My topic is two-fold: a reductive account of expertise as an epistemic phenomenon, and applying the reductive account to the question of whether or not philosophers enjoy expertise. I conclude, on the basis of the reductive account, that even though philosophers enjoy something akin to second-order expertise (i.e. they are often experts on the positions of other philosophers, current trends in the philosophical literature, the history of philosophy, conceptual analysis and so on), they nevertheless lack first-order philosophical expertise (i.e. expertise (...) on philosophical positions themselves such as the nature of mind, causality, normativity and so forth). Throughout the paper, I respond to potential objections. (shrink)
Are strangers sincere in their moral praise and criticism? Here we apply signaling theory to argue ceteris paribus moral criticism is more likely sincere than praise; the former tends to be a higher-fidelity signal (in Western societies). To offer an example: emotions are often self-validating as a signal because they're hard to fake. This epistemic insight matters: moral praise and criticism influence moral reputations, and affect whether others will cooperate with us. Though much of this applies to generic praise and (...) criticism too, moral philosophers should value sincere moral praise and moral criticism for several reasons: it (i) offers insight into how others actually view us as moral agents; (ii) offers feedback to help us improve our moral characters; and (iii) encourages some behaviors, and discourages others. And so as moral agents, we should care whether moral praise and moral criticism is sincere. (shrink)
Philosophers have long wondered whether God exists; and yet, they have ignored the question of whether we should hope that He exists – call this stance aspirational theism. In this article, I argue that we have a weighty pro tanto reason to adopt this stance: theism offers a metaphysical guarantee against gratuitous suffering. On the other hand, few atheist alternatives offer such a guarantee – and even then, there are reasons to worry that they are inferior to the theistic alternative. (...) Given this difference, we have a strong pro tanto, but not all-things-considered, reason to adopt aspirational theism. (shrink)
Students sometimes profess moral relativism or skepticism with retorts like ‘how can we know?’ or ‘it’s all relative!’ Here I defend a pedagogical method to defuse moral relativism and moral skepticism using phenomenal conservatism: if it seems to S that p, S has defeasible justification to believe that p; e.g., moral seemings, like perceptual ones, are defeasibly justified. The purpose of defusing moral skepticism and relativism is to prevent these metaethical views from acting as stumbling blocks to insightful ethical inquiry (...) in the classroom. This approach puts the burden of proof on the relativist or skeptic (to justify their view, contrary to appearances), and makes their views costlier: if we reject moral seemings as a kind, we must reject other less objectionable seemings too (e.g. intellectual seemings). Finally, this approach improves learning outcomes by ‘hooking onto’ student familiarity with seemings, e.g. seeing is (defeasibly justified) believing. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue the practice of procreation is immoral regardless of the consequences of human presence such as climate change and overpopulation; the lack of consent, interests and moral desert on the part of nonexistent individuals means someone could potentially suffer in the absence of moral justification. Procreation is only morally justified if there is some method for acquiring informed consent from a non-existent person; but that is impossible; therefore, procreation is immoral.
Philosophy plausibly aims at knowledge; it would thus be tempting to hold that much of the value of doing philosophy turns on securing knowledge. Enter the agnostic challenge: suppose that a philosophical agnostic (named 'Betsy‘) wants to discover only fundamental philosophical truths. However, the intractable disagreement among philosophical experts gives her pause. After reflecting on expert disagreement, she decides that doing philosophy, for her truth-seeking error-avoiding purposes, is irrational. In this paper, I argue that the agnostic challenge isn‘t easily overcome. (...) Although there are many reasons to do philosophy, the agnostic challenge implies there is less value to doing philosophy than many philosophers may have believed. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that stifling free expression stifles intellectual life. Others reply that freedom of expression can harm members of marginalized groups by alienating them from social life or worse. Yet we should still favour freedom of expression, especially where marginalized groups are concerned. It's better to know who has repugnant beliefs as it allows marginalized groups to identify threats: free expression qua self-defence.
When moral philosophers study ignorance, their efforts are almost exclusively confined to its exculpatory and blameworthy aspects. Unfortunately, though, this trend overlooks that certain kinds of propositional ignorance, namely of the personal costs and benefits of altruistic actions, can indirectly incentivize those actions. Humans require cooperation from others to survive, and that can be facilitated by a good reputation. One avenue to a good reputation is helping others, sticking to moral principles, and so forth, without calculating the personal costs of (...) doing so, e.g., saving someone from a burning building without calculating how personally costly or beneficial it would be. These actions are indirect moral benefits (partly) resulting from that kind of propositional ignorance. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that we are merely biological organisms. This view (animalism) explains everyday practices like watching ourselves in the mirror. The claim that we are psychological in nature cannot explain something as trivial as watching ourselves in the mirror. Thus, we should accept animalism.
There is a controversy, within social epistemology, over how to handle disagreement among epistemic peers. Call this the problem of peer disagreement. There is a solution, i.e. the equal-weight view, which says that disagreement among epistemic peers is a reason for each peer to lower the credence they place in their respective positions. However, this solution is susceptible to a serious challenge. Call it the merely modal peers challenge. Throughout parts of modal space, which resemble the actual world almost completely, (...) there are hordes of epistemic peers, who disagree with almost any arbitrarily chosen belief had by residents of the actual world. Further, the mere modality of these peers is not itself an epistemic difference-maker. Thus, on the equal-weight view, we should significantly lower the credence we place in most of our beliefs. Surely, this is seriously mistaken. Thus, there are serious considerations that cut against the equal-weight view. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend my original objection to Hales’ suicide machine argument against Hales’ response. I argue Hales’ criticisms are either misplaced or underestimate the strength of my objection; if the constraints of the original objection are respected, my original objection blocks Hales’ reply. To be thorough, I restate an improved version of the objection to the suicide machine argument. I conclude that Hales fails to motivate a reasonable worry as to the supposed suicidal nature of presentist time travel.
