Against modal rationalism, Manolo Martínez argues that elementary bodily mechanisms allow cognizers to know possibility. He presents an exemplary behavioral mechanism adapted to maximizing expected outcome in a random game. The bodily mechanism purportedly tracks probabilities and related possibilities. However, it is doubtful that cognizers like us can know metaphysical modalities purely by virtue of bodily mechanisms without using rational capacities. Firstly, Martínez’s mechanism is limited. But knowledge of probabilities arguably has to cover a variety of probabilistic outcomes. One may (...) need an ability to calculate probabilities. Bodily mechanisms can realize such an ability, but this will presumably amount to instantiating rational capacities. Secondly, the purported connection between the items tracked by the bodily mechanism and genuine metaphysical possibilities is tenuous. There are points at which it may fail. Further, we would need to know by rational metaphysical considerations that the connection holds in order to bodily know possibilities. (shrink)
Many philosophers since Hume have accepted that imagining/conceiving a scenario is our prime guide to knowing its possibility. Stephen Yablo provided a more systematic criterion: one is justified in judging that p is possible if one can imagine a world which one takes to verify p. I defend a version of Yablo’s criterion against van Inwagen’s moderate modal scepticism. Van Inwagen’s key argument is that we cannot satisfy Yablo’s criterion because we are not in a position to spell out far-fetched (...) possible scenarios in relevant detail. Van Inwagen’s argument can be applied to the use of conceivability for everyday possibility claims, leaving us with the spectre of pervasive modal scepticism. In order to answer the sceptical threat, I combine van Inwagen’s main example with general considerations about the nature of metaphysical modality to motivate a version of Yablo’s criterion and show that it does not lead to scepticism. One structural condition of p being metaphysically possible is that it coheres with a complete reality. This condition gives rise to Yablo’s criterion. However, for the criterion to be of any avail, we have to disregard details we are not in a position to specify. To account for our practice of doing so, I use Yablo’s distinction between imagining a world as determinate and imagining it determinately. I present a condition when we may simply disregard details as determinate. The condition results from integrating analogical reasoning into the conceivability test. (shrink)
Sobel sequences have had a huge impact on the discussion of counterfactuals. They can be composed of conditionals and mere descriptions. What is especially puzzling about them is that they are often felicitously uttered when their reversal is not. Up to now, there is no unified explanation. I examine two strategies. We might begin with conditionals and proceed to descriptions. Or we might begin with descriptions and proceed to conditionals. I argue for the latter variant and outline a universal theory (...) of Sobel sequences in terms of presuppositional anaphora. One relevant result is that the phenomenon neither counts against nor in favour of the simplified standard account of counterfactuals à la Stalnaker-Lewis. (shrink)
Abstract. I outline the standard picture of fiction. According to this picture, fiction is centred on making believe some truth-apt content. I take a closer look at everyday usage of the expressions ‘according to the fiction’ and ‘in the fiction’ to countervail the streamlining tendencies that come with the standard picture. Having outlined highly variegated use patterns, I argue for a metaexpressivist picture: ‘according to the fiction’ does not primarily report fictional truth but a complex pattern of reactions the fiction (...) seems intended to elicit. In the corresponding expressivist picture of the act of fiction-making, the latter is not primarily modeled on stating and believing truth but on the variegated pattern of intended reactions. (shrink)
Many philosophers are very sanguine about the cognitive contributions of fiction to science and philosophy. I focus on a case study: Ichikawa and Jarvis’s account of thought experiments in terms of everyday fictional stories. As far as the contribution of fiction is not sui generis, processing fiction often will be parasitic on cognitive capacities which may replace it; as far as it is sui generis, nothing guarantees that fiction is sufficiently well-behaved to abide by the constraints of scientific and philosophical (...) discourse, not even by the minimum requirements of conceptual and logical coherence. (shrink)
The method of thought experiments or possible cases is widespread in philosophy and elsewhere. Thought experiments come with variegated theoretical commitments. These commitments are risky. They may turn out to be false or at least controversial. Other things being equal, it seems preferable to do with minimal commitments. I explore exemplary ways of minimising commitments, focusing on modal ones. There is a near-consensus to treat the scenarios considered in thought experiments as metaphysical possibilities. I challenge this consensus. Paradigmatic thought experiments (...) do not have to come with a commitment to metaphysical possibilities. In the first section, I point out difficulties with the prevailing focus on metaphysical possibilities. In the second section, I present alternative formalisations of a paradigmatic thought experiment, the Gettier experiment. Gettier’s words leave open the kind of possibilities under consideration. The standard way of spelling out Gettier’s argument uses metaphysical possibilities. One alternative proposal uses nomological possibilities. A second one uses epistemic possibilities. My modest conclusion: as long as it is not established that a thought experiment requires a commitment to metaphysical modality, one should avoid such a commitment. My preferred way of doing so is to replace the commitment to one particular formalisation by a commitment to a disjunction of alternative formalisations. (shrink)
