In spite of many claims by people who have had the kind of mystical experiences that I want to discuss, such experiences do not reveal any reality beyond the experience itself; nor does the experience itself constitute a cosmic principle such as the Godhead, Absolute, One or Chaos. These experiences are in the last analysis merely subjective experiences. I say ‘merely’ here only to deny that the experiences have any significance for the cosmologists; not to deny that the experience has (...) significant value for the experiencer. It may be that the experiences are the ultimate goal attainable by human beings. Their value does not depend on their being the ultimate truth. (shrink)
What I wish to do in this paper is to look at a part of John Stuart Mill's ‘one very simple principle’ for determining the limits of state intervention. This principle is, you will remember, that ‘the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.’.
Economic theory is built on assumptions about human behavior—assumptions embodied in rational-choice theory. Underlying these assumptions are implicit notions about how we think and learn. These implicit notions are fundamentally important to social explanation. The very plausibility of the explanations that we develop out of rational-choice theory rests crucially on the accuracy of these notions about cognition and rationality. But there is a basic problem: There is often very little relationship between the assumptions that rational-choice theorists make and the way (...) that humans actually act and learn in everyday life. This has significant implications for economic theory and practice. It leads to bad theories and inadequate explanations; it produces bad predictions and, thus, supports ineffective social policies. (shrink)
The crucial premise of the standard argument for two-boxing in Newcomb's problem, a causal dominance principle, is false. We present some counterexamples. We then offer a metaethical explanation for why the counterexamples arise. Our explanation reveals a new and superior argument for two-boxing, one that eschews the causal dominance principle in favor of a principle linking rational choice to guidance and actual value maximization.
I argue that the social dimension of alienation, as discussed by Williams and Railton, has been underappreciated. The lesson typically drawn from their exchange is that moral theory poses a threat to the internal integrity of the agent, but there is a parallel risk that moral theory will implicitly construe agents as constitutively alienated from one another. I argue that a satisfying account of agency will need to make room for what I call ‘genuine ethical contact’ with others, both as (...) concrete objects in the world external to ourselves and as subjects who can recognize us reciprocally. (shrink)
According to a widely held principle—the poss-ability principle—an agent, S, is able to only if it is metaphysically possible for S to. I argue against the poss-ability principle by developing a novel class of counterexamples. I then argue that the consequences of rejecting the poss-ability principle are interesting and far-reaching.
Seeking a decision theory that can handle both the Newcomb problems that challenge evidential decision theory and the unstable problems that challenge causal decision theory, some philosophers recently have turned to ‘graded ratifiability’. The graded ratifiability approach to decision theory is, however, despite its virtues, unsatisfactory; for it conflicts with the platitude that it is always rationally permissible for an agent to knowingly choose their best option.
