope of properties and abstract objects without appealing to entities such as truthmakers or joints in nature. (shrink)
If certain versions of the correspondence theory of truth are correct, then truth can be informatively defined as correspondence to facts; facts would be truth-makers, and we could explain truth in terms of truth-bearers, correspondence, and truth-makers. I explain how slingshot arguments work generally, as collapsing arguments (regardless of their targets). Working through the slingshots of Davidson, and Gödel, I claim that Davidson’s slingshot involves dubitable premises, but that Gödel’s slingshot is terminal to certain versions of the correspondence theory, as (...) it poses a fatal dilemma between what I call fact fission and fact fusion. My claim is that it is impossible to informatively define truth in terms of correspondence to facts. (shrink)
Moral rationalism, the belief that acting contra a moral requirement is always irrational, is a strong claim; if true, seems to greatly reduce in scope the number of plausible moral theories due to what has been called the demandingness objection. One response to this consequence of moral rationalism has been to adopt moral anti-rationalism. Dale Dorsey thinks one can escape the demandingess objection with a weak form of anti-rationalism that still grants morality pride of place among normative systems. In this (...) paper I’ll argue that the demandingness objection is a formidable challenge to moral rationalism, and that Dorsey is correct in arguing that his weak anti-rationalism neatly offers a way to evade the objection. I’ll maintain, however, that weak anti-rationalism opens theories up to another powerful objection, the permissiveness objection, which ought to lead someone comfortable abandoning moral rationalism to abandon weak anti-rationalism as well, accepting moral anti-rationalism. (shrink)
An important work in the debate between materialists and dualists, the public correspondence between Anthony Collins and Samuel Clarke provided the framework for arguments over consciousness and personal identity in eighteenth-century Britain. In Clarke's view, mind and consciousness are so unified that they cannot be compounded into wholes or divided into parts, so mind and consciousness must be distinct from matter. Collins, by contrast, was a perceptive advocate of a materialist account of mind, who defended the possibility that thinking and (...) consciousness are emergent properties of the brain. Appendices include philosophical writings that influenced, and responded to, the correspondence. (shrink)
For this new edition, Roger Ariew has adapted Samuel Clarke's edition of 1717, modernizing it to reflect contemporary English usage. Ariew's introduction places the correspondence in historical context and discusses the vibrant philosophical climate of the times. Appendices provide those selections from the works of Newton that Clarke frequently refers to in the correspondence. A bibliography is also included.
W. Norris Clarke's metaphysics of the universe as a journey rests on six major positions: the unrestricted dynamism of the mind, the primacy of the act of existence, the participation structure of reality, and the person, considered as both the starting point of philosophy and the source of the categories needed for a flexible contemporary metaphysics. Reflecting on his conscious life and the universe around him, the finite person mounts by a two-fold path to its Infinite source, who, though immutable (...) in His natural being, is mutable in the intentional being of His personal knowledge and love. The personal God is the efficient cause from whom the universe comes and the final cause to whom it returns.Less optimistic than Norris Clarke, John Caputo wonders about his metaphysics of the person. In a hermeneutical interpretation of the human face, the person through whom Being "sounds" discloses an ambiguous Being that both reveals and conceals itself. Far from grounding a casual ascent to God, hermeneutical phenomenology allows us no more than the right to interpret the world and its transcendent source through our own free decision.Although impressed by Norris Clarke's attempt to introduce mutability into God, Lewis Ford still finds Clarke's Thomistic God unacceptable. As a Whiteheadian, he proposes in place of Thomas' God, whose perfection consists in static unity, a God whose perfection consists in a never-ending process of unification. John Smith argues against the traditional dichotomy made between the ontological and cosmological arguments. Rather than opposed methods of proving God's existence, they should be taken as complementary journeys to the divine presence which discloses itself, although diversely, in the soul and in the world. There are parallels between Smith's historical study of two arguments and Clarke's two-fold path to God. Yet Smith is critical of Thomas' cosmological journey to God and does not share Clarke's confidence in its validity. Significant studies in their own right, the three essays as a group challenge Clarke's whole metaphysics of the universe as a journey. Meeting the challenge, Clarke clarifies and refines his own thought.An account of Clarke's philosophy by Gerald A. McCool, S.J. preceds this unified and stimulating philosophical discussion. (shrink)
To what extent are the subjects of our thoughts and talk real? This is the question of realism. In this book, JustinClarke-Doane explores arguments for and against moral realism and mathematical realism, how they interact, and what they can tell us about areas of philosophical interest more generally. He argues that, contrary to widespread belief, our mathematical beliefs have no better claim to being self-evident or provable than our moral beliefs. Nor do our mathematical beliefs have better (...) claim to being empirically justified than our moral beliefs. It is also incorrect that reflection on the "genealogy" of our moral beliefs establishes a lack of parity between the cases. In general, if one is a moral antirealist on the basis of epistemological considerations, then one ought to be a mathematical antirealist as well. And, yet, Clarke-Doane shows that moral realism and mathematical realism do not stand or fall together -- and for a surprising reason. Moral questions, insofar as they are practical, are objective in a sense that mathematical questions are not. Moreover, the sense in which they are objective can be explained only by assuming practical anti-realism. One upshot of the discussion is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, are actually in tension. Another is that the objective questions in the neighborhood of questions of logic, modality, grounding, and nature are practical questions too. Practical philosophy should, therefore, take center stage. (shrink)
Social and political scientists, historians and others, have put forward a number of widely differing views concerning the ‘character’ of Islamic millenarian and/or Mahdist movements in Africa. The same is true of course with regard to the opinions ofscholars concerning the transformative capacity of Islam as an ideology. In this paper I want to look at one aspect only of Islamic millenarianism in the West African context, viz. its allegedly revolutionary character.