Berit Brogaard and Joe Salerno (2008) have defended the validity of counterfactual hypothetical syllogism (CHS) within the Stalnaker-Lewis account. Whenever the premisses of an instance of CHS are non-vacuosly true, a shift in context has occurred. Hence the standard counterexamples to CHS suffer from context failure. Charles Cross (2011) rejects this argument as irreconcilable with the Stalnaker-Lewis account. I argue against Cross that the basic Stalnaker-Lewis truth condition may be supplemented in a way that makes (CHS) valid. Yet pace Brogaard (...) and Salerno, there are alternative ways of spelling out the basic truth condition which are standard in most debates; and given these ways, the counterexamples to CHS are successful. (shrink)
Andy Egan has presented a dilemma for decision theory. As is well known, Newcomb cases appear to undermine the case for evidential decision theory. However, Egan has come up with a new scenario which poses difficulties for causal decision theory. I offer a simple solution to this dilemma in terms of a modified EDT. I propose an epistemological test: take some feature which is relevant to your evaluation of the scenarios under consideration, evidentially correlated with the actions under consideration albeit, (...) causally independent of them. Hold this feature fixed as a hypothesis. The test shows that, in Newcomb cases, EDT would mislead the agent. Where the test shows EDT to be misleading, I propose to use fictive conditional credences in the EDT-formula under the constraint that they are set to equal values. I then discuss Huw Price’s defence of EDT as an alternative to my diagnosis. I argue that my solution also applies if one accepts the main premisses of Price’s argument. I close with applying my solution to Nozick’s original Newcomb problem. (shrink)
I take issue with two claims of DeRose: Conditionals of deliberation must not depend on backtracking grounds. ‘Were’ed-up conditionals coincide with future-directed indicative conditionals; the only difference in their meaning is that they must not depend on backtracking grounds. I use Egan’s counterexamples to causal decision theory to contest the first and an example of backtracking reasoning by David Lewis to contest the second claim. I tentatively outline a rivaling account of ‘were’ed-up conditionals which combines features of the standard analysis (...) of counterfactuals with the contextual relevance of the corresponding indicative conditionals. (shrink)
I outline Hume’s views about conceivability evidence. Then I critically scrutinize two threats to conceivability-based modal epistemology. Both arise from Hume’s criticism of claims to knowing necessary causal relationships: Firstly, a sceptical stance towards causal necessity may carry over to necessity claims in general. Secondly, since – according to a sceptical realist reading – Hume grants the eventuality of causal powers grounded in essential features of objects, conceivability-based claims to comprehensive metaphysical possibilities seem endangered. I argue that although normal conceivability-based (...) claims are defeasible, they are prima facie vindicated. (shrink)
A basic intuition about epistemic possibility is the following: It might be that p iff it is open whether p. The standard way of cashing out this intuition is: It might be that p iff it is reconcilable with one’s informational state that p. However, there are certain examples which point to a lacuna in this conception. They indicate that epistemic possibility is restricted to what one can conceive as an alternative, what one can have a cognitive attitude to.
Ever since the term ‘thought experiment’ was coined by Ørsted, philosophers have struggled with the question of how thought experiments manage to provide knowledge. Ernst Mach’s seminal contribution has eclipsed other approaches in the Austrian tradition. I discuss one of these neglected approaches. Faced with the challenge of how to reconcile his empiricist position with his use of thought experiments, Moritz Schlick proposed the following ‘Sinnkriterium’: a thought experiment is meaningful if it allows to answer a question under discussion by (...) imagining the experiences that would confi rm that the thought experimental scenario is actual. I trace this view throughout three exemplary thought experiments of Schlick’s. (shrink)
Descartes wants to show that clear and distinct ideas are trustworthy. However, his argument seems circular. For his premise that God is trustworthy depends on clear and distinct insight. Descartes’ reaction to the circularity reproach can be interpreted in two ways. The first is a psychological one. Clear and distinct insights are coercing. Thus they cannot be doubted as long as one attends to them. The argument is only meant to extend this instantaneous coercion to the whole range of psychological (...) states. This reaction does not fit Descartes’ aim of more reliable beliefs. The second interpretation integrates this aim of reliability into the demands of clarity and distinctness. Clear and distinct insights are to bridge the gap between internal accessibility and external reliability. Yet in this interpretation the invocation of God’s trustworthiness seems superfluous. Departing from contemporary epistemological ideas two possibilities to nevertheless make sense of this invocation are discussed. The first is that the argument of God’s trustworthiness provides a gain in reflective coherence. However, this reasoning conflicts with the situation of methodic doubt which involves suspending one’s whole system of belief. The second, more promising possibility is that it is an epistemic aim to provide an account of origin and purpose of our cognitive faculties. (shrink)
Matthew Soteriou provides an analysis of authoritatively knowing one’s own mental acts which depends on a surprising assumption: One cannot truly judge that one is judging. After briefly criticizing his account of one’s awareness that one is judging, I critically scrutinize two of his arguments against the possibility of truly judging that one is judging. Firstly, assuming such a possibility leads to a regress. Secondly, the second-order judgement inevitably replaces the first-order judgement such as to make the former wrong.
