Deontic constraints prohibit an agent performing acts of a certain type even when doing so will prevent more instances of that act being performed by others. In this article I show how deontic constraints can be interpreted as either maximizing or non-maximizing rules. I then argue that they should be interpreted as maximizing rules because interpreting them as non-maximizing rules results in a problem with moral advice. Given this conclusion, a strong case can be made that consequentialism provides (...) the best account of deontic constraints. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss whether there are genuinely *diachronic* constraints of practical rationality, that is, pressures on combinations of practical attitudes over time, which are not reducible to mere synchronic rational pressures. Michael Bratman has recently argued that there is at least one such diachronic rational constraint that governs the stability of intentions over time. *Pace* Bratman, I argue that there are no genuinely diachronic constraints on intentions that meet the stringent desiderata set by him. But I (...) show that there are at least two synchronic rational constraints with distinctive and important, although only indirect, diachronic dimensions. Neither of them, however, supports the practical conservatism in the face of normative underdetermination that, according to Bratman, is part and parcel of the diachronic rationality of intention stability. (shrink)
Two general principles have played a crucial role in the recent debate on concepts. On the one hand, we want to allow different subjects to have the same concepts, thus accounting for concept publicity: concepts are ‘the sort of thing that people can, and do, share’. On the other hand, a subject who finds herself in a so-called ‘Frege case’ appears to have different concepts for the same object: for instance, Lois Lane has two distinct concepts SUPERMAN and CLARK KENT (...) which refer to the same person. Several theories have tried to meet both of these constraints at the same time. But should we really try to satisfy both principles? This paper will argue that the traditional project of fulfilling these two constraints has been a misguided one. Through a variation on classic identity mistake cases, I will show that our two desiderata are inconsistent: it would thus be impossible to incorporate both of them in our best theory of concepts. (shrink)
Citing some recent experimental findings, I argue for the surprising claim that in some cases the less time you have the more you know. More specifically, I present some evidence to suggest that our ordinary knowledge ascriptions are sometimes sensitive to facts about an epistemic subject's truth-irrelevant time constraints such that less is more. If knowledge ascriptions are sensitive in this manner, then this is some evidence of pragmatic encroachment. Along the way, I consider comments made by Jonathan Schaffer (...) and Jennifer Nagel to construe a purist contextualist and a strict invariantist explanation of the data respectively, before giving reasons to resist them in favor of an account that indicates pragmatic encroachment. If successful, this may suggest a new way to argue for the controversial thesis that there is pragmatic encroachment on knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, we first review recent arguments about the direct perception of the intentions and emotions of others, emphasizing the role of embodied interaction. We then consider a possible objection to the direct perception hypothesis from social psychology, related to phenomena like ‘dehumanization’ and ‘implicit racial bias’, which manifest themselves on a basic bodily level. On the background of such data, one might object that social perception cannot be direct since it depends on and can in fact be interrupted (...) by a set of cultural beliefs. We argue, however, that far from threatening the idea of direct perception, these findings clearly contradict the idea of hardwired theory of mind modules. More generally, we suggest that in order to further the understanding of social cognition we must take seriously insights about in-group and out-group distinctions and related phenomena, all of which are currently neglected in the mainstream social cognition literature. (shrink)
Logical puzzles like the doctrinal paradox raise the problem of how to aggregate individual judgements into a collective judgement, or alternatively, how to merge collectively inconsistent knowledge bases. In this paper, we view judgement aggregation as a function on propositional logic valuations, and we investigate how logic constrains judgement aggregation. In particular, we show that there is no non-dictatorial decision method for aggregating sets of judgements in a logically consistent way if the decision method is local, i.e., only depends on (...) the individual judgements on the proposition under consideration. (shrink)
Are words like ‘woman’ or ‘man’ sex terms that we use to talk about biological features of individuals? Are they gender terms that we use to talk about non-biological features e.g. social roles? Contextualists answer both questions affirmatively, arguing that these terms concern biological or non-biological features depending on context. I argue that a recent version of contextualism from Jennifer Saul that Esa Diaz-Leon develops doesn't exhibit the right kind of flexibility to capture our theoretical intuitions or moral and political (...) practices concerning our uses of these words. I then float the view that terms like 'woman' or 'man' are polysemous, arguing that it makes better sense of the significance of some forms of criticisms of mainstream gender ideology. (shrink)