A natural suggestion and increasingly popular account of how to revise our logical beliefs treats revision of logic analogously to the revision of scientific theories. I investigate this approach and argue that simple applications of abductive methodology to logic result in revision-cycles, developing a detailed case study of an actual dispute with this property. This is problematic if we take abductive methodology to provide justification for revising our logical framework. I then generalize the case study, pointing to similarities with more (...) recent and popular heterodox logics such as naïve logics of truth. I use this discussion to motivate a constraint—logical partisanhood—on the uses of such methodology: roughly: both the proposed alternative and our actual background logic must be able to agree that moving to the alternative logic is no worse than staying put. (shrink)
Consequentialists often assume rational monism: the thesis that options are always made rationally permissible by the maximization of the selfsame quantity. This essay argues that consequentialists should reject rational monism and instead accept rational pluralism: the thesis that, on different occasions, options are made rationally permissible by the maximization of different quantities. The essay then develops a systematic form of rational pluralism which, unlike its rivals, is capable of handling both the Newcomb problems that challenge evidential decision theory and the (...) unstable problems that challenge causal decision theory. (shrink)
Etiquette and other merely formal normative standards like legality, honor, and rules of games are taken less seriously than they should be. While these standards are not intrinsically reason-providing in the way morality is often taken to be, they also play an important role in our practical lives: we collectively treat them as important for assessing the behavior of ourselves and others and as licensing particular forms of sanction for violations. This chapter develops a novel account of the normativity of (...) formal standards where the role they play in our practical lives explains a distinctive kind of reason to obey them. We have this kind of reason to be polite because etiquette is important to us. We also have this kind of reason to be moral because morality is important to us. This parallel suggests that the importance we assign to morality is insufficient to justify it being substantive. (shrink)
Professor Jack Goody builds on his own previous work to extend further his highly influential critique of what he sees as the pervasive eurocentric or occidentalist biases of so much western historical writing. Goody also examines the consequent 'theft' by the West of the achievements of other cultures in the invention of (notably) democracy, capitalism, individualism, and love. The Theft of History discusses a number of theorists in detail, including Marx, Weber and Norbert Elias, and engages with critical admiration (...) western historians like Fernand Braudel, Moses Finlay and Perry Anderson. Major questions of method are raised, and Goody proposes a new comparative methodology for cross-cultural analysis, one that gives a much more sophisticated basis for assessing divergent historical outcomes, and replaces outmoded simple differences between East and West. The Theft of History will be read by an unusually wide audience of historians, anthropologists and social theorists. (shrink)
I argue that certain species of belief, such as mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, are insulated from a form of Harman-style debunking argument whereas moral beliefs, the primary target of such arguments, are not. Harman-style arguments have been misunderstood as attempts to directly undermine our moral beliefs. They are rather best given as burden-shifting arguments, concluding that we need additional reasons to maintain our moral beliefs. If we understand them this way, then we can see why moral beliefs are vulnerable (...) to such arguments while mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs are not—the very construction of Harman-style skeptical arguments requires the truth of significant fragments of our mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, but requires no such thing of our moral beliefs. Given this property, Harman-style skeptical arguments against logical, mathematical, and normative beliefs are self-effacing; doubting these beliefs on the basis of such arguments results in the loss of our reasons for doubt. But we can cleanly doubt the truth of morality. (shrink)
This paper develops an argument against causal decision theory. I formulate a principle of preference, which I call the Guaranteed Principle. I argue that the preferences of rational agents satisfy the Guaranteed Principle, that the preferences of agents who embody causal decision theory do not, and hence that causal decision theory is false.
I distinguish two ways of developing anti-exceptionalist approaches to logical revision. The first emphasizes comparing the theoretical virtuousness of developed bodies of logical theories, such as classical and intuitionistic logic. I'll call this whole theory comparison. The second attempts local repairs to problematic bits of our logical theories, such as dropping excluded middle to deal with intuitions about vagueness. I'll call this the piecemeal approach. I then briefly discuss a problem I've developed elsewhere for comparisons of logical theories. Essentially, the (...) problem is that a pair of logics may each evaluate the alternative as superior to themselves, resulting in oscillation between logical options. The piecemeal approach offers a way out of this problem andthereby might seem a preferable to whole theory comparisons. I go on to show that reflective equilibrium, the best known piecemeal method, has deep problems of its own when applied to logic. (shrink)
What makes a biological entity an individual? Jack Wilson shows that past philosophers have failed to explicate the conditions an entity must satisfy to be a living individual. He explores the reason for this failure and explains why we should limit ourselves to examples involving real organisms rather than thought experiments. This book explores and resolves paradoxes that arise when one applies past notions of individuality to biological examples beyond the conventional range and presents an analysis of identity and (...) persistence. The book's main purpose is to bring together two lines of research, theoretical biology and metaphysics, which have dealt with the same subject in isolation from one another. Wilson explains an alternative theory about biological individuality which solves problems which cannot be addressed by either field alone. He presents a more fine-grained vocabulary of individuation based on diverse kinds of living things, allowing him to clarify previously muddled disputes about individuality in biology. (shrink)