Interpretive charity is an important principle in devising the content of propositional attitudes and their expression. I want to argue that it does not square well with externalism about content. Although my argument clearly also applies to a principle of maximizing truth (as it requires only the true belief - component of knowledge), I will focus my attention to Timothy Williamson’s more intriguing recent proposal of maximizing knowledge.
In a series of articles, David Barnett (2006, 2009, 2010) has developed a general theory of conditionals. The grand aim is to reconcile the two main rivals: a suppositional and a truth-conditional view (Barnett 2006, 521). While I confine my critical discussion to counterfactuals, I will give some hints how they might spell trouble for his suppositional view in general.
I critically assess Stephen Yablo’s claim that cassinis are ovals is an a posteriori conceptual necessity. One does not know it simply by mastering the relevant concepts but by substantial empirical scrutiny. Yablo represents narrow content by would have turned out -conditionals. An epistemic reading of such conditionals does not bear Yablo’s claim. Two metaphysically laden readings are considered. In one reading, Yablo’s conditionals test under what circumstances concepts remain the same while their extensions diverge. As an alternative, I develop (...) a more literal metaphysical interpretation: Yablo’s conditionals draw on scenarios which are qualitatively identical to some original situation. None of these interpretations sustains Yablo’s core thesis. (shrink)
According to moral sentimentalism, there are close connections between moral truths and moral emotions. Emotions largely form our moral attitudes. They contribute to our answerability to moral obligations. We take them as authoritative in guiding moral judgement. This role is difficult to understand if one accepts a full-blown moral realism, according to which moral truths are completely independent of our emotional response to them. Hence it is tempting to claim that moral truths depend on our emotional responses. I outline a (...) problem for this view: we are adamant that, if our moral sentiments were different, things would be the same, morally speaking. Moral truth does not seem to counterfactually depend on moral sentiments. I show how this independence can be reconciled with the role of moral sentiments in guiding our moral outlook. I draw on Yablo’s distinction between response-dependent and response-enabled properties. I propose that moral truths are response-enabled: their supervenience base does not include anything about our emotions. Hence they do not counterfactually depend on changes in our emotional response. However, their factual supervenience base being naturally ineligible, it is ultimately our response that enables them to play their role as an independent moral compass. (shrink)
The model-theoretic argument known as Putnam´s paradox threatens our notion of truth with triviality: Almost any world can satisfy almost any theory. Formal argument and intuition are at odds. David Lewis devised a solution according to which the very stucture of the world fixes how it is to be divided into elite classes which determine the reference of any true theory. Three claims are defended: Firstly, Lewis´ proposal must be completed by an account of successful referential intentions. Secondly, contrary to (...) Catherine Elgin´s criticism of Lewis, natural properties corresponding to elite classes may play a role in sound scientific inquiry. Thirdly, despite Bas van Fraassen´s objection that the sceptic cannot consistently maintain doubts about reference, there is a promising sceptical strategy of exploiting Putnam´s results which is answered by Lewis´ account. (shrink)
Robert Brandom charakterisiert singuläre Termini durch ihre symmetrische substitutionsinferentielle Rolle. Er entwickelt ein transzendentales Argument, wonach solche Termini notwendig für jede Sprache sind, welche die üblichen logischen Ausdrucksressourcen wie Negation und Konditional besitzt. Verschiedene Einwände werden diskutiert. Brandom kann die Forderung erfüllen, dass die Semantik einer Sprache kompositional sein muss. Er kann auch mit der asymmetrischen inferentiellen Rolle bestimmter singulärer Termini umgehen, sofern diese nicht systematisch ist. Aber er kann der Möglichkeit nicht gerecht werden, singuläre Termini einzuführen, die nicht durch (...) eine symmetrische substitutionsinferentielle Rolle konstituiert sind. Ungeachtet der Einführung solcher Termini bleiben normale logische Ausdrucksressourcen erhalten. (shrink)
I scrutinize the relationship between the way emotions give rise to modal judgement and the metaphysical necessity we ascribe to the latter. While moral concepts are often described as response-dependent, I propose to analyse them as response-enabled or grokking. I discuss how grokkingness is embedded in the emotional mechanisms that provoke imaginative resistance; how it shapes our manifest image of the world and the place of morality in it; the latter’s deep contingency as contrasted to its metaphysical necessity; and what (...) is essential to a moral outlook notwithstanding deep contingency. (shrink)