We have inherited from the history of moral philosophy two very different proposals about how we ought to behave. According to one view, we are required to do what is morally right; on the alternative formulation, we are required to do what we believe to be morally right. Unless these twin demands on our moral decision-making can be made to coincide by definition, it is inevitable that in some cases our beliefs about what is morally right may be mistaken. In (...) such cases, it is not clear what we are morally required to do. Are we obliged to follow our conscience in every situation, i.e. to act according to our moral beliefs, or is it sometimes permissible not to act according to our own moral beliefs? (shrink)
In his influential book, The Nature of Morality, Gilbert Harman writes: “In explaining the observations that support a physical theory, scientists typically appeal to mathematical principles. On the other hand, one never seems to need to appeal in this way to moral principles.” What is the epistemological relevance of this contrast, if genuine? This chapter argues that ethicists and philosophers of mathematics have misunderstood it. They have confused what the chapter calls the justificatory challenge for realism about an area, D—the (...) challenge to justify our D-beliefs—with the reliability challenge for D-realism—the challenge to explain the reliability of our D-beliefs. Harman’s contrast is relevant to the first, but not, evidently, to the second. One upshot of the discussion is that genealogical debunking arguments are fallacious. Another is that indispensability considerations cannot answer the Benacerraf–Field challenge for mathematical realism. (shrink)
In "Mathematical Truth", Paul Benacerraf articulated an epistemological problem for mathematical realism. His formulation of the problem relied on a causal theory of knowledge which is now widely rejected. But it is generally agreed that Benacerraf was onto a genuine problem for mathematical realism nevertheless. Hartry Field describes it as the problem of explaining the reliability of our mathematical beliefs, realistically construed. In this paper, I argue that the Benacerraf Problem cannot be made out. There simply is no intelligible problem (...) that satisfies all of the constraints which have been placed on the Benacerraf Problem. The point generalizes to all arguments with the structure of the Benacerraf Problem aimed at realism about a domain meeting certain conditions. Such arguments include so-called "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments" aimed at moral realism. I conclude with some suggestions about the relationship between the Benacerraf Problem and the Gettier Problem. (shrink)
Modalists think that knowledge requires forming your belief in a “modally stable” way: using a method that wouldn't easily go wrong (i.e. safety), or using a method that wouldn't have given you this belief had it been false (i.e. sensitivity). Recent Modalist projects from JustinClarke-Doane and Dan Baras defend a principle they call “Modal Security,” roughly: if evidence undermines your belief, then it must give you a reason to doubt the safety or sensitivity of your belief. Another (...) recent Modalist project from Carlotta Pavese and Bob Beddor defends “Modal Virtue Epistemology”: knowledge is a belief that is maximally modally robust across “normal” worlds. We'll offer new objections to these recent Modalist projects. We will then argue for a rival view, Explanationism: knowing something is believing it because it's true. We will show how Explanationism offers a better account of undermining defeaters than Modalism, and a better account of knowledge. (shrink)
It is commonly suggested that evolutionary considerations generate an epistemological challenge for moral realism. At first approximation, the challenge for the moral realist is to explain our having many true moral beliefs, given that those beliefs are the products of evolutionary forces that would be indifferent to the moral truth. An important question surrounding this challenge is the extent to which it generalizes. In particular, it is of interest whether the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally a challenge for (...) mathematical realism. It is widely thought not to be. In this paper, I argue that the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally a challenge for mathematical realism. Along the way, I substantially clarify the Evolutionary Challenge, discuss its relation to more familiar epistemological challenges, and broach a number of foundational issues in metaphysics. The paper should be of interest to ethicists because it places pressure on anyone who rejects moral realism on the basis of the Evolutionary Challenge to reject mathematical realism as well. And the paper should be of interest to philosophers of mathematics because it presents a new epistemological challenge for mathematical realism that bears, I argue, no simple relation to Paul Benacerraf's familiar challenge. (shrink)
