Epistemic Permissivists face a special problem about the relationship between our first- and higher-order attitudes. They claim that rationality often permits a range of doxastic responses to the evidence. Given plausible assumptions about the relationship between your first- and higher-order attitudes, it can't be rational to adopt a credence on the edge of that range. But Permissivism says that, for some such range, any credence in that range is rational. Permissivism, in its traditional form, cannot be right. I consider some (...) new ways of developing Permissivism to avoid this argument, but each has problems of its own. (shrink)
This essay proposes a new theory of agentive modals: ability modals and their duals, compulsion modals. After criticizing existing approaches—the existential quantificational analysis, the universal quantificational analysis, and the conditional analysis—it presents a new account that builds on both the existential and conditional analyses. On this account, the act conditional analysis, a sentence like ‘John can swim across the river’ says that there is some practically available action that is such that if John tries to do it, he swims across (...) the river. The essay argues that the act conditional analysis avoids the problems faced by existing accounts of agentive modality and shows how the act conditional analysis can be extended to an account of generic agentive modal claims. The upshot is a new vantage point on the role of agentive modal ascriptions in practical discourse: ability ascriptions serve as a kind of hypothetical guarantee, and compulsion ascriptions as a kind of nonhypothetical guarantee. (shrink)
Stalnaker's Thesis about indicative conditionals is, roughly, that the probability one ought to assign to an indicative conditional equals the probability that one ought to assign to its consequent conditional on its antecedent. The thesis seems right. If you draw a card from a standard 52-card deck, how confident are you that the card is a diamond if it's a red card? To answer this, you calculate the proportion of red cards that are diamonds -- that is, you calculate the (...) probability of drawing a diamond conditional on drawing a red card. Skyrms' Thesis about counterfactual conditionals is, roughly, that the probability that one ought to assign to a counterfactual equals one's rational expectation of the chance, at a relevant past time, of its consequent conditional on its antecedent. This thesis also seems right. If you decide not to enter a 100-ticket lottery, how confident are you that you would have won had you bought a ticket? To answer this, you calculate the prior chance--that is, the chance just before your decision not to buy a ticket---of winning conditional on entering the lottery. The central project of this article is to develop a new uniform theory of conditionals that allows us to derive a version of Skyrms' Thesis from a version of Stalnaker's Thesis, together with a chance-deference norm relating rational credence to beliefs about objective chance. (shrink)
The literature on counterfactuals is dominated by strict accounts and variably strict accounts. Counterexamples to the principle of Antecedent Strengthening were thought to be fatal to SA; but it has been shown that by adding dynamic resources to the view, such examples can be accounted for. We broaden the debate between VSA and SA by focusing on a new strengthening principle, Strengthening with a Possibility. We show dynamic SA classically validates this principle. We give a counterexample to it and show (...) that extra dynamic resources cannot help SA. We then show VSA accounts for the counterexample if it allows for orderings on worlds that are not almost-connected, and that such an ordering naturally falls out of a Kratzerian ordering source semantics. We conclude that the failure of Strengthening with a Possibility tells strongly against Dynamic SA and in favor of an ordering source-based version of VSA. (shrink)
The Qualitative Thesis says that if you leave open P, then you are sure of if P, then Q just in case you are sure of the corresponding material conditional. We argue the Qualitative Thesis provides compelling reasons to accept a thesis that we call Conditional Locality, which says, roughly, the interpretation of an indicative conditional depends, in part, on the conditional’s local embedding environment. In the first part of the paper, we present an argument—due to Ben Holguín—showing that, without (...) Conditional Locality, the Qualitative Thesis is in tension with a margin for error principle on rational sureness. We show Conditional Locality reconciles the Qualitative Thesis with the margin for error principle. In the second part, we argue the full range of data supports what we call the Strong Qualitative Thesis. Without Conditional Locality, the Strong Qualitative Thesis has unacceptable consequences. But with Conditional Locality, it is tenable. (shrink)
Accuracy-first epistemology says that the rational update rule is the rule that maximizes expected accuracy. Externalism says, roughly, that we do not always know what our total evidence is. It’s been argued in recent years that the externalist faces a dilemma: Either deny that Bayesian Conditionalization is the rational update rule, thereby rejecting traditional Bayesian epistemology, or else deny that the rational update rule is the rule that maximizes expected accuracy, thereby rejecting the accuracy-first program. Call this the Bayesian Dilemma. (...) Here is roughly how the argument goes. Schoenfield (2017) has shown that following Metaconditionalization maximizes expected accuracy. But if externalism is true, Metaconditionalization is not Bayesian Conditionalization. Therefore, the externalist must choose between the rule that maximizes expected accuracy (Metaconditionalization) and Bayesian Conditionalization. I am not convinced by this argument; once we make the premises fully explicit, we see that it relies on assumptions that the externalist has every reason to reject. Still, I think that the Bayesian Dilemma is a genuine dilemma. I give a new argument—I call it the continuity argument—that doesn’t make any assumptions the externalist rejects. Roughly, I show that if you're sufficiently confident that you will correctly identify your evidence, then you'll expect adopting a rule that I call Accurate Metaconditionalization to be more accurate than adopting Bayesian Conditionalization. (shrink)
We propose a new analysis of ability modals. After briefly criticizing extant approaches, we turn our attention to the venerable but vexed conditional analysis of ability ascriptions. We give an account that builds on the conditional analysis, but avoids its weaknesses by incorporating a layer of quantification over a contextually supplied set of actions.