'This is a powerful piece of advocacy. I'd pick Ewing and Gearty for my counsels any day.' -Bernard Porter, LRBThis book is an account of the struggle for civil liberties against the State in which groups such as the anti-war protestors, the Irish nationalists, the Communist party, trade unionists, and the unemployed workers' movement found themselves involved in the first half of the twentieth century. All had to fight for their civil liberties in the face of strong opposition from (...) the State, including the judges whose attitude to civil liberties was often deeply hostile, and at odds with their supposed role as defenders of freedom. (shrink)
Questioning some of the repetitive and narrow theoretical writings on rights, a group of leading intellectuals examine human rights from philosophical, theological, historical, literary and political perspectives.
What ought you believe? According to a traditional view, it depends on your evidence: you ought to believe (only) what your evidence supports. Recently, however, some have claimed that what you ought to believe depends not on your evidence but simply on what is true: you ought to believe (only) the truth. In this paper, we present and defend two arguments against this latter view. We also explore some of the parallels between this debate in epistemology, and the debate in (...) ethics about whether how you ought to act depends on your epistemic position, or on all the facts. (shrink)
From the early 1970s Conor Cruise O'Brien acquired a reputation in Ireland and internationally as one of the most vociferous critics of nationalism. While many see the origins of his critique in his reaction to the emergence of militant nationalism in Northern Ireland at this time, in this article I argue that the foundations of O'Brien's anti-nationalism had already been laid in the postwar European context. The article illustrates how O'Brien's historical and intellectual experience in the aftermath of the (...) Second World War had an essentially conservative influence on his thought, providing him with a pool of ideas which he would later employ in his attack on nationalism, and Irish nationalism in particular. I therefore maintain that there is a lot more continuity in O'Brien's thought than is sometimes assumed. (shrink)
Nihilism is the logic of nothing as something, which claims that Nothing Is. Its unmaking of things, and its forming of formless things, strain the fundamental terms of existence: what it is to be, to know, to be known. But nihilism, the antithesis of God, is also like theology. Where nihilism creates nothingness, condenses it to substance, God also makes nothingness creative. Negotiating the borders of spirit and substance, theology can ask the questions of nihilism that other disciplines do not (...) ask: Where is it? What is it made of? Why is it so destructive? How can it be made holy, or overcome? Genealogy of Nihilism rereads Western history in the light of nihilistic logic, which pervades two millennia of Western thought and is coming to fruition in our present age in a virulently dangerous manner. From Parmenides to Alain Badiou, via Plotinus, Avicenna, Duns Scotus, Ockham, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre, Lacan, Deleuze and Derrida, a genealogy of nothingness can be witnessed in development, with devastating consequences for the way we live. Conor Cunningham's elaborate and sophisticated theology, spanning the disciplines of philosophy, science and popular culture, permits us to see not simply how modernity has formulated its philosophies of nothing, but how these philosophies might be transfigures by the crucial difference theology makes, and so be reconcilable with life and the living - with the very gift which being is. (shrink)
According to the fitting-attitudes account of value, for X to be good is for it to be fitting to value X. But what is it for an attitude to be fitting? A popular recent view is that it is for there to be sufficient reason for the attitude. In this paper we argue that proponents of the fitting-attitudes account should reject this view and instead take fittingness as basic. In this way they avoid the notorious ‘wrong kind of reason’ problem, (...) and can offer attractive accounts of reasons and good reasoning in terms of fittingness. (shrink)
I argue that, if belief is subject to a norm of truth, then that norm is evaluative rather than prescriptive in character. No prescriptive norm of truth is both plausible as a norm that we are subject to, and also capable of explaining what the truth norm of belief is supposed to explain. Candidate prescriptive norms also have implausible consequences for the normative status of withholding belief. An evaluative norm fares better in all of these respects. I propose an evaluative (...) account according to which the goodness of true belief is, in Geach's sense, attributive rather than predicative. (shrink)
