In these challenging pages, Unger argues for the extreme skeptical view that, not only can nothing ever be known, but no one can ever have any reason at all for anything. A consequence of this is that we cannot ever have any emotions about anything: no one can ever be happy or sad about anything. Finally, in this reduction to absurdity of virtually all our supposed thought, he argues that no one can ever believe, or even say, that anything is (...) the case. (shrink)
Ignorance and Imagination advances a novel way to resolve the central philosophical problem about the mind: how it is that consciousness or experience fits into a larger naturalistic picture of the world. The correct response to the problem, Stoljar argues, is not to posit a realm of experience distinct from the physical, nor to deny the reality of phenomenal experience, nor even to rethink our understanding of consciousness and the language we use to talk about it. Instead, we should (...) view the problem itself as a consequence of our ignorance of the relevant physical facts, Stoljar shows that this change of orientation is well motivated historically, empirically, and philosophically, and that it has none of the side effects it is sometimes thought to have. The result is a philosophical perspective on the mind that has a number of far-reaching consequences: for consciousness studies, for our place in nature, and for the way we think about the relationship between philosophy and science. (shrink)
The willful ignorance doctrine says defendants should sometimes be treated as if they know what they don't. This book provides a careful defense of this method of imputing mental states. Though the doctrine is only partly justified and requires reform, it also demonstrates that the criminal law needs more legal fictions of this kind. The resulting theory of when and why the criminal law can pretend we know what we don't has far-reaching implications for legal practice and reveals a (...) pressing need for change. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss various hard cases that an account of moral ignorance should be able to deal with: ancient slave holders, Susan Wolf’s JoJo, psychopaths such as Robert Harris, and finally, moral outliers. All these agents are ignorant, but it is not at all clear that they are blameless on account of their ignorance. I argue that the discussion of this issue in recent literature has missed the complexities of these cases by focusing on the question (...) of epistemic fault. It is not clear that all blameworthy morally ignorant agents have committed an epistemic fault. There are other important issues that pull us in various directions: moral capacity, bad will, and formative circumstances. I argue that bad will is what is crucial, and moral ignorance itself can be a form of bad will. I argue that we should distinguish between two sorts of bad will, and correspondingly, two sorts of blameworthiness. Ordinary blameworthiness, requires moral knowledge, and is based on akratic action. The other kind of blameworthiness, objective blameworthiness, applies when the agent is morally ignorant, and when this indicates bad will. Objective blameworthiness can be undermined by unfortunate formative circumstances. (shrink)
Willful ignorance is an important concept in criminal law and jurisprudence, though it has not received much discussion in philosophy. When it is mentioned, however, it is regularly assumed to be a kind of self-deception. In this article I will argue that self-deception and willful ignorance are distinct psychological kinds. First, some examples of willful ignorance are presented and discussed, and an analysis of the phenomenon is developed. Then it is shown that current theories of self-deception give (...) no support to the idea that willful ignorance is a kind of self-deception. Afterwards an independent argument is adduced for excluding willful ignorance from this category. The crucial differences between the two phenomena are explored, as are the reasons why they are so easily conflated. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- Chapter 1. A Short View of Ignorance -- Chapter 2. Finding Out -- Chapter 3. Limits, Uncertainty, Impossibility, and Other Minor Problems -- Chapter 4. Unpredicting -- Chapter 5. The Quality of Ignorance -- Chapter 6. Ignorance in Action: Case Histories -- Chapter 7. Ignorance beyond the Lab.
