My conclusion will be that, more often than we might have thought, suspension of judgment is the epistemically proper attitude. It follows that in such cases we lack reasonable belief and so, at least on standard conceptions, knowledge. This is a kind of contingent real-world skepticism that has not received the attention it deserves. I hope that this paper will help to bring this issue to life.
Fred Feldman's fascinating new book sets out to defend hedonism as a theory about the Good Life. He tries to show that, when carefully and charitably interpreted, certain forms of hedonism yield plausible evaluations of human lives. Feldman begins by explaining the question about the Good Life. As he understands it, the question is not about the morally good life or about the beneficial life. Rather, the question concerns the general features of the life that is good in itself for (...) the one who lives it. Hedonism says (roughly) that the Good Life is the pleasant life. After showing that received formulations of hedonism are often confused or incoherent, Feldman presents a simple, clear, coherent form of sensory hedonism that provides a starting point for discussion. He then presents a catalogue of classic objections to hedonism, coming from sources as diverse as Plato, Aristotle, Brentano, Ross, Moore, Rawls, Kagan, Nozick, Brandt, and others. One of Feldman's central themes is that there is an important distinction between the forms of hedonism that emphasize sensory pleasure and those that emphasize attitudinal pleasure. Feldman formulates several kinds of hedonism based on the idea that attitudinal pleasure is the Good. He claims that attitudinal forms of hedonism - which have often been ignored in the literature -- are worthy of more careful attention. Another main theme of the book is the plasticity of hedonism. Hedonism comes in many forms. Attitudinal hedonism is especially receptive to variations and modifications. Feldman illustrates this plasticity by formulating several variants of attitudinal hedonism and showing how they evade some of the objections. He also shows how it is possible to develop forms of hedonism that are equivalent to the allegedly anti-hedonistic theory of G. E. Moore and the Aristotelian theory according to which the Good Life is the life of virtue, or flourishing. He also formulates hedonisms relevantly like the ones defended by Aristippus and Mill. Feldman argues that a carefully developed form of attitudinal hedonism is not refuted by objections concerning 'the shape of a life'. He also defends the claim that all of the alleged forms of hedonism discussed in the book genuinely deserve to be called 'hedonism'. Finally, after dealing with the last of the objections, he gives a sketch of his hedonistic vision of the Good Life. (shrink)
Evidentialism is the thesis that a person is justified in believing a proposition iff the person's evidence on balance supports that proposition. In discussing epistemological issues associated with disagreements among epistemic peers, some philosophers have endorsed principles that seem to run contrary to evidentialism, specifying how one should revise one's beliefs in light of disagreement. In this paper, I examine the connection between evidentialism and these principles. I argue that the puzzles about disagreement provide no reason to abandon evidentialism and (...) that there are no true general principles about justified responses to disagreement other than the general evidentialist principle. I then argue that the puzzles about disagreement are primarily puzzles about the evidential impact of higher - order evidence – evidence about the significance or existence of ordinary, or first- order, evidence. I conclude by arguing that such higher - order evidence can often have a profound effect on the justification of first- order beliefs. (shrink)
Evidentialism is a view about the conditions under which a person is epistemically justified in having a particular doxastic attitude toward a proposition. Evidentialism holds that the justified attitudes are determined entirely by the person's evidence. This is the traditional view of justification. It is now widely opposed. The essays included in this volume develop and defend the tradition.Evidentialism has many assets. In addition to providing an intuitively plausible account of epistemic justification, it helps to resolve the problem of the (...) criterion, helps to disentangle epistemic and ethical evaluations, and illuminates the relationship between epistemic evaluations of beliefs and the evaluation of the methods used to form beliefs. These issues are all addressed in the essays presented here. External world skepticism poses the classic problem for an epistemological theory. The final essay in this volume argues that evidentialism is uniquely well qualified to make sense of skepticism and to respond to its challenge.Evidentialism is a version of epistemic internalism. Recent epistemology has included many attacks on internalism and has seen the development of numerous externalist theories. The essays included here respond to those attacks and raise objections to externalist theories, especially the principal rival, reliabilism. Internalism generally has been criticized for having unacceptable deontological implications, for failing to connect epistemic justification to truth, and for failing to provide an adequate account of what makes basic beliefs justified. Each of these charges is answered in these essays. The collection includes two previously unpublished essays and new afterwords to five of the reprinted essays; it will be the definitive resource on evidentialism for all epistemologists. (shrink)
We propose a conceptual model that maps the causal pathways relating biological evolution to cultural change. It builds on conventional evolutionary theory by placing emphasis on the capacity of organisms to modify sources of natural selection in their environment (niche construction) and by broadening the evolutionary dynamic to incorporate ontogenetic and cultural processes. In this model, phenotypes have a much more active role in evolution than generally conceived. This sheds light on hominid evolution, on the evolution of culture, and on (...) altruism and cooperation. Culture amplifies the capacity of human beings to modify sources of natural selection in their environments to the point where that capacity raises some new questions about the processes of human adaptation. Key Words: adaptation; altruism; cooperation; evolutionary psychology; gene-culture coevolution; human evolution; human genetics; niche construction; sociobiology. (shrink)