Reasoning is a certain kind of attitude-revision. What kind? The aim of this paper is to introduce and defend a new answer to this question, based on the idea that reasoning is a goodness-fixing kind. Our central claim is that reasoning is a functional kind: it has a constitutive point or aim that fixes the standards for good reasoning. We claim, further, that this aim is to get fitting attitudes. We start by considering recent accounts of reasoning due to Ralph (...) Wedgwood and John Broome, and argue that, while these accounts contain important insights, they are not satisfactory: Wedgwood’s rules out too much, and Broome’s too little. We then introduce and defend our alternative account, discuss some of its implications and attractions, and, finally, consider objections. (shrink)
This paper defends the possibility of doxastic freedom, arguing that doxastic freedom should be modelled not on freedom of action but on freedom of intention. Freedom of action is exercised by agents like us, I argue, through voluntary control. This involves two conditions, intentions-reactivity and reasons-reactivity, that are not met in the case of doxastic states. Freedom of intention is central to our agency and to our moral responsibility, but is not exercised through voluntary control. I develop and defend an (...) account of freedom of intention, arguing that constitutive features of intention ensure that freedom of intention cannot require voluntary control. Then I show that an analogous argument can be applied to doxastic states. I argue that if we had voluntary control of intentions or of doxastic states, this would actually undermine our freedom. (shrink)
Beliefs can be correct or incorrect, and this standard of correctness is widely thought to be fundamental to epistemic normativity. But how should this standard be understood, and in what way is it so fundamental? I argue that we should resist understanding correctness for belief as either a prescriptive or an evaluative norm. Rather, we should understand it as an instance of the distinct normative category of fittingness for attitudes. This yields an attractive account of epistemic reasons.
What makes the difference between good and bad reasoning? In this paper we defend a novel account of good reasoning—both theoretical and practical—according to which it preserves fittingness or correctness: good reasoning is reasoning which is such as to take you from fitting attitudes to further fitting attitudes, other things equal. This account, we argue, is preferable to two others that feature in the recent literature. The first, which has been made prominent by John Broome, holds that the standards of (...) good reasoning derive from rational requirements. The second holds that these standards derive from reasons. We argue that these accounts face serious difficulties in correctly distinguishing good from bad reasoning, and in explaining what's worthwhile about good reasoning. We then propose our alternative account and argue that it performs better on these counts. In the final section, we develop certain elements of the account in response to some possible objections. (shrink)
It is widely held that when you are deliberating about whether to believe some proposition p, only considerations relevant to the truth of p can be taken into account as reasons bearing on whether to believe p and motivate you accordingly. This thesis of exclusivity has significance for debates about the nature of belief, about control of belief, and about certain forms of evidentialism. In this paper I distinguish a strong and a weak version of exclusivity. I provide reason to (...) think that strong exclusivity is an illusion and that weak exclusivity may also be an illusion. I describe a number of cases in which exclusivity seems not to hold, and I show how an illusion of exclusivity may be generated by a rather different feature of doxastic deliberation, which I call demandingness. (shrink)
Beliefs are held to norms in a way that seems to require control over what we believe. Yet we don’t control our beliefs at will, in the way we control our actions. I argue that this problem can be solved by recognising a different form of control, which we exercise when we revise our beliefs directly for reasons. We enjoy this form of attitudinal control not only over our beliefs, but also over other attitudes, including intentions—that is, over the will (...) itself. Closely tied to our capacity for reasoning, attitudinal control is in important respects more fundamental than the voluntary control that we exercise over our actions. In the course of developing this account I respond to two objections recently raised against an earlier version of it by Booth. (shrink)
This is a survey of recent debates concerning the normativity of belief. We explain what the thesis that belief is normative involves, consider arguments for and against that thesis, and explore its bearing on debates in metaethics.