This paper develops a compositional, type-driven constraint semantic theory for a fragment of the language of subjective uncertainty. In the particular application explored here, the interpretation function of constraint semantics yields not propositions but constraints on credal states as the semantic values of declarative sentences. Constraints are richer than propositions in that constraints can straightforwardly represent assessments of the probability that the world is one way rather than another. The richness of constraints helps us model communicative (...) acts in essentially the same way that we model agents’ credences. Moreover, supplementing familiar truth-conditional theories of epistemic modals with constraint semantics helps capture contrasts between strong necessity and possibility modals, on the one hand, and weak necessity modals, on the other. (shrink)
One important objection to virtue ethical theories is that they apparently must account for the wrongness of a wrong action in terms of a lack of virtue (or presence of vice) in the agent, and not in terms of the effects of the action on its victim. We take such effects to ground deontic constraints on how we may act, and virtue theory appears unable to account for such constraints. I claim, however, that eudaimonist virtue theory can account (...) for wrongness in just this way. I draw on recent work by Stephen Darwall on the “second-person standpoint,” in which we see others as independent sources of claims on us —as sources of “deontic constraints.” We have reason to occupy that standpoint as a matter of virtue, and thus virtuous agents should and will have reasons to respect deontic constraints. I argue for this claim as an element of a plausible eudaimonist virtue theory, and rebut objections that the view misunderstands the nature of or reasons for respecting such constraints. (shrink)
Evidentialism is the view that facts about whether or not an agent is justified in having a particular belief are entirely determined by facts about the agent’s evidence; the agent’s practical needs and interests are irrelevant. I examine an array of arguments against evidentialism (by Jeremy Fantl, Matthew McGrath, David Owens, and others), and demonstrate how their force is affected when we take into account the relation between degrees of belief and outright belief. Once we are sensitive to one of (...) the factors that secure thresholds for outright believing (namely, outright believing that p in a given circumstance requires, at the minimum, that one’s degree of belief that p is high enough for one to be willing to act as if p in the circumstances), we see how pragmatic considerations can be relevant to facts about whether or not an agent is justified in believing that p—but largely as a consequence of the pragmatic constraints on outright believing. (shrink)
According to the Generality Constraint, mental states with conceptual content must be capable of recombining in certain systematic ways. Drawing on empirical evidence from cognitive science, I argue that so-called analogue magnitude states violate this recombinability condition and thus have nonconceptual content. I further argue that this result has two significant consequences: it demonstrates that nonconceptual content seeps beyond perception and infiltrates cognition; and it shows that whether mental states have nonconceptual content is largely an empirical matter determined by the (...) structure of the neural representations underlying them. (shrink)
In a previous paper we developed a general theory of input/output logics. These are operations resembling inference, but where inputs need not be included among outputs, and outputs need not be reusable as inputs. In the present paper we study what happens when they are constrained to render output consistent with input. This is of interest for deontic logic, where it provides a manner of handling contrary-to-duty obligations. Our procedure is to constrain the set of generators of the input/output system, (...) considering only the maximal subsets that do not yield output conflicting with a given input. When inputs are authorised to reappear as outputs, both maxichoice revision in the sense of Alchourr6n/Makinson and the default logic of Poole emerge as special cases, and there is a close relation with Reiter default logic. However, our focus is on the general case where inputs need not be outputs. We show in what contexts the consistency of input with output may be reduced to its consistency with a truth-functional combination of components of generators, and under what conditions constrained output may be obtained by a derivation that is constrained at every step. (shrink)