This paper aims to understand the relationship between ignorance and vulnerability by drawing on recent work on the epistemology of ignorance. After elaborating how we might understand the importance of human vulnerability, I develop the claim that ignorance of vulnerability is produced through the pursuit of an ideal of invulnerability that involves both ethical and epistemological closure. The ignorance of vulnerability that is a prerequisite for such invulnerability is, I contend, a pervasive form of ignorance (...) that underlies and grounds other oppressive forms of ignorance. Thus, undoing such forms of ignorance requires working toward a particular form of vulnerability: epistemic vulnerability. (shrink)
The Chomskian revolution in linguistics gave rise to a new orthodoxy about mind and language. Michael Devitt throws down a provocative challenge to that orthodoxy. What is linguistics about? What role should linguistic intuitions play in constructing grammars? What is innate about language? Is there a 'language faculty'? These questions are crucial to our developing understanding of ourselves; Michael Devitt offers refreshingly original answers. He argues that linguistics is about linguistic reality and is not part of psychology; that linguistic rules (...) are not represented in the mind; that speakers are largely ignorant of their language; that speakers' intuitions do not reflect information supplied by the language faculty and are not the main evidence for grammars; that the rules of 'Universal Grammar' are largely, if not entirely, innate structure rules of thought; indeed, that there is little or nothing to the language faculty. Devitt's controversial theses will prove highly stimulating to anyone working on language and the mind. (shrink)
Michelle Moody-Adams suggests that “the main obstacle to moral progress in social practices is the tendency to widespread affected ignorance of what can and should already be known.” This explanation is promising, though to understand it we need to know what willful (affected, motivated, strategic) ignorance actually is. This paper presents a novel analysis of this concept, which builds upon Moody-Adams (1994) and is contrasted with a recent account by Lynch (2016).
Michael J. Zimmerman explores whether and how our ignorance about ourselves and our circumstances affects what our moral obligations and moral rights are. He rejects objective and subjective views of the nature of moral obligation, and presents a new case for a 'prospective' view.
According to certain normative theories in epistemology, rationality requires us to be logically omniscient. Yet this prescription clashes with our ordinary judgments of rationality. How should we resolve this tension? In this paper, I focus particularly on the logical omniscience requirement in Bayesian epistemology. Building on a key insight by Ian Hacking (1967), I develop a version of Bayesianism that permits logical ignorance. This includes an account of the synchronic norms that govern a logically ignorant individual at any given (...) time, as well as an account of how we reduce our logical ignorance by learning logical facts and how we should update our credences in response to such evidence. At the end, I explain why the requirement of logical omniscience remains true of ideal agents with no computational, processing, or storage limitations. (shrink)
Rik Peels has ingeniously argued that ignorance is not equivalent to the lack or absence of knowledge. In this response, I defend the Standard View of Ignorance according to which they are equivalent. In the course of doing so, some important lessons will emerge concerning the nature of ignorance and its relationship to knowledge.
This paper explores types of organisational ignorance and ways in which organisational practices can affect the knowledge we have about the causes and effects of our actions. I will argue that because knowledge and information are not evenly distributed within an organisation, sometimes organisational design alone can create individual ignorance. I will also show that sometimes the act that creates conditions for culpable ignorance takes place at the collective level. This suggests that quality of will of an (...) agent is not necessary to explain culpable ignorance in an organisational setting. (shrink)
Rik Peels has once again forcefully argued that ignorance is not equivalent to the lack or absence of knowledge. In doing so, he endeavors to refute the Standard View of Ignorance according to which they are equivalent, and to advance what he calls the “New View” according to which ignorance is equivalent (merely) to the lack or absence of true belief. I defend the Standard View against his new attempted refutation.