According to Paul Boghossian and others, inference is subject to the taking condition: it necessarily involves the thinker taking his premises to support his conclusion, and drawing the conclusion because of that fact. Boghossian argues that this condition vindicates the idea that inference is an expression of agency, and that it has several other important implications too. However, we argue in this paper that the taking condition should be rejected. The condition gives rise to several serious prima facie problems and (...) the reasons which have been offered in favour of it fail to convince. (shrink)
Jim Joyce argues for two amendments to probabilism. The first is the doctrine that credences are rational, or not, in virtue of their accuracy or “closeness to the truth” (1998). The second is a shift from a numerically precise model of belief to an imprecise model represented by a set of probability functions (2010). We argue that both amendments cannot be satisfied simultaneously. To do so, we employ a (slightly-generalized) impossibility theorem of Seidenfeld, Schervish, and Kadane (2012), who show that (...) there is no strictly proper scoring rule for imprecise probabilities. -/- The question then is what should give way. Joyce, who is well aware of this no-go result, thinks that a quantifiability constraint on epistemic accuracy should be relaxed to accommodate imprecision. We argue instead that another Joycean assumption — called strict immodesty— should be rejected, and we prove a representation theorem that characterizes all “mildly” immodest measures of inaccuracy. (shrink)
In the latter half of the twentieth century, philosophers of science have argued (implicitly and explicitly) that epistemically rational individuals might compose epistemically irrational groups and that, conversely, epistemically rational groups might be composed of epistemically irrational individuals. We call the conjunction of these two claims the Independence Thesis, as they together imply that methodological prescriptions for scientific communities and those for individual scientists might be logically independent of one another. We develop a formal model of scientific inquiry, define four (...) criteria for individual and group epistemic rationality, and then prove that the four definitions diverge, in the sense that individuals will be judged rational when groups are not and vice versa. We conclude by explaining implications of the inconsistency thesis for (i) descriptive history and sociology of science and (ii) normative prescriptions for scientific communities. (shrink)
We tend to prescribe and appraise doxastic states in terms that are broadly deontic. According to a simple argument, such prescriptions and appraisals are improper, because they wrongly presuppose that our doxastic states are voluntary. One strategy for resisting this argument, recently endorsed by a number of philosophers, is to claim that our doxastic states are in fact voluntary (This strategy has been pursued by Steup 2008 ; Weatherson 2008 ). In this paper I argue that this strategy is neither (...) successful nor necessary. Our doxastic states are not voluntary in any interesting sense. But once we see why our doxastic states are not voluntary, we can also see that there is no apparent reason to think that deontic prescriptions and appraisals—epistemic ones, at any rate—presuppose doxastic voluntarism. Indeed, there is good reason to deny that they do so. Finally, I diagnose the misleading attraction of the idea that what I call ‘epistemic deontology’ presupposes doxastic voluntarism. (shrink)
Does belief have an aim? According to the claim of exclusivity, non-truth-directed considerations cannot motivate belief within doxastic deliberation. This claim has been used to argue that, far from aiming at truth, belief is not aim-directed at all, because the regulation of belief fails to exhibit a kind of interaction among aims that is characteristic of ordinary aim-directed behaviour. The most prominent reply to this objection has been offered by Steglich-Petersen (Philos Stud 145:395–405, 2009), who claims that exclusivity is in (...) fact compatible with belief’s genuinely having an aim. I argue, based on consideration of what is involved in pursuing an aim, that Steglich-Petersen’s reply fails. I suggest that the defender of the idea that belief has an aim should instead reject the claim of exclusivity, and I sketch how this can be done. (shrink)
Epistemic decision theory (EDT) employs the mathematical tools of rational choice theory to justify epistemic norms, including probabilism, conditionalization, and the Principal Principle, among others. Practitioners of EDT endorse two theses: (1) epistemic value is distinct from subjective preference, and (2) belief and epistemic value can be numerically quantified. We argue the first thesis, which we call epistemic puritanism, undermines the second.