Different cell lineages growing in microgravity undergo a spontaneous transition leading to the emergence of two distinct phenotypes. By returning these populations in a normal gravitational field, the two phenotypes collapse, recovering their original configuration. In this review, we hypothesize that, once the gravitational constraint is removed, the system freely explores its phenotypic space, while, when in a gravitational field, cells are “constrained” to adopt only one favored configuration. We suggest that the genome allows for a wide range of “possibilities” (...) but it is unable per se to choose among them: the emergence of a specific phenotype is enabled by physical constraints that drive the system toward a preferred solution. These findings may help in understanding how cells and tissues behave in both development and cancer. In microgravity, cells undergo spontaneous and reversible transitions between different phenotypes. In the absence of physical constraints, living systems could yield bi-stable decisions. On the contrary, physical ‘boundaries’ constrain cells to acquire only a specific configuration by selecting and shaping different gene expression patterns provided by the intrinsic genetic stochasticity. (shrink)
Several articles have recently appeared arguing that there really are no viable alternatives to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences (Kaplan and Bechtel; Kaplan and Craver). We argue that mechanistic explanation is defined by localization and decomposition. We argue further that systems neuroscience contains explanations that violate both localization and decomposition. We conclude that the mechanistic model of explanation needs to either stretch to now include explanations wherein localization or decomposition fail or acknowledge that there are counterexamples to mechanistic explanation (...) in the biological sciences. (shrink)
In this paper I assume that syntactic structures contain items that function as variables over possible worlds (or things like possible worlds). I show that in certain syntactic positions we can use some variables but not other. I accordingly motivate a "binding theory" for the items that occupy these positions, and I discuss some consequences of this binding theory.
I argue that general constraints on how humans think about humans produce universal features of the concept of mind. Some of these constraints determine how we imagine other people's thinking and action through our own. I formulate this in opposition to what I call the "theory theory". I believe this was the first use of this terminology, and this work was an early version of what has come to be called the simulation theory.
This paper considers some puzzling knowledge ascriptions and argues that they present prima facie counterexamples to credence, belief, and justification conditions on knowledge, as well as to many of the standard meta-semantic assumptions about the context-sensitivity of ‘know’. It argues that these ascriptions provide new evidence in favor of contextualist theories of knowledge—in particular those that take the interpretation of ‘know’ to be sensitive to the mechanisms of constraint.
This paper does two things. Firstly, it clarifies the way that phenomenological data is meant to constrain cognitive science according to enactivist thinkers. Secondly, it points to inconsistencies in the ‘Radical Enactivist’ handling of this issue, so as to explicate the commitments that enactivists need to make in order to tackle the explanatory gap. I begin by sketching the basic features of enactivism in sections 1–2, focusing upon enactive accounts of perception. I suggest that enactivist ideas here rely heavily upon (...) the endorsement of a particular explanatory constraint that I call the structural resemblance constraint, according to which the structure of our phenomenology ought to be mirrored in our cognitive science. Sections 3–5 delineate the nature of, and commitment to, SRC amongst enactivists, showing SRC’s warrant and implications. The paper then turns to Hutto and Myin’s handling of SRC in sections 6–7, highlighting irregularities within their programme for Radical Enactivism on this issue. Despite seeming to favour SRC, I argue that Radical Enactivism’s purported compatibility with the narrow supervenience of perceptual experience is in fact inconsistent with SRC, given Hutto and Myin’s phenomenological commitments. I argue that enactivists more broadly ought to resist such a concessionary position if they wish to tackle the explanatory gap, for it is primarily the abidance to SRC that ensures progress is made here. Section 8 then concludes the paper with a series of open questions to enactivists, inviting further justification of the manner in which they apply SRC. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that in typical cases of singular thought, a thinker stands in an evidential relation to the object of thought suitable for providing knowledge of the object's existence. Furthermore, a thinker may generate representations that purport to refer to particular objects in response to appropriate, though defeasible, evidence of the existence of such an object. I motivate these constraints by considering a number of examples introduced by Robin Jeshion in support of a view she calls (...) ‘cognitivism’ (Jeshion, 2010b). Although I agree with Jeshion that acquaintance is not required for all cases of singular thought, I argue that her account doesn't go far enough in rejecting semantic instrumentalism, the view that we can generate singular thoughts arbitrarily, by manipulating the mechanisms of direct reference. (shrink)