According to the standard account, to hope for an outcome is to desire it and to believe that its realization is possible, though not inevitable. This account, however, faces certain difficulties: It cannot explain how people can display differing strengths in hope; it cannot distinguish hope from despair; and it cannot explain substantial hopes. This paper proposes an account of hope that can meet these deficiencies. Briefly, it argues that in addition to possessing the relevant belief–desire structure as allowed in (...) the standard account, a hopeful person must also be able to see a way in which the desired outcome can come about and to see such a way to the outcome as a genuine possibility. (shrink)
Sometimes a fact can play a role in a grounding explanation, but the particular content of that fact make no difference to the explanation—any fact would do in its place. I call these facts vacuous grounds. I show that applying the distinction between-vacuous grounds allows us to give a principled solution to Kit Fine and Stephen Kramer’s paradox of ground. This paradox shows that on minimal assumptions about grounding and minimal assumptions about logic, we can show that grounding is reflexive, (...) contra the intuitive character of grounds. I argue that we should never have accepted that grounding is irreflexive in the first place; the intuitions that support the irreflexive intuition plausibly only require that grounding be non-vacuously irreflexive. Fine and Kramer’s paradox relies, essentially, on a case of vacuous grounding and is thus no problem for this account. (shrink)
The world is said to contain crystal balls whenever the present carries news of the as-yet-undetermined parts of the future. Many philosophers believe that crystal balls are metaphysically possible. In this essay, I argue that they are not. Whether crystal balls are possible matters, for at least two reasons. The first is epistemological. According to a simple, user-friendly chance norm for credence, which I call the Present Principle, agents are rationally required to conform their credences to their expectations of the (...) present chances, deferring to the present chances as they would to an expert. I would like to defend the Present Principle since its truth would do much to simplify the relation between chance and credence. But the Present Principle is counterexample-free, and hence defensible, only if crystal balls are impossible. The second reason is decision-theoretic. The problem of crystal balls is one of the main objections to causal decision theory. But crystal ball cases can be counterexample to causal decision theory only if crystal balls are possible, and, as I argue, crystal balls are not possible. (shrink)
Emotion, Social Theory, and Social Structure takes sociology in a new direction. It examines key aspects of social structure by using a fresh understanding of emotions categories. Through that synthesis emerge new perspectives on rationality, class structure, social action, conformity, basic rights, and social change. As well as giving an innovative view of social processes, J. M. Barbalet's study also reveals unappreciated aspects of emotions by considering fear, resentment, vengefulness, shame, and confidence in the context of social structure. While much (...) has been written on the social consequences of excessive or pathological emotions, this book demonstrates the centrality of emotions to routine operations of social interaction. Dr Barbalet also re-evaluates the nature of social theory, for once the importance of emotions to social processes becomes clear, the intellectual constitution of sociology, and therefore its history, must be rethought. (shrink)
Bioregionalists have championed the utility of the concept of the watershed as an organizing framework for thought and action directed to understanding and implementing appropriate and respectful human interaction with particular pieces of land. In a creative analogue to the watershed, permaculturist Arthur Getz has recently introduced the term “foodshed” to facilitate critical thought about where our food is coming from and how it is getting to us. We find the “foodshed” to be a particularly rich and evocative metaphor; but (...) it is much more than metaphor. Like its analogue the watershed, the foodshed can serve us as a conceptual and methodological unit of analysis that provides a frame for action as well as thought. Food comes to most of us now through a global food system that is destructive of both natural and social communities. In this article we explore a variety of routes for the conceptual and practical elaboration of the foodshed. While corporations that are the principal beneficiaries of a global food system now dominate the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food, alternatives are emerging that together could form the basis for foodshed development. Just as many farmers are recognizing the social and environmental advantages to sustainable agriculture, so are many consumers coming to appreciate the benefits of fresh and sustainably produced food. Such producers and consumers are being linked through such innovative arrangements as community supported agriculture and farmers markets. Alternative producers, alternative consumers, and alternative small entrepreneurs are rediscovering community and finding common ground in municipal and community food councils. Recognition of one's residence within a foodshed can confer a sense of connection and responsibility to a particular locality. The foodshed can provide a place for us to ground ourselves in the biological and social realities of living on the land and from the land in a place that we can call home, a place to which we are or can become native. (shrink)
This is an opinionated overview of the Frege-Geach problem, in both its historical and contemporary guises. Covers Higher-order Attitude approaches, Tree-tying, Gibbard-style solutions, and Schroeder's recent A-type expressivist solution.