It is often said that belief aims at truth. I argue that if belief has an aim then that aim is knowledge rather than merely truth. My main argument appeals to the impossibility of forming a belief on the basis of evidence that only weakly favours a proposition. This phenomenon, I argue, is a problem for the truth-aim hypothesis. By contrast, it can be given a simple and satisfying explanation on the knowledge-aim hypothesis. Furthermore, the knowledge-aim hypothesis suggests a very (...) plausible account of what it takes for evidence to be sufficiently good to make belief possible. I offer several further considerations in favour of the knowledge-aim hypothesis, and deal with objections. Although the main point of the paper is not to defend the view that belief has an aim, but to adjudicate between accounts of what that aim is, my argument nevertheless requires some attention to the motivation for attributing an aim to belief in the first place. In particular, I will explain an important advantage that this view has over the view that belief is not aim-directed, but only subject to a constitutive norm. (shrink)
‘Exclusivity’ is the claim that when deliberating about whether to believe that p one can only be consciously motivated to reach one's conclusion by considerations one takes to pertain to the truth of p. The pragmatist tradition has long offered inspiration to those who doubt this claim. Recently, a neo-pragmatist movement, Keith Frankish (), and Conor McHugh ()) has given rise to a serious challenge to exclusivity. In this article, I defend exclusivity in the face of this challenge. First, (...) I dispute a crucial assumption underlying the challenge, namely, that one can have evidence sufficient to enable but not compel belief. Secondly, I examine several cases that McHugh in particular offers to call exclusivity into question and argue on independent grounds that these cases do not threaten exclusivity. Whether or not exclusivity holds, in addition to being of intrinsic interest, has a decisive consequence for the contemporary debate over Bernard Williams’ () claim that “beliefs aim at truth”. If exclusivity is true, as David Owens () has argued, the deliberator cannot be said to literally aim at truth. So, in defending exclusivity, I thereby show that the notion of ‘aiming’ fails to illuminate the nature of belief. (shrink)
Conor McHugh and Jonathan Way argue that we should put fittingness rather than reasons first because we can provide an account of the evaluative in terms of the normative only if we put fittingness rather than reasons first. I argue that it is no more difficult to provide an account of the evaluative in terms of the normative if we put reasons rather than fittingness first.
In this paper I discuss Pascal Engel’s recent work on doxastic correctness. I raise worries about two elements of his view—the role played in it by the distinction between i -correctness and e -correctness, and the construal of doxastic correctness as an ideal of reason. I propose an alternative approach.
I argue that a version of the so-called KK principle is true for principled epistemic reasons; and that this does not entail access internalism, as is commonly supposed, but is consistent with a broad spectrum of epistemological views. The version of the principle I defend states that, given certain normal conditions, knowing p entails being in a position to know that you know p. My argument for the principle proceeds from reflection on what it would take to know that you (...) know something, rather than from reflection on the conditions for knowledge generally. Knowing that you know p, it emerges, is importantly similar to cases of psychological self-knowledge like knowing that you believe p: it does not require any grounds other than your grounds for believing p itself. In so arguing, I do not rely on any general account of knowledge, but only on certain plausible and widely accepted epistemological assumptions. (shrink)
Many philosophers categorise judgment as a type of action. On the face of it, this claim is at odds with the seeming fact that judging a certain proposition is not something you can do voluntarily. I argue that we can resolve this tension by recognising a category of non-voluntary action. An action can be non-voluntary without being involuntary. The notion of non-voluntary action is developed by appeal to the claim that judging has truth as a constitutive goal. This claim, when (...) combined with a conception of judging as a way of settling a question, explains both why judging is genuinely agential, and why it is nevertheless non-voluntary. (shrink)
According to Quine, Charles Parsons, Mark Steiner, and others, Russell's logicist project is important because, if successful, it would show that mathematical theorems possess desirable epistemic properties often attributed to logical theorems, such as a prioricity, necessity, and certainty. Unfortunately, Russell never attributed such importance to logicism, and such a thesis contradicts Russell's explicitly stated views on the relationship between logic and mathematics. This raises the question: what did Russell understand to be the philosophical importance of logicism? Building on recent (...) work by Andrew Irvine and Martin Godwyn, I argue that Russell thought a systematic reduction of mathematics increases the certainty of known mathematical theorems (even basic arithmetical facts) by showing mathematical knowledge to be coherently organized. The paper outlines Russell's theory of coherence, and discusses its relevance to logicism and the certainty attributed to mathematics. -/- . (shrink)