Life scientists increasingly rely upon abstraction-based modeling and reasoning strategies for understanding biological phenomena. We introduce the notion of constraint-based reasoning as a fruitful tool for conceptualizing some of these developments. One important role of mathematical abstractions is to impose formal constraints on a search space for possible hypotheses and thereby guide the search for plausible causal models. Formal constraints are, however, not only tools for biological explanations but can be explanatory by virtue of clarifying general dependency-relations and (...) patterning between functions and structures. We describe such situations as constraint-based explanations and argue that these differ from mechanistic strategies in important respects. While mechanistic explanations emphasize change-relating causal features, constraint-based explanations emphasize formal dependencies and generic organizational features that are relatively independent of lower-level changes in causal details. Our distinction between mechanistic and constraint-based explanations is pragmatically motivated by the wish to understand scientific practice. We contend that delineating the affordances and assumptions of different explanatory questions and strategies helps to clarify tensions between diverging scientific practices and the innovative potentials in their combination. Moreover, we show how constraint-based explanation integrates several features shared by otherwise different philosophical accounts of abstract explanatory strategies in biology. (shrink)
Recently, it has been a part of the so-called consequentializing project to attempt to construct versions of consequentialism that can support agent-relative moral constraints. Mark Schroeder has argued that such views are bound to fail because they cannot make sense of the agent relative value on which they need to rely. In this paper, I provide a fitting-attitude account of both agent-relative and agent-neutral values that can together be used to consequentialize agent-relative constraints.
According to best systems accounts, laws of nature are generalizations in the best systematization of particular matters of fact. Metrics such as simplicity and strength determine which systematization is best, but these are notoriously language relative. For this reason, David Lewis proposed a constraint on languages of inquiry: all predicates must be natural. This constraint is sometimes interpreted as requiring us to know which natural properties are instantiated in our world prior to scientific theorizing. I argue that this interpretation is (...) incorrect. I provide a better interpretation and show how it undercuts an influential epistemological objection to Lewis's best systems account of laws due to Bas van Fraassen. (shrink)
I develop a variant of the constraint interpretation of the emergence of purely physical (non-biological) entities, focusing on the principle of the non-derivability of actual physical states from possible physical states (physical laws) alone. While this is a necessary condition for any account of emergence, it is not sufficient, for it becomes trivial if not extended to types of constraint that specifically constitute physical entities, namely, those that individuate and differentiate them. Because physical organizations with these features are in fact (...) interdependent sets of such constraints, and because such constraints on physical laws cannot themselves be derived from physical laws, physical organization is emergent. These two complementary types of constraint are components of a complete non-reductive physicalism, comprising a non-reductive materialism and a non-reductive formalism. (shrink)
The principle of maximum entropy is a method for assigning values to probability distributions on the basis of partial information. In usual formulations of this and related methods of inference one assumes that this partial information takes the form of a constraint on allowed probability distributions. In practical applications, however, the information consists of empirical data. A constraint rule is then employed to construct constraints on probability distributions out of these data. Usually one adopts the rule that equates the (...) expectation values of certain functions with their empirical averages. There are, however, various other ways in which one can construct constraints from empirical data, which makes the maximum entropy principle lead to very different probability assignments. This paper shows that an argument by Jaynes to justify the usual constraint rule is unsatisfactory and investigates several alternative choices. The choice of a constraint rule is also shown to be of crucial importance to the debate on the question whether there is a conflict between the methods of inference based on maximum entropy and Bayesian conditionalization. (shrink)
It is often thought that metaphysical grounding underwrites a distinctive sort of metaphysical explanation. However, it would be a mistake to think that all metaphysical explanations are underwritten by metaphysical grounding. In service of this claim, I offer a novel kind of metaphysical explanation called metaphysical explanation by constraint, examples of which have been neglected in the literature. I argue that metaphysical explanations by constraint are not well understood as grounding explanations.