In this paper, I respond to Pierre Le Morvan’s critique of my thesis that ignorance is lack of true belief rather than absence of knowledge. I argue that the distinction between dispositional and non-dispositional accounts of belief, as I made it in a previous paper, is correct as it stands. Also, I criticize the viability and the importance of Le Morvan’s distinction between propositional and factive ignorance. Finally, I provide two arguments in favor of the thesis that (...) class='Hi'>ignorance is lack of true belief rather than absence of knowledge. (shrink)
We investigate the interactions between scalar implicatures and presuppositions in sentences containing both a scalar item and presupposition trigger. We first critically discuss Gajewski and Sharvit’s previous approach. We then closely examine two ways of integrating an exhaustivity-based theory of scalar implicatures with a trivalent approach to presuppositions. The empirical side of our discussion focuses on two novel observations: the interactions between prosody and monotonicity, and what we call presupposed ignorance. In order to account for these observations, our final (...) proposal relies on two mechanisms of scalar strengthening, the Presupposed Ignorance Principle and an exhaustivity operator which lets the presuppositions of negated alternatives project. (shrink)
People have a powerful interest in geneticprivacy and its associated claim to ignorance,and some equally powerful desires to beshielded from disturbing information are oftenvoiced. We argue, however, that there is nosuch thing as a right to remain in ignorance,where a right is understood as an entitlementthat trumps competing claims. This doesnot of course mean that information must alwaysbe forced upon unwilling recipients, only thatthere is no prima facie entitlement to beprotected from true or honest information aboutoneself. Any claims (...) to be shielded frominformation about the self must compete onequal terms with claims based in the rights andinterests of others. In balancing the weightand importance of rival considerations aboutgiving or withholding information, if rightsclaims have any place, rights are more likelyto be defensible on the side of honestcommunication of information rather than indefence of ignorance. The right to free speechand the right to decline to acceptresponsibility to take decisions for othersimposed by those others seem to us moreplausible candidates for fully fledged rightsin this field than any purported right toignorance. Finally, and most importantly, ifthe right to autonomy is invoked, a properunderstanding of the distinction between claimsto liberty and claims to autonomy show that theprinciple of autonomy, as it is understood incontemporary social ethics and English law,supports the giving rather than the withholdingof information in most circumstances. (shrink)
The goal of the present paper is to construct a formal explication of the pluralistic ignorance explanation of the bystander effect. The social dynamics leading to inaction is presented, decomposed, and modeled using dynamic epistemic logic augmented with ‘transition rules’ able to characterize agent behavior. Three agent types are defined: First Responders who intervene given belief of accident; City Dwellers, capturing ‘apathetic urban residents’ and Hesitators, who observe others when in doubt, basing subsequent decision on social proof. It is (...) shown how groups of the latter may end in a state of pluralistic ignorance leading to inaction. Sequential models for each agent type are specified, and their results compared to empirical studies. It is concluded that only the Hesitator model produces reasonable results. (shrink)
Sometimes ignorance is an excuse. If an agent did not know and could not have known that her action would realize some bad outcome, then it is plausible to maintain that she is not to blame for realizing that outcome, even when the act that leads to this outcome is wrong. This general thought can be brought to bear in the context of climate change insofar as we think (a) that the actions of individual agents play some role in (...) realizing climate harms and (b) that these actions are apt targets for being considered right or wrong. Are agents who are ignorant about climate change and the way their actions contribute to it excused because of their ignorance, or is their ignorance culpable? In this paper I examine these questions from the perspective of recent developments in the theories of responsibility for ignorant action and characterize their verdicts. After developing some objections to existing attempts to explore these questions, I characterize two influential theories of moral responsibility and discuss their implications for three different types of ignorance about climate change. I conclude with some recommendations for how we should react to the face of the theories' conflicting verdicts. The answer to the question posed in the title, then, is: "Well, it's complicated.". (shrink)