Sceptical theism is supposed, by a number of philosophers, to undercut the evidential basis for the evidential problem of evil. In this paper, I argue that even ifsceptical theism succeeds, its success comes with a hefty epistemic price: it threatens to undermine a good deal of what we supposedly know. Call this the problem of epistemic evil. Thus, sceptical theism has a costly philosophical price of admission. In light of this, it seems that the evidential problem of evil is harder (...) to dislodge than it might have initially seemed; i.e. with sceptical theism, we trade the evidential problem of evil for the problem of epistemic evil. (shrink)
My purpose, in this paper, is to defend the claim that the fine-tuning argument suffers from the poor design worry. Simply put, the worry is this: if God created the universe, specifically with the purpose of bringing about moral agents, we would antecedently predict that the universe and the laws of nature, taken as a whole, would be well-equipped to do just that. However, in light of how rare a life-permitting universe is, compared to all the ways the universe might (...) be have been life-prohibiting given the laws of physics, strongly suggests that the universe was poorly designed for that purpose. This casts doubt on the claim that God has much to do with designing the universe. First, I introduce the fine-tuning argument, and second, I explain and defend the poor design worry against objections that, while apparently compelling, I argue are misleading. (shrink)
Steven Hales constructs a novel argument against the possibility of presentist time travel called the suicide machine argument. Hales argues that if presentism were true, then time travel would result in the annihilation of the time traveler. But such a consequence is not time travel, therefore presentism cannot allow for the possibility of time travel. This paper argues that in order for the suicide machine argument to succeed, it must make (at least) one of two assumptions, each of which beg (...) the question. The argument must either assume that the sequence of moments is invariant, or that time travel requires distinct, co-instantiated moments. Because the former disjunct assumes that presentist time travel is impossible and the latter assumes that presentism is impossible, the suicide machine argument fails. (shrink)
I assess the debate over the Suicide Machine Argument. There are several lessons to be learned from this debate. First, there is a fruitful distinction to be made,between tensed and tenseless versions of presentism, despite the temptation to suppose that presentism is a tensed theory of time. Second, once we’ve made the distinction between different kinds of presentism, it is clear that Licon’s objection protects the tenseless version of presentism from the Suicide Machine Argument; however, the argument is still effective (...) against the tensed version. Finally, I argue that if the presentist wants to remain a card carrying presentist, in the face of the challenge posed by Hales, then she must abandon her commitment to tense. (shrink)
Intractable disagreement among philosophers is ubiquitous. An implication of such disagreement is that many philosophers hold false philosophical beliefs (i.e. at most only one party to a dispute can be right). Suppose that we distribute philosophers along a spectrum arranged from philosophers with mostly true philosophical beliefs on one end (high‐reliability), to those with mostly false philosophical beliefs on the other (low‐reliability), and everyone else somewhere in‐between (call this is the reliability spectrum). It is hard to see how philosophers could (...) accurately locate themselves on the reliability spectrum; they are prima facie as well positioned as their peers with respect to philosophical matters (call this the placement problem). In this paper, I argue that the reliability spectrum and placement problem lend support to modest meta‐philosophical skepticism: we have a pro tanto (but not an all‐things‐considered) reason to withhold ascent to philosophical claims. (shrink)
Surely, it is possible that you believe falsely about this-or-that modal matter. In light of the various ways the world could be arranged, it is plausible thatthere is a nearby possible world, which would be almost identical to the actual world, if it were actualized, where you and your modal counterpart disagree over modal belief p. You might be tempted to think that your modal belief is true, while hers is not. It is not clear why this is so; after (...) all, you would each have the same evidence, cognitive abilities etc., if you were both actualized. This point generalizes to all of your modal beliefs, this seems to strongly imply that the probability that you have true modal beliefs appears inscrutable. Thus, you have some reason to withhold belief, on modal matters. (shrink)
May argues that moral skepticism is less plausible than perceptual skepticism if it’s formulated using epistemic closure. In this paper, I argue we should be skeptical of the implausibility thesis. Moral skepticism can be formulated using closure if we combine moral nihilism with a properly formulated evolutionary scenario. Further, I argue that pace May, the phenomenon of ‘imaginative resistance’ isn’t an issue for the moral skeptic; she has an evolutionary explanation of the phenomenon. Thus, we should be skeptical of the (...) implausibility thesis. (shrink)
Surely, I persist through time; thus, I must be identical to something that persists through time. But, what is identical to me, which persists through time? First, I argue that we should take reductive materialism and the Lockean view of personal identity seriously. But, these positions appear in tension. Second, I argue a plausible way to reconcile them is to embrace a novel kind of animalism that I call neural animalism. This says that I am identical to my properly functioning (...) brain. (shrink)
Why disdain replicated art? If art is valuable because it evokes experiences of beauty, they should be comparable. In chapter 11 of the Elephant in the Brain, Simler and Hanson argue we actually care about the extrinsic properties of art—e.g. who made it—to signal our intelligence and taste. Here I defend a different explanation for the evidence cited by S&H: the extrinsic properties of art are central to what constitutes art, play a bigger role fixing the value of art than (...) S&H allow, and the potential for diminishing marginal utility on the value of the intrinsic properties of art—seeing the original Mona Lisa is rare; seeing a copy isn’t—explains why we assign such value to the extrinsic properties of art. And thus we have a non-signaling explanation of art consumption, which may or may not complement signaling theory. (shrink)