There is a long tradition comparing moral knowledge to mathematical knowledge. In this paper, I discuss apparent similarities and differences between knowledge in the two areas, realistically conceived. I argue that many of these are only apparent, while others are less philosophically significant than might be thought. The picture that emerges is surprising. There are definitely differences between epistemological arguments in the two areas. However, these differences, if anything, increase the plausibility of moral realism as compared to mathematical realism. It (...) is hard to see how one might argue, on epistemological grounds, for moral antirealism while maintaining commitment to mathematical realism. But it may be possible to do the opposite. (shrink)
Modal Security is an increasingly discussed proposed necessary condition on undermining defeat. Modal Security says, roughly, that if evidence undermines (rather than rebuts) one’s belief, then one gets reason to doubt the belief's safety or sensitivity. The primary interest of the principle is that it seems to entail that influential epistemological arguments, including Evolutionary Debunking Arguments against moral realism and the Benacerraf-Field Challenge for mathematical realism, are unsound. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine Modal Security in detail. (...) We develop and discuss what we take to be the strongest objections to the principle. One of the aims of the paper is to expose the weakness of these objections. Another is to reveal how the debate over Modal Security interacts with core problems in epistemology — including the generality problem, and the distinction between direct and indirect evidence. (shrink)
It is widely alleged that metaphysical possibility is “absolute” possibility (Kripke , Lewis , Rosen [2006, 16], Stalnaker [2005, 203], Williamson [2016, 460]). Indeed, this is arguably its metaphysical significance. Kripke calls metaphysical necessity “necessity in the highest degree” ([1980, 99]). Williamson calls metaphysical possibility the “maximal objective modality” [2016, 459]. Rosen says that “metaphysical possibility is the [most inclusive] sort of real possibility” ([2006, 16]). And Stalnaker writes, “we can agree with Frank Jackson, David Chalmers, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, (...) and most others who allow themselves to talk about possible worlds at all, that metaphysical necessity is necessity in the widest sense [2003, 203].” What exactly does the thesis that metaphysical possibility is absolute amount to? Is it true? In this article, I argue that, assuming that the thesis is not merely terminological, and lacking in any metaphysical interest, it is an article of faith. I conclude with the suggestion that metaphysical possibility may lack the metaphysical significance that is widely attributed to it. (shrink)
In his précis of a recent book, Richard Joyce writes, “My contention…is that…any epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended to moral beliefs…will be neutralized by the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere…presupposes their truth.” Such reasoning – falling under the heading “Genealogical Debunking Arguments” – is now commonplace. But how might “the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere… presupposes” the truth of our moral beliefs “neutralize” whatever “epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended (...) to” them? In this article, I argue that there appears to be no satisfactory answer to this question. The problem is quite general, applying to all arguments with the structure of Genealogical Debunking Arguments aimed at realism about a domain meeting two conditions. The Benacerraf-Field Challenge for mathematical realism affords an important special case. (shrink)
Ethics and mathematics have long invited comparisons. On the one hand, both ethical and mathematical propositions can appear to be knowable a priori, if knowable at all. On the other hand, mathematical propositions seem to admit of proof, and to enter into empirical scientific theories, in a way that ethical propositions do not. In this article, I discuss apparent similarities and differences between ethical (i.e., moral) and mathematical knowledge, realistically construed -- i.e., construed as independent of human mind and languages. (...) I argue that some are are merely apparent, while others are of little consequence. There is a difference between the cases. But it is not an epistemological difference per se. The difference, surprisingly, is that ethical knowledge, if it is practical, cannot fail to be objective in a way that factual knowledge can. One upshot of the discussion is radicalization of Moore’s Open Question Argument. Another is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, are actually in tension. (shrink)
Scanlon’s Being Realistic about Reasons (BRR) is a beautiful book – sleek, sophisticated, and programmatic. One of its key aims is to demystify knowledge of normative and mathematical truths. In this article, I develop an epistemological problem that Scanlon fails to explicitly address. I argue that his “metaphysical pluralism” can be understood as a response to that problem. However, it resolves the problem only if it undercuts the objectivity of normative and mathematical inquiry.