Much work in the field of education for democratic citizenship is based on the idea that it is possible to know what a good citizen is, so that the task of citizenship education becomes that of the production of the good citizen. In this paper I ask whether and to what extent we can and should understand democratic citizenship as a positive identity. I approach this question by means of an exploration of four dimensions of democratic politics—the political community, the (...) borders of the political order, the dynamics of democratic processes and practices, and the status of the democratic subject—in order to explore whether and to what extent the ‘essence’ of democratic politics can and should be understood as a particular order. For this I engage with ideas from Chantal Mouffe and Jacques Rancière who both have raised fundamental questions about the extent to which the ‘essence’ of democratic politics can be captured as a particular order. In the paper I introduce the figure of the ignorant citizen in order to hint at a conception of citizenship that is not based on particular knowledge about what the good citizen is. I introduce a distinction between a socialisation conception of citizenship education and civic learning and a subjectification conception of citizenship education and civic learning in order to articulate what the educational implications of such an ‘anarchic’ understanding of democratic politics are. While the socialisation conception focuses on the question how ‘newcomers’ can be inserted into an existing political order, the subjectification conception focuses on the question how democratic subjectivity is engendered through engagement in always undetermined political processes. This is no longer a process driven by knowledge about what the citizen is or should become but one that depends on a desire for a particular mode of human togetherness or, in short, a desire for democracy. (shrink)
The epistemic state of complete ignorance is not a probability distribution. In it, we assign the same, unique, ignorance degree of belief to any contingent outcome and each of its contingent, disjunctive parts. That this is the appropriate way to represent complete ignorance is established by two instruments, each individually strong enough to identify this state. They are the principle of indifference (PI) and the notion that ignorance is invariant under certain redescriptions of the outcome space, (...) here developed into the ‘principle of invariance of ignorance' (PII). Both instruments are so innocuous as almost to be platitudes. Yet the literature in probabilistic epistemology has misdiagnosed them as paradoxical or defective since they generate inconsistencies when conjoined with the assumption that an epistemic state must be a probability distribution. To underscore the need to drop this assumption, I express PII in its most defensible form as relating symmetric descriptions and show that paradoxes still arise if we assume the ignorance state to be a probability distribution. *Received February 2007; revised July 2007. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; e-mail: [email protected] (shrink)
Sometimes, ignorance is inexpressible. Lewis recognized this when he argued, in “Ramseyan Humility,” that we cannot know which property occupies which causal role. This peculiar state of ignorance arises in a number of other domains too, including ignorance about our position in space and the identities of individuals. In these cases, one does not know something, and yet one cannot give voice to one's ignorance in a certain way. But what does the ignorance in these (...) cases consist in? This essay argues that many standard models of ignorance cannot account for the phenomenon of inexpressible ignorance. It then develops an alternative model that does better, on which the ignorance consists in a failure to identify something by way of its nature or essence. (shrink)
I want to explore strategic expressions of ignorance against the background of Charles W. Mills's account of epistemologies of ignorance in The Racial Contract (1997). My project has two interrelated goals. I want to show how Mills's discussion is restricted by his decision to frame ignorance within the language and logic of social contract theory. And, I want to explain why Maria Lugones's work on purity is useful in reframing ignorance in ways that both expand our (...) understandings of ignorance and reveal its strategic uses. I begin with Mills's account of the Racial Contract, and explain how it prescribes for its signatories an epistemology of ignorance, which Mills characterizes as an inverted epistemology. I briefly outline his program for undoing white ignorance and indicate that retooling white ignorance is more complex than his characterization suggests. Making this argument requires an abrupt shift from the white-created frameworks of social contract theory to Lugones's system of thinking rooted in the lives of people of color. So, the next section outlines Lugones's distinction between the logic of purity and the logic of curdling and explains its usefulness in addressing ignorance. With both accounts firmly in place the third section demonstrates how the Racial Contract produces at least two expressions of ignorance and explains how the logic of purity underlying the Contract shapes each expression in ways that limit possibilities for resistance. I don't mean to suggest that the social contract theory's love of purity invalidates Mills's work, only that this framework limits prospects for long-term change by neglecting the relationship between white ignorance and non-white resistance. The final sections explain how people of color use ignorance strategically to their advantage , and argue that examining ignorance through a curdled lens not only makes strategic ignorance visible, but also points to alternatives for retooling white ignorance. (shrink)