ABSTRACT In a recent article, Samir Okasha presented an argument that suggests that there is no rational way to choose among scientific theories. This would seriously undermine the view that science is a rational enterprise. In this article, I show how a suitably nuanced view of what scientific rationality requires allows us to sidestep this argument. In doing so, I present a new argument in favour of voluntarism of the type favoured by van Fraassen. I then show how such a (...) view of scientific rationality gives a precise interpretation of what Thomas Kuhn thought. _1_ Introduction _2_ Okasha’s Argument _3_ Rationality Can Be Silent _4_ Arrow Undermined _5_ The Informational-Basis Escape _6_ Theory Choice at the Level of the Individual Scientist _7_ Kuhn Vindicated _8_ Trade-offs and Partial Commensurability _9_ Conclusion. (shrink)
Any successful account of the metaphysics of mechanistic causation must satisfy at least five key desiderata. In this article, I lay out these five desiderata and explain why existing accounts of the metaphysics of mechanistic causation fail to satisfy them. I then present an alternative account that does satisfy the five desiderata. According to this alternative account, we must resort to a type of ontological entity that is new to metaphysics, but not to science: constraints. In this article, I (...) explain how a constraints-based metaphysics fits best with the emerging consensus on the nature of mechanistic explanation. 1Introduction2Renormalizability2.1The first two desiderata: Intrinsicness and productivity2.2The third desideratum: Scientific validity or non-mysteriousness2.3The fourth desideratum: Directionality2.4The fifth desideratum: Perspectival nature of mechanisms3Constraints and Causation3.1Multi-perspectival realism and causal structure3.2Causal structure as laws3.3Causal structures in analytical mechanics: Constraints3.4A metaphysics inspired by analytical mechanics: Constraints as ontologically primitive modal structures4Constraints and Mechanistic Causal Powers 4.1Inter- versus intra-perspectival categories4.2Mechanistic causal powers are grounded by constraints4.3Intrinsicness and constraints4.4Constraints and productiveness4.5Constraints and directionality5Conclusion. (shrink)
The moral community is a social community, and as such it is vulnerable to social problems and pathologies. In this essay I identify a particular way in which participation in the moral community can be constrained by social factors. I argue that features of the social world—including power imbalances, oppression, intergroup conflict, communication barriers, and stereotyping—can make it nearly impossible for some members of the moral community to hold others responsible for wrongdoing. Specifically, social circumstances prevent some marginalized people from (...) engaging in what Stephen Darwall calls “felicitous moral address” (Darwall 2006). We should think of some members of the moral community as having “second-class moral citizenship” in ways that parallel second-class political citizenship. The injustice of second-class moral citizenship can be understood by drawing an analogy with Miranda Fricker’s notion of “epistemic injustice” (Fricker 2007). Fricker’s account of how people can be undermined in their capacity as knowers can be extended to show how people can be undermined in their capacity as makers of moral claims, which can be called “claimant injustice”. (shrink)
This book explores the constraints which justice imposes on immigration policy. Like liberal nationalists, Ryan Pevnick argues that citizens have special claims to the institutions of their states. However, the source of these special claims is located in the citizenry's ownership of state institutions rather than in a shared national identity. Citizens contribute to the construction and maintenance of institutions, and as a result they have special claims to these institutions and a limited right to exclude outsiders. Pevnick shows (...) that the resulting view justifies a set of policies - including support for certain types of guest worker programs - which is distinct from those supported by either liberal nationalists or advocates of open borders. His book provides a framework for considering a number of connected topics including issues related to self-determination, the scope of distributive justice and the significance of shared national identity. (shrink)