Expressivists explain the expression relation which obtains between sincere moral assertion and the conative or affective attitude thereby expressed by appeal to the relation which obtains between sincere assertion and belief. In fact, they often explicitly take the relation between moral assertion and their favored conative or affective attitude to be exactly the same as the relation between assertion and the belief thereby expressed. If this is correct, then we can use the identity of the expression relation in the two (...) cases to test the expressivist account as a descriptive or hermeneutic account of moral discourse. I formulate one such test, drawing on a standard explanation of Moore's paradox. I show that if expressivism is correct as a descriptive account of moral discourse, then we should expect versions of Moore's paradox where we explicitly deny that we possess certain affective or conative attitudes. I then argue that the constructions that mirror Moore's paradox are not incoherent. It follows that expressivism is either incorrect as a hermeneutic account of moral discourse or that the expression relation which holds between sincere moral assertion and affective or conative attitudes is not identical to the relation which holds between sincere non-moral assertion and belief. A number of objections are canvassed and rejected. (shrink)
I investigate syntactic notions of theoretical equivalence between logical theories and a recent objection thereto. I show that this recent criticism of syntactic accounts, as extensionally inadequate, is unwarranted by developing an account which is plausibly extensionally adequate and more philosophically motivated. This is important for recent anti-exceptionalist treatments of logic since syntactic accounts require less theoretical baggage than semantic accounts.
In _Phenomenology, Naturalism and Empirical Science_, Jack Reynolds takes the controversial position that phenomenology and naturalism are compatible, and develops a hybrid account of phenomenology and empirical science. Though phenomenology and naturalism are typically understood as philosophically opposed to one another, Reynolds argues that this resistance is based on an understanding of transcendental phenomenology that is ultimately untenable and in need of updating. Phenomenology, as Reynolds reorients it, is compatible with liberal naturalism, as well as with weak forms of (...) methodological naturalism. Chapters explore areas where scientific and phenomenological work overlap and sometimes conflict, contesting standard ways of understanding the relationship between phenomenological philosophy and empirical science. The book outlines the significance of the first-person perspective characteristic of phenomenology—both epistemically and ontologically—while according due respect to the relevant empirical sciences. This book makes a significant contribution to one of the central issues in phenomenology and argues for phenomenology’s ongoing importance for the future of philosophy. (shrink)
Geoengineering is defined as the ‘deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with the aim of reducing global warming’. The technological proposals for doing this are highly speculative. Research is at an early stage, but there is a strong consensus that technologies would, if realisable, have profound and surprising ramifications. Geoengineering would seem to be an archetype of technology as social experiment, blurring lines that separate research from deployment and scientific knowledge from technological artefacts. Looking into the experimental (...) systems of geoengineering, we can see the negotiation of what is known and unknown. The paper argues that, in renegotiating such systems, we can approach a new mode of governance—collective experimentation. This has important ramifications not just for how we imagine future geoengineering technologies, but also for how we govern geoengineering experiments currently under discussion. (shrink)
Some well-known metaphysical arguments against relativism rest on the claim that relativity somehow must be accompanied by relationality. I argue otherwise, and trace the consequences for some prominent disputes between relativists and absolutists.