Ignorance is often a perfectly good excuse. There are interesting debates about whether non-culpable factual ignorance and mistake subvert obligation, but little disagreement about whether non-culpable factual ignorance and mistake exculpate. What about agents who have all the relevant facts in view but fail to meet their obligations because they do not have the right moral beliefs? If their ignorance of their obligations derives from mistaken moral beliefs or from ignorance of the moral significance of (...) the facts they have in view, should they be excused for failing to meet their moral obligations? It is not obvious that they should. In this paper we argue that the best non-skeptical accounts of moral responsibility acknowledge that factual ignorance and mistake will diminish moral responsibility in a way that moral ignorance and mistake will not. That is because factual ignorance is often non-culpable so long as it meets certain merely procedural epistemic standards but the same is not true of moral ignorance. Our argument is that the assumption that it is gets the standards of culpability for moral ignorance wrong, and that the mistake is encouraged by the thought that culpability in general requires an instance of known wrongdoing: that acting wrongly requires de dicto unresponsiveness to one’s obligations at some stage. We deny this and conclude that, therefore, ignorance and mistaken belief are indeed often perfectly good excuses – but far less often than some philosophers claim. (shrink)
Suppose that knowledge and ignorance are complements in the sense of being mutually exclusive: for person S and fact p, either S knows that p or is ignorant that p. Understood in this way, ignorance amounts to a lack or absence of knowledge: S is ignorant that p if and only if it is not the case that S knows that p. Let us call the thesis that knowledge and ignorance are opposites the “Complement Thesis”. In this (...) article, I discuss its deployment in an ingenious new argument advanced by Alvin Goldman and Erik Olsson (2009) which, if sound, establishes that there is a kind of knowledge that amounts to nothing more than true belief. I rebut their argument and in doing so delineate some important epistemological lessons brought to light by the contrast between ignorance and knowledge. (shrink)
Metaphor has been considered as a cognitive process, independent of the verbal versus visual mode, through which an unknown conceptual domain is understood in terms of another known conceptual domain. Metaphor might instead be viewed as a cognitive process, dependent on the mode, which leads to genuinely new knowledge via ignorance. First, I argue that there are two main senses of ignorance at stake when we understand a metaphor: we ignore some existing properties of the known domain in (...) the sense that we disregard or neglect them; we ignore some “non-existing” properties of the known domain in the sense that they are not a piece of information belonging to the known domain, but emerge in metaphor interpretation. Secondly, I consider a metaphor as a reasoning device, guiding the interpreters along a path of inferences to a conclusion, which attributes to the target some properties of the source. In this path, interpreters might discover the ignored existing properties of the known domain and/or recover the “non-existing” properties, inferring or imagining the missing piece of information. Finally, I argue that, especially in visual metaphors, this process is guided by a “sentiment of rationality”, tracking a disruption of existing familiar conceptualisations of objects and/or actions and a recovery of ignored properties. (shrink)
Abstract If voters do not understand the programs of rival candidates or their likely consequences, they cannot rationally exercise control over government. An ignorant electorate cannot achieve true democratic control over public policy. The immense size and scope of modern government makes it virtually impossible for voters to acquire sufficient knowledge to exercise such control. The problem is exacerbated by voters? strong incentive to be ?rationally ignorant? of politics. This danger to democracy cannot readily be circumvented through ?shortcut? methods of (...) economizing on voter knowledge costs. A truly democratic government must, therefore, be strictly limited in scope. (shrink)
Some theodicists, skeptical theists, and friendly atheists agree that God-justifying reasons for permitting evils would have to have an instrumental structure: that is, the evils would have to be necessary to secure a great enough good or necessary to prevent some equally bad or worse evil. D.Z. Phillips contends that instrumental reasons could never justify anyone for causing or permitting horrendous evils and concludes that the God of Restricted Standard Theism does not exist—indeed, is a conceptual mistake. After considering Phillips’ (...) and other objections in the neighborhood, I argue that the Expanded Theism of Christian theology does forward a God who ‘digs in’ and eternally answers for horrors. (shrink)
This book argues that ignorance of law should usually be a complete excuse from criminal liability. It defends this conclusion by invoking two presumptions: first, the content of criminal law should conform to morality; second, mistakes of fact and mistakes of law should be treated symmetrically.
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