Disagreement is common: even informed, intelligent, and generally reasonable people often come to different conclusions when confronted with what seems to be the same evidence. Can the competing conclusions be reasonable? If not, what can we reasonably think about the situation? This volume examines the epistemology of disagreement. Philosophical questions about disagreement arise in various areas, notably politics, ethics, aesthetics, and the philosophy of religion: but this will be the first book focusing on the general epistemic issues arising from informed (...) disagreement. Ten leading philosophers offer specially written essays which together will offer a starting-point for future work on this topic. (shrink)
In the last decade, reading research has seen a paradigmatic shift. A new wave of computational models of orthographic processing that offer various forms of noisy position or context-sensitive coding have revolutionized the field of visual word recognition. The influx of such models stems mainly from consistent findings, coming mostly from European languages, regarding an apparent insensitivity of skilled readers to letter order. Underlying the current revolution is the theoretical assumption that the insensitivity of readers to letter order reflects the (...) special way in which the human brain encodes the position of letters in printed words. The present article discusses the theoretical shortcomings and misconceptions of this approach to visual word recognition. A systematic review of data obtained from a variety of languages demonstrates that letter-order insensitivity is neither a general property of the cognitive system nor a property of the brain in encoding letters. Rather, it is a variant and idiosyncratic characteristic of some languages, mostly European, reflecting a strategy of optimizing encoding resources, given the specific structure of words. Since the main goal of reading research is to develop theories that describe the fundamental and invariant phenomena of reading across orthographies, an alternative approach to model visual word recognition is offered. The dimensions of a possible universal model of reading, which outlines the common cognitive operations involved in orthographic processing in all writing systems, are discussed. (shrink)
Abstract According to the Deprivation Approach, the evil of death is to be explained by the fact that death deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had lived longer. But the Deprivation Approach confronts a problem first discussed by Lucretius. Late birth seems to deprive us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had been born earlier. Yet no one is troubled by late birth. So it’s hard to see why we should be troubled (...) by its temporal mirror image, early death. In a 1986 paper, Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer appealed to a version of Derek Parfit’s “Bias toward the Future”; they claimed that early death deprives us of future goods that we care about, while late birth deprives us of past goods that we don’t care about. In this paper I show that the Brueckner–Fischer principle is open to several possible interpretations, but that it does not solve the Lucretius problem no matter how we understand it. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9766-6 Authors Fred Feldman, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
Some puzzles about happiness -- Pt. I. Some things that happiness isn't. Sensory hedonism about happiness -- Kahneman's "objective happiness" -- Subjective local preferentism about happiness -- Whole life satisfaction concepts of happiness -- Pt. II. What happiness is. What is this thing called happiness? -- Attitudinal hedonism about happiness -- Eudaimonism -- The problem of inauthentic happiness -- Disgusting happiness -- Our authority over our own happiness -- Pt. III. Implications for the empirical study of happiness. Measuring happiness -- (...) Empirical research; philosophical conclusions -- The central points of the project as a whole. (shrink)
In the good old days, a large part of the debate about skepticism focused on the quality of the reasons we have for believing propositions of various types. Skeptics about knowledge in a given domain argued that our reasons for believing propositions in that domain were not good enough to give us knowledge; opponents of skepticism argued that they were. The different conclusions drawn by skeptics and non-skeptics could come either from differences in their views about the standards or conditions (...) we had to satisfy in order to have knowledge or from differences in their assessments of the quality or character of the reasons we have. In recent years, discussions of skepticism have often focused on three anti-skeptical responses that don't directly address the questions about reasons or evidence that used to be considered fundamental. These anti-skeptical responses are: 1) content externalism, as proposed by Hilary Putnam1; 2) the denial of closure, as proposed by Robert Nozick2; and 3) contextualism about knowledge attributions, as proposed by Stewart Cohen, Keith DeRose, and David Lewis3. I believe that these recent responses to skepticism characteristically avoid the central epistemological issues raised by skepticism and often concede to skeptics far more than is warranted. In this paper I will examine some contextualist responses to skepticism. In Section I I describe the general idea of contextualism and its application to skepticism. In Section II I describe and briefly discuss some particular versions of contextualism. In Section III I argue that even if it is true that sentences attributing knowledge have contextually variable truth conditions, this fact does not provide the basis for a satisfactory response to skepticism. This is because the central issue raised by skepticism is whether we satisfy the standards for knowledge in place in ordinary contexts, not whether we satisfy some allegedly higher standards which, according to contextualists, are in place in some epistemological contexts. In effect, this paper is part of an argument for a return to the good old days. (shrink)