Open-mindedness is generally regarded as an intellectual virtue because its exercise reliably leads to truth. However, some theorists have argued that open-mindedness’s truth-conduciveness is highly contingent, pointing out that it is either not truth-conducive at all under certain scenarios or no better than dogmatism or credulity in others. Given such shaky ties to truth, it would appear that the status of open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue is in jeopardy. In this paper, I propose to defend open-mindedness against these challenges. In (...) particular, I show that the challenges are ill-founded because they misconstrue the nature of open-mindedness and fail to consider the requisite conditions of its application. With a proper understanding of open-mindedness and of its requirements, it is clear that recourse to it is indeed truth-conducive. (shrink)
I defend a moderate (neither extremely conservative nor extremely liberal) view about the contents of perception. I develop an account of perceptual kinds as perceptual similarity classes, which are convex regions in similarity space. Different perceivers will enjoy different perceptual kinds. I argue that for any property P, a perceptual state of O can represent something as P only if P is coextensive with some perceptual kind for O. 'Dog' and 'chair' will be perceptual kinds for most normal people, 'blackpool (...) warbler' for the expert birdwatcher but not for the rest of us, 'dangerous', 'familiar', or 'meaning that the cat is on the mat' for none of us. (shrink)
In our wakeful conscious lives, the experience of time and dynamic temporal phenomena—such as continuous motion and change—appears to be ubiquitous. How is it that temporality is woven into our conscious experience? Is it through perceptual experience presenting a series of instantaneous states of the world, which combine together—in a sense which would need to be specified—to give us experience of dynamic temporal phenomena? In this paper, I argue that this is not the case. -/- Several authors have recently proposed (...) dynamic snapshot models of temporal experience— such as Prosser and Arstila, building upon Le Poidevin— according to which perceptual experience has no temporal content of a non‐zero extent. I argue that there is an absence of motivation for such a view; I develop and defend the claim that perceptual experience minimally presents something of some non‐zero temporal extent as such. (shrink)
This article introduces the special section on the contribution of Jack Goody, which focuses on The Theft of History. Goody attacks the notion of a radical division between Europe and Asia, which has become built into the commonsense academic wisdom and categorical apparatus of the social sciences and humanities. Eurocentrism is a constant target as he scrutinizes and finds wanting the claims of the West to have invented modern science, cultural renaissances, the free city, capitalism, democracy, love and secularism. (...) Goody’s approach favours a dynamic long-term basis for comparisons between societies and focuses on the exchange of information and goods across Eurasia to argue that the comparative advantage one society gains has been only temporary, swinging between different parts of Eurasia a number of times over the millennia. Goody suggests that China developed an active mercantile urban culture before Europe. Cities and towns with their mixture of luxury and learning, should not be seen as inevitably subordinate to centralized power structures in both eastern and western Eurasia. Goody criticizes the theoretical assumptions and the handling of evidence of Perry Anderson, Fernand Braudel, Norbert Elias, Moses Finlay, David Landes, Karl Marx, Joseph Needham, Immanuel Wallerstein and Max Weber. His concern is that the master categories of world history, such as antiquity, feudalism and capitalism, have been developed against a background of the particular European trajectory, then projected onto the world at large. Goody remains sceptical, not just about eurocentrism, but also the additional danger of being eurocentric about ethnocentricity, which he regards as a trap that postcolonialism and postmodernism frequently fall into. (shrink)
This innovative text is psychologically informed, both in its diagnosis of inferential errors, and in teaching students how to watch out for and work around their natural intellectual blind spots. It also incorporates insights from epistemology and philosophy of science that are indispensable for learning how to evaluate premises. The result is a hands-on primer for real world critical thinking. The authors bring a fresh approach to the traditional challenges of a critical thinking course: effectively explaining the nature of validity, (...) assessing deductive arguments, reconstructing, identifying and diagramming arguments, and causal and probabilistic inference. Additionally, they discuss in detail, important, frequently neglected topics, including testimony, including the evaluation of news and other information sources, the nature and credibility of science, rhetoric, and dialectical argumentation. The treatment of probability uses frequency trees and a frequency approach more generally, and argument reconstruction is taught using argument maps; these methods have been shown to improve students’ reasoning and argument evaluation. (shrink)