I this article, I introduce the notion of pluralism about an area, and use it to argue that the questions at the center of our normative lives are not settled by the facts -- even the normative facts. One upshot of the discussion is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, are actually in tension. Another is that the concept of objectivity, not realism, should take center stage.
I discuss Benacerraf's epistemological challenge for realism about areas like mathematics, metalogic, and modality, and describe the pluralist response to it. I explain why normative pluralism is peculiarly unsatisfactory, and use this explanation to formulate a radicalization of Moore's Open Question Argument. According to the argument, the facts -- even the normative facts -- fail to settle the practical questions at the center of our normative lives. One lesson is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, (...) are actually in tension. (shrink)
I discuss methodology in epistemology. I argue that settling the facts, even the epistemic facts, fails to settle the questions of intellectual policy at the center of our epistemic lives. An upshot is that the standard methodology of analyzing concepts like knowledge, justification, rationality, and so on is misconceived. More generally, any epistemic method that seeks to issue in intellectual policy by settling the facts, whether by way of abductive theorizing or empirical investigation, no matter how reliable, is inapt. The (...) argument is a radicalization of Moore’s Open Question Argument. I conclude by considering the ramifications of this conclusion for the debate surrounding “Modal Security”, a proposed necessary condition on undermining defeat. (shrink)
Does consciousness exist? In “The Meta-Problem of Consciousness” (MPC) David Chalmers sketches an argument for illusionism, i.e., the view that it does not. The key premise is that it would be a coincidence if our beliefs about consciousness were true, given that the explanation of those beliefs is independent of their truth. In this article, I clarify and assess this argument. I argue that our beliefs about consciousness are peculiarly invulnerable to undermining, whether or not their contents are indubitable or (...) even obvious. However, the reason that they are peculiarly invulnerable to undermining points to a fundamental flaw in modal arguments for dualism. (shrink)
There are many domains about which we think we are reliable. When there is prima facie reason to believe that there is no satisfying explanation of our reliability about a domain given our background views about the world, this generates a challenge to our reliability about the domain or to our background views. This is what is often called the reliability challenge for the domain. In previous work, I discussed the reliability challenges for logic and for deductive inference. I argued (...) for four main claims: First, there are reliability challenges for logic and for deduction. Second, these reliability challenges cannot be answered merely by providing an explanation of how it is that we have the logical beliefs and employ the deductive rules that we do. Third, we can explain our reliability about logic by appealing to our reliability about deduction. Fourth, there is a good prospect for providing an evolutionary explanation of the reliability of our deductive reasoning. In recent years, a number of arguments have appeared in the literature that can be applied against one or more of these four theses. In this paper, I respond to some of these arguments. In particular, I discuss arguments by Paul Horwich, Jack Woods, Dan Baras, JustinClarke-Doane, and Hartry Field. (shrink)
Set-theoretic pluralism is an increasingly influential position in the philosophy of set theory (Balaguer , Linksy and Zalta , Hamkins ). There is considerable room for debate about how best to formulate set-theoretic pluralism, and even about whether the view is coherent. But there is widespread agreement as to what there is to recommend the view (given that it can be formulated coherently). Unlike set-theoretic universalism, set-theoretic pluralism affords an answer to Benacerraf’s epistemological challenge. The purpose of this paper is (...) to determine what Benacerraf’s challenge could be such that this view is warranted. I argue that it could not be any of the challenges with which it has been traditionally identified by its advocates, like of Benacerraf and Field. Not only are none of the challenges easier for the pluralist to meet. None satisfies a key constraint that has been placed on Benacerraf’s challenge. However, I argue that Benacerraf’s challenge could be the challenge to show that our set-theoretic beliefs are safe – i.e., to show that we could not have easily had false ones. Whether the pluralist is, in fact, better positioned to show that our set-theoretic beliefs are safe turns on a broadly empirical conjecture which is outstanding. If this conjecture proves to be false, then it is unclear what the epistemological argument for set-theoretic pluralism is supposed to be. (shrink)
According to a certain pluralist view in philosophy of mathematics, there are as many mathematical objects as there can coherently be. Recently, JustinClarke-Doane has explored what consequences the analogous view on normative properties would have. What if there is a normative pluriverse? Here I address this same question. The challenge is best seen as a challenge to an important form of normative realism. I criticize the way Clarke-Doane presents the challenge. An improved challenge is presented, and (...) the role of pluralism in this challenge is assessed. (shrink)