What is death? Do people survive death? What do we mean when we say that someone is "dying"? Presenting a clear and engaging discussion of the classic philosophical questions surrounding death, this book studies the great metaphysical and moral problems of death. In the first part, Feldman shows that a definition of life is necessary before death can be defined. After exploring several of the most plausible accounts of the nature of life and demonstrating their failure, he goes on to (...) propose his own conceptual scheme for death and related concepts. In the second part, Feldman turns to ethical and value-theoretical questions about death. Addressing the ancient Epicurean ethical problem about the evil of death, he argues that death can be a great evil for those who die, even if they do not exist after death, because it may deprive them of the goods they would have enjoyed if they had continued to live. Confrontations with the Reaper concludes with a novel consequentialist theory about the morality of killing, applying it to such thorny practical issues as abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. (shrink)
We argue that the value of authenticity does not explain the value of self-knowledge. There are a plurality of species of authenticity; in this paper we consider four species: avoiding pretense (section 2), Frankfurtian wholeheartedness (section 3), existential self-knowledge (section 4), and spontaneity (section 5). Our thesis is that, for each of these species, the value of (that species of) authenticity does not (partially) explain the value of self-knowledge. Moreover, when it comes to spontaneity, the value of (that species of) (...) authenticity conflicts with the value of self-knowledge. (shrink)
Act-utilitarianism and other theories in normative ethics confront the implementability problem: normal human agents, with normal human epistemic abilities, lack the information needed to use those theories directly for the selection of actions. Two Level Theories have been offered in reply. The theoretical level component states alleged necessary and sufficient conditions for moral rightness. That component is supposed to be true, but is not intended for practical use. It gives an account of objective obligation. The practical level component is offered (...) as an implementable system for the choice of actions by agents lacking some relevant information. It gives an account of subjective obligation. Several different ways of developing Two Levelism are explained and criticized. Five conditions that must be satisfied if the practical level principle is to be a good match for a given theoretical level principle are stated. A better form of Two Levelism is presented. (shrink)
Altruism is generally understood to be behavior that benefits others at a personal cost to the behaving individual. However, within evolutionary biology, different authors have interpreted the concept of altruism differently, leading to dissimilar predictions about the evolution of altruistic behavior. Generally, different interpretations diverge on which party receives the benefit from altruism and on how the cost of altruism is assessed. Using a simple trait-group framework, we delineate the assumptions underlying different interpretations and show how they relate to one (...) another. We feel that a thorough examination of the connections between interpretations not only reveals why different authors have arrived at disparate conclusions about altruism, but also illuminates the conditions that are likely to favor the evolution of altruism. (shrink)
In this paper, I present my solutions to two closely related questions about pleasure. One of these questions is fairly well known. The second question seems to me to be at least as interesting as the first, but it apparently hasn't interested quite so many philosophers.
The students and colleagues of Roderick Chisholm admired and respected Chisholm. Many were filled not only with admiration, but with affection and gratitude for Chisholm throughout the time we knew him. Even now that he is dead, we continue to wish him well. Under the circumstances, many of us probably think that that wish amounts to no more than this: we hope that things went well for him when he lived; we hope that he had a good life.
Hedonism: the view that (i) pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically good, and (ii) pain is the only thing that is intrinsically bad; furthermore, the view that (iii) a complex thing such as a life, a possible world, or a total consequence of an action is intrinsically good iff it contains more pleasure than pain.
Deontologism in epistemology holds that epistemic justification may be understood in terms of “deontological” sentences about what one ought to believe or is permitted to believe, or what one deserves praise for believing, or in some similar way. If deonotologism is true, and people have justified beliefs, then the deontological sentences can be true. However, some say, these deontological sentences can be true only if people have a kind of freedom or control over their beliefs that they do not in (...) fact have. Thus, deontologism in epistemology, combined with anti-skepticism, has implausible implications. I first describe one sort of control that people typically have over ordinary actions but do not have over typical beliefs. I then argue that there is a paradigmatic type of epistemic evaluation that does properly apply to beliefs even though we lack this sort of control over them. Finally, I argue that these paradigmatic epistemic evaluations are sufficient to make true some of the deontological sentences. (shrink)
Given the recent explosion of interest in applications of evolutionary biology to understanding human psychology, we think it timely to assure better understanding of modern evolutionary theory among the psychologists who might be using it. We find it necessary to do so because of the very reducd version of evolutionary theorizing that has been incorporated into much of evolutionary psychology so far. Our aim here is to clarify why the use of a reduced version of evolutionary genetics will lead to (...) faulty science and to indicate where other resources of evolutionary biology can be found that might elevate the standard of the evolutionary component of evolutionary psychology. (shrink)