Why do promises give rise to reasons? I consider a quadruple of possibilities which I think will not work, then sketch the explanation of the normativity of promising I find more plausible—that it is constitutive of the practice of promising that promise-breaking implies liability for blame and that we take liability for blame to be a bad thing. This effects a reduction of the normativity of promising to conventionalism about liability together with instrumental normativity and desire-based reasons. This is important (...) for a number of reasons, but the most important reason is that this style of account can be extended to account for nearly all normativity—one notable exception being instrumental normativity itself. Success in the case of promises suggests a general reduction of normativity to conventions and instrumental normativity. But success in the cases of promises is already quite interesting and does not depend essentially the general claim about normativity. (shrink)
On September 3, 2015, the Political Epistemology/ideas, Knowledge, and Politics section of the American Political Science Association sponsored a roundtable on epistemic democracy as part of the APSA’s annual meetings. Chairing the roundtable was Daniel Viehoff, Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield. The other participants were Jack Knight, Department of Political Science and the Law School, Duke University; Hélène Landemore, Department of Political Science, Yale University; and Nadia Urbinati, Department of Political Science, Columbia University. We thank the participants for (...) permission to republish their remarks, which they edited for clarity after the fact. (shrink)
I argue that we can and should extend Tarski's model-theoretic criterion of logicality to cover indefinite expressions like Hilbert's ɛ operator, Russell's indefinite description operator η, and abstraction operators like 'the number of'. I draw on this extension to discuss the logical status of both abstraction operators and abstraction principles.
The main claim of this paper is that Andy Clark's most influential argument for ‘the extended mind thesis’ (EM henceforth) fails. Clark's argument for EM assumes that a certain form of common-sense functionalism is true. I argue, contra Clark, that the assumed brand of common-sense functionalism does not imply EM. Clark's argument also relies on an unspoken, undefended and optional assumption about the nature of mental kinds—an assumption denied by the very common-sense functionalists on whom Clark's argument draws. I also (...) critique Mark Sprevak's reductio of Clark's argument. Sprevak contends that Clark's argument does not merely entail EM; it entails an extended mind thesis so strong as to be absurd. He goes on to claim that Clark's argument should properly be viewed as a reductio of the very common-sense functionalism on which it depends. Sprevak's argument shares the flaw that afflicts Clark's argument, or so I claim. (shrink)
It is sometimes said that our age is an age of relativism. For example, Paul Tillich has expressed his “uneasiness about the victory of relativism in all realms of thought and life today.” Karl Popper tells us that “the main philosophical malady of our time is an intellectual and moral relativism, the latter being at least in part based on the former.” What Popper refers to as “intellectual relativism” consists in part in a doctrine about truth which is sometimes expressed (...) as “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” At other times it is expressed by saying “truth is relative.”. (shrink)
This paper puts forward an argument for a systematic, technical approach to formulation in verbal interaction. I see this as a kind of expansion of Sacks’ membership categorization analysis, and as something that is not offered (at least not in a fully developed form) by sequential analysis, the currently dominant form of conversation analysis. In particular, I suggest a technique for the study of “occasioned semantics,” that is, the study of structures of meaningful expressions in actual occasions of conversation. I (...) propose that meaning and rhetoric be approached through consideration of various dimensions or operations or properties, including, but not limited to, contrast and co-categorization, generalization and specification, scaling, and marking. As illustration, I consider a variety of cases, focused on generalization and specification. The paper can be seen as a return to some classical concerns with meaning, as illuminated by more recent insights into indexicality, social action, and interaction in recorded talk. (shrink)