Recent theoretical models suggest that the difference between human and nonhuman primate life-history patterns may be due to a reliance on complex foraging strategies requiring extensive learning. These models predict that children should reach adult levels of efficiency faster when foraging is cognitively simple. We test this prediction with data on Meriam fishing, spearfishing, and shellfishing efficiency. For fishing and spearfishing, which are cognitively difficult, we can find no significant amount of variability in return rates because of experiential factors correlated (...) with age. However, for shellfish collecting, which is relatively easy to learn, there are strong age-related effects on efficiency. Children reach adult efficiency more quickly in fishing as compared to shellfish collecting, probably owing to the size and strength constraints of the latter. (shrink)
There is a widespread belief that, conceptually, justice cannot require what we cannot achieve. This belief is sometimes used by defenders of so-called ‘non-ideal theories of justice’ to criticise so-called ‘ideal theories of justice’. I refer to this claim as ‘the feasibility constraint on the concept of justice’ and argue against it. I point to its various implausible implications and contend that a willingness to apply the label ‘unjust’ to some regrettable situations that we cannot fix is going to enhance (...) the action-guiding potential of a conception of justice, by providing an aspirational ideal. This is possible on the condition that, at all times, we cannot specify with certainty the limits of what is feasible for us collectively. The rejection of the feasibility constraint entails that there can be injustice without perpetrators; this is a theoretical price worth paying. (shrink)
The argument from absence of analysis infers primitivism about some x from the absence of a reductive analysis of x. But philosophers use the word ‘primitive’ to mean many distinct things. I argue that there is a robust sense of ‘primitive’ present in the metaphysics literature that cannot be inferred via the AAA. Successfully demonstrating robust primitivism about some x requires showing two things at once: that a reduction of x is not possible and that an explanatorily deep characterization of (...) x is not available. In order to secure this second explanatory claim, the AAA must wrongly assume that reductive analysis is our only source of explanatory characterization. I argue that this is false by offering a distinct way of providing explanatory characterizations backed by suitably understood metaphysical constraints. While there remains a minimal sense of ‘primitive’ inferable via the AAA, this sense is exhausted by the denial of reduction. With minimal primitivism as its target, the AAA is uninteresting. (shrink)
Language and culture endow humans with access to conceptual information that far exceeds any which could be accessed by a non-human animal. Yet, it is possible that, even without language or specific experiences, non-human animals represent and infer some aspects of similarity relations between objects in the same way as humans. Here, we show that monkeys’ discrimination sensitivity when identifying images of animals is predicted by established measures of semantic similarity derived from human conceptual judgments. We used metrics from computer (...) vision and computational neuroscience to show that monkeys’ and humans’ performance cannot be explained by low-level visual similarity alone. The results demonstrate that at least some of the underlying structure of object representations in humans is shared with non-human primates, at an abstract level that extends beyond low-level visual similarity. Because the monkeys had no experience with the objects we tested, the results suggest that monkeys and humans share a primitive representation of object similarity that is independent of formal knowledge and cultural experience, and likely derived from common evolutionary constraints on object representation. (shrink)
In our everyday moral deliberations, we attend to two central types of considerations – outcomes and moral rules. How these considerations interrelate is central to the long-standing debate between deontologists and utilitarians. Is the weight we attach to moral rules reducible to their conduciveness to good outcomes (as many utilitarians claim)? Or do we take moral rules to be absolute constraints on action that normatively trump outcomes (as many deontologists claim)? Arguments over these issues characteristically appeal to commonsense intuitions (...) about various cases. As a result, an important portion of the debate involves empirically tractable questions — questions that can be investigated by probing for people’s judgments in cases in which the two types of considerations come into conflict with one another. (shrink)